Project Canterbury


The City of God in the Anglo-Saxon Church.





Oct. 10, 1866,









New York:



The following pages are but the supplement to a Sermon preached before the Convention of New Jersey many years ago. Whatever is new in theology is necessarily false. All, therefore, that I have written, is only the echo, feeble and frail, of the great teachers in that Church in which I was born, at whose breast I was nurtured, at whose holy table I have been fed, and in whose bosom I shall at last repose my faithful soul, as the purest existing branch of the Church Catholic, because nearest conformed in her doctrine, her discipline, her worship, and her usages, to the golden era before the separation of the West from the East of Christendom.

Henry M. Mason.


Rom. xv. 28: "I will come by you into Spain.''

It would be discourteous to you, and unworthy of me, to have chosen so unusual a text, but for its peculiar adaptation to the subject on which I would invoke your attention to-day.

In a corner of that part of our earth, which, a little more than three hundred years ago, was unknown to civilized man, lies a village, which, whatever its claims for the charms and refinement of its women, or the intelligence of its men, is of comparatively little importance for its size or its population. That population is a Christian population. They are a Christian population, and yet are not in full communion with each other. But not to be in communion with each other is separation, is schism, is a breach of that divine law of charity or love which requires that those should be united to each other who are united to Christ, agreeably to His prayer, that they, Father, may be one as we are one. If charity be the first of [5/6] virtues, schism, which is its contrary, is the first of sins. We shall assemble, when this discourse is ended, around the table of the Lord, to avouch our faith in Him who left as His last legacy of love the communion of His body and blood. It is, next to baptism, the first duty of a Christian, the badge of his union to Christ, notwithstanding that there are baptized Christians who voluntarily withdraw themselves from that duty and that badge. But, in the administration of this high ordinance, there is this peculiarity, that he who consecrates, and they who assist him in consecrating the elements of bread aud wine, thus made to the souls of the faithful recipients the body and blood of the Lord in their efficacy, admit the validity of consecration by none other than those who bear a like commission with themselves, by authority derived through descent from the Lord himself. Is this vicious exclusiveness? Is it want of charity? Is it schism? It is all and each, unless it can be shown that such is the will of the Most High; unless it can be shown that in this sacrament administered, in these ministers consecrating, in this people assembled within the narrow compass of these walls, as elsewhere under like circumstances, are represented the one body of Christ, the Catholic Church, however diffused throughout the world.

I. Then, what is the Catholic Church? II. What claim has this little assembly to represent in this place the Catholic Church?

[7] I. What is the Catholic Church? It is a serious thing to say, and constantly repeat, "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church," and have no conception what it means, or have very erroneous views on the subject. What, then, is the Catholic Church? It is that portion of mankind, who are living under the faith and discipline ordained by the divine Founder of that Church to exist forever, and who, if they are so living, are entitled to communion with each other, however widely separated by local distance. To ascertain who this portion of mankind are is no hidden mystery. It is known by the same process as we know the right which any civil society has to our obedience in civil duties, save only that in the case of civil societies there may be a disruption, and then a new beginning of its authority and government: in the case of the Church there is never a break in the descent. Whether by synthesis or analysis, whether you go backward or forward, the record is still the same. Of an invisible Church, that is, of a Church in which a man may have communion with Christ, without joining himself to any visible society of Christians as part of the one body of Christ, the Scriptures tell us nothing by distinction, and we can know nothing till, at the day of judgment, He who then sits upon the throne determines whether or not the individual has found favor with God and pardon for his sins: among them, that of not being of His visible Church, which He has [7/8] established on earth, and out of which there may be Balvation, but of the promise of it no record. For it is as true now as in the day of St. Cyprian, who so expresses the voice of holy Scripture: "He cannot have God for his father who has not the Church for his mother." This Church, laid in Eden, in the seed of the woman, to bruise the serpent's head, and to be cemented in His blood, and passing through its infancy, under the types and shadows of the Mosaic ritual and sacrifices, acquired a new birth at the assumption of humanity by that seed of the woman, the Virgin-born, Immanuel. He chooses twelve disciples, to whom He imparts the life-giving doctrines of the cross. He makes on that cross the promised atonement for sin. He rises from the dead, and then, the work of redemption thoroughly accomplished, he lays the foundation of His Church, by breathing on the eleven Apostles (one having become apostate) that gift of the Holy Ghost, in which consists the plenitude of sacerdotal power. Make disciples of all nations, by baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. As my Father hath sent me, even so send 1 you. The Spirit of truth will guide you into all truth. Lo! I am with you alway, even to the end of the world. If these promises mean any thing, they mean that these eleven disciples, the First Apostles, should have successors to the end of the world, and that, as the Spirit of truth [8/9] should guide them into all truth, they and their successors, in globo,--we cannot exclude the Church of the first ages--should be divinely protected from ever proposing to men a saving truth for a damnable error, or a damnable error for a saving truth. Accordingly, we read that on the day of Pentecost, these promises were perfected, in the descent of the Holy Ghost on the Apostles, to inspire their tongues to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ; and that single congregation became the root out of which has sprung the vast stock of the Catholic Church.

