The state of the dioceses of Aquitain and Narbon, in the seventh century.


I AM come to the seventh century, of which I have two pieces of great authority to produce: the first concerns the purity of these dioceses, in regard to their faith. There was a council held at Toledo in the year 633, whereat Silva, Bishop of Narbon, assisted, in the name of the Bishops of Gallia Narbonensis, and they began the Synod with a confession of faith, which shews, beyond all controversy, that nothing was looked upon by them as an article of faith, that was not received for such in the creed of the ancient Christians; for there was not so much as one word to be found there of all those articles which the Church of Rome imposeth upon those of her communion, as an addition to the primitive faith.

The second regards the practice of the public acts of religion, and that is the Gothic Liturgy, which of a long time was used in these dioceses; wherefore to make a fuller discovery of the religion of these provinces, it will be of importance to make some remarks upon this Liturgy, which was in use there.

It is not probable that all the parts of it are of equal antiquity, as may be seen by the office of the assumption of the blessed Virgin in soul and body, which was rejected in France, as a thing uncertain, towards the end of the ninth century, according to the testimony of Usuardus. One may make the same judgment of divers other offices, which are found in this Gothic Liturgy; the barbarism which appears in all its parts sufficiently shows its age: in the mean time, such as it is, it does not want the marks of a considerable purity, which, it seems, obliged Gregory VII. to abolish and suppress it with all his might.

1. We find in it the recital of the Apostles’ Creed, as the only profession of faith, which the Churches of these provinces required of those who would be partakers of her communion.

2. We do not find in it any prayer addressed to saints. It supposeth all along, from one end to the other, that the saints pray in general for the Church; and on this ground it is, that therein they desire God to have regard to their prayers, and to receive their intercession, their suffrages, and so forth. There is no greater stress laid upon the power of the blessed Virgin with God, than on that of the patriarchs and apostles, yea, of the anchorets and virgins. True it is, that there is a solemn commemoration of divers saints, but it may easily be perceived, that it is only done out of a design to glorify God, by representing to themselves their examples, and forming or disposing themselves to imitate them. This is done in the office of St. Forrestus and Ferucio. We find divers confessions to God before the Liturgy, but none at all made to angels, to the blessed Virgin, or saints, as at this day is done in the Romish mass.

3. We find there no particular distinction for the Bishop of Rome, only that the Bishop of the city of Rome is called the first of Bishops. Mabillon in his preface triumphs because of this title, but he is extremely out in his account; for hath the first Bishop any jurisdiction over the second? the second over the third? We find there the prayer for the feast of St. Peter, but with a clause which Mabillon owns to be found in all the ancient missals, and is struck out of the Roman Liturgy, in order to extend the Papal monarchy over all the earth. We do not find therein the least footstep of prayers for the Pope, which shews that the decree of the Council of Vaison, wherein it was ordained that prayers should be made to God for the Bishop of Rome, was not observed throughout Gaul; yea, what is more, the same Liturgy gives the title of Head of the Church to St. Paul, as well as to St. Peter.

We find therein no adoration of the cross on Good-Friday.

4. We find therein an office for St. Saturninus, Bishop of Toulouse, who is looked upon as come from the eastern parts, in the place of St. Peter, which shews that all the Bishops of France considered themselves as the Vicars of St. Peter, as well as the Bishop of Rome: Si quidem ipse Pontifex tuus ab orientis partibus in urbem Tolosatium destinatus, Roma, Garonae invicem Petri tui, tam cathedram, quam martyrium consummavit.

“For this your Bishop being sent from the east to Toulouse, instead of Rome, has now upon the Garonne filled the chair, and consummated the martyrdom of your Peter.”

5. We find therein that the confession of St. Peter was the foundation of the Church; and the festival of his chair is therein referred to his bishopric. Testis est dies hodierna beati Petri cathedra episcopatus exposita: in qua fidei merito revelationis mysterium, Filium Dei, confitendo, Praelatus Apostolus ordinatur. In cujus confessione est fundamentum Ecclesiae; nec adversus hanc petram portae inferi praevalent.

“St. Peter’s episcopal chair, which is shewn to this day, can testify this; wherein by reason of his faith, when he confessed that mystery that was then revealed, even the Son of God, he was ordained a Bishop. In whose confession is the foundation of the Church; neither shall the gates of hell prevail against this rock.”

