Vol.2, Chapter IV (Cont’d) – Germs of the Papacy


Comp. the Lit. in vol. I. §25.

Blondel: Traité historique de la primauté en l’église. Genéve, 1641.

Salmasius: De Primatu Papae. Lugd. Bat. 1645.

Is. Barrow: The Pope’s Supremacy. Lond. 1680 (new ed. Oxf. 1836. N. York, 1845).

Rothensee (R.C.): Der Primal Des Papstes in allen Christlichen Jahrhunderten, 3 vols. Mainz, 1836-38 (I. 1-98).

Kenrick (R.C., archbishop of Baltimore, d. 1853): The Primacy of the Apostolic See vindicated. N. York, 4th ed. 1855.

R. I. Wilberforce (formerly archdeacon in the Anglican church; died in the Roman church, 1857): An Inquiry into the Principles of Church Authority; or Reasons for Recalling my subscriptions to the Royal Supremacy. Lond. 1854 (ch. vi.-x.).

J. E. Riddle: The History of the Papacy to the Period of the Reformation. Lond. 1856. 2 vols. (Chapter 1, p. 2-113; chiefly taken from Schröckh and Planck).

Thomas Greenwood: Cathedra Petri. A Political History of the great Latin Patriarchate. Lond. 1856-1872. 6 vols. Vol. I. ch. I.-VI. (A work of independent and reliable learning.)

Joh. Friedrich (Old Cath.): Zur ältesten Geschichte des Primates in der Kirche. Bonn, 1879.

E. Renan: Conferences d’Angleterre. Rome et le christianisme. Paris 1880. The Hibbert Lectures delivered in Lond. 1880. English translation by Charles Beard, London (Williams & Norgate) 1880, another by Erskine Clement (Boston, 1880). Consists mostly of extracts from his books on the Origin of Christianity, skillfully put together.

H. Formby (R.C.): Ancient Rome and its connection with the Christian Religion. London 1880.

Jos. Langen (Old Cath.): Geschichte der römischen Kirche bis zum Pontificate Leo’s I. Bonn, 1881.

R. F. Littledale (Anglo-Cath.): The Petrine Claims, A Critical Inquiry London 1880. Controversial.

Among the great bishops of Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome, the Roman bishop combined all the conditions for a primacy, which, from a purely honorary distinction, gradually became the basis of a supremacy of jurisdiction. The same propension to monarchical unity, which created out of the episcopate a centre, first for each congregation, then for each diocese, pressed on towards a visible centre for the whole church. Primacy and episcopacy grew together. In the present period we already find the faint beginnings of the papacy, in both its good and its evil features; and with them, too, the first examples of earnest protest against the abuse of its power. In the Nicene age the bishop of Jerusalem was made an honorary patriarch in view of the antiquity of that church, though his diocese was limited; and from the middle of the fourth century the new patriarch of Constantinople or New Rome, arose to the primacy among the eastern patriarchs, and became a formidable rival of the bishop of old Rome.

The Roman church claims not only human but divine right for the papacy, and traces its institution directly to Christ, when he assigned to Peter an eminent position in the work of founding his church, against which even the gates of hades shall never prevail. This claim implies several assumptions, viz. (1) that Peter by our Lord’s appointment had not simply a primacy of personal excellency, or of honor and dignity (which must be conceded to him), but also a supremacy of jurisdiction over the other apostles (which is contradicted by the fact that Peter himself never claimed it, and that Paul maintained a position of perfect independence, and even openly rebuked him at Antioch, Gal_2:11); (2) that the privileges of this primacy and supremacy are not personal only (as the peculiar gifts of Paul or John undoubtedly were), but official, hereditary and transferable; (3) that they were actually transferred by Peter, not upon the bishop of Jerusalem, or Antioch (where Peter certainly was), but upon the bishop of Rome; (4) that Peter was not only at Rome (which is very probable after 63, though not as certain as Paul’s presence and martyrdom in Rome), but acted there as bishop till his martyrdom, and appointed a successor (of which there is not the slightest historical evidence); and (5) that the bishops of Rome, as successors of Peter, have always enjoyed and exercised an universal jurisdiction over the Christian church (which is not the case as a matter of fact, and still less as a matter of conceded right).

Leaving a full discussion of most of these points to polemical theology, we are here concerned with the papacy as a growth of history, and have to examine the causes which have gradually raised it to its towering eminence among the governing institutions of the world.

