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account of the confusion and contradictions of authors about the succession of the popes, which is anticipated by the extract from Dupin, in my last number, and then proceeds :—“And if their tradition be so uncertain an evidence of such an historical verity, in so few years
after Christianity was first preached or professed, how can we, or any reasonable man, give credit to those allegations of many things done, and words spoken, by our Saviour himself, and of his apostles, for which they allege no oiher proof but tradition, so concealed between themselves, that nobody ever heard mention of either, till nine hundred years after the death of Christ ? But let tradition be as weak and as partial a witness, as it must be still reckoned to be, we do deny that they have even such a witness for them; and, by the particular disquisition we shall make into every half age, and less, of the church, it will appear, that this their pretence is not in the least degree supported or favoured by tradition."
The pope claims to be head of the church, and as such to have jurisdiction over all other bishops; but his own oracle, tradition, gives him nothing of this in the first ages.“ Towards any thing that looks like jurisdiction, (and how far it extended and was submitted to is not apparent,) there is some dark mention of the bringing in of holy water, and of ordaining that no priest should say above one mass a day, by Pope Alexander the First; and of the ordering of three to be said on Christmas eve, by Pope Telesphorus; and of the appointing godfathers and godmothers in baptism, by Pope Hyginus, which the Anabaptists will hardly be persuaded to believe." Let it be observed, there is only a dark mention of these things by tradition, for we have no evidence that the words mass and holy water belonged to the phraseology of the second century, about the beginning of which, Alexander the First is said to have begun his reign. “ The difference about Easter, indeed,". continues his lordship, “made a great noise, and divided the churches, and was determined by Pope Pius the First; but revived and continued, with great passion and animosity, for forty years after, until Pope Victor, in a council at Rome, (which they say was the next lawful council to that of the apostles at Jerusalem,) with as much passion, declared his judgment in that particular; which is a shrewd evidence that the authority of Pope Pius was not considered with a full resignation. Some particulars of less moment, as the ordering that no vessels of wood should be used in the mass, but of glass, and shortly after, that cups of plate only should be used in that service, are mentioned to be established about or soon after that time.
“But in what manner those orders were issued and accepted, and what obedience was paid thereunto, is nowhere mentioned, and may be best guessed at by the respect that was given to Pope Pius, in the point of Easter. And certain it is, that no act of solemn jurisdiction, by the pope, or church itself, will be found manifestly to have been done, till the emperor became Christian; nor can it easily be conceived, that any of those edicts could be digested or published with any formality, or that they were communicated with less secrecy than the
pope concealed his own person or the place of his abode; either of which was no sooner known, than he was seized upon and carried to his execution.” Page 15. It must be very evident that, in such circumstances, the church in Rome would have little to do with councils,
or decrees, or jurisdiction over other churches; and her bishops must have had something else to do than to think of lording it over other bishops. They would think it honour and privilege enough to be allowed to meet in the most private manner, to observe divine ordinances, to edify one another, and to fortify one another's minds in the prospect of death, which was constantly before them, and which many of them were called to suffer, in its most hideous forms, for no crime but that of being Christians. My learned author gives a number of particulars that clearly prove, by their own traditions, (if these can prove any thing,) and by the writings of saints, in a later age, many of whom must have derived their materials from tradition, that no authority or jurisdiction, like that afterwards claimed by the pope, was understood to be vested in the church or bishop of Rome.
The supposition, indeed, is absurd; for the thing was impossible in the then circumstances of the church. In condescension, I suppose, to popish authors, and not wishing to dispute about a word, Lord Clarendon speaks of the bishops of the church in Rome, from the beginning, under the name of popes; but this word owes its birth to a much later age. The bishops or elders of all the churches might, in the way of respect, have been called fathers, that is, papas, or popes. It was not
, however, till the bishop of Rome had obtained the ascendency, that he was called, by way of distinction, the pope; and those who afterwards wrote the histories and traditions of the church, in order to give the authority of antiquity to the name, and the usurpation which it expressed, gave the title to all the preceding bishops in that see. This has an imposing effect upon the mind of the reader. He reads of the popes of Rome, in narratives which relate to the first and second centuries; and as he finds the bishops of no other church called by that name, he is insensibly led to think, that the church of Rome and her bishops must have had a superiority of some kind, from the very beginning; but the charm will be dissolved, when he reflects, that the bishops of Rome were not called popes in primitive times, either by themselves or their cotemporaries, but only by persons who wrote about them, after the church of Rome, and the pope as her head, had appeared as the antichrist, and the oppressor of the true church.
