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Coates Hall, 














FOURTH EDITION (2/6 net) - - APRIL, 1914 


Sherratt and Hughes, Printers, London and Manchester. 


SINCE the first edition of " The Infallibility of the 
Church " appeared in 1888 no serious attempt has 
been made by Roman Catholic scholars to reply to the 
convincing arguments of Dr. Salmon against the 
Papal claim to infallibility, for the simple reason 
that they are irrefutable. At a time when the 
Church of Rome is carrying on an active campaign 
with the object of bringing England once again under 
her sway, and is boldly as^serting that she is ' the one 
true Church ' which cannot err, it is well to examine 
the grounds on which she bases this claim, and as no 
book subjects it to closer scrutiny, it has been thought 
advisable to re-publish Dr. Salmon's great work at a 
price which will place it within the reach of all. 
This edition is therefore issued at 2/6 net, and is a 
reprint of the second edition without any alteration 



THIS volume, like that already published under the title 
of 'An Introduction to the New Testament,' contains 
lectures delivered in the ordinary course of instruction to 
my class in the Divinity School of the Dublin University. 
The character of the audience addressed in such lectures 
renders necessary a mode of treatment different from that 
which would be suitable in a work originally intended for 
publication. A lecture does not aim at that completeness 
which is demanded by the purchaser of a book, who expects 
to find in it all the information he needs on the subject with 
which it deals, and who objects to be sent to look for it 
elsewhere. The teacher of a class of intelligent young men 
cannot but feel that the knowledge which he can hope to 
communicate to them directly is insignificant in comparison 
with what they will acquire by their own reading, if he can 
only interest them in the study. He has no wish to save 
them the trouble of reading books, but thinks it would be 
waste of time to spend much in telling them what they are 
likely to read for themselves elsewhere. It is not his duty 
to write a new book for their use if he can refer them to 
sources whence the same information can be satisfactorily 
obtained. And he naturally adopts a colloquial style as best 
adapted for retaining the attention of the hearers of a long 
viva voce lecture. 

On account of the differences I have indicated, I had not 
thought my lectures suitable for publication in their actual 
form, though I at times entertained intentions of writing 
theological works for which these lectures might supply 
materials. But time went on without my finding or making 
leisure to carry any of my contemplated projects into execu- 
tion ; until, three or four years ago, I found reason to 
consider the possibility that if I were to die, leaving lectures 

viii PREFACE. 

behind me, the pious zeal of some of my friends might cause 
them to be published posthumously. I felt that if any of 
my lectures were to be printed, I should much prefer that 
it were done before they were quite out of date, and while 
they could have the benefit of my own revision. So I 
determined to try the experiment of printing some of them ; 
and I selected those on the New Testament, as being on the 
subject most likely to be generally interesting. Having 
found by experience that there was no likelihood of my 
casting my lectures into any different form, I sent them to 
be printed just as they were, though in the course of their 
passing through the press, I found so many points omitted, 
or imperfectly treated, that I was led to make additions 
which considerably increased the bulk of the volume. 

The favourable reception which that volume has met with 
has encouraged me to print another series of lectures. For 
the reasons stated in the Introductory Lecture, 1 do not 
expect the subject to be so generally interesting as that of 
the former volume ; and yet I have in the same lecture, given 
reasons for considering the investigation to be one that ought 
not to be neglected. But I frankly confess that I have had 
more pleasure in that part of my professorial work which 
engaged me in the defence of truths held in common by all 
who love our Blessed Lord, than when it was my duty to 
discuss points on which Christians differ among themselves. 
It has, however, been a pleasant thought to me, that in the 
present series of lectures I was doing what in me lay to 
remove what is now the greatest obstacle to the union of 
Christians. There is, I think, abundant evidence that at the 
present day the pressure of the conflict with unbelief is 
drawing Christians closer together. When we regard the 
state of mutual feeling between members of the Anglican 
Church on the one hand, and on the other the Greek Church, 
or the German Old Catholics, or the Scotch Presbyterians, or 
the Scandinavian Churches, I think we can discern in all 
cases a growing sense that there are things in which we all 
agree, more important than the things on which we differ. 
And the prospect is not altogether unhopeful that, by 
further discussions and mutual explanations, such an 


approximation of opinion might be arrived at that there 
would be at least no bar to intercommunion. But as the 
Roman Church is at present disposed, there can be no union 
with her except on the terms of absolute submission; that 
submission, moreover, involving an acknowledgment that 
we from our hearts believe things to be true which we have 
good reasons for knowing to be false. The nature of the 
claims of Rome clearly shuts out that possibility of recon- 
ciliation in her case which may be hoped for in other cases 
from retractations or mutual explanations ; so that, by every 
effort to bring about the withdrawal of these claims, we are 
doing something to remove the main obstacle to the reunion 
of Christendom. 

I am not so silly as to imagine that any perceptible effect 
can follow from adding one to the many demonstrations 
that have been given that the claims of which I speak are 
unfounded. But no false opinion can resist for ever the 
continual dropping of repeated disproofs. We may point 
out instance after instance in which papal authority has 
been given to decisions now known to be erroneous, and in 
each case some ingenious attempt may be made to show that 
the attribute of infallibility did not attach to the erroneous 
decision; but sooner or later men must awake to see that 
the result of all this special pleading is that, whereas they 
expected to find a guide who would always lead them right, 
they have got instead a guide who can find some plausible 
excuse to make every time he leads them wrong. I do not 
think it absolutely impossible that, under the pressure of 
historical disproof, some such modification of the theory of 
Roman Infallibility may eventually be made as will amount 
to a practical withdrawal of it. The theory of Development, 
which has now found extensive acceptance in the Roman 
Communion, involves the belief that the Church of the 
present day is, in some respects, wiser than the Church of 
earlier times. When that theory has been itself a little 
further developed, it may be found to give the Church the 
right to review the decisions of earlier times, and to abandon 
claims formerly made, but which experience has shown to 
be untenable. 


In the present series of lectures I have not entered into 
the details of the controversy with Roman Catholics. I was 
able to refer my class to many good books which have been 
written on the subject. But arguments are useless if 
addressed to those who profess to be above argument. As 
the controversy is conducted at the present day, everything 
turns on the power claimed for the Pope of determining and 
declaring without any attempt to produce evidence, what 
are or are not Apostolic traditions. There really is but one 
question to be settled : Are we bound to receive undoubt- 
ingly the Pope's unproved assertions, without any attempt 
to test by argument whether they are true or not ? He may 
declare in words that he has no commission to make 
revelation of new doctrine, but only to hand down faithfully 
the revelation made through the Apostles; but what does 
that avail if we are bound to take his word whether a 
doctrine be new or not ? He may propound a doctrine such 
as that of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, 
which it is certain that the Church for centuries never 
regarded as part of the revelation made through the Apos- 
tles, and it is held that we are bound not only to believe 
that doctrine to be true, but also to believe, on the Pope's 
authority, that it is old. 

These lectures were not written for Roman Catholics ; and 
I do not expect them to fall into the hands of any, except 
of those who deal in controversy, and who, perhaps, may 
take up the volume in order to see if it contains anything 
that needs to be answered. If any such there should be, I 
beg of them to remember that they are overhearing what 
members of another communion say when they are quite by 
themselves, and, therefore, that they must not be offended 
if they meet the proverbial fate of listeners in hearing some 
things not complimentary. If they should think that I have 
not done justice to their side of the question in the view I 
have presented of it, I earnestly request them to believe 
that my error has been involuntary; that it has been my 
desire to know and to report fairly the strongest arguments 
that can be used in defence of the Roman claims; and that 
if there be stronger than those which I have attempted to 


answer, my omission arises either from ignorance of them, 
or because the constitution of my intellect is such that I 
could see no force in them. 

With regard to the manner in which I have expressed 
myself, it is possible they may object to my habitual use 
of the term Romanists to denote the members of their 
Church. In the older Church of England books of contro- 
versy the word commonly used was 'Papists,' and the 
religion was called 'Popery.' In modern times the word 
Papist is supposed to be offensive, though I do not know why 
men should be ashamed of being called after the Pope, who 
give him now even a more prominent place in their religious 
system than he held three hundred years ago. I have, 
however, avoided using a term which, whether rightly or 
wrongly, is imagined to be offensive, though I suspect that 
the real reason for objecting to it is a desire to be known 
by no other name than 'Catholics.' Protestants who know 
nothing of theology are apt freely to concede the appella- 
tion, having no other idea connected with it than that it is 
the name of a sect; but those who know better feel that it 
is a degradation of a noble word to limit it in such a way. 
And, in truth, if it is possible to convey insult by a title, 
what is really insulting is that one section of Christians 
should appropriate to themselves the title ' Catholic ' as 
their exclusive right, and thus, by implication, deny it to 
others. This is so obvious that they do not now insist on 
being called Catholics pure and simple, and are satisfied if 
other people will speak of them as Roman Catholics. It is 
a compromise which I am willing to accept in my inter- 
course with persons of that religion; but I observe that 
when they are by themselves they always drop the 'Roman,' 
and call themselves 'Catholics.' So they have no cause to 
be offended if, when we are by ourselves, we drop the 
'Catholic' and call them 'Roman.' 

We may fairly object to an inconvenient periphrasis. If 
we must not speak of members of the Roman Church 
without tacking Catholic to their name, must we not also, 
if we claim an equal right in the title, add it to our own 
name? While, however, we could describe our brethren 


in England as Anglo-Catholic, how are those of us who 
live in Ireland or Scotland or America to call ourselves? 
If any sect say the Unitarian were to claim the exclusive 
title of Christians, and when this were refused them, should 
insist, at least, in being known, not as Unitarians, but 
as Unitarian Christians, would not that be felt to be the 
old claim in disguise, since it would be inconvenient to us 
to be obliged to make a similar addition to our own name? 
What I should understand by a Roman Catholic would be 
a member of the Catholic Church whose home was Rome. 
A member of the Catholic Church who lived in England 
would, of necessity, be an Anglo-Catholic. If he wanted 
there to be a Roman Catholic, he would be no Catholic at 
all, but a schismatic. To speak honestly, of all the sects 
into which Christendom is divided, none appears to me less 
entitled to the name Catholic than the Roman. Firmilian, 
long ago, thus addressed a former bishop of Rome (and this 
great bishop Firmilian must be regarded as expressing the 
sentiments not only of the Eastern Church of the third 
century, but also of St. Cyprian, to whose translation, no 
doubt, we owe our knowledge of this letter) : 'How great 
is the sin of which you have incurred the guilt in cutting 
yourself off from so many Christian flocks. For, do not 
deceive yourself, it is yourself you have cut off : since he 
is the real schismatic who makes himself an apostate from 
the communion of ecclesiastical unity. While you think 
that you can cut off all from your communion, it is yourself 
whom you cut off from communion with all.' At the present 
day the bishop of Rome has broken communion with more 
than half of Christendom, merely because it will not yield 
him an obedience to which he has no just right. To me he 
appears to have as little claim to the title Catholic as had 
the Donatists of old, who, no matter how many bishops they 
had in their adherence, were rightly deemed schismatics, 
because they had unjustly broken communion with the rest 
of the Christian world. 

I might, however, have conquered my objection to the 
name Roman Catholic, if it were not that it seems to draw 
with it the word Romancatholicism, one of some abominable 


words that have been introduced in our generation. To me, 
' Catholic ' and '-ism ' represent ideas which absolutely 
refuse to coalesce. Roman Catholics hold many doctrines 
which I believe to be true and Catholic; but what is meant 
by Romancatholicism is that part of the belief of Roman 
Catholics which is not Catholic, and is not true. 

The majority of the lectures in this volume were written 
about the year 1870; and as they were not intended for 
publication, they contained no references to authorities. 
This has caused me some inconvenience, as, since the time 
these lectures were written, my reading has taken other 
directions. I have, however, been able to supply references 
to the ancient authorities cited; but I have not thought it 
worth while to give the labour necessary to recall what use 
I have made of the literature current at the time the lectures 
were written. 

I have to acknowledge the assistance given me by my 
friends, Dr. Gwynn and Dr. Quarry, who have been kind 
enough to read the proofs of this volume; and I have to 
thank the Rev. W. K. Ormsby for help given me in the 
preparation of the Index. 

This second edition is but a reprint of the first, with some 
few corrections and additions. At p. 365 I have substituted 
Mr. Gore's explanation of a passage in Epiphanius for that 
given by Dollinger which I had adopted in the former 
edition. I have added (pp. 255261) a discussion of an 
answer attempted, in the Month, by Mr. Sydney F. Smith, 
to the arguments of Lectures XL xiv. I am glad that my 
work should meet with some hostile criticism, for containing 
as it does many hundred statements of facts, it were too 
much to expect that I should not have made some slips, 
especially now that I have arrived at a time of life when 
my memory cannot so well be trusted as in former days. 
I am very grateful to those who point out such slips and 
enable me to correct them. But I have been disappointed 
to obtain only some very trivial corrections from a review 
of my book in the Lyceum, written in a very different tone 


and temper from Mr. Smith's article. I soon perceived that 
the review in question was written for those who do not 
know me, and are not likely to see my book, but who having 
heard that such a book had been written would be glad to 
be told that it had been completely demolished, and the 
writer proved to have been both ignorant and dishonest. I 
wish I could persuade myself that my critic was a man of 
much learning, for if so it would be extremely consolatory 
to find that he had been able to discover none but the very 
unimportant errors he has singled for comment; and even 
of these the number would have been reduced if he had read 
my book more carefully. For example, it may be very 
shocking that I should in one case have inadvertently used 
the prefix St. in speaking of Margaret Mary Alacoque, but 
it was surely some extenuation of my fault that I had else- 
where stated (see p. 223) that this poor visionary had as yet 
attained only the dignity of beatification, not that of 
canonization. My critic is very severe on me for attempting 
to conceal from my readers that Newman's Essay on 
Development was written before he joined the Roman 
Church. As I had expressly stated this (see p. 33), I need 
not inquire what difference it makes. The matter would 
be important if there were any disposition to repudiate the 
defence of the Roman doctrines made by this new convert; 
but, on the contrary, it has been eagerly adopted by the 
Roman apologists of the present day, whose candid acknow- 
ledgment of the novelty of their teaching would certainly 
have amazed their predecessors. 

And my critic is so anxious to represent me as not only 
ignorant but dishonest, that he refuses to accept lapse of 
memory as an explanation of misstatements for which he 
can discern no motive. For instance, the most serious error 
he has pointed out is that I more than once gave the date 
of the declaration by Pius IX. of the dogma of the Immacu- 
late Conception as 1852 instead of 1854. I might have 
expected some gratitude for my liberality in ascribing to 
one of the two latest of Roman additions to the Catholic 
Faith, two years more antiquity than it was entitled to 
claim, but my reviewer's comment is that my misstatement 


is 'unaccountable,' 'as nothing was to be gained by falsify- 
ing the date.' One can generally judge what a man is likely 
to do by observing what he thinks other people likely to do. 
But I congratulate myself that I was not brought up in a 
school where it is thought permissible to falsify a date if 
anything is to be gained by doing so. 

After this it is amusing that my critic should accuse me of 
want of courtesy to my opponents, his ground of complaint 
being that I refuse to describe his co-religionists by the 
name of 'Catholics.' But the real offence is given by those 
who arrogate to themselves exclusively the title of Catholic, 
and not by those who refuse to recognize the claim. I am 
told that in China it is thought that politeness requires a 
man to use disparaging words in speaking of anything 
belonging to himself, so that if he were asked of what 
religion he was, it would be proper for him to answer, The 
miserable superstition to which I am addicted is so-and-so. 
But as I cannot carry my politeness to such an extreme, I 
must decline to compliment away our own right to the title 
Catholic. It is curious how much easier it is to see the 
mote in our brother's eye than the beam in our own. A 
dignitary of the Roman Church, from whom my critic 
borrowed his accusation against me of using offensive 
language towards my opponents, was obliged to confess 
that he had been in the habit of including members of our 
own Church with others outside the Roman communion 
under the common name of non-Catholics, and had appar- 
ently been unconscious that there was anything offensive 
in tlje phrase. Now if it is not offensive to call members 
of the Church of England, Anglicans, it cannot be offensive 
to call members of the Church of Rome, Romanists ; but to 
call us who claim to be Catholics, non-Catholics, is not only 
offensive but brutally offensive. And it makes no difference 
whether this is done in express words, as constantly 
happens, or done by implication, as when men speak of 
'Catholic institutions,' a 'Catholic University,' and so forth, 
meaning thereby institutions in which Catholics in com- 
munion with the Church of Ireland have no share. Those 
who speak of Romanists as Catholics cannot help speaking 


and thinking of non-Romanists as non-Catholics. No other 
word can be substituted. For instance, the word 'Protes- 
tants' which it has been proposed to substitute will not 
answer. There are many non-Romanists who strongly 
object to be called Protestants. If Romanists think that the 
concession of the word Catholics is one that we can properly 
make, let them set us the example, and speak of the 
members of our Church as Irish Catholics. 

A friend has pointed out to me that I had but followed 
the example of Cardinal Newman, one of whose works bears 
the title Lectures on Romanism and popular Protestantism. 
And in truth there was no other name than ' Romanism ' 
that he could have used. He was too great a master of 
the English language to use such a portentous word as 
Romancatholicism, and he was too good a theologian to use 
such a phrase as Roman Catholicism, as if there was not 
only such a thing as Catholicism but several kinds of it, 
Roman Catholicism being one variety. 

This third edition is but a reprint of the second, with a 
few trivial verbal corrections. 




Reasons for the recent decline of interest in the controversy, pp. 2-5. 
(a) Disestablishment, p. 2; (6) reaction against anti-Romanist over- 
statements, pp. 2, 3 ; (c) increased circulation of Roman Catholic 
books of devotion, p. 4; (d) the struggle with unbelief, p. 4; (e) the 
growth of scepticism, p. 5. The study, nevertheless, profitable, p. 6. 
Controversy, though not always expedient, p. 6 ; sometimes neces- 
sary in self-defence, p. 7. The examination of the Roman claims, a 
duty, p. 8. The use of the word Protestant, p. 9. What must be 
proved to clear us from the guilt of schism, p. 10. Apparent 
antagonism to Scripture of Roman Catholic doctrines, p. 11; yet 
discussion, on Scripture grounds, often, in practice, ineffective, p. 12. 
The danger of using weak arguments, p. 13. The untrustworthiness 
of controversial quotations, p. 15. The spirit in which controversy 
ought to be engaged in, p. 16. 




Evident from a priori considerations, p. 17 ; from the history of the 
controversy in recent times, p. 18. Disproof of Romish doctrines 
in the Tracts for the Times, p. 19 ; by men who afterwards became 
Romanists themselves, p. 19. What is really meant by acceptance 
of the Roman claim to Infallibility, p. 19. Modern changes in 
Romish teaching, p. 20. Definition of the Dogma of the Immaculate 
Conception, p. 20. The Pope's personal infallibility, p. 20. The 
Vatican Council, p. 21. Newman's letter to Ullathorne, p. 21 ; 
Janus, p. 22. Origin of the Old Catholics, p. 22 ; their inconsistency, 
p. 24. Changes in Roman Catholic text-books made necessary by 

xviii CONTENTS. 


Vatican Council, p. 25. Bailly's Theology, p. 25. Keenan's Cate- 
chism, p. 26. Roman Catholics acknowledge that the Bible alone 
furnishes no sufficient basis for their system, p. 28; in this they 
differ from early Fathers, p. 29. Bellarmine's rule respecting tradi- 
tion, p. 29. Jewel's challenge, p. 29. 

Newman's Essay on Development, pp. 31-44 ; anticipations of the 
theory, p. 31 ; applications of it, p. 32 ; it completely abandons the 
old defence made by R. C. Advocates, p. 33. The Council of Trent, 
Milner, Wiseman, p. 33. Veneration for the Fathers traditional in 
Roman Church, p. 34 ; this veneration not consistent with theory of 
Development, p. 35. The controversy between Bossuet and Jurieu, 
p. 35. The theory of Development then maintained by the Calvinist, 
p. 35 ; and also by Petau, p. 36. Bossuet's opposition to the theory, 
p. 36. Bishop Bull's great work, p. 36. Newman's Essay doubtfully 
received at first, p. 37. A Romanist advocate strongly tempted to 
accept it, p. 38. Newman on Invocation of the Virgin, p. 38. The 
doctrine of Development concedes what the opponents of Romanism 
assert, p. 39; useless to Romanists if not supplemented by doctrine 
of Infallibility, p. 39. The doctrine of Development would equally 
serve to justify Protestantism, p. 40. Great historical difficulty in 
the way of the doctrine, p. 40. Local limitation of alleged develop- 
ments, p. 41. Superiority of Protestant developments, p. 41. 
Manning and Spurgeon, p. 43. Infidel tendency of Roman Catholic 
line of argument, p. 44. 

Particular topics of controversy cannot be safely neglected, p. 45. 
Ordinary history of conversions from Romanism, p. 46. 



PRIVATE JUDGMENT, pp. 47-53. Source of the craving for an infallible 
guide, p. 47. Private judgment and infallibility not opposed, 
p. 47. Necessity of private judgment, p. 48. Proof that 
submission to Rome rests on an act of private judgment, p. 48. 
How to use private judgment, p. 49. On what grounds deference is 
claimed for the authority of the Pope, p. 51. The deference which 
a learned divine may claim is not rightly compared to that which a 
physician may demand from his patients, p. 52. Basis of a Roman 
Catholic's faith, p. 53. No proof of infallibility possible without 
arguing in a circle, p. 53. Bishop Clifford's attempt to escape this 
difficulty, p. 55. Its insufficiency, p. 57. Newman's method, p. 58. 
In Church of Rome, no subsequent verification of her teaching 
possible, p. 60. Mallock's revival of Newman's argument, p. 60. 
Infidel tendency of his position, p. 60. 





Mr. Capes' reasons for returning to the Church of England, p. 62. 
To what kind of certainty Roman Catholics lay claim, p. 62. The 
theory of the Vatican Council, p. 62. How to escape detection in 
arguing from a false principle, p. 63. 

Newman's Grammar of Assent, pp. 64-77. How we get beliefs, 
p. 65. Locke's dictum as to the assent with which we ought to 
entertain beliefs, p. 66. Clifford's Ethics of Belief, p. 66. On what 
depends our confidence in traditional belief, p. 67 ; on what our 
confidence in the Church's teaching, p. 68. Newman's 
theory of an ' illative sense,' p. 69. Can a man be certain of any- 
thing without being infallible ? p. 72. About what things may we 
be thus certain ? p. 72. The authority of the Pope not one of them, 
p. 73. No sharp line to be drawn between certainty and high 
probability, p. 74. Indef ectibility, whether an attribute of certainty, 
p. 75. The more we talk of certainty the less we have, p. 76. 


Milner's three axioms, p. 79. The two rules of faith which he 
pronounces fallacious, p. 80. The insecurity of reliance on a supposed 
immediate personal revelation, p. 80. The doctrine about Faith laid 
down by the Vatican Council, p. 81. The foundation of a Roman 
Catholic's confidence proved by Milner to be fallacious, p. 82. 
Milner's second fallacious rule, p. 82. Roman Catholic controver- 
sialists inconsistent in refusing to admit the inerrancy of Scripture, 
p. 83. The argument, 'If our Lord had intended His people to 
learn his religion from a book, He would have written it himself/ 
p. 83. The Bible as a guide does not satisfy the conditions imposed 
by Milner's axioms, p. 84. Milner's alleged true rule, p. 85. This 
rule not secure or never-failing, p. 85. Bossuet's Variations, p. 86. 
A Protestant not much affected by the argument from variations, 
p. 86. What is really proved by the existence of variations, p. 87. 
Bossuet has been treated by the predominant Roman Catholic school 
of the present day as no better than a Protestant, p. 88. Examina- 
tion of Milner's axioms, p. 89. Monstrous character of the claim 
made in them, p. 89. His maxim, when amended, may be used 
against the Church of Rome, p. 90. Patristic authority for asserting 



that the obscurities of Scripture do not affect essential matters, p. 90. 
The decrees of Councils not even intelligible to the unlearned, p. 91. 
Explicit and implicit belief, p. 92. Fides Carbonarii, p. 93. 
Material and formal heresy, p. 93. This theory represents the 
Church as making the way of salvation more difficult, p. 94. Of 
what things Roman Catholics are now required to have explicit 
knowledge, p. 95. The teaching on this subject of Innocent IV., 
p. 96. Later editions of Furniss's What every Christian must know, 
p. 96. Necessity for an infallible guide only arises where explicit- 
knowledge is required, p. 97. An act of Faith, p. 97. A Protestant 
safe, even if Roman Infallibility be a revealed doctrine, p. 98. 



Falsity of Milner's axiom if asserted of truths important, but not 
necessary to salvation, pp. 99-108. No infallible means provided 
for finding the true Church, p. 100 ; none for obtaining secular 
knowledge, p. 100. The analogy of disease and its remedies, p. 101. 
The analogy of the case of sin and holiness, p. 101. The Church 
not secured against the temporary prevalence of great moral corrup- 
tion, p. 102. Testimony of Baronius, p. 102. Like safeguards 
vouchsafed by God against sin and against error, p. 103. Same 
considerations available for mitigating the difficulty of the existence 
of evil and of error, p. 104. Physical evil, p. 104. Defects of 
knowledge, p. 105. The prevalence of sin, p. 106. Benumbing 
effect of the doctrine of infallibility, p. 106. Testimony of Mr. 
Maskell, p. 107. The unreality of unintelligent faith, p. 108. 



In no subject can we dispense with teachers, p. 109; but our teachers 
are not infallible, p. 110. What is really meant by an infallible 
Church, p. 111. The analogy of University teaching, p. 111. The 
conditions of progress for the human race, p. 112. Mutual con- 
cessions on this subject have now left little room for controversy, 
p. 113. How Christ intended us to learn His religion, p. 113. The 
service actually rendered by the Church, p. 114; may be fully 
admitted without owning her infallibility, p. 115. True analogy to 
the relation between a Christian teacher and his pupils, p. 116. If 
the Church be infallible, the Bible is useless and mischievous, p. 117. 



The early Church encouraged Bible-reading, p. 117. St. Chrysostom 
on the study of Scripture, pp. 118-122. What Roman Catholics say 
in reply, p. 122. Discouragement of Bible-reading by modern 
Church of Rome, p. 123. 



Dr. Hawkins' formula, p. 125. The method of the Church of 
England, p. 125. The method of the Council of Trent, p. 126. The 
rule of faith, as laid down by Bellarmine, p. 126. Fallacy in the 
argument that the Word of God has equal claims to acceptance 
whether it comes to you by writing or orally, p. 126. The question 
about the rule of faith a subordinate one in this controversy, p. 127. 
The meaning of the Roman appeal to tradition, p. 128. Canon of 
the Council of Trent concerning the interpretation of Scripture, 
p. 128; embodied with a variation in the Creed of Pope Pius IV., 
p. 129. Romish rule of faith complicated, p. 129 ; and modern, 
p. 130. Tradition, as a rule of faith, needs the supplement of the 
doctrine of Infallibility, p. 130. Uncertainty of tradition, p. 131. 
A priori arguments for sufficiency of Scripture dismissed, p. 132. 
Sufficiency of Scripture cannot be proved by Scripture itself, p. 132. 
What is meant by Roman Catholic appeal to tradition, p. 133. 
Whether there can be new traditions, p. 134. The objection that the 
N.T. itself rests on the authority of tradition, p. 134. Absence of 
trustworthy traditions concerning the Apostolic age, p. 135 ; examples, 
p. 135. Why we do not use traditions independent of Scripture as 
proof of Christian Doctrine, p. 137. 


Ambiguity in the phrase 'rule of faith,' p. 139. The authority of 
the Creeds, p. 139. Ambiguity of word 'tradition,' p. 140. Bellar- 
mine's threefold division of traditions, p. 140. The use of the 
word ' tradition ' in the Thirty-nine Articles, p. 141. Tertullian's 
list of Church customs unauthorized by Scripture, p. 142. ' Tradi- 
tion,' as signifying the ' res tradita ' and the ' modus tradendi,' 
p. 142. Proof by tradition that the Scriptures are a full and perfect 
rule of faith, p. 143. St. Basil, p. 143. St. Cyprian, p. 144. The 
controversy about heretical baptism, p. 145. St. Augustine, p. 146. 
St. Jerome, p. 147. Tertullian's treatise on Prescription, pp. 147-151. 
Tradition and the Gnostics, p. 148. The argument from the unity of 
different Churches loses its foree in the hands of Roman Catholics, 
p. 151. 




The claims of tradition to interpret Scripture may be used so as to 
supersede Scripture, p. 153. Newman's attempt to reconcile the 
Sixth Article with Roman teaching, p. 153. The doctrine and 
practice of Athanasius, p. 154. The use of tradition in excluding 
new-fangled interpretations, p. 155 ; for instance, of the text ' Thou 
art Peter,' p. 155. Use of tradition in matters of ritual, p. 156. 
Washing of feet, p. 156. Baptism by affusion, Extreme Unction, 
p. 157. Use of tradition in proof of abstract doctrine, p. 158. 
Patristical Messianic interpretations, St. Barnabas, p. 159. Cardinal 
Newman's examples, p. 160. General principle of early Patristical 
interpretation of O.T., p. 160; Patristical interpretation and the 
Blessed Virgin, p. 161. 

The two great schools of interpretation, p. 162. Allegorical inter- 
pretation of the Alexandrian school, p. 163 ; its spread to the West, 
p. 163. The method used in answering heathen objections, p. 165. 
The Syrian school its founders, p. 166. Origen's three senses of 
Scripture, p. 167. The mediaeval division, p. 167. Dangers of the 
allegorical method, p. 168. 




The existence somewhere of an infallible guide usually taken for 
granted by Romanists without proof, p. 170. The notes of the 
Church, p. 170. Timidity of the Church of Rome in exercising her 
supposed gift of infallibility, p. 172. Seymour's Mornings with the 
Jesuits, p. 173. Has the Church of Rome formally claimed infalli- 
bility, p. 173. The lateness of the claim disproves its validity, 
p. 175. Disputes as to the organ of infallibility, p. 175. Ambiguity 
of word 'authority,' p. 177. The interference of the one kind of 
authority always welcomed, that of the other deprecated, p. 177. 
The history of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, p. 179. 
Sixtus IV. ; the Council of Trent, p. 180. Bishop Milner's view, 
p. 182. Pius IX., p. 183. The controversy about opportunism, 
p. 183. The congregations de auxiliis, p. 184. Bellarmine's share in 
the controversy, p. 185. Fear of secession shows want of faith in 
Roman claims, p. 186. 





Roman teaching has a double face, p. 187 : (1) No authorized 
commentary on Scripture, p. 188 ; Macnamara's Bible and the 
Rhemish notes, p. 188 ; the Romish doctrine concerning the punish- 
ment of heretics, p. 190. Why heretics, who did not recant, were 
burnt alive, p. 191. Leo X. on the burning of heretics, p. 191. 
(2) Catechisms not secured from error, p. 191 ; (3) nor is the teaching 
of ordinary priests, p. 193 ; nor even of canonized saints ; Liguori, 
p. 194, his Mariolatry ; his moral theology, p. 194; Newman's 
defence, p. 195. (4) No guarantee of the truth of the miracles 
related in the Breviary or in Bulls of canonization, p. 196 ; the holy 
house at Loretto, p. 196. (5) Alleged divine revelations : their 
truth not guaranteed, p. 197; St. Philumena, p. 198. 



Popular Romanism and the Romanism of Trent, p. 200. The idea 
of Pusey's Eirenicon, p. 201 ; the former has better claims than the 
latter to represent the true teaching of the Church, p. 202. The two 
forms of Romanism rest on different rules of faith, p. 203. Imagined 
recipients of Divine revelations, p. 203 ; their acceptance by Roman 
Catholics, p. 204. Revelations about Purgatory : Faber, Louvet, 
p. 205. The Dialogues of Gregory the Great, p. 206. The map of 
Purgatory, p. 207 ; the ordinary time of stay in Purgatory, p. 209. 
Atrocity of the sufferings there, p. 210. St. Patrick's Purgatory, 
p. 211. Silence of the infallible guide as to the truth of these 
stories, 213. Growth of belief in the Roman Church, p. 213 ; the 
Pope's neglect to direct that growth, p. 214. Father Ryder's reply, 
p. 215. The Montanists and private revelations, p. 215 ; such 
revelations encroach on the supreme authority of Scripture, p. 216. 
The miracle of La Salette, p. 218. No real faith in easy acceptance 
of alleged revelations, p. 219. The miracle of Lourdes, p. 220. 
Pilgrimages made easy, p. 220. The Pope's infallibility does not 
extend to matters of fact, p. 221. Use made of this principle in 
the Jansenist controversy, p. 221. Mo'dern miracles the foundation 
of doctrines, p. 222. Marguerite Marie Alacoque; the devotion to 
the Sacred Heart, p. 223. 




Biblical criticism, pp. 225-228. The edition of the Vulgate prepared 
by Sixtus V., p. 225. Bellarmine's way of accounting for its errors, 
p. 227. The Clementine edition, p. 228. 

The case of Galileo, pp. 228-252. Galileo's discoveries, p. 230 ; his 
views as to the interpretation of Scripture, p. 231 ; in expressing 
these views he did not travel out of his province, p. 232. How 
earlier Copernicans had avoided collision with the Church, p. 233. 
How Galileo escaped condemnation in 1616, p. 235. The report of 
the ' qualifiers ' in Galileo's case, p. 235. The decree of the Congre- 
gation of the Index, p. 236. Prohibitory and expurgatory indexes, 
p. 237. The 'Jesuits' Newton,' p. 237. Roman despotism leads to 
scepticism, p. 238. Abandonment of the attempt to insist on the 
immobility of the earth, p. 238. The Abbe Cloquet and Father 
Ryder, p. 239. Galileo's Dialogue, p. 240 ; his summons before the 
Inquisition and his condemnation, p. 241 ; how treated after his 
abjuration, p. 242; can his treatment be described as lenient, p. 244; 
had he been tortured, p. 244. The apology that the scientific 
arguments used by Galileo were not conclusive, p. 246. It is not 
merely the doctrine of the Pope's personal infallibility that is 
affected by the case of Galileo, p. 247. The apology that the 
question at issue did not concern faith or morals, p. 247. How far 
the Pope was personally responsible for Galileo's condemnation, 
p. 248. Modern parallel cases, p. 249. The apology that the Pope 
exercised only his disciplinary, not his teaching power, p. 250. The 
apology that the condemnation wants the customary clause of papal 
confirmation, p. 251. Papal measures for the publication of the 
sentence on Galileo, p. 251. Mr. St. George Mivart on Galileo's case, 
pp. 253-255. 

Mr. Sydney Smith's defence of papal reticence, pp. 255-261. 
Inspiration and Assistentia, p. 256 ; excuses for reluctance to accept 
papal decisions, p. 259. 


The Gallican Theory, p. 262. Louis XIV. and his disputes with the 
Pope, p. 263. The four Gallican Propositions of 1682, p. 264. The 
Council of Constance, p. 265. Whether the French bishops were 



unanimous on this occasion, p. 265. Cause of the want of permanence 
of Gallicanism, p. 266; Gallicanism after the death of Louis XIV., 
p. 267. Causes of reaction in France in favour of Ultramontanism, 
p. 268. Prevalence until lately of Gallican principles in Ireland, 
p. 268 ; practical inutility of the Gallican rules, p. 269. The phrase 
of Vincentius Lirinensis, p. 270. ' Securus judicat orbis terrarum,' 
p. 271. The Donatists the true antitype of the Romanists, p. 272. 
Numbers no test of truth, p. 272. Christ's promises to His Church, 
p. 273. Unconscious adoption by Protestants of the principle that 
Intallibility is an essential attribute of the Church, p. 274. Causes 
tending to produce a corruption of Christian doctrine, p. 275. The 
theory of Development inconsistent with respect for the Fathers, 
p. 275 ; or with respect for Scripture, p. 276. There is a true 
development of Christian doctrine, p. 276. The doctrine of Develop- 
ment fatal to the Gallican theory, p. 277. Dr. Pusey's theory of 
infallibility and Harper's criticism on it, p. 278. Practical certainty 
can be obtained without any supposed infallible authority, p. 279. 


The claim of Councils to be regarded as the main organ of the 
Church's Infallibility is no longer upheld, p. 281. Local Councils, 
the need for them, p. 282. The Quartodeciman controversy, 
p. 283. The services rendered by Councils may be acknowledged 
without overlooking their imperfections, p. 284. In what consists 
the real value of their decisions, p. 286. The badness of the 
arguments used at Councils, p. 287. The dictum of St. Francis de 
Sales, p. 287. Constantine's attempt to silence the Arian disputes, 
p. 287. The idea of the infallibility of the Roman bishop could not 
then have arisen, p. 288. Councils unnecessary if the Pope be 
infallible, p. 289. The Nicene Council, p. 289. Scantiness of 
original materials of knowledge of its proceedings, p. 290. Athanasius, 
p. 291. The term ' Homoousios,' p. 292; objections to its introduc- 
tion, p. 292. Proofs of the veneration in which the decrees of the 
General Councils have been held, p. 293 ; yet they did not possess 
this authority from the first, p. 294; it was no point of faith to 
receive them as infallible, p. 295. What reception is given to 
Councils by our Church, p. 295. What General Councils acknow- 
ledged by the Church of England, p. 295. The Council of Con- 
stantinople, pp. 296-301. Gregory Nazianzen, p. 297. The schism 
at Antioch; Meletius, p. 297. Gregory's treatment by the Council, 
p. 298 ; his resentment, p. 299. 




The decision of the Nicene Council not regarded as final, p. 302 ; the 
third and fourth General Councils, p. 303. Cyril of Alexandria, 
pp. 304-309. Newman's defence of Cyril's character, p. 307. The 
unfairness of the proceedings at Ephesus, p. 309. By what kind of 
majority must the acts of a Council be carried, p. 310. How 
unanimity is at present obtained, p. 311. The condemnation of 
Nestorious really obtained not at Ephesus but at Constantinople, 
p. 311; and by what means, p. 312. The presidency of Councils did 
not belong to the Roman representative, p. 312. Opposite parties 
victorious at third and at fourth Council, p. 313. Theological 
violence at Alexandria, p. 313. The Robber Synod, p. 315. 
Acclamations at Councils, p. 316. Disorder at Council of Trent, 
p. 318. The ill success of Chalcedon, p. 319. Badness of arguments 
used at Councils, p. 319. The second Council of Nicaea, p. 320. The 
Council of Constance, p. 321. The Council of Florence, p. 322. 
The Vatican Council, p. 323 ; the unfairness of the representation 
there, p. 323 ; and of the manner of conducting business, p. 324. 
How a vote was arrived at, p. 327. How the chance of arriving at 
truth is prejudiced by the claim to infallibility, p. 327. 


The theory which makes the Pope the organ of Infallibility is that 
which the a priori arguments require, p. 329. This theory, however, 
condemned by its novelty, p. 330. To establish the Pope's supremacy 
would not be enough to prove his infallibility, p. 330. 

The Scripture Argument : Four things to be proved, p. 331. 
Romanists dispense with proof of two of them, p. 332. The three 
texts, p. 332. General presumption against the Roman Catholic 
theory, p. 332. No hint in the New Testament that Peter was to 
have a successor, p. 333. 

The text from St. Matthew, Dr. Murray's exposition of, p. 333 ; 
disagreement of the Fathers about this text, p. 334. Launoy : 
Maldonatus, p. 335. St. Augustine's exposition, p. 335. The mere 
fact of diversity of interpretation is decisive against the Romanist 
theory, p. 337. Whether the same metaphor may be used with 
different applications, p. 338. To interpret the ' Rock ' of St. Peter, 



need not conflict with the general doctrine of Scripture, p. 338. 
This interpretation required by the context, p. 339. Consideration 
of the occasion on which the words were spoken, p. 339. In what 
sense the Church was founded on Peter, p. 341. 

The text from St. Luke, p. 342. The words personal to St. Peter, 
p. 343; and conferred on him no exclusive privilege, p. 343. Paul 
unconscious of Peter's privileges, p. 343. St. Chrysostom's com- 
mentary, p. 344. 

The text in St. John, p. 345. This also conferred no exclusive 
privilege, p. 341. How the passage is explained by Cyril of 
Alexandria, p. 341. The Clementines make James, not Peter, the 
head of the Church, p. 346. 



Traditional account of Peter's Episcopate, p. 347. Peter not at 
Rome during any of the time on which the Canonical Scriptures 
throw much light, p. 347. Whether Peter was ever at Rome, p. 348. 
The ' immortal discussion at Rome,' p. 348. Reasons for believing 
in Peter's Roman martyrdom, p. 349. Peter the first absentee 
bishop, p. 350 ; and the first to give up a poorer see for a richer, 
p. 350. The story of the Antiochene Episcopate, p. 351. The 
Roman Episcopate, p. 352. The account of Irenseus, p. 352. Cardinal 
Wiseman, p. 353. The Gospel preached at Rome before the arrival 
of any Apostle, p. 354. Dollinger on the origin of Episcopacy, 
p. 356. How he explains away the story of Peter's twenty-five 
yea'rs' Episcopate, p. 357. The list of Hegesippus, p. 358. The list 
of Epiphanius, p. 359. Reasons for thinking that Epiphanius used 
Hegesippus, p. 359. The real inventor of the story of Peter's Roman 
Episcopate, p. 360. Consequent perplexity of the chronology, p. 361. 
The true order of the first three bishops, p. 361. Inconvenience of 
too early a date for the commencement of the Roman Episcopate, 
p. 362. The chronology of Hippolytus, p. 363. Paul as much 
bishop of Rome as St. Peter, p. 363. Whether one Church could 
have two bishops at the same time, p. 365. How Epiphanius was 
led to his peculiar notions on this subject, p. 365. 


The historical test of interpretations of Scripture, p. 366. The 
oath taken by Roman Catholic bishops, p. 367. Newman abandons 
tradition as a basis for the doctrine of Papal Supremacy, p. 367. 

xxviii CONTENTS. 


The basis of Development is insufficient, p. 368. Natural causes of 
Roman primacy, p. 370. Connexion between the ecclesiastical and 
the civil precedence of cities, p. 371. The claims of Jerusalem, 
p. 372. The munificence of the Roman Church, p. 374. The 
weakness of Constantinople in historical associations, p. 375. The 
Epistle of Clement of Rome, p. 377 ; this letter contains no attempt 
to domineer over provincial Churches, p. 379. The primacy resided, 
not in the bishop, but in the Church of Rome, p. 379. The Ignatian 
Epistles, p. 380. The testimony of Irenaeus, p. 381. Victor and 
the Quartodecimans, p. 383. The Quartodeciman usage, why disliked 
in the West, p. 383. What was- meant by excommunication in the 
second century, p. 385. Victor's failure a disproof of Roman 
supremacy, p. 386. The Montanist controversy, p. 387. Tertullian's 
resistance to the absolutions given by the Roman bishop, p. 388. 
Hippolytus and Callistus, pp. 389-394. 


The difficulty at times of ascertaining who the Bishop of Rome was, 
p. 395. The great Western schism, pp. 395-400. The appointment 
of the Roman bishop regarded as a matter of mere local concern, 
p. 401. The necessity of discriminating authorities geographically, 
p. 402. The notion of Roman superiority took its origin from Rome, 
and is found nowhere except as propagated from Rome, 
p. 403. The cause of Rome helped by Eastern divisions, p. 404. 
What bishop of Rome first claimed privileges as Peter's successor, 
p. 405. Firmilian and Stephen, p. 406. Cyprian's earlier refusal to 
accept Stephen's authority, p. 407. The Donatist Controversy, 
p. 409. The Council of Sardica, p. 411. The Semi-Arian Council 
of Antioch, p. 413. The case of Apiarius, p. 414. Apology for the 
Roman misquotation, p. 415. The Pope's liability to error with 
regard to matters of fact, p. 415. The Jansenist controversy, p. 416. 
Western interference resisted at the time of the second General 
Council, p. 418. St. Jerome and the claims of Rome, p. 419. The 
Nicene sixth Canon, p. 420. The Roman Patriarchate, p. 421. The 
Council of Constantinople, p. 421. The Council of Chalcedon, 
p. 422. The title of Universal Bishop, p. 423. 



The claim to infallibility, how suggested, p. 424. The fall of 
Liberius, pp. 425-429. Felix II., p. 429. Zosimus and the Pelagian 
controversy, p. 430. Leo and the Eutychian controversy, p. 431. 
Vigilius and the fifth Council, p. 432. The case of Honorius, 



pp. 433-442. When the Pope speaks ex cathedra, pp. 434-438. 
' Obiter dicta ' : Pope Nicolas I. and the Bulgarians, p. 436. The 
condition approved by the Vatican Council, p. 437; Eugenius IV. 
and his instruction to the Armenians, p. 438. The Monothelite 
heresy, p. 440. If the Pope be infallible, he is still not an infallible 
guide, p. 442. 



The maximizers and the minimizers, p. 443. How to sum up the 
Roman Catholic doctrine about Papal Infallibility, p. 444. The 
Encyclical ' Quanta cura ' and the Syllabus, pp. 444-447. The 
Roman claims have taken their growth out of two forgeries, p. 448. 

The Decretal Epistles, pp. 448-454. It was natural that Western 
bishops should seek advice from Rome, p. 448. The earliest 
genuine Decretal Epistle, p. 449. The use made of the forged 
decretals by Pope Nicolas I., p. 449; and by Gregory VII., p. 450. 
The evidence of the spuriousness of the forged decretals, p. 452. 
The time and probable place of the forgery, p. 452. The excuse that 
this forgery did not originate at Rome, p. 454. Other Roman 
forgeries, p, 455. 

Modern defence of the exercise of the deposing power by the 
mediaeval Popes, pp. 456-460 ; this defence puts the papal claim on 
different grounds from that on which the Pope himself rested it, 
p. 460. The deposition of the Emperor Henry by Gregory VII., 
p. 460. Innocent III. on the papal power, p. 461. Boniface VIII. 
and the Bull ' Unam Sanctam/ p. 462. The claim to the deposing 
power a stumbling-block in the way of any theory of Infallibility, 
p. 463. The Pope's temporal power shown by Bellarmine to result 
necessarily when his infallibility is admitted, p. 464 ; the doctrine 
of Infallibility thus brought to an experimental test, p. 465. 
Manning's apology for the case of King John, p. 467. The Popes 
as temporal princes, p. 468 ; how they acquired their Italian States, 
p. 469 ; how they governed them, p. 471. Conclusion of the 
argument, pp. 471-473. 



Constitutio Dogmatica de Fide Catholica, cc. i.-iv., 474. Canones, 

i. -iv., 484. Constitutio Dogmatica Prima de Ecclesia Christi, 
cc. i. -vi., 483. Suspensio Concilii, 488. 

INDEX - - 489 




WHEN I attended the Lectures of the Regius Professor 
of Divinity, now more than forty years ago, the pre- 
scribed division of his year's work was, that in one Term he 
gave a course of lectures on the Bible; in another, on the 
Articles ; in the third, on the Liturgy. When I succeeded to 
the Chair myself, I found that, for several years previously, 
the subject of this Term's lectures, as set down in the Uni- 
versity Calendar, had been, not the Articles, but the Roman 
Catholic Controversy. It is easy to understand how the 
change took place. It was, of course, impossible in the 
lectures of one Term to treat of all the Articles; and, some 
selection being necessary, it was natural that the Professor, 
on whom the duty is imposed by statute of giving instruction 
on the controversies which our Church has to carry on with 
her adversaries, whether within or without the pale of Chris- 
tianity, should select for consideration the Articles bearing 
on the controversy which in this country is most pressing, 
and in which the members of our Church took the deepest 
interest the controversy with Rome. This limitation of my 
subject being only suggested by precedent, not imposed on 
me by authority, I was free to disregard it. As I have not 
done so, I think I ought to begin by telling you my reasons 
for agreeing with my predecessors in regarding the study of 
this controversy as profitable employment for the lectures of 
this Term, 


I readily own, indeed, that I have found, both inside and 
outside the University, that this controversy does not excite 
the same interest now that it did even a dozen years ago. 
In your voluntary Society, in which the members read theo- 
logical essays on subjects of their own selection, I notice 
that topics bearing on this controversy are now but rarely 
chosen; whereas I can remember when they predominated, 
almost to the exclusion of other subjects. There are many 
reasons for this decline of interest. 

One effect of Disestablishment, in not merely reviving the 
sy nodical action of the Church, but widely extending it, 
introducing the laity into Church councils, and entrusting 
to them a share in the determination of most important 
questions, has been to concentrate the interests of our people 
on the subjects discussed in such assemblies; and in this 
way our little disputes with each other have left us no time 
to think of the far wider differences that separate us from 
Rome on the one hand, and from various dissenting sects on 
the other. But besides this cause, special to ourselves, of 
decline of interest in the Roman Catholic controversy, there 
are others which have operated in England as well as here. 

First, I may mention a reaction against certain extreme 
anti-Romanist over-statements. It was only to be expected 
that, at the time of the Reformation, men who had with a 
violent effort wrenched themselves away from beliefs in 
which they had been brought up, and who, for the exercise 
of this freedom of thought, were being persecuted to the 
death, should think far more of their points of difference 
from their persecutors than of the points on which they 
agreed with them. A considerable section of the men who 
had witnessed the bloody scenes of Queen Mary's reign 
scarcely thought of their adversaries as worshippers of the 
same God as themselves. The form in which one of the 
opponents of Queen Elizabeth's marriage with a French 
prince put the question as to the lawfulness of marriage 
with a Roman Catholic was, whether it was lawful for a 
child of God to wed with a son of the devil. When Fox, 
the Marty rologist, has to speak of the religious services, not 
merely of the Roman Catholics of his own day, but of the 


Church in the days before any reformation had been 
attempted, he seems to regard them as fit subjects for ridicule 
and insult. It would be easy to quote specimens that would 
grate on the feelings of those of us who have least sympathy 
with Rome. When Fox has to tell of what he could well 
remember the prayers which the Romanists offered up on 
the occasion of the supposed pregnancy of Queen Mary he 
mocks them with the taunt of Elijah, ' Cry up louder, you 
priests, perad venture your god is asleep.' He does not seem 
to have reflected that the prayers in question were addressed, 
not to Baal, but to the same God whom he worshipped 

But modern conceptions of the proper attitude of mind of 
a historian require him to strive to enter impartially into the 
feelings of all his characters. We can now find apologies 
even for the magistrates who shed the blood of the first 
Christians, and whom their victims regarded in no other 
light than as the instruments of Satan. We can now recog- 
nize that many of them were grave magistrates, simply 
anxious to* do their duty in carrying out the law; some of 
them humane men, who were sincerely grieved by what they 
regarded as the unreasonable obstinacy of those who left 
them no option but to proceed to the last extremities. One 
of the most harrowing and most authentic tales now extant 
of Christian heroism and heathen cruelty relates things done 
with the express sanction of Marcus Aurelius, the man who, 
of all the heathen of whom we have knowledge, approached 
nearest to Christian excellence; nay, who surpassed many 
professors of a better creed in purity of life, in meekness, 
gentleness, unselfish anxiety at any cost to do his duty. No 
wonder, then, that we can find apologies, too, for Roman 
Catholic persecutors, and believe that many a judge who 
sent a heretic to the stake may have been a conscientious, 
good man, fulfilling what he regarded as an unpleasant duty, 
and no more a monster of inhumanity than one of the 
hanging judges of George the Third's reign, who at one 
assizes sent scores of criminals to the gallows. If we can 
judge less harshly of Roman Catholic persecutors, it is still 
easier to judge mildly of ordinary Roman Catholics. With 


some of them we may perhaps be personally acquainted, 
and may know them to be not only just and honourable in 
the ordinary affairs of life, but, according to their lights, sin- 
cerely pious, living in the devout belief of the cardinal truths 
of our faith. 

The feeling that there are many things in which we agree 
with Roman Catholics has been helped by the increased cir- 
culation among members of the Anglican Church of pre- 
Reformation, or distinctly Roman Catholic, books of devotion. 
In England especially, where Roman Catholics are few, and 
where the controversy with dissent has been the most urgent, 
members of the Established Church, besides the natural dis- 
position to indulgence towards the less formidable enemy, 
sympathize the more with those who share with them not 
only their common Christianity, but also attachment to Epis- 
copacy and to an ancient liturgy. And I must not omit to 
mention that, with regard to Eucharistic doctrine, a great 
change has taken place during the last quarter of a century 
in the feelings of the English clergy. Views are held by men 
who pass as moderate which, when I was young, a man 
would be accounted violently extreme for maintaining ; while 
the opinions put forward by men who now rank as extreme 
would, in days that I can remember, have been considered 
absolutely outside the limits imposed by our Church's teach- 
ing. Hence has naturally sprung an inclination to sympa- 
thize with those with whom unity exists on this important 
subject, to the disregard of differences perhaps in real tnith 
more vital. 

In addition to the causes I have mentioned, the struggle 
with unbelief has benefited the cause of Romanism. In the 
first place, some of the minds less docile to authority, less 
inclined to mysticism, who, had they remained among us, 
would have been ranged strongly on the anti-Romanist side, 
have been lost to Christianity altogether; and this fact has 
increased the proportion of sympathizers with Romanism 
among those who still remain. Again, there are many 
whose temptations are altogether on the side of scepticism, 
and who, feeling themselves in danger of being worsted in 
the cruel conflict with doubt, have recoiled towards Rome, 


under the idea that there they would be safer. Distressed at 
results to which free inquiry seemed to lead them, they have 
determined to attempt no more to think for themselves, but 
submit themselves resignedly to the yoke of authority; and 
where can authority be found which gives more promise of 
relieving men of the responsibility of self-direction than that 
of a Church which claims to be infallible ? In point of fact, a 
majority of the perverts which Rome has made in later years 
have been made through the road of scepticism ; and I have 
known Romish advocates unscrupulously use sceptical argu- 
ments, in order that their victims, despairing of rinding 
elsewhere a solution of their doubts, might be so glad to 
welcome a Church which offered them certainty, as to be 
disinclined to make too minute an examination of her power 
to fulfil her promises. 

Once more, the growth of scepticism has produced in 
another way disinclination to the Roman controversy. There 
are many nominal members of our Church who adhere to the 
profession of a creed which was that of their fathers, but who 
have little concern for religious truth ; who are apt to think 
that a man's religion is his own affair, with which other 
people have no business to concern themselves; and that 
whether his belief be true or false does not really much 
matter. Such persons are apt to regard any attempt to show 
that Roman teaching is false as a wanton attack on poor, 
harmless Roman Catholics, and as little different from per- 
sonal abuse of unoffending people. I fear it will be a long 
time before men are so philosophic as to understand that a 
man is not your enemy because he tries to correct errors in 
your opinions, and that the more important the subject the 
greater the service he will render you if he makes you change 
your false opinion for a true one. 

I have enumerated causes enough (and more might be 
added, if I were to speak of the influence of political changes) 
to explain the undoubted fact, that less interest is generally 
felt in the Roman Catholic controversy now than was felt 
twenty or thirty years ago. Yet I have no hesitation in 
presenting it to you as a subject, in acquiring a knowledge 
of which your time will be well spent. What use you are 


hereafter to make of your knowledge will depend upon cir- 
cumstances in which you must be guided by considerations 
of expediency. 

In different times, and in different circumstances, different 
dangers are formidable, and a man exercises a wise discre- 
tion in devoting his chief energies to combating the dangers 
which are most threatening at the time. Both in politics and 
in religion parties are apt to make the mistake of carrying on 
traditional warfare with enemies whose power has now de- 
cayed, and neglecting the silent growth of foes now far more 
formidable : in politics, for instance, delighting to weaken 
the executive government on account of instances of royal 
tyranny two hundred years ago, and taking no account of 
the opposite danger of anarchy : in religion, fearing only 
lest men should believe too much, and not noticing that in 
many places now the danger is lest they should not believe 
at all. I had occasion last Term to remark, that at different 
periods of St. Paul's life different controversies engaged him ; 
and I pointed out that to overlook this was the fundamental 
error of Baur, who denied the genuineness of all Paul's 
letters which did not give prominence to that controversy 
which is the main subject of the four letters that Baur ad- 
mitted. Thus, I can quite acknowledge that different cir- 
cumstances may make it wise to insist on different topics, 
and that it is not judicious to make the Roman controversy 
the main object at all times and in all places. But a man 
must be blind, indeed, if he imagines that there is no danger 
from Romanism. Even in England it is often formidable. 
In Ireland there is no place where it is not pressing. 

I am not in the least ashamed of the object aimed at in 
the Roman Catholic controversy. I believe that the Church 
of Rome teaches false doctrine on many points which must 
be called important, if anything in religion can be called 
important; and it is not merely that on some particular 
points the teaching of that Church is erroneous ; but they 
who submit to her are obliged to surrender their under- 
standing to her, and submit to be led blindfold they know 
not whither. I count it, then, a very good work to release a 
man from Roman bondage a release of which I think he 


will be the better, both as regards the things of eternity 
and those of time. The only question, then, that I should be 
disposed to entertain as to the expediency of direct contro- 
versy with Roman Catholics is, whether or not such contro- 
versy may be expected to eventuate in their conversion. It 
is notorious that many controversial efforts have been made 
with no other result than that of embittering those to whom 
they were addressed. We are not commanded to cast our 
pearls before animals who are likely to turn again and rend 
us ; and if the state of men's feelings is such as to indispose 
them for a candid consideration of the truths set before them, 
then prudence may forbid the attempt. Of course, what I 
am saying would apply to the use of prudence in preaching 
Christianity just as much as in preaching Protestantism. In 
either case we are blameworthy if we preach the truth to 
others in such a way as to make them less likely to accept it. 
But, fully granting all this, I hold that it is unworthy of any 
man who possesses knowledge to keep his knowledge to him- 
self, and rejoice in his own enlightenment, without making 
any effort to bring others to share in his privileges. Justly 
did the four lepers at the gate of Samaria feel their con- 
science smite them : ' We do not well ; this is a day of good 
tidings, and we hold our peace.' Had those to whom the 
light of Christianity was first given dealt so with our an- 
cestors, we should still be lying in heathen darkness. 

But, even if it should not be your duty hereafter to make 
any aggressive efforts for the dissemination of the truth, you 
may still be forced to take up the Roman Catholic contro- 
versy for the safety of the people committed to your own 
care. The most ardent admirer of peace societies may be 
forced to own that muskets and cannon have some use if an 
invasion be made on our own shores. And certainly our 
Roman Catholic countrymen have not that aversion to pro- 
selytism (at least when it is made in what they account the 
right direction) that some among ourselves recommend as a 
virtue. The poorer members of our Church especially are 
under constant pressure from the eagerness of their neigh- 
bours to win them over to the faith of ' the true Church '- 
pressure which it would often much advance their worldly 


interests to give way to. Why should they not give way, if 
you, who are their spiritual guides, can give them no reason 
for refusing to submit to the Roman claims ? 

And setting aside the consideration of our duty to others, 
our duty to ourselves requires us not to shrink from a full 
and candid examination of the validity of the Roman claims. 
Can we believe in our Lord's Divinity believe that He 
founded a Church, and not care to inquire whether or not it 
is true that He appointed a vicegerent upon earth to govern 
that Church, from whom His people are bound submissively 
to learn the truths of His religion, and apart from whom 
there can be no salvation? Again, if anyone acknowledges 
that Christ intended His people to be one, and that anyone 
commits a sin who makes causeless schisms and divisions in 
His body, he cannot justify his remaining separated in com- 
munion from the large numerical majority of the Christians 
of this country, if he thinks that his differences with them all 
relate to subordinate and trifling matters. For a man to say 
that he feels no interest in the Roman Catholic controversy, 
is to say that he thinks some of the most important religious 
questions that can be raised quite undeserving his attention ; 
that he does not care to know what are the conditions which 
Christ has appointed for his salvation, and whether union 
with the Church of Rome be not one of them. I am per- 
suaded that, if Romanism were true, it would be more 
tolerable in the Day of Judgment for a Protestant like 
myself, who has done his best to examine into the subject, 
and, however mistakenly, yet honestly, arrived at the convic- 
tion that the claims of Rome are unfounded, than for one 
who conceives himself entitled to indulge an eclectic sym- 
pathy with everything Roman that he, in his wisdom, may 
be pleased to call Catholic, but who disdains to inquire into 
the truth of other points of Roman teaching, and makes him- 
self sure that he must be equally acceptable to God whether 
he be in the true Church or not. 

I have just called myself a Protestant; and, in saying 
this, I use the word in its popular sense, in which it is 
equivalent to non-Romanist. It is true that there are non- 
Romanists for example, members of the Greek Church 


to whom this name is not commonly applied; but this is 
because we come so little in contact with Eastern Christians, 
that popular usage takes no account of them. I am aware 
that there are several who dislike to be called Protestant, 
because the title is one which can be equally claimed by men 
differing widely in opinion, and with some of whom we have 
little in common but opposition to Rome. But a man must be 
a poor logician if he does not know that objects may agree in 
a common attribute, and with respect to that attribute may 
be called by a common name, though differing widely in 
other points. The controversy with Rome is so important, 
that it is highly convenient to have a word expressing what 
side a man takes on it : that is to say, whether he accepts or 
rejects the Roman claims. Indeed, in these lectures, it is 
impossible for me to dispense with the use of some word of 
the kind. Finding the word Protestant* in common use for 
this purpose, I do not trouble myself to look for any other, 
but frankly describe myself as a Protestant. And if a con- 
troversial attempt is made to hold me responsible for the 
opinions of everyone else described under the same name, I 
do not expect to be more embarrassed than were the men of 
the early Church when their heathen opponents attempted 
to hold them responsible for the opinions and practices of 
heretics who had in common with them the title of Christian. 

* I consider that we are not concerned with the history of the word, 
which in its origin had nothing to do with protesting against the 
errors of Popery, but with protesting against the decrees of a Diet of 
the German Empire, viz. that of Spires,, in 1529^. At that Diet the liberty 
was taken away from the sovereign princes of the German Empire of 
regulating religious affairs each in his own territory, according to his 
discretion. Against that decree of the majority certain princes pro- 
jEested, and appealed to the Emperor,, on the ground that the decree 
was ultra vires, for that a majority of votes in the Diet could regulate 
a secular question, but not a spiritual or religious one. But the decree 
being made in the interests of those who wished to keep everything as 
it had been, and the protest against it by those who were desirous of 
reformation, it naturally happened that the party of the protestant 
princes and that of the Reformation should be synonymous. The 
word, however, has now come into popular use as denoting the non- 
Romanist members of the Western Church ; arid this use of the word 
is too convenient to be let drop. We are no more concerned with the 
history of its origin than we are with the Athenian laws about the 
exportation of figs when we use the word ' sycophant.' 


By a Protestant, then, as 1 use the word, 1 mean one 
who has examined into the Roman claims, and has found 
reason to think them groundless ; one who knows that there 
are not only great and precious truths on which we agree 
with the Church of Rome, but also points of difference so 
grave and fundamental as to justify our remaining in separate 
communion. If the Church of England or of Ireland be not, 
in this sense of the word, Protestant, her position cannot be 
defended at all. For her justification it is necessary to show 
not only that she is not bound to render any obedience to 
the Church of Rome, but also that the things demanded by 
that Church as conditions of union go beyond what one 
Church is bound to yield to another for the sake of godly 
union and concord among Christians, members of that one 
great Church of Christ, whose influence and extension 
through the world have notoriously been sadly impeded by 
internal dissensions and schisms. 

Thus, from a Roman Catholic point of view, the more our 
Church purged herself from the sin of heresy, the greater 
would be the guilt of her schism; for the smaller the doc^ 
trinal differences, the less justifiable pretext there would be 
for separation. And I think a Roman Catholic must hold 
that the more a member of our Church approximates to the 
doctrine of Rome, the worse he makes his spiritual condition, 
if that approximation does not bring him to the bosom of 
the true Church. For such a man can no longer plead the 
excuse which an ultra-Protestant might urge, invincible igno- 
rance incapacitating him for receiving the Church's teaching, 
which, in his sincere belief, is deeply tainted with peril of 
idolatry.* I need say no more, then, to convince you that 
our time this Term will not be ill spent in studying this 
controversy, inasmuch as on the successful maintenance of 

*See Newman's Anglican Difficulties Lecture XI., where, having 
enlarged on the reasons which may excuse the unbelief of other 
persons outside the fold of his Church, he goes on to say that there is 
but one set of persons who inspire the Catholic with special anxiety, 
for whom he must feel the most intense interest, but about whom the 
gravest apprehensions, viz. those who have some rays of light vouch- 
safed them as to their heresy and as to their schism, and who seem 
to be closing their eyes upon it. 


it by our Church depends her right to be accounted part of 
the true Church of Christ, and since a wrong decision on it, 
it is alleged, hazards our eternal salvation. 

Possibly there may be some here who have not needed 
argument to convince them of the importance of the contro- 
versy which I propose to discuss with you, but who may be 
disposed to imagine that no laborious study of it can be 
necessary. It is always irksome to be offered proof of what 
it has never occurred to us to doubt. The first impression of 
one who has been brought up from childhood to know and 
value his Bible is, that there is no room for discussion as to 
the truth of the Roman Catholic doctrines, and that a few 
Scripture texts make amend of the whole controversy. He 
cannot conceive what ingenuity can reconcile prayers in an 
unknown tongue with the fourteenth chapter of the First 
Epistle to the Corinthians ; or the worship of the Virgin Mary , 
with the text, ' There is one God, and one mediator between 
<kxl and men, the man Christ Jesus.' And assuredly, if we 
(Icsire to preserve our people from defection to Romanism, 
there is no better safeguard than familiarity with Holy 
Scripture. For example, the mere study of the character of 
our Blessed Lord, as recorded in the Gospel, is enough to 
dissipate the idea that there can be others more loving and 
compassionate, or more ready to hear our prayers, than He. 
And the whole mental attitude of one who comes direct to 
the Bible for guidance, praying that God's Holy Spirit will 
enable him to understand it, is opposed to the Romish 
system, which renders difficult all real direct access between 
the soul and God, through the interposition of countless 
mediators both in interpreting God's will to us and in 
making known our desires to Him. Thus, believing as I 
do that the Bible, not merely in single texts, but in its whole 
spirit, is antagonistic to the Romish system, I feel that it 
would be time ill spent if I were to spend much, in these 
lectures, on the development of the argument from Scrip- 
ture. I should be well pleased if our adversaries were 
content to fight the battle on that ground ; but the dis- 
couragement which the Church of Rome has always offered 
to the study of the Bible by her people affords a presumption 


that she is against the Scriptures, because she feels the Scrip- 
tures are against her. 

But you would be greatly disappointed if you entered into 
controversial discussion with a Roman Catholic, expecting 
that by a few texts you could make an end of the whole 
matter. No one is much influenced by an authority with 
which he is not familiar. Roman Catholics generally are 
not familiar with the Bible; and if they hear passages 
quoted from it in apparent contradiction with the doctrines 
in which they have been brought up, they are satisfied to 
believe, in a general way, that you must be quoting unfairly, 
and that the contradiction can only be apparent. With the 
Roman Catholic the authority of the Bible rests on the 
authority of the Church, and he receives with equal reve- 
rence and affection whatever else is communicated to him 
on the same authority. In arguing with a Protestant, he 
challenges him to say on what grounds he can justify his 
submission to the Bible if the authority of his Church be set 
aside; and he is quite ready to assail with infidel arguments 
the independent authority of the Bible. For Rome's maxim 
has been, 'All or none ' ; and, like the false mother before 
King Solomon, she has been ready to slay the souls whom 
she is unable to keep. Thus the inexperienced Protestant, 
engaging in this discussion, is likely to find the arguments 
on which he had placed most confidence set aside altogether, 
or the texts which had seemed to him conclusive disposed of 
by evasions quite new to him ; while, on the other hand, he 
is plied with citations from ancient Fathers, purporting to 
show that his interpretations of Scripture are modern, and 
opposed to the judgment of all antiquity. Thus it frequently 
happens that an attack, begun with all the confidence of 
victory, ends in disappointment, and there is danger lest the 
disorder of failure should degenerate into total rout. 

What I am insisting on, then, is that, in this controversy, 
it would be a fatal error to despise your antagonists. Very 
often has it happened that untrained bands, full of high 
spirits, and confident in the goodness of their cause, have 
found that their undisciplined courage was no match for the 
vSuperior science of their opponents, or have advanced into 


false positions, whence no courage could avail to extricate 
them. And so, unwary controversialists are apt to damage 
their cause by over-statements, to rest the success of their 
cause on the truth of assertions which cannot be proved, or 
on the validity of general principles which can be shown by 
cases of manifest exception not to be universally true. Now, 
the effect of a bad argument is always to damage the party 
who brings it forward; for, when that is refuted, it is not 
merely that the argument goes for nothing, but there is pro- 
duced a general distrust in the other arguments which are 
brought forward on the same side. If a book were written 
containing a hundred reasons for not admitting the claims of 
the Roman Church, and if ninety of them were thoroughly 
conclusive, a Roman Catholic advocate who could show that 
the other ten were weak, would be regarded by his own party 
as having given a triumphant reply, and as having entirely 
demolished his opponent's case. And I believe that many a 
perversion to Romanism has resulted from the discovery by 
a member of our Church that some of the arguments on 
which he had been accustomed to rely were bad, and from 
his then rashly jumping to the conclusion that no better 
arguments were to be had. 

For these reasons, if it should ever be your lot hereafter to 
engage in controversy, it will be essential to your success 
that you should have learned beforehand the strongest case 
that can be made by your opponents, in order that you may 
not be taken by surprise by anything likely to be advanced 
in the course of the discussion. You must be careful, also, to 
distinguish the authorized teaching of the Roman Catholic 
Church from the unguarded statements of particular divines, 
and not to charge the system as a whole with any con- 
sequences which Roman Catholics themselves repudiate. 
And, generally, you must beware of bad arguments, the 
fallacy of which, sooner or later, is sure to be exposed, when, 
like a gun bursting in the hand, they disable him who uses 
them. But there is a better reason for taking this course 
than that it is the more prudent one. Our object is not vic- 
tory, but truth; for the subject is one of such importance, 
that a victory gained at the expense of truth would be one in 


which we should ourselves be the chief sufferers left blindly 
to wander from the truth, wilfully rejecting guidance which 
had been offered to us. 

With regard to myself, I feel that the strength of my con- 
viction of the baselessness of the case made by the Romish 
advocates removes any temptation to be niggardly in making 
any acknowledgment they can at all fairly claim. If you play 
chess with one to whom you know you can give the odds of 
a queen, you are not very solicitous to play the strict game. 
You allow your antagonist to take back moves if he will, and 
you are not much distressed in mind should he succeed in 
making some unimportant capture on which he has set his 
heart. I know that it is impossible to prove that the Pope 
can never go wrong, and quite possible to prove that in many 
cases he has gone wrong, and very seriously wrong; so it 
costs my liberality absolutely nothing to acknowledge that 
on many occasions he has gone right. If the dispute is con- 
cerning some Roman Catholic doctrine which I know to be 
no part of primitive Christianity, it costs me no effort of 
candour if I see reason to acknowledge that the date of its 
introduction was a century earlier than some Protestant 
controversialists had asserted. 

On the other hand, the strength of my convictions may 
operate disadvantageously by rendering me unable to see 
any force in some Romish arguments, which, to other minds, 
seem very effective. When I take up some popular Roman 
Catholic books of controversy, although I am told they have 
been used with success in making perversions from our 
Church, they appear to me so feeble, that I feel little inclina- 
tion to take the trouble of answering them. 

But I own that, if it were not that the office which I hold 
imposes on me the disagreeable necessity, controversy is not 
to my taste, and I engage in it reluctantly. I read the writ- 
ings of the Christian Fathers with a purely historical object, 
anxious to know how the men of former days believed and 
taught, and quite prepared to find that on many points their 
way of looking at things is not the same as mine. I take up 
then books of controversy, and both on one side and on the 
other I find that those who originally made extracts from the 


writings of the Fathers were more anxious to pick out some 
sentence in apparent contradiction with the views of their 
opponents, than to weigh dispassionately whether the question 
at issue in the modern controversy were at all present to the 
mind of the author whom they quote, or to search whether 
elsewhere in his writings passages might not be found bearing 
a different aspect. The extracts thus picked out are copied, 
without verification, by one writer after another, so that, to 
one familiar with the controversy, books on it are apt to seem 
monotonous. And it constantly happens that at the present 
day controversial writers continue to employ quotations from 
writings once supposed to be genuine, but which all learned 
critics now know to be spurious. I feel little inclination to 
enter into a detailed exposure of errors of this kind. I have 
said already that, to an unlearned Christian, familiarity with 
the Bible affords the best safeguard against Romanism, and 
I will add now that a learned Christian, who makes himself 
familiar, by uncontroversial reading, with the thoughts of the 
men of the ancient Church, finds that he is breathing a dif- 
ferent atmosphere from that of modern Romanism, and that 
he cannot accept many things now propounded as articles of 
faith, unless he is prepared to say that on many important 
questions we are wiser than the Fathers. That is what 
Roman Catholic advocates now actually say : but then they 
have no right to quarrel with Protestants who say the same. 
In one respect I have an advantage in addressing an 
audience all of one way of thinking, that I am not bound to 
measure my words through fear of giving offence, and that 
when I think opinions false and absurd, I can plainly say so. 
Yet I should be sorry so to use this liberty of mine that my 
example should mislead you afterwards. In every controversy 
the Christian teacher should put away all bitterness, ' in 
meekness instructing those that oppose themselves.' In this 
controversy we have to deal with those whose feelings of 
piety and reverence have in part fastened themselves on un- 
worthy objects ; and it requires a skilful hand gently to dis- 
engage these feelings, and give them a better training not 
tear them up and kill them. We assail credulity, not faith; 
and we cannot use the weapons of those who deny the 


supernatural, and refuse to lift their thoughts above material 

Your future success in controversy, should it be your lot to 
engage in it, may depend much on the strength of your faith 
in truths not controverted. For no one is much influenced 
by those with whom he has no sympathies; and your influ- 
ence on those whom you would most wish to gain, and whom 
there is most hope of gaining those, I mean, who truly love 
our Lord, and whose will to do His will has the promise of 
being blessed by the guidance of His Spirit into truth- 
must depend on yourselves being animated by the same 
love, and seeking for the guidance of the same Spirit. 

In the interests, then, of controversy itself, I might give 
the concluding caution, which I should in any case have 
added for the sake of your own spiritual health, namely, that 
you should not allow the pleasure which intellectual combat 
has for many minds to detain you too long in the thorny 
paths of controversy, and out of those pastures where your 
soul must find its nourishment. ' I love not,' says Taylor, 
' to be one of the disputers of this world. For I suppose skill 
in controversies to be the worst part of learning, and time is 
the worst spent in them, and men the least benefited by 
them.' When we must engage in controversy, it is not that 
we love contention, but that we love the truth which is at 
stake. Seek, then, in study of the Scriptures to know the 
truth, and pray that God will inspire you with a sincere love 
of it of the whole truth, and not merely of that portion of 
it which it may be your duty to defend and ask Him also 
to inspire you with a sincere love of your brethren : so that 
the end of all your controversy may be, not the display of 
your own skill in arguing, not the obtaining of victory for 
yourself or for your party, but the mutual edification of all 
who take part in it, and their growth in likeness to Christ. 



YOU will easily understand that it would be absolutely 
impossible for rne, in the course of these lectures, to 
go through all the details of the Roman Catholic controversy. 
You have in your hands text-books which will give you 
information on all the most important points. But the 
truth is, that the issues of the controversy mainly turn on 
one great question, which is the only one that I expect to be 
able to discuss with you I mean the question of the Infalli- 
bility of the Church. If that be decided against us, our 
whole case is gone, and victories on the details of the 
controversy would profit us as little as, to use a favourite 
illustration of Archbishop Whately's, it profits a chess-player 
to win some pieces and pawns if he gets his king check- 
mated. In fact, suppose we make what seems to ourselves 
a quite convincing proof that some doctrine of the Roman 
Church is not contained in Scripture, what does that avail if 
we are forced to own that that Church has access to other 
sources of information besides Scripture as to the doctrine 
taught by our Lord and His Apostles ? Suppose we even 
consider that we have proved a Roman doctrine to be 
contrary to Scripture, what does that avail if we are com- 
pelled to acknowledge that we are quite incompetent to 
decide what is Scripture or what is the meaning of it, and 
if it belongs to the Church of Rome alone to give us the 
book and to teach us its true interpretation? In like 
"manner, if our study of history should lead us to the conclu- 
sion that the teaching of the present Church is at variance 


with the teaching of the Church of former clays, we are forced 
to surrender this ill-grounded suspicion of ours if we are made 
to believe that the Church cannot err, and, as a necessary 
consequence, that her teaching must be at all times the same. 
One can scarcely open any book that attempts to deal 
with controversy by such a Roman Catholic as, for instance, 
Cardinal Manning, without being forced to observe how his 
faith in the infallibility of the present Church makes him 
impenetrable to all arguments. Suppose, for example, the 
question in dispute is the Pope's personal infallibility, and 
that you object to him the case of Honorius : he replies, At 
most you could make out that it is doubtful whether Honorius 
was orthodox; but it is certain that a Pope could not be a 
heretic. Well, you reply, at least the case of Honorius shows 
that the Church of the time supposed that a Pope could be a 
heretic. Not so, he answers, for the Church now holds that 
a Pope speaking ex cathedra cannot err, and the Church 
could not have taught differently at any other time. 

Thus, as long as anyone really believes in the infallibility 

of his Church, he is proof against any argument you can ply 

him with. Conversely, when faith in this principle is shaken, 

belief in some other Roman Catholic doctrine is sure also to 

be disturbed ; for there are some of these doctrines in respect 

of which nothing but a very strong belief that the Roman 

Church cannot decide wrongly will prevent a candid inquirer 

from coming to the conclusion that she has decided wrongly. 

This simplication, then, of the controversy realizes for us 

the wish of the Roman tyrant that all his enemies had but one 

neck. If we can but strike one blow, the whole battle is won. 

If the vital importance of this question of Infallibility had 

not been sufficiently evident from a priori considerations, I 

should have been convinced of it from the history of the 

Roman Catholic controversy as it has been conducted in my 

own lifetime. When I first came to an age to take lively 

interest in the subject, Dr. Newman and his coadjutors were 

j publishing, in the Tracts for the Times, excellent refutations 

I of the Roman doctrine on Purgatory and on some other impor- 

':tant points. A very few years afterwards, without making 

| the mallest attempt to answer their own arguments, these 


men went over to Rome, and bound themselves to believe 
and teach as true things which they had themselves proved 
to be false. The accounts which those who went over in 
that movement gave of their reasons for the change show 
surprising indifference to the ordinary topics of the contro- 
versy, and in some cases leave us only obscurely to discern 
why they went at all. It was natural that many who wit- 
nessed the sudden collapse of the resistance which had been 
offered to Roman Catholic teaching should conclude that it 
had been a sham fight all along; but this was unjust. It 
rather resembled what not unfrequently occurs in the annals 
of warfare when, after entrenchments have been long and 
obstinately assaulted without success, some great general 
has taken up a position which has caused them to be 
evacuated without a struggle. 

While the writers of the Tracts were assailing with success 
different points of Roman teaching, they allowed themselves 
to be persuaded that Christ must have provided His people 
with some infallible guide to truth; and they accepted the 
Church of Rome as that guide, with scarcely an attempt to 
make a careful scrutiny of the grounds of her pretensions, 
and merely because, if she were not that guide, they knew 
not where else to find it. Thus, when they were beaten on 
the one question of Infallibility, their victories on other 
points availed them nothing. 

Perhaps those who then submitted to the Church of Rome 
scarcely realized all that was meant in their profession of 
faith in their new guide. They may have thought it meant 
no more than belief that everything the Church of Rome 
then taught was infallibly true. Events soon taught them 
that it meant besides that they must believe everything that 
that Church might afterwards teach ; and her subsequent 
teaching put so great a strain on the faith of the new con- 
verts, that in a few cases it was more than it could bear. 

The idea that the doctrine of the Church of Rome is always 
the same is one which no one of the present day can hold 
without putting an enormous strain on his understanding. It 
used to be the boast of Romish advocates that the teaching of 
their Church was unchangeable. Heretics, they used to sav, 


show by their perpetual alterations that they never have had 
hold of the truth. They move the ancient landmarks without 
themselves foreseeing whither their new principles will lead 
them ; and so after a while, discovering their position to be 
untenable, they vainly try by constant changes to reduce theii 
system to some semblance of consistency. Our Church, 
on the contrary, they said, ever teaches the same doctrine 
which has been handed down from the Apostles, and has since 
been taught 'everywhere, always, and by all.' Divines of our 
Church used to expose the falsity of this boast by comparing 
the doctrine now taught in the Church of Rome with that 
taught in the Church of early times, and thus established by 
historical proof that a change had occurred. But now the 
matter has been much simplified ; for no laborious proof is 
necessary to show that that is not unchangeable which has 
changed under our very eyes. The rate of change is not like 
that of the hour-hand of a watch, which you must note at 
some considerable intervals of time in order to see that there 
has been a movement, but rather like that of the second- 
f- r hand, which you can actually see moving. 

The first trial of the faith of the new converts was the de- 
; finition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, in 1854, 
^ vv when a doctrine was declared to be the universal ancient 
tradition of the Church, on which eminent divines had notori- 
ously held different opinions ; so much so, that this diversity 
had been accounted for by Bishop Milner and other contro- 
versialists by the assertion that neither Scripture nor tradi- 
tion contained anything on the subject. 

The manner of that decree, intended to bind the universal 
Church, was remarkable. It was not a vote of a council. 
Bishops, indeed, had been previously consulted, and bishops 
were assembled to hear the decision ; but the decision rested on 
the authority of the Pope alone. It was correctly foreseen that 
what vvas then done was intended to establish a precedent. I 
remember then how the news came that the Pope proposed to 
assemble a council, and how those who had the best right to 
know predicted that this council was to terminate the long con- 
troversy as to the relative superiority of Popes and councils, 
by owning the personal infallibility of the Pope, and so making 



it unnecessary that any future council should be held. This 
announcement created the greatest ferment in the Roman 
Catholic Church; and those who passed for the men of highest 
learning in that communion, and who had been wont to be |< 
most relied on, when learned Protestants were to be combated, 1 
opposed with all their might the contemplated definition, as - 
an entire innovation on the traditional teaching of the Church, } 
and as absolutely contradicted by the facts of history. These 
views were shared by Dr. Newman. His own inclinations had 
not favoured any extravagant cult of the Virgin Mary, and he 
was too well acquainted with Church History not to know | 
that the doctrine of her Immaculate Conception was a com- j 
plete novelty, unknown to early times, and, when first put i 
forward, condemned by some of the most esteemed teachers of 
the Church. But when the Pope formally promulgated that 
doctrine as part of the essential faith of the Church, he had 
submitted in silence. When, however, it was proposed to 
declare the Pope's personal infallibility, this was a doctrine 
so directly in the teeth of history, that Newman made no 
secret of his persuasion that the authoritative adoption of it 
would be attended with ruinous consequences to his Church, 
by placing what seemed an insuperable obstacle to any man of 
learning entering her fold. He wrote in passionate alarm to 
an English Roman Catholic Bishop (Ullathorne) : 'Why,' he 
said, ' should an aggressive insolent faction be allowed " to 
make the heart of the just sad, whom the Lord hath not made 
sorrowful" ? Why cannot we be let alone when we have 
pursued peace and thought no evil ? I assure you, my Lord, 
some of the truest minds are driven one way and another, and 
do not know where to rest their feet one day determining to 
give up all theology as a bad job, and recklessly to believe 
henceforth almost that the Pope is impeccable, at another 
tempted to believe all the worst which a book like Janus says : 
. . . Then, again, think of the store of Pontifical scandals in 
the history of eighteen centuries, which have partly been 
poured forth and partly are still to come . . . And then, again, 
the blight which is falling upon the multitude of Anglican 
ritualists, &c., who themselves perhaps at least their 
leaders may never become Catholics^ but who are leavening 


the various English denominations and parties far beyond 
their own range, with principles and sentiments tending 
towards their ultimate absorption with the Catholic Church. 
With these thoughts ever before me, I am continually asking 
myself whether I ought not to make my feelings public : but 
all I do is to pray those early doctors of the Church, whose 
intercession would decide the matter (Augustine, Ambrose, 
and Jerome, Athanasius, Chrysostom, and Basil), to avert 
this great calamity. If it is God's will that the Pope's in- 
fallibility be defined, then it is God's will to throw back the 
"times and moments" of that triumph which He has destined 
for His kingdom ; and I shall feel that I have but to bow my 
head to His adorable inscrutable Providence.' * 

Abundant proof that the new dogma had, until then, been 
no part of the faith of the Church, was furnished by von 
Dollinger at the time deservedly reputed to be the most learned 
man in the Roman communion, and amongst others by two 
Munich professors, who, under the name of Janus, published 
a work containing a mass of historical proofs of the novelty 
of the proposed decree. These arguments were urged by 
able bishops at the Vatican Council itself. But the Pope 
carried out his project in the teeth of historical demonstra- 
tion. A few of the most learned of the protesters against the 
new dogma refused to recognize the doctrine thus defined as 
that of the Catholic Church, and formed a schism, calling 

* Letter published ' by permission ' in the Standard, April 7, 1870. 
See Letters of Quirinus, authorized translation, p. 356. 

I have been reminded that Newman, in his letter to the Duke of 
Norfolk, written five years later, speaks of himself as 'accepting as a 
dogma what he had ever held as a truth ' ; and I suppose that this 
word ' ever,' if not to be understood quite literally, at least means 
that at the time he wrote his letter to Bishop Ullathorne, he believed 
the doctrine of the Pope's Infallibility to be a truth. But a reader 
of that letter may be pardoned for not suspecting this. Who could 
imagine that such panic apprehensions as the letter exhibits was 
caused by alarm at the intelligence that the writer was about to 
receive the highest assurance that what he had ever believed to be 
true really was true, and that this truth was about to be published to 
the world with such authority that thenceforth it would be inexcusable 
to doubt it ? It was natural to attach significance to the fact that the 
words of Ezekiel should rise to Newman's mind : ' With lies ye have 
made the heart of the righteous sad,' and natural to suppose that it 
was only politeness which withheld him from quoting them in full. 

No one who has read my lecture with any attention will need to be 


themselves 'Old Catholics.' But the bulk of the people had 
no inclination to trouble themselves with historical investiga- 
tions, and accepted, without inquiry, what their rulers were 
pleased to offer them ; and a number of the eminent men, who 
had not only denied the truth of the new dogma, but had 
proved its falsity to the satisfaction of every reasoning man, 
finding no other choice open to them, unless they abandoned 
every theory as to the infallibility of the Church which they 
had previously maintained, and unless they joined a schism 
which, as was foreseen at the time, and as the event proved, 
would be insignificant in numbers, preferred to eat their 
words, and to profess faith in what it is difficult to understand 
how they could in their hearts have had any real belief. 

I own, the first impression produced by this history is one 
of discouragement. It seems hopeless to waste research or 
argument on men who have shown themselves determined 
not to be convinced. What hope is there that argument of 
mine can convince men who are not convinced by their own 
arguments ? As long as there was a chance of saving their 
Church from committing herself to a decision in the teeth of 
history, they struggled to avert the calamity; showing by 
irrefragable arguments that the early Church never regarded 
the Pope to be infallible, and that different Popes had made 
decisions glaringly false. But having clearly shown that 

told that I never meant to impute to Newman insincerity in his pro- 
fessions of belief. What I have been speaking of all through is the 
effect of the reception of the doctrine of Infallibility not on men's 
profession, but on their beliefs. External force may frighten a man 
into altering his outward profession, but has no effect on his inward 
belief. But if he comes to persuade himself of the existence of a 
guide incapable of leading him wrong, he is ready to surrender his 
previous beliefs in deference to that authority, to accept as true what 
he had before proved to be false, and to renounce as false what he 
had before proved to be true : even though he can point out no flaw in 
his previous demonstrations, and though he might find it hard to explain 
why he was not as liable to error in the process by which he persuaded 
himself of the infallibility of his guide as in his earlier reasonings. 

Newman's letter to Ullathorne, however, serves to illustrate what a 
different thing is the belief into which a man persuades himself in 
deference to authority from that which is the result of his own 
investigations. The former we have seen to be a thing which winces 
when it is pressed too hard, and which the holder shrinks from 
pressing upon others. Tnis, in my opinion, does not deserve to be 
called real belief, though, no doubt, it may grow into it, when in 
process of time the opposing arguments come to be forgotten. 


black was not white, no sooner had authority declared that 
it was, than they professed themselves ready to believe it. 

But though it is, on the first view, disappointing that our 
adverasries should withdraw themselves into a position 
seemingly inaccessible to argument, it is really, as I shall 
presently show, a mark of our success that they have been 
driven from the open field, and forced to betake themselves 
into this fortress. And we have every encouragement to 
follow them, and assault their citadel, which is now their 
last refuge. 

In other words, it has now become more clear than ever 
that the whole Roman Catholic controversy tums on the 
decision of the one question the Infallibility of the Church. 
We have just seen how the admission of this principle can 
force men to surrender their most deep-rooted beliefs, which 
they had maintained with the greatest heat, and to the asser- 
tion of which they had committed themselves most strongly. 
They surrendered these beliefs solely in deference to external 
authority, though themselves unable to see any flaw in the 
arguments which had persuaded them of the truth of them. 
And I must say that, in making this surrender, they were 
better and more consistent Roman Catholics than von D61- 
linger and his friends, who refused to eat their words and 
turn their back on their own arguments. For all their lives 
long they had condemned the exercise of private judgment, 
and had insisted on the necessity of submitting to the 
authority of the Church. Now, if you accept the Church's 
teaching just so long as it agrees with what you, on other 
grounds, persuade yourselves to be true, and reject it as soon 
as it differs from your own judgment, that is not real sub- 
mission to the authority of the Church. You do not take a 
man as a guide, though you may be travelling along a road in 
his company, if 3^ou are willing to part company if he should 
make a turn of which you disapprove. It matters not what 
Romish doctrines the German Old Catholic party may 
continue to hold. They may believe Transubstantiation, 
Purgatory, Invocation of Saints, and more. But from the 
moment they ventured to use their reason, and reject a 
dogma propounded to them by their Church, they were 


really Protestants; they had adopted the great principle of 
Protestantism. And so, at the time of the formation of the 
Old Catholic party, I expressed my fears in a lecture here 
that its members would be able to find no home in the Roman 
Church. My fears, I say, for I count it a thing to be regretted 
that that Church, by casting out her most learned and most 
enlightened members, should lose all chance of recovering 
the truth by reform from within. 

If, however, there could ever be a case where men should 
be constrained by a reductio ad absurdum to abandon a prin- 
ciple they had held, but which had been shown to lead to 
consequences certainly false, it was when the men of the 
Old Catholic party found that if they were to go on main- 
taining the infallibility of their Church, they must also assert 
that she had never changed her doctrine. If, previous Jbojhe | 
Vatican Council, the Church of Rome had known the doc- 
trine of the Pope's personal infallibility to be true, she had, \ 
somehow or another, so neglected to teach it, that though "it \ 
is a doctrine relating to the very foundation of her religious j 
s}\stem, her priests and bishops had been ignorant that it 
was any part of her teaching. The Infallibilist party at 
Rome had been obliged, at an early stage of their exertions, 
to get placed on the Prohibitory Index, Bailly's work onjj 
Theology, which had been used as a text-book at Maynooth. *'" 
Would not any Roman Catholic say that the Church of Ire- 
land had changed her doctrine if the text-books which you 
use here were not only removed from your course, but if the 
Irish bishops published a declaration that these books, in 
which their predecessors had been wont to examine candi- 
dates for orders, contained erroneous doctrine, and were on 
that account unfit to be read by our people? 

Again, the effect of the Vatican Council was to necessitate 
great changes in controversial catechisms. One might think 
that the clergymen who might be supposed best acquainted 
with the doctrines of their Church are those who are selected 
to conduct controversy with opponents. In our Church, 
indeed, anyone may engage in controversy at his own discre- 
tion, and need not necessarily be the most learned or wisest 
of our body; but the controversial catechisms of the Roman 


Church are only issued with the permission of the writer's 
superiors, and therefore their statements as to Roman 
Catholic doctrine may be supposed to tell what the best in- 
formed members of the communion believe that she teaches. 
Now, it had been a common practice with Roman Catholic 
controversial writers, when pressed with objections against 
the doctrine of the personal infallibility of the Pope, to 
repudiate that doctrine altogether, and to declare it to be 
a Protestant misrepresentation to assert that it was taught 
by their Church. 

I may afterwards have occasion to say something about 
books which circulated in America, but will now mention 
one to which my own attention happened to be specially 
drawn. The controversial book which, thirty years ago, was 
most relied on in this country was 'Keenan's Catechism/ a 
book published with the imprimatur of Scotch Roman 
Catholic bishops, and recommended also by Irish prelates. 
This book contained the following question and answer : 

' Q. Must not Catholics believe the Pope in himself to be infallible ? 

',4. This is a Protestant invention: it is no article of the 
Catholic faith : no decision of his can oblige, under pain of heresy, 
unless it be received and enforced by the teaching body ; that is, by 
the bishops of the Church.' 

About 1869 or 1870 I had a visit from an English clergy- 
man, who, for reasons of health, resided chiefly on the Con- 
tinent, and, mixing much with Roman Catholics, took great 
interest in the controversy which was then agitating their 
Church. I showed him the question and answer in 'Keenan's 
Catechism' ; and he was so much interested by them, that he 
bought some copies of the book to present to his friends 
abroad. A couple of years later he visited Ireland again, 
and purchased some more copies of ' Keenan ' ; but this 
question and answer had then disappeared. He presented 
me then with the two copies I have here. To all appearance 
they are identical in their contents. From the title-page, as 
it appears on the paper cover of each, the two books appear 
to be both of the twenty-first thousand ; but when we open 
the books, we find them further agreeing in the singular 


feature, that there is another title-page which describes each 
as of the twenty-fourth thousand. But at page 112 the ques- 
tion and answer which I have quoted are to be found in the 
one book, and are absent from the other. It is, therefore, 
impossible now to maintain that the faith of the Church of 
Rome never changes, when it is notorious that there is 
something which is now part of her faith which those who 
had a good right to know declared was no part of her faith 
twenty years ago.* 

I will not delay to speak of many changes in Roman 
teaching consequent on the definition of Papal Infallibility; 
but you can easily understand that there are a great many 
statements officially made by several Popes which, inasmuch 
as they rested on Papal authority alone, learned Roman 
Catholics had formerly thought themselves at liberty to re- 
ject, but which must now be accepted as articles of faith. 
But what I wish now to speak of is, that the forced confes- 
sion of change, at least by way of addition, in Roman teach- 
ing has necessitated a surrender of the principles on which 
her system had formerly been defended ; and this was what 
I had specially in mind when I spoke of the fortress of Infal- 
libility as the last refuge of a beaten army, who, when driven 
from this, must fall into total rout. 

The first revolt against Romanism took place when the 
Bible was made easily accessible. When, by means of trans- 

* In reply to the above it has been said that it has been customary 
with heretics to accuse the Church of changing her doctrine whenever 
she finds it necessary, for the first time, to pass condemnation on some 
newly invented heresy ; and that if the Church of Rome can fairly be 
accused of having changed her doctrine at the Vatican Council, the 
Church of the fourth century may, with equal fairness, be accused of 
having changed her doctrine at the Council of Nicaea. But in order to 
make the parallel a just one, it would be necessary to show that all 
through the first three centuries it had been a permissible opinion in 
the Christian Church to hold that our Blessed Lord was not truly and 
properly God : and further that, when heathen assailants had accused 
the Church of worshipping Christ as God, it had been customary 
with Christian apologists to answer, ' this is a heathen invention ; the 
Christian Church has never regarded Christ as God in the highest 
sense of the word.' If such a defence had been made by the ablest of 
the Christian advocates, and if their apologies had been circulated 
with the approbation of all the leading bishops, then it would have 
been impossible to resist the Arian allegation that the Council of 
Nictea had innovated on the ancient faith of the Church. 


lations printed in the vulgar languages of Europe, a know- 
ledge of the New Testament became general, men could not 
help taking notice that the Christianity then taught by the 
Church was a very different thing from that which was 
preached by the Apostles, and that a host of doctrines were 
taught as necessary to salvation by the modern Church, of 
which, as far as we could learn from the Bible, the early 
Church knew nothing. Whether the doctrines of Romanism 
can be proved from the Bible is a matter which you can 
judge for yourselves ; but if there is any doubt about it, that 
doubt is removed by watching the next stage of the contro- 
versy. The Roman Catholic advocates ceased to insist that 
the doctrines of the Church could be deduced from Scripture ; 
but the theory of some early heretics, refuted by Irenseus,* 
was revived, namely, that the Bible does not contain the 
whole of God's revelation, and that a body of traditional 
doctrine existed in the Church equally deserving of venera- 

At this time, however, all parties were agreed that through 
our Lord and His Apostles a revelation unique in the his- 
tory of the world had been made to mankind. All parties 
imagined that it was the truths then made known, neither 
more nor less, that the Church was to preserve and teach. 
All parties agreed that the Holy Scriptures might be im- 
plicitly depended on as an inspired record of these truths. 
The main difference was as to how far the Bible record of 
them could be regarded as complete. Things were taught 
and practised in the Roman Church for which the Bible fur- 
nished no adequate justification ; and the Roman advocates 

* ' When they [the Valentinian heretics] are confuted from the Scrip- 
tures they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures as if they were 
not correct, nor of authority, for that they are ambiguously worded, 
and that the truth cannot be discovered from them by those who are 
ignorant of tradition. For they say that the truth was not delivered 
in writing out viva roce ; wherefore Paul also declared " We speak 
wisdom among them that are perfect, but not the wisdom of this 
world " ' (Irenseus iii. c. 2). And to make the analogy complete, Irenseus 
goes on to complain that when the Church met these heretics on their 
own ground of tradition, then they had recourse to a theory of 
development claiming to be then in possession of purer doctrine than 
that which the Apostles had been content to teach. 


insisted that, though the Bible contained truth, it did not 
contain the whole truth, and that the Church was able, by 
her traditions, to supplement the deficiencies of Scripture, 
having in those traditions a secure record of apostolic teach- 
ing on many points on which the Bible contained only 
obscure indications, or even gave no information at all. 

This Roman assertion might be met in two ways. Many, 
probably the majority, of the Protestants refused to listen at 
all to doctrines said to be binding on their faith, and not 
asserted to be taught in Scripture; and we shall afterwards 
see that they had the sanction of several of the most eminent 
Fathers for thinking that what was asserted without the 
authority of Holy Scripture might be ' despised as freely as 
approved.'* But there were champions of our Church who 
met the Roman case in another way. They declared that, as 
they had been convinced by historical proof that the books 
of the New Testament were written by Apostles or apos- 
tolical men, so they had no objection to examine whether 
similar historic proof could be given of the apostolic origin 
of any of the peculiar doctrines of Romanism. 

Bellarmine, indeed, had given as one of his rules for 
knowing whether or not the proof of a Church doctrine 
rested on tradition,! that if a doctrine taught by the Church 
could not be proved by Scripture, it must be proved by 
tradition ; for the Church could not teach wrong ; and so the 
doctrine must be proved either in the one way or the other. 
But it would be too much to expect from us that we should 
admit a failure of Scripture proof to constitute in itself a 
proof by tradition. We have a right to ask, If the Church 
learned that doctrine by tradition, where has that tradition 
been recorded? Who are the ancient authors that mention 
it? If the thing has been handed down from the Apostles 
the Church of the first centuries must have believed or prac- 
tised it : let us inquire, as we should in the case of any other 
historical question, whether she did or not. 

Bishop Jewel, in his celebrated challenge, enumerated 

* Hieron, in Matt, xxiii. 
t De verbo Dei, iv. 9. 


twenty-seven points of the Roman Catholic teaching of his 
day, and declared that if any learned man of our adversaries 
or all the learned men that be alive, were able to bring any 
one sufficient sentence out of any old Catholic Doctor or 
Father, or General Council, or Holy Scripture, or any one 
example in the Primitive Church, whereby it might be clearly 
and plainly proved that any of them was taught for the first 
600 years, then he would be content to yield and subscribe. 
Not, of course, that Jewel meant that a single instance of a 
doctrine being taught during the first six centuries was 
enough to establish its truth, but he meant to express his 
strong conviction that in the case of the twenty-seven doc- 
trines he enumerated no such instance could be produced. 

I do not wonder that many Protestants looked on this 
historic method as a very perilous way of meeting the claims 
of Romanism. In the first place, it deserted the ground of 
Scripture, on which they felt sure of victory, for that of his- 
tory, on which success might be doubtful ; and, in the second 
place, it needed no learned apparatus to embark on the 
vScripture controversy. Any intelligent layman might satisfy 
himself what amount of recognition was given to a doctrine 
in the Bible ; but the battle on the field of history could only 
be fought by learned men, and would go on out of sight of 
ordinary members of the Church, who would be quite in- 
competent to tell which way the victory had gone. 

When two opposing generals meet in battle, and both send 
home bulletins of victory, and Te Deums are sung in churches 
on both sides, we, who sit at home, may find it hard to un- 
derstand which way the battle has gone. But if we look at 
the map, and see where the next battle is fought, and if we 
find that one general is making 'for strategic reasons' a con- 
stant succession of movements towards the rear, and that he 
ends by completely evacuating the country he at first un- 
dertook to defend, then we may suspect that his glorious 
victories were perhaps not quite so brilliant as he had repre- 
sented them to be. And so, when the Church of England 
champions left the plain ground of Scripture, and proceeded 
to interchange quotations from the Fathers, plain men, out 
of whose sight the battle now went, might be excused for 


apprehension as to the result, themselves being scarcely 
competent to judge of the force of the passages quoted on 
each side. But when they find that the heads of the Roman 
Catholic Church now think it as great a heresy to appeal to 
antiquity, as to appeal to Scripture, they have cause for sur- 
mising which way the victory has gone. 

