Vol. 3, Chapter V (Cont’d) – The Papacy


Literature, as in §55, and vol. i. §110.

At last the Roman bishop, on the ground of his divine institution, and as successor of Peter, the prince of the apostles, advanced his claim to be primate of the entire church, and visible representative of Christ, who is the invisible supreme head of the Christian world. This is the strict and exclusive sense of the title, Pope.

Properly speaking, this claim has never been fully realized, and remains to this day an apple of discord in the history of the church. Greek Christendom has never acknowledged it, and Latin, only under manifold protests, which at last conquered in the Reformation, and deprived the papacy forever of the best part of its domain. The fundamental fallacy of the Roman system is, that it identifies papacy and church, and therefore, to be consistent, must unchurch not only Protestantism, but also the entire Oriental church from its origin down. By the “una sancta catholica apostolica ecclesia” of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan creed is to be understood the whole body of Catholic Christians, of which the ecclesia Romana, like the churches of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Constantinople, is only one of the most prominent branches. The idea of the papacy, and its claims to the universal dominion of the church, were distinctly put forward, it is true, so early as the period before us, but could not make themselves good beyond the limits of the West. Consequently the papacy, as a historical fact, or so far as it has been acknowledged, is properly nothing more than the Latin patriarchate run to absolute monarchy.

By its advocates the papacy is based not merely upon church usage, like the metropolitan and patriarchal power, but upon divine right; upon the peculiar position which Christ assigned to Peter in the well-known words: “Thou art Peter, and on this rock will I build my church.” This passage was at all times taken as an immovable exegetical rock for the papacy. The popes themselves appealed to it, times without number, as the great proof of the divine institution of a visible and infallible central authority in the church. According to this view, the primacy is before the apostolate, the head before the body, instead of the reverse.

But, in the first place, this preëminence of Peter did not in the least affect the independence of the other apostles. Paul especially, according to the clear testimony of his epistles and the book of Acts, stood entirely upon his own authority, and even on one occasion, at Antioch, took strong ground against Peter. Then again, the personal position of Peter by no means yields the primacy to the Roman bishop, without the twofold evidence, first that Peter was actually in Rome, and then that he transferred his prerogatives to the bishop of that city. The former fact rests upon a universal tradition of the early church, which at that time no one doubted, but is in part weakened and neutralized by the absence of any clear Scripture evidence, and by the much more certain fact, given in the New Testament itself, that Paul labored in Rome, and that in no position of inferiority or subordination to any higher authority than that of Christ himself. The second assumption, of the transfer of the primacy to the Roman bishops, is susceptible of neither historical nor exegetical demonstration, and is merely an inference from the principle that the successor in office inherits all the official prerogatives of his predecessor. But even granting both these intermediate links in the chain of the papal theory, the double question yet remains open: first, whether the Roman bishop be the only successor of Peter, or share this honor with the bishops of Jerusalem and Antioch, in which places also Peter confessedly resided; and secondly, whether the primacy involve at the same time a supremacy of jurisdiction over the whole church, or be only an honorary primacy among patriarchs of equal authority and rank. The former was the Roman view; the latter was the Greek.

An African bishop, Cyprian († 258), was the first to give to that passage of the 16th of Matthew, innocently as it were, and with no suspicion of the future use and abuse of his view, a papistic interpretation, and to bring out clearly the idea of a perpetual cathedra Petri. The same Cyprian, however, whether consistently or not, was at the same time equally animated with the consciousness of episcopal equality and independence, afterward actually came out in bold opposition to Pope Stephen in a doctrinal controversy on the validity of heretical baptism, and persisted in this protest to his death.


61. Opinions of the Fathers

A complete collection of the patristic utterances on the primacy of Peter and his successors, though from the Roman point of view, may be found in the work of Rev. Jos. Berington and Rev. John Kirk: “The Faith of Catholics confirmed by Scripture and attested by the Fathers of the first five centuries of the Church,” 3d ed., London, 1846, vol. ii. p. 1-112. Comp. the works quoted sub §55, and a curious article of Prof. Ferd. Piper, on Rome, the eternal city, in the Evang. Jahrbuch for 1864, p. 17-120, where the opinions of the fathers on the claims of the urbs aeterna and its many fortunes are brought out.

