Page images
PDF
EPUB

churches of Christendom. The Patriarch of Constantinople, . » creation of the Emperor, could only boast of his political considerato as Ecclesiastical Head of the new capital and diocese of Thrace: bat. all ecclesiastical grounds, must rank inferior to Rome, Antioch, Alexandria. The claims of so ancient a See as that of Rome al shone the more signally in comparison with the novel rank and instal lation of the Byzantine dignitary, while the political importance of the Italian bishop took enormous strides from the date which found his residing in Rome, away from the immediate control of the Enanerer, and the eclipsing contrast of courtly splendour. Any historical sarTET of the successive steps which marked the usurpations, encroachmeat luxuries, and vices of the Popes of Rome as a secular power, must be necessarily brief to adapt it for publication in our pages. We sbs nevertheless, endeavour to indicate a few traces of progress, and ex hibit some of the more remarkable phenomena in its state of far. or opinion which has gone to create the monstrous “regiment af be Papacy, and to inflict its oppressive and unholy despotism on man kind.

At the same time, we feel bound to admit that one of its most intrential claims to power arose from the fact that, amongst the Charcbes of the first three centuries, the Church at Rome ever opposed s steady front to the vagaries of heresy and unbelief. That enor endowment of practical wisdom and common sense, and the pre which such a faculty is certain to accumulate in its bands which were characteristic of Pagan Rome, were also the gift of the Christian Church domiciled in that city and recruited from the inhabitants. Corinthians and Nicolaitans could find a field for the speculations in Asia Minor, Basilidians at Alexandria, and Simontes Ebionites, and Valentinians in Palestine, but no Gnostic or Mar cionite heresy could long look the steady practical good sense of the Western mind in the face, and maintain its standing-grund The fanciful Oriental theosophies and religious dreams of ascetic enthudas when submitted to the test of an understanding that had grown up 42 the bustle of commerce, the pomp of courts, the clash of the appos Martius, and the cultivation of the Forum, melted into thin air, and appeared the shadowy things they were. This had so often proved the case in regard to prevalent heresies and phantasms imported into the metropolis of the world, and there extinguished by the united action of the Christian body and its rulers, that the decisions of the Church on doctrinal and ecclesiastical questions became invested with an importance to the Churches without, which their reneration in the first instance volunteered, and afterwards, when it wa, claimeal,ceded. An honourable testimony, on this ground, must be home to the history of religious dogma in Rome in early days. Many diren of the Bible of the first importance found a fair'ful chumb as: advocate in the Church at Rome.

There appears to have grown up, indeed, from its stability, sta antiquity, its political influence, its wealth, its numbers, ita intr.

gence, its habitual orthodoxy, and, even from its own presumption on all these grounds, a degree of deference in other Churches towards the Church of Rome and its prelates, which afterwards was demanded as a right upon other and fictitious grounds, just as an exacting member of a family, an invalid, for instance, receiving peculiar attention out of sympathy and kind feeling, afterwards angrily resents the denial of the same attention, as if it were robbed of an inheritance or undoubted peculium. On any legal or evangelical, any just or cognizable grounds, this deference does not seem to have rested ; rather, we should say, upon easiness in concession, and the operation of circumstances on the one hand, and audacity of self-assertion on the other. So Tertullian treated it in the close of the second century, who with disgust refuses to acknowledge the title of pontifex maximus, and episcopus episcoporum, assumed at that early day by the Bishop of Rome. Depudicitia, § 1.

After the accession of Constantine, these claims of precedence and authority were more freely acknowledged, as Rome became invested with the twofold character of the religious as well as the political capital of the world. All the authority resulting from her social and religious station had now become the subject of State recognition and positive legislation, and the mind of the Churches, in consequence, felt itself subdued and humbled, and prepared silently to acquiesce in claims resolutely asserted. Under the new circumstances in which the Church of Rome was placed, by State patronage, the rule and practice of Roman Church government naturally assimilated itself to the forms of imperial polity. Accordingly her admonitions assumed the tone of mandates, her interferences the character of rescripts and ordinances ; her discipline was presented to the world as the model by which other Churches were to shape their own; and her ritual as the pure Apostolic order of devotion, from which none could depart without the sin, or at least the danger of schism. The secularism of the Church of Rome, properly so called, takes its date from its patronage by Constantine. Before this it was rich, pretentious, haughty, but could not fairly be called a worldly institution.

