Concerning the belief of the Manichees, of their rise in Italy, their growth and their establishment.


I CONCEIVE that the account I have given of the state of the Church of Italy is sufficient to make out, that as they enjoyed a sound knowledge in that diocese, so withal there was a great disposition amongst them, as well as in other western parts, to embrace the grossest of errors. Christians and Priests that are become Anthropomorphites, and who know nothing of religion but what they have learnt from images, which were justly called the books of the ignorant, have a great inclination to suffer themselves to be imposed upon by impostures. Of this we have a double proof. It was especially in the tenth century that the opinion of Paschasius attained strength and authority; an opinion, which we may well look upon as the most extravagant folly that ever any man dreamed of whilst awake. It was at the end of the same century, and the beginning of the next, that Manicheism, the most wild heresy the Devil could ever suggest, found many followers in Italy and Aquitaine, which were inhabited by the Waldenses and Albigenses. And forasmuch as in the sequel it will prove of great use to know this matter of fact, for the justification of the Waldenses and Albigenses, and those who, before they ever got these names, did in both these dioceses defend the interests of truth, by distinguishing them from those who adopted the sentiments of the Manichees, we can by no means pass it by here.

Bishop Usher indeed has already sufficiently done this, in his Treatise of the succession of the Protestant Churches, where he relates the arrival of the Manicheans into the west. But because probably the Bishop of Meaux had never seen this book, he was pleased to look upon the distinction which the Protestants make of the Albigenses and Waldenses, from the Manichees, as an evasion of some late Ministers; it lies upon us, to prove it to that degree of evidence, as that no doubt or difficulty may remain in the case.

I know well enough that this would seem not necessary with reference to the Waldenses, whom the Bishop of Meaux only terms schismatics: but though the Bishop be of this opinion, yet there may be others found of his communion, as there have been many before him, who will be little swayed by his authority; and therefore the matter is well worth our consideration.

In the first place I shall lay down the substance of their belief.

Secondly, I shall show that about the year of our Savior 1000, some of these Manichees began to spread in the west. And shall,

Thirdly, take notice in what particular places they abounded.

In pursuing this matter on further, I shall make it evidently appear, that the party of the Church of Rome have made great use of the name of these heretics, to persecute those who set themselves against the errors and superstitions of that Church, though indeed they had nothing in common with the Manichees.

1. Then the Manichees held, that there were two principles opposite to each other, and equally eternal, the one good, and the other evil; and that consequently there were two natures, the one of that which was good, the other of that which was evil.

2. They looked upon matter as the effect of the evil God, and took the flesh to be wholly evil; and therefore they abhorred the begetting of children, and hindered it to the utmost of their power, by condemning marriage.

3. They rejected the Old Testament, maintaining, that he who spake to Moses was the Prince of darkness.

4. They maintained, that the creation of man was performed by the same author, and that there were two souls in every man, the one good, and the other bad; the one proceeding from God, and the other from the Prince of darkness. Thus it was they understood the conflict between the flesh and the spirit, whereof St. Paul speaks.

5. They denied free will, because otherwise God would be the author of sin.

6. They maintained, that the New Testament had been falsified, and under this pretense they admitted only of so much of it as pleased them.

7. They denied that Jesus Christ had any true flesh, maintaining, that he had only the figure and appearance of it, to delude the eyes. They denied his death and resurrection, and fasted on Sundays, as in opposition and contradiction to our Saviorís resurrection.

8. They asserted, that he was not come to save the bodies, but only the souls of men; and they absolutely denied the resurrection of the body.

9. They believed, that Jesus Christ was in the sun and the moon, and the Holy Ghost throughout the whole air. When they worshipped, they turned themselves towards the sun, and worshipped the sun and moon, as containing Jesus Christ.