We now pursue the development of this idea in the church fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries. In general they agree in attaching to Peter a certain primacy over the other apostles, and in considering him the foundation of the church in virtue of his confession of the divinity of Christ; while they hold Christ to be, in the highest sense, the divine ground and rock of the church. And herein lies a solution of their apparent self-contradiction in referring the petra in Mat_16:18, now to the person of Peter, now to his confession, now to Christ. Then, as the bishops in general were regarded as successors of the apostles, the fathers saw in the Roman bishops, on the ground of the ancient tradition of the martyrdom of Peter in Rome, the successor of Peter and the heir of the primacy. But respecting the nature and prerogatives of this primacy their views were very indefinite and various. It is remarkable that the reference of the rock to Christ, which Augustine especially defended with great earnestness, was acknowledged even by the greatest pope of the middle ages, Gregory VII., in the famous inscription he sent with a crown to the emperor Rudolph: “Petra [i.e., Christ] dedit Petro [i.e., to the apostle], Petrus [the pope] diadema Rudolpho.” It is worthy of notice, that the post-Nicene, as well as the ante-Nicene fathers, with all their reverence for the Roman see, regarded the heathenish title of Rome, urbs aeterna, as blasphemous, with reference to the passage of the woman sitting upon a scarlet-colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, Rev_17:3. The prevailing opinion seems to have been, that Rome and the Roman empire would fall before the advent of Antichrist and the second coming of the Lord.

1. The views of the Latin fathers.

The Cyprianic idea was developed primarily in North Africa, where it was first clearly pronounced.

Optatus, bishop of Milevi, the otherwise unknown author of an anti-Donatist work about a.d. 384, is, like Cyprian, thoroughly possessed with the idea of the visible unity of the church; declares it without qualification the highest good, and sees its plastic expression and its surest safeguard in the immovable cathedra Petri, the prince of the apostles, the keeper of the keys of the kingdom of heaven, who, in spite of his denial of Christ, continued in that relation to the other apostles, that the unity of the church might appear in outward fact as an unchangeable thing, invulnerable to human offence. All these prerogatives have passed to the bishops of Rome, as the successors of this apostle.

Ambrose of Milan († 397) speaks indeed in very high terms of the Roman church, and concedes to its bishops a religious magistracy like the political power of the emperors of pagan Rome; yet he calls the primacy of Peter only a “primacy of confession, not of honor; of faith, not of rank,” and places the apostle Paul on an equality with Peter. Of any dependence of Ambrose, or of the bishops of Milan in general during the first six centuries, on the jurisdiction of Rome, no trace is to be found.

Jerome († 419), the most learned commentator among the Latin fathers, vacillates in his explanation of the petra; now, like Augustine, referring it to Christ, now to Peter and his confession. In his commentary on Mat_16:1-28, he combines the two interpretations thus: “As Christ gave light to the apostles, so that they were called, after him, the light of the world, and as they received other designations from the Lord; so Simon, because he believed on the rock, Christ, received the name Peter, and in accordance with the figure of the rock, it is justly said to him: ‘I will build my church upon thee (super te).’” He recognizes in the Roman bishop the successor of Peter, but advocates elsewhere the equal rights of the bishops, and in fact derives even the episcopal office, not from direct divine institution, but from the usage of the church and from the presidency in the presbyterium. He can therefore be cited as a witness, at most, for a primacy of honor, not for a supremacy of jurisdiction. Beyond this even the strongest passage of his writings, in a letter to his friend, Pope Damasus (a.d. 376), does not go: “Away with the ambition of the Roman head; I speak with the successor of the fisherman and disciple of the cross. Following no other head than Christ, I am joined in the communion of faith with thy holiness, that is, with the chair of Peter. On that rock I know the church to be built.” Subsequently this father, who himself had an eye on the papal chair, fell out with the Roman clergy, and retired to the ascetic and literary solitude of Bethlehem, where he served the church by his pen far better than he would have done as the successor of Damasus.

Augustine († 430), the greatest theological authority of the Latin church, at first referred the words, “On this rock I will build my church,” to the person of Peter, but afterward expressly retracted this interpretation, and considered the petra to be Christ, on the ground of a distinction between petra (ἐπὶ ταύτῃ τῇ πέτρᾳ) and Petrus (σὺ εἶ Πέτρος); a distinction which Jerome also makes, though with the intimation that it is not properly applicable to the Hebrew and Syriac Cephas. “I have somewhere said of St. Peter” thus Augustine corrects himself in his Retractations at the close of his life — “that the church is built upon him as the rock; a thought which is sung by many in the verses of St. Ambrose:

‘Hoc ipsa petra ecclesiae

Canente, culpam diluit.’

