On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine (John Henry Newman)

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A QUESTION has arisen among persons of theological knowledge and fair and candid minds, about the wording and the sense of a passage in the Rambler for May. It admits to my own mind of so clear and satisfactory an explanation, that I should think it unnecessary to intrude myself, an anonymous person, between the conductors and readers of this Magazine, except that, as in dogmatic works the replies made to objections often contain the richest matter, so here too, plain remarks on a plain subject may open to the minds of others profitable thoughts, which are more due to their own superior intelligence than to the very words of the writer.

The Rambler, then, has these words at p. 122: “in the preparation of a dogmatic definition, the faithful are consulted, as lately in the instance of the Immaculate Conception.” Now {199} two questions bearing upon doctrine have been raised on this sentence, putting aside the question of fact as regards the particular instance cited, which must follow the decision on the doctrinal questions: viz. first, whether it can, with doctrinal correctness, be said that an appeal to the faithful is one of the preliminaries of a definition of doctrine; and secondly, granting that the faithful are taken into account, still, whether they can correctly be said to be consulted. I shall remark on both these points, and I shall begin with the second.

  • 1.

Now doubtless, if a divine were expressing himself formally, and in Latin, he would not commonly speak of the laity being “consulted” among the preliminaries of a dogmatic definition, because the technical, or even scientific, meaning of the word “consult” is to “consult with,” or to “take counsel.” But the English word “consult,” in its popular and ordinary use, is not so precise and narrow in its meaning; it is doubtless a word expressive of trust and deference, but not of submission. It includes the idea of inquiring into a matter of fact, as well as asking a judgment. Thus we talk of “consulting our barometer” about the weather:—the barometer only attests the fact of the state of the atmosphere. In like manner, we may consult a watch or a sun-dial about the time of day. A physician consults the pulse of his patient; but not in the same sense in which his patient consults him. It is but an index of the state of his health. Ecclesiastes says, “Qui observat ventum, non seminat;” we might translate it, “he who consults,” without meaning that we ask the wind’s opinion. This being considered, it was, I conceive, quite allowable for a writer, who was not teaching or treating theology, but, as it were, conversing, to say, as in the passage in question, “In the preparation of a dogmatic definition, the faithful are consulted.” Doubtless their advice, their opinion, their judgment on the question of definition is not asked; but the matter of fact, viz. their belief, is sought for, as a testimony to that apostolical tradition, on which alone any doctrine whatsoever can be defined. In like manner, we may “consult” the liturgies or the rites of the Church; not that they speak, not that they can take any part whatever in the definition, for they are documents or customs; but they are witnesses to the antiquity or universality of the doctrines which they contain, and about which they are “consulted.” And, in like manner, I certainly understood the writer in the Rambler to mean (and I think any lay reader might so understand him) that the fidelium sensus and consensus is a branch of evidence {200} which it is natural or it necessary for the Church to regard and consult, before she proceeds to any definition, from its intrinsic cogency; and by consequence, that it ever has been so regarded and consulted. And the writer’s use of the word “opinion” in the foregoing sentence, and his omission of it in the sentence in question, seemed to show that, though the two cases put therein were analogous, they were not identical.

Having said as much as this, I go further, and maintain that the word “consulted,” used as it was used, was in no respect unadvisable, except so far as it distressed any learned and good men, who identified it with the Latin. I might, indeed, even have defended the word as it was used, in the Latin sense of it. Regnier both uses it of the laity and explains it. “Cùm receptam apud populos traditionem consulunt et sequuntur Episcopi, non illos habent pro magistris et ducibus, &c.” (De Eccles. Christi. p. i. § 1, c. i., ed. Migne, col. 234.) But in my bountifulness I will give up this use of the word as untheological; still I will maintain that the true theological sense is unknown to all but theologians. Accordingly, the use of it in the Rambler was in no sense dangerous to any lay reader, who, if he knows Latin, still is not called upon, in the structure of his religious ideas, to draw those careful lines and those fine distinctions, which in theology itself are the very means of anticipating and repelling heresy. The laity would not have a truer, or a clearer, or a different view of the doctrine itself, though the sentence had run, “in the preparation of a dogmatic decree, regard is had to the sense of the faithful;” or, “there is an appeal to the general voice of the faithful;” or, “inquiry is made into the belief of the Christian people;” or, “the definition is not made without a previous reference to what the faithful will think of it and say to it;” or though any other form of words had been used, stronger or weaker, expressive of the same general idea, viz. that the sense of the faithful is not left out of the question by the Holy See among the preliminary acts of defining a doctrine.

Now I shall go on presently to remark on the proposition itself which is conveyed in the words on which I have been commenting; here, however, I will first observe, that such misconceptions as I have been setting right will and must occur, from the nature of the case, whenever we speak on theological subjects in the vernacular; and if we do not use the vernacular, I do not see how the bulk of the Catholic people are to be catechised or taught at all. English has innovated on the Latin sense of its own Latin words; and if we are to speak according to the conditions of the language, {201} and are to make ourselves intelligible to the multitude, we shall necessarily run the risk of startling those who are resolved to act as mere critics and scholastics in the process of popular instruction.

This divergence from a classical or ecclesiastical standard is a great inconvenience, I grant; but we cannot remodel our mother-tongue. Crimen does not properly mean crime; amiable does not yet convey the idea of amabilis; compassio is not compassion; princeps is not a prince; disputatio is not a dispute; prævenire is not to prevent. Cicero imperator is not the Emperor Cicero; scriptor egregius is not an egregious writer; virgo singularis is not a singular virgin; retractare dicta is not to retract what he has said; and, as we know from the sacred passage, traducere is not necessarily to traduce.

Now this is not merely sharp writing, for mistakes do in matter of fact occur not unfrequently from this imperfect correspondence between theological Latin and English; showing that readers of English are bound ever to bear in mind that they are not reading Latin, and that learned divines must ever exercise charity in their interpretations of vernacular religious teaching.

For instance, I know of certain English sermons which were translated into French by some French priests. They, good and friendly men, were surprised to find in these compositions such language as “weak evidence and strong evidence,” and “insufficient, probable, demonstrative evidence;” they read that “some writers had depreciated the evidences of religion,” and that “the last century, when love was cold, was an age of evidences.” Evidentia, they said, meant that luminousness which attends on demonstration, conviction, certainty; how can it be more or less? how can it be unsatisfactory? how can a sane man disparage it? how can it be connected with religious coldness? The simple explanation of the difficulty was, that the writer was writing for his own people, and that in English “an evidence” is not evidentia.

Another instance. An excellent Italian religious, now gone to his reward, was reading a work of the same author; and he came upon a sentence to the effect, I think, that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity was to be held with “implicit” faith. He was perplexed and concerned. He thought the writer held that the Church did not explicitly teach, had not explicitly defined, the dogma; that is, he confused the English meaning of the word, according to which it is a sort of correlative to imperative, meaning simple, unconditional, absolute, with its sense in theology.

It is not so exactly apposite to refer,—yet I will refer,— {202} to another instance, as supplying a general illustration of the point I am urging. It was in a third country that a lecturer spoke in terms of disparagement of “Natural Theology,” on the ground of its deciding questions of revelation by reasonings from physical phenomena. It was objected to him, that Naturalis Theologia embraced all truths and arguments from natural reason bearing upon the Divine Being and Attributes. Certainly he would have been the last to depreciate what he had ever made the paramount preliminary science to Christian faith; but he spoke according to the sense of those to whom his words might come. He considered that in the Protestant school of Paley and other popular writers, the idea of Natural Theology had practically merged in a scientific view of the argument from Design.

Once more. Supposing a person were to ask me whether a friend, who has told me the fact in confidence, had written a certain book, and I were to answer, “Well, if he did, he certainly would tell me,” and the inquirer went away satisfied that he did not write it,—I do not see that I have done any thing to incur the reproach of the English word “equivocation;” I have but adopted a mode of turning-off a difficult question, to which any one may be obliged any day to have recourse. I am not speaking of spontaneous and gratuitous assertions, statements on solemn occasions, or answers to formal authorities. I am speaking of impertinent or unjustifiable questions; and I should like to know the man who thinks himself bound to say every thing to every one. Physicians evade the questions of sick persons about themselves; friends break bad news gradually, and with temporary concealments, to those whom it may shock. Parents shuffle with their children. Statesmen, ministers in Parliament, baffle adversaries in every possible way short of a direct infringement of veracity. When St. Athanasius saw that he was pursued on the Nile by the imperial officers, he turned round his boat and met them; when they came up to his party and hailed them, and asked whether they had seen any thing of Athanasius, Athanasius cried out, “O yes, he is not far from you;” and off the vessels went in different directions as swiftly as they could go, each boat on its own errand, the pursuer and the pursued. I do not see that there is in any of these instances what is expressed by the English word “equivocation;” but it is the æquivocatio of a Latin treatise; and when Protestants hear that æquivocamus sine scrupulo, they are shocked at the notion of our “unscrupulous equivocation.”

