An inquiry into the opinions of Gundulphus and his followers, before the year 1026.


DíACHERY has published a Synod, which was held at Arras, by Gerard, Bishop of Cambray and Arras, in the year of our Lord 1025; by which it doth appear, that Gundulphus had taught several doctrines in Italy, which had been carried by his disciples into the diocese of Liege and of Cambray in the Low Countries. This Synod having been held in the year 1025, we may easily judge that Gundulphus had a great number of disciples in Italy. The account Gerard gives to Reginaldus, Bishop of Liege, concerning the examination of these Italians, takes notice, First, That they had appeared before Reginaldus, who had examined them about their opinions, and had sent them back without condemning them. Secondly, That even then they employed the terror of punishments, against those who were suspected of heresy, to which Gerard attributes the seeming piety those Italians made show of: we may also gather this from Glaber, 1.4. c. 2. where he speaks of a certain heresy discovered in Italy, and cruelly persecuted by the Bishops and the nobility of that country. Thirdly, That they sent their disciples up and down to multiply the number of their followers, and that indeed they had withdrawn many from the opinions of Paschasius Ratbertus, which insensibly began to be established. Fourthly, That Gerard did in vain make use of violence, to make them confess their belief; and that he could not come to know it, but by those who had been gained by them. Fifthly, That he only gives an account in part of their opinions. What may be gathered from Gerardís preface to Reginaldus, is this: First. They own themselves to be the disciples of one Gundulphus, who had instructed them concerning the evangelical and apostolical doctrine; that they received no other doctrine, and that they practiced the same verbo et opere, ďin word and deed.Ē

But since it had been reported to Gerard, that they abhorred Baptism, that they rejected the Sacrament of the body and blood of our Savior, that they denied the use of penance after sin, that they made void the Church, that they detested lawful marriages, that they owned no virtue in the holy confessors, and that they pretended that the Apostles only and Martyrs were to be reverenced; we find, that being interrogated upon these heads by Gerard, they answered distinctly, as follows:

First, To that which the Bishop told them, that Jesus Christ had established the necessity of Baptism, John in. Except a man be born again, etc. they answer, Lex et disciplina nostra quam a magistro accepimus, nec evangelicis decretis, nec apostolicis sanctionibus contra ire videbitur, si quis earn diligenter velit intueri. Haec namque hujusmodi est, roundurn relinquere, carnero a concupiscentiis frenare, de laboribus manuum suarum victum parare, nulli loesionem queerere, charitatem cunctis quos zelus hujus nostri propositi teneat, exhibere. Setrata igitur haec justitia, nullurn opus esse Baptismi; prevaricata vero ista, Baptismurn ad nullam procere salutere. Haec est nostra justificationis summa, ad quam nihil est quod Baptismi usus superaddere possit, cure omnis apostolica et evange-lica institutio hujusmodi fne claudatur. Si quis autem in Baptismate aliquod dicat latere Sacramenturn, hoc tribus ex causis evacuatur: Una, quia vita reproba Ainistrorum baptizandis nullurn potest praebere salutis remedium. Atltera, quia quidquid vitiorum in fonte renuntiatur, postmodum in vita repetitur. Tertia, quia ad parvulum non volentem, neque currentem,fdei nescium, suxque salutis atque utilitatis ignarum, in quem nulla regenerationis petitio, nulla fdei potest inessse confessio, aliena voluntas, aliena fdes, aliena confessio nequaquam pertinere videtur:

ďThe law and discipline we have received from our master will not appear contrary either to the Gospel decrees or apostolical institutions, if carefully looked into. This discipline consists in leaving the world, in bridling carnal concupiscence, in providing a livelihood by the labor of our hands, in hurting nobody, and affording our charity to all who are zealous in the prosecution of this our design. Now if this righteousness be observed, there will be no need of Baptism; and if broken, Baptism cannot avail to salvation. This is the sum of our justification, to which the use of Baptism can superadd nothing, since this is the end of all apostolical and evangelical institutions. But if any shall say, that some sacrament lies hid in Baptism, the force of that is taken off by these three causes: the first is, Because the reprobate life of Ministers can afford no saving remedy to the persons to be baptized. The second, Because whatsoever sins are renounced at the font, are afterwards taken up again in life and practice. The third, Because a strange will, a strange faith, and a strange confession do not seem to belong to, or be of any advantage to a little child, who neither wills nor runs, who knows nothing of faith, and is altogether ignorant of his own good and salvation in whom there can be no desire of regeneration, and from whom no confession of faith can be expected.Ē