The historical influences which favored the ascendency of the Roman see were:

(1) The high antiquity of the Roman church, which had been honored even by Paul with the most important doctrinal epistle of the New Testament. It was properly the only apostolic mother-church in the West, and was thus looked upon from the first by the churches of Italy, Gaul, and Spain, with peculiar reverence.

(2) The labors, martyrdom, and burial at Rome of Peter and Paul, the two leading apostles. The whole Roman congregation passed through the fearful ordeal of martyrdom during the Neronian persecution, but must soon afterwards have been reorganized, with a halo of glory arising from the graves of the victims.

(3) The political pre-eminence of that metropolis of the world, which was destined to rule the European races with the sceptre of the cross, as she had formerly ruled them with the sword.

(4) The executive wisdom and the catholic orthodox instinct of the Roman church, which made themselves felt in this period in the three controversies on the time of Easter, the penitential discipline, and the validity of heretical baptism.

To these may be added, as secondary causes, her firmness under persecutions, and her benevolent care for suffering brethren even in distant places, as celebrated by Dionysius of Corinth (180), and by Eusebius.

From the time of St. Paul’s Epistle (58), when he bestowed high praise on the earlier Roman converts, to the episcopate of Victor at the close of the second century, and the unfavorable account by Hippolytus of Pope Zephyrinus and Pope Callistus, we have no express and direct information about the internal state of the Roman church. But incidentally it is more frequently mentioned than any other. Owing to its metropolitan position, it naturally grew in importance and influence with the spread of the Christian religion in the empire. Rome was the battle-field of orthodoxy and heresy, and a resort of all sects and parties. It attracted from every direction what was true and false in philosophy and religion. Ignatius rejoiced in the prospect of suffering for Christ in the centre of the world; Polycarp repaired hither to settle with Anicetus the paschal controversy; Justin Martyr presented there his defense of Christianity to the emperors, and laid down for it his life; Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Cyprian conceded to that church a position of singular pre-eminence. Rome was equally sought as a commanding position by heretics and theosophic jugglers, as Simon Magus, Valentine, Marcion, Cerdo, and a host of others. No wonder, then, that the bishops of Rome at an early date were looked upon as metropolitan pastors, and spoke and acted accordingly with an air of authority which reached far beyond their immediate diocese.


Clement of Rome

The first example of the exercise of a sort of papal authority is found towards the close of the first century in the letter of the Roman bishop Clement (d. 102) to the bereaved and distracted church of Corinth. This epistle, full of beautiful exhortations to harmony, love, and humility, was sent, as the very address shows, not in the bishop’s own name, which is not mentioned at all, but in that of the Roman congregation, which speaks always in the first person plural. It was a service of love, proffered by one church to another in time of need. Similar letters of instruction, warning and comfort were written to other congregations by Ignatius, Polycarp, Dionysius of Corinth, Irenaeus. Nevertheless it can hardly be denied that the document reveals the sense of a certain superiority over all ordinary congregations. The Roman church here, without being asked (as far as appears), gives advice, with superior administrative wisdom, to an important church in the East, dispatches messengers to her, and exhorts her to order and unity in a tone of calm dignity and authority, as the organ of God and the Holy Spirit. This is all the more surprising if St. John, as is probable, was then still living in Ephesus, which was nearer to Corinth than Rome. The hierarchical spirit arose from the domineering spirit of the Roman church, rather than the Roman bishop or the presbyters who were simply the organs of the people. But a century later the bishop of Rome was substituted for the church of Rome, when Victor in his own name excommunicated the churches of Asia Minor for a trifling difference of ritual. From this hierarchical assumption there was only one step towards the papal absolutism of a Leo and Hildebrand, and this found its ultimate doctrinal climax in the Vatican dogma of papal infallibility.



Ignatius, in his Epistle to the Romans (even in the Syriac recension), applies to that congregation a number of high-sounding titles, and describes her as “presiding in the place of the region of the Romans,” and as “taking the lead in charity.” This is meant as a commendation of her practical benevolence for which she was famous. Dionysius of Corinth in his letter to Soter of Rome testifies to it as saying: “This practice has prevailed with you from the very beginning, to do good to all the brethren in every way, and to send contributions to many churches in every city.” The Roman church was no doubt more wealthy than any other, and the liberal use of her means must have greatly increased her influence. Beyond this, Ignatius cannot be quoted as a witness for papal claims. He says not a word of the primacy, nor does he even mention Clement or any other bishop of Rome. The church alone is addressed throughout. He still had a lively sense of the difference between a bishop and an apostle. “I do not command you,” he writes to the Romans, “as if I were Peter or Paul; they were apostles.”