Now, in saying all this, I must not be supposed to be forgetful {203} of the sacred and imperative duty of preserving with religious exactness all those theological terms which are ecclesiastically recognised as portions of dogmatic statements, such as Trinity, Person, Consubstantial, Nature, Transubstantiation, Sacrament, &c. It would be unpardonable for a Catholic to teach “justification by faith only,” and say that he meant by “faith” fides formata, or “justification without works,” and say that he meant by “works” the works of the Jewish ritual; but granting all this fully, still if our whole religious phraseology is, as a matter of duty, to be modelled in strict conformity to theological Latin, neither the poor nor children will understand us. I have always fancied that to preachers great license was allowed, not only in the wording, but even in the matter of their discourses; they exaggerate and are rhetorical, and they are understood piè as speaking more prædicatorio. I have always fancied that, when Catholics were accused of hyperbolical language towards the Blessed Virgin, it was replied that devotion was not the measure of doctrine; nor surely is the vernacular of a magazine writer. I do not see that I am wrong in considering that a periodical, not treating theology ex professo, but accidentally alluding to an ecclesiastical act, commits no real offence if it uses an unscientific word, since it speaks, not more digladiatorio, but colloquialiter.

I shall conclude this head of my subject with allusion to a passage in the history of St. Dionysius the Great, Bishop of Alexandria, though it is beyond my purpose; but I like to quote a saint whom, multis nominibus (not “with many names,” or ” by many nouns”), I have always loved most of all the Ante-Nicene Fathers. It relates to an attack which was made on his orthodoxy; a very serious matter. Now I know every one will be particular on his own special science or pursuits. I am the last man to find fault with such particularity. Drill-sergeants think much of deportment; hard logicians come down with a sledge-hammer even on a Plato who does not happen to enumerate in his beautiful sentence all the argumentative considerations which go to make up his conclusion; scholars are horrified, as if with sensible pain, at the perpetration of a false quantity. I am far from ridiculing, despising, or even undervaluing such precision; it is for the good of every art and science that it should have vigilant guardians. Nor am I comparing such precision (far from it) with that true religious zeal which leads theologians to keep the sacred Ark of the Covenant in every letter of its dogma, as a tremendous deposit for which they are responsible. In this curious sceptical world, such sensitiveness {204} is the only human means by which the treasure of faith can be kept inviolate. There is a woe in Scripture against the unfaithful shepherd. We do not blame the watch-dog because he sometimes flies at the wrong person. I conceive the force, the peremptoriness, the sternness, with which the Holy See comes down upon the vagrant or the robber, trespassing upon the enclosure of revealed truth, is the only sufficient antagonist to the power and subtlety of the world, to imperial comprehensiveness, monarchical selfishness, nationalism, the liberalism of philosophy, the encroachments and usurpations of science. I grant, I maintain all this; and after this avowal, lest I be misunderstood, I venture to introduce my notice of St. Dionysius. He was accused on a far worse charge, and before a far more formidable tribunal, than commonly befalls a Catholic writer; for he was brought up before the Holy See on a denial of our Lord’s divinity. He had been controverting with the Sabellians; and he was in consequence accused of the doctrine to which Arius afterwards gave his name, that is, of considering our Lord a creature. He says, writing in his defence, that when he urged his opponents with the argument that “a vine and a vine-dresser were not the same,” neither, therefore, were the “Father and the Son,” these were not the only illustrations that he made use of, nor those on which he dwelt, for he also spoke of “a root and a plant,” “a fount and a stream,” which are not only distinct from each other, but of one and the same nature. Then he adds, “But my accusers have no eyes to see this portion of my treatise; but they take up two little words detached from the context, and proceed to discharge them at me as pebbles from a sling.” [Note 1] If even a saint’s words are not always precise enough to allow of being made a dogmatic text, much less are those of any modern periodical.

The conclusion I would draw from all I have been saying is this: Without deciding whether or not it is advisable to introduce points of theology into popular works, and especially whether it is advisable for laymen to do so, still, if this actually is done, we are not to expect in them that perfect accuracy of expression which I demanded in a Latin treatise or a lecture ex cathedrâ; and if there be a want of this exactness, we must not at once think it proceeds from self-will and undutifulness in the writers.

  • 2.

Now I come to the matter of what the writer in the Rambler really said, putting aside the question of the wording; {205} and I begin by expressing my belief that, whatever he may be willing to admit on the score of theological Latinity in the use of the word “consult” when applied to the faithful, yet one thing he cannot deny, viz. that in using it, he implied, from the very force of the term, that they are treated by the Holy See, on occasions such as that specified, with attention and consideration.

Then follows the question, Why? and the answer is plain, viz. because the body of the faithful is one of the witnesses to the fact of the tradition of revealed doctrine, and because their consensus through Christendom is the voice of the Infallible Church.

I think I am right in saying that the tradition of the Apostles, committed to the whole Church in its various constituents and functions per modum unius, manifests itself variously at various times: sometimes by the mouth of the episcopacy, sometimes by the doctors, sometimes by the people, sometimes by liturgies, rites, ceremonies, and customs, by events, disputes, movements, and all those other phenomena which are comprised under the name of history. It follows that none of these channels of tradition may be treated with disrespect; granting at the same time fully, that the gift of discerning, discriminating, defining, promulgating, and enforcing any portion of that tradition resides solely in the Ecclesia docens.

One man will lay more stress on one aspect of doctrine, another on another; for myself, I am accustomed to lay great stress on the consensus fidelium, and I will say how it has come about.

  1. It had long been to me a difficulty, that I could not find certain portions of the defined doctrine of the Church in ecclesiastical writers. I was at Rome in the year 1847; and then I had the great advantage and honour of seeing Fathers Perrone and Passaglia, and having various conversations with them on this point. The point of difficulty was this, that up to the date of the definition of certain articles of doctrine respectively, there was so very deficient evidence from existing documents that Bishops, doctors, theologians, held them. I do not mean to say that I expressed my difficulty in this formal shape; but that what passed between us in such interviews as they were kind enough to give me, ran into or impinged upon this question. Nor would I ever dream of making them answerable for the impression which their answers made on me; but, speaking simply on my own responsibility, I should say that, while Father Passaglia seemed to maintain that the Ante-Nicene writers were clear {206} in their testimonies in behalf (e.g.) of the doctrines of the Holy Trinity and Justification, expressly praising and making much of the Anglican Bishop Bull; rather Perrone, on the other hand, not speaking, indeed, directly upon those particular doctrines, but rather on such as I will presently introduce in his own words, seemed to me to say “transeat” to the alleged fact which constituted the difficulty, and to lay a great stress on what he considered t be the sensus and consensus fidelium, as a compensation or whatever deficiency there might be of patristical testimony in behalf of various points of the Catholic dogma.
  2. I should have been led to fancy, perhaps, that he was shaping his remarks in the direction in which he considered he might be especially serviceable to myself, who had been accustomed to account for the (supposed) phenomena in another way, had it not been for his work on the Immaculate Conception, which I read the next year with great interest, and which was passing through the press when I saw him. I am glad to have this opportunity of expressing my gratitude and attachment to a venerable man, who never grudged me his valuable time.

But now for his treatise, to which I have referred, so far as it speaks of the sensus fidelium, and of its bearing upon the doctrine, of which his work treats and upon its definition.

(1.) He states the historical fact of such sensus. Speaking of the “Ecclesiæ sensus” on the subject, he says that, though the liturgies, of the Feast of the Conception “satis apertè patefaciant quid Ecelesia antiquitùs de hoc senserit argumento,” yet it may be worth while to add some direct remarks on the sense itself of the Church. Then he says, “Ex duplici fonte eum colligi posse arbitramur, turn scilicet ex pastorum, tum ex fidelium sese gerendi ratione” (pp. 74, 75). Let it be observed, he not only joins together the pastores and fideles, but contrasts them; I mean (for it will bear on what is to follow), the “faithful” do not include the “pastors.”

(2.) Next he goes on to describe the relation of that sensus fidelium to the sensus Ecclesiæ. He says, that to inquire into the sense of the Church on any question, is nothing else but to investigate towards which side of it she has more inclined. And the “indicia et manifestationes hujus propensionis” are her public acts, liturgies, feasts, prayers, “pastorum ac fidelium in unum veluti conspiratio” (p. 101). Again, at p. 109, joining together in one his twofold consent of pastors and people, he speaks of the “unanimis pastorum ac fidelium consensio … per liturgias, per festa, per euchologia, per fidei controversias, per conciones patefacta.” {207}

(3.) These various “indicia” are also the instrumenta traditionis, and vary one with another in the evidence which they give in favour of particular doctrines; so that the strength of one makes up in a particular case for the deficiency of another, and the strength of the “sensus communis fidelium” can make up (e.g.) for the silence of the Fathers. “Istiusmodi instrumenta interdum simul conjunctè conspirare possunt ad traditionem aliquam apostolicam atque divinam patefaciendam, interdum vero seorsum … Perperam nonnulli solent ad inficiandam traditionis alicujus existentiam urgere silentium Patrum … quid enim si silentium istud alio pacto … compensetur?” (p. 139). He instances this from St. Irenæus and Tertullian in the “Successio Episcoporum,” who transmit the doctrines “tum activi operâ ministerii, tum usu et praxi, tum institutis ritibus … adeò ut catholica atque apostolica doctrina inoculata … fuerit … communi Ecclesiæ cœtui” (p. 142).

(4.) He then goes on to speak directly of the force of the “sensus fidelium,” as distinct (not separate) from the teaching of their pastors. “Præstantissimi theologi maximam probandi vim huic communi sensui inesse uno ore fatentur. Etenim Canus, ‘In quæstione fidei,’ inquit, ‘communis fidelis populi sensus haud levem facit fidem'” (p. 143). He gives another passage from him in a note, which he introduces with the words, “Illud præclarè addit;” what Canus adds is, “Quæro ex te, quando de rebus Christianæ fidei inter nos contendimus, non de philosophiæ decretis, utrùm potius quærendum est, quid philosophi atque ethnici, an quid homines Christiani, et doctrinâ et fide instituti, sentiant?” Now certainly “quærere quid sentiant homines doctrinâ et fide instituti,” though not asking advice, is an act implying not a little deference on the part of the persons addressing towards the parties addressed.