The first strategic movement towards the rear was the 
doctrine of development, which has seriously modified the 
old theory of tradition. When Dr. Newman became a Roman 
Catholic, it was necessary for him in some way to reconcile 
this step with the proofs he had previously given that cer- 
tain distinctive Romish doctrines were unknown to the early 
Church. The historical arguments he had advanced in his 
Anglican days were incapable of refutation even by himself. 
But it being hopeless to maintain that the present teaching 
of Roman Catholics is identical with the doctrine held in the 
primitive Church, he set himself to show that though not the 
same, it was a great deal better. This is the object of the 
celebrated Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, 
which he published simultaneously with his submission to the 
Roman Church. The theory expounded in it in substance is, 
that Christ had but committed to His Church certain seeds 
and germs of truth, destined afterwards to expand to definite 
forms : consequently, that our Lord did not intend that the 
teaching of His Church should be always the same ; but or- 
dained that it should go on continually improving under the 
guidance of His Holy Spirit. This theory was not altogether 
new. Not to speak of earlier anticipations of it, it had been 
maintained, not many years previously, by the German divine, 
Mohler, in his work called Symbolik; and this mode of de- 
fending the Roman system had been adopted in the theolo- 
gical lectures of Perrone, Professor in the Jesuit College at 
Rome. But Newman's book had the effect of making the 
theory popular to an extent it had never been before, and of 
causing its general adoption by Romish advocates, who are 
now content to exchange tradition, which their predecessors 
had made the basis of their system, for this new foundation 
of development. You will find them now making shameless 
confession of the novelty of articles of their creed, and even 


taunting us Anglicans with the unprogressive character of 
our faith, because we are content to believe as the early 
Church believed, and as our fathers believed before us. 

In a subsequent lecture I mean to discuss this theory of 
development : I only mention it now because the starting of 
this theory exhibits plainly the total rout which the cham- 
pions of the Roman Church experienced in the battle they 
attempted to fight on the field of history. The theory of 
development is, in short, an attempt to enable men, beaten 
off the platform of history, to hang on to it by the eyelids. 
Suppose, for instance, we have made a strong proof that 
some doctrine or practice of modern Romanism was unknown 
to the primitive Church, we might still find it difficult to show 
that this general proposition of ours admitted of absolutely 
no exception. Did no one ever in the first centuries teach or 
practise the thing in dispute? or, if not absolutely the same 
thing, something like it ? something only to be defended on 
the same principles, or which, if pushed to its logical conse- 
quences, might justify the present state of things ? Then 
the argument is applied, Any practice which was tolerated in 
the first age of the Church cannot be absolutely wrong, and 
though it may have been in those days exceptional, still the 
Church may, for reason that seems to her good, make it her 
general rule now. And a doctrinal principle once acknow- 
ledged, though it may be without its full import being 
known, must now be accepted with all the logical conse- 
quences that can be shown to be involved in it. 

Thus, to take an example of a practice : it is not denied 
that the refusal of the cup to the laity is absolutely opposed 
to the custom of the Church for centuries ; but it is thought 
to be sufficient justification of Roman usage if we are unable 
to prove that in the early ages absolutely no such thing ever 
occurred as communion in one element without the other. 
Or, to take an example of a doctrine, we inquire whether the 
Church of the first three centuries thought it necessary to 
seek for the intercession of the Virgin Mary, or thought it 
right to pay her the extravagant honours which Roman 
Catholics have now no scruple in bestowing on her. There 
is no pretence of answering these questions in the affinna- 


tive. It is thought reply enough to ask in return, Did not 
the ancient Church teach the fact of the intimate relation 
that existed between the Blessed Virgin and the human 
nature of our Lord? Surely yes, we confess, we acknow- 
ledge that ourselves. Then, it is urged, the later Church is 
entitled to draw out by legitimate inference all that it can 
discover as to the privileges which that intimate relation 
must needs have conferred, even though the earlier Church 
had been blind to them. 

When Dr. Newman's book appeared, I looked with much 
curiosity to see whether the heads of the Church to which he 
was joining himself would accept the defence made by their 
new convert, the book having been written before he had 
yet joined them. For, however great the ingenuity of this 
defence, and whatever important elements of truth it might 
contain, it seemed to be plainly a complete abandonment of 
the old traditional theory of the advocates of Rome. 

The old theory was that the teaching of the Church had 
never varied. Scripture proof of the identity of her present 
teaching with that of the Apostles might fail ; but tradition 
could not fail to prove that what the Church teaches now she 
had also taught from the beginning. Thus, for example, the 
Council of Trent, in the celebrated decree passed in its fourth 
Session, in which it laid the foundation of its whole method 
of proceeding, clearly taught that all saving truth and moral 
discipline had been delivered either by the mouth of Christ 
Himself, or by His inspired Apostles, and had since been 
handed down either in the Scriptures, or in continuous 
unwritten tradition; and the Council, in particular decrees 
passed subsequently, claimed for its teaching to have been 
what the Church had always taught.* No phrase has been 
more often on the lips of Roman controversialists than that 
which described the faith of the Church as what was held 
'everywhere, always, and by all.'f Bishop Milner, in his 
well-known work, of which I shall have more to say in an- 

^* So for example in the decree concerning matrimony (Sess. xxiv.), 
' Sancti patres nostri, et concilia, et universalis ecclesiae traditio 
semper docuerunt.' 

t Vincent. Lirin. Commonitorium, c. 3. 


other lecture, The End of Religious Controversy, writes : 'It 
is a fundamental maxim never to admit any tenet but such 
as is believed by all the bishops, and was believed by their 
predecessors up to the Apostles themselves.' 'The constant 
language of the Church is nil innovetur, nil nisi quod tradi- 
tum est. Such and such is the sense of Scripture, such and 
such is the doctrine of her predecessors, the Pastors of the 
Church, since the time of the Apostles.' Dr. Wiseman said : 
' We believe that no new doctrine can be introduced into 
the Church, but that every doctrine which we hold has 
existed and been taught in it ever since the time of the 
Apostles, having been handed down by them to their suc- 
cessors.' * 

It is worth while to call attention to another point in the 
decree of the Council of Trent to which I referred just now, 
namely, the value it attached to the consent of the Fathers as 
a decisive authority in the interpretation of Scripture. The 
veneration for the Fathers so solemnly expressed at Trent 
has been handed down as an essential part of popular Ro- 
manism. Let the most unlearned Romanist and an equally 
unlearned Protestant get into a discussion, and let the 
Fathers be mentioned, and you may probably hear their 
authority treated with contempt by the Protestant, but as- 
suredly it will be treated as decisive by the Romanist. Now, 
this making the authority of the Fathers the rule and mea- 
sure of our judgment is absolutely inconsistent with the 
theory of Development. In every progressive science the 
latest authority is the best. Take mathematics, which is in 
its nature as immutable as any theory can represent theology 
to be, and in which what has once been proved to be true 
can never afterwards come into question ; yet even there the 
older authors are only looked into as a matter of curiosity, to 
illustrate the history of the progress of the science, but have 
no weight as authorities. We study the science from modern 
books, which contain everything of value that the older 
writers discovered possibly may correct some mistakes of 

* Wi&eman^ Moorfield Lectures^ i. 60. London : 1847. 


theirs, but certainly will contain much of which they were 
ignorant. And, in like manner, anyone who holds the theory 
of Development ought, in consistency, to put the writings of 
the Fathers on the shelf as antiquated and obsolete. Their 
teaching, judged by the standard of the present day, must 
certainly be defective, and might even be erroneous. In 
point of fact, there is scarcely one of the Fathers who does 
not occasionally come into collision with modern Roman 
teaching, and for whom it is not necessary to find apologies. 
A good deal of controversial triumph took place when, by 
the publication of certain expurgatorial indices, it was brought 
to light that the Roman authorities regarded certain genuine 
dicta of early Fathers as erroneous, and as needing correc- 
tion. But if the Development theory be true, it is only 
proper that the inaccuracies of the time when Church teach- 
ing was immature should be corrected by the light of fuller 
knowledge. It follows that the traditional veneration of the 
Fathers in the Roman Church is a witness of the novelty of 
the theory of Development. 

But, more than a century before Dr. Newman's time, the 
theory of Development had played its part in the Roman 
Catholic controversy; only then it was the Protestant com- 
batant who brought that theory forward, and the Roman 
Catholic who repudiated it. I shall have occasion in another 
lecture to speak of the controversial work published by 
Bossuet, who was accounted the most formidable champion 
of the Church of Rome towards the end of the seventeenth 
century. The thesis of his book called History of the Varia- 
tions of the Protestant Churches was that the doctrine of the 
true Church is always the same, whereas Protestants are at 
variance with each other and with themselves. Bossuet was 
replied to by a Calvinist minister named Jurieu. The line 
Jurieu took was to dispute the assertion that the doctrine of 
the true Church is always the same. He maintained the 
doctrine of Development in its full extent, asserting that the 
truth of God was only known by instalments (par parcelles), 
that the theology of the Fathers was imperfect and fluc- 
tuating, and that Christian theology has been constantly 
going on towards perfection. He illustrated his theory by 


examples of important doctrines, concerning which he al- 
leged the teaching of the early Church to have been defective 
or uncertain, of which it is enough here to quote that he 
declared that the mystery of the Trinity, though of the last 
importance, and essential to Christianity, remained, ' as 
everyone knows,' undeveloped (informe) down to the first 
Council of Nicaea, and even down to that of Constantinople. 
Bossuet, in replying, had the embarrassment, if he felt it as 
such, that a learned divine of his own Church and nation 
the Jesuit Petau, whose name is better known under its 
Latinized form, Petavius had, in his zeal to make Church 
authority the basis of all religious knowledge, made very 
similar assertions concerning the immaturity of the teaching 
of the early Fathers. Plainly, if Jurieu could establish his 
case, the whole foundation of Bossuet's great controversial 
work would be swept away. It would be impossible to taunt 
Protestants because their teaching had not been always the 
same, if it must be confessed that the same thing must be 
said of the Church in every age. But it would be unjust to 
imagine that Bossuet was actuated merely by controversial 
ardour in the indignant and passionate outcry which he 
raised against Jurieu 's theory, or to doubt that that theory 
was deeply painful and shocking to him on account of its 
aspersion on the faith of the early Church. He declared the 
statement that the mystery of the Trinity remained unde- 
veloped down to the Council of Nicaea to be a horrible libel 
(fUtrissure) on Christianity, to be language which could only 
have been expected from the mouth of a Socinian. He 
appealed to the contemporary work of our own divine, 
Bishop Bull (Defensio Fidei Nicence), in which the doctrine 
of Nicaea was established by the testimony of ante-Nicene 
Fathers, a work for which Bossuet had communicated the 
thanks of himself and his clergy. He declared it to be 
the greatest of errors to imagine that the faith of the Church 
only developed itself as heresies arose, and as she made 
explicit decisions concerning them. And he reiterated his 
own thesis, that the faith of the Church, as being a Divine 
work, had its perfection from the first, and had never varied ; 
and that the Church never pronounced any judgments, ex- 


cept by *ay of propounding the faith of the past.* The 
name of Bossuet is, for reasons of which I shall speak on 
another day, not popular with the Ultramontane party now 
dominant in the Roman Church ; but there is no doubt that, 
in his day, he was not only the accredited champion of that 
Church, but the most successful in gaining converts from 
Protestantism. It seems, then, a very serious matter if the 
leading authorities in the Roman Church have now to own 
that, in the main point at issue between Bossuet and Jurieu, 
the Calvinist minister was in the right, and their own cham- 
pion in the wrong. 

Now, in Newman's Essay on Development, everything that 
had been said by Jurieu or by Petavius as to the immaturity 
of the teaching of the early Fathers is said again, and said 
more strongly. He begins by owning the unserviceableness 
of St. Vincent's maxim : ' Quod semper, quod ubique, quod 
ab omnibus.' He confesses that it is impossible by means of 
that maxim (unless, indeed, a very forced interpretation be 
put upon it) to establish the articles of Pope Pius's creed ; in 
other words, impossible to show that these articles were any 
part of the faith of the early Church. But he urges that the 
same thing may be said of the Athanasian Creed, and he 
proceeds to try to pick holes in the proofs Bishop Bull had 
given of the orthodoxy of the ante-Nicene Fathers. So he 
declares that we need some new hypothesis for the defence of 
the Athanastan Creed, for which purpose he offers his theory 
of Development; and then he says that we must not com- 
plain if the same defence proves to be equally good for the 
creed of Pope Pius. 

I can remember my own astonishment at this line of 
defence, and my wonder how it would be accepted by Roman 
Catholic authorities. There appeared to be signs that it 
would be received with disfavour; for Brownson's Quarterly 
Re-view, then the leading organ of American Romanism, 
published a series of articles severely criticising the book, as 
abandoning the ground on which Roman doctrine had pre- 

*The statements in the text are taken from Bossuet's Premier 
arertissement aux Protestants, 


viously been defended, giving up, as it did, the principles 
that the Church taught nothing but what had been revealed, 
and that the revelations committed to the Church had been 
perfect from the first. 

But when I was simple enough to expect that Roman 
Catholic divines generally would thus repudiate a work in- 
consistent with what their teachers had constantly main- 
tained, I failed to notice what a temptation Newman offered 
by freeing the defenders of Romanism at once from a multi- 
tude of controversies in which they felt they were getting the 
worst. He evacuated all the difficult posts which they had 
been struggling to maintain, and promised that the captors 
should gain nothing by taking them, for that he had built 
inside them an impregnable wall of defence. Just imagine 
what a comfort it must have been to a poor Roman Catholic 
divine who had been making a despairing struggle to refute, 
let us say, the Protestant assertion that the Church of the 
first three centuries knew nothing of the Invocation of the 
Blessed Virgin, to be told that he need have no scruple in 
granting all that his opponents had asserted. Dr. Newman 
himself, disclaiming the doctrine that the Invocation of the 
Virgin is necessary to salvation, says (Letter to Pusey, p. 
in) : 'If it were so, there would be grave reasons for doubt- 
ing of the salvation of St. Chrysostom or St. Athanasius, or 
of the primitive martyrs. Nay, I should like to know 
whether St. Augustine, in all his voluminous writings, 
invokes her once.' But he holds (p. 63) that, though ' we 
have no proof that Athanasius himself had any special 
devotion to the Blessed Virgin,' yet, by teaching the doctrine 
of our Lord's Incarnation, ' he laid the foundations on which 
that devotion was to rest.' 

Similarly, if perplexed by troublesome proofs that early 
Fathers were ignorant of the doctrine of purgatorial fire, or 
of the religious use of images, or of the supremacy of the Pope, 
what a comfort to be told, You may safely answer, ' Quite 
true : these doctrines had not been revealed to the conscious- 
ness of the Church of that age' ; nay, to be told that he need 
not quarrel with Arian representations of the doctrine of the 
ante-Nicene Fathers, but might say, 'Quite true : the Church 


did not learn to speak accurately on this subject until after 
the Council of Niceea.' The enlightened Roman Catholic of 
the new school may take the same view that a dispassionate 
infidel might have taken about the controversy which Angli- 
cans and old-school Roman Catholics had been waging as 
to which of them held the doctrines originally revealed by 
Christ and taught by His Apostles. An infidel might say, 
' Neither of you. The doctrines taught by Jesus of Nazareth 
have been since incorporated with a number of elements 
derived from different sources, and the Christianity of the 
first century is not like what is taught by anyone in the 

Thus, you will see that the doctrine of Development con- 
cedes not only all that a Protestant, but even all that an 
infidel might ask. I purpose, in a subsequent lecture, to say 
something more in reference to this doctrine. At present 
my main object has been to show the primary importance of 
the question of Infallibility, which has really swallowed up 
all other controversies. It is inevitable, indeed, that other 
branches of the controversy should have a tendency to die 
out when a candid Roman Catholic is forced to concede 
what his opponents assert. An unlearned Protestant per- 
ceives that the doctrine of Rome is not the doctrine of the 
Bible. A learned Protestant adds that neither is it the doc- 
trine of the primitive Church. These assertions are no 
longer denied, as in former days. Putting the concessions 
made us at the lowest, it is at least owned that the doctrine of 
Rome is as unlike that of early times as an oak is unlike an 
acorn, or a butterfly unlike a caterpillar. The unlikeness is 
admitted : and the only question remaining is whether that 
unlikeness is absolutely inconsistent with substantial iden- 
tity. In other words, it is owned that there has been a 
change, and the question is whether we are to call it develop- 
ment or corruption. 

But you must carefully observe that the doctrine of Deve- 
lopment would be fatal to the Roman Catholic cause if sepa- 
rated from the doctrine of the Infallibility of the Church. 
Without the latter doctrine the former, as I have already 
pointed out, leads to Protestantism or to infidelity rather than 


Romanism. In fact ? the motto of the doctrine of Develop- 
ment is TrartptDv pty d/zeiVoves v\o^0'' f.lva.1 'We are much 
wiser men than our fathers.' Well, surely, in many respects 
that is the case. Why, then, may not Protestants claim a 
right to revise erroneous decisions made in days when 
learning was asleep and science did not exist? Submission 
to the supremacy of Rome in Europe was mainly brought 
about by the circulation of documents which no one now 
pretends to be genuine. Why should not an age learned 
enough to detect these forgeries reject also the doctrine 
which was founded on them ? Or, take another Roman 
doctrine, that of Transubstantiation. It was built up in the 
middle ages, and founded on a scholastic theory of substance 
and accidents which modern philosophy rejects. Why is 
the building to remain, when its foundation is discovered to 
be rotten ? So much for the Doctrine of Development in 
Protestant hands ; while, in infidel it leads to the improving 
away of religion altogether. We, being wiser men than our 
fathers, can dispense with superstitions that amused them. 

And against Protestants, at least, Romanists gain nothing 
by appealing to God's promises to be ever with His Church, 
and to give His Spirit to guide it into truth, and thence 
inferring that such as His Church is, such her Founder in- 
tended it to become. But this principle, ' W T hatever is is 
right,' has to encounter the difficulty that Protestantism is : 
Why should not it be right? Was it only in Rome that 
Christianity was to develop itself ? Was it not also to do so 
in Germany and England? Has God's Holy Spirit only a 
local operation, and is it to be supposed that He had no 
influence in bringing about the form in which Christ's 
religion has shaped itself here ? May it not be supposed, for 
example, that he wisely ordained that the constitution of 
His Church should receive modifications to adapt it to the 
changing exigencies of society; that, in times when no 
form of government but monarchy was to be seen anywhere, 
it was necessary, if His Church was to make head success- 
full}' against the prevalent reign of brute force, that all its 
powers should be concentrated in a single hand; but that 
when, with the general spread of knowledge, men refused to 


give unreasoning submission to authority, and claimed the 
right to exercise some judgment of their own in the conduct 
of their affairs, the constitution of the Church needed to be 
altered in order to bring it into harmony with the political 
structure of modern society ? 

The fact is, that the doctrine of Development has to en- 
counter a great historical difficulty, which it can only remove 
by an enormous assumption. The doctrine is, that Christ's 
original revelation contained seeds and germs of truths 
destined, under the Divine guidance, to expand to a cer- 
tain definite form. If this be true, that expansion would 
take place wherever these germs were planted. It does not 
depend on where a tree is planted, whether it springs up a 
cedar or a bramble-bush, or whether it brings forth figs or 
grapes. How is it, then, that all over the East that doctrine 
which is the cardinal one of modern Romanism the neces- 
sity of union with the Chair of Peter never made its appear- 
ance ; nay, that the direct opposite was held ? And what 
reason can be given for excluding from the list of divinely- 
intended developments those which we Protestants have 
made as, for instance, the importance which we attach to 
the exercise of private judgment, to the individual study of 
Holy Scripture, to the right of each to approach the Throne 
of Grace without any earthly mediator ? May it not be said 
that it was the vitality which the teaching of the Holy Spirit 
gave to the last doctrine, which has rescued Christianity from 
assuming the form of some heathen superstitions, in which a 
certain caste of men was imagined to understand the art of 
conciliating the favour of the gods; to whose mediation, 
therefore, the ordinary worshipper was to address himself, 
religion being a matter which only his priests understood, 
and which required no intellectual co-operation of his own ? 

If we compare Protestant with Roman Catholic develop- 
ments, we find, further, that Protestant developments are of 
such a nature as to be made only in the fulness of time, 
as the human intellect developed itself, and as science and 
learning grew. There is no shame in a Church acknowledg- 
ing herself to- grow wiser with years, in such matters as these. 
If the Church of Rome, for instance, were now wise enough 


to expel the text of the Three heavenly Witnesses from her 
Vulgate, she could say in her defence that the science of 
Biblical criticism was more advanced now than in the days 
when this text was admitted. But, by what means are we to 
; suppose that the Roman Church acquired a knowledge of 
historical facts concerning which there is no historical tradi^ 
tion ? How has she come to be wiser now than the Church 
of former ages, concerning the way in which the Blessed" 
Virgin was conceived 1900 years ago, or concerning the re-~~ 
moral of her body to heaven ? If there had been any frlS^" 
torical tradition on these subjects, the Church would always 
have known it. And is it likely that God has interfered to 
make any special revelation on these subjects now, if He 
saw there was no inconvenience in leaving His Church for so 
many centuries without authentic information on such points ? 
However, without further arguing the point whether Pro- 
testant or Roman developments are the best, it is evident 
that the doctrine of Development is a many-edged weapon. 
There are Eastern developments and Western ones, Protestant 
and Romish, even infidel developments : which is the right 
one? The Romanist answers, The Church of Rome is infal- 
lible ; she alone has been commissioned to develop doctrine 
the right way; all other developments are wrong. Let the 
Romanist prove that, and he may use the doctrine of De- 
velopment, if he then cares to do so ; but it is quite plain 
that without the doctrine of Roman Infallibility, the doc- 
trine of Development is perfectly useless to a Romish 

But with the doctrine of Infallibility once proved, or 
supposed to be so, the doctrine of Development becomes 
needless ; and Cardinal Manning, in particular, has quite got 
beyond it. In my own time the aspect of Romanism has 
changed so rapidly that this theory of Development, so 
fashionable thirty years ago, has now dropped into the back- 
ground. It was wanted while the Roman Catholic divines 
were attempting to make some kind of battle on the field of 
history. In those days it was still attempted to be maintained 
that the teaching of the Church of the present day agrees 
with that of the Church of early times : not indeed in form, 


but at least in suchwise that the former contains the germ of 
the latter. Now, the idea of testing the teaching of the 
Church of the present day, by comparison either with Scrip- 
ture or antiquity, is completely abandoned . Cardinal Manning 
has profited by Plutarch's story, that when Pericles was puzz- 
ling himself what account of his expenditure he should give 
the Athenian people, he got the advice from Alcibiades that it 
would be wiser of him to study how he could avoid giving any 
account at all. The most thoroughgoing and most ignorant 
Protestant cannot show greater indifference to the opinions 
of the Fathers than does Cardinal Manning. If Dr. Manning 
were asked whether St. Cyprian held the doctrine of the 
Pope's Supremacy, he might answer much in the same way 
that, as the story goes, Mr. Spurgeon answered, when asked 
whether St. Cyprian held the doctrine of Justification by 
Faith. Either might say, ' I don't know, and I don't much 
care ; but, for his own sake, I hope he did ; for if he didn't, 
so much the worse for him.' According to Manning, it is a 
matter of unimportance how the Church is to be reconciled 
with Scripture or antiquity, when once you understand that 
the Church is the living voice of the same Being who inspired 
Scripture, and who taught the ancient Church. To look for 
one's creed in Scripture and antiquity is, to Manning, as 
great a heresy as to look for it in Scripture alone. Either 
course makes the individual the judge or critic of Revelation. 
The appeal to antiquity, says Manning, is both a treason and 
a heresy. It is a treason, because it rejects the Divine voice 
of the Church at this hour; and a heresy, because it denies 
that voice to be divine.* According to Manning's theory, it 
is our duty to accept implicitly whatever the present Church 
teaches, and to be sure that, however opposed this may seem 
to what we find in Scripture or antiquity, we need not trouble 
ourselves about the matter, and that the opposition can only 
be apparent. According to this theory, then, all the prero- 
gatives of Scripture are annulled : the dicta of Pius IX. and 
Leo XIII. are as truly inspired by God's Spirit, and are to 
be received with as much reverence, as the utterances of 

* Temporal Mission of the Holy Ghost, p. 226 ; see also pp. 28, 203. 


Peter and Paul. Thus the function of the Church, in the 
latest form of Romanism, is made to be not so much to guard 
and hand down securely an original revelation as to be a 
perpetual organ for making new revelations.* Whenever a 
new controversy arises, the Pope is divinely inspired to dis- 
cern its true solution, and to pronounce which of the parties 
is in the right and how far. In this way Manning's party 
have now got beyond the old Ultramontane doctrine of the 
inerraflcy of the Pope. This doctrine has been changed into 
that of his divine perpetual inspiration, f giving him a power 
of disclosing new truths as infallibly as Peter and Paul. 
Dr. Pusey called this theory a kind of Llamaism, implying 
as it does a kind of hypostatic union of the Holy Ghost with 
each successive Pope. 

I think I have made good my assertion, that the present 
Roman Catholic position is one taken up in desperation by 
men who have been driven from every other. And I will add 
that they have taken it up with immense loss ; for the few 
whom they have gained from us do not make up for the 
larger numbers, both in our communion and their own, whom 
they have driven into infidelity. In their assaults on Protes- 
tantism they have freely made use of infidel arguments. 
Their method has been that of some so-called Professors of 
biology : first to bewilder and stupefy their patients, that they 
may be ready to believe anything, and do anything, their 
mesmerizer tells them. And it has happened that men who 
have been thus driven to the verge of infidelity, when they 
saw that abyss yawning before them, have eagerly clutched 

* In theory the power of making new revelations is disclaimed, but in 
practice there is no scruple about calling on the Church to believe new 
truths : that is, to accept as true things previously disputed or un- 
known ; and the claims of theory are supposed to be satisfied by assert- 
ing, often in direct opposition to evidence, that the revelation was not 
new, for that the Church had always believed in accordance with the 
new ruling. 

t A Roman Catholic critic accuses me of forgetting here that ' the 
Catholic claim ' is not inspiration but only inerrancy. I consider the 
latter far the stronger word. In popular language the word 'inspired' 
is sometimes used in speaking of the works of a great genius who is 
not supposed to be exempt from error, but no one can imagine the 
utterances of a naturally fallible man to be guaranteed against 
possibility of error, unless he believe that man to be speaking, not of 
his own mind, but as the inspired organ of the Holy Spirit. 


at the only hand which they believed had power to save 
them from it. But for one convert made in this way, many 
have been spoiled in the making; many, when offered the 
choice Ultramontanism or Infidelity have taken the latter 
alternative. It is a very short way from the doctrine that 
Pius IX. and Leo XIII. were as much inspired as Peter and 
Paul, to the doctrine that Peter and Paul were no more 
inspired than Pius or Leo. 

According to the theory of our Church, the appearance of 
Christ, and the founding of His Church, of which He made 
the Apostles the first earthly heads, were unique events in the 
world's history. No argument can be drawn from the unifor- 
mity of nature against the possibility that miracles may have 
attended these events, because the uniformity of nature only 
assures us that in like circumstances like results will take 
place; and here the circumstances are asserted to be wholly 
unlike what has occurred at any other time. But the case is 
otherwise if it is implicitly denied that there was anything 
exceptional in the mission of the Apostles. If their divine 
commission was the same in kind as that which the Pope 
enjoys now, we must measure what is told of them by what 
our experience tells us of the Pope now. And, conversely, 
if we believe that they really did authenticate the message 
which they delivered, by exhibitions of miraculous power, we 
have a right to demand that the Pope, if he claims to be the 
organ of divine revelations, as they were, should heal the 
sick, and raise the dead, as they did. 

It would be too late now to commence the discussion of 
the question of the Infallibility of the Church. I content 
myself for to-day with having shown that this is, in fact, the 
pivot of the whole controversy, on which everything turns, 
defeat on which would make all other victories useless ; and, 
conversely, that a man who ceases to hold it ceases to be 
really a Roman Catholic. 

In conclusion, I have to warn you that, although the 
reasons I have given justify me in devoting this Term's 
Lectures to the question of Infallibility, to the exclusion 
of several important subjects, yet you cannot safely neglect 
these other subjects ; for, though the controversy has been 


simplified for the Roman Catholic, it is not so for you. The 
Romish champions, beaten out of the open field, have shut 
themselves up in this fortress of Infallibility, where, as long 
as their citadel remains untaken, they can defy all assaults. 
Confute them by any arguments you please, and they can 
still reply, 'The Church has said otherwise,' and there is an 
end of the matter. But, though the Roman Catholic has 
thus shut himself up in a fortress, he can at any moment 
sally out on you, if he thinks he can do it with success. He 
will for the moment waive the question whether the Pope 
could decide wrongly, and will undertake to show that deci- 
sions of his which had been controverted were, in point of 
fact, right. Every victory a Roman Catholic can gain over 
you on particular points of controversy strengthens his faith 
in the attribute of Infallibility, his Church's claim to which 
seems to be verified by fact. On the other hand, if he is 
beaten back into his fortress every sally he makes, if he 
finds it a task of ever-increasing difficulty to reconcile with 
Scripture and with history the actual decisions of this guide 
who is warranted never to go wrong, so heavy a strain is put 
on his faith in the reality of this gift, that this faith is not 
unlikely to give way. The almost invariable history of con- 
versions or re-conversions from Romanism is that doubt has 
arisen as to the truth of some particular point of Roman 
Catholic doctrine (very often not by any means the most 
important point), and then, as the evidence of the falsity of 
this particular doctrine becomes more and more clear, the 
inquirer goes on to examine whether the arguments for 
Infallibility are strong enough to bear the strain laid on 
them. In fact, a tract on any point of Roman teaching 
may be regarded as an argument on the question of Infal- 
libility. Clearly, there could be no more decisive proof that 
the Church of Rome can err, than if you could show that 
she has erred. If a Roman Catholic will discuss any point 
of doctrine with you, he is really putting the Infallibility of 
his Church on its trial. And, consequently, a thoroughgoing 
Infallibilist like Manning, is consistently a foe to all candid 
historical investigation, as being really irreconcileable with 
faith in the Church's authority. 



ON the last day I dwelt sufficiently on the vital importance 
in the Roman Catholic controversy of the question of 
the Infallibility of the Church. To-day it is our business to 
examine what proof of that doctrine can be offered. But 
there is a preliminary question whether it is in the nature 
of things possible that any proof can be given. 

The craving for an infallible guide arises from men's 
consciousness of the weakness of their understanding. In 
temporal matters we are constrained to act on our own 
judgment. When we have important decisions to make we 
often feel ourselves in great doubt and perplexity, and some- 
times the decision we ultimately make turns out to be wrong, 
and we have to pay the penalty in loss or other suffering. A 
loss, however, affecting only our temporal interests may be 
borne; but it seems intolerable to men that, when their 
eternal interests are at stake, any doubt or uncertainty should 
attend their decisions, and they look out for some guide who 
may be able to tell them, with infallible certainty, which is 
the right way. And yet it is easy to show that it is in the 
nature of things impossible to give men absolute security 
against error in any other way than by their being them- 
selves made infallible ; and I shall hereafter show you that 
when men profess faith in the Church's infallibility, they 
are, in real truth, professing faith in their own. 

It is common with Roman Catholics to speak as if the 
use of private judgment and the infallibility of the Church 
were things opposed to each other. They are fond of con- 
trasting the peace, and certainty, and assurance of him whose 

i / 

I fo At CM 


faith rests on the rock of an infallible Church, with the un- 
certainty of him whose belief rests only on the shifting sands 
of his own fallible judgment. But it must be remembered 
that our belief imist, in the end, rest on an act of our own 
judgment, and can never attain any higher certainty than 
whatever that may be able to give us. We may talk about 
the right of private judgment, or the duty of private judg- 
ment, but a more important thing to insist on is the necessity 
of private judgment. We have the choice whether we shall 
exercise our private judgment in one act or in a great many; 
but exercise it in one way or another we must. We may 
either apply our private judgment separately to the different 
questions in controversy Purgatory, Transubstantiation, 
Invocation of Saints, and soforth and come to our own 
conclusion on each; or we may apply our private judgment 
to the question whether the Church of Rome is infallible, 
and, if we decide that it is, take all our religious opinions 
thenceforward on trust from her. But it is clear that our 
certainty that any of the things she teaches us is right 
cannot be greater than whatever certainty we have that our 
private judgment has decided the question rightly whether 
we ought to submit unreservedly to her teaching ; and it will 
appear, before we have done, that this is at least as difficult 
a question as any in the controversy. 

That submission to the Church of Rome rests ultimately 
on an act of private judgment is unmistakeably evident, 
when a Romanist tries (as he has no scruple in doing) to make 
a convert of you or any other member of our Church. What 
does he then ask you to do but to decide that the religion of 
your fathers is wrong; that the teachers and instructors of 
your childhood were all wrong ; that the clergy to whom you 
have looked up as best able to guide you are all mistaken 
and have been leading you in a way which must end in your 
eternal destruction ? Well, if you come to the conclusion to 
reject all the authority which you have reverenced from your 
childhood, is not that a most audacious exercise of private 
judgment? But suppose you come to the opposite conclu- 
sion, and decide on staying where you were, would not a 
Romanist have a right to laugh at you, if you said that you 


were not using your private judgment then; that to change 
one's religion indeed is an act of private judgment, but that 
one who continues in his father's religion is subject to none 
of the risks to which every exercise of private judgment is 
liable ? Well, it is absurd to imagine that logic has one rule 
for Roman Catholics and another for us; that it would be 
an exercise of private judgment in them to change their 
religion, but none if they continue in what their religious 
teachers have told them. An act of our judgment must be 
the ultimate foundation of all our beliefs. 

The case is the case as if an inexperienced woman now 
finds herself the inheritor of a landed estate. She may feel 
herself quite incompetent to decide 011 all the questions of 
dealing with tenants that must now arise, and she may very 
wisely entrust the management of her affairs to an agent or 
attorney. But it would be a delusion to imagine that she 
thereby escapes risk or responsibility. She has to exercise 
her judgment in the choice of an agent, and according as she 
has made that decision, wisely or not, her affairs prosper, or 
the reverse. A blind man does well in getting someone to 
lead him ; but if he chooses a blind man to lead him, both 
fall into the ditch. And so in matters of religion. The most 
irreligious man, who resolves to neglect the whole subject, 
and never trouble his head about any religious question, 
surely by that resolve, whether formally or informally made, 
incurs a most serious responsibility. In like manner, neither 
does the man escape responsibility who equally puts the con- 
sideration of religious problems from his mind, because he is 
content to surrender his judgment to the guidance of some- 
one else whom he believes to be wiser than himself. I do 
not see how a Roman Catholic advocate can help yielding 
the point that a member of his Church does, in truth, exer- 
cise private judgment, once for all, in his decision to submit 
to the teaching of the Church. 

But he might probably argue that the illustration I have 
used shows that this is the very wisest way to exercise pri- 
vate judgment. The lady of my illustration surely does the 
wisest thing, if she attempts no other way of dealing with 
her estate, than, after taking the best advice she can get, 


entrusting herself to a good agent. Do we not in every 
department of conduct submit our own judgment to that of 
skilled persons ? If we are sick, or if a member of our family 
is so, we do not try to study the case out of medical books ; 
we call in a physician of repute, and submit implicitly to his 
directions. If we go to sea, we leave the navigation of the 
vessel in the hands of the captain. If we have a difficult 
lawsuit, we do not try to conduct it ourselves ; we take legal 
advice, and permit our adviser to determine our course of 
action. Why should we think that the problems of religion 
are so simple, that skilled and unskilled persons are on a 
par, and that this is the only subject in the world in which a 
man is to be ashamed to submit his judgment to that of 
those who are wiser than himself? 

This is by no means an uncommon line of argument for a 
Roman Catholic advocate to use; but if he does, it shows 
that he does not at all understand the nature of the claim to 
infallibility made on behalf of his Church, of which claim 
this argument is, in real truth, entirely subversive. For it 
would be absurd misrepresentation to suggest that any of us 
who insists on the necessity of private judgment thinks it a 
matter of indifference whether a man uses his judgment 
rightly. On the contrary, we think it every man's duty, who 
has to make a decision, to use every means in his power to 
guide his judgment rightly. Not the least of these means is 
the instruction and advice of people better informed than 
ourselves. I do not suppose that any different rule in this 
respect prevails in matters of religion and in other matters ; 
or that theology is the only science in the world that can be 
known by the light of nature, and in which a man, who has 
given no thought to the subject, stands on a level with one 
who has. The illustrations we have used, then, justify a 
clergyman in claiming deference for his opinion on theo- 
logical subjects from a layman, just so far, and no more, 
as he has given more and more prayerful study to those 
subjects than the layman has. It is just so in other cases. 
Why do we defer to the opinion of a barrister in matters of 
law, and to that of a physician in questions of medicine? 
Not because of their official position, but because of their 


superior acquaintance with the subject. We do not imagine 
that an idle young man, who has eaten his dinners, and got 
called to the Bar, becomes, by reason of his new dignity, 
qualified to conduct an important lawsuit, or that we may 
not, without breach of modesty, prefer our own interpreta- 
tion of an Act of Parliament to his. And so if you give no 
heed to theological study, the mere fact of your ordination 
will not entitle you to claim deference for your opinion from 
members of your congregation, among whom you may easily 
find some better informed than yourself. 

On what grounds, then, do those who insist on the in- If 
fallibility of the Church of Rome claim deference for the I 
authority of the Pope? Is it on the ground on which the I 
illustrations we have used show that deference may rightly 
be claimed, namely, that superior knowledge which is the 
natural result of greater learning and deeper study ? Clearly 
no such thing. The deference claimed is alleged to be due 
to the Pope's official position solely, and is demanded from 
the most learned and the most ignorant of his subjects 
equally. Now, on the principle that a man is likely to 
know more of a subject the more he has studied it, which of 
the two had a right to claim that his judgment deserved to 
be received with respect von Dollinger, when he said that 
the doctrine of the Pope's personal infallibility was a mere 
novelty, unknown to the Church of former times ; or Pius IX ., 
when he declared that the Church had always held it ? The 
one might be considered as entitled to speak on Church 
history with the authority of an expert ; the other was an 
Italian ecclesiastic, of no reputation for learning, to whose 
opinion, on a question of Church history, if it were not j 
for his official position, no one would dream of paying the \ 
slightest attention. You see, then, that the illustrations 
which have been appealed to are utterly destructive of the 
Papal claims. In truth, the ultra-Protestants and the ultra- 
Papists are in complete agreement in their contempt for 
theological and ecclesiastical learning, and in their re- 
sistance to that claim to deference for the opinion of the 
clergy, which is made precisely so far, and no more, as by 
diligent and prayerful study the clergy have learned to know 


ment must decide that the books cited are the Word of God, 
and private judgment must interpret the texts brought for- 
ward; and if private judgment can be trusted to do this, it 
would seem that it might be trusted to decide other questions 
too. But there is no point on which Roman advocates are 
fonder of insisting than that it is from the Church that we 
receive the Bible; that without her guidance we could have 
no certainty about the canon of Scripture; and still more, 
that without the Church's guidance we are incompetent to 
find the true meaning of Scripture. Now, certainly, those 
texts which are alleged to prove the Church's infallibility 
are not so plain and clear that no rational man can doubt 
their meaning. On the contrary, there are no texts in the 
Sacred Volume about which controversy has raged more 
fiercely. I suppose there is no text on which the Fathers 
have given greater variety of interpretation than that which 
I just mentioned, 'Thou art Peter' : and we have to go down 
far indeed, before we find one who discovered the Bishop of 
Rome in it. As a matter of fact, it is certain that more than 
half of those who profess to acknowledge the authority of 
the Bible are unable to find in it any proof of Roman 
infallibility. It remains, then, for a Roman Catholic to say, 
' I know that I understand these texts rightly, because the 
Church, which cannot err, has taught me that this is their true 
mean i n g>' an( l then they are clearly in a vicious circle. They 
say, ' The Church is infallible, because the Scriptures testify 
t na * she is so, and the Scriptures testify this because the 
Church infallibly declares that such is their meaning.' 

e find ourselves in the same circle if we try to prove the 
Church's infallibility by antiquity, sayings of the Fathers, 
by reason, or in any other way. For the advocates of the 
Church of Rome have constantly maintained that, on religious 
questions, nothing but the Church's authority can give us 
cer tainty. Well, when we are trying to prove the Church's 
J authority, we shall be guilty of a logical fallacy if we assume 
the thing to be proved. Unless, then, we are building a 
fabric in the air, our proof of the Church's infallibility must 
rest on something else; and if we arrive at a certain result, 
it follows that without the Church's help it is possible for us 


to arrive at not only true, but absolutely certain, results in 
our investigation of one of the most difficult of religious 
questions. All the attempts of Roman Catholic controver- 
sialists to show the helplessness of men without the Church 
make it impossible to have any confidence in their success in 
finding the Church. 

Great efforts have been made by Roman Catholic divines 
to clear their mode of procedure from the charge of logical 
fallacy, but in the nature of things such efforts must be hope- 
less. A clever mathematician described the problem of per- 
petual motion, about which so many crazy speculators have 
busied themselves, as the problem to enable a man to lift 
himself from the ground by the waistband of his own 
breeches. And this is precisely the kind of problem which 
men set themselves when they hope to discover some ab- 
solute security against the possibility of going wrong in their 
judgments. Unless God directly bestows miraculously this 
privilege on themselves, they must be exposed to risk of error 
in their judgment that somebody else possesses this privilege. 
In point of fact, I believe that in the Roman Church, when- 
ever faith in her is more than that indolent uninquiring 
assent which men give to the opinions in which they were 
brought up, and which it has not occurred to them to doubt, 
it rests on an implied persuasion that God has miraculously 
bestowed on them the privilege of knowing that the Church 
is infallible. Whether such a persuasion is an adequate 
foundation of faith will be considered afterwards, when I 
come to discuss the value of faith resting on a supposed 
motion of God's Spirit communicated to the individual. 

Since this lecture was delivered, a Roman Catholic bishop 
(Clifford) has attempted, in an article in the Fortnightly Re- 
view (January, 1887), to meet the difficulty here raised. The 
statement which he professes to answer is : ' The Church 
bases its authority on the remarkable words, " Thou art 
Peter," &c. The authority of the words, "Thou art Peter," 
rests on the Divine authority of the New Testament. But 
the authority of the New Testament, in turn, rests on the 
authority of the Church, which derives its authority from the 


book We call this process, in other matters, arguing 

in a circle.' Bishop Clifford replies : The argument here set 
forth is an argument in a circle, no doubt ; but it is not the 
line of argument which the Church adopts in proving against 
unbelievers her Divine origin and mission. He then proceeds 
to state the latter line of argument in a form, of which what 
follows is a summary : 

(a) She appeals, in the first instance, to the writings of 
the New Testament, using them, not as inspired books, but 
as the genuine works of contemporary writers, in the same 
way as she appeals to Tacitus, Seneca, or other trustworthy 
authorities. In this way it is established, by purely his- 
torical evidence, that there was such a person as Christ ; that 
He founded a Society, which received the names of the 
Christian and the Catholic Church; that that Society has 
continued to exist through successive generations to the 
present day, and that the Church is that Society. 

(b) Still using the New Testament writings only as his- 
torical records, she establishes the fact of the miracles of 
Christ, and especially the fact of the Resurrection. Thence 
she infers that Christ is God. In confirmation of His 
Divinity, and of the truth of His mission, she appeals to the 
manner in which His prophecies concerning the Church and 
the Jewish nation have been fulfilled; to the wonderful 
spread of the Gospel ; to the constancy of the martyrs ; to the 
great change for good that the preaching of the Gospel has 
wrought among men ; and to the testimony which the Church 
herself has borne, through so many generations, to the belief 
which has been held in the truth of His miracles. 

(c) Christ having been proved to be God, His words must 
be Divine, and therefore infallibly true. But it is on record 
that He spoke the words, ' Thou art Peter,' &c. ; 'As the 
Father has sent me, I also send you' (John xx. 21) ; ' Going, 
teach all nations : . . . behold, I am with you all days, even 
to the consummation of the world ' (Matt, xxviii. 19, 20). 
These being God's words, the Church, to which they relate, 
is a Divine institution, and has authority from God. 

(d) This Church, founded by God, with a mission from 
God to teach all nations, and armed with a Divine promise 


that God will be with her to the consummation of the world, 
cannot err in her teaching; she is, by God's appointment, 

Such, in substance, is Bishop Clifford's reply; but, in 
offering it, he wholly misconceives the exigencies of his 
position. He brings out the infallibility of the Church as 
the result of a long line of argument. This doctrine, which 
is wanted for the foundation of the building, is with him the 
coping-stone of the structure; or, to state the matter more 
correctly, it is the last storey of a house of cards. For the 
whole argument is full of disputable points. Thus, in the 
last clause of paragraph (a), 'and the Church is that society,' 
he, no doubt, by 'the Church' means the Church of Rome, 
to the exclusion, for example, of the Anglican Church and of 
the Eastern; but it need not be said what room for contro- 
versy there is on that point. In paragraph (d) there is a 
tremendous jump in the assumption that to prove the Divine 
institution of the Church is enough to prove its infallibility. 
For with regard to the State, we are told, 'the powers that be 
are ordained of God,' yet it does not follow that 'the powers 
that be ' can never issue unjust commands. 

But this is not the time to examine the goodness of 
Bishop Clifford's arguments; that will come under discus- 
sion at a later stage : what we are now concerned with is 
whether such a proof as is here offered us makes any pre- 
tence of being adequate to the necessities of the case. What 
is wanted is a proof which will induce us to accept without 
doubting the teaching of the Church. Now, you cannot 
submit without doubting to a doubtful authority. It would 
be ridiculous, for instance, to say, You must accept without 
the least doubt the assertions of the Church of Rome, because 
it is an even chance that she may be infallible. What degree 
of assurance, then, is such an argument as Bishop Clifford's 
calculated to afford ? You cannot have more assurance of 
the truth of the conclusion of a long line of argument than 
whatever assurance you have of the truth of every premiss, 
and of the correctness of every inference, used in the argu- 
ment. If doubt attaches to any one step in the argument, 


that doubt will attach to the conclusion : if doubt attaches to 
more steps than one, the conclusion is affected by multiplied 

Now, Bishop Clifford cannot possibly imagine that the 
steps of his argument are free from doubt. The line of argu- 
ment is, in its general features, the same as that employed 
by Protestants, which Roman Catholic advocates are fond of 
saying is not sufficient to warrant certainty of belief without 
the testimony of an infallible Church. But if Bishop Clif- 
ford's account of the matter is right, Protestants have ten 
times as much certainty as Roman Catholics. For the argu- 
ments by which the former establish their faith are accepted 
as good and valid by the latter, to the foundation of whose 
system they are indispensable. But the arguments necessary 
to establish the points in the system of Roman Catholics 
which are peculiar to them are such that nobody but them- 
selves can see any cogency in them. 

Bishop Clifford was probably aware of the weakness of 
the proof he offers ; for he is careful to say that this is only 
the line of argument which the Church offers to unbelievers. 
But Logic has not one rule for believers, another for unbe- 
lievers. If the proof which the Church tenders to unbelievers 
is not satisfactory, she does not mend matters by saying, Oh, 
you will be fully satisfied if you will only take my word for 
everything. This is much the same as if one, seeking a place 
with you as a servant, brought you a recommendation which 
you did not think satisfactory, and then thought to make 
it all right by writing his own name on the back of it. 
However, I remember that this line of defence was taken up 
long ago by Dr. Newman, and I believe it is as plausible as 
any that can be adopted. He frankly owned the impossi- 
bility of making out any proof of her claims which will be 
felt as demonstratively convincing by one who has not 
already submitted to her. He taught that one must not 
expect certainty in the highest sense before conversion. 
' Faith must make a venture, and is rewarded by sight.' * 
The claims of the Church shine, as it were, by their own 

* See Loss and Gain, pp. 284, 318. 


light. She comes and calls on you, in the name of God to 
bow down before her. And though, perhaps, you can give 
no reason logically unassailable for submitting to her, yet, 
after you have submitted, you find that you have done well. 
You find in her bosom rest, peace, freedom from doubt ; and 
you are sure that she who has bestowed these gifts upon you 
must be divine. 

Now, assuredly we do not deny that an alleged revelation 
may powerfully commend itself by internal evidence. He 
who has received such a revelation on its external proofs 
may find additional reason for trusting it in the consistency 
of its doctrines with each other, their reasonableness, their 
holiness, their adaptation to the wants of his nature. Such 
arguments as these go to make up great part of the grounds 
of the conviction we all feel that the Bible comes from God. 
But this rational conviction can be felt by no member of a 
Church claiming to be infallible. For her first principle is, 
that her teaching shall be subjected to no criticism. A 
disciple of the Church of Rome is bound to crush down 
every doubt as sinful must reject every attempt to test the 
teaching of his Church by reason or Scripture or antiquity, 
consequently, her teaching can never receive any subsequent 
verification. The certainty of her disciples can never rise 
higher than it was the first moment they submitted to her. 
The pretence of subsequent verification really presents us 
with a petitio principii in the most outrageous form. ' You 
must believe everything I say,' demands the Pope. ' Why 
should we ? ' we inquire. ' Well, perhaps I cannot give any 
quite convincing reason; but just try it. If you trust me 
with doubt or hesitation, I make no promise ; but if you 
really believe everything I say, you will find, that you will 
believe everything I say.' It follows, then, that all the Church 
of Rome can promise is what any guide can promise who 
insists on blindfolding his passengers. ' Trust yourselves 
implicitly to me, and you shall thenceforward feel no doubt 
or perplexity; you shall never see any reason to make you 
think that I am leading you wrong. Whatever may be the 
difficulties or dangers in the path, you shall never perceive 
any of them.' It requires no Divine commission to be able 


that doubt will attach to the conclusion : if doubt attaches to 
more steps than one, the conclusion is affected by multiplied 

Now, Bishop Clifford cannot possibly imagine that the 
steps of his argument are free from doubt. The line of argu- 
ment is, in its general features, the same as that employed 
by Protestants, which Roman Catholic advocates are fond of 
saying is not sufficient to warrant certainty of belief without 
the testimony of an infallible Church. But if Bishop Clif- 
ford's account of the matter is right, Protestants have ten 
times as much certainty as Roman Catholics. For the argu- 
ments by which the former establish their faith are accepted 
as good and valid by the latter, to the foundation of whose 
system they are indispensable. But the arguments necessary 
to establish the points in the system of Roman Catholics 
which are peculiar to them are such that nobody but them- 
selves can see any cogency in them. 

Bishop Clifford was probably aware of the weakness of 
the proof he offers ; for he is careful to say that this is only 
the line of argument which the Church offers to unbelievers. 
But Logic has not one rule for believers, another for unbe- 
lievers. If the proof which the Church tenders to unbelievers 
is not satisfactory, she does not mend matters by saying, Oh, 
you will be fully satisfied if you will only take my word for 
everything. This is much the same as if one, seeking a place 
with you as a servant, brought you a recommendation which 
you did not think satisfactory, and then thought to make 
it all right by writing his own name on the back of it. 
However, I remember that this line of defence was taken up 
long ago by Dr. Newman, and I believe it is as plausible as 
any that can be adopted. He frankly owned the impossi- 
bility of making out any proof of her claims which will be 
felt as demonstratively convincing by one who has not 
already submitted to her. He taught that one must not 
expect certainty in the highest sense before conversion. 
' Faith must make a venture, and is rewarded by sight.' * 
The claims of the Church shine, as it were, by their own 

* See Loss and Gain, pp. 284, 318. 


light. She comes and calls on you, in the name of God to 
bow down before her. And though, perhaps, you can give 
no reason logically unassailable for submitting to her, yet, 
after you have submitted, you find that you have done well. 
You find in her bosom rest, peace, freedom from doubt; and 
you are sure that she who has bestowed these gifts upon you 
must be divine. 

Now, assuredly we do not deny that an alleged revelation 
may powerfully commend itself by internal evidence. He 
who has received such a revelation on its external proofs 
may find additional reason for trusting it in the consistency 
of its doctrines with each other, their reasonableness, their 
holiness, their adaptation to the wants of his nature. Such 
arguments as these go to make up great part of the grounds 
of the conviction we all feel that the Bible comes from God. 
But this rational conviction can be felt by no member of a 
Church claiming to be infallible. For her first principle is, 
that her teaching shall be subjected to no criticism. A 
disciple of the Church of Rome is bound to crush down 
every doubt as sinful must reject every attempt to test the 
teaching of his Church by reason or Scripture or antiquity, 
consequently, her teaching can never receive any subsequent 
verification. The certainty of her disciples can never rise 
higher than it was the first moment they submitted to her. 
The pretence of subsequent verification really presents us 
with a petitio principii in the most outrageous form. ' You 
must believe everything I say,' demands the Pope. ' Why 
should we ? ' we inquire. ' Well, perhaps I cannot give any 
quite convincing reason; but just try it. If you trust me 
with doubt or hesitation, I make no promise; but if you 
really believe everything I say, you will find, that you -will 
believe everything I say.' It follows, then, that all the Church 
of Rome can promise is what any guide can promise who 
insists on blindfolding his passengers. ' Trust yourselves 
implicitly to me, and you shall thenceforward feel no doubt 
or perplexity; you shall never see any reason to make you 
think that I am leading you wrong. Whatever may be the 
difficulties or dangers in the path, you shall never perceive 
any of them.' It requires no Divine commission to be able 


to promise freedom from doubt on such terms as these. I 
could promise as much to any of you. I could tell you all : 
'If you never use your understanding, it will never lead you 
wrong. If you never inquire, you will never be perplexed. 
If you take all your opinions on trust from others, you will 
be free from all the painful uncertainty that attends the task 
of forming opinions for yourselves.' No; if you wish to 
make sure that the Church of Rome is a trustworthy guide, 
you must examine her claims before you submit to her. For, 
as her present rulers teach, he who once puts himself under 
her guidance abandons all means of verification of her doc- 
trines, and has no power of detecting error, should any 

This argument of Dr. Newman's was revived some little 
time ago by Mr. Mallock. He had been in the habit of 
publishing articles in magazines, in which he criticised other 
people's beliefs and disbeliefs so freely that it was hard to 
know what he believed or did not believe himself. At last 
he published an essay, of which the gist was that Romanism 
alone could make head against infidelity; that all attempts 
to defend Christianity by argument must end in failure ; but 
that a religion which demands submission without proof may 
hold its ground for ever. For a time, I grant ; but certainly 
only for a time. Was ever the cause of Christianity so 
treacherously defended ? If infamous charges were made 
against my character, perhaps there are some of you who 
might think well enough of me to disbelieve them without 
examination. But suppose anyone were to defend me after 
this fashion : Dr. Salmon says he is a good man, and I 
earnestly pray you to take his own word for it; for if you 
permit yourself to inquire into the charges against him, you 
will be forced to come to an unfavourable conclusion about 
him, which would be so very uncomfortable for you to hold, 
that it will be a great deal wiser for you to make no inquiry.' 
Do you think I should be grateful for such a defence as that ? 
or that I could regard the maker of it as other than an enemy 
who scarcely took the trouble to disguise his malignity? If 
this be the best that can be said for the Church of Rome, the 
peace of mind which she offers is just that which might be 


offered by the directors of some Glasgow Bank, who had 
made away with their customers' money, but hoped that 
by bold speaking they might carry on their business pros- 
perously, and prevent their accounts being looked into. 

Recently an attempt has been made to place the system 
of Roman Catholic belief on a more scientific foundation. 
Of this I shall speak in the next lecture. 



BEFORE coming to the immediate subject of this lecture, 
I find it convenient to mention a very interesting book, 
published several years ago by Mr. Capes, one of those who 
went over to Rome about the same time as Dr. Newman, but 
who, unlike him, did not submit to having his eyes quite 
blindfolded, and consequently saw reason to distrust the 
guide whom he had chosen, and therefore returned to the 
Church of England. His reasons were given in the book of 
which I speak. In this he tells* that he had been about five 
years a Roman Catholic before he fully understood the nature 
of the claim made by members of that communion. About 
that time he was taken to task by one of the leading divines 
of that Church for having spoken of the certainty which they 
had of the truths of their religion, as in its nature moral, not 
absolute; that is to say, as amounting to a very high kind 
of probability, and nothing more. He was informed that a 
Catholic possesses absolute certainty as to the truths of 
revealed religion, which are taught him by an infallible 
Church, in whose statements he believes with an undoubt- 
ing faith, which faith is the supernatural gift of God. His 
knowledge, then, of the supernatural truths of Christianity is 
alleged to be absolute, and to admit of neither criticism nor 
doubt. In the next lecture I mean to say something about 
the theory of the supernatural gift of faith as laid down at the 
Vatican Council, merely remarking now that the theory of a 

* Reasons for Returning to the Church of England : 2nd edition, 
1871, p. 56. 


supernatural endowment superseding in matters of religion 
the ordinary laws of reasoning, an endowment to question 
the validity of which involves deadly peril, deters Roman 
Catholics from all straightforward seeking for truth ; for they 
fear lest they should trifle with that supernatural gift by 
seeking for that which they claim to have already. 

Now observe that the evidence which proves the truth of 
Christianity is in its nature historical, not demonstrative. 
TfiaT Jesus Christ lived more than eighteen centuries ago f 
that He died, rose again, and taught such and such doctrines, 
are things proved by the same kind of argument as that by 
which we know that Augustus was Emperor of Rome, and 
that there is such a country as China. Whether or not 
Christ founded a Church ; whether He bestowed the gift of 
infallibility upon it; and whether He fixed the seat of that 
infallibility at Rome, are things to be proved, if proved at all, 
by arguments which a logician would class as probable, not 
demonstrative. It is true that Roman Catholics maintain 
that when a Divine revelation has been given, our assent is 
not a matter of opinion, but of certainty. We must receive 
without doubt what God has revealed. In a popular lecture, 
there is room for abundant declamation on the topic that 
whatever God has revealed must be absolutely true. It is a 
common rhetorical artifice with a man who has to commend 
a false conclusion deduced from a syllogism of which one 
premiss is true, and the other false, to spend an immensity 
of time in proving the premiss which nobody denies. If he 
devotes a sufficient amount of argument and declamation to 
this topic, the chances are that his hearers will never ask for 
the proof of the other premiss. Thus it is really amusing in 
Roman Catholic popular books of controversial teaching to 
see how much labour is expended on the proof that God 
is true ; that He cannot deceive ; that nothing which He has 
revealed can be false; and that therefore those who accept 
His statements without doubting cannot possibly be in error, 
and have infallible certainty that they are in the right. But 
all the time it is tried to make us forget to ask for proof of 
what is the real point at issue, namely, that God has revealed 
the doctrines which their Church teaches. It is certain 


enough that what God has revealed is true; but if it is not 
certain that He has revealed the infallibility of the Roman 
Church then we cannot have certain assurance of the truth of 
that doctrine, or of anything that is founded on it. 
,j But it is unavoidable that the proofs that God has revealed 
/ the" infallibility of the Church should be, in their nature, his-^ 
torical : that is to say, probable, not demonstrative. The 
great crux, then, with Roman Catholic divines is to explain 
how, from probable premisses, we arrive at absolutely certain 
conclusions ; how we can have a stronger assurance of what 
the infallible Church teaches than we can have of the fact of 
her infalliblity. 

Dr. Newman had the merit of seeing more clearly than 
other champions of his Church that a solution of this prob- 
lem was impossible, if the infallibility of the Church was to 
be proved by any logical process of reasoning, the neces- 
sary law of which is, that we cannot have greater certainty of 
any conclusion than we have of the premisses from which it 
is derived. He saw, therefore, that the thing to be done was 
to remove the process of finding the infallible Church into 
some province outside logic, in which it shall not be amen- 
able to logical laws. And this is what he tried to do in the 
last of his works, called an Essay on the Grammar of Assent. 
The professed object of it is, leaving to works on logic the 
discussion of the theory of Inference to give a theory of the 
process by which men arrive at their beliefs. Perhaps the 
chief fault in the book is that Newman has not, even in his 
own mind, sufficiently distinguished two very different 
] things. He has given a most interesting history of the pro- 
cess by which men actually arrive at beliefs; and he gives 
this in substitution for the answer to the question, How shall 
men secure that their beliefs shall be correct ? 

Perhaps you might suppose that a sound theory of the 
reasoning process would give a sufficient account of all our 
correct beliefs. The great merit of Newman's book is, that 
it brings out very clearly that this is as far as possible from 
being the case. A moment's reflection will convince you 
that the majority of our beliefs, true or false, have not been 
arrived at by any process of reasoning, but have been handed 


to us by authority, or caught up from sympathy. In child- 
hood, on the authority of our elders, we accept a mass of 
beliefs which long govern our practical conduct. As we 
grow up, experience verifies the soundness of much that we 
have been taught; some things, however, we examine and 
reject. But no subsequent reasoning adds anything to the 
strength of our earlier faith. The belief of him to whom it 
has never occurred to doubt, though certainly less secure, is 
commonly stronger than that of him who has doubted, and 
has by his own investigation verified the correctness of what 
he had been taught. 

So, again, we naturally believe what our neighbours be- 
lieve, and what commends itself to our feelings. It is the 
most difficult thing in the world to help believing what all 
about you believe. There is an interesting account in a book, 
not so much read now as it was once on a time (Eotheri), of 
the process by which a hard-headed Englishman going out 
to live in the East, and at first laughing at the people's super- 
stition about witchcraft and ghosts, and such like, becomes 
gradually infected by the beliefs which form the atmosphere 
in which he lives, and ends by becoming a slave to supersti- 
tions he had once despised. How little evidence is necessary 
to get a popular rumour to be accepted as fact? Take, for 
example, the generation of panics. With scarcely any ground 
to justify alarm, a whole army has been seized with appre- 
hension of imminent danger, and in that belief has turned 
to flight. It requires great training and discipline to make a 
force proof against such alarms. I need hardly remind you 
how terribly dangerous it is for anyone to raise a cry of fire 
in a crowded theatre or concert-room. Often has a whole 
audience rushed to the doors, trampling each other to death 
in their eagerness to escape, fully believing in the presence 
of danger of which there was no evidence whatever. At the 
time of the Indian mutiny, I remember that stories were cur- 
rent, and were generally believed, of atrocities perpetrated 
on our countrymen and countrywomen, which we now know 
to have been gross exaggerations; but at the time to hint 
a suspicion of exaggeration would have been regarded as a 
mark of sympathy with the rebels, 


Dr. Newman quarrels with Locke's dictum, that we ought 
not to entertain any belief with assent greater than is pro- 
portioned to the grounds on which it rests. He shows that 
nobody does carry out this rule in practice; and that Locke 
himself confesses that there is a number of things not demon- 
strable, which we hold with as full belief as we give to any 
proposition in Euclid. It would be mad to doubt that you 
will one day die; yet the thing is not demonstrably certain. 
I repeat this from Newman ; but I may remark that it is a 
weakness of his logic that, though quite familiar with the 
theory of the deductive process, he seems quite unacquainted 
with the logic of induction. It is more to the point when he 
says that a man may be content to trust all he has in the 
world to the faith he has in the truth of his wife, or his 
friend ; he may be most wise in refusing to listen to any 
question on the matter, yet other people have been deceived 
in such confidence, and he would be unable to give any 
logical proof that it was impossible for himself to make a 
mistake such as theirs. 

With this part of Newman's book I have not much to dis- 
pute, unless it be the supposition that it gains anything for 
the Church of Rome. Nay, I found it very useful when an 
Essay was published a few years ago on The Ethics of Belief, 
by the late Professor Clifford. Clifford, whose great fear 
came to be lest men should believe too much, tried to make 
out that it is a highly immoral thing to believe anything the 
proofs of which we have not fully investigated. Newman's 
book, if he had read it, might have taught him that what he 
condemned was really a necessity of our life. 

The simple truth is, that as all our action must be guided 
and stimulated by beliefs of some kind, our Creator has not 
left us dependent for such beliefs on the slow process of 
argumentation. Instead of the tedious and laborious process 
of forming conclusions for ourselves, by weighing arguments 
pro and con, we take ready-made the conclusions of others ; 
and it is in this way that the best results one generation is 
able to arrive at are handed over as the starting-point for the 
next. To this is due that the world makes any progress in 
knowledge, for if each generation had to start afresh, there 


would be no reason why one should be more successful or 
wiser than another. 

But it is important to remark, that though our beliefs are 
not, in the first instance, generated by reasoning, they are 
bound to justify themselves by reason. There is nothing 
more rational than that children should accept what is taught 
them by their instructors, even though those instructors may 
be in error on some points ; and generally that, on subjects 
which we have not leisure or capacity to investigate for our- 
selves, we should receive the conclusions come to by those 
who have, and who have the highest reputation for know- 
ledge and ability. 

But all this investigation as to the manner in which we 
get beliefs is seen to be utterly worthless as a basis for the 
doctrine of Church infallibility, if we observe that though we 
get beliefs originally, as a general rule, without much per- 
sonal investigation, every belief has to submit to a constant 
process of testing and verification, either by ourselves indivi- 
dually, or by general experience ; and the confidence we have 
in traditional belief mainly depends on the constant exami- 
nation to which it is subjected. Thus you have a general 
knowledge that the theory of gravitation will account for all 
the movements of the heavenly bodies. You might count on 
your fingers the number of persons in the three kingdoms 
who could say this from their personal knowledge ; but you 
know that if any one of them discovered any case of failure or 
exception, it would immediately become a subject of scientific 
controversy, and we should soon hear of it in every news- 
paper. How do you know that we are living in an island ? 
You firmly believe that we are, and yet did you ever sail 
round Ireland yourself? Have you ever spoken to anyone 
who had ? The history of your belief is simply that you were 
told it when you were a child, and have never heard it con- 
tradicted since. But what makes your firm belief rational is 
that you know that if it had not been true, you would be quite 
sure to have heard it contradicted. If a single ship had sailed 
out of Dublin, either to the north or south, and had found its 
way stopped by land ; if a single person had made his way out 
of Irelarid by land, you could not help hearing of it. And so, 



generally, about geographical propositions of this kind, which 
are favourite examples with Dr. Newman, we know that the 
maps published by a number of independent publishers, 
all substantially agree in the geographical facts which they 
assert. We know that a multitude of persons are acting every 
day on the faith that these facts have been correctly stated ; 
and we know that if any one of these persons had found that 
this faith had misled him, he would have been sure to make 
his disappointment known. In this way we all feel undoubt- 
ing certainty about a multitude of geographical facts that it 
would be quite impossible for us to investigate for ourselves. 
And that, though maps are not absolutely infallible, and 
though we sometimes hear of navigators making rectification 
of the charts, sometimes even of shipwrecks caused by too 
implicit dependence on them. 

I have already said that, in claiming the right of private 
judgment, we acknowledge the need of human teaching to 
inform our judgment. In particular, we own that the teach- 
ing of the Church is God's appointed means for the religious 
instruction of mankind. But the confidence with which we 
can trust such teaching is altogether proportionate to its 
willingness to submit to correction. The teaching of the 
primitive Church, or of our own, may be as safely trusted as 
the uncontradicted statements of the newspaper press in a 
free country, where we know that anything erroneous that 
may be published is liable to be met by an immediate 
counter-statement. The teaching of a Church which claims 
infallibility is as little worthy of confidence as what is pub- 
lished in the newspapers of a despotic country, where nobody 
is permitted to deny whatever it is the wish of the Govern- 
ment that the people should believe. 

A few words will suffice as to a second point on which 
Dr. Newman lays stress, namely, that we give to things for 
which the evidence is only probable in its nature as strong a 
practical assent as to truths which are actually demonstrated. 
This is no more than what is laid down in the Introduction 
to Butler's Analogy : probability is the very guide of life. 
Evidence which a logician would refuse to class as demon- 
stration suffices to give us practical certainty. Even when 


there is but a strong probability one way, with a small op- 
posing probability the other way, the small probability is, 
in practice, completely neglected. For instance, when the 
life of a fellow-creature is at stake (as when a criminal is 
tried on circumstantial evidence), the judge tells the jury to 
find him guilty if they have no 'rational doubt' of his guilt : 
that is to say, that even though one can imagine an expla- 
nation of the facts consistent with his innocence, still they 
are to find him guilty if the probability of this explanation is 
smaller than that which reasonable men ordinarily allow to 
influence their conduct. It will presently be part of my own 
case that it is impossible to draw a sharp line of distinction 
between things of which we may describe ourselves as prac- 
tically certain and things which can only be said to be in the 
highest degree probable. 

But what I take to be the specialty of Dr. Newman's 
book was his imagined discovery of a supposed ' illative 
sense.' It has already been made evident that logic will 
not provide any means of freeing us absolutely from risk o 
error in our religious opinions. If we take our opinions on 
trust from a guide supposed to be infallible, we are still 
liable to have erred in the process by which we persuaded 
ourselves that he is infallible. It would be a ' petitio prin-~ 
cipii ' if we employed the infallible authority in proving his" 
own infallibility; and if we recognize it without his help 1 
we are liable to all the risk of error with which our unassisted 
religious speculation is said to be attended. Dr. Newman 
hoped to get over this difficulty by showing that the process 
of arriving at beliefs was not the work of logic, but of a 
special sense. 

Some persons, he remarks, have an intuitive perception of 
character, and yet would be unable to assign reasons for the 
distrust which certain persons inspire in them. A weather- 
wise peasant can predict the weather, without being able to 
give his reasons for saying it will rain to-morrow. Savages 
have been able to track their way over an unknown country 
with a sagacity which seems more like instinct than reason. 
All these sagacious inferences, of which logic seemed unable 
to give an account, Newman imagined to be the work of a 


(special illative sense, and to this he trusted to give him some 
higher certainty than reason was capable of yielding, so that 
he might be rightly as sure that the Pope would not deceive 
him as a child is that mother will not deceive him; and 
might trust the indications which manifest the existence of 
an infallible Church as safely as a practised physician trusts 
those by which he makes a diagnosis of a disease arriving 
at a right conclusion, which he would not always find easy to 
justify by argument. 

It certainly is true that right conclusions sometimes are 
arrived at by what looks like a process of divination ; but I 
do not in the least believe that we are entitled to assume a 
special sense to account for them, or that they are obtained 
in any other way than as the results of rapid inference from 
minute facts unnoticed by any but very carefurobservers. It 
is no objection to this account of the matter that the parties 
themselves are unable to explain the steps by which they 
arrive at their conclusions; for it requires a high state of 
culture to be able to analyse mental processes. Reasoning 
came first; logic afterwards. Men reasoned correctly for 
many generations before Aristotle or anyone else undertook 
to give an account of the laws which govern all correct 

To take Newman's own example, it is true that an 
experienced physician may be able at a glance to detect 
the real nature of the disease under which a patient is 
labouring; but, if he can give no account of his reasons, I 
should not place him in the first rank of educated physicians ; 
for such a one would be able to teach his class what were the 
symptoms which had guided his diagnosis. Just in the same 
way, any of us, meeting a man whom we had never seen 
before, might be struck by his likeness to a brother or parent 
whom he had known, and might yet be quite unable to tell 
in what the likeness consisted ; while a portrait painter, who 
had made it his business to observe features, might be able 
not only to detect the likeness, but also to tell in what it con- 
sisted. Or, to take another example of the same kind, we all 
can recognize the handwriting of a friend, and yet might be 
embarrassed if we had to give evidence on a case of disputed 


signature in a court of justice. But a few years ago, an inter- 
esting book was published by an expert on the handwriting 
of Junius, showing that those who make the discrimination 
of handwriting their profession employ no inarticulate pro- 
cess, but reason by arguments of which they are well able to 
give an account. Once more, take the case of some parts of 
plays ascribed to Shakespeare, his authorship of which has 
been disputed. There are parts which some critics, on 
general considerations of style, had pronounced not to be his, 
but their grounds of judgment were unappreciable by others 
of less fine ear or less familiarity with the poet. Recently 
the metrical peculiarities of these parts have been studied, 
and have been found to differ from those of Shakespeare's 
certain works. This is an argument which anyone can test 
who is able to count. But, no doubt, the metrical peculiari- 
ties in question were among the things that were felt by 
the earlier critics, though they had not so analysed their 
feelings as to be able to make others understand the grounds 
of their judgments. 

On the whole, I do not think that there is the slightest 
ground for thinking that we have any special sense to guide us 
to correct beliefs, though I readily concede that many a man 
arrives at correct beliefs, not without reasoning, but without 
being able to state to others the reasons which have influ- 
ence his judgment. The sum of the matter is, then, that 
there is not the smallest pretence for the assertion that the 
process by which Newman or anyone else arrived at belief in 
an infallible Church was the business of a special sense, or 
lies in a province above logic, or is not amenable to the 
necessary law of reasoning that we have no stronger reason 
for holding the conclusion than we have for holding the 
premisses from which it was obtained. Belief in an infallible 
Church, when not merely traditional, is the result of a process 
of reasoning ; and, when we come to analyse that process, we 
shall find it to be a very unsound one. At any rate, if there 
be any uncertainty about this process, this uncertainty must 
attach to all its results, and there can be no success in a 
search for infallibility unless we are infallible ourselves. 

Dr. Newman is obliged, in substance, to accept this con- 


elusion, though he objects to the form of expression. To say 
we are infallible would imply that we were sure of being 
always in the right; but you must own that there are some 
cases in which we may be absolutely certain that we are in 
the right. Who can refuse to own that there are some things 
about which we may be perfectly certain ? Are you not cer- 
tain that two and two are four? Are you not certain that 
Great Britain is an island ? that the reigning sovereign is 
Queen Victoria, and not William the Fourth ? Are you not 
certain that I am now addressing you? And we may be 
equally certain of the falsity of some other things. Would 
you condescend to discuss the truth of the heathen fancy 
that Enceladus lies under Etna, or the notion that Johanna 
Southcote was a divinely-inspired prophet, or that the 
Emperor Napoleon had, as he fancied, a star? Why may 
we not, then, without being infallible, have the same kind of 
certainty that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ? 

Well, we may reasonably ask of the advocates of the 
Church of Rome that they shall not blow hot and blow cold 
on the question what kind of certainty is attainable by man's 
unassisted powers. When they try to prove our need of an 
infallible guide, they would make you think that, without 
such help, man's attainment of religious truth is impossible. 
Now, when the question is whether such a guide has been 
found, we are told that the answer to this, which is certainly 
not the easiest of religious problems, can be known as cer- 
tainly as that two and two are four. If this be so, surely we 
are safe in asserting our power, without any help from the 
Church of Rome, to arrive at certain knowledge of all the 
truths which we hold in common with her. Is not the 
evidence for the statement, ' Jesus Christ came into the 
world to save sinners,' quite as clear and convincing as that 
for the proposition, ' the Pope is Christ's vicar ' ? 

The simple answer to Newman's talk about certainty is 
got by observing what is the kind of things about which we 
can have practical certainty. They are the things about 
which our own judgments agree with those of all other men. 
The truths which we have the highest confidence in accept- 
ing are those which commend themselves as plain and 


self-evident to everyone else as well as to ourselves. Is the 
infallibility of the Roman Church a truth of this class ? We 
know, as a matter of fact, that it is not. We need not now 
determine whether we heretics are right or not. Our very 
existence proves that if Christ saw fit to found an infallible 
Church He did not see fit to give her unmistakeable creden- 
tials. He might, if He had chosen, have made her Divine 
commission as plain as that the sun is in heaven; but, 
instead of that, He has left the matter, to say the least, so 
doubtful, that more than half of those who own Christ as 
their Lord reject the authority of him who pretends to be the 
Saviour's mouthpiece; and of those who in name acknow- 
ledge that authority, it is safe to say that more than half give 
only nominal submission. It is safe to say it, because it has 
been the theme of constant lamentations, in the encyclicals 
of the late Pope and the present, how its authority is resisted 
in Italy itself and in other countries professedly Roman 
Catholic. Cardinal Newman cannot be more certain that the 
Pope is Christ's vicar than I am that he is not. I do not say 
it for the purpose of talking big, but state a simple fact, 
that to my mind this proposition stands on exactly a level 
with the examples given by Newman, ' that Enceladus lies 
under Etna, and that Johanna Southcote was inspired,' as a 
thing that I not only do not believe to be true, but cannot 
conceive it possible that I should ever be made to believe it 
to be true. Now, when that is the honest expression of the 
feelings of a person who has given much study to the subject, 
and has done his best to be candid, it is absurd to talk as if 
the proposition were of the same class as that two and two 
make four. 

When I deny the possibility of Roman Catholics having 
any success in their search for an infallible Church, I hope 
you will not think that I hold any Pyrrhonic system of scep- 
tical philosophy, or that I disparage the amount of certainty 
which the human mind is capable of arriving at. It is, in 
truth, Roman Catholics who get into difficulties from dis- 
paraging that homely kind of certainty which suffices to 
govern our practical decisions in all the most important 
affairs of life. This seems to them a poor thing, because 


logicians will only class this practical certainty as high 
probability, and because it shades off into probability by 
gradations impossible to be measured. We are certain, for 
instance, that there was such a man as Julius Caesar. We 
may call ourselves certain about the principal events of his 
life ; but when you go into details, and inquire, for instance, 
what knowledge he had of Catiline's conspiracy, you soon 
come to questions to which you can give only probable or 
doubtful answers. And it is just the same as to the facts of 
Christianity ; for ours is a historical religion, and our know- 
ledge of it has to follow the same laws as our knowledge of 
other history. About the great facts (including all, the 
knowledge of which we count necessary to salvation) we 
may fairly call ourselves certain. When we descend to 
details, questions may be proposed, our answers to which 
can only be said to be probable, and others which we answer 
with hesitation, or declare ourselves unable to answer at all. 
This seems to Roman Catholics an unsatisfactory state of 
things, and they look about for some tribunal which shall give 
to any question that may be proposed answers absolutely free 
from risk of error. But how can we eliminate risk of error 
from the process of finding this tribunal, or, indeed, of deter- 
mining whether it exists at all ? Archbishop Whately used 
to tell a story of a bridge at Bath which was so crazy that an 
old lady was afraid to walk across ; so she got herself carried 
over in a sedan chair. What she gained by that was just not 
seeing the danger ; but the bridge had to bear her own weight 
and that of the chair and bearers into the bargain. And so 
those who, through fear of making wrong decisions, trust 
themselves to adopt blindfold the decisions of a supposed 
infallible authority gain nothing but not seeing the risk of 
error. But, in real truth, their risk of going wrong in each 
of the decisions adopted blindfold is fully as great as before, 
and, in addition, they make one judgment which we may 
confidently pronounce to be wrong, namely, the judgment 
that the Church of Rome is infallible. 

The certainty to which Roman Catholics aspire is a thing 
different altogether in kind from what we commonly call 
practical certainty. Newman claims for his certainty the 


attribute of indefectibility, and he plainly shows that it is 
his theory on this point which has kept him a Roman 
Catholic, notwithstanding several shocks his faith has met 
with since he joined that communion. Newman's idea is 
this : if you only think a thing to be true, you may to-mor- 
row find reason to think it not to be true ; but if you certainly 
know a thing to be true, truth cannot change that will be 
true to-morrow which is true to-day ; so that, if we once cer- 
tainly apprehend a truth, we must hold it fast, convinced that 
any other truth we may discover can only contradict it in 
appearance. Thus, he holds that a man can never lose his 
certitude, and, if he appears to do so, it only proves that he 
never had had it. For example, if a man believes himself to 
have become certain of the infallibility of the Roman Church, 
and, after joining her, becomes disgusted at the definition of 
the Immaculate Conception or the Pope's personal infalli- 
bility, and says, This is more than I bargained for, and quits 
her communion, this does not show that he has lost his 
certainty of the Church's infallibility, but that he never had 
had it. He might have believed all the doctrines which the 
Church had propounded at the time he joined her, but he did 
not understand that faith in her inerrancy required him 
equally to believe all that she might at any time teach. 

By way, I suppose, of making his theory more acceptable 
to a Bible Protestant, Newman puts the following case : 
' Suppose,' he says, ' I have a certainty that the Bible is 
inspired, and that it teaches that Adam was the first man; 
and suppose that all ethnologists, philologists, anatomists, 
and intiquarians, led by a multitude of independent proofs, 
agreed in holding that there were different races of men, and 
that Adam had only made his appearance at a definite point 
of time, in a comparatively modern world; then, if I had 
believed with an assent short of certainty, this new evidence 
might make me lose my faith ; but otherwise I should still 
firmly hold what I believed to come from Heaven. I should 
not argue or defend myself, but only wait for better times. 
Philosophers might take their course for me; I should con- 
sider that they and I thought in different mediums, and that 


their certitude could not be in antagonism with mine.' I re- 
collect hearing, when I was young, that there were then still 
surviving Roman Catholic ecclesiastics who, in reference to 
the Copernican theory of astronomy, took the course here 
described. They looked upon it as a scientific craze, which 
had become so epidemic, that direct struggle with it was time 
wasted. They must only wait until it would blow over. 

Dr. Newman owns that he is making an impossible suppo- 
sition in putting the case that a philosophic discovery might 
contradict Revelation. But in such a case I am sure that the 
course which he recommends is an irrational one. No one 
can rationally maintain the same thing to be theologically 
true and philosophically false. Men may resolutely look at 
a question only from one side. A philosopher may shut his 
eyes to the facts with which theologians are conversant, or 
vice versa. In the case supposed, clearly, Newman would 
simply refuse to examine the evidence tendered him by the 
philosophers. But if he did examine, and found it convinc- 
ing, he would be obliged to revise his former opinion; and 
either own that what he had taken for a revelation was not 
one, or, more probably, that he had misunderstood it. Dr. 
Newman's fallacy is simply this he knows that what is true 
must always remain true, and he infers that what men are 
fully persuaded is true must always remain true. This would 
be the case if men were infallible, and if their undoubting 
persuasion always corresponded with the reality of things; 
but, alas, this is by no means the case. A single example 
suffices. For how many ages must all men have believed 
with undoubting persuasion in the immoveability of the earth 
we stand on, and yet the opposite doctrine is now taught as 
part of a child's elementary education? 

Indeed, with respect to this word certainty, I may remark, 
that the more people talk about their certainty the less they 
really have. If one of you came in and told me, ' I saw the 
Prince of Wales just now walking down Sackville-street,' I 
might be a good deal surprised at your news, but there would 
be nothing in your language to make me think you were 
saying anything about which you had not full knowledge. 


But if you said, ' I am certain I saw the Prince of Wales just 
now,' I should conclude you were by no means assured your- 
self of the truth of what you said. 

But to return. There cannot be a plainer proof that men's 
so-called certainty does not always correspond with the 
reality of things, than the fact that there may be opposing 
certainties. Dr. Newman, for instance, is certain the Pope 
is infallible, and I am certain he is not. Dr. Newman would 
get over this by calling his strong conviction certainty, and 
giving to mine some weaker name. But what is this but 
assuming that he is infallible, and I am not ? And when he 
refuses to revise his former judgment that the Church of 
Rome is infallible, notwithstanding that since he came to 
it the Pope has made two decisions which, if Newman were 
free to exercise his own judgment, he would pronounce to 
be wrong, what is this but assuming that he was infallible at 
the time of his former judgment? 

On the contrary, no wise man holds any conclusion of his 
to be absolutely irreversible. There are some things which 
we may firmly believe with a full persuasion that no new 
evidence will turn up to contradict them. In that persuasion 
we may legitimately refuse to attend to opposing evidence 
that is manifestly not of the first class. Thus, I have a firm 
belief in the universality of the law of gravitation. I do not 
give myself the trouble to examine into stories of contrary 
facts alleged to take place in darkened rooms, because I 
know that while the working of the law of gravity is just the 
same in the dark and in the light, the absence of light is 
highly convenient when imposture is attempted. In like 
manner, I would not lightly give heed to stories affecting the 
character of a person in whom I had full confidence. But 
if I made it a canon that on no evidence whatever would I 
believe anything to that person's disadvantage; if, in any 
case, I maintained that the conclusion I had drawn from my 
study of one class of facts must never be abandoned, no 
matter what new facts might come to light, then my belief 
could no longer be called faith it would be prejudice. 

I have thought that Cardinal Newman's celebrity required 
me to give full examination to his attempt to make a philo- 


sophic basis of Roman belief, founded on a study of the 
ordinary laws of human assent ; but I think I may safely say 
that that attempt has totally failed, even in the judgment of 
his own co-religionists. When Newman's book first came 
out, one could constantly see traces of its influence in Roman 
Catholic articles in Magazines and Reviews. Now it seems 
to have dropped very much out of sight, and the highest 
Roman Catholic authorities lay quite a different basis for 
their faith. But I will put off speaking of that till the next 



IT follows from the discussions in the last lectures that 
we have a perfect right to put out of court all Roman 
Catholic attempts to prove the infallibility of their Church, 
as being attempts to build a fabric without any foundation : 
for it is, in the nature of things, impossible for a fallible man 
to have infallible certainty that he has discovered someone 
able to guide him without possibility of error. But I should 
be sorry to seem to want to get rid of the Roman Catholic 
arguments by any logical tour de force, or in any way to 
evade meeting them fairly and fully. 

I do not think their case can be stated in a more taking 
way than it was done in a book now rather old, but which 
was at one time relied on as far and away the most effective 
book of Roman Catholic controversy, and which has still 
much circulation and popularity; I mean Milner's End of 
Religious Controversy. Milner begins by laying down three 
maxims, the truth of which, he says, no rational Christian 
will dispute. First, our Divine Master Christ, in establish- 
ing a religion here on earth, to which all .the nations of 
the earth were invited, left some rule or method by which 
those persons who sincerely seek for it may certainly find 
it. Secondly, this rule or method must be secure and never- 
failing, so as not to be ever liable to lead a rational, sincere 
inquirer into error, impiety, or immorality of any kind. 
Thirdly, this rule or method must be universal, adapted to 
the abilities and other circumstances of all those persons for 


whom the religion itself was intended, namely, the great 
bulk of mankind. 

Milner applies these maxims to discover a rule of faith. 
He first considers and rejects two fallacious rules, as not 
satisfying the prescribed conditions, and then arrives at what 
he conceives to be the only satisfactory rule the teaching of 
his Church. The first rule which he pronounces fallacious 
is 'a supposed private interpretation, or an immediate light 
or motion of God's Spirit communicated to the individual.' 
This rule he takes to be that of the Quakers, the Moravians, 
and some classes of Methodists. Milner has no difficulty in 
tracing the working of this rule, and showing that it does 
not give the security which his maxims demand. He begins 
with the Montanists, who claimed to have been recipients of 
a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit; and, touching briefly 
on other heretics who made similar pretensions, gives a long 
account of the excesses and impieties committed by John of 
Leyden and his followers, the Anabaptists, all committed 
under a full conviction of the uncontrollable inspiration of 
their perpetrators. Then he goes on to tell of their imitators 
in England, who called themselves the ' Family of Love' ; of 
the extravagances of the early Quakers ; of the antinomian 
doctrines taught by some of the Methodists, who professed 
to have received them by immediate inspiration; and he 
concludes that to make an immediate personal revelation a 
rule of faith and conduct is to adopt a rule which has led 
very many well-meaning persons into error and impiety. 

I do not disagree with this conclusion; but Milner evi- 
dently had not reflected that this rule, which he so clearly 
shows to be fallacious, is the rule on which his own religion 
depends. I made it plain on the last day that no external 
authority can give us absolute freedom from error, unless we 
can manage in some way to secure from risk of error the 
process which induces us to rely on that external authority. 
We examined Newman's attempt to justify that process by a 
study of the laws which govern human assent, and we found 
it to be a failure; and I told you then that this speculation 
of Newman's appears to be little relied on now by Roman 
Catholics. In fact, it is so certain that none of the natural 


processes of the human mind is absolutely free from risk of 
error, that it is plain that no study of these processes can 
give Roman Catholics the security which they demand. So 
they solve the difficulty by a deus ex machina. They are not 
naturally infallible, but God has made them so. It is by a 
supernatural gift of faith that they accept the Church's teach- 
ing, and have a divinely-inspired certainty that they are in the 
right. Well, now, it is evident that if this be the ground of 
belief, those who think that they are relying on the Church's 
infallibility are in reality relying on their own. The whole 
basis of their system crumbles from under them if it is pos- 
sible that this supposed supernatural gift of faith can deceive 
them. At the Vatican Council of 1870, which may be princi- 
pally known to you by its decree concerning the Infallibility 
of the Pope, which will afterwards come under our considera- 
tion, the more fundamental doctrines concerning God and 
Reason and Faith and Revelation had been previously dis- 
cussed ; and it was decreed that, though the assent of faith is 
not a blind motion of the mind, yet that no one can give to 
the preaching of the Gospel that assent which is necessary 
to salvation without the illumination and inspiration of the 
Holy Spirit. The Council proceeds to anathematize the 
assertion that it is only living faith that worketh by love 
which is the gift of God. In other words it is not only 
what Protestants commonly understand by faith which is the 
gift of God ; but mere belief, even though it does not work 
by love, is a supernatural gift; and an act of such faith is 
declared to be a work pertaining to salvation, in which man 
yields free obedience to God, by consenting to and co-opera- 
ting with His grace, which jt was in man's power to resist. 
Finally, those are anathematized who say that Catholics have 
any just cause to call in doubt the faith which they have 
received under the teaching of the Church, by suspending 
their assent until they have got a scientific demonstration of 
the credibility and truth of their faith. This is no mere 
point of scientific theory. The real check which prevents 
Roman Catholics from putting to themselves the question, 
' Is there not a lie in my right hand ? ' is the fear lest they 
should trifle with a supernaturally-communicated gift of faith . 


It is evident that if a man tells you, ' I know that I am 
right, and you are wrong, because I have a divinely-inspired 
certainty that I am in the right in my opinion,' such a claim 
does not admit of being met with direct disproof, though it 
has been sometimes met with the mocking answer, ' Your 
claim to a supernatural gift of faith means that your doctrines 
are such, that it requires a miracle to make a man believe 
them.' We can, however, point out that the claim to have 
been taught by God's Spirit is made, and certainly on quite 
as good grounds, by others, who say that they have been led 
by Him to conclusions quite opposite to the Roman Catholic. 
And certainly it is quite superfluous to seek a supernatural 
origin for the feelings of rest, peace, freedom from doubt, 
which men say they find in the bosom of the Roman Church. 
These feelings may be obtained by anyone in a perfectly 
natural way, on the easy terms of resolute abstinence from 
investigation. But it is, in any case, important to point 
out that the whole foundation of a Roman Catholic's con- 
fidence is just that rule of faith which Milner has taken 
such pains to prove to be fallacious. When a Romanist 
claims to have been taught by a supernatural gift of faith 
to trust his Church, and when a Protestant claims, equally 
under the guidance of God's Spirit, to have learned that she 
is unworthy of confidence, and when neither can prove, by 
miracles or any other decisive test, the superiority of the 
spiritual guidance which he professes to have himself re- 
ceived, what remains but to own that no certainty can be 
got from trusting to such supposed supernatural guidance, 
unless this illumination at the same time so enlighten the 
understanding as to enable it .to give reasons for its faith 
which other men can perceive to be satisfactory? 

The second rule of faith which Milner undertakes to show 
to be fallacious is the Bible : at least if each man is allowed 
to interpret it for himself. I think that most of the contro- 
versial victories that Roman Catholics win are owing to their 
being often wrongly met on the point now under discussion. 
When a Roman Catholic says, ' It is incredible that Christ 
should have left His people without an infallible guide, who 
shall secure them from all risk of error; and no such guide 


can be found but the Church of Rome/ it is very common 
for a Protestant to reply, ' Nay, we have such a guide in 
the Bible.' But it is well that you should be prepared for 
the turn the discussion is then likely to take. In the first 
place, observe, it is one question whether the Bible is 
infallible; another whether it is, in the sense of Milner's 
requirements, an infallible guide. But even the first point 
the Roman advocates will not allow you to take for granted. 
I own that it is with a very bad grace they here assume the 
attitude of unbelievers ; for, whoever denies the infallibility 
of Scripture, they have no right to do so. If the Church 
be infallible, the Bible is so too ; for there is no article of 
Church doctrine held more strongly, or taught with greater 
unanimity, by the Church of all times, than the inerrancy of 
Scripture. Accordingly, in the discussions of the first Re- 
formers, the Bible was common ground to both parties, and 
the Reformers' proof that part of the teaching of the Church 
of Rome was erroneous consisted in showing that it was 
opposed to the Bible. But now the line taken by the Ro- 
manist advocate is to say, ' No matter what we believe about 
the Bible, what right have you, on your principles, to believe 
the same thing ? 

Some of Milner's arguments are weak enough, and need 
not detain us long. For instance, he says that, 'If our Lord 
had intended His people to learn His religion from a book, 
He would have written it Himself, or, at least, have com- 
manded His Apostles to write it; and there is no evidence 
that He did any such thing' an argument pointless against 
us, who believe, as he does himself, that the Scriptures 
were written by inspiration of God's Holy Spirit, and that 
the Three Persons of the Trinity are One. And the argu- 
ment admits of a cruel retort. If Christ intended that His 
people should learn their religion from the Pope, He would 
have told them to obey the Pope, and listen to his instruc- 
tions, or, at least, He would have commissioned His Apostles 
to do so ; but in all the recorded words of either our Lord or 
His Apostles, and in all their surviving letters, there is not a 
word about the Pope, from one end to the other. But, dis- 
missing this and some other manifestly weak arguments, the 


Romanist advocate asks the Protestant : ' If the Scriptures 
are your sole rule of faith, how do you learn what are the 
Scriptures ? Where do you find a text of Scripture to give 
you information on this point ? If you say you receive certain 
books because they were written by Apostles, is that a ground 
for accepting them as infallible ? The Apostles were fallible 
as men : how do you know they were infallible as writers ? 
And, in any case, you receive the Gospels of Mark and Luke, 
who were not Apostles, and you reject the Epistle of Barnabas, 
who was. Then, how do you know that the text has been 
preserved rightly? ' Even the biblical criticism of Milner's 
day afforded him some instances of doubtful readings, as, for 
instance, the text of the Three Heavenly Witnesses, and the 
fact that, in the Prayer Book version of the fourteenth Psalm, 
there are some verses not to be found in the Bible. But if 
the Bible is a secure guide to anyone it is not so to the 
unlearned. If they can even read, they only know the Bible 
in a translation ; and Milner asks them, ' How do you know 
that the English version which you use is a correct transla- 
tion ? ' Of course the recent publication of the Revised New 
Testament would supply a Roman Catholic controversialist 
with instances enough where he could maintain that it had 
been now proved that readings or translations hitherto in use 
among us were erroneous. Having in this way tried to show 
that there was too much uncertainty about the Bible to allow 
it to serve the office of a sure guide, Milner goes on to say, 
even if the book itself is infallible, it is not so as a guide : 
that is to say, it does not ensure those who follow its guidance 
from risk of error. This appears from the great differences of 
opinion between persons who all profess to have taken their 
religion from the Bible, and whom we cannot in charity 
believe to have been insincere in their profession of having 
honestly tried to follow its guidance. These persons who 
disagree among themselves cannot all be right. It is plain, 
therefore, that the Bible, if there be no authorized interpreter, 
does not suffice as a guide, in following which there is no 
danger of going wrong. Well, I think that, without dis- 
cussing the other difficulties raised by Milner, the last argu- 
ment, founded on the different results arrived at by students 


of the Scriptures, is enough to establish his case that the 
Bible as a guide does not fulfil the conditions which his 
axioms impose. 

Having set aside these two fallacious rules, Milner pro- 
pounds what he asserts to be the true rule, namely, to the 
written Word of God to add the unwritten : that is to say, to 
Scripture to add tradition, and to both to add the Church as 
an authorized interpreter of the true meaning of the Word of 
God. Milner abstains from applying to this rule the same 
searching criticism he had applied to the two others, appa- 
rently satisfied with the argument that as the other two rules 
were wrong, this must be the right one ; but if I could go 
fully into the discussion, it would easily appear that this rule 
fails as completely as the two others to satisfy the prescribed 
conditions. One of Milner 's conditions, you will remember, 
is, ' This rule must be secure, never-failing, by which those 
persons who sincerely seek for Christ's religion shall certainly 
find it.' Well, in the first place, in spite of this rule, more 
than half of the seekers (and it would be uncharitable to 
think that the bulk of them are not sincere) have not found 
it. A guide is useless if those who want his services cannot 
make him out. Imagine that a gentleman, who lived in the 
country at a distance from a railway station, gave an enter- 
tainment to his friends. It would be natural that he should 
make provision that, on their arrival at the station, they 
should be enabled to find his house. But when they arrive 
they find a number of competing carmen, all professing to be 
able to conduct them safely; but, as things turn out, half of 
them are taken wandering over the country, and never reach 
the house at all. The entertainer tells the disappointed 
guests, ' It was all your own fault : I had a servant at the 
station, and you ought to have known him.' But whosesoever 
fault it was, the actual result shows that the measures he took 
for their guidance were neither certain nor never-failing. 

Again, the Bible is said to be inadequate as a rule, because 
there are so many differences of opinion between those who 
profess to follow its guidance. Are there no differences be- 
tween those who profess to follow the guidance of the Church 
of Rome? It would lead me too far if I were to speak in 


detail of the internal dissensions in the Roman communion. 
One case, however, is striking enough to be brought before 
you. Bossuet is the writer who may be said to have made 
his own the argument against Protestantism derived from the 
disagreements of its several sects. His work, called The 
Variations of the Protestant Churches, published at the end 
of the seventeenth century, was the most popular book of 
controversy of his day, and was esteemed by Roman Catho- 
lics as a triumphant success. In this he infers that the Pro- 
tentant Churches have not the guidance of the Holy Spirit, 
from the differences that exist between various Churches, or 
between the teaching of the same Church at one time and 

Many of the differences which Bossuet enumerates relate 
to very minute points which cannot be regarded as essential 
to salvation, and on which Christians might be well content 
to differ. But, indeed, a Protestant seldom feels himself 
much affected by the argument from variations, which he 
feels to be equally pointless whether he be disposed to make 
common cause with non-Episcopal sects or the reverse. In 
the former case he would say, 'My differences with the ortho- 
dox Protestant sects relate merely to unimportant questions 
of discipline, and soforth ; but on all really vital questions 
we are thoroughly agreed. And Roman Catholics themselves 
admit that union in essential matters is compatible with dif- 
ference of opinion on points which superior authority has left 
open.' But, on the other hand, there is quite as good an 
answer for one who disowns the Dissenting sects altogether. 
He may say, 'What is it to me what is held by those people 
whom you class with me under the common name of Protes- 
tant? I have nothing to say to them any more than you 
have. If it is an argument against me that Baptists and 
Quakers disagree with me, they do not agree any more with 
you.' In fact there is nothing to prevent any sect from 
placing itself on one side, and all the rest of the world on the 
other, and contending that those who disagree with that sect 
show they are wrong by their disagreements among them- 
selves. For instance, I do not see why this Roman Catholic 
argument might not be used by a ineniber erf the Established 


Church of England. He might say, 'Dissenters plainly show 
that they are wrong by their differences among themselves. 
Protestant Dissenters accuse us of believing too much, and 
Roman Catholic Dissenters accuse us of believing too little. 
When such opposite charges are brought, it is plain we must 
be just right.' The fact is, what the existence of variations 
of belief among Christians really proves is, that our Master 
Christ has not done what Roman Catholic theory requires He 
should have done, namely, provided His people with means 
of such full and certain information on all points on which 
controversy can be raised, that there shall be no room for 
difference of opinion among them. But it is ridiculous to 
build on these variations an argument for the superiority of 
one sect over another. 

But my purpose in now mentioning the subject is to tell 
how Bossuet, whose name is specially connected with the 
argument from the variations of Protestantism, has himself 
become the most signal instance of the variations of Roman- 
ism. Bossuet was, in his time, ' the Eagle of Meaux ' : the 
terror of Protestant sectaries, the most trusted champion of 
his Church. But he fought for her not only against the 
Protestants, but against the theory of Infallibility, then called 
Ultramontane, because held on the other side of the moun- 
tains, but rejected by the Gallican Church. In another 
lecture I shall speak more at length of the principles of 
Gallicanism and of its history. Suffice it here to mention 
that one of its fundamental doctrines was, that the doctrinal 
decisions of the Pope were not to be regarded as final ; that 
they might be reviewed and corrected, or even rejected, by a 
General Council or by the Church at large. A formal treatise 
of Bossuet in proof of this principle was a storehouse of argu- 
ments, largely drawn on in the controversies of the years 
1869-70. But this principle of his was condemned with an 
anathema at the Vatican Council of the latter year. 

Now observe, this was not a difference of opinion on a 
minor point some point on which the guide had given no 
instruction, and with respect to which, therefore, his followers 
were free to take their own course. The question here at 
issue was the vital one who the guide was that was to be 

88 MltNER J S AXIOMS. [V. 

followed. A man does not follow another as his guide, 
though he may be walking along the same road, if he takes 
that road only because he himself thinks the road to be the 
right one. And so, though on a number of questions Bossuet 
might side against the Protestants and with the Pope of his 
day, it is plain that he was not, on principle, following the 
Pope's guidance : consequently, Bossuet is treated by the 
predominant Roman Catholic School of the present day as 
no better than a Protestant. Just as he himself had argued 
that outside the Roman Church there was no truth or con- 
sistency, and that Protestantism was but an inconsistent 
compromise with infidelity, so Cardinal Manning says nearly 
the same things of that theory of Gallicanism of which 
Bossuet was the ablest defender. ' It was exactly the same 
heresy,' Manning declares, ' which in England took the form 
of the Reformation, and in France that of Gallicanism.' Dr. 
Brownson's Review, the chief organ of American Romanism, 
treated Bossuet 's opinions with even less ceremony. It said, 
' Gallicanism was always a heresy. The Gallicans are as 
much alien from the Church or Commonwealth of Christ as 
are Arians, Lutherans, Calvinists, Anabaptists, Methodists, 
Spiritists, or Devil- worshippers.' 

