The state of the Churches of Aquintain and Narbon in the fifth century.
THIS age furnisheth us with several considerable witnesses. St. Jerome, whom the Bishop of Meaux has endeavored to represent as our antagonist, is the first of them.
He saith, speaking of Exuperius, Bishop of Tholouse, that this holy Bishop carried the Eucharist in a wicker basket, a way by no means agreeable to the custom of the Church of Rome, where it is accompanied with quite different ceremonies. First, because it is made the object of adoration; and that in the very streets. Secondly, because people dare not touch the least crumb of it, as being persuaded that the body of Jesus Christ which is in the host multiplies according to the number of the crumbs into which the host may be broken. Thirdly, because by this means it might come to be trod under foot or lost, upon which a thousand inconveniencies must follow.
It is worth observing here concerning this custom of carrying the Eucharist about, which was in use in the second century, as appears from the writings of Justin Martyr, that it differed very much from what we find in the Romish Church since the twelfth century. For indeed since that time Rome has taken great care to obtain laws whereby all that walk in the streets, whether Jews, Heathens, or Christians, might be compelled to adore what she looks upon as her God. But we find nothing like this in any law of the emperors, or Christian princes in favor of the adoration of the Eucharist.
The second witness whom we may consult about the state of these dioceses is Sulpitius Severus, Monk of Primuliacum in Guienne. And since he wrote at a time when the zeal for that kind of life did transport the best men, we need not wonder that he hath inserted so many fables in the books we have of his, though, setting those aside, nothing was finer in that age than his writings.
But after all, it is certain, that notwithstanding all this leaven of a monastic spirit, we find many characters of a very pure divinity in his books: this will appear from the following observations; whence it is obvious to conclude, that he was not engaged in Popish maxims.
1. He maintains, that it was Jesus Christ that wrestled with Jacob; which passage the Doctors of the Church of Rome corrupt, to have an occasion thence to conclude that a mere angel had blessed Jacob;
Pridie, saith he, quam inter se fratres convenirent, Dominus, humana specie assumpta, colluctatus cum Jacob refertur. Et cum adversus Dominum praevaluisset, tamen non esse mortalem non ignoravit; benedici sibi ab eo flagitabat:
“The day before the brothers met, the Lord is said to have wrestled with Jacob in a human form; and though he prevailed against the Lord, yet he knew him not to be mortal, and desired to be blessed by him.”
2. He owns the second Commandment, and distinguisheth it from the first. Non erunt tibi Dii alieni praeter me. Non facies tibi idolum.
“Thou shalt have no other Gods but me. Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven image.”
Neither doth he split the last command into two, as the Church of Rome does at present; for he concludes the decalogue in this manner, Non falsum testimonium dices adversus proximum tuum. Non concupisces quidquam proximi tui.
“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Thou shalt not covet any thing that is thy neighbor’s?
3. He was so little persuaded that the name of Catholic was a solid character of the true Church, that he confesses that Arianism had infected all the world. See how he expresseth himself, Eoque his certaminibus processum, ut istiusmodi piaculis orbis terrarum implicaretur, nam Italiam, Illyricum atque orientem Valens et Ursacius, caeterique, quorum nomina edidimus, infecerant:
“And these contests proceeded so far, that the whole world became involved in this wickedness; for Valens and Ursacius, with the rest, whose names we have mentioned, had infected Italy, Illyricum, and the east.”
4. He minded the Pope’s power of suppressing heresy so little, that he owns St. Hilary to have preserved Gaul: Illud, saith he, apud omnes constitit, unius Hilarii beneficio, Gallias nostras piaculo haeresis liberatas;
“Thus much was known to all, that by the sole endeavors of Hilary, our Gaul was delivered from the infection of heresy.”
5. He shews so violent an aversion to the spirit of persecution, that he very sharply reproves Ithacius for using the Priscillianists hardly, who were a branch of the Manichees that had settled themselves in Spain, and for persuading the Emperor Gratian to banish them: Is, saith he, viz. Ithacius, vero sine modo et ultra quam oportuit, Idacium sociosque ejus lacessens,facem quandam nascenti incendio subdidit, ut exasperaverit malos potius quam compresserit — Tum vero Idacius atque Ithacius acrius instare — arbitrantes posse inter initia malum comprimi; sed parum sanis consiliis saeculares judices adeunt, ut eorum decretis atque executionibus, haeretici urbibus pellerentur. Igitur post multa et foeda Idacio supplicante, elicitur a Gratiano tum Imperatore rescriptum, etc.