6. We read there, that the gates of hell do not signify errors, as the Church of Rome will have it, but the state of the dead, from whence the faith which St. Peter hath professed delivers those who imitate him:

“Let us pray,” saith he, “that the souls of the deceased being brought up out of hell, the infernal gates may not prevail over the dead, because of their crimes, which the Church believes are overcome by the faith of the Apostle.”

7. We find there, as in the Romish mass, an high abjuration of the doctrine of the merit of works: and though we find the word merit often used in it, yet we also meet with those necessary explications of it, as are sufficient to hinder any wrong impression that may be made by a word of an ambiguous sense.

8. I do own that we find in it the prayer for the dead, but there are a hundred other passages which speak them to be in peace, in the peace of God, that they are at rest; and other expressions, which very plainly import that they had not received the notion of purgatory, no more than the authors of the Roman Liturgy had at that time.

I know there are some passages in it, which seem to suppose the souls departed to be in a place of torment; but I have two things to say to this point; the one is, that those missals, whose style comes near to the belief of the Church of Rome, are of a later date: the other is, that the ordinary article, pro pausantibus, for those who are at rest, imports nothing like a place of torment. To these two considerations we may add, that what is ordinarily requested for them, is either that they may have a part in the first, that is to say, a more early resurrection, which is the same with the opinion of the millennium: or that they may be written in the book of life, or carried into Abraham’s bosom: which shews that the state of souls after death was not more certainly determined by those who governed these churches at this time, than by the members of the Catholic Church any where else.

We read that there are divers flocks, whereof each Bishop is the pastor, as well St. Cyprian as Cornelius. Indeed we find that to every bishop is given the title of summus Pontifex, and summus Sacerdos.

“Grant unto us, Lord, who this day are celebrating the anniversary of the decease of thy high Priest and our Father, Bishop Martin.”

We see there the manner of administering baptism, with the unction or anointing called the chrismation; but we do not find that they made two sacraments of them, as the Church of Rome has since done.

We find there also the consecration of wax tapers, but yet without ascribing to them all those virtues which the Church of Rome attributes to her consecrated tapers in the Roman order.

But I go on to that which is most considerable in this Liturgy. Mabillon, who hath published it in France, according to the copy printed at Rome, pretends that it expressly shews, that the Churches which made use of this Liturgy held the doctrine of the real presence. If, instead of some passages that he quotes, we could find there a precise order for adoring the Sacrament after consecration, as being become the body of Jesus Christ, which we do not find in any part of it, there would, indeed, be some ground for his pretension; but there is not so much as a word to this purpose; which makes it evident, that in these dioceses they had not received this doctrine, nor the natural consequences of it, any more than in any other part of the Catholic Church; for we find that as soon as ever this opinion was entertained, it was immediately followed with supreme adoration.

Neither do we find any thing therein of the sacrifice of the mass, any more than of the adoration of the Sacrament, which is another consequence of the real presence.

We do not find any masses there without communicants. St. Caesarius, whom I have already cited, would have accounted them ridiculous, and a mere profanation.

Lastly, we do not find that the communion under one kind was there thought to be a consequent, as it hath been in the Church of Rome, of the real presence: and yet one would think that the fear of profaning the blood of Jesus Christ, as being very subject to be spilt, ought to have obliged them to take the same precautions as the Church of Rome has since done to prevent such dreadful, and yet such common, inconveniences.

If Mabillon had well considered these essential defects, which a Papist cannot but naturally meet with in this Gothic Liturgy, in all appearance he would not have been so lavish of his judgment. But without making use of these just anticipations, upon the matter in hand, let us consider a little, whether the attentive examination of the Liturgy be not sufficient to clear these prejudices, and oblige him to put another sense upon the words, which he hath wrested to confirm his assertion.

The characters we meet with in this Liturgy are these:

1. It makes a great distinction between that which is taken with the mouth, and that which is received by the heart. Grant, O Lord, that what we have taken with our mouths, we may receive with our minds, and that the temporal gift may be to us an eternal remedy. This observation is decretory; for the transubstantiators own that both good and bad receive the body of Christ. Goffridus Vindocinensis expressly asserts it, notwithstanding that St. Augustin has rejected it as a great absurdity.