Father Perrone continues, “Gregorius verò de Valentiâ fusius vim ejusmodi fidelium consensus evolvit. ‘Est enim,’ inquit, ‘in definitionibus fidei habenda ratio, quoad fieri potest, consensus fidelium.'” Here, again, “habere rationem,” to have regard to, is an act of respect and consideration. However, Gregory continues, “Quoniam et ii sanè, quatenus ex ipsis constat Ecclesia, sic Spiritu Sancto assistente, divinas revelationes integrè et purè conservant, ut omnes illi quidem aberrare non possunt … Illud solùm contendo: Si quando de re aliquâ in materie religionis controversia [controversâ?] constaret fidelium omnium concordem esse sententiam (solet autem id constare, vel ex ipsâ praxi alicujus cultûs communiter apud christianos populos receptâ, vel ex scandalo et {208} offensione communi, quæ opinione aliquâ oritur, &c.) meritò posse et debere Pontificem illâ niti, ut quæ esset Ecclesiæ sententia infallibilis” (p. 144). Thus Gregory says that, in controversy about a matter of faith, the consent of all the faithful has such a force in the proof of this side or that, that the Supreme Pontiff is able and ought to rest upon it, as being the judgment or sentiment of the infallible Church. These are surely exceedingly strong words; not that I take them to mean strictly that infallibility is in the “consensus fidelium,” but that that “consensus” is an indicium or instrumentum to us of the judgment of that Church which is infallible.

Father Perrone proceeds to quote from Petavius, who supplies us with the following striking admonition from St. Paulinus, viz. “ut de omnium fidelium ore pendeamus, quia in omnem fidelem Spiritus Dei spirat.”

Petavius speaks thus, as he quotes him (p. 156): “Movet me, ut in eam [viz. piam] sententiam sim propensior, communis maximus sensus fidelium omnium.” By “movet me” he means, that he attends to what the cœtus fidelium says: this is certainly not passing over the fideles, but making much of them.

In a later part of his work (p. 186), Father Perrone speaks of the “consensus fidelium” under the strong image of a seal. After mentioning various arguments in favour of the Immaculate Conception, such as the testimony of so many universities, religious bodies, theologians, &c., he continues, “Hæc demum omnia firmissimo veluti sigillo obsignat totius christiani populi consensus.”

(5.) He proceeds to give several instances, in which the definition of doctrine was made in consequence of nothing else but the “sensus fidelium” and the “juge et vivum magisterium” of the Church.

For his meaning of the “juge et vivum magisterium Ecclesiæ,” he refers us to his Prælectiones (part ii. § 2, c. ii.). In that passage I do not see that he defines the sense of the word; but I understand him to mean that high authoritative voice or act which is the Infallible Church’s prerogative, inasmuch as she is the teacher of the nations; and which is a sufficient warrant to all men for a doctrine being true and being de fide, by the mere fact of its formally occurring. It is distinct from, and independent of, tradition, though never in fact separated from it. He says, “Fit ut traditio dogmatica identificetur cum ipsâ Ecclesiæ doctninâ, a quâ separari nequit; qua propter, etsi documenta deficerent omnia, solum hoc vivum et juge magisterium satis esset ad cognoscendam doctrinam divinitus traditam, habito præsertim respectu ad solennes Christi promissiones” (p. 303). {209}

This being understood, he speaks of several points of faith which have been determined and defined by the “magisterium” of the Church and, as to tradition, on the “consensus fidelium,” prominently, if not solely.

The most remarkable of these is the “dogma de visione Dei beatificâ” possessed by souls after purgatory and before the day of judgment; a point which Protestants, availing themselves of the comment of the Benedictines of St. Maur upon St. Ambrose, are accustomed to urge in controversy. “Nemo est qui nesciat,” says Father Perrone, “quot utriusque Ecclesiæ, tum Græcæ tum Latinæ, Patres contrarium sensisse visi sunt” (p. 147). He quotes in a note the words of the Benedictine editor, as follows: “Propemodum incredibile videri potest, quàm in eâ quæstione sancti Patres ab ipsis Apostolorum temporibus ad Gregorii XI. [Benedicti XII.] pontificatum florentinumque concilium, hoc est toto quatuordecim seculorum spatio, incerti ac parùm constantes exstiterint.” Father Perrone continues: “Certè quidem in Ecclesiâ non deerat quoad hunc fidei articulum divina traditio; alioquin nunquam is definiri potuisset: verùm non omnibus illa erat comperta; divina eloquia haud satis in re sunt. conspicua; Patres, ut vidimus, in varias abierunt sententias; liturgiæ ipsæ non modicam præ se ferunt difficultatem. His omnibus sucurrit juge Ecclesiæ magisterium, communis præterea fidelium sensus; qui altè adeò defixum … habebant mentibus, purgatas animas statim ad Deum videndum eoque fruendum admitti, ut non minimum eorum animi vel ex ipsâ controversiâ fuerint offensi, quæ sub Joanne XXII. agitabatur, et cujus definitio diu nimis protrahebatur.” Now does not this imply that the tradition, on which the definition was made, was manifested in the consensus fidelium with a luminousness which the succession of Bishops, though many of them were “Sancti Patres ab ipsis Apostolorum temporibus,” did not furnish? that the definition was delayed till the fideles would bear the delay no longer? that it was made because of them and for their sake, because of their strong feelings? If so, surely, in plain English, most considerable deference was paid to the “sensus fidelium;” their opinion and advice indeed was not asked, but their testimony was taken, their feelings consulted, their impatience, I had almost said, feared.

In like manner, as regards the doctrine, though not the definition, of the Immaculate Conception, he says, not denying, of course, the availableness of the other “instrumenta traditionis” in this particular case, “Ratissimum est, Christi fideles omnes circa hunc articulum unius esse animi, idque ita, ut maximo afficerentur scandalo, si vel minima {210} de Immaculatâ Virginis Conceptione quæstio moveretur” (p. 156).

  1. A year had hardly passed from the appearance of Fr. Perrone’s book in England, when the Pope published his Encyclical Letter. In it he asked the Bishops of the Catholic world, “ut nobis significare velitis, quâ devotione vester clerus populusque fidelis erga Immaculatæ Virginis conceptionem sit animatus, et quo desiderio flagret, ut ejusmodi res ab apostolicâ sede decernatur;” that is, when it came to the point to take measures for the definition of the doctrine, he did lay a special stress on this particular preliminary, viz. the ascertainment of the feeling of the faithful both towards the doctrine and its definition; as the Rambler stated in the passage out of which this argument has arisen. It seems to me important to keep this in view, whatever becomes of the word “consulted,” which, I have already said, is not to be taken in its ordinary Latin sense.
  2. At length, in 1854, the definition took place, and the Pope’s Bull containing it made its appearance. In it the Holy Father speaks as he had spoken in his Encyclical, viz. that although he already knew the sentiments of the Bishops, still he had wished to know the sentiments of the people also: “Quamvis nobis ex receptis postulationibus de definiendâ tandem aliquando Immaculatâ Virginis conceptione perspectus esset plurimorum sociorum Antistitum sensus, tamen Encyclicas literas, &c. ad omnes Ven. FF. totius Catholici orbis sacrorum Antistites misimus, ut, adhibitis ad Deum precibus, nobis scripto etiam significarent, quæ esset suorum fidelium erga Immaculatam Deiparæ Conceptionem pietas et devotio,” &c. And when, before the formal definition, he enumerates the various witnesses to the apostolicity of the doctrine, he sets down “divina eloquia, veneranda traditio, perpetuus Ecclesiæ sensus, singularis catholicorum Antistitum ac fidelium conspiratio.” Conspiratio, the two, the Church teaching and the Church taught, are put together, as one twofold testimony, illustrating each other, and never to be divided.
  3. A year or two passed, and the Bishop of Birmingham published his treatise on the doetrine. I close this portion of my paper with an extract from his careful view of the argument. “Nor should the universal conviction of pious Catholics be passed over, as of small account in the general argument; for that pious belief, and the devotion which springs from it, are the faithful reflection of the pastoral teaching” (p. 172). Reflection; that is, the people are a mirror, in which the Bishops see themselves. Well, I suppose a person may consult his glass, and in that way may know things {211} about himself which he can learn in no other way. This is what Fr. Perrone above seems to say has sometimes actually been the case, as in the instance of the “beatifica visio” of the saints; at least he does not mention the “pastorum ac fidelium conspiratio” in reviewing the grounds of its definition, but simply the “juge Ecclesiæ magisterium” and the “communis fidelium sensus.”

His lordship proceeds: “The more devout the faithful grew, the more devoted they showed themselves towards this mystery. And it is the devout who have the surest instinct in discerning the mysteries of which the Holy Spirit breathes the grace through the Church, and who, with as sure a tact, reject what is alien from her teaching. The common accord of the faithful has weighed much as an argument even with the most learned divines. St. Augustine says, that amongst many things which most justly held him in the bosom of the Catholic Church, was the ‘accord of populations and of nations.’ In another work he says, ‘It seems that I have believed nothing but the confirmed opinion and the exceedingly wide-spread report of populations and of nations.’ Elsewhere he says: ‘In matters whereupon the Scripture has not spoken clearly, the custom of the people of God, or the institutions of our predecessors, are to be held as law.’ In the same spirit St. Jerome argues, whilst defending the use of relics against Vigilantius: ‘So the people of all the Churches who have gone out to meet holy relics, and have received them with so much joy, are to be accounted foolish'” (pp. 172, 173).