(The Rock of the church himself

In the cock-crowing atones his guilt.)

But I know that I have since frequently said, that the word of the Lord, ‘Thou art Petrus, and on this petra I will build my church,’ must be understood of him, whom Peter confessed as Son of the living God; and Peter, so named after this rock, represents the person of the church, which is founded on this rock and has received the keys of the kingdom of heaven. For it was not said to him: ‘Thou art a rock’ (petra), but, ‘Thou art Peter’ (Petrus); and the rock was Christ, through confession of whom Simon received the name of Peter. Yet the reader may decide which of the two interpretations is the more probable.” In the same strain he says, in another place: “Peter, in virtue of the primacy of his apostolate, stands, by a figurative generalization, for the church …. When it was said to him, ‘I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,’ etc., he represented the whole church, which in this world is assailed by various temptations, as if by floods and storms, yet does not fall, because it is founded upon a rock, from which Peter received his name. For the rock is not so named from Peter, but Peter from the rock (non enim a Petro petra, sed Petrus a petra), even as Christ is not so called after the Christian, but the Christian after Christ. For the reason why the Lord says, ‘On this rock I will build my church’ is that Peter had said: ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,’ On this rock, which then hast confessed, says he will build my church. For Christ was the rock (petra enim erat Christus), upon which also Peter himself was built; for other foundation can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Thus the church, which is built upon Christ, has received from him, in the person of Peter, the keys of heaven; that is, the power of binding and loosing sins.” This Augustinian interpretation of the petra has since been revived by some Protestant theologians in the cause of anti-Romanism. Augustine, it is true, unquestionably understood by the church the visible Catholic church, descended from the apostles, especially from Peter, through the succession of bishops; and according to the usage of his time he called the Roman church by eminence the sedes apostolica. But on the other hand, like Cyprian and Jerome, he lays stress upon the essential unity of the episcopate, and insists that the keys of the kingdom of heaven were committed not to a single man, but to the whole church, which Peter was only set to represent. With this view agrees the independent position of the North African church in the time of Augustine toward Rome, as we have already observed it in the case of the appeal of Apiarius, and as it appears in the Pelagian controversy, of which Augustine was the leader. This father, therefore, can at all events be cited only as a witness to the limited authority of the Roman chair. And it should also, in justice, be observed, that in his numerous writings he very rarely speaks of that authority at all, and then for the most part incidentally; showing that he attached far less importance to this matter than the Roman divines.

The later Latin fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries prefer the reference of the petra to Peter and his confession, and transfer his prerogatives to the Roman bishops as his successors, but produce no new arguments. Among them we mention Maximus of Turin (about 450), who, however, like Ambrose, places Paul on a level with Peter; then Orosius, and several popes; above all Leo, of whom we shall speak more fully in the following section.

2. As to the Greek fathers: Eusebius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Basil, the two Gregories, Ephraim, Syrus, Asterius, Cyril of Alexandria, Chrysostom, and Theodoret refer the petra now to the confession, now to the person, of Peter; sometimes to both. They speak of this apostle uniformly in very lofty terms, at times in rhetorical extravagance, calling him the “coryphaeus of the choir of apostles,” the prince of the apostles,” the “tongue of the apostles,” the “bearer of the keys,” the “keeper of the kingdom of heaven,” the “pillar,” the “rock,” the “firm foundation of the church.” But, in the first place, they understand by all this simply an honorary primacy of Peter, to whom that power was but first committed, which the Lord afterward conferred on all the apostles alike; and, in the second place, they by no means favor an exclusive transfer of this prerogative to the bishop of Rome, but claim it also for the bishops of Antioch, where Peter, according to Gal. ii., sojourned a long time, and where, according to tradition, he was bishop, and appointed a successor.