Could the irony of events give a more singular refutation 
than this ? A man writes a book to prove that Protestantism 
is false because Protestants disagree among themselves, and 
Romanism is true because its doctrines are always the same, 
and its children never disagree; and in a few years he is 
himself classed with Devil-worshippers by the most accre- 
dited authorities of the religion which he defends, and whose 
doctrines he supposes himself, and is supposed by everyone 
else at the time, most thoroughly to understand. For all 
we can tell, the Romanist champions of the present day may 
be in no better case. Can Cardinal Manning be secure that, 
as the development of Roman doctrine proceeds, he may not 
be left stranded outside the limits of orthodoxy, and be 
classed with Devil-worshippers by the Romanist champions 
of the next century? 

We seem now to have arrived at a most uncomfortable 
conclusion. We have agreed that Christ must have given 


His people some rule, and we have tried all the rules that 
have been proposed, and found that all must be pronounced, 
on Milner's principles, fallacious. We are forced, then, to try 
back on Milner's axioms, and see whether we were not over 
hasty in admitting them. You will find on examination that 
Milner's argument, in substance, reduces itself to this : There 
is an infallible guide somewhere no one claims to be that 
guide but the Church of Rome, therefore it must be she. 
When you ask, How do you know that there is an infallible 
guide somewhere ? he answers, That is a proposition of which 
no rational Christian can doubt. I have already shown you 
how easy it is to make an argument in favour of a false opinion, 
by proving laboriously any true propositions it may be con- 
venient to you to make use of; but getting quickly over the 
false propositions that are introduced, and treating them as 
self-evident principles which no rational person can dispute. I 
have already expressed my opinion that if you concede Milner 
his axioms, and then try to take your stand on the Bible as a 
guide which satisfies the conditions which these axioms im- 
pose, you will certainly be defeated. But, in real truth, Mil- 
ner might have spared himself the trouble of writing the rest 
of his book, when he begins by taking for granted that God 
has provided us with an infallible guide, or, to use his own 
words, 'with a never-failing rule, which is never liable to lead 
a sincere inquirer into error of any kind.' Observe the mon- 
strous character of the claim. We are to be supernaturally 
guarded not merely against deadly error, but against error 
of any kind. But, in truth, this monstrous claim is absolutely 
necessary in order to make out Milner's case ; for we should 
not want the help of the Church of Rome if we might be con- 
tent in matters of religion with that homely kind of certainty 
which is all that God gives us for the conduct of the most 
important affairs of life : an assurance that may well be called 
certainty as to substantial matters, shading off to high proba- 
bility when we descend to the leading details, and leaving 
room for doubt and difference of opinion when we come down 
to subordinate details. I do not see how any Roman Catholic 
can seriously defend Milner's axiom unless he first mend it 
by claiming supernatural protection, not against error of any 


kind, but only against error inconsistent with holding the 
truths necessary to salvation. I shall not quarrel with any- 
one for holding that if God required men to believe certain 
doctrines on pain of damnation, He would propound these 
truths so plainly that no one should be able to mistake them. 
This is a maxim of which I have already taken the benefit 
against the Church of Rome. For, while it is said that Chris- 
tians are bound, under pain of damnation, to submit to the 
Church of Rome, that doctrine has been taught so obscurely 
that more than half the Christian world has not been able to 
find it out. But we say that the revelation God has given us 
is, in essential matters, easy to be understood. Roman 
Catholics dwell much on the difficulty of understanding the 
Scriptures, and quote St. Peter's saying, that the Scriptures 
contain many things difficult and 'hard to be understood, 
which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest to their own 
destruction.' But we say that the obscurities of Scripture do 
not hide those vital points, the knowledge of which is neces- 
sary to salvation ; and we have the authority of many ancient 
Fathers to support us in so thinking. Chrysostom, for in- 
stance, says, 'all things are plain and simple in the Holy 
vScriptures; all things necessary are evident.'* 'The Apostles 
and Prophets have made all things proceeding from them 
plain and evident to all; in order that each person, even by 
himself, may be able to learn what is said from the mere read- 
ing of it.'f He gives this as a reason why God chose men in 
humble station to be the writers of books of Scripture. ' In 
like manner,' says St. Augustine, ' God hath made the Scrip- 
tures to stoop to the capacities of babes and sucklings.'! 
'Scarcely anything is drawn out from the more obscure places 
of Scripture which is not most plainly spoken elsewhere. ' 
Accordingly, when any of the early Fathers has occasion to 
make an enumeration of the truths which Christians ought to 
know, he usually contents himself with a summary of doc- 

*In 2 Thess., Horn. III., vol. xi., p. 528. 
t Horn. III., de Laz., vol. i., p. 379 
Enarr. in Psalm, viii. 8, vol. iv., p. 42 
De Doct. Chr. ii. 8, vol. iii., p. 22. 


trines nearly identical with that contained in the Apostles' 
Creed, all the Articles of which contain truths that lie on the 
very surface of Scripture, and do not require any laborious 
investigation of texts in order to arrive at them. 

But, for thus holding that the list of truths necessary to be 
known in order to salvation is short and simple, we have the 
authority of the Roman Church herself., No one is so unrea- 
sonable as to expect ordinary members of the Church to be 
acquainted with all the decisions of Popes and Councils, in 
the correctness of which they are nevertheless obliged to 
believe. Take only one Council the Council of Trent. Has 
any Roman Catholic that is not a professed theologian, 
studied its decrees? If an unlearned Roman Catholic were 
asked to explain the doctrines of Justification and Original 
vSin, steering clear of Lutheranism on the one hand and of 
Pelagianisrn on the other, taking care not to give any coun- 
tenance to the Jansenists, but also taking care not to fall foul 
of St. Augustine, we may be sure that if he was mad enough 
to undertake the task, he would not go far in his statement 
without finding himself involved in some of the anathemas 
of which that Council was so liberal. There are, on a rough 
calculation, one hundred and fifty doctrines condemned by it, 
with a formal anathema. An anathema is, in fact, the way 
by which the Council indicates that the doctrine which it 
propounds is ( de fide/ 

But an unlearned person is not expected even to under- 
stand the terms in which the doctrine is conveyed. Dr. 
Newman has been so good as to furnish me with an example. 
'What sense,' he asks, 'can a child or a peasant, nay, or any 
ordinary Catholic, put upon the Tridentine Canons, even in 
translation, such as "Si quis dixerit homines, sine Christi 
justitia per quam nobis meruit justificari, aut per earn ipsam 
forrnaliter justos esse, anathema sit." Yet these doctrinal 
enunciations, he adds, are de fide. Peasants are bound to 
believe them as well as controversialists, and to believe them 
as truly as they believe our Lord to be God.'* I do not know 
that the canons of the Council held since Newman's book 

* Grammar of Assent, p. 142. 


was written are more intelligible to the unlearned; for 
example, ' Si quis dixerit deum esse ens universale sen 
indefinituin quod sese determinando constituat rerum univer- 
sitatem in genera species et individua distinctam, anathema 
sit.' Of these, and such like propositions, which an unlearned 
Roman Catholic is bound to believe, he is not in the least 
expected to know even the meaning. The decisions of 
councils are intended for the instruction of those who make 
theology their study, and not for that of ordinary members 
of the flock. While the Church does her duty in providing 
scientific theologians with a guide to any of the by-paths of 
theology they may be tempted to explore, she does not invite 
the unlearned to enter into these mazes ; and the great doc- 
trines of the Gospel constitute the broad highway of salva- 
tion, plain, easy to be found, and in which the least learned 
member of the Church can walk without fear of error. Ac- 
cording to Roman Catholic teaching, an individual member 
of the Church is forbidden to reject any doctrine taught by 
the Church ; but he is not bound to know all that she teaches. 
He must believe that she teaches true doctrines, but he need 
not know what these doctrines are. The list of doctrines 
which he is bound to know, as well as to believe, is (as we 
shall presently see) a very short one. 

The distinction which I have just stated is sometimes 
expressed as a distinction between explicit and implicit belief. 
When you accept any truth, you take it with all its conse- 
quences, though you may never have drawn them out, and 
do not know all that is involved in the assent you have given. 
When you believe that the Church cannot err, in that belief 
is involved, as a necessary consequence, belief in all that the 
Church has taught, or may at any time teach, however igno- 
rant of her actual teaching you may be. Now though, 
according to Roman theory, faith in the Church's teaching is 
necessary to salvation, that faith need not be explicit. Im- 
plicit faith is when a person is persuaded that the teaching 
of the Church is all true, though he imperfectly knows what 
that teaching is ; explicit faith, when he, besides, has an in- 
telligent knowledge of the doctrines in which he believes. 
The best illustration of implicit faith is afforded by the story 


of Fides Carbonarii. The story, in some shape, you have pro- 
bably heard ; but you may as well hear it in its original form 
as told by Cardinal Hosius.* The Cardinal is proving that if 
you trust only in Scripture you must be worsted in every 
conflict with the devil, who can argue out of it much better 
than you; and he tells a story of a poor collier who when 
asked by a learned man what he believed, repeated the 
Creed, and, when asked what more he believed, answered, 
' I believe what the Church believes.' 'And what does the 
Church believe?' 'The Church believes what I believe.' 
'And what do the Church and you both believe ? ' ' The 
Church and I believe the same thing.' The learned man was 
disposed to smile at the collier's simplicity. But some time 
after, when he was on his death-bed, Satan tempted him 
with assaults on his faith, to parry which all his learning 
was in vain, and, every time the Evil One questioned him 
how he believed, he was glad to reply, ' ut carbonarius.' 

Such faith as this is held to be sufficient for salvation. It 
is enough if the individual humbly receives all that is pro- 
pounded to him on God's authority, and does not, in the pride 
of his reason, reject truths that he knows to be part of Divine 
revelation; and he is not to be blamed if he does not expli- 
citly hold doctrines which he has never been properly in- 
formed were part of God's revelation through the Church. 
Nay, he may hold two opposite doctrines, the one explicitly, 
the other implicitly. He may have formed his own opinion 
on a point of doctrine, without being aware that his view had 
been condemned by the Church, and he may be, at the same 
time, fully desirous to believe all that the Church teaches. 
In this case, it is held, his implicit true faith will save him, 
notwithstanding his explicit false faith ; or, as the distinction 
is otherwise expressed, though he hold material heresy, he 
is not formally heretical. It is in this way that the early 
Fathers are defended when their language is directly opposed 
to decisions since made by Rome. Cyprian may oppose the 
supremacy of the Roman See ; Chrysostom may use language 
directly opposed to Transubstantiation ; elsewhere he may 

* Confutatio Brentii, lib. iii., De Auctor. Sac. Scrip. 


impute sin to the Virgin Mary; Bernard may vehemently 
oppose the doctrine that she was conceived without sin. But 
these Fathers are held to be excused, because in their time 
the Church had not spoken distinctly. They would, no 
doubt, have spoken as she does now, if they had been privi- 
leged to hear her voice expressed on the questions referred 
to. In will they agreed with the Church, and would have 
been pained to dissent from her, though their actual expres- 
sions be directly opposed to her doctrine. 

I cannot help remarking, in passing, how this theory re- 
presents the Church, not as helping men on their heavenly 
way, but as making the way of salvation more difficult. 
Every interposition of her authority closes up some way to 
heaven which had been open before. A couple of hundred 
years ago a Roman Catholic might believe, without hazard of 
salvation, that the Virgin Mary either was or was not con- 
ceived without sin. Leading men were arrayed on both sides. 
But since Pius IX., in 1854, promulgated the dogma of the 
Immaculate Conception, no one can call it in question, on 
peril of forfeiting his salvation. So, in like manner, of the 
dogma of the Pope's personal infallibility, and a host of othrr 
questions. Now, we could understand the Church's office, if 
the case was this, that a knowledge of certain doctrines being 
necessary to salvation, the Church was appointed to publish 
these doctrines so plainly that none could mistake them. But 
the case is just the reverse. The guidance of the Church is 
represented as needed, not for the publication of truths in 
themselves necessary to be known, but for the solution of 
problems raised by speculative theologians, with respect to 
which it might have been free to men to hold either view if 
the Church had but held her peace. Suppose that we were 
starting on a mountain expedition, and that a professed guide 
beset us with clamorous representations of the absolute neces- 
sity of engaging his services. There was a multitude of 
misleading paths, there were precipices, snowdrifts, concealed 
crevasses : it was certain death to venture over the pass 
without a guide. Suppose that when, on these representa- 
tions, we had engaged his services, he told us that we had 
nothing to do but follow the great, broad path before us ; that 


there were, indeed, many intricate side-paths, but that into 
these we need not enter; the only essential point being that 
we should be persuaded that he could guide us safely through 
them. In such a case, I think we should feel that we had 
been swindled out of our fee on false pretences, and that, 
instead of our absolutely wanting a guide, the truth was that 
it was the guide who absolutely wanted us. And our faith 
in the guide would be a little tried if, when we came to a 
place where two paths diverged, and asked him which we 
were to follow, he replied, that if he had not been there to 
direct us, we might have safely taken either way, as many 
had already got safe to their journey's end by both roads ; 
but that now we had heard him direct us to take one path, 
we should certainly come to grief if we took the other. 

You may naturally inquire what is the actual practice of 
the Church of Rome, with regard to insisting on an actual 
knowledge of certain truths, in addition to the general know- 
ledge that the Church is able to teach rightly concerning 
them. It is clear that lay people are not to be sent off 
to explore the huge folios which contain the decrees of 
councils. What is it that for their soul's health they are 
obliged to know? A popular little manual circulated by 
thousands, and called, What every Christian must know, 
enables us to answer this question. It tells us that every 
Christian must know the four great truths of faith, namely : 
'I. There is one God. II. In that God there are Three Persons. 
III. Jesus became man and died for us. IV. God will reward 
the good in heaven, and punish the wicked in hell.' This 
list of necessary truths is not long, but some Roman Catho- 
lics have contended that it might be shortened ; pointing out 
that since men were undoubtedly saved before Christ's 
coming without any explicit faith in the Incarnation or in the 
doctrine of the Trinity, an explicit faith in these doctrines 
cannot be held to be necessary to salvation.* Nor does such 
faith seem to be demanded in a certain papal attempt to 
define the minimum of necessary knowledge. Pope Innocent 

*This view is taken by Gury, Compendium of Moral Theology, 
i. 124, quoted by Littledale, Plain Reasons, p. 75. 


IV., in his Commentary on the Decretals, lays down that it 
is enough for the laity to attend to good works ; and for the 
rest, to believe implicitly what the Church believes. Those 
who have the cure of souls must distinctly know the articles 
of the Creeds. Bishops ought to know more, being bound to 
give a reason to everyone who asks it. For the lower clergy, 
who have neither leisure for study nor money to bear its 
expense, it will be enough if they learn as much as the laity 
and a little more. For instance, as being constantly em- 
ployed in attendance on the altar, they ought to know that 
the Body of Christ is made in the Sacrament of the Altar. 
And if they have the means of paying teachers, it would be 
a sin if they did not acquire more explicit knowledge than 
the laity.* 

Although, in the first editions of Father Furniss's little 
manual, which I have already mentioned, only the four great 
truths of faith are declared to be necessary to be known ; the 
later editions add the doctrine of the Sacraments, namely 
' Baptism takes away original sin; Confession takes away 
actual sin ; and the Blessed Sacrament is the body and blood 
of Christ.' But take this list of necessary truths at the 
longest, and it certainly has the merit of brevity. And we 
may think it strange that a modern writer has succeeded in 
doing what the writers of the New Testament tried to do, and 
are said to have failed in. It was certainly the object of the 
New Testament writers to declare the truths necessary to 
salvation. St. John (xx. 31) tells us his object in writing 
' These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the 
Christ, the son of God ; and that believing ye might have life 
through His name.' Yet we are required to believe that these 
apostles and evangelists, who wrote under the inspiration 
of the Holy Ghost, performed their task so badly, that one 
who should have recourse to their pages for guidance is 
more likely than not to go astray, and is likely to find nothing 
but perplexity and error. Strange, indeed, that inspired 
writers should fail in their task : stranger still, that writers 

* Innocent IV.. Comm. in Libntm Primvm Decretalium, lib. I., 
cap. i., sects. 2, 3, 6. 


who claim no miraculous assistance should be able to 
accomplish it in half-a-dozen lines. But the main point is, 
that if the list of necessary truths is so short, the necessity 
for an infallible guide disappears. The four great truths of 
faith, just enumerated, are held as strongly by Protestants, 
who dispense with the guidance of the Church of Rome, 
as by those who follow it. 

The great argument by which men are persuaded to believe 
that there is at least somewhere or another an infallible 
guide is, that it is incredible that God should leave us with- 
out sure guidance when our eternal salvation is at stake. It 
is thought that, if it is once conceded that an infallible guide 
exists somewhere, the case of Rome will be established by 
the absence of competition from anyone making a similar 
claim. Now, we saw that Milner's axiom was altogether 
extravagant. He demanded that God should miraculously 
secure men from error of any kind. Surely, it cannot be 
required that we should be given certain knowledge on all 
possible subjects. All that with any plausibility can be 
demanded is, that we should be guarded against error 
destructive of salvation. But now it is evident that infallible 
guidance cannot be asserted to be necessary, except in cases 
where explicit knowledge is necessary. If our readiness to 
believe all that God has revealed, without knowing it, is 
enough for our salvation, there is an end to the pretence that 
it was necessary to the salvation of the world that God 
should provide means to make men infallibly know the truth. 
Here is a specimen of what Roman Catholics call an act of 
faith : 'O my God, because Thou art true, and hast revealed 
it, I believe that Thou art One God ; I believe that in Thy 
Godhead there are Three Persons ; I believe that Thy Son 
Jesus became man, and died for us ; I believe that Thou wilt 
reward the good in heaven, and punish the wicked in hell ; 
I believe all that the Catholic Church teaches; and in this 
belief I will live and die.' In other words, this act of faith 
is a profession of explicit belief in the four great truths of 
faith, and of implicit belief in all the teaching of the 
Church. Now, substitute the word ' Bible ' for the word 
' Church/ and a Protestant is ready to make the same 


profession. He will declare his belief in the four truths 
already enumerated, and in all that the Bible teaches. If a 
Roman Catholic may be saved who actually contradicts the 
teaching of his Church, because he did not in intention 
oppose himself to her, why may not a Protestant be saved, in 
like manner, who is sincerely and earnestly desirous to 
believe all that God has revealed in the Scripture, and who 
has learned from the Scripture those four great truths of 
faith, and many other truths which make wise unto salva- 
tion, even if there be some points on which he has wrongly 
interpreted the teaching of Scripture ? Have we not as good 
a right in this case as in the other to say that his mistaken 
belief will not be fatal to one who, notwithstanding his error, 
is of an humble, teachable disposition, and who does not 
wilfully reject anything that he knows God to have revealed ? 
In fact, if it were even true that a belief in Roman Infalli- 
bility is necessary to salvation, a Protestant would be safe. 
For, since he believes implicitly everything that God has 
revealed, if God has revealed Roman Infallibility, he believes 
that too. Thus the argument for the necessity of an infal- 
lible guide has no plausibility, unless, with regard to the 
absolute necessity to salvation of an explicit belief, we hold a 
theory far more rigid than even the Church of Rome has 
ventured to propound. 

There is, however, something more to be said before we 
can part with the discussion of Milner's axioms. 



IN the last lecture I tried to show that, if Milner's axiom 
were limited to an assertion about saving truth that is 
to say, truth an explicit knowledge of which is necessary to 
salvation it would be perfectly useless to one desirous to 
establish the necessity of an infallible guide. I wish now to 
show that, if Milner's axiom be asserted not only with regard 
to truths necessary to salvation, but also to truths highly 
important and useful, then the axiom is not true. There is 
an immense amount of knowledge, both secular and 
religious, highly important for man to possess, but for which 
God has not seen fit to provide certain never-failing means 
whereby men may attain to it, and consequently which, as a 
matter of fact, many men do fail of obtaining. I am the 
more particular in stating this, because I should be sorry if 
the previous discussion had led you to think that I repre- 
sented the great bulk of God's Revelation as useless, and 
that I thought that, provided a man be made acquainted 
with that minimum of knowledge which is absolutely neces- 
say to salvation, it is a matter of small importance whether 
any further knowledge be communicated to him. I hold the 
gaining of such knowledge to be of the very highest use and 
importance; but I say that all we know of God's dealings 
forbids us to take for granted that, because knowledge of 
any kind is of greaf value to man, God will make it impos- 
sible for him to fail to acquire it. 

There is one piece of vitally important knowledge which 
Roman Catholics must own God has not given men never- 
failing means for attaining : I mean the knowledge what is 


the true Church. They must own that the institution of an 
infallible Church has not prevented the world from being 
overrun with heresy. They do not number in their commu- 
nion half of those who profess the name of Christ. We need 
only call to mind our own Church, with its important ramifi- 
cations in Scotland, the Colonies, and America; the dis- 
senting bodies in England and America ; foreign Protestants 
in Scandinavia and Germany; the Greek Church in Russia, 
and other Eastern communities. We need not discuss how 
much of essential truth is preserved by each of these bodies. 
Their very existence shows that it is as hard to find the true 
Church as the true doctrine ; for it would be grossly unfair to 
deny that there are among these different bodies many sincere 
inquirers after truth. In whatever else these Churches dis- 
agree they agree in denying that Rome has made out her 
claim to infallibility and supremacy. It is plain, then, that 
God has not endowed His Church ^with credentials so con- 
vincing as irresistibly to command men's assent; and, 
according to Roman theory, He works a stupendous miracle 
in vain. To guard Christians against error, He works a 
perpetual miracle in order to provide them with an infallible 
guide to truth, and yet He neglects to furnish that guide with 
sufficient proof of His infallibility. Nay, He allows that infal- 
libility to be wielded by men who have made themselves so 
distrusted through deceit and imposture and other evil prac- 
tices, that a prejudice is excited against their pretensions. 
This one consideration is sufficient to overturn the a priori 
proof that there must be an infallible guide, because we want 
one, and because it seems incredible that God should leave 
us without means such as to secure our attainment of 
religious truth. The proof equally shows that such a guide 
ought to be able to produce unmistakeable credentials; and 
the claims of one who has been rejected by half the Christian 
world are by that rejection disproved. 

But we may further show in the case of secular knowledge 
how much there is very desirable for us to possess, which God 
has given us no certain means of attaining. Man is left in a 
variety of cases to act on his own responsibility and to the 
best of his fallible judgment; exposed to various dangers, and 


called on for the exercise of diligent care, which, in point of 
fact, very often is not exercised. No one who has read 
Butler's Analogy can be at a loss to expose the fallacy of 
inferring that because a thing seems to us desirable, God 
must therefore have constituted His world so that we shall 
be sure to have it. To quote one of his analogies, take the 
case of disease and the remedies for it. If we might have 
indulged our conjectures, we should have imagined that 
there would have been no such thing as disease in the world. 
But, at least, we might argue that, if God did, in His mercy, 
provide remedies for disease, these remedies would, to parody 
Milner's words, have been ' certain, never-failing, such, in 
short, as to free those who use them from ill-health of every 
kind ' ; and if a quack were to present himself, declaring 
that such were the remedies he was possessed of, and that 
we ought to acknowledge the justice of his pretensions 
without examination, because no one else claimed to have 
such remedies as we should have expected God to provide 
for us, while he alone spoke with confidence, and never 
admitted the possibility of his falling into error; such a 
quack would have all the titles to our obedience that the 
Church of Rome has, according to the arguments of many of 
its advocates, who seem to think that we are bound to receive 
him who talks biggest and brags loudest, and will not own 
that he may sometimes make a mistake. 

But analogy furnishes us with a still better answer to the 
Roman Catholic arguments about Infallibility. One simple 
test will expose the fallacy of any of these arguments. Sub- 
stitute the word ' sin ' for the word ' error,' and examine 
whether the argument will then lead to true conclusions. It 
is not only our own speculations that would lead us to think 
God would have provided means to banish sin from the 
world. The Scriptures would certainly, at first sight, lead 
us to conclude that it would, at least be banished from the 
Church. There is not a single promise to the Church that 
does not speak even more distinctly of her members being led 
into the ways of holiness than into the way of truth. The 
name 'holy' is the distinctive title of the Church, 'saints' that 
of her members. She is described as ' a glorious Church, 

io2 MILKER'S AXIOMS. [vi. 

not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.' And it is 
true that the Church has done this great work in the world, 
that she has made a degree of holiness possible, which was 
not so before : and not only possible, but common ; that 
being now ordinary among Christians which before had been 
only the attainment of some distinguished saints. But it is 
not true that this holiness is either perfect or universal. 
Roman Catholic historians themselves acknowledge the 
moral corruption which at times overspread the highest 
places of the Church, not excepting him whom they account 
its head. I will quote the well-known words with which 
Baronius begins his account of the tenth century : ' A new 
age begins, which, from its asperity and barrenness of good, 
has been wont to be called the Iron Age ; from the deformity 
of its overflowing wickedness, the Leaden Age; and, from 
its paucity of writers, the Dark Age. Standing on the 
threshold of which, we have thought it necessary to pre- 
mise something, lest the weak-minded should be scandalized 
if he should happen to behold the abomination of desolation 
in the Temple. . . .* The case is plainly such, that scarcely 
anyone can believe, nay, scarcely ever shall believe, unless he 
see it with his own eyes, and handle it with his own hands, 
what unworthy, foul, and deformed, yea, what execrable and 
abominable things the sacred Apostolic See, upon whose 
hinge the universal Catholic Church turns, has been compelled 
to suffer. O shame ! O grief ! how many monsters, horrible 

* In the passage which I here omit, Baronius turns it into an argu- 
ment in favour of the Roman Church, that the fact that she survived a 
period, which, according to all human calculation, ought to have been 
fatal to her, proves that she must have been under Divine protection. 
He borrowed this paradox from Boccaccio, who had presented it in the 
shape of a tale about a Jew, who, being pressed to embrace Christianity, 
declared his intention of visiting Rome, and judging of the religion by 
the lives of Christ's Vicar, his cardinals and bishops. His Christian 
friends were horrified, knowing that the spectacle of sensuality,avarice, 
and simony which tainted all at Rome, from the least to the greatest, 
was better calculated to make a Christian turn Jew than a Jew become 
a Christian. But the Jewish visitor, on his return, presented himself 
for baptism, declaring himself convinced of the divinity of a religion 
which survived, notwithstanding that its chief ministers were doing 
their very best to destroy it. The popularity of this tale in pre- 
Reformation times shows that, if the Bishop of Rome was then 
believed to be a guide to truth, he was not imagined to be an example 
of moral purity. 


to be seen, were intruded by secular princes into that seat 
which is to be reverenced by angels; how many tragedies 
were consummated; with what filth was it her fate to be 
spattered, who was herself without spot or wrinkle; with 
what stench to be infected; with what loathsome impurities 
to be defiled, and by these to be blackened with perpetual 
infamy !' And, again, the same historian writes (Ann. 912) : 
'What was then the face of the Holy Roman Church ! How 
most foul, when harlots, at once most powerful and most 
base, ruled at Rome, at whose will sees were changed, bishops 
were presented, and, what is horrible to hear and unuttera- 
ble, pseudo-bishops, their paramours, were intruded into the 
See of St. Peter, who are enrolled in the catalogue of Roman 
pontiffs, only for the sake of marking the times ! ' 

Thus, with respect to Christ's promises that the gates of 
hell should not prevail against His Church, that He would 
be with it always, even to the end of the world, and soforth, 
we see what they do not mean. We see that they contained 
no pledge that ungodliness should never assault His Church ; 
that overflowing wickedness should not abound in her; nay, 
that monsters of impiety and immorality should not be seen 
sitting in her highest places. The question is, therefore, 
whether God hates error so very much more than He hates 
sin, that He has taken precautions against the entrance of 
the one which He has not seen fit to use in order to guard 
against the other. We hold that what He has done in both 
cases is strikingly parallel. First, His great gift to His people, 
that of the Holy Spirit, is equally their safeguard against sin 
and against error. He is equally the Spirit of Truth and the 
Spirit of Holiness. It is His office to inform our understand- 
ings, by taking of the things of Christ and showing them to 
us ; and to direct our wills, and make them conformed to that 
of Christ. And the means He uses for both ends are the 
same. The Scriptures are equally guides to truth and to 
holiness. They make us wise unto salvation. They are ' a 
light unto our feet, and a lamp unto our paths.' 'Wherewithal 
shall a young man cleanse his way ? by taking heed thereto 
according to Thy word.' And the Church also is used by 
the Holy Ghost, both as a witness and guardian of Christian 

io4 MILNER'S AXIOMS. [vi. 

truth and an instructor in Christian morality. She has been 
called (and we shall afterwards see what good claim she has 
to the title) the ' pillar and ground of the truth.' And she 
has certainly been in the world a preacher of righteousness. 
And yet the use of all these means has not banished either 
sin or error from the world. Even those ' who walk not 
after the flesh, but after the Spirit,' are still not impeccable. 
Signs of human frailty betray themselves in the conduct of 
men whom we must own to be good men not merely good 
with natural amiability, but really sanctified by the Spirit of 
God. And those who have so been guided are no more in- 
fallible than they are impeccable. In proportion, indeed, as 
they live close to God, and seek by prayer for the Spirit's 
guidance, so will their spiritual discernment increase. They 
whose will it is to do His will are made by Him to know of 
the doctrine whether it be of Him. But yet, as their holiness 
falls short of perfection, so also does their knowledge. ( If 
we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves' ; and if we 
say that we have no error, we deceive ourselves no less. And 
since not only may individuals fall into sin, but, as is owned 
in the extract I have read from Baronius, ungodliness may 
overspread the Church widely; so we see no reason to doubt 
that not only individuals may err, but Christians collectively, 
or large bodies of them may make doctrinal mistakes. The 
analogy I have been insisting on between the understanding 
and the will, and the operation of God's Spirit on both, is of 
the utmost importance in this controversy. 

One great advantage of considering the difficulty of the 
existence of error in the Church in connexion with the great 
problem of the existence of evil in the world is that, while 
there is no reason in either case for doubting as to the matter 
of fact the existence of the evil complained of whatever 
considerations are available in the one case for mitigating 
the difficulty, and reconciling the evil which we see with the 
goodness of God are available also in the other. 

Take, first, the physical evil which exists in the world. 
Great part of human suffering arises from an insufficient 
supply of the natural wants of food and warmth. God could, 
if He had pleased, have either created us without these wants, 


or with a never-failing supply for them. If we ask why He 
has not done so, and why He has left it possible that men 
should perish of cold and famine, as thousands of our fellow- 
creatures have done, though we cannot completely solve the 
question, we can, at least, see this, that with God our comfort 
is subordinate to our education. It is the struggle to obtain 
a supply for these natural wants which has drawn forth the 
energies of man's nature. As Virgil tells us, the Father of 
all did not wish the way of sustenance to be too easy, ' curis 
acuens mortalia corda.' And, in point of fact, the human 
race has been singularly unprogressive in those tropical 
regions where there is little demand on man's energies; and 
the greatest advances in civilization have been made in the 
sterner climates, where the conflict with nature has early 
elicited the employment of man's full powers. 

So, likewise, with regard to secular knowledge. God might 
have provided us from the first with a knowledge of all things 
needful ; but actually He has withheld a knowledge of much 
that is necessary for the safety and comfort of life. Many of 
the most useful parts of our present knowledge were long 
unknown to the world, and were reserved to stimulate and 
reward the pursuit of the successful inquirer. Our need of 
knowledge and our desire for it have been the means which 
God has used to develop in us all those faculties which have 
the discovery of truth for their object. And, as if to show how 
much less important in His eyes it is that we should possess 
knowledge than that we should be trained to seek for it, He 
has annexed a pleasure to the discovery of truth, distinct 
from, and higher than, that which attends its possession. I 
fear there is none of you who can'have found in his study of 
geometry, or hydrostatics, or natural philosophy, such plea- 
sure as Pythagoras is said to have felt at the discovery of 
the forty-seventh proposition of the First Book of Euclid ; or 
Archimedes, when he rushed from the bath shouting out his 
evprjKa ; or Newton, when his trembling hands could scarce 
complete the calculation which proved that it was the same 
force which keeps the moon in her orbit that draws an apple 
to the ground. Thus God, both with regard to body and 
mind, has dealt with us in such a way as if it were more 

io6 MILNER'S AXIOMS. [vi. 

important in His eyes that we should be trained to seek for 
the supply of needful wants than that we should actually 
obtain it : at least, while He stimulates us to the search, and 
rewards us if successful, He has not exempted us from the 
risk of failure. 

And God has dealt with us in the same way in things that 
pertain to the perfection of our moral nature. If we are per- 
plexed why He should not have excluded from His world the 
possibility of sin and vice, at least we can see that the virtue 
which has been braced and strengthened by conflict with 
temptation, and victory over it, is a thing of much higher 
order than the virtue which consists in the absence of temp- 
tation. And here, too, we perceive that God trains us and 
disciplines us for the higher excellence, even at the terrible 
risk which attends failure. Now, can it be made an objection 
to Revelation that it represents the Almighty as pursuing the 
same course with respect to religious truth that He has 
adopted in every other kind of truth ; or, rather, were it other- 
wise, would there not be a presumption that such a revelation 
did not proceed from the Author of nature? God has made 
the very importance of religious truth, not a reason for re- 
leasing us from all pains of investigation, but a motive to 
stimulate us more intensely to discipline ourselves in that 
candid, truth-loving frame of mind in which alone the search 
for truth is likely to be successful. How prejudicial an effect 
a contrary dispensation might have had on all our mental 
faculties, we have a striking proof in the different progress 
of mind in Protestant and Roman Catholic countries since the 
Reformation. And there is reason to infer that, when a 
Church sets up a claim for infallibility, the mischief done is 
not merely that such a Church can teach false doctrine with- 
out detection, but that even if a Church professing itself 
infallible actually did not teach a single doctrine that was 
not perfectly true, the religious condition of its members 
might be inferior to that of the members of our Church as 
much, and in the same way, as the civilization of a South 
Sea Islander is inferior to that of a European. 

We can see what a benumbing effect the doctrine of infalli- 
bility has on the intellects of Roman Catholics by the absence 


at present of religious disputes in that communion. They 
boast of this as a perfection; but it is, in truth, a sign of 
deadness, a sign of the indifference of all to the subjects in 
question. Why is it that the question of the Immaculate 
Conception, which convulsed the Christian world four cen- 
turies ago, was disposed of by Pius IX. with scarcely a mur- 
mur? It was because the people did not care about the 
matter. The superstitious were glad to pay a compliment to 
the great object of their veneration, but whether what they 
asserted was true, I suppose hardly ten lay Roman Catholics 
in Europe ever troubled their heads. And if the question 
brought before the Vatican Council had been of a purely spiri- 
tual nature, had the bishops been only required to affirm such 
a doctrine as the Assumption of the Virgin Mary that is to 
say, to assert a historical fact without a particle of evidence 
I do not think many would have rebelled. It was because 
the doctrine of the Pope's personal Infallibility had bearings 
on the practical business of this world ; because its assertion 
was supposed to be intended for the preservation or recovery 
of the Pope's temporal sovereignty; because the claim would 
enable him to interfere with more effect on questions of 
toleration, civil liberty, marriage, and education, that so 
much difficulty was made about conceding it. 

I cannot help quoting words written by Mr. Maskell, one 
of the early Oxford perverts, on the occasion of the decree of 
the Vatican Council. They express his natural indignation 
at seeing his whole Church rush blindfold into acquiescence 
in a decision which he knew to be false ; but he does not seem 
to have reflected that the state of mind which can acquiesce 
so indifferently in any decision of authority, is the natural 
result of that belief in the need of an infallible guide which 
led himself astray. He says : 'There are numbers of people 
who take on trust, without consideration, what they are asked 
to believe in matters of religion ; some from habit and want of 
discipline in their education ; some from a dislike of trouble ; 
some from what they pretend to be a proper subjection to 
their teachers, thus trying to throw upon others a responsi- 
bility for which themselves will have to answer to God here- 
after; some from sheer carelessness and want of interest; 

io8 MILNER'S AXIOMS. [vi. 

some, once more, because they do not comprehend what is 
involved in their assent. To call such an assent faith, is 
utterly to miscall it. There is very little faith in it. A state 
of mind which can admit so readily of additions to its creed 
would be very likely not long to withstand a demand to 
change it altogether.' 

This extract truly describes the practical effect of stunting 
men's intelligence, in the hope of making their faith more 
lively. The faith generated by such a process is found not 
to be worthy of the name. If any human system were to 
propose to keep men virtuous, by keeping them always in 
the state of childhood, and never permitting them to govern 
their own conduct, such a system would be plainly opposed 
to the course which the Author of nature has preferred. 
Equally opposed to His method is any system which pro- 
poses to preserve men from error by keeping them in the 
state of childhood, and by giving them truths to be received 
on authority without inquiry. And it is opposed not only to 
the course of nature, but to the commands of Scripture, 
which enjoins us to be ' ready to give every man a reason 
of the hope that is in us ' : 'in malice, indeed, to be children, 
but in understanding to be men.' 

A Romanist, as I have said, must acknowledge that the 
existence of an infallible Church does not exclude error from 
the world, for more than half of those who call themselves 
Christians unfortunately cannot be convinced of the claims of 
that Church on their allegiance. But, while the existence of 
error remains as distressing a problem to the Romanist as to 
us, he is deprived of the compensation which we find in the 
improved condition of those who have honestly sought for 
truth and been successful. The problem is the same to him 
as that of the existence of sin in the world would be to us, if, 
while all the vice in the world remained the same, we could 
find nowhere examples of any higher kind of virtue than 
that which consists in the absence of temptation. 



ON the last day I sufficiently showed that the foundation 
for their system, which Roman Catholics assume as 
self-evident, namely, that God has appointed someone on 
earth able to give infallible guidance to religious truth, 
admits of no proof, and is destitute of all probability. But 
when we say that God has not provided us with infallible 
guidance, we are very far from saying that He has provided 
for us no guidance at all. I do not think a Protestant can 
render a greater service to the cause of Romanism than by 
depreciating the value of the guidance towards the attain- 
ment of religious truth given us by the Church which Christ 
has founded. ' Hoc Ithacus velit.' This is the alternative 
they want to bring us to either an infallible Church, whose 
teaching is to be subject to no criticism and no correction, or 
else no Church teaching at all, each individual taking the 
Bible, and getting from it, by his own arbitrary interpreta- 
tion, any system of doctrine he can. Reducing us to this 
alternative, they have no difficulty in showing that the latter 
method inevitably leads to a variety of discordant error ; and 
they conclude we are forced to fall back on the other. 

But in what subject in the world is it dreamed that we 
have got to choose between having infallible teachers, or else 
having no teacher at all? God has made the world so that 
we cannot do without teachers. We come into the world as 
ignorant as we are helpless : not only dependent on the care 
of others for food and warmth, without which neglected in- 
fancy must perish, but dependent on the instruction of others 
for our most elementary knowledge. The most original 


discoverer that ever lived owed the great bulk of his know- 
ledge to the teaching of others, and the amount of knowledge 
which he has added to the common stock bears an infini- 
tesimally small proportion to that which he inherited. To 
think of being independent of the teaching of others, is as 
idle as to think of being independent of the atmosphere 
which surrounds us. Roman Catholic advocates can show, 
with perfect truth, that anyone who imagines he is drawing 
his system of doctrine all by himself from the Bible alone, 
really does nothing of the kind. Of course, if a man reads 
the Bible in a translation, he cannot imagine that he is inde- 
pendent of help from others. In any case, the selection of 
books that make the volume was made for him by others ; 
the reverence that he pays to its contents is due to instruc- 
tion which he received in his boyhood ; and, besides, it is 
undeniable that it is natural to us all to read the Bible in the 
light of the previous instruction we received in our youth. 
How else is it that the members of so many different sects 
each find in the Bible the doctrines they have been trained 
to expect to find there? 

Human teaching, then, we cannot possibly do without in 
any subject whatever; but are our teachers infallible? I 
grant that, by children and ignorant persons, it is necessary 
that they should practically be regarded so. It is said that, 
when Dr. Busby showed Charles II. over Westminster School, 
he kept on his hat, though the king was bareheaded, and 
explained to the monarch afterwards that he should lose 
all authority over his boys if they once found out that there 
was anyone in the kingdom greater than himself. Certain it 
is that boys will not respect a teacher if they find out that he 
is capable of making mistakes. And this frame of mind is the 
best for the pupils' progress. When our knowledge is scanty, 
it is more important that we should be receptive than critical ; 
or rather, if we attempt to be critical, we cannot be properly 
receptive. In the earliest stages, then, of instruction, a stu- 
dent makes most progress if he gets a teacher in whom he 
can put faith, and accepts from him with docility all the 
information he is able to impart to him. But you know that 
the teacher's infallibility is not real : it is only relative and 



temporary ; and an advanced student, instead of respecting a 
man more, respects him less if he pretends that he is in- 
capable of sometimes making a slip. It is a maxim with 
chess-players, if you meet a player who says he has never 
been beaten, to offer to give him the odds of the rook. And 
what is intended plainly is, that the delusion of invincibility 
can never grow up in the mind of anyone except one who 
has never met a strong antagonist. Just in the same way, 
the delusion of infallibility can never grow up except in the 
mind of one who only mixes with inferiors, and does not 
allow his opinions to be tested by independent criticism. 
And we may say the same of Churches as of individuals. 
An infallible Church does not mean a Church which makes 
no mistakes, but only one which will neither acknowledge 
its mistakes nor correct them. 

With respect to the teaching of secular knowledge, 
Universities have a function in some sort corresponding to 
that which the Church has been divinely appointed to fulfil 
in the communication of religious knowledge. If I said 
that University teaching of the mathematical and physical 
sciences was not infallible, you would not suspect me of 
being so ungrateful as to wish to disparage that teaching to 
which I owe all my own knowledge of these subjects. You 
would not suppose that I wished our students to receive with 
hesitation and suspicion the lessons of their instructors. 
You would not suppose that I was myself in the least 
sceptical as to the substantial truth of what is taught in 
these lessons. And yet I could not help owning that 
University teaching may possibly include errors, and must be 
willing to admit correction. Why, I could name one point 
of astronomical science in which it has altered within my 
own experience. When I was taught the planetary theory, I 
was given a demonstration, which I accepted as conclusive, 
that the changes in the orbits of the planets caused by their 
mutual action were all of a periodic character, and could not 
overthrow the stability of the system. At present the con- 
trary opinion prevails, and it is held that the solar system is 
not constituted for eternal duration. In any case, no one 
can imagine that University teaching was infallible in those 


pre-Reformation days, when what was taught was the 
Ptolemaic system of astronomy. And yet it would be equally 
false to say that University teaching was even then of small 
value; for I suppose the great reformer, Newton, could have 
made none of the discoveries if it had not been for the 
knowledge his University had taught him. 

Now, we have no right to assume as self-evident that the 
laws which govern the communication of religious knowledge 
must be utterly unlike those which regulate our acquirement 
of every other kind of knowledge. In every other depart- 
ment of knowledge we must assert the necessity of human 
teaching; we must own that one who will not condescend to 
learn must be content to be ignorant ; we must hold that the 
learner must receive the teaching he gets with deference and 
submission ; and yet we do not imagine that the teachers are 
infallible, and we maintain that the learner ought ultimately 
to arrive at a point when he is no longer dependent on the 
mere testimony of his instructors, but becomes competent to 
pass an independent judgment on the truth of the statements 
made to him. 

Improvements are made in metaphysics, political economy, 
and other sciences, not by persons who have thought out the 
whole subject for themselves, without help from others, but 
by those who, having been well instructed in what has been 
done already, then, by their own thought and study, correct 
the mistakes of their predecessors even of the very teachers 
from whom they have themselves learned. In fact, the whole 
progress of the human race depends on the two things 
human teaching, and teaching which will submit to correc- 
tion. If there was no teaching there would be no progress, 
for each generation would start where its predecessor did, 
and there would be no reason why one should be more suc- 
cessful than another; and obviously there would be no 
progress if one generation was not permitted to improve on 
another. What actually happens is, that the new generation, 
rapidly learning from its predecessors, starts where they 
ended and is enabled to advance further and to start the next 
generation on still more favourable terms. 

There need be no difficulty now in coming to an agreement, 


that the divinely-appointed methods for man's acquirement 
of secular and of religious knowledge are not so very dis- 
similar. On the one hand, the finality and perfection of 
Church teaching which was the doctrine of the older school 
of Roman Catholic advocates is quite abandoned in the 
modern theory of development which has now become 
fashionable. That theory acknowledges that the teaching of 
the Church may be imperfect and incomplete ; and though it 
is too polite to call it erroneous, the practical line of distinc- 
tion between error and imperfection is a fine one and difficult 
to draw, as I could easily show by examples, if it were not 
that they would lead me too far from my subject. On the 
other hand we, for our part, are quite ready to admit that God 
did not intend us, in religious matters any more than in any 
other, to dispense with the instruction of others. We do not 
imagine that God meant each man to learn his religion from 
the Bible without getting help from anybody else. We freely 
confess that we need not only the Bible, but human instruction 
in it. And this need, we hold, was foreseen and provided for 
by the Founder of our religion. He formed His followers into 
a community, each member of which was to be benefited by 
the good offices of the rest, and who, in particular, were to 
build up one another in their most holy Faith. More than 
this, He appointed a special order of men whose special duty 
it is to teach and to impress on the minds of the people the 
great doctrines of the Faith. In the institution of His 
Church, Christ has provided for the instruction of those who, 
either from youth or lack of time or of knowledge, might be 
unable or unlikely to study His Word for themselves. 

Let me just remind you of the stock topics of declamation 
of Roman Catholics on the theme that Christ intended us to 
learn His religion, not from the Bible but from the Church. 
The first Christians, they tell us, did not learn their religion 
from books. There were flourishing Churches before any 
Book of the New Testament was written. The first Christians 
were taught by the living voice of apostles and evangelists 
and preachers. Since their time thousands upon thousands 
of good men have gone to heaven in ignorance of the Bible; 
for, before printing was discovered, books were scarce and 


the power of reading them uncommon. Even in our own 
time the illiterate are numerous ; yet who will venture to deny 
that many, ignorant of the knowledge of this world, may be 
possessed of the knowledge that maketh wise unto salvation ? 
All these have learned their religion from the Church, not the 
Bible. When those who can read take up the Bible, they find 
it is not a book adapted for teaching our religion to those who 
do not know it already. The writers of the New Testament 
were all addressing men who had been previously instructed 
orally : and an acquaintance with the doctrines of the Gospel 
on the part of the reader is therefore assumed. The Bible 
itself contains no systematic statement of doctrine, no exam- 
ples of the catechetical instruction given to the early con- 
verts. Of many most important doctrines you do not find 
the proof on the very surface of the Bible : you have to study 
the Scripture attentively to find it out; and it may well be 
doubted whether, in some cases, you would have ever found 
it if the Church had not pointed it out to you. 

All this (to which much more of the same kind might be 
added) would be very difficult to answer, if we imagined it 
was any part of Christ's scheme to make us independent of 
the good offices of our fellow-men in learning our religion; 
but it goes idly by us who cheerfully acknowledge that Christ 
foresaw our need of human instruction, and provided for it, 
not only by the ordinary dispensations of His providence, 
but by the institution of His Church, whose special duty it is 
to preserve His truth and proclaim it to the world. I need 
scarcely say how well this duty has been performed ; how 
fully the Church has provided, in her formularies and by the 
labour of her ministers, for the instruction of those who might 
be either unwilling or unable to obtain it otherwise. The 
illiterate may, through her learn those truths which make wise 
unto salvation ; the careless may have them forced on their 
attention ; even the most learned have, by her means, their 
study of God's Word aided to a greater degree than they are, 
perhaps, themselves aware of. Ever since the Church was 
founded, the work she has done in upholding the truth has 
been such, that the words 'pillar and ground of the truth' are 
not too strong to express the services she has rendered. She 


has preserved the Scriptures, and borne witness to their au- 
thority; she has, by her public reading, forced her members 
to become acquainted with them ; she has embodied some of 
their most important doctrines in creeds which she has taught 
to her members. Even in the times when her teaching was 
mixed with most error she preserved the means of its correc- 
tion. There was no new revelation of Divine truth made at the 
Reformation : it was by means of the Bible, which the Church 
had never ceased to honour, and through the instrumentality 
of regular clergy of the Church, and by reviving the memory 
of lessons taught by some of its most eminent teachers in 
former days, that the Reformation was brought about. 

Nor do I hesitate to acknowledge the services rendered 
by the Church in the interpretation of Scripture. We need 
not hesitate to grant, in the case of the Bible, what we should 
grant in the case of any profane author. Were the object of 
our study an ordinary classical writer, an interpreter who, 
devoid of all sobriety of judgment, should scorn to study the 
opinions of the wise and learned men who had preceded him 
would be likely to arrive at conclusions more startling for 
their novelty than valuable for their correctness. Again, 
if the subject of our study were the opinions of a heathen 
philosopher, we should not refuse to consider the question, 
what was supposed to be his doctrine by the school which 
he founded ? Not that we should suppose their tradition to 
be more trustworthy authority as to the doctrines of their 
master than his own written statements. We might think it 
more likely than not, that a succession of ingenious men 
would add something of their own to what had been origin- 
ally committed to them ; and yet we should not think it right 
to refuse to listen to the tradition of the school as to the 
doctrine of its founder to listen with attention, though not 
with blind acquiescence. 

But, when every concession to the authority of the Church 
and to the services she had rendered has been made, we come 
very far short of teaching her infallibility. A town clock is 
of excellent use in publicly making known with authority the 
correct time making it known to many who, perhaps, at no 
time, and certainly not at all times, would find it convenient 


or even possible to verify its correctness for themselves. And 
yet it is clear, that one who maintained the great desirability 
of having such a clock, and believed it to be of great use to 
the neighbourhood, would not be in the least inconsistent if 
he also maintained that it was possible for the clock to go 
astray, and if, on that account, he inculcated the necessity of 
frequently comparing it with, and regulating it by, the dial 
which receives its light from heaven. And if we desired to 
remove an error which had accumulated during a long season 
of neglect, it would be very unfair to represent us as wish- 
ing to silence the clock, or else as wishing to allow every 
townsman to get up and push the hands back or forward as 
he pleased. 

In sum, then, I maintain that it is the office of the Church 
to teach ; but that it is her duty to do so, not by making 
assertion merely, but by offering proofs ; and, again, that 
while it is the duty of the individual Christian to receive with 
deference the teaching of the Church, it is his duty also not 
listlessly to acquiesce in her statements, but to satisfy him- 
self of the validity of her proofs. 

I said, in a former lecture, that the true analogy to the 
relation between a Christian teacher and his pupils is not that 
between a physician and his patients, but rather that between 
a physician and the class of students whom he is teaching 
medical science. A simple test will show that this was the 
view practically taken by the early Fathers. We never hear 
the captain of a ship going among the passengers, and implor- 
ing them to study the charts, and not take his word that they 
are in the right course, but convince themselves of their true 
position. A physician does not exhort his patients to study 
their own case out of medical books ; on the contrary, he 
would be sorry to see them perplexing themselves with a 
study which could do them no good, but, on the contrary, 
might stand in the way of their obediently following his direc- 
tions. But exhortation to study, of this kind, you will hear 
from a medical lecturer to the students whom he is teaching 
the profession. He will frankly tell them the reasons for the 
course of treatment which he advises ; he will not ask them 
to receive anything merely on his authority; he will give 


them references to the best authors who have written on the 
same subject. He talks in this way to his class never to 
the patients on whom he practises; so, in like manner, it 
would be the duty of the rulers of an infallible Church to 
exhort the people to receive their doctrines without question ; 
but not to exhort them to examine the grounds on which the 
doctrine was established. 

If, in fact, the Church be infallible, it is impossible to under- 
stand why the Bible was given. It cannot be of much use in 
making men wise unto salvation, for that the Church is sup- 
posed to do already. But it may be used by the ignorant and 
unstable to pervert it to their own destruction. If a Christian, 
reading the Bible for himself, puts upon it the interpretation 
which the Church puts upon it, he is still no better off than 
if he had never looked at it, and had contented himself with 
the same lessons as taught by the Church ; but if he puts 
upon it a different interpretation from that of the Church 
(and if the Church be infallible, her interpretation is right 
and every other wrong), then he is deeply injured by having 
been allowed to examine for himself. Thus, if the Church be 
infallible, Bible reading is all risk and no gain. And so, in 
modern times the Church of Rome has always discouraged 
the reading of the Scripture by her people ; and if her theory 
be right, she has done so consistently and wisely. And there- 
fore I say it is a proof that this theory was not held in ancient 
times, when we find that the early Fathers had no such 
scruples, but incessantly urged on their congregations the 
duty of searching the Scriptures for themselves. 

I will take one Father as an example St. Chrysostom ; 
and there is no unfairness in my choosing him, for I do so 
only on account of his eloquence and vigour. You will find 
the same sentiments, though perhaps less forcibly expressed, 
in every early Father. My quotations from him will serve a 
double purpose both to prove the point on which I am im- 
mediately engaged that at that time Christian teachers, 
instead of asking their people to receive their statements on 
the authority of an infallible Church, urged them to consult 
for themselves the sources of proof and also to prepare the 
way for the next point in the controversy, namely, that 


the sources of proof used were exclusively the Holy Scrip- 

Now, on the first inspection of Chrysostom's works, you 
see that they were composed for people who had the Bible in 
their hands. The great bulk of his work consists of reports 
of his sermons ; and, as a general rule, these sermons are not 
of the kind of which we have so many excellent examples at 
the present day : expositions of doctrine, or exhortations to 
holy living, with a Scripture text prefixed as a motto; but 
they are systematic expositions of Scripture itself. The 
preacher takes a book of the Bible and goes regularly through 
it, lecturing on it, verse by verse. Preaching of this kind 
would evidently have no interest except for men who had the 
Bible in their hands, and wished for a guide to enable them 
to understand it better. We have expositions of this kind in 
the works of several of the most eminent Fathers, both Greek 
and Latin. But indeed, in the case of the Latin Fathers, we 
require no elaborate proof that the Church then, so far from 
desiring to check the study of the Scriptures, placed them in 
the hands of the people, and encouraged them to read them. 
The existence of the Latin translation, dating from an early 
part of the second century, is evidence enough of this fact. 
For whose benefit can we suppose that that translation was 
made? The knowledge of Greek was then the accomplish- 
ment of every educated Roman. It would have been far harder 
then to find a Roman gentleman who did not understand 
Greek than it would be now to find an English gentleman 
who does not know either Latin or French. The Bible was 
translated into Latin, because the Latin Church, in those days, 
wished that not merely the wealthy, and the highly educated, 
but that all her members should have access to the oracles 
of truth, and be able to consult them for themselves. 

And now I proceed to my proof that the early Church did 
not merely permit her people to verify her teaching by the 
Scriptures did not merely make the Bible accessible to 
them but urged its use on them as a duty which it was 
inexcusable to neglect. One excuse, it may readily occur to 
you, the people of that day had which Christians have not 
now. Before printing was invented you would think that 


manuscripts must have been scarce and expensive, and the 
study of the Bible scarce practicable for ordinary Christians. 
But when you hear how Chrysostom deals with that excuse, 
you will find that, in this case, as in most others, demand 
produced supply, and that, in the ages when the Bible was 
valued, copies of it could be obtained without unreasonable 
sacrifice, and that it was only when the Scriptures ceased to 
be studied that manuscripts became scarce, and therefore 

Speaking of excuses for not reading the Bible, Chrysostom 
says* : 'There is another excuse employed by persons of this 
indolent frame of mind, which is utterly devoid of reason, 
namely, that they have not a Bible. Now, as far as the 
wealthy are concerned, it would be ridiculous to spend words 
on such a pretext. But, as I believe many of our poorer 
brethren 'are in the habit of using it, I should be glad to ask 
them this question, Have they not everyone got complete 
and perfect the tools of their respective trades ? Though 
hunger pinch them, though poverty afflict them, they will 
prefer to endure all hardships rather than part with any of 
the implements of their trade, and live by the sale of them. 
Many have chosen rather to borrow for the support of their 
families than give up the smallest of the tools of their trade. 
And very naturally; for they know that, if these be gone, 
their whole means of livelihood are lost. Now, just as the 
implements of their trade are the hammer or anvil or pincers, 
exactly so the implements of our profession are the books of 
the Apostles and prophets and all the Scriptures composed 
by Divine inspiration, and very full of profit. As with their 
implements they fashion whatever vessels they take in hands, 
so we with ours labour at our own souls, and correct what is 
injured, and repair what is worn out. Is it not a shame, 
then, if, when the tools of this world's trades are concerned, 
you make no excuse of poverty, but take care that no impedi- 
ment shall interfere with your retaining them, here, where 

* In the following extract I combine what Chrysostom says in two 
places where he goes over nearly the same ground, viz., in St. Joan. 
Horn. 10, vol. viii., p. 63, and De Lazar. Concio 3, vol. i., p. 736. 


such unspeakable benefits are to be reaped, you whine about 
your want of leisure and your poverty? 

' But, at any rate,' he proceeds, ' the very poorest of you, 
if he attends to the continual reading of the Scriptures that 
takes place here, need not be ignorant of anything that the 
Scriptures contain. You will say this is impossible. If it is, 
I will tell you why it is impossible. It is because many of 
you do not attend to the reading that takes place here; 
you come here for form's sake, and then straightway go 
home; and some who remain are not much the better than 
those who go away, being present with us only in the body, 
not in the spirit.' 

But there is another reason which Roman Catholics give 
now for keeping back the Scriptures from common use, 
namely, that they are too difficult for the unlearned to 
understand. You shall hear how St. Chrysostom dealt with 
that excuse when his people tendered it as a reason why 
they did not read the Bible. 

' It is impossible for you to be alike ignorant of all ; for it 
was for this reason that the grace of the Spirit appointed 
that publicans and fishermen, tentmakers and shepherds and 
goatherds, and unlearned and ignorant men, should compose 
these books, that none of the unlearned might be able to 
have recourse to this excuse; that the words then spoken 
might be intelligible to all ; that even the mechanic, and the 
servant, and the widow- woman, and the most unlearned of all 
mankind might receive profit and improvement from what 
they should hear. For it was not for vainglory, like the 
heathen, but for the salvation of the hearers, that these 
authors were counted worthy of the grace of the Spirit to 
compose these writings. For the heathen philosophers, not 
seeking the common welfare, but their own glory, if ever 
they did say anything useful, concealed it, as it were, in a 
dark mist. But the Apostles and prophets did quite the 
reverse; for what proceeded from them they set before all 
men plain and clear, as being the common teachers of the 
world, that each individual might be able, even of himself, 
to learn the sense of what they said from the mere reading. 

'And who is there that does not understand plainly the 


whole of the Gospels? Who that hears "Blessed are the 
meek," "Blessed are the merciful," "Blessed are the pure in 
heart," and so forth, needs a teacher in order to comprehend 
any of those sayings ? And as for the accounts of miracles 
and wonderful works and historical facts, are they not plain 
and intelligible to any common person ? This is but pretext 
and excuse and a cloke for laziness. 

' You do not understand the contents ; and how will you 
ever be able to understand them if you do not study them ? 
Take the book in your hands; read the entire history; and 
when you have secured a knowledge of what is simple, come 
to the obscure and hard parts over and over again. And if 
you cannot by constant reading make out what is said, go to 
some person wiser than yourself ; go to a teacher, communi- 
cate with him about the thing spoken of; show a strong 
interest in the matter; and if God see you displaying so 
much anxiety, He will not despise your watchfulness and 
earnestness ; but if no man teach you what you seek for, He 
Himself will surely reveal it. 

' Remember the eunuch of the Queen of the Ethiopians, 
who, though a barbarian by birth, and pressed by innumer- 
able cares, and surrounded on all sides by things to occupy 
his attention, aye, and unable, moreover, to understand what 
he was reading, was reading, nevertheless, as he sat in his 
chariot. And if he showed such diligence on the road, con- 
sider what he must have done when staying at home. If he 
could not endure to let the time of his journey pass without 
reading, how much more would he attend to it when sitting 
in his house? If, when he understood nothing of what he 
was reading, he still would not give up reading, much less 
would he after he had learned. For, in proof that he did not 
understand what he was reading, hear what Philip saith unto 
him: "Understandest thou what thou readest?" And he, 
upon hearing this, did not blush nor feel ashamed, but con- 
fessed his ignorance, and said : "How can I, unless some man 
should guide me ?" Since, then, when he had not a guide, he 
was occupied even so in reading, he therefore speedily met 
with one to take him by the hand. God saw his earnestness, 
accepted his diligence, and straightway sent him a teacher. 


' But there is no Philip here now. Aye, but the Spirit 
that influenced Philip is here. Let us not trifle, beloved, 
with our salvation. All these things were written for our 
admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. 
Great is the security against sin which the reading of the 
Scriptures furnishes. Great is the precipice and deep the 
gulf that opens before ignorance of the Scriptures. It is 
downright abandonment of salvation to be ignorant of the 
Divine laws. It is this that has caused heresies : it is this 
that has led to profligate living : it is this that has turned 
things upside down; for it is impossible for anyone to come 
off without profit who constantly enjoys such reading with 

I dare say that wfll strike you as good Protestant preach- 
fng, and you will be curious to hear what Roman Catholic 
advocates have to say in reply. Well, what they answer is, 
that Chrysostom only recommends what they call the ascetic 
use of the Scriptures, or, as we should say, their use for 
practical edification and instruction of life. I readily grant 
that this was the object Chrysostom appears to have had 
primarily in view in most of the sermons I have quoted, and 
I will, into the bargain, throw in the concession that Chry- 
sostom would have been very sorry if his hearers had put 
any heretical meaning on what they read. But all this is 
beside the present question, namely, Were the Fathers of the 
ancient Church afraid of their laity reading the Bible, or did 
they not, on the contrary, recommend and urge them to read 
it ? Suppose the question was whether calomel ought to be 
prescribed in a certain disease, and that a doctor who thought 
its use highly dangerous was pressed with the example of 
some great authority who had always prescribed it. Sup- 
pose, after denying this for some time, he had prescription 
after prescription shown to him, in which calomel had been 
employed, what would you think of the answer, 'Oh, he only 
prescribed calomel for its purgative properties ; he did not 
intend the drug to operate in any other way?' Surely, it is 
common sense that, if you administer a drug, you cannot 
prevent it from exercising all its properties. If you let 
people read the Bible, you cannot prevent them from reflect- 


ing on what they read. Suppose, for an example, a Roman 
Catholic reads the Bible; how can you be sure that he will 
not take notice himself, or have it pointed out to him, that, 
whereas Pius IX. could not write a single Encyclical in which 
the name of the Virgin Mary did not occupy a prominent 
place, we have in the Bible twenty-one Apostolic letters, and 
her name does not occur in one of them? The Church of 
Rome has very good reason to discourage Bible reading by 
their people; for some of them are very likely to be struck 
by the fact that the system of the New Testament is very 
unlike that of Modern Romanism.* The ancient Church had 

* I have not troubled myself to give formal proof of the discourage- 
ment of Bible reading by the modern Church of Borne because I 
consider that, as I have said above, if her theory be true, her practice 
is quite right. But as her advocates are now often apt to be ashamed 
of this practice, I copy the conditions under which, according to the 
fourth Rule of the Congregation of the Index of Prohibited Books, 
approved by Pope Pius IV., the exceptional favour of being allowed to 
read the Bible was granted to persons only able to read it in the 
vernacular : ' Since it is manifest by experience that if the Holy 
Bible in the vulgar tongue be suffered to be read everywhere without 
distinction, more evil than good arises, let the judgment of the bishop 
or inquisitor be abided by in this respect ; so that, after consulting 
with the parish priest or the confessor, they may grant permission to 
read translations of the Scriptures made by Catholic writers, to those 
whom they understand to be able to receive no harm, but an increase 
of faith and piety, from such reading ; which faculty let them have in 
writing. But whosoever shall presume to read these Bibles, or have 
them in possession without such faculty, shall not be capable of 
receiving absolution of their sins, unless they have first given up the 
Bible to the Ordinary.' See Littledale' Plain Reasons p. 90, where 
some account is given of subsequent dealings of the Roman Catholic 
authorities with this subject. But it is needless to produce docu- 
mentary evidence to anyone who knows the small circulation of the 
Scriptures in Roman Catholic countries ; and even in this country, the 
small knowledge of the Bible possessed by Roman Catholics in other 
respects well educated. A laudable attempt of a pious French Roman 
Catholic (Henri Lasserre) to make the Gospel History better known 
to his countrymen, received ecclesiastical sanction for a time, which 
has been since withdrawn. I do not hink anyone will dispute what 
Lasserre states in his preface, as to the kind of acquaintance with the 
Gospel History possessed even by devout Roman Catholics, ' Le Livre 
que Dieu a place dans les fondements de 1'Eglise 1'Evangile, est en 
realite tres rarement lu, meme par ceux qui font profession d'etre 
des catholiques fervents. II ne 1'est jamais par la multitude des 
Fideles. Interrogez en effet vos proches et vos amis, tous ceux qui 
f orment votre entourage ; interrogez vous-meme, cher lecteur ; et vous 
ne tarderez pas a constater, non peut-etre sans un etonnement profond, 
que, sur cent personnes qui pratiquent les sacrements, il n'en est 


no such fear. They never desired to teach anything that was 
not in the Bible; and so they were not afraid of the people 
discovering contradictions between the Bible and their 

Now, I do not want any quotations I may read to you to 
mislead you into thinking that the Fathers of the fourth 
century were English Protestants of the nineteenth. I sup- 
pose there is not one of them to whose opinions on all points 
we should like to pledge ourselves. But such quotations as 
I have read show that they thoroughly agree with us on 
fundamental principles. Where they differ from us they 
differ as men do who, starting from the same principles, 
work them out in some respects differently. In such a case 
there is hope of agreement, if each revise carefully the pro- 
cess of deduction from the principles held in common. But 
our conclusions differ from those of the Church of Rome, 
because we start from different principles, and pursue a 
different method. The difference will be the subject of the 
next Lecture. 

souvent pas une seule qui ait ouvert 1'Evangile autrement qu'au 
hasard, et pour en parcourir ou en mediter 93, et la quelques versets 
isoles. Le plupart des enfants de 1'Eglise ne connaissent du Livre 
diyin que les fragments, sans ordre logique ni chronologique, repro- 
duits dans le Paroissien, a la messe des fetes et dimanches de I'annee ; 
et ils n'en ont guere retenu que ces citations particulieres, qui se 
rencontrant plus frequemment que les autres sur les levies des predica- 
teurs et dans les ouvrages de piete, finessent par prendre, bon gre 
mal gre, possession des toutes les memoires et par faire, pour ainsi 
dire, partie du domaine public. Nous croyons ne rien exagerer en 
presumant qu'il n'y a peut-etre pas, en moyenne, trois Fideles par 
paroisse qui soient alles au dela de cette notion vague.' Lasserre 
considers that the great success in France of Renan's romance 
purporting to be a life of Christ, was owing to the prevalent ignorance 
of the Life as related in the Gospels. 



IF we admit it as established that the Church is bound to 
give proofs of her doctrines, the next point in the con- 
troversy is what sources of proof are admissible. I think it 
was Dr. Hawkins, the late Provost of Oriel, who summed up 
our doctrine on this subject in the formula, The Church to 
teach, the Scriptures to prove. 

The Church of England, in her Sixth Article, has laid down 
the principle of her method in the assertion that 'Holy Scrip- 
tures contain all things necessary to salvation,' so that what- 
ever is incapable of Scripture proof, even if it may happen to 
be true, is not to be required of any man to be believed as an 
article of faith. A profession of belief in this principle of 
the sufficiency of Scripture is one of the pledges which our 
Church requires of every priest at his ordination. Nor is the 
principle merely asserted in one of the Articles ; it runs 
through them all. Everything else, which might claim an 
independent authority, is made in the Articles to derive its 
authority from the Bible, and to be authoritative only so far 
as it agrees with the Bible. The most venerable of all tradi- 
tions the Creeds are said (Art. vm.) to be received only 
because capable of Scripture proof. Every particular Church, 
and General Councils of the Church, are said (Arts, xix-xxi) 
to be liable to error ; and their decisions are said to be binding 
only when it can be shown that they are taken out of Holy 
vScripture. Then, in the controversial Articles, one Roman 
doctrine after another is rejected as a human invention, be- 
cause grounded upon no warrant of Holy Scripture. Thus 
you will see that the Sixth Article is not an isolated doctrine, 


but states the principle of the method which our Church 
employs in the establishment of all her doctrines. 

Now, the Council of Trent, at the outset of its proceedings, 
equally proclaimed the principle of its method, in order (as 
it said) ' that all men might understand in what order and 
method this Synod is about to proceed, and what testimonies 
and authorities it chiefly intends to use for the information 
of doctrine and the establishment of morals in the Church.' 
The actual words of the decree of the Council of Trent are 
easily accessible to you, and I shall expect you to know them ; 
suffice it here to remind you that its principle is, that the 
saving truth, communicated by Christ and His Apostles, is 
contained in the written books and in unwritten traditions, 
and that equal piety and reverence is to be given to the 
books of the Bible and to those traditions. 

As Bellarmine states the matter, the rule of faith is the 
Word of God ; but that word may be either written or unwrit- 
ten. When we say unwritten, we do not mean that it is 
nowhere written, but only that it was not written down by 
its first announcers. To the first generation of Christians, 
the Gospel revelation was equally authoritative, whether it 
was announced to them by the Apostles' spoken words or by 
their written letters ; and so to every succeeding generation 
it makes no difference whether the Word of God which comes 
to them be written or unwritten. 

In passing, I may just point out the transparent fallacy in 
this oft-repeated argument. Of course, if you certainly know 
a communication to be the Word of God, your obligation to 
receive it is all the same, no matter how it came to you ; but 
the manner in which it comes may make all the difference in 
the world, as to your power of knowing whether it be the Word 
of God or not. The early Christians, who received letters 
bearing the autographs of Peter or Paul, were not a whit more 
sure that they had got an Apostolic communication than those 
who, with their own ears, heard the Apostles speak ; no doubt, 
rather less so of the two ; but it is surely perfectly ludicrous to 
argue that, because the Apostles' spoken words were as good 
a means of knowing their sentiments as their written words, 
therefore what Leo XIII., after eighteen hundred years, 


tells us the Apostles taught is as good evidence to their 
doctrine as faithful transcripts of their own letters. 

To return, however, the principle of the perfect equality of 
Scripture and tradition, as means of proving doctrine, runs 
through the decrees of the Council of Trent. Very frequently, 
indeed, when Scripture proof can be had, it is gladly cited ; 
but tradition is freely used to supplement the silence of 
Scripture, or to interpret its obscurities. And indeed, in 
general, it is not easy to distinguish how much of the proof 
professes to be Scriptural, and how much traditional. Thus 
it was almost inevitable that the doctrine of the Articles of 
the Church of England and of the decrees of the Council of 
Trent should be different when the mode of judgment adopted 
by the two is so different; the one making Scripture alone 
its rule ; the other, Scripture and tradition ; and the latter, 
also, placing tradition on a perfect equality with Scripture, 
as a completely independent means of conveying a know- 
ledge of what our Lord and His Apostles taught. 

The question at issue is often stated in the form, What is 
the rule of faith : Scripture alone, or Scripture and tradition ? 
On this form of expression I may have a remark to make by- 
and-by : what I want now to point out is, that in the Roman 
Catholic controversy this question about the rule of faith is 
altogether subordinate to the question as to the judge of 
controversies, or in other words, the question as to the infal- 
libility of the Church. The Church of England doctrine, as 
to the sufficiency of Scripture, has a real positive meaning to 
which there is nothing corresponding in the Roman doctrine 
about Scripture and tradition. Our Church accepts the ob- 
ligation to give proof of her assertions, and she declares that 
Scripture is the source whence she draws her proofs. She 
declares that she does not consider that anything not con- 
tained in Scripture is necessary for salvation to be believed ; 
and, accordingly, she does not make it a condition of com- 
munion with her to believe in any doctrine for which she 
cannot give Scripture proof. Now, the belief of a Roman 
Catholic does not rest on Scripture and tradition in the same 
way that that of a Protestant does on Scripture : his belief 
rests on the authority of the Church ; he does not think about 


tradition, except when he wants a well-sounding word in 
controversy with a Protestant. His Church expects to be 
believed on her bare word; she does not condescend to offer 
proofs. What she says about tradition will be found to have 
only a negative meaning, namely, that her doctrines are not 
to be rejected because they are not to be found in Scripture, 
inasmuch as she has other ways of coming by them ; but 
you would be grossly mistaken if you imagined that she meant 
to offer you any historical proof by uninspired testimony for 
the Apostolic origin of doctrines which are not to be found in 
Scripture. If that Church condescends to offer proofs of her 
doctrines, she claims to be the sole judge whether what she 
offers are proofs or not. If she presents a Scripture proof, 
she claims to be the sole interpreter of Scripture; and she 
requires you to believe, on her word not only that the doctrine 
in question is true, but also that it is taught in the passage 
of Scripture which she alleges in support of it. Thus you see 
that the so-called Scripture proof is not a foundation on 
which your faith is to rest, but a new load to be laid on your 
faith. And it is just the same when she alleges tradition. If 
she asserts that she has received a doctrine by tradition, you 
are bound to believe that the doctrine has been continuously 
held in the Church from the first, even though there may not 
be a particle of historic evidence to justify the assertion. 

In the same session of the Council of Trent in which was 
passed the decree setting tradition on a level with Scripture, 
it was also ordained that no one, leaning on his own under- 
standing, shall dare, wresting Scripture to his own sense, to 
interpret it contrary to that sense which has been and is held 
by the Holy Mother Church, whose province it is to judge 
concerning the true sense and interpretation of Scripture, or 
even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers. Ac- 
cordingly, the Creed of Pius IV. requires all who subscribe it 
to promise : 'I admit Holy Scripture according to that sense 
which has been and is held by Holy Mother Church, whose 
province it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of 
Scripture' ; and, further, to say : ' Nor will I ever receive or 
interpret it except according to the unanimous consent of the 
Fathers,' The latter clause is a monstrous distortion of the 


words of the Council of Trent, and, if understood literally, 
amounts to a promise not to interpret Scripture at all, since, 
in the vast majority of cases where difference of opinion is 
possible, any one who waits to interpret until he gets a 
unanimous consent of the Fathers to guide him may wait till 
Doomsday. The Vatican Council, the other day, in order to 
prevent misunderstanding of the meaning of this decree of 
Trent, renewed it in nearly the same words as those of the 
former Council. 

If you look through the decrees of the Council of Trent, 
you will find illustrations in plenty of the use made of the 
Church's power of interpretation in finding Scripture proof 
not discoverable by man's unassisted powers. Thus, the 
decree concerning Extreme Unction recites the well-known 
words from the Epistle of James, and then adds : ' By which 
words (as the Church has learned from Apostolic tradition) 
the Apostle teaches the matter, the form, the proper minister, 
and the effect of the Sacrament. For the Church has under- 
stood that the matter is oil blessed by the bishop ; that the 
form is those words, "per istam unctionem, etc." '; and so 
on. Here we have a commentary of which there is not a 
trace in the text; and in this way evidently any passage of 
Scripture could be made to say anything the Church was 
pleased it should say. 

I do not think any other proof is necessary of the modern- 
ness of the Roman rule of faith than the very complicated 
form which it assumes. I quote again from Milner's End of 
Controversy what, after rejecting the two fallacious rules of 
faith, he puts forward as the true rule, namely, ' the Word 
of God at large, whether written in the Bible or handed 
down from the Apostles in continual succession by the 
Catholic Church, and as it is understood and explained by 
the Church' ; or, to speak more accurately, he says : 'Besides 
their rule of faith, which is Scripture and tradition, Catholics 
acknowledge an unerring judge of controversy, or sure guide 
in all matters relating to religion, namely, the Church.' Now, 
if Christians had begun with the notion that they had an 
infallible guide in the Church, they never would have said 
anything about Scripture or tradition. And this will test 


for us a second time whether the relation between the Church 
teachers and their flocks is fitly paralleled by that between a 
barrister and his clients, or between a physician and his 
patients. A sick man, when asked what advice he is using 
in order to get well, does not answer : Medical literature, as 
contained in such-and-such books, together with the instruc- 
tions given orally in the Dublin Medical Schools, the whole 
as interpreted to me by Dr. So-and-So. A litigant does not 
tell us that he trusts for the conduct of his lawsuit to the 
statutes at large, together with the common law, as ascer- 
tained by the decisions of several successive judges, the 
whole as interpreted to him by such-and-such a barrister. In 
those cases we do not dream of going behind the barrister or 
physician to whose skill we commit ourselves, and we do not 
bestow a thought on the sources of his information. And so, 
if Christians had originally trusted to the Church as an infal- 
lible guide, they would never have talked about Scripture or 
tradition. It would have been enough for them to know that 
the Church had told them what to believe : whether she 
derived her knowledge from Scripture, or from tradition, or 
from immediate inspiration, would not have mattered to them 
in the slightest degree. But the true explanation why Roman 
Catholic controversialists state their rule of faith in this com- 
plicated form is, that Christians began by taking Scripture 
as their guide, and then, when practices were found current 
which could not be defended out of the Bible, tradition was 
invoked to supplement the deficiencies of Scripture. Last of 
all, when no proof could be made out either from Scripture 
or antiquity for Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, the 
authority of the Church was introduced to silence all objec- 
tions. But still there was not courage to rest the fabric 
of belief on this modern foundation solely, and so the 
venerable names of Scripture and antiquity were still ap- 
pealed to. 

But, indeed, the theory that tradition is a rule of faith is 
quite untenable unless it be supplemented by the theory of 
the infallibility of the Church ; for tradition is a rule which 
it is quite impossible for the individual to apply. There is 
no difficulty in an individual using Scripture as his rule of 


faith; for he can learn without much difficulty what the 
statements of the Bible on any subject are, and on most 
subjects these statements are easy to be understood. But if 
it were certain that Apostolic traditions independent of the 
Bible existed, it is next to impossible for the individual to 
find them with any certainty. If he has to search for them 
in the writings of the Fathers, the canons of Councils, the 
decrees of Popes, the magnitude of the mass in which he has 
to search is enough to deter him from making the attempt. 

Indeed, until our own time, the task would have been im- 
possible. The Abbe Migne, in the prospectus to his edition of 
the Fathers, tells us, in capital letters, that, out of the innu- 
merable works which constitute THE CATHOLIC TRADITION, 
he has formed one unique and admirable work, the materials 
which he had to gather being often fragments and small 
works without number, scattered here and there, and some 
of them unedited, drawn from books and manuscripts be- 
longing to all places, all ages and languages, and now for 
the first time united in his library. It is certainly a great 
blessing to have the Catholic tradition presented in a com- 
pact and compendious form. And what is the size of this 
convenient compilation? The Latin Fathers form two hun- 
dred and twenty-two thick volumes ; the Greek, one hundred 
and sixty-seven. But this is only Fathers : if you want 
the proceedings of Councils, the decrees of Popes, &c., you 
must search for them elsewhere. And then, when we search 
for Apostolical traditions in the writings of the Fathers, 
there is nothing to mark their Apostolic origin. We have 
no certain means, by our own ingenuity, of distinguishing 
true from false traditions : not one of the Fathers is recog- 
nized as singly a trustworthy guide : every one of them is 
admitted to have held some views which cannot be safely fol- 
lowed. Thus, -the mere addition of tradition to the rule of 
faith makes it impossible for the individual to employ that 
rule ; and the Romish doctrine about the rule of faith would 
be unintelligible unless it were supplemented by her doctrine 
concerning the infallibility of the Church, which, by her un- 
erring instinct, is supposed to have the power of distinguish- 
ing true from false traditions, and which reports the results 


she arrives at for the instruction of the people. Thus you see 
it is quite a delusion to represent the system of the Roman 
Church as resting on trustworthy tradition. We are not 
permitted to apply a historical test to her teaching : on the 
contrary, the teaching of the Church of the present day is 
made the test of traditions. If any sayings of ancient writers 
are brought forward, as contravening that teaching, they are 
set aside as false traditions. 

It would seem, then, that if I have already refuted the 
notion that the Church of Rome is infallible, I need hardly 
say anything about tradition. There is, however, just this 
question of fact to be settled : our Church accepts the con- 
dition of having to give proof of her doctrines ; it is owned on 
all hands that the New Testament is a trustworthy source of 
information as to the teaching of our Lord and His Apostles. 
The question is, Is there any trustworthy source besides ? 
Now, I am willing to dismiss all a priori discussions, whether 
it is likely that God would commit the keeping of anything 
essential to our salvation to a vehicle so insecure, and so 
liable to be corrupted, as tradition ; for it is dangerous to 
measure God's acts by our a priori notions what He was 
likely to do. And yet, the force of this argument is felt by 
Romanists themselves, who would not rely on a source of 
information so utterly precarious as tradition, if they did not 
suppose that they had a means of removing its insecurity in 
the Church, which, by its infallible instinct, discriminates 
true from false traditions. So, when the dream of infalli- 
bility is given up, tradition is reduced to its own uncertainty. 

But, as I say, I dismiss all a priori arguments, neither 
shall I bring forward the statements of Scripture which bear 
witness to its own sufficiency, and which give us reason to 
believe that he who studies it in prayer for the Holy Spirit's 
guidance will find in its pages all things necessary for his 
salvation. Such texts do not suffice to give us a logical victory 
over our opponents. We cannot speak too highly of the excel- 
lence of any one book of Scripture : I dare say that the Gospel 
of St. John alone contains all things needful for salvation; 
yet that does not prove that other inspired books were not 
written. Several of the texts that are cited to prove the 


sufficiency of vScripture primarily relate to the Old Testa- 
ment ; yet, excellent as that was, God gave the New besides ; 
and, in like manner, if any New Testament text be cited, it 
may be asked, was the Canon closed at the time that text was 
written? If not, such a text does not prove that God may 
not have given a further revelation, or that that further 
revelation may not have been handed down by tradition. 

I think it much better, then, instead of running away from 
this ghost of tradition which Roman Catholic controversialists 
dress up to frighten us with, to walk up to it, and pull it to 
pieces, when it is found to be a mere bogey. You say that 
you have other evidence as to the teaching of our Lord and 
His Apostles as trustworthy as the Books of the New Testa- 
ment. Well, produce your evidence, and let us see what it is 
worth. When the question is looked at in this way it will 
be found that the appeal to tradition by Roman Catholics 
means no more than this : that there are doctrines taught by 
the Church of Rome which, it must be acknowledged, cannot 
be found in Scripture, and which she is unwilling to own that 
she invented, or to pretend that they were made known to her 
by a new revelation. It remains, then, that she must have 
received them by tradition. But the baselessness of this 
pretence appears when we come to look into the testimony of 
antiquity with respect to each of the peculiar doctrines of Ro- 
manism. For tradition is a thing which must be the purer the 
further we trace it back. The Church may get a new revelation, 
but cannot get a new tradition. We know, from the confession 
of Bishop Milner and others, that fifty years ago the Roman 
Church knew nothing certain, either by Scripture or tradition, 
as to whether or not the Virgin Mary was conceived without 
sin. Well, then, it is clear that if that Church has attained 
to certainty on this subject since, it was not by tradition she 
attained it. In like manner, when Augustine hears the idea 
suggested that, as the sins of good men cause them suffering 
in this world, so they may also to a certain degree in the 
next, he says that he will not venture to say that nothing of 
the kind can occur, for perhaps it may.* Well, if the idea 

* De Civ. Dei, xxi. 26. 


of purgatory had not got beyond a 'perhaps' at the beginning 
of the fifth century, we are safe in saying that it was not by 
tradition that the later Church arrived at certainty on the 
subject ; for, if the Church had had any tradition in the time 
of Augustine, that great Father could not have helped know- 
ing it. And so I might reason with respect to several other 
doctrines. Tradition, as it were, hangs by a chain from the 
Apostolic Church, and when one part of the chain snaps, down 
conies all that is below it. When once it is proved that the 
Church at any period was ignorant of a doctrine, there can be 
no pretence that the Church, at any subsequent period derived 
its knowledge of that doctrine from Apostolic tradition. 

Indeed the Church of Rome finds this word 'tradition' so 
convenient, as accounting for the origin of doctrines, whose 
Apostolic descent can be proved in no other way, that she is 
unwilling to deprive herself of the power, involving though it 
does a contradiction in terms, of finding out new traditions. 
I quoted Bellarmine, as teaching that in calling one part of 
the Word of God ' unwritten,' he does not mean that it is 
nowhere written, but only that it was not written down by its 
first authors. Yet, if you ask how late are we to go down : 
when did some one or other of the Fathers complete the task 
of committing all these traditions to writing ? you can get no 
distinct answer. The Roman authorities will not even pledge 
themselves that every tradition of the Church is committed 
to writing at this moment ; and with good reason, for if they 
once closed the account it might be an inconvenient check 
to new developments. 

If I am asked, then, why I do not appeal to traditions, 
independent of Scripture, as evidence of the true Christian 
doctrine, I am content to answer, Because I see no historical 
evidence that there are any such trustworthy traditions. 
Roman Catholics say, You receive the New Testament on the 
authority of tradition ; why do you not receive other things 
which come to us on the same authority? I answer, that I 
am willing to receive anything else that comes on the same 
authority. Produce me as strong testimony in favour of any 
doctrine not contained in Scripture, as that which proves the 
Books of the New Testament to have been written by the 


Apostles, or by their contemporary fellow-labourers, and I will 
receive it. But, the fact is, the evidence on which we believe 
that the Epistle to the Galatians was written by St. Paul is 
far stronger than that on which we believe the JEneid to have 
been the work of Virgil ; but, for any saying or action, or 
doctrine of our Lord, not contained in the Bible, there really is 
not as much evidence as the editor of a respectable newspaper 
requires before he admits an announcement into his columns. 
Indeed, when we search for the early history of the Christian 
Church it is remarkable what a break occurs after the New 
Testament history, and before we come to other trustworthy 
records of much historical value. In the age which imme- 
diately succeeded the Apostles there were but few writers, and 
what remains to us of their compositions adds, I may say, 
nothing to what the New Testament has told us. When we 
come lower down the remains of antiquity increase, but there 
is a singular absence of trustworthy traditional information. 
I am disposed to account for this break by the rapid diffusion 
of the Gospel over distant countries ; for distance of place is 
as great an obstacle to the propagation of a tradition as 
distance of time. But certain it is that the early Christian 
writers appear to have drawn their knowledge of the facts of 
the Gospel history solely from the New Testament, like our- 
selves, and to have been as much at a loss as we, when diffi- 
culties occurred, such as tradition might have been expected 
to explain. 

For instance, as to a fact so little likely to be forgotten 
as the number of years our Saviour lived on earth, and the 
duration of His ministry, we find very opposite statements in 
early Christian writers, who we should have supposed had 
the means of being better informed. Clement of Alexandria 
makes the whole duration of our Lord's ministry but one 
year ;* and so some early writers understood the words ' the 
acceptable year of our Lord' ; while Irenaeus (n. xxii.) states, 
on the authority not merely of John viii. 57, but of persons 
who claimed to have received St. John's oral teaching, that 

* Strom, i. 21, p. 407. See also v. 6, p. 658. Clement is followed 
by Origen (De Princ. iv. 5). 


our Saviour passed through all the stages of human life from 
infancy to old age. There is a like discrepancy as to a fact 
which one would think tradition might have preserved the 
personal appearance of our Saviour.* Opposite opinions 
were held, but plainly I think, held not on the evidence of 
traditional testimony, but on no better grounds than those on 
which we might ourselves discuss the question ; the one side 
understanding literally the prophetical texts, ' He hath no 
form or comeliness, and when we shall see Him, there is no 
beauty that we should desire Him ; His visage was marred 
more than any man, and His form more than the sons of 
men ' ; the other side, yielding to that natural feeling which 
still leads painters to give to the features of our Blessed Lord 
all of dignity and grace that they are capable of expressing. 
There are difficulties in the New Testament on which tradi- 
tion might be expected to throw light, such as the double 
genealogies of St. Matthew and St. Luke, and yet it gives no 
information worthy of reliance, f Such a question as whether 
St. Matthew wrote in Hebrew or Greek appears to be not 
absolutely settled by tradition. + Again, some difficulties of 
textual criticism would be solved if we could assume that 
more editions of the Gospel than one were published. But 
no uninspired writer is early enough to know anything about 
the first publication of the Gospels. 

Many like examples can be given. Hermas appears to 
have been recognized as a prophet at Rome, and his book, 
called ' The Shepherd,' was admitted to the public reading 
of many churches. Yet even in Rome itself in less than a 
hundred years it was quite forgotten who this Hermas was, 
while in foreign Churches the wildest guesses were made 
on the subject. The Roman Church does not even give a 
unanimous account as to the names and order of its first 
bishops. The Epistle of Clement gained much celebrity ; but 

* On this subject see the interesting essay appended to Rigault's 
Cyprian, De Pulchritudine Corporis D N. Jesu Christi. 

t At the beginning of the third century Af ricanus endeavoured to 
collect in Palestine traditions on the subject. Few traditions have 
stronger external claims to respect than his account of the matter (see 
Routh, Bell. Sac. n. 228), but I cannot feel that any confidence can 
be placed in it. 

t See my Introduction to the New Testament, Lect. x. 


what order this Clement held in the series of Roman bishops 
is disputed to this day. The subscriptions to St. Paul's epis- 
tles are not earlier than the fourth century; but we might 
naturally think that Euthalius, to whom they are ascribed, 
would embody in them all the earlier traditions which he 
could collect ; yet these subscriptions are, in one or two cases, 
quite erroneous, and are in no case regarded as of any autho- 
rity. In the third century learned men appear to have been 
in the same position as ourselves when called on to reconcile 
the prevalent tradition, that Paul wrote the Epistle to the 
Hebrews with the absence of his name and the difference of 
style from his acknowledged letters. They appear to have 
tried to solve the question by sagacious conjecture, but to 
have been quite without historical testimony. The curiosity 
of Christians eagerly thirsted for more information about the 
deeds and sayings of our Lord than the New Testament sup- 
plies ; and the want so generally felt compilers of Apocryphal 
Gospels tried to satisfy. Some of them are very early, and, if 
there had been any additional facts available, they would, no 
doubt, have worked them into their productions. But the 
fictitious character of these Gospels is betrayed by their 
entire unlikeness to the genuine histories of our Saviour; 
nor do I suppose that there is now any learned man who 
attaches the least credence to the legends which they contain. 
There is no saying of our Lord, outside of the New Testa- 
ment, for which there is more respectable testimony, than for 
that saying about the Millennium which I quoted from 
Papias last Term,* and which is calculated to destroy all 
faith in uninspired tradition. 

The simple answer, then, to the question, why we do not 
use traditions as well as Scripture in the proof of Christian 
doctrine, is that we do not know of any trustworthy enough ; 
and what we have seen of the failure of tradition proves to us 
that there were good reasons why God should have granted 
us in Scripture a more secure channel for conveying Christian 
truth. But if it is alleged that it can be established by unin- 
spired testimony that any doctrine not contained in Scripture 

* Irenseus, v. 33. See my Introduction to the New Testament, p. 226. 


is part of the Christian scheme, let the evidence be produced, 
and we are willing to consider it. I need not discuss the 
abstract probability whether it is reasonable to expect that 
such testimony can be forthcoming, because I believe as a 
matter of fact, that in no case, has any such been produced. 



subject on which I lectured on the last day would 
very commonly be stated in the form, What is the 
rule of faith ? Scripture alone, or Scripture and tradition ? 
There are some ambiguities in the words used in this mode of 
statement to which I ought to call your attention. First, as 
to the words, 'rule of faith.' I ought to mention that two or 
three very early Fathers* give the name ' regula fidei ' or 
'regula veritatis' to a profession of faith nearly identical with 
our Apostles' Creed, as forming the rule according to which 
Christians ought to shape their belief. Our Church, in the 
Eighth Article, does not ascribe to the Creeds any indepen- 
dent authority, but receives them merely because they can 
be proved from Scripture. Of course that does not mean that 
the Bible is our only source of knowledge for the truth of all 
the things stated in the Creeds. I suppose that, if a single 
book of the New Testament had never been written, it would 
still have been possible for us to know that the doctrine in at- 
testation of which the first preachers of Christianity hazarded 
their lives was, that the Founder of their religion had died 
and was buried, and rose again the third day. No one who 
contends for the sufficiency of Scripture is concerned to deny 
that many of the things stated in the Bible are capable of 
historical proof independently of the Bible. Nor are we at all 
concerned to determine the historical question whether, in 
the earliest age of the Church, the doctrines contained in that 
profession of faith which converts made at their baptism 

*Irenaeus, Haer. i. ix., xxi. ; Tertullian, De Praescrip. 13, De 
Virgg. veland. I, &c. 


might not have been known to many of them independently 
of Scripture. Obviously, if it were proved that the great 
leading facts of our religion, though contained in the Bible, 
might also be handed down independently of the Bible for a 
hundred years or two, this would not at all prove that a 
number of things for which no Scripture warrant can be 
found might also have been handed down for eighteen 
hundred years. However, I have thought it the simplest 
plan to avoid all cavil as to the use of the phrase ' rule of 
faith,' and merely state the question of fact we have got to 
determine : Is there, besides the Scripture, any trustworthy 
source of information as to the teaching of our Lord and 
His Apostles ? 

It is more important to observe that there is an ambiguity 
about the word tradition. Bellarmine divides tradition into 
Divine, Apostolical, and Ecclesiastical. Divine traditions are 
things ordained by Christ Himself. Such, for example, he 
says, are the matter and form of the Sacraments, because 
that it is certain that Sacraments could only be instituted by 
Christ Himself. Apostolic traditions are things ordained or 
taught by the Apostles under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, 
and by them handed down to the Church. It is concerning 
these two that we have controversy with the Church of Rome. 
Nothing turns on the distinction between the two. We 
readily admit ourselves to be bound to receive anything that 
can be traced up to the inspired teaching of the Apostles; 
and we raise no question whether the Apostles were repeat- 
ing something taught them by our Lord's own lips during 
the period when He walked on earth, or were speaking under 
the immediate inspiration of the Holy Ghost. In both cases 
we acknowledge their teaching to be alike binding on us. 
Our controversy is whether, if any doctrine not contained in 
Scripture be propounded as necessary to salvation, satis- 
factory proof can be given that it was so propounded by 
the Apostles. Of course there is a great deal that is true 
of which the Bible does not tell us anything; but we do not 
hold that belief in truth of this kind is necessary to salvation. 

The traditions which Bellarmine places in the third class 
are of quite a different kind. Ecclesiastical traditions are 


ancient customs of the Church, which, however instituted at 
first, have, by length of custom, the force of laws of the 
Church. Such traditions, says Bellarmine, are the observance 
of Easter and Whitsuntide, the custom of mixing water with 
the Eucharistic wine, the habit of making the sign of the 
Cross. Now, it is curious that, though in popular controversy 
tradition is commonly opposed to Scripture, the word tradi- 
tion does not occur in our Sixth Article, which practically 
excludes Bellarmine's first two kinds of traditions, Divine 
and Apostolical, from holding a place on a level with Scrip- 
ture in binding our faith. In the only place in our Articles 
in which the word 'tradition' occurs, namely, the Thirty- 
fourth Article, ' Of the Traditions of the Church,' it is used 
in the sense of what Bellarmine calls Ecclesiastical traditions. 
Concerning these last, except on the question of Roman 
supremacy, we have no controversy with the Church of Rome. 
Although we do not allow doctrines of faith to be taught 
except on the authority of Scripture, we do not require such 
authority for the institution of a rite or ceremony. We do 
not believe that the New Testament was intended as a code 
of ceremonial : and we allow each Church to order such 
matters as she finds most conducive to the edification of the 
people; and, as times and manners change, to alter such 
ceremonies again as she finds expedient, provided only that 
nothing is ordained contrary to the Word of God. 

On this point there is very little room for controversy 
among Christians. No sect could consistently carry out the 
principle of having no Church rule without a Scripture text 
to authorize it; and, on the other hand, the Church of 
Rome herself most fully acknowledges the power of the 
Church, for reason which to her seems good, to alter Church 
rules of the most venerable antiquity. I need only remind 
you of her rule of withholding the cup from the laity, though 
she acknowledges that the Sacrament, on its first institution, 
was administered in both kinds, and that this mode of ad- 
ministration continued in the Church for many ages. It was 
necessary to point out to you this ambiguity in the word 
' tradition,' because you will constantly find that, when pas- 
sages of the Fathers are adduced which speak of traditions, 


the writers are not dreaming of any rule of faith distinct from 
Scripture, but only of ancient customs of the Church, as to 
the expedience, or, at any rate, the lawfulness, of retaining 
which we have no inclination to enter into dispute. 

While speaking on this subject, I may give you a refer- 
ence to an interesting list of early Church customs for which 
no Scripture authority can be given. It is in the beginning 
of Tertullian's treatise, De Corona Militis, and the list may be 
extended by means of the note to the Oxford translation of 
the passage. The occasion of it was that Tertullian whose 
turn of mind led him, whenever a question was raised as to 
what was permissible to a Christian, to take what we may 
call a puritanically strict view had pronounced it unlawful 
for Christians to wear a flower crown, as the heathens did, 
on occasions of rejoicing. It shows the feeling of the Church 
of the time on the sufficiency of Scripture that, whenever 
Tertullian puts forward any of these severe rules, he has 
always to meet the objection, Can you show from Scripture 
that what you condemn is wrong ? On other occasions he 
makes some attempt to satisfy the demand. Here Scripture 
proof fails him, and he has to take his stand on the custom 
of the Church, which forbad the wearing of such wreaths; 
and this leads him to instance a number of practices which 
have no authority but Church usage. It is an argument 
a fortiori in favour of our rule of requiring Scripture proof 
for Divine or Apostolic traditions, that in the early Church 
such proof was demanded even for Ecclesiastical traditions. 

There is another distinction worth bearing in mind when 
quotations from the Fathers are produced that between 
tradition as signifying the ' res tradita ' and the ' modus 
tradendi.' Every belief and custom which the Church of 
one age hands down to its successors is in one sense a tra- 
dition ; and in many places the word ' tradition ' is used as it 
is by St. Paul, so as not to determine anything as to the way 
in which the tradition comes 'Hold fast the traditions which 
you have received, whether by word or our epistle.' It is 
evident that any passage of this kind is misapplied if it be 
supposed to indicate a preference of oral tradition over the 
written Word. 


With these cautions we might be well content to allow 
the question concerning Scripture and tradition to be deter- 
mined by tradition alone ; for, if anything can be established 
by tradition, there is a clear and full tradition to prove that 
the vScriptures are a full and perfect rule of faith ; that they 
contain the whole Word of God ; and that what is outside of 
them need not be regarded. To go into the details of the 
proof would scarcely be suitable to a viva voce lecture ; for 
there would be little profit in reading out a string of pas- 
sages which I could not expect you to remember. I will, 
therefore, refer you to the second part of Taylor's Dissuasive* 
for a complete catena of Fathers establishing by their con- 
sent this principle, which no Father denies. And I am sure 
that there is no Roman Catholic doctrine disputed by us for 
which anything like so complete a tradition can be cited. I 
merely give you, as a sample, the following from St. Basil, f 
' Without doubt it is a most manifest fall from faith, and 
a most certain sign of pride, to introduce anything that 
is not written in the Scriptures, our blessed Saviour having 
said, " My sheep hear My voice, and the voice of strangers 
they will not hear" ; and to detract from Scripture, or to add 
anything to the faith that is not there, is most manifestly 
forbidden by the Apostle saying, "If it be but a man's testa- 
ment, no man addeth thereto." ' In the same context St. Basil 
declares that he will only sparingly employ any words which, 
though they express the doctrine of Scripture, are not found 
in Scripture itself. I may remind you, in passing, how the 
dislike to employ a non-Scriptural phrase deterred many 
who were perfectly orthodox in doctrine from adopting the 
o/xoowrios of the Nicene Creed. In another treatise* on the 
duties of different stations of life, having given a section to 
the duties of Christian teachers, he comes to the duties of 
hearers, and the first duty he names is, ' Those who are in- 
structed in the Scriptures ought to test the things that are 
said by their teachers, and to receive what agrees with the 

* The young reader may be cautioned that the Opus Imperfectum 
on St. Matthew which Taylor accepted as Chrysostom's is now known 
not to be his. 

t De Fide, Garnier's Ed., ii. 313. IMoralia. Reg. 72, vol. ii., p. 428. 

144 THF < RUI < E OF FAITH. [IX. 

Scriptures, and to reject what disagrees.' He establishes 
this caution by the texts, 'If thine eye offend thee,' &c. : 'A 
stranger they will not follow, but will flee from him ; for they 
know not the voice of a stranger ' ; ' Though we or an angel 
from heaven preach any Gospel to you besides that ye have 
received, let him be anathema' a text, I may observe, 
forcibly used for the same purpose by St. Augustine.* And 
lastly, St. Basil uses the text, ' Prove all things ; hold fast 
that which is good.' Uneducated persons, who cannot read 
the Scriptures, are recommended by St. Basil to trust their 
teachers according as they see the fruits of the Spirit mani- 
fested in their life. 

