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HISTORY OF THE PAPAL POWER.
not by them only, but by the kings of the earth, and the great mass of their subjects also, who basely resigned their consciences to the dictation of the clergy, and thereby became partakers of their evil deeds.
The history of the Papal power is a subject deeply interesting to all who name the name of Christ; and the time is come when it ought to be studied by every man, and that with intense application. It is not the history of Christ's Kingdom, but of a kingdom opposed to it, subverting, supplanting, counteracting, its influence in the world, and doomed to a widely different end. It is, nevertheless, very manifest that much is said of it in the apostolic writings, and particularly in the Apocalypse, of which its history constitutes the main subject; and when we call to mind that a blessing is promised to such as “read, and hear, and observe the words of that prophetical book," Rev. i. 3, we may at least infer its vast importance. I have repeatedly touched upon this topic in these Lectures, called your attention to the rise and spirit of this Antichristian Kingdom, and shown how much the alliance between church and state contributed to nurse, and cherish, and foster it; but it still remains for us to mark its progress in the world, and the various steps by which it advanced to its plenitude of power : and to this specific object the present Lecture shall be devoted.
I have shown you in a former Lecture, that, originally, the bishops of Rome were nothing more than any other bishops, that is, they were the elders, presbyters, or pastors of a society of Christians, assembling together for the worship of God, and their mutual edification, in the city of Rome. Of authority and power, they had none, but what they derived from the church in which they were called to preside in conducting public worship; or in teaching, admonishing, exhorting, and preserving order in the house of God. They had no dominion over the faith of their brethren, and were merely helpers of their joy. They were the servants of the church for Jesus' sake ; and such of them as imbibed the true spirit of their office took the oversight of their brethren, “ not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage, but as ensamples to the flock :” and they were animated to a discharge of their duty by the promise that, “when the chief shepherd shall appear,
they should receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away,” 1 Pet. v. 2–4. How then came the popes, who are no other than the successors of those elders, or pastors, to obtain the rank and authority that they have subsequently acquired ? How, from being in the lowest state of persecution, in common with other Christians, and having nothing to do with secular affairs so far as their office was concerned—how came they to be the greatest of all persecutors themselves, and to rise to a greater plenitude of spiritual and temporal power than any sovereign, however despotic by law or constitution, ever attained ? How, from being mere subjects, came this class of priests to become not only princes, but the most imperious lords of their former masters, possessed too of an ecclesiastical power still more absolute and extensive than their civil power? In the whole history of human affairs, another example of so astonishing a change in the condition of any order of men, whether civil or ecclesiastical, is not to be found. I shall, therefore, endeavour to point out some of the many steps by which this was brought about, confining myself however to the interval which elapsed from the fifth to the eighth century.
I mentioned to you on a former occasion a distinction which was early broached in the Christian church, and in process of time obtained currency, between the bishop and the elder or presbyter, for which there does not appear to be the shadow of a foundation in the New Testament; but, having touched upon this subject at the conclusion of the last Lecture, I shall not dwell upon it in this place further than to remark, that its adoption and general currency were productive of the most fatal results in the churches of Christ. The apostles, by divine appointment, in setting the churches in order, ordained in every church a plurality of bishops or elders, Acts xiv. 23—that is, of overseers or presbyters—who were equal in degree and authority ; for their office, and their duties were the same, Now it is obvious that had the churches rigidly adhered to the pattern thus set them, maintaining the identity of the office and official duties of bishop and elder, and the perfect equality of such as were invested with that office, the arrogant assumption of any one man over his fellows or colleagues never could have taken place. But though bishops were originally no other than pres
HISTORY OF THE PAPAL POWER.
byters, or elders, no sooner was the distinction between them established, than the former began to appropriate certain functions exclusively to themselves: there were official duties, in the discharge of which the presbyters might not interfere, such as the ordaining of elders and deacons in any destitute church; and, as the Christian profession became more and more corrupted by the inventions of men, the number of these exceptions became also multiplied to a great extent.
But another thing which contributed greatly to the increase of the evil under consideration was the assembling of the clergy in synods, to deliberate about affairs of common concern to the whole body—a custom which began about the middle of the second century. By this means the power of the clergy was considerably augmented, and the privileges of the people proportionally diminished. Bishops alone were honoured to attend these synods; and though at first, when assembled in convoca · tion, they acknowledged themselves to be no more than the deputies of the people, they did not long retain that style, but enacted decrees by their own authority, and at length claimed a power of prescribing in matters of both faith and discipline.