So Chrysostom, for instance, calls Ignatius of Antioch a “successor of Peter, on whom, after Peter, the government of the church devolved,” and in another place says still more distinctly: “Since I have named Peter, I am reminded of another Peter [Flavian, bishop of Antioch], our common father and teacher, who has inherited as well the virtues as the chair of Peter. Yea, for this is the privilege of this city of ours [Antioch], to have first (ἐν ἀρξῇ) had the coryphaeus of the apostles for its teacher. For it was proper that the city, where the Christian name originated, should receive the first of the apostles for its pastor. But after we had him for our teacher, we did not retain him, but transferred him to imperial Rome.”

Theodoret also, who, like Chrysostom, proceeded from the Antiochian school, says of the “great city of Antioch,” that it has the “throne of Peter.” In a letter to Pope Leo he speaks, it is true, in very extravagant terms of Peter and his successors at Rome, in whom all the conditions, external and internal, of the highest eminence and control in the church are combined. But in the same epistle he remarks, that the “thrice blessed and divine double star of Peter and Paul rose in the East and shed its rays in every direction;” in connection with which it must be remembered that he was at that time seeking protection in Leo against the Eutychian robber-council of Ephesus (449), which had unjustly deposed both himself and Flavian of Constantinople.

His bitter antagonist also, the arrogant and overbearing Cyril of Alexandria, descended some years before, in his battle against Nestorius, to unworthy flattery, and called Pope Coelestine “the archbishop of the whole [Roman] world.” The same prelates, under other circumstances, repelled with proud indignation the encroachments of Rome on their jurisdiction.


62. The Decrees of Councils on the Papal Authority

Much more important than the opinions of individual fathers are the formal decrees of the councils.

First mention here belongs to the council of Sardica in Illyria (now Sofia in Bulgaria) in 343, during the Arian controversy. This council is the most favorable of all to the Roman claims. In the interest of the deposed Athanasius and of the Nicene orthodoxy it decreed:

(1) That a deposed bishop, who feels he has a good cause, may apply, out of reverence to the memory of the apostle Peter, to the Roman bishop Julius, and shall leave it with him either to ratify the deposition or to summon a new council.

(2) That the vacant bishopric shall not be filled till the decision of Rome be received.

(3) That the Roman bishop, in such a case of appeal, may, according to his best judgment, either institute a new trial by the bishops of a neighboring province, or send delegates to the spot with full power to decide the matter with the bishops.

Thus was plainly committed to the Roman bishops an appellate and revisory jurisdiction in the case of a condemned or deposed bishop even of the East. But in the first place this authority is not here acknowledged as a right already existing in practice. It is conferred as a new power, and that merely as an honorary right, and as pertaining only to the bishop Julius in person. Otherwise, either this bishop would not be expressly named, or his successors would be named with him. Furthermore, the canons limit the appeal to the case of a bishop deposed by his comprovincials, and say nothing of other cases. Finally, the council of Sardica was not a general council, but only a local synod of the West, and could therefore establish no law for the whole church. For the Eastern bishops withdrew at the very beginning, and held an opposition council in the neighboring town of Philippopolis; and the city of Sardica, too, with the praefecture of Illyricum, at that time belonged to the Western empire and the Roman patriarchate: it was not detached from them till 379. The council was intended, indeed, to be ecumenical; but it consisted at first of only a hundred and seventy bishops, and after the recession of the seventy-six Orientals, it had only ninety-four; and even by the two hundred signatures of absent bishops, mostly Egyptian, to whom the acts were sent for their approval, the East, and even the Latin Africa, with its three hundred bishoprics, were very feebly represented. It was not sanctioned by the emperor Constantius, and has by no subsequent authority been declared ecumenical. Accordingly its decrees soon fell into oblivion, and in the further course of the Arian controversy, and even throughout the Nestorian, where the bishops of Alexandria, and not those of Rome, were evidently at the head of the orthodox sentiment, they were utterly unnoticed. The general councils of 381, 451, and 680 knew nothing of such a supreme appellate tribunal, but unanimously enacted, that all ecclesiastical matters, without exception, should first be decided in the provincial councils, with the right of appeal — not to the bishop of Rome, but to the patriarch of the proper diocese. Rome alone did not forget the Sardican decrees, but built on this single precedent a universal right. Pope Zosimus, in the case of the deposed presbyter Apiarius of Sicca (a.d. 417-418), made the significant mistake of taking the Sardican decrees for Nicene, and thus giving them greater weight than they really possessed; but he was referred by the Africans to the genuine text of the Nicene canon. The later popes, however, transcended the Sardican decrees, withdrawing from the provincial council, according to the pseudo-Isidorian Decretals, the right of deposing a bishop, which had been allowed by Sardica, and vesting it, as a causa major, exclusively in themselves.