So much for an Eastern witness. For a Western I cannot 
take a better than St. Cyprian, because, as his controversy 
was with the Bishop of Rome, the quotation will also serve to 
show how little the supremacy or infallibility of the Roman See 
was acknowledged in the third century. Cyprian, as you no 
doubt know, opposed the then existing custom of the Church 
which acknowledged the validity of baptism conferred by 
heretics, contending that the claims of custom must give way 
to those of truth. He was resisted by Stephen, Bishop of 
Rome, who, in the vehemence of his opposition, transgressed 
all the bounds of charity, and proceeded so far as to excom- 
municate those who differed from him. Now, the question is, 
not who was right in that particular dispute, but what were 
the principles on which the Fathers of the Church then 
argued. Cyprian thus writes to another bishop, f 'I have sent 
you a copy of the answer which our brother Stephen has sent 
to our letter, on reading which you will mark the error of him 
who endeavours to maintain the cause of heretics against the 
Church of God ; for, among other things, either insolent or 
irrelevant, or self-contradictory, which he has rashly and 
thoughtlessly written, he has added this : "if anyone come to 
us from any heresy whatever, let no innovation be made on 
the tradition that hands be laid on him unto repentance." I 
may interrupt my quotation to say, that it appears to me 
clear, from the other documents of this controversy, that 

* Cont. litt. Petiliani, in. 6, vol. ix. 301. t Ep. 74, Ad Pompeium. 


Stephen had put forward his succession from St. Peter, and 
had demanded that the traditional practice of the Roman 
Church in this matter should be accepted, as having been 
delivered to it by St. Peter and St. Paul. ' No innovation 
on the tradition,* cries St. Cyprian. ' Whence comes that 
tradition? Does it descend from the authority of our Lord 
and the Gospels'? Does it come from the commands and 
Epistles of the Apostles ? God testifies that we must do the 
things that are written, saying to Joshua, " the Book of the 
law shall not depart from thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate 
in it day and night, that thou mayest observe to do all that is 
written in it.*' Likewise, the Lord, when He sent His Apostles, 
commanded them to baptize all nations, and to teach them to 
observe whatsoever He commanded. If, therefore, it is com- 
manded, either in the Gospels, or in the Apostolic Epistles, or 
in the Acts, that those coming from any heresy should not be 
baptized, but only hands laid on them, then this is a Divine 
tradition, and let it be observed ; but if in these books heretics 
are called nothing but adversaries and anti-Christs ; if we are 
told to avoid them as perverse and self-condemned, why 
should we not condemn those who, the Apostle witnesses, are 
self-condemned?' Plainly, Cyprian here maintains that the 
way to find out what traditions are genuine is not to take the 
word of the Bishop of Rome, but to search the Scriptures as 
the only trustworthy record jof Apostolic tradition. As he 
says further on in the same letter, 'What do you do when the 
water in a conduit fails? You go back to the source.' 

In this controversy the African bishops had extensive 
support in the East; in particular, the Churches of Asia 
Minor, who had been alienated from Rome by their quarto- 
deciman practice, took part strongly against Stephen ; and 
their leading bishop, Firmilian of Cappadocia, writing to 
Cyprian, rejects Stephen's authority in language more angry 
and contemptuous than Cyprian's. Dionysius of Alexandria 
interfered in the interests of peace. But what really silenced 
the controversy was the persecution which descended with 
equal weight on both parties, and gave alike to Stephen and 
to Cyprian opportunity to witness, that, whatever their differ- 
ences, the cause of Christ was dear to both. 


On the question of heretical baptism we have, as often 
happens, Father opposed to Father, and the views of 
Cyprian are refuted by Augustine; but the very disagree- 
ment brings out the fact, that there is a point on which 
all the Fathers are agreed, namely, the infinite superiority 
of Scripture to every other source of proof. Cyprian's 
doctrine about heretical baptism was an innovation at the 
time, as we may easily gather from the stand he takes on 
Scripture against tradition ; and, as you know, it was not 
ultimately adopted by the Church. But his arguments were 
most acceptable to the followers of Donatus, who, in their 
controversy with St. Augustine, pressed him continually 
with the authority of that martyr saint, whose credit every- 
where in the Church was so great, but naturally more par- 
ticularly so in Africa. Now, Augustine differed from Cyprian 
in not thinking Scripture proof to be necessary in order to 
show a custom to be Apostolical. He thought, on the 
contrary, that the existence in the Church, from time im- 
memorial, of a custom the origin of which could not be 
traced to a decree of a Council, or in any other such way 
accounted for, afforded a reasonable presumption that the 
custom was Apostolical. However this may be, I agree with 
him in thinking that the usage of the Church was justification 
enough for not re-baptizing those who had received heretical 
baptism. And when he was pressed by Cyprian's authority 
he replied, ' You are ever throwing in our teeth Cyprian's 
opinions, Cyprian's letters, Cyprian's Council. Who knows 
not that the Canonical Scripture of the Old and New Testa- 
ment is contained within certain limits, and that its authority 
is so far to be preferred to all later letters of bishops, that no 
question can be raised whether what is found therein be true 
and right ? Whereas the letters of bishops written after the 
settling of the Canon may be checked by the wiser language 
of any writer who happens to have more knowledge of the 
matter in question, or by the weightier authority of other 
bishops, and the skill of learned men, or by Councils; and 
particular or provincial Councils again must yield to the au- 
thority of General Councils gathered from the whole Christian 
world. Nay, earlier General Councils themselves may be cor- 


rccted by later.'* And again, in graceful language, which 
gives due weight to the authority of Cyprian, while it refuses 
to set any uninspired authority on the level of Scripture : 'but 
now, seeing that which thou recitest is not Canonical, with 
that liberty to which the Lord hath called me, I do not receive 
the opinion different from Scripture of that man to whose 
praise I cannot reach, to whose great learning I do not com- 
pare my writings, whose genius I love, in whose spirit I de- 
light, whose charity I admire, whose martyrdom I reverence, 't 
I must not weary you with quotations ; but you may take it 
as a general rule that there is not a Father who, if his own 
belief is demanded for something not contained in Scripture 
which he is not disposed to accept, will not reply in some 
such language as St. Jerome : ' This, because it has not 
authority from the Scriptures, is with the same easiness 
despised as appro ved.'t 'As we accept those things that are 
written, so we reject those things that are not written. ' 
' These things which they invent, as if by Apostolic tradition, 
without the authority of Scripture, the sword of God smites. 'j| 
You will see, then, that if we were at the desire of the Romish 
advocates to leave the Scriptures and resort to the Fathers 
of the early Church for a decision of our controversies, these 
very Fathers would send us back to the Scriptures as the 
only guide to truth, the only safeguard against heresy. 

It is proper to mention the only set-off that I know of that 
can be made to the otherwise unanimous teaching of the 
Fathers on this subject it is Tertullian's treatise on Prescrip- 
tion. And at first sight it might seem that this is opposed 
to our views, for the main point it is intended to establish is, 
that we ought not to argue with heretics out of the Scripture, 
but put them down by an appeal to antiquity or to the 
authority of the Church. And in reading this tract we recog- 
nize, with a little surprise, some of the arguments Roman 
Catholics are in the habit of employing against us. Now, in 
the first place, I must observe, that it is a misrepresentation 

* De Bapt. Cont. Donatt. II. 4, vol. ix., p. 98. 
t Cont. Cresron. n. 40, vol. ix., p. 430. 
tin Mattli. xxiii. 35. Adr. Hclrid, 
\\ln Aggaei Proph. cap. i. n, 


of the sentiments of the Fathers, as it would be of any set of 
men, when arguments which they have used in one contro- 
versy are applied to another which was not in their minds 
when they were writing. Very few people are such cautious 
disputants as not occasionally to use arguments which prove 
too much ; which, though very effective for the immediate 
purpose to which they are applied, might on another occasion 
prove very inconvenient. Not unfrequently at the present 
day Roman Catholics and Protestants arguing together, use 
arguments which an infidel might retort with effect against 
either; or, conversely, men arguing against infidels use 
principles which a Roman Catholic might be glad to have 

Now, on looking into this treatise on Prescription, you will 
find that nothing could be further from the mind of its author 
than to inculcate a belief in any doctrine not contained in 
Scripture. Neither here nor elsewhere does Tertullian show 
a wish to do so. The doctrines which in this tract Tertullian 
desires to defend are the most elementary Articles of the 
Creed, and all lie on the very surface of the Bible. You will 
find that there was reason in Tertullian *s assertion, that it 
was not possible to dispose of the heretics with whom he had 
to deal by Scripture arguments : for you can only argue with 
people on principles which you and they hold in common, and 
the Scriptures were not common ground between the Church 
and the heretics of the second century. The Gnostic heretics 
whom he had in view denied the most fundamental Articles 
of the Christian faith. Their theories made matter the root 
of all evil : consequently, they could not believe that the 
Supreme Being, whom they called the Good God, was the 
Creator of the world a work which they attributed to some 
subordinate or even hostile Being. This Being they took 
to be the God of the Jews, who in the Old Testament had 
claimed the work of creation as His own ; consequently, they 
held that the Old Testament was contrary to the New, and 
that Jesus was not the Messiah of the Jewish prophets. They 
could not believe that Christ had assumed a material body, 
that He had been really born, or really died, or that there 
would be any future resurrection of the body. Now, you can 


well believe that it was labour lost to argue out of the 
vScriptures with people who held such views as these. You 
could tell them nothing as to the difference between their 
teaching and that of the Bible that they must not have 
known perfectly well before you spoke to them. 

They were prepared, however, with different modes of 
meeting the difficulty. They generally claimed to be in 
the possession of secret traditions of our Lord or His 
Apostles ; for it was in the Gnostic sects that the idea of 
supplementing or superseding Scripture by tradition first 
was conceived. They had a number of Gospels of their own 
containing these traditions, while they rejected some of the 
most inconvenient parts of our Canonical books. But one 
sect, the Valentinians, were content with the Church Canon, 
finding that the allegorical method of interpretation which 
prevailed in Egypt, the birthplace of that sect, might be 
used with as much success in eliciting the Gnostic tenets 
from the Bible, as it had been employed by orthodox inter- 
preters in deriving the doctrines which they believed to be 
true. You can easily conceive that men who dealt in such 
arbitrary fashion with the Bible had no common ground on 
which the orthodox could battle with them by Scripture 
arguments. In order to refute the Gnostic pretence of secret 
traditions, the Churches took pains to establish their own con- 
nexion with the Apostles, so as to make it appear that if any 
such traditions there were, it must be the Churches which 
had the possession of them. It was with this object that we 
find pains first taken to trace the succession of bishops ; for 
whatever opinion you may entertain as to the form of Church 
government in the primitive Church, this, at least, is indispu- 
table, that at the beginning of the last quarter of the second 
century there were bishops everywhere, and no memory sur- 
vived that any other form of government had ever existed. 
Several of the great Churches claimed to be able to give lists 
of their bishops reaching up to the Apostles' times, and so 
they conceived that they established their right against the 
Gnostics to be regarded as the sole possessors of genuine 
Apostolic traditions. With this explanation you can better 
appreciate the line taken by Tertullian ill his treatise on 


Prescription, a legal term with which Tertullian, as an advo- 
cate, was familiar, his object being to bar the right of these 
heretics to argue out of Scripture at all. 

Tertullian begins by refuting the two principles, on one 
or other of which must rest the Gnostic claim to have a 
secret tradition unknown to the Church at large. This would 
imply either that the Apostles did not know the whole truth, 
or that, knowing it, they did not communicate it to those 
whom they taught. In disproving these two suppositions, 
Tertullian, at the same time, demolishes the modern theory 
of Development. Then complaining that no satisfactory 
result is arrived at by arguing out of Scripture with heretics, 
who either did not acknowledge the books received by the 
Church, or who mutilated and corrupted them, or who 
distorted their meaning by perverse interpretation, he pro- 
poses a shorter method of dealing with them, namely, to 
deny their right to use the Scriptures at all. The Scriptures 
had been given, not to them, but to the Churches who 
agreed in doctrine with Tertullian. Consult any of the 
Churches to which the Apostolic letters had been written. 
If you are in Achaia, consult Corinth ; if in Macedonia, 
consult the Church of Philippi ; if in Italy, or, like those 
whom Tertullian addressed, in Africa, consult the neighbour- 
ing Church of Rome, and you will find all those Churches 
agree in maintaining the same doctrine. Now truth is 
uniform, but it is the very nature of error to be continually 
assuming new shapes. If the Churches had erred they would 
have erred after many different fashions. Whence, then, 
arises this surprising agreement in error? The single point 
that the same doctrine is maintained ' by so many different 
Churches, situate in distant quarters of the globe, affords a 
strong presumption of its truth. Where one and the same 
thing is found among many, this is not error but tradition. 
And lastly, truth came first, error afterwards : we cannot 
believe that the Gospel was for so many years wrongly 
preached, so many thousands wrongly baptized, so many 
miracles wrongly wrought, so many martyrdoms wrongly 
crowned, and that all this time truth was waiting for Mar- 
cion or Valentinus to set her free. 


Such is the argument of the treatise on Prescription.* It 
is an argument from tradition independent of Scripture ; and 
if we had to own it to be a bad one, Tertullian would be 
neither the first nor the last who has defended a good cause 
by weak arguments. But I will not be deterred from saying, 
that I think the argument, on the whole, a good and success- 
ful one, even though Romanists do employ somewhat similar 
arguments against ourselves. For, first, as I said before, we 
may believe that tradition could successfully carry the know- 
ledge of the facts stated in the Apostles' Creed through a 
century without believing that it could carry the doctrine of 
Pope Pius's Creed through nineteen. Tertullian uses the 
argument, Where was your religion before Marcion or 
Valentinus ? and I think it a good one even though Roman 
Catholics do ask us, Where was your religion before Martin 
Luther ? If what Luther or Calvin taught was really as great 
a novelty in the history of Christianity, and as unlike what 
had been taught before as what Valentinus taught was when 
it appeared, we should do well in rejecting it. What we 
receive we accept, because we believe it to be, not new error, 
but old truth. And, lastly, the argument from the unity of 
different Churches, which Tertullian argued with so much 
force, loses all its power in the hands of Roman Catholics. 
That a number of different and widely separated Churches, 
each of which was, a century ago, in direct and independent 
communication with the Apostles, should now all agree in 
teaching the same doctrines, affords a strong presumption 
that those doctrines are Apostolic; but that a number of 
different Churches who are all in direct communication with 
the Bishop of Rome, and who are taught that they are bound 
to submit to him implicitly, and that it is a sin to reject any- 
thing which he teaches to them, that these should all agree 
in teaching the same doctrine proves no more than that the 
doctrine is Roman. In order that an argument from agree- 
ment of witnesses should have any force, it is absolutely 
necessary that the witnesses should be independent. If a 

* In this argument Tertullian is much indebted to Irenseus. See, 
in particular, the beginning of his third book. 


number of manuscript copies, written by different persons 
from the same original, agree, that agreement furnishes a 
strong presumption of the correctness of their common 
reading; but that several copies of the same edition of a 
printed book agree proves nothing at all. Thus the tyranny 
of Rome cuts her off from the use of this topic of evidence to 
the truth of her teaching. If there are any remedies which 
are recognized as effectual by physicians of different coun- 
tries, brought up in different schools, it may be presumed 
that such remedies really have the merits ascribed to them ; 
but it proves nothing in favour of Holloway's pills, that 
those sold by different vendors, in different towns, turn out 
on analysis to be exactly the same. In short, the agreement 
of different Churches, in teaching the same doctrine, un- 
doubtedly proves that this teaching must have had a common 
origin; but the question remains, whether that common 
origin was the teaching of the Apostles, or whether we can 
trace this concordant teaching to a common origin very 
much later than the Apostles. I have spent all this time on 
Tertullian's treatise, because I thought that fairness required 
me to dwell on what seemed to make against us, even though 
it be quite an exception to the general tenor of Patristical 
language and practice with regard to the controversial use 
of Scripture; while I have passed over in a summary way 
all that made for us, because it seemed superfluous to bring 
up one witness after another all to say the same thing. 



o OMETHING must now be said as to a lower claim that 
O has been made for tradition; it has been put forward 
by some, not as an independent source of information, but as 
an interpreter of Scripture. Modest as that claim sounds, it 
might easily be so used as to supersede Scripture altogether. 
If we had a guide who could only speak to us in a language 
we did not understand, the interpreter who translated for 
us his directions would be our real guide. In the reign of 
Charles the First there were some who professed readiness to 
obey the commands of the king, as notified to them by Par- 
liament; but, practically, it amounted to exactly the same as 
refusing to obey the king, if Parliament were recognized as 
his only mouthpiece. Accordingly, it was one of Cardinal 
Newman's not least surprising feats of ingenuity, and yet in 
real truth not the most difficult, to show that, on the subject 
of the Sixth Article, the difference between the true meaning 
of the Church of England and the Church of Rome was more 
apparent than real. Writing to Dr. Pusey, he says : ' The 
opposing parties attach different meanings to the word 
" proof " in the controversy whether the whole faith is or is 
not contained in Scripture. Roman Catholics mean that not 
every Article is so contained there, that it may thence be 
legally proved, independently of the teaching and authority 
of tradition. But Anglicans mean that every Article is so 
contained there, that it may thence be proved, provided 
that there be added the illustrations and compensations of 
tradition ; and it is in this latter sense that I conceive that the 
Fathers also speak. I am sure, at least, that St. Athanasius 


frequently adduces passages in proof of points in controversy 
which no one could see to be proofs unless Apostolic tradi- 
tion were taken into account, first as suggesting, then as 
authoritatively ruling, their meaning. Thus you Anglicans 
do not deny that the whole is not in Scripture, in such sense 
that pure unaided logic can draw it from the Sacred Text, 
nor do Roman Catholics deny that the faith is in Scripture 
in an improper sense, that tradition is able to recognize it, 
and determine it there.' * 

The opinions which Newman ascribes here to Anglicans 
may have been those of Dr. Pusey, whom he was addressing, 
but I am sure they were not those of the framers of our 
Article, nor do I believe they were those of the Fathers 
whom I have quoted. It is highly ingenious, but far from 
satisfactory, to oppose the practice of Athanasius to his 
theory. His theory was expressed in the words, 'The Holy 
and Inspired Scriptures are sufficient of themselves for the 
preaching of the Truth. 'f 'These [canonical books] are the 
fountains of salvation, so that he who thirsts may be satisfied 
with the oracles contained in them : in these alone the 
school of piety preaches the Gospel : let no man add to 
or take from them : (Fest. Ep. 39). Against this we are 
asked to set the fact that some of the Scripture proofs which 
he himself offers are not what to our minds would be 
conclusive; and thence to infer that when he undertakes 
to give Scripture proof, he only means something which, in 
his own mind, might pass for proof, but be quite incapable 
of standing logical examination. In what a light is this to 
represent the venerable Father ! When Abraham refused to 
accept land from the Hittite chieftain as a gift, but insisted 
on paying its value, we are told that he weighed the price in 
silver current money with the merchant ; but if Abraham had 
given bad weight in money that would not pass, Ephron 
would feel that he had been much worse dealt with than if his 

* See also Newman, On the Development of Christian Doctrine, 
chap. vi. sec. 1. 

t Cont. Gentes, i. i. In this place Athanasius teaches the doctrine 
we have laid down, both as to the sufficiency of Scripture and as to 
the advantage of human instruction in it. 


land had been taken without payment. And so it would be 
much more straightforward dealing for a Church to ask that 
we should take her word without any proof, than to offer to 
give us proof, and then let us find out that we had got to 
take her word what was proof, and what was not. You may 
be sure that Athanasius did not offer any Scripture proofs 
that, according to his own principles of interpretation, he 
did not believe to be good. We are offered every day by 
Protestants Scripture proofs, which in our judgments are not 
good proofs ; but that gives us no right to suppose that it is 
only in some non-natural sense they hold the sufficiency of 
Scripture. Nay, rather it is the firmness with which they 
hold that principle which urges them, in their deep convic- 
tion of the necessity of offering Scripture proofs for their 
doctrines, sometimes to press into their service texts which 
to a sober judgment do not seem conclusive. 

Is tradition, then, of no use in the interpretation of Scrip- 
ture? I believe it has its uses, and important uses, both 
positive and negative, though its range is more limited than 
its advocates would have us believe. To speak first of its 
negative use, we must grant that a new-fangled interpretation 
of Scripture has to encounter a great presumption against it, 
arising from the probability that if this were the true inter- 
pretation it would not be left for this generation to discover it. 
I don't say that it is more than a presumption, or that pre- 
vious students have so sounded all the depths of Scripture as 
to make it impossible for a late commentator to discover any- 
thing which his predecessors have overlooked ; but still it is 
a presumption, and one which, in some cases, may rise to 
something like certainty. Take the text, ' Thou art Peter, 
and on this rock I will build My Church.' According to 
modern Romanists this is the charter text of the whole con- 
stitution of the Church. By it Peter and his successors were 
made the governors of the Church, to whom it was to resort 
for the decision of every dispute, and the solution of every 
problem. Well, if that had been the true meaning of the 
text, the other Apostles would have so understood it, at least 
after their minds had been enlightened by the Holy Spirit on 
the day of Pentecost ; and they would have taught its meaning 


to the Churches which they founded. The whole Church 
would have acted on this rule from the first, and the true 
meaning of the text on which the rule was founded could 
never have been forgotten. When we find then, on the con- 
trary, that this is a text on which the greatest diversity of 
interpretation prevailed among the early Fathers, that a 
great majority of them do not find in the text a bestowal of 
personal prerogatives even on Peter, and that none of them 
find the Bishop of Rome there, then we can confidently say 
that historical tradition excludes the modern Roman inter- 
pretation, because it is absolutely incredible that, if this had 
been the right one, it should be entirely lost and forgotten, 
and not recovered for four or five centuries. 

Then, again, I believe that, in matters of ritual or other 
positive institution, tradition can do more useful service 
than in matter of abstract doctrine. An illustration or 
two will make my meaning plainer. One example is often 
brought forward by Roman Catholic writers. When our 
Lord washed His disciples' feet He said to them, 'If I, then, 
your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye ought 
also to wash one another's feet; for I have given you an 
example that ye should do as I have done unto you.' We 
interpret this precept in the spirit, not in the letter. We hold 
that our Lord, by performing a menial office for His disciples, 
designed to impress on them more forcibly by a visible sign 
the precept by which He had before rebuked their ambitious 
conflicts, ' The princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion 
over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon 
them, but it shall not be so among you, but whosoever will be 
great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever 
will be chief among you, let him be your servant, even as 
the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to 
minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.' But we 
are asked, how do we know that we are not to interpret this 
precept literally. May it not be the case that, in omitting 
actually to wash one another's feet, we are neglecting a Sac- 
ramental rite instituted by our Lord Himself? I think we 
must here concede to the Roman Catholic that the usage of 
the Church is not without weight in settling this question, 


and that we are all affected by it in our judgment on this 
matter, even if we are not aware of it. For suppose that the 
usage had been different suppose that from time immemo- 
rial it had been the practice at Christian meetings for wor- 
ship that this precept of our Lord's had been read out, and 
that then some proceeded to wash the feet of others I do 
not think that we should then hesitate to give a literal 
meaning to the words recorded by St. John, and that we 
should have scrupled to think it sufficient, as we do now, 
to comply with the spirit of the command. 

Something of the same kind may be said with reference 
to the Sacraments. If we are asked why we think that 
sprinkling is sufficient compliance with our Lord's com- 
mand to baptize, it seems to me that it is practically a 
good answer to say that the Church has always so under- 
stood it, for the question cannot be determined either way 
without an appeal to tradition in some form or another. For, 
after all, lexicons are only an embodiment of tradition, and 
it is an appeal to tradition which must settle what is the 
meaning of the Greek word ftairrifm. One example more. 
The Council of Trent, as I already told you, informs us that 
the Church has learned by tradition, that in the words of St 
James are taught the matter, the form, the proper minister, 
and the effect of the Sacrament of Extreme Unction. Well, 
if in place of taking the word of the Council of Trent, we 
examine into the tradition for ourselves, we find the facts 
quite the opposite to the assertion of the Council. We find 
that the anointing of the sick, whose recovery was not aimed 
at or expected, was a comparatively modern practice, arising 
not out of a traditional, but quite a private, interpretation of 
the well-known words of St. James, and that those who first 
introduced the practice were quite at sea as to the proper 
way of carrying it out, with regard to points on which they 
would have needed no instruction if this had been a Sacra- 
ment of Apostolic institution. I will freely own that my 
judgment on this so-called Sacrament would be quite different 
from what it is now if there had been historic evidence of 
the descent of the practice from the Apostolic age. Other 
instances of the same kind might be given, but I have said 


enough to show that, in rejecting tradition, it is not our wish 
arbitrarily to cut ourselves oft' from using any source of infor- 
mation that may be accessible to us. We are willing to give 
its due weight to anything that can be established on suffi- 
cient evidence, but we will not set aside the obvious meaning 
of Scripture, on the mere presumption that the currency of 
doctrines opposed to Scripture must have originated in 

It remains for me to speak of the province of hermeneutical 
tradition on points, not of ritual, but of abstract doctrine. 
And here a very obvious remark may be made that the use 
of a text at any time, to prove a doctrine, if it does not prove 
that use of the text to be the right one, at least shows that 
those who so employed it believed the doctrine which they 
alleged that text to prove. Thus, in modern Roman Catholic 
books of devotion, you may find a text from Canticles cited 
in the form, 'Thou art all fair, my love, and there is no spot 
of original sin in thee,' and used to prove the Immaculate 
Conception of the Virgin Mary. We are not bound to believe 
that to be the true meaning of the text; but we cannot deny 
that its being now so used would prove at any future time 
that the Church of Rome in the nineteenth century believed 
in the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. It gains little 
for a doctrine to prove that the Church of the nineteenth cen- 
tury believed it, but it is of great importance to know how the 
Church of the first century believed, for it is reasonable to 
think that any doctrines in which the Churches that were 
taught by the Apostles agreed, were part of the Apostles' 
teaching. And so at any time the current interpretations of 
Scripture are an excellent index to the doctrine of the Church 
at the time; and the nearer the age is to the Apostles, the 
more valuable is the knowledge what the doctrine was. I 
make this remark with reference to a class of interpretations 
which, no doubt, Newman had in his mind when he spoke 
of some of the interpretations of Athanasius as not being 
logically defensible. 

There is a class of interpretations with such antiquity 
to recommend them, that if any interpretations can make 
a claim to have been imposed by tradition, these can. The 


doctrine of them is in perfect agreement with our own, 
and yet there are many of them to which we should not 
now like to pledge ourselves at least we should not like to 
use them in controversy against opponents, as some of the 
ancient Fathers did not scruple to do. To the early Fathers 
all the Old Testament spoke of Christ. They found Him in 
a number of places where, without their help, we should not 
discover Him. We have every reason to think that the Book 
of Psalms furnished a large part of the Christian service from 
the very earliest times. There is no part of the Old Testament 
which the early Fathers seem to have so completely at their 
fingers' ends, or quote so accurately and so frequently. And 
here in particular they recognize our Lord as the subject of 
every Psalm. Now, though we may be willing to admit some 
of their Messianic interpretations of the Old Testament as 
certain, others as probable, it is impossible for a modern 
mind to accept them all. Take, for example, this one, which 
by reason of its venerable antiquity has as good a right to 
be accepted as an interpretation imposed by tradition as any 
that can be named. I refer to a discovery made in the Epistle 
of Barnabas, which many learned men have accepted as by 
the Apostle of that name ; and though I do not myself agree 
with their opinion, the work is certainly one of the earliest of 
uninspired Christian writings. Finding in his Greek Bible 
the number of servants with whom Abraham pursued the 
kings to be three hundred and eighteen, or in Greek numeral 
letters rnj, Barnabas in the last two letters, t, 77, at once 
discovers Jesus. But what then is Tau? Tau is the cross, 
which in shape it resembled. Barnabas declares this to be 
one of the most valuable pieces of instruction he had ever 
communicated, but says that those whom he addressed were 
worthy of it. And, accordingly, several who came after him 
thought it worth stealing from him. But I need not say that 
modern critics are not able to believe in a Messianic pro- 
phecy committed to the Old Testament, but intended to 
remain an impenetrable secret until its Hebrew came to be 
translated into Greek. 

There are other Patristical Messianic interpretations, the 
case for rejecting which is not quite so clear as this one, 


yet clear enough to make us absolutely refuse to allow early 
tradition to impose on us interpretations of Scripture. In 
fact, if a man gives a far-fetched interpretation of Scripture 
we are not bound to receive it because it is a long time 
ago since he did it, and because a great many people have 
repeated it after him. I am quite satisfied to take as illus- 
trating my principles the texts which Cardinal Newman 
(Development, p. 324) instances as brought forward by Nicene 
and ante-Nicene writers as palmary proofs of our Lord's 
Divinity. The first is the beginning of the 45th Psalm, of 
which the Septuagint translation is 'Ef^vjaro rj KapSia /JLOV 
Xoyov dyadov. If hermeneutic tradition is entitled to impose 
an interpretation on us, we are certainly bound to understand 
this passage as referring to the Eternal Generation of the 
Divine Logos. But I observe that the late revisers of the 
Old Testament have not materially altered the old rendering, 
'My heart is inditing a good matter' ; and certainly I should 
feel much embarrassed in controversially maintaining the 
views I hold concerning our Lord's Divinity if I had no better 
proof of them than this passage. Newman's second example 
is the passage (Prov. viii. 22), KI'^IOS KTio-e /z apx^ &3v avrov. 
Orthodox and Arian interpreters agreed that these words 
related to our Blessed Lord, their only point of difference 
being how the word rendered CKTIO-C was to be understood. 
But looking on hermeneutic tradition as a guide, but not as 
an infallible guide, I feel myself free to decline to accept 
some Messianic interpretations which are supported by a 
very strong consensus of early opinion. 

If, however, without insisting on details, we look to the 
general spirit of the early Patristical interpretation of the 
Old Testament, we find what I think may be granted to be 
an Apostolic tradition ; I mean the principle that the Old 
Testament is not contrary to the New the principle that it 
was Jesus of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did 
write He whom in a thousand types the Mosaic institutions, 
nay, the Old Testament history, was in God's providence 
ordained to foreshadow. Here it is quite possible for a 
Christian reader to recognize types that he could not urge in 
controversy against a Jew or a Socinian. In the investiga-. 


tions of last Term I found, in many cases, that there were 
verbal coincidences between the language of very early wri- 
ters and that of our Gospels, which left no doubt on my own 
mind that these writers had used the Gospels; and yet, it 
was not possible to demonstrate that anyone was wrong who 
might choose to say that the coincidence was only accidental. 
There is nothing illogical in this method of proceeding. If 
we have independent evidence that a book was in circulation, 
or that a doctrine was current, at the time when a particular 
author wrote, then a very slight casual allusion might suffice 
to convince us that he had read the book, or that he held 
the doctrine, though, without independent confirmation, the 
evidence might not be at all conclusive. So, if we have in- 
dependent evidence that our Lord was such as no other man 
was, and that He came to do a work such as no other man 
did or could have done, then it becomes more probable than 
not that He did not burst on the world without having His 
coming prepared for ; and if we believe in the Divine inspira- 
tion of the Old Testament Prophets, we are at once ready to 
believe that they were commissioned to speak of Him. That 
this was the attitude of mind in which the Apostles had 
trained the Churches which they founded is, I think, demon- 
strated by the general tone of the Old Testament interpre- 
tations of the early Church : and in establishing this point 
hermeneutic tradition does us valuable service. And if we 
are compelled to acknowledge that the disciples often outran 
their masters, and pushed their principles to indefensible 
extremes, we are not obliged to follow to those extremes 
guides whom we do not consider infallible ; yet the evidence 
remains unshaken of the Apostolic character of that tradition 
of the dignity of Christ's person and work which lies at the 
foundation of these interpretations. 

We might, indeed, use the early hermeneutical tradition 
to draw a doctrinal conclusion of a negative character. As 
the early Church saw Christ everywhere in the Bible, so the 
modern Church of Rome sees the Virgin Mary everywhere. 
One example I mentioned incidentally just now. Well, I 
think it is a very significant fact that early Patristical inter- 
pretation is altogether blind to indications of the dignity of 


the Blessed Virgin. In the Book of Revelation, the woman 
clothed with the sun, and with the moon under her feet, and 
on her head a crown of twelve stars, who brought forth the 
man child, and then was made to flee into the wilderness 
(chap, xii.), in which description modern Romanists find a 
prediction of the glory of the Virgin, is by the ancient com- 
mentators, with absolute unanimity, understood of the 
Church.* You know what meaning the phrase ' the Virgin 
Mother ' would bear in a modern book : in an ancient writer 
it would as certainly mean the Church, f and he would not 
seem to dream that any other meaning could be put on his 
words. We cannot help inferring that the Virgin Mary did 
not fill the place in the thoughts of men of those days that 
she has come to fill in recent times. The examples I have 
given will show that, while we hold ourselves perfectly free 
to criticize very ancient interpretations of Scripture, and so 
hold what is called hermeneutic tradition to be as far as 
possible from being an infallible guide, yet the study of 
these interpretations may throw most important light on 
the doctrinal principles of the ancient Church. 

I must not pass from this subject of Patristical interpre- 
tation without adding a little to a few words I said last Term 
about the two great schools of interpretation, the Alexandrian 
and the Syrian. Alexandria was the home of the allegorical 
method. It had flourished there from pre-Christian times. 
Homer was the Bible of the Greeks : yet, as culture advanced, 
the stories told of the gods, both by the great poet and by 
other authorities who had gained popular belief, were felt 
to be such as could not be reconciled with the honour of the 
divinities. Then apologists invoked the aid of allegory : 
Jupiter only meant the upper air, Poseidon was the sea, 
Apollo the sun. We were not to suppose that Apollo 
descended in person to shoot his arrows for seven days ; 
what was intended was that the sun beat with his rays on the 
damp ground, and so caused a pestilence which was destruc- 

* See, for example, Hippolytus, On Christ and Antichrist, 61. 
t See the letter of the Churches of Vienne and Lyons (Euseb. H. E. 


live to the Grecian host: and in like manner other myths 
apparently degrading to the character of the gods were 
explained away, as mere modes of expressing certain physical 
facts. Thus the Jewish apologists found the method of 
allegory ready to their hands when cavils were made by the 
heathen philosophers of Alexandria against statements in the 
Jewish sacred books. The great Alexandrian Jew, Philo, 
whose works largely remain, freely had recourse to allegori- 
cal explanations when objections were made to the morality 
of parts of the Mosaic narrative so freely, that the historic 
character of the narrative was in danger of disappearing. In 
this school were brought up some of the greatest ornaments 
of the Alexandrian school of Christian philosophy. Clement 
was a careful student and a warm admirer of Philo. Clement's 
successor, Origen, carried to still greater lengths the allego- 
rical method. The spiritual meaning was the soul ; the 
literal, only the body; and in his hands the literal meaning 
often ran the risk of being quite evaporated away. If ever 
the literal sense presented a difficulty, or what looked like a 
contradiction, allegory afforded an immediate solution of it. 
If hermeneutic tradition had a right to force interpretations 
on our acceptance, it would be in the case of some of those 
allegorical interpretations of the Alexandrian school; so 
early was their origin, so wide was the acceptance ihey 
gained, so generally were their principles adopted. 

I look upon St. Ambrose as one of the chief agents in natu- 
ralizing many of these expositions in the West. From being 
a heathen magistrate he was made a bishop ; but he was an 
able man and a good Greek scholar, and he speedily laid 
some of the most celebrated Greek theologians under contri- 
bution for his sermons and treatises. From Origen he drew 
much, both directly and indirectly; and what he drew he 
passed on to his pupil St. Augustine, and through him to the 
Western Church generally. St. Augustine constantly adopts 
the principle that an apparent contradiction between two texts 
of Scripture is to be regarded as an index pointing out that 
allegorical interpretation must be resorted to. If I were to 
think of giving you examples of interpretations of this school, 
in which all regard to the context or to the circumstances of 


the sacred writer is lost sight of, specimens are so abundant 
that there is great difficulty in selection. Here is an explana- 
tion from St. Jerome of a difficult passage in Ecclesiastes 
(xi. 2) *>f which we should certainly be glad to welcome a 
good explanation. The text is : 'Give a portion to seven, and 
also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon 
the earth.' St. Jerome's explanation is : 'The number seven 
denotes the Old Testament, because of the Sabbath therein 
enjoined to be celebrated on the seventh day; the number 
eight denotes the New Testament, because the Saviour rose 
on the eighth day. The text, then, directs us not to restrict 
our faith, as the Jews do, to the Old Testament; nor, as do 
the Marcionites, Manichees, and other heretics, to the New. 
We must believe both Testaments, for "we know not what 
evil shall be upon the earth " ; that is to say, we cannot com- 
prehend now the merited tortures and punishments reserved 
for those who are upon earth, namely, for the Jews and 
heretics who deny either Testament.' This book of Eccle- 
siastes does not strike us as the most Messianic of Old Testa- 
ment books : but Ambrose, Augustine and Jerome find Christ 
and the Gospel in every line. Thus, 'There is one alone, and 
there is not a second ; yea, he hath neither child nor brother ; 
yet is there no end of all his labour ; neither is his eye satis- 
fied with riches ; neither saith he, For whom do I labour, 
and bereave my soul of good ? This is also vanity' (Eccles. 
iv. 8) . Here is the commentary : ' This is Christ ; for He 
is one, and there is not a second, for He came to save 
the world without any companion. He has not a brother; 
for, though many sons of God are by adoption brethren of 
Christ, none could be joined with Him in the work of Re- 
demption. Of His labour and suffering for our sins there 
is no end ; man cannot comprehend the greatness thereof. ' 
" The eye is not satisfied," &c., means that Christ is never 
weary in seeking our salvation. The text goes on, " Two 
are better than one"; that is to say, it is better to have 
Christ with us than to be alone, open to the snares of the 
enemy. "If two lie together, they shall have heat; but how 
can one be warm alone?" that is, if any should lie in the 
grave, yet, if he have Christ with him, he shall be warmed, 


and, being quickened, shall live again. Other passages, 
directing to eat bread with a merry heart, &c., plainly refer 
to the use of the Sacraments. 

I take a few other examples from a collection of answers 
to heathen objections made by a Greek disciple and admirer 
of Origen, from whom these answers were derived.* The 
objection is :'No Christian now has faith, even as much as a 
grain of mustard seed; for not one is able to say to a mountain, 
Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea.' Answer 
'Mountain here does not mean a literal mountain, but a devil, 
as in Jer. li. 25 : " Behold I am against thee, O destroying 
mountain, which destroyest all the earth." He does not 
say, if thou shalt say to a mountain, but unto this mountain, 
namely, the devil, which had been just cast out.' This was 
one of the Eastern comments imported by Ambrose (in Ps. 
xxxvi. 35). So, again, the heathen objects to the credibility 
of Paul's statement that we shall be caught up in the clouds. 
The apologist explains that ' clouds ' does not mean literal 
clouds, but angels, as in the texts, ' I will charge the clouds 
that they rain no rain upon it,' or 'Clouds and darkness are 
round about Him.' Once more, the heathen objects that the 
agony in the garden shows our Lord to have been weaker in 
courage than many men have proved themselves in like cir- 
cumstances. The apologist answers, that our Lord's display 
of weakness was made only to lure the devil on to the last 
assault, in which his power would be broken for ever. The 
devil had been holding back, suspecting our Lord's divinity. 
Our Lord, therefore, not really wishing that His cup might 
pass, but that He might drink it as soon as possible, enticed 
the devil on, and caught him by baiting the hook of His 
divinity with the worm of His humanity; and this is 
the meaning of the verse, Psalm xxii. 6, ' I am a worm, 
and no man.' This interpretation is certainly Origen's; 
and I need not give other examples to show why, with 
every admiration for the ability and ingenuity of Fathers of 
this school, we think it better to do without their help in 
the interpretation of Scripture, believing that, as Lord Bacon 

* Macarius Magnes, Apocritica. 


says, 'a lame man on the right road will come to his jour- 
ney's end sooner than the fleetest runner on a wrong one. 1 
Thus, there are thirty-five books of Gregory the Great's 
Commentary on Job. They may be very valuable to anyone 
who cares to know what were the opinions of Gregory upon 
various subjects, but to a person anxious to know the mean- 
ing of the Book of Job they are absolutely worthless. I own, 
however, I look with some envy on those who can adopt 
these principles of interpretation; for it is immensely more 
easy for an ingenious man to write sermons if he uses a 
principle of interpretation which will enable a preacher to 
get any doctrine out of any text. 

The founder of a healthier system of interpretation is said 
to have been Diodorus of Tarsus ; but scarcely anything of 
his remains ; and it is Theodore of Mopsuestia whom we 
have the means of knowing as the initiator of the literal 
school of interpretation. I do not say he had not prede- 
cessors. Besides his master Diodorus, Lucian the Martyr is 
said to have been one. But Theodore wrote a special treatise 
against Origen and the Allegorists, and founded a school of 
interpretation to which belonged some of the greatest orna- 
ments of the Syrian Church. His principle was to look care- 
fully to the context, and to the circumstances of the sacred 
writer; consequently he interprets passages of David, or 
Solomon, or Hezekiah, which his predecessors had understood 
of Christ. You may imagine, therefore, that his system had 
much violent opposition to encounter; and it may very pos- 
sibly be true that Theodore, in his reaction against the 
allegorizers, went into the other extreme, and insisted too 
mechanically on his rule that, if one part of a passage 
related to a contemporary person, a spiritual explanation 
must not be given to any other part ; or that, if there was any 
one verse in a Psalm which was not applicable to Christ, 
none of it could be so. However this may be, it is the com- 
mentators of this school who have produced the only exegeti- 
cal works which a modern student can read continuously with 
pleasure and profit. Great part, for instance, of Chrysostom's 
Homilies have not been superseded as intelligent and suc- 
cessful attempts to bring out the true meaning of the author 


on whom he comments. This is far indeed from being 
Cardinal Newman's opinion, and the language in which he 
expresses his aversion to the Syrian school of exegesis is 
strong enough to meet the demerits of any heresy.* He 
traces Arianism to the influence of the methods of Lucian, 
already mentioned, though it is certain that Diodorus was 
free from any Arian taint. But it cannot be denied that the 
leading Nestorians were disciples of Theodore. It will be 
useful for you to bear in memory that Nestorianism is a 
Syrian, as Eutychianism is an Alexandrian heresy. The 
rationalizing tendencies of the Syrian school harmonize with 
the Nestorian accentuation of the human nature of our Lord. 
Independently of this, from the nature of the case, the Syrian 
interpreters, being obliged to reject a multitude of explana- 
tion that had been long current and had the support of 
venerable names, were on the side of human reason against 
traditional authority; and so we can understand Newman's 
antipathy to those who were the Protestants of their day. 

It is not my purpose to trace at length the history of 
mediaeval interpretation. Origen had counted three senses of 
Scripture the* literal, the moral, and the mystical which he 
compared to the trichotomy of body, soul, and spirit in the 
nature of man. In the middle ages these three had increased 
to four the literal, the moral, the allegorical, and the ana- 
gogical this last being appropriated to those allegorical 
explanations which relate to the future state. Thus, accord- 
ing to an example commonly given, the Sabbath, according 
to the moral sense, would mean a resting from sin ; according 
to the allegorical, the rest of our Lord in the grave; and, 
according to the anagogical, the future rest in the kingdom 
of God. These were summed up in the memorial lines 

' Littera gesta docet ; quid credas allegoria ; 
Moralis quid agas; quo tendis anagogia.' 

In truth, the latter three senses are but subdivisions of what 
we should simply describe as allegorical, without feeling any 
need of subdivision. 

* See the passage in the essay On Development, already referred to ; 
and Arians of the Fourth Century, chap, i., and Appendix. 


But my main object now is to point out the necessity of 
extreme caution in the use of the allegorical method. If this 
be relied on as singly sufficient to prove a doctrine of which 
no other valid proof can be found, then tradition really be- 
comes the mistress of Scripture ; for then, though we profess 
to deduce our doctrine from Scripture, we really bring it into 
it first, according to the lines 

' Hie liber est in quo quaerit sua dogmata quisque, 
Invenit et pariter dogmata quisque sua.' 

Roman Catholic controversialists have called the Bible a 
nose of wax, which any man can twist as he pleases. This 
is true if you adopt the allegorical method of interpretation ; 
or rather then, if it had been a nose of iron, it would make no 
difference, so powerful is the wrenching instrument employed. 
Origen's Commentary on St. John contains copious extracts 
from the previous commentary by the Valentinian Heracleon ; 
for it is curious that the earliest known continuous commen- 
tary on a New Testament book is by this heretic. And 
Heracleon, who was evidently a disciple of the same school 
of allegorical interpretation, has no difficulty in finding 
Valentinianisni in St. John's Gospel, by interpretations 
which seem to me not a whit more forced or unnatural than 
many which are used by Origen himself to deduce orthodox 

I am not now lecturing on the interpretation of Scripture, 
and therefore cannot enter into some discussion which would 
properly come before us if this were my main subject. But I 
have thought it necessary to say something about different 
schools of interpretation, because the question we have been 
discussing between Scripture and tradition becomes prac- 
tically unimportant if allegorical interpretation be freely 
employed. When this method is used, a proof may pretend 
to be derived from Scripture alone ; but, in real truth, tradi- 
tion is the foundation of the fabric. 



I HAVE, in previous Lectures, sufficiently discussed the 
abstract question, whether God has provided for us any 
infallible guidance; and I consider that I have shown that 
there is not the least reason to think that with respect to 
religious truth God has dealt with us in a manner contrary 
to all His other dealings with us, by giving us such secure, 
never-failing means of arriving at knowledge as shall relieve 
us from the trouble of search and inquiry, and shall make 
error impossible. I propose now to lay before you such 
evidence as will show that, whether there be anywhere an 
infallible Church or not, the Church of Rome certainly is not. 

You may, perhaps, think that this is a little waste of time ; 
for, if no Church be infallible, it follows at once that the 
Church of Rome is not. It is true that, in the present con- 
troversy, I constantly feel tempted to give points to our 
opponents. In the attempt to establish their case, they 
make so many false assumptions, that, if we make them a 
present of one, they are under no less difficulty when they 
come to the next step in the argument. But it is not as a 
mere matter of generosity that I refrain from pressing to the 
utmost the victory we have gained on the abstract question. 
Men are not influenced by mere logic : they will easily 
believe what they wish to believe, whether there be logical 
proof of it or not. 

Accordingly, you will seldom find in Romish books of 
controversy any of that discussion which has occupied us so 
long, and which really concerns the fundamental point in the 


controversy. It would be so very pleasant to have a guide 
able to save us all trouble and risk, and to whom we might 
implicitly commit ourselves, that Romish advocates generally 
spare themselves the pains of proving that such a guide 
exists, and prefer to take that for granted as a thing self- 
evident. The older books on controversy, assuming that 
there was somewhere an infallible Church, and that the only 
question was where she \vas to be found, occupied much 
space in telling of marks or notes by which the true Church 
could be distinguished from false pretenders. On this much 
discussion on the 'notes of the Church' ensued, it being easy 
to show that several of the notes enumerated by Bellarmine 
are possessed by bodies which no one can imagine to be the 
true Church, while it is extremely disputable whether the 
Church of Rome possesses those notes to which we should 
be willing to attribute most value. But in the actual history 
of perversions to Romanism this part of the discussion has 
usually been skipped ; and thus the proof has been simplified 
into : ' There is an infallible Church somewhere, and no 
Church but that of Rome can claim the attribute.' 

Now, although of the two propositions ' The Church of 
Rome is infallible'; 'Other Churches are not' the former is 
the one we deny, while we admit the latter Romish advo- 
cates seldom offer any proof of the former, and spend all 
their declamation on the latter. They tell of errors com- 
mitted by other communions, of theological problems wrongly 
solved, or of which no certain solution can be given, in the 
hope that the hearer, perplexed by so much uncertainty, may 
gladly accept offered guidance without scrutinizing its claims 
too minutely. It is so natural to wish to have an infallible 
guide, that men are found well disposed to give credence to 
the agreeable intelligence that such a guide exists. 

Now, to persons in this frame of mind, it is not enough to 
show that there is no reason to think that God has provided 
such a guide. The possibility still remains that He may 
have done so. We all believe in a miraculous revelation, 
through which God has done something for His creatures 
over and above His ordinary course of dealing with them. 
Shall we put limits on His bounty, or deny the possibility 


that He may have made the way to religious truth as secure 
as the most exacting can demand ? 

It is necessary, therefore, to quit the region of abstract 
discussion. But it is always unsafe to neglect to compare 
a theory with facts. When we attempt to decide on God's 
dealings by our own notions of the fitness of things, and 
venture to pronounce beforehand what sort of supernatural 
guidance He would provide for us, the most sanguine theorist 
has no right to imagine that he can get beyond a probable 
conclusion ; and he is bound to examine whether, in point of 
fact, God has provided such guidance. The line taken by 
Romish advocates reminds me of what Cervantes tells of the 
course taken by Don Quixote in the manufacture of his hel- 
met. The good knight, having constructed one which he 
thought admirable, proceeded to test its strength ; and in a 
moment, by one stroke of his sword, demolished the labour 
of a week. So he made a new one; but as it would be very 
unpleasant to have one of not sufficient strength, he this 
time satisfied himself by pronouncing his workmanship to 
be strong enough, without trying any imprudent experiments 
with his sword. I feel it, therefore, to be not enough that 
Romish advocates should tell us of the failures of others, if 
they do not submit to some examination what they offer as 
superior; and I am persuaded, as I have said, that the true 
result of such an examination is that, whether or not there 
be anywhere an infallible Church, the Church of Rome 
certainly is not. 

But it may be asked, How is it possible to give proof that 
the Church of Rome has erred, as long as the question of her 
possible infallibility is left open ? If we pronounce any decision 
of hers to be erroneous, we may be told that it is she who is 
in the right, and that we are wrong. To recur to an illus- 
tration which I formerly employed : we engage a professional 
guide to conduct us over a pass we have never crossed before, 
and how can we be able before the journey is ended to con- 
vict him of leading us wrong? The path he takes may, to 
our eyes, be unpromising and quite unlike what we should 
ourselves have chosen; but if we hesitate, he can smile at 
our opposing our ignorance to his superior knowledge, 


and can assure us that at our journey's end we shall find 
him to have been in the right. Yet it might happen in 
such a case that even before the journey was over we 
should have good reason to conclude that our guide did 
not understand his business. Suppose that whenever we 
came to a place where two paths diverged, the guide hung 
back, and, as long as we were hesitating, carefully abstained 
from giving any hint of his opinion as to which was the right 
one ; but when we had made our choice, and had struck into 
one of the paths, then overtook us, and assured us we were 
all right, should we not have a right to suspect him of igno- 
rance of his business, and think that but for the honour and 
glory of the thing we might as well have had no guide at 
all ? Suppose, too, that after we had taken a path under the 
encouragement and, as we believed, with the full approba- 
tion of our guide, we found ourselves stopped by an impas- 
sable morass, should we think it a satisfactory explanation 
to be told by our guide, as we were retracing our steps, that 
approbation of this unlucky path had been expressed by 
him merely conversationally, in his private, not his profes- 
sional, capacity ? 

I think it admits of historical proof that the Church of 
Rome has shrunk with the greatest timidity from exercising 
this gift of infallibility on any question which had not already 
settled itself without her help, and that on several occasions, 
where the Pope has ventured to make decisions, these deci- 
sions are now known to have been wrong, and the case has 
to be met by pitiable evasions. The Pope was not speaking 
ex cathedra; that is to say, he had guided the Church wrong 
only in his private, not his professional, capacity. 

Let us examine, then, by the evidence of facts, whether 
the Church of Rome believes her own claim to infallibility. 
Acting is the test of belief. If a quack claimed to have a 
universal medicine, warranted to cure all diseases, we should 
not need to inquire into the proofs of its virtues if we saw 
his own children languishing in sickness, and found that he 
never tried his medicine on them. If an alchemist asserted 
that he possessed the philosopher's stone, and could turn the 
baser metals into gold, his pretensions would be disposed of 


if we saw his own family starving, and that he made no at- 
tempt to make any gold to relieve them. So when we find in 
the bosom of the Church of Rome disputes and perplexities, 
as in other Churches ; that the infallible authority is not in- 
voked to solve them; that its interference is late and vacil- 
lating, and sometimes erroneous, have we not a right to 
conclude that the Church of Rome herself does not believe 
in the infallibility which she claims ? * 

But really, I must first say a few words on the question, 
Does she claim it ? Some of you may chance to have met a 
book by a Mr. Seymour, called Mornings with the Jesuits, in 
which the author gives his own report of conferences which 
he held with the Jesuit Fathers at Rome, who unsuccessfully 
attempted his conversion. On one occasion they used the 
syllogism, A Church which does not claim infallibility can- 
not be a true Church : the Church of England does not 
claim infallibility, therefore cannot be a true Church. They 
expected him, of course, to deny the major, and were pre- 
pared to carry on the controversy accordingly; but Mr. 
Seymour handed them back their syllogism with the word 
'England' erased, and 'Rome' substituted. He asked them 
for. proof that the Church of Rome ever claimed infallibility. 
' Of course I allow,' he said, ' that individual theologians 
ascribe to her this attribute, but prove to me that she has 
ever ascribed it to herself in any authoritative document.' f 
I own I was not without suspicion that Mr. Seymour had 
dressed up his tale a little when he described the consterna- 
tion and perplexity into which the Jesuits were thrown by 
his assertion that the Trent decrees contained no claim 
to infallibility. But it so happened that in the course of 
events the Jesuits were expelled from Rome, and one of 
Mr. Seymour's two antagonists came to England, where Mr. 

* In this and in the following Lecture I have made considerable use of 
a tract by Dr. Maurice, reprinted in 'Gibson's Preservative' : Doubts 
concerning Roman Infallibility : (1) whether the Church of Rome 
believe it. In writing the Lecture I used Dr. Maurice's tract in the 
form in which it was modernized by the late Dr. Todd. (Irish 
Ecclesiastical Journal, December, 1851.) 

t The absence of the claim from the creed of Pope Pius IV. was 
noticed also by Dr. Newman. (Prophetical Office of the Church, p. 61.) 


Capes made his acquaintance. He describes him as a most 
fair-minded and honest man, and an excellent specimen of a 
well-instructed Jesuit, as might have been expected from his 
having been chosen to argue with a controversial English 
clergyman on a visit to Rome. And he told Mr. Capes that 
it was quite true that he had never taken notice of the ab- 
sence of the claim from the Trent decrees until it was pointed 
out to him in this discussion. Mr. Ffoulkes also, another 
who, like Mr. Capes, made the journey to Rome and back, 
states that he was never asked to accept this doctrine when 
he joined the Church of Rome, and that if he had been asked 
he would perhaps not have joined her. All he was required 
to admit was the supremacy of the Roman See, ' Sanctam 
Catholicam et Apostolicam Romanam ecclesiam omnium 
ecclesiarum matrem et magistram agnosco.' I will not 
anticipate discussions that may hereafter come before us, by 
examining what exactly these words mean, or whether any- 
thing else in a formal document of the Roman Church 
amounts to a claim of infallibility. For practically the 
Church of Rome at the present day certainly does claim 
infallibility. The arrogance of her language admits of no 
other interpretation. And therefore I do not class this 
question with the others I am about to bring under your 
notice, in which the Roman trumpet gives an uncertain 
sound. If the doctrine of Infallibility were much insisted on 
in sermons by Roman Catholic preachers, but if their contro- 
versialists shrank from defending it against Protestants ; if 
they treated it as one of those things not de fide, which were 
asserted by vehement and hot-headed theologians, but which 
the calm voice of the Church had abstained from pronouncing 
on, then we might taunt the professed guide with being un- 
able to tell us the extent of his powers ; but at present it is 
quite unjust to accuse him of any modest reticence as to the 
extent of his prerogatives. We must rather make a different 
use of the absence of any definition of this cardinal doctrine. 
It shows that the practice came first, the theory came after- 
wards if indeed it can even yet be said to be quite come. 
Arrogant Pontiffs presumed to act as if they were infallible, 
and the necessity of justifying their conduct demands a 


theory that they really are so; but the lateness of the theory, 
which even yet is not included in the formula that converts 
must prescribe, is proof enough that from the beginning it 
was not so. 

I may, however, say a few words now, though I shall have 
to speak more fully on the subject by-and-by, about the 
disputes which have raged within the Roman communion 
for centuries, and which were only in our own time cleared 
up, and then only partially, as to the organ of the Church's 
infallibility. Does the gift reside in the Church diffusive, or 
only in its head, or in a general council, or in Pope and 
council together? The existence of controversy on such a 
subject is in itself demonstration of the unreality of the gift. 
If Christ had appointed an infallible tribunal, His Church 
would have resorted to it from the first ; the tradition where 
it was to be found could never have been lost, nor could this 
have given rise to one of the most angry controversies in the 
Church. To recur to our old illustration : suppose we boasted 
that Dublin was not as other cities, where the cure of diseases 
was precarious ; that we had an infallible authority, whence 
we could learn, without risk of error, the certain cure of every 
disease. Suppose that an invalid stranger, attracted to our 
city by our vaunts, inquired on his arrival whom he was to 
consult? 'The President of the College of Physicians,' says 
one; 'it is he who possesses the wonderful gift.' 'Nay, says 
a second ; 'he may make mistakes ; it is in the council of the 
College that the gift resides.' 'Not so,' says a third ; 'either 
separately may go wrong; but if you can get both to agree, 
you are sure of being rightly advised.' 'No,' cries a fourth; 
'president or council may blunder separately or together ; the 
gift belongs to the whole medical profession of Dublin : it is 
true, they wrangle at times among themselves, but they 
always manage to settle their disputes at last, and whatever 
remedies they unanimously adopt in the end are certain to be 
effectual.' Surely, when the stranger heard this disagree- 
ment, he would conclude without further inquiry, that he had 
been taken in by lying tales ; that we were, in truth, no better 
off in respect of medical science than other cities, and that 
he might just as well travel back to his own physicians. 


Accordingly, it was this disagreement as to the organ of 
infallibility which was the last stumbling-block to Dr. 
Newman on his journey to Rome. In the last book of his 
Anglican days, published not so very long before his formal 
surrender, in language which, in spite of its show of hostility, 
plainly betrays the attraction that Rome was exercising over 
him, he says : ' This inconsistency in the Romish system 
one might almost call providential. Nothing could be better 
adapted than it is to defeat the devices of human wisdom, 
and to show to thoughtful inquirers the hollowness of even 
the most specious counterfeit of Divine truth. The theolo- 
gians of Rome have been able dexterously to smooth over a 
thousand inconsistencies, and to array the heterogeneous 
precedents of centuries in the semblance of design and har- 
mony. But they cannot complete the system in its most 
important and essential point. They can determine in theory 
the nature, degree, "extent, and object of the infallibility 
which they claim, but they cannot agree among themselves 
where it resides. As in the building of Babel, the Lord has 
confounded their language, and the structure remains half 
finished, a monument at once of human daring and its 
failure.' (Prophetical Office of the Church, p. 180.) 

But you may ask, Is not the controversy over now? Did 
not the Pope, at the Vatican Council of 1870, bear witness to 
himself, and declare that every theory was wrong which 
made the organ of infallibility other than himself? But 
what time of day is this to find the answer to a question so 
fundamental ? Can we believe that Christ before He left 
this earth provided His Church with an infallible guide to 
truth, and that it took her more than 1800 years before she 
could find out who that guide was ? It seems almost labour 
wasted to proceed with the proofs I was about to lay before 
you, of the neglect or inability of the infallible judge of 
controversies to settle controversies, when it took him so 
long to settle that controversy in which his own privileges 
were so vitally concerned. 

Let me trace, however, something of the history of that 
other dispute which, after it had raged for centuries, Pius IX. 
undertook to settle ; the question about the Immaculate Con- 


ception of the Virgin Mary. In a future lecture, either this 
Term or the next, I mean to give you an explanation of this 
doctrine, which will make you acquainted with some of the 
most thorny speculations of scholastic theology. What I am 
at present concerned with is only the history of the doctrine, 
taken as a specimen history of a dispute within the Church 
of Rome. The history of a dispute is the best evidence as 
to what authority for settling disputes the disputants believe 

When I speak of authority for settling disputes, it is well 
to remind you of a little ambiguity about this word authority. 
We might mean the authority of superior knowledge, or 
merely of official position. Any judge may have authority to 
decide a question of law, in the sense that his decision will 
bind the parties, and that they must submit to it ; but there 
are some judges who, on account of their knowledge and 
ability, rank as legal authorities, and have set precedents from 
which their successors differ with reluctance; while, in this 
sense of the word, other judges are of no authority at all. 
Now everyone will grant to the Pope the authority of official 
position. He has power to declare the doctrine of his 
Church, to depose any ecclesiastic who rejects his decision, 
or even to excommunicate any lay person who opposes him- 
self to it. But we might say as much for the Synod of the 
Church of Ireland. It, too, can declare the doctrine of that 
Church, and can make the acceptance of that doctrine a condi- 
tion of clerical or lay communion. But now there is this differ- 
ence between these two kinds of authority, that the interference 
of the authority of confessed superior knowledge is welcomed 
and willingly submitted to, while it is often just the reverse 
with the other kind of authority. If two of you were disputing 
on a subject of which you had little knowledge ; suppose, for 
instance, that you knew nothing of anatomy, and that you had 
a difference of opinion how many ribs a man has ; if a skilled 
anatomist were present, you would dispute no longer, but ask 
him; and then the dispute would be at an end. There has 
been long and warm controversy as to the authorship of the 
letters of Junius. Suppose a sealed volume were discovered, 
to which the author had committed his secret, people would 


not refuse to break the seal because they had misgivings 
whether their own theory were the true one. All parties 
would say, let us know the truth ; and when the truth was 
known the controversy would be at an end. 

It is quite the reverse when the interference is on the part 
of the authority, not of knowledge, but of official position. 
Then those who are likely to get the worst deprecate interfer- 
ence; they threaten not to submit to the decision, and the 
fear of such a refusal of submission is apt to inspire great 
caution in the authority whose interference might be solicited. 
If it were proposed that the General Synod should make a 
new decision of doctrine condemning the views now held by 
some members of the Church, I can tell from experience 
what would be likely to occur. Those who felt themselves 
to be in a minority would struggle that the Synod should 
abstain from making any decision on the question; they 
would threaten to leave the Church if their views were con- 
demned ; and then a number of cautious moderate men, 
thinking the evils of a schism greater than those of the 
toleration of opinions from which they themselves dissented, 
would join the minority in preventing any decision from 
being pronounced. 

Remember this distinction, for it will serve as a test guide 
in your study of history. If you are fully persuaded that a 
man on any subject knows a great deal more than yourself, 
you do not want to stop his mouth. The more he speaks the 
better you are pleased, and you willingly give up your own 
previous opinion when he tells you it is wrong. It is quite 
different when a man who is your superior in authority wants 
to interfere with your opinions on a subject which you 
believe he knows no more of than yourself. Then you want 
him to hold his tongue. If he does speak, you, perhaps, 
refuse to listen to him, and if he sees that you are likely not 
to be afraid to make your dissent public, then, if he wants his 
authority to be respected, he will probably have the good 
sense to discover that to hold his tongue is the most discreet 
course. You may test in this way whether the Church of 
Rome believes in her own infallibility. Do the members of 
that Church show that they believe they have got an infallible 


guide, who on things of faith knows much better than them- 
selves ; and do they accordingly, when they have a theolo- 
gical problem, meekly come to him to be told the solution of 
it, or do they work out the problem for themselves, and 
merely invoke the higher authority to reduce their opponents 
to submission ? And does the higher authority himself speak 
with the confidence of superior knowledge, or rather, with 
the caution of one who knows that his subjects would not 
believe him if he pronounced their opinions to be wrong, and 
who must take care not to strain his authority too far, lest he 
should cause a revolt? Examine the history of any dispute 
in the Roman communion, and you will find that the heads 
of the Roman Church act exactly as the leading members of 
the Synod of the Church of Ireland would act in a like case, 
neither showing any belief in their own infallibility them- 
selves, nor any expectation that their followers would believe 
it ; proscribing only such opinions as had become offensive 
to the great majority of their body, but restrained by a 
wholesome fear of schism from straining their authority too 

I take, as I have said, the history of the doctrine of the 
Immaculate Conception as a typical case. From the begin- 
ning of the fourteenth century vehement disputes on this 
subject had been carried on, the leading parts being taken 
by two powerful Orders ; the Dominicans, following their 
great doctor, Thomas Aquinas, holding that, though cleansed 
from original sin before her birth, Mary had been conceived 
in sin like others ; the Franciscans, after their great teacher, 
vScotus, exempting her from the stain by a special act of 
God's power. The Dominicans went so far as to accuse the 
assertors of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of 
heresy, and even charged with mortal sin those who attended 
the Office of the Immaculate Conception, although that 
Office had been authorized by papal sanction ; and they 
charged with sin also those who listened to the sermons in 
which the doctrine was preached. The annual recurrence of 
the Feast of the Conception was a signal for the renewal of 
hostilities, and gave birth every year to scenes of the most 
scandalous kind. All this time private Christians, puzzled by 


the most opposite statements of learned men on both sides, 
must have looked eagerly to the infallible guide, in hopes to 
learn from him the true doctrine which they were to believe. 
But the judge was silent. He trimmed and wavered between 
both parties, and sought to make peace between them, with- 
out giving a triumph to either. The strongest step was 
taken by Sixtus IV., who, though himself a Franciscan, did 
not venture to declare that the doctrine taught by his own 
school was true ; but who, in 1483, published a brief, in which 
he condemned those who said that it was a heresy, or that it 
could not be taught without mortal sin. Would the most 
ignorant layman have acted differently, if he had the mis- 
fortune to be governor of a body divided into two powerful 
parties, and were called on to pronounce a decision between 
them on a subject he knew nothing about? What better 
could he do than postpone his decision sine die, and mean- 
while condemn the extreme of either party if they used 
insulting language toward the other? 

At length came the Council of Trent, in the course of 
which it became necessary to draw up an Article on original 
sin. It seemed then hardly possible to evade the question ; 
for either it must be stated generally that all men are subject 
to this infection, and then the matter would be decided in 
favour of the Dominicans ; or else the desire of the Fran- 
ciscans should be complied with, that special mention should 
be made of the Virgin Mary, exempting her from the plague- 
spot of the human race. On this, naturally, a violent dispute 
arose. When the dispute was made known at Rome, instead 
of embracing the opportunity of declaring by infallible au- 
thority the true doctrine on this subject, orders were given 
to the Papal Legates at Trent to reconcile the contending 
parties as far as possible, without giving a triumph to either. 
The directions were, not to meddle with this matter, which 
might cause a schism among Catholics ; to endeavour to 
maintain peace between the opposing parties, and to seek 
some means of giving them equal satisfaction ; above all, to 
observe strictly the brief of Pope Sixtus IV., which forbad 
preachers to charge the doctrine of the Immaculate Concep- 
tion with heresy. And in accordance with these instructions 


the decree of the Council was drawn up. The controversy 
was named ; it was declared that the Council left the matter 
undetermined, and renewed the brief of Sixtus IV. 

This course was, no doubt, under the circumstances, 
eminently wise and prudent; for it had become plain that, 
whatever else the parties disagreed in, they agreed in this, 
that each preferred no decision at all rather than a decision 
adverse to his own views. But is it not most clearly proved 
that the Pope did not believe in his own pretence to infalli- 
bility, else why not take the opportunity of settling, by the 
joint authority of Pope and Council an authority which, in 
theory, all owned to be infallible a dispute which had so 
long convulsed the Church ? But to meddle in the matter 
that is to say, to decide the question one way or other 
' might cause a schism among Catholics ' ; in other words 
these ' Catholics,' whatever they might pretend, did not 
really believe in the infallibility of the Pope and the Council. 
Nay, I am putting the matter too weakly ; for we do not set 
up our own opinion against that of an expert on any subject, 
even though we know that he is far from claiming infalli- 
bility; but these ' Catholics ' must really have thought that 
Pope and Council knew no better than themselves. Why 
should there be danger of a schism after the truth had been 
ascertained by infallible authority ? Surely, no person could 
be mad enough to separate himself from the Church of Christ 
in consequence of a decision which he believed to be infallibly 
true, and to have emanated from a divinely-promised and 
infallible guidance. The only way of accounting for the 
conduct of the Pope and of the Council on this occasion is, 
that neither one nor other believed in the pretence of infalli- 
bility. For, as I said, acting is the test of faith; and here 
the Pope acts as any prudent, well-advised sovereign would 
act under similar circumstances, endeavouring to avoid a 
decision that must irritate one party or other, and trying 
to conciliate both as well as he could. Although he speaks 
loudly and boldly before the world of his infallible authority, 
and of the great blessing of being in a Church which pos- 
sesses an infallible tribunal for settling all disputes, yet he acts 
as one who was fully aware that there was no such tribunal, 


nnd as knowing also that his 'Catholics' believed nothing of 
the sort, and would run into schism rather than submit to 
the pretended authority of his infallibility, if it happened to 
run counter to their own private opinions. It is impossible 
to have clearer proof than this that the Roman communion 
does not practically believe in its own claim to infallibility. 
The guide will not venture to strike into one of two doubtful 
paths until those whom he is conducting have already made 
their choice, and that because he knows that, though pro- 
fessing to believe in his infallible wisdom, they will not 
follow him if he should happen not to take the path which 
they prefer. 

There remained, however, one way of accounting for the 
silence of the Pope and the Council which might save their 
infallibility; namely, that this particular subject was one on 
which it had pleased God to make no revelation, and there- 
fore that in the judgment of Pope and Council either view 
might be innocently held. This view was naturally taken by 
the Roman Catholics of the last generation. Bishop Milner, 
for instance, says 'The Church does not decide the contro- 
versy concerning the Conception of the Blessed Virgin, and 
several other disputed points, because she sees nothing clear 
and certain concerning them either in the written or unwrit- 
ten Word, and therefore leaves her children to form their 
own opinions concerning them.' But Pius IX. made it im- 
possible any longer to give this explanation of the silence of 
his predecessors. 

In process of time the whole controversy died away. 
Franciscans and Dominicans ceased to accuse each other of 
heresy or mortal sin, and so then was the time that the in- 
fallible tribunal ventured to speak ; and in my own time 
(8th December, 1854) the Pope proclaimed that the doctrine 
of the Immaculate Conception was true, and moreover that 
the Church had always held it. Certainly in this case the 
Church carried the ' disciplina arcani ' to an immoderate 
extreme, since neither Bellarmine nor Milner, nor many other 
Roman Catholic divines whom I could name, were aware 
that the Church had any tradition on the subject. But if 
she had, how are we to excuse Pope Sixtus, or the Council 

XI.] THE DOGMA OF 1854. 183 

of Trent, who, instead of making known the tradition at the 
time when the knowledge of it would have done good in 
healing the violent dissensions which raged between mem- 
bers of the Church, kept silence until people had ceased to 
feel much interest in the controversy? 

And even then there were those who said it was too 
soon for the Pope to speak. The Pope did not make his 
decree without first taking advice, and you will find in the 
Library the answers he got from the bishops of Christen- 
dom. Among these, both some of the most eminent of 
the French bishops, and our Irish professors at Maynooth, 
declared, not by any means their disbelief in the doctrine 
of the Immaculate Conception, but their opinion of the in- 
expedience of defining it by authority. As I have already 
said, when the interference is not that of superior know- 
ledge, but only that' of higher authority, cautious men will 
consider not only the truth of what they are asked to affirm, 
but also the prudence of enforcing conformity to it ; and so 
at our own Synod many have voted against putting forth 
as the doctrine of the Church what they themselves believed 
to be true. In this case, those who pronounced the decision 
of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception to be inoppor- 
tune, did not say in their own names that it was an addition 
to the ancient faith" of the Church ; but they said that 
Anglican divines would be sure to say so, and would 
accuse the Roman Church of having broken with her ancient 
rule, and of now teaching something which had not been 
taught, ' semper, ubique et ab omnibus.' Thus an obstacle 
would be placed in the way of their conversion, and quite 
gratuitously, since there was at the time no controversy on 
the subject which there was any need of appeasing. 

However much we may believe in the sincerity of those 
who on this occasion declared that they did not deny the 
truth of the doctrine, but only the opportuneness of declaring 
it, it is hard to believe equally in the sincerity of those who 
some years later raised the question of opportuneness, when 
it was proposed to define the dogma of the Pope's personal 
infallibility. Actually to deny a doctrine which an influential 
Pontiff showed it was his most anxious desire to have 


affirmed would be too invidious, and so the lower ground was 
taken by a great majority; and they fought a half-hearted 
battle, disputing not the truth of the doctrine, but only the 
expedience of declaring it. I must say that, to my mind, all 
this controversy about opportunism shows distrust in the 
infallibility of their guide. It is always opportune to learn 
something you did not know before, if you have got hold of 
a person competent to inform you. What is inopportune is 
that a man should propound his views without necessity to 
an audience disinclined to receive them; and the fact that 
Pope and Councils very often have found it inopportune to 
make dogmatic definitions is proof enough how little their 
own Church believed in their power to do so. 

I could give other illustrations in plenty of the wise timidity 
of the infallible authority in declining to solve disputed ques- 
tions. For instance, at Trent there was another question left 
unsettled besides that about the Immaculate Conception. A 
question arose whether bishops have their jurisdiction directly 
by divine right, or whether they only derive it from the Pope ; 
but after hot disputes it was found expedient to drop the 
controversy. You will find in Burnet's Commentary on the 
seventeenth Article a notice of another controversy, which 
the Pope neglected to determine, though asked to do so. 
I refer to controversies between the Dominicans and the 
Jesuits at the very end of the sixteenth century. The matter 
in dispute belonged to the class of subjects debated between 
Calvinists and Arminians. The Jesuits, who took what we 
may call the Arminian side, were accused of Pelagianism by 
the Dominicans, who followed the Augustinian teaching of 
their great doctor, Thomas Aquinas. In 1594 the Pope 
undertook the decision of the question. Here we have the 
very case to meet which one might suppose the gift of 
infallibility had been conferred : hot controversy in the 
Church terminated by a resort of both parties to the infallible 
authority for guidance. Of course it was not to be expected 
that the Pope should determine so great a question hastily. 
He appointed committees of theologians to examine the 
arguments on both sides, known as the celebrated congrega- 
tions de auxHiis, the subject of their inquiries being the help 


of divine grace bestowed by God on man. I will not weary 
you with the history of the delays of the investigation : suffice 
it to say, that after going on some twenty years no result 
was arrived at. And, politically, this was the wisest course. 
For if a decision were made, it must of necessity give 
offence to one or other of two powerful parties supported, 
the one by the King of Spain, the other by the King of 
France; and there was quite a possibility that the rejected 
party might refuse to submit, and even pronounce the Pope 
himself heretical.* But would there be any such danger if 

* It is worth while to add a few words as to the part taken in this 
controversy by the great Jesuit, Bellarmine. The controversy arose out 
of the publication by a Jesuit Professor, Molina, of a book which the 
Dominicans accused of semi-Pelagianism, and the authoritative condem- 
nation of which they were anxious to obtain. Now, though Bellarmine 
and other leading Jesuits were unwilling to commit themselves to an 
approval of all Molina's doctrine, they considered that the condemna- 
tion of his book would be a great slur on their Order ; and though the 
condemnation appeared more than once to be on the point of issuing, 
the Jesuits exercised obstruction so vigorously, that their opposition 
was in the end successful. It is amusing to read in Cardinal Bellar- 
mine's autobiography how he bullied the poor Pope, Clement VIII., 
whose own opinion was adverse to Molina. ' You are no theologian,' 
he said, ' and you must not think that by your own study you can 
come to understand so very obscure a question.' 'I mean to decide 
the question,' said the Pope. 'Your Holiness will not decide it,' 
retorted the Cardinal. There is extant a letter, written after the 
Congregation appointed by the Pope to examine the matter had re- 
ported adversely to Molina, and when he was supposed to be about to 
act on that report, in which Bellarmine urges that the Pope should not 
act without first calling a council of Bishops, or at least summoning 
learned men from the Universities. If he acted otherwise, though men 
would be bound to obey his decree, there would be great murmuring 
and complaints on the part of the Church and the Universities that 
they had not been properly consulted. That the Pope should attempt 
to study the question for himself was a very tedious and unsatisfactory 
method, and not that which had been followed by his predecessors. Did 
Leo X. trouble himself with study when he condemned the Lutheran 
heretics ? He just confirmed the conclusions arrived at by the Catholic 
Universities of Cologne and Louvain. Paul IV., Julius III., Pius IV., 
were no students ; yet, with the help of the Council of Trent, they 
declared most important truths. See, on the other hand, what scrapes 
John XXII. got into when he endeavoured to promulgate the views 
concerning the Beatific Vision, to which his own study had led him. 
See into what danger Sixtus V. brought himself and the whole Church 
one of the greatest dangers the Church was ever in when he 
attempted to correct the Bible according to his own knowledge. And 
the Pope must be careful not to give occasion to anyone to think that 
he had made up his own mind before the question had been scientifi- 
cally investigated. Why he had said things to Bellarmine himself 


the parties to the dispute believed in the Pope's infallibility, 
or if he believed in it himself ? If Christ Himself appeared 
upon earth, we should be glad to obtain from Him an autho- 
ritative solution of any of our religious controversies, and we 
should not dream of stopping His mouth lest his decision 
should be opposed to our prepossessions. So, though these 
men profess to believe that the Pope, as a guide to truth, 
fills the place of Christ on earth, their conduct proves that 
they do not believe what they say. And the Pope's own 
conduct shows that he felt himself not in the position of a 
judge authorized to pronounce a decision to which all parties 
must submit, but only in that of the common friend of two 
angry disputants, in favour of neither of whom he dare 
plainly declare himself on pain of losing the friendship of 
the other. 

In other words, every time the Pope has thought of making 
a dogmatic decision, he has had to make a prudential calcu- 
lation of the danger of provoking a schism ; and on the occa- 
sion of his last definition a schism, as you know, was actually 
made. But fear on his part of secession shows mutual want 
of faith in Roman pretensions. For who would punish him- 
self by seceding from the only authorized channel of divine 
communications ? Who would refuse to believe anything if 
it was declared to him by God Himself, or by one who, he 
was quite sure, had authority to speak in God's name ? Lord 
Kacon tells a story of a wise old man who got a great 
reputation for his success in settling disputes. When pri- 
vately asked by a friend to explain the secret of his success, 
he told him it was because he made it a rule to himself never 
to interfere until the parties had completely talked themselves 
out, and were glad to get peace on any terms. That was 
just the way in which the Pope settled the controversy about 
the Immaculate Conception, by carefully holding his tongue 
until the dispute was practically over. 

which had made him resolve to withdraw, and treat no more of the 
question. If such a one as he lost courage, who had been studying 
these subjects for thirty years, what would others do? (Selbstbio- 
graphie des Cardinals Bellarmin. Bonn : 1887, p. 260.) There could 
not be a better illustration how ill the authority of official position fares 
when it comes into collision with the authority of superior knowledge. 



DR. GOLDSMITH tells us that the Vicar of Wakefield's 
daughters were given by their mother a guinea a-piece, 
because the honour of the family required that they should 
always have money in their pocket; but that each was 
under strict conditions never to change her guinea. The 
Pope seems to possess the gift of infallibility on the same 
terms. The ' honour of the family ' requires that he should 
have it, but obvious considerations of prudence constantly 
deter him from using it. The slowness of the Pope to inter- 
fere in controversies within his own communion is part of a 
system. I could give illustrations in abundance of the 
nervous fear of the infallible authority to commit itself 
irrevocably to any opinion, without leaving always an outlet 
for retreat in case of need ; but the copiousness of material 
makes selection difficult. 

Romish teaching has constantly a double face. To those 
within the communion it is authoritative, positive, stamped 
with the seal of infallibility, which none may dispute without 
forfeiting his right to be counted a good Catholic. Conse- 
quently, I have heard Roman Catholic laymen express the 
utmost astonishment at hearing their Church charged with 
want of positiveness in her utterances, this being, in their 
opinion, the last fault that can be charged upon her. But 
this is because they only know how she speaks to those who 
will not venture to challenge the correctness of her teaching. 
She speaks differently to those who have courage to impugn 
it and bring it to a test. Then the statements assailed are 
said to be but private, unauthorized opinion, to which the 


Church is not pledged, and which may be proved to be 
absurd without injuring her reputation. 

(i) For example, since we are told that private judgment is 
insufficient to determine with certainty the meaning of Scrip- 
ture, it might be expected that the infallible guide would 
publish an authorized commentary on Scripture, setting forth 
the interpretation guaranteed by that unanimous consent of 
the Fathers, according to which the Creed of Pius IV. binds 
all to interpret. But nothing of the kind has been done. If 
annotated editions are sometimes issued with the approval of 
the authorities, the sanction is intended to imply no more 
than apparent freedom from grave heresy, and the notes rest 
only on the credit of the authors. 

Indeed it did at one time seem that the very thing I ask 
for was about to be done. In the year 1813, advertisements 
were circulated announcing an edition of THE CATHOLIC 
BIBLE, ' explained or illustrated with valuable notes or an- 
notations, according to the interpretation of the Catholic 
Church, which is our infallible and unerring guide in read- 
ing the Holy Scriptures and leading us unto salvation.' The 
names of all, or almost all, the Irish Roman Catholic bishops 
were printed as patronizing the undertaking; and, when 
the work actually appeared, the title-page professed that 
the edition was sanctioned and patronized by the Roman 
Catholic prelates and clergy of Ireland. What more could 
anyone wish than this ? But the issue of this attempt to give 
' the interpretation of the Catholic Church, which is our in- 
fallible and unerring guide in reading the Scriptures,' was 
so unfortunate that the attempt is not likely to be repeated. 

When the promised edition (Macnamara's) appeared, 
some copies fell into the hands of Protestants, who called 
attention to the doctrine of the Rhemish notes which they 
contained. There is no subject to which the annotators so 
perpetually recur as the duty of the individual to hold no in- 
tercourse with heretics that can be avoided, and the duty of 
the State to punish heretics, and even put them to death.* 

* Here are some of them : 

Matt. xiii. 29. ' The good must tolerate the evil where it is so 
strong that it cannot be redressed without danger and disturbance of 


The agitation on the subject of the Emancipation Bill was 
then going on; and this publication threatened seriously to 
damage the prospects of the Bill, by confirming apprehen- 
sions then prevalent as to the use Roman Catholics would 
be likely to make of any political power they might obtain. 
Accordingly, the book was denounced by O'Connell, and 
you will find in his published speeches* that he had no 
scruple in calling on the Catholic Association to repudiate 
these notes, which he stigmatized as ' odious,' ' execrable/ 
' abominable,' notwithstanding that they had for two hun- 
dred years been recognized as approved by high Roman 

the whole Church ; and commit the matter to God's judgment in the 
latter day. Otherwise, where ill men, be they heretics or other male- 
factors, may be punished or suppressed without disturbance and 
hazard of the good, they may and ought, by public authority, either 
spiritual or temporal, to be chastised or executed.' 

Luke ix. 55. ' Not justice nor all rigorous punishment of sinners is 
here forbidden, nor Elias's fact reprehended, nor the Church or 
Christian princes blamed for putting heretics to death ; but that none 
of these should De done for desire of our particular revenge, or without 
discretion and regard of their amendment and example to others.' 

2 Tim. iii. 9. 'All wise men in a manner see their falsehood, though 
for fear of troubling the state of such commonwealths, where unluckily 
they have been received, they cannot be suddenly extirpated.' 

Acts xxv. 11. ' If St. Paul doubted not to claim the succour of the 
Roman laws, and to appeal to Caesar, the prince of the Romans not 
yet christened, how much more may we call for the aid of Christian 
princes and the laws for their punishment of heretics and for the 
Church's defence against them ?' 

Luke xiv. 23. ' St. Augustine ref erreth this " compelling " to the 
penal laws, which Catholic princes do justly use against heretics and 
schismatics, proving that they who are by their former profession in 
baptism subject to the Catholic Church, and are departed from the 
same after sects, may and ought to be compelled into the unity and 
society of the universal Church again. And therefore in this sense, 
by the two former parts of the parable, the Jews first, and secondly 
the Gentile that never before believed in Christ, were invited by fair 
sweet means only ; but by the third such are invited as the Church of 
God hath power over, because they promised in baptism, and therefore 
are to be revoked not only by gentle means, but by just punishment 
also.' See infra the passage quoted frmo Thomas Aquinas. 

Rev. xvii. 6. ' The Protestants foolishly expound this of Rome, for 
that there they put heretics to death, and allow of their punishment in 
other countries ; but their blood is not called the blood of saints, no more 
than the blood of thieves, man-killers, and other malefactors, for the 
shedding of which by order of justice no commonwealth shall answer.' 

* Meeting of Catholic Association, Dec. 4, 1817. (O'Connell's 
Speeches, edited by his Son, vol. ii., p. 257.) 


Catholic authority. These ' odious ' doctrines have higher 
authority* in their favour than perhaps Mr. O'Connell was 
aware of, and I do not think it so easy for the Roman 
Catholic Church to repudiate them. But Mr. O'Connell was 
quite right in considering that he was at liberty to reject 
the opinions of any commentator, however respectable. 

(2) Perhaps it may be said that it was needless for the 
Roman Church to publish commentaries on Scripture, since it 
is not to Scripture she sends her people for instruction in the 
doctrines of their faith. She has catechisms and other books 
of instruction, from which her people may learn. But has she 
ventured to put her seal of infallibility to any one of them ? 

* It seems to me that the Rhemish annotators had every reason to 
believe that they were only teaching the doctrine approved by the 
highest authorities in their Church doctrine which the Church had 
never had any hesitation in following in practice. It will suffice to 
quote here the conclusions come to by Thomas Aquinas (Summa 2da 
2dae, Qu. xi., Art. 3) on the question, 'utrum haeretici sint tolerandi.' 
He says, ' The question must be considered as regards the heretics 
themselves and as regards the Church. On the side of the heretics is 
sin, for which they deserve not only to be separated from the Church 
by excommunication, but even to be excluded from the world by 
death. Now it is a much more grievous thing to corrupt the faith, 
through which the soul has its life, than to falsify money, which 
serves the needs of temporal life. So if falsifiers of money, or other 
malefactors, are at once justly consigned to death by secular princes, 
far more may heretics when once convicted of their heresy, be not 
only excommunicated, but even justly put to death. On the side of 
the Church there is mercy for the conversion of the erring, and there- 
fore she does not condemn at once, but, as the Apostle says, " after a 
first and second admonition." But if after that he still continues 
obstinate, the Church, having no hope of his conversion, provides for 
the safety of others by separating him from the Church by the sentence 
of excommunication, and further leaves him to the judgment of 
secular princes to be exterminated from the world by death.' 

On the previous question (Qu. x., Art. 8), 'utrum infideles com- 
pellendi sint ad finem,' his ruling is, that Jews or Gentiles, who have 
never received the faith, ought not to be compelled to receive it ; but 
that heretics and apostates should be compelled to fulfil what they had 
promised. On our Lord's words, ' Let both grow together until the 
harvest,' he makes a comment for which I am sorry to say he is able 
to quote St. Augustine's authority, that since the reason is given, 
' Lest haply while ye gather up the tares ye root up the wheat with 
them,' it follows that if there is no danger of rooting up the wheat, 
it is safe to eradicate the tares. 

He goes on to consider Qu. xi. Art. 4, whether relapsed heretics 
ought to be received on their repentance. He regards this question 
as decided by the Decretal, Ab abolendam, ' Si aliqui post abjurationem 
erroris deprehensi fuerint in abjuratam haeresim recidisse, seculari 


Not so ; catechisms, sermons, books of devotion, are guarded 
by no such gift. If we detect a catechism in manifest error, if 
we find a preacher or a book of devotion guilty of manifest 
extravagance, no matter how eminent the man, or how widely 
popular the book, the Church always leaves a loophole for 
disowning him, and we are at once told that the infallible au- 
thority has spoken by no such medium. But why has she not? 
Doe's it not seem strange that a communion possessing the 
high attribute of infallibility should make no use of it in the 
instruction of her people ? It cannot be said that this neglect 
does not lead to ignorance and error on the part of the 
people. I need take no other example than the case I have 

judicio sunt relinquendi.' He defends this decision as follows : The 
Church, according to our Lord's precept, extends her charity to all, 
even to her enemies and persecutors. Charity teaches us to wish and 
work for our neighbour's good. His chief good is the salvation of his 
soul ; consequently the Church admits a relapsed heretic to penance, 
which opens to him the way of salvation. But it is only in a 
secondary degree that charity looks to temporal good, such as life in 
this world, possession of property, and so forth. We are not bound 
in charity to wish these things to others, except in subordination to the 
eternal salvation of themselves and others. If one man's possession of 
any of these good things might hinder the eternal salvation of many, 
we are not bound to wish it to him, but rather to wish the contrary, 
both because the good of many ought to be preferred to the good of 
one. Now if relapsed heretics were kept alive, and allowed to possess 
property, this might prejudice the salvation of others, both because 
there is danger of their relapsing again, and infecting others, and 
because, if they got off without punishment, others might be careless 
about falling into heresy. So in the case of those who for the first 
time return from heresy, the Church not only admits them to penance, 
but keeps them alive, and sometimes, if she believes them to be truly 
converted, even restores them to the ecclesiastical dignities which they 
had held before. But relapsing is a sign of instability concerning the 
faith ; so that on a subsequent return to the Church they are admitted 
to penance, but not freed from the sentence of death. 

Accordingly the practice was, that a relapsed heretic who recanted 
was first strangled, then burnt. If he did not recant he was burned 
alive, but Bellarmine's biographer, Petrasancta, explains that this was 
not done out of cruelty, but in the merciful hope that the extremity 
of bodily suffering might induce the culprit to save his soul by recant- 
ing at the last moment (see the passage cited, Selbstbiographie des 
Cardinals Bellartnln p. 235). In the same place a long list is given 
of heretics capitally punished at Rome. See also Gibbings, Were 
heretics ever burned ali re at Pome? Gibbings remarks, that one of 
the propositions selected from Luther's writings, and condemned by 
Pope Leo X. in the Bull Exfiirge, in 1520, as pestiferous and destruc- 
tive, &c., is, ' Haereticos comburi est contra voluntatem Spiritus,' 


already mentioned of ' Keenan's Catechism,' where a book 
circulated by thousands, with the highest episcopal appro- 
bation, went on, year after year, teaching doctrine which has 
now to be withdrawn as false. The consequence of this 
neglect is, that those who filled the office of authorized 
teachers in the Church of Rome were left in such ignorance 
of its doctrines, that it has now got to be owned that we 
heretics knew better what were the doctrines of the Roman 
Church than did its own priests. One Romish controver- 
sialist after another, when taken to task about the Roman 
theory of the Papal power, repudiated as a gross Protestant 
misrepresentation those doctrines which the Pope, with the 
assent of the Vatican Council, now tells us are not only true, 
but have been held by the Church from the beginning. Thus, 
to quote one controversial book extensively circulated in 
America : 'Though I have plainly told the Protestant minis- 
ter that the infallibility of the Pope is no part of the Catholic 
creed, a mere opinion of some divines, an article nowhere to 
be found in our professions of faith, in our creeds, and in our 
catechisms, yet the Protestant minister most ungenerously 
and uncandidly brings it forward again and again, and takes 
the opportunity from this forgery of his own to abuse the 
Catholic Church.' ' Here,' says an ' Old Catholic ' com- 
mentator, ' we have an extraordinary phenomenon : two 
Protestant ministers, who understood clearly what was the 
teaching of the Catholic Church on the point in question, 
and two Catholic priests, writing in defence of the faith, who 
yet knew nothing about a fundamental doctrine of faith, to 
say nothing of the bishops and priests who approved of and 
circulated their works. If this be so,' he says, 'where is the 
advantage of an infallible Church ? ' Where, indeed, if those 
who have not the benefit of its guidance succeed better in 
arriving at a knowledge of the Church's doctrines than those 
who have? 

(3) Well, perhaps it may be said, it is not from books at 
all that the Church means her people to learn. To the people 
in general the voice of the Church is only the voice of the 
priest. Ordinary laymen certainly cannot study decrees of 
Popes or Councils, or works on scientific theology. They 


must take the doctrine of their Church as their authorized 
teachers expound it to them. Well, are those teachers in- 
fallible ? Why, no, is the answer ; but practically, the people 
have the full benefit of the gift of infallibility. It is true 
their priest is not infallible ; but they know that if he teaches 
any heresy, he will be suspended by his bishop : if the bishop 
neglect his duty, he will be called to account by the arch- 
bishop : if the archbishop be heretical, he will be removed by 
the Pope. But this statement is only partially true. I be- 
lieve it is true that any attempt to remove errors from the 
teaching of the Church of Rome is likely to be summarily 
checked, and therefore that she is greatly debarred from that 
best kind of reform reform from within. But I see no equal 
safeguard against adding to and exaggerating errors she 
holds already. It is acknowledged that the faith of the 
Church may be injured by subtraction. It seems to be prac- 
tically ignored that the faith may also be injured by addition. 
Anything that seems like a move in the direction of Pro- 
testantism is promptly stopped ; but the most extravagant 
statements in the opposite direction, though perhaps pri- 
vately censured by the discreet, are not interfered with by 
authority. On all important subjects the truth is a mean 
between opposite errors. How then can those teachers pos- 
sibly have the truth whose only care is to keep as far as they 
can from one particular form of error? 

The most prevalent extravagance of Roman teaching at 
the present day is an exaggeration of the honour due to the 
Blessed Virgin Mary. She is represented, in many sermons 
and popular books of devotion, as almost a fourth Person of 
the Blessed Trinity, and as a sharer on nearly equal terms, 
with our Lord in the work of our redemption. These extra- 
vagances are such as to shock one so little disposed to judge 
harshly of Roman doctrine as Dr. Pusey, and they formed 
the main subject of his book, The Eirenicon. We ask, is 
this teaching authorized? and no one can tell us. The infal- 
lible guide will not commit himself. 

It might seem, however, that he has committed himself. 
One of the most active teachers of these new doctrines is St. 
Alphonso dei Liguori, who was canonized by the late Pope. 


Liguori's writings have been a mark for Protestant attack, 
not only on account of his Mariolatry, but also on account of 
his casuistry. For though in his work on Moral Theology 
lie professes to hold the mean between extreme laity and 
extreme rigour, his decisions lean so much to the side of 
what we count laxity as very much to scandalize weak 
minds. Now, our first impression is that the Pope is fairly 
responsible for all Liguori's teaching, for before anyone can 
be canonized as a saint a most rigorous examination must 
be made whether his published writings contain anything 
objectionable. This examination was made in Liguori's case 
in the year 1803, when he was a candidate for beatification. 
All his works then came under the examination of the Sacred 
Congregation of Rites, who decreed that in all the writings 
of Alphonso dei Liguori, severely examined according to 
the discipline of the Apostolic See, there was found nothing 
worthy of censure. And there is testimony that this exami- 
nation was made with particular severity ; that his system of 
morality had been more than twenty times rigorously dis- 
cussed by the Sacred Congregation ; and that in all their 
decrees the Cardinals had agreed ' voce concordi, unanimi 
consensu, una voce, una mente.' Yet we are told that the 
infallible authority is no way committed to the doctrines of 
Liguori. Many respectable Roman Catholics do not hesitate 
to express their dislike both of his decisions on some ques- 
tions of morality, and of his language concerning the Virgin 
Mary. Dr. Newman is among the number of those. While 
professing his incompetence to judge a saint,* seeing that 
'the spiritual man judgeth all things, and is himself judged 
of no man,' he gives his opinion that many things may be 
suitable for Italy which will not go down in England. The 
vSaint's practical directions were given for Neapolitans, whom 
he knew, and we do not. With respect to the approbation 
implied in the decree of the Congregation of Rites, he says, 
' Though common sense may determine that the line of pru- 
dence and propriety has certainly been passed in the instance 
of certain statements about the Blessed Virgin, it is often not 

* ' Letter to Dr. Pusey,' p. 103. 


easy to prove the point legally, and in such cases authority, 
if it attempt to act, would be in the position which so often 
happens in our courts of law, where the commission of an 
offence is morally certain, but the Government prosecutor 
cannot find legal evidence sufficient to ensure conviction. It 
is wiser to leave these excesses to the gradual operation of 
public opinion, that is, to the opinion of educated and sober 
Catholics, and this seems to be the healthiest way of putting 
them down' (p. 112). I will postpone, until I have to speak of 
saint-worship, the discussion whether this attempt to release 
the Church of Rome from the responsibility of approving 
Liguori's doctrine is successful : my own opinion is that it 
is not. And since Dr. Newman wrote, a new difficulty has 
arisen in the way of relieving Roman Catholics from the re- 
sponsibility of Liguori's extravagances; for Pius IX., who 
was himself a thorough Italian, and who did not understand 
how what is good for Italy should not be good for all the 
world, elevated Liguori to the rank of Doctor of the Church, 
that is to say, one of the great divines whose dicta have the 
highest authority. But for the present purpose we may 
accept Dr. Newman's account of the matter. If Dr. Newman 
misunderstands the teaching of the infallible guide whom he 
has accepted, it is only a stronger proof of what I am assert- 
ing, that that guide has an obstinate objection to speaking 
plainly. It appears, then, from Dr. Newman, that not only 
is the stamp of infallibility not put on the teaching of ordi- 
nary priests, but not even on that of canonized saints. It 
appears that there are current among Roman Catholic books 
of devotion which, in the opinion of many, are superstitious 
and scandalous, not to say blasphemous and idolatrous, and 
yet the infallible authority refuses to speak a word in con- 
demnation ; nay, gives what to most persons would seem 
approbation of the devotions in question. 

(4) I have just alluded to the process of the canonization 
of saints. A necessary step in that process is, that proof 
should be given of miracles wrought by the person to be ca- 
nonized. We are assured that the evidence for such miracles 
is subjected to the most rigorous examination, and that none 
are admitted without convincing proof. When such miracles 


have passed this test, when they are recited in the Pope's 
Bull of canonization, as the ground for the honour conferred, 
when they are inserted in the Breviary, by authority, for the 
devotional reading of priests, you might suppose then that 
the infallible authority was pledged to their truth as much 
as the credit of the New Testament is pledged to the miracles 
of the Gospels. Not in the least; Roman Catholics are free 
to accept or reject them as they please. We are told that 
the historical facts contained in the Breviary, though they 
merit more than ordinary credence, may be subjected to fresh 
examination, and may be criticized by private scholars, pro- 
vided it be done with moderation and respectfulness. In like 
manner the miracles recited in Bulls of canonization, though 
they may not be publicly impugned without indecency, yet 
do not bind a Roman Catholic to actual belief ; and if a Pro- 
testant, hesitating to become a convert to Popery, should 
allege, as the ground of his hesitation, the number of lying 
legends proposed by the Church for his acceptance, he would 
be told that this is no obstacle at all, and that, as a Roman 
Catholic, he need not believe any of them. 

I am not supposing an imaginary case. Something of the 
kind occurred in the case of Mr. Ffoulkes, whose name is, no 
doubt, familiar to you. He tells us of one miraculous story 
in particular, which we are so uncandid as to reject without 
examination, and which he subjected to careful investigation. 
You have all, I dare say, heard the story of the holy house at 
Loretto. The Virgin Mary's house at Nazareth, when the land 
fell into the possession of unbelievers, and worshippers could 
no longer resort to it, was carried by the angels across the 
seas on the gth May, 1291 (for I like to be exact), and after 
taking three temporary resting-places, finally settled down at 
Loretto in the year 1295. There, on the credit of so great a 
miracle, it attracted many pilgrims, and was by them en- 
riched with abundant gifts. Several Popes pledged their 
credit to the truth of the story, and rewarded pious visitors 
with indulgences. I possess a history of the holy house, 
written by Tursellinus, a Jesuit, and printed at Loretto itself 
in 1837, from which I find that the story is proved by such 
irrefragable evidence that ' de ea ambigere aut dubitare sit 


nefas,' and that no one can doubt it who is not prepared to 
deny the power and providence of God, and to remove all 
faith in the testimony of man. Mr. Ffoulkes, whose turn of 
mind was such that he seemed to find it as hard as the holy 
house itself to find a resting-place, either among Protestants 
or Roman Catholics, neither accepted this story without 
inquiry, as might a thorough-going Roman Catholic, nor 
rejected it without inquiry, as might a thorough-going Pro- 
testant. He took the trouble of going both to Loretto and 
to Nazareth, and making laborious investigations on the 
spot; and the result of his inquiry was, that he came back 
thoroughly convinced of the fictitious character of the Santa 
Casa, notwithstanding the privileges bestowed by so many 
Popes. On stating this conviction to the excellent French 
priest who had received him into the Roman communion his 
only reply was, 'there are many things in the Breviary which 
I do not believe myself.' 