Irenaeus calls Rome the greatest, the oldest(?) church, acknowledged by all, founded by the two most illustrious apostles, Peter and Paul, the church, with which, on account of her more important precedence, all Christendom must agree, or (according to another interpretation) to which (as the metropolis of the world) all other churches must resort. The “more important precedence” places her above the other apostolic churches, to which likewise a precedence is allowed.

This is surely to be understood, however, as a precedence only of honor, not of jurisdiction. For when Pope Victor, about the year 190, in hierarchical arrogance and intolerance, broke fellowship with the churches of Asia Minor, for no other reason but because they adhered to their tradition concerning the celebration of Easter, the same Irenaeus, though agreeing with him on the disputed point itself, rebuked him very emphatically as a troubler of the peace of the church, and declared himself against a forced uniformity in such unessential matters. Nor did the Asiatic churches allow themselves to be intimidated by the dictation of Victor. They answered the Roman tradition with that of their own sedes apostolicae. The difference continued until the council at Nicaea at last settled the controversy in favor of the Roman practice, but even long afterwards the old British churches differed from the Roman practice in the Easter observance to the time of Gregory I.



The celebrated Hippolytus, in the beginning of the third century, was a decided antagonist of the Roman bishops, Zephyrinus and Callistus, both for doctrinal and disciplinary reasons. Nevertheless we learn from his work called Philosophumena, that at that time the Roman bishop already claimed an absolute power within his own jurisdiction; and that Callistus, to the great grief of part of the presbytery, laid down the principle, that a bishop can never be deposed or compelled to resign by the presbytery, even though he have committed a mortal sin.



Tertullian points the heretics to the apostolic mother churches, as the chief repositories of pure doctrine; and among these gives especial prominence to that of Rome, where Peter was crucified, Paul beheaded, and John immersed unhurt in boiling oil(?) and then banished to the island. Yet the same father became afterwards an opponent of Rome. He attacked its loose penitential discipline, and called the Roman bishop (probably Zephyrinus), in irony and mockery, “pontifex maximus” and “episcopus episcoporum.”



Cyprian is clearest, both in his advocacy of the fundamental idea of the papacy, and in his protest against the mode of its application in a given case. Starting from the superiority of Peter, upon whom the Lord built his church, and to whom he intrusted the feeding of his sheep, in order to represent thereby the unity in the college of the apostles, Cyprian transferred the same superiority to the Bishop of Rome, as the successor of Peter, and accordingly called the Roman church the chair of Peter, and the fountain of priestly unity, the root, also, and mother of the catholic church. But on the other side, he asserts with equal energy the equality and relative independence of the bishops, as successors of the apostles, who had all an equally direct appointment from Christ. In his correspondence he uniformly addresses the Roman bishop as “brother” and “colleague,” conscious of his own equal dignity and authority. And in the controversy about heretical baptism, he opposes Pope Stephen with almost Protestant independence, accusing him of error and abuse of his power, and calling a tradition without truth an old error. Of this protest he never retracted a word.



Still more sharp and unsparing was the Cappadocian bishop, Firmilian, a disciple of Origen, on the bishop of Rome, while likewise implying a certain acknowledgment of his primacy. Firmilian charges him with folly, and with acting unworthily of his position; because, as the successor of Peter, he ought rather to further the unity of the church than to destroy it, and ought to abide on the rock foundation instead of laying a new one by recognizing heretical baptism. Perhaps the bitterness of Firmilian was due partly to his friendship and veneration for Origen, who had been condemned by a council at Rome.

Nevertheless, on this question of baptism, also, as on those of Easter, and of penance, the Roman church came out victorious in the end.