It appears by the Bishopís answer, wherein there are some good arguments to establish the necessity of Baptism, that these Italians were fallen upon these opinions, to put themselves at a greater distance from the maxims of their Priests, which I have taken notice of where I mention the belief of Ratherins. There is one thing observable about their other reasons; which is, that the Bishop objects to them, in order to persuade them of the necessity of Baptism, the custom of washing one anotherís feet, which they called mandatum; whence it is easy to judge, that they looked upon Baptism only as a mystical ceremony, the end of which was, to express the engagement of him who is baptized, and the vow he makes to live holily; which made them not to set any great value upon it, and to oppose themselves against the notion of the absolute necessity of Baptism, without which, the Priests of those times believed there was no attaining to salvation; as well as against the pretended efficacy of Baptism, so that whosoever received it could not fail of salvation.

The second head, upon which Gerard examined them, was the article of the carnal presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist; he refutes their objections, which he makes to himself. The one is, That the body of Jesus Christ is in heaven since his ascension. The other, That the bodily eating of the body of Jesus Christ cannot profit, because Jesus Christ himself hath declared in the sixth of St. John, that the flesh profiteth nothing. The third is, That the body of Jesus Christ would no longer continue to be one entire body, being divided through so many places, and found in so many churches.

The chief heads of his answers to these objections are made up of apparitions, which he had extracted out of Paschasiusís book; which plainly shows, that the Italians did not reject the sacrament of the Eucharist, but the doctrine of Paschasius, which began then to be established, though it met with great contradictions in the diocese of Italy, where Abbot Gezo had revived it, by publishing a book upon that subject; whereof Mabillon has given us an extract in his Iter Italicurn.

The third article concerns the consecration of churches: it appears, that they believed nothing of these sanctifications, which were attributed to sacred edifices and altars; but pretended that the prayers they made in the houses were no less agreeable to God, than if they had been made in the churches. The reason of this shyness they expressed to churches is evident, from their reproaching the idolatry that was practiced in them in point of images and other matters.

The fourth is about the altar, to which they refused to bow, or show any reverence, as the practice was then, after it was consecrated with holy oil; which is an evident sign that the thing they struck at was these consecrations, which they accused as superstitious: so far were they from looking upon them as a just motive to exhibit any honor or respect to the material things that had received them.

The fifth is of the same kind, concerning those censings which were then used in imitation of the ceremonies of the Mosaical law; the unction with oil, practiced upon those that were possessed, sick persons, and Catechumeni; and the anointing of bishops and Priests at their consecration.

The sixth is about bells; they finding fault with the virtue which was attributed to their sound, viz. of driving away tempests and the Devilís power.

The seventh article concerns the different orders of Ministers; these Italians being accused of rejecting them, because they gave the imposition of hands in private, and blamed the Ministry, such as it was received in the western Church; and that by this means they took upon them ecclesiastical functions, being themselves secular persons.

The eighth is about burial in consecrated places, which these Italians looked upon only as an effect of the covetousness of Priests, who could imagine no other advantage in being buried in holy places, but that of selling them the dearer to the people, whom they had abused by this notion of holiness inherent in one place more than another.

The ninth respects penance after Baptism, which, according to Gerardís accusation of them, they rejected; which seems to agree with the opinion of the Novatians: but we may easily judge that the thing they chiefly struck at were those penal works which began then to be imposed, as in order to satisfy the Divine justice.

This appears more clearly from the tenth article, which shows that what they struck at were customs and usages of the Church of Rome. Thus he accuses them of asserting, that penance was of no use after death; whereas Gerard maintains, that the works of the living, alms, masses, and the satisfactions which persons imposed upon themselves for the dead, were indeed of great efficacy for the salvation of the deceased. It appears clearly, from the proofs of Gerard, that they struck at the doctrine of purgatory, and those practices which this belief had introduced into the Church.

