The state of these dioceses in the sixth century.
WE do not find so many authors of these dioceses in the sixth century, as we have had in the foregoing; but however, those we have of them are sufficient to inform us what their state was. I begin with St. Caesarius, Bishop of Arles, who assisted at the Council of Agde in the year 502, and died in 542; so that he reached almost the middle of this century. This great man fully represents the notion that he had of the Eucharist, when he shews, that in baptism there is the same change, and the same presence of the blood of Jesus Christ, which he owns in the Eucharist; as appears in the 4th and 5th Homily. But in his 7th Homily he speaks in such a manner as needs no commentary:
“And therefore since he was now about to withdraw his assumed body from our eyes, and carry it up to heaven, it was needful that the same day he should consecrate for us the sacrament of his body and blood, that he might continually be remembered by the mystery which was once offered up for our redemption:” that so seeing his intercession for the salvation of man was daily and continual, the offering up of our redemption might he perpetual also, that this everlasting sacrifice might live in our memory, and be always present by grace.
2. Though he speaks of the Eucharist as changed into the body of Jesus Christ by the power of God, yet he maintains that it is by faith, and by the acts of understanding, that we can partake thereof. See how he speaks to a Christian who hath been regenerated by baptism. “Wherefore as without any bodily feeling, having laid aside what before thou esteemedst advantageous, thou art suddenly become clothed with a new dignity; and as it is not thy eyes, but thy understanding that persuades thee that God hath healed what was wounded in thee, blotted out thy sins, and washed away thy stains; so when thou goest up to the venerable altar to be satisfied with food, thou mayest see the sacred body and blood of thy God by faith, admire it with reverence, reach it with thy mind, receive it with thy heart, and above all, take it in with thy soul.”
3. He expressly asserts, that the body which the Priest distributes is as well in a little part as in the whole; which agrees only with the Sacrament, and not with the natural body of Jesus Christ.
4. He maintains, that the oblation of the bread and wine made by Melchizedeck did typically signify the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; which is absolutely false, if it be true that the consecration destroys the nature of the things offered, as the Church of Rome believes. Hear what he saith:
“He therefore, in Melchizedeck, (whose genealogy or original was unknown to those of that time) by the offering of bread and wine did foreshew this sacrifice of Christ: of whom the prophet pronounceth, Thou art a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchizedeck. And blessed Moses also speaking of this mystery, signifies the wine and blood with one word; Long before, (pointing at the Lord’s passion) in the blessing of the patriarch, he shall wash his garment in wine, and his clothes in the blood of the grape. Mark how evidently it appears, that the creature wine is called the blood of Christ. Consider what thou art further to inquire concerning this twofold species, seeing the Lord himself witnesseth; Except saith he, you shall eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you; which testimony is a most evident and strong argument against the blasphemies of Pelagius, who impiously presumes to maintain that baptism ought to be conferred upon infants, not to obtain life, but to attain the kingdom of heaven: for by these words of our Lord pronounced by the Evangelist, you shall not have life in you, is plainly understood that every soul that hath not been baptized is not only deprived of glory, but life also.”
Lastly, in the same sermon, he saith, in conformity with the notion of St. Cyprian, about the mixture of the water with the wine in the chalice, that by the water is represented the figure of the nations, and by the wine the blood of the passion of our Savior, which supposeth the subsistence of the wine, as well as of the water, and utterly overthrows the doctrine of transubstantiation.
2. He overturns the notion of the Romish purgatory, and follows here also the sentiments of those of the ancients who removed purgatory to the last day of judgment.
“But if neither in our tribulations we bless God, nor redeem our sins by good works, we shall so long abide in that purgatory till all our lesser sins be consumed, like wood, hay, and stubble. But somebody may say, What matter is it how long I stay there, so I may but at last pass through into eternal life? Let no man say so, most dear brethren, forasmuch as this purgatory fire is more painful than any thing that can be thought, seen, or felt in this world. And seeing it is writ of the day of judgment, that it shall be one day, how can any one know whether he may be days, months, or even years, in passing through it?”
3. In his 12th Homily he exhorts the people not to go out of the church on Sundays, before the celebration of the Eucharist; and makes the prayers of the priest to appear ridiculous, when there are no communicants to receive: to whom, saith he, shall the priest say, Sursum corda? But we are especially to observe, that when he presses the greatness of the sacrifice of the mass, and the adoration due to the Sacrament, he says never a word of what some Popish orator would represent to us on the like occasion.
4. In the 20th Homily he exhorts the country people to read the Scriptures, and removes all excuses which they might make to avoid this duty, with as much earnestness as those of the Church of Rome expressed, when they would dissuade their auditors from the reading of it.
5. The 38th Homily is a collection of several places of Scripture, treating of the means by which remission of sins is granted to us. He reckons up there twelve several means, where we are to take notice, first, that he doth not speak one word of confessing to a priest, nor of the power God hath bestowed on them to pardon sins, as judges, which at present is the great and only mean to obtain the pardon of sin; those other, whereof St. Caesarius speaks, being of no use without the pardons pronounced by the priest, in the tribunal of confession. That which is here peculiar is, that though he has said a very great deal about the efficacy of contrition for the remission of sins, in his 29th Homily he has not been able to avoid the caute lege of the Romish censors, as we may see in the Bibliotheca Patrum, of the Paris edition. Secondly, we are to observe, that whereas the Church of Rome pretends to find the sacrament of extreme unction and auricular confession in the fifth chapter of St. James’s Epistle; Caesarius discovers nothing there, but the Christian duty of praying one for another, proceeding from the charity we owe to our neighbor. Ruricius was Bishop of Limoges from the year 535, in which he assisted at the first Council of Auvergne: he assisted also at the fourth Council of Orleans in 541, and at the fifth in 549.