Comparative Insignificance of the First Popes

From these testimonies it is clear, that the growing influence of the Roman see was rooted in public opinion and in the need of unity in the ancient church. It is not to be explained at all by the talents and the ambition of the incumbents. On the contrary, the personality of the thirty popes of the first three centuries falls quite remarkably into the background; though they are all canonized saints and, according to a later but extremely doubtful tradition, were also, with two exceptions, martyrs. Among them, and it may be said down to Leo the Great, about the middle of the fifth century, there was hardly one, perhaps Clement, who could compare, as a church leader, with an Ignatius, a Cyprian, and an Ambrose; or, as a theolooian, with an Irenaeus, a Tertullian, an Athanasius, and an Augustin. Jerome, among his hundred and thirty-six church celebrities, of the first four centuries, brings in only four Roman bishops, Clement, Victor, Cornelius, and Damasus, and even these wrote only a few epistles. Hippolytus, in his Philosophumena, written about 225, even presents two contemporaneous popes, St. Zephyrinus (202-218) and Callistus (St. Calixtus I., 218-223), from his own observation, though not without partisan feeling, in a most unfavorable light; charging the first with ignorance and avarice, the second with scandalous conduct (he is said to have been once a swindler and a fugitive slave rescued from suicide), and both of them with the Patripassian heresy. Such charges could not have been mere fabrications with so honorable an author as Hippolytus, even though he was a schismatic rival bishop to Callistus; they must have had at least some basis of fact.


51. Chronology of the Popes

I. Sources

The principal sources for the obscure chronology of the early bishops of Rome are the catalogues of popes. These are divided into two classes, the oriental or Greek, and the occidental or Latin. To the first belong the lists of Hegesippus and Irenaeus, from the second century, that of Eusebius (in his Chronicle, and his Church History), and his successors from the fourth century and later. This class is followed by Lipsius and Harnack. The second class embraces the catalogues of Augustin (Ep. 55, al. 165), Optatus of Mileve (De schism. Donat. II. 3), the “Catalogus Liberianus” (coming down to Liberius, 354), the “Catalogus Felicianus” (to 530), the “Catalogus Cononianus,” based perhaps on the “Catalogus Leoninus” (to 440), the “Liber Pontificalis” (formerly supposed to be based on the preceding catalogues, but according to the Abbé Duchesne and Waitz, older than the “Liber Felicianus”). The “Liber Pontif.” itself exists in different MSS., and has undergone many changes. It is variously dated from the fifth or seventh century.

To these may be added the “Martyrologia” and “Calendaria” of the Roman Church, especially the “Martyrologium Hieronymianum,” and the “Martyrologium Romanum parvum” (both of the seventh or eighth century).

The inscriptions on the papal tombs discovered in Rome since 1850, contain names and titles, but no dates.

On the “Catalogus Liberianus,” see especially the critical essay of Mommsen “Über de Chronographen des Jahres 354,” in the “Transactions of the Royal Saxon Society of Sciences,” Philos. histor. Section, vol. I. (1850), p. 631 sqq. The text of the Catalogue is given, p. 634-’37, and by Lipsius, Chronologie der röm. Bischöfe, Append. p. 265-268. The oldest MSS. of the “Liber Pontificalis” date from the seventh and eighth centuries, and present a text of a.d. 641, but with many variations. “Mit wahrer Sicherheit,” says Waitz, “gelangen wir in der Geschichte des Papsthums nicht über das 7te Jahrhundert hinauf.”


II. Works

Phil. Jaffé: Regesta Pontificum Romanorum ab condita ecclesia ad Ann. 1198. Berolini 1851, ed. secunda correcta et aucta auspiciis Gul. Wattenbach. Lips. 1881 sqq. Continued by Potthast from 1198-1304, and supplemented by Harttung (Bd. I. a.d. 748-1198, Gotha 1880).

R A. Lipsius: Chronologie der Röm. Bischöfe bis zur Mitte des 4ten Jahrh. Kiel, 1869. Comp. Hort’s review of this book in the “Academy” for Sept. 15, 1871. Lipsius: Neue Studien zur Papstchronologie, in the “Jahrbücher für Protest. Theol.” Leipz. 1880 (pp. 78-126 and 233-307). Lipsius denies that Peter ever was at Rome.

Abbé L. Duchesne: Étude sur le Liber Pontificalis. Paris, 1887. La date et les recensions du Liber Pontificalis. 1879. Le Liber Pontificalis. Texte, introduction et commentaire. Paris, 1884 and 1889, 2 vols. 4° (with facsimiles).

Adolf Harnack: Die Zeit des Ignatius und die Chronologie der antiochenischen Bischöfe bis Tyrannus, Leipz. 1878 (p. 73).

G. Waitz: Über die verschiedenen Texte des Liber Pontificalis, in the “Archiv der Gesellschaft für ältere deutsche Geschichtskunde,” IV; and his review of Duchesne, and Lipsius, in H. v. Sybel’s “Histor. Zeitschrift” for 1880, p. 135 sqq.


