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Historical Foundation of the Church of Rome.
ART. II.-—The Question: Was St. Peter ever at Rome? Histo
rically considered. By AUGUSTUS SCHELER, Doctor in Philosophy. Translated from the French, by a Clergyman; with a short Preface by the Translator. London: 1846.
THE spirit of Popery is abroad. Calculating upon our forbearance, and relying on the conciliatory character of the times, it has invaded, when we least expected it, our country and our homes, alighting on the lowest cottage, and penetrating to our highest seats of learning. It has come, not as the messenger of charity, in the consciousness of honest though mistaken truth; but as a crafty foe, with a sneaking step and a hidden countenance, to destroy the peace and happiness of families; to rend the bonds of love and kindred asunder; to seduce the child away from the parent's heart, and to beguile the unwary into ruin.
To remain passive spectators of such an aggression, would be mistaking indifference for toleration, and culpable laxity for Christian forbearance. It is true, Rome believes, or feigns to believe, in the existence of that laxity and indifference among us;
and it is equally true, that, in this point, we may, with a smile, leave her to her deception ; but however trifling we may deem the actual danger by which we are threatened; however strong, in our reliance
upon God, we may feel ourselves to resist every temptation with which our wily enemy may beset our path, the startling success which has crowned her first efforts,
* A confirmation of this we find in the observation of one of her most zealous partizans, Professor Malon of Louvain, who in the Preface to his recently pubsished work, “ La Lecture de la Sainte Bible en langue vulgaire, jugée d'après l'Ecriture, la tradition et la saine raison," writes thus, “ Ce devoir (de conserver à la vérité Catholique tous ses droits) est d'autant plus impérieuse, que l'oeuvre des Sociétés bibliques a rendu au protestantisme mourant une étincelle de vie, en concentrant ses forces et son action dans l'entreprise chimérique de fournir de Bibles la race humaine tout entière, et de convertir les païens à la foi par une simple lecture des Livres Saints.” (Tom. i. p. 6.) But the same learned professor, a few pages further on, states these remarkable words, “ Le mot d'ordre étant donné, les versions de la Sainte Bible se multiplièrent à l'envie, et tinrent lieu presque partout d'avant-coureur et de drapeau à la Réforme. L'éclair n'annonce pas plus fidèlement la foudre, que ces versions répandues dans le peuple n'annoncaient le protestantisme.” (Tom. i. p. 12.) Never has, in fewer words, a stronger testimony been given to the usefulness of Bible Societies. Never has the true distinction between the Roman Catholic and the Protestant religion more forcibly been characterized ; the one is ignorance, the other knowledge of Holy Scripture. True, most true. Those words of Professor Malon deserve, in our opinion, to be repeated from one end of the Roman Catholic world to the other; for, though he follows them up by a different process of reasoning from what we would do, yet all the most subtle arguments cannot efface or conceal his acknowledgment of the fact.
and the increased vigour with which, elated by triumphant hope, we may be certain she will follow up those efforts, render it, nevertheless, an object of sacred duty for every true Catholic to protect from her encroaching designs, what he holds dearest and holiest in heaven and on earth.
That a strong sense of such a duty is not lacking among us, is proved by the numerous articles which have lately issued from the periodical press, intended to awaken the country at large to the real importance of the Popish movement; and distinguished among them, more than one, if we are not mistaken, from the eloquent and impressive pen of the reverend gentleman to whoin the public is indebted for the translation of the essay before us,
This essay was originally written by Professor Ellendorff, a Roman Catholic savant of Germany, and subsequently published in French, with material additions, by Dr. Scheler, assistant librarian to the King of the Belgians. Neither of these gentlemen, however, has really grappled with the question at issue—the sojourn of St. Peter at Rome; but, stopping short of it, they have rather confined themselves to an examination into his Roman Episcopacy. We shall endeavour to carry out their design, in laying before our readers a succinct but comprehensive view of the historical foundation of the Church of Rome, referring to the work of Dr. Scheler, not the least valuable portion of which is the translator's preface, for such information of a detailed and illustrative character as is necessarily excluded from the limits of an article, and the compass of our design.