“But he above measure, and beyond what ought to have been done, provoking Idacius and his fellows, helped to blow the flame, and exasperate these wicked men, rather than suppress them. — Whereupon Idacius and Ithacius began to double their endeavors, supposing that the mischief might be suppressed in its beginning; but being ill advised, they address themselves to secular judges, that by their decrees and executions the heretics might be banished the cities. Thus after many and base intrigues upon Idacius’s petitioning, an order was drawn from Gratian, the then Emperor,” etc.
6. He draws such a parallel between St. Ambrose and Pope Damasus, that he attributes to them the supreme authority in the Church, which doth not at all agree with the notion of Papacy. After having said that it was impossible for the Priscillianists to justify themselves before Damasus, Bishop of Rome, and St. Ambrose, because both these Bishops refused to hear them, he proceeds thus; Tum vertere consilia, ut quia duobus Episcopis, quorum ea tempestate summa authoritas erat, non illuserat, etc.
“Then they began to change their measures, and because they could not delude the two Bishops, whose authority was supreme at that time,” etc.
7. He informs us what the tendency is of the worship given to martyrs, by the history he gives us of an altar, which the popular superstition had rendered famous, because they pretended that some martyrs had been buried in that place. St. Martin, whose life is described by our author, not being able to make any certain discovery of the name of this martyr, and the circumstances of his sufferings, and being loth absolutely to doubt of the truth of it, thought fit himself to go to this famous sepulcher, in company of some of his brethren: being come to the place, he earnestly begged of God to reveal to him the name and merit of the martyr; and afterwards turning himself towards the left, Vidit prope assistere umbram sordidam trucem;
“He sees standing near him a hideous and terrible ghost.” They command him to declare himself, the ghost obeys; Nomen edicit, de crimine confitetur, latronem se fuisse, ob scelera percussum, vulgi errore celebratum; sibi nihil cum martyribus esse commune; cum illos gloria, se poena retineret:
“Tells his name, confesseth his crime, that he had been executed for robbery, that it was only the error of the people caused him to be canonized; that he was in nothing like the martyrs, who were in glory, whereas he was in pain.”
The good St. Martin being troubled to hear this account, caused the altar to be carried to another place; and so, saith our author, delivered the people from a superstitious error.
8. He declares that the custom of carrying the images of the saints through the parishes, was no better than a custom derived from the heathens. The same saint, saith he, once by accident saw a company of heathens at a distance, who accompanied the body of an heathen to the grave; but finding himself too far off to discover what they were about, and perceiving the winds to wave the linen wherewith the dead body was covered, he imagined they were employed about the profane ceremonies of their sacrifices, and the reason he gives of it is this: Quia esset haec Gallorum rusticis consuetudo, simulacra daemonum, candido tecta velamine, misera per agros suos circumferre dementia;
“Because it was the custom of the country people of Gaul to carry madly about their grounds the images of demons, covered over with a white veil.”
9. He lays down a very remarkable maxim for the Albigenses: Ecclesiam auro non strui, sed potius destrui:
“That gold was not the means of building, but rather of destroying the Church;” which those of the Church of Rome could never forgive him, as appears by their censures in the margin.
10. He severely blames the conduct of those who employ violence against such as do not acquiesce in their decisions. He went, saith he, to Alexandria, but would not make any stay in a place: Ubi recens fraternae cladis fervebat invidia; nam etsi fortasse videantur parere Episcopis debuisse, non ob hanc tamen causam multitudinem tantam sub Christi confessione viventem, praesertim ab Episcopis oportuisset affigi:
“Where the reproach of their intestine slaughters was yet fresh; for though perhaps it was their duty to have obeyed the Bishops, yet such a vast number of persons living in the confession of Christ ought not to have been afflicted in that manner, especially by the Bishops.”
