N*. Well, James, we were able to come back to you, and thought you would like to be present while we pursue our inquiry, and Mr. O. will have no more to say to us. And though it was well for Bill M. that Mr. O. should be there, and not to fancy that if one more capable than he were present, there would be an answer, yet we can follow Milner just as well, and more quietly; and he is what they all refer to, and what M. had and trusted in; and I can give you as before what I have collected in reading, so as to judge how far it is true.
Bill M. I hope you have no objection, sir; but though Mr. O. would not come, a gentleman he knows would be glad to be present, and I said I was sure you would not object.
N*. Not in the least. I shall follow Milner as a guide to the points we have to inquire into; but this gentleman can make any remark he wishes, or either of you, of course, if you have anything on your mind; though I shall have, as you two cannot know much of the details, to go pretty straight forward myself through the history.
James. I am very glad to see you, sir, and obliged to you for thinking of me and coming back.
N*. Well, our next point is apostolicity and succession. To me it has no importance whatever. In the Spirit and word of God there can be no succession. They are themselves complete and perfect, and remain the same. Truth is itself; you cannot apply the idea of succession to it. That truth we have in God’s written word. The word of God abides for ever. To talk of succession as to it is simple nonsense. They speak of succession as a means of securing the truth. But we have it in the word. It is very striking how the truth is never made a mark of the church by Roman Catholics. The scriptures are full of it. Christ is the truth; the Father’s word is truth; we are sanctified by the truth; the aposrie loved in the truth and for the truth’s sake. If a preacher did not bring sound doctrine, even a woman was to judge him, and not receive him into her house nor bid him God speed. Souls are begotten to God by the truth. The truth sets free. But for the Roman Catholic system it is no mark of anything; for if the truth were a mark of the church, those who seek the church must have the truth first to judge of it by, before they have the church, and if the truth was really possessed by them, they then would be begotten of God and sanctified before they find the church. And so it was at the beginning; the truth was preached and received, and men thereupon entered into the church, because they had received it, if it was really savingly received; and this they do not deny when first preached to heathens and Jews.
As to the use made by Irenaeus and others of this succession against heretics, though soon abused as a mere human argument as I have already said, I have no great objection to it. What was from the beginning is the truth; the surest way of finding it is reading what was at the beginning, which we confessedly have in the scripture; still as a mere external proof, if he could shew that no one had ever held it, and that it sprang up now in his own time, it might be used as an argument. Only it has this defect, that the carelessness of men may lose the discernment of many things in scripture, and truth may be brought up which really was at the beginning, and lost or somewhat enfeebled or even corrupted, so that to the men of the age it may seem new, when only reproduced from scripture. But when heretics said it was a bad God that made the Old Testament, as the heretics did, it might be honestly argued: No one from the beginning ever heard such a thing; and this is what Irenaeus did.
The scriptures were the surest appeal, and Irenaeus does appeal to them, only he shews he has not just confidence in using them in the power of the Spirit of God, and with Tertullian it is utterly so. He is just a lawyer, as he was, arguing a brief. And the result shews clearly the danger of leaving scripture; for what was at first used as a testimony soon came to be considered an authority, and then as more convenient for the corruptions of men, so that the scriptures were put out of sight.
However, that was the use especially made of succession by those early writers. We will therefore examine the succession they plead, and see how far apostolicity in this respect will accredit their system. I take them on their own ground, not on mine; for grace and gift, I am perfectly assured, came directly from God, and not by succession. I examine it only as an alleged mark of the true church. They allege from early writers that the episcopal order can be traced up to the foundation of every see by apostles and apostolic men, or afterwards through them in places subsequently founded, and in particular the succession of Rome to Peter; for poor Paul is nowadays pretty much thrown overboard: his teaching does not suit Rome.
James. But pardon me, sir, I do not see how this affects the truth or the authority of the word of God. That is true whether there are popes at Rome or not.
N*. Surely it does not; but the idea of authority of what has been handed down from Christ and His apostles to these days, by those, as they allege, commissioned of God, has great power over the imagination. Wherever the word of God is received by faith, all these things drop like autumn leaves, because we have the truth itself with divine certainty, and know it would be a sin to doubt of it. But all have not this simple faith in the word of God; it has not that simple but absolute authority as God’s word over them; and habits of mind are very powerful, particularly when they are superstitious habits of mind. It seems humble, though it is not. It is a sin to yield up our souls to man when God has spoken, it is what the scripture calls voluntary humility; and people are afraid to trust God in His word, and do not know that word.
Here is our friend Bill M. He thought the clergy secured all truth to him, though it was official authority, not truth; and even now he has not the word of God at his command to meet these difficulties. He distrusts his clergy after all they have been obliged to admit, and he does not yet know how quite to trust the word.
Bill M. That is true. I hope you will go on, sir.
N*. I will. We must take Milner then, which is the book they gave you, and see what their apostolicity amounts to.
First, remark that the word “bishops” in the word of God does not mean what it does now. There were bishops and deacons in the church at Philippi; there were bishops in the church of Ephesus, called also elders of the church. You have “overseers” in the English version, of Acts 20:28, for bishops, which is indeed the meaning of the word. This is equally plain in Timothy and Titus; so in Acts 14. The apostle chose them for every city. There is no one stationary president of any church in die New Testament, unless we take James at Jerusalem to be such; but then he presides over apostles, which is an awkward position for a bishop. I know Timothy and Titus are alleged to be such. That they were on certain occasions entrusted by the apostles with the care of one or several churches is true, but we do not find them in the scripture locally resident as such anywhere. They were at the apostles’ service elsewhere afterwards, as need called for it, according to Christ’s will. All this is uncontested and incontestable. Tradition localized them afterwards; scripture does not. That very soon indeed there were local presidents, who very early got the name of bishops, I do not contest; but the origin of this lies historically buried in the most absolute obscurity.
It is stated that the apostle John appointed bishops in various places in Asia Minor. Thus Tertullian says that the order of bishops, followed up to its origin, will have its standing in John as its author (contra Marcion. 4, 5), Clemens Alex., quoted by Eus. (3, 23), saying he went round to establish bishops, formed churches, and named as members of the clergy persons pointed out by the Holy Ghost. But this was quite at the end of the century and would prove that there were not any bishops before, that Paul had not established any, just as scripture shews. Indeed Tertullian goes farther, for he makes John the author of the episcopate. Certainly, if this be true (which is possible as history, not scripture or the word of God), he was in contrast with Paul, or rather with God’s word.68 Jerome gives a different account. In his epistle to Evangelus (146 in Vallar. Ben. 101), after shewing from scripture that bishops and presbyters were the same, he declares that if afterwards one was chosen to be above the rest, it was done to avoid schism, lest one drawing [it] to himself should break the church of Christ. However this may be, there very soon were such, but not recognized in scripture. There we find the authority of the apostles, particularly Paul, in these matters, and those whom he employed as serving with him under the Lord, particularly Timothy and Titus.
Eusebius also relates (3, 11), that after the martyrdom of James and the destruction of Jerusalem, the apostles and surviving disciples of Jesus met and chose Symeon, son of Cleopas, cousin of the Lord, to fill up James’ place. When we come to details, difficulties accumulate. We know from the Acts that Peter did not found the church at Antioch, where the disciples were first called Christians, whose episcopal succession is traced up to him. Barnabas, as a Paul, laboured there; all that we read of Peter there is that Paul had to rebuke him to his face for his want of uprightness. Indeed Peter never appears in scripture but as apostle of the circumcision. His epistles are directed to the dispersed Jews who had become Christians. Antioch, which was the Gentile capital of that part of the world, was the known sphere of other labourers. He may very likely have visited the Jews there. But here too Peter is said to have established the first bishop. Eusebius, nearly three hundred years afterwards, tells us he established Evodias the first bishop; Athanasius, about the same time, says Ignatius was the first after the apostles, Origen says the second, Jerome says he was the third.
Bill M. Here is Mr. R., sir.
N*. Good evening, sir.
Mr. R. Good evening, sir. I have taken the liberty to bring with me this clergyman of the Anglican body, Mr. D., who though not of the church of Rome, may shew how universal or Catholic principles condemn the rashness and heady mind which does not listen to the church, and the deadly evil of schism.
N*. Well, gentlemen, I am very glad you are here. We had come to apostolicity and succession, and I was about to take up Dr. Milner’s statements on the subject, as he is the authority constantly used in these countries, and to compare his statements with authentic history.
Mr. D. It is a most important point, the security for grace and truth. It is just what keeps me in the Anglican church. It possesses a hierarchy which can be traced up to the apostles, and maintains the primitive faith of the church, though unhappily expressed in language too hostile to the great body subject to the Western patriarch; still these expressions are supportable, because they only refer to the common usages and popular views on the points treated, and not to the recognized faith of the church, which is to be sought in her creeds and formularies, and hence do not preclude the hope of reunion between the Anglican and Roman parts of the same body.
N*. I am aware that these are the views of the party you belong to. The authority of the word of God does not allow me to entertain them. Its statements are the truth, so that we have it directly from God, and, with a mind humble through grace, can learn and profit by it.
D. How do you know it is the word of God, and, if it be, how can simple and ignorant people understand it without being taught?
N*. We have spoken of this. The first part of your question is infidelity, which is the uniform resort of Romanists, and of all your school. People who have had it (the word of God) will be judged by it in the last day, when your clergy cannot help them, and therefore it behoves them to look to it now. The ministry of it is an ordinance of God, and to be highly valued; but the test of truth is the word of God itself. And in point of fact, as a rule, the clergy and not the laity, the teachers and not the taught, have introduced heresies.
As to the second point, it is a presumptuous charge against the apostles and other servants of the Lord, for they addressed themselves to the people (what you call the laity in the church) and indeed it is charging God with folly, for it was by inspiration that the apostle and others addressed their writings to all the church. But these points we have considered already.
We have now to see whether what you allege to be a security for grace and truth is really one, or a security for anything. I mean the succession of the episcopate, and particularly of the Roman pontiffs. The succession of the archbishops of Canterbury since they have existed, is much more certain, though doubt hangs over that too, because of the principles of Edward VI’s reign. I think if I were to put you to legal proof there, you would find it difficult to make it good. But that I will not meddle with now. We can take the popes, for this is confessedly the key-stone of the arch, and your authorities send us there.
D. By all means, though I should be curious to know your reasons for casting doubt on the Anglican succession. You do not believe in the story of the Nag’s Head?
N*. Not a word of it. It was a mere Jesuit invention, by a person named Holywood, set up as a tale nearly fifty years afterwards. There can be no doubt that Barlow consecrated Parker, and then it flowed regularly on. But even all this is a poor security for faith in contrast with the actual word and Spirit of God, which (unless open infidels) no one denies we have. But the Anglican flaw lies elsewhere, as you may see even in Milner (Letter 29): the question is who consecrated Barlow. But I will not go into this now, but see what security Roman succession gives. I deny the principle, and appeal to the word of God as the truth actually possessed by the church. And as regards the truth there can be no succession; it is itself. But we may examine the alleged security.
D. Be it so. You have a writer as early as Irenaeus appealing to the succession of Roman pontiffs, as of all other places, but specially to Rome, and giving the clear succession to his own days.
N*. We have, and that there were very soon local presidents who early got the name of bishops, I do not contest. But for all that, nothing is more uncertain than the origin of the episcopal order, the principle on which it is founded, and the succession to which Irenaeus refers. As regards the scriptures, we find in general elders called bishops, as Jerome insists, and no president or presiding authority. The apostles were in direct communication with the elders, or with the church, or with both, employing some Timothy and Titus in personal service when they were wanting, and then recalling them to themselves.
The nearest approach to anything of the kind is James at Jerusalem, who is often therefore called the first bishop. But then he presides over apostles and Peter himself, in the assembly held at Jerusalem, as is evident from Acts 15. If we are to believe Chrysostom (Horn. 38, 1 Cor. 15, ed. Ben. 10, 355), the Lord Himself imposed His hands on His brother, and made him bishop of Jerusalem. So Epiphanius (Haer. 78, 7), “He first took the episcopal throne to whom first the Lord committed His throne upon the earth!” How Peter came into it as a source of episcopacy, it would then be hard to say. How contrary this is to every scriptural thought, I need hardly say.
D. Why do you treat these holy traditions and fathers thus?
N*. What throne had Christ upon earth? Rejection and the cross was His portion. And how could He establish James by imposition of hands and make him bishop, when He Himself was there, and when He had not yet made propitiation so as to lay the foundation, or ascended on high and sent the Holy Ghost so as to begin the work for which He expressly tells the apostles to wait. Besides, if Christ gave James His throne on the earth as a religious supremacy, where was Peter? However great the folly of all this, Chrysostom and Epiphanius knew no supreme throne at Rome, which Peter had received as the first of the apostles. On their system, there would be a superior one at Jerusalem, unless Christ’s throne was inferior to Peter’s. It is also related by Eusebius that the remaining apostles and disciples appointed Symeon, also the Lord’s relative, after James’ death and the destruction of Jerusalem. It cannot be alleged that James took the Jewish throne, Peter the Gentile, for then there would be two, and Peter was unquestionably the apostle of the circumcision, not of the Gentiles. If we are to credit what Epiphanius (Hær. 80, 7) calls “the divine word and teaching of the Apostolic Constitutions,” James was consecrated by Christ and the apostles (Const. Ap. 8, 35). I know all learned men admit the Constitutions to be forgeries. But this helps the simple mind to judge what we have to trust in these fathers and ancient writings. For this writer-down of all heresies holds these forgeries to be the divine word and teaching.
D. But you cannot deny the fact that James was bishop of Jerusalem.
N*. That he was the leader or president there, no person subject to scripture denies; Acts 15; Gal. 2:2. But from that to a universal episcopacy as a note of the true church and security for grace and truth, is a wide step over a large abyss (and not only that, but the succession from them), and if true denies the pope’s supremacy. The apostles as instruments were the security then, and when they were going they did not commend to successors as a security; but Paul commends the elders and flock to God, and the word of His grace as sufficient. And Peter takes care that, by his writings, they should have the truth in remembrance. But we will see what even Roman Catholic authorities and fathers furnish us, that is, on the episcopacy or apostolicity being a security and that by which the true church may be known. We may begin with Jerome, whose authority is so great.
In his epistle to Oceanus (Vail. 69, 416): “With the ancients bishops and presbyters are the same, for that is the name of the dignity, this of age.” And it was no casual thought, no occasional argument. In his letter to Evangelus (Vall. 146, old edd. Evogrius) after quoting Philippians 1:1; Acts 20; Titus 1:5, etc.; 1 Timothy 4:14; 1 Peter 5; 2 and 3 John, using the strongest language in citing them, he says, “that afterwards one was elected who should be above (præponeretur) the others was done as a remedy for schism, lest each drawing the church of Christ to himself should break it! “Again on Titus 1:5, still more positively: “A presbyter is therefore the same thing as a bishop, and before, by the instigation of the devil, there were parties in religion, and it was said among the peoples, I am of Paul, etc., the churches were governed by the common council of presbyters. But after every one thought that those he baptized were his, not Christ’s, it was decreed in the whole world that one of the presbyters should be chosen, who should be set over the rest, to whom all the care of the church should appertain. Does any one think that the judgment that a bishop and a presbyter are one, and one the name of age, the other of office, is ours, not that of the scriptures? let him read again: “and then quotes Philippians 1; Acts 20; 1 Peter 5; adding here Hebrews 13:17, on which he comments.
He continues, “These then that we may shew that the presbyters were the same thing as bishops. But, by degrees, that the plants of dissension might be pulled up, the whole solicitude was deferred to one. As therefore the presbyters know that they are subject to him who is set over them by the custom of the church, so will the bishops know, that they by a custom of the church, rather than by the truth of a disposition of the Lord,69 are greater than presbyters,” etc. And in the same letter to Evangelus, he tells us, that till the time of Heraclas and Dionysius, in Alexandria, if the patriarch died, the presbyters chose and put into office (as the soldiers an emperor, or deacons an archdeacon) one of their own number; and other more modern authorities state that Mark, who was said to have founded that see, appointed twelve presbyters to be with the patriarch, and, when he died, they all laid their hands on one of their number, and that this continued till the time of Patriarch Alexander in the year 318, who ordained that the bishops should meet and do it.
Augustine in a letter to Jerome confirms the notion that it is by the usage of the church that bishops have a more honourable name than other presbyters: “Honorum vocabula quæ Ecclesiae usus obtinent.” Urban II in a Council at Beneventum, A.D. 1091, and a countless number of bishops and abbots, decreeing that none but presbyters and deacons could be chosen bishops, declared, Art. 1, “We call sacred orders diaconate and presbytership only. It is read that the primitive church had these alone, as to these alone we have precept of the apostle.” The object was evidently to exclude any of the sub-orders being chosen, for in exceptional cases by permission sub-deacons might. But the fact is clearly stated, which is what is important. The Decretal of Gratian quotes Isidore Hisp. to the same purpose, Deer. 21,1, and what we have seen of Jerome 93, 24; 95, 5, and in the following sections, the relations of bishops and presbyters.70
I have no idea of approving or disapproving these views, but when you make apostolicity, and in fact episcopal succession, a mark of the true church, your whole ground fails under you. “What was from the beginning “is true. As to the truth, I hold that the truth that was from the beginning is surely the truth for me. But as to that on which you make the certainty of truth rest, I have here your greatest authorities admitting it not to have been at the beginning, as says Pope Urban, “the precept of the apostle refers to deacons and presbyters alone.” You, gentlemen, a Ritualist and Anglican Catholic, and Mr. R. a Roman Catholic, would impose this succession upon us as a necessary mark of the true church. But, when the apostle founded it, and as scripture presents it, it has not this mark at all. Your own authorities confess it. Tertullian, if he is to be trusted, gives other and indeed different information. He says expressly (Cont. Marcion. 4, 5) that, “The order of bishops, followed up to its origin, will have its standing in John as its author.” And Clemens Alexandrinus, quoted by Eusebius, 3, 23, says, John went round to establish bishops, form churches, and name as members of the clergy persons pointed out by the Holy Ghost.
But this was at the end of the century, and where Paul had laboured; and if true, it would prove that there were not any bishops before that. Paul had not established any, just as scripture shews. I have scripture, that is, a positive revelation of God, exhibiting churches to me without this kind of bishops having individual authority; and the founder of these churches, the apostle Paul, instituting another kind of church government: that is, that another order of things was what was from the beginning. And then I have a tradition more than one hundred and fifty years afterwards that the apostle John went round these churches and appointed bishops; and moreover, the most learned of the fathers of the church, as they are called, telling me that in fact it was not so from the beginning, that presbyters and bishops are the same, and that, if one individual was set up over the above presbyters, it was only to keep quiet and unity in the church, because of the ambition of the clergy, a mere arrangement of men, but not God’s ordinance.71
Another most famous doctor, Augustine, tells me that it was according to words of honour by the custom of the church, bishops were greater than presbyters. That is, it certainly was not from the beginning, was not a mark of the church at the beginning, consequently never can be. This then forms no possible security for grace or faith. It shews only how early the clergy began to be ambitious and to create divisions. If you reject Jerome, Augustine and Pope Urban, and the rest who state this, where are your Fathers, your tradition, and your authority? lam then too thrown back on the scriptures which have neither bishops in the modern sense, nor succession. It is possible that as a human arrangement John may have done so, setting aside Paul’s arrangement; but this is certain, it cannot have the authority of the word or be alleged to have been from the beginning, and your Peter plan falls to the ground. You have other traditions for him, I know, which we will examine, but to which the same answer will apply.
D. But you cannot go against the whole stream of tradition, and make John contradict Paul.
N*. You must remember, dear sir, that we are not proving bishops to be right, or to be wrong; but seeking the sure marks of the true church as alleged by the system you uphold. In the scriptures or in the beginning, as is confessed by those I have referred to, and strongly asserted by Jerome, and fully recognized by Pope Urban in a numerous council, there were none such as you call bishops, and St. Augustine confirms it, saying it was a name of honour by the custom of the church. Tertullian comes to tell us it originates with the apostle John, who went round to do it, and so Clemens Alexandrinus or Eusebius. All state or confirm the fact that there were none at the beginning. If, as Jerome states, it was to meet factions in the clergy, it is possible that John may have accepted and suffered it as a necessity. It is a mere tradition of a century after, and refers to one locality, and we have the positive testimony of scripture that it was not so ordered at the beginning, but positively otherwise, which fact is insisted on by those you call fathers. Paul calls for the bishops or elders, warns them of coming evils, and refers them to God and the word of His grace, without an idea of any bishop being a security for grace or faith or anything else. How can I take it as a mark of the church, when the church in its best estate had no such mark; the scriptures, as confessed by fathers and popes, stating distinctly that it was not so? Your famous rule, “What always,” etc., condemns you entirely here; and Jerome and Augustine knew the episcopal succession well enough, and were attached to the unity and order of the external professing body as devoutly as any one could wish.
As to opposition between the apostles, I believe only what is in the word. You by your traditions bring in John changing Paul’s system. If it was historically the case, it only proves God would not give scriptural authority to it. I am in no way held to believe these traditions, nor do I know the import of them if there be some historical basis. And remark this, by no possible means can succession be a mark of the true church, as the church must subsist before the mark could be there. If there, it may be used as a testimony, wisely or not, but it cannot be a mark, for it cannot be at the beginning.
D. But we have the lists, up to the apostles, of the episcopal succession, to which the earliest writers appeal.
N*. Who furnish them to us?
D. Irenaeus for example. Tertullian makes the same appeal.
N*. Only they?
D. Others may speak of it, but in them we have a clear testimony which none can gainsay.
N*. Well, let us examine what is said, and how far it affords a mark of the true church. We may first take Antioch, as we shall have a good deal to say to Rome. Who was the first person who filled that see?
N*. Is that quite clear?
D. Well. He came first after Peter, and Ignatius followed.
N*. Can you rest your case on the certainty of this?
D. I rest it on the general tradition which traces the churches up to their founders.
N*. But Peter did not found the church at Antioch at all. Some of the scattered disciples addressed the Gentiles there, and it was the sphere of Barnabas and Paul’s labours for a length of time, and the place whence they went out to preach the gospel to the heathen. Peter was not the apostle of the Gentiles at all. The Lord Jesus expressly sent Paul to them, and the Holy Ghost sent him forth to that work from Antioch, and there he returned when he had gone over a considerable part of Asia Minor. Not only so, but when he went up to Jerusalem, James, Cephas, and John, pillars there in the assembly, when they saw what God had given Paul, gave to him and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that they should go to the Gentiles, and themselves to the circumcision. That is, to Paul was given the apostolic commission to the Gentiles. God was mighty in Peter to the circumcision. Whatever commission (which was not from Christ ascended, but risen and in Galilee, nor from the Holy Ghost) he had to the Gentiles, with the rest in Matthew 28, he gave it up to Paul and undertook to go to the Jews. The apostleship of the circumcision was committed to Peter, that of the Gentiles to Paul. So that all your derivation from Peter is antibiblic. Peter we never hear of at Antioch in scripture, but as rebuked to his face for his dissimulation.
D. Is it right to speak of the holy apostle thus?
N*. I suppose it is, as the scriptures so speak of him,72 and Paul does it expressly to combat this superstitious derival of authority from Peter to which you attach such importance. The Judaizing Christians made everything of it then, and opposed Paul. Paul in the beginning of Galatians boasts of his acting independently of it. So do we. “It made no matter to me “is all Paul has to say for them. Every Christian acknowledges the apostolic title of Peter (to say nothing of his zeal and devotedness) and receives his writings as inspired; but they know he was the apostle of the circumcision, not of the Gentiles; and it is remarkable that Paul owns no apostles but as consequent on Pentecost (Eph. 4:10, 11); and he tells us that, as to the church outside the circumcision, no doubt in the world at large, he as a wise master-builder has laid the foundation. From him you have no succession, and succession from Peter he rejects and despises. This no one who owns the authority of scripture can deny (Gal. 2:7-9; Rom. 11:13; Acts 26:17; ch. 9:15; ch. 13:2-4); and Peter addresses his epistle to the scattered believing Jews, however precious it may be to every saint.
D. But you do not mean to call in question the apostolic authority of Peter.
N*. No, surely not. But I take his ministry as the scripture gives it, the apostleship of the circumcision or of the Jews. So he let in Cornelius that there might be unity, the first Gentile brought in. But the ministry of the gospel to every creature under heaven was committed formally to Paul by a Saviour revealed in glory, and further he had a distinctive ministry of the church, Colossians 1:23-25: where we see, it was a dispensation committed to him. (Compare Eph. 3; 1 Cor. 9:17.) Now you have no succession but a Petrine, one which Paul rejects, I may say with scorn, and from an apostle who, it is quite clear, was not the apostle of the Gentiles at all.
D. I am rather afraid of this slighting of the first of the apostles, whose very name is a witness and seal of the testimony Christ bore him. It is hazardous, the spirit of pride, which is just what misleads you all. The authority of the church is gone with you; and now, the authority of Peter, to whom the keys of the church were confided, and the feeding of Christ’s sheep.
N*. Peter, that is, his writings, have exactly the same authority for me as Paul’s, because both are inspired. There is no pride nor hazard in the matter, but simply learning and bowing to what the Lord Jesus, or the apostle Paul himself has said, and there we see that, finally, the mission to the Gentiles was confided to Paul by the Lord Himself, without any derivation from, or reference or subordination to, Peter. But where do you find the keys of the church?
D. In Matthew 16.
N*. I do not. I find the Lord, not Peter, going to build His church; and so Peter, in his epistles, does not speak of doing it, but of living stones coming. Paul does; he lays the foundation. But there are no keys of the church at all. People do not build with keys, and I repeat it is Christ who builds, not Peter. Nothing is said of him as regards the church, but that he was Peter, a stone; the keys of the kingdom were given to him, and there, I doubt not, all he bound or loosed was sanctioned in heaven; but it was not in the church; there, as to this passage in Matthew 16, Christ alone is active.
D. But I never heard this called in question; it seems to me a mere quibble. The church and the kingdom of heaven are the same thing.
N*. Surely they are not. The church which Christ thus builds will be in glory with Him for ever and ever, and, in another aspect, the tabernacle of God. It is what Christ will present to Himself—a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, and that it is in any sense, or at any time, His body or His bride, can in no way be said of the kingdom. Tares are sown in the kingdom among the wheat. He gathers out of it all things that offend, and them that do iniquity; He will deliver it up to God, even the Father. The church, His body and His bride, He will never give up.
When the marriage of the Lamb is come, judgment will follow here below. It is then that He takes to Him His great power, and reigns. The kingdom is the sphere of His title and power as King; the church is His body. But the passage itself is clear; Christ builds the church. The administration of the kingdom is committed to Peter, symbolized by the keys. Scripture, that is, God Himself, is much wiser, and more accurate, where it is wise to be so, than we are, and He has attributed the use of the keys to the kingdom, not to the church. This, as here spoken of, Christ builds, and the temple is not finished yet. It grows to a holy temple in the Lord. And, where such a system of authority is built upon it, it is very hazardous to change what is stated, and then to build on the change you have made.
