Opinions of the Churches of Italy during the eighth century.


WE may be informed concerning the state of these Churches, first by the Council of Forojulio, wherein no other Creed is prescribed to the people, but that of the Apostles, nor any other prayer, but the Lord’s Prayer; by which, in abstaining from wicked works, men may certainly arrive at salvation. Secondly, by their Bishops assisting at the Council of Francfort, in the year 794. which was a synod of the western Church. Paulinus, Bishop of Aquileia, who was present there, wrote at the same time a book against the doctrine of Foelix, Bishop of Urgel, and Elipandus, Bishop of Toledo, who maintained the opinions of Nestorius. It appears, that he wrote this book by the order of Charles the Great, during the session of that council. He plainly asserts, in this writing, first, that the Bishops were convened there by the orders of Charles the Great; he knew not that it belonged to the Pope alone to regulate matters of faith, and assemble councils. Secondly, that what he attributes to the Church, that she cannot be overcome by heresies, which are the gates of hell, has reference only to the universal Church, very far from attributing this privilege to the Popes, as being the successors of St. Peter. Thirdly, that this Council did not expect their authority from the Pope’s confirmation; since they maintain, that Felix and Elipandus ought to be excommunicated post plenariae synodi judicium, “upon judgment passed by a full council.”

I acknowledge, that he seems to give great deference to the authority of Pope Adrian, when he saith, that the followers of Foelix and Elipandus ought to be excommunicated with their masters, Reservato per omnia juris privilegio summi pontijicis domini et patris nostri, Adriani, prims sedis beatissimi Papae;

“The rightful privileges of the high priest our lord and father Adrian, the most blessed Pope of the principal see, being always reserved entire.”

But it is plain, that he makes use of this condescension for no other reason, but because Charles the Great had desired him to consult Pope Adrian upon so important a question; though indeed, the excommunication being already pronounced, this, after all, could be nothing more than a ceremony, or at the most a wise precaution, to hinder the Pope from engaging himself with a bad party.

We have a certain proof hereof, from the manner how Paulinns and the Bishops of Italy did agree to condemn the definitions of the second Council of Nice, in the year 787, as idolatrous definitions, notwithstanding that Pope Adrian had assisted at that Council by his legates, and though he did his utmost endeavors to maintain them. All authors of the ninth century, and next following, do unanimously testify, that the Council of Francfort, where Paulinus and his fellow deputies of the diocese of Italy were present, did condemn the second Council of Nice, notwithstanding that Theophylact and Stephen, the Pope’s legates, assisted at it. We may easily conceive from hence what was the judgment of the Bishops of Italy, with reference to the Pope, and those that joined with him: if they held any communion with the Pope, they did it only with design to bring him back again to the truth; so that they acted conformably to the opinion of the Bishops of France, which is expressed by Jonas, Bishop of Orleans, upon the same occasion, lib. 1. p. 539. and 540. notwithstanding Jonas pronounceth anathema against those that worship images.

I shall say nothing concerning the exhortation which St. Paulinus addresseth to the Bishops, towards the end of his book, that they would pray to God, by the intercession of the holy Virgin and St. Peter, the first pastor of the Church, and of all saints, and by the suffrages of the Council, to defend the Emperor; for we find, after all, that this is only a wish founded on this supposal, that saints, after death, may pray for the welfare of the living; which seems probable enough.

We find also what was the doctrine of Paulinus, Bishop of Aquileia, in the book he wrote against Feelix, Bishop of Urgel, at the request of Charles the Great. See how he expresseth himself concerning the Eucharist, in his dedication to Charles the Great, p. 1766, etc. initio. He affirms, that the Eucharist consists of bread; he calls it, buccella et particula panis, “a morsel and bit of bread,” he maintains, that it is either death or life in the mouth of him that eats it, according as he hath or hath not faith: than which nothing could be spoke more clear, to prove that the Eucharist is nothing but bread and substance, and that faith or incredulity makes all the difference that is found amongst communicants.

He refers and applies the character of priest, according to the order of Melchizedeck, to the incarnation and cross of Jesus Christ, and not to the sacrifice of the Mass. He thunders out anathemas against all human satisfactions; maintaining, that the blood of none of those that have been redeemed themselves is capable to blot out the least sin, and that that is the privilege of our Savior Jesus Christ alone, p. 1792.