10. They rejected Baptism, as unnecessary to salvation.

11. As for the Eucharist, they asserted, according to the account St. Augustin gives us of them, that the Holy Ghost did beget Jesus Christ of the earth, subject to suffering, who was, as it were, bound in the ears of corn, and in the vine, but who by the digestion of the stomach was set loose and at liberty; yet they maintained withal, that wine was the gall of the Prince of darkness, and therefore rejected the use of wine in the Communion.

St. Augustin ascribes to these heretics a continual contradiction in their opinions; and above all, he sets forth their Eucharist as a thing so abominable, as the very notion of it is sufficient to strike one with horror, notwithstanding that they boasted themselves of keeping their mouths pure from any blasphemy against God, of never eating any flesh, or drinking wine; of having their hands clean from murder, and their bosoms pure and chaste, because their elect gloried in their observing perpetual chastity, and rejecting the use of marriage.

As for his attributing to them, that they had an aversion for the relics of the saints, this seems to be a consequence of their opinions concerning the original of the body, which they looked upon as proceeding from the evil principle.

12. They condemned husbandry, attributing to trees and plants a sensitive life.

13. They maintained, that war was altogether unlawful.

These were their principal heresies. As for the discipline of their sect, it consisted of two orders, viz. the elect and auditors.

The hearers had leave to marry, if they pleased; to eat flesh, and till the ground; all which was forbidden to the elect.

The elect had the power of the imposing of hands on their hearers, who kneeled before them, in order to receive the said imposition.

There were twelve principal elect, who were called the masters, who had a thirteenth that was over them.

They had seventy-two Bishops, who were created by those masters we have just now mentioned, and the Bishops ordained the Priests and Deacons. This is the account St. Augustin gives us of their hierarchy. Petrus Diaconus of Sicily, who wrote against them about the year 870, makes it appear that he was acquainted with them, as having been with them at Tibrica in Armenia, and conferred with them. He dedicates his book to the Archbishop of Bulgaria, advertising him, that the Paulitiani or Manichees of Tibrica were resolved to send some of their people into Bulgaria, to seduce those who had newly embraced the Christian religion in that kingdom. This was that which put him upon writing this treatise, to forearm that Prelate against their enterprises.

He accuseth them of dissembling their errors, and of making such a profession of faith, as was sufficiently orthodox, though indeed, and at the bottom, they opposed it; and makes a very exact description of them and their errors.

He tells us, that they in appearance admit of the whole Gospel, and all the Epistles of St. Paul; that they confess the Trinity and Incarnation, but that they elude these their confessions by equivocations, till they have got an entrance into the spirit of those who listen to them, and judge them susceptible of their impieties, which then they freely discover to them. He compriseth their opinions in six articles:

I. That there is a good God and an evil God; the first, the Creator of the world to come; and the second, the Creator of the world.

II. That they do not own the Virgin Mary to have been the mother of Jesus Christ, whose body, according to them, was brought down from heaven.

III. That they reject the Eucharist, denying that Jesus Christ ever consecrated the symbols of bread and wine; but they explain those words in a mystical sense, with reference to his actions.

IV. That they deny the cross of Jesus Christ.

V. That they reject the Old Testament, receiving nothing besides the Gospels, and the Epistles of St. Paul, to which they add the Epistles of one Sergius, one of the heads of their sect.

VI. That they removed Priests from the ministry of the Church. In a word, he sets forth their heresies much according to the account we find of them in St. Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, Cateches. 6. out of whom he has transcribed many long passages.

I will not trouble myself at present to set down the account which later authors have given of the Manichees. Emericus, in his Directory of the Inquisitors, has made an abridgment of the opinions of those amongst them, which he pretends appeared in Italy, under the popedom of Innocent the Third, who had for their master a person called Manes, who lived then in the diocese of Milan. This good inquisitor, as we see by this, was not over-well acquainted with Church history. However, he takes notice of some articles, which it may be worth while to observe here. Of the fourteen articles he ascribes to them, these following may serve to clear some things we have already set down concerning the belief and conduct of the Manichees.