The mysterious power which has been one chief agent in drawing the weak idealizing minds of some of our Protestant brethren to the Church of Rome, is her Siren song of unitythat song of delusion so fatal to those allured by its deceitful harmonies. Is it surprising that, with unbounded · liberty of thought and expression, there should be dissension among us, when by the unbounded exercise of spiritual bondage, Rome herself is unable to preserve unity in the Church? We do not allude to the past, nor to the great dissenting movement in Germany, to which the exhibition of the “ Holy Coat" at Treves has lately given rise ; nor to the religious factions which, in more or less developed forms, divide the whole Roman Catholic world of the present day; we speak of the collective herd of the “ faithful,” who, in regard to their opinions on the most important fundamental principle of their Church, are distinguished by the great party denominations of Episcopalians and Ultramontanists; the latter asserting, the former denying, the Pope to be the infallible head of the Church, the only true Vicar of Christ on earth.
We will not judge the Romish Church any more than we
Sources of Information.
would the Church of England, by, or hold her responsible for the individual opinions of her members, except so far as they are openly supported and countenanced by the Church. We will judge her by her own statutes and ordinances. The principal sources whence the doctrines of modern Roman Catholicism must be derived, are, we need not say, the “ Canones et Decreta” of the Council of Trent; the “ Forma professionis fidei Catholicæ," promulgated by the Bull of Pius IV., dated 13th November 1564; the Bulls generally; the “ Catechismus Romanus, and the Missals, principally the “Missale Romanum” and “ Brem viarium Romanum.” In addition to these, the “ Confutatio Confessionis Augustanæ," and the works of Bellarmin (* 1621,) chiefly his “Disputationes de controversiis Christianæ fidei adversus hujus temporis hereticos," and those of Costerus, Becanus, Bossuet
, and others, may be regarded as authorized expositions of the Romish faith.
We may as well here remind our readers, that the Decrees of the Council of Trent were solemnly confirmed by the Bull " Benedictus Deus” of Pius IV., dated 26th January 1564. But this “confirmation" was one of a peculiar character. In his truly fatherly solicitude for the proper guidance of his flock, Pius IV. whilst expressing his full approbation of those decrees, at the same time interdicted, upon pain of the severest punishments, any person, whether clerical or layman, from publishing remarks, annotations, or comments upon them, reserving their interpretation and definition exclusively to himself and his successors. Sixtus V. so fully comprehended the importance of these “ definitions” that, in 1588, he charged a special commission with their execution.
The Council of Trent has not, like that of Florence, devoted a separate paragraph to the confirmation of the Pope's primacy; but it has virtually expressed that confirmation in scattered sentences, when for instance it speaks of him as “ Summo," or “ Sanctissimo Romano Pontifice," and “ Dei in terris vicario;" or of a “ Maximis Pontificibus, Christi Redemptoris nostri in terra Vicariis debita obedientia;" or when in direct words it assigns to him “ Supremam in ecclesia universa potestatem." Yet the fact was, the prelates disagreed among themselves as to whether obedience be due to the Holy Father or not. Who a more proper person to decide the question than the infallible Pope himselt?
In the “ Professio Fidei," therefore, we find the omission of the “ Decret. Concil. Trident." supplied. It is there said : “1 firmly admit and embrace the apostolical AND ECCLESIASTICAL TRADITIONS, as well as all other observances and ordinances of the same Church [of Rome]. ... I acknowledge the holy Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church to be the mother and mistress of all
Churches, AND PROMISE ON MY OATH TRUE OBEDIENCE TO THE Roman Pope, the successor of the blessed Peter, the prince of the apostles, and the Vicar of Jesus Christ. So help me God, and these holy Gospels of God.” *
The “ Catechismus Romanus” is still more explicit. It says, « The Catholic Church has ever venerated the Roman Bishop (pontificem maximum,) whom Cyrillus Alex., at the synod of Ephesus, , styled the Archbishop of the whole eartă, and the Father and Patriarch of the world. For, occupying as he does the chair of St. Peter, the prince of the apostles, WHO MOST ASSUREDLY HIMSELF OCCUPIED IT TO THE TIME OF HIS DEATH, he is, in it, entitled to the highest honours, and the most unbounded jurisdiction, as having been conferred on him, not by the decrees of any Council or other HUMAN authority, BUT BY GOD HIMSELF. For which reason he presides, as the father and ruler of all bishops and other ecclesiastics, (although to them also power and office be given,) over the universal Church, as the successor of Peter, and the true and lawful Vicar of Christ on earth.” + The same
“ Catechismus Romanus” distinctly asserts the infallibility of the Roman Church, when it says, This only Church cannot err; † which sentence is in various passages amplified by Bellarmin; but in none more characteristically than in the following: He writes thus, “ The language of the Church, i.e., of the Council, or of the Pope, when speaking from his chair, is not the language of man, i. e., language liable to error, BUT RATHER THE LANGUAGE OF God.”S Here, then, we have in a few words the awful but true language of the Romish Church; a doctrine she openly professes and maintains up to the present day: God
* A postolicas et ecclesiasticas traditiones reliquasque ejusdem ecclesiæ observationes et constitutiones firmissime admitto et amplector. . . . Sanctam Catholicam et apostolicam Romanam ecclesiam omnium ecclesiarum matrem et magistram agnosco, Roman pontifici, beati Petri apostolorum principis successori ac Jesu Christi vicario, veram obedientiam spondeo ac juro. Sic me Deus adjuvat et hæc sancta Dei evangelia !