11. He acquaints us with the unjust proceedings of the Spanish Bishops against the Priscillianists, and the ridiculous marks they had to discover them: Maximus Imperator, alias satis bonus, depravatus consiliis Sacerdotum, post Priscilliani necem, Ithacium Episcopum Priscilliani accusatorem, caeterosque illius socios, vi regia tuebatur, ne quis ei crimini daret, opera illius cujuscunque modi hominem fuisse damnatum. Et jam pridie Imperator ex illorum sententia decreverat tribunos summa potestate armatos ad Hispanias mittere, qui haereticos inquirerent, deprehensis vitam et bona adimerent: nec dubium erat quin sanctorum etiam maximam turbam tempestas ista depopulatura est, parvo discrimine inter hominum genera: etenim tum solis oculis judicabatur, cum quis pallore potius aut veste, quam fide haereticus aestimaretur:
“Maximus the Emperor, otherwise a very good man, being spoiled by the counsel of the Priests, after Priscillian’s death, did by his kingly power defend Ithacius the Bishop, Priscillian’s accuser, and the rest of his associates, that no body might reflect on him, as if by his procurement any man had been condemned. — The day before the Emperor had already, according to their liking, resolved to send tribunes with full power into Spain, to examine those that were heretics, and being found such, to take away their lives and estates: neither was it to be doubted but that this storm would have reached the greatest part of believers, because of the small distinction made between them and the other: for then they judged persons only by the eye, esteeming them heretics from their pale looks or habit, rather than by their faith.”
He afterwards shews the horror that St. Martin had conceived against these kind of proceedings. There was nothing he was more concerned about; Illa praecipua cura ne tribuni cum jure gladiorum ad Hispanias mitterentur:
“Than to prevent the tribunes being sent into Spain, with the power of the sword.”
He renounced communion with these sanguinary bishops; but not long after, to avoid a greater mischief, he was obliged to give up that point, though he still refused to subscribe to the condemnation of the Priscillianists; Hujus diei communionem Martinus iniit, satius aestimans ad horam cedere, quam his non consulere, quorum cervicibus gladius imminebat; veruntamen summa vi Episcopis nitentibus ut communionem illam subscriptione firmaret, extorqueri non potuit:
“Martin communicated with them at that time, thinking it better for a while to give way to them, than not to provide for their safety, who had the sword hanging over them: but yet though the Bishops used their utmost endeavors to make him ratify his communicating with them by his subscription, they could never bring him to it.”
If we consult Vincentius Lirinensis and Cassian, they will afford us much light as to the state of these dioceses.
Vincentius, a priest of the monastery of Lerins, is one of those who can best inform us what was esteemed orthodox in these churches. Indeed we find all the peculiar doctrines of the Church of Rome are condemned in the maxims that he solidly asserts in the 28th chapter of his Commonitorium, where he maintains that the Church may every day make a further progress in the knowledge of truth, and all this without making any innovation: Crescat igitur oportet, et multum vehementerque proficiat, tam singulorum quam omnium, tam unius hominis quam totius Ecclesiae, aetatum ac saeculorum gradibus intelligentia, scientia, sapientia, sed in suo duntaxat genere, in eodem se dogmate, eodem sensu, eademque sententia:
“The understanding, knowledge, and wisdom, as well of every singular person as of the whole Church, ought to grow and greatly increase, according to the several degrees of times and ages, but every one in his own way; that is to say, in the same doctrine, in the same sense, and the same judgement.”
2. He in the same place exclaims against all new doctrines and new names, and yet owns that the Church acquires daily more light in matters of religion; Sed ita tamen ut vere profectus sit ille, fidei non permutatio:
“But yet so that this is really an advancement, not a change of faith.”
3. He reduces all that we ought to believe to the rule of faith, and declares what is the true use and the true authority of the Doctors of the Church: Quae tamen antiqua sanctorum Patrum consensio, non in omnibus Divinae legis quaestiunculis, sed solum certe praecipue in fidei regula, magno nobis studio et investiganda est et sequenda. — Quibus tamen (Patribus) hac lege credendum est, ut quicquid vel omnes vel plures, uno eodemque sensu, manifeste, frequenter, perseveranter, velut quodam consentiente sibi magistrorum consilio, accipiendo, tenendo, tradendo firmaverint, id pro indubitato, certo, ratoque habeatur:
“But yet this primitive consent of the holy Fathers is not to be inquired after and followed as to the lesser questions of Divine law alike, but especially, if not only, in the rule of faith. — Which Fathers we may give full credit to, on this condition, that whatsoever all or the most of them do in the same sense, manifestly, frequently, and constantly maintain, as in a council of masters agreeing together, by their receiving, holding and delivering the same, that ought to be esteemed unquestionable, certain, and firm.”