And here I might come to an end; but, having got so far, I am induced, before concluding, to suggest an historical instance of the same great principle, which Father Perrone does not draw out.

  • 3.

First, I will set down the various ways in which theologians put before us the bearing of the Consent of the faithful upon the manifestation of the tradition of the Church. Its consensus is to be regarded: 1. as a testimony to the fact of the apostolical dogma; 2. as a sort of instinct, or [phronema], deep in the bosom of the mystical body of Christ; 3. as a direction of the Holy Ghost; 4. as an answer to its prayer; 5. as a jealousy of error, which it at once feels as a scandal.

  1. The first of these I need not enlarge upon, as it is illustrated in the foregoing passages from Father Perrone.
  2. The second is explained in the well-known passages of Möhler’s Symbolique; e.g. “L’esprit de Dieu, qui gouverne {212} et vivifie l’Eglise, enfante dans l’homme, en s’unissant à lui, un instinct, un tact éminemment chrétien, qui le conduit à toute vraie doctrine … Ce sentiment commun, cette conscience de l’Eglise est la tradition dans le sens subjectif du mot. Qu’est-ce donc que la tradition considérée sous ce point de vue? C’est le sens chrétien existant dans l’Eglise, et transmis par l’Eglise; sens, toutefois, qu’on ne peut séparer des vérités qu’il contient, puisqu’il est formé de ces vérités et par ces vérités.” Ap. Perrone, p. 142.
  3. Cardinal Fisher seems to speak of the third, as he is quoted by Petavius, De Incarn. xiv. 2; that is, he speaks of a custom imperceptibly gaining a position, “nullâ præceptorum vi, sed consensu quodam tacito tam populi quàm cleri, quasi tacitis omnium suffragiis recepta fuit, priusquàm ullo conciliorum decreto legimus eam fuisse firmatam.” And then he adds, “This custom has its birth in that people which is ruled by the Holy Ghost,” &c.
  4. Petavius speaks of a fourth aspect of it. “It is well said by St. Augustine, that to the minds of individuals certain things are revealed by God, not only by extraordinary means, as in visions, &c., but also in those usual ways, according to which what is unknown to them is opened in answer to their prayer. After this manner it to be believed, that God has revealed to Christians the sinless Conception of the Immaculate Virgin.” De Incarn. xiv. 2, 11.
  5. The fifth is “enlarged upon in Dr. Newman’s second Lecture on Anglican Difficulties, from which I quote a few lines: “We know that it is the property of life to be impatient of any foreign substance in the body to which it belongs. It will be sovereign in its o domain, and it conflicts with what it cannot assimilate into itself, and is irritated and disordered till it has expelled it. Such expulsion, then, is emphatically a test of uncongeniality, for it shows that the substance ejected, not only is not one with the body that rejects it, but cannot be made one with it; that its introduction is not only useless or superfluous, adventitious, but that it is intolerable.” Presently he continues: “The religious life of a people is of a certain quality and direction, and these are tested by the mode in which it encounters the various opinions, customs, and institutions which are submitted to it. Drive a stake into a river’s bed, and you will at once ascertain which way it is running, and at what speed; throw up even a straw upon the air, and you will see which way the wind blows; submit your heretical and Catholic principle to the action of the multitude, and you will be able to pronounce at once whether it is imbued with Catholic truth or with heretical {213} falsehood.” And then he proceeds to exemplify this by a passage in the history of Arianism, the very history which I intend now to take, as illustrative of the truth and importance of the thesis on which I am insisting.

It is not a little remarkable, that, though, historically speaking, the fourth century is the age of doctors, illustrated, as it was, by the saints Athanasius, Hilary, the two Gregories, Basil, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine, and all of these saints bishops also, except one, nevertheless in that very day the divine tradition committed to the infallible Church was proclaimed and maintained far more by the faithful than by the Episcopate.

Here, of course, I must explain:—in saying this, then, undoubtedly I am not denying that the great body of the Bishops were in their internal belief orthodox; nor that there were numbers of clergy who stood by the laity, and acted as their centres and guides; nor that the laity actually received their faith, in the first instance, from the Bishops and clergy; nor that some portions of the laity were ignorant, and other portions at length corrupted, by the Arian teachers, who got possession of the sees and ordained an heretical clergy;—but I mean still, that in that time of immense confusion the divine dogma of our Lord’s divinity was proclaimed, enforced, maintained, and (humanly speaking) preserved, far more by the “Ecclesia docta” than by the “Ecclesia docens;” that the body of the episcopate was unfaithful to its commission, while the body of the laity was faithful to its baptism; that at one time the Pope, at other times the patriarchal, metropolitan, and other great sees, at other times general councils, said what they should not have said, or did what obscured and compromised revealed truth; while, on the other hand, it was the Christian people who, under Providence, were the ecclesiastical strength of Athanasius, Hilary, Eusebius of Vercellæ, and other great solitary confessors, who would have failed without them.

I see, then, in the Arian history a palmary example of a state of the Church, during which, in order to know the tradition of the Apostles, we must have recourse to the faithful; for I fairly own, that if I go to writers, since I must adjust the letter of Justin, Clement, and Hippolytus with the Nicene Doctors, I get confused; and what revives and re-instates me, as far as history goes, is the faith of the people. For I argue that, unless they had been catechised, as St. Hilary says, in the orthodox faith from the time of their baptism, they never could have had that horror, which they show, of the heterodox Arian doctrine. Their voice, then, is the voice of tradition; {214} and the instance comes to us with still greater emphasis, when we consider—1. that it occurs in the very beginning of the history of the “Ecclesia docens,” for there can scarcely be said to be any history of her teaching till the age of martyrs was over; 2. that the doctrine in controversy was so momentous, being the very foundation of the Christian system; 3. that the state of controversy and disorder lasted over the long space of sixty years; and that it involved serious persecutions, in life, limb, and property, to the faithful whose loyal perseverance decided it.

It seems, then, as striking an instance as I could take in fulfilment of Father Perrone’s statement, that the voice of tradition may in certain cases express itself, not by Councils, nor Fathers, nor Bishops, but the “communis fidelium sensus.”

I shall set down some authorities for the two points successively, which I have to enforce, viz. that the Nicene dogma was maintained during the greater part of the 4th century,