D. But surely there is a church on earth.
N*. Undoubtedly; it is there we are to look for it now. But into that building, as founded wisely by the apostolic ministry upon earth, wood and hay and stubble may be brought in—a distinct thing from the body which is formed, as 1 Corinthians 12 informs us, by the baptism of the Holy Ghost, where every member partakes of the fulness of the Head, and is united to Him. But tell me, do you think that there can be rotten, bad, members of the body of Christ united to Him by the Holy Ghost, and who go finally to hell?
D. There may be hypocrites in it on earth.
N*. No doubt. False brethren may creep in, and take their place amongst the members of Christ’s body, but they are not united to Christ by the Spirit, and thus members of His body. But you admit that there cannot be really dead, rotten, members of Christ’s body?
D. Of course there cannot.
N*. Then the external body you call the church is not the body of Christ; for there, confessedly, are multitudes of bad members. They are members of your church, perhaps priests in it; they are not members of Christ’s body. That is, your church is not the body of Christ. They are wood and hay and stubble, it may be, viewing it as a building built by man. But the attributing the privileges of the body to it is all a delusion. The apostle compares it in 1 Corinthians 10, referring to baptism and the Lord’s supper, to Israel’s coming out of Egypt, and many falling in the wilderness after all. The members of Christ’s body do not perish in the wilderness.
D. But you are running after the phantom of a pure church.
N*. I am not running after anything; I am simply taking the statements of scripture as to facts. It goes further, for it not only warns me of the possibility of wood, and hay, and stubble being built into God’s building, but that in the last days perilous times will come, and that there will be a form of piety, denying the power; nay, that evil men and seducers will wax worse and worse.
D. And what do you make of the gates of hell not prevailing against it?
N*. I thank God with all my heart for it. What Christ builds, no power of Satan shall frustrate or cast down, but that is not built up yet. There is a building into which could be built what the fire of God would consume in judgment, and I do not confound that with what Christ is building for eternal glory. All that God ever set up in good has been entrusted to man, and he has always failed. This does not hinder God accomplishing His purposes all the same. The church, as entrusted to man, has failed, as Adam did, as Israel did when they got the law. It is revealed that in the last days there will be die form of piety, denying the power. The church that Christ builds, the gates of hell will not prevail against. Now when you are claiming security of faith and grace by episcopal succession, you are claiming it for what is connected with man’s responsibility (not with Christ’s building), for that which the apostle declared would fail. He says (Acts 20) that after his decease, from within and without the danger would arise, and refers the elders of Ephesus to God and the word of His grace. Why after his decease, if he left a secure guard in apostolical succession? Nor does Peter know any such. Nor, I may add, John; for as to the churches he superintended, he warns them of having their candlestick removed, or being spewed out of Christ’s mouth, and he knows no such security.
D. But I do not say a particular church may not fail, but only that the whole church cannot.
N*. Pardon me, you refer, and your authorities refer, to Antioch, and Rome, and others, even those referred to in the Apocalypse. And where is the promise to the whole once planted by man, I mean the apostles, on the earth, if each particular one may fail?
D. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
N*. But that is what Christ is building, and it is not complete yet. Living stones are, we may trust, still coming to the living stone; it is not what was externally planted as a whole on earth, already established as a corporation, so to speak, settled by men on the earth, however perfectly, at the beginning, according to the mind of God; still left to man’s responsibility, whose dangers the apostle warns the elders of, and which he declares would end in a form of piety, denying the power. What Christ builds will not fail; but when man builds, man’s responsibility and its effects come in. Judgment begins at the house of God. And if the evil servant say, My Lord delays His coming, and beat the men-servants and maidservants, and eat and drink with the drunken, his portion would be with the unbelievers. The result, in one case, rests on man’s responsibility, in the other on the unfailing power of Christ; but this last is not yet finished, it is not a complete structure on earth. It grows to a holy temple: so scripture teaches us. But now I take you on your own ground. When we diverged to this point, you had just said that Peter, Evodias, Ignatius, was the order of succession at Antioch.
Let us see what tradition tells us here, for history is all we can have—statements made long after what men had heard. Theodoret (Dial. 1, vol. 4, 33; Harris, 642), and Chrysostom say that Ignatius was ordained by Peter. Athanasius calls him the first after the apostles (De Synodis, 1, 607; Ben. ed. Pat.); Origen calls him second after Peter (Horn. 6, in Luc.); Jerome says he was the third (Cap. Script.). Now, in the first place, these statements, if to be reconciled, shew that neither Evodias nor Ignatius were successors of Peter, for he was alive during both their lives, and, if the statement be true, Evodias died before Peter did. Indeed Bellarmine, though he makes Peter the first bishop of Rome, admits that the apostles, as such, had no successors (De Sum. Pont. 4, 25). The pope, he says, succeeds to him as ordinary pastor of the whole church, the bishops not—as to them, the apostles having only an extraordinary place. According to him, Christ ordained Peter, or we should have no episcopate at all; he, James and John, and they, the rest; and so they were all bishops.73 Still he makes Peter, James, and John ordain James after the Lord’s death. Thus, at Antioch, one Father says Ignatius was first after the apostles, another that he was the second, another that he was the third.
This is hard to be reconciled, and to mean the same thing. One says that he was the first bishop after the apostle was gone. Another counts him second, that is, after Evodias, not reckoning the apostle Peter at all. Another, counting Peter in, makes him third. But then here come the Apostolic Constitutions, and Baronius, the great Catholic historian, approves seemingly their views of the case (Bar. 12, 45), that Evodias was named by Paul, Ignatius by Peter for the Jewish Christians. So that there were two bishops and the unity of the church gone, and the fruit of the settlement and decrees of the apostles wholly lost, Paul and Peter acting in contradiction to the object of them. Then they suppose that Ignatius gave way to Evodias when matters were settled, and, when Evodias died, Ignatius came in, and was bishop by himself.
In general the Constitutions (7, 46) give a list of one to a see, but in Philadelphia, and Rome also, two, one by Peter and one by Paul. These testimonies may be little worth, and, if true, in splitting the church into two, shew anything but a ground of confidence or security of doctrine: the succession itself has to be settled. Eusebius is quite clear that Evodias was first bishop, then after him Ignatius (3, 22). Now, as Theodoret distinctly affirms that Ignatius received the grace of the high-priesthood from Peter, for which Chrysostom also admires him, all this account is not only utter confusion in itself, but the whole story contradicts the account we have in the Acts, which gives us accounts of Antioch later than the time in which a great part of what these ecclesiastical authors speak of should have happened. That very soon, unless at Rome, the order became regular, no one disputes; but the important links on your system are the first, and, the moment we seek any details of these, all is confusion and uncertainty. We get, as in Apost. Const., a list of names, possibly taken from scripture, as Timothy for Ephesus, Titus for Crete, Crescens for Galatia, but really nothing more than a fancied list of names, because after ages would have it so.
D. But why do you except Rome? Its succession is sure enough.
N*. Anything but that. It is so uncertain, that the best Roman Catholic authors are often not agreed which of two, sometimes of three, rivals was legitimate pope, and to such a point, that you have two, and even three, numbers attached to the names of popes. Some historians say John XX, some XXI, some XXII, for the same person, and so of other popes. But this we will, of course, look into; but, as I have said, the origin is the chief point, though, of course, if there be breaches in the conduit, it will not bring in the water rightly, if water indeed there be.
D. But you do not question that there was originally this living water?
N*. No. But I have this water in the perennial spring itself, the word of God, and your long, and, I am afraid, very muddy, canal gives me more mud than water, and what water it gives remains spoiled by the mud that is in it; and we follow the advice of your great friend Cyprian: when the water does not come properly, we go and examine if the spring has failed. It certainly has not, so we get straight to the words of Christ and His apostles. As you insist on the canal water, we, though rejoicing in the fresh springs of God’s word, examine your canal with you, because you are trying to persuade people that there is no other way of getting the water, seeing the canal was made on purpose, and that they are all wrong in going to the spring, and should trust you. We have drunk of the water, and engage them to go and drink of it, and they will soon see the difference between that and what your canal furnishes, and learn what the fresh and living water is which God originally gave them. We cannot but think, from your attempts to hinder them, that you do not like the pure water, and have got a taste for mud. Now your grand reservoir is Rome, and we will see whether the security of the first inlet you rely on is very great.
And here I must beg you to remember that it is a security for faith by a clear and unquestionable succession we are seeking. To us it is quite immaterial, because we have the water itself, the divine word, and can reckon on God’s grace and Spirit for the use of it, both for drink and for cleansing; but to you the question is vital. It is your security for truth. Now we are met by exactly the same difficulties as in Antioch, to me a plain proof (not merely of particular uncertainty, which no one can, and no one acquainted with the facts does, deny, but) that the system which asserts this apostolic appointment of successors is utterly groundless. Scripture not only is silent as to such, but really denies it. The apostle appointed elders or bishops, many in a place, and on leaving their service speaks of no others, so that the plea of Theodoret is that they were called at first apostles (Com. on Phil. 1), and gradually declined the name, and were called bishops. Of this there is not a trace in scripture, those called apostles having no such office, and in one case merely meaning messenger of an assembly.
Tradition, on the other hand, in the only two cases where any details are given, proves, through the uncertainty that surrounds them, that there was no such appointment known, though, as centuries rolled by, and the system prevailed, they traced it up to the names best known at the first. Thus Irenaeus goes up to Polycarp at Smyrna. But Polycarp writes as one among the presbyters in his letter to the Philippians; “Polycarp and the presbyters with him,” and afterwards, at the end of Section 5 and the beginning of Section 6, knows only presbyters and deacons. Perhaps the first positive recognition of it is in Ignatius’ letter to Polycarp as it stands in the Syriac version. And this was in Trajan’s time, in the year 116, at which time nobody doubts that one presiding prelate existed. Yet even he (3, 22) speaks of the succession of presbyters. As to Polycarp himself, Tertullian says he was put into the office by John, referring to no one before him (De P. Hær. 32): Irenaeus, 3, 3, says he had seen him young ordained by the apostles; so Jerome (De Viris Illustribus), that he was a disciple of John, and made bishop of Smyrna by him. But in the Apostolic Constitutions we have three bishops, and no Polycarp—Aristo, Stratias, and Aristo (7, 46). But Cotelerius tells us that those celebrated are Bucolus first, and then Polycarp. Irenaeus knows nothing of Bucolus, but, as Polycarp knew John, and he knew Polycarp, traces the certainty through what they taught, that the church had never held that the world was created by another and evil god, who had also given the law; for this was the subject of Irenaeus’ controversy.
Next, as to the church in Rome. This double foundation of the church, which we have already seen alleged in Antioch, cannot be admitted for a moment as being laid of God. We find it carefully guarded against in both doctrine and ecclesiastical care in scripture. It is stated that the church of Rome was founded by Peter and Paul (Iren. 7,3);74 but the same thing is said of Corinth (Eus. 2, 25), or, if not founded, jointly established in the faith. Paul and Peter went together by Corinth to Rome. It may be so at the end of their lives, but it seems very uncertain. One thing is quite certain—Peter had nothing to do with founding the church in either place. The divinely given history of the Acts assures us of that.
D. But they may have journeyed together to Rome to their martyrdom.
N*. It is possible; but the church was long founded, and that does not make Peter bishop of Rome; indeed, in your earlier75 traditions Linus is represented as first, or Clement, but never Peter. And now, as to this succession, we are in the same uncertainty. Irenaeus tells us Linus was first, then Anacletus, then Clement; so Eusebius some two centuries later. But Tertullian much earlier than the latter, giving it as a positive register (census) of the succession, says Polycarp was appointed by John at Smyrna, and Clement ordained by Peter for Rome. But then our Apostolic Constitutions do as they did at Antioch, give us Linus appointed by Paul, and Clement by Peter (7, 46). Jerome (Cal. Vir. Ill. 15) tells us that Clement was the fourth from Peter, as he must be, if indeed Linus was the second, and Anacletus third. However, most of the Latins think that Clement was the second from Peter the apostle.
But in Optatus Mil. (De S. Don. 3, 3) we have another list given as quite certain—Peter, Linus, Clement, Anacletus. Epiphanius (27, 6), after a very long story as to how it came about, says that it was uncertain whether Cletus (the second, according to him) was ordained by the apostles, but that they were bishops during the lifetime of the apostles (Peter and Paul having both been bishops of Rome together). They having gone away, left Linus and Cletus in charge; then Clement, who had been first named but would not serve, on the death of Cletus was forced to take the see; but that at any rate the succession was Peter and Paul, Linus, Cletus, Clement, Evaristus. And to shew how little secure these lists are, were it of any importance, in what follows he leaves out one known to have held the See of Rome altogether, and puts another quite wrongly in his stead, having left him out in his proper place. Ruffinus (Praef. ad Recogn.) accounts for two of the statements, for people objected to them in his days, by making Linus and Cletus bishops while Peter was living, and Clement appointed by him before his death; he says it was the same at Caesarea, where Zaccheus was bishop. One of the popes (Celestine V) gives us another explanation of the matter; that Clement resigned because one pope should not appoint his successor, and Peter appointed him, and that then he took it afterwards on surer ecclesiastical ground—a singular view of apostolic authority. Remark again here how Paul, who certainly was first at Rome, is ignored.
Now let us see what conclusion the most respectable Roman Catholic historians have drawn from the sources to which I have referred. Fleury (54, 2, 26): “The apostles having founded and built up the Roman church gave the charge of governing it to St. Linus, the same of whom St. Paul wrote to Timothy. To St. Linus succeeded St. Clement or St. Cletus, otherwise named Anacletus. It is certain that they were the three first bishops of Rome; but neither their order nor the time of their pontificate is certain. Twelve years are given to St. Linus, and yet it is more likely that he only survived the apostles a year or two, and consequently that they had established him bishop of Rome to govern it under them as they were accustomed to do in other places.” There are two things certain here, that Peter was not bishop, and that he did not appoint Clement before his death. All the rest is uncertain.
Dupin, another most respectable Roman Catholic historian: “St. Clement, disciple and coadjutor of the apostles, was ordained bishop of Rome after St. Anaclet.” And in a note, “St. Irenaeus, and Eusebius and the ancients put him only the third of Rome, although others make him the immediate successor of St. Peter. But I think it better to adhere to St. Irenaeus.” Natalis Alexander (3, 19) makes Peter preside twenty-five years, then Linus twelve, then Cletus twelve, then Clement nine, but the length of time uncertain. Baronius sets them all right (35, foil.); will have Linus succeeding Peter after his death; rehearses endless discussions and opinions, but insists that Linus came first, Clement third, or even fourth, as Tertullian’s verses put it, Linus, Cletus, Anacletus, Clement. But he says Anacletus came after Clement. All others make Cletus and Anacletus the same person; but for him they are all wrong, and the true order is Linus, Cletus, Clement, Anacletus; others putting, he thinks, one Cletus for Anacletus or the converse. If you wish to see confusion and contradictions, you have only to read Baronius on the first successors of Peter. Pagius insists he is all wrong.
D. But with all this uncertainty, it is clear that there was a succession of the followers of the apostles who presided over the see.
N*. I do not doubt that these companions of the apostles laboured in the care of the Roman assembly; but, as to succession to secure doctrine, there is none such to be found. Some will have Linus and Cletus assistants to Peter, who was often away in his lifetime. Baronius insists it was after his death they were regular bishops. Others insist Clement was the first. It is evident there was a state of things not clearly known, and that all these were efforts to reconcile this with a well-established system which prevailed when the efforts were made, and which were arranged by one one way, by another another—by scarce two alike, while the most learned of the Fathers insists it was only an arrangement to crush factions, and the most eminent confirms his thought. But this can give no security for successional grace and truth, were such an idea just.
But I see, James, your wife has something on her mind, and is only deterred from speaking by our being all here. But we are in her house, not in a church, and she is quite at liberty to say anything.
Mrs. —. I should not think of intruding, sir, on the conversation. I was only saying to James that I cannot understand what the meaning of looking for all this security for the doctrine of the apostles is, when we have the doctrine itself in their own writings.
N*. Well, I should think common sense, to say nothing of faith, which must have a divine basis, could think nothing else. But there is a human thoughtfulness about antiquity, and it looks like a feeling of reverence to make much of these ancient writers—some of them really saints and martyrs; and then you must remember that our friends here, at any rate one of them, considers, like the Pharisees of old, the tradition of the elders as part of the word of God; besides, they profess to take their interpretations of the word from these Fathers. Of this we have spoken; and as to the security of doctrine, it is nothing less than absurd to look for it in an uncertain succession of men, when we have the teaching itself given by God, and proclaimed by inspiration, which none of them can or do pretend to. We have gone into the subject because it is alleged by all Roman Catholics and Ritualists, and alleged by Milner as one of the marks of the true church. It is in that light we are now considering it. Nor can I consider Milner’s statement as honest. First, he states it as unquestioned that Simon Barjonas was called a rock, which he was not, but a stone.
Mr. R. But it was spoken in Syriac, and the gender makes no difference.
N*. I know your advocates allege this; but you believe that, as we have it, to be inspired?
N*. Well then, we have the difference made by inspiration in the sentence itself. Thou art petros, and on this rock (petra) I will build My church. And therefore it is not honest to say Peter or rock. Further, he must have known that the Vulgate and Rhemish alike say, Thou art Peter, as a name. And he was too learned not to know, what we have already seen, that half his authorities take the passage in a different sense.
Next, he gives the list of popes as if it were all a clear case, when his own historians differ entirely, and quietly says he will leave out some, as there would be too many to recount all; whereas an accurate succession, though a matter of perfect indifference to those who have the scriptures, is yet, in his point of view, quite essential; but it enables him to leave out those who would make the pretension to a regular succession a mere farce—forgive me, gentlemen, for speaking plainly. Dr. Milner not only smooths over difficulties, but conceals the fact that there were two or three popes at a time, anathematizing and excommunicating each other, and Europe divided between them; and when one faction put down the other, and put their pope up, the latter cancelled all the ordinations of his rival, so that a book had to be written as to there being any real ordinations at all.
R. But ordination imprints a character, and cannot be destroyed or revoked.
N*. I am aware this is your theory; but here, as they held the pope to be null, they held all his acts to be null, and declared them all invalid. And, as it is, different Roman Catholic authors hold different popes to have been the true ones; and if so, where is the security of a true apostolic succession?
We will go rapidly through their history (not repeating the atrocities they were guilty of, but) in view of succession and apostolicity. I sum up what we have found in a few words. The scriptures, as Jerome and others, and Pope Urban, know no difference between bishops and presbyters. The same persons were called by both names, and there was no resident person holding such an office as is now called bishop. James at Jerusalem is the only appearance even of anything like it. Elsewhere, where Paul had laboured, he established bishops or presbyters. Paul founded the church among the Gentiles and established no bishops, as the word is now understood. The Fathers so called cannot give us any certain list, and historians are disagreed which is the true one, as to Antioch, Rome, and Smyrna, where there is some account of the names. When insisting on the point of succession, they contradict each other.
Then come in the Constitutions, a forgery evidently in their present form but very ancient, which give a totally different account of the matter, and make two, one established by Paul, another by Peter; the more striking because it affects alike both Antioch and Rome, where the contradictions are found, and in exactly the same way. Save this, there is no tradition making Paul the founder of any succession of the church, but Peter, who was not apostle of the Gentiles at all. Tertullian says episcopacy is to be traced to John; Jerome, that it arose from the factious spirit of the clergy.
The fair conclusion to draw is, that there was no such post or succession at the beginning, as I have already said; and that, when it had become important through feebleness of faith and want of dependence on the word of God, they tried to make it out.
R. It is a most bold conclusion against the faith and tradition of the church.
N*. It is a question of fact; and the fact you cannot prove. The scripture, by the confession of your own writers, makes no distinction between bishops and elders, and there is no consistent tradition even on the point, but quite the contrary. Nobody denies that they very soon began to have them. Then they tried to make out the list, but they did not agree.
D. Nobody can deny that bishops and elders are the same in scripture, but there were really bishops with a different name, as Timothy and Titus, whom I name because they were appointed by Paul, not to say James also at Jerusalem.
N*. For what sees were Timothy and Titus appointed?
D. For Ephesus and Crete.
N*. You must kindly remember that we are discussing the point of succession. I am not arguing for presbytery against episcopacy or episcopacy against presbytery. If James was bishop, he was bishop over apostles, saying, when Peter and Paul had spoken, “Wherefore my sentence is,” so that Peter’s primacy is gone. As to Timothy and Titus, they were left merely occasionally by the apostle Paul to watch certain cases, and sent for to go elsewhere afterwards, or to stay with him (1 Tim. 1:3; 2 Tim. 4:21; Phil. 2:19) when he was in prison at Rome; as to Titus, see 2 Timothy 4:10; Titus 3:12: so that it is certain they were not local prelates in Paul’s time, nor appointed by him to be such. I am aware you have Theodoret’s authority some 300 years after for calling them apostles, but nothing in scripture. Those the church sent with money are called their messengers, as Epaphras the messenger of Colosse to Paul, who, as “messenger “in Greek is “apostolos,” is so called, as the apostles were Christ’s messengers. There were those of the different churches. “Apostolos” means nothing else than “one sent”; and then, being at a loss, they make him an apostle, and then say, “that is, a bishop,” apostle being given up, out of modesty.
But it is a lame effort to prop up the case; for apostle means one sent, no more and no less; but, when Christ sent them, they had divine authority and commission. A resident prelate is just one who is not an apostolos. As to modesty, it does not seem to have grown much with advancing years amongst the ecclesiastics. The epistles of Ignatius do not bear much trace of it, though I do not attribute them all to him.
Here is a curious example among so many others of the frauds and forgeries perpetrated in the vaunted primitive church, which got the name of pious frauds: Gospels, Apostolic Acts, Canons, and Constitutions, Sibylline prophecies, Ignatius’ Epistles, visions, even a letter from Christ. Nothing was wanting in the way of falsehood, in the early centuries of the church, to impose superstition and corruption on the ignorance they were in, and exalt the clergy at the expense of the authority of the word of God.
Bill M. But is this true, Mr. R.?
R. There is no doubt such things existed, but the church is not answerable for them; they never were received into the church.
N*. The Visions of Hermas, which were composed about a hundred years after Christ’s death (or little more) and are not forgeries, were read in the church, and nothing could be worse. But I referred to them to shew what was the character and spirit of the times; and no honest man can deny the fact. As to Ignatius’ Epistles, they were relied on, and are, by Baronius and Protestant episcopalians.
D. But some of them are true.
N*. They were interpolated, and some confessedly spurious, and now all but three pretty clearly proved to be so; and save in one passage, I think, all the bombastical language as to bishops, presbyters, and deacons has disappeared.
I refer to them to shew (by the multiplying this one passage, so exalting the bishop and putting him on a level with God or Christ) the taste of the times, that it was not modesty and lowering episcopal authority. One modern author, who accepts a great deal of them, seeks to prove by them that they were a recent introduction, and therefore so urgently insisted on as not being quite solid. But oh, what a ground is all this for faith!
But, as we have examined the source, let us examine the stream. Your traditions are not much good. The first Father, I believe, who makes Peter the first bishop, as we have seen, leaves out one and puts another in his place quite falsely. Still history helps us out pretty clearly as to the succession, and what it was worth. Only human history cannot make a divine ground for faith. Of the first popes or bishops of Rome I have only to speak in honour. The heathen emperors ruled there, and any prominence they might have exposed them the more to persecution. The church was poor and without honour, but spiritually great. Some, as Clement, Anacletus (according to some) Evaristus and Alexander, Sixtus and Telesphorus were martyrs. This was the bright time of the church; pagans in power, the church poor, but honoured of God, and a witness to Christ, suffering for Him. It suffered everywhere; but Rome, under the eye of the Roman authorities and a bigoted populace, had a large share in this honour.
R. I am glad to see you own that there was some good at Rome.
N*. I pay unfeigned honour to these men thus honoured of God. It is good for us in our days of ease to remember them. They were members of Christ, of that one true church, true saints, as all Christians are, and specially honoured in suffering for the blessed Lord. It was the glory of those days. It is not what you call the Fathers (a name forbidden by Christ, which I use myself merely as a well-known title) that I honour in early days, but these faithful witnesses for Christ, in all the Roman world, and not least in Rome. They were one in spirit and grace. The church was then wholly separate from the world; afterwards the popes were the head of it—not persecuted but persecutors. Superstition and heresy, however, began to invade the church of Rome under the next pope, Hyginus. These heretics Polycarp of Smyrna met, and many deceived by them were delivered, it is said, by his means. In his follower’s time, Pius, the superstition increased. Hermas, his brother, with whom he is said to have been intimate, wrote pretended visions, full of the worst practice and the worst doctrines, and even blasphemies, against the Lord. Yet it is said to have been read in the churches, a fact which proves the total want of discernment in the primitive church. A greater quantity of trash could scarcely be found. He states that God took counsel with the Holy Ghost and the angels what He should do with Christ. Then He put (the, or) a holy spirit,76 which He had first created, in a chosen body, and the body obeyed the holy spirit put into it, and so the body was to be rewarded, and Christ got more than had been promised, for He had done more than was prescribed to Him.
The similitude is this: A man with a great estate planted a vineyard, and chose a servant, and delivered the vineyard into his care. He does more than what is commanded. The Lord seeing this, calls his son, who is to be his heir, and his friends with whom he was wont to consult, and shews what the servant had done, saying he had promised him liberty, but now he would make him heir with his son, which all approved. And this was confirmed by his sharing presents from his Lord with his fellow-servants. The son in the similitude is the Holy Ghost, the friends the angels, the servant Christ.
I need not cite any more. I do thus much that we may see what was current in the church in those days.77 I have already referred to this book as sanctioning the vile things called holiness in these days.
But here we begin to get into our old difficulties as to the succession. Optatus, Jerome, Augustine, and others put first Anicetus; nexflrenaeus, Tertullian and others put Pius first. Not only so; it is disputed whether Hyginus sat four or twelve years. As Platina, an ancient secretary and historian of the popes, says (sub Pio), “In this place the times vary, as some put Pius, others Anicetus first. The histories also vary. However it may be in so remote a history and such great negligence of [our] ancestors, it will be better to get at the things themselves in some way, [though] done a little sooner or a little after, than pass them altogether” —a strange ground for certainty of faith. In his time arose the dispute of the East with Rome as to the observance of Easter. The East, alleging the apostles’ authority, kept it on the 14th of the moon. Victor would have it on the Lord’s day, and take the next one to the 14th. Polycarp had come to make peace during the time of Anicetus, but Victor refused communion with all the East, who alleged they followed John; and it remained in abeyance till the Council of Nice, which decided it should be on a Lord’s day. So the day of the week carried it against the day of the month, and the church was not divided in spite of Victor.
It is a curious piece of history that the Scotch and British Christians, too, with the north of England, kept Easter as the Asiatics did; and it was centuries after, in 664, that the Roman practice prevailed after a conference in the north of England. It was the Scotch Christians of Iona, who were not subject to any bishop, but governed by presbyters, who evangelized Germany and Switzerland and the north, as far as it was done in early years, but it fell under the power of centralizing Rome. The British and Irish churches did not till long after. The Saxons were evangelized from Rome; and by the Normans, already in subjection to Rome. But this by the bye.