Finally, in regard to the four great ecumenical councils, the first of Nice, the first of Constantinople, that of Ephesus, and that of Chalcedon: we have already presented their position on this question in connection with their legislation on the patriarchal system. We have seen that they accord to the bishop of Rome a precedence of honor among the five officially coequal patriarchs, and thus acknowledge him primus inter pares, but, by that very concession, disallow his claims to supremacy of jurisdiction, and to monarchical authority over the entire church. The whole patriarchal system, in fact, was not monarchy, but oligarchy. Hence the protest of the Roman delegates and of Pope Leo against the decrees of the council of Chalcedon in 451, which coincided with that of Constantinople in 381. This protest was insufficient to annul the decree, and in the East it made no lasting impression; for the subsequent incidental concessions of Greek patriarchs and emperors, like that of the usurper Phocas in 606, and even of the sixth ecumenical council of Constantinople in 680, to the see of Rome, have no general significance, but are distinctly traceable to special circumstances and prejudices.

It is, therefore, an undeniable historical fact, that the greatest dogmatic and legislative authorities of the ancient church bear as decidedly against the specific papal claims of the Roman bishopric, is in favor of its patriarchal rights and an honorary primacy in the patriarchal oligarchy. The subsequent separation of the Greek church from the Latin proves to this day, that she was never willing to sacrifice her independence to Rome, or to depart from the decrees of her own greatest councils.

Here lies the difference, however, between the Greek and the Protestant opposition to the universal monarchy of the papacy. The Greek church protested against it from the basis of the oligarchical patriarchal hierarchy of the fifth century; in an age, therefore, and upon a principle of church organization, which preceded the grand agency of the papacy in the history of the world. The evangelical church protests against it on the basis of a freer conception of Christianity, seeing in the papacy an institution, which indeed formed the legitimate development of the patriarchal system, and was necessary for the training of the Romanic and Germanic Nations of the middle ages, but which has virtually fulfilled its mission and outlived itself. The Greek church never had a papacy; the evangelical historically implies one. The papacy stands between the age of the patriarchal hierarchy and the age of the Reformation, like the Mosaic theocracy between the patriarchal period and the advent of Christianity. Protestantism rejects at once the papal monarchy and the patriarchal oligarchy, and thus can justify the former as well as the latter for a certain time and a certain stage in the progress of the Christian world.


63. Leo the Great. a.d. 440-461

I. St. Leo Magnus

Opera omnia (sermones et epistolae), ed. Paschas. Quesnel., Par. 1675, 2 vols. 4to. (Gallican, and defending Hilary against Leo, hence condemned by the Roman Index); and ed. Petr. et Hieron. Ballerini (two very learned brothers and presbyters, who wrote at the request of Pope Benedict XIV.), Venet. 1753-1757, 3 vols. fol. (Vol. i. contains 96 Sermons and 173 Epistles, the two other volumes doubtful writings and learned dissertations.) This edition is reprinted in Migne’s Patrologiae Cursus completus, vol. 54-57, Par. 1846.

Friedrich (old Cath.): Zur ältesten Geschichte des Primates in der Kirche. Bonn, 1879. Jos. Langen (old Cath.): Geschichte der röm. Kirche bis zum Pontificate Leo’s I. Bonn, 1881. Karl Müller in Herzog2, viii. (1881), 551-563. C. Gore, in Smith and Wace, iii. (1882), 652-673. By the same: Leo the Great (Lond. Soc. for Promoting Christ Knowledge, 175 pages). On the literary merits of Leo, see Ebert: Geschichte der christl. Lat. Lit., vol. i. 447-449.