  1. not by the unswerving firmness of the Holy See, Councils, or Bishops, but
  2. by the “consensus fidelium.”
  3. On the one hand, then, I say, that there was a temporary suspense of the functions of the “Ecclesia docens.” The body of Bishops failed in the confession of the faith. They spoke variously, one against another; there was nothing, after Nicæa, of firm, unvarying, consistent testimony, for nearly sixty years. There were untrustworthy Councils, unfaithful Bishops; there was weakness, fear of consequences, misguidance, delusion, hallucination, endless, hopeless, extending itself into nearly every corner of the Catholic Church. The comparatively few who remained faithfu1 were discredited and driven into exile; the rest were either deceivers or were deceived.
  4. A.D. 325. The great council of Nicæa, of 318 Bishops, chiefly from the eastern provinces of Christendom, under the presidency of Hosius of Cordova, as the Pope’s Legate. It was convoked against Arianism, which it once for all anathematized; and it inserted the formula of the “Consubstantial” into the Creed, with the view of establishing the fundamental dogma which Arianism impugned. It is the first Œcumenical Council, and recognised at the time its own authority as the voice of the infallible Church. It is so received by the orbis terrarum at this day. The history of the Arian controversy, from its date, A.D. 325, to the date of the second Œcumenical Council, A.D. 381, is the history of the struggle through Christendom for the universal acceptance or the repudiation of the formula of the “Consubstantial.” {215}
  5. A.D. 334, 335. The synods of Cæsarea and Tyre against Athanasius, who was therein accused and formally condemned of rebellion, sedition, and ecclesiastical tyranny; of murder, sacrilege, and magic; deposed from his see, forbidden to set foot in Alexandria for life, and banished to Gaul. Constantine confirmed the sentence.
  6. A.D. 341. Council of Rome of fifty Bishops, attended by the exiles from Thrace, Syria, &c., by Athanasius, &c., in which Athanasius was pronounced innocent.
  7. A.D. 341. Great Council of the Dedication at Antioch, attended by ninety or a hundred Bishops. The council ratified the proceedings of the councils of Cæsarea and Tyre, and placed an Arian in the see of Athanasius. Then it proceeded to pass a dogmatic decree in reversal of the formula of the “Consubstantial.” Four or five creeds, instead of the Nicene, were successively adopted by the assembled fathers. The first was a creed which they ascribed to Lucian, a martyr and saint of the preceding century, in whom the Arians always gloried as their master. The second was fuller and stronger in its language, and made more pretension to orthodoxy. The third was more feeble again. These three creeds were circulated in the neighbourhood; but, as they wished to send one to Rome, they directed a fourth to be drawn up. This, too, apparently failed. So little was known at the time of the real history of this synod and its creeds, that St. Hilary calls it “sanctorum synodus.”
  8. A.D. 345. Council of the creed called Macrostich. This creed suppresses, as did the third, the word “substance.” The eastern Bishops sent this to the Bishops of the West, who rejected it.
  9. A.D. 347. The great council of Sardica, attended by 380 Bishops. Before it commenced, the division between its members broke out on the question whether or not Athanasius should have a seat in it. In consequence, seventy-six retired to Philippopolis, on the Thracian side of Mount Hæmus, and there excommunicated the Pope and the Sardican fathers. These seceders published a sixth confession of faith. The synod of Sardica, including Bishops from Italy, Gaul, Africa, Egypt, Cyprus, and Palestine, confirmed the act of the Roman council, and restored Athanasius and the other exiles to their sees. The synod of Philippopolis, on the contrary, sent letters to the civil magistrates of those cities, forbidding them to admit the exiles into them. The imperial power took part with the Sardican fathers, and Athanasius went back to Alexandria.
  10. A.D. 351. Before many years had run out, the great eastern party was up again. Under pretence of putting down a kind of Sabellianism, they drew up a new creed, into which they introduced certain inadvisable expressions of some of the ante-Nicene writers, on the subject of our Lord’s divinity, and dropped the word “substance.” St. Hilary thought this creed also Catholic; and other Catholic writers style its fathers “holy Bishops.”
  11. There is considerable confusion of dates here. Anyhow, there {216} was a second Sirmian creed, in which the eastern party first came to a division among themselves. St. Hilary at length gives up these creeds as indefensible, and calls this one a “blasphemy.” It is the first creed which criticises the words “substance,” &c., as unscriptural. Some years afterwards this “blasphemia” seems to have been interpolated, and sent into the East in the name of Hosius. At a later date, there was a third Sirmian Creed; and a second edition of it, with alterations, was published at Nice in Thrace.
  12. A.D. 353. The council of Arles. I cannot find how many Bishops attended it. As the Pope sent several Bishops as legates, it must have been one of great importance. The Bishop of Arles was an Arian, and managed to seduce, or to force, a number of orthodox Bishops, including the Pope’s legate, Vincent, to subscribe the condemnation of Athanasius. Paulinus, Bishop of Trêves, was nearly the only champion of the Nicene faith and of Athanasius. He was accordingly banished into Phrygia, where he died.
  13. A.D. 355. The council of Milan, of more than 300 Bishops of the West. Nearly all of them subscribed the condemnation of Athanasius; whether they generally subscribed the heretical creed, which was brought forward, does not appear. The Pope’s four legates remained firm, and St. Dionysius of Milan, who died an exile in Asia Minor. An Arian was put into his see. Saturninus, the Bishop of Arles, proceeded to hold a council at Beziers; and its fathers banished St. Hilary to Phrygia.
  14. A.D. 357. Hosius falls. Constantius used such violence towards the old man, and confined him so straitly, that at last, broken by suffering, he was brought, though hardly, to hold communion with Valens and Ursacius [the Arian leader], though he would not subscribe against Athanasius.” Athan. Arian. Hist. 45.
  15. Liberius. A.D. 357. “The tragedy was not ended in the lapse of Hosius, but in the evil which befell Liberius, the Roman Pontiff, it became far more dreadful and mournful, considering that he was Bishop of so great a city, and of the whole Catholic Church, and that he had so bravely resisted Constantine two years previously. There is nothing, whether in the historians and holy fathers, or in his own letters, to prevent our coming to the conclusion, that Liberius communicated with the Arians, and confirmed the sentence passed against Athanasius; but he is not at all on that account to be called a heretic.” Baron. Ann. 357, 40-45. Athanasius says: “Liberius, after he had been in banishment two years, gave way, and from fear of threatened death was induced to subscribe.” Arian. Hist. § 41. St. Jerome says: “Liberius, tædio victus exilii, in hæreticam pravitatem subscribens, Romam quasi victor intravit.” Chron.
  16. A.D. 359. The great councils of Seleucia and Ariminum, being one bi-partite council, representing the East and West respectively. At Seleucia there were 150 Bishops, of which only the twelve or thirteen from Egypt were champion of the Nicene “Consubstantial.” At Ariminum there were as ma y as 400 Bishops, who, worn {217} out by the artifice of long delay on the part of the Arians, abandoned the “Consubstantial,” and subscribed the ambiguous formula which the heretics had substituted for it.
  17. A.D. 361. The death of Constantius; the Catholic Bishops breathe again, and begin at once to remedy the miseries of the Church, though troubles were soon to break out anew.
  18. A.D. 362. State of the Church of Antioch at this time. There were four Bishops or communions of Antioch; first, the old succession and communion, which had possession before the Arian troubles; secondly, the Arian succession, which had lately conformed to orthodoxy in the person of Meletius; thirdly, the new Latin succession, lately created by Lucifer, whom some have thought the Pope’s legate there; and, fourthly, the new Arian succession, which was begun upon the recantation of Meletius. At length, as Arianism was brought under, the evil reduced itself to two successions, that of Meletius and the Latin, which went on for many years, the West and Egypt holding communion with the latter, and the East with the former.
  19. A.D. 370-379. St. Basil was Bishop of Cæsarea in Cappadocia through these years. The judgments formed about this great doctor in his lifetime show us vividly the extreme confusion which prevailed. He was accused by one party of being a follower of Apollinaris, and lost in consequence some of the sees over which he was metropolitan. He was accused by the monks in his friend Gregory’s diocese of favouring the semi-Arians. He was accused by the Neocæsareans of inclining towards Arianism. And he was treated with suspicion and coldness by Pope Damasus.
  20. About A.D. 360, St. Hilary says: “I am not speaking of things foreign to my knowledge; I am not writing about what I am ignorant of; I have heard and I have seen the shortcomings of persons who are present to me, not of laymen merely, but of Bishops. For, excepting the Bishop Eleusius and a few with him, for the most part the ten Asian provinces, within whose boundaries I am situate, are truly ignorant of God.” It is observable, that even Eleusius, who is here spoken of as somewhat better than the rest, was a semi-Arian, according to Socrates, and even a persecutor of Catholics at Constantinople; and, according to Sozomen, one of those who urged Pope Liberius to give up the Nicene formula of the “Consubstantial.” By the ten Asian provinces is meant the east and south provinces of Asia Minor, pretty nearly as cut off by a line passing from Cyzicus to Seleucia through Synnada.
  21. A.D. 360. St. Gregory Nazianzen says, about this date: “Surely the pastors have done foolishly; for, excepting a very few, who, either on account of their insignificance were passed over, or who by reason of their virtue resisted, and who were to be left as a seed and root for the springing up again and revival of Israel by the influences of the Spirit, all temporised, only differing from each other in this, that some succumbed earlier, and others later; some were foremost champions and leaders in the impiety, and others joined {218} the second rank of the battle, being overcome by fear, or by interest, or by flattery, or, what was the most excusable, by their own ignorance.” Orat. xxi. 24.
  22. A.D. 363. About this time, St. Jerome says: “Nearly all the churches in the whole world, under the pretence of peace and the emperor, are polluted with the communion of the Arians.” Chron. Of the same date, that is, upon the Council of Ariminum, are his famous words, “Ingemuit totus orbis et se esse Arianum miratus est.” In Lucif. That is, the Catholics of Christendom were surprised indeed to find that their rulers had made Arians of them.
  23. A.D. 364. And St. Hilary: “Up to this date, the only cause why Christ’s people is not murdered by the priests of Anti-christ, with this deceit of impiety, is, that they take the words, which the heretics use, to denote the faith which they themselves hold. Sanctiores aures plebis quàm corda sunt sacerdotum.” In Aux. 6.
  24. St. Hilary speaks of the series of ecclesiastical councils of that time in the following well-known passage: “It is most dangerous to us, and it is lamentable, that there are at present as many creeds as there are sentiments, and as many doctrines among us as dispositions, while we write creeds and explain them according to our fancy. Since the Nicene council, we have done nothing but write the creed. While we fight about words, inquire about novelties, take advantage of ambiguities, criticise authors, fight on party questions, have difficulties in agreeing, and prepare to anathematise each other, there is scarce a man who belongs to Christ. Take, for instance, last year’s creed, what alteration is there not in it already? First, we have the creed, which bids us not to use the Nicene ‘consubstantial;’ then comes another, which decrees and preaches it; next, the third, excuses the word ‘substance,’ as adopted by the fathers in their simplicity; lastly, the fourth, instead of excusing, condemns. We impose creeds by the year or by the month, we change our minds about our own imposition of them, then we prohibit our changes, then we anathematise our prohibitions. Thus, we either condemn others in our own persons, or ourselves in the instance of others, and while we bite and devour one another, are like to be consumed one of another.”
  25. A.D. 382. St. Gregory writes: “If I must speak the truth, I feel disposed to shun every conference of Bishops; for never saw I synod brought to a happy issue, and remedying, and not rather aggravating, existing evils. For rivalry and ambition are stronger than reason,—do not think me extravagant for saying so,—and a mediator is more likely to incur some imputation himself than to clear up the imputations which others lie under.” Ep. 129. It must ever be kept in mind that a passage like this only relates, and is here quoted as only relating, to that miserable time of which it is spoken. Nothing more can be argued from it than that the “Ecclesia docens” is not at every time the active instrument of the Church’s infallibility. {219}
  26. Now we come secondly to the proofs of the fidelity of the laity, and the effectiveness of that fidelity, during that domination of imperial heresy to which the foregoing passages have related. I have abridged the extracts which follow, but not, I hope, to the injury of their sense.
  27. ALEXANDRIA. “We suppose,” says Athanasius, “you are not ignorant what outrages they [the Arian Bishops] committed at Alexandria, for they are reported every where. They attacked the holy virgins and brethren with naked swords; they beat with scourges their persons, esteemed honourable in God’s sight, so that their feet were lamed by the stripes, whose souls were whole and sound in purity and all good works.” Athan. Op. c. Arian. 15, Oxf. tr.