As yet, and for many years after, was there no part of the Christian written revelation composed. In the mean time, was there wanting the essentials of divine truth into which all who professed the name of Christ were to be baptized? Else, what means that form of sound words which St. Paul desires the youthful successor of the Apostles, St. Timothy, to hold fast? There was a creed then, as now, which no disciple was permitted, if he sought by baptism the covenant of faith, to gainsay or refuse. But then, by divine direction, came the fuller volume of revelation in the New Testament, accepted by the first Apostles, accepted by their successors, till the last of those first Apostles, St. John, closes the record accepted finally by the whole Church. Hence, because so accepted, the four Gospels, including that of St. Luke, who was not an eye-witness of our Saviour's acts, the Epistles [9/10] of St. Paul, of St. Peter, of St. James, of St. Jude, and St. John, the Book of Acts, and the Revelation, become parts of the Canon; the letters of their contemporaries, St. Barnabas, St. Clement, and St. Polycarp (probably, the child whom Jesus took in His arms), letters yet extant, are not parts of the Canon. The Canon of Scripture is closed. The Church receives no more, nor ever has. Each sentence and word of that Canon has its importance and value and bearing on the truth, but not all alike--some more, some less. So the declaration of St. Paul, I will come by you into Spain, has an important bearing on the truth, as will appear before the close of this discourse, but not a like bearing as the divine annunciation of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The Church, the one body of Christ, represented by the then living successors of the Apostles, closes the Canon of Scripture: and, as of the only two modes of communicating knowledge among men, speech and writing, the latter is the more sure and exact, it is not to be supposed that in holy Scripture any essential truth, necessary to be believed by man for his salvation, is wanting. But out of the sacred Canon who is to determine wherein consists the faith of a Christian, those essentials, without belief in which none can be admitted to the covenanted promises in Christ Jesus? The same successors of the Apostles throughout the world, by virtue of the promise, Lo! I am with you alway, even to the [10/11] end of the world, the Spirit of truth will guide you into all truth, and representing the universal Church, are the efficient agents in the one case as in the other, to decide what they had received aa essential truth out of the Canon, as they had on the truth of the Canon itself, its sufficiency as the sole record of God's revealed will to man.

When, therefore, troubles arose in the Church, when men of corrupt minds would alter or deprave the faith, the rather because, for the first three centuries, the verbal formula of faith was not to every successor of the Apostles identically the same, these, the understood and accredited guardians of the faith, assembling at Nice, attested what that faith had always been among them. Once more, at Constantinople, on a like emergence, was the same attestation given, but with fuller explications of the articles of the faith once delivered to the saints, and received from the beginning. At length, in Ephesus, where was held the third General Council of the Church, these same successors of the Apostles, the bishops of the Church, avouch, that out of the holy Scriptures none other had been received as the faith necessary to be believed for salvation than the creed now known as the Nicene, the sole and only foundation against which the gates of hell should not prevail, "that none other should ever be proposed to Jew, pagan, or heretic on their conversion" and by consequence, none other as [11/12] terms of communion among Christian churches. This is that creed, which we this day daily repeat; the creed which, whether in the two grand divisions of Christendom, the East and the West, or wherever the name of Christ is named, is known and confessed, and without whose confession no man is to be deemed a Christian. Other creeds, such as that known as the "Apostles'," though not framed in any Ecumenical council, may be legitimately creeds of the churches which use them, as in the first ages each successor of the Apostles, each bishop, made his own creed; but the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan, the creed composed at Nice, and explicated at Constantinople, is the sole creed of the Catholic, the Universal Church. Framed by the successors of the Apostles as that which had been received from the beginning, and out of that volume of revelation which the same authority had closed, as in like manner it closed the creed, this constitutes in respect of faith the sole badge of communion among Christians, and between churches which are composed of Christians. The city of God, reared by its divine Founder, has never failed to preserve His divine legacy in all that is necessary to constitute a visible society of men, the charter of essential truth, the Holy Ghost shall lead you into all truth, the officers of the society, the Apostles and their successors, lo! I am with you alway, even to the end of the world, to whom it was given to determine that truth.

[13] With regard to these, endowed with so extraordinary a privilege, the same may be said as of the truth itself. No guaranty of personal excellence or holiness was vouchsafed them, by virtue of their office, and many doubtless have, from age to age, dishonored their holy function; but the office itself has never failed, their line of succession has never been broken. The two, indeed, are not on a perfect ecpality. It may not be said of the apostolic succession, as it may and must of the creed, that they are not Christians who are without its possession and belief, though the former be guardians" and witnesses of the latter. But of the former it may be asked, as of the latter, who are they that have it not? In our small circle there are those who have it not. Yet Christendom has, with rare exceptions, the succession, as without exception she has the creed. The city of the living God has experienced the force and power of the promise, I am with you to the end of the world, as she has of that, I will lead you into all truth. There are, indeed, exceptions m the discipline ordained of Christ, the succession of the apostolic line, where the faith itself is firmly and fully maintained. It is not, however, unworthy remark, that this principle of unbroken succession in the ministry of Christ's appointment is a principle which must prevail in every association among men. No man is permitted to exercise official functions in any society, social or civil, still less, [13/14] ecclesiastical, who derives not his authority from another who had the previous right to confer them; as if it were of divine ordination that men should recognize the power of the principle even when there was a breach in its legitimate observance. The principle and its legitimate observance are the marks, therefore, of the Church and her catholicity. On this principle rests the validity of all sacerdotal claim, the claim to valid ministrations in the things of God; a principle, which, though appealing to holy Scripture and the Fathers of the Church, might dispense even with their elucidation. In the sixteenth century of the Christian era, on the face of the whole earth was there no body of men, no church calling itself Christian, which, of its ministry, the bishops, priests or presbyters, and deacons, did not avouch the first order of the three, to possess, by virtue of succeeding the first Apostles, the sole right of perpetuating their power and order, as it had ever been from the beginning. Let, then, the names presbyter and bishop be supposed identical; let presbyters be supposed to possess the right to ordain, that is, the right to create ministers in the Church. What follows? Is it Calvin? Is it Wesley? Is it he who addresses you, or any one of the brethren before me? The recipient of the office avowed and confessed he received not, whatever else he received, the power of perpetuating his office; and the ordainer, that he meant not to communicate [14/15] any such power. If presbyters have the right to ordain, the recipient is not then made a presbyter. To say that such an one, under such circumstances, has the right to ordain, is to say, that a man, who receives not something, and acknowledges he received not that something, can transmit to his posterity that something, which he never received and owns he never received. No man can give what he has never received, and the sacerdotal succession there is ended. But Christ permits it not to end. The holy line, holy in office, not always in personal worth, which was ordained to be the preservers and teachers of all necessary truth, has been preserved through the far greater part of all Christendom, as the essential truth itself, which it was that holy line's commission to preserve, has been preserved in every part. In both respects, therefore, the promise of our Lord has not failed. The essentials of discipline and doctrine, the apostolic succession, and the apostolic faith, the divine legacy of Christ, have never been lost. The gates of Hades have never prevailed against the Church. She has been infallible in both the things which were necessary to her existence. It is these essentials, these things necessary to the existence of the one body, which constitute that bond of unity which our Lord enjoined on His disciples and for which He prayed. They are included, in the one respect, in the Nicene creed; in the other, in the [15/16] ministry through the order of bishops or successors of the first Apostles.