The eleventh article accuseth them for 1ookingc upon lawful marriage as an abomination, and a state wherein it was impossible to be saved.

The twelfth article accuseth them for refusing to give any veneration to confessors, and reserving it only for Apostles and Martyrs; and for maintaining, that there was no virtue in the dead bodies of saints, after they are once returned to dust; which Gerard refutes by an examination of the miracles performed by every Bishop of his diocese, before the people brought to the tombs the marks of their veneration of any confessors.

The thirteenth article accuseth them for finding fault with the singing of Psalms, which was then received in the Church, under a pretense that those that so made use of them were thereby obliged sometimes to curse themselves, by their repeating the imprecations contained in the said Psalms.

The fourteenth article was about their refusing to reverence the cross, maintaining that it had no virtue at all, as being only a work of menís hands.

The fifteenth article concerned the image of our Savior on the cross, that of the blessed Virgin, and those of the saints and angels, etc. which they refused to worship.

The sixteenth respects the obedience which they were said to refuse to the Ministers of the Church, to Bishops, Archdeacons, Deans, and Praepositi; the model of which government they pretended to derive from the angelical hierarchy treated of by Dionysius the Areopagite.

The seventeenth concerns the righteousness they arrogated to themselves because of their good works, as if they had renewed the doctrine of Pelagius; to which Gerard opposeth the notions of St. Austin, and the necessity of adhering to the doctrine of the Church of Rome, as being that which St. Peter preached at Rome, and which his successors have propagated throughout all the west.

These are the opinions which Gerard made these Italians abjure, who, as the Acts of the Synod tell us, were convinced and confounded by the refutation he had made of their errors. The Acts of the Synod contain the abjuration of these opinions. They acquaint us moreover, that these Italians, pretending not to understand the contents of this excommunication, because it was writ in Latin, it was explained to them in Italian, and they were made to sign it, and to set a sign of the cross before their names.

It is worth our observing,

First, That what they were made to own was not subscribed by them, till after they had been three days in prison; having been committed by order of the Bishop.

Secondly, That all this confession was extorted by fear of punishment, wherewith they had been threatened at Liege, and afterwards at Arras.

Thirdly, That it seems not altogether improbable, that they differed about some of these opinions amongst themselves, as may be very naturally gathered from the history of the following ages, and yet they are all involved in the same excommunication: thus without fear did they treat people who did not understand Latin, and who were obliged to express their mind by interpreters.

Fourthly, That they were not made to confess any thing that savours of Manicheism, except the matter of marriage.

Fifthly, That the errors whereof they were accused seem to take their birth from an inclination very natural to the mind of man, who is very prone to cast himself upon the opposite extremity, whilst he endeavours to separate himself from errors. St. Cyprian rebaptized those who had been baptized by heretics; Stephen received the Baptism of all heretics without distinction. Several dioceses were divided amongst themselves, by reason of these contrary practices above eighty years, until the convening of the first Council of Arles, which yet was not able wholly to compose this difference. Gundulphus seeing them assert, that whosoever was baptized could never be damned, falls to an indifference for Baptism, thinking it sufficient to keep to the essentials of that sacrament. And the same we are to suppose of their Anabaptism, and some other of their articles.

Sixthly, That we find in this their doctrine the substance of those articles, which the Waldenses have condemned in the faith and worship of the Church of Rome.

Seventhly, And as to the imputation of their finding fault with the hierarchy of the Church, this proceeded indeed from nothing else, but from the abuse which was then so customary in the western Churches, and of Italy in particular, as I have just now made out concerning the tenth century; and the multiplication of ecclesiastical offices into so many different orders appeared to them to be very opposite to the institutions of the primitive Church.

This being laid down, I say we have already found a body of men in Italy, before the year 1026, who believed contrary to the opinions of the Church of Rome, and who highly condemned their errors; a body of men which sent its members about into divers places, to oppose themselves to the superstitions that reigned throughout all the west.

I shall, in the sequel of this discourse, show the reason why they were accused of being mere seculars; and shall make it appear, that at the bottom this was nothing else but a pure calumny, founded upon an unjust prejudice.


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