Though the bishops of Rome were not in circumstances to exercise jurisdiction over other bishops and churches, till the emperor
became Christian, and took them under his wing, it appears that, before that time, some of them had departed from the faith and purity of the first Christian bishops. We find that one of the holy fathers was not only guilty of idolatry, but also of denying the fact after it was detected Marcellinus, who is placed about the end of the third century, “terrified by the persecution in the time of Dioclesian, (when, in thirty days, there were 17,000 Christians put to death for their religion,) preserved his life by sacrificing to the idol gods, and was for that scandal and impiety, they say, convened before a number of bishops, in Sinuessa, in the kingdom of Naples, who might more securely have met in Rome itself; he, for some days, passionately denied the charge, until he was convinced (convicted) by thirty witnesses, when he made great submission, professed great repentance, and declared that he deserved to be deposed, but the council refused to do it, for want of power; whereupon the dejected pope assumed new and unnecessary courage, returned to
Rome, defied and reviled the emperor to his face, till he caused his head to be cut off." Religion and Policy, page 17.
Dupin professes to disbelieve this story, and he represents it as merely an accusation of the Donatists, (vol. ii. chap. vi.;) but the Rhemish translators, in their note on Luke xxii. 31. admit the probability of it, as well as the fall of several other popes, without derogating in the least from their infallibility; because, though the men fell
, the chair stood firm: that is, the popes erred personally, but the office did not.
The election of one pope, on the death of another, which is now a matter of great political interest, and has been, for more than a thousand years, does not appear to have been fixed by any definite rule, during the first three centuries. In the times of persecution, when the man who was chosen bishop to-day, was, on that very account, in danger of being murdered to-morrow, there was little temptation to aspire to the office, from worldly motives. The election was probably made by the people with so little noise, that no public notice would be taken of it; and the individual, on whom the choice of his brethren fell, would consider himself called upon, by the voice of Providence, to accept the office, with all its labours and dangers, without ever thinking that he was thereby to become a sovereign prince, and the head of the whole church. There is not even a tradition, with regard to the mode of election in those days; from which we may infer, that there was no controversy about the matter, but that, when the office became vacant, the people would exercise their Christian liberty, and invite the man whom they thought best qualified for the office, to preside over them as their bishop; and it is not unreasonable to suppose, that they had sometimes more than one at a time, to preserve order and dispense ordinances, seeing they were cut off so rapidly by the sword of persecution.
" To the end,” says Lord Clarendon, “ of Pope Marcellinus, who was put to death, in the year 307, there was no form prescribed for the election, nor any persons appointed, or who pretended power to elect; and, it is probable enough, that the pope dying might recommend his successor; for, besides that, they say that St. Peter nominated St. Clement; they say likewise that Stephen the First was recommended by Pope Lucius, that went before, who was the three and twentieth pope; and, it is very probable, that those pious persons, who were all martyrs, (for of the first three and thirty popes, the last of which was Melchiades, who suffered in the tenth and last persecution, under the Emperor Maximianus, there were not above three or four who died natural deaths,) I say, it is very probable that they had all so great a reverence and veneration from the people, that they were very willing to receive any man whom the popes recommended to be their successors; and most of the admittances being within five, or six, or seven, or eight days, after the death of the last pope, may persuade us that there was very
liule faction or formality in the election; there being then no room for any ambition, (except it were for martyrdom,) or any secure place to assemble in, for such business; so that we may reasonably presume, that they who, during that long time, supplied that high office, did it rather by a general admission and acceptation, than by any formal election.” Page 20. One pastor about to die, recommending a successor, is perfectly consistent with Christian liberty; and may, in many instances, be a
Christian duty. I am only sorry that the author should have disoonoured the holy men of whom he speaks, by calling them popes.
Our next inquiry shall be to discover what claim or exercise the popes had to any jurisdiction in other kingdoms and states, in or after the reign of Constantine, and whence they derived it: and what opposition and contradiction they met withal, from time to time, by which the ancient opinion of antiquity will best appear.