Ammianus Marcellinus, the historian, representing the heathen remnant of that period, thus describes the pomp and circumstance of the Roman Pontiff and his Church-a representation to be received with caution, on account of the animus of the writer, but not therefore to be hastily rejected :-" When I consider the love of distinction which actuates all who aspire to dignities in this city, I naturally expect that all who are anxious for the episcopate, would not shrink from any expedient of faction to obtain it. For thereby the successful candidate gains the opportunity of fattening upon the oblations of matrons ; of being conveyed about in State carriages; of appearing in public in costly dresses ; of giving banquets so profuse as to surpass even royal splendour.” The term faction here probably refers to the disputed pontificate of Damasus and Ursinus, when the rival factions shed blood copiously on both sides in their struggle for the Papal chair. Of the peculation attendant on the distribution of alms by the

bishops, even Chrysostom complains about this time, and Jerome simi in his condemnation of the covetousness of the Roman clergy. So became the evil of an absorption of the revenue on the part de clergy, who were exempt for ordinary taxation, and received lang" and testamentary bequests from the laity, that the Emperor Valent the strict friend of the orthodox party, was obliged to declare, rescript addressed to Damasus, that all such donations were forkt. to the public treasury.

In the reign of Gratian and Valentinian, an imperial rescript eps on the civil magistrates that they forward to Rome, for adjudicatis" the reigning Pontiff there, any contumacious bishop of the proror who should resist the deposing power of his local superiors rescript is doubtful, from the Theodosian code, some sixty years I.com wards, taking no notice of its existence ; nevertheless, it is not ir own nature improbable. True or false, it aimed at sustaining the 20 claim to universal ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Popes.

The title of “Papa,” or Pope, common enough in the east al: Egypt, became exclusively applied to the bishops of Rome someb? in the fifth century. Innocent I. is dignified with it in the Afs Councils of Carthage and Milevis, A.D. 416.

To the bishops of Vienne, and Narbonne, in France, Pope Cat writes in 428, claiming an “appointment by God to watch ore: whole Church ”—and a “pastoral superintendence which knows bounds."

Coelestine, A.D. 420, displayed sufficient arrogance of language in del ing with Nestorius on the ground of his heretical opinions, requiria of him, within ten days of the receipt of the Pope's rescript, an 3. to the Catholic doctrine respecting the person of Christ, on pain if communication if he refused. But Leo, 440, seems to have tinn finite hold of the idea of Petrine prerogative, based upon su to Peter in the Episcopate of Rome : "In his chair dwelleth the living power, the superabounding authority. Let the brethru to fore acknowledge that he is the Primate of all bishops, studi.com Christ, who denieth his gifts to none, yet giveth unto Dupe eso through him." To Leo the Great belongs the distinction of el. his ecclesiastical decrees by the aid of the civil power, Valentinishi at his instance, issuing a decree that "no bishop of any province. do anything without the authority of the venerable the Pope eternal city ; but, on the contrary, to them, and to all men, let ever the authority of the Apostolic see hath ordained, or doth at Stadion ordain, be law." By his more immediate predecessors, and by ban agency, Leo succeeded in transforming the See of St. Peter, who ha fore existed as a symbol of Catholic communion into a visibly takes power. There could be no communion of saints according to the veloped idea of the fifth century but in union with home, atal jection to the Pontiffs. As the Emperor represented the whuir to so the Bishop of Rome represented the whole (hurch. Bra consent at that day, and with seemingly as good a title as that

Emperor to temporal dominion, the Pope stood out as the visible autocrat of the great invisible unity of the Church-catholic. For this position even Leo could adduce no canonical authority ; it was simply claimed, acted upon, iterated and reiterated, till at length the notion took possession of men's minds, and they yielded a practical acquiescence in a demand which they found it no advantage to dispute. The Church had secured, moreover, from the civil ruler by this time, an ecclesiastical judicature, the right of asylum, that of intercession for offenders, exemption of the clergy from civil offices and taxation, and in their corporate character, the right of receiving testamentary devises and bequests. By these privileges of property and dignity the Church had arrived at such a pitch of influence and power, that it was able to maintain an independent existence in the face of the northern invaders of Italy when the Imperial power crumbled to decay. She had become, to so great an extent, a governing power, and a useful ally, that her possessions were respected, her claims allowed, and the very victors became her vassals. Goth and Ostrogoth ravaged the Western Empire, and defeated the temporal power marshalled against them in successive battle-fields—but alike bowed in veneration before the tiara of the Pope, and the only social virtue and potency of the times. The priest proved more powerful to resist-it is the old story of Christianity over again—than mailed legionaries, and artillery of war.