From such premises it is apparent what is the condition of the Christian world in this our day. Any particular church is entitled to communion with any other particular church if itself be in communion with the Catholic Church. But it is in communion with the Catholic Church if it retains the essentials of truth and order, and imposes no other terms of communion; and these essentials are the creed, commonly known as the Nicene, the creed framed at Nice and explicated at Constantinople, with the unbroken succession from the Apostles. It is not the differing of one church from another in doctrines that are either remote from or even near the foundations of Christianity that dissolves their communion, but the imposition of such errors as terms of communion. Such is the schismatical position of the mother and mistress of all the schisms which at this day afflict the Catholic Church, which tore by its own action a part of the Western from the Eastern Church. Such is not the position of that Eastern portion of the Church which has not formally refused communion with any portion of the Church retaining the essentials of truth and order, the Nicene Creed and the apostolic succession. Such is not the position of that part of the Western portion of the Catholic Church to which I hasten, in connection with the general subject of which I have more largely [16/17] treated, to briefly draw your attention, as the second subject of discourse.

II. It was said in the opening of this discourse that in this small assembly of a comparatively remote quarter of the Western world is to be found the true representative of the Catholic Church. And why? I will come by you, saith the great Apostle, into Spain; words which seem of little significance; but they are of much. They prove that he who spake them designed to take a Western journey. They prove no more. It is not pretended they prove more. But St. Paul was not a man likely to forego or abandon a purpose in his Master's cause. The probability, therefore, is that he did take such a journey, a probability fortified by proof. His intimate friend and fellow-laborer, St. Clement, whose writings are still extant, and only not in the Canon because the Catholic Church has not so received them, affirms that his beloved Paul preached the Gospel "to the utmost bounds of the West." The utmost bounds of the West was in the days of St. Clement synonymous with the island of Britain. Each succeeding age presents its doctrinal or historic writer--Ireuaeus of the second, Tertullian of the third, Eusebius and Jerome of the fourth, Theodoret of the fifth, to fortify the declaration of Venantius Fortunatus in the sixth century--

"Transit et Oceanum, vel qua facit insula portum,
Quasque Britannus habet terras, quasque ultima Thule,"

[18] that St. Paul proclaimed the message of eternal life in that remotest western conquest of the Roman arms. Nor is there wanting evidence that before Rome itself was other than ruled by bishops at large, or was in the stricter sense a diocesan see, a bishop, successor of the Apostles, ruled the Christian flock of converts in the renowned isle from which your forefathers came.