“ It is agreed, I think, on all hands, that Silvester the First was bishop of Rome, when Constantine came to be emperor; though there is no mention what interval there was between the death of Melchiades and the election of Silvester, or in what manner he was chosen; and there seems to be some contradiction in the authors about the computation of that time; for Silvester is said to have reigned three and twenty years and ten months, and to have died in the year 334, whereas it was in the year 321 that Melchiades was put to death; between which several times, there are but thirteen years, or thereabouts. However, it appears that Silvester was then pope, and, some authors will have it, that Constantine was christened by him. Sure it is, that as that emperor performed many acts of piety, in building of churches in several places for the exercise of the Christian religion, so he paid great respect io Pope Silvester, and gave him a rich crown, which they say he never wore himself, though he left it to his successors.” Page 21. It will readily occur to every reader, that from that day the bishop of Rome would
appear in a new character. To every carnal mind, the crown of gold would have more attractions than the crown of martyrdom. Unconverted men, mere heathens in principle, would now profess themselves Christians, as a step towards the favour of the emperor; and they would insinuate themselves into the priesthood, with the view of one day obtaining the rich crown. Crowns are not made for nothing; they are not worn for mere ornament. A man wearing a crown, without the sovereign power, of which it is a sign, would be an object of contempt to himself, and to all the world. Having obtained this shadow of sovereign power, the bishops of Rome could not rest till they obtained also the substance, which they did in the course of a few ages. Every successive pope kept this object steadily in his eye; and the uniformity and harmony of their exertions, for hundreds of years, without so much as one instance of a pope undoing what his predecessors had done in the way of advancing the power of his see, shows clearly that it was one spirit that animated the whole, namely, the wicked one, who worketh with all deceivableness of unrighteousness. I do not suppose that Silvester's immediate successor, to whom the crown was bequeathed, or his successors for a hundred years, contemplated the giddy height to which their remote successors were to rise; but it was the study of every one to add something to the power and influence which he had received from his predecessor, and thus to raise his see to sovereign authority over every other.
The authority of Silvester, notwithstanding the favour of the emperor, does not seem to have been very extensive. The council of Nice was held in his time, but he does not appear to have had a voice in it, much less authority over it. Constantine himself was present in this council, and he alone confirmed the decrees and acts thereof, and sent them so confirmed to Pope Silvester, who thereupon called a council
at Rome, of two hundred and sixty-seven bishops, who confirmed all that had been done at Nice, which confirmation was no other than a submission and conformity thereunto; as the council at Granada, in Spain, which was then likewise assembled, and is called the first Eliberitan council, likewise did. And there needs no other evidence of the emperor's supreme authority in that council, than his letter to all churches for the due observance of all that was done at Nice, and for the observation of Easter, and the burning of all books written by Arius, which he commanded to be done in a very imperial style : “Si quid autem scriptum ab Ario compositum reperiatur, ut igni id tradatur volumus; ut non modo improba ejus doctrina abrogetur, verum etiam ne monumentum quidem aliquod ejus, relinquatur: Illud equidem predictum volo; si quis libellum aliquem ab Ario conscriptum celare, nec continuo igni comburere deprehensus fuerit, supplicium ei mortis esse constitutum. i. e. But if any writing, composed by Arius, be got hold of, our will is, that it be committed to the flames; that not only his accursed doctrines be extirpated, but also, that not even the slightest vestige of him may be left. This, also, I desire to be proclaimed, that if any person is caught concealing any treatise written by Arius, or neglecting instantly to burn it, the punishment ordained for him is death."
THE POWER OF THE POPES INCREASED.
GREGORY THE FIRST CHOSEN POPE.
DEMNS THE TITLE OF UNIVERSAL BISHOP, ASSUMED BY THE PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE. HE APPROVES THE TREASON AND USURPATION OF PHOCAS, WHO MURDERED THE EMPEROR MAURITIUS. PHOCAS PROCURES THE TITLE OF UNIVERSAL BISHOP TO BE TRANSFERRED FROM THE PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE TO THE POPE OP ROME. THE POPE BY THE TREASON OF PEPIN OF FRANCE BECOMES A TEMPORAL PRINCE.
SATURDAY, July 8th, 1820. The bishop or Rome, having got the emperor of Rome on his side, began to strut and swagger at a mighty rate. Then he would have all the world submit to him, in matters of religion, even as they submitted to the emperor in secular and civil matters. The world, however, or rather the churches in different parts of the world, were not yet so submissive. Some bishops in the east
, had held a council, without asking leave of the bishop of Rome. Julius, the pope of the day, reprehended them for their presumption; and they, knowing that they owed him no subjection, treated the reprehension with great contempt, and, shortly after, met in a council at Antioch. See Religion and Policy, vol. 1. p. 23. This was in the fourth century, from which the reader will see, that it was a long time after the death of Peter, ere his pretended successors even laid claim to the power which they afterwards possessed; and that, after the claim was made, it was for a time indignantly resisted.
The bishops of Rome continued, from age to age, adding to their power, and encroaching upon the liberties of the people.
We now come,” says Lord Clarendon, "to the time of Gregory the First, (afterwards surnamed the Great,) who, being a monk of St. Bennett's order, wrote a letter to the Emperor Mauritius, beseeching him not to approve