Græcia capta ferum victorem cepit. These words would describe the actual position of the Popedom down to the middle of the sixth century.

At this period, the Popes of Rome were sustained in their struggle against Imperial authority and heretical depravity by the public opinion of the Western Churches, which naturally respected the only power that dared to cope with the Emperor and all his array. In the next century the Roman pontiffs had gained nearly all they wanted in tacit submission to their claims, as representatives of the Orthodox religion of the world-its arbiters and judges. None dared to resist except a single bishop here and there, or a recalcitrant Presbyter ; and these were soon brought to order, or silenced, by means of weapons, even then well known to ecclesiastical authority. The compact existed, at least so far back as the time of Honorius and Cælestine, that the temporal and spiritual powers should back-up their independent action by the loan of each other's help. The Pope said :—“Smite me those heretics, and I will keep the provinces true to their allegiance ;" a compact distinctly understood, and acted upon, although not at this early day couched in such plain terms. And if the centuries sixth, seventh, and eighth witnessed the opposition of the Byzantine Court to the claims of the Popedom, shown in the Henoticon struggle, the Pelagian Controversy, that of the Three Chapters, the Monothelite Controversy, the Quini-sext Council, and the struggle about images, the world saw the Empire daily growing weaker, and the prepollency of Rome more consolidated and manifest. In spirituals, Rome bore undisputed sway, VOL. III.

ccc

as every conflict with the Greek patriarchs demonstrated ; and in te porals, the course of affairs and the force of acquisition were exaltas the Popes to a position of independent sovereignty, wherein they cc. afford to regard the Prince of Constantinople as a co-occupant ots common throne rather than their liege lord and master.

The Patrimony of St. Peter was claimed as early as Gregory L. Great, A.D. 600 ; the territory thus designated consisting of nearls. the Byzantine duchy of Rome. This estate, belonging to the HT See, extended from near Naples, in the south, to Viterbo, in the Dach besides many outlying farms and fiefs in all directions. In the wo between the Lombards of Italy and the Greek emperors, all that Popes could shield, or claim, or extort from either party in the stron became the inalienable property of the Church. The Lombaris :favoured— favoured and feared, on the ground of their warlike rhine and conquests, of their actual power upon the spot, and their ortbt Christianity. But the Popes looked to some third party to rescue thes from the double thraldom of allegiance to a heterodox and dear** empire, and of friendship with an invasive and dangerous ally. they found in Pepin of France, whose usurpation they justitirdi in en to secure his intervention in their favour, a procedure whose pas undoubted, while its iniquity is transparent. Pepin was gratefu.. ! ceded to the Pope in perpetuity the districts which his armies Wr! from the Lombard king; the rights of the Byzantine suver: 11 all this territory, and the allegiance to the Emperor brinz 4**.: obliterated from the minds of the Pontiffs, whose objevt was to 20 order to keep, not to recover with a view to restore. They hai. in ::: transferred their allegiance to the usurping King of France, beste, the crisis of their fortunes, that monarch was able to protect ther, so! liberal to endow them. Pepin bestowed Ravenne, Rimini, m Cesena, Sinigaglia, Eso, Forlimpopoli, Forli, Eugubis Moth Comachio, Urbino, Narni, and other places, the lawful inheritant the Greek sovereign, upon the Roman Pontiffs, which the litt long coveted and intrigued to possess. This is called the d : Pepin, and dates in A.D. 754. Shortly afterwards, the dent: Charlemagne, his son, doubled the pontifical territories, and ot thereto a moral ascendancy of still greater value. Charl. nunne nothing but a title--"King of Italy," for the then ruler of Fre 128 war for an idea ; but all that he filched from the Lomburis ant Porphyrogeniti, including the Quadrilateral, Venice, and Istria bres over to his Holiness, who pocketed the proceeds, and plur. 1 ecclesiastical ambition for a higher flight. No longer but the #5135 empire of the Church rest upon the shadowy foundation of the Pen myth, but upon the solid basis of territorial powrr and per grandeur. Every acre of the imperial domain in Italy, of wh: the Popes could rob their nominal sovereigns, they appropriate de scruple, under the shield of their powertul friend and bully, the * of the Franks ; and the emperors retorted by assigning all the time jurisdiction of the western patriarch over the castern diurees to be

« PreviousContinue »