When we arrive at Anicetus, we find ourselves in serious difficulties. We can hardly doubt there was such a pope—at least Irenaeus puts him clearly in his list, not, after all a very sure one, as we have seen in Cletus and Anacletus, whom some hold to be one person, some two. And Polycarp, it must be supposed, had interviews with Anicetus about Easter; but when he was pope, and even whether he was pope, is in no way certain. In “what is called the “Chronicle of Damascus” no mention is made of him at all; but Soter immediately succeeds Pius. Baronius makes Soter succeed Anicetus, a.d. 175; others declare Soter began his episcopate in 168; others say Anicetus died a.d. 161. Baronius makes Pius pope in 158; but some make the beginning of his pontificate in 142 and Eusebius (4, 11); gives him fifteen years, and says he died in 157, a year before Baronius makes him pope. Baronius gave him ten years, Pagius begins his pontificate in 141, and places his death 151; so that the first year of Pius for Baronius is the sixth of Anicetus for Pagius, who makes Amcetus begin his pontificate in 151, where Baronius places the twelfth of Telesphorus. (Baronius, vol. 1, under these popes).
Now a difference of one or two years’ date, I admit, does not make a material question as to facts. But what I have produced from Roman Catholic historians and ancient ones here shews that the history of those times is very uncertain, and that such a succession can in no possible way be a foundation or security for faith or grace.
I may add here that the pope gave letters of peace, as recognizing them, to the Montanists and their wild and demoniac prophecies. Praxias came from the place, and forced the pope to revoke his letters. I apprehend this was Victor, though it would seem Baronius puts it under Anicetus, others under Eleutherius. There are those who introduce a Pope Cyrianus between Pontianus and Auterus; but it is hardly worth considering, though Baronius notices it. It only shews the succession was not very certain.
I may mention here that it was from the time of Cyprian only that Rome obtained the title of Peter’s chair. Baronius indeed gives twenty-five years of Peter’s holding the See of Rome, but all early authors make Linus the first bishop. Ruffinus, as we have seen, conciliates them by keeping Peter in his apostleship, and making two of them sit in the see while he was alive. The first author who makes Peter bishop is Optatus (De Schis. Don., lib. 2, 3) in the latter part of the fourth century; while Epiphanius (thinking it possible Clement was first named, but would not act till after Linus and Cletus were dead, and then was compelled) says that Peter and Paul were apostles and bishops (27, 6), then Linus. Eusebius simply says that Linus was the first bishop after Peter. He may perhaps be considered an earlier testimony that Optatus. They were nearly contemporaneous, and Optatus is the first who explicidy states it. That Peter was twenty-five years bishop of Rome is a simple absurdity; because if the tradition of his being put to death by Nero be true, this was a.d. 68 or 69. But the Lord suffered a.d. 34. More than fourteen—say fifteen—years after that (Gal. 2) Peter had not left Jerusalem, and there had been as yet no apostolic work at Rome at all. This makes a.d. 49. He is still at Jerusalem. After this he goes to Antioch; but tradition says he was seven years in the see of Antioch, before coming to Rome, and in a.d. 49 he had not yet gone to Antioch, and certainly was not fixed in the see, for Paul was labouring there and rebuked him for his conduct. How long after, we cannot tell—say it was immediately, which I do not believe, because Paul was the apostle labouring there—but I take up the tradition as it is given. He was at Antioch then, at any rate, till a.d. 56 or 57; thus he could not by any possibility have begun to have to address Rome as its pope at all till about eleven years before his death. The whole thing is a fable upon the face of it.
Mr. R. But you cast aside all tradition.
N*. I do, as having the smallest authority. But here you have not any two agreeing. You may consult Baronius in the first and twenty-fifth year of Peter, and see what he says with Pagius, who notices the attempt to make two comings of Peter, one in Claudius’ and another in Nero’s reign, and rejects it all, taking the plain statement of Lactantius that the apostles had been preaching everywhere for twenty-five years, and then that Peter came to Rome in the time of Nero (Lac. de Mort. Pet. 2, 95). That Peter may have come to Rome for his martyrdom, or to see the Jewish saints there, is possible, though we have little proof of it; but vague and late statements that he ever held the see are mere got-up fiction; that he founded the church of Rome, we know from scripture to be totally false, let the good Irenaeus say what he will. No apostle did; of this we are sure from Paul’s epistle to them. If we are to believe Dionysius of Corinth, quoted by Eusebius (2, 25), Peter and Paul both planted the church at Corinth too, a statement useful to shew what such statements and traditions of the Fathers are worth. Yet in this passage of Dionysius we get, if it be true that Peter ever was at Rome, a glimpse of the truth, namely that Peter and Paul were taken prisoners to Rome together, or at least went together there on the journey which ended in their martyrdom; but all is utterly uncertain. The only thing certain is that Peter’s sitting—still more his sitting twenty-five years at Rome—is a got-up fable, and a very poor and transparent one.
I have spoken on this point here, because we are at the date in the history of Roman pontiffs at which it is first called the chair of Peter, or Peter Bishop of Rome.
Of several pontiffs I have nothing to say; but, when we come to Marcellinus and Marcellus, difficulties begin again. Eusebius (his contemporary) does not mention Marcellus, nor does Jerome, which is strange, and very learned men exclude him from the list, and ancient accounts state the see to have been vacant seven years—Fleury says three. Baronius says they are all wrong; that it is a confusion of names, that it must mean months instead of years, that no prudent person will hold the see to have been so long vacant. Pagius makes it, as Fleury, three years instead of seven, with the ancient chronicle called of Damasus (Bar. a.d. 304).
Mr. R. But you cannot doubt Marcellus was pope.
N*. Probably he was. Augustine at the end of the century mentions him; but the church was headless for more than three years. We speak, moreover, of succession, and such a certainty is a poor foundation to rest our faith upon. This Marcellinus is the one charged with offering incense to idols. Some say he was afterwards a martyr. But, further, Optatus (2, 8), where insisting on the succession of pontiffs against the Donatists, and Theodoret (lib. 1,2), leave him out; the former quite in his own age, one may say, and the latter some hundred years after.
R. But Optatus leaves out Eutychian and Caius too, and Theodoret makes Melchiades succeed Marcellinus, which is surely wrong.
N*. What you say is quite correct, and I dare say Marcellus, Eutychian, Caius, and Eusebius were all really popes, though the learned editor of Optatus says whether Marcellus be different from Marcellinus is no slight question— “non modica qusestio est.” It is all alike to me, because we have the word itself, as to which there can be no possible succession, and assured grace to use it. But for you, who rest on succession, such uncertainty is fatal.
R. But God will take care of His church.
AT*. Most assuredly. But that is not the question, but whether what you allege is the way He takes care of it. You and Dr. Milner and the rest teach this poor man to rest on succession. Now either he must swallow it down true or false, on your word, or he must examine a long history of the church; and, if he can, he finds confessed uncertainty and no sure ground of faith at all.
However, we will proceed; for I have examined your famous succession. Sylvester, from whom the Waldenses date the apostasy of the Papacy, Marius, and Julius I pass over without remark. We then come to a serious difficulty. The Emperors were now Christian in profession, and the actual Emperor Arian, with, we might say, all the bishops, save some rare banished ones; that is, they had denied the faith. The world awoke, as Jerome says, and found itself Arian. So little is the security in the hierarchy for the faith. If the people then had followed the clergy, all were Arian. However Pope Liberius at first was not, and he was banished; and Felix, a deacon of Rome, was ordained Pope by the Arians, and there was the greatest confusion at Rome and even many killed. However Felix was there. Baronius will not own him, for Liberius was alive. Bellarmine says he must be reckoned pope, and gives his reasons. Liberius at last gave way to the Emperor, and signed an heretical creed. Then Baronius says at the utmost Felix could be chorepiscopus, a kind of coadjutor, but will not count any years of his as pope; but this saves appearances, in part at least, not wholly, for if he were not in office his ordinations go for nothing. Optatus and Augustine do not count him among the popes, but he is reckoned in the list, because Felix III and IV would not be such if he be not counted. Liberius returned from exile, brought back at the intercession of Roman ladies. The Emperor wanted them to be bishops together. But Felix was driven out. However he got back again and sought to exercise clerical functions in the city, but was again driven out, and lived on his own estate (Fleury, 14, 7). He ordained twenty-one presbyters and nineteen bishops (Bar. 357, 66). Was he pope or not? What was the succession worth here, two popes at a time, one subscribing an Arian creed, the other ordained by Arians, sitting while the other was alive, and ordaining others: some holding him to be pope, others not?
But this dispute did not quite end with the death of Liberius. Damasus who was chosen to succeed had been of Felix’s party. This dissatisfied many, and they met and chose Ursinus who was consecrated too. The See of Rome was worth coveting by men who loved the world. Fine chariots, rich feasts, and regal luxury characterized their life. This is not only the testimony of Ammianus Marcellinus, but Jerome informs us that Praetextatus, a proconsular Roman and of high family and other important offices, when no longer proconsul said that, if they would make him Bishop of Rome, he would turn Christian directly.
Well, there was fighting among the people at Rome who should be pope. Juvenitius, prefect of Rome, and Julian, prefect of provisions, banished Ursinus; his party rescued him and others who were banished. Ursinus’ party shut themselves up in a church of Licinus, where he had been consecrated, and they were attacked there, and 137 persons were found killed in the church. The prefect, unable to appease the tumultuary violence, had to go to the country. However Ursinus was banished, and Damasus could amass wealth and leave costly silver vessels to the church at his death. Ursinus then tried again, but the people would not have him; and Siricius was chosen.
R. But the succession was uninterrupted.
N*. And do you soberly think that securing succession in an office that vied with royalty, by fighting and slaughter that magistrates could not stop, is a security for the truth and grace that came by Jesus Christ being conveyed to us, and a mark of the true church? Must not the heart and conscience be dead to everything that constituted Christianity to think so? And, besides, even the succession is not certain. It cannot be said whether Felix was pope or not, or partly yes and partly no, if Liberius lost the papacy by subscribing an Arian creed. But if so, if he really had lost it, Felix should have remained, who had replaced him, and he have not supplanted him again. At any rate we have two popes, one signing an Arian creed, the other consecrated by Arians, both de facto at the same time, whoever was pope. Siricius closed the century.
But early in the next we have the succession even more grievously in question. On the death of Zosimus the greater part of the clergy and people chose Boniface, others the archdeacon Eulalius who was consecrated by the prelate of the See of Ostia, who always regularly consecrated the new pontiff. Boniface was consecrated by others. The prefect wrote to the Emperor in favour of Eulalius, who convoked a number of bishops to decide; but there was great division, and he called another council, including the African and Gallican prelates, but, meanwhile, ordered (on a fuller report of the prefect, who said neither were to be trusted) both Boniface and Eulalius to stay outside Rome, and sent another prelate of neither party to celebrate Easter, which was just coming on. Boniface had tried to get in, but was, after first driving back the civil officers, driven back by a large number of them. Eulalius got in, and would not leave on being warned, but Boniface’s friends in arms attacked Eulalius’, who were not. The Emperor banished the latter for being in the city against orders, and let Boniface have the see. There were the usual tumults and battery and violence on either side. What kind of succession is this?
But towards the end of the same century the difficulty is still greater. Symmachus and Laurentius were both elected popes the same day. In order to terminate the schism they apply to Theodoric, king of the Goths, an Arian, who decided that he who had the majority for him, or was first ordained, should be pope. Symmachus had the majority. The party of Laurentius however subsequently brought him back, and accused Symmachus of crimes. Some of the clergy and others communicated with Symmachus, and some with Laurentius. The king referred it to a council, they to the judgment of God. Symmachus appeared the first time, but, having been nearly assassinated on the way, refused the second time and stood on his privilege, and then they left it to the judgment of God. So he remained pope. The grossest outrages, even against nuns, and fighting and murders, took place on this occasion.
A previous council held at Rome had passed decrees against the canvassing and intrigues which took place at the elections, or rdther before them. Symmachus was never cleared of the charges. The only really godly man we read of in the case was with Laurentius’ party. In their strifes the clergy went so far as to spend all the church’s goods to push their candidates, so that civil laws had to be made to repress the abuse. So uncertain was the succession here, that Baronius says that right might seem on either side, and there was not much to blame in Laurentius and his friends in maintaining his right to the Papacy till after the Council of Rome had decided for Symmachus (Bar. 498, 3). But this was a council of Italian prelates held by Symmachus. Symmachus presided himself. Of course it owned him pope. They saluted him with acclamations of long life and his see many years. But it was really no regular council, for the presbyters of his party and deacons signed as well, and it was held a year after his election (Hard. 3, 958).
The Roman Catholic body at that time did not think so much of divine succession. They sent to the civil power, and to an Arian to settle it. To quiet the matter Laurentius was made bishop of another see; so his consecration was owned. Hormisdas succeeded Symmachus, and John, Hormisdas. But then the king, Theodoric an Arian, put Felix into the see —Felix III for Fleury, Felix II for Baronius, as he will not own Felix I at all, though he sat and consecrated various prelates, only Liberius was alive. Felix, though put in by an Arian king, was a good pope, at least there was no competitor; they ordained him on the Arian king’s nomination. But the case of his successor was worse still. King Athelric appointed Boniface to be pope; but, if we are to believe Baronius, the Romans wishing to have a pope of their own, chose Dioscurus, and as appears in a letter he quotes, the great body of people were with him. Both were consecrated. However Dioscurus died after some months. Boniface called a council and forced the clergy to condemn and anathematize him after his death, and to give him the power to name his own successor and give it in writing. And Vigilius was named. However in a subsequent council this was all revoked and the writing burned. But if Dioscurus was elected canonically and by the majority of clergy and laity, as rather appears to have been the case, both from Baronius’ statements and Boniface being obliged to use such efforts to reduce the clergy to subjection, Boniface was never rightly and canonically pope at all, and the whole succession fails.
R. But you have no proof of this, and Boniface was always afterwards owned as pope.
N*. If we are to have apostolic succession as an essential mark of the true church—and it is a vital point in your system— the proof of there being such must be clear, and lies only on you. But you cannot deny that both were consecrated. Baronius, though speaking very cautiously, gives us to understand that the Roman choice by the multitude fell on Dioscurus. He does not attempt to say more than that it happily closed by his death. But if Boniface was not originally pope but Dioscurus, he never could be legitimate pope at all. As to being owned afterwards in the lists, it proves nothing but that he sat in fact, which nobody denies. We shall find a multitude of cases where they are in the lists, and Baronius will not own them. We have seen such an one already in the case of Felix, so that, if you are searching out history, you have to settle, by chronology and contemporary names, which it was. See such a case in Dupin (Cent. 6 under Felix IV). Boniface seems to have pleaded the deliverance of the see from the nomination of the king. He made all the clergy swear to it; and then, when in the subsequent synod it was all set aside and the writing burnt, he absolved them from their oath. The truth is that the breaking up of the Roman empire had put power into the hands of the Roman pontiffs, and all was ambition and wickedness.
After the short pontificates of John II and Agapetus, we arrive at a case in which all pretence of legitimate succession fails. The Emperor of Constantinople was by means of Belisarius engaged in the reconquest of Italy, and the king of the Goths, Theodotus, distrustful of influences not his own at Rome. The clergy met to elect a pope, but he would not allow them to elect the one they desired, but obliged them, under penalty of death, to establish his nominee pope, which they did. Baronius speaks of their wisdom and divine guidance and approbation, that they all consented to nominate Silverius, whom Theodotus had forced upon them. He was son of Pope Hormisdas. He was charged with bribing the king to have him made pope. It is also said this was a calumny. It is possible. Things were in such a state that they were as capable of false accusation as he of bribery. Which was the fact, I do not pretend to say. It is the statement of the historian Anastasius. However he was a pope.
But Vigil, who was at Constantinople, intrigued with the empress to be pope, promising to own her favourites who were condemned for false doctrine in the East, if she would have him named. And she sent him with a letter to Belisarius, who was at Rome. The empress had promised 700 pounds of gold if he owned her favourite, and he promised 200 of them to Belisarius if he installed him pope. The Goths had returned to besiege Rome; Silverius was accused of treachery with the Goths. They at last raised the siege however, and Silverius was banished to Patara, in Lycia, by Belisarius, who took off his vestments, and made the clergy elect Vigil; and Vigil sat as pope. Silverius, however, went to the Emperor, who sent him back to Rome, saying, if he had engaged in treacherous correspondence with the Goths, he was not to be reinstated, but if innocent, he should be. But Vigil, fearing for himself, fulfilled then the conditions on which he had got the papacy, and Belisarius delivered Silverius up into his power, and he was sent off to the island of Pontecune, where he died, it is said, of hunger, and Vigil remained pope. This is the pope who had to do with the Emperor and the general council at Constantinople, and condemned and retracted, and retracted his retraction, and at last was let go by the Emperor, who offered to the Romans him or the Archdeacon Pelagius for pope. The two returned together. Vigil died on the road and Pelagius was accused of poisoning him, and could only get two out of the prelates of Italy to consecrate him; all the rest refused. But he purged himself on oath and was the next pope. Nice work to secure faith, and give a sure mark to the simple of the true church!
R. But still they were regularly consecrated, and grace and truth were handed down.
N*. Why the Bishop of Ostia (who was the regular person to do it) laying his hands on a man chosen to be Peter’s successor at Rome should convey grace or authority from Peter, it is hard to tell. If Peter had done so, and then his successor on his successor before his death and so on, I might not believe it, but I could understand it. But it is not so. As the case is, the pope, who consecrates ever so many prelates, never confers Peter’s authority; and a prelate who has it not, nor any pretensions to it, confers it on the pope. Succession here there is none. However I drop that, as we are examining the facts.
Now in Vigil’s case the failure is complete on your own shewing. Silverius was deprived by the violence of Belisarius, by the intrigues of some women, and Vigil was thereupon consecrated and made pope. While the pope was alive this was impossible; he could not be Peter’s successor while Peter’s true successor was there, and he never had any other election or consecration. Baronius tries to make out a second election six days after Silverius’ death, but does not dare to hint at a second consecration, so that the fallacy is apparent on the face of it; and Pagius shews that the six days’ vacancy mentioned by Anastasius was from Silverius’ deposition by Belisarius, and not from his death. It is a miserable attempt to get rid of what is a hopeless flaw in the succession of Roman pontiffs. Pelagius, very probably the poisoner, certainly the successor, of Vigilius, who was no pope at all, has wholly broken the succession of the pontificate, whatever it is worth. We have the true account no doubt in Fleury (32, 57, 58). He wrote secretly to the heretics and remained in possession of the Holy See; at the same time he professed entire orthodoxy to the Emperor, a strange security for faith. Dupin (under the title of Pope Vigil in Cent. 6) tells the truth too plainly: “Although Vigil had mounted the See of Rome in a way wholly unjust, he did not the less remain in possession after the death of Silverius, nor was he the less recognized as legitimate pope, without its appearing even that they proceeded to a new election, or that they confirmed that which had been.” Further, Vigil was consulted as pope by foreign prelates as Eleutherius before Silverius’s death.
Mr. D. But if you undermine thus the foundations of faith and of the church of God, what have we to rest upon?
N*. And do you mean that one who certainly could not be really pope while another was alive (himself put in by the violence of the king), introduced by an intriguing woman to support what the church called heresy, and paying the general a large sum of money to secure him, and send away his competitor to die of hunger in an island, and his successor so suspected of poisoning him that in all Italy all refused to consecrate him, but two who were not the regular ones to do it—do you mean that these are the foundations of faith and of the church of God? Really it seems to me a man must have his conscience utterly deadened; it is a kind of blasphemy to me to make such things God’s security for faith in the church. As to faith, who can tell what Vigil’s faith was?—one thing for the Empress and the heretics, another for the Emperor, and then yes and no and yes, as he vacillated between the Emperor and Rome as to the three chapters.
R. But it is not certain he wrote those letters to the heretics. It was, as Baronius says, a proof of God’s care of the Roman See that he was providentially forced to be orthodox as soon as he became pope, though he had engaged himself to the Empress to favour heresy in order to get it.
N*. Your fairest historians admit he did. I have quoted no Protestant statements. Besides it is a mere shuffle of Baronius that he then became pope, as we have seen. That he made a public confession of orthodoxy to please the Emperor and Rome, when he feared them somewhat, is true; but he went backwards and forwards at Constantinople in just the same unprincipled way. But the fact is, he never was rightful pope at all. He was appointed when a pope was living and only then. But if you say this is so uncertain, how can what is so give ground for certainty of faith? It is, at any rate, certain he never was really pope on your principles of succession. To me, save as I may sorrow over any other sinner, it is quite immaterial; but I consented to examine the boasted succession, as it had been put into other people’s heads to puzzle them. My trust is in the sure word of God and in His grace, where, as I have said, there is no succession to be sought; it is itself and always the same.
You may remark here that Silverius was the son of Pope Hormisdas, and subsequently the great Gregory was a descendant of Pope Felix.
I pass over John III, Benedict, Pelagius II, Gregory—a really great man, who just hints at the possibility of a purgatory for extremely small faults (for the gospel had disappeared) and who reformed or composed the Roman Liturgy—Sabinianus, and others, and come to Honorius, in the seventh century, where we meet a difficulty of another kind. Honorius, so far from keeping the faith of others, could not, it seems, keep the faith himself. He is formally condemned and anathematized by name in the third Council of Constantinople, confirmed by Pope Agathon, and anathematized again by Pope Leo II,78 whence it is formally taught in Canon Law that the pope can be judged for heresy.
R. But it is not sure, as Baronius shews, that the letters were Honorius’. A certain Theodore was the person, and that it could not, if they were, be called heresy.
N*. Did you ever read Dupin’s remarks on it?
R. Well, I never did.
N*. I should think not. All Baronius proves is that he himself was at his wit’s ends about it. No honest Roman Catholic questions it. He is called pope in the acts of the council (the decree was sent to the pope, confirmed by him). Honorius was anathematized by name by Leo II. In a word, the objections are simply, as Dupin says, frivolous and unworthy of attention. As to its being heresy, he states positively in terms what the council condemns, and Leo and Agathon too, and the Roman Council, with Martin and Agathon, popes; so the Emperor in his letter to Rome too. In a solemn judgment on heresy they condemn and anathematize the pope by name. A strange security for the faith! They did not dream of his being such then. And what is the value of the succession of a heretic as a mark of the true church? For my own part I do not think worse of Honorius than of his adversaries. He was in error, but sought to put an end to useless chicanery too. But if he was not wrong, then the popes and the council were wrong in anathematizing him. John IV seems to have no great opinion of him, or at least to think more of Rome’s importance, and explains Honorius’ doctrine in a statement well meant in the main, but which shews ignorance of the truth of God, confounding man’s spirit or conscience with the Holy Ghost, as a Quaker might now. They all confounded, I think, will as a quality of nature, and will in action or self-will; but on that I contest not. The next pope to John, Theodore, was son of a bishop.
As we proceed, we may see how little like divine order was in the succession of these popes. The Emperors of Constantinople had lost almost all their authority and possessions in Italy, but held Ravenna, where the ex-arch and a governor resided, and Rome. He could not thus directly hinder any pope but those he wished being chosen, but by means of the troops in Rome acted on it indirectly, so that those who sought to be pope bribed the ex-arch to get in (Bar., Conon Pap.). Thus, in the case of Conon’s election, the troops held one church, the people another, with two candidates, and could not agree. The clergy and populace went to the Patriarchate and saw Conon, and the troops fell in with the common feeling, and he was elected. The two competitors remained excluded. On Conon’s death, Paschal promises the treasures of the church (or, as Baronius says, a hundred pounds of gold) to the ex-arch. One party elect Paschal as pope, another Theodore, and there is a contest between him and Theodore, one holding the inner part of the patriarchal palace, the other the outer, and nothing could be done. The populace see Sergius, and all acclaim him. Theodore gives way, and Paschal has to quit in spite of himself. He sent, however, the gold promised to the ex-arch, and he came down on Rome, and Sergius had to give him some precious treasures of the church, or he would have been sent off. Paschal, charged with magic, died secluded in a monastery.
James. But surely, gentlemen—excuse me for speaking— there is nothing holy or of God in all this. It is mere human ambition and wickedness. How can this be a sign of the true church? It is a sign of man’s lusts and sin.
N*. Holiness is not required in a pope. The Canon Law says no one is to judge them, save for heresy, as we have seen; and either they adorn their position by their own conduct, or the worth of Peter’s excellency rests on them (Dis. 40, 41 non nos.).
Bill M. Well, I must say this is all very strange to me. I did not rest on scripture, and I thought, from what these gentlemen and their friends said, all was holy and blessed, and the pope was called His Holiness, and I took it all for true. But I see now it is all very different from that. How can you, gentlemen, take all this as a proof of the true church? And Dr. Milner has not really told the truth about it. One expects, at any rate a poor man who has not read much does, to find truth in a book like that recommended by people that seem so holy; and it is not honest, I see it plainly. You will forgive me, gentlemen, but I see I have been deceived.
R. But holiness and authority attaches to the office, and not to the man; and we are looking for the true succession in the office. Besides, many were very holy men.
Bill M. But, from what I have heard, the succession is anything but sure; and if it were, what is a succession of ambitious men striving for a great place to do with the church of God? I do not see anything very apostolic in that.
D. But you must not impugn the efficacy of sacraments, because the administrators of them were unholy. We are all imperfect.
Bill M. It does seem strange, if holiness is a mark of the true church, that unholiness should be no hindrance to the continuance of grace in it, and God’s acceptance of it. Would the greatest villain in the world be the same security for grace and the true faith as the apostle Peter, who was inspired of God? However I do not judge much about that: I am not fit for it. But do you mean that if the church and its heads get unholy and evil, the acceptance and grace of God is as much there as before? Is holiness as much a mark as before? That is hard for an honest man, or any man, to swallow. At any rate, if so, they should not give holiness as a mark of the true one; for, when it is unholy, it is just as true as before.
D. You are pretending to reason, and a person always is ruined when he begins to do that.
Bill M. But you tell me to judge of the church by these marks, and that is what I am trying to do; and when it does not serve your purpose, then you tell me not to judge. I mean no offence, sir, but I do not understand this.
N*. Well, M., we must have patience. I will say a word on Dr. Milner before I close; but we will search farther into this sure succession. What we have seen only gives a faint budding forth of what was to come. The papacy was still in its infancy yet, though already very powerful, and an object of ambition; what you say is in the main perfectly just. Conscience revolts at such a thought, and it upsets their own argument. God is above His own ordinances, and He can inspire extraordinarily a wicked man, as Balaam and Caiaphas. But the moment it is a mark of what the man or the true church is, that is wholly another matter. We are all imperfect; but holiness is that which God works and produces, and a mark of what He owns. He may bear long in patience with us, and does so, but He cannot accept unholiness and sanction that which is contrary to it. He is sovereign and can make a dumb ass reprove a prophet if He will; but what He owns cannot as a mark bear the stamp of unholiness. Where there is the form of godliness without the power, His word is, “From such turn away.” But we have closed the seventh century, and I beg you and these gentlemen to remark I have drawn my facts from Roman Catholic sources alone. The names of the popes suffice to point out the places in Baronius and Dupin; in Fleury I have given the place; Tillemont and Platina are the others I have referred to.