He lays it down as a rule, that the human nature, in Christ is so circumscribed, as to be only in one place, p. 1833. Natura namque altera, hoc est hominis, erat in terra tanturnmodo; altera ubique in caelo et in terra, hoc est divina. Potuit ergo, quod duo erant, divinum sc. et humanurn, aliud in coelo et ubique esse, et aliud in terra solummodo. Non tamen potuit ille qui unus erat, Filius videlicet Dei et hominis, non torus ubique esse, in caelo pariter et in terra. Ubique sane torus quia unus est et omnipotens Deus; unus idemque omnipotentis Dei, et heminis Filius. Humana namque natura non descendit, nec fuit ibi priusquam, in Deum assumpta, ascenderet corporaliter in coelum. Filius autem hominis quia unus idemque ipsc est Filius Dei, et de coelo descendit, unde nunquam discesserat, et in caelo erat, cure loqueretur in terra ; et in terram yenit ubi erat, et in coelum ascensurus erat per id quod homo est, et ibi ascendit ubi erat prius, per id quod Deus est. Domini namque sunt verba dicentis, Nemo ascendit in coelum, nisi qui descendit de caelo, Filius hominis qui est in caelo.

“One of his natures, the human, was only upon earth: the other, that is, the Divine nature, was every where, both in heaven and on earth: wherefore, because these were two natures, viz. the Divine and human, the one of them could be in heaven, and every where, and the other only on earth. Yet notwithstanding, he who was the only Son both of God and man, could not but be wholly every where, both in heaven and on earth; whole every where, because he is the one and omnipotent God; one and God Almighty, and the one Son of Almighty God and man. For the human nature did not come down from heaven, neither was it there, till being taken up to God, it ascended corporally into heaven. And because the Son of man is one and the same with the Son of God, therefore he came down from heaven, from whence he never departed, and was in heaven while he spoke here upon earth; and he came down to the earth, where he was before, and was to ascend into heaven, as he was man, and as he was God, he ascended where he was before; for they are the words of our Lord, No man ascends up into heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man, who is in heaven.”

Which is the same opinion we find expressed in the Council of Forojulio, in the year 791. in which Paulinus Bishop of Aquileia presided. T. 7. Conc. p. 1001.

He asserts, that in celebrating the Eucharist we feed upon the Divine nature of Jesus Christ, which cannot be said, but only with respect to believers, and must be understood metaphorically; which plainly shows what his belief was concerning the oral manducation of the body of Jesus Christ, p. 1836. Vel qua ratlone si adoptivus jilius est, qui non manducat carnero Filii hominis, et non bibit ejus sanguinere, non habet vitam aeternam? Oui man-ducat, it, quit,, meam carnere, et bibit meum sanguinere, habet vitam aeternam, et ego resuscitabo eum in novissimo die. Caro mea vere est cibus, et sanguis meus vere est potus. Resuscitandi in novissimo die potestas nulli alio nisi veto permanet Deo. Cato namque et saoguis ad humanam, per quam Filius hominis est, non ad Divinam referri potest naturam. Et tamen si ille Filius hominis cui haec caro et sanguis est, pro eo quod unus idemque sit Dei et hominis Filius, si Deus verus non esset, caro ejus et sanguis manducantibus et bibentibus se, nullo modo vitam praestaret sternam. Unde et Johannes Evangelista ait, Et sanguis Filii ejus layat nos ab omni peccato. Aut cujus caro et sanguis dat vitam man-ducantibus et bibentibus se, nisi Filii hominis, quem Deus signavit Pater, qui est verus et omnipotens Filius Dei? Nam et panis vivus pro nobis descendit de coelo, qui dat vitam mundo; quique ex eo manducaverit non moritur in aeternum: ipse enim dicit, Ego sum panis vicus, qui de coelo descendi. Sic quippe descendit panis virus de coelo, qui semper manebat in coelo, sicut Filius hominis descendit de coelo, qui quoniam unus idemque erat Filius Dei, nunquam deseruit coelum.

“Or how, if he be an adopted son only, is it said, that he who doth not eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, hath not eternal life? He that eats, saith he, my flesh, and drinks my blood, hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. The power of raising up at the last day belongs to none, but the true God; for the flesh and blood cannot be referred to his Divine, but to his human nature, by which he is the Son of man: and yet, if that Son of man, whose this flesh and blood is, (for that one and the same person is both the Son of God and the Son of man,) were not true God, his flesh and blood could not procure eternal life to those that eat them. And therefore John the Evangelist saith, And the blood of his Son cleanseth us from all sin. Or, whose flesh and blood gives life to those that eat and drink them, but the Son of man’s, whom God the Father hath sealed, who is the true and Almighty Son of God; for He, the bread of lift, is come down from heaven for us, who gives life unto the world, and whosoever eats thereof shall live for ever: for he himself saith, I am the bread of life that came down from heaven: for this bread of life came down from heaven, which also always stayed in heaven, in the same manner as the Son of man came down from heaven, who, because he is also the Son of God, never left heaven.”