(5) There is one particular class of miraculous story, 
however, which deserves special attention on account of the 
uses that are made of it I mean alleged divine revelations. 
On this authority rest a number of new facts and new doc- 
trines. As an example of new facts, I cannot give you a 
better instance than the history of one of the most popular 
saints on the Continent at the present day, Saint Philumena. 
This saint suffered martyrdom, in the Diocletian persecution, 
on the loth August, 286 a date on which I might comment, 
if the story deserved comment. For excellent reasons this 
saint was unheard of until quite lately. We learn from the 
authorized history of her life, that a good Neapolitan priest 
had carried home some bones out of the Roman catacombs, 
and was much distressed that his valuable relics should be 
anonymous. He was relieved from his embarrassment by a 
pious nun in his congregation, who in a dream had revealed 
to her the name of the saint and her whole history. I am 
sorry that I have not time to repeat the story to you ; but it 
is a tissue of such ludicrous absurdities and impossibilities, 
that it would be breaking a butterfly on the wheel to prove 
its falsity; and one would think it could not deceive anyone 


that was not absolutely a child in respect of critical per- 
ception.* Yet this history has been circulated by thousands 
on the continent ;f and a few years ago, Mr. Duffy, on the 
quays, published an edition for the instruction of Irish 
Roman Catholics. This history ascribes the wonderful 
popularity which St. Philumena undoubtedly obtained, to 
the number of miracles which she works, and in which she 
out-does the oldest saint in the calendar. Yet you will take 
notice that the evidence of her existence is, that some six- 
teen centuries after her supposed date a nun dreamed about 
her a story quite irreconcilable with historic possibilities. 
This one example will enable you to judge whether it is true 
that if a priest teaches his people falsehood, his bishop will 
call him to account, and that if the bishop neglect his duty, 
the Pope will interfere. This romance of Philumena has 
been circulated as truth, with the approbation of the highest 
ecclesiastical authorities. + The subject of modern revelations, 

* The scholarship of the narrator of the story may be judged of 
from the fact that the word ' Philumena ' is interpreted to mean 
'Friend of Light.' 

t My authority is a French life of the saint : La vie et les miracles 
de Sainte Philomene, surnommee la thaumaturge du xixe siecle. 
Ouvrage traduit de Tltalien. The preface states that the work was 
made on the invitation of a venerable prelate, ( and it bears the 
imprimatur of the Bishop of Lausanne, who, ' after the example of a 
great number of his colleagues in the Episcopate, thinks fit to second 
the designs of Divine Providence by recommending to his flock the 
devotion to the holy miracle-worker, Philumena, virgin and martyr, 
persuaded that it will produce in his diocese, as elsewhere, abundant 
fruits of sanctification.' The preface claims that the devotion has 
the sanction of two Popes Leo XII., who proclaimed the great saint, 
and Gregory XVI., who blessed one of her images. 

tin obedience to a decree of Pope Urban VIII., these authorities 
express themselves with a certain reserve ; but they give their approba- 
tion to the circulation among their people of works teaching them to 
act as if the whole story contained nothing but undoubted facts. 
Here is a specimen of the prayers they are taught to address to a 
being as imaginary as Desdemona or Ophelia : ' Vierge fidele et 
glorieuse Martyre, ayez piti6 de moi ; exercez et sur mon ame et sur 
mon corps le ministere de salut dont Dieu vous a jugee digne ; mieux 
de moi vous connaissez la multitude et la diversite de mes besoins : me 
voici a vos pieds, plein de misere et d'esperance, je sollicite votre 
charite : 6 grande Sainte ! exaucez-moi, benissez-moi, daignez faire 
agreer & mon Dieu 1'humble supplique que je vous presente. Oui j'en 
ai la ferme confiance, par vos merites, par vos ignominies, par vos 


as a foundation for new doctrines, is so important, that I 
will not enter on it now, but keep it for the next day. 

douleurs, par votre mort, unies aux merites de la mort efc de la 
passion de JESUS- CHRIST, j'obtiendrai ce que je vous demande,' &c. 
The work from which I cite gives in conclusion the music of a hymn, 
the chorus of which is, A Philomene offrons nos voeux ; tout est 
soumis a sa puissance. 

Since the above was in type, passing through Reims, I saw a notice 
in the Cathedral that a novena in honour of St. Philumena was to 
commence on the Sunday after my visit. 



ON the last day I spoke of one use made of modern reve- 
lations in the Church of Rome, and gave a specimen 
how, on the authority of what is there called a revelation, 
but we should call a dream, a tissue of historical facts is as- 
serted without a particle of historical evidence, or rather in 
the teeth of historical probability. I told how bishops en- 
courage their flocks to invoke in their prayers the intercession 
of a person who never had any existence, and even propa- 
gate tales of miracles worked by the power of this imaginary 
personage. It is impossible to doubt that there must be many 
a Roman Catholic ecclesiastic in high position who does not 
believe in St. Philumena any more than we do ; but it is very 
common with such persons to regard the excitement of 
devotional feeling as more important than the truth of the 
alleged facts which excite it ; and so they see no necessity to 
interfere with the practice of a devotion which appears to 
them conducive to pious feelings, and to be at least harmless. 
But these alleged revelations are also the foundation of 
new doctrines, and the Pope's silence concerning them affects 
the whole question of the rule of faith. I do not think that 
in the Roman Catholic controversy sufficient attention has 
been given to the place which modern revelations have now 
taken as part of the foundation of their system. No one can 
take up modern popular books of Roman Catholic devotion 
without seeing that their teaching differs as much from that 
of the Council of Trent, as the teaching of that Council dif- 
fers from that of the Church of England. Taking notice of 
this difference was the fundamental idea of Dr. Pusey's book, 


The Eirenicon, to which I referred in a former lecture. He 
observed how far popular Roman doctrine had got beyond 
anything that the Council of Trent had authorized, and more 
particularly so in the place assigned to the Blessed Virgin. 
Pusey's idea then was to make the Trent decrees a basis of 
reconciliation; if the Romanists would only confine them- 
selves within Tridentine limits, he hoped to screw up 
Anglican teaching so far. Whether he would have succeeded 
in the latter part of his task we need not speculate; for the 
doctrine of development has now gained too firm a hold of 
the Roman Church to permit her people to be content to 
believe now as she believed three hundred years ago. One 
of the ablest of the Roman Catholic replies to Dr. Pusey was 
by a Father Harper, originally, I believe, a pervert, now a 
Jesuit. Pusey had said, 'I doubt not that the Roman Church 
and ourselves are kept apart much more by that vast practi- 
cal system which lies beyond the letter of the Council of 
Trent things which are taught with a quasi-authority in the 
Roman Church than by what is actually defined.' Harper 
replies (I. Ixxvii.), 'It is precisely this practical system, this 
development of the Tridentine Canons, as Dr. Pusey means it, 
which is the expression, or rather actuation, of the Church's 
present indwelling vitality. Dead ideas alone can be hidden 
up in manuscript; living ideas grow and show fruit. It is pre- 
cisely in and through this vast practical system, in proportion 
as it is universal, that the Holy Ghost is working, directing, 
leading the mind of the Church by degrees into all the truth. 
Mere formulas, mere written definitions, by themselves are 
bodies that either have lost animation, or are waiting for it. 
In the Church they are the expression of her perfected con- 
sciousness, on the particular subject of that revealed dogma 
about which they treat. They live in her spirit and grow 
with her growth. Like all things else that have an undecay- 
ing life, they can never decrease, but must ever increase. 
Christ grew in wisdom daily. So does the Church, not in 
mere appearance, but of a truth. Her creed, therefore, can 
never shrink back to the dimensions of the past, but must 
ever enlarge with the onward future.' I am not now discus- 
sing the truth of the doctrine of development ; but you must 


take that doctrine into account in judging what Romanism 
at the present day is. 

Roman Catholic controversialists have often been in the 
habit of running away from attacks on the most vulnerable 
parts of their practical system by saying, 'Oh, the Church is 
not pledged to that ; it is a mere popular abuse ' ; or, ' It is 
an unauthorized speculation of some private theologians.' I 
had already occasion to show how unfair an evasion that 
was in the case of the dogma of the Pope's personal infal- 
libility. Though controversialists had run away from defend- 
ing it on the ground of its not having been asserted in any 
formal decree, and so being only private opinion, yet now we 
have supreme Roman authority for knowing that the Pro- 
testant champions had been quite right in holding that this 
doctrine, however defective in formal attestation, had all the 
time been really part of the faith of the Roman Church. 
Well, this same principle gives us a right to treat the practi- 
cal system which prevails in the Church of Rome as some- 
thing for which that Church is responsible. If we point out 
that popular Romanism is full of superstitions and of belief 
in what sober, thoughtful Roman Catholics own to be lies, 
we are told ' these things are not part of the faith of the 
Church ; she has never authoritatively affirmed any of them : 
the religion of the vulgar is always apt to run into extremes : 
you must excuse these things in consideration of the real 
piety which is at the bottom of them.' But though popular 
Romanism is certainly not the same as the Romanism of the 
schools, I hold that it is the former which has the best right 
to be accounted the faith of the Church. Let popular belief 
come first, and scholastic definition and apology will come 
in its own good time afterwards. I have already remarked 
how seldom the infallible authority is exercised to guide 
men's belief as long as it is doubtful ; but usually only conies 
in when all controversy is over, to ratify the result which 
public opinion had already arrived at. Is it, then, only the 
duty of the head of the Church to declare the belief held by 
his people when it becomes general, or is he to exercise no 
superintending care over the influences which form the belief 
he may afterwards have to declare ? If the Pope's infallibility 


reaches so far as to qualify him for guiding the Church at 
this stage, he always omits to exercise it. I have said that 
popular Romanism differs as much from that of the Council 
of Trent as the latter does from the creed of the Church of 
England. And I wish now to point out that the difference 
springs out of a fundamental difference as to the rule of faith. 
The Thirty-nine Articles appeal to Scripture alone, the Coun- 
cil of Trent to Scripture and tradition ; and so it is to be 
expected that the results should be different when the prin- 
ciples of investigation are different. But the rule of faith of 
popular Romanism is different again ; it is not Scripture and 
tradition, but Scripture and tradition and modern revelations. 
There is a certain development of Christian doctrine which 
inevitably takes place, but which is quite private and un- 
authorized. Anyone who thinks much about the things of 
religion will be sure to make speculations of his own about 
them, and to draw consequences from generally accepted 
revealed truths, which consequences may, or may not, be 
legitimately drawn. Here, according to Newman's theory, 
would be the place for the infallible authority to interfere to 
inform the Church which developments are to be accepted. 
But what actually happens in a number of cases is, that these 
additions to the structure of Christian doctrine find a shorter 
road to recognition. Both within and without the Church of 
Rome it has constantly happened that persons of an excit- 
able and enthusiastic frame of mind, whose thoughts have 
been much occupied about religion, have supposed themselves 
to be favoured with miraculous communications from God. 
Such persons, for instance, were Johanna Southcote among 
Protestants ; St. Gertrude, Marie Alacoque, among Roman 
Catholics. Among Protestants persons of this kind do not 
find it easy to get anyone to listen to their pretensions ; they 
are joined by no sober-minded persons ; they collect a few 
foolish people for a while, form them into a small sect, and 
in a few years there is an end to them. But in the Church 
of Rome pretenders of this kind not only gather a larger band 
of followers, but they meet with no opposition not from 
those of their own communion even who do not believe in 
them. Few Roman Catholics would grudge any honour, not 


even excepting the title of saint, to a pious woman of this 
kind, even though they do not believe in her asserted revela- 
tions. 'She will at least promote the cause of piety ; and for 
their part they do not choose to give scandal to pious minds 
and triumph to unbelievers by exposing the weaknesses and 
excesses of faith to an infidel world.' But meanwhile the 
utterances of these supposed recipients of a revelation are 
caught up and accepted with implicit faith by others. This 
will happen when the utterances express only the seer's 
private speculations. But more usually they are the opinions 
already favourably thought of in her own little circle, which 
is therefore prepared to welcome an authoritative enunciation 
of them ; and then with this backing of inspired attestation, 
belief in them grows so strong and spreads so widely, that 
Church authorities are no longer free to choose whether or 
not they will approve of them. 

There is in the Roman Church an amazing amount of 
literature recording revelations such as I have described ; 
but whether these revelations are genuine or not, the Pope 
will not tell, and it is at anyone's choice to accept or reject. 
Some of the Oxford converts made it a point of honour to 
show how much they were able to believe, and with what ease 
they could swallow down what old-fashioned Roman Catholics 
were straining at. Among these there was none more influen- 
tial than the late Father Faber (far more so, indeed, than Dr. 
Newman), whose devotional and theological works had a 
rapid and extensive sale. You can hardly read half a dozen 
pages of these without meeting as proof of his assertions, 
' Our Lord said to St. Gertrude,' ' It was revealed to St. 
Teresa,' 'Let us listen to the testimony of God Himself : He 
made known to a holy nun, &c.'* These quotations are made 

* ' Our Lord said to St. Gertrude, that as often as anyone says to 
God : " My love, my sweetest, my best beloved," and the like, with 
a devout intention, he receives a pledge of his salvation, in virtue of 
which if he perseveres he shall receive in heaven a special privilege of 
the same sort as the special grace which St. John, the beloved disciple, 
had on earth.' All for Jesus, p. 60. 

' Our Lord said to St. Teresa, that one soul, not a saint, but seeking 
perfection was more precious to Him than thousands living common 
lives,' p. 117. 

' St. Gertrude was divinely instructed, that as often as the Angelic 


as much as a matter of course as you or I might cite texts of 
Scripture. A number of new things about Purgatory are 
stated on this authority, and being incorporated into widely 
circulated devotional works, pass rapidly into popular belief : 
for instance, that the Virgin Mary is queen of Purgatory, that 
the Archangel Michael is her prime minister, that the souls 
there are quite unable to help themselves, and that our Lord 
has so tied up His own hands that He is unable to help them 
except as satisfactions are made for them by living Christians ; 
with a number of other details as to the causes for which 
souls are sent there, the length of time for which they are 
punished, and the manner in which they are relieved. I 
regret to have to mention that, according to the revelations 
of St. Francesca, bishops seem on the whole to remain 
longest in Purgatory, and to be visited with the greatest 
rigour. One holy bishop, for some negligence in his high 
office, had been fifty-nine years in Purgatory at the date of 
her infonnation ; another, so generous of his revenues that he 
was named the Almsgiver, had been there five years because, 
before his election, he had wished for the dignity.* 

More recently a French admirer of Father Faber has made 
a systematic treatise on Purgatory, based on modern revela- 
tions. The book is called 'Purgatory, according to the Reve- 
lations of the Saints,' by the Abbe Louvet.f I have formed 
a high opinion both of the piety of the Abbe and of his literary 
honesty. I praise the latter quality because it is commonly 
lightly regarded in Roman Catholic works, of which edifi- 
cation is the main object. Thus, for instance, anyone must 
be mad who would trust St. Liguori for a reference. If the 
saint finds anything ascribed to St. Bernard (or thinks he 
remembers that he does), which is what, in his opinion, St. 

Salutation is devoutly recited by the faithful on earth, three effica- 
cious streamlets proceed from the Father, the Son, and the Holy 
Ghost, most sweetly penetrating the Virgin's heart.' p. 104. 

' Once more let us listen to the testimony of God Himself : a holy 
nun pressed God in prayer to reveal to her what it was in which His 
Divine Majesty took so much pleasure in His beloved Gertrude,' &c. 
p. 323. 

*All for Jesus, p. 367. 

t Le Purgatoire d'apres les revelations des Saints, per M. 1'Abbe 
Louvet, Missionaire Apostolique : Paris, 1880. 


Bernard ought to have said, he puts it without scruple into 
his ' Glories of Mary ' ; and I fancy he would have thought 
anyone very unreasonable who should have suggested that he 
ought to give himself the trouble of looking into St. Bernard's 
works to try whether the passage was there at all, and whether 
among the genuine or the spurious works. And similarly 
with the anecdotes which he relates in such numbers. If a 
story is good and edifying he does not waste his time in 
trifling investigations, whether there is a particle of historical 
evidence for the truth of the story. Louvet, on the other 
hand, inspires me with confidence that his quotations have 
been correctly given, and that he has taken all the pains he 
says he has to put aside every apocryphal or doubtful revela- 
tion, and to state nothing that is not attested by canonized 
saints. On Purgatory more than on any other subject the 
evidence of revelations deserves to be listened to, for the 
whole faith of the Church of Rome on this subject has been 
built upon revelations, or, as we should call it in plain English, 
on ghost stories. For hundreds of years the Church seems to 
have known little or nothing on the subject. Even still the 
East has lagged sadly behind the West in her knowledge, and 
the reason is that the chief source of Western information is 
a Latin book, the dialogues of Gregory the Great, a work of 
which the genuineness has been denied by some, merely 
because it seemed to them incredible that so sensible a man 
should have written so silly a book. But no one acquainted 
with the eccentricities of the human intellect can rely on such 
an argument, in the face of positive evidence the other way. 
Gregory, believing twelve or thirteen centuries ago that the 
end of the world was then near at hand, and that the men of 
his age, by reason of their nearness to the next world, could 
see things in it which had been invisible to their predecessors, 
collected a number of tales of apparitions which, being 
received on his authority, have been the real foundation of 
Western belief in Purgatory. And so Father Faber quotes a 
namesake of his as saying, 'that although Gregory was a saint 
who should be loved and honoured on many accounts, yet on 
none more than this, because he had so lucidly and trans- 
parently handed down to us the doctrine of the purgatorial 


fire ; for he thought that if Gregory had not told us so many 
things of the holy souls, the devotions of subsequent ages 
would have been much colder in their behalf.'* I don't see, 
then, why our knowledge of Purgatory should not be enlarged 
from the same source from which it was first communicated, 
and why Louvet should not be regarded as doing a good 
work in collecting all the information that had been received 
from ghosts who have appeared since Pope Gregory's time; 
for it is not reasonable to believe that means of communica- 
tion with the other world which existed in the seventh century 
have been since completely stopped, f It appears that it is 
not only that many ghosts have returned to tell of their 
sufferings, but more saints than one have been permitted to 
descend to visit the purgatorial regions, and have given us, 
as Louvet assures us, a complete map of the place. . It 
appears that Purgatory is but one division of the subter- 
ranean regions At the centre of the earth is the place of 
the damned; above it lies Purgatory, divided into three 
regions, for the special torments of each of which I must 
refer you to Louvet. Above Purgatory is the limbus infan- 
tium, inhabited by unbaptized infants ; above that the lim bus 
patrum, now empty, but formerly dwelt in by the souls 
of the patriarchs until the descent of our Lord to release 

I am sorry to tell you, though you might have gathered it 
from something that I have said already, that the lowest 
division is largely tenanted by the souls of priests and 
bishops, monks and nuns : the bishops with mitres of fire on 
their heads, a burning cross in their hands, and clad in a 
chasuble of flames. But it will shock you to hear that in 
that region are the souls of many popes who, with all the 
treasure of the Church at their command, were either so 
thoughtless or so unselfish as to make no provision for their 

* All for Jesus, p. 385. 

t ' On the subject-matter of Purgatory we may, with less scruple, 
make use of such revelations from the example of so grave an 
authority as Cardinal Bellarmine himself, who, in his treatise on 
Purgatory, as I have already said, always adds some private revela- 
tions as a distinct head of proof.' All for Jesus, p. 386. 


own needs. For example, the venerable Pius VI., in this life, 
had an unusual share of suffering. He had been dragged 
from his home by the impious hands of the French Revo- 
lution; outraged ignominiously in his twofold dignity of 
pontiff and king ; dragged from city to city as a criminal, and 
he died the death of a confessor of the faith in 1799. He 
had done great things as an administrator, struggling with 
apostolic intrepidity against Gallicanism and Josephism, the 
two precursors of the Revolution, and in short his long ponti- 
ficate of twenty-four years was one of the greatest in Church 
history; yet in 1816, seventeen years after his death, Marie 
Taigi saw his soul come to the door of Purgatory, and be sent 
back again into the abyss, his expiation not being yet 
finished. How long is it still to last? That is the secret of 
God. We know from the same source that Pius VII., who 
suffered so much at the hands of the first Napoleon, and who 
was so worthy and holy a pontiff that he won the respect even 
of unbelievers, remained in Purgatory nearly five years. Leo 
XII. escaped after a few months, on account of his eminent 
piety and the short time he had held the awful responsibility 
of the pontificate. I will not delay to speak of Benedict VIII, 
but will go on to tell what, as Lou vet says, is really frightful, 
and what one would not dare to believe if we had not as 
guarantees St. Lutgarde, whose prudence and discretion are 
known, and Cardinal Bellarmine, who, having studied as a 
theologian all the details of this revelation, declares that he 
cannot doubt of it, and that it makes him tremble for himself. 
That great pontiff, Innocent III., who held the Lateran 
Council, who passed for a saint in the eyes of men, and did 
so much for the reform of the Church, appeared to St. Lut- 
garde, all surrounded by flames, and on her expressing her 
astonishment, informed her that he had narrowly escaped 
hell, and that he had been condemned to suffer in Purgatory 
till the end of the world. He earnestly entreated her prayers, 
whereupon St. Lutgarde, with all her nuns, set themselves 
with all their might to make intercession for his deliverance ; 
but no sign came that their prayers were answered, and, for 
all we know, after five centuries the poor wretch may be still 
plunged in those horrible pains from which he begged so 


earnestly to be delivered. ' This example,' says Bellarmine, 
' fills me with real terror every time I think of it.' * 

Lou vet makes a calculation, by the help of his revelations, 
how long an ordinaiy Christian may expect to have to stay 
in Purgatory. I cannot trouble you with the details of his 
proof, but his result is, that a Christian of more than usual 
sanctity, who has never committed a mortal sin, who has 
carefully avoided all the graver venial sins, and has satisfied 
by penance for three-fourths of the lighter sins into which 
frailty has led him, must expect to spend in Purgatory 123 
years, 3 months, and 15 days. 'A truly terrifying result,' 
says Louvet; ' for if it is so with righteous souls, what will 
become of poor sinners like me ? 'f 

But these 123 years are only years of earthly measure- 
ment ; they would be more than centuries if measured by the 
sensations of the suffering souls. This Louvet proves by 
several authentic histories. One is of two priests who loved 
each other like brethren. It was revealed to one on his 
death-bed that he should be released from Purgatory the first 
Mass that was offered for him. He sent for his friend, and 
made him promise that he would lose no time after his death 
in fulfilling the conditions of his release. The friend promised, 
and the moment the sick man expired, flew to the altar, and 
celebrated the Mass with all the devotion he was capable of. 
Immediately afterwards, his friend appeared to him radiant 
with glory, but with an air of reproach on his countenance. 
'O faithless friend,' he cried, 'you would deserve to be treated 
with the same cruelty you have exercised towards me ! Here 
I have been years in the avenging flames, and to think that 
neither you nor one of my brethren should have had the 
charity to offer a single Mass for me! ' ' Nay,' returned his 
friend, ' you had no sooner closed your eyes than I fulfilled 
my promise ; and you may satisfy yourself by examining your 
body, which you will find is not yet cold.' ' Is that so? ' 
returned the deceased. ' How frightful are the torments of 
Purgatory when one hour seems more than a year ! ' Another 
case was that of an abbot who, on returning from a journey, 

* Louvet, p. 124. tlbid., p. 178. 


found that the most promising of his young monks had just 
died. As the abbot was praying in the choir after matins he 
saw a phantom enveloped in flames. ' O charitable Father,' 
said the novice, with deep groans, ' give me your blessing. I 
had committed a small breach of rule, not a sin in itself. As 
this is the only cause of my detention in Purgatory, I have 
been allowed by special favour to address myself to you. 
You are to impose my penance, and I shall then be released.' 
The abbot replied : 'As far as it depends on me, my son, I 
absolve you, and give you my blessing; and for penance, I 
appoint you to stay in Purgatory till the hour of prime' : that 
was the next service, usually held at eight o'clock in the 
morning. At these words the novice, filled with despair, ran 
shrieking through the church, crying : ' O merciless father ! 
O heart pitiless towards your unhappy son ! What ! for a fault 
for which in my lifetime you would have thought the lightest 
penance enough, to impose on me so fearful a penalty. Little 
do you know the atrocity of the sufferings of Purgatory.' 
And shrieking out, 'O uncharitable penance! 'he disappeared. 
The abbot's hair stood on end with horror; gladly would he 
have recalled his severe sentence. But the word had been 
spoken.. At last a happy thought struck him. He rang the 
bell ; called up his monks ; told them of the facts, and cele- 
brated the Office of prime immediately. But all his life he 
retained the impression of this horrible scene, and often said 
that till then he had had no idea of the punishments of the 
other world, and could not have imagined that a few hours 
in Purgatory could form so fearful an expiation. 

But we shall be less disposed to pity the souls in Purga- 
tory when we learn what exceptional good fortune it is to get 
there. To the question 'Are there few that be saved? ' 
Louvet would return a most gloomy answer. His arguments 
and calculations are very interesting, but would take me too 
long to repeat. But (p. 26) he clinches his opinions by a 
revelation. St. Bernard, it appears, was privileged on two 
successive days to standby the judgment-seat of God, and hear 
the sentences pronounced on all the souls that died on these 
two days. He was horrified to find that of 80,000 souls only 
three souls of adults were saved the first day, and only two 


on the second; and that of these five not one went direct to 
heaven : all must visit Purgatory. 

Louvet, as I have said, builds his speculations solely on 
the evidence of canonized saints. If he had been content with 
authentic histoiy, he might have used the following, to which 
we, at least, ought to take no exception, since the credit 
of our own countiy is pledged to its truth.* The Roman 
Breviary of 1522 relates that St. Patrick, having fasted, like 
Elias, forty days and forty nights, on the top of a mountain, 
asked two things of God : first, that at the day of judgment 
there should not remain a single Irishman on the earth ; the 
other, that God would show him the state of souls after death. 
Then the Lord led him to a desert place, and showed him a 
certain dark and deep pit, and said, 'Whosoever shall remain 
in this cave a day and a night shall be delivered from all his 
sins.' This passage of the Roman Breviary was afterwards 
suppressed, then restored, then finally suppressed again, on 
account of the evil comments of Protestants and Rationalists. 
' But,' says Louvet, ' the old Parisian and other local Brevi- 
aries accept the story ; so do the historians of the Church of 
Ireland, and, above all, the Bollandists, with their grave 
authority. And besides, there remain so many histories of 
actual descents into this purgatory, that unless we accuse a 
great and illustrious Church of knavery and imbecility, we 
must admit that the story has a foundation of historic fact.' 
The routine of the descent into this purgatory was as follows : 
none was permitted to descend without the sanction of his 
bishop, who did all in his power to dissuade every applicant 
from the attempt, reminding him of what was very true, that 
many had made the venture who had never come back. If, 
notwithstanding, the postulant persevered, the bishop gave 
him a letter to the prior of the monastery which was at the 
place, who also tried to turn him aside from the dangerous 
enterprise. If the candidate persisted, he was shut up in the 
church for fifteen days' fasting and prayer; then, confessed 
and communicated, was sprinkled with holy water, and led 
in procession, with singing of litanies, to the mouth of the 

* Louvet . 4. 


grotto. There the prior made a last appeal. If the candi- 
date persevered, he received the prior's blessing, crossed him- 
self, and disappeared in the darkness. The prior waited a 
little to see if he would come back. If not, they shut the 
door and returned in procession to the church. Next day 
they returned, with processions and litanies as before. If 
the adventurer was there, they led him back, singing the Te 
Deum; if not, they returned the next morning : if he did not 
then appear, the prior sadly locked the door of the abyss, and 
they gave him up for lost.* Some successful adventurers 
have left records of the sufferings of Purgatory, which they 
not only saw, but participated in; but Louvet, as I said, 
declines to use these histories in his treatise. Any of you 
who have read Carleton's story of the Lough Derg Pilgrim 
will have learned how the descent was conducted in our 
degenerate days. 

Before I part with Louvet, I must mention another refer- 
ence of his to Irish history. You may have heard of Malachi, 
who ' wore the collar of gold which he won from the proud 
invader. ' Alas ! the true history of the collar of Malachi is 
very different from Tommy Moore's version. An Irish bishop, 
praying after his office, saw a pale spectre with a collar of 
flames about his neck. This was Malachi. He had misused 
his kingly power; and, to bend his confessor to culpable 
indulgence, had bribed him with a ring of gold. For 
punishment he had now to wear this ring of flame about 
his neck. And his confessor could give him no help ; for 
he was himself condemned to wear a heavier and more pain- 
ful one. You will be glad to hear that after some months of 
prayers the bishop was able to obtain relief for the two 
sufferers, f 

These extracts, long as they have been, give you a 
very faint idea of the mass of information about Purgatory 
made known by revelations which respected priests, writing 

* I find that the real authority for this account of St. Patrick's 
Purgatory is O'Sullivan Beare's History of Ireland, in which is trans- 
lated the narrative given by a Spanish nobleman, Ramon, of his visit 
to the place. Ramon grossly abused the proverbial liberty of 

f Louvet ? p. 79, 


with all the air of grave historians,* relate for the edification 
of their flocks, in books bought up by thousands. A com- 
panion volume to that on Purgatory might easily be made on 
the revelations about the Virgin Mary, in which the modest 
doctrine of the Council of Trent, that it is useful to invoke 
her intercession, is rapidly being improved into the doctrine, 
that no one who does invoke it can be lost, and no one who 
does not can be saved. One would think we had a right to 
know from the infallible authority whether these revelations 
and the doctrine which they contain ought to be received or 
not ; but he remains silent. Those who, like Father Faber 
and Louvet, receive these revelations as Scripture, obtain 
commendation for their piety; but one who treats these 
stories with complete disregard is visited with no official 
censure, whatever suspicions private individuals may enter- 
tain of the coldness of his faith. But all the time, on the 
strength of stories which the supreme authority will neither 
affirm nor deny, beliefs are being silently built up in the 
Church on which he is likely hereafter to be asked to put his 

In the Roman Church the idea seems to be now abandoned 
of handing down the Faith ' once for all (a-rag) delivered 
to the saints.' It is a vast manufactory of beliefs, to which 
addition is being yearly made. And as when you go into 
some great manufactory you may be shown the article in all 
its stages : the finished product, with the manufacturer's stamp 
upon it; the article near completion, and wanting hardly any- 
thing but the stamp; the half-finished work, the raw materials 
out of which the article is made ; so it is in the Roman 
Church. There you have the finished article : dogmas pro- 
nounced by Pope and Council to be de fide, which none may 
deny on pain of damnation. But there are, besides, articles 
fere de fide, not yet actually proclaimed by infallible authority 
to be necessary to salvation to be believed in, yet wanting 
nothing else but official promulgation so generally received, 
and acknowledged by such high authorities, that to contradict 

* Louvet says of one of his authorities, ' impossible de rien lire de. 
plus sur comme authenticity et comme veracite,' p. 76, 


them would be pronounced temerarious, and their formal 
adoption by the Church seems to be only a question of time. 
Somewhat below these in authority, but still very high, are 
other doctrines supported by such grave doctors that it 
would be a breach of modesty to contradict them. Below 
these again, other things owned to be still matters of private 
opinion, but which seem to be working their way to general 
belief, and which, if they should in time gain universal 
acceptance, will deserve to be proclaimed to be the faith 
of the Church. It is needless to say what help is given 
towards such general recognition of a doctrine, if a canonized 
saint, whom it is impossible to suspect of deceit, and disre- 
spectful to suspect of delusion, declares that he has been 
taught the truth of the doctrine by revelation from heaven. 
It is inevitable that a doctrinal statement so commended, if no 
disapprobation of it is expressed by higher authority, comes 
to the Church with such a weight of recommendation that it 
can hardly help becoming the prevalent opinion : and then, 
in process of time, how can the head of the Church refuse to 
declare that to be the faith of the Church which the great 
majority of its members, including perhaps himself, believe 
to be true ? If the supreme authority puts off its interference 
to the last stage, that interference comes altogether too late. 
It is useless to teach the Church when the Church has already 
made up its mind. 

And surely if Christ has left a vicar upon earth, what 
more appropriate function can he have than that of inform- 
ing the world how to distinguish the voice of Christ from 
that of false pretenders who venture to speak in his name ? 
Anyone who claims to have received a revelation from God 
must be either as much deluded as Johanna Southcote, or as 
much inspired as St. Paul. If there be any in the later 
Church to whom God has made real revelations, we are bound 
to receive the truths so disclosed with the same reverence and 
assent which we give to what was taught by the Apostles. It 
is important for us to know whether the book of God's revela- 
tion has closed with the Apocalypse of St. John, or whether 
we are to add to the inspired volume the revelations of St. 
Francesca, St. Gertrude, and St. Catherine, If these last are 


real revelations, they who reject them are doing their souls 
the same injury as if they rejected the books of Scripture. 
We look to the infallible authority for guidance, but he owns 
himself to be as helpless as ourselves to distinguish the true 
prophet from the false pretender, and gives us leave to believe 
or reject as we like. Nay, he gives a kind of ambiguous 
approval : he honours the recipients of the alleged revela- 
tions, canonizes them as saints, encourages his children to 
ask their intercession, now that they are dead : but if ques- 
tioned did these persons, when they were alive, deceive the 
people by teaching them their own fancies as if they were 
divine revelations, he declares this a question outside his 
commission to answer. It is clear that he does not really 
believe in his own infallibility.* 

I ought not to dismiss this subject of revelations without 
reminding you of the first occasion when an attempt was 
made to impose such private revelations as a rule of faith on 
the Church : I mean, in the Montanist heresy. The Mon- 
tanists, you know, were perfectly orthodox. They had not 
the least desire to alter the ancient faith of the Church. They 

*An answer to what is here said has been lately attempted by 
Father Ryder (Nineteenth Century, Feb. , 1887). In the Contemporary 
Review for October, 1883, I had complied with a wish expressed by 
some friends that I should put on paper some things that I had told 
them in conversation in which they had been interested, namely, what 
I had read in then recent publications by the Abbes Cloquet and 
Louvet. My article was written without any controversial intention, 
and was almost entirely confined to a simple report of what these 
writers had said. But in writing about Louvet I had saved myself 
trouble by making use of the present lecture, which had been written 
and delivered a couple of years previously ; and the only part of my 
article that can be called controversial was where I copied some of the 
remarks made above, on the fact that the Church of Rome has shown 
herself unwilling or unable to pronounce officially on the credit due to 
alleged modern revelations. 

Father Ryder gives an excellent illustration of what I have said as 
to the habit of controversialists, when at a loss for something better 
to say, of laboriously proving what their opponents do not deny. He 
says that I ' admit in words ' that the Church of Rome does not 
pledge herself to the truth of any modern revelations, and then, as if 
I did not admit it in reality, he occupies in the proof of this statement 
great part of the space which he devotes to me. Surely, in the three 
years and more that he took to meditate on my article, he might have 
discovered that the complaint I had made was that the Church of 
Rome does not tell us whether we are to believe these things or not ; 


only aimed at a development of Christian doctrine : accord- 
ing as prophets to whom the Paraclete revealed the Divine 
will cleared up anything that had been obscure in the apos- 
tolic teaching, or guarded the purity of the Church by sup- 
plemental commands which the Church, on its first formation, 
had not had strength to bear. But the Montanists held, and 
as it seems to me with good reason, that the recipient of a 
Divine revelation was not justified in looking on it as given 
only for his private edification. It was both his privilege 
and his duty to make known to the Church what God had 
taught him ; and any who refused to hear rejected a message 
from God. So the Montanist prophecies came to be written 
down and circulated as demanding to be owned as God's 
word. This was what more than anything else led the heads 
of the Church to oppose people whose aims and doctrines 
were all such as religious and orthodox men could sympathize 
with. But it was felt, and truly felt, that their prophecies 
were encroaching on the supreme authority of Scripture, 
and that they were presuming to add to what had been 
written. From the time of the breaking out of Montanism, 
greater care was taken than had been used before, to prevent 
any unauthorized uninspired composition from seeming to 

and the question why she does not deserves some better reply than, 
she doesn't because she doesn't. 

Then he has recourse to a *tu quoque ' but about this I need not 
dispute, since, clearly, he would establish my case, not his own, if he 
could show that the Church of Rome behaves exactly as a Church 
behaves which makes no pretensions to infallibility. 

He blames me for quoting the positive acceptance given by Father 
Faber to modern revelations ' in an uncontroversial work intended to 
assist the imaginative piety of his readers.' It is strange that Roman 
divines do not find out how they repel Protestants by the defective 
appreciation of the claims of truth exhibited in their distinction as to 
what may be said in controversial and uncontroversial books. To 
people of their own community they assert things as positive facts 
which they run away from defending the moment an opponent 
grapples with them. It would seem as if their maxim was, ' We need 
not be particular about the truth of what we say if no one is present 
who can contradict us.' 

He says that the Church is only directly concerned with the deposit 
entrusted to her at Pentecost. With regard to any other statement, 
she does no more than say whether or not it contradicts the doctrine 
of that deposit. I wish the Church of Rome did confine herself to 
the doctrine delivered to her at Pentecost ; but since the publication 
of Newman's Essay on Development, the ' quod semper ' of Vincent of 
Lerins is thrown completely overboard, and Romish divines speak 


be placed on a level with Scripture. And so the Epistle of 
Clement, the Shepherd of Hernias, and one or two writings 
more, which had been admitted into Church reading, were 
then excluded, and fell rapidly into such neglect, that copies 
have scarcely survived to our day. And it is the real truth 
that those who accept these modern revelations, and draw 
proofs of doctrines from them, have really a different Bible, 
not only from us, but from the Council of Trent. The Church 
of Rome is but dissembling a schism when she allows differ- 
ences to remain unsettled, affecting the very foundations of 
faith : when what is accepted by one as the voice of God 
Himself is set do\vn as a dream of silly women by another. 
In what I have said I have only contemplated revelations 
made in visions to their recipients, belonging thus to the 
class of what may be called invisible miracles. But there 
have been, in my own recollection, miracles of still higher 
pretensions ; yet concerning these, too, the infallible authority 
will not tell us what to think. I address an audience so much 
junior to myself, that some of the things I remember as having 
at the time made the greatest sensation are to you forgotten 
stories of things that happened before you were born ; yet 

with as much disdain of a Church which is satisfied to abide by its 
old creed, as a fashionable lady does of one who appears in the dress 
she wore last season. See the passage quoted from Father Harper, 
p. 201, and another in this very article of Father Ryder. 

Finally, he denies that the new things taught by modern revelations 
can properly be called doctrines. I do not know how else to call 
them. What I understand by ' doctrines ' is ' revealed facts.' If God 
has really revealed anything, our obligation to believe it is all the 
same, no matter who the organ may be through whom the revelation 
was made; whether it be St. John or St. Paul, St. Bridget or St. 
Catherine. Our only concern is to know whether or not a real revela- 
tion has been made. The Church of Rome is willing to tell her 
people that they are bound to believe what is delivered to them by 
St. John and St. Paul. Why will she not give the same information 
with regard to things which later persons, whom she honours as 
saints, profess to have received by divine revelation ? 

It cannot be said that these things do not affect practice. One 
specimen is enough. It is asserted that it was revealed through St. 
Simon Stock that no one who dies wearing the scapular can possibly 
be lost : ' in quo quis moriens seternum non patietur incendium.' 
Surely the revelation of a certain means of escaping the flames of 
hell deserves to be called a doctrine, if anything can. Other things 
are taught about Purgatory on the same authority which, if true, ought 
seriously to affect practice. Why will not the infallible authority 
tell us positively whether we are to believe these things or not ? 


they serve well to illustrate the practical working of the 
Roman system. I can call to mind more revelations than 
one, not hidden away in biographies of saints, whence they 
can be drawn forth by enthusiastic preachers, but coming 
forth into the world, forcing their way into the newspapers, 
and challenging even the investigation of the law courts. 

The miracle of La Salette took place igth September, 
1846. Two children minding cows on a lonely mountain in 
the diocese of Grenoble were surprised by the apparition of 
a fine lady robed in a splendid yellow dress, wearing var- 
nished shoes, and with a head-dress of ribbons and flowers. 
She told them that she was the Virgin Mary; discoursed to 
them on the sins of France, and gave them messages in the 
name of her Son. The children told the story : the matter 
was noised abroad; pilgrimages were made to the scene of 
the occurrence ; the place soon became crowded with visitors ; 
chapels arose ; inns were opened, medals were struck, the sale 
of the water of La Salette soon came to be a gainful traffic, 
for it had not only virtue in curing diseases, but a few drops, 
even operated the conversion of an obstinate sinner, in whose 
liquor it had been mixed without his knowledge. Among 
the pilgrims was Cardinal Newman's friend and diocesan, 
Bishop Ullathorne of Birmingham. He published an account 
of his visit, professing full belief in the reality of the miracle. 
He opened at Stratford-on-Avon a chapel to our Lady of 
La Salette, and introduced the Confraternity of La Salette 
into his diocese. His pamphlet claims Papal sanction for 
the new devotion. By a Brief dated 26th August, 1852, the 
Pope, as we are told, made the altar of La Salette a pri- 
vileged altar, gave a plenary indulgence to visitors to the 
shrine, besides other privileges too tedious to enumerate. A 
priest of Bishop Ullathorne's, a Mr. Wyse, published under 
the bishop's sanction a Manual of the Confraternity of La 
Salette. Mr. Wyse remonstrates indignantly with those of 
his co-religionists who still withhold faith from the story. 
' The truth of the apparition of La Salette,' he says, ' is in- 
contestable; the proofs are such that it is worthy of the 
fullest belief. Yet because it is not of faith, that is to say, 
because a man will not be damned for not believing it, the 


faith of some who call themselves Catholics is so ungenerous 
and thrifty, that they refuse their assent.' ' In matters of 
faith,' he tells us, ' God loves a cheerful giver : He is not 
pleased with those who seek what is the very minimum of 
belief which will secure their salvation. In these days of in- 
fidelity, supernatural faith, cultivated for safety's sake to the 
very utmost, is the only security against the vilest errors.' 

This language expresses a state of feeling I believe to be 
very common among Roman Catholics ; but surely it is very 
absurd. It is accounted faith not only to believe all that God 
says, but also to believe anyone who says that God has said 
a thing. Should I account it a compliment if anyone told me 
that he had such faith in me that he would not only believe 
anything I said, but anything that anyone said I said ? The 
result certainly would be, that although no one has any par- 
ticular motive to misrepresent me, he would believe a good 
deal I never said, and some things I should be sorry to be 
thought to have said. It is really not faith in the Divine 
Word, but want of faith, if the belief which is due to a divine 
revelation is thoughtlessly given to anyone who claims it. 
A man could not think much of his dog's attachment to him 
if he was a dog that would follow anybody. 

In the present case the result proved that a certain sus- 
pension of judgment might be pardonable. Some of the 
clergy of the neighbouring dioceses declared the whole ap- 
parition to be an imposture, and denied (I am sure 1 do not 
know whether with truth or not) that the Pope had given the 
alleged approbation. The Salettites declared that this was 
envy and jealousy on the part of men whose own shrines had 
suffered a decrease of pilgrims, in consequence of the superior 
attractions of the new shrine. Then their adversaries pro- 
ceeded to particulars. It was asserted that the Virgin who 
appeared to the children was a certain Constance Lamerliere ; 
a nun, half knave, half crazy, who could be proved to have 
purchased the dress in which the Virgin appeared, and whose 
connexion with the apparition could in other ways be proved. 
This was stated so persistently that Constance Lamerliere 
was forced to accept the challenge, and bring an action for 
defamation of character; but the Court decided against her, 


aud the decision was confirmed on appeal. I shall not pre- 
tend that the decision was conclusive, for I believe that there 
are still Roman Catholics who believe in La Salette; but I 
fear that the apparition must be pronounced a failure, as 
having caused more scandal to unbelievers than edification 
to the faithful, unless the large pecuniary gains it brought to 
the parties interested may redeem it from the charge of being 
altogether a failure. 

Scarcely had the excitement provoked by the events of La 
Salette begun to subside, when the supernaturalist party dealt 
a heavier blow against their opponents by what was called 
the miracle of Lourdes. In this spot, in Gascony, Berna- 
dotte Soubirous, a poor girl of fourteen, on February u, 1858, 
while picking up dry wood, saw a beautiful lady robed in 
white, with a blue sash, and the vision was afterwards several 
times repeated. On being asked who she was, the lady 
answered, ' I am the Immaculate Conception.' She invited 
the girl to drink at a fountain. The child, seeing no foun- 
tain, scraped away some earth with her hands. A little water 
filtered through the orifice : it increased gradually in volume, 
became perfectly clear, and now supplies to the faithful I do 
not know how many millions of bottles, which are in large 
demand for the purpose of effecting supernatural cures. The 
local bishop gave his sanction to the miracle ; pilgrimages to 
the shrine were organized, and pilgrimages are now made 
easy. It is not, as in former days, when a devout pilgrim had 
to walk over half Europe with or without peas in his shoes. 
Railway Companies are only too glad to organize excursion 
trains, and secure for their line an undue share of the tourist 
traffic. Only the other day the chairmen of the other Com- 
panies were looking with envy at the profits the Midland 
Great Western Company were deriving from the miracles at 
Knock.* True, there is a number of incredulous people who 

* A small village in the county Mayo, where the Virgin Mary, St. 
Joseph, ar.d a third personage, supposed to be St. John, are affirmed 
to have appeared to many persons on the evening of 21st August, 
1879, and in the early days of 1880. The scene of the alleged apparitions 
was the exterior of the southern gable of the sacristy attached to the 
Roman Catholic chapel of the parish. See The Apparitions and 
Miracles at Knock, by John Mac Philpin (Dublin : Gill and Son, 
1880) ; in which tract will be found a full account of the matter, with 


object that the witness to the Lourdes miracle was a child 
subject to hallucinations ; and the speech ' I am the Immacu- 
late Conception,' does put a severe strain on one's faith. It 
is said, however, that the miracles worked by the interces- 
sion of Our Lady of Lourdes ought to banish all incredulity. 
But what I complain of is, that when there is an infallible 
guide he will not interfere to clear our doubts. Why should 
he leave us in danger of mistaking the utterances of a crazy 
nun or the ravings of a hysteric child for miraculous com- 
munications from the Blessed Virgin; or, conversely, of 
rejecting a message from heaven? 

Perhaps one reason why we must despair of getting a 
solution of our doubts from this quarter is, that infallibility is 
said to be subject to an unfortunate limitation. The Pope, 
though infallible on questions of doctrine, is liable to be de- 
ceived by human testimony about a matter of fact. You may 
remember reading in Burnet of the use made of this distinction 
in the Jansenist controversy. The adversaries of the Janse- 
nists had obtained a papal condemnation of certain proposi- 
tions from the work of Jansenius. As devout Catholics, 
the Jansenists were forced to confess that the doctrines con- 
demned by the Pope were false, but they saved the credit of 
their master by saying that these propositions had not been 
asserted by him, at least not in the erroneous sense. Their 
adversaries, determined not to permit themselves to be thus 
balked of their triumph, obtained from the Pope a supple- 
mental decree, declaring that the propositions in question were 
not only erroneous, but that they had been taught by Jansenius. 
To this the Jansenists replied, 'We acknowledge the Pope to 
be infallible in questions of doctrine, but the question whether 
Jansenius taught such and such doctrines is one of fact, and 
we say that on this the Holy Father has been deceived.' 

I own I do not myself see the justice of the distinction, 
nor how it is rational to give up the infallibility in the one 

the depositions of witnesses made before a commission of priests 
appointed by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Tuam. and the 
particulars of many miraculous cures reported bv the Roman Catholic 
priest of Knock as having been effected on blind, crippled, and 
diseased persons who have visited the chapel, or swallowed particles 
of mortar taken from the wall. 


case and assert it in the other. If this limitation exists, how 
can any heretic be infallibly condemned? The falsity of his 
doctrines may be infallibly asserted ; but whether he had 
taught them will admit of controversy. In several doctrinal 
questions which came before the Privy Council, it was found 
to be easier by far to ascertain what the doctrine of the 
Church of England was than whether the impeached clergy- 
men had contravened it. But it is more important to observe 
that the doctrines of our religion are all assertions of the oc- 
currence of facts. That our Lord died, and was buried, and 
rose again the third day, are all matters of fact. The question 
which, it was said, was to have been determined if the Vatican 
Council had not been prematurely broken up, whether or not 
.the body of the Virgin was miraculously taken up to heaven, 
is a question of fact. If the Pope is unable to arrive at 
certainty about things alleged to have taken place in his own 
lifetime, how can he expect to be more successful about 
things that happened centuries ago? There is a story about 
a grave writer who abandoned in despair a contemplated his- 
torical work, when he found himself unable to ascertain the 
real facts of a quarrel which had taken place under his own 
windows. But yet again, those miracles of modern times, 
though the question of the reality of their occurrence may 
be one of fact, are made the foundation of doctrines and 
practices the reception of which must surely be affected by 
our acceptance or rejection of the facts. Thus, in the instance 
last given, if we believe that the Virgin Maiy really said to a 
little girl, ' I am the Immaculate Conception,' however odd 
we may think her way of expressing herself , we cannot doubt 
that she meant to give her approval to the doctrine that she 
was conceived without sin, and so that the truth of that doc- 
trine must be regarded as miraculously guaranteed. 

Shortly after the pilgrimages to Lourdes others were 
organized to Paray-le-Monial. This had been the scene of 
the revelations of the blessed Marguerite Marie Alacoque, 
the foundress of the now popular devotion to the Sacred 
Heart of Jesus. This is not, like the other two I mentioned, 
a revelation of our own time, though a great impetus was 
given to that devotion by the beatification of this nun by 


Pius IX. She lived at the end of the seventeenth century, 
the time when the strife between the Jesuits and the Janse-- 
nists was the hottest. Her revelations were patronized by 
the Jesuits* and condemned by the Jansenists. With the late 
Pope the Jesuits were all-powerful. This poor nun was 
subject to what we heretics would call hysteric delusions, in 
the course of which she saw many visions in which, as always 
happens, the ideas of her waking hours were reproduced. 
All that has been said metaphorically about our Lord's human 
heart was materialized by her, and referred to that physical 
portion of our Lord's human frame, f As a specimen, I men- 
tion one of the most celebrated of her visions, in which she 
saw our Lord's heart in His bosom burning as in a furnace, 
and her own heart placed as a small atom of fire in that fur- 
nace. You cannot pass by a Roman Catholic picture-shop 
without observing what vogue the adoration of the material 
heart of our Lord has now gained. It was much opposed 
by the Jansenists, so that it was not till after a century and 
a-half that Margaret Mary obtained, under Pius IX., the dig- 
nity of beatification, which is next below canonization. It has 
been objected that this worship of a portion of our Lord's Body 
is downright Nestorianism. In the course of the Nestorian 
controversy it was distinctly condemned to make a separa- 
tion between our Lord's Godhead and His manhood, so as to 

* This was but common gratitude considering how much good she 
had to say of them. Her biographer tells us : ' Notre-Seigneur, en 
parlant a Marguerite- Marie, lui a maintes fois declare qu'il se servirait 
en particulier des Peres de la Compagnie de Jesus pour f aire connaitre 
aux hommes tout le prix des tresors renfermes dans son divin Cosur.' 

t It is curious that her conceptions have close affinity with the con- 
temporary teaching of a Puritan divine, Goodwin, who was chaplain 
to Oliver Cromwell. Goodwin published books in which he dwelt 
much, in rather mystical language, on the point that our Lord's man- 
hood remains still united to His Divinity, and that He still retains 
His human heart and feelings. De la Colombiere, the director of the 
nun of whom I speak was for a considerable time in England, 
attached to the household of the Duke of York, afterwards James 1 1., 
so that he might easily have become acquainted with Goodwin's 
writings. It has consequently been imagined that Marguerite Marie 
derived her ideas through De la Colombiere from Goodwin. It 
appears, however, that it was in 1675 she had a vision directing her 
to labour for the establishment of the feast of the Sacred Heart, and 
that her director did not return from England until 1679. Her 
devotion was not established even in her own convent until 168,6, 


offer worship to the one not addressed to the other. And 
here the worship is not even offered to our Lord's entire 
humanity, but to a part of it. However, the lawfulness of 
this worship is not what I am discussing now. My object is 
to show that every one of these alleged revelations has a 
distinct bearing upon doctrine. Of course, however objec- 
tionable this superstitious worship may appear to us, if our 
Lord has revealed His approval of it, our objections must be 
dismissed ; and so an infallibility which owns itself incom- 
petent to pronounce on the reality of alleged revelations 
really owns itself incompetent to pronounce on questions of 
doctrine which these revelations would seriously affect. So 
much it may well suffice to have said about the hesitations 
and vacillations of the infallible guide. I had intended to 
say something about positive errors into which he has fallen, 
but these I must reserve till the next day. 



I HAVE thought it well to let you see how the theory of 
an infallible Church works in practice. In the former 
Lectures I have given proof enough that in a number of cases 
the guide who asks us to follow him prefers himself to follow, 
and shows by his hesitations that he is ignorant of the true 
path. I will now add some cases where he has actually 
struck into wrong paths, and has been compelled, with very 
lame apologies, to retrace his steps. I reserve the question 
whether Popes ever have been heretics until I come to speak 
of that theory which ascribes infallibility to the Pope person- 
ally. One instance, however, in which a Pope was compelled 
to retire with disgrace, after having attempted to thrust his 
infallibility into a sphere in which it failed to secure cor- 
rectness, is the department of Biblical criticism. 

The Council of Trent having stamped the Vulgate as 
' authentic,' ordered that a correct edition of this authorized 
Vulgate should be published. But little was done in fulfil- 
ment of this decree for nearly forty years, when the task was 
undertaken by Pope Sixtus V., a Pontiff who seems really to 
have believed in his own infallibility. He employed a Board 
of learned men to act as revisers, but in complete subordina- 
tion to himself. In his preface he claims the superiority to 
them which he exercised, as resulting from the singular pri- 
vilege which he enjoyed as successor to Peter, the Prince of 
the Apostles, for whom Christ prayed that his faith should 
not fail ; an4 who was charged to confirm the other Apostles 


in the faith. Accordingly, he tells with complacency of the 
labour which, among all his other apostolic cares, he had 
spent on this work, day after day, and for several hours each 
day, reading the collections and opinions of others, and 
balancing the reasons for the various readings; the plan of 
the work being, that while his learned revisers collected the 
evidence, it was for him alone to decide on the validity of 
their arguments, and determine by his absolute judgment 
what reading was to be preferred to what. When the work 
was printed he examined each sheet with the utmost care, 
and corrected the press with his own hand. The edition 
appeared in 1590, with a Constitution prefixed, in which 
Sixtus affirmed the plenary authority of the edition for all 
future time (' hac nostra perpetuo valitura constitutione '). 
' By the fulness of apostolic power,' he says, ' we decree and 
declare that this edition approved by the authority delivered 
to us by the Lord, is to be received and held as true, lawful, 
authentic, and unquestioned, in all public and private dis- 
cussion, reading, preaching, and explanations.' He forbids 
the printing of this Bible for the space of ten years at any 
press but his own in the Vatican. After that time it might 
be printed elsewhere, but only from one of the Vatican copies. 
He forbade expressly the publication of various readings in 
copies of the Vulgate, and pronounced that all readings in 
other editions and manuscripts, which might vary from those 
of this Sixtine edition, should have no credit or authority 
for the future. It was forbidden to alter the version in the 
smallest particle; and any person who should violate this 
Constitution, it was declared, would incur the indignation of 
Almighty God, and of His blessed Apostles Peter and Paul ; 
and was threatened with the greater excommunication, not 
to be absolved except by the Pope himself. 

This was the language of a man who really believed in his 
infallibility. But a glance at the volume was sufficient to 
convince any moderately learned man of the folly, not to say 
impiety, of such boastful presumption. Many passages were 
found covered with slips of paper on which new corrections 
had been printed ; others were scratched out and merely 
corrected with a pen; and different copies were corrected 


in different ways. A closer examination showed those com- 
petent to judge that the edition had graver faults than could 
be accounted for by printers' carelessness. Sixtus had 
changed the readings of those whom he had employed to 
report upon the text with the most arbitrary and unskilful 
hand ; and it was scarcely an exaggeration to say with 
Bellarmine that his precipitate self-reliance had brought 
the Church into the most serious peril. The death of Sixtus 
removed all constraint, and the learned divines whose 
opinions had been overruled represented the true state of 
the case to his successor. There was then much embarrass- 
ment how to correct these undeniable errors ; and some men 
of weight advised the Pope to prohibit the use of the faulty 
books. But Bellarmine counselled that the credit of Sixtus 
should be saved ; thereby, as he says in his autobiography, 
returning good for evil ; for Sixtus, for a reason of which I 
may speak later, had put Bellarmine's Controversies on the 
Index of prohibited books, ' donee corrigerentur.' Bellar- 
mine's way of solving the difficulty was to lay the blame 
upon the printers,* although in his autobiography he makes 
no secret that those errors had been deliberately introduced 
by Sixtus himself, which he recommended should be imputed 
to the carelessness of others. Indeed Bellarmine's original 
proposal was a delightful illustration of the skill which the 
Order to which he belonged is popularly believed to possess, 
in knowing how to insinuate a falsehood in words consistent 
with truth. He recommended that the faulty readings should 
be said to have occurred 'prse festinatione vel typographorum 
Del aliorum ' either the printers were to blame or somebody 
else. However, this evasion was disdained in the preface to 

* If an author has sometimes had good reason to complain, in the 
words of the celebrated erratum, 'printers have persecuted me without 
a cause,' the present case is one of several in which authors have taken 
their revenge on printers by trying to make them responsible for their 
own errors. A signal example is the virtuous indignation displayed 
by Warburton against his critic, Edwards, who had been 'such a 
dunce or a knave,' as to imagine that the editor, not the printers, 
was responsible for the well-known blunder in Warburton's edition of 
Shakespeare. Pope's statement that the story of ' Measure for 
Measure' had been taken from the 5th novel of the 8th decade of 
Cinthio's novels, is printed in Warburton's edition with the abbrevia- 
tions 'Dec.' and 'Nov.,' written at full length, thus: 'Cinthio's 
novels, December 8, November 5.' 


the new edition, written by Bellarmine himself, and still 
printed with the Roman Vulgate. No mention is made of 
' somebody else,' and the errors are said to have occurred 
' praeli vitio.' The preface tells that when the work had 
been printed, and when Pope Sixtus was going to publish it 
(implying that he had not published it *), perceiving that 
several errors of the press had crept in, he determined to 
have the whole work placed anew on the anvil. But that 
vSixtus really had any such intention is a statement for which 
there is no shadow of proof, and no probability. The 
edition of Clement, also published as authentic, differed 
from that of Sixtus in more than two thousand places. A 
list of these is given in the work of Dr. James, a former 
learned librarian of the Bodleian, called Bellum Papale, or 
Concordia Discors. And it became evident that the work 
of editing the Bible required patience, learning, critical 
sagacity, and that this was a work to which ' infallibility ' 
was unequal. 

We owe it to the wilfulness of Sixtus that this was so soon 
found out. If he had been content to follow the opinions 
of the experts whom he had consulted, no doubt his edition 
would have appeared without opposition, and the Constitution 
prefixed, in which Sixtus had plainly claimed for his text the 
guarantee of infallibility, would have been a great obstacle 
to its emendation by later criticism. 

I will mention one other department from which the 
Popes have had to retire with their prerogative of infallibility 
sorely discredited. In ordinary cases, as I have so often 
said, their policy has been to avoid committing themselves; 
but in some rare instances the case appeared to be so plain 
as to make caution unnecessary. One of these cases was 
when the notion was first seriously entertained by men of 
science, that the sun, not the earth, is the centre of our 
system, and that the earth, instead of being stationary, is 
in rapid motion. Such an idea was so opposed to reason 
and common sense, so contrary to the opinion entertained 

* We have a copy in our Library. It contains several corrections 
by neatly pasted slips; for example (Isaiah lii. 5), 'nunc quid' which 
is right, instead of 'numquid' retained in the Clementine edition. 


for many ages by philosophers, so at variance with the plain 
words of Scripture, that the Church authorities felt they were 
quite safe in putting down teaching at once heretical and 
absurd. Now let me do every justice to the Roman autho- 
rities who took this false step. There is no error committed 
by the Popes or their councillors which we ought to be more 
ready to pardon and to sympathize with ; for their mistake 
was prompted by reverence for Scripture, and quite similar 
mistakes have been since committed by highly respected 
men in our own communion. But still if we make mistakes 
we confess them and profit by them. We do not pretend to 
be possessors of any infallibly accurate interpretation of 
Scripture, and we, therefore, cannot omit to use one of the 
few opportunities open to us of testing the pretensions of 
those who do make this claim. 

The present case is one of the most unpleasant that Roman 
Catholic controversialists have got to meet, for they cannot 
but be conscious that the best apologies they can offer are 
extremely unsatisfactory. They could save themselves all 
trouble if they would frankly say, 'Our Church made a great 
mistake two hundred and fifty years ago. She then imagined 
statements to be heretical which we now know were not only 
not heretical, but were perfectly true. She is a great deal 
wiser now.' Perhaps the theory of development may be 
improved into a form which will allow that confession to be 
made. But if that time comes, we need dispute no more 
about the Church's infallibility; the whole claim will then 
have been given up. Meanwhile we have to consider whether 
any of the attempts have been successful that have been 
made to free the Roman Church from the responsibility of 
mistakes which her rulers confessedly made at the beginning 
of the seventeenth century. 

It is well known to you all to what severe treatment 
Galileo was subjected for holding the doctrine about the 
motion of the earth which is now held by every educated 
man ; or rather for being suspected of holding it. For Galileo 
did not categorically state this opinion as his own, but only 
introduced it in the form of a dialogue, so as not to make 
himself responsible for the opinions of either speaker. In 


order that you should understand the necessity for this 
caution, I had better briefly tell you those facts in his life 
with which we are concerned ; * and before discussing the 
dealings of the Inquisition with him in 1633, I must say 
something about the previous action of the Inquisition in 

Galileo had already a high place in the scientific world, 
when, in 1609, he was the first to turn a telescope on the 
heavens. All Europe soon rang with the news of the sur- 
prising announcements he was able to make, which entitled 
him to rank as the greatest philosopher of his age. The new 
facts thus brought to light speedily removed all doubts in 
Galileo's own mind as to the truth of the theory which Coper- 
nicus had put forward concerning the motion of the earth. 
One of the first of his discoveries, that of the satellites of 
Jupiter, put the controversy concerning the true system of 
the universe in a new position. The old theory was that stars 
and planets all went round the earth. Here was a clear case 
of exception ; for these four newly-discovered stars unques- 
tionably made their revolutions, not round the earth, but 
round Jupiter. The sight of this planet, attended by its four 
satellites, was alone sufficient to shake the confidence of 
astronomers in their belief that the earth was the most 
important body in the universe ; while the spectacle of these 
bodies performing in perfect order their revolutions round 
one celestial body could not but suggest an analogy reveal- 
ing the true relation of the planets to the sun. Again, when 
the theory was first put forward that the planets are bodies 
which only shine by the reflected light of the sun, it was 
objected that, if this were the case, Venus ought to present 
the same phases as the moon, changing from full face to 
a crescent, according as we saw more or less of the side 
illuminated by the sun. Copernicus made an unsuccessful 
attempt to explain this difficulty; but when Venus was looked 
at through a telescope, she was seen actually going through 
those changes, the seeming absence of which when sought 

* I recommend those who have leisure to read The Private Life of 
Galileo, published by Macmillan in 1870, and to make the acquaintance 
of that most charming person, Galileo's daughter, Sister Maria Celeste. 


for by the naked eye had been considered a fatal objection 
to the Copernican theory. 

Galileo was a firm believer in the truth of Scripture, and as 
soon as he came to believe that the Copernican theory was 
true, he could not help also believing that it was not con- 
trary to the Bible. Accordingly, in 1613, he wrote a letter, 
defending this view, to Castelli, who was Mathematical Pro- 
fessor at Pisa. He said that the Bible was beyond doubt 
infallible; but that though the Scripture could not err, its 
interpreters might. Clearly we are not to interpret every 
word of Scripture literally; for if so we should have to 
attribute to God hands, feet, and ears, and human and bodily 
emotions, such as anger, repentance, and hatred. There 
were obvious reasons why, in speaking incidentally of the 
sun, or of the earth, or other created bodies, the Scriptures 
should conform to popular language. For had a different 
course been pursued, the vulgar would have been only per- 
plexed, and have been rendered more difficult of persuasion 
in the articles concerning their salvation : 

' I believe that the intention of Holy Writ was to persuade 
men of the truths necessary to salvation; such as neither 
science nor other means could render credible, but only the 
voice of the Holy Spirit. But I do not think it necessary to 
believe that the same God who gave us our senses, our speech, 
our intellect, would have us put aside the use of these to 
teach us instead such things as with their help we could find 
out for ourselves, particularly in the case of those sciences 
of which there is not the smallest mention in Scripture ; and 
above all in astronomy, of which so little notice is taken, 
that none of the planets except the sun and moon, and once 
or twice only Venus, under the name of Lucifer, is so much 
as named there. Surely, if the intention of the sacred writers 
had been to teach the people astronomy, they would not 
have passed the subject over so completely.' 

This letter was the occasion of the first collision between 
Galileo and ecclesiastical authorities ; for though it was a 
private letter, a copy fell, either through indiscretion or trea- 
chery, into the hands of Dominicans at Florence, one of 
whom denounced it to the Holy Office at Rome. And natu- 


rally it gave much offence that a layman should presume to 
teach theologians how to interpret Scripture. 

It is a commonplace with Roman Catholic apologists to 
say that Galileo had only himself to blame for the trouble he 
got into, through, as one of them expresses it, poking his 
nose into what was other people's business. ' Why did he 
not stick to his mathematics, and leave the interpretation of 
Scripture to theologians ? He seemed determined to ruin 
himself. Had he not got a message from Cardinal Barberini 
(afterwards Pope Urban VIII.), telling him that he ought 
not to travel out of the limits of physics and mathematics, 
but confine himself to such reasonings as Ptolemy and 
Copernicus had used ? Declaring the views of Scripture 
theologians maintain to be their own particular province.' 
Cardinal Bellarmine also had said that if Galileo spoke with 
circumspection, and only as a mathematician, he would be 
put to no further trouble. 

If theologians at that time complained that astronomers 
had intruded into their province of interpreting Scriptures 
astronomers have, with equal reason, complained that it was 
theologians who intruded into their province of interpreting 
the appearances of the heavens. The fact was that the two 
provinces then overlapped, and there was ground on which 
one party had as much right to be as the other. Either the 
earth moves, or it does not. If it moves, theologians were 
wrong in inferring from Scripture that God had revealed that 
it is at rest ; if it does not move, the Copernicans had w r rongly 
interpreted the indications of their science. You know how 
the matter has ended. Roman Catholics and Protestants are 
now agreed that the theologians of two hundred years ago 
were wrong in the system of astronomy which they imagined 
they had derived from the Bible; and Roman Catholics and 
Protestants agree in adopting the principles of Scripture in- 
terpretation which Galileo taught the theologians of his day. 

But it is necessary to explain how a collision had been 
avoided before, and what was meant by saying that Galileo 
ought to speak ' only as a mathematician.' The reason 
why Copernican speculations about the earth's motion had 
been tolerated by ecclesiastics, while the writings of Galileo 


on the same subject were rigidly condemned, was that 
Galileo's predecessors, in order to avoid shocking existing 
prejudices, had taken some pains to represent the notion of 
the earth's motion, not as a true account of what actually 
takes place, but as a mathematical fiction imagined for the 
more convenient calculation of the places of the heavenly 
bodies. There is, you know, great virtue in an if. Theo- 
logians insisted on saying, without contradiction, that the 
earth does not move; but they had no objection to allow 
mathematicians to amuse themselves with the problem, If 
the earth and the planets went round the sun, what appear- 
ances would the heavens, on that hypothesis, present ? * 
Galileo found that the answer to that question was, Exactly 
the appearances which we observe now ; while, on the con- 
trary, the observed appearances were not explained by the 
older theory. He could not then resist the conviction that 
the Copernican doctrine of the earth's motion was no mere 
mathematical fiction, but the absolute truth. 

Holding this belief, how could he acquiesce in the con- 
clusion that the Bible teaches the direct contrary ? From the 
language used by Roman Catholic writers one would imagine 
that Galileo had attempted to establish the earth's motion by 
an array of Bible texts, and to prove that the opposite doc- 
trine was an anti-Scriptural heresy. Far from this, all he 
contended for was toleration for his own belief. He only 
endeavoured to make out that there was nothing in the Bible 
that forbade him to believe that the earth moved. And 
unless he imagined that the same thing could be scientifically 

* If the reader will remember that a hypothetical proposition is a 
proposition with an if in it, it will preserve him from common mis- 
conceptions as to the meaning of the permission to mathematicians to 
discuss the earth's motion if they treated it only as a hypothesis. 
Thus, a respectable Roman Catholic writer tells us that Galileo would 
not have been interfered with if, instead of treating Copernicanism 
as if it were absolute truth, he had offered it only as a 'probable 
hypothesis.' The writer seems to imagine that Galileo might have 
taught Copernicanism if he had admitted that the evidence for it fell 
short of demonstration. But the Roman authorities declared that 
Copernicanism was directly contrary to Scripture; and they denied 
(see p. 241 infra) that a doctrine directly contrary to Scripture could 
be in any sense probable. What they were willing to permit was, 
the tracing the mathematical consequences of a supposition not 
asserted to have any reality. 


true and theologically false, how was it possible for him, who 
believed that nothing false is taught as an article of faith in 
the Scriptures, when he had come to believe that the doctrine 
that the earth does not move is false, to avoid asserting that 
the doctrine that the earth is at rest is not taught in the Bible 
as an article of faith ? Nothing is so puzzling as a real love 
of truth to people who are not possessed of it themselves. 
The good old orthodox theologians of Galileo's day could 
not imagine what motive the philosopher could have for per- 
sisting in saying that it was the earth which went round the 
sun, and not the sun which went round the earth. That he 
should say so, merely because he was convinced it was true, 
was quite beyond their comprehension. It must be from 
love of opposition, from a wish to insult them, from sheer 
obstinacy, from self-conceit, or some other unworthy motive. 
And similar blindness to the claims of truth, and to the 
obligations which it imposes, is exhibited by the Roman 
Catholic apologists of the present day, who cry out against 
Galileo's imprudence and hot-headed meddling with theo- 
logical questions. Surely more true zeal for the honour of 
Scripture was shown by Galileo, when he reasoned that the 
doctrine which he knew to be false could not be the doctrine 
of Scripture, than was shown by those ecclesiastics who were 
angry with him because he would not allow them, without 
remonstrance, to stake the credit of Scripture on the main- 
tenance of an utterly false philosophy; and who, if allowed 
to have their own way, would have done as much injury to 
the reputation of the Bible as they have done to the doctrine 
of the infallibility of the Church of Rome. 

I return now to the history. When Galileo's letter was 
brought under the notice of the Roman Inquisition there was 
great unwillingness to deal harshly with the philosopher, 
who was then at the height of his reputation, and who had 
many and powerful friends at Rome itself, where he had 
recently exhibited his telescope, amid general admiration. 
Now, in every criminal trial there are two questions a 
question of law, and a question of fact. In the case of a 
trial for heresy, the question of fact is, What are the words 
which the accused person has spoken or written ? the question 


of law is whether these words contain heresy. The practice 
of the Inquisition is only to deal directly with the question 
of fact; while the question of law is referred to a special 
Board of skilled theologians, under the title of Qualifiers, 
their business being to state the quaUty of the propositions 
submitted to them, and in particular whether or not they are 
heretical. Now, the Inquisition was able to pronounce 
Galileo's acquittal on the question of fact. The document 
submitted to them only purported to be a copy of a letter 
written by Galileo : where was the original ? It could not 
be produced. No doubt, if the Inquisitors had been male- 
volently disposed, they might have resorted to such further 
inquiry as would either have brought the letter home to 
Galileo, or at least would have proved that it truly expressed 
his sentiments. But they were content, in the absence of 
positive evidence, to pronounce a verdict of Not Guilty ; only 
they took care that the verdict should be, Not Guilty, but 
don't do it again. 

They obtained a report from their ' qualifiers,' which ran 
in the following terms : 

(1) The proposition that the sun is the centre of the world, 
and immoveable from its place, is absurd, philosophically 
false, and formally heretical, because it is expressly contrary 
to Holy Scripture. 

(2) The proposition that the earth is not the centre of the 
world, nor immoveable, but that it moves, and also with a 
diurnal motion, is also absurd, philosophically false, and 
theologically considered at least erroneous in faith. 

Galileo was not required to make abjuration, or to do 
penance, because he had not been convicted of heresy; but, 
by order of the Holy Office, Cardinal Bellarmine summoned 
him before him, and admonished him in the name of the 
Pope and of the Holy Office, under pain of imprisonment, 
that he must give up the opinion that the sun is the centre of 
the world and immoveable, and that the earth moves, and 
must not hold, teach it, or defend it either by word or writ- 
ing; otherwise proceedings would be taken against him in 
the Holy Office. Galileo submitted, and promised to obey. 

But it was not enough that Galileo should be personally 


warned against holding the heliocentric theory of the uni- 
verse ; the whole world must be similarly instructed ;* and 
this was done by another tribunal. On March 5th, 1616, the 
Congregation of the Index, a Committee of Cardinals ap- 
pointed by the Pope for the prevention of the circulation ot 
dangerous books, published the following decree : 

' Since it has come to the knowledge of this Holy Con- 
gregation that the false Pythagorean doctrine, altogether 
opposed to the Divine Scripture, of the mobility of the earth, 
and the immobility of the sun, which Nicolas Copernicus, in 
his work, De revolutioriibus orbium caelestium, and Didacus 
a Stunica, in his Commentary on Job, teach, is being pro- 
mulgated and accepted by many, as may be seen from a 
printed letter of a certain Carmelite Father (Foscarini), 
entitled, &c., wherein the said Father has attempted to show 
that the said doctrine is consonant to truth, and not opposed 
to Holy Scripture ; therefore, lest this opinion insinuate itself 
further to the damage of Catholic truth, this Congregation 
has decreed that the said books, Copernicus De revolutioni- 
bus, and Stunica on Job, be suspended till they are corrected, 
but that the book of Foscarini the Carmelite be altogether 
prohibited and condemned, and all other books that teach 
the same thing.' 

You might understand, from what I have said before, the 
kind of correction with which the book of Copernicus might 
be tolerated. But we have direct evidence in a later ' moni- 
tum ' published by the Congregation four years later. It 
states that it had been deemed necessary to prohibit the 
book of Copernicus because it ventures to state, not by way of 
hypothesis, but as actual truth, propositions concerning the 
motion of the earth, repugnant to the Holy Scripture and 
to its true and Catholic interpretation, a thing by no means 
to be tolerated in any Christian man. But, since the works 
of Copernicus are in other respects useful, permission for 
their circulation is given, provided every passage where the 
motion of the earth is asserted as a fact is altered so as to 

* The publication by papal authority of the decision of the ' quali- 
fiers ' in Galileo's case will be mentioned presently. 


indicate that this is merely an assumption made by the 
author. And then a detailed list is given of the necessary 

While speaking of the Congregation of the Index, I may 
mention that it continued its war on the Copernican theory 
for about two centuries. The Index of 1704 contains the 
comprehensive prohibition, ' all books that teach the mo- 
bility of the earth or the immobility of the sun.' A striking 
proof that this prohibition did not remain a dead letter is af- 
forded by the preface to what is commonly called the Jesuits 'f 
edition of Newton's Principia. Whether apprehensive that 
their own book might be placed on the Index, and its sale 
forbidden, or that they might suffer in some other way for 
the publication of a book so plainly teaching the mobility of 
the earth, they tender in the preface the following apology : 

' Newton, in this third book, supposes the motion of the 
earth. We could not explain the author's propositions other- 
wise than by making the same supposition. We are therefore 
forced to sustain a character which is not our own ; but we 

* I may as well here add a caution against a common confusion 
between Prohibitory and Expurgatory Indexes. The object of the 
Prohibitory Index is obvious enough, namely, to warn the faithful 
against mischievous books ; and of course to such warnings full 
publicity was given. But cases might arise, such as that which has 
now come before us, where a book in the main innocent, or even 
useful, was in places disfigured by some erroneous teaching. The 
possessors of such books were mercifully permitted to use them, pro- 
vided they first gave them up to the Inquisitors in order to have them 
returned to them with the faulty matter expunged. The Expurgatory 
Indexes contained directions what passages were to be thus blotted 
out. But it is plain that these directions must be reserved for the 
private use of those who were to make the corrections ; for if an 
Expurgatory Index got into general circulation, it would evidently be 
infinitely more mischievous than the books themselves, all whose bad 
passages it would present in a concentrated form. The attempts, 
however, to keep such Indexes secret were not quite successful. 
Some fell into the hands of Protestants, who naturally triumphed on 
discovering that in some instances genuine sayings of Fathers were 
directed to be expunged because they had too Protestant a sound. 

A copy of De la Bigne's Library of the Fathers, contained in our 
Library, has undergone this expurgation, the certificate of which is to 
be found in the beginning of the second volume. The faulty passages 
in some cases have paper pasted over them, in others are blotted out 
with a pen. The shelf -mark is GG. e. 5-8. The expurgations will be 
found to be those directed in Quiroga's Index, the shelf -mark of 
which is N. f. 37. 

t The editors were really members of a different religious order. 


profess to pay the obsequious reverence which is due to the 
decrees pronounced by the sovereign Pontiffs against the 
motion of the earth.' 

I cannot help observing, in passing, how the despotic 
system of the Church of Rome inevitably leads to scepticism. 
No one can trust his neighbour, or be sure that he really be- 
lieves the doctrine which he professes. No one can believe 
that the authors of the very intelligent commentary on New- 
ton's Principia, to which this advertisement was prefixed, 
did in their hearts pay more reverence to the decrees of the 
supreme Pontiff against the motion of the earth than the 
earth pays to them herself ; and when we have such a striking 
proof how Roman Catholic divines will, in order to pre- 
serve external unity, deny their most certain convictions, 
what value can we attribute to the submission made to the 
decrees of the Vatican Council by men who had given good 
proof of their falsity ? nay, what certainty have we that any 
Roman Catholic really believes what he says about Purga- 
tory or Transubstantiation, not to speak of a disputed doc- 
trine like the Immaculate Conception, or the sanction that 
bishops and priests have given to such a tale as that of La 
Salette ? 

These prohibitions continued in force for a century longer. 
At the beginning of the present century the astronomer 
Lalande, made great exertions at Rome to have the names 
of Galileo, Copernicus, and Foscarini, removed from the 
Index; but in vain. Accordingly, the Index for 1828 con- 
tains the names of these three culprits; but the prohibition 
against all books teaching the mobility of the earth was 
quietly dropped out of the later editions of the Index. It was 
only on the accession of Gregory XVI., the predecessor of 
Pius IX., that the important step was taken, and the attempt 
to insist on believing in the immobility of the earth was 
finally abandoned. For the first time for some two hundred 
years an index of prohibited books was published, in which 
no confession of previous error was made, but the names of 
Galileo, Copernicus, and Foscarini, were silently withdrawn,. 
Even then there were some at the Papal Court who regarded 
this as a weak-minded concession to modern prejudice. I 


remember well how common it was in Roman Catholic 
periodicals to see the Newtonian theory of gravitation spoken 
of as if it were a temporary scientific fashion, likely as time 
went on to blow over. I remember that when Cardinal 
Cullen came over here it was asserted that he had committed 
himself as an Anti-Copernican. Mr. St. George Mivart 
quotes a priest now living, a head of a college, as saying, 
' How glorious it would be if it should turn out after all that 
the sun does move round the earth, and that the Church had 
been all the time in the right.' But if the race of Anti- 
Copernicans is not yet extinct,* their better instructed 
Roman Catholic friends are now ashamed of them, and at the 
present day those of them who discuss the case of Galileo do 
not venture to deny the scientific truth of that philosopher's 
doctrines, but offer other apologies, the value of which I 
will consider presently. 

* The occasion of my article in the Contemporary Review (referred 
to, page 215) was, that I happened to come across a periodical 
published in Paris by the Abbe Cloquet, which claimed for itself an 
immense circulation, and the main object of which, number after 
number, was to denounce the Copernican theory, and to accuse of 
heresy those of his ecclesiastical superiors who countenanced a doctrine 
condemned by the highest authority in his Church. The circulation 
of such a periodical in our own day appeared to me so very curious a 
phenomenon, that I could not help speaking of it, nor did I see any 
need for refusing to put the story into print. 'But I was careful to 
state that the higher ecclesiastical authorities in France, far from 
sympathizing with Cloquet's teaching, were making every effort to 
put it down. In fact Cloquet was putting dangerous weapons into 
the hands of those enemies, not only of the Roman Church, but of 
Christianity, who desired to exclude that Church from all share in the 
education of the people. The spectacle of priests disobedient to their 
bishops is not unknown in our own Church ; and it was with some 
surprise, but with real sympathy, that I saw that our neighbours' 
discipline was not as perfect as I had imagined it to be. 

Father Ryder accuses me of bad taste in doing something like 
'making play with a tipsy priest.' I have never heard that there was 
any impeachment on Cloquet's moral character, and I rather think 
Father Ryder does not mean to bring any. I take the phrase 'tipsy 
priest' to be merely a specimen of controversial logic. Insubordination 
is wrong, tipsiness is wrong, therefore when you mean an insubordinate 
person you may speak of a tipsy one, if thereby greater odium can be 
cast on an opponent. Insubordination is most excusable when a 
private disobeys his captain's orders, because he knows that these 
orders are in direct opposition to the orders given the captain by the 
colonel. Cloquet clearly proved that he had that excuse ; for no one 
who, like him, is quite free from the modern prejudice that in matters 
of science philosophers know better than popes, can doubt that the 
heliocentric theory is a condemned heresy. 


I now return to the history of Galileo. He went back to 
Florence much disheartened at the condemnation of the 
Copernican doctrines, but professing outward submission to 
the Papal decisions. It would be unreasonable to suppose 
that he accepted them in his heart; and we cannot help re- 
garding as ironical some of the language he used. Thus, for 
instance, in a tract which he published on the motions of 
comets, he says : ' Since the motion attributed to the earth, 
\vhich I, as a pious and Catholic person, consider most false 
and not to exist, accommodates itself so well as to explain so 
many and such different phenomena, I shall not feel sure but 
that, false as it is, it may not just as deludingly correspond 
with the phenomena of comets.' He preserved the same 
verbal conformity to the commands of his superiors in the 
work which he published in 1632, which was the cause of his 
subsequent troubles. He gave it the form of a dialogue, 
which enabled him to state the arguments on both sides 
without committing himself to an adoption of either ; and he 
said that he proposed to discuss the Copernican system as a 
mere mathematical hypothesis, and to show, not its absolute 
truth, but its authority to some bad arguments by which it 
had been assailed. The disguise, however, was found to be a 
little too thin. Johnson said that when he reported the speeches 
in Parliament he to'ok care that the Whig dogs should not get 
the best of it ; and certainly the Anti-Copernicans did not get 
the best of it in Galileo's report. Their advocate was felt by 
the reader to be no very wise person : 'un sciocco' he was called 
by the Papal reporters on the dialogue. And what made the 
matter worse, it is said that the Pope (Urban VIII) recognized 
in the arguments put into the mouth of this silly speaker some 
which he had formerly used himself in discussion with Galileo. 
So the sale of the dialogue was forbidden, and a summons was 
served on Galileo ordering him to appear before the Inquisi- 
tion at Rome. He made every effort to escape obedience, 
pleading inability to undertake the journey (a more formid- 
able business then than now), on account of his age (he was 
seventy), and the bad state of his health, and asking for at 
least a reprieve. His excuses were not accepted by the Pope, 
who said he might come in a litter if he pleased ; but come 


he must. The Florentine Inquisitor visited Galileo, and found 
him confined to his bed, and professing himself unable to 
take the journey in his then state of health. A certificate 
was forwarded, signed by three of the most eminent medical 
men in Florence, to the effect that Galileo was suffering from 
hernia, and could not be moved without danger to his life. 
The answer from the Inquisition was, that if he did not come, 
the Pope and the Holy Office would send down a commissary 
and a physician of their own, whose expenses would have to 
be defrayed at Galileo's cost. If they should find him able 
to travel they were at once to deprive him of his liberty, and 
send him up in irons ; if they should find that the move 
would involve danger of life, they were to send him up 
bound and in irons as soon as the danger was over. 

Under this persuasion Galileo was induced to face the 
journey to Rome, where he met with as much indulgence as 
the rules of the Inquisition permitted. Until personal ex- 
amination was necessary, he was allowed to lodge in the 
Florentine ambassador's palace, but on condition that he was 
to observe strict seclusion, and receive the visits of none but 
intimate friends When personal examination was necessary, 
the three or four weeks he spent within the walls of the 
Inquisition were not passed in any close or unwholesome 
dungeon, but in the apartments of the Fiscal of the Inquisi- 
tion, where the attendance of his own servant was allowed 
him. Even this mitigated confinement had an unfavourable 
effect on his health. 

The result of the trial is well known. Galileo pleaded in vain 
that he had not infringed the injunction laid on him by defend- 
ing an opinion already condemned, and the condemnation of 
which had been made known to him. When he urged that 
he had left the question undetermined, and had only discussed 
the probability of the Copernican hypothesis, he was told that 
therein he had committed a grave error, for that an opinion 
can in no manner be probable which has already been declared 
and defined to be contrary to the Divine Scriptures. The 
Inquisitors were certainly justified by the evidence when they 
arrived at the conclusion that there were very strong grounds 
for suspecting that Galileo held the heretical doctrine of the 


earth's motion, and also the heresy that an opinion can be 
held and defended as probable after it has been declared and 
defined to be contrary to Holy Scripture. Accordingly, in 
order to remove from the minds of all Catholic Christians 
this vehement suspicion legitimately conceived against him, 
he was ordered to swear that with a sincere heart and faith 
unfeigned he abjured, cursed, and detested the above-named 
and all other heresies ; and to swear further that for the 
future he would not assert, either by word of mouth or in 
writing, anything to bring upon him similar suspicion. And 
in order that his grave and pernicious error might not remain 
altogether unpunished, that he might be more cautious for 
the future, and be an example to others to abstain from 
offences of this sort, his book was prohibited by public edict ; 
he was condemned to the prisons of the Holy Office during 
the Pope's pleasure, and was commanded for three weeks to 
recite the seven Penitential Psalms once a week. 

Galileo made his abjuration accordingly, but for the re- 
maining eight or nine years of his life never completely 
recovered his liberty; for though his confinement was as 
little disagreeable as such a thing could be, he was never 
permitted to have quite free intercourse with his friends. He 
was for five months a guest with the Archbishop of Siena ; 
afterwards, when his residence in a city was thought to lead 
to a mischievous propagation of his opinions, he was allowed 
to reside in his own country-house, a little distance from 
Florence, but not to occupy his house in that city. He must 
remain in solitude, and neither invite nor receive guests for 
conference. When he asked special permission to go to 
Florence for medical advice, he was told that if he was 
troublesome the liberty he already enjoyed would be taken 
from him. At length he was once allowed to go. He was not 
permitted either to reprint his old books, or to print new 
ones. When he died, his power to make a will was disputed, 
and the question was raised whether his body might be placed 
in consecrated ground. That was decided in his favour; 
but when the Grand Duke proposed to raise a marble monu- 
ment to him, he received a message from the Pope that such 
an intention, if carried out, would be most pernicious, and 


that he must remember that Galileo during his life had caused 
scandal to all Christendom by his false and damnable doctrine. 

In considering Romanist apologies for the treatment of 
Galileo, I have chiefly in view one of the ablest, published in 
the Clifton Tracts in 1854, and founded on two articles, one 
in the Dublin Review for July, 1838, the other in the 
Rambler for January, 1852. 

The apologist's first topic is the leniency shown to Galileo 
by the Inquisition, and therefore I have been careful to make 
due mention of the instances of their indulgence. If you 
should ever be in the wrong, and really deserve a scolding, 
the most approved method of getting out of the scrape is to 
wait until those who have good reason to be angry with you 
make use in their wrath of some unadvisedly strong expres- 
sions. Then it is your turn : you may raise an outcry at the 
undeserved imputations that have been cast on you ; exag- 
gerate as much as possible the reproaches that have been 
heaped upon you ; and if you play your part well the original 
offence may be forgotten, and you may pass yourself off suc- 
cessfully as the aggrieved party. This is the common method 
of Roman Catholic apologists for "their Church on points on 
which her doctrines or her actions have excited prejudice 
against her. Their plan is to commence the reply with a 
highly-coloured account of the hard things Protestants have 
said against them ; and then by way of contrast to produce 
the maligned doctrine with everything offensive kept care- 
fully in the background, so as to enlist the reader's sympa- 
thies on the side of injured innocence, and make him wonder 
that anything so harmless should be assailed by such malig- 
nant misrepresentations. 

Thus the article to which I now refer begins by informing 
us that Protestants (we are not told who) had asserted that 
Galileo had been kept for five years in the dungeons of the 
Inquisition, that he had been put on the rack, that his eyes 
had been put out by the cruel Inquisitors ; whereas, his pen- 
ance had been nothing more than the recital of the Peniten- 
tial Psalms once a week, and his place of imprisonment only 
the Dominican Convent, where the officers of the Inquisition 
themselves resided, or the ' delightful palace ' of the Tuscan 


ambassador at Rome, and finally Galileo's country-place near 
Florence. The account I have given you of the restrictions 
under which he suffered, and which destroyed the happiness 
of the last years of his life, will have shown you that this 
author's rose-coloured picture is as far from the truth as 
the Protestant exaggerations which he quotes, and that the 
'tender mercies' of the Inquisition are sufficiently cruel. 

Let us suppose, for example, that the Archbishop of 
Canterbury had taken it into his head that the great tele- 
scope made by our former Chancellor, the late Lord Rosse, 
was dangerous to the Christian faith; suppose that our 
astronomer was compelled to go over to London to answer for 
his heresies ; that no plea of age or ill-health was allowed to 
excuse him from the journey; that he was there obliged to 
observe the strictest seclusion; and that after some months' 
delay there, when eventually allowed to return home, he was 
ordered to consider himself a prisoner in his own house at 
Parsonstown ; that there he was forbidden to publish scien- 
tific books, or to hold conference with men of science, and 
that he asked in vain for permission to come up to Dublin 
for medical advice. Let us suppose all this, and what should 
we say of the clergyman who should set up for such treat- 
ment such a defence as this : To be sure, the offence of the 
heretical telescope was one which could not be overlooked ; 
but then consider how mildly he was treated. He was not 
put into a dungeon with common felons, but allowed to 
occupy in the prison the Governor's own private apartments ; 
he was not kept in jail for five years ; we did not put him on 
tjie rack ; and, above all, we did not put out his eyes ! 

Although I accept the statement that Galileo was not put 
on the rack, it is right to mention that the point has been 
contested. It appears from the sentence on Galileo that his 
answers not being thought satisfactory, it was deemed neces- 
sary to proceed to a ' rigoroso esame,' and I think it is 
sufficiently proved that in the language of the Inquisition this 
phrase meant an examination in which torture might be used. 
Torture was an established method with the Inquisition. It 
was used in secular courts at the time, and the Inquisition 
considered that they were less able than other courts to dis- 


petise with it, because the offence of heresy being a secret 
one, residing in the mind alone, and therefore one which an 
accused person could easily deny, special means were neces- 
sary to elicit his real opinions. In the case, however, of 
children and very old persons a minor form of torture was 
commonly used, that of threatening torture; and accused 
persons in the hands of the Inquisition had good reason to 
take such threats very seriously. There is clear evidence that 
torture was threatened in Galileo's case ; but as far as I can 
judge, not good reason to think that it was actually used. 
But the point seems to me of quite small importance. The 
opinion expressed in Galileo's abjuration, that the doctrine 
of the earth's motion was false, was certainly not that with 
which he had entered the walls of the Inquisition ; and the 
arguments which induced him to express a change of mind 
were certainly not addressed to his intellect. Put the question 
of torture aside; and still Galileo was informed that the 
opinion which he really held had been pronounced heretical, 
and that if he again taught it, he would be treated as a re- 
lapsed heretic. Translating this into English, it meant that 
if he were dealt mildly with, the result would be lifelong im- 
prisonment; if the law were fully carried out, he must be 
burned alive, as Giordano Bruno and others had been. 
The ecclesiastical authorities at the time, no doubt, thought 
they had gained a triumph when they obtained Galileo's 
abjuration; but that abjuration remains their lasting dis- 
grace, because it could only have been obtained by means 
which it was a disgrace to use. If I had time to discuss with 
you the question of the propriety of torturing and burning 
heretics, I should add another to the list of papal errors ; and 
an error is not less an error though he who falls into it may 
be able to produce companions in his mistake, and to cite 
respectable authorities who led him into it. 

The question, however, whether or not the Inquisitors 
dealt mildly with Galileo is irrelevant to the subject of this 
lecture. What we are concerned with is, Did the Inquisitors, 
acting under the Pope's authority, and with his personal 
concurrence, oblige Galileo to profess belief in what we now 
know to be false j and ;f so, how can Infallibility be 


for an authority guilty of such a prodigious blunder? Our 
apologist contends that it was right to require a retractation, 
because the scientific arguments by which Galileo supported 
his opinion were not as good as have been since obtained on 
the same side ; and that his doctrine being likely to prejudice 
in men's minds their respect for the Bible, he might properly 
be called on to condemn and renounce it, and declare it to 
be ' false in the sense of unproved.' 

False in the sense of unproved ! The apologist must have 
counted on readers ignorant of the English language. He 
might nearly as well have said, ' False in the sense of true.' 
Who can be persuaded that to declare a doctrine to be ab- 
surd, false, and expressly contrary to Holy Scripture, means 
no more than that the arguments which support it fall short 
of demonstration ? Besides, it would be for astronomers, not 
for theologians, to judge whether the scientific arguments by 
which Galileo supported his views amounted to demonstra- 
tion or not. If theologians undertook to find fault with 
arguments which men of science have since found to be 
abundantly conclusive, they were justly punished for 'poking 
their nose into other people's business.' But they made no 
.such mistake. The tribunal of the Inquisition never dreamed 
of setting itself up as an authority for pronouncing on the 
progress of science. In knowledge of the science of astro- 
nomy they must have been perfectly well aware that Galileo 
was infinitely their superior. What they thought they did 
know better than he was how to interpret Scripture. It was 
as theologians they interfered ; and interfered, as we now 
know, wrongly. And indeed how could science ever have 
come to its present state if they could have had their way ? 
Every good Catholic was forbidden even to read a book which 
taught the mobility of the earth. You might find something 
to say in defence of an attempt to silence an ignorant person 
who, without any real knowledge, had scoffingly asserted the 
mobility of the earth, only in order to bring the authority of 
Scripture into contempt; but nothing to justify an attempt 
to suppress the respectful investigations of the most eminent 
man of science of the day. 

I have just said that the Inquisitors did not claim to know 


more about scientific arguments than Galileo, but that they 
did claim to know better than he how to interpret Scripture. 
Yet it turns out now that, with regard to the interpretation 
of Scripture, Galileo was right, and they were wrong. The 
condemnation of Galileo has been a good deal discussed with 
reference to the question of the Pope's personal infallibility. 
You will see now that it cuts much deeper, and affects the 
question of the Church's infallibility speaking by no matter 
what organ. The Council of Trent declared that it is the 
province of Holy Mother Church to judge of the true sense 
and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. Now there are 
many texts of Scripture which we hold that the Roman 
Church interprets wrongly ; but we have no means of forcing 
her to own that we are right and she wrong. We have the 
means in the case of such texts as 'He hath made the round 
world so fast that it cannot be moved.' From such texts it 
was inferred in the sixteenth century that the physical fact 
fo the immobility of the earth was a revealed truth. Everyone 
entitled to speak on behalf of 'Holy Mother Church' asserted 
it. If general consent, universal long tradition, absence of 
opposing view, can prove any interpretation of Scripture to 
be lawfully imposed by the head of the Church, this certainly 
was so. And yet it has now to be confessed that that inter- 
pretation was wrong. It must be owned, therefore, that 
whatever respect the Church may claim when she interprets 
Scripture, she is not infallible, and that the Church of a more 
learned age may wisely review and correct the decisions of 
its predecessors. 

Yes; but it will be said that the Church's infallibility 
when she interprets Scripture is limited to questions of faith 
and morals, and that the question of the earth's mobility 
is not one of faith. But this is to accuse the heads of the 
Church in Galileo's time of a far graver mistake. It is surely 
a less error to decide a question that belongs to your province 
wrongly, than not to know what belongs to your province, 
and what does not. If modern apologists are right, the 
Church in Galileo's time not only was wrong in pronounc- 
ing it to be a heresy to hold that the earth went round the 
sun, but was utterly wrong in imagining that either of the 


opinions the sun goes round the earth, or the earth goes 
round the sun, possibly could be heresy, the whole subject 
being outside the domain with which faith has to deal. On 
the contrary, the Church in Galileo's time held that it was of 
faith to maintain the absolute correctness of everything as- 
serted in express words of Scripture, and that the doctrine of 
the earth's fixity was so asserted. Some parts of Scripture, 
dealing directly with faith or morals, are eminently dog- 
matical, and are spoken of as scripta propter se; other parts 
are only dogmatic per accidens; but the Church has taught 
that all are alike inspired. But, in any case, no loyal mem- 
ber of the Roman Church is justified in raising the question 
whether, in Galileo's case, she went out of her province. It 
is for the Church to ascertain the limits of her own powers. 
How could she condemn any heresy, if it was open to the 
accused person to deny the Church's jurisdiction altogether 
with regard to the question in dispute? The truth is, that 
modern Roman apologists have fallen into a condemned 
heresy themselves. For I have already told you that one of 
the heresies condemned in the sentence on Galileo was ' that 
an opinion can be held and defended as probable after it has 
been declared and defined to be contrary to Holy Scripture ' ; 
and the doctrine of the earth's mobility was so declared and 

It remains to discuss how the condemnation of Galileo 
directly affects the question of Papal Infallibility. It is cer- 
tain that the decrees of the Inquisition and of the Congrega- 
tion of the Index expressed the sentiments of the individual 
Pope who was the prime mover in the whole business, and 
who even personally presided at some of the meetings. But 
on various pleas it has been contended that the tribunal 
which published the decrees was not the Pope speaking 
infallibly. That he did not speak infallibly then we need 
not dispute; but if he did not speak infallibly then, it will 
be impossible to know that he ever speaks infallibly.* 

*The Rev. W. W. Roberts (see Guardian, Aug. 10, 17, 1887, and 
his work, Pontifical Decrees against the Motion of the Earth), has 
collected some instances from the pontificate of the late Pope Pius IX. , 
in which decisions to which the Pope was less directly committed than 


But before discussing any of these pleas, let me say that 
if they were successful they would only transfer the present 
instance from the subject of the present lecture, ' The Blun- 
ders of the Infallible Guide/ to that of the preceding lecture, 
' The Silences of the Infallible Guide.' We have seen that 
the Popes appear to think the gift of infallibility quite too 
precious for everyday use, and that when a disputed question 
arises it is the hardest matter to obtain a decision on it from 
the infallible authority. But there are some occasions which 
would extort speech from the most taciturn of human beings ; 
and I imagine that the most silent of men might be induced 
to speak, if he saw a fellow-creature about to be severely 
punished, perhaps burned alive, in his name, and by his 
alleged authority, upon a charge of heresy which he had the 
means of infallibly knowing was no heresy at all. It cannot 
plausibly be maintained that a Church possessing an infalli- 
ble guide to secure her from heresy should appoint a special 
tribunal for the expulsion of heresy, and that that tribunal, 

in the case of Galileo, were treated as binding on all Catholics. For 
example, on February 20, 1857, the Congregation of the Index con- 
demned and prohibited certain works of a German theologian, Giinther. 
The decree contained no doctrinal statement., and gave no reason for 
the prohibition. But some of Giinther's followers being still unwilling 
to own the unsoundness of their master's tenets, the Pope wrote an 
apostolic letter to the Archbishop of Cologne, known as the Brief 
'Eximiam tuam,' in which he says : 'That decree sanctioned by our 
authority, and published by our command, plainly ought to have 
sufficed that the whole question be judged entirely settled, and that all 
who boast of the Catholic name should clearly and distinctly under- 
stand that complete obedience was to be paid to it. and that the 
doctrine contained in Giinther's works could not be accounted sound.' 
The second Papal utterance quoted by Mr. Roberts was made on the 
occasion of a meeting of German divines and men of science in the 
autumn of 1863. The Pope expressed himself dissatisfied with their 
acknowledgment that ' Catholics are to submit in all their scientific 
investigations to the dogmatic utterances of the infallible authority of 
the Church.' Not merely so, he taught the*m, 'but also to the 
decisions pertaining to doctrine that are put forth by Pontifical 
congregations, as also to those heads of doctrine which are retained by 
the common consent of Catholics as theological truths and conclusions 
so certain, that opinions adverse to the same, though they cannot be 
called heretical, yet deserve some other theo^gical censure.' A third 
instance relates to the condemnation of the teaching of a Louvain 
Professor, Ubaghs, which, though never officially made known to the 
world, was treated by Papal authority in 1866 and in 1870 as 
absolutely decisive with respect to the doctrines in question. 


acting under the very eyes of the Church's head, should be 
left in uncertainty what is or is not heresy. I have used the 
illustration of an alchemist allowing his own children to 
starve. This would be exactly verified if we were to believe 
that the Pope is infallible when he tells other people what is 
heresy, but that he is either unable or unwilling to ascer- 
tain this when it is absolutely necessary for the guidance 
of his own conduct. It is nothing less than a gross libel on 
Pope Paul V., who was Pope in 1616, to assert that he did 
not bring all the resources of his infallibility into play in the 
case of Galileo; and whatever errors we may accuse him of, 
we can honestly acquit him of this charge. 