II. Acta Sanctorum

sub Apr. 11 (Apr. tom. ii. p. 14-30, brief and unsatisfactory). Tillemont: Mem. t. xv. p. 414-832 (very full). Butler: Lives of the Saints, sub Apr. 11. W. A. Arendt (R.C.): Leo der Grosse u. seine Zeit, Mainz, 1835 (apologetic and panegyric). Edw. Perthel: P. Leo’s I. Leben u. Lehren, Jena, 1843 (Protestant). Fr. Böhringer: Die Kirche Christi u. ihre Zeugen, Zürich, 1846, vol. i. div. 4, p. 170-309. Ph. Jaffé: Regesta Pontif. Rom., Berol. 1851, p. 34 sqq. Comp. also Greenwood: Cathedra Petri, Lond. 1859, vol. i. bk. ii. chap. iv.-vi. (The Leonine Period); and H. H. Milman: Hist. of Latin Christianity, Lond. and New York, 1860, vol. i. bk. ii. ch. iv.


Leo the Great

In most of the earlier bishops of Rome the person is eclipsed by the office. The spirit of the age and public opinion rule the bishops, not the bishops them. In the preceding period, Victor in the controversy on Easter, Callistus in that on the restoration of the lapsed, and Stephen in that on heretical baptism, were the first to come out with hierarchical arrogance; but they were somewhat premature, and found vigorous resistance in Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and Cyprian, though on all three questions the Roman view at last carried the day.

In the period before us, Damasus, who subjected Illyria to the Roman jurisdiction, and established the authority of the Vulgate, and Siricius, who issued the first genuine decretal letter, trod in the steps of those predecessors. Innocent I. (402-417) took a step beyond, and in the Pelagian controversy ventured the bold assertion, that in the whole Christian world nothing should be decided without the cognizance of the Roman see, and that, especially in matters of faith, all bishops must turn to St. Peter.

But the first pope, in the proper sense of the word, is Leo I., who justly bears the title of “the Great” in the history of the Latin hierarchy. In him the idea of the Papacy, as it were, became flesh and blood. He conceived it in great energy and clearness, and carried it out with the Roman spirit of dominion, so far as the circumstances of the time at all allowed. He marks the same relative epoch in the development of the papacy, as Cyprian in the history of the episcopate. He had even a higher idea of the prerogatives of the see of Rome than Gregory the Great, who, though he reigned a hundred and fifty years later, represents rather the patriarchal idea than the papal. Leo was at the same time the first important theologian in the chair of Rome, surpassing in acuteness and depth of thought all his predecessors, and all his successors down to Gregory I. Benedict XIV. placed him (a.d. 1744) in the small class of doctores ecclesiae, or authoritative teachers of the catholic faith. He battled with the Manichaean, the Priscillianist, the Pelagian, and other heresies, and won an immortal name as the finisher of the orthodox doctrine of the person of Christ.

The time and place of the birth and earlier life of Leo are unknown. His letters, which are the chief source of information, commence not before the year 442. Probably a Roman — if not one by birth, he was certainly a Roman in the proud dignity of his spirit and bearing, the high order of his legislative and administrative talent, and the strength and energy of his will — he distinguished himself first under Coelestine (423-432) and Sixtus III. (432-440) as archdeacon and legate of the Roman church. After the death of the latter, and while himself absent in Gaul, he was elected pope by the united voice of clergy, senate, and people, and continued in that office one-and-twenty years (440-461). His feelings at the assumption of this high office, he himself thus describes in one of his sermons: “Lord, I have beard your voice calling me, and I was afraid: I considered the work which was enjoined on me, and I trembled. For what proportion is there between the burden assigned to me and my weakness, this elevation and my nothingness? What is more to be feared than exaltation without merit, the exercise of the most holy functions being intrusted to one who is buried in sin? Oh, you have laid upon me this heavy burden, bear it with me, I beseech you be you my guide and my support.”

During the time of his pontificate he was almost the only great man in the Roman empire, developed extraordinary activity, and took a leading part in all the affairs of the church. His private life is entirely unknown, and we have no reason to question the purity of his motives or of his morals. His official zeal, and all his time and strength, were devoted to the interests of Christianity. But with him the interests of Christianity were identical with the universal dominion of the Roman church.