The second article is, That they supposed two sorts of Churches, the one kind and meek, which they said was their sect, and the Church of Jesus Christ; the other malicious, which they said was the Church of Rome, and very impudently called her a Mother of Fornications, the great Babylon, a Whore, the Devilís Cathedral, and the Synagogue of Satan.

The third article is, That they condemned all the degrees, orders, and ordinations of the Holy Church, as well as her ordinances, which they corrupted; they called all those heretics that were of her communion, and publicly taught that they could not be saved in the communion of Rome.

The fourth article is, That all the Sacraments of the Church of Rome, which were instituted by our Savior Jesus Christ, viz. the Eucharist, Baptism, which is celebrated with material water, Confirmation, Orders, Extreme Unction, Penance, and Matrimony between man and wife, were all of them vain and frivolous; and that like apes they reigned certain other outward ceremonies, which had some resemblance with them.

The fifth article is, That, instead of holy Baptism, they fancied another spiritual Baptism, which they called the comfort of the Holy Ghost; that is to say, when they received any person, whether sick or in health, into their sect, or ordained them by imposition of hands, according to their execrable ceremonies.

The sixth article is, That instead of consecrated bread, or the Sacrament of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, they supposed another sort of bread, which they called Blessed Bread, or the Bread of Holy Prayer, which they took in their hands, at the beginning of their meals, blessing it, breaking and distributing it to those that were present, of their belief, according to their ordinary custom.

The seventh article is, That, instead of the sacrament of Penance, they said, that the true exercise of penance did consist in following their orders, and being of their sect: and maintained, that all those who, being sick or in health, did keep the laws of their sect, and their ordinances, did thereby obtain the pardon of their sins, without any other satisfaction; yea, even without making restitution of those things which they had unjustly got; affirming, moreover, that herein they had the same power that St. Peter and St. Paul, with the other Apostles of our Savior Jesus Christ, had. They said also, that the confession of sins that is made to Priests of the Romish communion is not of any use to salvation; and that neither the Pope, nor any other person of that communion, had the power of forgiving sins.

The eighth article is, That, instead of the carnal sacrament of marriage between man and wife, they supposed that there was another spiritual marriage between God and the soul of man; when being perfect heretics, or in the abundance of consolations, they received any one into their sect, and incorporated them into their order.

The ninth article is, That they denied the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ in the womb of the most holy Virgin. They asserted, that he did not take upon him a true human body, nor the true flesh of man, as other men take it from human nature; that he never truly suffered or died on the tree of the cross; that he never truly rose again, nor ascended into heaven with a body of human flesh; but that all these things were only done in appearance.

The tenth article is, That the Blessed Virgin Mary was not the mother of our Savior Jesus Christ: they deny also that she was a carnal woman, but maintained, that their sect was that Mary, that Virgin, the true penance; that she was chaste, and a virgin who begat children to God, as often as any were received into their order and sect.

The eleventh article is, That they denied the resurrection of our bodies, and, instead thereof, supposed certain spiritual bodies, or a kind of inward men, in which they said the future resurrection was to be celebrated.

The twelfth article is, They said and believed that all those spirits that departed out of human bodies went into the bodies of beasts and birds, if they were not received into their sect, or incorporated into their order, by the imposition of their hands, according to the customary form of their ceremonies; that all these souls passed continually from one body into another; for which reason they did not eat the flesh of any living creature, nor ever killed any birds.

The thirteenth article is, That they held, that man ought never to eat flesh, no, not so much as touch it, nor cheese, nor eggs, nor any thing proceeding from flesh by way of generation or carnal conjunction: which they also observed.

These are the heresies of the Manichees, which Emericus sets down after another manner than they are described by Archelaus, St. Cyril, St. Epiphanius, St. Augustin, Theodoretus, and Petrus Diaconus of Sicily. It is visible that some part of these heresies were only chimeras, occasioned by some allegorical expressions of those who then preached against the Romish Church, but, however, most maliciously and falsely attributed to the Waldenses and Albigenses.