I need not then tarry over the plea that either Paul in 
1616, or Urban in 1633, erred but only as a private doctor, 
not as a Pope speaking ex cathedra. With regard to the 
question when the Pope speaks ex cathedra, the only rational 
distinction is between his official and non-official utterances. 
We do not hold the Papacy responsible for everything Urban 
may have said in conversation to Galileo ; but in all the tran- 
sactions which I am discussing it is clear that neither Urban 
nor Paul acted as a private doctor, but as Pope. It is said, 
however, that the Pope is both teacher and governor of the 
Church, and that though infallible as teacher, he may err 
in the steps he takes as governor, for the preservation of the 
Church's discipline. But when the punishment of heresy is 
concerned, it is impossible to separate his disciplinary from 
his teaching power. It may be assumed as certain that the 
Pope would not punish a man for heresy without having first 
ascertained that the doctrine which he held was heresy ; and 
the Pope could not teach the world more distinctly that a 
certain doctrine is heretical than by setting the example of 
punishing a man for holding it. 

Neither need I linger over a plea in which some Romanists 
find much comfort, that the condemnation of Galileo does 
not contain what is called the customary clause of Papal 
confirmation at the end. We may be sure that Paul V. did 
not knowingly omit anything necessary to give validity to 
his sentence; and the fact is, that the 'custom' in question 
has come in since Paul's time, and that this clause does not 


appear in previous decrees of the Congregation of the 

Sixtus V. appointed fifteen Congregations of Cardinals, 
assigning to each its proper function, but with the limitation 
' that they refer to us all the more important and difficult 
matters under consideration.' It is now customary that the 
secretary of the Congregation should certify when a matter 
has been thus referred to the Pope ; but clearly the only im- 
portant question is whether the matter has been thus referred, 
and not whether the secretary has certified it. Such a cer- 
tificate was certainly not necessary in the case of the Holy 
Office, the highest of all the Congregations, having jurisdic- 
tion over every member of the Church of whatever rank. On 
account of its supreme importance, the Pope was wont to be 
its president, and the votes to be taken in his presence ; so 
that no important decree could go forth without having been 
first submitted to the Pope. The Pope indisputably did thus 
take part in the decision in Galileo's case. 

Assuredly Galileo and the Copernicans of his day were 
not allowed to suppose that to persist in their heresy would 
be to resist anything short of infallible wisdom. They were 
pressed with the words of the Bull of Sixtus V., by which the 
Congregation of the Index was remodelled : 'They are to 
examine and expose the books which are repugnant to the 
Catholic doctrines and Christian discipline, and after report- 
ing them to us, they are to condemn them by our authority/ 
What was done by the Inquisition in Galileo's case was not 
a mere verdict on a matter of fact on which the judges might 
pardonably go wrong, but it was the decision by the Pope's 
authority on a question of doctrine. Pope Urban made that 
decision his own by directing (in 1633) that in order that these 
things might be known to all, copies of the sentence on Gali- 
leo were to be transmitted to all Apostolic Nuncios, and all 
Inquisitors of heretical pravity, especially the Florentine 
Inquisitors. These were to summon the professors of mathe- 
matics and to read the sentence for their instruction. This 

* Mr. Roberts has not been able to find any decree of the Index 
with the clause earlier than January 17, 1729 (see HirII(iriitii),ed.'Lu'x.. 
vol. xiii., p. 380). 


sentence refers to the interference of the Congregation of the 
Index as made 'to the end that so pernicious a doctrine' as 
the Copernican 'might be altogether taken away and spread 
no further to the heavy detriment of Catholic truth.' It states 
that the Congregation was held in the Pope's presence in 
which Galileo was ordered to give up this false opinion. It 
relates that Galileo had been formally made acquainted with 
' the declaration made by our Lord the Pope, and promul- 
gated by the Sacred Congregation of the Index,' the tenor 
whereof is that the doctrine of the motion of the earth and 
the fixity of the sun is contrary to the sacred Scriptures, and 
therefore can neither be defended or held. It may be added 
that the desired Papal confirmation in express terms was 
given by a later Pope, Alexander VII., in 1664, who repub- 
lished and confirmed the previous decrees with the words, 
' Cum omnibus et singulis in eo contentis, auctoritate Apos- 
tolica tenore presentium confirmamus et approbamus.' I 
really recommend, therefore, Roman apologists to consider 
again whether it may not be possible to maintain that the 
sun actually does go round the earth, this being in my 
judgment quite as hopeful a line of defence as to deny that 
successive Popes officially asserted that it does. 

To conclude, then, the history of Galileo makes short work 
of the question : Is it possible for the Church of Rome 
to err in her interpretation of Scripture, or to mistake in 
what she teaches to be an essential part of the Christian 
faith ? She can err, for she has erred. She has made many 
errors more dangerous to the souls of men, but never com- 
mitted any blunder more calculated to throw contempt on 
her pretensions in the minds of all thinking men, than when 
she persisted for about two hundred years in teaching that it 
was the doctrine of the Bible, and therefore an essential part 
of the Catholic faith, that the earth stands still, and that the 
sun and planets revolve daily around it. 

Since this lecture was written, a couple of articles on this 
subject have been published by Mr. St. George Mivart (Nine- 
teenth Century, July, 1885, July, 1887), of which a very brief 
notice will suffice. Mr. Mivart professes to be a Roman 


Catholic, but he is fortunate that he did not live two hundred 
years ago, for if he had then expressed the views he holds now, 
the Pope, if he had him in his power, would certainly have 
punished him severely as a contumacious heretic of the worst 
kind. The Church of Rome changes so much, that what was 
heretical two hundred years ago may be quite orthodox now, 
and possibly Mr. Mivart's teaching may hereafter be ac- 
cepted; but at present it is calculated to try severely the 
toleration of his ecclesiastical superiors ; and his best chance 
of escape is, that the 'Judge of controversies' will, according 
to his usual habit, abstain from pronouncing any decision on 
the questions raised by Mr. Mivart, until the controversy 
comes to settle itself. Such forbearance is all the more likely, 
because times have so changed with the Roman Church that 
she is now glad on any terms to have the credit of having 
men of science in her communion, and is willing, therefore, 
to let them say what they like. It does not commit her au- 
thority, and may retain waverers of a scientific turn of mind. 
Mr. Mivart throws overboard, as any man of common 
sense would, the subterfuges by which it had been at- 
tempted to deny that the highest ecclesiastical authorities 
were distinctly pledged to the condemnation of Galileo. 
He says that it has now been ascertained that what is 
declared by authoritative congregations to be opposed to 
the teaching of Scripture, of the holy Fathers, and of 
antecedent ecclesiastical tribunals, concerning a matter of 
science, may nevertheless be true. His inference is that 
Roman Catholic men of science may pursue their investiga- 
tions regardless of any judgment ecclesiastical tribunals may 
pronounce on them, it having been proved by the voice of 
history that it is not to ecclesiastical congregations, but to 
men of science, that God has committed the elucidation of 
scientific questions. The freedom thus happily gained for 
astronomical science, he concludes, extends to all science, 
geology, biology, sociology, political economy, history, and 
Biblical criticism ; in short to whatever comes within the 
reach of human inductive research and is capable of verifi- 
cation. This may be very good doctrine, but it strikes me 
that it is Protestant and not Roman Catholic doctrine. 


Mr. Mivart, however, is only a Protestant as far as re- 
gards the subjects in which he himself takes an interest. 
He has given much attention to biology, and is an 
authority on that subject, so he claims for himself perfect 
freedom. He takes much interest in Biblical criticism, and 
would have no scruple in accepting the most advanced 
speculations which German rationalists have made con- 
cerning the Old Testament, which he imagines are in the 
main correct, though they may have been pushed to un- 
justifiable extremes. As far as the Roman Catholic laity 
are concerned, they are commonly so little acquainted with 
Scripture, that he would not be surprised if some of them 
were even disposed to chuckle over a disproof of the Bible's 
truth, as being a matter likely to 'dish' the Protestants, and 
so make their own religious position more secure. But he 
perceives that better instructed Roman Catholics would feel 
that it would dish themselves too if the Church's teaching on 
so important a question, from her foundation until now, was 
proved to be mistaken. He seems to be ignorant that the 
Vatican Council has asserted the inspiration of Scripture in 
a way that cannot be reconciled with the speculations of 
which I speak. But he confesses the reluctance that Roman 
Catholic divines would feel to adopting conclusions opposed 
to a unanimous consensus of theologians, and to the ordinary 
teaching of the Church, which has constantly appealed to 
Scripture for proof of her doctrines. He however urges that 
the basis of doctrines may be taken away and the structure 
remain unharmed. Are not the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals 
now given up as spurious by all learned men, but the system 
of doctrines founded on them remains ? Do we not now 
know that the arguments used at many Councils are utterly 
bad, but the conclusions obtained by these arguments remain 
in full force? This reads like sarcasm, but I imagine that 
Mr. Mivart has written it in all sincerity. 

It is not iny business now to discuss all the questions 
raised by Mr. Mivart. I am only concerned with the ques- 
tion of infallibility; and I see no good reason why on this 
subject Mr. Mivart should only go half way towards Pro- 
testantism. He claims a right to disregard the instructions 


of his infallible guide on every subject capable of verification, 
but he implies that he is ready to accept those instructions 
if no verification be possible. This is much the same as if 
we were to say to a traveller who had told us some marvellous 
tales, I cannot believe what you have told us about France, 
Portugal, and North America, because I have been there, 
and I know that what you have told us is a pack of lies ; but 
I will believe with all my heart everything you have said 
about China and Japan, because I have never been in these 
countries, and therefore cannot contradict you. Mr. Mivart 
ought to remember that there are other sciences besides 
those in which he himself takes an interest ; such as the 
science of history, and especially of the history of dogma. 
Let him take the word of those who have studied these 
matters, that on many of the questions on which Roman 
Catholics differ from Protestants, the teaching of the Church 
of Rome is as opposed to the testimony of facts as the old 
theory which Galileo overturned. Had we not a parallel 
case to Galileo's the other day when an expert, von Dollinger, 
was excommunicated because he would not accept a con- 
clusion which the voice of history condemns ? Whenever 
Mr. Mivart sees -his way to give the human mind not a par- 
tial but complete freedom, the dispute with him concerning 
the infallibility of the Church is at an end. 

The Rev. Sydney F. Smith has published in The Month 
(March 1890) what purports to be an answer to lectures xi-xiv, 
but which is really an abandonment of the whole case. In 
these lectures I had contrasted the professed doctrine of the 
Roman Church about Papal Infallibility with the actual 
working of the Roman System. Mr. Smith admits that I 
have correctly described that actual working ; but he contends 
that the supposed inconsistency only arises from my having 
made a ' heedless misconception ' of their doctrine. With 
regard to the practice of his Church, having given a summary 
of what I had stated might have been expected from a Church 
conscious of possessing the gift of Infallibility, he proceeds : 
' It is obvious that nothing of all this has taken place ; 
and what do we find in its place? On the part of the flock, 


doctrinal differences of opinion (on points not yet covered 
by formal definition) still continuing to exist, and to grow 
fervid, and recourse had to the oracle only by the side which 
anticipates a judgment in its own favour, the other side 
meanwhile vehemently deprecating the reference, and even 
warning the Pope of the danger to the faith which may 
result from condemnation of the views it advocates ; on the 
other hand, the supreme authority itself "shrinking with the 
greatest timidity from exercising the gift of Infallibility on 
any question which had not already settled itself without its 
help." ' And then he states the difficulty he has got to 
explain : ' If there were any reality about this professed 
belief in Papal Infallibility, could there be co-existent with it 
this reluctance to see it exercised? If the Pope believed in 
it, would he delay to use a power incapable of misuse, till 
the opportunity for its useful exercise was gone by? If the 
faithful believed in it, would they not court and welcome 
decisions which would prove adverse to any previous con- 
victions of the applicants, only by furnishing the consolatory 
assurance that these convictions had been misleading, and 
by substituting the truth in their place? ' 

Mr. Smith then proceeds to correct my misconception 
of the doctrine of his Church about Infallibility, which, he 
contends, when rightly understood, is quite consistent with 
her practice. He says that I assume that they attribute the 
Infallibility which they recognize in the Pope to Inspiration, 
whereas they hold that it is due not to Inspiration but to 
Assistentia. I wish to avoid all merely verbal controversy, 
and therefore I only remark in passing that I do not use the 
word Inspiration in the same sense as he, and that I should 
give the name Inspiration to what he calls Assistentia. The 
latter word I have not been in the habit of using at all, not 
recognizing it as either Latin or English; but it appears I 
am singular in this respect, for Mr. Smith assures us that 'it 
is of common use in the circle of literature to which a Protes- 
tant student's reading is confined.' However, I take the words 
as Mr. Smith uses them. He gives the following explanation 
of them : 'Inspiration directly communicates the thoughts of 
Pod to the inspired subject, ancj impels him to deliver them 


to mankind. Assistentia, as its name implies, stands by him 
like a guide, and whilst allowing him the exercise of his 
natural faculties, guards him against error by providentially 
influencing the setting forth of the evidence before his mind, 
and causing him to see the propositions under consideration 
in their true light. The one is an impulse ; the other is an 
aid. Inspiration has the necessary effect of causing the book 
written, or the judgment delivered, to be the book or judg- 
ment of God. Assistentia leaves them in their previous quality 
of human composition, while it guarantees their declarations 
against error, by the Divine aid which it administers.' 

Now, having received this explanation, I have to declare 
that I was guilty of no misconception. I never supposed 
that Roman theory regarded the gift of Papal Infallibility to 
be of the kind which Mr. Smith ascribes to Inspiration ; but 
the amusing thing is, that it would have been far better 
for his argument if he had been able to say that my 
mistake was in ascribing the gift to Assistentia, whereas, 
according to Roman theory, it was due to Inspiration. For 
I am amazed that he had not the acuteness to perceive that 
the effect of the distinction on which he insists is simply 
to abandon an easy answer to my criticisms, and to leave 
himself completely without defence. If the pronouncing a 
decision on a controversy was solely the result of a divinely 
communicated impulse, and a thing in which the Pope's 
natural powers had no part, it were surely idle to blame him 
for silence and non-interference. He could say that he 
could only speak such words as God might be pleased to put 
into his mouth, and that he was bound to be silent until a 
Divine inspiration was communicated to him. But if the 
initiative rests with himself; that is to say, if the order of 
proceeding is, that he must first use his natural powers and 
ordinary means of informing his judgment, and then has a 
guarantee that when he publishes the result of his investiga- 
tions in an ex cathedra decision, he will be divinely secured 
from error, what but want of faith in the reality of this 
guarantee can account for his not so using his natural 
powers, when a decision is urgently needed for the appeas.- 
ing of controversies within his Church ? 


Of course I admit (as I have already done, p. 184), that 
the Pope is bound to exercise so great a trust with caution 
and deliberation, and that he is justified or rather required, 
to postpone a decision, until he has taken due means to 
inform his judgment. But still there ought to be some 
limit to such delay. It was about 400 years from the time 
that the disputes about the Immaculate Conception became 
violent, to the time when the Papal decision was pronounced. 
This seems carrying deliberation to an extreme. I have 
heard of Chancery suits which lasted till the whole property 
in dispute had been dissipated in costs. In this case, a 
decision on a controversy does not come until the contro- 
versy has died a natural death. 

The Pope has less excuse for unreasonable delay, be- 
cause, though it is, no doubt, his duty to use all proper 
human means to guide his judgment, the guarantee of 
infallibility does not depend on his having actually done so. 
It is not merely that his people would not be justified in 
rejecting his decision, on the plea that he had neglected 
to consult with learned divines, but the decision would 
really be infallibly correct, whether or no. Take the most 
important decisions of all, those made by the Pope in 
Council, and it is held that, though the parties to the 
decision may have been misled by bad arguments and de- 
ceived by forged documents, infallibility attaches to the 
decision all the same. Why, then, should the Pope hesitate, 
when the peace of the Church requires that controversies 
should be put to rest ? It occurs to every one of us to have 
occasionally to make important and difficult decisions, and 
though we have no gift of infallibility, we do not abstain 
from acting. We use all human means to inform our judg- 
ment, we implore the Divine guidance, and then act boldly 
in humble faith that our prayers will not be unanswered. 
Why, then, should the Pope, if he really believed himself 
to have a guarantee that his decisions would by special 
Divine guidance be absolutely secured from error, show 
more timidity and indecision than has been exhibited by the 
most hesitating of Lord Chancellors ? 

I have already stated one principal reason ; it has been be- 


cause even if he had faith in his own guaranteed infallibility, 
he had no confidence that his people had, and so had to con- 
sider the dangers of a schism that might result from an un- 
acceptable decision. Mr. Smith owns that distress at an ex 
cathedra decision, and unwillingness to accept it, is very in- 
consistent on the part of a 'Catholic,' and very wrong; but he 
says that 'human nature is weak.' So it is, and in this case 
belief in the Pope's infallibility must be weak, very weak, if 
not non-existent. But, then, Mr. Smith urges that this atti- 
tude of mind is not general among 'Catholics,' as testified by 
the comparative smallness of the schism caused by permanent 
non-acceptance of the late Vatican decrees. Yes, but it 
was because it was anticipated that the schism would be 
small, even smaller than it actually proved to be, that the 
Pope ventured to have those decrees passed. But in former 
days, especially since the precaution had not then been 
taken of limiting a bishop's powers, so that the Pope might 
be able, by refusing to renew his faculties, to reduce a 
refractory bishop to obedience, there is no doubt that a 
main cause of inducing the Pope to suspend his decisions, 
was the fear that his decisions would not be accepted. The 
reason expressly given for not meddling with the doctrine of 
the Immaculate Conception at Trent, was ' lest it should 
cause a schism among Catholics.' 

Mr. Smith argues that it was quite justifiable to inspire this 
fear in the mind of the Holy Father. No doubt, the moment 
an ex cathedra judgment is pronounced, a good 'Catholic' is 
bound to accept it, and thenceforth, ex animo, to believe that 
the doctrine defined in it is true. But until the judgment 
has been pronounced, he is quite free to believe, with equal 
firmness, that the doctrine proposed to be defined is false. 
He will then naturally persuade himself that a doctrine 
which he thinks he knows to be false can never receive the 
seal of Papal sanction. Providence will in some way inter- 
fere to prevent the judgment from being pronounced. If he 
can succeed (by such bullying, for example, as Bellarmine 
practised towards Pope Clement VIII.) in producing in the 
Pope's mind a belief that the pronouncing of a judgment 
would cause great evils to the Church, he may regard him- 


self as an agent whom Providence is employing to prevent 
the Church from committing herself to an erroneous decision. 
Thus, while it is owned that actually to reject an ex cathedra 
decision is inconsistent with beliefs in the Pope's Infallibility, 
it is contended that it is compatible with that belief to try to 
inspire the Pope with fear that his decision will not be 
accepted. Perhaps, now that the theory has been explained, 
it will not be so easy as formerly to inspire such fear; but 
certainly the attempt has often been successfully made, and 
those who were able to persuade the Pope that they had no 
real faith in his Infallibility have no right to complain if 
other people think so too. 

Mr. Smith barely glances at the case of Galileo. He denies 
that what he calls ' the Pythagorean doctrine * concern- 
ing the movement of the sun round the earth ' was believed 
by the Church to be an article of faith. ' The absolute 
insistency was throughout on the irrefragable authority of 
Holy Scripture, and only extended to the Pythagorean theory 
on the supposition that this was necessarily involved in the 
biblical statements.' This is an excellent illustration of the 
controversial artifice which I described (p. 63), of escaping 
the defence of an untenable position by substituting the 
defence of something that is not disputed. No one quarrelled 
with the Pope for insisting on 'the irrefragable authority of 
Scripture.' But what Mr. Smith has got to explain was, how 
infallibility can be claimed for authority which made the 
gross mistake of teaching that the doctrine of the earth's 
immobility was ' necessarily involved in the biblical state- 
ments.' If it be the province of Holy Mother Church (as 
the Council of Trent declared) to judge of the true sense and 
interpretation of Scripture, how was it that in this case, what 
Mr. Smith now owns to be the true interpretation of Scripture, 
was taught, not by the Pope or his Cardinals, not by any one 
entitled to speak on behalf of Holy Mother Church, but by a 
layman ; and how was it that the ecclesiastical authorities 
instead of gratefully adopting the right method of interpreta- 

* Though Mr. Smith does not mention Galileo by name, he got this 
phrase from an imperfect recollection of the decree of the Congrega- 
tion of the Index in his case, where it is used in the opposite sense. 


tion, rebuked their instructor for his presumption, ordered 
him to be silent, and condemned him to imprisonment for 
as long a period as the Pope might choose to detain him ? 

One word more in conclusion. Suppose that Mr. Smith 
had completely established his case, and had proved that 
Infallibility such as it exhibits itself in the actual working of 
the Church of Rome, is the only kind of infallibility that she 
claims in theory ; and we should only have an instance of a 
phenomenon that often presents itself, namely, the contrast 
between Roman doctrine as exhibited to those within the 
fold, or to those whom it is hoped to induce to enter it, and 
the doctrine as reduced to modest dimensions when it has to 
be defended against opponents. If there is any inducement 
which more than another has been successful in gaining 
converts to Romanism, it is the promise of a judge who shall 
be able authoritatively to determine controversies. Modern 
thought is constantly raising new difficulties, and presenting 
new problems for solution. To these a number of contradic- 
tory answers are given, each supported by persons with some 
claims to respect. Men impatient of doubt are eager for 
some guide who can tell them with absolute certainty which 
is in the right ; and when such a guide is offered them in the 
Church of Rome, they gladly accept the offer without too 
rigid enquiry as to her power to fulfil her promises. But 
what must be their disappointment when they discover that 
she has no rule for determining controversies save that by 
which non-theological disputes are terminated; namely, she 
lets the disputants fight it out; if owing to the number, or 
ability of its advocates, one side gets the predominance she 
will give it encouragement ; and if within 400 years, more or 
less, its opponents are reduced to absolute insignificance, 
then she will pronounce their opinion false. Such an 
authority as this no more deserves to be called a guide than, 
to use an illustration employed by Professor Huxley on a 
different subject, a coach dog deserves to be called a guide, 
who watches which way the machine is about to turn, and 
then runs on loudly barking before it. 



THE branch of the subject which I will now take up is 
the discussion of the different theories as to the organ 
of the Church's infallibility which have been held in the 
Roman Church. I will not dwell on what I have already 
said : that if the gift of infallibility had been believed in and 
exercised from the first, it was impossible that controversy 
as to its seat should ever arise. 

The theory which I shall first consider is the Gallican, 
which places the infallibility in the Church diffusive. In this 
theory the Pope is only the leading bishop of Christendom, 
and is by no means a necessary organ in proclaiming infal- 
lible truth. Whatever doctrine the whole Church agrees in 
is infallibly true. Of course this characteristic cannot be 
predicated of any doctrine from which the Pope dissents, 
since such a dissent would deprive the doctrine of that 
universality of acceptance which the theory imposes as a 
condition; but if a Pope declares a doctrine, it is neverthe- 
less not guaranteed as infallibly true if a Council dissent ; 
or even though Pope and Council declare it, if it is not 
received by the bishops throughout the world. The im- 
portant thing is, the universality of acceptance : the mode 
of promulgation is immaterial. It may be the Pope who 
proclaims it, and a Council which assents; it may be a 
Council whose decrees the Pope confirms, or it may be a 
number of small local councils which declare the Church's 
sentiments : only let the consent of the Church be evidenced 
in whatever way, and the doctrine is infallibly true. I will 

XV.] . LOUIS XIV. - 263 

presently examine whether this be a defensible theory of 
infallibility ; but I wish first to tell you a little of the history 
of Gallicanism. 

Its most flourishing time was at the end of the seventeenth 
century, in the reign of Louis XIV. That monarch had many 
points of resemblance with Henry VIII. With regard to 
their relations with women, Louis was certainly not the purer 
of the two ; but as he did not want, like Henry, to marry the 
women on whom his caprice fixed, his frailties caused no 
irreconcilable breach with the Church. He could part with 
his mistresses in Lent, and then when he had received his 
Easter Communion take them back again. Meanwhile his 
zeal for orthodoxy was extreme. He stirred up the slumber- 
ing authorities at Rome to fulminate against Jansenism. By 
bribery and intimidation, by the dragonnades and the revo- 
cation of the Edict of Nantes, he worked so hard for the 
extirpation of Protestantism from France, that he was hailed 
by the enthusiastic gratitude of his bishops. 'Impressed by 
such marvels,' exclaimed Bossuet in one of his orations, 'let 
us raise our acclamations to the skies. Let us say to this 
second Constantine, this second Theodosius, this second 
Charlemagne, what the six hundred and thirty bishops said 
of old at the Council of Chalcedon : " You have confirmed 
the faith, you have exterminated the heretics; it is a work 
worthy of your reign. Through your exertions heresy exists 
no longer. God alone could have wrought this miracle. O 
King of Heaven, preserve our earthly monarch : this is the 
prayer of the Church this is the prayer of the bishops.' 1 ' 

Unfortunately, Louis, who was quite as imperious as Henry, 
was as arbitrary in his dealings with the Pope as with his own 
subjects. Those of you who have read Macaulay's history of 
the circumstances which facilitated the English Revolution of 
1688 will remember how the Pope's sympathy for the enter- 
prise of William was gained by the tyrannical behaviour of 
Louis towards himself. Because the Pope wished to with- 
draw a privilege which had made his own capital insecure, 
that, namely, of allowing the French ambassador's palace to 
be a sanctuary for brigands and assassins, the King sent his 
troops to take possession of the Papal territory at Avignon. 


There had been an earlier controversy, originating in Royal 
claims, with respect to the appointment and institution to 
benefices, which the Pope repudiated as a novel aggression; 
and which led to a conflict between the King and the Pope, 
and lasted about a dozen years. Though the King had been 
granted by the Roman See the right of appointment to 
bishoprics, yet while the controversy lasted the Pope would 
not institute the King's nominees ; so that before the dispute 
was over there were thirty-five bishops without institution. 
The French appealed to a future general Council; they 
threatened to dispense with the authority of the Pope, and to 
consecrate their bishops without it, and to stop all sending 
of money to Rome. The French bishops naturally took the 
side of their King, whose influence in his own country was 
overpowering ; and it was while the relations between France 
and Rome were thus strained that what are called the Four 
Gallican Propositions of 1682, drawn up by the celebrated 
Bossuet, were formulated. 

These are as follows : i. The first declared that the power 
possessed by Peter and his successors was in things spiritual, 
not in things temporal ; in accordance with the texts, ' My 
kingdom is not of this world ' ; ' Render unto Caesar,' &c. ; 
' Let every soul be subject to the higher powers.' Conse- 
quently, kings are not, by the law of God, subject to any 
ecclesiastical power with respect to their temporal govern- 
ment, nor can their subjects be released from the duty of 
obeying them, nor absolved from their oath of allegiance. 
2. The second defined the power of the Pope in things spiri- 
tual, viz. as such that the decrees of the Council of Constance, 
approved as they are by the Holy See and the practice of 
the whole Church, remain in full force and perpetual obli- 
gation ; and it declared that these decrees must not be depre- 
ciated as insufficiently approved or as restricted to a time of 
schism. I may remind you that these decrees declared that a 
general Council, legitimately assembled, derives its authority 
immediately from Christ [and therefore not from the Pope], 
and that every person of what dignity soever, even papal, is 
bound to obey it in what relates to the faith, or to the extir- 
pation of schism, or to the reformation of the Church in its 


head and members. If you remember the circumstances of 
the Church at the time of the Council of Constance, you will 
see that these decrees were absolutely necessary at the time. 
The object was to heal the schism, there being then three 
claimants for the Popedom ; and although the whole Christian 
world longed for an end to the schism, all the claimants had 
shown great reluctance to a voluntary resignation. The Coun- 
cil deposed all three, and elected a new Pope ; but since each 
of the candidates had some who believed him to be the real 
Pope, it is evident the act of the Council could not meet with 
universal recognition unless it was maintained that the Coun- 
cil had an authority higher than the papal, and was able even 
to depose a real Pope if the good of the Church required 
it. 3. The third Gallican decree declared that the exercise 
of the Apostolic authority must be regulated by the canons 
enacted by the Spirit of God and consecrated by the rever- 
ence of the whole world ; in particular that the ancient rules, 
customs, and institutions of the realm and Church of France 
must remain inviolable. 4. The fourth, that though the Pope 
has the principal power in deciding questions of faith, and 
though his decrees extend to all Churches, nevertheless his 
judgment is not irreversible until confirmed by the consent 
of the Church. Thus you see that these decrees took away 
altogether the Pope's temporal power over countries of which 
he was not the civil sovereign ; that in spiritual things they 
limited his disciplinary power by general and local canons ; 
that even in matters of faith they held that his decisions 
needed to be ratified by universal consent. 

A point has been made by a Roman Catholic controver- 
sialist who wrote in answer to Janus, that the French bishops 
were not unanimous on this occasion. But the fact is, that 
the chief opposition Bossuet encountered was from those who 
went further than himself in denying the prerogatives of 
Rome. His chief opponent, the Bishop of Tournay, held that 
the Apostolic See was liable to fall into heresy. Bossuet's 
own opinion was that, though individual Popes might be 
carried away by some temporary blast of false doctrine, the 
See would never fall permanently into misbelief, as some 
Eastern Sees had done, but that by the interposition of right- 


thinking people either the erring Pope himself or his succes- 
sors would be brought back to the true faith. In this way 
the fall of Liberius or the monothelism of Honorius presented 
no difficulty to his theory. 

Though the four Gallican propositions expressed, as I be- 
lieve, the real opinion of the French Church, yet I believe also 
that but for Court pressure Bossuet and his colleagues would 
not have engaged in the controversy with Rome which the 
act of formulating these propositions involved. And this 
was one cause of the want of permanence of Gallicanism, that 
so much of its strength consisted in the Royal support : or 
rather that the contest was not so much one between the 
French nation and a foreign power as between the King and 
the Pope, which of the two should have the filling up of liv- 
ings and soforth. It was exactly in the same way that Henry 
VIII. gave a national character to what may also be repre- 
sented as a conflict in which only his personal interests were 
involved. It is evident that in such a conflict, if the King 
failed to persuade the nation that his interests were theirs : 
if, for instance, his appointments to offices were not made to 
deserving men then really religious men would be indifferent 
to a contest which they might look on as one between a self- 
seeking king and a self-seeking foreign bishop; and they 
would be on the side of the bishop if they thought his gov- 
ernment on the whole likely to be guided by higher aims. 
On these grounds, much as we are inclined to sympathize 
with the anti-papalism of the Gallican bishops, I have my 
doubts whether these hangers-on of the Court of Louis XIV. 
really carried the religious mind of the nation with them. 
The doctrine, however, which they taught as to the limits of 
the papal power was no new invention of theirs : it but stated 
the tradition of the Gallican Church, which had been ex- 
pressed on many former occasions. 

Ultimately the dispute between Louis and the Pope was 
settled : the King withdrew measures he had taken for en- 
forcing the Gallican declaration in his dominions, and the 
bishops seeking consecration were allowed to say that they 
were sorry it had been made, which did not at all imply that 
they believed it was not true. A great magazine of arguments 


in this controversy is the book which Bossuet wrote in 
defence of the Gallican declaration. It was more than once 
withheld from publication by the royal authority, lest it 
should impede the desired reconciliation with Rome, and was 
not actually published until after Bossuet 's death. 

The subsequent history of Gallicanism will not take long 
to state. The fruits of the zeal of Louis in suppressing heresy 
showed themselves after his death. The Jansenists, whom it 
had been the work of his life to put down, whatever may have 
been their doctrinal errors, were some of the holiest and best 
men in his kingdom. I need not tell you how much of true 
religion was lost to France by the driving out of the Hugue- 
nots : the consequence was that Christianity, represented in 
that kingdom by its most superstitious form, revolted the 
philosophic and enlightened. The principle of blind submis- 
sion to authority was found to be too weak to maintain the 
hearty faith of the people, and a great wave of infidelity swept 
over the land. In an early stage of the revolutionary troubles 
an attempt was made to maintain a national Church in 
France, though robbed of the greater part of its worldly 
wealth. A new distribution of sees was made : bishops were 
to be elected by their flocks, and were to seek for no institu- 
tion from the Pope, but merely notify to him the fact of 
their appointment. By a very unwise step on the part of the 
framers of this new constitution, all the clergy were required 
to swear their acceptance, and a number of the most respected 
refused. Thereupon ensued an immediate schism between 
the constitutional clergy and the non-jurors : and as in the 
progress of events the leaders of the revolutionary party 
showed more and more hostility to religion, so the respect of 
religious men refused to attach itself to the constitutional 
clergy, who were found in alliance with deists and atheists. 

When the first Napoleon discerned the political necessity 
of coming to tenns with Christianity, he saw that an agree- 
ment with the Pope afforded him the only practicable means. 
Even more than Louis XIV., Napoleon sought to make him- 
self absolute over Church and State in France, and he thought 
that if he could make the Pope absolute over the French clergy 
he could direct the Pope as he pleased. The Pope proved 


less flexible than Napoleon had anticipated, but in the first 
stage of the reconciliation his help was absolutely necessary 
and was given. The terms of a new Episcopate were arranged 
into which survivors both of the constitutional clergy and 
the non-jurors were to be admitted. But however desirable 
in every way to the cause of the Church in France was this 
reconciliation, it involved a complete abandonment of Galli- 
can principles. For it was by the Pope's authority that the 
existing bishops were forced to resign and a new distribution 
of sees effected. This course of events produced a natural 
reaction in France in favour of Ultramontanism, all the 
abominations and impieties of republican fanaticism being 
imputed, however unjustly, to the opposite system. This 
reaction found an eloquent representative in the Count 
Joseph de Maistre, whose writings exercised a prodigious 
influence in France : so that the dying away of Gallicanism 
in its birthplace and stronghold seemed to make things easy 
for its formal condemnation by Pius IX. 

We in Ireland are interested in Gallicanism because, before 
the establishment of Maynooth, Irish priests commonly got 
their education in Continental schools where Gallican prin- 
ciples predominated, and so imported them into this country. 
At Maynooth itself French text-books were used. In the 
agitation for Emancipation a prevalent argument against 
granting it was that Roman Catholics could not be loyal 
subjects, since they would serve two masters, or rather 
indeed only one, inasmuch as they must obey the Pope if 
he forbade them to obey their sovereign. In reply to this, 
great pains were taken by the advocates for Emancipation 
to show that Irish Roman Catholics did not believe in the 
Pope's power to release subjects from their allegiance, and 
that the Ultramontane doctrine of the Papal power was not 
recognized as any part of the doctrine of their Church. The 
Irish Roman Catholic bishops were examined before a 
Parliamentary Committee, and gave evidence which was 
afterwards cited by the American bishop Kenrick, himself an 
Irishman, at the Vatican Council. As a sample of their 
evidence, I will give you Archbishop Murray's answer to the 
question whether the Irish bishops had adopted or rejected 


what are called the Galilean liberties. He said, ' These 
liberties have not come under their consideration as a body. 
The Irish Catholic bishops have therefore not either adopted 
or rejected them. They have adopted, however, and that on 
their oaths, the leading doctrines which these liberties con- 
tain; that is, the doctrines which reject the deposing power 
of the Popes and their right to interfere with the temporalities 
of princes. That is distinctly recognized ; not as one of the 
Gallican liberties, but as a doctrine which the Gospel teaches.' 
Bishop Doyle said that if the Pope were to intermeddle with 
the temporal rights of the King, they would oppose him even 
by the exercise of their spiritual authority; that is, as he 
explained it, by preaching the Gospel to the people, and 
instructing them, in such a case, to oppose the Pope. Be- 
sides this repudiation of the temporal power of the Pope, 
these bishops declared their opinion that the authority of the 
Pope in spiritual matters was limited by the Canons and by 
the Councils, and they swore, as they could then with truth, 
that the doctrine of the Pope's personal infallibility was no 
part of the Christian faith. Soon after they gave a practical 
proof of their independence of the Pope ; for when a negotia- 
tion between the Pope and the English Government resulted 
in an agreement that, as a condition of Emancipation, the 
English Government should be given a veto on the nomina- 
tion to Irish bishoprics, the Irish bishops remonstrated with 
the Pope in such strong terms that the project had to be 

I have dwelt, at a little length, on the history of Gallican- 
ism because the subject is one on which you do not find much 
information in your text-books ; but we must now consider 
the truth of the doctrine, that whatever the whole Church at 
any time agrees in may be relied on as infallibly correct. One 
thing is plain, namely, that if this is the nature of the gift of 
infallibility Christ has bestowed on His Church, the gift is 
absolutely useless for the determination of controversies. It 
is very comfortable to believe with regard to the controversies 
of former days that the winning side was right, and that 
whatever has settled down to be the general belief is certainly 
true : but what guidance does such a persuasion give us as 


long as the controversy is going on ? It is very comfortable 
for Roman Catholics now to think that the doctrine of the 
Immaculate Conception must be true because it has ceased to 
be disputed in their communion. But how could the Domi- 
nicans foresee the turn things would take a century after 
their time, when they knew that the doctrine they opposed 
was altogether novel, condemned by Aquinas, and unknown 
to the early Fathers ? This theory, then, asserts that Christ 
has furnished His Church with a lantern which throws no 
light on the path in front, but only on that which has been 
already traversed. 

Something of the same kind may be said about the oft- 
quoted phrase of Vincentius Lirinensis, that we believe 'Quod 
semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus traditurn est.' It is 
very pleasant when we can say this; but it is obvious that 
this rule can give us no help in a controversy ; for, clearly, dis- 
pute can only arise in the case of a doctrine which is not held 
'ab omnibus,' and in such a case both parties are sure to say 
that it is their opinion which has been held ' semper.' And 
so when people go to use the rule they generally explain that 
of course 'held by all' does not mean absolutely and literally 
all without exception, but leaves out of account heretics and 
such like; so that 'all* means only 'all right-thinking persons,' 
and in this way it is in the power of each side to claim their 
own view as being held by all, that is to say, all right-think- 
ing persons, for they are the only right-thinking persons.* 

* On this passage Mr. Gore remarks (lioman Catholic Claims, 2nd 
edition, pp. x., 43) that Vincent's maxim, interpreted as its author 
clearly explains it (Commonit., 2, 3, 17), is not fairly open to my 
criticisms : ' Vincent never meant by " ab omnibus " what is held by 
all men, without exception, or by all who call themselves Christians, 
but by the Church as a body, as opposed to individual teachers.' 
What he intended is ' the body of Catholic truth, held " ubique," that 
is, in all parts, as opposed to any one particular Church ; "semper," 
always as opposed only in recent ages; "ab omnibus," by all, i.e. by 
the general body of the Church, not merely as the private opinion of 
particular teachers.' I should be sorry to have done St. Vincent any 
injustice, but the only criticism I made on his maxim remains 
untouched, namely that it only enables us to hold with more confidence 
those decisions on the controversies of past times in which we ourselves 
acquiesce, but gives us little help in a new controversy. In modern 
Romanism the use of the maxim is abandoned (see p. 43). Pio Nono's 
language was not, 'Receive this because it has been held semper, ubique, 
ab omnibus,' but, 'because it is laid down now, at Nome, by me.' 


We can see thus that the Galilean method of ascribing 
infallibility to the Church diffusive does not satisfy any of 
the a priori supposed proofs of the necessity of a judge of 
controversies, on the strength of which infallibility has been 
believed in. Yet unquestionably it is this aspect of the theory 
of infallibility which has most power in gaining adherents. 
It is certainly a very alluring doctrine that whatever is held 
by the majority of the Christian world must certainly be true, 
and that dissentients, if few in number, may be disregarded 
without any examination of their opinions. It is plain from 
Dr. Newman's account of his life that this was the argument 
which made a convert of him. He compared the numbers 
which were ranked on the Romish side and on the opposite, 
and he said, ' What is the English Church that she should 
set herself in opposition to so much larger a body?' Words 
of Augustine that he had seen quoted in controversy, 'securus 
judicat orbis terrarum,' at last so took possession of his 
imagination, that he was compelled to abandon further 

These words, as used by Augustine, were, I believe, well 
justified, and are capable of further application. They were 
employed with reference to the claim of the Donatists of 
Africa to unchurch the rest of Christendom, because they 
continued to hold communion with men who, as the Dona- 
tists alleged, had been guilty of gross sin. Augustine replied 
that the whole world was, by reason of distance, incapable of 
judging of the reality of these alleged offences, but that they 
could judge safely enough of the blind temerity of those who 
without provocation separated themselves from the rest of the 
world.* Taken thus in connexion with their context, Augus- 
tine's words are only reasonable; nor would I hesitate to 
extend them to other cases in which small bodies venture 

* In the notes to an Ordination Sermon published in 1864, Dr. 
Quarry pointed out that in the passage cited, St. Augustine did not 
lay down a general maxim, nor assert that the 'orbis terrarum' must 
always be right in its judgment. The words form part of a sentence 
in which, after showing that foreign Churches must needs be ill- 
acquainted with the facts of the African disputes, he concludes, 
' securus judicat orbis terrarum ' that they are not good who separate 
themselves from the whole world ; where the word ' securus ' appears 
to have its most literal sense, without anxiety. 


to unchurch and anathematize the whole Christian world : 
Baptists, for example, excluding from the pale of the visible 
Church all who have been baptized by affusion, not immer- 
sion ; Walkerites and Plymouth Brethren reducing their 
Church to still narrower limits. If things are alleged to be 
necessary to salvation, or necessary to the being of a Church, 
which Christ has revealed so indistinctly that the great bulk 
of the Christian world has for centuries been unable to find 
them out, then I do say that the claim is one which con- 
demns itself, and that the Christian world ' securus judicat ' 
that such pretensions are unfounded. 

But in this matter the Donatist party, not the orthodox, 
are the true antitypes of the Church of Rome. That Church, 
like those African schismatics of old, endeavours to cast out 
of the Church of Christ all who will not bind themselves in 
close alliance with her; and the body which she would fain 
exclude is in the number of its adherents, and the extent of 
territory which they occupy, far more considerable than that 
to which Augustine gave the title 'orbis terrarum.' If there 
be weight in the maxim which has been made out of Au- 
gustine's words, we may rely on our numbers, and securely 
smile at the pretension to unchurch us. But certainly we 
repudiate Augustine 'swords when severed from their context, 
and converted into a rule that numbers constitute a trust- 
worthy test of truth, and that a body so large as to be able 
fairly to call itself 'orbis terrarum' can be guilty of no error. 
How would such a rule have worked in the days when 
Athanasius was alone against the world, when the violence 
of the Arian hurricane carried the Pope Liberius away, 
when a Council twice as large as the Nicene omitted 'homo- 
ousios' from their creed, and, in the words of Jerome, the 
whole world groaned in surprise to find itself Arian ? ' In- 
gemuit orbis terrarum et Arianum se esse miratus est.' Nay, 
how would such a rule have worked when the first preachers 
of Christianity went forth to arraign the superstitions of the 
whole world, attacking beliefs of immemorial antiquity, and 
supported by Catholic consent? for it was generally held 
that under different names all nations agreed in worshipping 
the same divinities. Even at the present day can the Chris- 


tian religion bear to have its truth submitted to the test of 
numbers, and can it permit its claim to be set aside if it can 
be proved that the number of its adherents (counting all the 
different sects into which Christianity is divided) is surpassed 
by the number of those who either are ignorant of Christianity 
or reject it ? I know no Scripture warrant for asserting that 
the broad path along which the many go must be the safe 
one, or that, either in religious matters or in temporal, men 
can be sure of not going wrong, provided only that, like 
sheep, they stick together. 

Perhaps it may be objected that I am here leaving out of 
sight Christ's promises to His Church that He would be with 
her always, and that the gates of Hades should not prevail 
against her. I grant that Protestant controversialists have 
often contradicted these texts in the violence of their language 
against Rome. They have represented her as so wholly 
corrupt as to have lost the very being of a Church, and so 
that salvation in her is practically impossible. According to 
this theory, then, it must be owned that the gates of Hades 
did prevail against the Church for some centuries before the 
Reformation; since for so long a time grievous corruptions 
had infected Christian teaching ; and it is sought, with very 
imperfect success, to trace through some obscure heretics a 
succession of witnesses to the truth. Overwrought descrip- 
tions of the corruptions of the Roman Church not uncom- 
monly produce a reaction in her favour. The historical 
student, in studying the history of the mediaeval Church, may 
perhaps discover that the witnesses to Protestant truth are 
comparatively few and broken, leaving great gaps in the 
tradition : possibly he may find that some whom he might 
have been disposed to claim as on his side turn out, on 
closer acquaintance, not to have been so estimable as he had 
imagined, and either to have been immoral in their lives, or 
to have denied some doctrines which he regards as of the 
essence of the Christian faith. Perhaps it may be possible to 
produce on the side of the established Church, at the same 
date, some men whose writings show their love to Christ, and 
their firm grasp of some of the fundamental truths of the 
Gospel, or whose lives prove them to have been animated by 


the sincerest Christian charity. Then it often happens that 
the student wheels round and expresses his conviction that it 
was not the heretics but the established clergy who consti- 
tuted the true Church at the time, and consequently that it is 
the latter whose teaching is to be accepted as true. 

It is astonishing how, even in the minds of Protestants, 
infallibility has come to be regarded as an essential attribute 
of the Church, so that they think that if they acknowledge 
the Church exists at all, they must acknowledge that all she 
teaches is true, just as if one might not be a very good and 
pious man, and yet hold many erroneous opinions; or as if, 
on the other hand, a man might not get correct hold of certain 
true and important principles, and yet push them to unwar- 
rantable extremes, and draw erroneous conclusions from them. 
For my part, as a candid disputant, I have not the least desire 
to shut my eyes to anything in the Roman Church that is 
really good. All I say is, that what I own to be good has its 
roots not in those things which I stigmatize as corruptions, 
but in those principles which Roman Catholics hold in 
common with us, especially the great principle of love to our 
Blessed Lord. When once the acknowledgment has been 
made that the fact that a man's having errors in his system 
of doctrine does not prove that he has ceased to retain the 
essence of the faith, the whole argument breaks down which 
is founded on God's promises to His Church. Granted that we 
have the assurance that the being of the Church will not be 
overthrown, nor her main doctrines lost, nor salvation in her 
become impossible, where is the assurance that if Christians 
attempt to determine a number of speculative points, by no 
means essential to the faith, the majority of them will arrive 
at infallibly certain conclusions ? Nay, where is the assur- 
ance that no humanly-devised additions will crust over and 
obscure the deposit of truth which is retained? According 
to our view of the progress of Christianity in the world, we 
may liken it to a stream first breaking forth in crystal purity 
from its native source, but as its waters are swelled by many 
a tributary, and as it flows through many a land, discoloured 
by taints derived from the soils through which it passes ; yet, 
even after it has lost its first purity and brightness, still able 


to confer many blessings on the countries which it fertilizes, 
while nevertheless they who drink of it at a distance from its 
source find it not superfluous to filter away its accumulated 
defilements, and so restore it to its original brightness. Now 
how is such a view as this affected by any considerations 
which make it reasonable to believe that the waters of the 
river will never cease to flow ? 

When we actually study Church history we see that there 
were many causes in operation having a tendency to introduce 
into the stream of Christian teaching the defilements of which 
I have spoken. There was the influx of heathen into the 
Church, bringing with them their own systems of philosophy, 
and applying them to their new faith ; there was the desire 
to conciliate prejudice by the softening of what in Christianity 
might give offence; and there were, finally, principles of 
fallen human nature itself, ever seeking to be gratified, and 
having thus a tendency to corrupt what had been committed 
to it. No one now ventures to deny that the tone of Church 
teaching has not been uniformly the same from age to age; 
doctrines assume importance which in former times were 
little dwelt on, and in many cases what was at first conjecture 
or pious opinion passes by degrees into a fixed and unques- 
tioned article of belief. This fact of gradual growth, not to 
say alteration of doctrine, which was long vainly denied by 
Roman Catholic advocates, is now generally admitted by 
them, and a power is claimed for the Church, not indeed of 
publishing revelations of totally new doctrine, and proposing 
them for articles of faith, but at least of developing old doc- 
trines, and drawing from them consequences unsuspected by 
those who held them in former generations. 

This theory sets aside completely the old Roman Catholic 
rule of Scripture and tradition. It gives us tradition; and 
it must in consistency abandon as completely irrational that 
respect for the Fathers which even still distinguishes 
uneducated Romanists from uneducated Protestants. In 
earthly science Lord Bacon pointed out that the Fathers 
were the children. If we think an old man likely to be wiser 
than a young one, it is because he has had so much more 
experience, and is likely to know many things of which the, 



young man is ignorant. But the world is older now than it 
ever was. To ask us to defer to the opinion of men who lived 
two centuries ago, and who consequently were ignorant of all 
that the world has learned in the last two hundred years, is 
as absurd as to ask a trained philosopher to defer to the 
opinion of a youth just commencing his studies. And if the 
theory of the development of Christian doctrine be true, the 
same rule exactly ought to hold with regard to religious 
truth ; and a Romanist cannot consistently censure a Pro- 
testant if he thinks Luther and Calvin teachers likely to be 
twelve centuries wiser than Chrysostom and Augustine. But 
if in the theory of Development the Fathers lose all claims 
to respect, it is still worse with Scripture : the Fathers may 
have been but children, but the Apostles were only infants. 
They lived when the Church had but just come into being, 
and before it had learned all that the Holy Spirit has taught 
it in the course of nineteen centuries. If so, it ought to be 
only for curiosity that we need look into books written in the 
very infancy of the Church ; and to seek for our system of 
Christian doctrine in the Bible would be as absurd as to try to 
learn the differential calculus from the writings of Archi- 
medes. In other words, the theory of Development, as taught 
by Cardinal Newman, substantially abandons the claims of 
Christianity to be regarded as a supernatural revelation 
which is likely to be preserved in most purity by those who 
lived nearest to the times when it was given. 

And yet there is such a thing as a real development of 
Christian doctrine. We acknowledge that all the precious 
truth of Scripture does not lie on the surface, and that con- 
tinuous study applied to the Bible, by holy men who have 
sought for the aid of God's Spirit, does elicit much that might 
have escaped a hasty reader, but which, when once pointed 
out, remains for the instruction of future generations. But 
we draw a distinction between things essential to salvation 
and things true, but not necessary. The way of salvation 
does not alter from age to age; those truths which were 
effectual for the salvation of souls in the second or third 
century are sufficient for salvation still. We hold that, there- 
fpre ; a Church takes a step unjustifiable, an4 whicfr must 


lead to schism, if she imposes new articles of faith to be held 
of necessity for salvation which were unknown to the Church 
of past times. 

Again, there is a development of Christian doctrine due to 
the increase of human philosophy and learning. It is impos- 
sible to prevent these from playing their part in modifying 
our way of understanding the Bible. For instance, in the 
case which has already come before us, that of Galileo, we 
see that the progress of astronomical knowledge not only 
modified the manner in which texts of Scripture were under- 
stood which seemed to teach the immobility of the earth, but 
also made Christians understand that God, who does not 
work miracles to do for men what He intended them to learn 
to do for themselves, did not mean the Bible as a super- 
natural revelation of the truths of astronomy or other sci- 
ences, but left the attainment of knowledge of this kind to 
stimulate and reward the exercise of men's natural powers. 

Well, when it is agreed on all hands that the Church of 
one age may be on several points wiser than the Church of 
a preceding age, the Gallican theory of infallibility at once 
breaks down. According to that theory it is consistent with 
God's promises to His Church that disputes, and conse- 
quently that uncertainty, on several important points of 
doctrine, should prevail for a considerable time; only it is 
maintained that when once the majority of Christians have 
agreed in a conclusion about them, that conclusion must 
never afterwards be called in question. But why not, if the 
Church has in the meantime become wiser ? If God, without 
injustice and without danger to men's souls, can leave many 
of His people for a considerable time imperfectly informed, 
and even in erroneous opinion as to certain doctrines, what 
improbability is there that He may have left a whole genera- 
tion imperfectly or erroneously informed on the same subject, 
and reserved the perception of the complete truth for their 
successors ? 

Before concluding this part of the subject I ought to say 
a few words as to Dr. Pusey's theory of infallibility, which 
substantially agrees with that I have just examined, which 
places it in the Church diffusive. Dr. Pusey could find no 


language too strong to condemn the principle of private 
judgment, and was heartily willing to submit his own judg- 
ment to that of the Church; only it must be the united 
Church. If the whole Church agree in any statement of 
doctrine that must be infallibly certain. But unhappily, for 
the last twelve centuries the Church has been rent by schism, 
and does not agree with itself in its utterances. All that was 
decreed before the great schism between East and West is 
undoubtedly true, and no individual dare re-open these ques- 
tions ; and if now the Roman, Greek, and Anglican commu- 
nions (for to these Dr. Pusey limited the Church) could be 
united again, the gift of infallibility would revive ; but in the 
Church's present disunited condition the gift is dormant. I 
am not prepared to say that this is not a legitimate extension 
of the Gallican theory, for if universal consent is necessary 
to the propounding of an infallible decision, how can that 
condition be said to be satisfied when full half the company 
of baptized Christians dissent ? But Pusey 's Roman Catholic 
critics have seen very clearly that his theory is a reductio ad 
absurdum of the proof of the existence of an infallible guide. 
Most persons would agree that if God saw it to be necessary 
to bestow on His Church the gift of infallibility for several 
hundred years, it is likely she has the gift still; and, con- 
versely, it is easier to believe that the gift was never be- 
stowed than that it was given on such conditions that the 
exercise of it has proved for more than a thousand years to 
be practically impossible. One of Dr. Pusey 's Roman Catho- 
lic critics says, very reasonably from his point of view, ' To 
say that the Church has practically ceased to be infallible for 
twelve centuries out of eighteen, is to say that the Holy 
Ghost has failed of His mission during two-thirds of the 
lifetime of the Church which He was by Divine promise to 
lead into all truth.' * 

Whatever acceptance Dr. Pusey's theory has gained is due 
to a desire to find a theory which will justify us in being 
sure of the truth of the doctrines which the Roman Church 
and ours hold in common, not withstanding our rejection of 

* Harper, Peace through the Truth % I. Ixi, 


other things set forth by the authority of the Roman Church. 
I cannot see that any theory is necessary. The evidence for 
those doctrines which were held in all parts of the Catholic 
Church in those centuries that were separated by a com- 
paratively short interval from the Apostolic times, which 
have been held continuously in the Church ever since, and 
are still held by a preponderating majority of the Christians 
of the present day, is beyond comparison stronger than that 
for any doctrine that was never authoritatively declared to 
be part of the Catholic Faith until within the last twelve 

But there are some who imagine that we cannot be certain 
of anything unless it be guaranteed by an infallible authority ; 
and in order to satisfy a supposed necessity they devise an 
artificial theory which an adversary might easily represent in 
the form the Church is infallible when we agree with her 
teaching, and not infallible when we do not. But the truth 
is that, if we are not satisfied with that kind of certainty 
which God thinks sufficient for our practical guidance in all 
the affairs of life, it is a delusion to imagine that a supposed 
infallible authority can give us anything higher. For, as I 
have argued already, the assent we give to the teaching of 
such an authority always involves an element of uncertainty, 
namely, whether we may not possibly be mistaken in our 
belief that the authority in question is infallible. 

It is easy to show that Dr. Pusey's theory removes a solid 
foundation from our faith, and substitutes a miserably weak 
one. If we are asked on what grounds we believe in the 
doctrine of our Lord's Divinity, we certainly would not omit 
to mention as one very strong one, that in the fourth century 
this was authoritatively proclaimed to be the doctrine of the 
Christian Church. What the Christians of that age were almost 
unanimous in believing has unquestionably strong claims on 
our acceptance. But it is further in our power to examine 
the reasons which Christians of the fourth century alleged for 
their belief, and though we may be disposed to set aside a 
few of them as not convincing to a modern mind, there 
remain quite enough to justify us in adopting their con- 
clusions. The theory we are examining requires us to 


abandon this additional ground of belief, and to rest our 
faith in the assumption, that the Church in the fourth cen- 
tury was infallible, and therefore we must accept its deci- 
sions without examination. But if we are obliged to confess 
that, though the Church was infallible in the fourth century 
she ceased to be so a couple of centuries afterwards and never 
recovered the gift since, so that though we must accept 
without examination the decisions of the second Council of 
Nicaea, we are quite free to criticize the decisions of any 
later council : we seem to have got hold of a theory so clearly 
dictated to us by the exigencies of our own theological 
position, that any rational critic would pronounce that we 
had had a far stronger foundation for our faith if .we had let 
that theory alone. 

I may sum up in the words of a writer in the Quarterly 
Review, October, 1889 (p. 384) : ' The root of the matter is, 
that there is no royal road to certainty ; no organon for the 
summary extinction of doubts. As much in the sphere of 
religion, as in the social and political domains, infallibility 
and perfection are mere dreams of the imagination. Con- 
viction of the truth does not become ours at the command 
of some external authority. It grows by contributions from 
many sources : from the testimony of the past, from personal 
experience, from spiritual intuition, from conscientious fol- 
lowing of the light, from the influences exercised on us by 
our fellow-men who are eminent for goodness. It never 
ceases to grow so long as we are faithful to what we have 
attained, and, though in this world it can never attain a 
logical completeness, the humble and patient will always 
find it sufficient for their practical need. If Anglicans then 
of whatever school will only cultivate mutual tolerance, and 
sincerely endeavour to make the best of the system in which 
Providence has placed them, they may well leave to ecclesi- 
astical Utopians the vain quest for a Church whose voice will 
silence all disputes, satisfy all doubts, and impose unanimity 
by an authority beyond contradiction.' 



1COME to-day to speak of that theory which makes 
General Councils the main organ of the Church's in- 
fallibility, a theory of historic interest, but which now is 
rapidly becoming obsolete. In fact the general arguments 
for the necessity of an infallible judge to determine contro- 
versies are not satisfied by such a judge as a Council, since 
that judge is not always at hand, there having been whole 
centuries without Councils ; while the mode of settling dis- 
putes by consulting the decisions of past Councils is liable to 
the same objections as that by consulting the Scriptures, with 
the additional objection that the former are so much more 
voluminous. In the Roman Church at present there is so 
little disposition unduly to exalt the authority of Councils 
that the topics which come before us to-day may almost be 
said to be no part of the Roman Catholic controversy, the 
greater part of all I wish to assert being not now contro- 
verted. The dispute in the Roman Church, concerning the 
organ of the Church's Infallibility, has had the natural 
effect that those who claim that prerogative for the Pope, 
and whose ascendancy was completely established at the 
Vatican Council of 1870, have been quite as anxious as we 
can be, that no rival claim for Councils shall be allowed 
to establish itself. Consequently, when I shall presently 
produce evidence that even those Councils, to whose decisions 
we cordially assent, were composed of frail and fallible men ; 
that the proceedings of some of them were conducted in a 
way that does not command our respect, and that the ulti- 
mate triumph of orthodoxy was due to other causes besides 
the decisions of these Councils, I am trying to prove no more 


than has been asserted by eminent Roman Catholic divines, 
as, for example, by Cardinal Newman. But it would not be 
safe to take quite silent possession of territory which our ad- 
versaries have evacuated only in comparatively recent times ; 
and it is necessary to give some examination to the claims of 
Councils, because it was to these venerable bodies that the 
attribute of infallibility first attached itself, and even in the 
early stages of the Reformation those who resisted the 
authority of the Pope declared themselves willing to submit 
to the authority of a General Council freely assembled. 

Local Councils. Local Councils took their origin almost 
inevitably, as you will easily see, from the fact that Chris- 
tian Churches in different towns regarded themselves as 
all belonging to one great society. We know that in 
Apostolic times a Church would separate from her com- 
munion a member who had disgraced himself by immorality 
of a scandalous kind; so in like manner would one be 
rejected who denied the fundamental doctrines of the Chris- 
tian faith. Now in modern times excommunication has 
ceased to be an effective penalty, on account of the want of 
harmonious action between the different bodies into which 
Christendom is divided. If a man is put out of commu- 
nion by one body, he finds quite a welcome reception in 
another. It was not so in the early Church. A Christian 
migrating from one town to another had only to take with 
him credentials from his original Church, and he was 
received on equal terms in his new abode. But one whom 
his own Church censured found the doors of other Churches 
also closed to him until those censures had been withdrawn. 
This mutual recognition of each other's acts made it neces- 
sary that one Church should be permitted to review the acts 
of another. If a bishop were arbitrary and wrong-headed, 
and excommunicated an innocent man, it were surely un- 
reasonable if no redress were possible; and a Church could 
scarcely insist on keeping out of communion a man elsewhere 
condemned for false doctrine, without investigating his case, 
if he protested that he was perfectly orthodox, and that it 
was the bishop who had censured him whose views were 
eccentric. My belief is, that it was the review of exconi- 


munications for ratification or rejection which constituted 
the chief business of the Councils of neighbouring bishops, 
which we know to have met periodically in very early times. 

One of the most interesting examples I know of an attempt, 
by means of local Councils, to collect the opinion of the 
universal Church, was in the case of the Quartodeciman con- 
troversy at the end of the second century. You all, no doubt, 
know how the attempt of Victor of Rome to put the Asiatic 
Churches out of the communion of the Church universal was 
frustrated by the resistance of Irenaeus. There is reason to 
think that Victor did not move in this matter without provo- 
cation. Churches distant from each other might celebrate 
Easter on different days without serious inconvenience ; but 
it would evidently be intolerable if some members of a Church 
made it a matter of conscience to refuse to conform to the 
prescribed rule of that Church, and insisted on holding their 
feast, while their brethren around were still keeping the pre- 
liminary fast. I consider that it was the schismatical attempt 
of a presbyter, Blastus, thus to force Quartodecimaiiism on 
the Church of Rome, which moved Victor to endeavour to 
put an end to diversity of practice. Now it is important that 
you should know that Victor did not make his attempt with- 
out first writing to the leading bishops in different parts of 
the Christian world, asking them to report to him the prac- 
tice of their Church ;* and it was only when he had thus 
obtained evidence that the Asiatic Quartodecimanism was a 
mere local custom, and that the practice of the rest of the 
Christian world was to keep Easter on the Sunday, that he 
thought himself strong enough to call on the dissentients to 
conform or be excommunicated. 

Obviously it was only by a number of separate Councils 
that the opinion of the collective episcopate could be ascer- 
tained in heathen times. The collection into one city of such 
a representation of the Christian episcopate as was assembled 
under the Christian emperors would, in heathen times, have 
been a challenge for persecution; and even if the meeting 
had been safe, a majority of the bishops could not have 
borne the expense of the long journey. When Constantine 
*This appears from the letter of Polycrafes (Euseb. H. E. v. 24). 


afterwards gathered all the bishops to Nicaea, he had them 
conveyed free of charge, putting all the posting resources of 
the Empire at their disposal. 

General Councils. Coming now to speak of General 
Councils, I feel it to be a disagreeable thing that the ex- 
travagant claims made by our adversaries for both Popes 
and Councils force me to dwell on the frailties and im- 
perfections of what is on the whole entitled to the respect 
and gratitude of the Church. It is a disagreeable thing 
when a man for whom you have on many grounds respect 
and liking is proposed with extravagant laudations as a 
candidate for a situation for which you believe him to be 
totally unfit. If it is impossible for you to acquiesce, the 
mstaken zeal of his friends may then force you to give proof 
of his unfitness, by stating things over which, if you might, 
you would gladly have cast a veil. It would be a disgrace to 
Christianity if the bishops of its principal see did not include 
among them many men of piety, learning and zeal, who had 
done much benefit to the Church. Much rather would I dwell 
on the services bishops of Rome have rendered to the Church, 
than on the frailties, immoralities, or heresies which have 
disfigured that chair; but when Rome is made the hinge on 
which the whole Church turns the rock on which it rests 
then it is necessary to give proof that Rome has not strength 
to bear the weight which it is proposed to lay upon it. 
Similarly I should be glad to dwell altogether on the services 
rendered by Councils to the Church; but when claims are 
made for the authority of Councils to which they have no 
pretensions, we are forced to give evidence how unfounded 
these claims are It is no pleasure to me to bring before you 
the proofs that those who took part in the early Councils were 
men of like passions with ourselves. Many of them, I doubt 
not, were holy men; several of them learned and wise men. 
When they met together in assemblies there was good reason 
for thinking that the blessing of God would rest on their 
deliberations. He has promised to them that ask Him His 
Spirit to guide them into truth ; and He has made a special 
promise to prayer offered where two or three are assembled in 
His name. Experience, however, has taught us that two men, 


both of whom pray for the Spirit's guidance, will often arrive 
at opposite conclusions a fact which may be explained, first, 
by the human passions, from which even the best are not 
free, and which cannot but affect the correctness of the con- 
clusions arrived at by those whose breasts they stir (for it is 
not wonderful that the Holy Spirit should not completely 
clear from error the minds of those whose hearts He does not 
completely clear from sin) ; and, secondly, by the fact that the 
disagreements of which I speak often relate to matters which, 
however, important they may appear to the disputants, we 
may well believe do not affect the essentials of the Faith. 
Thus, we who, when an assembly of ourselves meet together 
to consult on questions affecting the interests of the Church, 
invoke God's Spirit to assist our deliberations, and expect to 
receive a real answer to our prayers, need not hesitate to 
believe that the prayers made for His presence with the 
Fathers at the early Councils were not made in vain. Yet, 
as we do not expect any such assembly of our own to be free 
from error, so we hold that even the most venerable assembly 
of former times consisted of imperfect men, who were collec- 
tively as well as individually fallible. 

Nor have we any reason to suppose that their delibera- 
tions were unaffected by perturbations of human passions. 
With regard to such exhibitions of human passion, I 
may quote the apology made in the Tablet (R. C. news- 
paper) for some stormy scenes at the Vatican Council in 
1870. It said : ' The human element comes out so strongly 
in some of the Fathers that a sensitive and unwise or 
thoughtless spectator might easily be shocked and scan- 
dalized. We ought to be in no way astonished if angry 
expressions, sharp comments, unworthy plans, and vexatious 
agitations did from time to time betray the passions to which 
human nature is subject. If this were ten times worse than 
it is, it would probably be less than many of the most 
important early Councils have witnessed.' 

What is here said of the display of human passions at 
early Councils is no more than the truth ; but this does 
not at all affect the real value of the transactions of these 
bodies. This value I hold to be, not any special infal- 


libility attaching to their decisions, but the witness they bear 
to the belief of the Church of their day. At Nicaea, for in- 
stance, we are told that Constantine's first act was to burn un- 
read the mutually accusatory libelli of the bishops. And when 
we read further, in praise of the orthodoxy of the Fathers, 
that they stopped their ears and refused to listen to the blas- 
phemy of Arius, an Arian might conclude that his master had 
got no fair hearing. But if the Nicene Fathers are on that 
account entitled to the less respect as judges, they are all the 
better witnesses Imagine an assembly of the English clergy 
called after the publication of Bishop Colenso's book : who 
can doubt that there would be much violence and clamour; 
that many would condemn without having read; that many 
would be incompetent from want of learning to form an 
opinion of much value? Yet, however unjudicial all this 
might be, it would put beyond controversy that the opinions 
condemned were novelties repudiated, and felt to be in the 
highest degree offensive, by the bulk of the English clergy. 
And so the Nicene Council has done us the inestimable ser- 
vice of showing beyond controversy that, at the beginning of 
the fourth century, the denial of our Lord's co-eternity with 
the Father was regarded as an offensive novelty. The voice 
of an overwhelming majority of a body, very well entitled to 
represent the Church of the time, gives us a compendious 
assurance of their sentiments, which would be ill replaced by 
the results of searching and weighing the sentiments of indi- 
vidual writers. The function of Councils at any time in wit- 
nessing to the opinion of the Church at that time is most 
important; and if we value the earlier Councils more than 
the later, it is because, as we hold that the Christian truth is 
to be attained not by a new revelation, but by handing down 
faithfully the old revelation, it is far more important for us to 
know what was believed in the early Church than in the later. 
But, indeed, belief in the infallibility of Councils can 
hardly be held by anyone who has studied the history of 
Councils, and who knows anything of their violence and party 
spirit, and of the bad arguments on the strength of which 
many of their infallible conclusions were arrived at. Any 
proofs of these that I could lay before you could scarcely 


establish more than is acknowledged by Romanist writers. 
Cardinal Manning fairly gives up the attempt to defend the 
goodness of the arguments used at Councils, and declares 
that the Holy Spirit only guarantees the truth of the con- 
clusion arrived at, while for the arguments which led to that 
conclusion only the individual writers are responsible. And 
he quotes to this effect a dictum of St. Francis de Sales, that 
the arguments take place only in the porch, the final decision 
in the sanctuary.* This dictum appears to me to put a severe 
strain on the faith of those who receive it. We might accept 
the pretensions of a professional accountant without dream- 
ing of examining his work. But if we heard him performing 
his additions by the process, six and four are eleven, and 
five are thirteen, and seven are twenty-four, how could our 
belief in him be restored ? Who would have the face to say, 
It is true not a single column in my preliminary calculations 
is added correctly, but you may rely implicitly that I never 
fail somehow or another to bring out the correct sum total ? 

The Nicene Council. Let me say something now about 
the history of those first four General Councils, the conclu- 
sions arrived at in which we ourselves accept. And first I 
speak about the Nicene. 

Constantine, you may remember, at first tried to silence 
the Arian disputes as about a subject too trifling to be worthy 
of serious controversy. If this surprise you, you must re- 
member that Arius was far indeed from teaching that the 
vSaviour was mere man. He may almost be said not to have 
denied His divinity, since he had no scruple in applying to 
Him the name God, and in offering Him worship. He owned 
Him to be 'the Word which was with God from the begin- 
ning, and which was God,' the 'Wisdom of the Father' (de- 
scribed in Proverbs viii.), before all creatures, and through 
whom God made the worlds. His point, however, was, that 
as any son must be posterior to his father, so the name Son, 
applied to our Lord, indicated that He was not, like the 
Father, from all eternity ; but that there was he would not 
say a time when the Son was not, for he owned Him to be 
anterior to all timebut at least that there was when the Son 
* Temporal Mission of the Holy Ghost, p. 11, 


was not. You can conceive then that Constantine, at the 
time not a baptized Christian, and as a politician anxious 
above everything for the peace of his Empire, should be 
impatient of a dispute in which the Christian bishops made 
themselves angry about, as he thought, mere metaphysical 
subtleties. When, however, he could not find a hearing for 
his pacific exhortations, he devised the magnificent plan of as- 
sembling all the bishops of Christendom, and obtaining their 
verdict on the point in dispute. Thus peace would be restored 
by a decision which no one would be so bold as to resist. 

I may anticipate the next branch of our subject, to point 
out how this history proves that the idea of the infallibility of 
the Bishop of Rome had not then entered any Eastern per- 
son's head. If to consult the Bishop of Rome would have 
sufficed, his opinion could have been had with little expense 
or trouble. The history of the next century or two presents a 
constant succession of councils. A heathen writer complains 
that the whole posting system of the empire was deranged 
through its being constantly occupied by bishops hastening 
to councils.* Why, at so much cost and labour, bring a num- 
ber of fallible men together, if one infallible man could have 

* I refer above to what is said by Ammianus Marcellinus in his 
estimate of the character of Constantius at the end of Book 21. I 
quote the passage in full because it illustrates how educated heathen 
were repelled from Christianity by the spectacle of bitter dissensions 
among Christians : ' Christianam religionem absolutam et simplicem, 
anili superstitione conf undens ; in qua scrutanda perplexius quam 
componenda gravius, excitavit plurima discidia, quae progressa fusius 
aluit concertatione verborum : ut cater vis antistitum jumentis publicis 
ultro citroque discurrentibus per synodos, quas appellant, dum ritum 
omnem ad suum trahere conantur arbitrium, rei vehiculariae succideret 
nervos.' The serious cost of a Synod to the public revenue is further 
illustrated by the fact that when Pope Liberius was anxious that the 
charge against Atfianasius should be investigated, not in the West, 
where Constantius was thinking of holding a Council, but at Alexan- 
dria, where the alleged offences were said to have occurred ; with the 
view of making his plan more acceptable to the Emperor, he proposed 
that the bishops should travel to Alexandria, not at the public 
expense, but each at his own proper cost (Sozom. H. E. iv. 11). It 
seems to me likely that Liberius had the idea that if any such order 
were made, the bishops would be willing to sign an acquittal of 
Athanasius without taking the journey. But one thing is clear, that 
if the Emperor's authority was necessary for a journey to be made by 
bishops at their own cost and by desire of the Bishop of Home, it 
was not possible in those days for the Bishop of Rome to ' gather a 
General Council together without the commandment and will of 


settled the whole question in his closet? From the modern 
Roman point of view Dr. Newman is right in the difficulty 
he finds in seeing that the third General Council was at all 
necessary. See his Essay on Theodoret, Historical Sketches, 
if. 347349 : ' What could be stronger than a decision at 
Rome followed by the assent to it of the Catholic world? ' 
He thinks (p. 336) that ' Cyril and Theodoret would have 
been happier had they kept at home and settled the points 
in dispute, as they began them, with theological treatises, 
dispensing with hostile camps, party votings, and coercive 
acts. Their controversies, I know, were on vital subjects, 
the settlement of them was essential, and in settling them 
the Church was infallible ; but in matter of fact and after all 
they were carried on to their irreversible issue by the Pope 
and the civil power, not by the Council to which they were 
submitted.' This represents a modern judgment; but in the 
fourth century a ' decision at Rome ' was not sufficient to 
secure the ' assent to it of the Catholic world.' Constantine 
had had experience in the case of the Donatist controversy 
(into the details of which I need not enter at present) that 
the decision of the Roman bishop would not be accepted as 
final ; for if it had failed to settle a purely Western dispute, 
what probability was there that it would be owned as decisive 
by contending Easterns ? Nor can I find any trace that at 
this stage of the dispute the Pope was consulted at all. 
Certainly there is no foundation for what is asserted by a 
few of the less scrupulous Romanists, that it was the Pope 
who summoned the Nicene Council.* The bringing it together 
was entirely the Emperor's idea. The Pope got his summons 
like other bishops, but being too old and infirm to obey in 
person, sent two of his presbyters to represent him. This acci- 
dent made a precedent which his successors followed, as if it 
were beneath the dignity of the Pope to journey to a Council. 

* The earliest authority I can find for it is nearly four centuries 
after the event, namely, the sixth General Council in 680 (Mansi, 
Condi., xi. 661). It is to be noted, however, that though, according 
to Roman theory, the office of convoking a General Council properly 
belongs to the Pope, yet a Council otherwise convoked may be 
recognized as general, provided the Pope have given his consent to 
the convocation previously, or even afterwards (Bellarmine ; D& 
et Ecclesia, i. 12). 


Now, certainly, I have not the least desire to detract from 
the respect to which the verdict of so venerable a meeting of 
bishops is entitled. It was such a representative assembly as 
the world up to that time had never seen. It brought together 
men from the most remote parts of the world. There were 
many there who could show in their bodies signs of their suf- 
ferings for the faith ; for it was not more than some twenty 
years since the terrible Diocletian persecution, under which 
many suffered imprisonment or tortures, who survived to tell 
at Nicaea what was the faith which they had confessed. 
And the memory of that Council deserves to be kept in 
honour for the good service it did in repelling an assault 
which struck at the very life of our religion. For I verily 
believe that Christianity would now be extinct if the Arian 
had been adopted as its authorized form. How many Arians 
are there now ? There are many now who refuse to believe 
that our Blessed Lord is ' of one substance with the Father* ; 
but I doubt if there are in all the world a score of those who 
would be willing to hold what amounts to Ditheism, acknow- 
ledging our Lord as a kind of inferior divinity, pre-existent 
before all worlds, but though thus the oldest and highest of 
creatures, still no more than a creature. 

Nor is the respect we owe that Council liable, as in 
the case of some later Councils, to deduction on account of 
turbulence in its proceedings. Our information, indeed, is 
but scanty. No official acts have been preserved, as they 
have in the case of later Councils; and there is not only no 
official record, but no authentic report of the proceedings. 
We do not even know with any certainty who presided 
over the deliberations. Eusebius, the historian to whom we 
owe so much of our knowledge of the early Church, was 
present, and, if he could have known how grateful after ages 
would have been for it, perhaps might have left us a detailed 
account of what went on. But he had no reason to be proud 
of his own share in the proceedings of a Council where his 
opinion was overruled. Though not an Arian himself, he 
was not in favour of the measures taken for the exclusion of 
the Arians ; and he presented to the Council for adoption the 
creed of his own Church, Caesarea, which was one which the 


Arians could have signed. So Eusebius in the end found 
himself obliged to sign a formula drawn up in opposition to 
his judgment. The consequence was that he did not care to 
write the history of the Council, and his silence is ill-supple- 
mented by other sources. One of the best of these is found 
in the writings of Athanasius ; and I should by no means 
venture to say that that Father's defence of the truth was 
untinged by human passion, or that he shows himself likely 
to have put any very charitable construction on the sayings 
of one whom he regarded as a dangerous heretic, by all 
means to be banished from the Church. 

One little passage from Athanasius* gives an interesting 
glimpse how the orthodox found phrase after phrase which 
they had devised, insufficient to exclude their adversaries. 
The Arians were overheard consulting with each other, and 
coming to the conclusion that they could agree to apply to 
the vSon each successively proposed title of honour; being 
always however ready with a text of Scripture in which the 
same title is applied to a creature. I will repeat one as a 
puzzle for you. When it was proposed to predicate eternity 
of the Son, that too they thought might be conceded, because 
it is said of ourselves, 'we which are alive are always* 'Act 
yap rjfjius ol foWcs. Can you tell where these words are to be 
found ?f 

Another phrase deserves a little more comment. The 
Arians would own the Son to be God of God. I have said 
that they had no objection to give Him the title God ; and as 
for the description 'of God,' they said, we are all of God, 
quoting the text, 'all things are of God.' Now there is an 
ambiguity about the English preposition 'of,' of which you 
ought to be aware. When we say 'man was made of the dust 
of the earth,' you cannot mistake the meaning. Now the Son 
was 'begotten, not made.' But when we say 'begotten of the 
Father,' we are apt to understand the word 'of in quite a 
different sense, as equivalent merely to 'by.' In the fourth 
century it was inquired of what was the Son in the other sense 
of the word, a question which the English language is almost 

* De decret. Nic. Syn. c. 21. f2 Cor. iv. 11. 



too coarse to state. One does not like to put it in the form, 
From what materials was the substance of the Son derived? 
It could not be from any created substance, for it was owned 
on all hands that the Son was antecedent to all creation. 
The more thorough-going Arians answered, ' since nothing 
was before the Son, the Son was of nothing' c OVK oVrtov 
whence they were called Exucontians. The answer embodied 
in the Creed of the Council was that the Son was of the sub- 
stance of the Father; and in like manner they insisted that 
the Son was of the same substance with the Father. Leading 
Arians had already committed themselves to the rejection of 
this word 'Homoousios,' and by the adoption of it the ortho- 
dox found what they were in search of a test term which 
would have the effect of excluding Arius and his party from 
the Church. 

Whether or not is was practically wise to be satisfied 
with nothing which would not bring about this result, even 
we who live after the event find it hard to answer with cer- 
tainty. We know all the evils which resulted from the course 
of action actually adopted : what would have followed from 
the opposite course it is not so easy to say. Our own experi- 
ence tells us that theological opinions are apt so to shade off 
into one another, that it is difficult to put out of communion 
even men whose opinions seem to us clearly outside the per- 
missible limits, without wounding the sympathies of others 
whom we have no desire to disturb or offend. It was so in 
this Arian controversy. There were a number of thoroughly 
orthodox men who took deep offence at a non-scriptural word 
being made essential to communion. There was a further 
objection to this word that it had been disapproved of at the 
Council of Antioch, in 264, which condemned Paul of Samo- 
sata. Paul had argued that if the Father and Son were of the 
same substance, this common substance must be looked on as 
a third thing antecedent to both Father and Son; and the 
orthodox then were content to allow this reason against the 
use of the word to prevail. The advocates for the doctrine 
of Development appeal to this instance of a word, condemned 
at a Council of great weight, being afterwards approved at 
a still greater Council ; but it is absurd to treat as a case of 


development of doctrine what is really only an example of 
change as to the use of a word. We need no special theory 
to explain the fact that the Church, while retaining the same 
doctrine, may vary the language in which she propounds it, 
according as words, limited to no special sense by Scripture, 
come in the course of time to be differently understood. 

What I have said as to there being a number of men, 
themselves quite orthodox, who disapproved of the measures 
taken to exclude Arius, may in part account for the unex- 
pected vicissitudes of the Arian controversy. Arius had less 
than a score of bishops to take his side at Nicaea : and we 
might imagine that after he had been condemned by an 
assembly of bishops, unprecedented in numbers and weight 
of dignity, and after the Emperor had backed with all his 
might the decrees of the Council, treating Arius as no better 
than a heathen, and condescending even to comments on his 
personal appearance it might have been expected, I say, 
that the heresy would be completely suppressed. Quite the 
contrary proved to be the case. It is difficult to imagine 
that if Alexandria had been presided over by the most lati- 
tudinarian of bishops, who should have permitted Arius to 
propagate his doctrines with the utmost impunity, they would 
ever have won so many converts, or gained such confidence in 
the Christian world, as were obtained after so formal a con- 
demnation. The Church's history for the next fifty years 
presents a spectacle of convulsive struggling, with alternate 
success : Council after Council meeting : one of about twice 
the numbers of the Nicene setting aside its decisions ; Atha- 
nasius sometimes in exile, sometimes flying for his life. 
Arianism became the creed of the whole nation of the Goths. 
A little before the meeting of the second General Council, 
when Gregory Nazianzen came to Constantinople as a kind 
of apostle of orthodoxy, it was with difficulty he could find 
a single church in which to deliver his sermons. 

The interest of the subject has led me to say more about 
the Nicene Council than is strictly relevant to the contro- 
versy with Roman Catholics, which is this Term's work ; but 
the point I want to bring out is this : If any Council can 
claim infallible authority it is the Nicene. Rather more than 


a century after its date the Council of Chalcedon declared, 
'We will neither allow ourselves nor others to transgress by 
a syllable what our fathers at Nicsea have resolved ; remem- 
bering the command, "remove not the landmarks which thy 
fathers have placed," for it was not they that spake there, 
but the Spirit of God Himself.' A like position of honour 
was conceded, when time had made them venerable, to all 
the first four General Councils. The Emperor Justinian 
decreed that the decisions of these four Councils should have 
the force of laws, adding 'we receive the dogmas of these four 
vSynods as the sacred Scriptures.' Pope Gregory the Great 
says that he venerates these four as the four Gospels, and 
describes them as the four-square stones on which the struc- 
ture of faith rests.* Yet the hard struggle each of these 
Councils had to make, and the number of years which the 
struggle lasted before its decrees obtained general acceptance, 
show that they obtained their authority because of the truth 
which they declared, and it was not because of their authority 
that the decrees were recognized as true. 

Euclid is recognized as an authority because all the pro- 
positions which he enunciates are true, and are capable of 
being proved; and it is not that he was recognized as infal- 
lible, and that it was thence inferred that his propositions 
were true. If anyone should hereafter put forward a theory 
that in matters of science there is always an infallible guide ; 
that at one time it was Euclid, a couple of hundred years 
ago it was Sir Isaac Newton, while in our age it was Mr. 
Darwin ; no evidence that our age knew nothing of such a 
doctrine would be needed beyond the fact that Mr. Darwin's 
theories, even supposing they afterwards come to be univer- 
sally received, did not gain their acceptance until after long 
years of controversy. The way to see whether anyone is 

* ' Sicut sancti Evangelii quatuor libros, sic quatuor Concilia 
suscipere et venerari me fateor .... quia in his velut in quadrate 
lapide. sancta fidei structura consurgit' (Epist. i. 25, adJohan. Episc. 
Const.). Gregory's words, quoted in the text, have suggested to a 
much respected writer an unwarranted inference, 'Gregory evidently 
considering these four as far more important than those which 
followed them.' I must therefore note that Gregory goes on to say, 
' Quintum quoque concilium pariter veneror.' The sixth General 
Council did not take place till after his death. 


recognized as a judge is to observe how parties behave after 
the judge speaks. If they go on disputing the same as 
before, it is plain enough that his authority is not acknow- 
ledged. And so the fact that we ourselves' believe the doc- 
trine of Nicsea to be true does not set aside the fact that 
general acknowledgment of its truth was not obtained until 
after hot and violent controversies, which lasted longer than 
the average lifetime of a man. 

And so it was no point of faith in the early Church to re- 
ceive these Councils as infallible. Thedeniersof their dogmas 
were met by tendering to them the proof, which is the proper 
evidence of them. Thus Augustine, in a well-known passage, 
reasoning with Maximinus the Arian, when the authority of 
the Council of Nicaea had been cited for the Homoousion, and 
that of Ariminum against it, says, ' I must not press the 
authority of Nicaea against you, nor you that of Ariminum 
against me ; I do not acknowledge the one, as you do not the 
other; but let us come to ground that is common to both 
the testimony of the Holy Scriptures.'* It would thus appear 
that it was not a point of faith to acknowledge the infalli- 
bility of Councils, as it is to acknowledge the authority of 
Scripture ; but that the decisions of the Councils were re- 
received because they could be proved from Scripture. 

On these grounds our own Church is commonly said to 
have received the first four Councils. Thus, Jeremy Taylor 
says (Dissuasive, Part II, Book i, i. 4), ' The Church of 
England receives the four first generals as of the highest 
regard, not that they are infallible, but that they have de- 
termined wisely and holily.' But this reception by the 
Church of England is only to be understood with reference 
to the language constantly used by her divines, f and has 

* ' Sed nunc nee ego Nicaenum, nee tu debes Ariminense, taiiquam 
praejudicaturus, proferre concilium. Nee ego hujus auctoritate, nee 
tu illius detineris. Scripturarum auctoritatibus, non quorumque 
propriis, sed utrisque communibus testibus, res cum re, causa cum 
causa, ratio cum ratione concertet ' (August, Cont. Maximin. Arian. 
ii. 14, vol. viii. 704). 

t Several of them extend the acknowledgment to the first six 
Councils, e.g. Field, of the Church, v. 51; Hammond, of Heresy, iii. 
7-11. In the second part of the Homily on 'Peril of Idolatry,' 
mention is made of pictures placed by Pope Constantine in St. Peter's 
at Rome of ' the ancient Fathers which had been at those six Councils 
which were allowed and received of all men.' 


not been expressed in any authoritative document. The 
only formal acknowledgment of these Councils that I know 
of is in a statute passed in the first year of Elizabeth, in 
which the power to try for heresy is limited to what has 
been adjudged to be heresy by the authority of canonical 
Scriptures, or by some of the first four General Councils, or 
by any other General Council wherein the same was declared 
heresy by the express and plain words of the said canonical 
Scriptures, or such as shall hereafter be determined to be 
heresy by the High Court of Parliament, with the assent of 
the clergy in their convocation (Eliz., cap. i, sec. 36, A.D. 
1558). Incidentally the authority of the first four General 
Councils is appealed to in the Homily ' on Fasting ' ; and 
again in one of the canons passed by the Convocation of 
1640, in which Socinianism is described as being ' a com- 
plication of many ancient heresies condemned by the first 
four General Councils.' All this, however, comes very far 
short of any formal acknowledgment of the authority of 
these Councils, and only shows that the doctrine taught 
by them is accepted by us as true. We accept the doc- 
trines on their own evidence, and are no more concerned 
with any impeachment of the wisdom or piety of the Fathers 
who made the decrees, than the value we attach to Magna 
Charta would be affected by any evidence that might be pro- 
duced of turbulence, greediness, or self-seeking on the part 
of the barons who gained it. 

The Council of Constantinople. From the first General 
Council I pass to the second that of Constantinople 
which indeed may be said to have only become an Ecu- 
menical Council ex post facto. Originally it was but an 
assembly of Eastern bishops. Rome was not represented 
there. Nor does it seem for seventy years after its occur- 
rence to have enjoyed the consideration of such a Council. 
It was the respect with which its acts were quoted at 
Chalcedon, in 451, which seems first to have given it that 
character. The history of every one of the Councils tends to 
support the theory that infallibility, if it exist at all, resides 
in the Church diffusive, not in a Council. Every one of the 
Councils has had to struggle for its reception. When its 


decrees are new they have but disputed authority. When 
time has mellowed them, and when the results arrived at by 
the Council have been long accepted by the Church, then we 
first hear of the Council's infallibility. On this Council of 
Constantinople some light is thrown by a venerable Father 
who was present, and who has as good a right to the title 
saint as many who have been honoured with it, Gregory 
Nazianzen. Indeed I believe he is almost the only Father 
who is not accused of having sometimes in his writings 
fallen into doctrinal error. You will all be familiar with 
that saying of his, quoted by Browne in his Commentary on 
the Articles, ' If I must write the truth, I am disposed to 
avoid every assembly of bishops ; for of no synod have I 
seen a profitable end, but rather an addition to than a 
diminution of evils ; for the love of strife and the thirst for 
superiority are beyond the power of words to express.'* But 
it may be no harm to remind you what good cause Gregory 
had had for expressing himself so energetically. 

Constantinople had been for some time in the hands of 
Arians; and Gregory, who had come there as a kind of 
missionary in the cause of Orthodoxy, had by his eloquence 
and exertions raised the orthodox side from almost extinc- 
tion to pre-eminence. In return for such services Gregory 
was rewarded with the Episcopate of Constantinople, though 
not without much reluctance on his own part; for having 
lived an ascetic and retired life, he had much distaste for the 
pomp and luxury that surrounded the bishop of the metro- 
polis, while he felt more acutely the worries incident to the 
office than a man might have done who had lived more in 
the world. You probably know that there was at this time a 
schism in the Church of Antioch, into the history of the 
origin of which I need not enter. Suffice it to say, that on 
the one hand Meletius was owned as bishop by the great 
bulk of the Christians of Antioch, and was generally accepted 
as such through the East; on the other hand, Paulinus had 
a comparatively small following in Antioch itself, but was 
strong in external support; for having been recognized by 

*Epist. 130, Procopio, vol. ii, p. 110 : Caillau. 


Athanasius, he was acknowledged as bishop of Antioch in 
the West. In an earlier stage of the dispute the schism had 
consisted in a refusal of the orthodox to acknowledge a 
prelate whom they regarded as Arian. But there was now 
no difference of doctrine between the contending parties. 
Meletius had disappointed the expectations of those who 
thought he would have taught Arianism, and had proved to 
be a staunch adherent to the Nicene Creed. In character he 
was saintly, in disposition mild and conciliatory : but over- 
tures which he made to Paulinus for a termination of the 
schism were sternly rejected, it being thought an inex- 
cusable blot that Meletius had owned his election to Arian 

It is worthy of attention that the party in this dispute 
which gained the support of the Roman bishops was in the 
end not successful, and that Meletius, though not acknow- 
ledged by Rome in his lifetime, has since been honoured by 
her as a saint. The fact that Meletius presided over the 
second General Council is on this account remarkable. In 
other cases Romanist advocates have asserted, often without 
the least evidence, that the bishops who actually presided 
did so as deputed by the bishop of Rome. In this case the 
president of a Council, which has since been accepted as 
Ecumenical, was one whom Rome did not recognize as 
bishop ; yet the Council willingly put him at their head. 

Meletius died during the sitting of the Council. The 
controversy having been merely personal, and there being 
no disagreement in doctrine, wise and moderate men on both 
sides had wished that, on the death of either, no successor 
should be elected, and that the survivor should hold the see 
without dispute. It is even said but the thing has been 
denied that some compact of the kind had been assented to 
by leading presbyters at Antioch, including him who was 
afterwards chosen as Meletius 's successor. At all events, 
when the death of Meletius took place, Gregory desired that 
the schism should be healed by all recognizing Paulinus as 
bishop. He held that the Church ought not to be divided on 
a merely personal question, and that if the controversy had 
been about two angels, it would not be worth the scandal it 


caused. Gregory's reputation and influence had extended to 
the West : the celebrated Jerome sat at his feet as his dis- 
ciple. Consequently, the need of conciliating the West was 
felt, and was pressed strongly by Gregory. But these coun- 
sels were unacceptable to the greater part of the assembly, 
who were jealous in maintaining their independence against 
Western attempts at domination. The sun, they said, went 
from the East to the West, and not from the West to the 
East. They saw no reason why they should yield to a small 
and insolent minority at Antioch. Gregory tells us that a 
yell, rather than a cry, broke from the assembled Episcopate. 
In verses in which, after he got home, he gave vent to his 
feelings, he says that they buzzed about him like a swarm 
of wasps ; that they cawed against him as an army of jack- 
daws.* Then on the arrival at "Constantinople of a detach- 
ment of bishops, who had other reasons for being unfriendly 
to Gregory, the assault was turned against himself. The 
bishops in question came from Egypt ; and in order to under- 
stand the history of the Eastern Church for centuries after 
the adoption of Constantine's new capital, you must bear in 
mind the bitter jealousy that raged between Alexandria and 
Constantinople. The bishop of Alexandria had hitherto 
ranked as the second bishop in Christendom ; and he saw 
with disgust the rivalry of the upstart Byzantium. In the 
present case the election of Gregory had foiled an attempt 
of the Alexandrian bishop to thrust into the see of Constan- 
tinople a nominee of his own. Consequently Gregory must 
be got rid of. The point was raised, that as he had been 
originally consecrated to another see, his translation to Con- 
stantinople was a violation of the ancient canons. Gregory, 
though indignant that an obsolete canon should be in- 
voked against him, professed himself much delighted to 
return to his retirement, and willing to be thrown overboard, 
like Jonah, if it would give peace to the Church. We 

ot 8' K>u>ov aAA.0? aXXoOev 

rj (r^-rjKMV 8iKr)v 

De Vita sua, 1680. 


need not doubt his sincerity. A man who undertakes un- 
congenial work may cheerfully continue at it as long as he 
feels he is doing it successfully, but be glad to retire when 
it is perceived that he has been a failure. Yet when Gregory 
was taken at his word, there remained on his mind, as was 
not unnatural, the greatest soreness at his treatment ; and he 
has left both in prose, and still more in the verses in which 
he was fond of giving vent to his feelings, descriptions which 
show that the one hundred and fifty venerable fathers of 
Constantinople looked much less venerable when seen close 
at hand than at a distance. 

He begins his verses by saying : ' You may boldly face 
a lion; a leopard is a gentle beast after all; a snake may 
frighten you and yet flee from you : there is just one animal 
to be dreaded a bad bishop.' The context of the verses 
themselves, and the occasion on which they were written, 
leave no reasonable room for doubt that the bad bishops 
whom he proceeds to describe were those who formed the 
majority of the Council, and from whom he had personally 
suffered. It seems to me likely that in the coarse, illi- 
terate men whom he describes, he had especially in view 
the Egyptian contingent; for, as we shall presently see, 
there is abundant evidence of the rude and unchristian 
violence with which theological controversy was carried on in 
that part of the world. It has been suggested that Gregory 
had only Arian bishops in view; but he brings no charge 
of false doctrine against the objects of his invective : if he 
counts them unfit for their office, it is because of their want 
of education, and still more on account of their low morality. 
They seem to him to have arrived at their dignity in answer 
to the call of a herald who had summoned all the gluttons, 
villains, liars, false swearers, of the empire;* 'they are "cha- 

ws SOKCCO pot 


W wroi 


Ad Episc. 74. 
In the text I make use of the form in which Dean Stanley 


meleons that change their colour with every stone over which 
they pass;" "illiterate, lowborn, filled with all the pride of up- 
starts, fresh from the tables of false accountants," "peasants 
from the plough," "unwashed blacksmiths," "deserters from 
the army or navy, still stinking from the holds of the ships."* 
But it may be said the Apostles were unlearned. True ; and 
give me a real apostle and I will reverence him however 
illiterate; but these are time-servers, waiting not on God, 
but on the rise and flow of the tide, or the straw on the wind ; 
angry lions to the small, fawning spaniels to the great; 
flatterers of ladies ; snuffing up the smell of good dinners ; 
ever at the gates, not of the wise, but of the powerful ; unable 
to speak themselves, but having sufficient sense to stop the 
mouths of those who can ; made wild by their elevation ; 
affecting manners not their own; the long beard, the down- 
cast look, the head bowed, the subdued voice, the slow walk, 
the got-up devotee ; the wisdom anywhere but in the mind. 

' Councils, congresses, we greet afar off, from which (to 
use moderate terms) we have suffered many evils. I will not 
sit in one of these Councils of geese and cranes ; I fly from 
every meeting of bishops ; for I never saw a good end of any 
such, nor termination, but rather an addition of evils.' 

v8t ri TTOV (TvvoSoicriv opoOpovos CCTO-O/A' lywye 
Xt/vwi/ TJ ye.p6.vdyv aKptra [jLapvafJbevwv. 

"Ev$' 6/H5, vOa [J,6@OS T KOL aL(T\a KpVTTTa 

Ets eva 8v<T(jLV<ov yCtpov ayctpdjaeva. 

Adv. fals. Episc. 92. 

But I find that I had better reserve to another lecture 
the rest of what I have to say about Councils. 

(Christian Institutions, p. 312) has compressed Gregory's diffuse 
invectives. The two poems, De Episcopis and Ad Episcopos, occupy 
some sixty folio pages in Caillau's edition. 

* Ot 8' i dpOTOWV. TlA-tO) KKO.VLHVOL 

tnj>C>/N\ \ l / / 

ot o K oiKeAA^Sj K 


>'} TO o~o)ju<' e 



IF I had contented myself, as logically I might, with one 
proof of the comparative novelty of the doctrine of the 
Infallibility of General Councils, I need not have gone lower 
down than the history of the first Ecumenical Council, that 
of Niceea. According to modern ideas, its decision ought to 
have put an end to all controversy. We all approve of that 
decision as correct. It was arrived at by an overwhelming 
majority of a fairly representative assembly of the bishops of 
Christendom. It expressed the sentiments of the Bishop of 
Rome, and was endorsed by the civil authority. Yet to the 
eye of a Romanist the history of the Church for the rest of 
the fourth century presents a scene of awful confusion; 
Council after Council meeting to try to settle the already 
settled question, throwing the Nicene Creed overboard, and 
attempting to improve on it. What ailed them, not to 
acquiesce in conclusions adopted by infallible authority ? 
Simply that, at the time, there was no suspicion of its infalli- 
bility. There was no idea then but that what one Council 
had done another Council might improve on. 

Cardinal Newman (Historical Sketches, iii. 352) describes 
the fourth-century Councils, to which I have just referred, as 
'a scandal to the Christian name' ; and he goes on to say : 
'The Councils of the next century, even such as were ortho- 
dox, took their tone and temper from those which had gone 
before them ; and even those which were Ecumenical have 


nothing to boast of as regards the mass of the Fathers, taken 
individually, who composed them.' It is of these Ecu- 
menical Councils of the fifth century I come now to speak. 

We must be on our guard against the temptation to which 
party feeling exposes men, whether in religious or political 
disputes, namely, reluctance to express disapprobation of any 
men or any means that have helped to bring about the 
triumph of the right side. I feel very strongly that the 
side which triumphed, both at the third and at the fourth 
Ecumenical Council, was the right side. We of the present 
day are not concerned with the merely personal question, 
whether Nestorius was misrepresented ; or whether he only 
expressed himself incautiously, without himself holding what 
we call Nestorianism. But we can heartily join in con- 
demning that Nestorianism as being practically equivalent 
to a denial of our Lord's Divinity. Breaking up our Lord's 
Personality into two is a scheme which enables a man to use 
the loftiest language concerning the Divinity which dwelt in 
Jesus, while at the same time holding Jesus Himself to be a 
man imperfect morally as well as intellectually. If we hold 
that the Deity did but dwell in Jesus without being truly and 
properly one with him, this is to ascribe to him no exclusive 
prerogative. Might not the Deity thus dwell with many men? 
You will find that one would be able to affirm, in the same 
words, concerning the founder of Buddhism, everything that, 
according to the Nestorian hypothesis, you can affirm as to 
the Divinity of the Founder of the Christian religion. And 
if I have no sympathy with Nestorianism, neither have I any 
with the heresy condemned at the fourth General Council, 
which practically is equivalent to a denial that our Saviour 
was truly and properly man. But without having sympathy 
with either heresy, we are still free to inquire whether we can 
approve of the measures taken to suppress it, and whether 
these measures were, in point of fact, successful. 

Now, when we come down from the second General 
Council to the third and fourth, our documentary means of 
knowledge increase, but not so our respect for Councils. 
More and more I find myself forced to say, that if I believe 
the conclusions at which these meetings arrived to be true, 


it is not because the Councils have affirmed them ; and, as far 
as I can judge, it is not on that account that the Universal 
Church has believed them either. The more I study these 
Nestorian and Eutychian disputes, the less sympathy can I 
feel with either party to the struggle. On both sides the 
virulence of party rancour seems utterly to have killed Chris- 
tian charity. The problem on which the disputants were 
engaged namely, to explain how the divine and human 
natures could be united in one person, and to state the 
conditions of such a union is as difficult as any with which 
the human intellect has ever grappled, and is therefore one 
on which error surely might deserve indulgent consideration. 
Yet both parties regarded those who differed from themselves 
and that possibly only in their use of language as wilful 
deniers of the truth, enemies of Christ, haters of God, men 
for whom no punishment could be too severe in this world 
and in the next. And the reputation of Christianity has 
suffered, as secular historians have pointed out that these 
furious struggles took place at a time when the Roman 
Empire was threatened with dissolution under the inroads 
of barbaric tribes, who could not be successfully resisted if 
Christians would not give over fighting with one another. 