2. It supposeth likewise that Jesus Christ is above the heavens, and that he is no otherwise near to us than by the communion of our nature, which he hath taken to himself. Ut qui te consortem in carnis propinquitate laetantur, ad summorum civium unitatem, super quos corpus assumptum evexisti, perducantur:

“That they who rejoice to see thee their brother, in the nearness of thy flesh, may be brought up to the unity of those highest citizens, above whom thou hast carried up thy assumed body.”

3. It supposeth the Sacrament to be only a commemoration; We remember thy suffering, and thy body broken for the remission of our sins. Which is a plain allusion to the words of St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 11:24 and shews that the authors of this Liturgy did understand them of the cross, and not, as the Church of Rome doth, of the Eucharist. The Ambrosian and Gallican Liturgies have followed the sense of the Gothic Liturgy, which deserves some observation. We meet with the same thing again:

“Thou didst command by Moses and Aaron thy servants, that the Passover should be celebrated by the offering of a lamb for ever, until the coming of Christ; and hast commanded the same custom to be observed for a memorial.”

4. It supposeth that we receive the body of Jesus Christ spiritually: “Let us, dearest brethren, who have been fed with the food of heaven, and refreshed with the cup of the eternal wine, render never-ceasing praises and thanks to our God, begging of him, that we who have spiritually received the sacred body of our Lord Jesus Christ, being freed from fleshly vices, may deserve to be made spiritual.”

What it means by the word spiritual is very plain, where it calls the dove that appeared at the baptism of Jesus Christ, spiritalis columba. And the spiritual dove descending upon his head by the Holy Ghost, that camest thyself. Thus it calls the Eucharist spiritual sacrifices; He hath refreshed us with the heavenly bread and the spiritual cup.

5. It takes for granted, that the believers of old did eat the same living bread, which Jesus Christ gives us:

“For he himself is the living and true bread that came down from heaven, and always dwells in heaven, who is the substance of eternity, and the food of power. For thy word, by which all things were made, is not only the bread of human souls, but of the very angels themselves. By the nourishment of this bread, thy servant Moses was enabled to fast forty days and nights, when he received the Law, and abstained from carnal food, that he might be the more capable of tasting thy sweetness, living on thy word. Let this living and true bread, which came down from heaven, that he might give food to the hungry, yea that he himself might be the food of the living, become to us such bread as that our hearts may be strengthened thereby; that so in the power of this bread we may be enabled to fast these forty days without any impediment from flesh and blood.”

6. It calls the Sacrament, gifts laid upon the altar. “Be pleased to sanctify, O Lord, these gifts which we offer upon thy altar, offering immaculate sacrifices upon the holy altar. Let us beseech the Almighty, through his only begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath vouchsafed to bless and sanctify these gifts by the offering up of his body and blood, that he would be pleased also to bless the gifts offered by his servants.”

7. It calls the Sacrament, salutiferam Dominicae immolationis effigiem, in sacrificio spiritali Christo offerente transfusam:

“The salutiferous representation of our Lord’s offering up of himself transfused into the spiritual sacrifice, whereof Christ himself is the sacrificer or offerer.”

8. We find there a prayer, whose title is, A Collect for the Breaking of the Bread after Consecration. Which scarce proves, that they were persuaded that the substance of the bread was destroyed by the consecration.

9. The same which in some places it calls the body of Christ, it elsewhere calls the Sacrament of the body.

10. It reduceth all to the virtue of the Eucharist. “Keep within us, Lord, the gift of thy glory, and let us by the virtue of the Eucharist, which we receive, be armed against all the pollutions of the world.”

11. It supposeth that the body of Jesus Christ abides within us, and prays that it may continue there incorruptible. “Hear the prayers of thy family, Almighty God, and grant that these holy things which we have received of thy gift, we may by thy gift keep uncorrupted within us.”

And again; “Let us with unanimous prayer entreat the Divine Mercy, that these saving Sacraments being received into our inward parts, may purify our soul, and sanctify our body, and confirm our hearts and minds in the hope of heavenly things.”

12. It calls the Eucharist holy bread: “Bearing in mind the most glorious passion of our Lord, and his resurrection from the lower parts of the earth; we offer up unto thee, O Lord, this unspotted sacrifice, this holy bread, and this saving cup, beseeching thee,” etc.