4. He lays down a method how we may dispute with the Church of Rome about the errors she has drawn from antiquity, by reducing the whole dispute to the Scripture: Atque ideo quascunque illas antiquiores, vel schismatum vel haeresewn profanitates, hullo modo nos oportet, nisi aut sola, si opus est, Scripturarum authoritate convincere, aut certe jam antiquitus universalibus Sacerdotum Catholicorum conciliis convictas damnatasque vitare:
“Wherefore we are no other way to convict all ancient errors of schism or heresy, but either, if need be, by the sole authority of Scripture, or else to avoid them, as already condemned by the universal councils of Catholic Priests.”
5. He excellently explains the use of tradition, without derogating any thing from the sufficiency of Scripture: Diximus in superioribus hanc fuisse semper, et esse hodieque Catholicorum consuetudinem, ut fidem veram duobus istis mediis adprobent: primum Divini canonis authoritate; deinde Ecclesiae traditione: non quia canon solus non sibi ad universa suffciat, sed quia verba Divina pro suo plerique arbitratu interpretantes, varias opiniones erroresque concipiant; atque ideo necesse sit ut ad unam ecclesiastici sensus regulam Scripturae coelestis intelligentia dirigatur; in iis duntaxat praecipue quaestionibus, quibus totius Catholici dogmatis fundamenta nituntur:
“We have said before, that this hath been and still is the custom of Catholics, to prove the true faith two ways; first, by the authority of the Divine canon; and secondly, by the Church’s tradition: not as if the canon were not of itself sufficient, but because most men interpret Scripture according to their own private fancy, which has given occasion to various opinions and errors: wherefore it is needful that the understanding of holy Scripture be regulated by one single determination of the Church, and particularly in those questions on which the foundations of all Catholic doctrine rest.”
Lastly, he desires that universal consent may be taken only from such a tradition as he authorizeth: Item diximus in ipsa rursus Ecclesia universitatis pariter ac antiquitatis consensionem spectari oportere, ne aut ab unitatis integritate in partem schismatis abrumpamur, aut a vetustatis religione in haeresewn novitates praecipitemur:
“We have said also that in the Church we are to have an eye to the consent of universality and antiquity, that we be not rent from the entire union into a schism, or be cast headlong from the religion of the ancients into the novelties of heresy.”
There needs little more than these maxims to secure a Church where they are taught, from those corruptions into which the Church of Rome is fallen by her continual practice of the contrary, as well in respect of the doctrines of faith, as of religious worship.
Cassian, a Priest, the disciple of Chrysostom, hath writ much concerning the institutes of Monks, and accordingly we find in his writings several instances of their folly and pride. He saith the young Monks observed the rules prescribed to them so exactly, Ut non solum non audeant, absque Praepositi sui scientia vel permissu, non solum cella progredi, sed ne ipsi quidem communi et naturali necessitati satisfacere sua authoritate praesumant:
“That, without leave obtained from their Abbot, they dare not only not stir out of their cells, but what is more, not so much as satisfy the common necessities of nature.”
He shews that covetousness began already to reign amongst the Monks of his time. Tertius, saith he, nobis est conflictus adversus philargyriam, quam nos amorem pecuniarum possumus appellare; peregrinum bellum et extra naturam, nec aliunde in Monacho sumens principium, quam de corruptae et torpidae mentis ignavia, et plerumque initio abrenuntiationis male arrepto, et erga Deum tepido amore:
“Our third conflict is with the love of money, a foreign and unnatural war, and which arises in Monks from the sluggishness of a corrupt and benumbed mind, and very oft is grounded upon an inconsiderate entrance upon a self-denying life, and a lukewarm love towards God.”
He cannot bear the impudence of those covetous Monks who defended themselves with those words of Jesus Christ, It is more glorious to give than to receive. He censures the impertinent interpretation which some Monks put upon these words of Christ, Whosoever doth not take up his cross and follow me, is not worthy of me: Quod quidam districtissimi Monachorum, habentes quidem zelum Dei, sed non secundum scientiam, simpliciter intelligentes, fecerunt sibi cruces ligneas, easque jugiter humeris circumferentes, non aedificationem, sed risum cunctis videntibus intulerunt:
“Which some of the strictest Monks, having a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge, taking too literally, made themselves wooden crosses, and by carrying them about upon their shoulders, instead of edifying, provoked those that saw them to laughter.”
