The faith of the Churches of Aquitain and Narbon in the ninth century.


CHARLEMAIN, that great man, who lived till the year 814, maintained the spirit of opposition against the errors and superstitions of the Church of Rome, that espoused the interest of the image-worshippers, by approving the second Council of Nice. This Council having established the authority of tradition, as being a necessary principle to support the worship of images, we find that the Churches of Aquitain and Narbon kept themselves firmly to the authority of the Scriptures, grounding their faith thereon, and regulating their worship according to the same.

Of this we have an illustrious example in the Council of Arles, assembled in the year 813, by the order of Charlemain, whereat the Archbishop of Narbon assisted with his suffragans. For the Fathers of this Council thought fit to begin it with a profession of their faith, which is nothing but an extract of that creed which bears the name of Athanasius; and this is that which they ordain should be preached to the people for the Catholic faith, without so much as mentioning one word of those articles of faith that the Church of Rome now imposeth.

Charlemain had ordered a collection of homilies to be made out of the works of Origen, St. Ambrose, St. Chrysostom, St. Jerome, St. Augustin, St. Leo, St. Maxinms, St. Gregory, and Bede, which he caused to be published in these dioceses, as well as the rest of his empire; now these homilies do so strongly oppose the most part of those novelties, which were then endeavored to be introduced, that this book for a long time served as a bar, to hinder people from leaning too much towards those things that incline men to superstition. There is no Protestant in the least versed in the matters of controversy, who seeing the names of those ancient Doctors comprised in this collection, will not remember how much these Fathers have opposed themselves to a multitude of corruptions which prevailed at last, by the factious endeavours of some of the latter Popes; wherefore I may excuse myself from making an extract of this collection, choosing rather to produce other witnesses, which the same diocese affords us, concerning the faith of these dioceses in the ninth century.

I can only produce three or four; but to recompense the smallness of their number, they are men against whose authority the most contentious adversaries will have nothing to oppose. In the first place it is certain, that as the Bishops of Aquitain and Narbon had set themselves against the superstition and idolatry of the Greeks and the Pope in the matter of images at the Council of Francfort; so their successors imitated their zeal and vigor in the Synod at Paris in 824, upon the same question; where they determined that Pope Adrian, who had writ an answer to the book of Charlemain, and therein undertaken the defense of the second Council of Nice, had made use of in the said reply, superstitious testimonies, and not at all to the purpose, answering what he thought fit, and not what was agreeable. And besides they drew up a new collection of great numbers of arguments against this superstitious worship, to recall Pope Paschal and those of his party from their doating on images.

We can shew further, that the same zeal was continued in this diocese. Baluzius hath acknowledged, and so has Massonus before him, that the book of Agobardus, Archbishop of Lyons, concerning pictures, expresseth no more than the general opinions of the Bishops of France and Germany concerning this point. But it may not be amiss to quote it in particular, not only to shew what were the opinions of the Churches of Aquitain and Narbon, (because though he was born in Spain, yet he had continued for a long time in Aquitain, whither he was invited, because of the general esteem he had gained, to be the coadjutor to Leidradus, Archbishop of Lyons, to whom he succeeded;) but also because it appears by his works, that the most illustrious Bishops of Gallia Narbonensis carefully consulted him in matters of difficulty, as their master, being indeed a most famous doctor, able to instruct and inform them.

1. He declares, as St. Augustin did before him, that we can never equalize the authority of any interpreter whatsoever to that of the Apostles:

“The blessed Father Augustin has told us, that we ought to have quite another opinion of expositions than that which you hold; who, in his book against Faustas the Manichee, speaks not only of those which have been blamed by learned men, but also of those which have been approved of, after this manner. Which sort of writings, that is to say expositions, are not to be read with a necessity of believing, but with a liberty of judging; for those books only that are of Divine authority are to be read, not with a liberty of judging, but with a necessity of believing, which form the Apostle himself delivered, saying, Quench not the Spirit; despise not prophecies; try all things; hold fast what is good; abstain from every appearance of evil.”