But I have somewhat more to add of the history while Sergius was reckoned pope. His epitaph is extant (Bar. 701, 8), and by this it appears he was not consecrated till after Theodore’s death, who must be considered as a pope, and then Sergius was brought back at the entreaty of the people; indeed it was only then that he was consecrated pope. Thus, during the alleged thirteen years of Sergius’ pontificate, Theodore was pope at first, then John (that nobody knows anything about), and Sergius was only consecrated above seven years after he was chosen by acclamation. Then the ex-arch sought to put in another pope, and the soldiers rebelled, and would not let him. Where is apostolic succession to be found? Now without this epitaph no one would have known of Theodore and John being popes. How they were no one knows; papal historians had wisely buried it.
At this time Spain renounced obedience to the Roman See, but northern Italy rejoined it, for it had all been long in what was called schism, not receiving the fifth General Council; and Ravenna still was.
Two events happened about this time, I may note in passing. The Lombards having driven the Greeks out of Italy, Pope Stephen called the Franks in. They had sanctioned already the French mayors of the palace who really reigned, setting aside the puppet kings who did so nominally. The pope received territorial authority under the new Western empire, established in the person of Charlemagne crowned Emperor at Rome. The second fact was the forgery of supposed early decretals, ascribing superior authority to the popes from the first. These were the great foundation of papal authority till the Reformation, when the forgery was detected and exposed, being admitted now by all. There was some opposition from metropolitans at the time; but, as they increased their authority over the prelates under them, they too accepted them.
A little farther on in our history we arrive at still greater confusion. At the death of Paul, a Tuscan noble brought his brother Constantine to Rome, and forced a bishop to consecrate him, and he was pope for more than a year, and his election and consecration as pope confirmed by a council. He ordained clergy and consecrated eight bishops. But one of the Roman court, Christophle, went (swearing to Constantine that he would not do it, and perjuring himself) and by treachery brought forces into Rome to drive out the pope. But while this was going on, Constantine, having hid himself, one Philip was taken and consecrated pope. However, Christophle made his way in, and Pope Philip swore that he would not leave Rome till he had been driven out, which was done, and he quietly retired to a monastery. They deposed Constantine, and then elected and consecrated a third pope, Stephen; and Christophle’s son went and got Charles, called Charlemagne, and Carloman, Pepin being dead, to send French prelates to Rome to set things in order.
Meanwhile they tore out the eyes of Constantine and his partisans and other suspected persons, and put them into monasteries, or used other torturing processes. The French prelates came and assembled. The blind Constantine was brought before them. They struck and abused him when he cited similar cases of the consecration of laymen, burnt the acts of the council which confirmed his election, ordered the prelates he had consecrated to come to Rome to be reconsecrated, which was done; but many Roman Catholics held the second as simply null and void. His presbyters were left as they were, contrary to the decree of the council. Sergius and Christophle had their eyes torn out by Didier, and Christophle was put to death (Fleury 43, 44, and subsequent; Dupin, Etienne 3, cent. 8). Baronius treats the see as vacant till Stephen was elected. He will not at all allow that the eight prelates were re-consecrated, which is impossible (he holds), and puts in the margin of the historian quoted, “reconciled.” So he does for the presbyters, when the same word is used, without saying they were never consecrated by Stephen, as the prelates were.
Now they were clearly reconciled, and remained as they were. It is a mere come-off for Constantine’s episcopacy; and as it was the episcopacy of Rome, pontificate was thereby acknowledged. All was confusion. There were three popes all consecrated, one having ordained many others, and even bishops of sees; if Constantine was bishop, he was bishop of Rome and pope; if not, here was the whole clergy vitiated in its source. And they were literally tearing out each other’s eyes, and laymen using violence to put their favourites into the see. Stephen got in by the perjury of Christophle and the arms of his followers, Constantine’s armed brother being killed by treachery in the fight, and another consecrated pope glad to get off unscathed and end his days in a monastery.
Bill M. Well! well! and is that the holy Catholic church? Who would have thought it!
JR. There were dark and gloomy days, no doubt, and violence and confusion prevailed; but Stephen was regularly elected and consecrated, so that the succession continued.
JV*. How can I say that? Constantine, who had been consecrated and confirmed by a local council, was alive, though his eyes were torn out, and Philip too. And if Constantine were not properly consecrated, then all the clergy he ordained were no clergy at all, and there were no real sacraments; I speak always on your own principles. As to violence, violence there was. But the violence was as much on the side of Stephen as Constantine. The only difference was, that John, Constantine’s partisan and brother, was guilty only of violence; Christophle, of perjury too. Rome was an object of ambition, and they fought for it. Stephen ordained in his council that only the clergy should elect, and the people then salute him; that images should be adored, which was forbidden at Constantinople by a very numerous council, and by a still larger one (under Charlemagne, at Frankfort) of several hundred bishops. They condemned images in the strongest terms; however the adorations and superstition prevailed. King Pepin gave tithes to the clergy, and Charlemagne issued orders for the regulation of the church and clergy. The pope’s legates were at the Council of Frankfort, where a late Constantinopolitan council, which restored the use of images, presided over by the pope’s legates and received by him, was utterly rejected. This was somewhat later in 794; I speak of it here in order not to return to it. Pope Adrian answered Charlemagne very mildly, excusing himself. This pope’s letter to Charlemagne makes no objection to the Greek doctrine as to the procession of the Holy Ghost. Pope Stephen IV (or V, one having died as soon as elected, and hence not counted by many) ordained that the clergy only should elect, the people being present, and that it should not be done without the Emperor’s ambassadors being there, in consequence of the violence often used.
The words of the decree are, When a pope is to be instituted, the bishops and all the clergy coming together, let the person to be ordained be chosen, the senate and people being present, and, thus elected by all, let him be consecrated, the imperial ambassadors being present. The reason of the decree is that the violence took place because the consecration of the pope took place without the imperial knowledge, and that according to canonical right and custom, direct messengers from the Emperor were not there who would hinder these scandals from being perpetrated. He made the Romans swear fealty to the Emperor. I refer to this because it shews what this pretended succession was—such scenes of violence, that the Roman pontiff, jealous enough of civil interference, is obliged to call in the representatives of the Emperor, that it may at least proceed with some decency. It forms also a kind of turning-point, excluding (though in ambiguous terms) the people from direct election. But what an idea of Christian care and episcopal succession, if such be the rule; armed men forcing a pope on the see, or armed men driving him away, and lynch-law executed in tearing out their eyes, and a third smuggled into the see between the two competitors, and then smuggled out!
James. Well, it is dreadful to be sure! And when one compares the words of the blessed Lord, how can one think there should be grace, or faith, or anything belonging to Christ here?
N*. There were Christ’s hidden ones surely all through, but it is not in the great or the doctors that we find in general anything like Christ. And now all was superstitious, translating relics and the like, though there was, as we have seen, resistance to it. The power of Charlemagne was a remarkable feature of the time, and the way he governed the church in his empire, and led hundreds of bishops in council to reject image worship, as now restored in the East. Still all was confusion and violence; he conquered the Saxons who were heathens, and drove them with the sword to be baptized in the Elbe, and so they were made Christians of. There were devoted men, however, who occupied themselves with the spread of Christianity such as they knew it. The Roman See had very great wealth and possessions, and, Pepin having added large territories to those the see already had, it was hence the object of ambition. Piety was occupied with buildings, and sumptuous clothes of service in the church.
After Pope Adrian’s death there were again two popes chosen, and the conflict was so serious that the Emperor’s son had to go to Rome to settle it. But it does not appear that the second was consecrated, though nothing is known of the matter, save that it was important enough to take the Emperor’s eldest son to Rome. The Emperor asserts fully his imperial rights over Rome, and against the pope even, but uses them to have elections free, and forbids tumults. The nobles, it is said (Fleury, 46, 52), were for Eugenius, and carried the day. The Romans all swore however not only allegiance, but that no pope should be consecrated in their presence without swearing allegiance to the Emperor. Still the pope’s authority was gradually increasing, to which the forged decretals, which came out about this time, largely contributed. But till the decay of the empire, which was rapid, the Emperors within its limits governed prelates and lords, a bishop and a count being sent to have all things in order. When their power was quite decayed in Italy, the popes were engaged in the intrigues of the great nobles to set up kings and emperors there, the Marquises of Tuscany at length getting authority over Rome, and putting their creatures into the papacy, often their illegitimate children, or those of the popes themselves. I merely state this briefly in passing, as the condition of the empire, that we may better understand the state of things.
It was at this time that the famous history of Pope Joan had its date, a history believed for centuries, not indeed doubted till the Reformation. A German woman, born however in England, went to Athens, and thence to Rome, and became so distinguished in her literary teachings, that she was at length, it is said, elected pope, and held the see two years; but, having given birth to a child on the way to the Lateran church near the Coliseum, died, and was buried with disgrace.
R. But you do not believe this odious fable, invented by the enemies of Rome, and long after the event?
N*. Could you say by whom it was invented? I know Harding, the Jesuit, and Pagius ascribe it to Martinus Polonus, who, remark, was an eminent Roman Catholic writer, the latter thinking even Martin falsified. But why should a famous Roman Catholic invent it? The efforts to refute it are various: some say it was a retort of the Greeks to an accusation of a similar case in one who held the patriarchate of Constantinople; while the strongest argument against this is that the Greeks never mention it at all when most hostile to the See of Rome, but speak of Benedict III as successor of Leo IV. This, with the difficulties of chronology, are the strongest answer to it. But, in numbering the popes, this Joan is required to make them out. John XXI would only be XX without this Joan. It was believed and not questioned for centuries, indeed admitted as true till the Reformation, spoken of as true by ecclesiastical writers, by John Huss without the Council of Constance reproaching him with it. The pope’s sex was examined by the youngest sub-deacon from the eleventh century.79 Platina introduces her under the title of John VII, saying he would not seem to omit what almost all affirm. Whence did the story originate? It is not a Protestant allegation. It was fully believed and affirmed centuries before Luther. Roman Catholic historians since the Reformation pass it under silence, or deny it, as Baronius in his Annals (853, 56) with Pagius’ notes, and others. But before that, it is Roman Catholic historians who record it.
R. Leo Allatius ascribes its origin to the history of a false prophetess at Maine.
N*. But this is outrageously far-fetched. What should turn a false prophetess at Maine, who did not conceal her sex, into a pope of Rome who did? And why should the sex of the pope be examined continually afterwards? It is alleged, and still by Roman Catholic authors, that there were monuments recording it (indeed as to some it cannot be doubted, their destruction being also recorded) and that the pope never passed that way (the straight one) from St. Peter’s to Lateran.80 Now I will not say it is proved; but no one has yet accounted for the story, nor for the facts in connection with the pope. Rome is their source, and, as to some of the monuments of it, there can hardly be any doubt. Men may very well question the truth of the story, but when we are looking for a certain succession as a foundation and security for our faith, this is very serious. It makes such a ground of security worse than nothing.
James. But what a way we have got from anything Christian, sir!
N*. Far indeed; but this you must, if you follow the popes. But it is the very thing which this sad history is useful for, to prove that the Roman system is as far from Christianity as anything can possibly be. But alas! though this story makes the certainty of succession utterly untenable, we shall find in this and the whole whole condition of popery far more grievous and flagrant facts still, and that their own marks—their apostolicity, as much as their holiness and catholicity—are wholly wanting. It was just about this period that the separation of the Greek and Roman bodies began, and began really about hierarchical importance, though consummated somewhat later, when dogmas were alleged as an excuse. The manners of the clergy, and of the popes particularly, became at this time so licentious and corrupt (incest and unnatural crimes flowing from imposed or lauded celibacy) that it is hard to say in such corruption what is to be trusted. But we will proceed.
Schroek attributes, citing from others, the story of Pope Joan to this. Universally recognized as it was, it must have had some source, and the source was Rome. The attempt to put another on the papal throne instead of Benedict failed, and may be passed over. His follower was crowned, a thing immaterial to us, but shewing the progress of anti-christian character. He began too, to use the forged decretals in his conduct towards metropolitans. His follower absolved the Emperor from a solemn, though forced, oath.
I have nothing to remark till we come to the end of the century, when, in 891, Formosus (already consecrated bishop of old, but sent as legate to Bulgaria) was chosen pope, and enthroned, but not consecrated over again, the first example of such a transfer to Rome. Whether it may be considered a succession to Peter may be well questioned. Such translation was strictly forbidden in the early church. But on that I do not insist. He was never consecrated to the Roman See, or to be successor of Peter, as they say. Either the consecration of a pontiff to be Peter’s successor has nothing to do with the matter, and any other is as good, or he was not a successor at all—he was only his successor by election, and any special descending grace and security by being consecrated successor of Peter is a fable. After this we are plunged in struggles and confusion, so that to speak of succession is really ridiculous. The empire was weakened, Italian nobles struggled for the crown, and popes brought in German princes to counteract their efforts, and whichever party prevailed put in a pope, who undid what his predecessor had done.
We have an instance of this in Formosus. He is called bishop of Porto, but fled with others from Rome with the pope’s treasures. After his return from Bulgaria he was cited to appear, and was condemned by regular process before the Pope, John VIII, deprived of his priesthood, degraded, and, after delay given, anathematized. This sentence was confirmed in the Council of Troyes. The pope condemned those connected with Formosus, who belonged to his own court, and did rob, and would have killed, him.81 They fled; but it appears that Formosus not only was banished, but had to swear that he never would join in public service but as a layman. Marinus (or Martin) followed, who, Platina says, got in by evil arts. He undid all that John VIII had done as to Formosus, and absolved him from his oath, and restored him to his bishopric (Fleury 53, 45). He was pope little more than a year. Adrian followed for two months, then Stephen, and then Formosus himself became pope by bribery, says Platina, more than by virtue.
Boniface was then consecrated pope, elected by the popular voice, but died, it is said, of the gout in fifteen days. Platina says he was pope, Fleury that his intrusion was condemned (54, 28). He, too, had been deposed from the subdiaconate and from the priesthood.82 Dupin (9, 16) says, Formosus, having returned under Marinus, intrigued to get the Holy See; then the see was disputed by Boniface and Stephen. Baronius will not own Boniface at all; yet he was consecrated pope as well as any one, but died somehow in fifteen days. I may as well quote here, though somewhat long, the statement of the history by Baronius (897, 1), no Protestant account, but a very great stickler for the Roman See. “He (Boniface) held the see fifteen days. He is not to be reckoned among the pontiffs, being condemned in a Roman Council under Pope John IX,83 as shall be said in its place, a wicked man, already twice deposed, once from the diaconate, then from the priesthood, but against him Stephen the Seventh, called Sixth, was substituted, the intruded Boniface driven out by one in like manner intruded. All these things were extorted by force and fear, and have brought the greatest ignominy on the holy Roman church. But that some of the intruded pontiffs have afterwards been received as pontiffs, others altogether set aside, as Boniface, of whom we speak, comes from this, that those, however tyrannically they got hold of the see, yet the consent of the clergy having followed (accidente), it was better to tolerate them, whatever they were, than have the church divided by schism, and than that legitimate pontiffs in new electoral assemblies be chosen by accustomed rites. That we should say this, evident necessity compels us, because the universal Catholic church honoured them as legitimate pontiffs, obeyed them and recognized them as vicars of Christ, successors of Peter, and went to them with the respect (cultu) due to a true pontiff.”
This is a direct acknowledgment that they were not legitimate pontiffs, but that it was more convenient to own them than have a schism. If they succeed in holding their ground, better own them. If a stronger, like Stephen, intrudes and puts out the first intruder, and he dies of the gout in fifteen days, then he is not in the list at all. Yet Boniface was as much consecrated pope as Stephen, and if Stephen was consecrated after him, before he died of the gout, Stephen, the successful intruder, was never legitimately consecrated at all. Is not apostolic succession a farce after such facts and acknowledgments as these? The attempt to have a legitimate pontiff would have produced schism, so better to accept unprincipled intruders; and it was done. Luitprand (quoted by Baronius) says, Formosus being dead, and Arnulf (the Emperor he had favoured and brought to Rome to help him) gone home, he who was constituted pope after the death of Formosus is expelled, and Sergius (Stephen, Baronius says, at the instigation of Sergius) constituted pope by Adelbert; and then he relates the horrible history I shall now briefly relate, Stephen getting his act withal to be confirmed by a council at Rome.
He disinterred Formosus, set up his dead body on the pontifical throne, and dressed it in the pontifical robes, and, a kind of assembly being formed, addressed it as an unworthy intruder in the see. A deacon was given him to defend him, but, counted as unable to defend him, he was stripped of the robes, the fingers cut off with which he consecrated, and his body thrown into the Tiber, and all his consecrations held for nothing, and the subjects of them consecrated anew. All this was condemned and annulled afterwards. But before we proceed to further history, I must remark that at this epoch all is a sea of confusion as to the succession of the papacy. If I take up an ordinary history, I find John VIII, Marinus, Adrian III, Formosus, perhaps Boniface, and then Stephen VII (or VI).
But if I look a little below the surface, I find Sergius elected pope, as well as Formosus. Luitprand’s account of it, quoted by Baronius (891, 3), is that they were in the act of consecrating Sergius when Formosus’ party came and drove him by force from the altar; so Formosus was pope.
But then further, most respectable Roman Catholic writers, historians every way recognized among them, introduce two more popes here, Agapetus and Basil. These authorities are Marianus Scotus and Sigebert, who remark that these names were not found in some writers in his time, nor did the latter even die of the gout in fifteen days. Others follow these; how they came to be put in is hard to say. They may have been antipopes, whom their party owned, the others not. The chronology does not suit; but that is hardly more certain than the list of popes, Leo Ostiensis leaving out Stephanus VI. Now Agapetus and Basil may be supposed popes, and Stephen a real one; Sergius may have just escaped, being one half ordained, and Formosus succeeded by the violence of his followers, who expelled Sergius with no small tumult and outrage from the altar, says Luitprand; but where is the certainty of succession and decency—I will not condescend to say holiness—in your Roman Catholic church? To say nothing of Formosus going against the ancient canons, and being already Prelate of Ostia, never being consecrated pope at all.
R. But he could not be consecrated over again.
N*. Be it so; but he was never consecrated successor of Peter at all. He was an ambitious prelate, who had sworn never to come to Rome to be anything but a layman.
R. But Pope Marinus absolved him from his oath and reinstated him in his see.
N*. A strange way of maintaining holiness as a mark of the church! But then, the canons peremptorily forbidding translation from one see to another without any fresh consecration, he seizes by open violence the See of Peter, so called, when another is actually being consecrated, and so becomes successor of Peter. The only thing he was Pope of Rome by was by outrage and violence; and your Baronius is obliged to own that popes who intruded were dropped out of the list or kept in it as it suited convenience, to avoid worse schisms; so that there are many popes not allowed in the lists, who were as much popes as those in it. Agapetus and Basil may have been as much popes as Boniface, and others we shall find, whom Baronius leaves out. Nothing is more uncertain than what you call apostolic succession.
R. But do you believe that Agapetus and Basil were really popes? There is no ground really to suppose they were.
N*. I really do not know. But I know that several most respectable historians say they were, and that Baronius, whom you trust, admits that many illegitimate popes were recognized rather than have schism, and Boniface he does not own, who was certainly consecrated pope. All I say is, that there is no certainty at all in your apostolic succession; and that ordinations too were annulled, and set up again just as parties varied.
R. There were doubtless dark ages, and the empire too was in dissolution and confusion, and Italy in the disorder of incipient feudalism, different parties having the upper hand in their time, and this had its effect on the church in those turbulent times.
N*. Quite true; but this merely says that, instead of a holy apostolic succession, a light to the world in the lowliness of Jesus, it had fallen into the world and its darkness, and was a prey to the violences, which set one up and another down, as parties had the upper hand, and so it was. But then what becomes of holy apostolic succession?
R. God has doubtless preserved it.
N*. He has preserved the church in spite of it; but you make it a matter of faith, like its holiness (as Dr. Pusey says); but history denies it in fact, and as we are looking for marks of the true church, which even a poor man can use to find it, we ought to have facts, not believe one thing that he may believe another by the proof it gives. You have no apostolic succession in fact, but require one to believe there must have been, and then take it as a mark, as if it were.
It is well to give Baronius’ account of the papacy at this epoch. It will give us a just idea of apostolic succession. He says of Stephen, who had so treated Formosus’ body (906, 6): “In this year Stephen, the invader of the apostolic See, and himself driven out, is thrown into prison and strangled.” He then quotes his epitaph: “Thus indeed the wicked man suffered, who entered as a thief and a robber [a singular kind of apostolic succession!] into the sheepfold, closed his life by a halter—so infamous an end—through an avenging God.”
“Indeed, all things at Rome, sacred and profane, were mingled up with factions, so that the promotion of the Roman pontiff to the apostolic See was in the hands of him that was most powerful; so that at one time the Roman nobles, at another time the Prince of Etruria, intruded by secular power whom they would, and cast down him who might have been promoted to the Roman pontiff by the contrary faction; and this was done almost all this century till the Othos, Emperors of Germany, came in against both opposing parties, arrogating, however, also to himself the election of pope, and putting down him who was elected.”
And we shall find consequently two or three at a time, all successors, or none a true pope. But at this moment (900, 8), the faction of the Romans having the upper hand of Adelbert, Marquis of Tuscany (Pope Stephen, called Sixth, having been removed, as you have heard), they created a certain person, Romanus by name, who lived, it is said, four months and twenty days, but it is not easy to say what month or day by ancient monuments. But Stephen, he adds, lived to the end of the year. Theodore succeeded Romanus, but lived only twenty days, and John IX succeeded him. Platina says, Romanus set aside the acts of Stephen. At any rate, Theodore buried Formosus and brought back the bishops to their sees, and the priests he had ordained in their offices. Those who replaced them were to be counted of course intruders and false, whatever their ordinations and sacrament-giving were worth; but John IX went farther.
Still the same conflict for the papacy; some chose Sergius, who had been trying to be pope a long while, and had been half consecrated (Formosus having, as will be remembered, driven him from the altar), was chosen pope. However John had the stronger party, and Sergius was driven out from Rome, and retired to Adelbert, Marquis of Tuscany. John held council, re-established fully the memory and acts of Formosus, restored his bishops in a council, burnt the acts of the council held by Stephen, and forbade any translation again from another see, which the canons forbade under a penalty of being reduced to the state of a layman, and also anyone being placed in the See of Rome without the presence of the Emperor’s commissaries, that these violences might not take place.
But decrees do not destroy passion or ambition. Sergius was still hankering after the papacy, and the history of the see is full of darkness here, though the discovery of monuments has thrown some light on it. Benedict IV succeeded John IX, if Sergius was not true pope. If not, Baronius admits that Sergius held the papacy during the time he gives to Benedict (906, 1). Pagius gives to Sergius all these years. Dupin (10, chap. 2) gives only about a year to Benedict; Platina says, three years and four months. Leo succeeded him; he was pope forty days; his house-chaplain Christophle took him and put him in prison and made himself pope in his stead. However our old friend Sergius heard of it, came to Rome, took Christophle and put him in prison in his turn, and seated himself on the papal throne. We hear of no consecration; indeed he seems to have sat on the papal throne already. If he was, all the late popes were no popes at all; or if he was not, then he sat as pope without any consecration and conferred orders. At all events there had been two popes all the time from Formosus, Benedict IV, Leo, Christophle. Really to talk of apostolic succession, as a security for the true church and the faith, is worse than ridiculous.
But further, Sergius renewed his hatred against Formosus, annulled all his ordinations, and forced the ordained to receive ordination over again, and annulled all that John IX had done in his council to make valid the acts set aside by Stephen.
It was at this time that Auxilius wrote a book against the pontiffs, assailing the ordinations, annulling of ordinations and re-ordinations, so that nothing was certain. It was hard to know who was a priest and who was not. These were unhappy times, says Baronius, when each intruded pontiff set aside what had been done by another. So here that wicked Sergius, a man, the slave of every vice, the most wicked of all, what did he leave unattempted?
We must now alas! plunge into details more horrible still. Bad enough that ambition and violence should be called apostolic succession, when it is quite impossible to know who was really pope, and two or three, and even four, were at the same time, of the last few: Benedict IV, Leo V, Christophle, Sergius. But it is now the most worthless of women and their illegitimate children who will dispose of the papal see as they please, putting in their paramours or illegitimate children.
R. They were very sad times, it is quite true. All Roman Catholic historians admit it. Baronius, as you know, says, how can he hold them for really popes who were thus put in? Only he must date by them. But God steered the ship of the church through all these waves and tempests, and the bark of St. Peter was never lost.
N*. St. Peter’s bark I think little of; God’s church will never, and can never, be hindered from arriving at port. What Christ builds, the gates of hell will not prevail against. But was Christ building all this? And remember we are looking for apostolic succession as a mark of the true church, and holiness too. If they are, it is quite clear the Roman church is not the true one, if church we are to call it. Come now, gentlemen, you make great account of the succession; you believe the existence of the church depends on it. Which of the four I have just named was the real pope?
R. We do not answer for irregularities in an evil time. We only say the succession was providentially secured.
N*. So as to be a ground for faith?
N*. Well, which is the succession here?
R. Well, Benedict IV, Leo V, Christophle, Sergius.
N*. Does not Baronius admit Sergius sat during Benedict’s pontificate!
JR. Well, yes; but that is uncertain.
N*. What is certain?
R. The distance of time has thrown obscurity over it.
N*. True; that is, the boasted succession is quite uncertain. At any rate Sergius and Benedict were alive together, and which was pope?
D. Benedict was pope after the death of John IX.
N*. But Sergius had been chosen at the same time as Formosus, and was driven, as we have seen, from the altar when he was being consecrated. And if he was (and if not, it does not appear he ever was) Benedict could not be legitimate pope at all. The truth is, it was a struggle between the power of the Marquises of Tuscany and the Roman nobles, who had many of them fortified houses in Rome, who should have the upper hand, and whichever had put his creature in and his adversary’s out, so that it is extremely difficult to know who was or who was not pope, till these wretched women, Theodora, Marozia, and the younger Theodora acquired paramount influence by their personal charms and wealth and noble race, and put in whom they would.
James. But what has this to do with apostolic succession? The apostles had little to do with all this.
N*. Nothing, James; save to shew that there was none. In the first case which we have gone through there is no certainty of any succession whatever but violence; in the second, the vilest of harlots putting in her paramours or children.
Bill M. But is this really all true, Mr. R.?
R. Well, the- facts are very sad, as all own; but we must believe that God would not forsake His church, and that those who did sit as popes were regularly consecrated, and so communicated the deposit.
Bill M. But we are trying to find if it is His church or not; and you want me to believe it is, to shew me that there must have been succession. But I was told to look for the succession to know which was the church. We are looking for proofs of the true church, and Mr. O. made apostolic succession one of them, as does Dr. Milner. So we must get the fact to believe it is the true church; and there is no succession here, but two or three at a time, and driving one another out like robbers. And how can I know whether they were consecrated or not? Here was one of them driven out in the middle of it from the altar. How can I tell he was ever consecrated? If things went on quietly, we might suppose they were, if it was the rule; but, with all this violence, we cannot tell what was done. Then they set aside the ordinations, and others set them up again. This is no sure foundation to build a man’s soul upon. I do not see anything apostolic, or indeed any Christianity in it at all. I am amazed: that is certain. How can people call such things the holy church of God? But I beg pardon; I’ll say no more; but it is no good to tell a plain man that this is apostolic and holy, to find the church of God by.