For somewhat more than six hundred years, independent, by that divine right which, at the beginning, in plenitude of sacerdotal power made all the Apostles and their successors equal; independent also, by the decrees of Catholic, the General Councils of the Church, in all that regarded a difference of rank, humano jure, the bishops of the British isle sustained the honor of the apostolic stock from which they came. What changes were subsequently effected and brought to maturity in the twelfth century, in derogation of the independence of the British church, ground under the upper and nether millstone of papal and kingly power, is beyond the scope of our subject for today. Enough that, at the opening of the sixteenth era of the Gospel, the independence was regained. It was regained, not by violating, but in obedience to the laws of the Catholic Church. It was regained in that last era, by reiteration of the same principle which, in the seventh, had sustained the British bishops, successors of St. Paul, in maintaining, in presence of Augustin, [18/19] the missionary of the bishop of Rome to the Saxon conquerors of the isle, the equality of all bishops, by divine right and by ecclesiastical rule, their claim to be governed, as the members of Christ's body, by their own patriarch of Carleon, without subjection to any prelate, patriarch, or bishop from abroad. It was regained, by the action of the British church herself, recurring to the holy Scriptures and the Fathers of the early Church, not as a creature of the State, in slavery to the secular arm. It was regained by another birth of baptism in blood, which in the first ages had won the triumph of Gospel truth, and placed the cross of the Crucified above the eagles of the imperial crown; by the fires of Smithfield lighted with the torch of a new Rome, and only quenched in the martyr streams that flowed from the veins of our own Cranmers, our Latimers, our Ridleys, in imitation of the Ignatii, the Polycarps, the Cyprians of old. It was regained, not by discarding usages venerable and pious, or even graceful if harmless, but by wiping off the tinsel which had hidden the wrought gold of her holy adorning. In a word, it was regained by returning to that holy fountain of divine truth which the Catholic Church had declared closed in the canon of Scripture, and to the condensed summary of the essentials of faith from those Scriptures. It was regained, by adhering to the decrees of the first four General Councils which [19/20] had forbid any other terms of communion among churches than those essentials, and by retaining the apostolic succession in her ministry pure and uncontaminate, as it had been ordained by Christ, and of which no known church holding the Nicene faith was wanting for fifteen hundred years. It was regained by refusing communion with no part of the Christian world retaining the fundamentals of truth and order. To all is her communion open which possess the apostolic creed, the Nicene, and have not voluntarily abandoned the apostolic succession. She comes not in the attitude of the Novatians and Donatists of old. She comes not in the attitude of a part of the Catholic Church assuming to be dictator to the whole. As each portion of divine fundamental truth is susceptible of perversion, or of being injuriously affected by some contrarient error, she declares her sense of such emergent error, and warns her sister churches, in terms proportioned to the danger of the error, but imposes not her sense of that error as a term of communion. By supplemental articles of faith, she protects the one creed, however it might in a just application be its own protection against every error, but she holds not her articles or her homilies to have other than a municipal rank, not one of necessity but subordinately and conditionally obligatory. If at any time the British church has unwittingly attested any thing contrary to the voice of the Church Catholic, she has placed [20/21] herself under correction by the paramount principle she has acknowledged, and all her specific propositions are of course to be limited by her primary concession. She exacts them not as requirements for baptism administered even within her own pale.

From this noble stock we spring, by this noble stock we link ourselves, through the ages, all along, to the golden cord whose last link is held in the hand of the Almighty Founder of the Church, who has promised to lead that Church into all truth, and to be with its guardians, the Apostles and their successors, to the end of the world. In a village, in a nation, in the world, there can be but one Catholic Church, and there is the Catholic Church where is the one creed and one apostolic succession, without imposing, as terms of communion, other requirements. Where these exist not, or where there is 6uch imposition, there is schism.

Such is the relation borne by the body before me to the one body of Christ, as such is the relation which the parts of that one body have to each other. The Greek, the Russo-Greek, the Syrian, the Swedish, and more besides--and what a portion these of all professing the name of Christ!--are in a like category with ourselves, the Anglo-Saxon Church, a church which, let it not be deemed unworthy our regard, is so accommodated in our land to the character of the American [21/22] nation. An equal representation of the people in her honored laity, a senatorial balance in her clergy, an executive in her bishop, realizes, in all that is of human arrangement, the fond wish of the great philosophic historian of Rome. Citizens of a commonwealth like ours! must yon not respect a Church so conformed and adapted to your noble and enlightened institutions? Members of the body of Christ! heirs of His divine legacy of truth and order, the indefectible charter of His Church, possessors of the sacred record of God's will and ways, in the noblest language given to the speech of man, and opened among you to the eyes and ears of the faithful, as that record is opened nowhere else; with a matchless liturgy to be understanded of the people, in which, embodying all essential truth and teaching, the prayer of the Lord, the apostolic creeds, the commandments of God, the people unite their own with the voices of their priest in a grand diapason of prayer and praise which angels and archangels and all the company of heaven might not disdain to echo; members of the body of Christ! shall not our zeal awaken, not alone to preserve the priceless blessings, but extend the rich inheritance that, sparkling in the eyes of nations, is our own? Brethren of the priestly, royal line! fellow-watchmen with me, of the sacred tower whose living and sapphire gems shine bright in the city of our God, may the divine presence rest on our deliberations, as [22/23] erst on those of Nice. Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon, to advance the interests of the Catholic Church in adding another link to the apostolic line; and when our strength and heart shall fail, may our dying eyes, in the last embraces of death, be gladdened by the near prospect of the coming triumphs of a united and glorious Jerusalem on earth, as a type of the triumphant Jerusalem in heaven!



Πιστεύομεν εις ένα Θεον Πατερα παντοκράτορα, ποιητην ουρανου και γης, ορατων τε πάντων και αορατων. Και εις ένα κύριον Ιησουν Χριστον, τον υιον του θεοθ τον μονογενη, τον ει του πατρος γεννηθέν τα προ πάντων των αιώνων, φως εκ φωτος, θεον αληθινον εκ θεου αληθινου, γεννηθέντα, ου ποιηθέντα, ομοουσιον τωι πατρί· δι' ου τα παντα εγένετο· τον δι' ημας τους αιθρώποους και δια την ημετέραν σωτηρίαν κατελθοντα εκ των ουρανων και σαρκωθέντα εκ πνεύματος αγίου και Μαρίας της παρθένου και ενανθρωπήσαντα, σταυρωθέντα τε υπερ ημων επι Ποντίου Πιλάτου, και παθοντα και ταφέντα, και ανασταντα τηι τρίτηι ημέπαι κατα τας γραφάς, και ανελθόντα εις τους ουρανούς, και καθεζόμενον εκ δεξιων του πατρός, και πάλιν ερχόμενον μετα δόξης κριναι ζωντας και νεκρούς· ου της βασιλείας ουκ έσται τέλος. Και εις το Πνευμα το Άγιον, το κύριον, το ζωοποιόν, το εκ του πατρος εκπορευόμενον, το συν πατρι και υιωι συν προσκυνούμενον και συνδοξαζόμενον, το λαλησαν δια των προφητων. Eις μίαν, αγίαν, καθολικην και αποστολικην εκκλησίαω;·ομολογουμεν εν βάπτισμα εις άφεσιν αμαρτιων· προσδοκωμεν ανάστασιν νεκρων, και ζωην του μελλοντος αιώνος.