Chronology of the Popes

The oldest links in the chain of Roman bishops are veiled in impenetrable darkness. Tertullian and most of the Latins (and the pseudo-Clementina), make Clement (Phi_4:3), the first successor of Peter; but Irenaeus, Eusebius, and other Greeks, also Jerome and the Roman Catalogue, give him the third place, and put Linus (2Ti_4:21), and Anacletus (or Anincletus), between him and Peter. In some lists Cletus is substituted for Anacletus, in others the two are distinguished. Perhaps Linus and Anacletus acted during the life time of Paul and Peter as assistants or presided only over one part of the church, while Clement may have had charge of another branch; for at that early day, the government of the congregation composed of Jewish and Gentile Christian elements was not so centralized as it afterwards became. Furthermore, the earliest fathers, with a true sense of the distinction between the apostolic and episcopal offices, do not reckon Peter among the bishops of Rome at all; and the Roman Catalogue in placing Peter in the line of bishops, is strangely regardless of Paul, whose independent labors in Rome are attested not only by tradition, but by the clear witness of his own epistles and the book of Acts.

Lipsius, after a laborious critical comparison of the different catalogues of popes, arrives at the conclusion that Linus, Anacletus, and Clement were Roman presbyters (or presbyter-bishops in the N. T. sense of the term), at the close of the first century, Evaristus and Alexander presbyters at the beginning of the second, Xystus I. (Latinized: Sixtus), presbyter for ten years till about 128, Telesphorus for eleven years, till about 139, and next successors diocesan bishops.

It must in justice be admitted, however, that the list of Roman bishops has by far the preeminence in age, completeness, integrity of succession, consistency of doctrine and policy, above every similar catalogue, not excepting those of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople; and this must carry great weight with those who ground their views chiefly on external testimonies, without being able to rise to the free Protestant conception of Christianity and its history of development on earth.

52. List of the Roman Bishops and Roman Emperors During the First Three Centuries


From the lists of Eusebius (till Silvester), Jaffé (Regesta), Potthast (Bibliotheca Hist. Medii Aevi), Lipsius and others compared. See a continuation of the list in my History of Mediaeval Christianity, p. 205 sqq.




a.d. Popes Emperors a.d.   

Augustus 27 b.c.   

Tiberius a.d. 14-37   

Caligula 37-41   

Claudius 41-54   

? 42-67 Petrus-Apostolus. Nero 54-68   


? 67-79 Linus-Presbyter Galba, 68   

Otho, 68-69   


? 79-91 Cletus or Anacletus Titus, 79-81   

Domitian, 81-96   

? 91-100 Clemens I. Nerva, 96-98   

Trajan 98-117   

? 100-109 Evaristus   

? 109-119 Alexander I. Hadrian 117-138   

? 119-128 Xystus or Sixtus I.   

? 128-139 Telesphorus (Martyr) Antoninus Pius, 138-161   

? 139-142 Hyginus.   

? 142-154 Pius I.   

? 154-168 Anicetus. Marcus Aurelius, 161-180   

? 168-176 Soter.   

? 177-190 Eleutherus. Commodus, 180-190   

? 190-202 Victor I. Pertinax, 190-191   

Didius Julianus, 191-192   

Niger, 192-193   

Septimius Severus, 193-211   

202-218 Zephyrinus. Caracalla, 211-217   

Geta (d. 212),   

M.. Opilius Macrinus, 217-218   

218-223 Callistus, or Calixtus I. Heliogabalus, 218-222   

(Hippolytus, Antipope).   

?223-230 Urbanus I. Alexander Severus, 222-235   

?230-235 Pontianus (resigned in exile).   

235-236 Anterus. Maximin I. (the Thracian) 235-237   

236-250 Fabianus, Martyr. The two Gordians,   

Maximus Pupienus, 237-238   


Gordian the Younger, 238-244   

Philip, 244-249   

250-251 The See vacant till March 251. Decius, 249-251   

?251-252 Cornelius (in exile). Gallus. 251-252   

? 251 (Novatianus, Antipope).   

252-253 Lucius I. Volusian, 252-253   

? 253-257 Stephanus I. Aemilian, 253-268   

Valerian, 256-259   

Gallienus 259-268   

? 257-258 Xystus (Sixtus) II.   

Till July 21, 259. The See vacant.   