N*. There is nothing, M., like having the facts in such a case; and if we are to believe it is the church without proof, I have no need to seek then the proofs or marks that it is so. The word of God is quite sufficient for me to build my faith on through grace. But you know this is the ground you were put upon, and so we went into it.
We have still a little farther to go to make the matter plainer if possible. “It is evident,” says Baronius (900, 3), “no one could scarcely believe, nor is it indeed scarcely to be believed, unless one had himself seen it with his eyes, and handled it with his hands, what shocking and what base and hideous and execrable and abominable things the holy apostolic see was compelled to undergo, on which the whole Catholic church turns as on a hinge.” This he attributes to princes meddling with it. But it was, remember, in the popes that sat on the see these things were found, and this dark state of things lasted and characterized, as Baronius states at the beginning of it, the whole century, till they called in a powerful Emperor, Otho, to set it to rights, swore fealty to him, got him to name a pope, and then rebelled against him. It had become hopelessly intolerable. It was partly, not all, the consequence of the interference of the Marquis of Tuscany and his family.
It is necessary to mention one fact in civil history to explain the history of the popes. The Marquis of Tuscany had got possession of the castle of St. Angelo, which still exists, and had been the tomb of the Emperor Adrian, but had been fortified and commanded the city. He gave this to a noble Roman woman, Theodora, not his wife, and she and her two daughters lived there and governed Rome. Her daughter Marozia had a son by Pope Sergius, with whom she lived. After Sergius came Anastasius, who, says Platina, lived modestly and in integrity. There was nothing worthy of reproof in him, a good deal to say in those days. After him came Lando. Theodora was all powerful at Rome. A certain presbyter, John, came from Ravenna to Rome, whom she seduced to live with her; one of her daughters living in adultery with Adelbert, Marquis of Tuscany, as the other had lived with Pope Sergius. Theodora had a son, Alberic, by the Marquis. Theodora makes Lando consecrate John to the See of Bologna, but Ravenna, a great archbishopric, falling vacant just then, she makes the pope promote him to that. Lando did not live long, and then she, not liking him to be at a distance from her, brings John to Rome and makes him pope. Such is Luitprand’s (a contemporary who resided even at Rome) account, adopted by Baronius, Dupin, and Fleury. Muratori seeks to invalidate it some eight hundred years after, but nobody ever doubted it till then. Baronius does not attempt to deny it. His remark is this, “Such was the unhappy state then of the Roman church, that everything was set in motion by the will of the powerful harlot, Theodora, the mother. By her meretricious acts she had this power; but besides, the son of Adelbert, by his wife Wido, had married Marozia, the mistress of Sergius. What then was the face of the holy Roman church! how filthy when most powerful and at the same time base harlots ruled Rome, by whose will Sees were changed, bishops given, and, what is horrible and unutterable to be heard, pseudo-pontiffs their paramours were intruded into the See of Peter who are not to be written save to mark the dates in the catalogue of Roman pontiffs; for who can say that persons intruded by harlots of this kind without law were lawful Roman pontiffs? Nowhere any mention of clergy electing or afterwards consenting, all canons buried in silence, the decrees of pontiffs suffocated, ancient traditions and old customs in electing the sovereign pontiffs proscribed, and sacred rites and ancient customs utterly extinguished!” (912, 8, 7). He justly says all the clergy chosen by them were of course like them. Thus at Rheims, the Count Hugo made his son of five years old archbishop, and took the revenues; then, some getting the upper hand, another was consecrated, and there was a fight, and councils about that, and two archbishops at a time.
But if Baronius is right in this, that they were not legitimate popes, where is the succession? I know, he says, though the abomination of desolation was there, destruction did not follow as at Jerusalem, that Christ seemed to sleep in the ship, but He was there and the like, so that the church emerged out of it.
But we are seeking apostolic succession as a mark of the true church, and here we are for some fifty years without a true pope at all. There was no true succession, no election, no consent of the church, but nominees of vile women putting in their paramours or their sons without either. If this be apostolic succession, apostolic succession is a strange mark of the true church. And as Auxilius says, when they each annulled the ordinations of another, all was invalidated; there were no true ordinations, no true sacraments. What security is this for the church of God, or any soul to build its faith upon?
R. But, as Baronius says, the church emerged out of it, and was more flourishing than ever.
Bill M. But all this is very shocking, and to make the church of God, out of this and such things, a security for our faith, and their own great men saying they were not legitimate, so that whatever else there may be, there cannot be succession.
R. But you are not to take an individual’s statement, however eminent, as an authority in matters of faith.
Bill M. And what am I to take?
R. The church.
Bill M. What church? The church of Rome governed by harlots? We are just looking for the true one. Is that the true church that was governed by these women, and the creatures they had about them? I never can think that is Christ’s church. He does not govern His church by harlots. How they do deceive us!
D. Who deceives you? What right have you to make such charges?
Bill M. Milner deceives me, or had; for I am pretty well undeceived, to say the truth. To talk of the holy church and apostolic succession! And you, gentlemen, I must say, deceived me. You cannot deny these things are true.
N*. Allow me to ask, Who was the head of the church of God at this time?
R. Christ is always the head of the church, and He could and did take care of it.
AT*. That I admit; but then if He be the head always, we have need of no other; nay, another is impossible: the church cannot have two heads. Christ is the one ever-living head of His body, and Son over God’s house. But then what is the pope?
R. He is the head on earth, and vicar of Christ who is in heaven; and what he binds on earth is bound in heaven.
N*. Then they are no real heads, only representing Him who is Head, as you say. But were these infamous dependents on these vile women the vicars of Christ, and was what they did on earth bound in heaven?
R. What they did in their official capacity was bound in heaven.
James. This is very shocking. I had no thought it was so bad. To make these men the vicars of Christ, and their acts Christ’s acts!
R. Not their wickedness; I say their official acts.
James. And is all my security to rest on my finding out what were official acts in this horrible history, even if they could represent Christ in anything?
JV*. But you will please remember that we are looking for the true church by the mark of apostolic succession. That is the reason I quoted this well-known passage again, as I did as to holiness. But tell me, were their ordinations official acts?
R. Of course.
N*. Well, those of one pope were annulled by another as void from the beginning, and then set up again by a third. Auxilius wrote his book because prelates were disposed to give up their sees, as having no real orders, to persuade them not. What was—perhaps I should say which was—sanctioned by Christ here? But further. Here is your Baronius’ account of those whom they did ordain. “Not only was Christ,” he says, “asleep in the ship, but (alluding to the history in the Gospels) there were no disciples who should wake Him up, they were all snoring. What presbyters and cardinal deacons can we suppose should be chosen by these monsters, when nothing is so implanted in nature as that each should beget what is like himself? Who can doubt that they consented in all things to those by whom they were chosen?” (912, 8). And so history tells us it was; iniquity, corruption, vice, walked shamelessly abroad; and the clergy, the worst, were screened by official sanctity.
Now these were their official acts: I mean the putting the clergy into their offices. Were these sanctioned by Christ in heaven? The gates of hell did not prevail against the church which He builds, and that is all He says; but is this His church, the choice and installation of the clergy, of people like themselves, by these monsters, the work of Christ sanctioned by Him in heaven?
James. You surely cannot say that, sir?
R. All I say is that sacramental grace continued, so that the church endured.
N*. Even that is doubtful on your own ground, from what we have seen. Baronius will not own them for legitimate popes; some put those in the list that Baronius will not. How is a poor man like Bill M. to judge of such questions when he is seeking a mark of the true church?
D. He must humbly take it for granted.
N*. Take what for granted?
R. That God will be faithful to His church in spite of all.
N*. We do not doubt that. It is begging the question. We are inquiring which is the true church. Is he to take for granted that securing grace to monsters of wickedness by sacraments, and they communicating it to profligates like themselves, is sanctioned by Christ, and His way of maintaining the security of the true church, when he has been taught by yourselves to look for holiness as a mark of the true church and apostolic succession? when, if he could read these things, and were not deceived by men like Milner, he would know that Baronius says he cannot own them for legitimate popes?
When he says, Christ was still in the ship, it is saying that He did not fail when there were no legitimate popes, which I fully believe; but that is the ground we rest on, not yours. We own none to be legitimate, nor the papacy itself to be legitimate, but Christ to be faithful, and infallibly to assure His church to the end in spite of these illegitimate popes. But we hold all this to be illegitimate, and therefore not the true church. God is true if every man is a liar; but to make Christ sanction illegitimate monsters as the true church is horrible.
R. And how is a man to choose amongst all the Protestant sects?
N*. I do not want him to choose anything, but to bow to the word of God, and follow it.
R. But how can he tell it is the word of God?
N*. Of that we have spoken; but I answer briefly, bj divine teaching. Do you not believe in preventing and assisting grace?
R?. Yes, surely; I am no Pelagian.
N*. Well then, he learns its truth and power by that, quite recognizing that ministry of grace which may be a great help to him, while he must be himself taught of God.
D. But cannot grace make him subject to the church?
N*. When he has found it, as the word directs him. But he must find it first, and take the word for his rule, that is, believe in the word first.
But, if you please, we will continue our history. John X buckled on his armour, and led his troops with others against the Saracens with success; but Wido and Marozia were jealous of the authority of Peter, his brother, conferred on him by Pope John in Rome. They killed Peter before his eyes in the Lateran palace, and put John in prison, where he died, some say of grief, some of a violent death. Leo VI succeeded; he was put in prison, and died there after a year’s and a few days’ pontificate. Stephen VII (VIII) succeeded, and was over two years pope. Then Marozia put in her own son John, whom she had by Pope, or as Baronius says pseudo-pope Sergius. Wido died, and Marozia offered her hand and Rome to Hugo, King of Lombardy, brother by the same mother to Wido, who accepted it. But he insulted Alberic, son to Adelbert (Marozia’s father) by his wife; he raised the Romans, and put Marozia and the pope in prison. Accounts do not agree how far he was allowed to officiate, some say privately, others more publicly. Alberic made him authorize the patriarch of Constantinople to wear the pallium without Rome’s sending it.
For twenty years there is not much to remark. There were three popes after Leo VII who succeeded John to John XII. Alberic, who had so long ruled at Rome, had a son named Octavian, who inherited his authority, though the power of Otho I, an able prince, began to make itself felt in all the West; he was crowned Emperor by John XII (XIII). But this was later. This Octavian, it is said at the suggestion of the Romans, made himself pope, being a mere boy not possibly more than eighteen, probably a good deal less, not of an age to be a deacon, mimicking a pope in a play, says Baronius; but (though on no possible condition to be called a legitimate pontiff, no law in his election but force and fear, but as it was acceded to) it was better, he says further, as those worthless times persuaded, to bear with him than have a schism—no true pope at all, that is, rather than two questionable ones (955, 4). Octavian (or John XII) first led his troops to war against the Duke of Capua, but was forced to make peace. He then began a life of unparalleled debauchery. He wrote to the Emperor, whose influence now was great, to deliver him from the violence of the chiefs in Italy. The Emperor came and was crowned Emperor. The pope swore allegiance on the bodies of Peter and Paul that he would never in any way help Adelbert and Bereuges, the rebellious chiefs referred to; and all agreed that the pope should be canonically chosen, and not consecrated until he had bound himself, in presence of the commissaries of the Emperor, to preserve the rights of all.
However, no sooner was the Emperor’s back turned than he joined Adelbert. The Emperor sent to Rome to inquire what this meant. The answer was that the pope hated the Emperor as the devil hated his Creator; that he had turned the Lateran palace into a house of ill-fame; and they related the vilest wickedness of which he was guilty; and, not content with that, violated matrons and virgins in the very churches. Otho said he was a boy, and would, on being spoken to, mend his ways.
It resulted, after several missions, in Otho’s coming to Rome, and the pope and Adelbert fleeing. The Emperor entered, and the Romans swore never to elect or have a pope consecrated without the consent of the Emperor. The Emperor, the prelates of Germany who came with him, and nearly all those of Italy, met in council. His misdeeds were publicly stated: he consecrated bishops for money, had made one of ten years old, drunk wine in honour of the devil, and with various cruelties caused the death of persons that were named. The bishops and clergy and people of Rome declared in the most solemn way it was all true. The Emperor wrote to him to say: “You are accused of homicide, perjury, sacrilege, incest with your own relations and with two sisters, of having drunk wine in honour of the devil, of having invoked in gambling Jupiter and Venus and other demons, and we beg you to come and clear yourself.” The pope answered, “We have heard that you are thinking of making another pope. If you do, we excommunicate you in the name of Almighty God, so that you can do nothing, not even communicate as layman.” They sent again, but John had left. The council deposed him, and chose Leo VIII, who sat as pope more than a year. Eighty-five prelates or clergy of Rome were assembled in council besides Roman nobles.
Otho, after troubles, and the Romans again swearing fidelity and giving hostages, left Rome, and at the instigation of Pope Leo gave up the hostages. John returned, held a council of twelve bishops (of the papal states chiefly), and twelve of the clergy of Rome, deposed Leo, who saved himself by flight, broke all his ordinations, perpetrated brutal acts against some who had borne testimony against him, and some three months after, being found committing adultery outside Rome, was killed by the husband—by the devil, if you believe Luitprand; and this is apostolic succession.
The Romans thereupon, not heeding their oaths, chose Benedict. The Emperor returned to Rome with Leo, whom the Romans recognized, and Benedict was brought before them. He humbly acknowledged his fault and begged for mercy, gave up his pallium and crosier to Leo, who broke the crosier and stripped him of his other robes, and he acknowledged himself a usurper. He was reduced to the diaconate, but was to go into exile, where he died peacefully at Hamburg. He seems to have been a quiet respectable man. Leo himself died very soon after.
The Romans, who (it seems) had given the Emperor the right to choose the pope in this synod, sent to him to know his choice. He sent ambassadors to Rome, and Jean, bishop of Narni (one of John’s accusers) was unanimously chosen pope, and accepted by the Emperor. The latter seems to have been a wise, moderate, and moral prince. Baronius does not own Leo; he does own Benedict. Dupin does not own Benedict, he does Leo. Benedict had joined in choosing Leo. Certainly John XIII succeeded Leo, not Benedict. Fleury also owns Leo. Platina says Benedict was seditiously elected pope by John’s friends; as to Leo, the Romans, finding John insupportable, begged the Emperor to choose one. He said it belonged to the people and clergy, and they chose Leo, whom he confirmed; then changing, they brought in Benedict. The Emperor came, and, tired with all these things, he transferred the right of election to the Emperor. This Platina was in office under the popes, and at last librarian, which involved other important charges.
Now here, with this pretended succession, all is uncertain as to who was really pope at all. Baronius has Leo IX afterwards, without any Leo VIII at all, concealing the difficulty; to say nothing of such an one as Octavian, of some sixteen years old (consented to because there he was by his own power, but confessedly no legitimate pope), as a proof of apostolic succession. The consent was merely that he was strong enough to maintain himself in his place till Otho came.
R. No doubt they were dark and dismal times.
N*. Be it so; but the darkness was in the papacy more than anywhere else (the Emperor seems to have been a worthy man), and we are looking for light as to the true church, and do not find it here—not on your own principles. True succession there was none. This is upon the face of your histories. You have no Leo VIII in your greatest historian, though he is obliged to put in Leo IX. The others explain fully what this means. He really sat as pope for more than a year, and died in the see, and John XIII was chosen on his decease. We can understand Baronius, because Leo was introduced by deposing John for his enormities, and he and all the Romans gave the right to choose and establish the popes to the Emperor, in order to have some decency in the matter; and they sent to the Emperor on Leo’s death, who sent his commissaries to Rome for the choice of John XIII, being a moderate and able prince, who sought moral order at least in what he held to be divine and the church of God. I gather the facts from Platina, Baronius, Fleury, Dupin, all Roman Catholic historians.84
But we now arrive at utter confusion and uncertainty as to the whole succession itself. (Fleury 56, 36; Dupin, cent. 10, c. 2; Baronius 972, and following.) Domnus II, Benedict VI, Boniface VII (whom Baronius will not own, who plundered the Vatican church of all its wealth, and went off to Constantinople, but was a regularly ordained pope) follow—it cannot be ascertained as to the two first in what order. Baronius puts Domnus first, making him hold the see three months; Fleury puts Benedict VI first, then Boniface, then Domnus, but says many allege he was never pope. All is obscure as to him. Baronius says, “everything save that he was pope three months after John XIII is obscure.” Dupin85 puts Domnus first, then Benedict; Platina, Benedict first, then Domnus, then Boniface. Domnus’ pontificate is quite uncertain. What comes of succession I know not. If pope, he was pope only three months. After a while he was pope (Baronius says the day after his death). Benedict VI was pope, whom others make to follow John XIII.
Crescens, or Crescentius, son of Pope John X, it is said, at the instance of Francon, called Boniface, put Benedict in prison, and Boniface became pope, and afterwards had Benedict strangled, so that he was never really pope as successor to another. After a year or more he too was obnoxious, and Benedict VII drove him away; but he escaped, and took all the treasures of the church with him to Constantinople, and lived on them. He never was truly pope, as Benedict VI was still alive, if we are to count him or Domnus. I do not pretend to unravel this history. Muratori and Fr. Pagius have contested the accounts of others, such as Hormann Contractus. I do not pretend to have examined and settled it. The last two, if I am not mistaken, with Sigbert of Gemblours, put Domnus between Boniface and Benedict VII. He, for once in these times, died quietly a natural death. John XIV succeeded; then Boniface came back, seized him on the throne, put him in prison and starved him to death, and sat as pope four months—murderer of two popes and robber of the church. Baronius will not own him for pope, but pope he was as much as others. It was a question really of political parties (Bar. 983, 1).
Boniface died in the papacy. His corpse was dishonoured by his own party (Dupin, cent. 10, c. 2). On his death a pope was chosen, and held the see four months, but was never consecrated, and is not reckoned. John was then chosen, called John XV. Crescentius took the castle, and the pope fled, but Crescentius was found to be quiet, and John returned, and held the see peaceably. The Emperor was in Italy, and the Romans sent to him. He recommended his chaplain, who was elected, and made Pope Gregory V; but Crescentius drove him away, and set up John as pope. The Emperor came, hanged Crescentius and his principal followers. John was deprived of eyes, nose, and tongue, and made to ride an ass backwards. He is said by Fleury (57, 49) to have been put in prison, but is no more heard of. John XV was the first who canonized any one. The council says, We adore the relics of martyrs and confessors (Bar. 993, 4).
Sylvester II followed Gregory V. He demands some notice, as the object of the utmost horror of Roman historians. Baronius declares him a horrible blasphemer, heretic, and schismatic (992, 22, and following), and spends folio pages in railing against him. Cardinal Beuno says he bought the papacy, and sold his soul to the devil, under condition that he should not have it till he said Mass in Jerusalem; but having done so in a church in Rome called Jerusalem, he died thereupon; and we learn from Sigbert that many in the twelfth century would not reckon him among the popes. However Baronius will not quite admit that. His commerce with the devil, however, obtained currency, as he was the most learned man of his age—a great mathematician and astronomer. But the motives of Baronius’ hatred are hardly concealed. A council at Rheims had deposed Archbishop Arnulf for giving up the city to the Duke of Lorraine, one of the common political struggles with which the ecclesiastics were mixed up. Gerbert was ordained archbishop, but the pope put him down and set up Arnulf. The Emperor made Gerbert archbishop of Ravenna, a much greater see, and on Gregory V’s death he made the Roman people make him pope. When turned out of the See of Rheims, he wrote against the popedom, and brought to light and depicted the frightful depravities and ignorance which characterized it, saying, if a man was not pious he was Antichrist, however he was ordained, and if ignorant, an idol. This, and his nomination by the Emperor Otho, excited the spleen of Baronius.
After him we find the difficulties of apostolic succession in our path. (Baronius, 1003, 9.) “John,” he says, “XVI of that name, called XVIII; then another John XVII, more commonly XIX. Marianus Scotus, a writer of that age, calls XVI XVII, and the second, John XVIII; however, more frequent usage makes him XIX, but against all reason, as some in this number, schismatics, unworthy of the name of pope, are included.” So Dupin: “John XVI according to us, XVIII according to others.” This comes from John VI (or Pope Joan), whom Baronius will not recognize, and John, who sat as pope when he had turned out Gregory V, and was then turned out himself, and deprived of eyes, nose, and tongue. Fleury makes it, with Marianus Scotus, XVII XVIII; Baronius XVIII XIX, only that the first sat only some months, and hence is not counted in dates. The second of these Johns calls himself XVIII (Pagi ad B. 1003, 3). But then he reckons either Pope Joan (John VI) or the John that drove out Gregory. The uncertainty of succession, whatever its value, is evident; XVII and XVIII seem most generally owned, and the expulsor of Gregory owned as pope, so that there were two at a time, and not John VI. Platina counts XVIII XIX, counting the John who drove out Gregory and John VI.
In John’s time it seems Constantinople and Rome were reunited in communion; under Sergius, not. It is not known why. Sergius, who followed, and his follower, Benedict, were of Henry of Germany’s party (Bar. 1009, 4). The Romans made one Gregory pope, who drove out Benedict. He fled to Henry, who brought him back to Rome with an army, on which the Romans drove away Gregory, and took Benedict back. John, his brother, succeeded him by bribery (says Glaber, a contemporary author), when a layman wholly unordained. He dies. These two popes were brothers of the Count of Tusculum. He did not like the papacy going out of his family; so, by money and influence, his son, a boy not ten years old, was made Pope Benedict IX. Some affirm that John XIX was driven out, and re-established by the Emperor, but it seems uncertain. Some give Benedict seventeen or eighteen years; Fleury says only about twelve, but Glaber (quoted by Baronius, his contemporary), ten. His life was one of infamy, murder, and debauchery of every kind, till at last it was insupportable. He had sat ten or twelve years. The Romans put in his place the Bishop of Sainte Sabine, who became Sylvester III. But after three months Benedict returned, and drove out Sylvester of Sainte Sabine. But, desirous of devoting himself to pleasure, he agreed for a sum of money with John Gratian, arch-priest, that he should have the papacy, reserving only the revenues of England. Gratian became Gregory VI. A strange apostolic succession!
But there were now three popes. However, the Emperor came to Rome to put them all down. Benedict fled, Sylvester was sent back to Sainte Sabine, and Gregory arrested and finally sent into exile. No one was found at Rome fit to be pope, and Suidger of Bamberg, who was with the Emperor, was made pope by the name of Clement II, a respectable man, it seems. So now there were four popes at once. Clement II died in nine months; back came Benedict, though the Emperor had sent one Poppo, consecrated pope as Damasus II, but poisoned within a month, as is said. Baronius says Cardinal Beuno is not trustworthy, and Benedict sat as pope eight months longer. Baronius (1033, 8) would persuade us that the church of Rome suffered, did not do, all these things. But who was bribed to set up the boy Benedict? Who agreed to let him go with a sum of money and the English revenues? Who accepted the rule of Theodora and Marozia, and their sons made popes, and fathers of subsequent popes? The only decent popes, with very rare exceptions, were those put in by the Emperors. On the contrary, the evil was at Rome.
R. No doubt it is very sad, but your selecting these cases of wickedness gives a false idea of the general state of things.
N*. I am not speaking of the general state of things, however apparent it may be from what has been said. Had I done so, it would have been a history of murders, incests, crimes not to be named, and a depravity especially among the clergy, of which all contemporary writers are witness, as Ratherius and Damianus. Simony was universal. A pope introduced by the Emperor laboured, by himself and by councils, to put a stop to it.
But our present subject is apostolic succession. Now the four I have named are counted among popes at any rate there. Baronius has Benedict IX Gregory VI. He does not own Sylvester III (1044, 1, etc.), but says (from Otho Frisingensis) there were three schismatic popes at once. Damasus he does own. Platina says, “Damasus took the See by force, with no consent of clergy or people, for this usage had become so inveterate, that every ambitious person could invade the See of Peter.” But God arranged it, he tells us, for he died in twenty-three days, so that some do not count him among the popes. At any rate Benedict was pope all the time. Baronius says he was regularly chosen, yet reckons among the popes Benedict, who was alive at Rome, and is said to have had him poisoned. Fleury says Benedict at last repented, and retired; and Poppo, whom the Emperor had sent from Germany, was consecrated the same day. I do not pretend to decide who is right or who is pope, but the vaunted succession is not worth a straw. It is making a mockery of religion and Christianity to rest anything upon it.
R. Why, then, did God bring it out of all this, and raise it to still greater power?
N*. The power was worldly power, which their cunning and men’s superstition put into their hands, and it was over men of the world, and only lasted till it became quite intolerable where there was any conscience left. As to continuing, Buddhism has continued longer—from 540 years before Christ—has been much more moral, and has a vastly greater number of adherents to this day. This proves nothing. Spirituality does not go by number, and true Christians are a little flock.
R. What do you rest on then?
N*. We have spoken of it. The word of God, which knows no succession, being always itself; and the grace of Him to use it, who is ever the same. The faithfulness of Christ to His church can never fail.
As to the history, I should add here that Baronius distinguishes John and Gratian. John was a third schismatical pope; Benedict’s conscience then yielded to conviction, and Gratian, or Gregory VI, was a regular and commendable pope. He says (following Otho Frisingensis) that he bought off all the three (heads of Cerberus, as he calls them) with money, (the English revenues being left to Benedict, as having most title), and then was made pope. This does not hang together with history however. It was poor repentance, being bought off with money and England’s revenues; but there was a reason for Baronius owning him Gregory VII. The famous Hildebrand owned Gregory VI as legitimate pope, and called himself VII; so Gregory VI must be acknowledged. His paying the others to be gone, he will have it, was canonical virtue, not simony. However that may be, he was deposed in council on the arrival of the Emperor, along with Benedict and Sylvester, and taken to Germany, though Benedict managed to get the see for eight or nine months afterwards. Such is apostolic succession.
On the death of Damasus II, Leo IX succeeded, a very respectable man, a German, sent by the Emperor, chosen at Worms, but who, it appears, only took the place on condition of the people and clergy of Rome confirming it. Victor II succeeded, also a German, under the influence of Hildebrand, afterwards Gregory VII; after him Stephen X of Lorraine. Then the Romans chose Benedict X; but Damianus and other cardinals left Rome, and chose another, Nicholas II, who was settled in the see by the Emperor’s power, and Benedict degraded. And Nicholas first settled the popes should be chosen by the cardinals. These popes were Germans, and at least decent people. On the death of Nicholas there was great conflict for the papacy. Alexander was chosen, supposing it would please the imperial court. But the Emperor was not content. Another was chosen; the Emperor came with an army but was defeated, and in the Council of Mantua a compromise was made, and Alexander was sole pope. Cadulous (Honorius II) does not count in the list.
Gregory VII, the most able and ambitious of all the popes, came next. He had long governed Rome, and was seated in the papacy before his predecessor was buried (some say by soldiers, and a host devoted to him; some say the cardinals and people had their part). He sent to the Emperor, at any rate, to say it had been done without his will. The Emperor sent a commissioner to Rome to inquire, and found it better to acquiesce. He pushed the power of the pope to absolute dominion over everything, and enforced the celibacy of the clergy more than any of his predecessors. Meanwhile corruption reigned everywhere. The Emperor Henry struggled against his power, a struggle I need not enter into here; but councils were held in Germany. In that of Bresse, Gregory was deposed, and another chosen, who took the name of Clement III. Henry besieged Rome, took it, and Clement was placed in the see, and crowned Henry Emperor. Gregory sent for the Romans, and Gregory got into the castle of St. Angelo. Henry retired to his camp; Robert Guiscard, the Norman, fired the city, and in the confusion Gregory escaped, and (Baronius, 1083, 1, and following) retired to Salerno, under protection of the Normans, and died there. William, king of England, alone effectually resisted him, suffered his legates to hold no councils, nor the English and Norman prelates to go to Rome. Gregory it was who laid the foundation of Roman pretensions, the pride and the shame of the papacy.