Which is absolutely false, if an infallible principle has continued in the Church; whether in the person of the Pope, or in Councils, or that we must of necessity explain Scripture according to the sense of the Fathers, as the Church of Rome has defined.

2. We see with what force he maintains the canons of the Gallican Church against the contempt which some cast upon them, because they had been made without the Pope’s concurrence.

3. We do not find that in his time they applied to the blessed Virgin the words of the first promise, by reading, Ipsa tuum conteret caput, She shall bruise thy head; for he reads, Ipse tuum, He shall bruise, etc. when he disputes against Felix, Bishop of Urgel.

4. He maintains in the same place, that the notion of a people’s being without sin, who yet confess themselves to be sinners out of humility, is pure Pelagianism.

“That if this is the property of humble saints, why then doth John the Apostle say, If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us; but if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins? Who, if like you, he had been inclined to have not mean, but great thoughts of himself; he had whereof he might glory, because he lay in the bosom of his Lord, and was beloved of him above the rest of his disciples. James the Apostle also saith, In many things we offend all; which if any shall imagine not to be spoke in truth, but by way of humility, let him know that therein he follows Pelagius.”

5. He plainly declares that our communion in the Sacrament is the same with that of the believers of old, when he applies that passage of the 1st to the Corinthians, ch. 10 ver. 1 and 2, of the drinking of the Holy Ghost, and maintains in these terms that there is no other difference between the believers of the Old and New Testament, but this,

“that the great sacraments of salvation which are wrought by the Mediator for us and for them, save us as being already past, but them as yet to come, because we believe and hold what is past, they believed and held what was to come: they held them only in their minds, as figures of future things; but we in an open profession, vows, and declaration of things past, under the signification of sensible sacraments, as those two who carried one cluster of grapes upon a staff did indifferently do the same work, only that the one of them had it behind his back, and the other before his face.”

I should be obliged to transcribe his whole book against pictures and images, if I should go about to extract all that it contains in opposition to the opinions of the Church of Rome. It will be sufficient for us to observe, that the Romish Index Expurgatorius hath forbid this book, as well as the rest, till its errors be expunged: and indeed it did deserve no less; for it maintains, according to the doctrine of St. Augustin, that we ought not to adore any image of God, but only that which is God himself, even his eternal Son; and that it is a piece of folly and sacrilege to vouchsafe any worship to images, and to call them holy, as the second Council of Nice had done. He refutes the excuse of the Council of Trent, which only considers those as idolaters, that attribute something of divinity to the image. He maintains it to be mere Paganism to have images for any other use than that of a memorial; and at the same time asserts, that images are of as little use and advantage as the picture of a mower, or of some hero in armor, can advantage a mower or soldier, who looks upon those pictures. In a word, he speaks exactly like a true iconoclast; for after he had said, that it was impossible any longer to bear with the abuses against which he had taken pen in hand, he adds;

“From whence we may plainly infer, that if Hezekiah, a godly and religious king, brake the brazen serpent, made by God’s express command, because the mistaken multitude began to worship it as an idol, for which his piety was very much commended; much more religiously may and ought the images of the saints (they themselves approving it) be broken and ground to powder, which were never set up by God’s command, but are absolutely human inventions.”

But besides this, there are four other articles, which are as disrelishing to the Church of Rome as these:

1. He maintains that there is no other Mediator between God and man, save Jesus Christ, God and man, which he proves by the authority of St. Augustin, de Civ. Dei, 50. 9. c. 15.

2. He looks upon those as worthy to be anathematized and excommunicated from the Church of God, who should undertake to dedicate a Church to the most excellent of saints or angels.

“If any of us,” saith he, “should make a temple of wood or stone to any, though the most excellent of saints, we ought for doing that to be anathematized from the truth of Christ, and from the Church of God, because by so doing we should give that worship to the creature, which is only due to the Creator.”