259-269 Dionysius. Claudius II. 268-270   

269-274 Felix I. Aurelian, 270-275   

275-283 Eutychianus. Tacitus, 275-276   

Probus, 276-282   

283-296 Gajus (Caius). Carus, 282-284   

Carinus, 284-286   


Diocletian (d. 313), 284-305   

Maximian, joint Emp. with Diocletian, 286-303   

296-304 Marcellinus. Constantius (d. 306),   

304-307 The See vacant. Galerius (d. 311), 304 or 307   

Licinius (d. 323),   

Maximin II. (Daza), 308-309   

Constantine the Great,   

Galerius (d. 311),   

308-309 Marcellinus, Licinius (d. 323), 309-323   

309-310 Eusebius, d. Sept. 26 ? 309 Maximin (d. 313)   

Maxentius (d. 312) reigning jointly   

309-310 The See vacant   

311-314 Miltiades (Melchiades)   

314-335 Silvester I. Constantine the Great, sole ruler. 323-337  


The whole number of popes, from the Apostle Peter to Leo XIII. (1878) is two hundred and sixty-three. This would allow about seven years on an average to each papal reign. The traditional twenty-five years of Peter were considered the maximum which none of his successors was permitted to reach, except Pius IX., the first infallible pope, who reigned twenty-seven years (1846-1878). The average term of office of the archbishops of Canterbury is fourteen years.


53. The Catholic Unity

J. A. Möhler (R.C.): Die Einheit der Kirche oder das Princip des Katholicismus. Tübingen 1825. Full of Catholic enthusiasm for the unity of the church.

R. Rothe: Die Anfänge der christl. Kirche. Wittenb. 1837 (pp. 553-711). A Protestant counterpart of Möhler’s book.

Huther.: Cyprian’s Lehre von der Einheit der Kirche. Hamb. 1839.

J. W. Nevin: Cyprian; four articles in the “Mercersburg Review,” 1852. Comp. Varien’s strictures on these articles in the same “Review” for 1853, p. 555 sqq.

Joh. Peters (Ultramontane): Die Lehre des heil. Cyprian von der Einheit der Kirche gegenüber den beiden Schismen in Carthago und Rom. Luxemb. 1870.

Jos. H. Reinkens (Old Cath. Bishop): Die Lehre des heil. Cyprian von der Einheit er Kirche. Würzburg, 1873.

Comp. also Hartel’s ed. of Cyprian’s Opera (3 Parts, Vienna, 1868-’71), and the monographs on Cyprian by Rettberg (1831), Peters (1877), Fechtrup (1878), and O. Ritschl (1883).

On the basis of Paul’s idea of the unity, holiness, and universality of the church, as the mystical body of Christ; hand in hand with the episcopal system of government; in the form of fact rather than of dogma; and in perpetual conflict with heathen persecution from without, and heretical and schismatic tendencies within — arose the idea and the institution of: “the Holy Catholic Church,” as the Apostles’ Creed has it; or, in the fuller language of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan, “the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church.” In both the ecumenical symbols, as even in the more indefinite creeds of the second and third centuries, on which those symbols are based, the church appears as an article of faith, presupposing and necessarily, following faith in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and as a holy fellowship, within which the various benefits of grace, from the forgiveness of sins to the life everlasting, are enjoyed.

Nor is any distinction made here between a visible and an invisible church. All catholic antiquity thought of none but the actual, historical church, and without hesitation applied to this, while yet in the eyes of the world a small persecuted sect, those four predicates of unity, holiness, universality, and apostolicity, to which were afterwards added exclusiveness infallibility and indestructibility. There sometimes occur, indeed, particularly in the Novatian schism, hints of the incongruity between the empirical reality and the ideal conception of the church; and this incongruity became still more palpable, in regard to the predicate of holiness, after the abatement of the spiritual elevation of the apostolic age, the cessation of persecution, and the decay of discipline. But the unworthiness of individual members and the external servant-form of the church were not allowed to mislead as to the general objective character, which belonged to her in virtue of her union with her glorious heavenly Head.