“Accordingly Constantius writes letters, and commences a persecution against all. Gathering together a multitude of herdsmen and shepherds, and dissolute youths belonging to the town, armed with swords and clubs, they attacked in a body the Church of Quirinus: and some they slew, some they trampled under foot, others they beat with stripes and cast into prison or banished. They haled away many women also, and dragged them openly into the court, and insulted them, dragging them by the hair. Some they proscribed; from some they took away their bread, for no other reason but that they might be induced to join the Arians, and receive Gregory [the Arian Bishop], who had been sent by the Emperor.” Athan. Hist. Arian. § 10.

“On the week that succeeded the holy Pentecost, when the people, after their fast, had gone out to the cemetery to pray, because that all refused communion with George [the Arian Bishop], the commander, Sebastian, straightway with a multitude of soldiers proceeded to attack the people, though it was the Lord’s day; and finding a few praying, (for the greater part had already retired on account of the lateness of the hour,) having lighted a pile, he placed certain virgins near the fire, and endeavoured to force them to say that they were of the Arian faith. And having seized on forty men, he cut some fresh twigs of the palm-tree, with the thorns upon them, and scourged them on the back so severely that some of them were for a long time under medical treatment, on account of the thorns which had entered their flesh, and others, unable to bear up under their sufferings, died. All those whom they had taken, both the men and the virgins, they sent away into banishment to the great oasis. Moreover, they immediately banished out of Egypt and Libya the following Bishops [sixteen], and the presbyters, Hierax and Dioscorus: some of them died on the way, others in the place of their banishment. They caused also more than thirty Bishops to take to flight.” Apol. de Fug. 7.

  1. EGYPT. “The Emperor Valens having issued an edict commanding that the orthodox should be expelled both from Alexandria and the rest of Egypt, depopulation and ruin to am immense extent immediately followed; some were dragged before the tribunals, {220} others cast into prison, and many tortured in various ways; all sorts of punishment being inflicted upon persons who aimed only at peace and quiet.” Socr. Hist. iv. 24, Bohn.
  2. THE MONKS OF EGYPT. “Antony left the solitude of the desert to go about every part of the city [Alexandria], warning the inhabitants that the Arians were opposing the truth, and that the doctrines of the Apostles were preached only by Athanasius.” Theod. Hist. iv. 27, Bohn.

“Lucius, the Arian, with a considerable body of troops, proceeded to the monasteries of Egypt, where he in person assailed the assemblage of holy men with greater fury than the ruthless soldiery. When these excellent persons remained unmoved by all the violence, in despair he advised the military chief to send the fathers of the monks, the Egyptian Macarius and his namesake of Alexandria, into exile.” Socr. iv. 24.

OF CONSTANTINOPLE. “Isaac, on seeing the emperor depart at the head of his army, exclaimed, ‘You who have declared war against God cannot gain His aid. Cease from fighting against Him, and He will terminate the war. Restore the pastors to their flocks, and then you will obtain a bloodless victory.” Ibid. 34.

OF SYRIA, &c. “That these heretical doctrines [Apollinarian and Eunomian] did not finally become predominant is mainly to be attributed to the zeal of the monks of this period; for all the monks of Syria, Cappadocia, and the neighboring provinces were sincerely attached to the Nicene faith. The same fate awaited them which had been experienced by the Arians; for they incurred the full weight of the popular odium and aversion, when it was observed that their sentiments were regarded with suspicion by the monks.” Sozom. Hist. vii. 27, Bohn.

OF CAPPADOCIA. “Gregory, the father of Gregory Theologus, otherwise a most excellent man and a zealous defender of the true and Catholic religion, not being on his guard against the artifices of the Arians, such was his simplicity, received with kindness certain men who were contaminated with the poison, and subscribed an impious proposition of theirs. This moved the monks to such indignation, that they withdrew forthwith from his communion, and took with them, after their example, a considerable part of his flock.” Ed. Bened. Monit. in Greg. Naz. Orat. 6.

  1. SYRIA. “Syria and the neighbouring provinces were plunged into confusion and disorder, for the Arians were very numerous in these parts, and had possession of the churches. The members of the Catholic Church were not, however, few in numbers. It was through their instrumentality that the Church of Antioch was preserved from the encroachments of the Arians, and enabled to resist the power of Valens. Indeed, it appears that all the Churches which were governed by men who were firmly attached to the faith did not deviate from the form of doctrine which they had originally embraced.” Sozom. vi. 21.
  2. ANTIOCH. “Whereas he (the Bishop Leontius) took part in {221} the blasphemy of Arius, he made a point of concealing this disease, partly for fear of the multitude, partly for the menaces of Constantius; so those who followed the apostolical dogmas gained from him neither patronage nor ordination, but these who held Arianism were allowed the fullest liberty of speech, and were placed in the ranks of the sacred ministry. But Flavian and Diodorus, who had embraced the ascetical life, and maintained the apostolical dogmas, openly withstood Leontius’s machinations against religious doctrine. They threatened that they would retire from the communion of his Church, and would go to the West, and reveal his intrigues. Though they were not as yet in the sacred ministry, but were in the ranks of the laity, night and day they used to excite all the people to zeal for religion. They were the first to divide the singers into two choirs, and to teach them to sing alternately the strains of David. They too, assembling the devout at the shrines of the martyrs, passed the whole night there in hymns to God. These things Leontius seeing, did not think it safe to hinder them, for he saw that the multitude was especially well affected towards those excellent persons. Nothing, however, could persuade Leontius to correct his wickedness. It follows, that among the clergy were many who were infected with the heresy: but the mass of the people were champions of orthodoxy.” Theodor. Hist. ii. 24.
  3. EDESSA. “There is in that city a magnificent church, dedicated to St. Thomas the Apostle, wherein, on account of the sanctity of the place, religious assemblies are continually held. The Emperor Valens wished to inspect this edifice; when, having learned that all who usually congregated there were opposed to the heresy which he favoured, he is said to have struck the prefect with his own hand, because he had neglected to expel them thence. The prefect, to prevent the slaughter of so great a number of persons, privately warned them against resorting thither. But his admonitions and menaces were alike unheeded; for on the following day they all crowded to the church. When the prefect was going towards it with a large military force, a poor woman, leading her own little child by the hand, hurried hastily by on her way to the church, breaking through the ranks of the soldiery. The prefect, irritated at this, ordered her to be brought to him, and thus addressed her: ‘Wretched woman, whither are you running in so disorderly a manner?’ She replied, ‘To the same place that others are hastening.’ ‘Have you not heard,’ said he, ‘that the prefect is about to put to death all that shall be found there?’ ‘Yes,’ said the woman, ‘and therefore I hasten, that I may be found there.’ ‘And whither are you dragging that little child?’ said the prefect. The woman answered, ‘That he also may be vouchsafed the honour of martyrdom.’ The prefect went back and informed the emperor that all were ready to die in behalf of their own faith; and added that it would be preposterous to destroy so many persons at one time, and thus succeeded in restraining the emperor’s wrath.” Socr. iv. 18. “Thus was the Christian faith confessed by the whole city of Edessa.” Sozom. vi. 18. {222}
  4. SAMOSATA. “The Arians, having deprived this exemplary flock of their shepherd, elected in his place an individual with whom none of the inhabitants of the city, whether poor or rich, servants or mechanics, husbandmen or gardeners, men or women, young or old, would hold communion. He was left quite alone; no one even calling to see him, or exchanging a word with him. It is, however, said that his disposition was extremely gentle; and this is proved by what I am about to relate. One day, when he went to bathe in the public baths, the attendants closed the doors; but he ordered the doors to be thrown open, that the people might be admitted to bathe with himself. Perceiving that they remained in a standing posture before him, imagining that great deference towards himself was the cause of this conduct, he arose and left the bath. These people believed that the water had been contaminated by his heresy, and ordered it to be let out and fresh water to be supplied. When he heard of this circumstance, he left the city, thinking that he ought no longer to remain in a place where he was the object of public aversion and hatred. Upon this retirement of Eunonius, Lucius was elected as his successor by the Arians. Some young persons were amusing themselves with playing at ball in the market-place; Lucius was passing by at the time, and the ball happened to fall beneath the feet of the ass on which he was mounted. The youths uttered loud exclamations, believing that the bait was contaminated. They lighted a fire, and hurled the ball through it, believing that by this process the ball would be purified. Although this was only a childish deed, and although it exhibits the remains of ancient superstition, yet it is sufficient to show the odium which the Arian faction had incurred in this city. Lucius was far from imitating the mildness of Eunonius, and he persuaded the heads of government to exile most of the clergy.” Theodor. iv. 15.
  5. OSROENE. “Arianism met with similar opposition at the same period in Osroëne and Cappadocia. Basil Bishop of Cæsarea, and Gregory Bishop of Nazianzus, were held in high admiration and esteem throughout these regions.” Sozom. vi. 21.
  6. CAPPADOCIA. “Valens, in passing through Cappadocia, did all in his power to injure the orthodox, and to deliver up the churches to the Arians. He thought to accomplish his designs more easily on account of a dispute which was then pending between Basil and Eusebius, who governed the Church of Cæsarea. This dissension had been the cause of Basil’s departing to Pontus. The people, and some of the most powerful and wisest men of the city, began to regard Eusebius with suspicion, and to meditate a secession from his communion. The emperor and the Arian Bishops regarded the absence of Basil, and the hatred of the people towards Eusebius, as circumstances that would tend greatly to the success of their designs. But their expectations were utterly frustrated. On the first intelligence of the intention of the emperor to pass through Cappadocia, Basil returned to Cæsarea, where he effected a reconciliation with Eusebius. {223} The projects of Valens were thus defeated, and he returned with his Bishops.” Sozom. vi. 19.
  7. PONTUS. “It is said that when Eulalius, Bishop of Amasia in Pontus, returned from exile, he found that his Church had passed into the hands of an Arian, and that scarcely fifty inhabitants of the city had submitted to the control of their new Bishop.” Sozom. vii. 2.
  8. ARMENIA. “That company of Arians who came with Eustathius to Nicopolis had promised that they would bring over this city to compliance with the commands of the imperial vicar. This city had great ecclesiastical importance, both because it was the metropolis of Armenia, and because it had been ennobled by the blood of martyrs, and governed hitherto by Bishops of great reputation, and thus, as Basil calls it, was the nurse of religion and the metropolis of sound doctrine. Fronto, one of the city presbyters, who had hitherto shown himself as a champion of the truth, through ambition gave himself up to the enemies of Christ, and purchased the bishopric of the Arians at the price of renouncing the Catholic faith. This wicked proceeding of Eustathius and the Arians brought a new glory instead of evil to the Nicopolitans, since it gave them an opportunity of defending the faith. Fronto, indeed, the Arians consecrated, but there was a remarkable unanimity of clergy and people in rejecting him. Scarcely one or two clerks sided with him; on the contrary, he became the execration of all Armenia.” Vita S. Basil. Maurin. pp. clvii. clviii.
  9. NICOMEDIA. “Eighty pious clergy proceeded to Nicomedia, and there presented to the emperor a supplicatory petition complaining of the ill-usage to which they had been subjected. Valens, dissembling his displeasure in their presence, gave Modestus, the prefect, a secret order to apprehend these persons and put them to death. The prefect, fearing that he should excite the populace to a seditious movement against himself, if he attempted the public execution of so many, pretended to send them away into exile,” &c. Socr. iv. 16.
  10. ASIA MINOR. St. Basil says, about the year 372: “Religious people keep silence, but every blaspheming tongue is let loose. Sacred things are profaned; those of the laity who are sound in faith avoid the places of worship as schools of impiety, and raise their hands in solitude, with groans and tears, to the Lord in heaven.” Ep. 93. Four years after he writes: “Matters have come to this pass; the people have left their houses of prayer, and assemble in deserts: a pitiable sight; women and children, old men, and others infirm, wretchedly faring in the open air, amid the most profuse rains and snow-storms, and winds, and frost of winter; and again in summer under a scorching sun. To this they submit, because they will have no part in the wicked Arian leaven.” Ep. 342. Again: “Only one offence is now vigorously punished, an accurate observance of our fathers’ traditions. For this cause the pious are driven from their countries, and transported into deserts. The {224} people are in lamentations, in continual tears at home and abroad. There is a cry in the city, a cry in the country, in the roads, in the deserts. Joy and spiritual cheerfulness are no more; our feasts are turned into mourning; our houses of prayer are shut up, our altars deprived of the spiritual worship.” Ep. 343.
  11. SCYTHIA. “There are in this country a great number of cities, of towns, and of fortresses. According to an ancient custom which still prevails, all the churches of the whole country are under the sway of one Bishop. Valens [the emperor] repaired to the church, and strove to gain over the Bishop to the heresy of Arius; but this latter manfully opposed his arguments, and, after a courageous defence of the Nicene doctrines, quitted the emperor, and proceeded to another church, whither he was followed by the people. Valens was extremely offended at being left alone in a church with his attendants, and, in resentment, condemned Vetranio [the Bishop] to banishment. Not long after, however, he recalled him, because, I believe, he apprehended an insurrection.” Sozom. vi. 21.
  12. CONSTANTINOPLE. “Those who acknowledged the doctrine of consubstantiality were not only expelled from the churches, but also from the cities. But although expulsion at first satisfied them [the Arians], they soon proceeded to the worse extremity of inducing compulsory communion with them, caring little for such a desecration of the churches. They resorted to all kinds of scourgings, a variety of tortures, and confiscation of property. Many were punished with exile, some died under the torture, and others were put to death while being driven from their country. These atrocities were exercised throughout all the eastern cities, but especially at Constantinople.” Socr. ii. 27.

