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The Difficulties of Romanism in regard to the Claim of Infallibility.

Ir the infallibility of the Latin church could be clearly established, no person could rationally object to her theological decisions: for it were palpable madness in a fallible being to contend against acknowledged infallibility.

Hence I have ever thought, that the establishment of infallibility is the very nucleus of the Roman controversy; and hence I have always been specially desirous to hear the arguments which could be adduced in its favour.

Having never yet met with any thing satisfactory on the subject, I felt gratified at perceiving it discussed by such a man as the eminently learned Bishop of Aire; and I entered, with no ordinary interest, upon the perusal of his vindication.*

I. The prerogative of infallibility, or (what amounts to the same thing) the prerogative of entire freedom from all doctrinal error, is, I believe, unanimously claimed by the Latins on behalf of their own particular church. For they claim the privilege on behalf of the church catholic; and they exclusively identify the church catholic with the Latin or Roman church of the great western Patriarchate.

That the privilege, then, of infallibility resides in the catholic church, is strenuously maintained: but, as to the precise quarter where it is to be found,

* Discuss. Amiç. Lett. iii.

there is not the same unanimity. Let it be sought, however, where it may, I greatly fear that its discovery will prove to be a hopeless impossibility.

1. The Jesuits and those high Romanists who bear the appellation of Transalpines, unless my information be wholly incorrect, contend for the personal infallibility of the pope, when on any point of faith he undertakes to issue a solemn decision.*

If this theory be adopted, I perceive not how we can reconcile the authoritative declaration of Gregory the Great, respecting an article of no small doctrinal importance, with the completely opposite declarations of the popes, his successors.

Whoever claims the universal episcopate, said Gregory about the latter end of the sixth century, is the forerunner of Antichrist.†

Such is the decision of Gregory: yet this identical universal episcopate, as we all know, has been subsequently claimed by numerous pontiffs who have sat in what they deem the chair of St. Peter.

Hence it plainly follows, that, if the decision of Gregory be received as an infallible truth, his successors in the pontificate are the forerunners of Antichrist; while on the other hand, if his successors in the pontificate be not the forerunners of Antichrist, the decision of Gregory must be viewed as erroneous.

2. A protestant, however, may well spare himself the trouble of formally confuting the theory, by which the pope is decorated with the attribute of personal infallibility: for the low Romanists, who are distinguished by the name of Cisalpines, not only deny this infallibility of the pope, but even hold

* Butler's Book of the Rom. Cath. Church, p. 121-124. Ego fidenter dico, quod quisquis se Universalem Sacerdotem vocat, vel vocari desiderat, in elatione sua, Antichristum præcurrit.-Gregor. Magn. Epist. lib. vi. epist. 30.

+ Quod solus Romanus Pontifex jure dicatur Universalis.—Gregor. sept. dictat. Epist. lib. ii. epist. 55. Labb. Concil. Sacrosanct. vol. x. p. 110.

that he may be deposed by the church or by a general council for heresy or schism.* Under such circumstances, if the prerogative of infallibility belong to the church, we must seek its residence elsewhere than in the person of the pope.

In what favoured region, then, shall we find this exalted privilege? The moderate Romanists, who claim infallibility for the catholic church collectively, suppose it to be lodged, as a sacred deposit, with each general council viewed as the legitimate organ and representative of the catholic church.

This hypothesis, in the abstract, is not devoid of plausibility; but, if we resort to facts, it will turn out to be not more tenable than the last. From faithful history we learn, that general councils, upon points both of doctrine and of practice, have decided in plain and avowed opposition to each other.

The Council of Constantinople, for instance, convoked in the year 754, unanimously decreed the removal of images and the abolition of image-worship; but the second Council of Nice, convoked in the year 787, decreed the re-establishment of image-worship, and anathematized all those who had concurred in its abolition.

I have simply stated a mere historical fact; but the result from it is abundantly manifest. Two discordant councils cannot both be in the right; and, if a single council be pronounced by the counter-decision of another council to have erred, the phantom of infallibility forthwith vanishes.t

* Butler's Book of the Rom. Cath. Church, p. 121-124.

† The variations of the Church, relative to the single point of image-worship, are so extraordinary, that they well deserve the attention of those who contend for her infallibility.

I. The ancient Council of Elvira, which sat during the reign of Constantine, and therefore, in the early part of the fourth century, strictly enjoined, that neither paintings nor images, representing the person whom we adore, should be introduced into churches.