Notwithstanding this Emericusís mistake in the account he gives us of the original of this sect, sure it is, that it owes its birth to one called Scythianus, who probably had been familiar with the Marcionites. He left his doctrine to one named Terebinthus; after whose death it came into the hands of Manes, who mixed something of the Gospel with it, and who gave the name to his followers.

This sect spread itself in Africa, Asia, Spain, and Italy; and notwithstanding that in process of time the Christian Emperors published several laws for their extirpation, yet we find that there still continued a considerable body of them in the east. Theophanes tells us, that there were some of this sect amongst the Syrians and Armenians in the eighth century, whom the Emperor Constantine transported into Thrace from Theodosiopolis and Melitene, who spread abroad the heresies of the Pauliciani, (or Publicani,) for so Anastasius calls them.

We find in the ninth century, an. 811, that the Emperor Nicephorus favored the Manichees, called Pauliciani and Acingani, who lived in Phrygia and Lyeaonia. Michael Ranga being Emperor persecuted them, killed some, and banished the rest.

We find in the tenth century, that Theodorus, Bishop of Antioch, obliged the Emperor John Zimisces to banish the Manichees into the west, that had spread themselves throughout all the east, and had infected all places with their heresies; which he accordingly did, as we find it reported by Zo- Baras.

We find, since that time, that they spread themselves from Bulgaria (being thence called Bulgari, and in the French tongue Boulgres) into Dalmatia, and from thence into the western provinces, where they were called Cattari, and thence by mistake Cathari or Catharini, the Germans calling them Ketters. And it is probable that from this school came those Manichees that appeared in Italy, as well as those that appeared at Orleans, in the year 1017, and afterwards in Languedoc. Vignier has published a fragment of an ancient author, who calls them Catharini, and who sets forth their settling of themselves in Lombardy, Tuscany, and in the Marchia; that about the year 1023 their first Bishop was called Marc, who derived his ordination from Bulgaria, who afterwards, at the solicitation of one Nicetas, Pope, come from Constantinople, he took orders of him, and entered into the order of Druncaria. Afterwards he. represents the different parties and different opinions amongst them. We find also, that Ravnerus, who in the thirteenth century gives us a description of their Churches, makes three sorts of Cathari in Lombardy; observing that those who had settled themselves at Tholouse were of the same opinion with those who called themselves Albanenses, or of Senzano in Lombardy.

Now, that we may make some use of this description of the Manichees and their errors, it will be needful to observe,

First, That since they began to punish the Manichees with death, it was very natural for those who had a mind to destroy those they called heretics, to charge them with their errors: so that we may here very easily be mistaken between the true Manichees and those to whom their errors were falsely imputed.

Secondly, That since they had represented to the people, that one of the characters of the Manichees was, to dissemble their errors, and exactly to conceal their abominations, they had a very good pretense to condemn those pretended heretics for half Manichees, who, according to the principles of the Manichees, concealed their true opinions, though they did so upon another ground, as the rigour of their persecutors.

Thirdly, That in those barbarous and cruel ages, a small conformity of opinions with the Manichees was a sufficient ground to accuse them of Manicheism, who opposed any doctrines received by the Church of Rome. Thus would they have taken the Anabaptists for downright Manichees, because they condemned the baptism of infants.

Fourthly, And indeed we shall find the prejudices conceived on this account were so strong, that it has made them to be accused of Manicheism, whose opinions evidenced that their principles were directly opposite to those of the Manichees, with as much ground as if we should accuse the Church of Rome of Manicheism, upon pretense of her forbidding the use of the cup with reference to the people, which formerly was a note of Manicheism, as we find it mentioned in the Decrees of the Popes, Leo and Gelasius.

They accused those of Manicheism, that denied the substantial conversion of the bread into the body of Jesus Christ. They called those Manichees, that would not worship the Virgin or the cross; as if, forsooth, they had denied that Jesus Christ took a true body in the womb of the Virgin, or that he had been truly crucified.


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