We cannot meet with a more orthodox explication of the office of Mediator and Advocate, than that is which he sets down, or a greater precaution than he gives us, not to look upon the saints as mediators, p. 1790 Mediator igitur ab eo, quod medius sit intra utrasque dissidentlure partes, et reconciliet ambos in unum, etc. Denique non Paulus mediator, sed legatus fidelis Mediatoris ; Legationera, inquit, fungimur pro Christo, reconciliamini Deo. Advocatus namque est, qui jam pro reconciliatis interpellat, quemadmodum idem Redemptor noster facit, cum humanam Deo Patti, in unitate Dei, hominisfue personae, naturam ostendit, Hoc est enim Deum Pattern pro nobis interpellare. Joannes non interpellate, sed ipsum etiam esse propitiationera pro peccatis nostris declarat.

“Wherefore he is called the Mediator, because he is a middle person between both the disagreeing parties, and reconciles them together in one,” etc.

“Lastly, Paul is not a mediator, but a faithful ambassador of the Mediator. We are ambassadors for Christ, and the sum of our embassy is, Be ye reconciled to God. An advocate is one that intercedes for those that are already reconciled, even as our Redeemer doth, when he shows his human nature to God the Father, in the unity of his Person, who is God-man; for this is truly to intercede with God the Father for us. John doth not say, that he intercedes for us, but declares him to be a propitiation for our sins.”

He clearly shows in the same place, p. 1792. that he did not look upon the saints as redeemers, but Jesus Christ alone, according to the signification of his name; since none of them, who have been redeemed themselves, are able to blot out sin. Erehim omnipotentis Dei Filius, omnipotent Dominus noster, qula pretio sanguinis sui nos redernit, jure Rederaptor, verus omniurn redernptorurn vocibus predicatur. Non, inquarn, ille redemptus, quia nunquarn captivus; nos veto redernpti, quia fuimus captivi, venundati sub peccato, obligati nimirurn in eo chirographo decreti, quod ipsc tulit de medio, delens sanguine suo, quod nullius alius redernptorurn delete potuit sanguis, addqxit illud, palarn triumhans in semetipso.

“For the Son of the Almighty God, our Almighty Lord, because he has redeemed us with the price of his blood, is justly called the true Redeemer, by all that are redeemed by him. He, I say, was not redeemed, because he was never captive; but we are redeemed, who were captives, sold under sin, and bound by the handwriting that was against us, which he took away, blotting it out with his blood, which the blood of no other redeemer could do, and fixed it to his cross, openly triumphing over it in himself.”

It plainly appears, that he had no other notion concerning the obscurity of Scripture than we have, by his reproaching Foelix, that he had done according to St. Peter’s discourse concerning the writings of St. Paul. p. 1795, and 1796.

He doth not own, that the Church was founded on St. Peter, but on Jesus Christ, p. 1800 and 1801. Et licet esset primus in ordine Apostolorurn, ideo tamen diu siluit, quia non Dorninus quid illi, pro quibus solus Petrus responsurus erat, sed quid homines de Filio hominis aestirnarent, explorare dignatus est.

“And though he were the first amongst the Apostles, yet he did not speak for some time, because the Lord did not inquire what they, for whom only Peter was to answer, but what men thought of the Son of man.”

He lays it down as an inviolable maxim of Christianity, that we cannot believe but in God only, in opposition to that which is taught by the Church of Rome.

He wholly overthrows the immaculate conception of the blessed Virgin, p. 1808. ad finere. Ipse quippe solus et singulariter de Spiritu Sancto conceptus, et natus ex Virgine, a vulva sine petcato prodlit Deus et homo. “For he alone being in a singular manner, conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin, came forth from the womb without sin, both God and man.”

If any one will take the pains to examine the opinions of this Bishop, he will find it an hard thing not to take notice, that he denies what the Church of Rome affirms, with relation to all these articles; and that he affirms what the Church of Rome denies: and whatever colourable arts may be employed, it will be very hard not to perceive this opposition through them all.