3. Having given a relation of the manner how the faithful gathered up the bones of St. Polycarp, and interred them in a place where they intended to meet and celebrate his memory, to encourage believers to imitate the constancy of that martyr; he declares, that all manner of worship or honor done to them, over and above this, is unlawful, religious worship being due to God alone.

4. He proves that his judgment concerning these points is founded upon the example of the ancient Doctors, upon their opinions, and upon the book of the Sacraments of the Church of Rome, that it was the ground of the ancient Doctors of the Church, who rejected the worship which the Arians gave to Jesus Christ as idolatrous, though they owned him to be no more than a man.

The reader needs not take much pains to apprehend why Rome though fit to condemn these books of Agobardus; though he may be at a loss how it comes to pass, that notwithstanding all this, he is at this day held for a saint, and publicly adored at Lyons under the name of St. Agobo. This is a riddle which has strangely perplexed the learned Jesuit, Theophilus Raynaldus, as well as le Cointe, in his Annals of the Church of France. But he is not the only person that has opposed the belief and worship of the Church of Rome, and is publicly adored by her.

I have another author to produce, who gives us so clear an idea of the belief of this diocese wherein he was born, concerning the Eucharist, that the Papists have never been able to return any pertinent answer to it, save only this, that the passage we quote is supposititious. The person we speak of is Christianus Druthmarus, Monk of Corbie, whom it seems God was willing to oppose to the corrupt notions of Paschasius Radbertus, his Abbot. The passage is this, [And as they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed it and brake it.]

“After that he had fulfilled the command concerning the old Passover, and put an end to the old shadows, he makes a beginning of new grace, and of a new sacrifice. He took bread, which strengthens the heart of man, and which doth most of all support men’s bodies, and in it placeth the Sacrament of his love: but much more doth that spiritual bread fully strengthen and comfort all sorts of creatures; because in him we move and have our being: first, he blessed it, because in him self who was man, he blessed all mankind; for having taken human nature upon him from the blessed Virgin, he thereby demonstrated that the blessing and power of the divine immortality was really therein. He brake the bread himself, because he voluntarily offered up himself to suffer; and that he might fill and satisfy us, he made no difficuly to break the mansion of his soul, as himself said; I have power to lay down my life, and have power to take it up again. [And gave it to his disciples, and said, Take, eat, this is my body.] He gave to his disciples the Sacrament of his body for the remission of sins, and preservation of charity, that they, remembering this act of his, might always perform that in a figure which he was now about to do for them, and might not forget that, This is my body, that is in the Sacrament.

[And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying;] forasmuch as amongst all sorts of food, bread and wine are found to be the most effectual to strengthen and refresh our weak bodies, he with good reason thought fit by these two, to ratify and confirm the ministry of his Sacrament; for wine not only exhilarates, but also increases blood, and therefore is the blood of Christ very properly typified thereby; because whatsoever comes to us from him, doth enliven us with a true joy, and increaseth all our good. And lastly, as when a person that is to take a far journey, leaves to his friends that love him some pledge or token of his love, upon this condition, that they use it every day, that they may not forget him: so likewise hath God commanded us, having spiritually changed his body into bread, and the wine into blood, by these two, to remember what he hath done for us with his body and blood, and not to be unthankful to his most endearing love and charity; and because water is mingled with the Sacrament of his blood, it represents his people, for whom he was pleased to die. And neither is the wine without water, nor the water without wine; because as he died for us, so must we die for him, or for our brethren, that is, for the Church. Wherefore also water and blood came forth from his body. And whereas he saith, This is my blood of the new testament; this is added in contradistinction to that of the old testament, which by the blood of goats could not purge away sin from those who were still in bondage to sin. [But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when shall drink it new with you in my Fathers kingdom.] The vine is Judaea, the wine that of the patriarchs, prophets, and other elect. For till that time, Judaea had brought forth clusters of grapes, from whence wine flowed forth, that is, works done in faith; but from the death of our Lord wild grapes only, until the time that Enoch and Elias shall carry them up into the kingdom, that is, the Church of Christ, at the end of the world. Or else more simply the words may be thus taken, that from the hour of his supping with his disciples, he would drink no more wine, until he was become immortal and incorruptible after his resurrection.