Cyril of Alexandria, who presided over the third Council 
that of Ephesus is perhaps, of all those who have been 
honoured with the title of saint, the one whose character 
least commands our affection. In the fourth century the title 
ayios, applied to an orthodox bishop, meant, perhaps, little 
more than the title 'reverend* applied to a clergyman ol the 
present day. But of the qualities which go to make up our 
modern idea of saintliness, the only one to which Cyril can 
lay claim is zeal for orthodoxy. Of the non-theological 
virtues of meekness, kindness, equity, obedience to law, we 
find in him no trace. There was no country where reli- 
gious controversies were carried on with such violence as 
in Egypt. Cyril had been brought up in a bad school ; 
and he handed down to his successor the traditions of that 
school with extensive evil developments. His whole career 
was marked with violence and bloodshed. He signalized the 
commencement of his episcopate by an assault on the Nova- 


tians, whose churches he shut up, seizing their sacred vessels, 
and depriving their bishop of all his property.* He followed 
this up by an attack on the Jews not without provocation on 
their part. A leading member of his congregation had been 
punished by the magistrate on a charge brought against 
him by Jews. Cyril sent for the chief rabbis, and severely 
threatened them if such molestations were repeated. Riots 
followed; and tidings were brought to Cyril one morning 
that during the night a concerted attack had been made by 
Jews upon Christians, in which several of the latter had lost 
their lives. Cyril forthwith took vengeance into his own 
hands, deciding that there was not room for Jews and Chris- 
tians in the same city. He put himself at the head of an 
immense mob, which took possession of the synagogues, 
plundered the goods of the Jews, and turned them out of the 
city. These proceedings naturally brought him into collision 
with the civil authorities, and the relations between the 
bishop and the prefect became extremely strained. Five 
hundred Nitrian monks poured down to Alexandria to give 
substantial support to the cause of the affronted patriarch. 
They surrounded the prefect's chariot, drove his guards away 
with showers of stones, and not content with abusive lan- 
guage, one of them, Ammonius by name, struck him with 
a stone, and covered his face with blood. But the people 
rose in defence of their magistrate, overpowered the monks, 
and seizing Ammonius, carried him off to punishment, which, 
according to the barbarous usage of the time, was so severe 
that he died under it. Then Cyril set the evil example of 
canonizing criminals as martyrs. Though there is no reason 
to suppose that the assault on the prefect was due to direct 
instigation of his, he made himself an accessory to it after 
the fact by giving Ammonius a public funeral, bestowing on 
him the title 'Admirable'; and would have even enrolled 
him for permanent commemoration as a martyr had not the 
disapprobation of moderate men warned him to drop the 
design. f 

* Socrates, H. E. vii., 7, 13-15. 

1 1 have no wish to exaggerate the case against Cyril, and I will 
therefore suggest an excuse for his conduct, which I have not seen put 


But a worse tragedy followed. The belief in Church cir- 
cles was that the governor would have been on better terms 
with the bishop if he had not been too intimate with heathens. 
Prominent among his heathen friends was the celebrated 
Hypatia, who, in a licentious age, when public life was less 
open to women than now, exercised the functions of a lecturer 
in philosophy with such dignified modesty as to command 
universal respect. One Peter, who held the office of reader in 
the principal church, collected a band of zealots like-minded 
with himself, who watched for Hypatia returning from her 
school, tore her from her chariot, dragged her into a church, 
and there murdered her with every circumstance of brutal 
atrocity. It is not to be supposed that this deed had Cyril's 
sanction; but if a party leader tolerates and profits by the 
excesses of violent followers up to a certain point, he cannot 
escape responsibility if they proceed beyond the point where 
he would have preferred them to stop. If the maxim 'nosci- 
tur e sociis' is ever to have applicability, a Christian teacher 
must be judged of by the spirit manifested by those w r ho 
have been the most zealous hearers of his instructions. 

For excesses of zeal in his warfare against heretics, or 
Jews, or heathens, Cyril has not wanted apologists* who 
willingly believe that the case against him has been coloured 
by witnesses too ready to sympathize with enemies of the 
Church. But there is one chapter in his history with regard 
to which his line of conduct now finds no defender. I refer 
to his treatment of a greater saint than himself, St. Chrysos- 
tom. I have already said that in reading the Church history 
of the centuries following the erection of Constantinople into 
a capital, we must constantly bear in mind the jealousy felt 
at Alexandria at the encroachments on the dignity of their 
ancient see by this upstart rival. I have told how Gregory 

forward by any of his apologists. My idea is that the prefect, 
suspecting that the attack on him had been organized by a higher 
person than those who took part in it, endeavoured, according to the 
legal usage of the time, to extract the truth from his prisoner by 
torture, and that Cyril's admiration and gratitude were moved by the 
constancy with which Ammonius endured, even to death, without 
uttering a criminatory word. 

*0ne of the latest is Kopallik, Cyrilhts von Alexandria, 1881. 


Nazianzen was compelled, by Egyptian opposition, to resign 
his see. St. Chrysostom's election to the bishopric of 
Constantinople disappointed an attempt of the Alexandrian 
patriarch, Theophilus, to place in Constantinople a nominee 
of his own. From that time Chrysostom had in Theophilus a 
bitter enemy, through whose exertions he suffered deposition 
and exile, accompanied with treatment which hastened his 
death. Cyril, the nephew of Theophilus, was his aider and 
abettor in the warfare against Chrysostom ; and he continued 
his hostility when, on his uncle's death, he succeeded to the 
see. The death of Chrysostom did not soften his feelings ; 
and a few years afterwards, when entreated to allow Chrysos- 
tom's name to be placed on the diptychs, he replied that this 
would be as great an affront to the orthodox bishops on the 
list as it would be to the Apostles if the traitor Judas were 
reckoned in their number. It was not until ten years after 
Chrysostom's death that he reluctantly gave way. Now 
what, in Roman Catholic eyes, makes his conduct inexcus- 
able is that Cyril's obstinacy placed him in opposition, not 
only to Chrysostom, but to the bishop of Rome, out of whose 
communion the Egyptians accordingly remained for twelve 

Accordingly, Cardinal Newman here gives Cyril up. 'Cyril, 
I know, is a saint ; but it does not follow that he was a saint 
in the year 412.' 'Among the greatest saints are those who, 
in early life, were committed to very unsaintly doings.' 'We 
may hold Cyril to be a great servant of God without con- 
sidering ourselves obliged to defend certain passages of his 
ecclesiastical career. It does not answer to call whity- 
brown white. His conduct out of his own territory, as well 
as in it, is often very much in keeping with the ways of the 
uncle who preceded him in his see, and his archdeacon who 
succeeded him in it.' I hope I am not ungrateful for so much 
candour if I say that if it does not answer to call whity- 
brown white, neither does it answer to call black whity- 
brown. Dr. Newman himself asks the question, 'Is Cyril a 
saint? How can he be a saint if what has been said above 
is matter of historical truth?' His chief reason for giving a 
favourable answer is one that has not much weight with us, 



'Catholics must believe that Providence would have inter- 
posed to prevent his receiving the honours of a saint, in East 
and West, unless he really was deserving of them.' ' It is 
natural to think that Cyril would not have been divinely 
ordained for so prominent an office in the establishment 
of dogmatic truth unless there were in him moral endow- 
ments which the surface of history does not reveal to us.' 
And he suggests, that as we hear very little of Cyril during 
the last few years of his life, it may charitably be believed 
that he had repented of his early violence ; and he thinks 
that as ' he had faith, firmness, intrepidity, fortitude, 
endurance, these virtues, together with contrition for his 
failings, were efficacious in blotting out their guilt, and 
saving him from their penal consequences.' 

Now I am sure you will understand that if I pronounce a 
man to be undeserving of the title of Saint, I do not mean to 
deny that he may have repented of his sins, and have entered 
the kingdom of Heaven. In giving honours to historical 
characters we can only be guided by those 'moral endowments 
which the surface of history does reveal' ; and I count it to 
involve a degradingly low estimate of the Christian character 
if we hold up as a model of saintly perfection one in whom 
history only enables us to discover the excellences and fail- 
ings of an able and successful, but violent and unscrupulous, 
party leader. If Cyril changed his character towards the end 
of his life, his contemporaries do not seem to have been aware 
of it. Here is the language of one of them on hearing the 
news of his death : 'At last the reproach of Israel is taken 
away. He is gone to vex the inhabitants of the world below 
with his endless dogmatism. Let everyone throw a stone on 
his grave, lest perchance he may make even hell too hot to 
hold him, and return to earth.' 'The East and Egypt are 
henceforth united : envy is dead, and heresy is buried with 
her.' * 

*The letter from which these passages are taken (Theodoret, Ep. 
180) was read as Theodoret's at the fifth General Council (fifth 
Session), and there accepted as his. But on questions of this kind 
Councils are not infallible ; and the letter contains a note of spurious- 
ness in purporting to be addressed to John, bishop of Antioch, who 
died before Cyril. I own that the suggestion that for ' John ' we 
ought to read ' Domnus ' does not suffice to remove suspicion from my 


I have spoken at such length about the character of Cyril, 
because in truth Cyril was the third General Council. You 
will not expect me to enter into the history of the Nestorian 
controversy, or to discuss whether Nestorius really deserved 
condemnation, or whether by mutual explanations he might 
not have been reconciled to the Church without a schism. 
He is a man with whom I have no great sympathy; but in 
those days the views of the bishop of Constantinople were 
not likely to meet with indulgent criticism from the bishop 
of Alexandria. If I were to say that Cyril at Ephesus was 
' seeking to revenge a private quarrel rather than to promote 
the interests of Jesus Christ,' I should say no more than was 
said by good and impartial men at the time.* 'Cyril,' says 
Newman, ' came to Ephesus not to argue but to pronounce 
an anathema, and to get over the necessary process with as 
much despatch as possible.' ' He had not much tenderness 
for the scruples of literary men, for the rights of Councils, 
or for episcopal minorities ' (pp. 349, 350). 

In short, nothing could have been more violent and unfair 
than the proceedings at Ephesus. Nestorius may have de- 
served condemnation ; but it is certain that he got no fair 
trial, and that the proceedings against him would have been 
pronounced null and void by any English Court of Appeal. 
In fact the Council was opened in the teeth of a protest made 
by sixty-eight bishops, because the bishop of Antioch and 
the bishops of the East were known to be within three days' 

mind. But it is solely for the reason just stated that I feel no 
confidence in accepting the letter as Theodoret's. Newman's opinion 
that it is incredible Theodoret could have written so ' atrocious ' a 
letter is one which it is amazing should be held by anyone familiar 
with the controversial amenities of the time. Our modern urbanity is 
willing to bury party animosities in the grave ; but in the fifth century 
Swift's translation would be thought the only proper one of the 
maxim ' De mortuis nil nisi bonum ' ' when scoundrels die let all 
bemoan 'em. Certainly the man who half a dozen years after 
Chrysostom's death spoke of him as Judas Iscariot had no right to 
expect to be politely treated after his own death by one whom he had 
relentlessly persecuted. 

*St. Isidore of Pelusium found himself constrained to write to 
Cyril in terms of strong remonstrance (see Epp. T., 310, 323, 324, 
370). He says that if he were, as Cyril called him. his father, he 
feared the penalty incurred by Eli for not rebuking his children. 
If he were, as he himself deemed, Cyril's son, he feared the example 
of Jonathan, who shared his father's fate because he had not prevented 


inarch of Ephesus. But because these bishops were known 
to be likely to vote the wrong way, they were not waited for. 
The Council did its work in one summer's day; deposed 
Nestorius in his absence, and acquainted him with the fact in 
a letter addressed to Nestorius, ' the new Judas.' In a few 
days the bishop of Antioch arrived, and then the other party 
held what they professed to be the real Council, and deposed 

There has been a question by what kind of majority must 
the acts of a Council be carried in order to entitle them to 
bind the Church: a simple majority? or two-thirds? or 
more ? and ought we to count heads or to take the votes by 
nations or in some other way ? Obviously, if we count heads, 
the provinces close to the place at which the Council is held 
are likely to have a disproportionately large share of the 
representation. At the Council of Ephesus great complaints 
were made by the Nestorian party that Cyril had taken an 
unfair advantage over them ; that the Emperor had directed 
only a certain number of bishops to be brought from each 
province, and that he had brought a great many more from 
Egypt than he had a right to bring. Ephesus, too, which 
was on Cyril's side, was, as was natural, largely over-repre- 
sented. In modern times these difficulties have been avoided 
by requiring that the decrees of Councils shall be practically 
unanimous. Pius IV. boasted of the unity obtained at Trent 
as plainly ' the Lord's doing and marvellous in our eyes.' 
The unity, to be sure, was brought about by having the ques- 

his consultation of the Witch of Endor. He begged him therefore 
not in avenging a private quarrel, to bring in perpetual dissension into 
the Church. Affection, no doubt, does not see clearly, but hatred 
cannot see at all. Cyril was much blamed by many at Ephesus for 
pursuing his private enmity as he did. They said, He is the nephew 
of Theophilus, and exhibits the same character, persecuting Nestorius 
as he did Chrysostom, though no doubt there was a good deal of 
difference between the two men. TrpoarirdOeia. {J*v OVK o^vSop/cet, 
avTi7ra#eia Se oXcos ov^ opy. . . . IIoAAot yap ere K(OjU(^Sovo-t TWV 
crvviXcy/xev(ov ets "E<o-ov, ws oiKetav ajuwojucvov -^6pav' a A. A,' ov 
TO. 'Ivjorov Xpicrrov o/)#o8ows fyrovvTa. 'A<5eA, 
Oeo<iA.ov, /xi/zoiyxcvos e/ceivov TT)V yvw/x^v. "Qo-irep yap 
juavtav o~a(j)fj Kar0~KSao" TOV 6o<j>6pov Kai Oecxfa ' 

OVTCOS fTTiOvfjiCi Kaw%r)<Ta(rOai Kal O^TOS, 6 Kai TroXp 


tions submitted to a preliminary discussion in committees 
or congregations ; those who there found themselves in a 
minority keeping their opposition silent when the question 
was submitted formally to the Council itself. And so was it 
done at the Vatican Council the other day. Unanimity was 
thought so essential to the validity of a Council's acts that 
the anti-infallibilist bishops had not courage for such a 
breach of discipline or decorum as to say ' non placet ' when 
the matter came formally to a vote, and with one or two 
exceptions all ran away from Rome before the day of the 
final vote. 

Very different was the state of things at Ephesus. To 
quote Dr. Newman, 'At Ephesus the question in dispute 
was settled and defined before certain constituent portions of 
the episcopal body had made their appearance, and this with 
a protest of sixty-eight of the bishops then present, against 
eighty-two. When the remaining forty-three arrived, these 
did more than protest against the definition that had been 
carried. They actually anathematized the Fathers who had 
carried it, whose number seems to have stood altogether at 
one hundred and twenty-four against one hundred and eleven, 
and in this state of disunion the Council ended. How then 
was its definition valid? By after events, which I suppose 
must be considered complements and integral portions of the 
Council.' * 

If this be so, the infallibility clearly rested not with the 
Council, but with the after events, which reviewed and chose 
between its contradictory utterances. But what were the 
after events thus vaguely described ? Bribery and intimida- 
tion at the imperial Court. The scene was soon transferred 
from Ephesus to Constantinople; and if the deposition of 
Nestorius had more effect in the end than the deposition of 
Cyril by the rival section of the Council, the result was due 
not to the venerable authority of the Council, but to the effect 
produced by the turbulent monks of Constantinople on the 
nerves of the emperor, who was one of the weakest of men, 
and to euAoytcu, or, in plain English, bribes judiciously 

* Letter to Duke of Norfolk, p. 100. 


administered to his favourites. At an early stage of the con- 
troversy Nestorius complained that Cyril was shooting 
against him with golden arrows ; and when the final decision 
was arrived at, the clergy of Alexandria mourned at the im- 
poverishment of their Church, which, in addition to sending 
large sums to Constantinople, had gone in debt 1500 pounds 
of gold besides.* 

If it was not a Council which settled the Nestorian contro- 
versy, still less was the Eutychian so settled. The Gallicans 
were quite right in saying that the decisions of a Council only 
prevail in case they are accepted by the Church. The Euty- 
chian question was, as you know, in the first instance decided 
the wrong way by a Council, the second of Ephesus. It is 
worthy of remark that at both the Councils of Ephesus the 
bishop of Alexandria, as the greatest bishop present, pre- 
sided, the Roman legates having the second place. Romanist 
writers reconcile this with modern theories as to Roman 
supremacy by the gratuitous assertion that Cyril presided 
at the first Council as the representative of the bishop of 
Rome ;f but this evasion is not open to them in the case 
of the second Council, the bishops of Rome and Alexandria 

* There has been preserved a letter from the archdeacon of Alexan- 
dria to the bishop appointed to succeed Nestorius at Constantinople, 
complaining of the large sums that had been already sent from 
Alexandria, and entreating the bishop's influence to obtain some 
adequate result from this expenditure : ' Scriptum est a Domino meo 
vestro fratre et Dominae ancillae Dei reverentissimae Pulcheriae et 
praeposito Paulo et Romano cubiculario et Dominae Marcellae cubicu- 
lariae et Dominae Droseriae. Et directae sunt benedictiones dignae 
eis. Et ei qui contra ecclesiam est Chrysoreti praeposito magnifi- 
centissimus Aristolaus paratus est scribere de nonnullis quae angelus 
tuus debeat impetrare. Et ipsi vero dignae. translatae sunt eulogiae 
Scripsit autem Dominus meus sanctissimus frater vester et Domino 
scholastico et magnificentissimo Arthebae ut ipsi conveniant et 
persuadeant Chrysoreti tandem desistere ab oppugnatione ecclesiae. 
Et ipsis vero benedictiones dignae directae sunt . . . Subjectus 
autem brevis ostendit quibus hinc directae sint eulogiae ut et ipse 
noveris quantum pro tua sanctitae laboret Alexandrina ecclesia quae 
tanta praestet his qui illic sunt. Clerici enim qui hie sunt contristantur 
quod ecclesia Alexandrina nudata sit hujus causa turbelae, et debet 
praeter ilia quae hinc transmissa sunt Ammonio Comiti auri libras 
mille quingentas. Et nunc ei denuo scriptum est ut praestet. Sed 
de tua ecclesia praesta avaritiae quorum nosti ne Alexandrinam 
ecclesiam contristent' (Synodicon 203, ap. Mansi, Concilia, v. 988). 

t The bishop of Rome duly sent legates, but Cyril was in too great a 
hurry to wait for them, and Nestorius was deposed before their arrival. 


being on opposite sides ; and it is plain that the theory had 
not yet been heard of in the East which would ascribe the 
headship of all Councils to the bishop of Rome, present or 

I have already remarked to you on the difference between 
the theological schools of Alexandria and of Antioch, the 
tendencies of the one being in the direction of mysticism, 
those of the other in that of rationalism ; the one accentuating 
more strongly our Lord's Divinity, the other His humanity. 
The confusion that reigned in the Eastern Church for the 
next two centuries arose from the fact that Alexandria, which 
triumphed at the third General Council, was defeated at the 
fourth. Reasons of policy had always inclined Rome to 
support Alexandria against Constantinople ; but at this time 
it chanced through a rare contingency, that the see of 
Rome was held by a theologian capable of forming an 
opinion of his own on a doctrinal question. Pope Leo's 
decision turned the scale against Alexandria; and the result 
was that many of the same men who had been on the win- 
ning and orthodox side at the first of these two Councils 
unexpectedly found themselves on the heretical side at the 
other ; and it was this reverse of fortune more than anything 
else which prevented Chalcedon from giving peace to the 
Eastern Church, there being always hope that a similar 
change of parts might take place again. You can guess 
what confusion there would be in the Roman Church were 
the Vatican Council now reassembled, and if the bishops 
who had spoken against infallibility, and only yielded at the 
last moment on the former occasion, now played the leading 
part, and if Cardinal Manning, and the other leading men 
who had triumphed before, were now cast out as heretics. 

However, the Alexandrians came to the second Council of 
Ephesus prepared to carry all before them and so, in fact, 
they did. It is notorious with what good reason this Council 
was called the 'Synod of robbers' ; but the method of decid- 
ing theological questions by physical force, though highly 
developed on that occasion, did not originate then nor did it 
come to an end then. In theological violence Alexandria had 
a bad pre-eminence. What a potentate the bishop there was 


may be judged from a scene that took place later at Chalce- 
don. The proceedings there had been very unfavourable to 
Egypt, the bishop of Alexandria had been deposed; and no 
doubt it was painful to Egyptian bishops to subscribe the 
formula adopted by the Council ; but the ground alleged for 
their refusal, and which the Council at length accepted as 
valid, was, that it would be as much as their lives were worth 
when they got home if they took any step unsanctioned by 
the bishop of Alexandria. They threw themselves on the 
ground, imploring the pity of the members of the Council : 
'Have mercy on us ; pity our grey hairs ; take our sees if you 
will, but spare our lives; don't send us home to certain death; 
if we must die let us die here.' The bishop of Alexandria 
had a sturdy militia zealous to execute his orders. I have 
told of the descent of monks from the Nitrian monasteries to 
avenge his slighted authority ; but he had defenders closer at 
hand in the Parabolani, a charitable corporation whose duties 
were concerned with attendance on the sick, and with the 
burial of the dead, and who were appointed by the bishop 
and were eager to execute his orders. Possibly the nature 
of their duties made them heedless of life; but they appear 
to have been a most violent and turbulent set of men. To 
their charge has been laid the murder of Hypatia ; at all 
events, we read immediately after that event of complaints 
made to the emperor, in consequence of which the appoint- 
ment and control of these men was transferred from the 
bishop to the civil authorities, though things soon reverted 
to the old arrangement. 

At both Councils of Ephesus the ships that brought the 
prelates from Alexandria brought also a strong detachment of 
the Bishop's bodyguard. At the first Council the sailors of 
the Egyptian ships were reinforced by a body of stout peasants, 
whom Cyril's ally, Memnon of Ephesus, brought up from his 
farms ; and bishops of Nestorian leanings had to complain of 
the intimidation to which they were subjected, not only out of 
doors but in their houses. At the second Council, besides the 
parabolani, there came from the borders of Syria and Persia 
a horde of savage monks, well exercised in putting down 
Nestorianism by physical force, whose irruption brought the 


proceedings of the Council to an end in a scene of awful 
confusion. Even when only the members of the Council were 
present, the bishops cannot be said to have voted with perfect 
freedom, when the assertion of two natures in Christ was 
received with cries of, 'away with him ; burn him alive ; cut 
him in two; as he has divided so let him be divided.' In 
such a temper of the meeting the acquittal of Eutyches was 
obtained with tolerable unanimity ; and if the president, 
Dioscorus, had been content to stop there, this synod might 
have passed as not more disorderly than some others. But 
when he proceeded to move the deposition of the bishop of 
Constantinople cries of remonstrance were heard. The chief 
Roman legate expressed dissent in Latin; and his Kovrpa- 
SiKiTovp has been duly recorded in the proceedings of the 
Council Some leading bishops threw themselves at the feet 
of the throne of Dioscorus, and embracing his knees implored 
him to be merciful. Then he cried out that violence was 
being used towards him, and called for the assistance of the 
civil power. The doors of the Church were opened ; soldiers, 
monks, parabolani, rushed in, and a scene of wild confusion 
ensued. The bishop of Constantinople was knocked down 
and trampled on; and the only doubtful point is whether it 
was not Dioscorus himself who struck the first blow, and who 
kicked him after he was down. The evidence to that effect 
might perhaps be enough to produce conviction, if it were not 
outweighed by the fact that afterwards, at Chalcedon, when 
no misdeeds of Dioscorus were likely to be passed over in 
silence, this one was not mentioned. But certain it is that 
the bishop of Constantinople, within three days, died of the 
ill-usage he had received. Meanwhile the other bishops of 
the minority who tried to escape found the doors of the 
^Church again locked. Some tried to hide under the benches ; 
one fled into the sacristy. They were pulled out and told 
that they must not go till they had subscribed the decision 
of the Council. But there had not been time to write the 
proceedings out; and if they were once allowed to go away, 
it was not likely that their signatures could be had. So 
before they were let go they were made to subscribe their 
names to blank sheets, to be filled up afterwards. 


An amusing scene took place when these bishops after- 
wards, at Chalcedon, pleaded that their signatures had been 
obtained by constraint. Constraint ! cried the Eutychians. 
What a plea for bishops to put forward ! Is the spirit of the 
martyrs so utterly extinct among you ? Or are we to sup- 
pose that the martyrs might have done what their persecu- 
tors demanded, and afterwards pleaded that they had acted 
under constraint ? Nay, was the reply : if we had fallen into 
the hands of heathen we should have borne anything they 
could inflict rather than yield. But the case was different 
when we were ordered by a bishop. A bishop is a father; 
and a son must obey a father, even though he himself dis- 
approve of the command. 

That this meeting, which Leo of Rome justly stigmatized 
as ' Latrocinium,' is not venerated in the East as one of the 
great Councils of the Church, is -mainly due to the death of 
the emperor and a change of politics at the Court of Con- 
stantinople ; and the violence and unfairness rather exceeded 
in degree than differed in kind from what was exhibited in 
other Councils more fortunate in their repute. As I have 
mentioned the acclamations of the bishops at this Council, I 
ought to tell you that there is a difference between the inter- 
ruptions permitted by the parliamentary decorum of our time 
and what was considered pennissible in the early Roman 
Empire. In our time, interruptions at a public meeting are 
usually inarticulate, clapping of hands, stamping of feet, and 
so forth. Parliamentary order does not permit a speaker, not 
in possession of the chair, to go beyond a cry of 'oh, oh,' 
'hear, hear,' 'order, order,' or 'question'; but in the Roman 
Senate it was common for the interrupter to shout out a short 
sentence, which was duly taken down by the reporters, and 
regularly entered on the Acts of the Senate. Sometimes a cry 
raised in this manner was taken up by the whole assembly, 
which repeated it perhaps several times, and, I believe, in a 
kind oi chant; and then the reporters took carefully down 
how many times the cry was repeated. If time permitted, I 
could give you many curious illustrations of this practice,* 

*The Augustan History is full of examples extracted from the 
official Acts of the Senate : see, for instance, the acclamations at the 


which certainly did not tend to the orderliness of proceedings ; 
but the acclamations of the assembly came to be looked on as 
an essential way of expressing the assent of the whole meet- 
ing to what was done. In conformity with this practice, the 
proceedings of all the early Councils whose doings are 
recorded in detail end with acclamations ; and the practice 
was kept up to the latest of them : the Council of Trent, for 
instance, ends with acclamations, led by the presiding Cardi- 
nal, and responded to by the Fathers, in the way of versicle 
and response, in such manner as could not have worked if the 
Fathers had not been drilled beforehand or given in print or 
writing what they were to acclaim. But such acclamations, 
however harmless at the end of the proceedings, must have 
been very disturbing in the middle, since it could not be 
agreeable to a speaker to be interrupted by shouts of 'ana- 
thema to the heretic,' 'burn him alive,' 'cut him in two.' At 
Chalcedon, where the proceedings were comparatively or- 
derly, there were occasional scenes of great uproar. Thus, 
when the Church historian, Theodoret, whose sympathies 
had been with Nestorius, took his place, the Acts of the 
Council record that : ' The most reverend the bishops of 
the East shouted out : " He is worthy." The most reverend 
the bishops of Egypt shouted out : " Don't call him bishop ; 
he is no bishop ; turn out the fighter against God ; turn out 
the Jew." The most reverend the bishops of the East 
shouted out: "The orthodox for the Synod; turn out the 
rebels; turn out the murderers." The most reverend the 
bishops of Egypt : " Turn out the enemy of God ; turn out 
the defamer of Christ." ' It became necessary for the Im- 
perial Commissioners to suppress the clamour. 

death of Commodus, and those on the election of Alexander Severus, 
which fill whole chapters in the lives by ^Elius Lampridius. When 
Tacitus pleaded his age as unfitting him for the Empire, the Senate 
acclaimed : 'Et Trajanus senex ad imperium venit ' (dixerunt decies). 
After acclaiming several similar sentences each ten times, then : 
' Imperatorem te non militem facimus' (dixerunt vicies) ; 'Severus 
dixit caput imperare non pedes' (dixerunt tricies),&c. At the election 
of Claudius II. some of the acclamations were repeated sixty times. 
Another interesting specimen is to be found in the official acts of the 
election of Eraclius as St. Augustine's successor, one of the acclama- 
tions being repeated twenty-five times, another twenty-eight times. 


Succeeding Councils have been less noisy and violent; 
but this has been because, as a general rule, the parties 
whom it was intended to condemn have not been allowed 
to be present, and the Council has only represented one 
side. I think the Council of Trent will bear advantageous 
comparison with some of the early Councils. Yet what 
scenes might we expect to have taken place there if the Pro- 
testants had been allowed to be present. We may guess 
from one little incident related by the Papal historian of the 
Council, Cardinal Pallavicino. As the Council was breaking 
up from a debate in committee on the exciting subject of Jus- 
tification, one bishop took so much offence at something said 
by another that, as the cardinal tells us, after the manner of 
men inflamed with anger, he burst into an act of passion more 
injurious to himself than the original offence : for having laid 
hands on the beard of his opponent, he pulled out many hairs, 
and forthwith left the assembly.* Great uproar ensued ; but 
though the Council thought that the offending bishop had 
received much provocation, they very properly expelled him. 

In short, if you take up the Acts of the Councils pre- 
disposed to reverence their decisions as conclusions which 
holy men arrived at after calm and prayerful deliberation, 
you find, on the contrary, records of turbulent meetings, in 
which men who exhibited no particle of the spirit of Chris- 
tianity used every effort to gain a victory over their opponents, 
and get them turned out of the Church. In such a case, if 
we accept the conclusions arrived at as correct, it is by no 
means on the authority of the bodies which affirmed them. 

How little, even at the time, was the real influence of a 
Council is proved by the poor success of the Council of 
Chalcedon in putting an end to the controversy on account of 
which it was summoned. No Council had higher external 
claims on the reverence of Christians. In the number of 
bishops present (over 600), it exceeded any previous Council. 

* ' L'altro allora, secondo il costume degli appassionati nella collera, 
precipito in una vendetta assai piii nociva al vendicatore che 1'ingiuria 
vendicata. Imperocche scagliate le mani alia barba del Chironese ne 
strappo molti peli, ed immantenente partissi.' Storia del Concilia di 
Trento, viii, 6. 


It had all the sanction that could be given it by the bishop 
of Rome, Leo the Great, whose dogmatic letter it enthusias- 
tically adopted. It was backed by all the efforts of the 
Emperor Marcian, whose zeal was active in extirpating the 
heresy which it condemned; yet, after the Council, the 
Monophysite heresy spread with a new growth; and in 
respect of the number and zeal of its adherents, I think, 
surpassed the opposite party. It had frequently its leaders 
enthroned in all the Patriarchal sees Constantinople, Alex- 
andria, Antioch, Jerusalem. In fact, Egypt never acquiesced 
in the defeat it sustained at the fourth Council. The creed of 
Chalcedon was but an exotic in that country. Its adherents 
were but the 'Court party,' the Melchites. The bishop sub- 
stituted for the deposed Dioscorus was able, in some sort, to 
maintain his authority as long as the emperor lived; but 
when news came of the emperor's death, forthwith they 
murdered him. The empire incurred so much danger by 
fighting against Monophysitism, that formulas of reconcilia- 
tion were drawn up, in which the Council of Chalcedon was 
thrown completely overboard ; and it was attempted to state 
the doctrine of our Lord's nature in a manner in which all 
might agree. But no compromise was accepted. The fighting 
went on until the Mahometans came down, and swept both 
parties away; and the Monophysites exist, though with 
diminished numbers, down to our own day. As I have asked 
before, By what better criterion can we test whether a judge 
is recognized as having authority to decide a controversy 
than by observing how he is listened to when he speaks ? 
If we find that no one assents to his decisions except those 
who had been of the same opinion before he spoke, we may 
conclude that he was not owned as having authority to 
speak ; and if the Council of Chalcedon was not entitled to 
impose its decisions without examination on the Christian 
world, I do not see how such a claim can be made for any 
other Council. 

I have already referred to discredit thrown on Councils by 
the badness of the arguments by which their conclusions were 
arrived at. For instance, at the third General Council, Cyril 
who, in his opposition to Nestorius, approached perilously 


near Apollinarianism, produced ' among the formal testi- 
monies to guide the bishops in their decisions, an extract 
from a writing of Timotheus the Apollinarian, if not of Apol- 
linaris himself, ascribing this heretical document to Pope 
Julius, the friend of Athanasius.* But a more plentiful crop 
of illustrations may be drawn from the proceedings of the 
seventh General Council, the second of Nicaea. The Fathers 
attempted to prove the propriety of image worship from 
Scripture ; but, as if conscious that they would have no easy 
task, they propounded the then novel doctrine of the insuf- 
ficiency of Scripture, and anathematized those who say that 
they will not receive any doctrine on the bare authority of 
Fathers and Councils, unless it be plainly taught in the Old 
and New Testament. Their Scripture proofs were not what 
would be very convincing to us. For instance, the antiquity 
of looking at images is proved from the Psalms, since David 
says, ' Show me thy face' : and ' Like as we have heard, so 
have we seen* ; and again, from Canticles, ' Let me see thy 
countenance, let me hear thy voice, for sweet is thy voice, 
and thy countenance is comely.' Should we have any hesi- 
tation in setting up our infallible judgment against that of 
those infallible interpreters, and in pronouncing such proofs 
to be texts wrested from their contexts, we need have less 
scruples about their proofs from antiquity, several of which 
are from spurious documents which no learned Roman 
Catholic would now venture to defend. I will read you from 
Robertson's Church History (ii. 156) one famous story, which 
was such a favourite that it was twice used in the proceedings 
of the Council : 'An aged monk on the Mount of Olives, it 
was said, was greatly tempted by a spirit of uncleanness. 
One day the demon appeared to him, and after having sworn 
him to secrecy offered to discontinue his assaults if the monk 
would give up worshipping a picture of the Blessed Virgin 
and infant Saviour which hung up in his cell. The monk 
asked time to consider the proposal, and notwithstanding 
his oath applied for advice to an aged abbot of renowned 
sanctity, who blamed him for having been so deluded as to 

* Newman, Theodoret, p. 351, 


swear to the devil; but told him that he had yet done v/eil 
in laying open the matter, and that it would be better for 
him to visit every brothel in Jerusalem than to refrain from 
adoring the Saviour and His Mother in the picture. From 
this edifying tale a twofold moral was drawn with general 
consent : that reverence for images would not only warrant 
unchastity but breach of oaths, and that those who had 
sworn to the Iconoclast heresy were free from then obliga- 

The highest point, perhaps, that Councils attained was at 
the time of the Council of Constance. For two or three cen- 
turies the power of the Popes had been gradually growing, 
until first, by their removal to Avignon and their subjugation 
to French influence, then by the schism in the Popedom, 
their authority was greatly weakened. The schism made it 
necessary that there should be some superior authority to 
determine who really was Pope : or rather that was not 
enough, for though Christendom was generally agreed in 
desiring that the three rival Popes should be replaced by a 
single Pope, the adherents of each were indisposed to admit 
that they had been all along in the wrong. What was needed 
was an authority which, if the Popes should not voluntarily 
resign, would be able to compel them. In order that all 
might acquiesce in its decisions it was necessary that it should 
have power to depose even a real Pope ; for there were some 
who acknowledged each of the three as the real Pope. This 
power then the Council of Constance claimed in its celebrated 
decree, passed without a dissentient voice, 'that every lawfully 
convoked Ecumenical Council derives its authority imme- 
diately from Christ, and that everyone, the Pope included, is 
subject to it in matters of faith, in healing of schism, and the 
reformation of the Church.' I do not say that this decision 
placed Councils in a higher position than they were at the 
time of the Council of Nicsea for I do not imagine that the 
Roman prelate would have dreamed then of setting himself 
above the Council but it placed them higher than they had 
been in the time immediately before, or than they were 
afterwards. For when the Council of Basle attempted to 
exercise, in the face of a universally acknowledged Pope, the 


prerogatives which the Council of Constance had claimed in 
the time of the schism, the result was failure ; and the 
appearance of the Greek representatives at the Pope's Coun- 
cil of Florence gave the finishing blow to the pretensions of 
the rival Council of Basle. 

The history of this rival Council of Florence, had I time 
to dwell on it, would yield a plentiful crop of reasons for dis- 
trusting its infallibility. I do not think Mr. Ffoulkes uses 
words too strong when he says : 'Of all Councils that ever 
were held, I suppose there never was one in which hypocrisy, 
duplicity, and worldly motives, played a more conspicuous 
part. How the Council of Basle was outwitted, and Florence 
named as the place to which the Greeks should come ; how 
the galleys of the Pope outstripped the galleys of the Council, 
and bore the Greeks in triumph from Constantinople to a 
town in the centre of Italy, where the Pope was all-powerful ; 
how they were treated there, and why they were subsequently 
removed to Florence, would reveal a series of intrigues of the 
lowest order.' That the Greeks were present there at all was 
owing to the urgent necessity of obtaining Western aid for 
the Greek Empire, then on the verge of ruin, against the 
Turks, by whom, less than sixty years afterwards, Constan- 
tinople was taken. The Greek bishops were only induced to 
undertake so long a journey on the terms that their expenses 
were paid by the Pope. But they found that the fulfilment 
of this bargain depended on their submissiveness. Their 
allowance for subsistence was three months, four months in 
arrear, and, when they agreed to unite with the Latins, five 
months and a half. 'Though we made frequent demands on 
account of our need,' says one of them, 'it was not given until 
we came into the proposed conditions. When we had come 
round, we received the second monthly allowance.' Their 
spirits were broken by delays that seemed to them intermin- 
able, and they could not get away ; for even if they had had 
money for the journey, passports were denied them. What 
wonder that, when they got safe home, all the concessions 
they had made were repudiated. And as to the goodness of 
the arguments by which the decrees of the Council were 
supported, it is enough to say that a great source of these 


arguments was the spurious decretals of which I mean to 
speak in another Lecture. 

But, really, investigation into the history of bygone 
Councils is needless to one who can remember, as I can, the 
Council of 1870. In everything I have thus far said to 
discredit the authority of Councils, I am, as my quotations 
from Cardinal Newman will have told you, in full agree- 
ment with modern Roman Catholics, who think that, when 
they have shown that infallibility does not reside in Coun- 
cils, they have gone very near to prove that it does rest 
with the Pope. Now, if a tradesman has taken pains to 
produce a belief that his rival in business is little better 
than a bankrupt, it would be thought strange if he tried to 
get his bills cashed on the strength of having this rival's 
endorsement; yet this was exactly what Pius IX. tried to do 
when he attempted to have his claim to infallibility endorsed 
by the Vatican Council. In the next Lectures we shall 
examine what the Pope's bill is worth ; at present, it is easy 
to show that the endorsement is worth absolutely nothing. 
The unfairness of the proceedings at the Vatican Council was 
such that the defeated party, in disgust, playing on the old 
name, ' Latrocinium Ephesinum,' called it 'Ludibrium Vati- 

There was no fair representation of bishops. In the first 
place, the assembly included some three hundred titular 
bishops bishops not presiding over any real sees, but hold- 
ing mere titles of honour given them by the Pope, or else 
missionary bishops deriving their titles from places where 
there were few or no Christian congregations. In addition, 
the German bishops, who constituted the main strength of the 
minority, complained that they were swamped by the multi- 
tude of Italian and Sicilian bishops. The twelve millions of 
Roman Catholics in Germany proper were represented at the 
Council by fourteen bishops ; the seven hundred thousand 
inhabitants of the Papal States by sixty-two ; three bishops of 
the minority Cologne, Paris, and Cambray represented five 
million ; and these might be outvoted by any four of the 
seventy Neapolitan and Sicilian bishops. The German theo- 
logians compared their learning with that of the bishops of 


these highly favoured localities, amongst whom a clean sweep 
would have been made if it had been a condition of admis- 
sion to the Council that the bishop should be able to read 
the New Testament in its original language, or have Greek 
enough to be able to consult the writings of Greek Fathers or 
the acts of Greek Councils a qualification without which, 
north of the Alps, one does not rank as a theologian. The 
German visitors, too, compared the activity of religious 
thought in the country from which they came with that in 
those regions which provided the predominant element at 
the Council. It was said, and I believe with truth, that more 
religious books are printed in England, or Germany, or 
North America in one year than in Italy in half a century. 
And to the list of Italian publications the States of the 
Church contributed hardly anything. In Rome a lottery 
dream-book might be found in every house, but never a New 
Testament, and extremely seldom any religious book at all. 
So that it seemed as if it were a recognized principle, that 
the more ignorant a people, the greater must be the share of 
their hierarchy in the government of the Church. Then the 
minority complained that all regulations as to the transac- 
tion of business were in the hands of a committee appointed 
by the majority, and solely representing them, without the 
consent of which committee no subject could be discussed; 
and, indeed, it was complained at first that the bulk of the 
Council did not know what business was coming on. At the 
first meeting it was found that, owing to the bad acoustic pro- 
perties of the hall in which they met, nothing could be heard ; 
and a number of bishops, when asked to give their formal vote, 
' Placet ' or ' Non placet,' answered ' Non placet quia nihil 
intelleximus.' An attempt was made to improve matters in 
this respect by partitioning off a portion of the room ; but 
bad the state of things always remained. Indeed there must 
always have been a difficulty in following discussions carried 
on in Latin a language which all the bishops did not pro- 
nounce in the same way, and which in any case is not so 
easily caught, if utterance is indistinct, as are the sounds of 
one's native language. But it would be too much to expect of 
human attention to follow the speeches which were delivered, 


these being small treatises without any limitation of length, 
read by their authors without the liveliness of spoken speech, 
perhaps with indistinct utterance, and in a language which 
which the hearers were not familiar. An easy remedy for 
this state of things would have been if the speeches had been 
printed and circulated among the members of the Council, so 
that any could study at home what he had heard imperfectly. 
But here was the advantage of the Pope's holding the Coun- 
cil in his own city. There was no license of printing. A 
precis of the speaker's arguments was made for the use of an 
exclusively Infallibilist committee, which was to draw up 
the decrees of the Council. That precis the speaker was not 
allowed to correct, or even to see, so that if he were on the 
wrong side, it might be a mere caricature of his arguments 
which was submitted to the committee. 

Perhaps there was the less fear of doing injustice to 
the arguments, that, as I already quoted from Cardinal 
Manning, the Holy Spirit's promised assistance is sup- 
posed to be given, not to the arguments, but to the final 
vote. And, certainly, the practical rule resulting from belief 
in this principle is, 'Never trouble yourself about the argu- 
ments, but do all in your power to secure a vote.' Now, 
there are many ways besides arguments by which votes can 
be secured. The use of bad arguments was, indeed, not 
neglected ; for a paper was circulated, said to have been 
drawn up by Manning, containing a decree of the Council 
of Florence, garbled in a way of which I mean to speak 
on another day But there were more powerful influences 
at work than arguments, good or bad. About three hundred 
of the bishops were the Pope's pensioners, all their ex- 
penses being paid by him, and therefore could not be un- 
biassed judges on a question concerning his prerogatives. 
The Pope himself had his good-humoured jokes on the num- 
bers who had accepted his hospitality, and declared that, 
in trying to make him ' infallible,' they would make him 
' fallire,' that is to say, make him bankrupt. There was 
no danger of that, however; for, in order to enable him to 
meet such expenses, a well-timed collection was made, nomi- 
nally with the object of making him a present in celebration 


of the jubilee of his first Mass. Fifteen Cardinals' hats were 
vacant to reward the obedient; and no doubt, as always 
happens, more were influenced by the hope of Papal favours 
than actually obtained them. The Pope made no secret how 
much he had his heart set on obtaining a declaration of his 
infallibility. This alone would weigh very innocently with 
many bishops who would shrink from displeasing a vene- 
rated superior. Two or three bishops, who unexpectedly 
spoke on the wrong side, received from the Pope the severest 
of wiggings. ' Lovest thou me?' was his salutation to 
another waverer. 

Now, what would you think of the merits of the British 
Parliament as a representative assembly if, in addition to 
inequalities of representation more gross than any in our 
unreformed Parliament, the Crown was free to make as 
many rotten boroughs as it pleased, and to name repre- 
sentatives for them ; if it had three hundred members 
receiving daily pay at its discretion, besides a number of 
members candidates for promotion ; and if the smiles or 
frowns of the monarch were freely applied to reward or 
punish? But, at the Council, it was not enough to gain a 
majority; the minority must be reduced to complete insig- 
nificance; and this was effected when, as time went on, the 
summer months arrived, and the heats at Rome became 
unbearable at least to a northern constitution. At first the 
tactics of the minority had appeared to be to lengthen out 
the proceedings. They made long speeches, some of them 
speaking out so plainly that two or three times the greatest 
uproar was excited ; and it really appeared as if there 
was danger that the scene at Trent would be re-enacted, 
when one bishop pulled out another bishop's beard. It 
became necessary for the majority to introduce what the 
French call the cloture :* that is to say, the rule was made 
that, at the request of ten bishops, it should be put to the 
vote whether the discussion should go on any longer. And 
so in the first stage of the Infallibility discussion, a premature 

* The word has become more familiar now than it was when this 
Lecture was written. 


stop was put to the speech-making ; and, amongst others, an 
able speech against Infallibility by the American bishop 
Kenrick was shelved. It has been since printed as a 'concio 
habencla at 11011 habita.' But when they got into the summer 
months, the acclimatized Italian and Sicilian bishops could 
bear delay with comparative impunity ; but the opponents of 
the dogma, who were natives of a colder climate, were one 
by one sickening with fever. They begged and implored 
that the Council might be adjourned; but the Pope and his 
party understood their advantage too well, and the request 
was sternly refused. It became evident that if the minority 
indulged in much speech-making, the operation of reducing 
their numbers would be effected in a very simple way; and 
so a vote was arrived at. 

But now appeared the mischief of the claim to infalli- 
bility. In our Parliament a law may be passed in the teeth 
of opposition, and the minority must submit and obey the 
law ; but their thoughts and words are free : they can avow 
still that what has been done is opposed to their judgment. 
But at a Council, when a vote is arrived at, the minority are 
required to blot from their m hid all the tricks and manoeuvres, 
all the unworthy means by which they know their resistance 
has been overpowered, and to accept the vote of a majority, 
no matter how obtained, as the voice of the Spirit of God. 
The moment the decision is pronounced, they are bound not 
only to yield a decorous obedience, but from the bottom of 
their hearts to believe that to be true which the moment 
before they had been protesting was false, and to publish 
this belief to the world. No wonder the bishops of the 
minority shrank from the humiliation of saying 'non placet' 
one moment, and 'ex animo credo' the next. So, with two 
exceptions, they all ran away, leaving behind them a protest 
which was not regarded. 

It is plain how the chance of arriving at truth is preju- 
diced by the claim to infallibility. If no such claim were 
made, the majority would be forced to weigh the arguments 
of the minority, to count the risk of driving them into schism, 
to take care not to seem before the world to have the worst 
of the argument. But when infallibility is supposed to rest 


with the ultimate vote, the majority have no need to care 
about the arguments advanced. Secure a vote, no matter 
how, and all is gained. Thus, while there is no better way 
of arriving at truth than taking counsel with others, a 
Council which claims infallibility is a place where the wise 
and cautious are delivered over, bound hand and foot, to the 
will of a tyrant majority. 


II remains now to speak of that theory of Infallibility 
which makes the Pope personally its organ. It is the 
theoiy now in the ascendant ; and, since the Vatican Council, 
may be regarded as the theory recognized exclusively by the 
Roman Church ; and it is the only theory which satisfies the 
demands of the a priori arguments showing the necessity of 
an infallible guide. What these arguments try to show to be 
needful is a guide able infallibly to resolve every controversy 
as it arises ; and this need can only be satisfied by a living 
speaking voice, not by the dead records of past Councils. 
The truth is, that the much desired object, of uniformity of 
opinion in the Church, can only be obtained, either on the 
terms of resolute abstinence from investigation, or else upon 
the terms of having an inspired teacher at hand competent to 
make new revelations on every desired occasion. If we 
adhere to the old theory, that Christ made one revelation, 
which it was His Church's business to preserve and teach ; let 
that revelation have been as copious as you please, still if it is 
limited at all, it is of necessity that questions must arise which 
that revelation will not have determined ; on which private 
judgment is therefore free, and on which, therefore, there 
will be difference of opinion. If such diversity of opinion is 
thought an evil, there must be a new revelation to supplement 
or explain the old one. And this necessity must go on as 
long as men continue to exercise their thoughts on religious 
subjects. The difficulty and inconvenience of assembling 
Councils is so great that the number of General Councils 
during the whole duration of Christendom has been com- 
paratively few, and the likelihood that many more will be 


assembled is but small. The Roman theory then leads you 
necessarily to expect a kind of incarnation of deity upon 
earth ; one which with infallible voice will decide and silence 
every dispute. And if this is not to be found in the person 
of the Pope it is to be found nowhere else. 

The marvel however is, that if the Church had from 
the first possessed this wonderful gift it should have taken 
eighteen centuries to find it out. It is historically certain 
that in the year 1870, when it was proposed at the Vatican 
Council to proclaim the fact, the doctrine was opposed by a 
number of the leading bishops ; and that since the publica- 
tion a number of most learned, and who up to that time had 
been most loyal, Roman Catholics, consented to suffer ex- 
communication rather than agree to it. And the reason for 
their refusal, alleged, as we shall see, with perfect truth, is 
that this new doctrine is utterly opposed to the facts of 
history. Although, then, the theory is condemned from the 
first by its novelty, let us not refuse to examine the grounds 
on which it is defended. 

But I must warn you at the outset that, although it was 
only the question of Infallibility that I proposed in these 
Lectures to discuss, I am now forced to spend time on what is 
really a different question, that of the Pope's alleged supre- 
macy. I am obliged to do so, because I must follow the line 
of argument adopted by the Roman advocates. Their method 
is to try to show that Christ made the constitution of His 
Church monarchical, that He appointed St. Peter to be its first 
ruler and governor, and that He appointed, moreover, that 
the bishop of Rome, for the time being, should perpetually 
be Peter's successor in that office. Suppose they succeed in 
proving all this : suppose it established that the Pope is, by 
divine right, sovereign ruler of the Church, it still remains 
possible that in the course of his rule he may make mistakes, 
as earthly monarchs who reign by the most legitimate titles 
are liable to do. And in point of fact it is fully admitted that, 
in his capacity of ruler and governor, the Pope may make 
mistakes, and often has made very great ones. To name no 
other, one has already come before us in the course of these 
Lectures. Whether or not it be true that the Popes, in their 


capacity of teachers, have committed themselves to the de- 
claration that it is heresy to maintain that the earth goes 
round the sun, it is certain that, in their capacity of rulers, 
they endeavoured for a long series of years to put down the 
teaching of that doctrine ; and all will own that this attempted 
suppression was unwise and impolitic, and has brought great 
discredit on their Church. Clearly, therefore, if the Roman 
advocates even succeed in establishing the Pope's supremacy, 
the task still lies before them of proving that the Pope, in his 
capacity of teacher, is infallible. We sometimes read of 
Alpine explorers who, in attempting to reach a virgin peak, 
have found themselves, after infinite labour, on a summit 
separated by impassable ravines from that which it was their 
desire to attain. And so in this case, between the doctrines 
of the Pope's supremacy and of his Infallibility there lies a 
gulf which it is, in my opinion, impossible to bridge over. 
To begin with : suppose it proved that St. Peter was universal 
ruler of the Churches, he certainly was not universal teacher ; 
for the other Apostles who were inspired as well as he had no 
need to learn from him ; and their hearers were as much 
bound to receive their independent teaching as were St. 
Peter's own hearers. But I postpone the consideration of 
difficulties of this kind. At present let us examine what 
success our opponents have in establishing the doctrine of 
the Pope's supremacy. If they succeed, it will be time 
enough then to discuss the question of the Pope's Infalli- 
bility ; for if they fail, it is all over with the latter doctrine. 
And first we have to consider the Scripture argument, 
resting on a supposed transmission to the Pope of certain 
prerogatives of St. Peter. In order to make out the theory by 
this process four things ought to be proved (i) that Christ 
gave to St. Peter a primacy over the other Apostles not merely 
in dignity and precedence, but in authority and jurisdiction, 
constituting him their guide and teacher and ruler; (2) that 
this prerogative was not merely personal but designed to be 
transmitted to successors ; (3) that Peter was Bishop of Rome 
and continued so to his death; and (4) that those who suc- 
ceeded Peter in this local office were also the inheritors of his 
jurisdiction over the whole Church. On this last point alone 


there would be ample room for controversy. If there be any 
faith due to the legend that Peter was Bishop of Rome there 
is some due also to the story that he had been previously 
Bishop of Antioch, which see might therefore contest with 
Rome the inheritance of his prerogatives. Again, it was 
never imagined that the bishop of the town where an Apostle 
might chance to die thereby derived a claim to apostolic juris- 
diction. But Roman Catholic controversialists make short 
work of the dispute on the last two heads. They argue that 
if they can prove that Christ ever provided His Church with 
an infallible guide, and intended him to have a successor, we 
need not doubt that the Pope is that successor, since there is 
no rival claimant of the office. It is the more needful, then, 
to scrutinize carefully the proofs of the first two heads, as 
these are made to do double duty : not only to prove the 
proposition on behalf of which they are alleged, but also to 
induce us to dispense with proof of the others. 

The Scripture proof, in the main, consists of three texts ; 
sometimes called the three texts, viz. (i) the promise of our 
Lord to Peter (recorded Matt, xvi.), that upon this rock He 
would build His Church ; (2) His promise (recorded Luke 
xxii.), ' I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not, and 
when thou art converted strengthen thy brethren'; and (3) 
the commission 'Feed my sheep,' related in the last chapter 
of St. John. Before giving a particular examination to these 
texts I would remark on the general presumption against the 
Roman Catholic theory arising out of the whole tenor of the 
N. T. history, from which we should conclude that, highly as 
Peter was honoured, he was not placed in an office having 
jurisdiction over the other Apostles; for the Apostolate is 
ever spoken of as the highest office in the Christian Church ; 
'God hath set some in the Church, first Apostles, secondarily 
prophets' (i Cor xii. 28) : not, as it ought to be if the Roman 
theory had been true, first Peter, then the Apostles. The 
history related in the Acts gives no trace of Peter's having 
exercised the prerogatives which are now attributed to him. 
To take a single example : When Peter took the decisive 
step of eating with one uncircumcised, the Church of Jeru- 
salem (Acts xi.) called him sharply to account for a pro- 


ceeding so repugnant to Jewish traditions ; and Peter did 
not justify himself by pleading his possession of sovereign 
authority to decide the Church's action in such a matter, but 
by relating a special revelation sanctioning what he had 
done. As for the Epistles, they certainly give no support 
to the theory of Peter's supremacy ; and in the story of Paul's 
resistance to Peter at Antioch they throw in its way one 
formidable stumbling-block. 

Still less is any hint given that Peter was to transmit his 
office to any successor. I need not say that we are not so 
much as told that Peter was ever at Rome. The New Testa- 
ment contains two letters from Peter himself ; one purporting 
to be written immediately before his death, and with the 
express object that those whom he was leaving behind should 
be able to keep in memory the things that it was most impor- 
tant for them to know (2 Pet. i. 15). We may be sure that if 
Peter had any privileges to bequeath he would have done so 
in this his last will, and that if there was to be any visible 
head of the Church to whom all Christians were to look for 
their spiritual guidance, Peter would in these letters have 
commended him to the reverence of his converts, and directed 
them implicitly to obey him. 

Let us turn now to the texts appealed to. That in St. 
Matthew is so familiar to you all that I need not read it : but 
I will give you, in the words of Dr. Murray, one of the ablest 
of the Maynooth Professors, what this text is supposed to 
mean. He says, 'Peter was thus established by our Lord as 
the means of imparting to the Church indefectibility and 
unity, and of permanently securing these properties to her. 
Peter was invested with supreme spiritual authority to legis- 
late for the whole Church ; to teach, to inspect, to judge, 
to proscribe erroneous doctrine, or whatever would tend to 
the destruction of the Church ; to appoint to offices or remove 
therefrom, or limit or extend the jurisdiction thereof, as the 
safety or welfare of the Church would require : in one word, 
to exercise as supreme head and ruler and teacher and pastor 
all spiritual functions whatever that are necessary for the 
well-being or existence of the Church.' * It takes one's 
* Irish Annual Miscellany, iii. 300 


breath away to read a commentary which finds so much more 
in a text than lies on the surface of it. If our Lord meant all 
this, we may ask, why did He not say it? Who found out 
that He meant it? The Apostles did not find it out at the 
time; for up to the night before His death the dispute went 
on, which should be the greatest. When James and John 
petitioned that in His kingdom they might sit with Him, one 
on each hand, they do not seem to have suspected, and their 
Master then gave them no hint, that the chief place in His 
kingdom had already been given away. There is, as I have 
just pointed out, no other indication in the New Testament 
that the Apostolic Church so understood our Lord's words 
recorded by St. Matthew. 

It remains that this interpretation must have been got 
from unwritten tradition. We eagerly turn to explore the 
records of that tradition. Here, surely, if anywhere, we shall 
find that unanimous consent of the Fathers of which the 
Council of Trent speaks. I have already said that I do not 
refuse to attribute a certain weight to tradition in the inter- 
pretation of Scripture. I have owned that an interpretation 
of any passage has a certain presumption against it if it is 
clearly new-fangkd : if it derive from the text a doctrine 
which the Church of the earliest times never found there. 
The more important the doctrine, the greater the presumption 
that if true it would have been known from the first. But 
certainly here is a case where, if the Fathers w r ere ever 
unanimous, they could not fail to be so if the Roman theory 
be true. This is no obscure text; no passing remark of an 
inspired writer ; but the great charter text, which for all time 
fixed the constitution of the Christian Church. If, in these 
words, our Lord appointed a permanent ruler over His 
Church, the Church would from the first have resorted to 
that authority for guidance and for the composing of all 
disputes, and there never could have been any hesitation to 
recognize the meaning of the charter on which the authority 
was founded. Yet I suppose there is not a text in the whole 
New Testament on which the opinion of the Fathers is so 
divided; and you have to come down late indeed before 
an} r one finds the bishop of Rome there. 


The most elaborate examination of the opinions of the 
Fathers is in an Epistle * by the French Roman Catholic 
Launoy, in which, besides the interpretation that Peter was 
the rock, for which he produces seventeen Patristic testimonies, 
he gives the interpretations that the rock was the faith which 
Peter confessed, supported by f orty-f our quotations ;f that the 
rock was Christ Himself, supported by sixteen ; and that the 
Church was built on all the Apostles, supported by eight. 
But as Launoy was a Gallican, and as through the progress 
of development he would not be acknowledged as a good 
Roman Catholic by the party now in the ascendant, I prefer 
to quote the Jesuit Maldonatus, whose Romanism is of the 
most thorough-going kind, and who I may add, on questions 
where his doctrinal prepossessions do not affect his judg- 
ment, is an interpreter of Scripture whose acuteness makes 
him worth consulting. He begins his commentary on this 
passage by saying, 'There are among ancient authors some 
who interpret "on this rock," that is, "on this faith," or "on 
this confession of faith in which thou hast called me the Son 
of the living God," as Hilary ,+ and Gregory Nyssen, and 
Chrysostom,|| and Cyril of Alexandria. H St. Augustine going 
still further away from the true sense, interprets "on this 
rock," that is, "on myself Christ," because Christ was the 
rock. But Origen "on this rock," that is to say, on all men 
who have the same faith.' And then Maldonatus goes on 
with truly Protestant liberty to discuss each of these inter- 
pretations, pronouncing them to be as far as possible from 
Christ's meaning; &nd to prove, not by the method of 
authority, but of reason, that these Fathers were wrong, and 
that his own interpretation is the right one. 

I ought to tell you, however, that St. Augustine is not 

* Epist. vii., Opp. vol. v., pt. 2. p. 99: Geneva, 1731. 

t This interpretation may claim the sanction of the Council of Trent, 
which (Sess. III.) describes the Creed as 'principium illud in quo omnes 
qui fidem Christi profitentur necessario conveniunt, ac fundamentum 
firmum et unicum contra quod portae inferi nunquam praevalebunt.' 

ZDe Trin. lib. vi., 36, 37. 

De advent. Dom. in Came adv. Judaeos. 

|| Horn, in hunc locum, et Orat. ii., Cont. Jvdaeos, 

11 Dial. 4, De Trin. 


perfectly uniform in his interpretation. In one of his latest 
works, his Retractations, which does not mean retractations 
in our modern sense of the word, but a re-handling of things 
previously treated of, he mentions having sometimes adopted 
the language which St. Ambrose had used in a hymn, and 
which designates Peter as the rock of the Church, but most 
frequently he had interpreted the passage of Christ Himself, 
led by the texts "that rock was Christ," and "other founda- 
tion can no man lay." He leaves his readers at liberty to 
choose, but his mature judgment evidently inclines to the 
latter interpretation. He lays more stress than I am inclined 
to do on the distinction between Petra and Petrus, regarding 
the latter as derived from the former in the same manner as 
Christianus from Christus.* 'Thou art Petrus,' he says, 'and 
on this Petra which thou hast confessed, saying, "thou art 
Christ the Son of the living God," will I build my Church : 
that is to say, on myself. I will build thee on myself, not 
myself on thee. Men willing to build on man said, " I am 
of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Peter." But others, who 
were unwilling to be built upon Peter, but would be built on 
the rock not on Petrus but on Petra said, I am of Christ.' 
Such is Augustine's commentary, which, using my Protestant 
liberty, I shall not scruple presently to reject. Other Fathers 
besides Augustine and Origen are not quite uniform in their 
interpretation : and this is not to be wondered at ; because, as 

* This exposition of St. Augustine's was derived, probably indirectly 
from Origen, who, though he speaks incidentally of * Peter on whom 
the Church is built' (Ap. Euseb. H. E. vi. 25), yet, when directly 
commenting on the passage in St. Matthew (torn. xii. 10, 11), 
teaches that every one who makes the same confession of faith as 
Peter may claim the blessing given to Peter as given to himself. ' If 
you imagine that it was on Peter alone the Church is built, what then 
would you say about John the son of Thunder, or any other of the 
Apostles ?' But he teaches that if we make Peter's confession we all 
are ' Peters.' Just as because we are members of Christ we are called 
' Christian ' ; so Christ being the Petra the rock every one who 
drinks of ' that spiritual rock which follows us ' is entitled to be 
called Petrus. 'AXXa TTCU X/OMTTOV jueA.^ ovres Trapiovv/Jioi f-^prjfj^- 
ario-av x/oicrriavoi, Trer/Das 8e Tlcrpot. . . . ITeV/oos yap Tra<s 6 
X/OMTTOV [AaOrjrrjs, a<' oS ZTTLVOV ol IK TrveiyAariK^s a.KoXov0ov<n]<s 
Trerpas, KOL ITTI Trcwrav rrjv TOICTUT^V irerpav otKoSo/xetrai 6 KK\fj~ 
<riacmKbs Tras Aoyo? KCU -fj K<XT' avrbv TroAtTeia' ev cKcwrnj) yap 


fj,aKapi6rr)Ta Xoywv KCU ef/oywv /cat vo^/^arwv, ecrrtv f) vTrb rov Otov 


we shall presently see, there is a sense in which the Church 
is founded on Christ alone, a sense in which it was founded 
on Peter's confession, a sense in .which it was founded on 
Peter or on all the Apostles ; so that no matter which inter- 
pretation gives the true sense of this particular passage, it is 
quite easy to harmonize the doctrines which different Fathers 
derive from it. But none of these can be reconciled with 
the interpretation which regards this text as containing the 
charter of the Church's organization. A charter would be 
worthless if it were left uncertain to whom it was addressed 
or what powers it conferred. So that the mere fact that 
Fathers differed in opinion as to what was meant by ' this 
rock,' and that occasionally the same Father wavered in his 
opinion on this subject, proves that none of them regarded 
this text as one establishing a perpetual constitution for the 
Christian Church. My case is so strong that I could afford 
to sweep away all evidence of diversity of Patristic interpre- 
tation of this text. I could afford to put out of court every 
Father who interprets 'this rock' of Christ, or of all the 
Apostles, or of Peter's confession, and to allow the contro- 
versy to be determined by the evidence of those Fathers 
only who understand 'this rock' of Peter himself, and by 
examining whether they understood this text as conferring 
a perpetual privilege on Peter and a local successor. But at 
present it is enough that the extract I read from St. Augus- 
tine shows plainly enough that at the beginning of the fifth 
century it had not been discovered that this text contained 
the charter of the Church's organization, the revelation of 
the means of imparting to her indefectibility and unity. 
And if, as I said, it had ever been known in the Church 
that this was what Christ intended by the words, the tradi- 
tion could not have been lost; for the constant habit of 
resorting to this authority would have kept fresh the memory 
of our Lord's commands. 

We may, then, safely conclude that our Lord did not, in 
that address to Peter, establish a perpetual constitution for 
His Church ; but as to the historical question, whether He 
did not, in these words, confer some personal prerogative on 
Peter, I do not myself scruple to differ from the eminent 


Fathers whom I have cited as holding the contrary opinion. 
It seems to me that they have erred in considering the 
general doctrine of Scripture, rather than what is required by 
the context of this particular passage. It is undoubtedly the 
doctrine of Scripture that Christ is the only foundation : 
' other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which 
is Jesus Christ* (i Cor. iii. n). Yet we must remember that 
the same metaphor may be used to illustrate different truths, 
and so, according to circumstances, may have different signi- 
fications. The same Paul who has called Christ the only 
foundation, tells his Ephesian converts (ii. 20) : 'Ye are 
built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, 
Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone.' And in 
like manner we read (Rev. xxi. 14) : 'The wall of the city 
had twelve foundations, and on them the names of the twelve 
Apostles of the Lamb.' How is it that there can be no 
other foundation but Christ, and yet that the Apostles are 
spoken of as foundations ? Plainly because the metaphor is 
used with different applications. Christ alone is that founda- 
tion, from being joined to which the whole building of the 
Church derives its unity and stability, and gains strength to 
defy all the assaults of hell. But, in the same manner as 
any human institution is said to be founded by those men 
to whom it owes its origin, so we may call those men the 
foundation of the Church whom God honoured by using 
them as His instruments in the establishment of it ; who 
were themselves laid as the first living stones in that holy 
temple, and on whom the other stones of that temple were 
laid; for it was on their testimony that others received the 
truth, so that our faith rests on theirs ; and (humanly speak- 
ing) it is because they believed that we believe. So, again, 
in like manner, we are forbidden to call anyone on earth our 
Father, 'for one is our Father which is in heaven.' And yet, 
in another sense, Paul did not scruple to call himself the 
spiritual father of those whom he had begotten in the 
Gospel. You see, then, that the fact that Christ is called the 
rock, and that on Him the Church is built, is no hindrance 
to Peter's also being, in a different sense, called rock, and 
being said to be the foundation of the Church ; so that I 

xviii.] ST. PETKR'S CONFESSION. 339 

consider there is no ground for the fear entertained by some, 
in ancient and in modern times, that, by applying the words 
personally to Peter, we should infringe on the honour due to 
Christ alone. 

If there be no such fear, the context inclines us to look on 
our Lord's words as conferring on Peter a special reward for 
his confession. For that confession was really the birth of 
the Christian Church. Our Lord had grown up to the age of 
thirty, it \vould seem, unnoticed by His countrymen ; certainly 
without attempting to gather disciples. Then, marked out 
by the Holy Ghost at His baptism, and proclaimed by John 
as the Lamb of God, He was joined by followers. They heard 
His gracious words ; they saw His mighty works ; they came 
to think of Him as a prophet, and doubted, in themselves, 
whether He were not something more. Was it possible that 
this could be the long-promised Messiah ? This crisis was 
the date of Peter's confession. Our Lord saw His disciples' 
faith struggling into birth, and judged that it \vas time to 
give it the confirmation of His own assurance that they had 
judged rightly. By His questions He encouraged them to 
put into words the belief which was forcing itself on them all, 
but to which Peter first dared to give profession. In that 
profession he claimed the distinguishing doctrine of the 
Christian Church. Up to that time the Apostles had preached 
repentance. They had been commissioned to announce that 
the kingdom of heaven was at hand. But thenceforward the 
religion they preached was one whose main article was faith 
in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, the Saviour. 

When you once understand the importance of this con- 
fession, you will understand the warmth of commendation 
with which our Lord received what seems to us but the 
simple profession of an ordinary Christian's faith. We are 
apt to forget what an effort it was for a Jew, at the time 
when the nation was in a state of strained and excited 
expectation of some signal fulfilment of the prophetic an- 
nouncement of a coming deliverer, to give up his ideal of a 
coming triumphant Messiah, to fix his hopes on a man of 
lowly rank, who made no pretensions to the greatness of 
this world, and to believe that the prophecies were to receive 



no better fulfilment than what the carpenter's son could give 
them. One proportions praise and encouragement, not only 
to the importance of the thing done, but also to its difficulty 
to him who does it. The act of running a few steps alone, 
or of saying a few articulate words, is a feat on which none 
of you would dream of priding himself ; but with what praise 
and encouragement parents welcome a child's first attempt 
to walk without support ; with what delight they catch at the 
first few words he is able to pronounce. And it is not only 
that the first efforts of the child are as difficult to him as 
>ome more laborious exercise would be to us ; but also that 
first victory is the pledge of many more. The very first 
words a child pronounces give his parents the assurance that 
that child is not, either through want of intellect or through 
want of powers of speech, doomed to be separated from inter- 
course with mankind. The learning these two or three words 
gives the assurance that he will afterwards be able to master 
all the other difficulties of language, and will be capable of 
all the varied delights which speech affords. And so in 
that first profession of faith in Christ, imperfect though 
it was, and though it was shown immediately afterwards 
how much as to the true character of the Messiah re- 
gained to be learned, was contained of the pledge of every 
future profession of faith which the Church then founded 
has since been able to put forth. This accounts for the 
encouragement and praise with which our Lord received it. 
I own it seems to me the most obvious and natural way of 
understanding our Lord's words to take them as conferring a 
personal honour in reward for that confession. Thy name I 
have called Rock : and on thee and on this confession of 
thine I will found my Church. For that confession really was 
the foundation of the Church. Just as in some noble sacred 
music, the strain which a single voice has led is responded to 
by the voices of the full choir, so that glorious hymn of praise, 
which Peter was the first to raise, has been caught up and 
re-echoed by the voices of the redeemed in every age. Nay, 
the anthem of thanksgiving to Jesus, the Son of God, which 
has filled the mouths of the Church militant on earth, shall 
still be the burden of their songs in heaven as they ascribe 


'blessing, and honour, and glory, and power to Him that 
sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb.' 

It was not only in this first recognition of the true character 
of our Lord that Peter was foremost. Jesus fulfilled His 
promise to him by honouring him with the foremost place 
in each of the successive steps by which the Church was 
developed. It was through St. Peter's sermon on the day of 
Pentecost that the first addition was made to the number of 
the disciples whom our Lord Himself had collected, when 
on one day there was added to the Church 3000 souls ; and 
it was by Peter's mission to Cornelius that the first step 
was made to the admission of Gentiles to the Church : thus 
causing it to overleap the narrow barriers of Judaism and to 
embrace all the families of the earth. Thus the words of our 
Lord were fulfilled in that Peter was honoured by being the 
foremost among the human agents by which the Church was 
founded.* But I need not say that this was an honour in 
which it was impossible he could have a successor. We 
might just as well speak of Adam's having a successor in 
the honour of being the first man, as of Peter's having a 
successor in the place which he occupied in founding the 
Christian Church. 

I have said that the Romanist interpretation of the text 
we have been considering is refuted by the fact that many 
eminent Fathers do not understand the rock as meaning 
St. Peter. You will see now, that even if they did,f as I 
do myself, the Romanist consequences would not follow. If 
Peter were the foundation of the Church in any other sense 
than I have explained, it would have shaken immediately 
afterwards when our Lord said unto him : 'Get thee behind 
me, Satan,' and tottered to its base when he denied his Lord. 
Immediately after Peter had earned commendation by his 
acknowledgment of Jesus as the Messiah, the doctrine of a 

* The same explanation may be given of the bestowal on Peter of 
the keys of the kingdom of heaven. 

t For example Tertullian, the earliest writer quoted as interpreting 
the 'Rock' to mean St. Peter, contends vehemently (De Pudic. 21) 
that the privilege conferred by our Lord on that occasion was exclu- 
sively personal, and was fulfilled by the part Peter took in the first 
formation of the Church. 


crucified Messiah was proposed to him and he rejected it. 
So that if the Apostles had believed that the words 'On this 
rock I will build my Church' constituted Peter their infallible 
guide, the very first time they followed his guidance they 
would have been led into miserable error. They would have 
been led by him to reject the Cross, on which we rely as our 
atonement, and on which we place all our hope of salvation. 
I will not delay to speak of the latter part of the passage, 
because it is clear that the privileges therein spoken of are 
not peculiar to Peter, very similar words being used in the 
i8th of St. Matthew to all the Apostles. 

I hasten on to the words in St. Luke, on which Roman 
Catholics are forced to lay much of their case. For when 
it is pointed out, as I did just now, that the charge in St. 
Matthew clearly did not render Peter competent to guide the 
Apostles, it is owned that the due powers were not given 
to him then, but it is said they were conferred afterwards. 
When it is pointed out that the disputes among the Apostles 
for precedence show that they were not aware that Peter had 
been made their ruler, it is answered that our Lord on the 
night before He was betrayed decided the subject of these 
disputes in His charge to Peter. Our habitual use of the 
second person plural in addressing individuals so disguises 
from the modern English reader the force of the Roman 
Catholic argument, that I have hardly ever found anyone who 
could quote correctly that familiar text about sifting as wheat 
unless his attention had been specially called to it. Our 
Lord's words do very strongly bring out a special gift to 
Peter : ' Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have you 
(v/ms, all the Apostles) that he may sift you as wheat ; but I 
have prayed for thee (Peter) that thy faith fail not, and when 
thou art converted strengthen thy brethren.' But certainly 
no one who interpreted Scripture according to its obvious 
meaning could suspect that the passage contains a revelation 
concerning the Church's appointed guide to truth in all time. 
The whole passage refers, on the face of it, to the immediate 
danger the faith of the Apostles was in from those trials 
under the pressure of which they all deserted their Master. 
There was a special prayer for Peter because of his special 


danger, and we see that this prayer did not exclude a griev- 
ous fall. If no security of unbroken constancy in the faith 
was thereby gained to Peter, for whom the prayer was 
directly made, we have no ground for supposing that it had 
greater efficacy in the case of any alleged successors, to whom 
the petition can at most apply indirectly. It may be added 
that the work of 'strengthening* his brethren, thereby com- 
mitted to Peter (one to which he was peculiarly bound, whose 
fall had perilled men's faith), was no peculiar prerogative of 
Peter's. The same word o-nj/aifeiv is used in three or four 
places in the Acts (xiv. 22 ; xv. 32, 41 ; xviii. 23) of Paul's 
confirming the Churches of Syria and Cilicia, of Judas and 
Silas confirming the brethren at Antioch, of Timothy con- 
firming the Thessalonian Church. And most remarkable 
of all, Paul when purposing to visit Rome, which is said to 
have been Peter's peculiar charge, expects that it is by his 
instrumentality this benefit will be conferred on the Roman 
Church : 'I long to see you that I may impart unto you some 
spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established' ts TO a-rrjpLx- 
Orjvai ryzas (Rom. i. n). 

I may here, in passing, mention another passage (2 Cor. 
xi. 28), where Paul shows himself strangely unconscious 
of Peter's prerogatives. For, having enumerated some of 
his labours and sufferings in the cause of the Gospel, he 
adds : ' Beside those things that are without, that which 
cometh on me daily, the care of all the Churches.' If, as 
Roman theory would have it, the care of all the Churches 
was Peter's province, St. Paul is most unreasonable in com- 
plaining of the trouble he had incurred through gratuitously 
meddling with another man's work, thus literally becoming 
what St. Peter himself called an aAAorptoeTrto-KOTros (i Pet. 
iv. 15). But Paul elsewhere (Gal. ii. 8) limits Peter's pro- 
vince to the 'Apostleship of the Circumcision,' that is to say, 
to the superintendence of the Jewish Churches : and states 
that the work of evangelizing the Gentiles had, by agreement 
with the three chief Apostles, been specially committed to 
himself and Barnabas. 

This prayer for Peter is so clearly personal that some 
Roman Catholic controversialists do not rely on this passage 


at all. Neither can they produce any early writers who de- 
duce from it anything in favour of the Roman See. Bellar- 
mine can quote nothing earlier than the eleventh century, 
except the suspicious evidence of some Popes in their own 
cause, of whom the earliest to speak distinctly is Pope 
Agatho in his address to the sixth general council, A.D. 680. 
How earlier Fathers understood the passage, will appear 
plainly from Chrysostom's commentary,* when he answers 
the question why Peter is especially addressed : 'He said 
this sharply reproving him, and showing that his fall was 
more grievous than that of the others, and needed greater 
assistance. For he had been guilty of two faults, that he 
contradicted our Lord when He said all shall be offended, 
saying, "though all should be offended, yet will I never be 
offended"; and secondly, that he set himself above the 
others : and we may add a third fault, that he ascribed all to 
himself. In order, then, to heal these diseases, our Lord 
permitted him to fall : and therefore passing by the others 
He turns to him : "Simon, Satan hath desire to have you, 
that he may sift you as wheat (that is to say, might trouble 
you, harass you, tempt you), but I have prayed for thee that 
thy faith fail not." Why, if Satan desired to have all, does 
not our Lord say, I have prayed for all ? Is it not plainly 
for the reason I have mentioned ? By way of rebuke to him, 
and showing that his fall was worse than that of the others 
He turns His speech to him.'f Similar language is used by 

* Horn. 82. In Matt, xxvi., vol. vii., p. 785. 

t It is proper to mention, by way of set off, that in the Homilies on 
the Acts ascribed to Chrysostom (vol. ix., p. 26), the part taken by 
Peter in initiating the election of Matthias is treated as resulting from 
the prerogatives bestowed in the words recorded in St. Luke's Gospel : 
CIKOTIOS 7T/OWT09 Tov 7r/>ayfiaTos avticpfeij are avrbs Travras tyyeipur- 

$tS, 7T/OOS jap TOVTOV ZLTTtV 6 X/OtO-TOS* KOL (TV 7TOT 67T6CTT/36^aS (TTlj- 

pi^ov TOVS aSeAx^ovs <rov. Chrysostom's authorship of the Homilies on 
the Acts has been much disputed on account of their great inferiority, 
both in style and treatment, to his unquestioned writings. Erasmus 
is so impolite as to say ' Nihil unquam legi indoctius. Ebrius ac 
stertensscriberemmeliora.' Great preachers, however, are not always 
at their best, and possibly these Homilies, as they have come down to 
us, are a bad report of sermons really delivered by St. Chrysostom. 
And vacillations of interpretations are so common with the Fathers, 
that I do not regard it as a proof of diverse authorship that the text 
in St. Luke is deall with differently in these Homilies and those in 


a much later expositor, the Venerable Bede, in his commen- 
tary on this text of St. Luke. He explains it 'as I have by 
praying preserved thy faith that it should not fail under the 
temptation of Satan, so also do thou be mindful to raise up 
and comfort thy weaker brethren by the example of thy 
penitence, lest perchance they despair of pardon.' It is 
plain that the great teachers of the Church were ignorant for 
hundreds of years that this text contained more than a per- 
sonal promise to the Apostle about to be tried by a special 
temptation, and that they never found out it was a charter 
text revealing the constitution of the Christian Church. 

I come now to the third text, the 'Feed my sheep* of St. 
John ; and here, too, certainly, there is no indication in the 
text itself that there was an appointment to an office peculiar 
in its kind. The office of tending Christ's sheep is certainly 
not peculiar to St. Peter. It is committed, in even more 
general terms, by St. Paul to the Ephesian elders, 'Feed the 
Church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood ' 
(Acts xx. 28), and by Peter himself to his fellow elders, 
' Feed the flock of God which is among you' (i Pet. v. 2). 
The sequel of the story, too, is adverse to the supposition 
that our Lord meant to confer on St. Peter the oversight of 
his fellow Apostles. For when he asks concerning St. John 
'What shall this man do?' he receives something like a 
rebuke : ' What is that to thee? follow thou me.' I don't 
know any respectable Patristic authority for understanding 
the passage otherwise than Cyril of Alexandria does, whose 
commentary we may well adopt : 'If anyone asks for what 
cause he asked Simon only, though the other disciples were 
present, and what he means by "Feed my lambs," and the 
like, we answer that St. Peter, with the other disciples, had 
been already chosen to the Apostleship, but because mean- 
while Peter had fallen (for under great fear he had thrice 
denied the Lord), he now heals him that was sick, and exacts 
a threefold confession in place of his triple denial, contrasting 

St. Matthew. But on no supposition is the question at issue more 
than the speculative one, what prerogatives were er-jove' 1 by Pfte 1 * 
personally ; no ambiguity of interpretation could have been tolerated 
if Chrysostom had imagined that the text in Luke determined the 
constitution of the Church in his own day. 


the former with the latter, and compensating the fault with 
the correction.' And again, 'By the triple confession Peter 
abrogates the sin contracted in his triple denial. For from 
what our Lord says, "Feed my lambs," a renewal of the 
Apostolate already delivered to him is considered to have 
been made which presently absolves the disgrace of his sin 
and blots out the perplexity of his human infirmity.' I shall 
not detain you longer with the Scripture argument ; nor shall 
I examine, for instance, how Romanist advocates struggle to 
make out that the appointment of Matthias was made by the 
single authority of Peter, because the whole history of the 
Acts (as, for instance, the appointment of the seven deacons, 
the conversion of Samaria, where we find not 'Peter took 
John' but -the Apostles sent Peter and John'), shows that 
the original constitution of the Church was not monarchical, 
and that when that of the Jerusalem Church became so, 
James, and not Peter, was its ruler. I may mention that in 
the Clementines of which I shall have occasion to speak 
again presently, and which did so much to raise the authority 
attributed to Peter in the Church, it is James, not Clement, 
who is bishop of bishops and supreme ruler ; and to James 
Peter must yearly render an account of his doings.* 

*In a still later forgery, the Decretal Epistles, this is rectified. 
Among these is a letter supposed to be written by Clement, after 
Peter's death, to James, although, according to Eusebius, James died 
before Peter. In this letter Clement, as Peter's successor, assumes 
the position of James' master and teacher : ' Quoniam sicut a beato 
Petro Apostolo accepimus, omnium Apostolorum patre qui claves 
regni coslestis accepit, qualiter tenere debemus de sacramentis, te ex 
ordine nos decet instruere.' 


I COUNT it as proved in the last Lecture that we have no 
Scripture warrant for regarding Peter as more than a 
foremost (or, if you will, the foremost) member of the Apos- 
tolic college, or as having any precedence but such as his 
boldness, promptitude, and energy gave him ; and that there 
is no trace of his having held over the Church any official 
position of headship, wherein, according to Christ's intention, 
he was to have a successor. I go on now to consider Peter's 
connexion with Rome, which I look on as a mere historical 
problem, without any doctrinal significance whatever way it 
may be determined. The generally received account among 
Roman Catholics, and one which can claim a long traditional 
acceptance, is that Peter came to Rome in the second year of 
Claudius (that is, A.D. 42), and that he held the see twenty- 
five years, a length of episcopate never reached again until 
by Pio Nono, who exceeded it. It used to be said (but I 
believe untruly) that as part of the ceremony of a Pope's 
installation he was addressed ' Non videbis annos Petri.' 
Now if it is possible to prove a negative at all, we may con- 
clude, with at least high probability, that Peter was not at 
Rome during any of the time on which the writings of the 
canonical Scriptures throw much light, and almost certainly 
that during that time he was not its bishop. We have an 
Epistle of Paul to the Romans full of salutations to his friends 
there, but no mention of their bishop. Nor is anything said 
of work done by Peter in founding that Church. On the 
contrary, it is implied that no Apostle had as yet visited it ; 
for such is the inference from the passage already cited, in 
which Paul expresses his wish to see the Roman Christians 


in order that he might impart some spiritual gift to the end 
that they might be established. We have letters of Panl 
from Rome in which no message is sent from Peter; and in 
the very last of these letters Paul complains of being left 
alone, and that only Luke was with him. Was Peter one of 
the deserters ? The Scripture accounts of Peter place him in 
Judaea, in Antioch, possibly in Corinth, but finally in 
Babylon. I have discussed, in a former series of Lectures, 
whether this is to be understood literally, or whether we 
have here the first indication of Peter's presence at Rome. 
But plainly, if Peter was ever at Rome, it was after the date 
of Paul's second Epistle to Timothy. 

Some Protestant controversialists have asserted that Peter 
was never at Rome ; but though the proofs that he was there 
are not so strong as I should like them to be if I had any 
doctrine depending on it, I think the historic probability is 
that he was ; though, as I say, at a late period of the history, 
and not long before his death. I dare say some of you know 
that there was a controversy on this subject at Rome not long 
after the Pope ceased to be the temporal ruler of the city. 
Quite lately I have seen it still placarded as 'the immortal 
discussion at Rome.' Roman Catholic priests are, as a 
general rule, not fond of controversy ; but they were tempted 
into it this time by the fact that victory seemed certain ; for 
the Protestant champions had undertaken the impossible 
task of proving the negative, that Peter was never at Rome. 
They might as well have undertaken to prove out of the 
Bible that St. Bartholomew never preached in Pekin. I don't 
suppose he did ; but I don't know how you could prove out 
of Scripture that he didn't. The event showed, however, 
of how little use a logical victory sometimes is. When the 
Protestants begun to use such arguments as I employed just 
now in order to prove that Peter had not been twenty-five 
years bishop, the Romanists interrupted them by pointing 
out that that was not the question. 'You undertook to prove 
he was never at Rome. We need not talk about twenty-five 
years; if he was there a day, or an hour, your cause is lost.' 
Thereupon their opponents raised a shout of triumph. 'Here 
are the men who, until we encountered them, had been 


asserting a twenty-five years' episcopate ; and now they give 
up the whole fable the moment they are grappled with, and 
are reduced to contend for a day or an hour.' 

For myself, I am willing, in the absence of any opposing 
tradition, to accept the current account that Peter suffered 
martyrdom at Rome. We know with certainty from John xxi. 
that Peter suffered martyrdom somewhere. If Rome, which 
early laid claim to have witnessed that martyrdom, were not 
the scene of it, where then did it take place ? Any city would 
be glad to claim such a connexion with the name of the 
Apostle, and none but Rome made the claim. The place of 
Peter's martyrdom was, no doubt, known to St. John, and 
we may reasonably think, was also known in the circle where 
his Gospel was first published. Now all agree that the date 
of that publication was quite late in the apostolic age ; and 
the interval, till the time when men began to make written 
record of what they could learn by apostolic tradition, is too 
short to allow of the true tradition as to the place of St. 
Peter's martyrdom being utterly lost, and a quite false one 
substituted. In the earliest uninspired Christian writing, 
the Epistle of Clement of Rome, he makes mention of the 
martyrdom of Peter and Paul, but does not name the place 
where they suffered. There is a fair presumption, however, 
that in this Roman document Rome is intended. The earliest 
express mention of Italy as the place of their martyrdom 
is in a letter of Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, about 170. 
There is mention of their tombs at Rome in a dialogue of 
Caius the Roman presbyter, about A.D. 200, and from that 
time this tradition reigned without a rival. If this evidence 
for Peter's Roman martyrdom be not deemed sufficient, there 
are few things in the history of the early Church which it 
will be possible to demonstrate. 

From the question, whether Peter ever visited Rome, we 
pass now to a very different question : whether he was its 
bishop. Absentees are not popular in this country; but the 
worst of absentees is an absentee bishop. We think it scanda- 
lous when we read of bishops a hundred years ago who never 
went near their sees ; but this abuse has now been completely 
rooted out of our Church. Canons against non-residence 


were made in earlier times ; but, if we are to believe Roman 
theory, the bad example had been set by St. Peter, who was 
the first absentee bishop. If he became bishop of Rome in 
the second year of Claudius, he appears never afterwards to 
have gone near his see until close upon his death. Nay, he 
never even wrote a letter to his Church while he was away ; 
or if he did, they did not think it worth preserving. 

Baronius (in Ann. Iviii. 51) owns the force of the Scrip- 
ture reasons for believing that Peter was not in Rome during 
any time on which the New Testament throws light. His 
theory is that, when Claudius commanded all Jews to leave 
Rome, Peter was obliged to go away. And as for his subse- 
quent absences, they were forced on him by his duty as the 
chief of the Apostles, having care of all the churches. 'Paul 
preached the Gospel from Jerusalem round about unto Illyri- 
cum, and, not satisfied with that, designed to go even to 
vSpain besides. Can we imagine Peter to have been less 
active?' These, no doubt, are excellent reasons for Peter's 
not remaining at Rome; but why, then, did he undertake 
duties which he must have known he could not fulfil ? 

There is another respect in which the accepted version of 
Peter's history accuses him of having set a bad example. In 
the primitive Church it was accounted a discreditable thing 
for a bishop to migrate from one see to another; and espe- 
cially from a poorer see to a richer; it was accounted a kind 
of spiritual adultery, this forsaking a poorer wife for a richer. 
Several early canons forbade the practice ; and I have 
mentioned how one of them was worked against Gregory 
Nazianzen. Pope Leo (Ep. 84), in a decree incorporated 
in the Canon Law (Si quis Episcopus, c. 7, qu. i, cap. 31), 
ordered : 'If any bishop, despising the meanness of his see, 
seeks for the administration of a more eminent place, and 
for any reason transfers himself to a greater people, he shall 
not only be driven out of the see which did not belong to 
him, but he shall also lose his own, so as neither to preside 
over those whom in his avarice he coveted, nor over those 
whom in his pride he despised.' Yet we are told that Peter 
in order to obtain the see of Rome, abandoned that of 
Antioch, which he had previously held for seven years. 


On this charge, at least, Peter may fairly claim an 
acquittal ; for whatever credit may be due to the story of his 
Roman episcopate, the story of the Antiochene episcopate is 
entitled to still less, being both of later origin and far less 
widely believed. In fact, I consider that it was the circulation 
of the tale of Peter's Roman episcopate which stimulated the 
invention of Syrian Christians to make out an equal honour 
for their capital. There is a current story of an Englishman, 
who, in a country where veracity was not cultivated, found a 
claim made on him for the repayment of money which he 
had never received. At the trial he heard the fact of his 
having received the money attested by so many witnesses 
that he could not conceive how his own advocate could 
be able to break the case down. But he was not prepared 
for the line of defence actually adopted, which was to produce 
an equal number of credible witnesses who had been present 
when the money was duly paid back. On much the same 
system Eastern Christians attempted no contradiction of the 
story that Peter had been bishop of Rome ; but they had the 
wit to see that the date assigned for his coming to that city 
left some years free, between the dates of our Lord's Ascen- 
sion and A.D. 42, of which use might be made to establish 
an earlier dignity for Antioch. The Westerns were equally 
polite in accepting the Eastern story, the truth of which is 
strenuously maintained by Baronius, who relies on its being 
adopted in the Chronicle of Eusebius. And it is true that 
the story was fully accepted in the fourth century ; but much 
earlier evidence would be necessary in order to establish its 

* I chanced lately to have my attention drawn to another attempt 
to give early Church history a Syrian colouring. I looked into the 
Endence for the Papacy, by the late Lord Lindsay, in order to see 
whether it was a book of which I needed to take notice. I found 
that, in producing his very first Patristic witness, the author was so 
unlucky as to stumble into both the traps into which an inexperienced 
explorer of antiquity is in danger of falling : he took a spurious work 
for genuine ; and he completely misconceived what his witness meant 
to say. The witness was Ignatius, who. in writing to the Romans, 
says : ' I do not command you like Peter and Paul ' ; from which it is 
a common and, as I believe, a just inference that Ignatius regarded 
these two Apostles as having some local connexion with that Church. 
But Lord Lindsay goes on to argue that Ignatius says elsewhere (Ad 


With regard to the Roman episcopate in other words, 
with regard to the charge against Peter, of having undertaken 
local duties which he must have known his apostolic labours 
could not permit him to fulfil we might be disposed to give 
him an acquittal on the ground of character alone. But it is 
satisfactory to be able to report that the case against him 
completely breaks down. In fact, we can say with confidence 
that the story had not arisen in the year 180 : for Irenaeus, in 
a work published shortly after that year (Hcer. iii. 3), ascribes 
the establishment of the Roman Church to Paul as well as 
Peter; and then adds, 'the blessed apostles having founded 
and built the Church, committed the episcopal office to 
Linus. Of this Linus St. Paul makes mention in his Epistle 
to Timothy. To him succeeded Anencletus* [elsewhere called 
Cletus, or Anacletus]. After him Clement succeeded in the 
third place from the apostles.' Thus Linus is made the first 
bishop of Rome, and his appointment St. Paul's work as 
much as Peter's. This is the earliest account we have of the 
succession of the Roman bishops. It is really useless to cite 
other authorities; for a doctrine so fundamental as Peter's 
episcopate and its consequences is alleged to be, if true at 
all, could not but be known to Irenaeus. It is worth men- 

Magnes. 10) that ' the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch 
when Peter and Paul were founding the Church.' He asks why 
Ignatius did not say, 'when the Apostles were founding the Church,' 
unless that he regarded these two Apostles, with whom the Church of 
Rome was connected, as superior in rank to the rest. But the second 
passage has a coincidence with Irenseus which would have awakened 
Lord Lindsay's suspicions if he had been more familiar with early 
Fathers ; and it is, in fact, taken from the longer form of the Ignatian 
Epistles, which critics of all schools now own to be spurious. But 
what is amusing is, that nothing could be further from this Syrian 
forger's intention than to furnish evidence in support of Roman 
claims. On the contrary, he takes the phrase which Irenaeus had 
used about Peter and Paul founding the Church of Rome, and 
transfers it to the Church of Antioch. 

* ' Anacletus is no name I ever heard of. But Anencletus (meaning 
the same as Innocentius) is found as a man's name in a Greek inscrip- 
tion (Boeckh, Corp. Inscr. i. 116, n. 1240). The Greeks always have 
Anencletus. In Photius (Cod. 113, p. 90, Bekker) the name stands 
Anacletus ; but the Cod. Marc, has the right form, Anencletus, as 
Dindorf observes (Thes. Gr.). The name Cletus is equally unknown, 
and is clearly a corruption of Anencletus. which sounded strange to 
Latin ears.' (Von Dollinger, First Age of the Church, ii. 153, 
Qxenhani'a translation, 1877.) 


tioning, as a sample of the way in which controversy is 
conducted, that in Wiseman's Lectures this quotation from 
Irenasus is prominent among the proofs that Peter was bishop 
of Rome, the quotation being so garbled as to make it seem 
that Linus succeeded Peter in the episcopate instead of being 
appointed first bishop by Peter and Paul.* 

I have said quite enough for the mere purpose of refuta- 
tion of the Roman claims ; but to me it is always pleasanter 
to deal with questions historically than controversially; and 
I wish, therefore, to state the conclusions (some of them as 
I think certain, some of them from the nature of the case 
only probable) which I consider would be arrived at by a 
historical inquirer with no theological purpose in view, on 
the questions : What was the connexion of Peter and Paul 
with the Roman Church ? How came it to believe that Peter 
had been its first bishop ? and, How came the duration of his 
episcopate to be fixed at twenty-five years? I am justified 
in thinking that candid inquirers need not differ very much 
on these questions, because I find that the results at which I 
had arrived independently are, on several points, in agree- 
ment with those obtained by von Dollinger in his First Age 
of the Church, a book published while he was still in full 
communion with the Church of Rome, and was regarded as 
its ablest champion. 

I have seen, in a Roman Catholic book of controversy, 
the question put, Who founded the Church of Rome ? and 
the answer given : It could not have been St. Paul, because 
we learn from his Epistle that there was a Church at Rome 

*The whole passage is amusing : 'I presume it will not be necessary 
to enter into any argument to show that St. Peter was the first bishop 
of Rome. . . . Among the moderns it may be sufficient to observe that 
no ecclesiastical writer of any note pretends to deny this fact. " To 
St, Peter," as St. Irenaeus observes, "succeeded Linus, to Linus 
Anacletus, then in the third place Clement"' (Lectures on the 
Catholic Church, Lect. 8, vol. 1., p. 278). I think I have already 
remarked that a controversialist who has ventured on an assertion 
which, when challenged, he finds himself unable to prove, has no 
oetter resource than to protest loudly that the thing is too evident to 
need any proof. Dr. Cunningham is equally positive the other way. 
He savs (Growth of the Church, p. 43) : ' No ecclesiastical historian, 
who is free from ecclesiastical trammels, now believes that Peter was 
bishop of Rome.' And he is the nearer the truth of the two, as may 
be judged from the line taken by von Dollinger, 


befoie he had visited that city; therefore the founder could 
have been no one but St. Peter. But there are absolutely no 
grounds for the tacit assumption in this argument, that the 
Church of Rome must have been founded by some Apostle. 
On the contrary, we know (Acts ii. 10) that 'strangers of 
Rome' were present on the day of Pentecost; and we may 
reasonably believe that some of them soon returned to 
that city, whither also the constant influx of visitors from 
every part of the empire would be sure soon to bring some 
professors of the Christian faith. It follows that the origin 
of the Church of Rome is not to be ascribed, as in the case 
of some other cities, to the exertions of some missionary 
arriving with the express intention of evangelizing the city, 
but was due to silent and spontaneous growth. It is quite 
possible that among those who came to Rome were some 
'prophets or teachers,' but very unlikely that for some time 
any Apostles were among the visitors. I do not attach credit 
to the tradition told in the Preaching of Peter,* and also by 
Apollonius,f that our Lord commanded His Apostles not to 
leave Jerusalem for twelve years after His Ascension ; but 
all probability is opposed to their having, for a considerable 
time, made missionary journeys to distant places. The ex- 
ample seems to have been set by Paul in the year 48 ; and 
even he seems to have needed a special revelation to induce 
him to cross from Asia into Europe (Acts xvi. 9) : so that, 
bearing in mind how slowly the idea of throwing open 
the doors of the Church to the Gentiles gained acceptance 
with the first disciples, we must pronounce it a complete 
anachronism to imagine an assault made by an Apostle on 
the capital of the Gentile world so early as the year 42. 
I have already said that the Epistle to the Romans gives us 
every reason to think that Paul was the first Apostle to visit 
that city.t 

* Clem. Alex. Strom, vi. 5. t Euseb. H. E. v. 18. 

+ On this point I differ from von Dollinger. who says (First Age, 
i. 160) : ' The notion of a gradual origin or the community without 
any particular founder, or of Aquila and Priscilla being its founders, 
or St. Paul himself, is self -evidently untenable.' As I remarked just 
now, if a man says a thing is self-evident, it usually means that he 
can give no proof of it. 


But what, then, are we to say to the statement of Irenaeus 
that Peter and Paul founded the Church of Rome ? Probably 
the simple account of the matter is, that the visit of the two 
great Apostles was such an important event in the history of 
the Roman Church that the men of the next generation did 
not care to trace that histoiy further back ; but it is likely 
enough that these Apostles, at the time of their visit, did 
important work in organizing the Roman Church, and guid- 
ing it through the period of transition from the state in which 
the Church was taught by missionaries, or men endowed 
with miraculous gifts, to the permanent state in which it was 
under the guidance of a settled ministry. That the two 
Apostles founded the Church of Rome in the sense of ap- 
pointing its first bishop is a thing by no means incredible, 
even if we do not regard the authority of Irenseus sufficient 
to enable us to assert it as an ascertained fact. 

But we travel at once out of the region of historic proba- 
bility when any evidence, tending to induce us to believe 
that St. Peter once visited Rome, is taken as establishing that 
he was bishop of Rome. The case is much the same as if 
some person, zealous for the honour of the city of London, 
were to maintain that King Alfred had been its first Lord 
Mayor; and by way of proof were to present us with some 
evidence that King Alfred had visited London, in which 
city he would, of course, when present, have been the most 
important personage. The functions of a King and a Lord 
Mayor are not more distinct than those of an Apostle and 
a local bishop. 

On the question of the date of the origin of episcopacy, 
candid men on both sides appear to me to be now approach- 
ing to very close agreement. On the one hand, it may be 
regarded as certain that, at the end of the second century, 
that not only were bishops everywhere, but there was no 
recollection that the constitution of the Church had ever been 
different ; and men even found it hard to conceive the idea of 
a Church without its bishop. On the other hand, we find, 
in the Acts of the Apostles, but one clear indication of a 
Church being presided over by a single resident ruler, 
namely, that of the Christ of Jerusalem, presided over by 


St. James. For other such indications we have to go down 
to St. Paul's later Epistles, and perhaps to the Revelation 
and the third Epistle of St. John. In the New Testament 
records of the apostolic age, though we find 'bishops' men- 
tioned, the word does not appear to denote persons singly 
bearing rule in separate Churches, but to be employed as 
equivalent to 'presbyters'; and this use is continued in the 
genuine epistle of Clement of Rome. It is found also in the 
lately recovered Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. Thus, then, 
although I hold that the episcopal form of Church govern- 
ment dates from apostolic times, I consider also that its rise 
must be placed quite late in apostolic times. This is the 
opinion of von Dollinger, who says (First Age,ii. 130) : 'The 
office afterwards called episcopal was not yet marked off ; the 
Episcopate slept in the Apostolate. It was the last branch 
to grow out of the apostolic stem. In Jerusalem it had 
already taken shape in the person of St. James, whose 
attitude towards the local Church, his renunciation of mis- 
sionary work, and his remaining within the holy city, point 
him out as the first true and proper bishop. The other 
Apostles discharged their episcopal office in superintending 
and guiding different communities.' My own opinion is that 
vSt. James was not only bishop of Jerusalem, but that the 
veneration gained for him, both by his personal character 
and by his kinship to our Lord, obtained for him, as the 
Clementine author believed, that position of primacy over 
the whole Church which, in later times, it was imagined had 
been possessed by Peter. In fact, Jerusalem, being the 
mother Church, naturally exercised commanding influence 
over the daughter Churches (Acts xv. i, Gal. ii. 12) ; and so 
the head of the Church of Jerusalem possessed, over the 
entire, authority the exact extent of which we need not 
trouble ourselves to define. 