2. He informs us that the monks of Egypt were no scrupulous observers of their fasts, and that they made no difficulty of breaking them, in order to discharge some duty which appeared of more importance to them. Cassian tells us he was surprised at it; but one of the eldest Monks returned him this excellent answer: Jejunium semper est mecum; vos autem continuo dimissurus, mecum jugiter tenere non potero. Et jejunium quidem, licet utile sit, ac jugiter necessarium, tamen voluntarii muneris est oblatio: opus autem charitatis impleri exigit praecepti necessitas:
“To fast is always in my power; but you being ready to depart, I cannot have you always with me. Besides, to fast, though it be useful and always necessary, yet it is but a free-will-offering: whereas acts of charity are required of us upon the account of their being commanded.”
3. It appears that they did not believe the Scriptures to be so obscure as at this day they are supposed to be. We may see what Abbot Theodorus thought of this matter, as we find it set down by Cassian.
Monachum ad Scripturarum notitiam pertingere cupientem, nequaquam debere labores suos erga commentatorum libros impendere, sed potius omnem mentis industriam et intentionem cordis erga emendationem vitiorum camalium detinere, quibus expulsis, confestim cordis oculi, sublato velamine passionum, sacramenta Scripturarum velut natura liter incipient contemplari. Siquidem nobis, non ut essent incognita vel obscura, Sancti Spiritus gratia promulgata sunt: sed nostro vitio, velamine peccatorum cordis oculos obnubente, redduntur obscura, quibus rursum naturali redditis sanitati, ipsa Scripturarum sanctarum lectio ad contemplationem veme scientiac abunde etiam sola sufficiat, nec eos commentatorum institutionibus indigere:
“That a Monk who desires to attain to the knowledge of Scripture, ought not to spend his time upon commentators, but rather bend and apply his utmost industry and attention to the purging himself from fleshly lusts, which if they are once expelled, then immediately the eyes of the heart, upon removing of the vail of passions, will as it were naturally begin to contemplate the mysteries of Scripture; since we may be sure that the grace of the Holy Spirit never gave them forth that they should continue unknown or obscure; but they are darkened by our own fault, because the vail of sin covers the eyes of the soul, which when once restored to their natural soundness, the very reading of the Holy Scripture is alone abundantly sufficient for their contemplation of true knowledge; neither do they further need the instructions of commentators.”
4. It is evident that he did not believe transubstantiation, because he saith, Nemo in terris situs in coelis esse potest: “No body placed on the earth can be in heaven.”
5. We find that he did not own auricular confession, no more than Chrysostom his master, because where he gives an account of the means whereby we may obtain the forgiveness of sins, he doth not mention one word of it. True it is that he speaks indeed of a confession of sins, but of such an one as is to be made to God alone. Nec non, saith he, per peccatorum confessionem eorum abolitio conceditur; Dixi enim, ait, pronuntiabo adversum me injustitiam meam Domino, et tu remisisti impietatem peccati mei:
“And also by the confession of sin their forgiveness is granted; For, saith he, I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.”
6. He acknowledges that the fast of Lent was no apostolical law. Sciendum sane hanc observationem Quadragesimac, quamdiu Ecclesiae illius primitivac perfectio illibata permansit, penitus non fuisse. — Verum cum ab illa apostolica devotione descendens quotidie credentium multitudo suis opibus incubaret, nec eas usui cunctorum, secundum Apostolorum instituta divideret; sed privatim impendiis suis consulens, non servare tantum, sed etiam augere contenderet, Ananiac et Sapphirac exemplum non contenta sectari; id tunc universis Sacerdotibus placuit, ut homines curis saccularibus illigatos, et pene, ut ita dixerim, continentiae vel compunctionis ignaros, ad opus sanctum canonica indictione revocarent:
“We are to know that as long as the perfection of that primitive Church remained untainted, there was no such observation of Lent. — But when the multitude of believers, daily declining from that apostolical devotion, set their hearts upon their riches, not distributing them for the use of all, according to the rule of the Apostles, but applying themselves to private expenses, endeavored not only to keep what they had, but to increase it, being not content to follow the example of Ananias and Sapphira; then was it thought good by the universality of priests, to recal men that were entangled in secular business, and in a manner ignorant of what continence or compunction meant, to this holy work by the canonical injunction of a fast.”
I proceed to other considerable authors who have lived in these dioceses. Salvian, a Priest at Marseilles, informs us what their faith was, in several important articles.
