Whether the Albigenses were Manichees, because they accused the Pope of being the Antichrist.
AS one day gives light to another, so the Bishop of Meaux hath at last discovered that the accusation charged upon the Pope by the Albigenses, as being the Antichrist, was a character of Manicheism. He thought fit to reveal this great secret to the world in his History of the Variations; and afterwards he makes it an express character of Manicheism, in his explication of the Revelation. But saving the reverence due to this Prelate, there is nothing falser, nothing that seems more to be raving.
For, 1. Hath he found this character of the Manichees in the writings of Archelaus, Bishop of Mesopotamia, which the late Mr. Bigosa hath communicated to the public; or in St. Cyril of Jerusalem, who confutes the Manichees in his catechetic lectures?
2. Hath he found any thing like it in the writings of St. Epiphanius, who hath given us so large a catalogue of their heresies?
3. Hath he found any thing to this purpose in St. Augustin, who hath writ so many books against these madmen; or in St. Leo, in his Epistle to Turribius, Bishop of Tarracon?
4. Hath he found any such thing in the treatise of Predestinatus concerning heresies, published by Sirmondus?
5. Hath he found this character of the Manichees in any of those authors that have written since; as in Isidore of Seville, in Johannes Damascenus, in the Catalogue of Heresies, published by Cotelerius?
6. Hath he found any thing to this purpose in Petrus Siculus, who lived in the ninth century, and who conversed and disputed at Tibrica with the Manichees, whose opinions he sets down?
All the Greek authors which speak of the Manichees before and after the ninth century, and all the Latin authors, without so much as excepting one only, know of no such thing: who could therefore discover this character of Manicheism to the Bishop?
We must conclude that the Bishop, who hath made a discovery which none of the ancients, no, nor modern writers neither, whether Papists or Protestants, have been able to make, must have had it from the revelation of some angel, albus an ater nescio, since he speaks so very positively of this new character of the Manichees.
But, saith he, the case is plain, the Albigenses were Manichees, and they called the Pope the Anti-christ, and with an invincible obstinacy have maintained that this title belongs to him; wherefore it must follow, that this accusation of the Pope must be a character of Manicheism. If the Bishop had reflected never so little upon what he here asserts, this single character of the Albigenses, who accused the Pope of being the Anti-christ, would have made him draw a quite contrary consequence; that is to say, that the Albigenses could not be Manichees.
For it is most certain, that the Manichees never taught any such thing: this heresy, which sprung up in the east, never attacked the Bishop of Rome in particular, but the whole body of Christians who received the books of the Old Testament, and who owned the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ to be the Creator of the world.
But whence comes it then, may some say, that the Albigenses have peculiarly affected to call the Pope Antichrist? which certainly must be looked upon a character of the Albigenses, unless we should find it to he a character of the Manichees, as the Bishop of Meaux pretends.
The question would not have been so difficult to resolve, had not the Bishop affected to appear ignorant in a question which he ought to have inquired into, since he hath undertaken to handle it in a commentary on purpose.
In a word, France, which first bestowed upon the Popes the temporal dominions they now enjoy, long since owned the Pope to be the Antichrist. For Gregory I. having declared, in twelve several letters written against the Patriarch of Constantinople, who assumed the title of Universal Bishop, that whoever claimed that title for himself was either the Antichrist, or the forerunner of him; it was not long after, that Pope Boniface III. persuaded Phocas to give him the title of Universal, which all his successors took up afterwards with joy, and affected to use it: for which reason the French, fearing lest they should fail of the respect which they had for St. Gregory, if they should accuse themselves of having so often made use of a false way of reasoning, at last called the Pope Antichrist.
They were not therefore Manichees that were come from the east, in the eleventh century, to settle themselves in the West, who first set on foot this accusation; but they were the French, who, in a full council at Rheims, after the tenth century, called the Pope Antichrist.
Seguinus, Archbishop of Sens, having maintained that Arnulphus, Bishop of Rheims, could not be deposed without the consent of the Pope; Arnulphus, Bishop of Orleans, who had the greatest reputation of any man of his time, solidly maintained, from the canons and customs of the Church, that the Pope’s sentence was not to be waited for in that case; Ab eo responsa petere, marmora consulere est;
“To desire an answer from him, is to consult the stones;” speaking to the assembly of the Council. He further saith,
“Who do you think that man is, who sits in his high chair? he is, answers he, the Antichrist, who sits in the temple of God, and shews himself as God.”
And the rest of his discourse is a sufficient evidence that he took the Pope to be the Antichrist, and that he acknowledged that the mystery of iniquity was then coming in upon the Church. It was Gerbertus, afterwards Pope, that digested the acts of that Council, and who, in an epistle to Seguinus, Archbishop of Sens, makes it appear, that in his time they were not much concerned for the Pope’s excommunications, and that it was not pretended that he was the center of Christian commumon. Non est ergo (says he) danda occasio nostris aemulis, ne sacerdotium, quod ubique unum est, sicut Ecclesia una est, ita uni subjici videatur, ut eo pecunia, gratia, metu, vel ignorantia corrupto, nemo Sacerdos esse possit, nisi quem hae virtutes commendaverint:
“We ought not therefore to give an opportunity to our rivals, lest the priesthood, which is everywhere one and the same, as the Church is one, should come to be so subjected to one, as that he being corrupted with money, favour, fear, or ignorance, no man should be able to obtain that order, except he had these virtues to recommend him.”
Here we see the true style of the Albigenses, before ever any Manichee was come from the east into France.
Now after this was once set on foot, it was maintained from century to century by those who were brought up and that died in the communion of the Church of Rome. It would be an easy matter to give a catalogue of those who have spoke at this rate, to show what heed there is to be given to the most positive assertions of the Bishop of Meaux.