The general state of the clergy at this time was indescribable in vice and degradation of every sort. Gregory VII enforced celibacy, which made it worse. It is impossible to describe the excess of wickedness and its universality among the clergy; but it is not our subject now, but succession. These German popes were brought in as no decent ecclesiastics could be found in Rome, and men were wearied with sin and violence. But, on the other hand, it was the custom for monks, as a way of holiness, to do penance for others by proxy. A man had sinned enough to be put to penance for 120 or 100 years. A monk undertook it, reciting the psalter, with flagellations, it is said about a thousand for 10 pss.; 3,000 were worth a year’s penance, and so 15,000 worth five years’ penance; thus twenty recitations and the lashes paid the whole hundred years. It took about six days thus for a hundred years’ penance!
R. But you do not believe these ridiculous stories?
N*. There is no doubt it was the practice. It is the statement of one of the brightest luminaries of the age, who, if superstitious, at any rate sought to stop the floods of abounding iniquity, Peter Damian. He had learned it from Dominic. You may see it in Fleury (60, 52). In his letter, excusing what he had said of voluntary penances, he says that laymen get rid of them by giving so much money, and that was not in the canons, and why not monks by austerities? (Fleury, 60, 52, and Dupin, 11, cent., c. 8). It was the same Damian who wrote a book about the prevalence of unnatural crimes among the clergy, approved by Leo IX, which the Pope Alexander II hid away for fear of scandal, refusing in council to take it up. Victor III and Urban II closed this century.
Gilbert of Ravenna, however, was still pope or anti-pope through their pontificates as Clement III, a council of thirty bishops and others having elected him and deposed Gregory VII at the time of the latter hurrying into the see before his predecessor was buried. Gregory, we have seen, died out of Rome, among the Normans. Paschal II, who succeeded Gregory VII, made war on Clement III, and drove him into Calabria. His first successor was, after four months, taken by Pope Paschal’s troops and confined in a monastery; his successor had it three months and retired; the third, who took the name of Sylvester IV, was better sustained, but died soon after; so Paschal was sole pope. The Emperor and popes were at war. The Emperor had put Paschal in irons, and made him yield the right of the investiture of the prelates in their Sees. In this, on a trial with Callixtus II, as afterwards in France, the princes gained their point: only it was agreed to be done with the sceptre in Germany, by writing in France—not with staff and ring.
On Paschal’s death Gelasius II was raised to the pontificate; but the Emperor came, and he, as yet only deacon, fled with some difficulty to Gaieta; but there was consecrated pope. The Emperor made another at Rome, Gregory VIII. After some time Gelasius fled, and died in France, where Callixtus II was chosen by the Romans with him, and acknowledged pope on his coming to Rome. Gregory VIII fled and shut himself up in a fortress called Sutri. After some time Callixtus sent an army, soon joining it himself. The inhabitants gave him up, and he died imprisoned, having been three years pope. All his ordinations were annulled. Honorius II succeeded; then Innocent II by some, and Anaclete by others, the majority at Rome being for the latter. Innocent fled, but was acknowledged by France, England, and Germany, not by Guyenne and Southern Italy. Lothaire came from Germany, and set up Innocent; but, as soon as he was gone, Innocent fled from the Romans again. But some in southern Italy took up arms, and, Anacletus’ party being defeated, could do nothing against Innocent. Anacletus died; another pope was chosen, but finding he could not hold his ground, he submitted to Innocent, and all his ordinations were annulled.
R. But Anacletus is never reckoned among the popes.
N*. He was chosen by a large majority of the cardinals, clergy, and people. The civil power established Innocent, but Anacletus was canonically consecrated and installed. Innocent was elected by Honorius’ private friends in secret before his death was publicly announced. He died at Rome, having been pope some eight years (Fleury, 60, 45; Dupin, 12, cent., chap. 3; Platina). Baronius makes antichrist of him (1130, 6). This he borrows from Bernard (Epist. 124, etc.), who was excessively active in promoting the cause of Innocent. No plain man sees why he should prefer to Anacletus, who sat at Rome regularly elected, Innocent who did not sit there.
R. But Anacletus could not be pope because Innocent was already.
N*. Innocent was chosen in a hole-and-corner meeting, before it was known Honorius was dead, because they knew this Peter de Lion (Anacletus) would be. But Peter was chosen by the large majority, so that Innocent had to flee, though he sought to defend himself by force—a pretty apostolic succession.
R. But the church owned Innocent.
N*. Not the church at Rome, if church we can call it at the time. But we are finding out the true church by apostolic succession, so we cannot find out apostolic succession by the church. But we shall have more of this when even this false plea fails. It is possible that if not Antichrist, at any rate what was antichristian sat at Rome in St. Bernard’s time. But what comes for the holy Roman Catholic apostolic church of all the ordinations made for eight years? They were annulled, though I know not why he was not legitimate pope. But then what of all your sacraments meanwhile? Either they were void, or else, as is said, once a priest always a priest, and the decree of the council was invalid which annulled them. And they will have ordained others. All is hopeless confusion. Innocent carried on war in person against South Italy, and was taken prisoner. Eugene had to fight for Rome, was consecrated away from it, had to fly after his entrance, went to France, returned, took St. Peter’s, which had been made a fortress, but died out of Rome. Anastasius IV succeeded him; then Hadrian IV. Alexander III was chosen after him, but also Octavian. At first France and England, and partly Italy, owned Alexander, but Germany only Octavian. Both had referred to the Emperor to have it decided, who summoned a local council in Italy to decide who had right. Alexander would not go, Octavian did, the council decided in favour of Octavian, and the Emperor never owned any other; at the end England joined him too.
France and part of Italy held to Alexander. Octavian called himself Victor III. The English and the French, though having long hesitated to pronounce because of the Emperor, held also local councils, who supported Alexander, and the French excommunicated Victor III. The Emperor convened one in Germany, having letters from Denmark, Norway, Hungary, Bohemia, and many prelates beside those present, and then Alexander was excommunicated. Frederick, the Emperor, proposed putting both down, and the French and English kings met him to settle it. Alexander would not go, and nothing was settled; then Alexander called a French council, and excommunicated Victor and all his adherents. Victor died, and Alexander went to Rome. Victor’s party, however, chose another pope; Frederick supported him, but was defeated by the Italians, and his prelates were driven out of Lombardy, but Paschal remained seated pope at Rome, Alexander having offended the Romans. He died at Rome, and a successor was chosen to him too, but the Emperor made peace with the pope, and Alexander was received at Rome.
Now I do not pretend to say who was canonical pope; but we have half Christendom owning one whom the Romanists do not own, and the sacraments and ordinations in a vast extent of country depended on his being real pope. Out of Northern Italy, when the Emperor was beaten, all his partisans were driven out, whom all supposed in the succession of these sees. What became of succession? If ever there was a thing disproved, it is what is ridiculously called apostolic succession at Rome (Dupin, cent. 12, chap. 9).
If we are to believe the Council of Pavia, where were fifty archbishops and other prelates, with a quantity of abbots of Germany and Italy, and the deputies of France and England, after seven days’ examination of witnesses and deliberations, the Emperor having left it to them, Victor III alone was duly elected and made pope. The majority of the cardinals were for Alexander, but the senators for Victor, and they put Alexander in prison; but he escaped by the intervention of the people (Fleury, 70, 41). Though the Emperor accepted Alexander, it does not appear Victor’s party gave up. We read of one Lando antipope, calling himself Innocent III, who submitted to Alexander, the latter having made peace with the brother of Victor, who supported Innocent III, and bought the castle on which Innocent maintained his ground. This was the time of Waldo of Lyons. Baronius treats all the testimony received at Pavia as lies (1160), but gives no other facts than what are before us. I cannot find that he mentions Innocent III. Urban III, Gregory VIII, and Clement III follow in peace, as far as our question is concerned. Innocent III followed.
In his days, transubstantiation was made a dogma of, and the Inquisition established. Honorius was his successor. Gregory IX followed him. After him all was confusion. Two popes were chosen, but neither had a sufficient majority, according to the constitution of Alexander III that the majority of cardinals must be two-thirds. Both at last yielded, and then one of them, Godfrey of Milan, was chosen, Celestine IV, and died in about a month, some saying he was poisoned (Fleury, 81, 51). The see having been vacant a year and a half, the Emperor and the king of France, the former having marched against Rome to enforce his letters, at last compelled the cardinals to choose, and Innocent IV was pope; Alexander IV followed. Then three or four months’ vacancy; there were only eight cardinals to choose, and they could not agree which should be pope. At last they chose the patriarch of Jerusalem.
Again four months elapsed, and Clement IV was chosen. Then intrigues for three years and no pope; the cardinals however made a compromise, and the pope, Gregory IX, made the constitution that the cardinals should be shut up till they agreed. Innocent V, Adrian V who died unconsecrated, John XIX or XX, XXI, rapidly succeeded each other within a year; then Nicholas III. Then after six months’ delay, through intrigues of Roman families, one connected with the king of Sicily and Martin IV;86 Honorius IV; then a year’s vacancy, the cardinals were hardly shut up all the time; then Nicholas IV; then two years and some months; then Celestine was chosen and resigned the see for quiet, at the instance, some say, of Benedict, who got himself chosen in his place. Celestine renewed that decree to shut the cardinals up, and made another that popes might resign—a useless one, says Dupin: no one ever did since (cent. 12, chap. 3; Fleury, bks. 79 to 87). Boniface VIII succeeded.
In Celestine’s time, if we are to believe it, the Virgin Mary’s house went over the sea of its own accord to Loretto; Raynaldus (we have Baronius no longer) says he does not know from what motive.
I have gone rapidly through these last-named popes, as (though the intrigues of cardinals are very little like apostolic succession, and the ambitions of eight men a very questionable source of Peter’s authority, and long vacancies prove what was at work) there is nothing peculiar. We have no pope at all, instead of two at a time. The times were changing. But how the pope could give exclusive authority to his nominees to choose a successor to Peter, I know not; as a human provision against tumults and fighting, we can easily understand it; when they snatched a man from the altar while being consecrated. But what all this has to do with apostolic succession is hard to tell.
James. I am sure it is a disgraceful history of ambitious men, not apostolic succession. I see in scripture Paul looked for no apostolic succession, but ravenous wolves to come when he was gone. But at any rate this is all a history of ravenous wolves more than apostolic grace and authority.
Bill M. It is all shocking; but what I feel most is how they deceive one in talking of holy and apostolic. If the church be holy, this is not it. As to succession, no simple person could find out where it really was; and to say that these monsters, as some of them were, were successors of the apostles is too bad; it shocks a man’s conscience. Why, the devil was revelling in wickedness there.
R. But the grace was handed down.
Bill M. What grace? And when there was no pope for two or three years, where was the grace and the head of the church then? And when there were two or three, and even whole countries owning each, who can say where the grace and the title was?
R. But we only count those who were recognized by the church.
Bill M. But some recognize some, and others others; and how am I to settle it?
N*. M. is quite right; for example, Gregory VI, was he a real pope?
D. I suppose we must reckon him such, as the great Hildebrand called himself VII, and so Baronius owns him.
N*. But he resigned and owned he was not one, having been set up when Benedict IX was there, but such a monster that he was first driven out, and then went to pursue his pleasures. So in other cases.
R. Well, I hold to the church’s judgment on these things, and recognize as popes those she does.
N*. Where is that judgment? We have Baronius declaring that for a hundred years he must put in their names as dates, but otherwise cannot recognize as legitimate popes infamous men put in by the mistress of the Marquis of Tuscany or of the popes themselves; and he admits there was no election or consent of clergy, only it was acquiesced in to prevent schism. I go on your own principles, for I agree with M. that it does shock natural conscience to think such people successors of Peter. It is making grace, or the security of the means and channels of grace, the security of unholiness: grace has its security in holiness. If so, I need not look for holiness as a mark of the true church; it is secured without it, and Christianity becomes a guarantee of unholiness being no matter.
R. This is strong language, sir.
N*. Is it not true, if what proves the church and secures grace is the most awful system of wickedness and series of wickedness we have on record?
R. I do not know that we can gain anything by pursuing the subject. The church and its unity are thrown overboard by you, and it is hopeless then to come to any conclusion or to find any security at all.
N*. We are looking for the true church as taught by your own doctors, and just now by the mark of apostolic succession; consequently we must have the facts. Nothing, I admit, can be more absurd than to set any one to build his faith upon such ground, and to say he cannot find the true church, on which the word of God affords him with divine authority the fullest light, without going through this long dark history of wickedness.
D. But all the bright examples you leave out.
N*. Which are they? A few popes introduced by the Emperor were decent people, and poor Celestine, who resigned his popedom because he was not man of the world enough to manage things; but, save two or three, it was one series of wickedness. I have not now gone into the revolting accounts of crime, simony, wars, and violence which make up the history of these times. It was in these times that the cardinal who relates the history of the general council of Lyons at which Pope Innocent excommunicated and deposed the Emperor Frederick, and professed to reunite the Roman and Greek churches, declares that their stay there had made one universal brothel of the whole town, and that with shocking levity, saying that they ought to be grateful; there were two when they went there, but now only one, but that it reached from the west gate to the east. Damianus’ book I have already referred to; but I have confined myself to the question of succession. I understand you have not much to say, because I have merely related the facts as recorded in Roman Catholic historians, or ancient annalists.
Baronius admits that in some cases there was no choice or consent of the clergy whatever. To avoid the crimes committed, for a long time the Emperor put them in; then, when more free from the Imperial power, to avoid these things it was put in the cardinals’ hands, and, as their ambition and jealousies sometimes kept the system without any head for several years, or two were named, they settled that two-thirds must concur, and they were to be shut up till they had a sufficient majority; and this is still the rule. It is said that, after the death of Innocent IV in Naples, the governor shut the cardinals up in the house he died in till they elected one. But, however absurd resting the certainty of one’s faith and the continuance of grace on such a history, it is utterly impossible to base apostolic succession on it. We shall find papal breaches in the succession yet wider in the next century, and two or three popes at a time excommunicating one another, and then all deposed.
R. I know it was so, but it has been healed.
N*. Healed by others interfering and putting them all down; but then where was the succession? Through whom was it conveyed when there were two, and half Europe recognized one, half the other? And to whom was the pope a successor, when two and even three were deposed? It was a new appointment by a council, not a succession. Indeed why a choice by people, or emperors, or cardinals, should make a successor of Peter would be hard to tell.
Bill M. I do not see much Christianity at all in all this.
N*. I see none at all. But I suppose we must break up; but we will meet again, and if these gentlemen are inclined, they can of course come; but we will pursue for a while the history of the popes.
On The Succession
N*. Good evening, James, and you too, M. We can go on without these gentlemen. And as we are going through the facts of history, very little of course can be said, and the great schism which broke out in Rome in this century is so well known that no one can call it in question; but it upsets all pretence of a regular succession altogether. There are a few pontificates to notice before we come to it. Boniface VIII begins the century. He was in continual conflict with the civil powers, (excommunicating and deposing emperors and kings), especially with the king of France, whose agent in Italy finally took him prisoner; and, though rescued by the inhabitants of Anagni where he was, he died almost immediately after of chagrin.
He was violent and imperious to the last degree; many alleged that he was no true pope, as no pope could resign as Celestine had done to make way for him, and if so, he could not be pope as Celestine was. The latter alleged the example of the first Clement, whom Peter had named and resigned, because no pope ought to be nominated by his predecessor, and so was pope after Linus and Anacletus. He was charged also with poisoning Celestine. Wickedness and violence were so rife, that crimes and false accusations from supposing them were both so common that it is often hard to tell what is true. He was charged with heresy, denying the immortality of the soul, and all manner of crimes; but it was all quashed in the Council of Vienna.
Benedict, called XI and so recognized by subsequent popes, followed this tide, however set up as Benedict X one who was not reckoned lawful pope—so uncertain is the succession. Raynald (Cent, of Baronius) says he took the name of Benedict XI (though if the thing be more accurately examined he was only X) (1303, 45). He was respectable, but fond of monks, and was (it is believed) poisoned, and it seems to be proved (Rayn. 1304, 35). He revoked all his predecessor’s acts against Philip. In all these times excommunication and deposition of kings and emperors were the common weapons of war between state and church.
There were now two parties in the body of cardinals who chose the pope, and so evenly balanced that they could not agree; hence for some time there was no pope. At last they agreed that the Italian party should name three French prelates, and the other choose one out of them in forty days’ time, for the parties were the French and Italian parties. The Italian named three French greatly opposed to the French king: but before the French party selected their chief, knowing the ambition of the first of the three, he sent to the king, who told him he could get him made pope if he agreed to his conditions; he accepted all, with one secret one, and was named by the French party, the Italians thinking they had their way, and that a friend of Boniface’s, against the king, was chosen. He became Clement V, and did everything openly agreed on with Philip—a nice specimen of succession to the apostolate of Peter. He stayed in France, but after staying awhile at Bordeaux and Poitiers, settled at Avignon, which did not then belong to France, and there the popes were for seventy years, called by the Romans the Babylonish captivity. The Emperor set up another pope at Rome, Nicholas V, but he did not succeed in his plans, so that after some time this Roman antipope submitted himself to Clement. The abuses in the monarchy, and in the way the pope, by various inventions, got all patronage into his hands at this time, incensed the nations. (Fleury, 90, 49; Dupin, cent. 14, c. 1; Rayn. 1305, 2, 3). Clement V passed away.
The difficulties were greater than ever. The Italians wanted the pope back to Rome, the French to keep him. The decision being long protracted, the mob assembled, the place was set on fire, some say by the cardinals, others by their servants or the mob. The cardinals dispersed, and could not be got to trust each other to come together. At last the next French king sent his brother, who invited them individually to Lyons, had long conferences with them, but in vain; at last, having summoned them all to a monastery, shut them all up, and would not let them out till they chose a pope. They spent forty days still, and John XXII was elected. Some say, not being able to agree, they did agree to put the nomination in his hands as a cardinal of no account, and he named himself, having sworn not to mount horse or mule if it were not to go to Rome, and so went by river to Avignon, and walked to the palace. At any rate he sat pope at Avignon. Pope John condemned as heretical what Nicholas III had affirmed (Fleury, 95, 15). It was in his time Nicholas V was set up by the Emperor. He also published dogmatic sermons on the beatific vision of God, condemned as heretical by the universities and other doctors, and their judgment was published. He would have left it open, but the doctors were firm. It is said he fully retracted on his death-bed. However one of the friars was burned under John XXII, and two by Innocent VI, at Avignon. Four were also burned at Marseilles for holding absolute poverty to be the right path, which Nicholas III had pronounced right. Benedict XII succeeded John. The first thing he did was to preach against his predecessor on the beatific vision, and then held a consistory, with many doctors, on which the proposition of Pope John was formally condemned, and those who maintained it were declared heretics.
Bill M. But I thought the popes were infallible.
N*. So they have decreed lately. But they have been, as we said before, openly condemned as heretics, as Honorius. Liberius signed an Arian creed. And here one condemns the views of another as positively heretical, and another burns two friars for persisting, as to Christ’s possessing nothing, in the opinion affirmed to be true by his predecessor, Nicholas III. Clement VI, Innocent VI, Urban V, and Gregory XI, some time before they died, made a declaration, by which they retracted all that they might have advanced in disputing, or in teaching, or preaching, or otherwise (Dupin, cent. 14, c. 3), so that they hardly thought themselves infallible. I suppose the Romanists would say it was not ex cathedra, but disputing, teaching, preaching, or otherwise, takes a pretty wide scope, and what was pronounced ex cathedrâ would come seemingly within teaching, preaching, or otherwise. At any rate, if a man may teach and preach, and in every other way of communicating his thoughts teach error, his pronouncing ex cathedrâ is not worth much. In disputing, a man may be hurried away. But the apostles, whose place they pretend to hold, know nothing of their preaching or teaching error (quite the contrary), and their being safe when speaking ex cathedrâ. It was their teaching and preaching which was inspired. But we are tracing succession.
Why a number of French cardinals electing one of their number at Avignon should make a person bishop of Rome, it would be hard to tell. But we will proceed with our history, for we are at an important epoch.
Gregory XI died at Rome when on the point of going back to Avignon. The Romans insisted on a Roman, or at least an Italian, prelate, and attacked the conclave, so that the cardinals were in fear of their lives. The greater number of them were French, but of these many were of the country of Limoges, so that they did not act together, as these wanted one of their party, the other Frenchmen not. There were only four Italian cardinals. It is said that one was made to put his head out of the window, to tell the people to go to St. Peter’s, which was taken by the people to mean that they had elected the cardinal of St. Peter’s. Meanwhile it was proposed to elect the Archbishop of Bari, who at any rate was an Italian, but not a cardinal; the French party say he was only elected to pacify the people, with the understanding that he was not to take the papacy, the choice being only made under the influence of fear of the populace, and hence having no validity, and so afterwards they certified the king of France. So Dupin. The Italian party, while not denying the clamours and violence but making them arise later in the affair, insisted that the election was regular and valid. Fleury’s account gives this colour to it. Raynaldus, of course, insists that it was free, and urges that the people’s leaders went to the window, and insisted it should be a Roman, and that the choice of one not a Roman proved that they were free.
The tumults then were great, at any rate. Some would have made the Cardinal of St. Pierre pope, but he disclaimed it; and the Archbishop of Bari was crowned and enthroned pope in the midst of these tumults. He took the name of Urban VI. But the cardinals were not content, and under pretext of the hot weather went to Anagni, and there they chose one of their own body, who became pope also, under the name of Clement VII, who removed to Avignon. The cardinals sent a long account to the king of France, who assembled prelates and doctors, but not satisfied with this, sent ambassadors to Italy to ascertain the facts, and on their report owned Clement to be the true pope. Spain, after some time, owned him too. Urban was occupied with politics and fighting in Italy, but he succeeded in maintaining himself as pope there, and putting down the Clementines tolerably completely, though Jeanne, queen of Naples, was for Clement, but she lost her kingdom and her life. England and Germany were for Urban, Scotland for Clement, Northern Europe for Urban, but Lorraine, Savoy, and other provinces for Qement. Each pope condemned and excommunicated the other and his adherents. Both consecrated prelates and clergy; so that the idea of a secure succession and the maintenance of the church in sacramental grace by it is a simple absurdity. If Urban, as Raynaldus and Platina would have it, was pope, then all France and Spain, and other countries, were excommunicated out of the pale of the church, and all their orders invalid, and all they conferred on others null and void, and all the sacraments which they hold to be necessary to salvation invalid and of no efficacy.
James. But what do they say to all this?
N*. They deplore it, of course, and say it was a source of infinite mischief, but, as Raynaldus expresses it, that He who has dominion over heaven and earth brought the church out of it. We shall see how they got out of it; but the whole order of succession and clergy was broken in upon while it did last. Urban may have been true pope on their system, but hardly so if what all the cardinals and others allege was true. He was named, they declare, under violence and threats, to escape the populace. The riots and violence, and the attacking the conclave, are not denied; and as soon as they got out of Rome they protested; and France, and Spain, and Naples, and other places accepted their view of the facts. All is uncertain in the succession. It is not denied there was the utmost violence and tumult. Contemporaries state that the people forced their way armed into the court of the palace of the conclave into which they had been driven with threats by the populace. Bundles of rice stalks were laid under it to set it on fire; and they threatened to cut down the cardinals if they did not choose a Roman. The heads of that district of Rome came and told them they must do as the people required, or they would suffer violence.
The Archbishop of Bari had been previously in consultation with the cardinal’s, and, though an Italian, being opposed to the Romans, the cardinals thought he would go with them in their views, and was then chosen in a hurry, as it was thought he would reject it. If so, the temptation was too great. This account seems pretty well authenticated. It is to be remarked that the Italian cardinals, three at least out of four, joined the rest at Anagni, where they went, and then to Fondi, to be secure to choose Clement VII. Various depositions are given in Balergius’ “Notes to the Lives of the Popes of Avignon,” and especially those of the cardinal of Florence. If he tells true, Urban’s friends were false and perjured in their statements. One thing is clear, the French would have had a Frenchman for pope87 if they could, and that fear actuated them in choosing Urban VI; on the other hand they were jealous of the cardinals of Limoges, because the Avignon popes had been thence. The fullest and clearest account of the proceedings, as far as I know, is the first life of Gregory XI, in Balergius (443, and following). Before the conclave, according to this account, the Romans had driven the upper orders out of Rome, and introduced a mass of rough countrymen, taken possession of the gates, that the cardinals might not leave, and when they met, broke in with them. The Bandarenses, chiefs of the twelve districts, had warned them before individually, and on going into the conclave assembled them, and said they must elect a Roman, or at least an Italian, or meet with worse; and the mob filled the palace and room under the hall of conclave with weapons and dry reeds, and all night rioted there, vociferating while they, were saying the Mass of the Holy Ghost.
The cardinals sent the three deans or chiefs of the three classes of cardinals (the people having insisted on the windows being opened) in the hope of calming them, but in vain; and a second time, but the people raged violently at the doors, insisting on the nomination of a Roman or Italian, threatening death, etc. They thus chose Bartholomew, Archbishop of Bari, as he had been present at the Roman consultations to force the choice of a Roman, was a doctor of canon law, and supposed to be upright. They supposed he would give it up when elected, and there was calm. For the same reason they had to go through with and crown and enthrone him. The account is by one who favoured Clement, but it all hangs perfectly well together, and the main points are certain. That they were forced by the populace against their inclination is certain, for they would have desired to go to Avignon. Whether it was sufficient to annul the election is another question. Of course the Romans, as such, call the others schismatics. But it clearly was not so certain. The university of Paris, writing to Benedict XIII, just elected, on the point, says: “Clever and upright men scarcely see their way in it” (Quicquam ibi videant). Nicholas, Cardinal Panormitanus, says that the pontificate of Benedict XIII (of Avignon) was probable; for the question was arduous in law and in fact.
Cardinal Cajetan (or de Vio, legate to Germany about Luther) reproves those who consider either obedience, so-called, schismatic; declaring that the right of each had been, and was, doubtful, and what is positive on the point is, that both were deposed as popes from their papacy, and Martin V confirmed the decree of Constance, which by depriving both recognized both; and Sylvester Prierias says neither were; as men most skilled in scripture and canon law, and pious, and more, conspicuous as workers of miracles, adhered to each; and that it was necessary to believe there was only one pope as one church, and whichever was canonically elected; but no one was obliged to know which was, nor canon law. In this the people will follow their ancestors or prelates. This is a strange certainty of succession—so uncertain that nobody was bound to say which was true; the general council and pope treating both as true, which, according to the famous Dominican, was contrary to what was necessary to salvation, for men were bound to believe there was only one. Another says plainly that for those forty years he does not know who was pope. (See preface to Balergius.)