The following passage is quoted for the substantial fact which it contains, viz. the testimony of popular tradition to the Catholic doctrine: “At this period a union was nearly effected between the Novatian and Catholic Churches; for, as they both held the same sentiments concerning the Divinity, and were subjected to a common persecution, the members of both Churches assembled and prayed together. The Catholics then possessed no houses of prayer, for the Arians had wrested them from them.” Sozom. iv. 20.

  1. ILLYRIA. “The parents of Theodosius were Christians, and were attached to the Nicene doctrine, hence he took pleasure in the ministration of Ascholius [Bishop of Thessalonica]. He also rejoiced at finding that the Arian heresy had not been received in Illyria.” Sozom. vii. 4.
  2. NEIGHBOURHOOD OF MACEDONIA. “Theodosius inquired concerning the religious sentiments which were prevalent in the other provinces, and ascertained that, as far as Macedonia, one form of belief was universally predominant,” &c. Ibid.
  3. ROME. “With respect to doctrine no dissension arose either at Rome or in any other of the Western Churches. The people unanimously adhered to the form of belief established at Nicæa.” Sozom. vi. 23. {225}

“Not long after, Liberius (the Pope) was recalled and re-instated in his see; for the people of Rome, having raised a sedition, and expelled Felix [whom the Arian party had intruded] from their Church, Constantius deemed it inexpedient to provoke the popular fury.” Socr. ii. 37.

“Liberius, returning to Rome, found the mind of the mass of men alienated front him, because he had so shamefully yielded to Constantius. And thus it came to pass, that those persons who had hitherto kept aloof from Felix [the rival Pope], and had avoided his communion in favour of Liberius, on hearing what had happened, left him for Felix, who raised the Catholic standard. Among others, Damasus [afterwards Pope] took the side of Felix. Such had been, even from the times of the Apostles, the love of Catholic discipline in the Roman people.” Baron. ann. 357. He tells us besides, that the people would not even go to the public baths, lest they should bathe with the party of Liberius.

  1. MILAN. “At the council of Milan, Eusebius of Vercellæ, when it was proposed to draw up a declaration against Athanasius, said that the council ought first to be sure of the faith of the Bishops attending it, for he had found out that some of them were polluted with heresy. Accordingly he brought before the Fathers the Nicene creed, and said he was willing to comply with all their demands, after they had subscribed that confession. Dionysius, Bishop of Milan, at once took up the paper and began to write his assent; but Valens [the Arian] violently pulled pen and paper out of his hands, crying out that such a course of proceeding was impossible. Whereupon, after much tumult, the question came before the people, and great was the distress of all of them; the faith of the Church was impugned by the Bishops. They then, dreading the judgment of the people, transfer their meeting from the church to the imperial palace.” Hilar. in Const. i.

“As the feast of Easter approached, the empress sent to St. Ambrose to ask a church of him, where the Arians who attended her might meet together. He replied, that a Bishop could not give up the temple of God. The pretorian prefect came into the church, where St. Ambrose was, attended by the people, and endeavoured to persuade him to yield up at least the Portian Basilica. The people were clamorous against the proposal; and the prefect retired to report how matters stood to the emperor. The Sunday following, St. Ambrose was explaining the creed, when he was informed that the officers were hanging up the imperial hangings in the Portian Basilica, and that upon this news the people were repairing thither. While he was offering up the holy sacrifice, a second message came that the people had seized an Arian priest as he was passing through the street. He despatched a number of his clergy to the spot to rescue the Arian from his danger. The court looked on this resistance of the people as seditious, and immediately laid considerable fines upon the whole body of the tradesmen of the city. Several were thrown into prison. In three days’ time these tradesmen were fined {226} two hundred pounds weight of gold, and they said that they were ready to give as much again, on condition that they might retain their faith. The prisons were filled with tradesmen: all the officers of the household, secretaries, agents of the emperor, and dependent officers who served under various counts, were kept within doors, and were forbidden to appear in public under pretence that they should bear no part in the sedition. Men of higher rank were menaced with severe consequences, unless the Basilica were surrendered …

“Next morning the Basilica was surrounded by soldiers; but it was reported, that these soldiers had sent to the emperor to tell him that if he wished to come abroad he might, and that they would attend him, if he was going to the assembly of the Catholics; otherwise, that they would go to that which would be held by St. Ambrose. Indeed, the solders were all Catholics, as well as the citizens of Milan; there were no heretics there, except a few officers of the emperor and. some Goths …

“St. Ambrose was continuing his discourse when he was told that the emperor had withdrawn the soldiers from the Basilica, and that he had restored to the tradesmen the fines which he had exacted from them. This news gave joy to the people, who expressed their delight with applauses and thanksgivings; the soldiers themselves were eager to bring the news, throwing themselves on the altars, and kissing them in token of peace.” Fleury’s Hist. xviii. 41, 42, Oxf. trans.