I join with St. Paulinus of Aquileia, Paulus Diaconus of the same Church, who, forasmuch as he was very famous towards the end of the eighth, and about the beginning of the ninth century, we have reason not to pass over his opinions without some notice taken of them; and the rather doth his judgment deserve a more particular consideration, because he was born in Lombardy, was Deacon of the Church of Aquileia, whence he was removed by Charles the Great, after his having taken Desiderius, the last king of the Lombards, prisoner, and was honored with the favor of Charles the Great. We have several of his pieces, but I shall content myself with two of his treatises, the one whereof is the Life of St. Gregory the Great, because the Papists believe they have found in that book an invincible proof for transubstantiation; the other is, the collection of homilies he made for all the festival days of the year, by the order of Charles the Great, and which that Emperor authorized by his approbation.

He tells us, in the Life of St. Gregory, that a Roman lady, who was used to make the bread herself which she offered for the Communion, smiling when St. Gregory offered a piece of it to her in the Eucharist, St. Gregory perceiving it, took back the piece of bread, and gave it to the Deacon, to keep it till the Communion was over, at which time he demanded of her why she had laughed to which she answered, that it was because he called that the body of our Lord, which she knew to be a piece of the same bread she had offered. Whereupon St. Gregory made a sermon to the people, exhorting them to beg of God, that he would be pleased to manifest that to them, which that unbelieving woman could not see with the eyes of faith. After prayer, he draws near to the altar, lifts up the corporal pall that covered the piece of bread, and shows them the top of his little finger stained with blood, ac mulieri dixit, Disce, inquam, veritati vel modo jam credere contestanti, Panis, quem ego do, caro mea est, et sanguis meus vere est potus. Sed prcescius Conditor noster infirmitatis nostree, ea potestate, qua cunctaecit exnihilo, et corpus sibi, ex carne semper Virginis, operante Sancto Spiritu fabricavit, panera et vinum aqua mixturn, mancute propria specie in carnero et sanguinem suum, ad Catholicam precem, ob reparatioem nostram, Spiritus Sancti sancticatione convertit: “and said to the woman, Learn, I say, from henceforward, at least to believe Truth itself, which saith, The bread which I give is my flesh, and my blood is drink indeed. But our Creator foreseeing our weakness, by the same power by which he made the world of nothing, and made himself a body; by the operation of the Holy Ghost, of the flesh of the ever Virgin, has by the sanctification of the Holy Spirit converted the bread and wine mixed with water, still remaining under their own kind, into his flesh and blood, at the catholic prayer, for our salvation.”

This done, he commanded all the people to beg of God, ut in formam pristinam sacrosancturn reformaret mysterium, quatenus mulieri ad sumendure fuisset possibile; that he would change that holy mystery into the form it had before, so as the woman might be able to take it; which happening accordingly, strengthened the faith of that lady, and of all the people that were present.”

I shall not examine at present, whether this history be a fable or not: sure it is, that most of the particulars it contains seem to be of that character, or at least we find none there, whose truth is attested by witnesses that lived at the time of St. Gregory, or soon after. But let this be as it will, I deny that these miracles, whereof we have some other instances in the book entitled, Vitae Patrum, can be of any use to confirm the doctrine of transubstantiation, as Mabillon pretends in the margin of this relation; and that consequently Paulus Diaconus, who relates the same, did not believe transubstantiation.

First, I deny, that by the word species ever any one, speaking of bread, understood any other thing than the substance of bread. Let them prove to us, that the word species did ever heretofore signify the accidents only; this being a notion which transubstantiation gave birth to some ages after that wherein Paulus Diaconus lived.

Secondly, I deny, that from this apparition we can infer the real presence; we may indeed from thence conclude a virtual presence, but nothing more. The consequence is so clear, that it hath been acknowledged by the Schoolmen, whilst they were inquiring, what might be concluded from these kind of apparitions of the flesh of a child, of blood in the Eucharist.

And indeed, if any such thing were to be inferred from these apparitions, we ought also to conclude the contrary; for there have been miracles quite opposite to these now related. I will instance in a very notable one. A Severian heretic having locked up the Eucharist, that his servant, who was a Catholic, had put in his trunk, as Moschus tells us, c. 79. he found ears of corn in the stead of it. Was the substance of bread here returned again, and did it afterwards bring forth cars of corn? Those of the Romish Church are very far from believing any such tiling. We read also in the Life of Melanius Bishop of Rhennes, that the Eucharist was changed into a serpent, to punish the superstition of Marsus, who had preferred the keeping of a fast to the receiving of the Communion, and that afterwards the said serpent was changed into the Eucharist again at the prayer of Melanius, and was then received by Marsus.