Bill M. But this is poor ground to build a man’s religion on.
N*. I should think it was; but succession is one of the marks Dr. Milner and all give of the true church.
Bill M. I do not see who is to find it, if it is.
Mrs. James. But I do not understand, sir, how a person who reads scripture can think of such things being a security at all. If my faith rested on all this, where should I be? It is a sad history; but from what I have heard (and those gentlemen that were here yesterday did not deny the facts), I do not see how they can put the church in connection with such things. And when there were two popes at a time, and whole countries, and the clergy in them, following such, succession could not have been a proof of the true church, for there was no sure succession there. But what strikes me most is how foreign it all is to everything in the word of God.
N*. Foreign indeed! We are following it out, because above all it is the ground this pretension to be the true church is based upon. But men may take up scripture as a matter of learning, not in its power over the conscience, and as working faith by the power of the Holy Ghost in grace. A mere store of learning is a different thing from God’s word brought with divine power to the soul. It is conscience that is cognizant of, and intelligent in, the word of God, because it is what the word acts on. It is man pretending by his mind to judge the word that leads to what is called rationalism. The human mind thinks it can judge of scripture; but this is denying it to be the word of God, to start with, for, if it be, I must bow to it. And hence it is that, while we must have divine teaching by grace to use it, the simple, if humble, understand it better really than the learned, because they come to it as God’s own word for their consciences and hearts, and not to discuss and judge about it, so that it practically loses that character. “I thank thee, O Father,” said the blessed Lord, “Lord of heaven and earth, for thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.” Of course, if an ignorant person is not humble, and affects to judge about it by his own mind, he will go astray like another. He is not before the word as if God were telling him His thoughts, as He is there.
Bill M. But a person must know it is the word of God.
N*. But it is by its acting on his heart and conscience, and revealing God to him, that he knows it. I know what a knife is when it cuts me, and honey when I taste its sweetness. It is not a matter of proof. The word acts through grace on the soul, and I am conscious of its actings from God as sharper than any two-edged sword, and I rind all things naked and open to the eyes of Him with whom I have to do, and that is God. So I know it is His word, His eye on me.
Bill M. That is true. It gets sharp into the conscience, sure enough, and makes you know what you are.
N*. Thank God you find it so, M. That is just God working in mercy in your soul, though it be humbling to find all the evil that is there, but it is God’s light come into it.
Mrs. James. But even when we know it is God’s word, and own it with all one’s heart, sometimes it takes no effect in the soul. That is what troubles me sometimes.
AT*. We are wholly dependent on the operation of the Spirit of God for profiting by it. But that is as all the rest of our history; only it is brought plainly before us when we have to do with the word. Your heart is cold and dull if you are preparing James’ dinner, and very likely you do not find it out; but if you take up the word of God, where we know we ought to take an interest and the heart be affected, we find out our darkness and coldness, but so much the better. That is what is needed then, and in looking to the Lord He will help us and give it power in our souls. I find often I may read a chapter, if not watchful, and, through knowing it well, not have a thought out of it, but not if I am looking to God. Then there is always fresh light and divine power on the soul to keep us before God, and lead us on.
Mrs. James. It is true, sir. We need grace every moment, and, thank God, we know where grace is. May He make us diligent.
N*. May He indeed do so. The diligent soul, it is said, shall be made fat. But here are Mr. R. and Mr. D. Good evening, gentlemen.
R. I do not disturb you?
N*. Not in the least; quite the contrary. At the moment we were speaking of the way the word of God made its power good in the conscience. But we had been speaking of the beginning of what is called the great schism, which so fatally breaks into the boasted unity of the outward church, pretending, as it does, to be always one and the same.
R. I know you Protestants profess to rest on the word of God, slighting or denying the authority of the church, and resting on private judgment.
N*. And do not you rest on the word of God? We can easily judge what you are if you do not.
R. Of course I do; but you look to private judgment, and we look to the church’s judgment.
N*. Well, I attach no importance to the word Protestant, save as it has come to mean a protest against the false doctrines and abominations of Rome. In that sense I call myself so as a matter of earnest faith. At first it was merely a protest of the German electors against the recess of the diet of Spires. And the rationalist sense of private judgment I wholly repudiate. Faith is subject to the word of God; it is blasphemy to judge it. As we have often said, it judges me, and at the last day will judge those who have had it, and not bowed to it. We were speaking of this when you came in. But you bring in the church between God and the soul, to which He speaks by the word, and you have no right to do that. It is openly trampling upon the rights of God in addressing Himself directly to His people, as He has. If by private judgment you mean not my judging of the word, but my having it directly from God Himself, and that no man has a right to come in and hinder God from speaking directly to my soul, then, though it be an abuse of the term, I insist, I will not say on my rights (though, as between man and man, there would be reason in it), but on God’s rights, with which you are wickedly meddling.
R. But did not the apostles command with authority?
N*. Command with the authority Christ expressly gave them they did; but they never exercised any authority as between God and His dealings with men’s souls by the word. They were inspired to communicate it directly to people’s souls; but they had no more to do with judging it, or thought of withholding it, than the meanest of God’s people. They were channels to give it to them, and they appealed directly to those which people had already had, and those that searched them to see if what even they taught was according to them are commended. Even when persons wrested them, as of course may be done, there is no thought of withholding them, or turning any, even the weakest, from them for that reason. Doing so is a proof men are afraid of the light, be they Romanist or infidel. As to the church’s judgment, we are just come to a point where we have necessarily to judge the church.
R. That never can be.
N*. Well, now, can the church answer for me in the day of judgment? Must I not answer for myself?
R. It cannot: you must answer for yourself; but the church will not mislead you here below, and if you follow it, you will be all right then.
N*. How do I know that? Was Urban VI or Clement VII the true pope?
R. Urban, of course.
JV*. Well, all France and Spain, and other places too, held Clement VII to be the true pope, so that the faithful in those countries went all wrong by following what you call the church, and were schismatics, and had no true sacraments.
R. But they ought to have recognized Urban, and not Clement.
N*. Then they must have judged for themselves, and judged what called itself the church. And this lasted, with various phases, some forty years or more; so that a whole generation died in this condition. At any rate, to be right, they must have judged the church, and popes too, for themselves, and the ablest men, and the most pious, even saints, as they were called, were uncertain, and could not tell. And some say they were not bound to know which, only to believe in the abstract: there could be only one. But then apostolic succession goes to the wall, for none could find it out certainly; and the sacraments were just as good without it, for they were not both in due succession at the same time. Further, one or other (if either) must have been the true pope, and then all the rest were excommunicated, and could, as I have said, have no sacraments. If not, their validity depends simply on the faith of the receiver. No; your system breaks down altogether here. It is absurd, with two, and even three, popes at a time, and all Europe divided between them, to keep up the fiction of apostolic succession. I do not mind any pope, and very likely neither was rightly pope on their own principles, but that does not help you.
JR. No doubt they were sad times, and the schism produced infinite mischief; but see how God brought the church out of it. “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall rise again.”
N*. The professing church, no doubt, was brought out of the schism at last, but Rome brought it into it. Where was unity then? And all pretension to security by apostolic succession was gone.
Bill M. I beg your pardon, sir, but you say that the pope that was at Rome was the true pope.
Bill M. What, then, was a Frenchman to do? To judge for himself, and follow him, and go against his own clergy and church, or to follow his clergy in France?
R. He must follow his own clergy in France; and if he was sincere, God would forgive him his ignorance.
Bill M. But I understand they were all excommunicated and condemned by what you say was the true pope, who appears now was infallible; and how could he be all right when the right pope excommunicated him for doing it?
R. Ignorant persons cannot be expected to judge of such questions, and, as I said, God is merciful, and will have compassion on them.
Bill M. Still they are excommunicated by the true church, and have no real sacraments, and their own clergy led them all wrong. It is a different story from what I thought; that it is.
N*. What M. says, Mr. R., is quite true. That God has compassion on poor souls deceived by the clergy, if they look to the Saviour, I doubt not; but to pretend that the clergy or the church is a security for any soul is clearly proved to be unfounded by the facts we are contemplating. God’s bringing them out of the ditch they were all in is no proof they could keep people out of it. They were in it themselves, and all that hung upon them with them. The blind had led the blind, and both were in the ditch, just as the Pharisees did the masses against Christ. For, as M. has said, the clergy that led the people, all that you call the church, in France, were excommunicated by what you call the rightful pope, while their pope excommunicated the one at Rome; and this was not a temporary accident, but they had their successors, till both were alike put down by the Council, first of Pisa, and then of Constance.
Meanwhile the corruptions in the papal government of the church increased tenfold. The popes made their fortunes out of ecclesiastical benefices, in provisions, reservations, annates, all sorts of inventions to bring money to themselves in conferring benefices. One person is said to have had five hundred benefices. The university proposed an inquiry as to who was pope, so that they were not sure; that both should abdicate, as each proposed an inquiry as to his competitors; if they would not abdicate, a general council, and, as most of the prelates were very ignorant, to have doctors and others with them, though by rights prelates alone had the right to sit there.
It is at this time that Nicholas Clemangis,88 rector of the University of Paris, gives such an awful picture of the immorality of the clergy and the corruption of the Roman court, saying, that from the head to the feet everything was given, or rather sold, for money, Cardinals having as many as five hundred benefices; that the convents were brothels of Venus, and to make a girl a nun was to give her up to prostitution; nor is it denied. The famous Petrarch gives a like account of the court of Avignon before the schism. Everything bad, and nothing good, was found there. Everything was sold for gold (Raynald, 1311, 55, and Fleury, 92, 11). It was the same at Rome under Boniface, pope after Urban. Sales of benefices were regularly carried on with every kind of fraud (Fleury, 99,26). Meanwhile much was done by the princes of Europe to put an end to the schism, and to get both popes to abdicate. France withdrew its obedience, and then Castile, to the pope at Avignon, but rejected Boniface at Rome. Benedict, at Avignon, was besieged by France, and agreed to abdicate on the Roman pope doing so. Boniface refused, but would appear before a council. England supported Boniface; Innocent VII followed Boniface at Rome; Benedict had sent an embassy to Rome proposing the abdication of both; Innocent proposed a council, and the cession of the papacy by the pope.
Gregory XII succeeded Innocent; Benedict proposed conference, and refused cession, excommunicating those who approved it. The king of France burned the bull. Benedict fled to Genoa, then to Perpignan. Gregory was elected under promise to resign if union could be effected; Benedict protested the same thing. At last the cardinals of both sides met at Pisa, and then at Leghorn, and sent a circular letter, proposing a council as the only means, as the popes would not yield, and there was such exceeding difficulty as to law, and as to fact; and they blame both popes as ruining the church, and so did the council, going into all the facts, and charging them with bad faith, and even collusion. Finally they depose both, take off the excommunications of both, as it was so doubtful who was pope, and chose Peter of Candia, Alexander V, who confirmed all their acts. But Gregory, who kept the south of Italy, and Robert, King of the Romans, and his partisans, and Benedict XIII, who still held fast hold of Spain, kept their ground.
Each held a so-called general council, Benedict having a hundred and twenty prelates, but who could come to no conclusion, and sixteen only remained, who decreed he was pope and was not to yield. Gregory held a council, but could get scarce anyone to come, and fled through fear of the Venetians, and went to the south of Italy. Each of these condemned Pisa, and their pope, and each other. Pisa deposed the two as schismatic, heretic, and as guilty of other crimes, all the cardinals of both obediences being there, save one. A new council was to be held. Now there were three popes, two doubtful and deposed, and a third chosen, but it was alleged unlawfully. And this is so much the case that the highest Roman Catholic authorities are not agreed who was pope. Raynaldus counts Gregory as pope all the time, till he gave up at Constance. Bellarmine says Alexander V must be owned, as the next was Alexander VI (De Cone, i, 8). Raynald (1409, 80) says that is nothing, as the Stephens had two numbers, one of them not being owned, and the Johns three, as two of them were not owned by many. Balthasar Cossa was the leader in the affairs of Pisa, but would not be pope; yet he got Alexander V elected, and governed under him, and then became pope at his death.
Dupin speaks of the schism as going on to the Council of Constance; Fleury says nothing either. Platina reckons Alexander V and John XXIII. One reason Bellarmine gives for the authority of the council is that a doubtful pope is no pope. Now I ask if, in such a state of things, we can talk of the apostolic succession. Pisa, Constance, and Basel professedly deposed popes, the two former finally succeeding, the latter not, while the latter pronounced a council to be superior to the pope. Constance confirmed the acts of Pisa, so that we have the authority of the episcopacy as to the wickedness, heresy, and deposition of both popes engaged in the schism; but it consulted without John, and, when he fled because of the charges brought against him, they deposed him. Raynald, however, treats the see as vacant, Gregory having resigned. Who was pope now?
R. It was a time of sad and admitted confusion: only God had mercy on the church.
N*. Is confusion a security for faith? or can apostolic succession be a mark of the true church, when nobody knows who was pope, and at last all were deposed?
Bill M. Who do you think was pope, sir?
R. Well, when so many great and pious men have doubted of it, it would be presumptuous for me to say. The only real difficulty lay between Gregory and Alexander V, and that was healed by the Council of Constance when Gregory resigned, and John, the successor of Alexander, was deposed, and Martin V became pope.
Bill M. But according to that, sir, the only ones who could be really considered so—at least one or other—were set aside, and Martin was nobody’s successor, but new made by this council. He does not seem to be the successor of anybody.
R. If we consider Gregory as pope, the see was vacant on his resignation, and Martin succeeded him.
Bill M. Pardon me, sir; you say, If we consider him so. But how can I tell whether I ought to consider him so? You say it would be presumptuous to decide when so many great men take different sides, and I am told to rest my faith on apostolic succession.
R. You must take it, trusting to God’s care, as the whole church receives it now, when no such questions exist.
Bill M. But this is taking it for granted that it is the true church. I was told to find that out by apostolic succession, which they pretended was quite clear; and what they said to me was not true, for it is not quite clear; and now I am told to believe in apostolical succession by the church’s owning it; but I must first know it is the church, and most Christians do not believe it is the church, and do not believe in succession either. I find nothing to rest my faith on here. You are obliged to admit, and these great doctors admit, it is uncertain, and some are for one, and some for another. When I read the scriptures, I have no need of succession; I have what you own to be the word of God, and I feel it does me good. I should be lost in looking into all these histories of the popes, when even learned people do not know what to think. In the scriptures I have what I know is right, though I may be very slow to learn all it means. And, let me ask you, sir, had this council the right to judge the pope, and depose him?
R. Well, it is a very delicate question; perhaps, if he left the faith. But the more probable opinion is—and now generally received—that a council cannot depose a real pope.
Bill M. But it seems they did depose them here.
R. Gregory resigned, and it was doubtful if John was the legitimate pope, and then he could be more easily set aside. A doubtful pope is not like an acknowledged legitimate one; so says Bellarmine.
Bill M. All is then uncertain. If they could not set him aside, another could not be appointed, and you have no real succession from the one that was put in his place; if they could, there was no succession at all. If he was not pope, there was nobody to succeed. All is uncertain that I see.
James. But I do not think Dr. Milner says anything of all this.
Bill M. Ah! let us look at him, and see. Where are we to find the place?
N*. It is here, part 2, letter 28, cent. 15, and it is thoroughly dishonest. He says: “The succession of popes continued through this century, though, among numerous difficulties and dissensions, in the following order: Innocent VII, Gregory XII, Alexander V, John XXIII, Martin V,” etc. He adopts, without saying a word of the others who had almost half Europe under them and were owned by many of the greatest authorities, the Roman succession. This for a zealous Romanist, we can understand, though an honest man would have spoken of the others. But, more than this, if Gregory XII was pope, Alexander V was not. Alexander died long before Gregory, and was not his successor. Raynald will not own Alexander as pope at all, though relating his case, and that of his successor, John XXIII. Nor could Raynald own John properly at any time; because, if Gregory was pope, John was not, and Gregorys resignation could not validate John’s illegal election. Possibly Dr. Milner would say Alexander was Gregory’s successor when the latter was deposed by the Council of Pisa. But to say the succession of the popes continued is not honest, for there were three at a time who claimed to be, and Gregory had been, regularly elected at Rome; and if Alexander was pope, it was by the authority of the council who set aside Gregory as not legitimate pope, as well as Benedict. If not, then Alexander was no pope at all.
Bill M. But what do you say, Mr. R., to this? I took their statements all for true.
R. It is not my business to defend Dr. Milner. I suppose he thought Gregory legitimately deposed, and Alexander V to be the true pope.
Bill M. But if you say “the true pope,” I have to search out which was the true pope, and I find now other learned men do not think he was, this Gregory being there. He gives it for an unsuspecting person as a plain succession. And it is not plain, for they doubt about it themselves, and, if I have understood, put them all down at last. I see he cannot be trusted a bit.
N*. And your great historians and teachers insist that a council, instead of healing a schism by pretending to depose the pope, made it worse, for they had three popes instead of two. Clearly Milner deceives his readers here, and you, gentlemen, who rest on apostolic succession must either be ignorant of history, or seek to mislead. For two popes at a time, with half Europe believing one to be pope, and half the other, and a council deposing both as no true popes, but schismatics and heretics, and naming a third, and then leaving three, is no regular succession.
D. But our English succession is not involved in this.
N*. Your English succession cannot secure the whole church. Besides, it is not so sure either, for though the “Nag’s Head” story is a miserable falsehood of the Jesuit Holywood, propagated by Stapleton, you would find it very hard to prove that Barlow, who consecrated Parker, was ever consecrated himself. However this is not our subject. Apostolic succession at Rome is too uncertain to prove anything but the shame of those who allege it, when once history is honestly inquired into.
But we may pursue that history a little farther. There were still three popes, the French, the Roman, and the Pisan council pope. It had been settled that a general council should be held in three years. John, the Roman pope, called one at Rome, but nobody came. Then the Emperor Sigismund agreed with the pope to call one, which met at Constance, much to the grief of John, who was not disposed to have the council in a place under the Emperor’s power (Fleury, 100, 54). John fled the council after a while, and the council deposed him as guilty of perjury, being a heretic, schismatic, and other things. Some twenty charges were not read publicly, as scandalous, but proved—as incest, adultery, fornication, poisoning Alexander V and his physician, etc. He had been a corsair, and afterwards sold all benefices for Boniface IX, then under Alexander, then for himself. This was, according to Platina and Milner and others, the true legitimate pope, the successor of Peter. Gregory authorized the council, if John XXIII did not preside.
Raynaldus then counts the see vacant. Gregory gave in his resignation, who, according to Raynaldus, was the legitimate pope, but whom Christendom had wholly abandoned, and then they deposed Benedict, to whom Spain had held, with Navarre and a few others, but by whom he was now abandoned. However, on his death another was chosen, and then his line was extinct. This is a strange apostolic succession, and security by it. The council declared itself superior to the pope, and one large party, now suppressed, held that this was clearly conciliar, and confirmed by Martin. Of this I have spoken. They then burnt Huss whom they had sworn not to touch, as faith was not to be kept with heretics, and Jerome of Prague, and chose another pope, who swore with the rest he would reform the church, but when once in power forgot all that. Martin took up the papacy, while Benedict’s successor was pope for himself and little else. Whose successor Martin was it would be hard to tell. It is hardly necessary to pursue the list of popes any farther. Pope Eugenius condemned the Council of Basel, and Basel deposed Eugenius; he transferred the council to Florence, but those at Basel still sat on, and elected another, Pope Felix V. However, he had little influence, and compromised with Eugenius, and resigned.
Eugenius at Florence united the Greeks for a time, as Milner says—that is, starved the deputies to agree; but they were all disowned on their return to the East. He had the seal of the Council of Basel stolen, to put to a decree, as if of that council, to serve his interests. The popes that followed were as bad as they could well be, and though the popes had succeeded in baffling the councils held, at the desire of all, to heal the schism, and reform head and members, yet the conscience of Europe was aroused. It seemed prostrate at their feet, and the reform of the court of Rome was in that court’s own hands, that is, the hands of those who profited by the abuses and wished to keep them up. Constance had pronounced a council to be above the pope. France held to this principle in what are called the Gallican liberties; intelligence was increased, the royal power much greater by the decay of the feudal system, and the popes could not play off one prince against another as they had. They sought to aggrandize their families in Italy; one (for popes an honest pope) declared it was impossible to be one, and save your soul. He had been a stickler for the Council of Basel, but when pope he condemned appeals to a general council, for these were now becoming universal; but he soon died. Paul II undid all he had attempted to do in the way of reform.
Our old friend, the historian Platina, librarian of the Vatican and secretary to one of the popes, complained bitterly of it, saying they must appeal to kings, princes, and have a general council; so he was put in prison and in the stocks for his pains. Sixtus succeeded, then Innocent VIII. They mocked him at Rome, saying Rome might well call him father. He had seven children while he was pope, and sought to make them great in Italy. After him came Alexander VI, whose infamies are past belief—a thorough debauchee at all times, so as to attract reproof even at the papal court. He was elected to the papacy by bribery and promises, and got rid by various means of those who had bought him in, that he might not have to fulfil them. Almost all (quasi omnia) the monasteries were, says Infessina, turned into brothels, no one gainsaying it. It was currently said, “Alexander sells kings, altars, Christ; he first bought them, he had good right to sell them.” He had five illegitimate children; one of the daughters kept the papal court when he was away, and opened the dispatches, consulting the cardinals. One of the brothers killed his sister’s husband to marry her better; the marriage was celebrated with pomp in the pope’s palace; he killed another, and the pope’s secretary who had sought to screen himself under the pope’s mantle, so that the blood spirted up upon the pope. He was seeking to poison some rich cardinals, to get their money, and being very hot, drank the poisoned wine himself, the servant who presented it being ignorant of the plot, and died. Is this a successor of Peter?
Raynald tries to hide the last scene, but nobody believes him. After Pius III came Julius, who made a league to fight the Venetians and then the French. The French king held a council at Tours, which held that the king could depose the pope. If armed for war he pronounced sentence against him, it had no force; the king should keep the decrees of Basel, and appeal to a general council. A council was attempted at Pisa, but came to nothing. Francis, king of France, and Leo, made it up. But the latter, desirous of finishing the great church of St. Peter’s, farmed out indulgences to the gay young archbishop of Mentz, to whom bankers, of the name of Zugger, advanced the money, and they by Tetzel in Germany, and Sampson in Switzerland, commuted sins by wholesale, and the building was completed.
But the consciences of some could no longer bear the iniquity of Rome. Kings were glad to have power in their own kingdoms, saints to get free from the rule of such wickedness, and nearly half Europe broke with the Roman See. Conscience at Rome had sunk below the measure of what there was of it elsewhere; kings and people were weary of exactions and iniquity, and oppression, and the debauchery of the clergy, and God having raised some men of faith, all were roused, and though horrible persecutions89 and Jesuitical craft pushed back the effect in many places, yet a very large part of Europe remained separated from the pope. The instructions to Tetzel are extant, promising pardon for anything at any time on confession. As to the actual course pursued, no one denies that it was shocking. The Jesuit Maimbourg (Hist, of Luther, 3rd ed., Paris, p. 9) admits that the agents made people believe that they were sure of their salvation (that is by getting these indulgences), and souls were delivered out of purgatory as soon as the money was paid.90 And as they saw the clerks of these same agents carousing in taverns on their profits, much indignation was created. Is this Christianity, or apostolic succession? Was Alexander VI a successor of the holy apostle to secure grace and faith to the church? Was his illegitimate daughter, who managed the affairs of the Roman court with the cardinals in his absence, a successor of Peter?91 Since then, the popes, curtailed of universal dominion, have been more decent outwardly, though not less opposed to the truth, and harassing princes by their unlawful power over their subjects. But the succession has not been in question; all things are more decent since the Reformation.
James. I am thankful to you, sir, for having gone through all this long and sad history. It is wonderful how any Christian man can take such godless people to be the successors of the blessed apostle. It is making Christianity a security for wickedness, and grace and faith identified with the worst of sin. We are to look for this grace when the most heinous wickedness abounds. That is not Christianity. It separates grace from real Christian life. Besides, I should be sorry to build my faith on being able to ascertain, and be sure of the succession of popes when all is so intricate and uncertain, instead of the word of God which one has oneself, and from God Himself. Peter’s successors too cannot be more sure than Peter himself. As to Paul, they do not seem to think of any successor for him, nor of the other apostles. Yet Paul was the apostle of the Gentiles, not Peter.
Bill M. Well, I am shocked; who could have thought it? I see plain enough that all this cannot be the ground of my faith. They do not agree themselves about the succession. It cannot be brought down with any certainty; and it seems to me absurd to found one’s faith on such a history, or to make it the mark of the true church. I do not believe God would put a poor man, or any one, on such ground as this. And how silent Dr. Milner is about that dreadful Alexander VI! Yet he puts him in, I see, as the channel of grace. It seems it can be bought and sold. I am glad, I am sure, we have got the scriptures. They, any way, are worthy of God, and a comfort to a man’s heart, though they search it out. But there is one thing I am not clear about yet: why is it said that the gates of hell should not prevail against it? They seem to have done so.
N*. It was this Mr. O. would not listen to; and I said too I would touch upon it. That is said of what Christ builds, which is not finished yet. It grows unto a holy temple in the Lord. This Christ secures infallibly, and will have all the living stones built up on Him (the foundation, the Living Stone), a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, the dwelling-place of God for ever. But as built by man, however well done by the apostles at first, it is another matter. There is no such promise, then, but the contrary; and the confounding of the two is one great source of the worst of abuse in the Roman and Ritualist systems.
R. I do not understand what you mean. Surely the church of God was established on earth, and it was to that the promise was made.
AT*. Undoubtedly. But there is a vast difference between Christ’s building and man’s building, between living stones coming by grace to the living Stone, built up a spiritual house, and man’s building with wood, and hay, and stubble.
R. Are there two churches then?
N*. No; scripture does not so speak, but what is in the counsels of God to be made perfect in due time by His power, in His own way, He always puts first into man’s hands as responsible. So it was with Adam’s state of favour at first. The result, according to God’s counsels, is in Christ, the second Man, the last Adam. So it was with the law: first on tables of stone, then to be written on men’s hearts. So the priesthood, so the royalty in Israel, so supremacy among the Gentiles. In all these was man’s responsibility, and man failed; in all perfection is found, or will be in grace, and in the second Man Christ. And so with the church: it was set up right by God, but first entrusted to man’s responsibility; in the end it will be set up by divine power, perfected as a holy temple to the Lord. Not a different church, as built by Christ for ever, but an external one built by man in his responsibility, the other built by Christ to be the habitation and temple of God.
R. But this is a theory of your own, just to enable you to get rid of the plain promise of God to His church.
N*. Nay; were it so, it would be indeed worthless. I have only referred to the plain statements of scripture; and the result even is declared as plainly, the removing by judgment of what has man for its builder; and, further, that after the apostles there was no security for its continuance in the order of God.
R. Let us hear what you have to say, for I never heard of such a thing.
James. I should be very glad to hear it too; for I could not rightly understand about the church, and what is said of it in scripture.