Von Dollinger attempts to explain why the branching 
off of the Episcopate as a distinct office did not take place 
earlier. He considers that, 'while the Temple stood, and 
the connexion of Judaism was not finally dissolved, the 
organization of the Church was, in one sense, incomplete and 
provisional. It might in the interval have presbyters, who 


were a common Jewish institution; and their appointment 
was no sign of separation; but the appointment of bishops 
would certainly have been regarded by all Jews, and by 
Christians also, as an act of sealing the exclusion of the 
Church, and its definite separation from the Israelite nation 
and religion. Therefore the Apostles retained the episcopal 
authority provisionally in their own hands' ; and he goes 
on to urge that until the two nationalities, the Jewish and 
Gentile, were completely amalgamated, their mutual jealousies 
(exhibited, for instance, in Acts vi.) would have made it 
difficult for a bishop, chosen from either party, to obtain 
submission from the other. And he urges, further, that it 
would be difficult, in newly-formed Churches, to find men 
with due qualifications for single rule; and that in such 
Churches it would be easier to find a dozen presbyters than 
one bishop. The result is, that we may not only think it an 
absurdity to speak of an Apostle as bishop of Rome, but 
also, without at all denying the apostolic origin of episco- 
pacy, may count it an anachronism to speak of anyone as 
bishop of Rome in the year 42. 

Accordingly, although Dollinger, as a good Roman 
Catholic, contends that St. Peter was the founder of the 
Church of Rome, yet he appears to shrink from calling him 
bishop of Rome, and even explains away the story of his 
twenty-five years episcopate. He says (ii. 149) 'From this 
list [the Liberian] conies the much-criticised statement of the 
twenty-five years' duration of St. Peter's episcopate. This 
does not mean that he was bishop at Rome twenty-five years, 
as it was afterwards misunderstood, but that from Christ's 
Ascension to his death was twenty-five years, during which 
he held his episcopate that is to say, his dignity in the 
Church.' For myself, I cannot admit that there was any 
misunderstanding, for I do not believe that those who as- 
serted Peter's Roman episcopate intended to be understood 
in any but the obvious sense of the words; but Dollinger's 
explanation is quite necessary in order to make the assertion 
consistent with truth. But, according to this explanation, St. 
Paul had the same right as St. Peter to be accounted bishop 
of Rome, and each Apostle to be accounted also bishop of 


each of the Churches which enjoyed his superintending care. 
So that, if we call an Apostle bishop because he exercised 
episcopal nay, more than episcopal power, we must also 
hold that, in apostolic times, one bishop might hold several 
sees, and one see have, at the same time, more bishops than 

I have already stated that the earliest list of Roman 
bishops we possess is that published by Irenaeus about A.D. 
180. But Irenaeus was not the first to publish a list of Roman 
bishops. A list had been made by Hegesippus some twenty 
years earlier, as we learn from an extract from his writings 
preserved by Eusebius (H.E., iv. 22). The claim of certain 
Gnostic sects to have derived their peculiar doctrines by 
secret tradition from the Apostles stirred up the members of 
the Catholic Church to offer proof that whatever apostolic 
traditions there were must be sought in those Churches which 
had been founded by Apostles, and which could trace the 
succession of their bishops to men appointed by Apostles. 
It would seem to be with the object of collecting evidence 
for such a proof that Hegesippus travelled to Rome. He 
states that on his way he stopped at Corinth, where he found 
Primus as bishop, and was refreshed with the orthodox 
doctrine of the Church, which it had held since its first 
foundation. Thence he proceeded to Rome, where he arrived 
in the episcopate of Anicetus, which may be roughly dated 
as A.D. 155-165. He tells us that he then made a 'succession 
of bishops (Siaooxijv) down to Anicetus'; and that in every 
city and in every succession the teaching was in accordance 
with the law, and the prophets,* and the Lord. He adds 
that to Anicetus succeeded Soter, and to Soter Eleutherus, 
who had been deacon to Anicetus. Thus it appears that the 
work from which Eusebius made his extract was published 
in the episcopate of Eleutherus the same episcopate as that 
in which the work of Irenaeus was published. But it may 

?r on/crap; i> /^XP ts ' 

ov OIO.KOVOS fjv 'EA.v#/3os. Kai Trapa 'Avi/ojrov oia^x^r 
fJicO' ov 'EXtv^e/305. 'Ev Kao~Ty Sk 8t,aoo\jj KOI ev 
ourws *X t > ^ vopos Kypv<T<Ti KOI ol irpo^rai KCU 6 
It must be remembered that hostility to the Old Testament was a 
marked feature of the leading Gnostic sects. 


reasonably be inferred that Hegesippus had published his 
list of bishops in the time of Anicetns, to which, in the later 
work, he merely adds the names of the two bishops, Soter 
and Eleutherus, who had succeeded Anicetus. Nothing more 
than what is here quoted is directly known of the list of 
Hegesippus; but Bishop Lightfoot has lately (Academy, May 
21, 1887) given reasons, which to me appear convincing, for 
thinking that we have indirect means of knowledge of it. 
Epiphanius (H<zr. xxvii. 6) gives a list of Roman bishops, 
beginning with Peter and Paul, and ending with Anicetus. 
This list entirely agrees with that of Irenseus, except that 
Anencletus is here called Cletus. Also, besides the mere list 
of names, Epiphanius shows, in this section, that he had 
information as to the duration of episcopates, which, it may 
be presumed, he drew from the same source as that whence 
he derived the list of names. Now, the chapter in question 
begins, ' There came to us one Marcellina, who had been 
deceived by these [viz. the Carpocratians], and who perverted 
many in the times of Anicetus, bishop of Rome, the successor 
of Pius, and of the above -mentioned.' Many critics had inferred 
from the phrase 'to us* that Epiphanius, who is habitually 
clumsy in his use of his authorities, has here incorporated in 
his work a sentence taken bodily from an old writer, who 
must have written in Rome where Marcellina taught her 
heresy. This inference is confirmed by the phrase ' the 
above-mentioned,' for in what precedes, Epiphanius had 
made no mention of Pius or his predecessors ; it is afterwards 
that he goes on to explain this sentence by giving a list of 
Roman bishops. Lipsius had conjectured that Hippolytus 
was the writer from whom Epiphanius borrowed this sen- 
tence; but Bishop Lightfoot puts forward the preferable claims 
of Hegesippus, who, we know, was in Rome in the time of 
Anicetus, and whose work contained a list of Roman bishops 
ending with that prelate. Lightfoot points out a further 
coincidence, which seems to me enough to remove all doubt 
as to the correctness of his suggestion. In the same context 
Epiphanius quotes a passage from the epistle of Clement of 
Rome, with which epistle he would seem, however, to have 
no direct acquaintance ; for he states that he found the 


quotation, ev TUTLV vn-o/xv^aTio-/xois. Now, Eusebius (u.s., 
see also iv. 8) calls the books of Hegesippus i 
('Hy/^riTTTros V TTfVTt rots is iy/xas cA^oixrt 
and states that the passage already quoted, in which 
Hegesippus mentions his visit to Rome, followed //era 
ircpl T/}S KA.'/^u,eiTos Trpos Ko/Div0toi>< eTrwrToArJs avrtjJ 
There seems, then, good reason to think that the list given 
by Irenseus just reproduces for us the list made by Hegesip- 
pus some twenty years before, except that the latter list may 
not improbably have noted durations of episcopates, which 
Irenseus omits as irrelevant to his purpose. Dollinger, indeed 
(ii. 150), considers that Irenaeus ' certainly did not know 
Hegesippus's book, or he would have appealed to it against 
the heretics' ; but the coincidence appears to me so close as 
to exclude the supposition that the authorities are indepen- 
dent ; and it is possible that what Iremeus knew was not the 
book published in the episcopate of Eleutherus by Hegesip- 
pus, but the list which he had made, and probably had pub- 
lished, in the episcopate of Anicetus. In any case we arrive 
at the result, that in any investigation as to the origin of 
episcopacy, we must take it as a fact that a traveller to Rome, 
about 160, found the Church ruled by a bishop (Anicetus), 
and that the Roman Church then believed that, since the 
Apostles' times, it had been governed by bishops, whose 
names were then preserved. 

To return now to the story of Peter's Roman episcopate, 
the real inventor of that story was an editor of the Clementine 
Romance, of which I spoke when lecturing on the New Tes- 
tament Canon. This work was brought to Rome at the very 
end of the second or beginning of the third century; and it 
had then prefixed a letter from Clement to James at Jeru- 
salem, telling how Peter had ordained him, and set him in 
his own chair of teaching as bishop of Rome. Though the 
doctrinal teaching of the Clementines was rejected as here- 
tical, the narrative part of the book was readily believed ; 

* Tn another passage (xxix. 4), where Epiphanius quotes 
vTrofjLvrjfAaTurfJLoi as his authority, there is reason to think that 
Hegesippus is also intended; for the passage relates to a tradition 
concerning James, our Lord's brother, of whom Hegesippus wrote 
largely (Euseb., H. E., ii. 23). 


and in particular this story of Clement's ordination by Peter 
was felt to be so honourable to the Church of Rome that it 
was at once adopted there, and has been the traditional 
Roman account ever since. 

But the adoption of this fable sadly perplexed the chrono- 
logy. For, according to the list of Irenseus, Clement was 
but the third Roman bishop since the Apostles ; and this is 
confirmed by the internal evidence of Clement's epistle, 
which, according to the judgment of the best critics, cannot 
be earlier than about A.D. 97. It was felt that unless Clement 
could be pushed back to an earlier period, his ordination by 
Peter would not be chronologically possible. Accordingly, 
another list of Roman bishops was published,* which puts 
up Clement to the second, and pushes down Anacletus to 
the third place. This double list has been very perplexing 
to historical inquirers ; but that the earlier order of Irenaeus 
is really correct is proved by a kind of evidence which I count 
peculiarly trustworthy. In the Roman Liturgy to this day 
the names of its first bishops are commemorated in the order 
of Irenseus, viz. Linus, Anacletus, Clement. If this were the 
original order we can understand its being preserved in the 
Church of Rome (which was very conservative in liturgical 
matters), notwithstanding that subsequent chronologers of 
eminence placed Clement second. But if Clement had been 
really originally in the second place, it is quite impossible 
that the name of Anencletus, who is unknown to Church 
history, should have been placed before him. These 
Clementine legends have so filled with fable the whole 
history of St. Peter, that I should even think the story of 
Peter's coming to Rome at all to be open to question, were 
it not, as I already said, that no rival Church claims the 
martyrdom . 

The Clementine letter itself, which represents Clement as 
ordained by Peter, and as succeeding Peter in his chair as 

* My own opinion is that this innovation was made by Hippolytus, 
the first in the Roman Church to take up the study of chronology a 
science, however, in which he deserves credit for zeal and industry, 
rather than for skill. His list appears to have been published in the 
third decade of the third century a time when the story of 
Clement'i ordination by Peter had come to be fully believed in. 


chief teacher of the Church, does not expressly speak of 
Peter as bishop of Rome. Tertullian, in the early part of 
the third century, had heard and believed the story of 
Clement's ordination by Peter, for he speaks (De Free scrip. 
32) of Polycarp having been placed by John over the Church 
of Smyrna; and Clement, by Peter, over the Church of 
Rome. But it does not seem to have dawned on Tertullian 
that Peter was bishop of Rome any more than John was 
bishop of Smyrna. 

We can only give conjectural answers to the questions, 
Who first counted Peter as bishop of Rome ? and, How came 
the duration of his episcopate to be fixed at twenty-five years ? 
but I will tell you w 7 hat seems to me most probable. Were it 
not that there is no better authority for believing Peter to 
have been bishop of Rome at all than for believing that he 
came to Rome in the second year of Claudius, many learned 
Roman Catholics would be glad to get rid of this inconvenient 
addition to the story. They have found the bringing St. Peter 
to Rome so early as the year 42 to be attended with chrono- 
logical difficulties sufficiently perplexing. First, they have 
had to push back the date of the imprisonment of Peter by 
Herod, which independent chronologers, with general con- 
sent, assign to the year 44. Then they have to bring back 
Peter to Jerusalem, to be present at the Council of Jerusalem, 
the proceedings at which are related (Acts xv.). Then they 
want him at Rome again, in order that the edict of Claudius 
mentioned (Actsxviii.) may provide him with a decent excuse 
for leaving his see, and undertaking those missionary labours 
in Tontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,' which 
appear to have continued so long that non-Episcopalians 
would be justified in concluding that a Church could get on 
very well without a bishop. If the commencement of the 
Roman episcopate could be placed at a later date, the Roman 
advocates would certainly find their task much easier. 

Now Hippolytus was the first Christian scientific chrono- 
loger at Rome. Before his time, lists of Roman bishops had 
been made, and notes of the duration of episcopates had been 
preserved; but I consider that it was Hippolytus who first 
put these dates together, with the view of showing how the 


whole interval between our Lord's time and his own was to 
be accounted for. My belief is that, in working his way 
chronologically back, he placed the accession of Linus 
twenty-six years after our Lord's Ascension. You may take 
it as a fact that, in the early part of the third century, men 
had come to find it impossible to conceive the idea of a 
Church without a bishop. So to the question, What about 
the twenty-six years before the accession of Linus? Was 
there no Roman Church then ? Hippolytus answered that 
there was, and that it had St. Peter as its bishop ; and my 
belief is that the duration of twenty-five years was intended 
to indicate that the Roman Church was founded the year 
after our Lord's Ascension.* 

Now you, perhaps, hardly understand how much chrono- 
logy has been helped by the use of a fixed era, such as 'Anno 
Domini,' and how difficult early chronologers who did not use 
this assistance found it to make their sums total agree when 
they added together lengths of episcopates, and lengths oi 
emperors' reigns for the same period, the durations being 
often given only by whole numbers of years, without mention 
of months and days. There is, therefore, nothing to wonder 
at if, when the calculations of Hippolytus, who was not a 
skilful computer, were repeated by abler chronologers, they 
arrived at a somewhat different result ; and taking Peter's 
episcopate at twenty-five years as he had fixed it, instead of 
getting back to the year after the Ascension, only got back 
to the second year of Claudius. 

As I have quoted Epiphanius just now, there is a peculiar 
notion of his which it is worth while to mention before con- 
cluding this Lecture. Irenseus, as I have said, begins his list 
of Roman bishops by naming Peter and Paul as the founders 
of the Church, and as having appointed Linus as bishop. 
We have just seen reason to think that Hegesippus also 
began by naming Peter and Paul. It follows that there is as 
good reason for calling Paul first bishop of Rome, as for so 

* Substantially this view is taken by von Dollinger in the passage 
already cited from his First Age of the Church. Elsewhere he seems 
to think that the twenty-five years was intended to represent the 
interval between Peter's imprisonment by Herod and his martyrdom. 


calling Peter. This was clearly seen by von Dollinger, and 
was no doubt the reason of his evident reluctance distinctly 
to call Peter bishop of Rome. He says concerning the 
passage in Irenseus : ' This makes the regulation of the 
Roman Church and the appointment of Linus a common 
act of both apostles; and since then the Roman bishops 
have been frequently regarded as successors of both. The 
Roman Church was viewed as inheriting* alike from St. Paul, 
his prerogative of Apostle of the Gentiles, and from St. Peter, 
his dignity as foundation of the Church, and as partaking 
the power of the keys.' And he goes on to say that Eusebius 
says of Alexander that he formed the fifth bishop in the 
succession from Peter and Paul, and that he almost always 
reckons the others 'from the Apostles,' i.e. Peter and Paul. 
He adds that later such expressions are frequent as that the 
Roman Church is the seat of the two Apostles, or that the 
power of Rome is founded on Peter and Paul. Now, the 
admission that the origin of the Roman episcopate is to be 
traced to Paul as much as to Peter, is equivalent to an 
admission that neither Apostle was bishop of Rome in the 
modern sense of the word. For the ancients never dreamed 
of two bishops sitting, like two kings of Brentford, in the 
same chair. There is just one Father who had the courage 
to entertain this notion, viz. Epiphanius. In his time (the 
end of the fourth century) the assertion that Peter had been 
bishop of Rome had gained general acceptance. But he 
saw that ancient authorities gave as much justification for 
counting Paul bishop of Rome as for counting Peter. So he 
jumped to the conclusion that they had both been bishops : 
Herpos^ KOI HavAos 01 airoa-roXoi avroi ACCU GTriarKOTroi (PIcer. 
xxvii. 6). 

In this connexion I must notice another passage (Ixviii. 7) 
where Epiphanius names it as a peculiarity of Alexandria 
that ' it never had two bishops, as the other cities had.' 
Dr. Hatch (Growth of Church Institiitions, p. 17), with easy 
faith, accepts this passage as 'decisive,' that 'where there 

*But where is the evidence that such an inheritance was be- 
queathed to Rome any more than to the other Churches where these 
Apostles respectively laboured ? 


was more than one community in a city, there was, as a rule, 
more than one bishop.' Those who know their Epiphanius 
will be amused at hearing anyone quote as 'decisive,' on any 
subject, the unsupported testimony of an author so uncritical 
and so rash. There is no hint or trace elsewhere of one 
Church having really had two bishops ; and if Epiphanius 
meant to say that it was customary for cities to have two 
bishops he would stand quite alone. But Mr. Gore (Church 
and Ministry, p. 165) has shown that the sentence in Epipha- 
nius, read in connexion with its context, does not bear the 
construction put upon it. Epiphanius, in Hcer. 68, treats of 
the schism made by the Egyptian Meletius, in consequence 
of which there were in most Egyptian cities two bishops, a 
Meletian and a Catholic. But Meletius was on good terms 
with Alexander, the bishop of Alexandria, and appears not 
to have established his schism in that city during Alexan- 
der's lifetime. It is in telling of the appointment of a 
Meletian bishop on Alexander's death that Epiphanius 
remarks that Alexandria had not previously had two bishops 
as the other cities [of Egypt] had. 



IN a former Lecture I considered the vScripture arguments 
which have been adduced to prove that the Pope, by 
divine right, enjoys a Primacy, originally conferred by our 
Lord on St. Peter, and since then transmitted by succession 
to the bishops of Rome. It is a useful test of interpretations 
of vScripture to examine into their antiquity; for there is 
always an immense presumption against any new-fangled 
interpretation. I did not neglect to apply this test in the 
former Lecture, and we found that those passages of the 
New Testament which Roman Catholics now adduce as 
establishing the Pope's supremacy were not so understood 
by the most ancient interpreters of Scripture. But antiquity 
supplies us with a further test. The passages in question are 
not of a merely theoretical character, but are supposed to 
have fixed the constitution of the Christian Church. We 
may then turn from commentators on vScripture to study the 
history of the Church, in order to find whether that history 
has really been such as it must have been if the Romanist 
interpretation of these texts be the right one. 

We know, as a historical fact, that the bishops of Rome, 
in the course of the Christian centuries, have exercised 
authority over distant cities. The question at issue is, whether 
or not that authority dates from the foundation of our reli- 
gion. If it had been bestowed by our Lord Himself before 
He left this earth, we should find it exercised from the first, 
and its rightfulness universally acknowledged. But the con- 
trary is the case. We can trace the history of the growth of 
the supremacy of the Roman bishop, exactly as in secular 


history we can trace the process by which the city of Rome 
came to exercise imperial dominion. We thus learn that in 
ecclesiastical matters, as well as in secular, Roman supre- 
macy is a development, not a tradition. 

If I desired a summary proof that some at least of the 
powers which the Popes have exercised in later times were 
not part of the original prerogatives of the see, I should 
find it in the oath which every bishop in communion with 
Rome is now bound to take on his appointment : ' The 
rights, privileges, and powers of the see of Peter I will, 
to the best of my ability, extend and promote.' In fact, 
every bishop of Rome thought he was doing a good thing 
if he gained for his see some powers and privileges which 
had not previously belonged to it; and for some centuries 
he has pledged all over whom he has power to air him in 
this laudable endeavour. But one man's powers and privi- 
leges cannot be extended except at the expense of those of 
someone else. If the Popes get more power independent 
bishops must have less. The Pope's avowed policy for 
centuries, therefore, has been one of usurpation ; and unless 
we believe either that all the Roman Catholic bishops have 
perjured themselves, or that their united efforts, continued 
for hundreds of years, have failed to augment and promote 
the rights, dignities, and privileges of the Pope, that prelate 
must possess some powers now which his predecessors did 
not enjoy. 

But it is quite unnecessary for me to elaborate any proof 
that the doctrine of Papal Supremacy is a development; for 
it is fully owned by Newman how faint are the traces of it 
in the history of the early centuries. I have already told 
you that the method of his celebrated Essay on Development 
is to make frank confession that neither Scripture nor Tradi- 
tion will furnish any adequate proof of Roman doctrines. 
But then he contends that the same confession must be 
made about doctrines which Roman Catholics and we hold 
in common, and he puts forward his theory of Development 
as able to supply the deficiency alike in either case. Thus, 
then, while he owns (p. 164) that the Pope's Supremacy is a 
development, so also, he contends, is F,piscopacy. He tells 


us that St. Ignatius in his Epistles is silent on the subject of 
the Pope's authority; but that this is because that authority 
was not, and could not have been in active operation then. 
While apostles were on earth they exercised the powers both 
of bishop and Pope. When they were taken away, 'Chris- 
tianity did not at once break into portions ; yet separate 
localities might begin to be the scenes of internal dissensions, 
and a local arbiter would, in consequence, be wanted.' 'When 
the Church was thrown on her own resources, first local dis- 
turbances gave exercise to bishops, and next Ecumenical 
disturbances gave exercise to Popes.' Newman quotes with 
assent some of Barrow's topics of proof that Roman Supre- 
macy did not exist in the first ages of the Church : namely 
(i) that in the writings of the Fathers against the Gnostic 
heretics of the second century they never allege the sentence 
of the universal pastor and judge as the most compendious 
and efficacious method of silencing them ; and (2) that heathen 
writers are quite ignorant of the doctrine, although no point 
of Christian teaching would be so apt to raise offence and 
jealousy in pagans, no novelty be more suspicious or start- 
ling than this creation of a universal empire over the con- 
sciences and religious practices of men, the doctrine also 
being one that could not but be very conspicuous and glaring 
in ordinary practice. Newman also assents to Barrow's 
assertion that ' the state of the most primitive Church did 
not well admit such a universal sovereignty. For that did 
consist of small bodies, incoherently situated and scattered 
about in very distant places, and consequently unfit to be 
modelled into one political society, or to be governed by one 
head, especially considering their condition under persecu- 
tion and poverty. What convenient resort for direction or 
justice could a few distressed Christians in Egypt, Ethiopa, 
Parthia, India, Mesopotamia, Syria, Armenia, Cappadocia, 
and other parts have to Rome ? ' 

Newman is quite consistent with the thesis of his Essay 
in abandoning Tradition as a basis for the doctrine of Papal 
Supremacy; but the basis of Development on which he 
attempts to build it is altogether insufficient to constitute any 
firm foundation. For the history of Development can only 


tell us what has been, not what ought to be. The cases of 
Episcopacy and Papal Supremacy are not parallel ; because 
the former institution dates from apostolic times; and if it 
can be shown that it was established by apostles, then it can 
claim a right to permanent continuance. But what claim for 
permanence can be made on behalf of any form of Church 
government which confessedly shaped itself at least two or 
three centuries after the apostles were all dead? Let us 
liberally grant that an ecclesiastical monarchy was the form 
of government best adapted to the needs of the Church at the 
time when, in temporal matters, the whole civilized world 
was governed by a single ruler; and yet it might be utterly 
unfit for her requirements in subsequent times when Europe 
has been broken up into independent kingdoms; and we 
might be as right now in disowning Papal authority as our 
ancestors were in submitting to it. 

The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men in temporal 
matters as well as spiritual; and we can trace the working 
of His Providence in guiding events in the one as well as in 
the other. We can see, for example, how the establishment 
of the Empire of heathen Rome tended to the furtherance of 
the Gospel, which never could have spread so rapidly from 
land to land if it had not been for the facility of intercourse 
resulting from the Roman peace. Yet no evidence that the 
Roman Empire was for a time beneficial to the world would 
show that it was divinely intended to have perpetual dura- 
tion, or that we now commit any sin in not belonging to it ; 
and if we recognize the guiding hand of God's Providence in 
the formation of that Empire, we might equally do so in its 
dissolution. In like manner, a citizen of the United States of 
America cannot help owning that his country was originally 
colonized from Great Britain; that the authority of the 
Sovereign of England was recognized in those States with- 
out question for a century or two; that English rule was of 
the greatest advantage in protecting the infant colonies from 
enemies, and conferring other benefits on them ; yet he would 
hold that the time came when English rule was no longer 
beneficial, and that now the Sovereign of England neither 
hath nor ought to have authority in the United States. Thus, 


then, in like manner, the most that the theon of Develop- 
ment could do for the doctrine of Papal Supremacy would 
be to establish a proof that there have been times when the 
Pipe's Supremacy has been beneficial to the Church (or, to 
speak more cautiously, to the Western Church) ; that there 
have been bishops of Rome whose aims were high , whose lives 
were good, and by whose rule it was at least better to have been 
guided than by any other likely at the time to have been sub- 
stituted for it. But surely it will be granted me, without my 
having need to open up topics from which I have refrained 
in this course of lectures, that there have been bishops of 
Rome whose aims were not high, whose lives W 7 ere not pure, 
and whose guidance it was not good to follow. What claim 
to obedience can such make out? Unless it be held that 
God's Providence ceased to exert itself three centuries ago, 
or else that it has merely a local operation, and does not 
extend to England, Scandinavia, or Germany, the theory of 
Development will afford as good a justification for the revolt 
from Papal authority in the sixteenth century as for its rise 
and growth in the third or fourth and subsequent centuries. 
And this theory would not prevent a historical student from 
pronouncing Papal Supremacy to be now a useless or mis- 
chievous survival of a form of Church government which has 
had its day, but which is unsuited to the character of the 
present age. If, therefore, we are to establish any justification 
of Papal Supremacy we must fall back on the old sources of 
proof, Scripture and Tradition; for Newman's proposed sub- 
stitute, the theory of Development, completely breaks down. 
If we once admit Roman Supremacy to have been but a 
development, there were natural causes in operation which 
quite sufficiently account for it. The primacy of the bishop 
of Rome grew naturally out of the precedence accorded to 
the bishop of the first city of the Empire. Our own expe- 
rience would tell us that the people of the greatest city can 
choose their bishop from among a larger number of candi- 
dates, that they are likely to be able to secure the services 
of an abler man, that they can put larger sums of money 
at his disposal for charitable and other purposes, and alto- 
gether make him a much more influential person in the 


Church than the bishop of a small town. Romanists who 
refer the supremacy of their see to divine appointment are 
naturally desirous to throw into the background the human 
causes of the greatness of the see ; yet one example is enough 
to show how inevitably the temporal greatness of a city leads 
to the pre-eminence of its bishop. If there be room for con- 
troversy as to the causes which gave Rome the first place 
among Christian sees, there can be no doubt as to the cause 
which elevated Constantinople to the second place. It was 
the temporal greatness of the city and nothing else. Byzan- 
tium was quite an upstart capital, raised to that dignity only 
in the fourth century by the will of the Emperor Constantine. 
It had no Christian historic associations. No Apostle had 
evangelized the town, or had addressed letters to it, or suf- 
fered martyrdom there. It was not even a metropolitan see, 
but was subject to Heraclea, the very name of which may be 
unfamiliar to some of you. At the time when Constantinople 
was made a capital, the recognized order of precedence of 
the great sees was Rome, Alexandria, Antioch. Yet without 
a struggle the relations between Constantinople and Heraclea 
were inverted. Against the further elevation of Constan- 
tinople there would naturally be strong objection on the part 
of Alexandria and Antioch, not to speak of that which might 
arise from sees formerly fully equal to Byzantium, which was 
now made the superior. And, besides, the bishop of Rome 
sagaciously perceiving that Constantinople, if once admitted 
to the second place, would be a far more formidable rival for 
the first place than Alexandria or Antioch could be, resisted 
the promotion of Constantinople with all his might. But his 
resistance was in vain, and the title of Constantinople to the 
second place came in time to be fully admitted at Rome. So 
if we had not countless examples in ecclesiastical history 
to show how inevitably a change in the civil position of a 
city entails a change in its ecclesiastical position, this one 
example would put the fact beyond controversy. It is plain 
that the causes which, in spite of all the disadvantages of a 
late start, were able when Constantinople became the second 
city of the Empire to raise its see to the second place, would 
alone have sufficed to raise to the first place Rome, which 



for three Christian centuries before the foundation of Con- 
stantinople had reigned without a rival as the undisputed 
capital of the world, the place of resort of visitors from every 
land, the centre both of commerce and of intellectual activity, 
the wealthiest of cities, the home of the conquering race who 
had been accustomed to see the world bow down to them. 

One cause there was which might have prevented Rome 
from taking the first place among Christian Churches I mean 
the superior claims of Jerusalem, which had been the cradle 
of Christianity, the place whence the missionaries had issued 
forth who had evangelized the world. Accordingly in one of 
the earliest forms of that Clementine romance, of which I had 
before occasion to speak to you (a form, indeed, which I be- 
lieve to be earlier than the introduction of Clement into the 
story), James, bishop of Jerusalem, is represented as head of 
the Christian Church; Peter has been sent abroad on a 
mission by James, but is bound to render him periodical re- 
ports of his progress; and the forgery called the Clementine 
Homilies purports to be a report of the discourses of Peter, 
whether to heathen or to heretics, sent by the missionary 
Apostle for the information of his ecclesiastical superior. But 
the destruction of Jerusalem swept away all danger of rivalry 
with Rome from that quarter. The city might have recovered 
its overthrow by Titus, but the formidable rebellion in the 
reign of Hadrian was visited by severer penalties. Jews 
were utterly banished from the spot, and a Gentile city was 
founded there, called, after the Emperor, ^Elia ; which no 
circumcised person was allowed to enter. JElia was not at 
first regarded as identical with Jerusalem, or as heir to its 
privileges. In the list of bishops of Jerusalem given by 
Eusebius (and as I believe taken by him from his predecessor 
as a historian, Hegesippus) two distinct series are recog- 
nized that of the bishops of the circumcision who presided 
over the ancient city; and that of the Gentile bishops, 
who ruled over ^Elia. In the constitution of the Christian 
Churches, so late as the Council of Nicsea, Jerusalem had no 
metropolitan prerogative ; and in Palestine, as elsewhere, the 
rule prevailed that the city highest in civil rank was also 
highest in ecclesiastical. Jerusalem was therefore subor- 


dinate to Caesarea, the capital of Palestine, whose bishop, 
Eusebius the historian, took a leading part at Nicasa, and 
was honoured with much confidence by Constantine. But 
shortly after that Council, the fashion of pilgrimages was set 
by the Emperor's mother Helena, whose visit, leading to 
what has been happily called the Invention of the Cross, 
made Jerusalem a centre of resort for Christians, and gave it 
a place in their esteem which it had not previously enjoyed. 
At the third General Council, you will remember, John of 
Antioch was on the losing side. Juvenal of Jerusalem, an 
impudent and ambitious man, was on the winning one, and 
he actually attempted not only to elevate his see to metropo- 
litan rank, but to place it above that of Antioch. The latter 
attempt had only a momentary chance of success ; but Jeru- 
salem did become relieved of subordination to Caesarea, and 
was placed in a position next below Antioch. However my 
present purpose is to point out that Rome had no rivalry 
from Jerusalem to encounter, and that there was no other city 
which could claim to have communicated to Rome her know- 
ledge of the Gospel. Rome had received a letter from the 
Apostle Paul, and that Apostle had taught there for at the 
very least two years. It is not recorded in inspired history 
that Peter also visited Rome, and that both Apostles suffered 
martyrdom there ; but I think the testimony to these things 
is enough to warrant belief in them, and certain it is that 
the early Church did believe in them without doubt; so that 
there was nothing to detract from the superiority which 
its temporal greatness gave to Rome, on the ground of its 
being inferior to any rival in closeness of relation to the first 
preachers of the Gospel. 

The considerations I have brought before you only establish 
for Rome a precedence of honour and dignity, though it is 
well, in all our investigations, to bear in mind that this 
honourable precedence is a matter about which there has 
not been, and need not be, any dispute. Rome's right to 
govern other Churches is quite another matter, and was only 
gained after hard struggles and by slow degrees. Her first 
interference with other Churches was of the most honourable 
kindof a kind that no Church is likely strongly to object 


to, namely, sending them money, or otherwise conferring 
benefits on them. There was no Church, some of whose 
leading members would not have occasion to visit Rome, 
and be able on their return to tell of hospitality and good 
offices received from the Christians there. By merely sus- 
pending such friendly relations, Rome had it in her power 
to inflict a severe penalty on any Church. But that wealth)* 
Church not only exercised generous hospitality to strangers 
who visited it, but was bountiful of gifts to poorer Churches. 
An interesting early example accidentally becomes known 
to us through a fragment of a letter written about 170 by 
Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, to the Church of Rome. 
Eusebius, who preserves it, remarks that the practice of the 
Roman Church which Dionysius commends had been con- 
tinued down to the Diocletian persecution of his own time. 
Dionysius writes, in acknowledgment of a donation sent from 
Rome : 'This has been your custom from the beginning to 
bestow benefits in various ways on all the brethren, and send 
supplies to many Churches in different cities, here refresh- 
ing the poverty of the needy, and in the mines ministering to 
the wants of the brethren there confined. In the supplies 
which you have been in the habit of sending from the 
beginning, you Romans keep up the traditional custom of 
the Romans, which your blessed bishop Soter has not only 
maintained but increased, both administering the bounty 
which is sent to the saints, and comforting with blessed 
words the brethren who go up to your city, as an affectionate 
father his children' (Euseb., H.E. iv. 23). Diouysius adds 
the interesting information that Soter's letter had come just 
in time to be read at their Sunday service, and promises that 
it should continue so to be read for their edification from 
time to time, in the same way as the previous letter of the 
Church of Rome written by the hands of Clement. There is 
no reason to think that there was anything special in the 
relations between Rome and Corinth, or that this instance, 
the knowledge of which chance has preserved for us, is other 
than a fair specimen of the munificent liberality of the wealthy 
Roman Christians to foreign Churches. A confirmation is 
given in another fragment preserved by Eusebius of a letter 


of the Alexandrian Dionysius. Writing to Stephen of Rome, 
and mentioning different provinces, he says' Syria and 
Arabia, to which you sent help on different occasions' (Euseb., 
H.E.vii-5) ; and, oddly enough, a third example is connected 
with the name of a third Dionysius, who was bishop of Rome. 
St. Basil, writing to Damasus of Rome (Ep. 70), gratefully 
calls to memory how in former days this Dionysius had sent 
agents to his province of Cappadocia to redeem captives. 
Remember now that all communications of the Church of 
Rome with foreign Churches were made through their bishop. 
We claim no divine right for the English episcopate to rule 
over colonial Churches ; yet different colonies have acknow- 
ledged the Archbishop of Canterbury as their metropolitan. 
If ever we see a native episcopate in India, who can doubt 
that the opinion of the English episcopate would have over- 
powering weight with it, even though England has no divine 
claim to rule India in spiritual matters ? But suppose that 
all the money subscribed in England for foreign and colonial 
missions was administered by the Archbishop of Canterbury ; 
that there was no Church Missionary Society, or Society for 
the Propagation of the Gospel, or Colonial and Continental, 
or such like, but that the English Primate was the one man 
to be appealed to whenever any good work abroad was in 
need of help, do you think that in such a case the fact that 
that prelate exercised commanding influence would require 
any elaborate explanation ? 

The fable of Peter's Roman episcopate at once supplied the 
bishops of Rome with an ecclesiastical justification for a pre- 
cedence which, on political grounds, it was inevitable for them 
to exercise. This gain of dignity by historical associations 
operated more strongly in favour of Rome, because this 
was exactly the point in which its most formidable rival, 
Constantinople, was deficient. This upstart capital was, by 
the favour of the Emperor, put over the heads of ancient 
sees, which were far better able than Byzantium to connect 
themselves with the Apostles. Now the Sovereign can give 
rank, but he cannot give pedigree. He may make a noble- 
man, but he cannot give him old blood. In the desire of Rome 
to keep down Constantinople, and prevent her from coming 


into rivalry with her, she had sympathy from Alexandria and 
other great eastern sees, which had been long accustomed to 
yield precedence to Rome, but had no mind to see a new 
superior placed over their heads. And, in particular, these 
sees sympathized with Rome when she tried to alter the 
ground of her priority from what it had been before, and to 
claim precedence not because of her political greatness, but 
because of her historical connexion with the Apostles. For, 
according to that rule, Constantinople ranked below Alexan- 
dria and Antioch as much as below Rome. 

It is rather amusing how careful the bishops of Rome 
thenceforward became to protest against the rank of sees 
being made to depend on the civil rank of their cities. Thus, 
Innocent I writes : 'It has not seemed fitting that the Church 
of God should change her course according to the changes of 
the necessities of this world' (Ep. 18, Mansi, iii. 1055). But 
the fact is that Church history swarms with examples of 
changes of this kind; for the logic of facts is too strong 
for theories. The example that first occurs to me owes its 
interest to its being an incident in the life of a great man, St. 
Basil. In 375, when the Emperor Valens divided the pro- 
vince of Cappadocia into two, the bishop of Tyana, which 
was now raised to the rank of a capital, at once assumed 
that he was elevated to the rank of a metropolitan, was 
released from all subordination to the old capital, Csesarea, 
and was entitled to claim obedience from the minor sees 
of his half of the province. He took on him to assemble 
synods of bishops, and to seize the revenues which the 
suffragan bishops sent to the principal see. This led to 
some distressing disputes, in which Gregory Nazianzen was 
forced to take a share; but practically the victory re- 
mained with the bishop of Tyana. And at Chalcedon it 
was made a canon that the ecclesiastical should follow the 
civil divisions. 

I proceed now to examine into the history 5 of the early 
Church, and to inquire whether in their controversies they 
recognized the bishop of Rome as their ruler, teacher, and 
doctor. Confessedly, the opinion of him who was the leading 
bishop of the Church had great weight in every dispute ; but 


the question now is, whether his decision was final, and 
whether, when Rome had spoken, the cause was finished. 

At the outset of the inquiry, in one of the earliest of 
Christian uninspired writings, the epistle of Clement of 
Rome, we find an example to which Romanists gladly 
appeal, of an interference of the Church of Rome with a 
distant Church. The object of the letter was to heal a schism 
in the Corinthian Church ; and the Romans use an urgent, 
and to some it has seemed an imperious tone, in addressing 
their Corinthian brethren. They exhort the offenders to sub- 
mit 'not to them but to the will of God' ( 56) : 'Receive 
our counsel,' they write, 'and ye shall have no cause of re- 
gret' ( 58). 'But if certain persons should be disobedient 
unto the words spoken by God through us, let them under- 
stand that th'ey will entangle themselves in no slight trans- 
gression and danger; but we shall be guiltless of this sin' 
59). 'Ye will give us great joy and gladness if ye render 
obedience unto the things written by us through the Holy 
Spirit, and root out the unrighteous anger of your jealousy, 
according to the entreaty we have made for peace and con- 
cord in this letter' (63). 

Before we pass a judgment on these sentences, it is neces- 
sary to know the circumstances which gave occasion for 
them; for it is never safe to say that any language is too 
strong, without knowing what has occurred to justify it. 
Strange to say, the account of the transaction most favour- 
able to the Roman pretensions is that given by a Scotch 
Presbyterian. Dr. Cunningham (Growth of the Church, p. 
53) states that the occasion of Clement's letter was that the 
Corinthians 'had, with much bitterness and bad blood, dis- 
missed some of their presbyters; when the Roman Church, 
to whom, perhaps, the paid off * presbyters had appealed, 

* It is a pity that Dr. Cunnignham did not quote in full the other- 
wise unknown authority whence he derived this feature ; for it would 
be interesting to know how much these presbyters, on being dismissed, 
received as composition for their annuities. Also, since the same 
authority, no doubt, told something as to the fees payable in the 
Roman ecclesiastical courts in the first century, we should be enabled 
to tell how far the sum they received would go in defraying the costs 
of an appeal to Rome, which, in later times at least, were considerable. 


wrote to remonstrate.' And he acids that ' this venerable 
document clearly proves that, at the period when it was 
written probably towards the end of the first century the 
Churches of Rome and Corinth were under the rule of 
presbyter-bishops, with a very limited jurisdiction, and sub- 
ject to dismissal from their office at the caprice of the people.' 
Now, if this were really the constitution of the Church 
in the first century, the Corinthians acted fully within their 
rights in cashiering officers who had ceased to be acceptable 
to them; and the interference of the Roman Church is 
inexplicable, unless it possessed, or at least claimed, the 
right of controlling the independent action of foreign 
Churches. But it is remarkable that there is no trace in the 
letter itself of any pretension of the kind. Not a hint is 
given that the question of deposing presbyters was one on 
which Rome ought to have been consulted, or one which it 
had any right to review. It is not stated that there had been 
any appeal to Rome on the part of the displaced presbyters, 
but only that the transactions at Corinth had become noto- 
rious, and had brought great discredit on their Church (wcrre 
TO a-fj,vbv KOL irafriv ai>$/otu7rois d^LaydrrrjTov ovo/xa V/AWV /xeyaXws 
/3Aao-<r7p7#7Jvai). This letter claims 110 superiority for the 
Roman Church ; and if the writer declares that its remon- 
strances cannot be disregarded without sin, it is because of 
his conviction of the enormity of the evil which called them 
forth. For, far from thinking with Dr. Cunningham that it 
lies within the discretion of a Chuch to turn off its presbyters 
when so disposed, he treats the deposition of presbyters, 
against whom no misconduct had been alleged, as a mon- 
strous and unheard-of thing. In the view of later times, 
what had taken place at Corinth might be described as feuds 
or dissensions ; but, in the view of the writer, rebellion 
against the authority of the duly-appointed presbyters was 
'a detestable and impious sedition, madly stirred up by a 
few headstrong and self-willed persons' ( /xia/jas KOI dvoa-tov 
(TTacretos f)v oXiya irpwrtoira. irpoTrtrvj KOL av6d8rj virdp^ovra. ets 
TOO-OVTOV ciTrovotas eeKaway). He argues that it is necessary 
to the well-being of every society that duly-constituted order 
should be respected; and (c. 44) that the order constituted 


in the Christian society owed its origin to apostolic appoint- 
ment. He has no other terms of peace to counsel than that 
those who had rebelled should penitently submit to lawful 
authority, even going into voluntary exile, if, for the sake of 
peace, that should be necessary. vSnch a letter as this could 
clearly not be regarded as an attempt by Rome to domineer 
over provincial Churches. On the contrary, the constituted 
authorities of every Church would be grateful for the moral 
support generously given them by the Church of the chief 
city; while the general acknowledgment of the principle, 
contended for in the letter, of the stability of the sacred 
office would do much to increase the reputation of the 
Church which had been its successful champion. Even 
those whose conduct was censured in this letter could take 
no offence at is tone, which is only that of the loving remon- 
strance which any Christian is justified in offering to an 
erring brother. 

But it is necessary to remark that Clement's letter is in 
the name, not of the bishop of Rome, but of the Church of 
Rome. Clement's name is not once mentioned. It is from 
independent sources (the earliest, Dionysius of Corinth, has 
been just mentioned) we learn that Clement was the writer ; 
but from the letter itself we should not so much as discover 
that Rome had any bishop. 'The later Roman theory sup- 
poses that the Church of Rome derives all its authority from 
the bishop of Rome, as the successor of St. Peter.. History 
inverts the relation, and shows that, as a matter of fact, the 
power of the bishop of Rome was built upon the power 
of the Church of Rome. It was originally a primacy, not of 
the episcopate, but of the Church.' * 

All through the second century this subordination of the 
bishop to the Church continues. The bishop only addresses 
foreign Churches as the mouthpiece of his Church. We have 
the letter already referred to, written by Dionysius of Corinth, 
(about 170) in the name of his Church, addressed to the 
Church of Rome, and acknowledging the benefactions sent 
through their bishop Soter. The letter to which he replies 

* Light foot's Clement, p. 254. 


had been written, not in Soter's name, but in that of his 
Church, as appears from the use of the plural number. 'To- 
day we kept the Lord's holy day, on which we read your 
letter; by which we shall be able to be constantly admon- 
ished, reading it from time to time, in the same manner as 
your former letter to us, written by the hands of Clement.'* 

At the very end of the century, the proceedings with which 
the name of Victor is associated, taken with a view of ex- 
cluding Quartodecimans from communion, were taken, not 
in the bishop's own name, but in that of his Church. There 
is so far an advance in the prominence of the bishop, that 
Victor does not suppress his own name as did Clement ; but 
still the letter is not his, but that of his Church. f And the 
plural number is still used in the reply of Poly crates, in 
which also it is implied that the request that he should take 
the opinion of the neighbouring bishops had been made in 
the name of the Church, not the bishop, of Rome.t 

What has been said as to the fact that in the first century 
the importance of the bishop of Rome was merged in that of 
his Church receives singular confirmation from the Ignatian 
Epistles. Among non-canonical writers, Ignatius is the first 
distinct witness to the episcopal form of Church government. 
His letters to the Asiatic Churches are full of exhortations to 
obey the bishop and to be united to him ; but in his letter to 
the Church of Rome no hint is given that there is a bishop 
entitled to the obedience (not to say of foreign Christians, 
but even) of his own people. No salutation is sent to the 
bishop ; and, in short, we should not discover from this letter 
that there was a bishop of Rome. I am not prepared to 
adopt the inference some have drawn, viz. that episcopacy 
was a form of Church Government which developed itself 
first in Asia Minor, and which, when Ignatius wrote, had not 
yet extended itself to Rome. But there seems reason to 

* rrjv crrmepov ovv Kv/na/o)v ay Lav fjfjicpav Si^ydyo/zev, fv y 


vovOereurOai, a>s /ecu rrjv irporepav fjplv Sid KA^evros ypafaicrav 
(Euseb. H, E. iv. 23). 

f c>ey3Tat ypa<^] ran' ITTI 'Pw^ 

as , iri(TKOirov BtKTopa SrjXovcra. 

/jWjv $ TWV 7rr/co7ra>v TWV criyATrapovTwy fJLvr}(JLOi>V(rai, 
ov<5 vp,is T^tuxraTe jacra/cA^^vat vir' ejuov, /ecu 
(Euseb. H. E. v. 24). 


think that the bishop of Rome was then only concerned with 
domestic government, and that Ignatius had not even heard 
his name. On the other hand, the dignity of the Church of 
Rome is fully acknowledged in this letter. It is addressed 
to the Church 'which presides in the place of the country 
of the Romans.' * The best commentary on these words is 
afforded by Tertullian, whose own language may possibly 
have been suggested by them (De Praescr. 36) : 'ecclesias 
apostolicas apud quas ipsae adhuc cathedrae apostolorum 
suis locis praesident/ Thus each of the Apostolic Churches 
is regarded as presiding in its own district : so that though 
it would cost us nothing to admit a pre-eminence of the 
Church of the world's metropolis over all other Churches, 
the language appears to limit the presidency to the Roman 

While on this subject, I must not omit to discuss another 
early testimony to the eminence of the Roman Church. I 
have already (p. 358) mentioned how Church writers refuted 
the Gnostic pretence to the possession of secret apostolic 
traditions, by tracing the successions of their own bishops up 
to the Apostles, and thus showing that it was in their own 
Churches that the genuine apostolic tradition must have been 
handed down. Irenseus, who uses this argument (in. 3), says, 
that because it would be too long in a work like his to enu- 
merate the successions in all the Churches, he will content 
himself with giving the succession of bishops in the Church 
of Rome : 'Ad hanc enim ecclesiam propter potentiorem 
principalitatem necesse est omnem convenire ecclesiam (hoc 
est, eos qui sunt undique fideles) in qua semper, ab his qui 
sunt undique, conservata est ea quae est ab Apostolis 
traditio.' The passage has only been preserved in a Latin 
translation, and commentators have differed very much in 
their attempts to restore the Greek. vSome Romanist writers 
have understood the first clause to mean that it is the duty 
of every Church to conform to that of Rome ; but it has been 
pointed out with perfect justice that 'necesse est' is not the 
T,atin equivalent for Set which would be rendered 'oportet,' 

* rJTts 


but for avay/o; ;and expresses not moral obligation but natural 
necessity. When our Lord said (Matt, xviii. 7), dvcty/o/ yap 
ZXOeiv TOL o-ju'8aA.a, lie did not mean that it was a moral duty 
that offences should come. Making this correction, how- 
ever, those who understand the clause to mean that other 
Churches would be sure to be found agreeing with the Church 
of Rome, have differed among themselves as to the reason 
given, 'propter potentiorem principalitatem' ; some restoring 
the Greek so as to find in these words a claim founded 
on the civil greatness of Rome, others on the antiquity of 
the Church. These differences I need not discuss, because I 
feel no doubt that Grabe is right in considering that the 
words ' convenire ad ' are not Latin for ' agree with,' but 
for '-resort to,-' and that ' undique ' is not to be taken as 
meaning no more than ' ubique ' ; so that the meaning 
of Irenseus is 'Rome is, on account of its civil greatness, a 
place to which every Church must resort : that is to say, 
every Church does not come thither officially, but Christians 
cannot help coming to the city from the Churches in ever}' 
part of the world. We have no need, then, to examine the 
apostolic tradition of these Churches in their respective lands. 
We can learn it from their members to be found in Rome, 
who, being in communion with the Roman Church, must 
agree with it in doctrine ; and thus the apostolic tradition 
preserved in the capital has been preserved not by native 
Romans only, but by the faithful collected in the city from 
every part of the world.' Understanding the passage thus, it 
is seen to have no relevance to modern controversies. I am 
surprised that Grabe's explanation has not been more gene- 
rally adopted,* because it seems to me the only one which 

* He is followed by Neander, who has an admirable note (Kirchen- 
yeschichte, i. 210). but was perversely misunderstood by Stieren, who 
says, ' miror Neandrum, qui sequitur Grabium illud " convenire " de 
conventibus legatorum ex omnibus ecclesiis Romam missorum interpre- 
tari.' Of course Grabe and Neander were not thinking of embassies 
to the Church of Rome, but of the necessary recourse of Christians to 
the capital on account of civil business. Grabe quotes what Gregory 
Xazianzen (Orat. 32) says of Constantinople : ei$ ^v rot Travra^oOev 
aKpa (TvvTpe\i and the 9th Canon of the Council of Antioch : 
V rfj firjTpoTroXet Tra.VTa.\ydtv crvvTp\LV Trai'Tas rov<s TT pay /xara. 
?Xoi'Ta?. Neander adds a still more apposite quotation from Athen- 
aeus (i. 36), who describes Rome as an epitome of the world in which 
every city is found represented. 


brings out the force of the parenthesis 'hoc est qui sunt 
undique fideles,' and which gives a meaning to 'in qua,' by 
which Harvey is so much puzzled that he wants to translate 
it 'whereas.' 

I come now to what is regarded by many as the first mild 
attempt at Papal aggression the proposal of bishop Victor 
at the very end of the second century to excommunicate the 
Asiatic Quartodecimaus. I have on a former occasion (Intro- 
duction to N.T., pp. 45, 55) called your attention to the pre- 
dominance of the Greek element in the early Roman Church ; 
and in particular the fact should be noticed that we have in 
Victor a bishop with a Latin name succeeding to a line of 
bishops whose names (such as Anicetus, vSoter, Eleutherus), 
in the vast majority of cases, indicate a Greek origin. Hence 
it has been thought that Victor's arrogance may be accounted 
for by the fact that he belongs to a time when the Roman 
Church \vas no longer that of a foreign colony in the great 
city, but had now a predominance of native Romans, ruled 
by a bishop of their own conquering race. But it seems to 
me that there are considerations w 7 hich tend to mitigate any 
harsh judgment we might be disposed to pass on Victor.* 

I think the young student of Church history is apt to be 
a little scandalized on learning that there were such warm 
controversies in the second century on the question of the 
proper day for the celebration of Easter. Surely, he thinks, 
this is a matter of no importance. Might not any day have 
been selected by common consent? or if there had been any 
difficulty about this, might not different Churches without 
offence keep their Easter on different days ? Yet we have 
experience enough among ourselves what warmth of feeling 
can be stirred by ritual peculiarities indifferent in themselves, 
but supposed to indicate objectionable tendencies in those 
who adopt them. In the great majority of Irish churches 
any attempt to assimilate our ritual practice to Romish usage 
would give the greatest offence; and the clergyman who 
should introduce the innovation would plead in vain that 

* Hippolytus, who, it must be owned, had an object to serve in his 
eulogium, describes Victor as a kind -hearted man ( cwnrAayvvos) 
(flacr. llcf. ix. 12.) 


the change was an improvement, or that it only concerned 
matters of indifference. Now in the second century the 
contest with Judaism was as pressing as the contest with 
Romanism is among ourselves; and in the West natural 
suspicions were excited of the orthodoxy of a man who in 
place of keeping his Easter on the day observed by the 
Church, wished to celebrate it on the day of the Passover 
of the unbelieving Jews. For these reasons the Quartodeci- 
inan usage would naturally be disliked in the West ; yet still 
as long as it was merely known to be the practice of distant 
Churches, it was not difficult to tolerate it. But as I have 
already explained (p 277), the case was altered when a pres- 
byter at Rome denounced the usage of his own Church as 
un-apostolic, and as one to which a Christian could not with 
a good conscience conform. Then it might well seem time 
that diversity should be put an end to; and I have pointed 
out that this was not an attempt to impose a Roman pecu- 
liarity on the rest of the Christian world, but that Victor 
commenced by writing to the leading bishops, asking each 
to assemble his neighbours and report to him their practice. 
It was armed with this evidence that Quartodecimanism 
was only a local peculiarity, that he called on the Asiatic 
Churches to conform to the usage of the rest of the world on 
pain of being excommunicated. According to my view of 
Christian duty, the matter in dispute was one in which a 
local Church is not justified in resisting the rest of the 
Church universal ; and I think the Asiatic Churches ought 
to have given way, rather than break unity. Yet they could 
plead a tradition for their practice, reaching, as they believed, 
up to the Apostle John; and when I bear in mind that the 
Christian Easter is but a commemoration of events which 
happened at the Jewish Passover season, I find no difficulty 
in believing that St. John's practice may have been to hold 
the Christian feast on the same day as the Jewish. But 
though I can also think it possible that other Apostles may 
have celebrated differently, and though I hold moreover, that 
it lies within the competence of the Church, for reason that 
seems to her good, to deviate from Apostolic usage in ritual 
matters, yet I cannot be surprised that these views were not 


shared by the Asiatic Christians of the second century, and 
that they held themselves bound, in defiance of threats, to 
adhere to the traditional practice of their Churches. 

A few words may be necessary to explain what was meant 
by the threat of excommunication which was used against 
them : it meant a suspension of those friendly relations which 
I have already described (p. 282) as existing between the 
different Churches which all regarded themselves as members 
of one great community. That one Church should break 
these relations with another did not necessarily imply any 
claim of superiority. If the Sovereign of England were to 
dismiss the Russian ambassador, it would be a token of 
hostility, but would not imply any claim of superiority over 
the Sovereign of Russia. Even before the Pope lost his 
temporal dominions, the Crown of England refused to hold 
diplomatic intercourse with him, yet did not thereby show 
that it counted him as an inferior. Nevertheless, any Church 
would feel it as a most severe penalty were Rome to break 
communion with her. She would thereby lose the good 
offices of the Church most powerful in influence and in 
money. Her members, on visiting the city which strangers 
had most occasion to frequent, would find themselves, no 
matter how high office they had held at home, treated as 
aliens to the Christian community. Added to the practical 
inconvenience would be the stigma of an exclusion which, 
according to the general feeling of Christians, ought not to 
be inflicted but for grave cause. This same general feeling, 
however, would make one Church slow to break communion 
with another; for the result of such an attempt, if unsup- 
ported, would be, instead of isolating that other, to isolate 
themselves. Accordingly, the threat by which it had been 
expected to bring the Asiatic Churches into conformity was 
one of separation, not from the Roman Church merely, but 
from the whole society of Christian Churches. But the 
attempt to carry out the threat was frustrated by the resist- 
ance of Irenaeus, who not only wrote a letter of sharp remon- 
strance to Victor himself, but wrote also to several other 
bishops, urging that whole Churches of God ought not to be 
separated from communion on account of an ancient custom, 


and pointing out that the matter in dispute was one on which 
differences had previousl}' not been allowed to interrupt 
communion ; citing in particular the fact that Anicetus of 
Rome and Polycarp, though unable to agree on this subject, 
had remained in close communion with each other. The 
result of these remonstrances seems to have been that the 
attempt to excommunicate the Asiatics was abandoned ; for 
we find during the next century no trace of interruption of 
communion ; and the suppression of Quartodecimanism was 
only effected by the Council of Niceta, which could speak in 
the name of the universal Church with an authority possessed 
by no single bishop. 

I think that if we put the Romish controversy out ot our 
heads, we shall have no difficulty in sympathizing with all 
the parties in this transaction. We cannot wonder that 
Victor should have been anxious to obtain uniformity of 
practice, and that he should have thought that object attain- 
able through pressure put by the general body of Christians 
on a small number of dissentients. We can sympathize also 
with the unexpected tenacity with which the Asiatics held 
to a usage which they believed to be Apostolic, and we can 
sympathize still more heartily with the counsels of peace 
offered by Irenseus. But we should not have been allowed to 
put the Romish controversy out of our heads if the parts of 
Victor and Irenseus had been interchanged. Suppose it had 
been Irenoeus who had rashl}* broken communion with the 
Asiatic Churches ; suppose that Victor had then written a 
letter to Irenneus, sharply rebuking him,* and had written 
also to other bishops, warning them not to separate from 
those who had been unwarrantably excommunicated; and 
suppose that in consequence of this action of Victor's the 
threatened schism had been averted, would not that have 
been paraded as a decisive proof of Papal Supremacy? and 
certainly it would be one far stronger than any which, as 
things are, early Church history can furnish. 

In my opinion this was not the first time on which the 

* <j>povrai B KCU at rovruv <a>v 
rov BiVcTopos. (Euseb. H. E, v. 24. 


Gallic Church had come forward to defend the independence 
of the Asiatic Churches; but the passage which I have in 
my mind is one which has been differently understood. In 
the Montanist controversy the chief subject of difference was 
that the Montanists regarded certain women as prophets, 
and reverenced their utterances as inspired by God's Spirit, 
while the local bishops considered them to be under the 
influence of demoniacal possession, and even attempted to 
exorcise the evil spirit which possessed them.* Now Euse- 
bius (v. 3), in relating the events of the year 177, tells that 
the brethren in Gaul then drew up a judgment of their own 
on this Montanist question, a judgment pious and most 
orthodox, in which were also set forth letters which the 
martyrs in the great persecution of that year had written 
while yet in prison to the brethren in Asia and Phrygia, and, 
moreover, to Eleutherus, the then bishop of Rome, pleading 
on behalf of the peace of the Churches. From the last 
phrase it has been very commonly inferred that these letters 
were an unsuccessful attempt to avert the schism which 
actually took place, and that they had pleaded for the reten- 
tion of the Montanists in the Church, by either acknowledg- 
ing the inspiration of their prophets, or at least leaving that 
an open question. But I cannot believe that Eusebius would 
have characterized such advice as pious and orthodox ; for a 
little later (c. 14) he describes these Montanist prophets as 
poisonous serpents sent against the Church by the devil, the 
hater of all good, who was determined to leave no form of 
injury untried. And I conceive the object of the letter to 
Eleutherus to have been to impress on him the propriety of 
not going behind the judgment passed on these pretenders 
by the bishops on the spot, since any contrary course would 
be a breach of the 'peace of the Churches.' 

In the third century the importance of the bishop of Rome 
increases ; yet even so late as the episcopate of Callistus 

*I consider that it was this way of testing prophets which is 
forbidden in the Didache, xi. 7 : rrai/ra Trpofojrrjv XaXovvra ev 
TTvev/xart ov Treipdo-tre ovSt SiaKpivtlrC Trcura yap afjiapria afaOy- 
<rTcu, avTT; 8e rj a/jc^ma OI'K a</>#7JcrTcu. To offer the indignity 
of exorcism to one really inspired of God's Spirit might naturally be 
regarded as a sin against the Holy Ghost. 


(A.D. 217-222), it seems to me that it still depends on his 
being able to speak in the name of his Church. Hippolytus, 
who was an adversary of Callistus, reproaches him (Ref. 
Haer. ix. 12) for the laxity of his discipline. There is every 
reason to think that this was the same prelate whose decision, 
that persons excommunicated on account of adultery might 
be admitted to penance and restoration, gave rise to Tertul- 
lian's treatise, De Pudicitia, in which the rigorist view is 
strongly maintained, that such persons ought never in this 
life to be readmitted to the Church. It used to be thought 
that Zephyrinus was the bishop in question ; but the only 
ground for that opinion was a mistaken belief that the life, 
or at least the literary activity, of Tertullian had not con- 
tinued beyond his episcopate. The De Pudicitia belongs to 
the latest period of Tertullian 's life, in which he had come to 
formal separation from the Church. Hippolytus gives no 
hint that the laxity of Callistus had received any sanction 
from his predecessor, Zephyrinus. 

Be this, ho\vever, as it ma} r , what we are here concerned 
with is, that in discussing whether adulterers can be re- 
admitted to communion, Tertullian, after considering several 
other texts of Scripture, comes to the texts, 'On this rock 
will I build my Church.' 'I have given thee the keys of the 
Kingdom of Heaven,' 'Whatsoever thou shalt bind or loose 
on earth shall be bound or loosed in heaven.' Now, since at 
the time this tract of Tertullian was written the story that 
Clement had been ordained by Peter had come to be received 
belief at Rome, it would not have surprised me if Callistus 
had already made the claim for the bishop of Rome to be 
heir to Peter's prerogatives. But it is remarkable that while 
Tertullian altogether denies that it lies within the competence 
of the bishop of Rome to give absolution to an adulterer, his 
whole argument shows plainly that no claim of the kind had 
been made for the bishop personally, but only for his Church, 
or rather for every Church which could claim like relation- 
ship with Peter ('ad omnem ecclesiam Petri propinquam'). 
If a personal claim had been made for the bishop, Tertullian 
would completely play into his adversary's hands ; for what 
he takes pains to maintain is, that the powers described in 


the verses in St. Matthew were not conferred on the Church, 
but on Peter personally (see p. 340). The absence of any 
claim for the bishop is so striking, that two learned Roman 
Catholics (Morcelli and Cardinal Orsi) have refused to believe 
that Tertullian's controversy was with a bishop of Rome at 
all. It must have been a bishop of Carthage. If he was ad- 
dressing a bishop of Rome, argues Orsi, Tertullian would not 
have said, 'Thou imaginest that to thee also, that is to every 
Church united with Peter, this power has been committed/ 
but he would have said, 'To thee who boastest that thou dost 
sit on the seat of Peter, and to thy Church founded by him.' 
But since Tertullian sarcastically calls his adversary Tontifex 
maximus/ and, 'Episcopus Episcoporum,' it cannot well be 
doubted that he had a bishop of Rome in view; and Orsi's 
argument simply proves that the bishop of Rome in the days 
of Tertullian had not made the claims which were afterwards 
advanced by his successors. 

In this controversy we are disposed to sympathize with 
the clemency of Callistus rather than with the rigour of his 
critics, Tertullian and Hippolytus. But since I have spoken 
of the controversy between Callistus and Hippolytus, I must 
tell you all that is known about it, although the case is not 
one on which I lay stress, in a controversial point of view; for 
I take the side of the bishop of Rome against his assailant. 
The story is an interesting one ; and as it has only compara- 
tively recently come to light, so that it is not to be found 
in the older text-books, it is fitting that I should give you 
some account of it. A book known as the Philosophumenct 
had been long included among the works of Origen, though 
learned men had given reasons for thinking that Origen could 
not have been really the author. It was but the introduction 
to a larger work, the greater part of which has been since 
recovered in a MS. brought from Mount Athos to Paris, and 
published at Oxford in 1851, still under the name of Origen's,. 
Philosophumena. On the publication of the whole, however,, 
it became abundantly plain that the work was not Origen '& 
for the author appears to claim to be a bishop, and also to 
have taken a leading part in the affairs of the Church of 
Rome. The almost unanimous opinion of the learned! 


(whether Roman Catholic, Church of England, or Rationalis- 
tic) is, that the book, whose proper title is a 'Refutation of all 
Heresies,' is the work of Hippolytus, who has been honoured 
as a saint, and who had been known as one of the most 
learned members of the Church of Rome between 200 and 
235. There are still one or two learned men who do not think 
the authorship fully proved ; but I have examined the ques- 
tion myself, and consider that it is beyond all doubt. Among 
the heresies refuted in this book is one which denied the dis- 
tinct personality of the Father and the Son, so that these were 
said to be merely different names given to the same divine be- 
ing, according as He existed in different relations or different 
ways of manifestation. Hence its promoters have been called 
Patripassians, the consequence having been deduced from their 
teaching (whether they themselves expressly asserted it or 
not), that it was the Father who suffered on the Cross. It was 
nearly the same heresy as that which afterwards became noto- 
rious under the name of Sabellianisin. We learn from Hippo- 
lytus 's contemporary, Tertullian,. that Praxeas, \vho introduced 
this heresy at Rome had also made himself conspicuous by his 
opposition to Montanism, and so, probably by his admitted 
orthodoxy on one point, gained a more indulgent hearing for 
his erroneous teaching on another. This newly-discovered 
writing, in refuting the Patripassian doctrine, stigmatizes as 
patrons of that heresy Zephyrinus and Callistus, who occu- 
pied the see of Rome between 202 and 223, who had always 
hitherto held an unblemished reputation in the Church, and 
are entered in the Roman breviary as martyrs. Zephyrinus 
is dealt with with comparative gentleness. He is described 
as an illiterate and covetous man, very much under the 
influence of Callistus, and partly inveigled, partly corrupted, 
by him to give his episcopal patronage to the Noetians. But 
with Callistus no terms are kept. He is said to have been 
originally a slave of an influential Christian in Caesar's 
household. Under his master's patronage he set up as a 
banker, and was entrusted with large deposits by the widows 
and brethren. These Callistus embezzled, and became bank- 
rupt. He attempted to run away, but was overtaken, and, 
failing in an attempt to commit suicide, was brought back, 


and sent b}^ hie master to the pistrinum. After a time he was 
released, on the intercession of some who thought that if he 
were set free he might discover the embezzled money. But 
this he could not do, and being watched, and unable to run 
away again, he devised a desperate plan to restore his credit 
among the Christians. He went into the Jewish synagogue, 
and disturbed their worship, for which he was beaten, and 
brought before the prefect. His master hastened to the 
tribunal, and begged the prefect not to believe that he was 
a Christian, as he was only seeking an occasion of death, 
having embezzled much money ; but this was thought a mere 
subterfuge for the extrication of the accused, and Callistus 
was scourged, and sent to the mines in Sardinia. Some time 
after, Marcia, the favourite concubine of the Emperor Com- 
modus, who had strong sympathies with the Christians, the 
eunuch who brought her up being a Christian priest, was able 
to obtain an order for the release of the Christians in these 
mines, and applied to Pope Victor for their names. But he, 
knowing the circumstances, did not include the name of 
Callistus in the list. However, Callistus so earnestly wept 
and besought the bearer of the release, that the latter, being 
a kind-hearted man, took the responsibility of adding the 
name of Callistus to the list. Victor, we are told, was dis- 
tressed at the return of Callistus, but contented himself with 
banishing him to Antium. After Victor's death, Callistus suc- 
ceeded in ingratiating himself with his successor, Zephyri- 
nus ; and in the Patripassian disputes, he tried to gain the 
favour of both parties, with the orthodox professing orthodoxy, 
and with the Noetians, Noetianism. He ultimately devised a 
new theory, by which he endeavoured to make a compromise, 
and steer a middle course between the teaching of Hippolytus 
and that of his Patripassian opponent; on one occasion 
accusing Hippolytus of Ditheism. Our author further 
accuses Callistus of undue laxity in his moral discipline, 
in giving an easy absolution to sinners who had been cast 
out of the Church by others some of them by Hippolytus 
himself; in admitting digamists and trigamists to the ranks 
of the clergy ; in his allowing clergy to marry, and treating 
their doing so as a matter between God and their own con- 


sciences; iu allowing Christian ladies to take to themselves, 
if they so desired, consorts of a lower rank, with whom they 
could not contract a legal marriage. 

You may guess what a sensation was produced by the 
discovery of a work seemingly so damaging to the credit of 
two Roman bishops. Bishop Wordsworth of Lincoln, who 
published separately this part of the newly-discovered work, 
believes every word that Hippolytus says to the discredit of 
the Popes. And he cannot be much blamed for doing so; 
for Hippolytus has always been honoured as a saint and a 
martyr, and the honour must have been given him from 
nearly his own time ; for there is in existence a statute of 
him, which is proved to be nearly contemporary by its 
having engraved on it the cycle which Hippolytus invented 
in order to find the time of Easter. Now, that cycle was an 
erroneous one, and its error could not but be discovered after 
using it for a dozen years. We may conclude, therefore, 
that the time when it was engraved in perpetual honour of 
Hippolytus was before the error was discovered ; that is to 
say before A.D. 240. If we accept the testimony of Hippo- 
lytus, it would follow that two bishops of Rome were not 
only men of indifferent moral character, but that they fell 
into heresy on a primary article of the Christian faith. Dr. 
Newman, on the other hand, was so shocked at this libel on 
Roman bishops, that he declared nothing would persuade 
him it could be the work of the saint and martyr Hippolytus. 
But a far better defence of the credit of the Roman see was 
made by von Dollinger, at that time in full credit as an able 
champion of the Roman Catholic Church. His work, Hippo- 
lytus and Callistus, has been translated into English (1876) ; 
and I do not know a more interesting and instructive work 
on early Church history. 

Dollinger points out that though in this work Hippolytus 
claims to be a bishop, and is recognized as a bishop by early 
authorities, yet that the name of his see is not mentioned by 
them; and some of them expressly declare their ignorance 
of it. The statement that he was bishop of Portus (near 
Rome), though generally accepted, rests on comparatively 
late and untrustworthy authorities. A number of Greek MSS., 


which cite passages from his writings, describe him as bishop 
of Rome. Further, in this work, Hippolytus never ascribes 
the title oi bishop to Callistus; and he speaks of him as 
having only seemed to obtain the dignity he aimed at. 
Bellinger's inference is, that the dissensions at Rome pro- 
ceeded to such a length that they came to formal schism, 
Hippolytus being the bishop of the ultra-orthodox minority, 
and Callistus the one accepted by the majority of the Roman 

This theory gives an excellent explanation of all the phe- 
nomena presented by the treatise against heresies which we 
are discussing ; but it is attended by the very grave difficulty 
that this, which would seem to have been one of the earliest 
schisms in the Roman see, seems to have been absolutely un- 
known to the rest of the Christian world ; and that although 
the leader of one of the parties was that member of the 
Roman Church who was best known elsewhere for his learn- 
ing and his literary activity. If Bellinger's hypothesis be 
well founded, it follows that Christians in the third century 
so far from regarding the bishop of Rome as their master and 
teacher, regarded the question, who was bishop of Rome, as 
one merely of local interest, and troubled themselves little to 
inquire who the bishop of Rome was. Rival bishops might 
claim the see for years, and one of them not an obscure 
person, but the leading divine in the Roman Church of his 
day, and yet the schism not leave a trace in Church history, 
and, as far as we can learn, not a single Eastern Christian 
have heard of its existence. 

Taking this view, however, the impeachment of the ortho- 
doxy of the Roman bishops is at once disarmed. Instead of 
believing on the word of Hippolytus that the Roman bishops 
who differed with him were heretics, we may question whether 
it was not he himself who was in the wrong, whether in his 
zeal against those who confounded the Persons of the Father 
and the Son, he did not use such indiscreet language as to 
lay himself fairly open to the charge of Bitheism : that is to 
say, whether he did not so separate their substances as to 
seem to teach Christians to worship two distinct Gods. It is 
still easier to defend the disciplinary regulations of the Roman 


bishops, for the indulgence which characterized the practice 
of Callistus is more in accordance both with our own ideas, 
and with the practice of the Church since his time, than the 
unforgiving strictness of Hippolytus. And as for the charges 
of immorality, we are not bound to take as Gospel truth 
everything that is alleged by a witness so bitter and evidently 
prejudiced as Hippolytus. He clearly puts the worst con- 
struction on all the facts of the life of Callistus. Did he 
become bankrupt, it was because he had embezzled the funds 
entrusted to him. Did he get into trouble by his Christian 
zeal, it was because of his crimes, and because being unable 
to commit suicide, he was anxious for an occasion of death. 
And so on. 

On the whole I consider that Dollinger has made out so 
good a case, that I am willing to acquit Zephyrinus and 
Callistus of the charge of heresy ; though, as I have pointed 
out, the theory obliges us to set very low the influence 
exerted by the Roman Church on the rest of the Christian 
world at the beginning of the third century. 


AT the conclusion of the last Lecture I told you oi von 
Bellinger's theory that Hippolytus was an antipope, 
claiming in opposition to Callistus the dignity of bishop of 
Rome. This suggests a point in the controversy which 
ought not to be omitted, and on which, therefore, I will say 
something before going further. Supposing it to be proved 
that in order to avoid all risk of going wrong, Christ had 
given to His followers this compendious rule to guard them 
from error, 'Adhere to the bishop of Rome,' still even this 
simple rule has its uncertainties, for we have first to deter- 
mine who the bishop of Rome is. Now, in all the time 
between the third century and the Reformation not a cen- 
tury has passed in which there has not been a schism in the 
Church on this very point, Christians being perplexed be- 
tween the contending claims of different pretenders to the 
Roman see. 

I have said something as to what possibly may have been 
one of the earliest of these schisms; I will now say some- 
thing as to what is commonly counted the twenty-ninth ; not 
the last, but the greatest and most memorable for its dura- 
tion, its extent, and its damaging effects on the papal claims. 
I mean what is commonly called the great Western schism, 
which began in 1378, on the death of Pope Gregory XI. It 
lasted nearly forty years, during which time two or more 
popes disputed with each other the honour of being the right- 
ful successor of St. Peter; and the claims of the contending 
parties were so evenly balanced that the nations of Western 
Christendon were tolerably equally divided between them. 


\ 7 ery respectable Roman Catholic writers have maintained 
that it is still impossible to decide with certainty which party 
was in the right saints working miracles being numbered 
among the adherents of either pontiff and finally (I quote 
from the Jesuit Maimbourg), even a general council, which 
had the aid of the Holy Ghost to enable them to decide 
infallibly, did not venture to solve the question, and had 
recourse to its authority instead of availing itself of its know- 
ledge,* that is to say, instead of informing the Christian 
world which of the popes was the true one, the council, by 
virtue of its authority, deposed them all, and set up a new 
pope of its own. 

I must assume that you have a general knowledge of the 
facts of the case, and will recall to }^our memory that the 
death of Gregory XI. was the termination of what has been 
called the Babylonish Captivity, namely, the seventy years' 
residence of the French popes at Avignon. It is certain 
that the temporal interests of the city of Rome suffered 
greatly from the absence of its spiritual head. The Roman 
magistrates complained that the faithful were no longer 
attracted to Rome either by devotion or interest ; that there 
was danger lest the unfortunate city should be reduced to 
a vast solitude; the sacred edifices left without roof, gates, 
or walls; the abode of beasts, which cropped the grass off 
their very altars. Accordingly, the death of Gregory XI. f 
and the election of his successor taking place at Rome 
although the cardinals, being French, would undoubtedly, if 
they had free choice, have elected a French successor, they 
were surrounded by a violent mob, threatening to tear them 
in pieces and set the house on fire over their heads if they 
elected a foreign pope; and although they had at first pro- 
tested that an election constrained by violence would not 
give a real pope but an intruder, yet ultimately they gave 

* Histoire du grand Schisme d y Occident, p. 3. 

t He had come to Rome chiefly on the persuasion of Catherine of 
Siena, a saint remarkable for having had the marks of the Saviour's 
wounds imprinted on her body, as well as for having had an espousal 
ring with four pearls and a diamond, placed permanently on her 
finger by our Lord Himself ; although, to spare her modesty, these 
honours were invisible to all eyes but her own (Bolland. A A. SS., 
April 30, pp. 882, 901). 


way, elected an Italian Pope, Urban VI., notified his election 
as usual to the Courts of Europe, and did not set up the plea 
of constraint until Urban had showed himself troublesome 
in the character of reformer of abuses. Then they made a 
unanimous secession; declared that they had only chosen 
Urban in the persuasion that he would in conscience have 
refused the pontificate, his election to which was only due to 
violence. ' But he, forgetful of his salvation, and burning 
with ambition, had allowed himself to be enthroned and 
crowned; and assumed the name of pope, though he rather 
merited that of apostate and antichrist.' And so they set up 
a French pope, Clement VII. 

Now, the schism thus begun lasted longer than what is 
commonly called a generation of men. A Christian who was 
of an age to form an opinion on the subject, say twenty-five 
years of age, when the schism began, might have died in 
mature age before it was finished : all the time he might have 
used more care in trying to choose the right pope than most 
men now spend in choosing the right doctrine; he might 
have followed the opinion supported by his nation, and 
backed by a considerable number of men in high esteem 
for learning and piety; and yet, some hundred years after 
his death it might be discovered that in spite of all his care 
he had decided wrongly, and had wandered from the tnie 
fold out of which there is no salvation. 

It is true that high Roman Catholic authority can be 
adduced in support of the opinion that either pope might 
safely be followed; a charitable opinion certainly, but one 
which can hardly be consistently maintained. For if Christ 
has given His Church an infallible guide to truth, it surely 
must be held to be no small sin to forsake that guide and 
follow an impostor, more especially when the true guide 
distinctly declares that those who adhere to the impostor 
hazard their eternal salvation. This can certainly be proved 
by contemporary evidence, that whatever may be said now, 
Christians at the time were held bound to decide the question 
rightly, as they valued their eternal salvation. In order to 
prove this I took the trouble to copy some of the curses 
denounced by each pope against the adherents of the other; 


but I have not time to read them. Suffice it to say that the 
two popes were in perfect agreement in informing the Chris- 
tian world that this was a matter in which a wrong choice 
would endanger a man's eternal salvation.* 

Remember that the main argument for the existence of 
an infallible guide to the Church is that it is inconceivable 
God could have left Christians exposed to the risk of error in 
any matter concerning their eternal salvation. But here we 
see that the institution of the office of pope does not preserve 
Christians from such risk of error : that on the contrary 
Christians were left for several years together perplexed 
between the claims of two popes, in favour of each of whom 
so much might be said, and each of whom uttered the most 
frightful curses against the other and his adherents ; and one 
of the two must have been the real pope, and his curses have 
had all the efficacy which papal dignity can give. One or 
other of the two was the infallible guide to Christians, and 
both agreed that this was a matter on which to decide 
wrongly would peril a Christian's eternal salvation. The 

* The following is an extract from a circular issued by the cardinals 
(see Baluzius, Vitae Pontt. Aven. ii. 847) : 'Having been appointed 
watchmen by the Lord God of Hosts, and occupying the highest post 
next after the Roman Pontiff, we are bound vigilantly to point out 
to the faithful the dangers which threaten their souls, and the snares 
and attacks of the enemy. Whereas, therefore, we have learned for 
certain that that seducer, Bartholomew, formerly Archbishop of Bari, 
falsely calling himself Pope, has, as another Antichrist, sent certain 
false prophets to different parts of the world, whom he alone has 
constituted Cardinals, together with some other defenders of his 
wickedness, in order that by false persuasions, and crafty suggestions, 
they may seduce the Christian people, and may cause them, to the 
eternal damnation of their souls, to adhere to the aforesaid apostate; 
and whereas, on this account, our most Holy Lord Pope Clement VII. 
has desired us, who have perfect knowledge of this matter, to instruct 
the faithful concerning it ; and whereas it pertains to none others than 
us, next after our most Holy Lord Pope Clement VII. , to inform the 
faithful who is the true Pope, therefore, we beseech you all, in 
Jesus Christ, for the safety of your souls to adhere to the same Lord 
Clement,' &c. 

Here it is taught plainly enough that the adherents of Urban 
perilled their salvation; and there certainly is great show of reason 
in what the cardinals say, viz. that if any doubt should arise as to 
who the true pope was, no one could be fitter than the cardinals (who 
are the next highest authority to the pope) to decide it. 

Urban's counter-proclamation, which is too long to be quoted in 
full, will be found in Raynaldus's continuation of Baronius (An. 1378). 


question was an eminently practical one, for if a man hap- 
pened to be the subject of a monarch who had taken the 
wrong side, he was released from his allegiance, and incurred 
the penalty of excommunication if he rendered assistance to 
his sovereign. 

And yet this is a point on which high Roman Catholic 
authority now holds that both popes were wrong. Maimbourg 
(p. 57) tells us 'the thunderbolts and the anathemas which 
the two popes hurled against each other, and against all those 
who followed the opposite party, did no harm to anybody.' 
Antoninus, archbishop of Florence, who was canonized as 
a saint in 1523, writes as follows : 'There were among the 
adherents of either party, all the time the schism lasted, most 
learned men, and most religious, and what is more, even dis- 
tinguished by their miracles ; and the question could never be 
so decided, but that there remained a doubt with very many. 
And though it be necessary to salvation to believe that there 
is but one vicar of Christ, yet on the occasion of a schism, 
when several are called popes, it does not appear necessary 

He denounces those children of iniquity and perdition, Robert (i.e. 
Clement VII.) and the other cardinals, who had not only involved 
themselves in the bonds of sin, but being given over to a reprobate 
mind, have endeavoured to draw others with them to destruction. 
He declares that being unable, without grievous remorse of conscience, 
any longer to tolerate such wickedness, he pronounces that Robert, 
&c., are schismatics, apostates, blasphemers, and are to be punished 
as heretics ; he excommunicates them, deprives them of all their 
dignities, confiscates all their goods, declares their persons detestable 
and infamous, and orders them to be kept by the faithful in close 
prison. Anyone who should commit their bodies to ecclesiastical 
sepulture is excommunicated, and can only be absolved on condition 
of disinterring them with his own hands. Everyone of whatever 
rank, king, queen, emperor, or cardinal, is forbidden to receive these 
excommunicated persons into his lands, or to allow them to be 
supplied with any grain, wine, flesh, clothes, wood, victuals, money, 
merchandize, or any goods whatsoever. Every private person is ex- 
communicated who shall transgress any of the aforesaid commands, or 
who shall knowingly call the aforesaid Robert (styling himself 
Clement) by the name of Pope, or who shall believe him to be Pope, 
from which excommunication he is not tc be freed by any but the 
Roman Pontiff, except in the article of death. He releases the 
subjects of the princes who adhere to his rival, from obedience to 
their monarchs ; and he offers to all those who shall undertake a 
crusade for the extermination of the aforesaid schismatics, and who 
shall persecute them to the utmost of their power, the privileges and 
indulgences granted to those who proceed to the succour of the Holy 


to salvation to believe that this or that is the true pope, but 
only whichever of the two was canonically elected, and no 
one is bound to know who was canonically elected any more 
than he is bound to be acquainted with the canon law ; but 
the people may follow their princes and prelates.' 

In short, provided you believe there is a pope somewhere 
or other, it is quite unnecessary to know who he is, and you 
may be quite safe though you adhere to a false pope, and 
though the true pope be cursing you as hard as he can all 
the time. Suppose that in Switzerland you had some doubt 
whether an incompetent guide had not imposed on you by a 
false certificate, what would you think if, on inquiring at the 
office for guides, you were told that it was certainly abso- 
lutely necessary for you to have the authorized guide, but 
that if you had duly paid your fee at the office, it was quite 
immaterial whether you had got hold of the right man or 
not? In wliose interests would you suppose such a regula- 
tion to have been framed ? If it is asserted then that it is 
inconceivable that God could leave His Church without some 
guide able to lead her infallibly into truth, we may answer 
that it is just as necessary that God should make men know 
who that infallible guide is, and that it is indelibly written 
in the page of history that God did leave the Church for a 
space of several years in a state in which it was next to 
impossible to determine who that infallible guide was. And 
it avails nothing to say that this was 500 years ago, for we 
cannot suppose that God dealt with His Church by different 
rules in the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries and in the nine- 
teenth. The souls of Christians then were as dear to Him as 
the souls of Christians now ; and it cannot be said that any- 
thing is essential to the being of the Church which God did 
not see fit to give her then. 

Before parting with the case of Hippolytus, I have 
another remark to make on the ignorance of the Eastern 
world on the subject of his pretensions to be bishop of Rome. 
If he never made the claim, how came so many in the East 
to call him bishop of Rome ? If he did, how was it that no 
one in the East should have heard that the see was contested 
by two rivals ? I must add it, therefore, as a further proof 


that the bishop of Rome was not recognized as head over the 
whole Church, that the appointment of that bishop was from 
early times, and in theory down to the present day, a matter 
of mere local concern. In early times the election rested at 
Rome, as elsewhere, with the clergy and people. They did 
not think of their bishop then as the infallible interpreter of 
doctrine, but as the administrator of the funds in which that 
Church was very rich ; and, accordingly, when they wanted 
a bishop they did not look for a learned divine, but for a 
good man of business. Most commonly the choice fell on 
the archdeacon, who was habitually the bishop's prime 
minister. So regular was this, that a story is told, though I 
own on not very trustworthy authority, that in one remark- 
able case, the bishop finding the archdeacon to be a man 
whom he would not like for a successor, was spiteful enough 
to spoil his chance by ordaining him priest.* In theory the 
bishop is at the present day appointed by the local clergy; 
for the cardinals are the bishops of the six suburbican sees,f 
the Roman deacons, and the parish priests of the different 
Roman parishes. In fact, the cardinals are leading Roman 
Catholic divines of different European countries, and the 
majority of them do not reside at Rome, and have only a 
titular connexion with certain Roman parishes. If the 
bishop of Rome is head of the whole Church, it is quite 
right that representatives of the whole Church should take 
part in his appointment. But the titles of cardinals are 
a standing witness to the present day that the pope is but 
bishop of a single city, and that his appointment was a 
matter with which persons outside that city were not sup- 
posed to have any concern. 

I return now to carry a little further down the history of 
the Roman claims. In the last Lecture we found that up to 

* This story is told about Cornelius and Novatiau by Eulogius of 
Alexandria (Photius, Cod. 182). 

t These sees had been seven : Portus, Ostia, Prseneste Sabina, 
Tusculum, Albano, and St. Rufina; but the last has, for many- 
centuries ceased to exist as a separate see. On the other hand, the 
Roman deacons, who for many centuries had been only seven, are now 
reckoned as fourteen. 


the end of the second century the importance of the bishop 
of Rome is subordinate to that of the Church of Rome. Just 
at the end of that century the Clementine fictions were 
brought to Rome, and it is not till then we hear anything 
of the succession from St. Peter. 

Now, when you see Patristic evidence produced in proof of 
papal supremacy, you must be always careful to examine 
who it is that is cited. I have not now in my mind merely 
that ordinary caution which distinguishes the scientific from 
the controversial use of authorities. With Romish contro- 
versialists of the less instructed sort the pre-scientific use of 
authorities still prevails. With them a Father is a Father. 
If they can find, in any of those to whom that name is given, 
words resembling some assertion which they wish to have 
believed, his name is clapped into a list of witnesses (which 
sometimes they print in capital letters) all seemingly counted 
of equal value. Such a list, however imposing it may appear 
to the unlearned, is only glanced at with contempt by one 
who understands the subject, and who knows that some of 
the writers cited say nothing really relevant to the question 
on which they are appealed to, and that others are persons 
whose unsupported statements have no weight. For, with 
increased knowledge of ancient documents, we are now able 
in many cases to compare the statements of Fathers with the 
sources whence they derived them, and in this way to form a 
judgment how far the reporters are trustworthy. And the 
result is that, as might have been expected, the Fathers are 
in this respect found to be men of very unequal merit; and 
the historical student is forced to discriminate, building 
nothing with any confidence on the assertions of some, who 
are habitually wanting in that care and caution which we 
find in others. 

But the point which I now wish to urge is the necessity 
of discriminating authorities geographically; for the geo- 
graphical test is as effective as the chronological in showing 
that the notion of the Petrine supremacy is a development 
and not a tradition. Whatever doctrines were delivered to 
the Church by our Lord and His apostles must have been 
held by the Church at all times and in all plaees. Now, it is 


owned that the doctrine of Roman supremacy was not held 
by the Church in all times; for it has to be confessed, as 
Newman does in passages which I have quoted, that such a 
form of Church government was altogether unsuited to the 
condition of the Church in the first ages. But we argue 
further that if our Lord had put His disciples under the 
government of a single head, Christian missionaries, wherever 
they went, would have carried with them the knowledge 
who their appointed ruler was, and would have taught the 
Churches which they founded to obey him. There would 
have been no difference between East and West as to the 
meaning of the texts which settled the constitution of the 
universal Church. The teaching of the Church on this point 
would have been in all places the same; for this is not a 
subordinate doctrine, a true tradition concerning which might 
conceivably have been lost. The doctrine is a fundamental 
one; and those who had ever known and received it must 
have kept up the memory of it by perpetual practical appli- 
cation of it. 

What we actually find is very different. The Gospel, you 
know, contains a system of truths first promulgated at 
Jerusalem, and which starting from that centre have been 
propagated all over the civilized world. Now, nothing is 
more certain than that the notion of Roman supremacy did 
not start from Jerusalem as its centre, but from Rome as its 
centre. In tracing the history of the growth of the empire 
of heathen Rome, we find the city first battling with the 
neighbouring Italian towns ; then, when it had established 
its dominion in Italy, crossing the sea, and making conquests 
in foreign countries. At length its expansive power reaches 
its limits : it gains some temporary victories in Parthia and 
Germany, but never makes a permanent conquest of these 
countries. In like manner, in tracing the history of the 
growth of the ecclesiastical empire of Rome, we find that 
the movement began at Rome itself : that it was at first 
resisted in its own immediate neighbourhood ; that by de- 
grees it triumphed over that opposition, and extended itself 
over all the West. But in the East, though it occasional!}' 
gained temporary victories, their friiits were always short- 


lived; and ultimately the attempt to bring the East under 
the dominion of Rome utterly failed. 

Bearing all this in mind, you will see the necessity, when 
any ancient writer is quoted as asserting the right of the 
bishop of Rome to rule over other Churches, of inquiring 
who it is that says it. I might tell you, for example, that 
several eminent authors assert that Paris is the capital of the 
civilized world, the centre of European thought and culture. 
But you would smile at me if, when asked who these eminent 
authors were, I had to reply Victor Hugo, Cornte, and other 
enthusiastic Frenchmen. In like manner we can but smile 
when Romish divines, who have undertaken to adduce evi- 
dence in proof of the papal claims, tender to us the assertions 
of popes, or of papal legates, or of Roman presbyters. Such 
evidence is only good to show what Rome would like to have 
believed, but determines nothing as to what really was by 
Christ's appointment the constitution of His Church. 

It is much more to the purpose when they adduce Eastern 
evidence; but such evidence always turns out to be, not 
spontaneous acknowledgment of the justice of the Roman 
demands, but temporary acquiescence in them by persons at 
the moment badly in want of Roman assistance. For the 
cause of Rome was greatly helped by Eastern divisions. 
Arianism, Nestorianism, Eutychianism, were all Eastern 
questions ; nor did the Western mind of that age appear to 
possess the subtlety necessary for the originating such dis- 
putes. Neither, again, was the Latin language adequate to 
express all the subtle distinctions and shades of thought for 
which the copiousness and flexibility of the Greek tongue 
easily found expression. But each of the contending parties 
in the East were always glad to get the West on its side; 
and the party successful in this endeavour could not afford 
to be critical if there was too much arrogance in the tone 
which the Roman supporters adopted. Thus the Easterns 
were in danger of rinding the fable realized of the horse 
triumphing over the stag by the assistance of the man, and 
rinding when his victory was won that he had permanently 
a rider on his back. Actually, however, they shook the rider 
off after he had served their temporary ends. For though in 


politics a party, not the strongest, will sometimes succeed in 
attaining its ends through the alternate assistance given it 
by two other rival parties bidding against each other for its 
support, yet it loses its advantage if it demands more than 
either of the rivals will grant. The Romans demanded more 
than any Eastern would concede, and so there ensued that 
schism between East and West which continues to the 
present day. 

The earliest bishop of Rome whom I can find to have 
claimed privileges as Peter's successor was Stephen in his 
controversy with Cyprian, about A.D. 256, at which time the 
story told in the Clementines had had some fifty years of 
acceptance at Rome. I have already (p. 144) quoted some 
of Cyprian's language, from which you will have seen that, 
though he did not dispute the assertion that Stephen sat in 
the chair of Peter, he did not by any means regard the 
bishop of Rome as the Church's infallible guide, nor even 
as a competent witness to apostolic tradition if his testi- 
mony seemed to conflict with what was found in the written 

Now, Roman Catholics may say that in the controversy 
as to the validity of heretical baptism, Stephen was right 
and Cyprian wrong. I do not know whether they are quite 
consistent in saying so ; for of late years, I suppose in order 
to frighten waverers, they have taken to the profanity of 
reiterating baptism in the case of perverts from our com- 
munion, a profanity only partially mitigated by the device 
of conditional baptism, which was not invented until some 
centuries after the time of Stephen and Cyprian. Nor shall I 
inquire whether Stephen, in his acknowledgment of here- 
tical baptism, \vas not more indiscriminate than the Church 
was afterwards, which always has been careful to distinguish 
between different classes of heretics, and to examine whether 
the baptisms which it acknowledges have been duly made 
in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.* But for my 
present purpose it is quite irrelevant to discuss whether 

See the 8th Canon of the Council of Aries. 


Stephen or Cyprian was right. If I were to propose the 
question to you whether in their parliamentary disputes Mr. 
Gladstone or Mr. Disraeli had been in the right, I dare say 
you would be far from unanimous in your answer. But if I 
asked whether Mr. Gladstone acknowledged Mr. Disraeli as 
an infallible authority or mce 'versa, you could be unanimous 
in answering that question. We may be as willing to do 
honour, to the memory of both Stephen and Cyprian as 
Walter Scott, in the introduction to Marmion, was to the 
memory of both Pitt and Fox. But certain it is that Cyprian 
showed that he felt himself as little bound to follow the 
ruling of Stephen as Fox was to follow the ruling of Pitt. 
If the dispute about the validity of heretical baptism had not 
been quelled by a timely persecution there was danger that it 
might have caused a serious schism in the Church. Cyprian 
was not only unanimously supported by a council of eighty- 
seven African bishops, but he had enthusiastic allies in the 
East.* Chief of these was Firmilian of Cappadocia, at that 
time one of the most illustrious of Eastern bishops. There 
is extant a Latin translation of Firmilian 's letter to Cyprian ; 
and we need not doubt that the translation was made by 
Cyprian himself, though some of the first editors of Cyprian's 
works were minded to suppress the letter altogether on 
account of the great disrespect with which he treats the bishop 
of Rome. Certainly it is not surprising that Roman Catholics 
should have found matter of offence in Firmilian 's letter. He 
begins by congratulating himself that through Stephen's 
' inhumanity ' (in breaking communion with those who re- 
baptized converts from heresy) he had had experimental 
proof of Cyprian's faith and wisdom. But, he adds, that 
for this benefit resulting to him from Stephen's conduct, 
Stephen himself was no more entitled to gratitude than 
Judas Iscariot was entitled to our gratitude for the benefits 
which resulted to the world from his treason to our Lord. 
This is pretty strong to begin with ; and he follows lip with 
charges of 'audacia,' 'insolentia,' 'imperitia,' 'aperta et 
manifesta stultitia' : Stephen is 'haereticis omnibus pejor' ; 

* On the part taken by Dionysius of Alexandria, see Euseb. H. E. 
vii. 5, sqq. 


'was iiot Stephen ashamed to say this'; 'he had the impu- 
dence (ausus est) to say that' ; 'he defamed Peter and Paul by 
the sentiments which he attributed to them.' But Stephen 
appears to have given much occasion for this asperity of lan- 
guage; for Fimiilian quotes him as having called Cyprian 
'false Christ, false apostle, deceitful worker.' We must regret 
that men for whom we feel so much respect should have 
treated each other with so little ; but the reason for producing 
these controversial amenities is that Firniilian tells us that 
Stephen had hoasted of his succession from Peter : 'de Epis- 
copatus sui loco gloriatur et se successioneni Petri tenere 
contendit,' 'per successioneni cathedram Petri se tenere prae- 
dicat.' What privileges exactly Stephen claimed on the 
strength of this succession we are not informed ; but both his 
antagonists treat the connexion with Peter and Paul as only 
aggravating his fault if he does not harmonize with them 
in doctrine. Other evidence of the arrogance of Stephen's 
claims is suggested by Cyprian's language in addressing his 
African council : 'None of us sets himself up as a bishop of 
bishops, or by tyrannical terror forces his colleagues to a 
necessity of obeying; inasmuch as every bishop, in the free 
use of his liberty and power, has the right of forming his 
own judgment, and can no more be judged by another than 
he can himself judge another.' 

The result is that we may name the episcopate of Stephen 
as the time when, out of the fiction that Peter had been 
bishop of Rome, his supposed successors began to develop 
the consequence that they had a right to rule other bishops ; 
but we find that this development was at the time not only 
scouted in the East, but was violently resisted in the neigh- 
bouring province of Africa. 

A somewhat earlier incident in Stephen's history will show 
how far the supremacy of the pope was from being then 
established. Two Spanish bishops, Basilides and Martial, 
had denied Christ in time of persecution, and had therefore 
been deposed by their brethren, and two others, Felix and 
Sabinus, consecrated in their stead. Basilides, however, 
went to Rome, and there obtained recognition as bishop 
from Stephen. The clergy and people of the towns over 


which these ineii had presided sent to Cyprian, who, assem- 
bling thirty-seven bishops in council, decided in a S3*nodical 
letter that the deposition of Basilides and Martial was right, 
and the election of Felix and Sabinus canonical. Cyprian 
says : ' Nor can it rescind an ordination rightly performed 
that Basilides, after his crime had been detected and his 
conscience laid bare even by his own confession, canvassing 
to be unjustly restored to the episcopate from which he had 
been justly deposed, went to Rome and deceived Stephen 
our colleague residing at a distance, and ignorant of the real 
truth. The effect of this is not to efface, but to swell the 
crimes of Basilides, in that to his formed guilt is now added 
the guilt of deceit and circumvention. For he is not so 
much to be blamed w r ho through negligence was imposed on, 
as he is to be execrated w r ho through fraud imposed on him.' 
Now, if a Roman Catholic maintains that his present Churcli 
system is conformed to primitive usage, let him imagine a 
parallel case happening now. Let him conceive two Spanish 
bishops deposed by their neighbours, and others elected in 
their place without consulting the pope. The deposed 
bishops appeal to Rome and are acquitted. Meanwhile the 
Spanish clergy send the intruding bishops as a deputation 
not to the pope, but let us say to the archbishop of Paris, 
who, assembling a provincial synod, decides that the former 
bishops had been rightly deposed, and the new canonically 
elected, and that 'the appealing bishop had only aggravated 
his guilt by deceiving Pio Nono our colleague ; but excusing 
Pio Nono in that he is not so much to be blamed who through 
negligence was imposed on, as he who through fraud had 
imposed on him. 3 * 

This history shows that in the third century the Christian 
Churches formed one great community. No Church was 
completely isolated from the rest : if disputes took place in 
it their brethren elsewhere would take an interest in it, and 
would use their influence in bringing about the triumph of 
right. That the great Roman Church should possess in- 
fluence of this kind was a matter of course. But we see now 

* Pusey's Eirenicon, p. 75. 


that the possession of such influence was no exclusive pre- 
rogative of that see. Other Churches, too, claimed the right 
:ake their voices heard, and had no scruple in taking a 
side opposite to that taken by the bishop of Rome. 

When the Empire became Christian it was more impos- 
sible than ever for one Church to be independent of others ; 
for certain privileges and immunities were immediately given 
to the Christian bishops and clergy; and if there were any 
controversy as to the occupancy of any see, it was necessary 
for the civil authorities to know who was recognized by the 
Church generally as the rightful possessor. When Constan- 
tine obtained undisputed possession of power, he found a 
violent controversy raging, no less a question being involved 
than who was the rightful head of the great Church of North 
Africa, the consecration of Ccecilian as bishop of Carthage 
having been pronounced invalid by the party which soon 
came to have Donatus as its leader. Constantine would, no 
doubt, be anxious to make himself acquainted with the rules 
established in the Christian Church for regulating the de- 
cision of such controversies ; but he never appears to have 
heard from anyone that it would suffice to get the decision 
of the bishop of Rome. On the contrary, the order of the 
steps taken in this Donatist controversy was exactly the 
reverse of what, according to later theory, it ought to have 
been. There was first a decision by the bishop of Rome ; 
then an appeal from the pope to a council; lastly, neither 
pope nor council having succeeded in making a settlement, 
the matter was taken up by the emperor personally. And 
when I say a decision by the bishop of Rome, you must not 
suppose that that