If the Bishop of Meaux, in the least desired to undeceive himself, he need only read what Aventinus says, in his Annals of Bavaria, of Pope Gregory VII. who there is termed Antichrist by persons who were very far from being Manichees: he need only read, in the Acts of the Life of Paschal II. what the Bishop of Florence openly preached concerning this matter; or to read in the Life of Richard I. written by Roger Hoveden, what Abbot Joachim maintained before Richard I. without being ever accused of Manicheism: or he may take notice in Matthew Paris, upon the year 1253, what notions Robert Grosthead, Bishop of Lincoln, one of the greatest Bishops of his time, maintained: or he may peruse the Revelations of St. Brigit, and the 16th Epistle of Petrarch, in his second tome. And yet never were any of these persons accused of Manicheism. But this has been treated of at large already by Wolfius in his Various Lections; and besides, this would lead us too far from the subject we are upon at present. I shall content myself therefore with observing three things concerning this matter.
The first is, that nothing was more common with the Popes and Antipopes, than mutually to brand each other with the title of Antichrist: and the writers of both parties kept always close to this style, and yet all of them lived and died in the bosom of the Church of Rome, and never were thought to be the disciples of the Manichees.
Secondly, That there are many authors, and even several of those that have been canonized, who have made use of the same notions in speaking and writing of the Church of Rome, and yet none have ever condemned them of Manicheism.
The third is, That ever since the Reformation, though the Bishop pretends that the prophecy concerning the beast hath been already fulfilled; there is scarcely (if you except the Bishop) any one Popish author, who doth not own that Rome is to be the seat of Antichrist.
What I say now deserves to be considered, because in the year 1516, December the 19th, in the 11th session of the Lateran Council, under Leo X. in whose time Luther began to preach, we find that there was a prohibition against handling the question of Antichrist in the pulpit, though under the pretense of advancing some new revelation concerning it, without having obtained leave from the holy see, or from the Bishop. The words of the canon which oblige all those who should ever undertake to preach on this subject are these:
“And we command all who bear this charge, or who shall bear it for the future, that they preach and explain the evangelical truth and the holy Scripture, according to the exposition and interpretation of those Doctors, whom the Church or long tradition has approved, and has hitherto allowed to be read, or which shall be so for time to come, without adding any thing that is contrary to, or disagreeing from the proper sense of them, but that they always insist upon such matters as do not disagree with the words of the Scripture, nor with the interpretations of the foresaid Doctors. Neither let them presume to fix in their sermons any certain time of the evils to come, of the coming of Antichrist, or of the day of judgment; forasmuch as truth assures us, that it is not for us to know the times and seasons. Moreover, if the Lord should be pleased to reveal to any of them in the Church of God future things by some inspiration, as he hath promised by the Prophet Amos; and seeing the Apostle Paul saith, Despise not prophesying, etc. we will not have such as these reckoned amongst impostors and liars, or that they shall be any ways hindered: but because it is a matter of great moment, and that we are not upon light grounds to believe every spirit, but are to try them whether they be of God; we command that by a constant law any such asserted inspirations, before they be published or preached to the people, be henceforward understood to be reserved to the examination of the apostolical see. But in case this cannot be done without the danger of too long a delay, or that urgent necessity should otherwise persuade; then, observing the same order, it may be signified to the ordinary of the place, who taking along with him three or four learned and grave men, and diligently examining the matter with them, if they see it expedient (which we charge upon their consciences) they may grant them liberty: but whosoever presumes to commit any thing contrary to the premises, shall incur excommunication, from the which he shall not be absolved but by the Pope himself; that so by their example others may be deterred from presuming to do any such thing; for which reason we decree that they be for ever made incapable of the office of preaching, any privileges whatsoever to the contrary notwithstanding,” etc.
It is not our business to examine the question, whether the Bishop of Meaux hath exactly followed the rules that this canon prescribes, in his explication of the Scripture, and especially about the matter of Antichrist, though they be rules by which Bishops are no less bound than the meanest divines. It may be the Church of Rome finds the Bishop’s new system so much for her interest, that it inclines her to suspend the severity of her canons, in favor of a person who has so dexterously plucked a thorn out of her foot, which hath troubled her so long, and which hath always caused new pains to her, as oft as any of her doctors have endeavored to pluck it out.
But I fear I have insisted too long upon so vain a conjecture, and which scarce deserved to be confuted. There are able men of the Church of Rome, who have taken the pains to refute the conjecture of some Papists who would needs have Mahomet to be the Antichrist: this was the chimera of Annius of Viterbo, a Monk famous for his impostures; this likewise was the whimsey of Fevardentius and some others, whom Pererius, the Jesuit, hath refuted so solidly, as that he has put the Bishop of Meaux to the trouble of inventing a new system to oppose the Protestants. I hope his system will meet with the same destiny amongst his own party, that so the Protestants may not be put to the trouble of giving it a formal confutation. For indeed, though the politics of the Church of Rome do bear with several opinions that differ from the common hypotheses of their society, yet the divines of that party are not patient enough to dissemble the dislike they have to see their old opinions, which have been maintained for several ages, trod under foot. The Bishop himself has all example hereof, which he cannot well have forgot, in the person of Cardinal Capizucchi, who, having given his approbation to the exposition of the Romish faith, made by the Bishop of Meaux, in which he sweetens the worship of images so very much, for fear of incensing the Protestants, whom he designed to bring over to his own side, was not wanting some years after to publish a treatise, wherein he shews that he gave that approbation, only upon the account of reason of state, and not because he sincerely approved the way which the Bishop had taken to make the worship of images appear more tolerable to the Protestant party.