For this striking and undoubted fact the Bishop of Aire would


3. To rid themselves of this difficulty, the theologians of the Latin church contend, that the decisions of no council are to be deemed infallibly true, unless they shall have received the approbation of the holy

account, on the principle, that the Elviran Fathers dreaded lest the new converts from paganism should unfortunately mistake Christian image-worship for pagan idolatry. Discus. Amic. vol. ii. P. 350. Let his solution avail, as far as it may avail: the FACT he fully acknowledges.

II. In the early ages, then, of Christianity, not only was the worship of images and pictures unknown, but their very introduction into churches was expressly disallowed.

Matters, however, did not long continue in this state. Images and pictures in direct opposition to the Council of Elvira, having at length been unadvisedly admitted on the plea that they were a sort of books for the unlearned, the idolatrous worship of them soon followed. About the end of the sixth century, a transaction of this nature took place at Marseilles; and, in consequence of it, Serenus the bishop wisely removed and destroyed the images. Hereupon, Pope Gregory the Great praised him for the stand which he had made against idolatry; but, under the fond pretext of their utility to the unlearned, blamed him for destroying the images. Wretchedly injudicious as was the latter part of this decision, Gregory, at least, speaks fully and expressly against ANY adoration either of pictures or of images. Omne manufactum adorari NON LICET:-Adorari imagines, omnibus modis, VETA.— Gregor. Magn. Epist. lib. xi. epist. 13. aliter 9.

III. Thus stood the question at the close of the sixth century; but, as might easily have been anticipated from the idolatry of the Massilians, the introduction of images soon led to their adoration. This gross abuse was strenuously opposed by the Emperor Leo the Isaurian; but, as it still continued to increase, his son Constantine assembled a council at Constantinople in the year 754, which formally condemned and forbade it.

IV. The Council of Constantinople, though it agreed in its condemnation of image-worship both with the decision of Pope Gregory the Great and with the yet more ancient decision of the Council of Elvira, was yet, on that very account, disowned as a legitimate council by the innovating successors of Gregory; and the cause of idolatry rapidly acquired such a degree of strength, that the second Council of Nice, which sat in the year 787, reversed the decree of the Council of Constantinople, pronounced it to be an illegitimate council, and ordained the adoration of images in language which strikingly contrasts with the express prohibition of Pope Gregory. I confess, and agree, and receive, and salute, and ADORE, the unpolluted image of our Lord Jesus Christ our true God, and the holy image of the holy mother of God, who bore him

see. Now, the Council of Constantinople did not receive the approbation of the holy see, while the second Council of Nice did receive it. Therefore, the Council of Constantinople being a spurious coun

without conception of seed.-Concil. Nicen. secund. act. i. Labb. Concil. Sacrosanct. vol. vii. p. 60.

V. Having thus wholly departed from her former self, the Church, speaking through the mouth of a general council, had now decreed the orthodoxy and legality of image-worship: but this decree was not long suffered to remain undisputed either in the West or in the East.

1. In the year 794, Charlemagne assembled at Frankfort a council of three hundred bishops, who reversed the decision of the second Nicene Council, and who with one voice condemned the worship of images.

2. Such was the solemn judgment of the West; and that of the East speedily followed it. For, in the year 814, the Emperor Leo, imitating the conduct of Charlemagne, assembled another council at Constantinople, which, like that of Frankfort, rescinded and abolished the decrees of the second Nicene Council relative to the worship of images.

VI. Thus, as both the East and the West had concurred in establishing image-worship, through the medium of the second Council of Nice; so did both the West and the East concur in condemning image-worship, through the medium of the Councils of Frankfort and Constantinople.

But we have not yet reached the end of this strange eventful history of multiplied variations: we must prepare ourselves for yet additional changes of opinion on the part of a professedly unchangeable and infallible church.

In the year 842, the Empress Theodora, during the minority of her son, convened yet another council at Constantinople: and this assembly, differing entirely from its immediate predecessor, reinstated the decrees of the second Nicene Council, and thus reestablished image-worship.

VII. Meanwhile, the Church of the Western Patriarchate continued to maintain, that the second Nicene Council had erred in its decision: for, in the year 824, Louis the Meek assembled a Council at Paris, which confirmed the decrees of the Council of Frankfort, and which strictly prohibited the payment of any, even the smallest religious worship to images.

VIII. The church, however, of the Eastern Patriarchate, subsequent to the year 842, persevered in declaring, that the decision of the second Nicene Council was an orthodox decision, and that images ought to be devoutly worshipped by all good Christians. To establish this point, therefore, an additional council was held at Constantinople in the year 879; and the Fathers of

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