N*. Well, in Matthew 16 we have the promise as to the church; and a blessed one too. Simon had, through the revelation of the Father Himself, confessed the blessed Lord to be the Son of the living God. It was not that He was the Messiah, or the Christ, true as this was (in the next chapter He forbids them to announce this, because He was going to suffer and to take another and a heavenly place); nor yet that He was Son of man, a title He continually gave Himself, to our great comfort and joy, for we are men. His taking that too in its full display in glory was yet to come, and He had to suffer and accomplish redemption to take it according to the counsels of God, though we know He was it, and it was the name He loved to give Himself. Nay, more, none had as yet confessed Him in the full extent of the title He here gives Himself. Son of God and king of Israel, Nathanael had confessed Him, according to Psalm 2. But the full expression of the living God, Son in the full power of divine life, this was what the Father now gave to Simon to know. This was proved in resurrection. He was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by resurrection from the dead. This was a wholly new place for man, and consequent upon the accomplishment of redemption. And this glorious truth, that Jesus was not only the Messiah, or Christ, but the Son of the living God, was the basis or rock on which He would build His church.
This was the real church of God, built up by divine grace and power, built by Christ Himself—no stone in it not laid by Him, and all living stones. So we read in Peter’s first epistle, “Unto whom coming, as unto a living stone, ye also, as lively [living] stones, are built up a spiritual house.” Here there is no builder mentioned; Christ is a living stone, and they are living stones, and a spiritual house. So in Ephesians 2, there is no builder spoken of, but “in whom [Christ] all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord.” Here again we have no earthly builder, and the temple is not built; it grows to a holy temple in the Lord. This surely cannot fail. What Christ, the Son of the living God, builds, though not yet complete, the gates of hell, the power of him who has the power of death, shall never prevail against.
But in 1 Corinthians 3 we have human builders, and a temple or building which is then in existence. As a wise master-builder, Paul had laid the foundation; the work was well done; but here man’s responsibility comes in. Every man is to take heed how he builds thereon. Wood, hay, stubble may be built into the building, and the work come to nothing, though the builder be saved yet so as by fire. And a third case is mentioned: one who corrupts the temple of God; such God will destroy. We have a good man, and a good builder, who has his reward, the fruit of his labour; a good man, but a bad builder, whose work is destroyed, though he is saved: and one who corrupts God’s temple, and is himself destroyed. Now in all this we have a temple whose state depends on builders or corrupters. The responsibility of man enters into the question, and the state of things depends on his faithfulness. Hence it may be badly built or corrupted. This cannot be where Christ builds.
It is supposed then, that it is possible that the church as subsisting here on earth may be badly built, and the work destroyed or corrupted. The pretension therefore that this must always be preserved perfect against the craft and power of Satan is unfounded: what Christ builds will. This is confirmed as to the general state of the dispensation in the Lord’s own teaching and the apostle’s. “Who, then, is a faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord hath made ruler over his household to give them meat in due season,” Matt. 24:45. Now here the possibility is supposed of that servant set by the Lord in this place of service being unfaithful, mixing with the world and usurping oppressive authority over the fellow-servants. Now this is just what the clergy, and especially the Roman hierarchy, have done: they have mixed with the ungodly world, and they have oppressed their fellow-servants.
The professing church, and especially the teaching and ruling responsible body can be unfaithful and destroyed as hypocrites, and left to weeping and gnashing of teeth. Paul tells us that in the last days perilous times shall come, and then describes their state, adding, “having the form of godliness, but denying the power of it”; and desires us to turn away from such. Thus we know that the professing body, as a whole, will be ruined; that, instead of its being said, “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved,” one could only say, “the Lord knoweth them that are his.”
We read that an apostasy or falling away will come and the man of sin be revealed. The parable of the tares and wheat tells the same tale, that the mischief that the devil did in the crop Christ had sown could not be remedied till the harvest came, that is, the judicial dealings of God. This did not hinder the wheat being in the garner, but it spoiled the crop in the field. As to the time this began, Paul says in the Philippians, “all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ”; Peter, that the time was “come for judgment to begin at the house of God”; John, that there were “many antichrists, whereby they knew that it was the last time,” for antichrist is the mark which characterizes the last times. Jude pursues the development of this power of evil from his day, when false brethren had crept in, to the end of the times when they perish in their opposition.
So far from looking for successors in the care of the church, Paul tells the elders of Ephesus that he knows that after his decease grievous wolves would enter in and ravage the flock, and perverse men arise to turn away the disciples. He has no idea of a successor to his place, but warns the elders to watch, commending them to God and the word of His grace as the resource. Peter takes care by his epistle that they should keep what he told them in remembrance. Neither knows anything of a successor. Both refer to the elders already there. I find the practical ruin of the church clearly stated, and no successor supposed by those most interested in it. The Lord Himself recognizes the difference between the care of human shepherds and its effect, and the security afforded by His own. In speaking of the security of His sheep, He says, “the hireling fleeth because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep; and the wolf cometh and seizeth the sheep, and scattereth them.” But further on He says, “I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck [seize] them out of my hand.”
R. But do you mean to say that the church failed from the beginning?
N*. As entrusted to man. The apostles held their ground against encroaching evil; but the evil was there, and Paul tells us that it would break out after his departure. All that was already there. The warnings are most solemn in Jude, who reports its first inroad and progressive character. Paul tells us what the end would be in what was antichristian and in judgment; John, that in principle it was already there; Peter, that the time was come for judgment. Hence we claim as a rule what was from the beginnings nothing after it being to be allowed as certainly good, though good may have remained in spite of the evil. And further the principle of succession is a false one, denied by the apostles; and, if I look to history, it becomes a security for the worst and most abominable evil.
R. But do you mean to say that there was no succession?
N*. Certainly, in the sense you mean it; though always a ministry of the word by the grace of God. Further I find for the ordinary elders the apostles appointed them, or their delegates did. They were never chosen by the people, nor by the clergy, nor by men-invented cardinals. Your sources of ecclesiastical power have no foundation in scripture.
R. But tradition is clear as to the bishops who succeeded in every place.
N*. I admit no authority of tradition in the things of God. But we have seen that it is not. Jerome tells us that there were no such local prelates at first; that they were merely chosen by human arrangement to prevent jealous disputes for primacy among the elders; hence, even in Rome prelacy is merely a matter of jurisdiction, nothing in order is above a priest. Others tell us that John quite late went about to establish them. And at Rome the real history is pretty apparent by the utter uncertainty as to the first three, or, as some say, four: but this we have gone through. For succession you have no scripture ground, but the contrary; tradition is confused and uncertain, though the principle—the church being already far departed from the Lord, which none dare question, for the apostle, nay the Lord Himself, says so—came in very early.
R. Well, I must leave you at present; I will call for Mr. D. on my way back.
D. I shall wait for you. But, Mr. N*, you set aside in the strongest way not only all tradition but the whole ordained channel of blessing downwards.
N*. I set aside nothing. We have been inquiring whether it really exists as you state, or whether there are not irreparable breaches in your channel. And mark, the essential character of the great Shepherd is, that He has an untransmissible priesthood. He ever lives, and therefore can save to the uttermost them that come to God by Him. He secures His sheep and will gather the wheat into His garner. And the word of God, the truth itself, and security for it, there can be no succession in; the grace that uses it must be individual.
James. This is what we have to trust in, and can surely trust in Christ and the word of God; and I remember, the apostle commended them to God and the word of His grace, when he expected not to see them again. He spoke of no successor.
Bill M. I begin to see into it. There is a true church of saints that the Lord builds, and that cannot fail, which is not finished yet; and a body formed on earth and put under man’s care, and it is predicted it would be corrupted and ruined in its state, and we see that it was.
N*. Just as it happened to Adam, and to Noah, and to Israel, and to the priesthood, and to everything else trusted to man. Man spoiled all as entrusted to him, and indeed it was the very first thing that happened; but all is made good in Christ the last man.
Bill M. But then it makes a trying time for simple people.
N*. The apostle speaks of perilous times, or, as the Rhemish Testament has it, “dangerous.” But the scriptures have predicted it so as to confirm our faith when we find ourselves there. The scriptures give the fullest directions for them, and the Lord, who ever lives, is able to secure us in one time as in another, and we have His promise.
James. That is sure, and I believe, if we hold to scripture and lean on Him and cleave to Him, the danger only makes us feel so much the more how sweet it is to have His help, and how faithful He is.
N*. None shall pluck them out of His hand.
Bill M. I am satisfied as to the truth of this. The word of God is a wonderful thing; how it makes all things clear, and suffices for all times! They say one is not able to understand it. Well, I have not much knowledge in it, but I think it gives understanding more than requires it.
N*. That is just it, through grace.
Bill M. But what do you say to this, Mr. D.?
D. I think it very dangerous ground to set up one’s own judgment against the church of God.
Bill M. But I do not set up my judgment at all about the matter. I submit to what the apostles Paul and Peter and John have said, and the Lord Himself. This cannot be false ground. But, begging your pardon, sir, you know we have been looking for the true church; which is it?
D. We desire its re-union; but there is the Roman Catholic, and the Greek, and the Anglican, besides schismatical bodies.
Bill M. But these are all opposed to each other; that I know as to the Roman Catholic and the English, for they tried to get me out of it, because it was all wrong, and I was like to be damned if I stayed; and they did get me out of it, because it was not the true one. And the Greeks, as I learn, condemn them, and they the Greeks; so that I have no surety there at any rate. Scripture you all own to be of God; but these bodies utterly condemn one another, and how is a poor man to know which is the true church?
D. He should stay where he has been baptized: this all own.
N*. No, sir, excuse me, Dr. Milner says your baptism is so uncertain that it cannot be trusted, and they baptize them over again, when you have done it already.
D. That is very wrong.
Bill M. But they say it is very right. How could I tell if I or my children had been rightly baptized? Which of you can I trust? And they told me I must on no account stay where I was baptized; I was outside the only true church.
D. Well, I do not deny the disunion is very sad. We pray, and have a society to pray for the union of all, that there may be no such sad division.
Bill M. Do you pray that the scripture may be right?
D. Of course not.
Bill M. Does Mr. R.?
D. I suppose not. All Catholics hold the scriptures are inspired of God.
Bill M. Then I had rather trust it which is surely right, than you that confessedly, some or all of you, are wrong. Besides I have learned a great deal I never knew before. They hide the truth, I find I cannot trust what they say. Who would have thought, with Dr. Milner’s fine words, there was such a history as there is behind it?
D. Well, I cannot give up my confidence in the church of God.
Bill M. Are you sure you are of it?
D. Well, there are many things I am not satisfied with. We have departed from many church truths, and we shall never be right till we return to them and unity.
Bill M. Are you satisfied with Rome?
D. I deplore the spirit that will not own us, and I have some difficulties about the worship of the Virgin Mary to the extent they carry it to; but if they would leave us free on these points, unity would soon be re-established. We own their orders and sacramental grace.
Bill M. And do they own yours? Dr. Milner says they cannot; that you have no grace at all, but a very doubtful baptism. It was all this shook me when I was among you. Now I see God can work in grace in a man’s heart by the word, though I am far from being what I feel I ought to be.
D. Well, they ought to own them. If you have attended to what Mr. N* has been going through, you might have seen that we in England have escaped from all the uncertainty occasioned by the great schism.
Bill M. But Dr. Milner says your orders cannot be proved; that they cannot be proved in the time of Queen Elizabeth; that somebody who consecrated the archbishop had never been consecrated.
D. I think it can be proved, or that at least it is highly probable he was; and at any rate the one who assisted the Suffragan of Thetford was.
Bill M. Is that all I have to rest my hopes of salvation on? I had rather have the scriptures and the grace of Him that died for me. Very glad to learn from any minister; but when you, gentlemen, give it me as the ground and security of salvation, I find you all disown and condemn one another, and that there is nothing certain for a soul to rest upon. I do not find this in the word of God. It is sure, though it condemns me in many things. But here is Mr. R. returned.
R. I am come to look for you, Mr. D.
N*. We have just done. We have been speaking with Mr. D. on the differences between the Roman and Anglican systems, after closing our survey of the popes’ succession. You spoke, when here before, of the common judgment of those who had Catholic principles alike condemning what you call our rashness who rest in scripture. Now our friend Bill M. finds more uncertainty in your discord than sure ground for his soul to build upon. He judges that, as your friends took pains to get him away from the Anglican body that he might have his salvation assured, you must think them entirely wrong.
R. Of course they are wrong in not being united to the sole head of the church, the vicar of Christ, besides other points on which they would get clear when once they accepted Catholic unity. Having got the church’s authority they would get the church’s truth.
N*. We are on the search for the true church. But I understand your principle, one held by all Roman Catholics, when once the church’s infallible authority is admitted, whatever she teaches is to be believed implicitly, though a person does not in fact believe really any one of the things taught. So Dr. Newman puts it as to himself, that, when he joined the Roman Catholic body, he did not hold as true what it taught as vital truth. So, Dr. Milner says, every Catholic will say, I believe all that the church teaches, though he does not know what it is. This is no faith in the truth, for such an one has not even heard what it is. In the word of God I have not only divine authority but the truth itself. It is not a body competent to teach, but a revelation of the truth. Hence, though I go on learning, I have not implicit but explicit faith. I believe what I find there. I do not believe that the church teaches. The apostles and others appointed to it by God’s gifts and grace taught or may now teach the church; but let that pass now. Who is this sole true head of the church?
R. The pope.
N*. If he then be the sole head, there is no other.
R. There can be but one, and of course therefore no other.
N*. Then Christ is not the Head of the church at all.
R. Nay, He is the head in heaven, but the pope is the head on earth, His vicar.
N*. Then are there two heads, one in heaven and one on earth? Now I know no head but Christ, and could not own any other. The Spirit of God has in a certain sense replaced Him as the Comforter; but there is one only head, that of the church as a body, and this is the way head is spoken of. “He gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body,” and this being the scriptural sense of the head and the body, Christ alone in glory can be it. It would be simply a blasphemy to call the pope the head of Christ’s body. There is only one unchangeable living head, the source of grace, that nourishes and cherishes it as a man does his own flesh, “for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” To apply this to the pope would be as absurd as it would be wicked. We should have a different head, and perhaps a wicked one, every few years.
R. Christ alone of course can be the heavenly head. But the pope is the head of the church on earth.
N*. But Christ is the head and source of grace to the members of His own body united to Him by the Holy Ghost. No one can be thus united to the pope.
R. But the pope represents Him on earth.
N*. But he cannot be the head of the body as the scripture speaks of it. We are members of Christ. We cannot be members of the pope.
R. But he has the rule and authority down here as representing Christ. I do not understand your mysticism about members of Christ.
N*. What you call mystical is distinctly taught in the Catechism of the Council of Trent (Cap. 2, 52, De Bapt.); only it is ascribed to baptism. Now the children or others are clearly not made members of the pope, and the pope is not at all head of the church as scripture speaks of it. You have made a mere earthly thing of the church, a great tree (to use the scripture figure), and set the pope the chief and now infallible ruler in it, of which the scripture knows nothing. It does know a great fallible system in earth on which judgment will come. But this is figured by a house, or the state of a kingdom, not by a body and a head. I say then Christ is the head of the true church which I own and bless God for; the pope the head of yours. But allow me to ask you, as you are both here, for clearing the ground for our two friends whose minds have been occupied with these questions—Do you believe that transubstantiation is an essential doctrine of the church?
R. Most assuredly; we should have no sacrifice without it; no priesthood, which supposes a sacrifice. In a word the whole edifice of true worship would fall to the ground.
N*. But what does Mr. D. say to this?
D. I have no objection. I believe the body and blood of Christ are verily and indeed there.
N*. But what does your church say?
D. I am only bound to believe its teaching in a general way.
N*. Well now. It is stated in the articles that transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of bread and wine) in the Supper of the Lord cannot be proved by holy writ, but is repugnant to the plain words of scripture, overthrows the nature of the sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions. Now, Mr. R., what do you say to this?
R. I reject it as evidently heretical and false.
D. As a scholastic account of the manner of the change we are not bound to it, and the Catechism of the Council of Trent advises also that it should not be curiously searched into.
N*. Be it so; but saying that it is repugnant to the plain words of scripture is not curiously searching into anything, and saying you are bound generally may do to leave a wide margin to make conscience easy, but cannot reconcile its being an essential article of faith and being repugnant to the plain words of scripture. So your church says,” the Romish doctrine concerning purgatory, pardons, worshipping, and adoration as well of images as of relics, and also invocation of saints, is a forced thing vainly invented and grounded upon no warranty of scripture, but rather repugnant to the word of God.” So in Article 31, you own, “Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in which it was commonly said that the priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain and guilt, were blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits.”
Now I know that some of those seeking the union of churches say it refers to what was commonly said, and that it speaks of masses, not of the Mass. But two masses are not said at once, and excusing oneself by saying it was only what was commonly said which was condemned, is a miserable subterfuge, because the same thing is explicitly stated in the decrees of the Council of Trent (Sess. 22: c. 2). What Mr. R. holds to be essential truth and the essence of his worship, anathematizing all who do not hold it (C. of T. 17, canon 3), you declare to be blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits. You stand anathematized by Mr. R. and then come to preach to us unity and catholicity. This does not quite hold water.
Bill M. It is true though, and the Mass is what was made the most of with me.
N*. But I hold it is a sacrifice, only commemorative.
N*. You profess to hold, generally, if you like, that what Mr. R. holds to be the highest divine worship is a blasphemous fable. What he would do to bring people out of purgatory or help them there, you, as far as the act goes, consider would lead people to hell; for I suppose blasphemous fables must do that.
D. But if once the church was one, these things would be easily settled.
N*. Well, then, by your own shewing it is not one; so according to your ideas, and Mr. R. says your common ideas, there is no true church such as you point it out by its marks. Unity and catholicity both fail; and what kind of unity is it when you begin by uniting with blasphemers? That is a strange kind of union. It has always struck me how Roman Catholics, and all who tend that way, are indifferent to truth. Now the church is the pillar and ground of the truth. With you blasphemies are no matter.
D. I wish the expressions were away.
N*. This I understand, but it would be simply your going over to what you now profess to believe to be blasphemy.
D. But I do not believe it to be so.
N*. This is a strange thing. You have professed to believe it, and have your present position by having done so. We must have the truth of God, “whom I love in the truth, and for the truth’s sake.”
R. But where shall we find truth, if not in the church?
N*. That is Pilate’s question. I answer, in the revealed word of God; His word is truth, and by grace you will find it there. As I have already said, what you call trusting the church is simply unbelief. He that has received Christ’s testimony has set to his seal that God is true, and we have the apostle’s declaration, “He that is of God heareth us.”
D. Well, I suppose, Mr. R., I am keeping you, and our continuing our conversation can profit little.
R. Well, I should like to talk a little with Mr. N* on the sacrifice of the Mass and transubstantiation. He takes the questions up boldly, I see, and on this point I do not see how he can answer, even on his own ground of scripture, which tells us of a pure offering that was everywhere to be offered. But now I must go.
N*. I shall be very glad to speak with you on it. For the present then good evening, gentlemen. We will meet the day that suits you.
R. And our good friend here will let us come to his house again.
James. Surely, sir. I shall be glad to see you, and happy to hear about it.
D. Will to-morrow suit you?
James. Any day, sir.
D. And you, Mr. N.?
N*. I will.
D. Let it be to-morrow then. Good evening all—good evening, gentlemen.
Bill M. Well, I shall be glad to hear about that. I see one thing, that what they call the church is all fallen and gone away from what it was, and their pretended unity with some of the clergy is all hollow. They are only going away just as I was, only not so simply, for any way I was straightforward, only I knew nothing.
James. But how can people be so deceived as to think of offering Christ in sacrifice now? Why, then His work is not finished, though He says it is. He cannot die upon the cross again. He cannot shed His blood again, and without shedding of blood is no remission. I cannot think how they can speak of such a thing. It is not then a finished work!
N*. It is very simple when once we know what redemption is, and that blessed work which Christ has done. But they do not know this at all; and we must remember, James, that neither you nor I knew it at one time, and when one does not, it is easy to be in difficulties and perplexities. We are not what we ought to be, and look for something to get us out of the uneasiness, and are easily seduced by what seems to offer a resource. The evil is that in this case the enemy has made a system of it, and so denied really, not the fact, but the efficacy of Christ’s offering.
Bill M. Well, it is just the point I should like to be clear upon.
James. What you say, sir, is true. I see the impossibility of it; but it is not long ago it would have been a snare to myself. How precious a thing is faith! But I feel I ought to be more humble about it, and thankful for the grace that has delivered me.
N*. Thankful, indeed, we ought to be. And you, M., you see just what you want; you want still the knowledge of an accomplished redemption, and that, being justified by faith, we have peace with God. But He will graciously help you on, I fully trust. But now I must say good evening till to-morrow. I am never surprised that any one who does not know redemption should be ensnared by Romanism.
James and M. Good evening, sir.
Mrs. James. Well, James, I am sure we have to be very thankful for the grace that has given us peace. It is a great thing to cry Abba, Father, and know one is reconciled to God. And all through grace. All is simple and clear then. How thankful I am! But who would have thought of all this wickedness, and that the church of God could have come to this? I did not hear it all, but I heard enough. I never thought that what God set up so beautiful had sunk so low. But He warned us of it. But how it shews what man is! The Lord graciously keep us near Him.
Bill M. Well, it is shocking to think, but what I am thinking of most is how they deceive us. Though as Mr. N* said, I do not know redemption clear yet for myself, but it is not in that unholy place Rome, but on the cross of the blessed Saviour, I believe.
James. God will lead you on, and give you rest, Bill. The work is all done, and you will find peace through it yet. Goodnight.
Bill M. Good-night both.
68 In this same chapter of the treatise (contra Marc.) we have the false point of Tertullian, prescription, which thus wholly breaks down. If what is earlier is truer, if what is earlier is from the beginning, what is from the beginning is from the apostles; and this assumes not that what was from the beginning is true, as the apostle John states it (which we have in the scriptures of the New Testament), but what is earlier is truer, which has no force at all, and is the basis of the whole, because it does not go to the beginning, and often is not true. Unless his assertion, “what is earlier is from the beginning,” be accepted as necessarily true—and this assertion is utterly groundless—clearly a thing may be earlier than another, yet not from the beginning.
69 “Dispositionis Dominicæ veritate.”
70 Medina, a Roman Catholic theologian, says that not only Jerome but Augustine, Leontius, Primasius, Chrysostom, Theodoret, (Ecumenius, and Theophylact were all in the Aerian heresy on this subject. That the church had condemned in Aerius Wycliffe and the Waldenses, but that it was borne in these fathers or dissembled on account of the reverence paid to them. Bellarmine says that (to speak very gently) this is very inconsiderate, as it puts a slur on these illustrious fathers, and makes the church an accepter of persons; and they were guilty, more so than Aerius, who lived before them; and more, the fathers (if this were so) could not be cited as an authority. (Bell. 2, 161; De Hær. 1, 15.)
71 This was felt so strongly that Roman Catholic doctors have declared that such as Jerome were materially heretics—that is, in what they said; but Bellarmine says this is rash.
72 Augustine, in a letter to Jerome, calls on him to sing a palinodian for making the scriptures tell a lie as to this, which made Jerome very angry. The Benedictine editors say Jerome recanted. He says he put down borrowed matter in his commentary as well as his own, and perhaps in this way taught error. God is his judge, not I; but I do not see by fruits a sign that Jerome was a real Christian influenced by grace.
73 Of what see? The proof that Christ ordained Peter is as curious a piece of reasoning as we might easily find. It is only worth citing to shew what kind of ground these subjects rest on. See Bell, de S. P., 1, 23, 2, 4, and other places in this treatise.
74 I have already said that I do not think there can be the smallest doubt that “principalitatem,” as to the Roman church, was archen, in the sense of origin; It is of that Irenaeus is speaking, so that the context proves it.
75 But for two hundred years and more.
76 The utter confusion of Hermas as to the one Holy Spirit may be seen in the 10th Command, 2, 3. If it were not puerile folly, it would be outrageous heresy. In Command 6 each man has two angels.
77 Hermas is quoted by the book of Roman Pontiffs, if it be the same (Bar., Pii, 159, 4, 2, vol. 2, 204), and the angelic visitation is treated as true. Origen, Eusebius, Jerome and others say he is the one mentioned by Paul, which is surely a mistake. His book is treated as excellent by Irenasus, quoted by Eusebius, quoted by Origen, who says some did not value it, by Clemens Alexandrinus, Tertullian when orthodox and Catholic, but denouncing it when a Montanist; Athanasius says it is a most useful book; Jerome, following Eusebius, very useful and publicly read in churches of Greece, but not known among the Latins. Rufnnus says they had it read in churches, but not quoted as authority to establish faith.
78 It is expressly taught, Dis. 40, c. 6, that a pope can be judged for heresy; and in the gloss, also if he is incorrigible and the church scandalised for evident crimes, because contumacy is heresy; but that the church should pray against it much, as its salvation so depends on the pope.
79 This is also attributed to another motive; after receiving the salutation of all, he was set on the night-stool (stercoraria) to shew he was a poor mortal. This continued to Leo X.
80 The authorities are cited—too long to go through here—in Jewel’s answer to Harding (5, 351, Kele’s edition), Basnage (Hist, de l’Eglise, 408 ff.). These authors are Protestants, but the books they cite from are not. So L’Enfant’s translation of Spanheim. Those who read German can consult Schroek, who does not think it proved. All authorities are quoted. It is difficult to deal with. Anastasius, in the same century, states it; but it is said to be interpolated, and there is a long history as to this, and Jesuit frauds connected with it. It is in Marianus Scotus. Here again it is said the best manuscripts have it not, but Baronius admits he has the story. He was in the eleventh century. Martinus Polonus has the whole story in full in 1278. These are two renowned Roman Catholic writers. But interpolations are charged, as the taking out in editions is insisted on too. That it was then universally accredited is evident. And who should have put it into so many grave Roman Catholic writers? The strongest proof against it is Hincmar’s letter to Nicolaus I in 866, which was sent to Leo IV and found Benedict there, but this is sought to be avoided. However, having given a short view of the question, for there is a vast deal more said, I leave the matter where it is.
81 The whole history discloses scenes of excessive wickedness, even in the pope’s family; one named George was accused of having murdered Pope Benedict, whose niece he had married.
82 Fleury (54, 31) says it was really for not following the political views of the pope, John VIII.
83 Not ninth unless Pope Joan be counted as a John.
84 I have consulted Anastasius Bibliothecarius and Luitprand; others I take, as Baronius, etc., cite them.
85 In this part of his Nouvelle Bibliotheque Dupin gives a chapter on the church of Rome. In Baronius the name of the pope at once gives the reference, as in Fleury.
86 Or II here only, because Marin has been confounded with Martin. This, and one of the Stephens, do not affect the succession, like the Johns and others.
87 “Notæ ad Vitas Paparum Avenionenum,” page 1040, and following.
88 Van der Hardt’s “Council of Constance,” vol. 1, part 3, where all is gone through, save that he declines much as too shameful.
89 The Duke of Alba slaughtered 30,000 in Belgium; and when Charles IX of France sought to slay all the Protestants in France, and thousands were massacred, the king looking on in Paris, the pope had a medal struck in commemoration of it.
90 I have known this still promised in Ireland, in the programme of a confraternity.
91 The accounts of Alexander VI may be seen, Appendix to Ranke. Raynald (1492 and following). Dupin (15th century, 62). Fleury, 1492, 31, etc., 1503, 6, 117 to 120.