13. It calls the Sacrament holy mysteries, in several places. These many instances one would have thought might have obliged Mabillon to believe that the authors of this Liturgy did speak figuratively in some other places, where they seem to speak more strongly, and to give us another notion; especially considering the manner of their expressing themselves, when they speak of the feast of St. John Baptist.

“It is worthy and just, equal and saving, for us always to give thanks to the almighty and merciful God, and in this banquet of thy Sacrament to join the head of thy martyr by an evangelical commemoration, and to offer it upon thy propitiatory table, as in a dish of shining metal.”

And we may add several others upon each of those passages which seem the most likely to deceive us.

If we had the Canon of this Liturgy, which these gentlemen did not think fit to give us, we should there easily find the solution of these difficulties; for it is very probable, it was like that of the Ambrosian Liturgy, where it was so clearly specified, that the bread was the figure of the body of Jesus Christ, as that it put an end to all manner of cavillings on the point. Indeed these words, the figure or representation of the sacrifice of our Lord, do plainly shew, that this was their meaning. But we must make a shift to help ourselves with what they have been pleased to give us. It is easy to judge what those passages were, which Mabillon judged to be most favorable to his cause; for he hath caused them to be printed in great characters, that nobody might pass them by.

Thus the word truth seemed to him to determine the question of the real presence: the words are these:

“We beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do now perform the truth of the heavenly Sacrament, so we may cleave to the truth of the body and blood of our Lord.”

But this learned Benedictine has suffered himself to be overtaken by his own prejudice; The author of the Liturgy distinguisheth two times; the one before the death of Jesus Christ, which was only an obscure image of a thing that was to come; this is that which is expressed in these words:

“Or that the living bread, by denying of himself, should not afford life; but for the redemption of his possession, and the praise of his glory, what before he vouchsafed in a parable, he may now vouchsafe in truth.”

The other, wherein the death of Jesus Christ hath authorized the signification of the Eucharist; upon which account he calls it the truth of the heavenly Sacrament. We have a like expression of Baptism, alluding to the passage of the Red sea, in one of St. Augustin’s Homilies upon Nicodemus’s coming to Jesus Christ, related by Paulus Diaconus, In inventione S. Crucis; and it is the same we find also in several passages of St. Caesarius.

We find that the word transformation has perfectly charmed him.

“We therefore, Lord, keeping these institutes and precepts, do most humbly beseech thee, that thou wouldst be pleased to receive, bless, and sanctify this sacrifice, that it may be to us a true Eucharist, in thy own and son’s name, and of the Holy Ghost; that so there may be a transformation of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, thy only begotten,” etc. And in a marginal note he observes, that the same word is made use of in this Liturgy:

“That it may please thee to send down thy Holy Spirit upon these solemnities, that it may be to us a true Eucharist, in thy own and Son’s name, and of the Holy Ghost, for a transformation of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, thy only begotten; that it may bestow upon us, who eat it, eternal life, and the everlasting kingdom to those that shall drink it.”

And also, “That thy blessing may come down upon this bread and wine, for the transformation of thy Holy Spirit; that blessing thou mayest bless them, and sanctifying thou mayest sanctify them,” etc. And the like in other missals as ancient as this; which he observes also in his preface.

But this, after all, signifies nothing else but the change which the Holy Ghost produceth in making the elements, after consecration, to become the Sacrament of the body of Jesus Christ. This is that which our authors have fully justified by an infinite number of examples borrowed from Baptism, and other things consecrated by prayer. Boethius, in his books, De Consolatione Philosophiae, saith, Conversi in malitiam, humanam quoque amisere naturam. Evenit ergo, ut quem transformatum vitiis videas, hominem existimare non possis.

“Being turned into malice, they at the same time lose human nature: so that if you see one transformed by vice, you cannot look upon him as a man.”

And Ratramnus, in his book of the body and blood of our Lord, saith, that Jesus Christ in former times could change the manna, and water out of the rock, in the wilderness, into his flesh and blood: the same Ratramnus that opposed Paschasius, who was the first publisher of the doctrine of a real change.

We find there the notion of vertere and convertere in carnem: “Beseeching, that he who then changed the water into wine, would be pleased now to change the wine of our oblations into his blood.”