1. He refers all faith to the Scriptures: Si scire vis, saith he, quid tenendum sit, habes Literas sacras: perfecta ratio est hoc tenere quod legeris. — Cum legimus quod regat cuncta quae fecit; hoc ipso approbamus quod regit, quia se regere testatur. Cum legimus quod praesenti judicio omnia dispenset; hoc ipso est evidens quod judicat, quia se judicare confirmat. Alia enim omnia, id est, humana dicta, argumentis ac testibus egent: Dei autem sermo ipse sibi testis est; quia necesse est quicquid incorrupta veritas loquitur incorruptum sit veritatis testimonium:
“Wouldst thou know what thou art to believe; thou hast the holy Scripture; it is the perfection of reason to hold whatever thou readest there. — When we read that he rules every thing that he hath made; by this we approve of his governing of every thing, because he says it. For all other, that is, human sayings, stand in need of proofs and witnesses; but God’s word is its own witness; because whatsoever incorrupt truth speaks must needs be an incorrupt witness of truth.”
2. He seems to approve of the difficulty which some of the Waldenses and Albigenses made to swear, when he saith, Jussit Salvator noster, ut Christiani homines non jurarent: “Our Savior commanded that Christians should not swear.”
3. He absolutely forbids pride to those who believe themselves righteous. See how he expresses himself; Et hoc intolerabilis superbiae atque immanis piaculi crimen est, si tam bonum se aliquis esse credat, ut etiam malos existimet per se posse salvari. Loquens Deus de terra quadam, vel de populo peccatore, sic dicit: Si fuerint tres viri in medio ejus, Noe et Daniel et Job, non liberabunt filios et filias, ipsi soli salvi erunt. Neminem tamen reor tam impudentem fore qui se his talibus viris audeat comparare: quia quamvis placere nunc aliquis Deo studeat, hoc ipsum tamen genus maximum injustitiae est, si se justum praesumat:
“This also is intolerable pride, and the highest wickedness, for any one to think himself so good, as that wicked men may be saved by his means,” etc. and concludes;
“For though a man may do his endeavor to please God, yet is it the highest kind of unrighteousness, if he presume himself to be righteous.”
He passeth the same judgment upon those who believe they merit by their prayer; Neque enim unquam nos ita vivimus ut exaudiri mereamur: “Neither do we ever live so as to deserve to have our prayers heard.”
4. He gives us a perfect picture of the hypocrisy of the Monks of his time. Qui, saith he, sub specie religionis, vitiis saecularibus mancipati: qui scilicet post veterum flagitiorum probra et crimina, titulo sanctitatis sibi inscripto, non conversatione aliis, sed professione nomen tantum denotaverunt, non vitam: et summam Divini cultus habitum magis quam actum existimantes, vestem tantummodo exuere, non menten; nam taliter ferme omnes agunt, ut eos non tam putes antea poenitentiam criminum egisse, quam postea ipsius poenitentiae poenitere: nec tam prius poenituisse quod male vixerint, quam postea quod se promiserint bene esse victuros: Novum prorsus conversionis genus! licita non faciunt, et illicita committunt. Temperant a concubitu, et non temperant a rapina. — Quid agis, stulta persuasio? Peccata interdixit Deus, non matrimonia; non conveniunt studiis vestris facta vestra: non debetis esse amici criminum, qui dicitis vos sectatores esse virtutum:
“Who under a shew of religion are slaves to the vices of this world; who having taken upon themselves a title of holiness, after the reproaches and scandals of former crimes, do not alter their lives by a new conversation, but change their names by a new profession; and thinking that the sum of the worship of God lies more in their clothes than their actions, they have only changed their garments, not their minds; for they do almost all things in such a manner, that you would not so much think that they had repented of their former crimes, as that afterwards they had repented of their repentance; nor that at first they repented of their wicked lives, so much as afterwards that they had ever promised to live well. — A new kind of conversion this is: what is lawful they do not do, and commit what is unlawful. They abstain from women, but not from rapine.”
He adds to his sharp censure of them, that God never forbad marriage: “O foolish persuasion, what dost thou? God forbids sin, not marriage; your actions do not agree with your profession; you must not be friends to crimes, who pretend to be followers of virtues.”
He shews also that at Carthage they were extremely despised. “And if at any time any servant of God, from the monasteries of Egypt, or the holy places at Jerusalem, or from the holy and venerable retirements of the wilderness, happened to come to that town to perform some divine office, he was no sooner seen by the people, but they all loaded him with opprobrious language, sacrilege and curses.”