We have nothing left us of this Prelate, save his two books of Epistles; though even there we can inform ourselves about several very important matters, which demonstrate what the faith was that was then received and embraced in Aquitain.
1. He takes for granted that dying persons are immediately taken up into heaven; so far is he from mentioning purgatory. See in what manner he comforts Namacius and Ceraunia, for the loss of their son. “Indeed you have reason to take a great deal of comfort from the will of Christ, since untimely death was his lot, that he has been pleased to take him away in that state, to which he pronounceth the kingdom of heaven to belong, that at the same time you might have a patron instead of a son, and leave off deploring him as lost, whom you see the Lord hath taken to himself.”
And in another place: “Wherefore let your faith wipe off your tears, since we believe that those who are dear to us do not lose their life, but change it, they leave this world full of sorrows, and hasten to the region of the blessed, and take their leave of this painful pilgrimage, that they may arrive at the land of rest.”
2. He supposeth Abraham’s bosom and heaven to be the same thing, when he brings in a young woman that enjoyed the glory of heaven, speaking after this manner:
“Wherefore, my loving parents, rather bewail your own sins, and seriously think of redeeming your own crimes, that if you love me in Christ, you may be thought worthy to be admitted into the Patriarch’s bosom, where the Lord, according to the purity of my innocence, and his great kindness, has placed me,” etc.
3. He exhorts a lady of his acquaintance to the reading of holy Scripture, when he sent her a painter.
“But,” saith he, “you ought to look for more perfect and great instruments in those divine writings from whence these are taken, if ever you desire to perfect what you have begun, or attain what is promised you. If you thus seek, the Lord will give you both knowledge and strength to understand what you read, and keep what you understand.”
St. Ferreolus, Bishop of Uzez, must not be forgot by us: he was chosen in the year 553, and died in 581. We find in the rule that he writ for Monks, that he settled in his diocese an uncommon strain of piety.
1. We do not find him to demand the approbation of this his rule at Rome, as has been done for some ages since. He sends to the Bishop of Die, to desire his advice, and afterwards published it with the approbation only of that Bishop, without troubling himself about any other authority.
2. He orders his Monks to work with their hands, that they might not be chargeable to the public, as all the orders of Mendicants are at this time.
3. He receives none but such as are come to men’s estate, and will have them tried before they be admitted; whereas St. Bennet ordained, that those whom their parents had presented to a monastery, should from their infancy be received and abide there.
4. He will have the great employment of the Monks to be the reading of the Psalms, which he will have them go through every week.
5. He will have them on anniversary days of the martyrdom of the saints, to read the acts of their martyrdom, for a worthy celebration of the memory of their passion; but not a word of encouraging the Monks to offer up prayers to them on these solemn days.
6. Above all he requires of every Monk daily to read the Scripture, and not to dispense with it upon any pretense, or because of any other business whatsoever.
Fortunatus was born in Italy, but coming into France in the year 575, he stayed there in the service of St. Radegunda, and was ordained Priest at Poictiers, where he lived in great reputation till the end of that century. Some will have him to have been raised to the episcopal dignity in the same city, but this appears to be wholly uncertain. Gregorius Turonensis, who often mentions him as his friend, never gives him any other title but that of Priest. However it be, it appears by his writings that he was very far from Popery; in these following articles.
1. He never in the Life of St. Martin attributes to that holy man, that upon any occasion he prayed to the saints for the working of his miracles. This we may see in his relation of St. Martin’s raising a child to life.
2. He looks upon all Bishops as the Vicars of St. Peter; accordingly he saith to the Bishop of Metz; Apparet Petri vos meruisse vices: It appears you have deserved to be St. Peter’s Vicar.
3. We meet with nothing more commonly in the epitaphs which he made than this notion, that deceased believers are in heaven; from such expressions as these; Hunc tenet ulna Dei. Inter apostolicos credimus esse choros. Non hanc flere decet, quam Paradisus habet. Accordingly also he maintains that Abraham’s bosom is the heavenly glory.
Lastly, it appears from an exposition he hath made on the Apostles’ Creed, that he owned no doctrines, besides those contained in that ancient formulary, as articles of his faith, because he makes no mention at all of those new articles which the Church of Rome hath added to that Creed, and which she imposeth on her people, as another part of that which makes the object of faith.
It cannot be denied but that the spirit of superstition had already made a considerable progress in all places; we meet with an illustrious example thereof in the diocese of Marseilles, which joined to Gallia Narbonensis: the people there began to render a religious worship to images, whereupon Serenus, the Bishop of Marseilles, was forced to follow the method of St. Epiphanius, in breaking the images to pieces, which drew upon him the censures of Gregory I. who exhorts him to erect them again, though he commends him for having opposed himself to their adoration, and exhorts him carefully to instruct the people, to prevent their falling again into idolatry. And it is natural to conclude, that this excess of the people met with the same checks in many other places.