For the more orderly holding of these assemblies, some one bishop, in an extensive district, was authorized, by common consent, to convene his peers, and to preside among them; and this being generally allotted to the bishop of the metropolis, or the 2ti2/2/2 /2/2/\/2 \/2g22 22/2 /2/2/2/2/2/22/22ti2m/m2/mm2m22 tropolitan, or Archbishop. This latter title was first adopted by Athanasius, afterwards by Epiphanius, and from the year 430 it became common in the church. Thus we have the first and second steps in the ladder by which Antichrist ascended his throne. : But, grand and imposing as was the title of Archbishop, it was not long before a superior to him was found in what was termed the Patriarch. This was an honorary title conferred on the bishops of the most important sees; such as Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. These patriarchs had all equal power, and differed only in respect of rank and precedency; the bishop of Rome being considered the first in rank, and this out of respect to the city in which he presided. It seems manifest, also, that, as Rome was the capital of the
empire, the dignity of the city, and the immense wealth and large revenues of that see, contributed not a little to augment the authority and influence of the bishop above that of the other patriarchs. Besides which, as it had been the custom to appeal to imperial Rome in all great civil cases ; so, when differences of opinion arose in the churches at a distance, it was natural for each party to wish to have the sanction of the see of Rome; and hence the frequent appeals that were made to the bishop of Rome, for the settlement of ecclesiastical matters, contributed its quota also to the evil in question.
The title of Pope (Latin papa) simply means a father ; a title which was not originally peculiar to the bishop of Rome, but in early times was commonly applied to other bishops, especially in the greater sees. Thus Cornelius, bishop of Rome, called Cyprian the pope of Carthage, and it was not until about the beginning of the seventh century that the bishops of Rome appropriated that title to themselves; but this is a subject to which we shall have occasion to return hereafter.
The claims to supremacy which, during the preceding centuries, had been asserted by the bishops of Rome, were at first but faintly urged, and promoted by artful and almost imperceptible means. They now, however, began to insist upon the superiority as a divine right attached to their see, which they contended had been founded by the apostle Peter, to whom Christ had given “the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” And this arrogant claim, which had appeared conspicuously enough in the conduct of the bishops of Rome during the fourth century, was in the fifth no longer concealed, or cautiously promulgated. A pope of the name of Leo was the first that claimed jurisdiction over other churches on the ground of his being the successor of St. Peter; and when it was decreed at the council of Chalcedon that the see of Constantinople should be second to that of Rome with respect to rank, assigning as a reason for it the pre-eminence of the city, this pope was quite dissatisfied, because his pre-eminence was not founded on something more stable than the dignity of the city, and wished to have it rest on the authority of St. Peter as the founder of the see.* And from this time
* Sueur. A. D. 451.
HISTORY OF THE PAPAL POWER.
we find this foundation for the pre-eminence of the see of Rome urged with the greatest confidence ; and, what is most extraordinary, it does not appear to have been much disputed, though the ground on which it is assumed has slender claims to credibility. In a synod held at Rome, A. D. 494, Gelasius contended that the church of Rome ought to be preferred to all others, not on account of the decrees of councils, but for the words of Christ.“ Thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build my church !” But, however excessive their claims, or extensive their authority in matters both ecclesiastical and secular, they still remained subject, first to the jurisdiction of the Gothic kings, and afterwards to the emperors of Constantinople. Nevertheless, such was the extensive influence of the papal intrigues, that there were few among the princes of the western empire that 'were not virtually brought into a state of subjection to the authority of the bishops of Rome, before the end of the fifth century.
The bishopric of Rome was so elevated a station, and lying open as it did to the ambition of many, we cannot wonder that it was eagerly contested, and often obtained by fraud, chicanery, or other practices alike repugnant to the spirit of the gospel. In the course of the sixth century, no fewer than three violent contests arose between rival candidates and their partisans for its occupation. Symmachus and Laurentius, who had been elevated to the vacant see by different parties, continued for several years to assert their discordant claims. After repeated struggles, the former ultimately prevailed ; and in this contest he was greatly assisted by Ennodias, the bishop of Pavia, who employed the most abject flattery in behalf of Symmachus, whom he blasphemously styles “ Judge in the place of the Most High, and God's vicegerent on earth.”
Not long after this, the church catholic was again divided by the reciprocal claims of Boniface and Dioscorus; but the premature decease of the latter terminated this clerical war. The century, however, did not close without exhibiting a scene equally disgraceful. A prelate, whose name was Vigilius, intrigued at court to procure the deposition of the reigning bishop Silverus, and the latter was deprived of his dignities and driven into exile. He appealed to the emperor Justinian, who espoused