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XIV. From that period the pontiffs have never ceased encroaching on the jurisdictions, and seizing on the territories of others, sometimes employing fraud, sometimes treachery, and sometimes open war; even the city of Rome itself, which till then was free, about a hundred and thirty years ago was. compelled to submit to their dominion; in short, they proceeded to make continual advances, till they attained the power which they at present possess; and for the retention or augmentation of which, they have now, for the space of two hundred years (for they had begun before they usurped the government of the city) so disturbed and distracted the Christian world, that they have brought it to the brink of ruin. In the time of Gregory the First, when the guardians of the ecclesiastical property seized for themselves the lands which belonged to the Church, and according to the custom of princes, set up their titles and armorial bearings on them in token of their claim, Gregory assembled a provincial council of bishops, in which he severely inveighed against that profane custom, and asked whether they would not excommunicate any ecclesiastic who should attempt the seizure of property by the inscription of a title, or even any bishop who should direct such a thing to be done, or if done without his direction, should not punish it. They all pronounced that every such offender should be excommunicated. But if claiming a field by the inscription of a title, be a crime deserving of excommunication in a priest; when for two whole centuries the pontiffs have been meditating nothing but wars, effusion of blood, slaughter of armies, storming and pillaging cities, the destruction of nations, the devastation of kingdoms, for the sole purpose of seizing the dominions of others; what excommunications can be sufficient for the punishment of such examples? It is clear, beyond all doubt, that the glory of Christ is the object furthest from their pursuit. For if they voluntarily resign all the secular power which they possess, no danger will result to the glory of God, to sound doctrirre, or to the safety of the Church; but they are infatuated, and stimulated by the mere lust of dominion; and consider noVOL. III.
thing as safe, unless, as the prophet says, “they rule with force and with cruelty.” (b)
XV. With jurisdiction is connected the immunity which the Roman ecclesiastics arrogate to themselves. For they consider it a degradation for them to appear before a civil judge in personal causes, and they imagine the liberty and dignity of the Church to consist in their exemption from the common judicature and laws. But the ancient bishops, who in other respects were the most rigid assertors of the rights of the Church, esteemed it no injury to themselves, or to their order, to be subject to lay judges in civil causes. The pious emperors also, without any opposition, always summoned the clergy before their tribunals, whenever necessity required it. For this is the language of Constantine, in his epistle to the bishops of Nicomedia; “ If any bishop excite any disturbance by his indiscretion, his presumption shall be restrained by the authority of the minister of God, that is, by mine." And Valentinian says; “Good bishops never traduce the power of the emperor; but sincerely observe the commands of God the sovereign king, and obey our laws." At that time this principle was universally admitted, without any controversy. Ecclesiastical causes were referred to the judgment of the bishop. As for example, if any ecclesiastic had committed no crime against the laws, he was only charged with offending against the canons, he was not summoned to the common tribunal, but was judged by the bishop. In like manner, if a question was agitated respecting an article of faith, or any other subject properly belonging to the Church, to the Church the cognizance of it was committed. In this sense is to be understood what Ambrose writes to the emperor Valentinian; “ Your father, of august memory, not only answered verbally, but also ordained by edicts, that in a cause relating to faith, he ought to judge, who is not disqualified by office or dignity.” Again; “ If we regard the scriptures or ancient examples, who will deny that in a cause of faith, I say, in a cause of faith, it is customary for bishops to judge of Christian emperors, and not emperors of bishops.”
(6) Ezek. xxxiv. 4.