5. He shews that it is in vain for any one to bear the name of Catholic, if he doth not answer that character; and he prefers the Goths and Vandals, that were Arians, to the orthodox Christians of his time. “They, saith he, are humble towards God, we rebellious; they believed victory to be in God’s hand, we in our own. — What can the privilege of a religious name avail us, that we call ourselves Catholics, that we boast ourselves to be believers, that we despise the Goths and Vandals, by reviling them as heretics, whilst we ourselves live as ill as heretics? — If we be not found doing these things, (viz. the duties of true Christians,) it is in vain that we flatter ourselves with the empty presumption of the name of Catholics.”
6. He sufficiently shews that prayer for the dead was at that time thought to be a very uncertain thing, when he saith, “But if either the violence of the disease be such, or the carelessness of the sick hath been so great, as to continue in their spiritual infection till they are a dying, then I do not know what to say, or what to promise. — It is better in deed to leave nothing unattempted, than to neglect a dying person; especially, because I do not know, whether to endeavor any thing at the last gasp may be a medicine; sure it is, that to try nothing, is certain perdition.”
7. He expressly excludes the doctrine of merits. “For this alone what equivalent can man pay, for whom Christ gave himself by the suffering of most extreme pains? Or what will he render to the Lord worthy of him, who owns God himself to be God, by whom he was redeemed?”
I ought in this place to mention a canon of the first Council of Orange, held in the year 441; at which fifteen of the Bishops of Gallia Narbonensis and the country about Lyons assisted. It is the 17th canon; the first words are these, Cum capsa et calix offerendus est (other MSS. have inferendus, which seems more agreeable to reason) et admixtione Eucharistiae consecrandus.
We find that this canon does hint at these two things very clearly. First, that at that time they kept the bread of the Eucharist in a casket or coffer, so far were they from making it an object of their adoration. Second, that the mingling only of the bread that was consecrated before, with the wine that was not consecrated, made them look upon the wine, though not consecrated by the words of Jesus Christ, as the blood of Jesus Christ; which is the most extravagant and senseless notion in the world, if we suppose that these Fathers were seasoned with the doctrine of transubstantiation, which attributes to the words of Christ, only the virtue of changing the substance of the wine into the substance of the blood of Christ. Allatius takes a great deal of pains to avoid this argument, which shews, that the Greek Church, that believes the same, cannot be of the faith of the Church of Rome. In the mean time, the thing is certain, and Mabillon has ingenuously acknowledged, that this is the true sense of that canon. And indeed there are many proofs that make it evident, that both the Greek and Latin Fathers were of this opinion.
Salonius, one of the most famous Bishops of Gallia Narbonensis, owns no other doctrine but that of the Old and New Testament. Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well. S. “By cistern he means the catholic doctrine, that is, that of the Old and New Testament; and by the well, he understands the depth and height of the same catholic doctrine, that is, the various meanings of holy Scripture: for in these words he teacheth us to beware of the doctrine of heretics, and to attend to the reading of holy Scripture.”
He will have the author’s meaning, and not tradition, to be the explication of Scripture. Do not remove the ancient land-marks, or bounds, which thy fathers have set. S.
“By the ancient bounds he understands the bounds of truth and faith, which catholic Doctors have placed from the beginning.” He would have no man therefore receive the truth of holy faith and gospel doctrine, any otherwise than it hath been handed down to them by the holy Fathers, and likewise commands that no man interpret the words of holy Scripture, otherwise than according to the intention of each writer. He doth not own the Apocrypha. How many books did Solomon publish? S.
“Three only, according to the number of their titles, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles. V. What doth Solomon say in the Proverbs, or what doth he teach in Ecclesiastes, and his Songs?” He assigns but two places whither the soul goes immediately. “For, by the tree, man is understood, because every man is as it were a tree in the wood of mankind; by the south, which is a warm wind, is signified the rest of paradise; and by the north, which is cold, is signified the pain of hell: and the meaning of it is, wheresoever man prepares a place for his future abode, if to the south, when he falls, (that is, dies,) he shall abide to all eternity in the rest of paradise, and the glory of the kingdom of heaven.”
He makes it the greatest absurdity, that a man should eat his own flesh; which yet follows from the doctrine of transubstantiation. “But that expression, he eats his own flesh, is spoke by an hyperbole. V. What is an hyperbole? S. When any thing is expressed that is incredible. V. How is this expressed hyperbolically, he eats his own flesh? S. Because it is incredible that any man should eat his own flesh: but to aggravate the slothfulness of this fool, he saith, that he eats his own flesh, to shew that a fool rather desires his flesh should waste by hunger, and be consumed by the misery of want, than to support it by the labor of his hands.”