We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible: and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate: He suffered and was buried; and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end. And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord, the Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spake by the prophets. In one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

It will be perceived that in this creed, whose every word is of importance, is not contained the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son, but only from the Father. The history of the introduction of the words, and from the Son, commonly referred to as the filioque, its Latin form, is, though brief, pregnant with admonition. A few churches in Spain and France having, in the close of the eighth century, introduced the words into the Creed and sung them in the Liturgy, a conference was held between certain bishops, sent by the Emperor Charlemagne from the Council of Aix, on the subject, and Leo III., then bishop of Rome. The proofs which they had to offer for the doctrine involved in the words being read, Leo replied that he so believed, and thought it good to believe, but that he did not approve the addition of the words to the Creed. He was asked whether the Fathers of the six General Councils would not have done well if, by the addition of but four syllables, a truth had been rendered plain to all ages. "I dare not say," he answered, "that they would not have done well, had they done it. They doubtless knew other things which they omitted, being enlightened by divine wisdom. Nor dare I say that they understood the matter less than we. Is it more important to believe that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, than that the Son, God the truth, is begotten by God the truth, yet that both essentially one truth are God? Yet this was not added to the creed by the holy Fathers. I granted my assent to singing, but not to adding, diminishing, or changing any thing." Leo [26/27] subsequently fortified his objections by causing two silver shields to be placed in St. Peter's church, from which was carefully omitted the objectionable filioque. But the admonition was neglected or disregarded by the succeeding bishops of Rome. In the mean time causes had arisen to alienate the Eastern from the Western parts of the Church. The second General Council, held at Constantinople, had so changed the order of the chief sees of Christendom, as to give the bishop of Constantinople the rank next to that of Rome; and the fourth General Council, held at Chalcedon, had again further elevated the new Rome by conferring privileges, with jurisdiction, equal to those possessed by the old Rome. Such a decree became intolerable to the latter. To the differences and animosities which thence arose, was added the formidable act of the Roman bishops succeeding Leo III., in assuming to change the Creed of the Catholic Church by the addition of the filioque. Against such an assumption, without the authority of any General Council, and in defiance of the decree of the third, the whole Eastern Church reclaimed, by both denying the truth of the doctrine contained in the words, and the legitimacy of insertion if it were true. The subject was ventilated at the Council of Florence, translated from Ferrara, where, under extreme terror of the Turkish arms, the Greeks had consented, Anno 1439, to discuss the points necessary to a union with the Latin Church. For eleven days the arguments on both points, the legality and orthodoxy of the expression filioque, were continued, chiefly by Cardinal Julian on the part of the Latins, and Mark of Ephesus on that of the Greeks.

[28] On the substance of the doctrine, as might well be supposed, neither side was in reality convinced by the reasoning of their opponents. God will never propose for belief a contradiction to all the faculties with which He has endowed any created being, but, be it said with awe, He cannot reveal Himself without a mystery. That in the Godhead there is a Trinity in Unity is a mystery, however it may be said that fire, light, and air, constituting in nature one substance, and memory, will, and understanding in man one soul, exemplify its truth; but there is no contradiction. When, therefore, the Latin and Greek Churches contested the double procession of the Holy Ghost, in regard to its doctrinal truth, neither charged the other with propounding a contradiction, but each appealed to the voice of Scripture and of the Catholic Church. If, in the appeal to Scripture, the Greeks could claim the words of our Lord, the Spirit which proceedeth from the Father, and the absence of any express declaration of the procession of the third person of the Godhead from the Son, the Latins could, on their part, plead the less direct evidence that those very expressions spoken of the Holy Spirit in relation to the Father because he proceedeth from the Father, are also spoken of the same Spirit in relation to the Son. In the appeal to the early Fathers of the Church, the cause was more entangled. Almost wholly ignorant of the characters and names of the Latin saints, whose voice, there could be no doubt, sounded the double procession, the Greeks naturally and justly relied upon the testimony of those men of renown, of their own speech and nation, who, by their writings, had [28/29] first preached the Gospel to the world, and been the teachers of the West. The subtility of the Greek mind, in the appeal to their own Fathers, was an overmatch for that of the Latins; nor could it be denied that those Fathers observed a distinction in the use of the words from and by in the relations of the Holy Spirit to the Father and the Son, and in the use of the terms procession and reception, agreeable to the language of our Lord Himself. The Holy Ghost, which proceedeth from the Father, shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. They regarded the words of St. John Damascene as the sense and the echo of all that had gone before him. "Know, then, we do not say that the Father is from any. We say that He is the Father of the Son. We do not say that the Son is the fountain of Deity, nor that He is the Father. But we say that He is from the Father, and the Son of the Father. Moreover, we say, that the Holy Ghost is from the Father, and we call Him the Spirit of the Father. We do not say that the Spirit is from the Son; but we call Him the Spirit of the Son." To him, who like the present writer, has pondered the arguments and weighed the words of the disputants in the acts of the Council itself, or looked at them through the eyes of Petavius and Alexander, shall it be a reproach to confess that the reasoning alike on either side is unsatisfactory; that the disputants were all along in real agreement as to all necessary doctrine respecting the holy Trinity, that neither the Church nor her inspired record had removed the subject from among those which are unrevealed, because belonging to the Lord [29/30] our God, and that it so appears from the incomprehensible terms in which the Greeks and Latins assented to a reconciliation? They agreed that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son as from one principle and one substance; that He proceeds by the Son, being of the same nature and substance; and that He proceeds from the Father and the Son by one spiration and production.