Again; “I would have come to your consistory, Sire, if either the bishops or the people would have suffered me to go; but they say, that a cause of faith ought to be discussed in the Church, in the presence of the people.” He contended that a spiritual cause, that is, a cause affecting religion, ought not to be carried into a civil court, where secular controversies are agitated; and his constancy in this respect has been universally and justly applauded. Yet notwithstanding the goodness of his cause, he went no further than to declare, that if the emperor proceeded to employ force, he would submit. He says, “I will not voluntarily desert the station committed to me: in case of compulsion, I know not how to resist, for our arms are prayers and tears.” Let us observe the singular combination of moderation and prudence with magnanimity and confidence in this holy man. Justina, the mother of the emperor, because she could not induce him to join the Arians, endeavoured to deprive him of his bishopric. And she would have succeeded in her attempts, if, in compliance with the summons, he had gone to the palace of the emperor to plead his cause. Therefore he denied the emperor to be a competent judge of so important a controversy: and this was necessary both from the circumstances of that time, and from the invariable nature of the subject itself. For he was of opinion, that it was his duty to suffer death rather than by his consent to permit such an example to be transmitted to posterity; and yet in case of violence being employed, he cherished not a thought of resistance. For he denied it to be compatible with the character of a bishop, to defend the faith and privileges of the Church by arms; but in other cases he shewed himself ready to do whatever the emperor would command. “If he demands tribute," says he, “ we do not refuse it; the lands of the Church pay tribute. If he demands the lands, he has power to take them; none of us will oppose him.” Gregory also speaks in a similar manner. “I am not ignorant,” he says, “ of the mind of our most serene lord, that he is not in the habit of interfering in sacerdotal causes, lest he should in any respect be burdened with our sins.” He does not entirely exclude the emperor from judging priests, but observes that there are certain causes which he ought to leave to the decision of the Church.
XVI. And even in this exception, the sole object of these holy men was to prevent the tyrannical violence and caprice of princes less favourable to religion from obstructing the Church in the discharge of its duty. For they did not disapprove of the occasional interposition of princes in ecclesiastical affairs, provided they would exert their authority for the preservation of order, and not for the disturbance of it; for the establishment of discipline, and not for its relaxation. For as the Church neither possesses, nor ought to desire, the power to constrain, I speak of civil coercion, it is the part of pious kings and princes to support religion by laws, edicts, and judicial sentences. For this reason, when the emperor Mauritius commanded certain bishops to receive their neighbouring colleagues, who had been expelled from their sees by the barbarians, Gregory confirmed this command, and exhorted them to obey it. And when he himself was admonished by the same emperor to be reconciled to John, the bishop of Constantinople, he did indeed assign a reason why he ought not to be blamed, yet he boasted no immunity exempting him from the imperial authority, but on the contrary promised compliance as far as should be consistent with a good conscience; and at the same time acknowledged that Mauritius acted in a manner becoming a religious prince in giving such commands to the bishops.
The Discipline of the Church: its principle Use in Censures
and Excommunication. The discipline of the Church, the discussion of which I have deferred to this place, must be dispatched in a few words, that we may proceed to the remaining subjects. Now the discipline depends chiefly on the power of the keys, and the spiritual jurisdiction. To make this more easily understood, let us divide the Church into two principal orders; the clergy and the people. I use the word clergy as the common, though improper, appellation of those who execute the public ministry in the Church. We shall, first, speak of the common discipline to which all ought to be subject; and in the next place, we shall proceed to the clergy, who beside this common discipline, have a discipline peculiar to themselves. But as some have such a hatred of discipline, as to abhor the very name, they should attend to the following consideration: That if no society, and even no house, though containing only a small family, can be preserved in a proper state without discipline, this is far more necessary in the Church, the state of which ought to be the most orderly of all. As the saving doctrine of Christ is the soul of the Church, so discipline forms the ligaments which connect the members together, and keep each in its proper place. Whoever, therefore, either desire the abolition of all discipline, or obstruct its restoration, whether they act from design or inadverteucy, they certainly promote the entire dissolution of the Church. For what will be the consequence, if every man be at liberty to follow his own inclinations? But such would be the case, unless the preaching of the doctrine were accompanied with private admonitions, reproofs, and other means to enforce the doctrine, and prevent it from being altogether ineffectual. Discipline, therefore, serves as a bridle to curb and restrain the refractory, who resist the doctrine of Christ; or as a spur to stimulate the inactive; and sometimes as a father's rod, with which those who have grievously fallen may be chastised in mercy and with the gentleness of the Spirit of Christ. Now when we see the approach of certain beginnings of a dreadful desolation in the Church, if there be no solicitude or means to keep the people in obedience to our Lord, necessity itself proclaims the want of a remedy: and this is the only remedy whieh has been commanded by Christ, or which has ever been adopted among the faithful.