  1. THE SOLDIERY. Soldiers having been mentioned in the foregoing extract, I add the following passage. “Terentius, a general distinguished by his valour and by his piety, was able, on his return from Armenia, to erect trophies of victory. Valens promised to give him every thing that he might desire. But he asked not for gold or silver, for lands, power, or honours; he requested that a church might be given to those who preached the apostolical doctrines.” Theodor. iv. 32.

“Valens sent Trajan, the general, against the barbarians. Trajan was defeated, and, on his return, the emperor reproached him severely, and accused him of weakness and cowardice. But Trajan replied with great boldness, “It is not I, O emperor, who have been defeated; for you, by fighting against God, have thrown the barbarians upon His protection. Do you not know who those are whom you have driven from the churches, and who are those to whom you have given them up? Arintheus and Victor, the other commanders, accorded in what he had said, and brought the emperor to reflect on the truth of their remonstrances.” Ibid. 33.

  1. CHRISTENDOM GENERALLY. St. Hilary to Constantius: “Not only in words, but in tears, we beseech you to save the Catholic Churches from any longer continuance of these most grievous injuries, and of their present intolerable persecutions and insults, which moreover they are enduring, which is monstrous, from our brethren. Surely your clemency should listen to the voice of those who cry out so loudly, ‘I am a Catholic, I have no wish to be a heretic.’ It {227} should seem equitable to your sanctity, most glorious Augustus, that they who fear the Lord God and His judgment should not be polluted and contaminated with execrable blasphemies, but should have liberty to follow those Bishops and prelates who observe inviolate the laws of charity, and who desire a perpetual and sincere peace. It is impossible, it is unreasonable, to mix true and false, to confuse light and darkness, and bring into a union, of whatever kind, night and day. Give permission to the populations to hear the teaching of the pastors whom they have wished, whom they fixed on, whom they have chosen, to attend their celebration of the divine mysteries, to offer prayers through them for your safety and prosperity.” In Const. i.

Now I know quite well what will be said to so elaborate a collection of instances as I have been making. The “lector benevolus” will quote against me the words of Cicero; “Utitur in re non dubiâ testibus non necessariis.” This is sure to befall a man, when he directs the attention of a friend to any truth which hitherto he has thought little of. At first, he seems to be hazarding a paradox, and at length to be committing a truism. The hearer is first of all startled, and then disappointed; he ends by asking, “Is this all?” It is a curious phenomenon in the philosophy of the human mind, that we often do not know whether we hold a point or not, though we hold it; but when our attention is once drawn to it, then forthwith we find it so much part of ourselves, that we cannot recollect when we began to hold it, and we conclude (with truth), and we declare, that it has always been our belief. Now it strikes me as worth noticing, that, though Father Perrone is so clear upon the point of doctrine which I have been urging in 1847, yet in 1842, which is the date of my own copy of his Prælectiones, he has not given the consensus fidelium any distinct place in his Loci Theologici, though he has even given “heretici” a place there. Among the Media Traditionis, he enumerates the magisterium of the Church, the Acts of the Martyrs, the Liturgy, usages and rites of worship, the Fathers, heretics, Church history; but not a word, that I can find, directly and separately, about the sensus fidelium. This is the more remarkable, because, speaking of the Acta Martyrum, he gives a reason for the force of the testimony of the martyrs which belongs quite as fully to the faithful generally; viz. that, as not being theologians, they can only repeat that objective truth, which, on the other hand, Fathers and theologians do but present subjectively, and thereby coloured with their own mental peculiarities. “We learn from them,” he says, “what was the traditionary doctrine in both domestic and public assemblies of {228} the Church, without any admixture of private and (so to say) subjective explanation, such as at times creates a difficulty in ascertaining the real meaning of the Fathers; and so much the more, because many of them were either women or ordinary and untaught laymen, who brought out and avowed just what they believed in a straightforward inartificial way.” May we not conjecture that the argument from the Consent of the Faithful was but dimly written among the Loci on the tablets of his intellect, till the necessities, or rather the requirements, of the contemplated definition of the Immaculate Conception brought the argument before him with great force? Yet who will therefore for an instant suppose that he did not always hold it? Perhaps I have overlooked some passage of his treatises, and am in consequence interpreting his course of thought wrongly; but, at any rate, what I seem to see in him, is what actually does occur from time to time in myself and others. A man holds an opinion or a truth, yet without holding it with a simple consciousness and a direct recognition; and thus, though he has never denied, he has never gone so far as to profess it.

As to the particular doctrine to which I have here been directing my view, and the passage in history by which I have been illustrating it, I am not supposing that such times as the Arian will ever come again. As to the present, certainly, if there ever was an age which might dispense with the testimony of the faithful, and leave the maintenance of the truth to the pastors of the Church, it is the age in which we live. Never was the Episcopate of Christendom so devoted to the Holy See, so religious, so earnest in the discharge of its special duties, so little disposed to innovate, so superior to the temptation of theological sophistry. And perhaps this is the reason why the “consensus fidelium” has, in the minds of many, fallen into the background. Yet each constituent portion of the Church has its proper functions, and no portion can safely be neglected. Though the laity be but the reflection or echo of the clergy in matters of faith, yet there is something in the “pastorum et fidelium conspiratio,” which is not in the pastors alone. The history of the definition of the Immaculate Conception shows us this; and it will be one among the blessings which the Holy Mother, who is the subject of it, will gain for us, in repayment of the definition, that by that very definition we are all reminded of the part which the laity have had in the preliminaries of its promulgation. Pope Pius has given us a pattern, in his manner of defining, of the duty of considering the sentiments of the laity upon a point of tradition, in spite of whatever {229} fullness of evidence the Bishops had already thrown upon it.

In most cases when a definition is contemplated, the laity will have a testimony to give; but if ever there be an instance when they ought to be consulted, it is in the case of doctrines which bear directly upon devotional sentiments. Such is the Immaculate Conception, of which the Rambler was speaking in the sentence which has occasioned these remarks. The faithful people have ever a special function in regard to those doctrinal truths which relate to the Objects of worship. Hence it is, that, while the Councils of the fourth century were traitors to our Lord’s divinity, the laity vehemently protested against its impugners. Hence it is, that, in a later age, when the learned Benedictines of Germany and France were perplexed in their enunciation of the doctrine of the Real Presence, Paschasius was supported by the faithful in his maintenance of it. The saints, again, are the object of a religious cultus; and therefore it was the faithful, again, who urged on the Holy See, in the time of John XXII., to declare their beatitude in heaven, though so many Fathers spoke variously. And the Blessed Virgin is preeminently an object of devotion; and therefore it is, I repeat, that though Bishops had already spoken in favour of her absolute sinlessness, the Pope was not content without knowing the feelings of the faithful.

Father Dalgairns gives us another case in point; and with his words I conclude: “While devotion in the shape of a dogma issues from the high places of the Church, in the shape of devotion … it starts from below … Place yourselves, in imagination, in a vast city of the East in the fifth century. Ephesus, the capital of Asia Minor, is all in commotion; for a council is to be held there, and Bishops are flocking in from all parts of the world. There is anxiety painted on every face; so that you may easily see that the question is one of general interest … Ask the very children in the streets what is the matter; they will tell you that wicked men are coming to make out that their own mother is not the Mother of God. And so, during a live-long day of June, they crowd around the gates of the old cathedral-church of St. Mary, and watch with anxious faces each Bishop as he goes in. Well might they be anxious; for it is well known that Nestorius has won the court over to his side. It was only the other day that he entered the town, with banners displayed and trumpets sounding, surrounded by the glittering files of the emperor’s body-guard, with Count Candidianus, their general and his own partisan, at {230} their head. Besides which, it is known for certain, that at least eighty-four Bishops are ready to vote with him; and who knows how many more? He is himself the patriarch of Constantinople, the rival of Rome, the imperial city of the East; and then John of Antioch is hourly expected with his quota of votes; and he, the patriarch of the see next in influence to that of Nestorius, is, if not a heretic, at least of that wretched party which, in ecclesiastical disputes, ever hovers between the two camps of the devil and of God. The day wears on, and still nothing issues from the church; it proves, at least, that there is a difference of opinion; and as the shades of evening close around them, the weary watchers grow more anxious still. At length the great gates of the Basilica are thrown open; and oh, w hat a cry of joy bursts from the assembled crowd, as it is announced to them that Mary has been proclaimed to be, what every one with a Catholic heart knew that she was before, the Mother of God! … Men, women, and children, the noble and the low-born, the stately matron and the modest maiden, all crowd round the Bishops with acclamations. They will not leave them; they accompany them to their homes with long procession of lighted torches; they burn incense before them, after the eastern fashion, to do them honour. There was but little sleep in Ephesus that night; for very joy they remained awake: the whole town was one blaze of light, for each window was illuminated.” [Note 2]

My own drift is somewhat different from that which has dictated this glowing description; but the substance of the argument of each of us is one and the same. I think certainly that the Ecclesia docens is more happy when she has such enthusiastic partisans about her as are here represented, than when she cuts off the faithful from the study of her divine doctrines and the sympathy of her divine contemplations, and requires from them fides implicita in her word, which in the educated classes will terminate in indifference, and in the poorer in superstition.

from The rambler – July 1859

Prayer against bribery and corruption in nigeria

Nigerian names e Ghana names