When leaving the question of the orthodoxy of the insertion of the filioque into the Creed, the divines of Florence turned to that of its legality, the path of the Greeks was more if not altogether smooth. It could not be denied that two General Councils, Ephesus and Chalcedon, had, after the explications added at the previous General Council of Constantinople, positively prohibited any future additions. To the disgrace of their cause, the Latins produced an old manuscript of the Second Council of Nice with filioque in the Nicene Creed; a palpable forgery, of whose result they might have learned a lesson from a like attempt on a different occasion at the Council of Sardica. But they chiefly relied, in their answer to the Greeks claiming the inviolability of the Catholic Creed, upon the difference between an addition and an explication. The doctrine of the filioque, said the Archbishop of Rhodes and Cardinal Julian on the part of the Latins, is not properly an addition, being virtually contained in the declaration that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father, "and the bishop of Rome is empowered, when any doubt concerning faith arises, to solve the doubt, and the universal Church must obey his determination." "The [30/31] Roman pontiff," replied Bessarion, on the part of the Greeks, "has his privileges, but there are limits to them. We wish your reverence to understand that the power of altering the Creed is now withheld from the Universal Church. If we deny such right to the Universal Church, surely still more to the Roman. The prohibition of the fathers is to be understood of even a syllable or letter. Let us ask you, do these decrees and interdictions relate to faith or to something extraneous?" Upon Bessarion asking this question, the Latin disputants, who perceived the unavoidable consequence, held a conference with the Roman pontiff, "and though it was necessary to make some reply to what was said by the Bishop of Nice, they made none; but when the Bishop of Cologne spoke next, he gave no answer to the question." Such is the record in the acts of the Council itself.

Pressed by the afflictions which threatened, and afterward came upon their nation, the courage of the Greeks, with the exception of Mark of Ephesus, faltered and fell. It fell not, however, without a certain preservation of their dignity and of the truth they had maintained, by the terms in which they closed their concessions, avouching that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. The emperor himself, anxious to escape from Florence, more anxious to return home, assented to the union, on condition that the Latins "force us not to add to the Creed or change the rites of our Church." The hopes of the Greeks for the relief of Constantinople were futile, and the results of the Florentine Synod more widened than [31/32] soothed the asperities so long existing between the Greek and Latin Churches. Slight as was the preponderance in favor of the Vatican (for little more had been done in relation to the filioque than the grant of its use to the Western Churches), the Grecian deputies, on their return home, were, with the exception of Mark of Ephesus, received with a chorus of indignation for even the little they had yielded. The Western Churches still retain in the Nicene Creed the offensive interpretation, and the Eastern still reclaim against it, without, however, constituting the rejection of the doctrine itself a term of communion.

In the chastening but not inscrutable dealing of God with His Church, the history of the interpolation furnishes a lesson of charity, however far removed from indifference to truth. Words, written or spoken, being both divine gifts to man, are sufficient, when inspired by God, to convey to man ideas of divine truth, ideas adequate to that faith which is for the saving of the soul; for which end, in accordance with the freedom of the will, the grace of the Holy Spirit will always be bestowed. But the faculties of the human mind are not only limited, so limited that no truth is to it without a mystery it cannot fathom with its short plummet, but no two individuals possess those faculties naturally to the same extent. One man believes in God, but with shorter apprehension of Him, what He is and what His attributes, than another, and that other than an angel, and the angel than his superior among the nine hierarchies of heaven; yet the faith of the meanest intellect among men is of the same character as of [32/33] the highest, the highest indeed resembling the simple affiance of the child whom we are to be like ere we enter the kingdom of heaven, Christ's Church below as the type of His Church above. All divine truth hath its degrees, degrees in the apprehension of it, and all truth in the progress of this apprehension becomes saving truth to him whose eyes and heart are graciously opened to welcome it in the sense of advancing not only his light but his eternal interests. But all truth is not necessary to be known for Christian salvation, without whose belief none can be received into the Christian covenant. Hence did the Church, the one, holy, Catholic Church, in her third and fourth General Councils, under divine guidance, in the act of declaring what she had alone received from the beginning as essential truth, forbid harassing the minds of the faithful by further requirements as terms of communion. Hence, in her Creed, she did not propound or insert many things that are true, though the individual mind is responsible for the admission of all truth duly proposed. Under divine guidance, in her accomplished task of declaring what was essential truth and nothing beyond, she well understood that the ramifications of truth are endless, that the insertion of all truths would therefore be endless, endless the requirements from the faithful and hopeless their condition; that God demands no such knowledge as such insertion would involve, because He demands not impossibilities from His creatures. All truths partake of one common essence, and necessarily coincide with each other. From the one truth contained in the confession, I [33/34] believe in God, might be evolved every other truth by implication. The inference is unavoidable that when the Church, from whom, under divine guidance, we derive whatever truth we have, defined the mode of God's existence in a Trinity in Unity, with other truths to be believed as terms of admission into her pale, and then closed her record by prohibiting any further additions, she expressed her unalterable decree that all other truths were to be left to the subjection of her general voice uttered through the various portions of her realms, and to be respected according to their universality of reception, but not as terms of communion among those portions.