He was animated with the unwavering conviction that the Lord himself had committed to him, as the successor of Peter, the care of the whole church. He anticipated all the dogmatical arguments by which the power of the papacy was subsequently established. He refers the petra, on which the church is built, to Peter and his confession. Though Christ himself — to sum up his views on the subject — is in the highest sense the rock and foundation, besides which no other can be laid, yet, by transfer of his authority, the Lord made Peter the rock in virtue of his great confession, and built on him the indestructible temple of his church. In Peter the fundamental relation of Christ to his church comes, as it were, to concrete form and reality in history. To him specially and individually the Lord intrusted the keys of the kingdom of heaven; to the other apostles only in their general and corporate capacity. For the faith of Peter the Lord specially prayed in the hour of his passion, as if the standing of the other apostles would be the firmer, if the mind of their leader remained unconquered. On Peter rests the steadfastness of the whole apostolic college in the faith. To him the Lord, after his resurrection, committed the care of his sheep and lambs. Peter is therefore the pastor and prince of the whole church, through whom Christ exercises his universal dominion on earth. This primacy, however, is not limited to the apostolic age, but, like the faith of Peter, and like the church herself, it perpetuates itself; and it perpetuates itself through the bishops of Rome, who are related to Peter as Peter was related to Christ. As Christ in Peter, so Peter in his successors lives and speaks and perpetually executes the commission: “Feed my sheep.” It was by special direction of divine providence, that Peter labored and died in Rome, and sleeps with thousands of blessed martyrs in holy ground. The center of worldly empire alone can be the center of the kingdom of God. Yet the political position of Rome would be of no importance without the religious considerations. By Peter was Rome, which had been the center of all error and superstition, transformed into the metropolis of the Christian world, and invested with a spiritual dominion far wider than her former earthly empire. Hence the bishopric of Constantinople, not being a sedes apostolica, but resting its dignity on a political basis alone, can never rival the Roman, whose primacy is rooted both in divine and human right. Antioch also, where Peter only transiently resided, and Alexandria, where he planted the church through his disciple Mark, stand only in a secondary relation to Rome, where his bones repose, and where that was completed, which in the East was only laid out. The Roman bishop is, therefore, the primus omnium episcoporum, and on him devolves the plenitudo potestatis, the solicitudo omnium pastorum, and communis cura universalis ecclesiae.

Leo thus made out of a primacy of grace and of personal fitness a primacy of right and of succession. Of his person, indeed, he speaks in his sermons with great humility, but only thereby the more to exalt his official character. He tells the Romans, that the true celebration of the anniversary of his accession is, to recognize, honor, and obey, in his lowly person, Peter himself, who still cares for shepherd and flock, and whose dignity is not lacking even to his unworthy heir. Here, therefore, we already have that characteristic combination of humility and arrogance, which has stereotyped itself in the expressions: “Servant of the servants of God,” “vicar of Christ,” and even “God upon earth.” In this double consciousness of his personal unworthiness and his official exaltation, Leo annually celebrated the day of his elevation to the chair of Peter. While Peter himself passes over his prerogative in silence, and expressly warns against hierarchical assumption, (1Pe_5:3) Leo cannot speak frequently and emphatically enough of his authority. While Peter in Antioch meekly submits to the rebuke of the junior apostle Paul, (Gal_2:11) Leo pronounces resistance to his authority to be impious pride and the sure way to hell. Obedience to the pope is thus necessary to salvation. Whosoever, says he, is not with the apostolic see, that is, with the head of the body, whence all gifts of grace descend throughout the body, is not in the body of the church, and has no part in her grace. This is the fearful but legitimate logic of the papal principle, which confines the kingdom of God to the narrow lines of a particular organization, and makes the universal spiritual reign of Christ dependent on a temporal form and a human organ. But in its very first application this papal ban proved itself a brutum fulmen, when in spite of it the Gallican archbishop Hilary, against whom it was directed, died universally esteemed and loved, and then was canonized. This very impracticability of that principle, which would exclude all Greek and Protestant Christians from the kingdom of heaven, is a refutation of the principle itself.

In carrying his idea of the papacy into effect, Leo displayed the cunning tact, the diplomatic address, and the iron consistency which characterize the greatest popes of the middle age. The circumstances in general were in his favor: the East rent by dogmatic controversies; Africa devastated by the barbarians; the West weak in a weak emperor; nowhere a powerful and pure bishop or divine, like Athanasius, Augustine, or Jerome, in the former generation; the overthrow of the Western empire at hand; a new age breaking, with new peoples, for whose childhood the papacy was just the needful school; the most numerous and last important general council convened; and the system of ecumenical orthodoxy ready to be closed with the decision concerning the relation of the two natures in Christ.