And again; “Let us entreat him, that he who, as at this day, by his Son, turned the species of water into wine, would be pleased, in like manner, to change the oblations and prayers of us all into a divine sacrifice, and to accept them as he did accept the offering of Abel the just, and the sacrifice of Abraham his Patriarch.”

But the appearance of this seeming difficulty we find in the following leaf. Besides, that it is ridiculous to suppose the real change of the prayers of believers into the body and blood of our Savior, which is supposed of the oblations.

We meet with an expression which seems somewhat strange: “O Jesu Christ, who in the evening of the world wast made an evening sacrifice on the cross, vouchsafe to us, that we may become new sepulchres for thy body.”

Though indeed these expressions plainly shew, that they are only intended for the prefiguring the death of Christ, according to the notion of Rabanus Maurus.

We find there frequently, that the Sacrament is said to be a remedy for the body, and an expiation for the soul; but this doth no more suppose the carnal presence, or the expiation, which is the fruit of a propitiatory sacrifice, than that which we find in the Roman Order, in blessing a grave, that it may be a saving remedy to the party resting in it, for the redemption of his soul.

In the same Liturgy, they say to God, “Do thou therefore so come down into the present oblation, that it may afford healing unto the living, and refreshment unto those who are dead.”

But this regards only the presence of virtue, as in the Roman Order; they beg of God that he would afford his presence and majesty in Baptism. There is mention likewise made of the immolation of the body of Jesus Christ; but this is only said by way of resemblance, as St. Augustin explains it in his 23d Epistle to Bonifacius; for in other places this Liturgy speaks of bread offered up.

There is also mention made of a sacrifice. But first, he gives that name to the Eucharist, which every where throughout this Liturgy is termed a sacrifice of praises and thanksgivings. Secondly, it compares the sacrifice with that of Melchizedek, wherein every one knows there was nothing of transubstantiation. This is that which Rabanus explains, lib. 1. de Institut. Clericor. c. 31.

Mabillon particularly triumphs, when he takes notice of a passage which is found in the 78th Office.

“He offered up himself first to thee a sacrifice, and first taught himself to be offered.”

These words, offered up himself, seem to him to be applicable to the act of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist; but he must not take it ill if we tell him, that it is not true, that he then offered up any sacrifice: the sacrifice of Jesus Christ consisting only in his death on the cross; the Eucharist, where he had only his death before his eyes, was only the memorial of his sacrifice, his offering consisting only in his death. If he did offer up himself in the Eucharist, then was he already dead, which is a notion attributed to Gregory Nissen, but is refuted by the Divines of the Church of Rome as impertinent.

Some, it may be, will imagine, that the authors of the Gothic Liturgy take away all equivocation, when they say, “Let us receive that in the wine which flowed from thee on the cross.”

But indeed here we have reason to admire how far strong prejudices will carry men, so as even to hinder common sense from acting; for really there can be no notion more opposite to transubstantiation: since this notion represents the state in which Christ was given to us, that is, a state of death, which is contrary to the Popish notions, by which they believe him alive in the Eucharist. Besides, it is absolutely false, that Jesus Christ did after his resurrection retake the same blood which he lost on the cross. The Church of Rome pretends that she hath it in her keeping, and it is shown in I do not know how many places. This expression is well known to be St. Augustin’s, whose doctrine is vastly opposite to that of transubstantiation, as De Marca hath been forced to acknowledge.

This is what I thought might be observed concerning this Gothic Liturgy, which was used amongst the Visigoths, and which mentions no saint of later standing than St. Leodegarius, who died in the year 677. Now because Pope Adrian the First engaged Charlemain to abolish the Gallican Liturgy, which was very different from the Roman, endeavoring by this means to subject the Gallican Churches to himself, under the plausible pretense of making them more uniform with the Church of Rome; Gregory the VIIth undertook to suppress the Gothic Liturgy, which was not less, but rather more different; because the Popes after Adrian I. had made great changes in the Roman Liturgy, and had enriched it with many novelties, which the ages after Gregory the First had produced in religion. However it be, thus much is evident from what I have observed at the beginning of this chapter, that in the seventh century, in which this Liturgy was in use in these dioceses, there was nothing less known than the Romish religion, as it concerns those articles which the Protestants reject as novelties. But let us proceed to take a view of the state of these dioceses in the eighth century.


Home | Previous | Next