It is now more than three hundred years since, notwithstanding the voice of warning from the interpolated filioque, a renewed attempt was made, under the same auspices, and perhaps from the same ambitious cause (a portion of the Catholic Church assuming to dictate to the whole), to add again, be they right or wrong, true or false, new articles, as terms of communion, to that faith which the General Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon had declared unalterable, unchangeable, and sufficient. But it was not without the controlling providence of God, that the Council of Trent, which might fitly be termed the revived sunodoV lhstrikh of the fifth century, in adding twelve new articles, not even explications, to the Catholic Creed, was overruled to pronounce its own condemnation. In the ever-memorable words of its first session, that council declares the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan Creed to be the "scutum fidei, in quo possunt omnia tela nequissimi extinguere," [34/35] "the shield of faith by which may be extinguished all the fiery darts of Satan;" and again, the shield "against all heresies, by which alone heretofore infidels were drawn to the faith, heretics vanquished, and the faithful established;" and again, the "fundamentum firmum et unicum contra quod portae inferi nunquam praevalebunt," "the sure and only foundation against which the gates of hell shall never prevail." Either, then, heresies are no parts of the interpretation of the gates of hell in our Lord's promise, or there are none except such as are contrary to the doctrine of the Creed, against which and which only the promise is given that the gates of hell shall not prevail. In a word, Christendom accepts such a decree; Christendom sanctions and echoes the utterance of the Fathers of the second Council held at Constantinople Anno 518, though not ecumenical, "that the holy creed or symbol in which we are all baptized is that which the Synod of Nice by the Holy Ghost declared, the convention of the Holy Fathers in Constantinople proclaimed, the Holy Synod in Ephesus confirmed, and the great Holy Synod in Chalcedon sealed." In a word, Christendom still returns the far-off echo of the voice of Claudius, emperor of Ethiopia, Anno 1555, whatever the tincture of his skin: "We walk in the royal, plain, and true way, and do not turn aside, either to the right hand or to the left, from the doctrine of our Fathers, the twelve Apostles, and of Paul, the fountain of wisdom, and of the seventy-two Disciples, and of the three hundred and eighteen Orthodox Fathers that were gathered together, at Nice, and of the one hundred and fifty at Constantinople, and the two hundred at Ephesus."


Ta arcaia eqh krateitw.--Council of Nice.

When our Lord conferred on all His Apostles the sacerdotal power, in the words, receive ye the Holy Ghost, he gave it in such plenitude, involving the indefectible succession of their office, that there could be nothing greater. As my Father hath sent me, so send I you. But this plenitude, though not conferred on the Apostles as a college, but in their individual capacities, was conferred in a coparcenary, a term of law, which perhaps better than any other, expresses the relation of the Apostles and their successors, the bishops, as they are now called, through all time to each other--a relation such, that in the golden words of St. Cyprian, "Episcopatus unus est, cujus a singulis in solidum pars tenetur." Consecration to the apostolic or episcopal office is not consecretion for any particular part, but for the whole Catholic Church; and hence, each bishop being ejusdem meriti, ejusdem sacerdotii, in the language of St. Jerome, is guardian, by Divine right, of the interests and the faith of every part. But the nature of man, and the welfare of the Church, soon required that the successors of the Apostles should be other than bishops at large. The laws of the Church, therefore, confined all bishops to certain localities, which, originally called parishes, though including many presbyters and deacons, were the dioceses of modern parlance, embracing the jurisdiction of a bishop over his clergy and [36/37] laity. But the like necessities or conveniences of the Church, whether in the age of the Apostles themselves, or, as is more probable, soon after their decease, called for the introduction of Metropolitans, bishops of the civil metropolis, in whom the neighboring bishops recognized certain superior powers for the good of the whole. The rapid and wide spread growth of the Church again required an arrangement, which, though it could not affect the equality of all bishops in sacerdotal power by Divine right, should give rank, precedence, and peculiar privileges to certain sees under the name of Patriarchates. This name was, indeed, first used by the historian Socrates, and eleven years after by the Council of Chalcedon, Anno 451; but the rank and office itself was of earlier origin, the Church deeming it useful to accommodate her own ecclesiastical arrangements to the civil divisions of the Roman empire. To the parishes or cities and adjacent country, the provinces embracing several cities, and dioceses containing many provinces, of the civil division, after the last had been introduced probably by Constantine, were conformed respectively, the episcopal, the metropolitical, and patriarchal divisions of the Church. The episcopal office itself, the divine institution of Bishop, in sacerdotal power the highest, was in that respect unalterable; but the Church reserved to herself the right, in her General Councils, of changing the order of rank even among the Patriarchs themselves. Thus, the bishop of Constantinople, from being no Patriarch, was raised Anno 381 to be second after Rome, and above the three other chief patriarchates, until, at the Council [37/38] of Chaleedon, he was endowed with equal privileges isa presbeia to those of old Rome itself. The whole matter, indeed, was preserved to the Church's will, according to times and circumstances. Thus, also, did she exempt certain churches, under the title autocephalous, from the jurisdiction of even the three chief patriarchates, Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch, to which Jerusalem and Constantinople were afterward added as also chief; for in all there were fourteen patriarchates in the Roman empire.