The fathers of our period all saw in the church, though with different degrees of clearness, a divine, supernatural order of things, in a certain sense the continuation of the life of Christ on earth, the temple of the Holy Spirit, the sole repository of the powers of divine life, the possessor and interpreter of the Holy Scriptures, the mother of all the faithful. She is holy because she is separated from the service of the profane world, is animated by the Holy Spirit, forms her members to holiness, and exercises strict discipline. She is catholic, that is (according to the precise sense of ὃλος, which denotes not so much numerical totality as wholeness), complete, and alone true, in distinction from all parties and sects. Catholicity, strictly taken, includes the three marks of universality, unity, and exclusiveness, and is an essential property of the church as the body and organ of Christ, who is, in fact, the only Redeemer for all men. Equally inseparable from her is the predicate of apostolicity, that is, the historical continuity or unbroken succession, which reaches back through the bishops to the apostles, from the apostles to Christ, and from Christ to God. In the view of the fathers, every theoretical departure from this empirical, tangible, catholic church is heresy, that is, arbitrary, subjective, ever changing human opinion; every practical departure, all disobedience to her rulers is schism, or dismemberment of the body of Christ; either is rebellion against divine authority, and a heinous, if not the most heinous, sin. No heresy can reach the conception of the church, or rightly claim any one of her predicates; it forms at best a sect or party, and consequently falls within the province and the fate of human and perishing things, while the church is divine and indestructible.

This is without doubt the view of the ante-Nicene fathers, even of the speculative and spiritualistic Alexandrians. The most important personages in the development of the doctrine concerning the church are, again, Ignatius, Irenaeus, and Cyprian. Their whole doctrine of the episcopate is intimately connected with their doctrine of the catholic unity, and determined by it. For the episcopate is of value in their eyes only, is the indispensable means of maintaining and promoting this unity: while they are compelled to regard the bishops of heretics and schismatics as rebels and antichrists.

1. In the Epistles of Ignatius the unity of the church, in the form and through the medium of the episcopate, is the fundamental thought and the leading topic of exhortation. The author calls himself a man prepared for union. He also is the first to use the term “catholic” in the ecclesiastical sense, when he says: “Where Christ Jesus is, there is the catholic church;” that is, the closely united and full totality of his people. Only in her, according to his view, can we eat the bread of God; he, who follows a schismatic, inherits not the kingdom of God.

We meet similar views, although not so clearly and strongly stated, in the Roman Clement’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, in the letter of the church of Smyrna on the martyrdom of Polycarp, and in the Shepherd of Hermas.

2 Irenaeus speaks much more at large respecting the church. He calls her the haven of rescue, the way of salvation, the entrance to life, the paradise in this world, of whose trees, to wit, the holy Scriptures, we may eat, excepting the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which he takes as a type of heresy. The church is inseparable from the Holy Spirit; it is his home, and indeed his only dwelling-place on earth. “Where the church is,” says he, putting the church first, in the genuine catholic spirit, “there is the Spirit of God, and where the Spirit of God is there is all grace.” Only on the bosom of the church, continues he, can we be nursed to life. To her must we flee, to be made partakers of the Holy Spirit; separation from her is separation from the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Heretics, in his view, are enemies of the truth and sons of Satan, and will be swallowed up by hell, like the company of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Characteristic in this respect is the well-known legend, which he relates, about the meeting of the apostle John with the Gnostic Cerinthus, and of Polycarp with Marcion, the “first-born of Satan.”

3. Tertullian is the first to make that comparison of the church with Noah’s ark, which has since become classical in Roman catholic theology; and he likewise attributes heresies to the devil, without any qualification. But as to schism, he was himself guilty of it since he joined the Montanists and bitterly opposed the Catholics in questions of discipline. He has therefore no place in the Roman Catholic list of the patres, but simply of the scriptores ecclesiae.

4. Even Clement of Alexandria, and Origen, with all their spiritualistic and idealizing turn of mind, are no exception here. The latter, in the words: “Out of the church no man can be saved,” brings out the principle of the catholic exclusiveness as unequivocally as Cyprian. Yet we find in him, together with very severe judgments of heretics, mild and tolerant expressions also; and he even supposes, on the ground of Rom_2:6 sqq., that in the future life honest Jews and heathens will attain a suitable reward, a low grade of blessedness, though not the “life everlasting” in the proper sense. In a later age he was himself condemned as a heretic.

Of other Greek divines of the third century, Methodius in particular, an opponent of Origen, takes high views of the church, and in his Symposion poetically describes it as “the garden of God in the beauty of eternal spring, shining in the richest splendor of immortalizing fruits and flowers;” as the virginal, unspotted, ever young and beautiful royal bride of the divine Logos.