Whereas also he was pleased not to administer the Sacrament of his body and blood to his disciples till after they had supped, and that we are not commanded to take it fasting; this may be the reason the Lord had a mind to shew, that the figurative testament was only commanded till the true was come, and he had now put an end to the old testament, and instituted a new one, and therefore it was that he celebrated the old before the new. The Apostles also for a long time continued the same custom, and after their other food, took this by the Lord’s appointment; but afterwards, when many Jews came to communicate, it was enjoined in a Synod, that every one (if he was cleansed from other sins) should first take the repast of spiritual bread, before he took that of the temporal.”

This place, which contains an exact commentary upon the institution of the holy Supper, has much enraged the Papists; and they have wrested it into all senses, to avoid the threatening blow. Sixtus Senensis tells us, that in another copy, after the words, This is my body, that is in a Sacrament, was added, truly subsisting. But this copy was never yet produced, though they who reprinted the work of Druthmarus, in the Bibliotheca Patrum, of the Cologne edition, have been pleased to put this falsification of Sixtus Senensis in the margent.

Cardinal Perron, who was as able as any man of France to justify the fair dealing of Sixtus Senensis in the business of this manuscript of Lyons, but did not care to concern himself about it, hath boldly maintained, that he might with the more ease slip his neck out of the collar, that this passage of Druthmarus had been corrupted by the Protestants. But it hath been already shewn, that the edition published in 1514, by Wimfelingius, before Luther begun to write against Leo X. of which the Reverend Dr. Tenison hath a copy in his library, with the privilege of the Emperor Maximilian, and the arms of Pope Leo X. contains this passage whole and entire. So that it is obvious to judge, that Druthmarus, who was born in Aquitain, taught nothing at Corbie but what he had learned from his infancy, and that which was the common doctrine, before Paschasius had undertaken to publish his extravagancies, which he did not till the year of our Lord 835.

We ought also here to take notice of an action that happened in this century concerning the Eucharist. In the year 844, Bernard, Earl of Barcelona and Duke of Septimania, made a treaty with King Charles the Bald, near the city of Toulouse, in the abbey of St. Saturninus, where they mingled the blood of the Eucharist with some ink, to sign the treaty they had agreed upon. The thing has been published by the famous Baluzius, in his notes upon Agobardus, and is lately reprinted by the same author. The words of Odo Aripertus, who relates the matter, translated, run thus:

“The peace therefore being severally ratified and sealed by the King and Earl with the blood of the Eucharist; Bernard, Count of Toulouse, came from Barcelona to Toulouse, and did homage to King Charles in the abbey of St. Saturninus, near Toulouse.”

Mabillon acknowledges that this was not a fact without example. Now let any man imagine, if he can, whether people that believe transubstantiation, would ever have been capable of such a profanation of the blood of Jesus Christ, or whether the Monks, in whose abbey the thing was done, would ever have suffered it, had the thing appeared as horrible unto them, as it must of necessity appear to those who defend the opinion of the Church of Rome.

I shall conclude this chapter with that courageous opposition which the Bishops of Aquitain and Narbon made in the year 876, in the Council of Pontyon, against the enterprises of Pope John VIII. who, being backed by the Emperor Charles the Bald, had a mind to subject all the Bishops of France and Germany to Ansegisus, Archbishop of Sens, as their Primate; but at the same time, as to his Vicar, that he might execute his decrees, and inform him of the most important affairs of those Churches, which he pretended ought to be decided and ended at Rome, which, if so, would have abolished the power of Synods and Metropolitans. This was in a manner the last considerable effort they ever made to preserve their ancient discipline; for soon after the Popes knew to manage the Kings, that stood in need of them in Italy, so well, that by little and little they at last gained the point, and so made themselves absolute, the Synods and Metropolitans retaining only an empty name, without almost any authority at all.


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