Of these autocephalous or independent churches, the British church was one. When, therefore, in the early part of the sixteenth century, in obedience to one decree of the General Council of Ephesus, she proclaimed her sense of the not only additions but corrupt doctrines which had been introduced into Western Christendom, she acted, while perpetuating the apostolic succession within her pale, in like obedience to another decree of that great Council, which exempted her from all foreign jurisdiction, by what is known as the Cyprium jus. In the seventh action of that General Council, Anno 431, Reginus, bishop of Cyprus, complained of the Bishop or Patriarch of Antioch, usurping the right of ordinations within his isle. The case was maturely considered, and the decree was passed, "that the Cyprian churches shall, according to ancient practice, exercise the right of ordaining inviolable," and it was then added, "the same rule shall be observed in all other dioceses and provinces whatsoever, so that no bishop shall occupy another province which has not been subject to him from the beginning, [38/39] and if ho shall have made such occupation or seizure, let him make restitution." This autocephalous character belonged to the British church, agreeable to this Ephesine canon, from the beginning, from the entrance of St. Paul to preach the Gospel, or be it some other Apostle or other holy man. For six hundred years from that entrance the records of man show no claim, metropolitical or patriarchal, to the right of ordinations, of appeals, of the calling of councils or the exercise of any act of jurisdiction from abroad. The history of that era when, Anno 596, Gregory I., bishop of Rome, with commendable zeal sent the presbyter and monk Augustin, to convert the pagan Saxons, conquerors of the isle, is as familiar as household words. The missionary was successful; but not content with his success among the Saxon pagans, he sought to bring the ancient British church, into which new vigor had been infused by its conquest of Pelagianism in the fifth century, under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome and a conformity to the usages of that see. A conference was held between the British bishops and Augustin, who had been consecrated in France, probably through the Greek succession. The conference was held at a place called Augustin's Ac or Oak, in Worcestershire, perhaps the modern Ossentree, a corruption for Austin's tree, as the synod against St. Chrysostom is called Synodus ad Quercum from a similar cause. The propositions offered to the British bishops, that they should keep Easter and administer baptism, according to the Roman usage, and own the authority of the bishop of Rome, were refused. "The British churches," said the Abbot [39/40] Dinoth, speaking in the name of the rest who were present, "owe the deference of brotherly kindness to the Church of God, to the pope of Rome, and to all Christians. Other obedience than this they know not as due to him called Pope. They are under obedience to the bishop of Carleon upon Usk, who, under God, is their spiritual overseer and director." Whatever minor objections may be framed to any particulars in a narrative of such antiquity, objections, however, to which replies have been amply given, it is beyond question that the refusal of the British church to receive the dictates of Augustin, as representing the authority of the bishop of Rome, was a denial of that authority, was an avowal of its independence in conformity with the decree of the Ephesine Council, and manifested an entire inacquaintance with any claim of any one of the successors of the Apostles, the chair of St. Peter, the chair of St. James, or any other, to possess supremacy by divine right in the Church of God. That prerogative the British church knew in the seventh century, as she avouches now in the nineteenth, to belong solely to Him who is head over all things to the Church. A Divine right admits of no disclaimer. The British church did disclaim to Augustin the authority of the bishop of Rome, therefore she did disclaim any such his Divine right, whether she then knew or knew not the same disclaimer of the then bishop of Rome himself, who, in a letter to the Patriarch of Alexandria, had written: "If you treat me with the title of Universal Bishop, you exclude yourself from an equality of privilege;" and again, to the bishop of Antioch, "Should one bishop [40/41] have the title of Universal, if that universal bishop err, the whole Church must fall with him." The British bishops were not ignorant of the laws of the Catholic Church, when they held their conference with Augustin. They had been represented at the great Council of Aries, probably at the ecumenical Council of Nice; and they but echoed the voice of those laws, when they avouched their own independence, while the equality, in all sacerdotal power, of all bishops, was a principle, which, at that era, was nowhere called in question. Gradually, in after-ages, the attempted overthrow of this equality, by establishing an earthly monarch in the Church, of God, with all episcopal jurisdiction from him, united itself with, if it did not wholly work, the introduction of new and strange dogmas as necessary parts of a Christian faith.

Well worthy, therefore, was it, of the British church, to awake again her warning and protestant voice, which had never been wholly silent, against those new and strange dogmas; to awake it at the moment, when, in the sixteenth century, the providence of God gave her the power to regain her autocephalous independence, that jus Cyprium, which she had asserted in the seventh century, and under which the laws of the Catholic Church had exempted her from all ecclesiastical domination from abroad. In this regard well might the testimony be wrung from one himself outwardly attached to the Roman schism: "Insula Britannia gavisa est olim privilegio Cyprio. Hoc autem privilegium cum tempore Henrici Octavi totius regni consensu fuerit restitutum, videtur pacis ergo retineri debere [41/42] absque schismatis ullius nota. The island of Britain rejoiced of old in the Cyprian privilege. But, as this privilege was restored in the time of Henry the Eighth, it seems that it ought to be retained without stain of any schism." "When, therefore, the Roman Church withdrew from communion with the British church in the sixteenth century, she repeated, however modified the form and the occasion, the same act of schism, by which she tore herself from all the patriarchates of the old Greek Church which had been the earliest teacher of the faith in Christendom; and thus, apart from the corrupt additions she had made to the faith once for all delivered to the saints, became doubly schismatical, the mother and mistress of all the schisms which at this day afflict the Catholic Church.

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