5. Finally, Cyprian, in his Epistles, and most of all in his classical tract: De Unitate Eccelesiae, written in the year 251, amidst the distractions of the Novatian schism, and not without an intermixture of hierarchical pride and party spirit, has most distinctly and most forcibly developed the old catholic doctrine of the church, her unity, universality, and exclusiveness. He is the typical champion of visible, tangible church unity, and would have made a better pope than any pope before Leo I.; yet after all he was anti-papal and anti-Roman when he differed from the pope. Augustin felt this inconsistency, and thought that he had wiped it out by the blood of his martyrdom. But he never gave any sign of repentance. His views are briefly as follows:

The Catholic church was founded from the first by Christ on St. Peter alone, that, with all the equality of power among the apostles, unity might still be kept prominent as essential to her being. She has ever since remained one, in unbroken episcopal succession; as there is only one sun, though his rays are everywhere diffused. Try once to separate the ray from the sun; the unity of the light allows no division. Break the branch from the tree; it can produce no fruit. Cut off the brook from the fountain; it dries up. Out of this empirical orthodox church, episcopally organized and centralized in Rome, Cyprian can imagine no Christianity at all; not only among the Gnostics and other radical heretics, but even among the Novatians, who varied from the Catholics in no essential point of doctrine, and only elected an opposition bishop in the interest of their rigorous penitential discipline. Whoever separates himself from the catholic church is a foreigner, a profane person, an enemy, condemns himself, and must be shunned. No one can have God for his father, who has not the church for his mother. As well might one out of the ark of Noah have escaped the flood, as one out of the church be saved; because she alone is the bearer of the Holy Spirit and of all grace.

In the controversy on heretical baptism, Cyprian carried out the principle of exclusiveness even more consistently than the Roman church. For he entirely rejected such baptism, while Stephen held it valid, and thus had to concede, in strict consistency, the possibility of regeneration, and hence of salvation, outside the Catholic church. Here is a point where even the Roman system, generally so consistent, has a loophole of liberality, and practically gives up her theoretical principle of exclusiveness. But in carrying out this principle, even in persistent opposition to the pope, in whom he saw the successor of Peter and the visible centre of unity, Cyprian plainly denied the supremacy of Roman jurisdiction and the existence of an infallible tribunal for the settlement of doctrinal controversies and protested against identifying the church in general with the church of Rome. And if he had the right of such protest in favor of strict exclusiveness, should not the Greek church, and above all the Evangelical, much rather have the right of protest against the Roman exclusiveness, and in favor of a more free and comprehensive conception of the church?

We may freely acknowledge the profound and beautiful truth at the bottom of this old catholic doctrine of the church, and the historical importance of it for that period of persecution, as well as for the great missionary work among the barbarians of the middle ages; but we cannot ignore the fact that the doctrine rested in part on a fallacy, which, in course of time, after the union of the church with the state, or, in other words, with the world, became more and more glaring, and provoked an internal protest of ever-growing force. It blindly identified the spiritual unity of the church with unity of organization, insisted on outward uniformity at the expense of free development, and confounded the faulty empirical church, or a temporary phase of the development of Christianity, with the ideal and eternal kingdom of Christ, which will not be perfect in its manifestation until the glorious second coming of its Head. The Scriptural principle “Out of Christ there is no salvation,” was contracted and restricted to the Cyprianic principle: “Out of the (visible) church there is no salvation;” and from this there was only one step to the fundamental error of Romanism: “Out of the Roman Church there is no salvation.”

No effort after outward unity could prevent the distinction of all Oriental and Occidental church from showing itself at this early period, in language, customs, and theology; — a distinction which afterwards led to a schism to this day unhealed.

It may well be questioned whether our Lord intended an outward visible unity of the church in the present order of things. He promised that there should be “one flock one shepherd,” but not “one fold.” There may be one flock, and yet many folds or church organizations. In the sacerdotal prayer, our Lord says not one word about church, bishops or popes, but dwells upon that spiritual unity which reflects the harmony between the eternal Father and the eternal Son. “The true communion of Christian men — ‘the communion of saints’ upon which all churches are built — is not the common performance of external acts, but a communion of soul with soul and of the soul with Christ. It is a consequence of the nature which God has given us that an external organization should help our communion with one another: it is a consequence both of our twofold nature, and of Christ’s appointment that external acts should help our communion with Him. But subtler, deeper, diviner than anything of which external things can be either the symbol or the bond is that inner reality and essence of union — that interpenetrating community of thought and character — which St. Paul speaks of as the ‘unity of the Spirit,’ and which in the sublimest of sublime books, in the most sacred words, is likened to the oneness of the Son with the Father and of the Father with the Son.”