Leo first took advantage of the distractions of the North African church under the Arian Vandals, and wrote to its bishops in the tone of an acknowledged over-shepherd. Under the stress of the times, and in the absence of a towering, character like Cyprian and Augustine, the Africans submitted to his authority (443). He banished the remnants of the Manichaeans and Pelagians from Italy, and threatened the bishops with his anger, if they should not purge their churches of the heresy. In East Illyrian which was important to Rome as the ecclesiastical outpost toward Constantinople, he succeeded in regaining and establishing the supremacy, which had been acquired by Damasus, but had afterward slipped away. Anastasius of Thessalonica applied to him to be confirmed in his office. Leo granted the prayer in 444, extending the jurisdiction of Anastasius over all the Illyrian bishops, but reserving to them a right of appeal in important cases, which ought to be decided by the pope according to divine revelation. And a case to his purpose soon presented itself, in which Leo brought his vicar to feel that he was called indeed to a participation of his care, but not to a plentitude of power (plenitudo potestatis). In the affairs of the Spanish church also Leo had an opportunity to make his influence felt, when Turibius, bishop of Astorga, besought his intervention against the Priscillianists. He refuted these heretics point by point, and on the basis of his exposition the Spaniards drew up an orthodox regula fidei with eighteen anathemas against the Priscillianist error.

But in Gaul he met, as we have already, seen, with a strenuous antagonist in Hilary of Arles, and, though he called the secular power to his aid, and procured from the emperor Valentinian an edict entirely favorable to his claims, he attained but a partial victory. Still less successful was his effort to establish his primacy in the East, and to prevent his rival at Constantinople from being elevated, by the famous twenty-eighth canon of Chalcedon, to official equality with himself. His earnest protest against that decree produced no lasting effect. But otherwise he had the most powerful influence in the second stage of the Christological controversy. He neutralized the tyranny of Dioscurus of Alexandria and the results of the shameful robber-council of Ephesus (449), furnished the chief occasion of the fourth ecumenical council, presided over it by his legates (which the Roman bishop had done at neither of the three councils before), and gave the turn to the final solution of its doctrinal problem by that celebrated letter to Flavian of Constantinople, the main points of which were incorporated in the new symbol. Yet he owed this influence by no means to his office alone, but most of all to his deep insight of the question, and to the masterly tact with which he held the Catholic orthodox mean between the Alexandrian and Antiochian, Eutychian and Nestorian extremes. The particulars of his connection with this important dogma belong, however, to the history of doctrine.

Besides thus shaping the polity and doctrine of the church, Leo did immortal service to the city of Rome, in twice rescuing it from destruction. When Attila, king of the Huns, the “scourge of God,” after destroying Aquileia, was seriously threatening the capital of the world (a.d. 452), Leo, with only two companions, crozier in hand, trusting in the help of God, ventured into the hostile camp, and by his venerable form, his remonstrances, and his gifts, changed the wild heathen’s purpose. The later legend, which Raphael’s pencil has employed, adorned the fact with a visible appearance of Peter and Paul, accompanying the bishop, and, with drawn sword, threatening Attila with destruction unless he should desist. A similar case occurred several years after (455), when the Vandal king Genseric, invited out of revenge by the empress Eudoxia, pushed his ravages to Rome. Leo obtained from him the promise that at least he would spare the city the infliction of murder and fire; but the barbarians subjected it to a fourteen days’ pillage, the enormous spoils of which they transported to Carthage; and afterward the pope did everything to alleviate the consequent destitution and suffering, and to restore the churches.

Leo died in 461, and was buried in the church of St. Peter. The day and circumstances of his death are unknown.

The literary works of Leo consist of ninety-six sermons and one hundred and seventy-three epistles, including epistles of others to him. They are earnest, forcible, full of thought, churchly, abounding in bold antitheses and allegorical freaks of exegesis, and sometimes heavy, turgid, and obscure in style. His collection of sermons is the first we have from a Roman bishop. In his inaugural discourse he declared preaching to be his sacred duty. The sermons are short and simple, and were delivered mostly on high festivals and on the anniversaries of his own elevation. Other works ascribed to him, such as that on the calling of all nations, which takes a middle ground on the doctrine of predestination, with the view to reconcile the Semipelagians and Augustinians, are of doubtful genuineness.