Besides, Paulus Diaconus himself shows us in his following relation, what he would have us to conclude from this sort of miracles. He tells us, that a great lord having sent his ambassadors to Rome, to obtain some relics of the Apostles and Martyrs, that St. Gregory, instead of the relics they desired, gave them only some pieces of consecrated cloth, which he severally put up into boxes, and delivered them unto the ambassadors, having first sealed the boxes with his own seal. And adds, that the ambassadors being seized with a curiosity, on their journey homeward, to know what those boxes contained, they had been strangely surprised, upon opening of them, to find nothing there but some scraps of cloth, which made them return back to Rome, to make their complaint, that, instead of the bones of Martyrs or Apostles, they had given them nothing but some bits of cloth. Upon these complaints made by the ambassadors to the Archdeacon, St. Gregory commandeth them to come to church, and exhorted the people to pray to God; Quatenus in hac re dignetur apertissime sic suam potentiam patefacere, ut quid mereatur fides, evidentius minus eredull et ignorantes possint cognoscere, let data oratione accepit cultellum qui temeraverat signa, et super altare corporis sancti Petri, acceptam unam panni portionera per medium pungens secuit, ex qua statim sanguis decucurrit, et omnem candem portiunculam cruentavit. Videntes autem suprascripti legatarii, et omnes populi, stupendum et arcanum fidei sacrx miraculum, ceciderunt proni in terrain, adorantes Dominum, dicentes, Mirabills Deus in sanctis suis, Deus Israel, ipsc dabit virtutem etjbrtitudinem plebisure, benedictus Deus. Et facto silentio, inter alia fidei documenta, dixit ad cos beatus Gregorius, quiante has venerandas relbtuias parvi duxerant, Scitote, fratres, quia in consecratione corpotis et sanguinis Domini nostri Jesu, cum ob sanctificationem reliquiarum in honore Apostolorum vel Martyrum ipsius quibus specialiter assignabantur; supra sacrosancturn altare libamina offerebantur, semper illorum sanguis hos pannos intravit qui effusus est pro norainc Christi Domini nostri.

“That he would be pleased so openly to declare his power on this occasion, that the unbelievers and the ignorant might know what faith is able to effect. And prayer being ended, he took the knife wherewith the seals had been broke open, and laying one of those pieces of cloth upon the holy altar of St. Peter, he struck the knife through it, from whence immediately blood gushed forth, which stained the whole piece of cloth: whereupon the ambassadors and all the people beholding this astonishing and mysterious miracle of holy faith, fell flat down with their faces to the ground, and worshipped the Lord, saying, Wonderful is the Lord in his saints, the God of Israel, he shall give virtue and strength to his people, blessed be God. And after silence was made, amongst other instructions in the faith, St. Gregory said unto them, who before had undervalued these venerable relics, Know ye, brethren, that in consecrating the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, when for the sanctification of relics in honor of the Apostles or Martyrs, whose they were, drink offerings were offered on the holy altar, their blood, which was shed for the name of Jesus Christ, always entered these pieces of cloth.”

This is that they call Brandcure, mentioned by Sigebert, upon the year 441, when he says, that St. Leo had brought it into request. True it is, that this fable is of a sort unknown to all antiquity; but, however, it proves thus much, that these apparitions of blood in the Host suppose no more than the virtue of the blood of Jesus Christ.

As to the homilies of the primitive Fathers, whereof Paulus Diaconus made a collection, it is very surprising to find not so much as one inserted amongst them, whence we can pick this doctrine of the real presence, if he with the Church of his time had conceived this to have been the doctrine of the primitive Church. We find indeed in this his collection some homilies of St. Leo, Feriae 2, 3, 4. and some others, which treat of the sacrament of the Eucharist, which Jesus Christ substituted instead of the Passover: but we find this matter so drily handled in them, that it is hard to conceive how these expressions of antiquity could satisfy a man who had been tinged with the doctrine of Paschasius.

As for those other Romish doctrines, which at this day are made the leading points of religion, we may boldly say, that we can find nothing of them in this collection of homilies, amongst which there are many of St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, and Maximus, Bishop of Turin, whose belief we have already given a sufficient account of: the rest of this collection consists for the most part of the homilies of Origen, St. Jerome, St. Austin, St. Chrysostom, and venerable Bede, whose opinions are well known; there being scarce any of these authors, whose belief has not been represented in particular, to make it appear how far they were from concurring with the opinions of the Church of Rome about the principal doctrines, which at this day are the causes of the separation of the Protestants from that Church.


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