These are all maxims concerning divers important articles, very different from the present maxims of the Church of Rome. I grant that Prosper, who was a native of Aquitain, was no more than a layman; but he was in so great a reputation, that there were but few Bishops of his time, that have shewn more knowledge, or expressed more zeal for the defense of truth, than he did. This testimony is given of him by Cassiodorus, Photius, and Vasquez. Wherefore his testimony concerning the faith of his country must be of great weight with us.
Would we know the opinion of the Church of this diocese? He tells us of a small part of the body of Jesus Christ, thereby meaning the Eucharist or the Sacrament, which was given in little bits. And it is in the same sense that he speaks of a small part of the sacrifice; expressions that are utterly inconsistent with the notion of the Church of Rome concerning the carnal presence. And indeed it is plain in all his writings, that he follows the steps of St. Augustin, in his expressions and judgments of things which are contrary to those of the Church of Rome.
This we may see in his extract of the Sentences of St. Augustin, where he repeats what that Father had said upon Psalm 33 upon occasion of these words of the vulgar version, which says, that David ferebater in manibus suis, in the presence of Achish. Where it clearly appears, that he understood those words, as well as St. Augustin did, of the sacrament of his body, which may be called his body in some sense; that is to say, by way of likeness, as St. Augustin expresseth himself concerning it.
I cite nothing here from those other works, which are attributed to him, because indeed they are none of his.
I shall only observe two things: the first is, that in his Epistle to Demetrius he plainly shews, that he knew nothing of the doctrine of the Church of Rome concerning the necessity of the Minister’s intention for the validity of the sacraments: for there he attributes all to the work of God, and not to that of the Minister, according to the doctrine of St. Augustin upon the question of the validity of baptism conferred by heretics.
The other is, that as he follows St. Augustin in the matter of free grace, as one may see in his poems gathered from the opinions of St. Augustin and his Sentences; so he rejects the doctrine of merit and works, as a pure Pelagian doctrine, in several places of his writings.
Lastly, we must join with these authors, Arnobius the Rhetorician, (since it is very probable that he lived in Gallia Narbonensis, because he has dedicated some of his works to Leontius, Bishop of Arles, to the Bishop of Narbonne, and Faustus, Bishop of Riez, who died about the year 485.) Arnobius explains his belief in the matter of the Eucharist after this manner: We have received, saith he upon the fourth Psalm, wheat in the body, wine in the blood, and oil in chrism. So likewise on Psalm 104 he saith of Jesus Christ, that he administers not only the species of bread, but also of wine and oil. Thus it is he describes the Eucharist and baptism. We may observe likewise, that as he recommends to believers the consideration of these words, sursum corda, at the moment of their receiving these mysteries; so he doth not own that any receive the body of Christ besides those that fear him, and who by faith are made the sanctuary of God: thus he argues in his Commentaries upon Psalm 21 et 132.
As for Faustus, Bishop of Riez, whatever contests he had with those who defended the doctrine of St. Augustin in the matter of grace, which made Pope Gelasius condemn his writings; yet certain it is, that France has always had the highest esteem for him possible; and his name is registered in the catalogue of her saints in the Roman Martyrology, till it was expunged by Molanes in the last century. Neither hath this hindered but that to this day he is honoured and prayed unto, as a saint, in the diocese of Riez. His doctrine is as follows.
1. He rejects the merits of good works, and works of supererogation, as particularly as if he had had an eye to the Papists: “Wherefore, saith he, though we endeavor with all labors of soul and body; though we exercise ourselves with all the might of our obedience; yet nothing of all this is of sufficient worth to be rendered or offered up by us as a deserving recompence for heavenly good things. No temporal obedience whatsoever can be equivalent to the joys of eternal life. Though our limbs may be wearied with watchings, and our faces discoloured with fastings; yet when all is done, the sufferings of this time will never be worthy to be compared with that glory which shall be revealed in us.”
He discourseth much at the same rate concerning grace and free-will.
2. We see clearly that he did not own the existence of the body of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, in the manner of a spirit, because he maintains all creatures to be corporal; and that the soul is distinctly in a certain place, because if it were otherwise, we must conclude it to be every where. That which is very strange is, that Mamertus, who hath refuted him, doth yet more directly thwart this doctrine of Rome, by the various hypotheses which he proposeth when he confutes this Faustus, Bishop of Riez. But this century hath detained me too long; I proceed now therefore to consider the state of these dioceses in the sixth century.