+ Catholica ecclesia Romanum pontificem maximum, quem in Ephesina synodo Cyrillus Alexandrinus archiepiscopum totius orbis terrarum patrem et patriarcham appellat, semper venerata est. Cum enim in Petri apostolorum principis cathedra sedeat, in qua usque ad finem sedisse constat, summum in eo dignitatis gradum et jurisdictionis amplitudinem, non quidem ullis synodicis aut aliis humanis constitutionibus, sed divinitus datam agnoscit. Quamobrem omnium fidelium et episcoporum ceterorum que antistitum, quocunque illi munere et potestate præditi sint, pater ac moderator universali ecclesiae ut Petri successor Christique verus et legitimus vicarius in terris praesidet.-Cat. Rom. ii. vii. xxviii. # The passage runs thus,“ Quemadmodum haec una ecclesia errare not potest.
ita ceteras omnes, quae sibi ecclesiae nomen arrogant, ut quae diaboli spiritu ducantur, in doctrinae et morum perniciosissimis erroribus versari necesse est."Cat. Rom. i. x. xviii.
§ « Verbum ecclesiae, i. e. concilii vel pontificis docentis ex cathedra non est verbum hominis, i. e. verbum errori obnoxium, sed aliquo modo verbum Dei, i. e. prolatum assistente et gubernante Spiritu Sancto.”—De cerbo Dei, iii. X.
The Office and the Occupant.
speaks by the Church ; the Church speaks by the Pope; the word of the Pope is the word of God.
From the passages quoted, we learn that Rome rests her pretensions to divine and universal authority on a threefold assertion ; firstly, that Christ appointed St. Peter to be his vicar-general on earth, with power to transfer his charge to whomsoever he might judge proper; secondly, that St. Peter founded and occupied to the time of his death the Episcopal chair of Rome; and, thirdly, that the Popes are the duly appointed successors of St. Peter, both to his chair and to his vicarial power.
Before we proceed, however, to consider the proofs alleged by the Church of Rome in support of her pretensions, we may be permitted to point out to our readers the leading, and it would appear to us decisive, feature of the question, which, notwithstanding its prominent character, has yet, as far as we know, remained altogether unnoticed by preceding writers.
Were the pretended divine authority of the Popes lodged in an office instituted by Christ, or had it ever been looked upon as such by the Church of Rome, it would be a matter of utter indifference to her whether St. Peter himself, or any one else held it: the office conferring divine authority on the occupant, instead of the occupant bringing divine authority into the office-possession would be incontrovertible right. 'In such a case, the Romish Church, as a matter of course, would claim for her Popes, and ever have claimed, that divine authority by virtue of their office. But she claims it by virtue of being the successors of St. Peter, in whose person Christ is asserted to have vested the alleged authority. This authority is consequently insisted on to be of a personal character; and through the persons of the Popes to have descended to the present occupant of St. Peter's chair. The circumstance of the apostle having founded and occupied this chair, is only so far of importance, as the appointed Vicar of Christ, as it were, identified with its office the far higher charge entrusted to him by his divine master.
Here we have the real point of the question before us. By an “as it were” Rome would indeed, if she could, convert a groundless assumption into an indubitable fact; but it is in vain. The vicarage of Christ and the bishopric of Rome remain two distinct charges, though they had been, or still be, united in one person. Or will Rome maintain, that, because St. Peter, the vicar of Christ, and the prince of the Apostles, founded and occupied her Episcopal chair, every one of his successors to that chair must of necessity be also the vicar of Christ and the prince of the Apostles? We will not ask her why she has never claimed for her Popes the title of an “ Apostle” of Christ; but we will remind her that, according to her own tradition, St. Peter