John Henry Newman.

Lives of the English saints (Volume 2) online

. (page 20 of 33)
Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanLives of the English saints (Volume 2) → online text (page 20 of 33)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

describing the heresy by its prominent feature, ob-
serves, that tlie author of it began to spread his tenets
" against the assistance of grace." These short state-
ments are sufficient to show that other important errors
might flow from the same source. Thus, the trans-
mission of original guilt from Adam to all his pos-
terity, the efficacy of baptism, the weakness of human
nature, were in one sense consequences of the denial
of grace, and in another were the same thing, inasmuch
as what is virtually contained in any thing, is one and
the same with it. Which opinion was the father of the
rest, if such distinction may be made, need not perhaps
be asked, as no thought has any proper existence apart
from its relation with others ; and what poor abstrac-
tions men make, are best understood by the concrete
ideas or systems to which they relate.^

One more author shall be cited, whose testimony on
the subject of Pelagianism cannot well be passed over.'

" The Heresy," says St. Augustine, " of the Pela-
gians, the most recent of all at present, sprung from
Pelagius the monk. His disciple, Celestius, followed
him so closely, that the partisans of both are also
called Celestians. These men showed such enmity to
the grace of God — " by which we are predestinated unto

' In Prosper Chron. ad an. 414, apiid Alford.
2 For more details, vid. Usher, p. 218, Prim. Ed. 4to. et
Collier, p. 96, torn. i. from St. Aug. Gcstis Pal. ct Pecato.
3 From St. Augustine's work upon the Heresies. Heresies, 88.


the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ to Himself,"^
" and by which we are delivered from the power of
darkness, that we might believe in Him, and be trans-
lated into His kingdom,"^ to which purpose it is said,
" No one coraeth to me, unless it be given unto him of
my Father ;"^ and " by which love is shed abroad in our
hearts,"'^ " that faith may work by love"^ — that without
tliis grace they believe man can accomplish all the
divine commands. Now if this were true, in vain
would the Lord seem to have said, " Without me ye
can do nothing." ° However, Pelagius being blamed by
the brethren for assigning nothing to the aid of divine
grace in the performance of God's precepts, yielded so
far to their reproaches as was compatible with not
placing grace before (prcaponeret) free-will, while,
with faithless craftiness, he lowered the former, (stip-
poneretj saying that grace was given to men, that by
means of it the things which were ordered to be done
by free-will might be more easily fulfilled. And by
the words, ' might be more easily fulfilled,' he meant,
of course, to imply, that though the difficulty would be
greater, yet men might, without divine grace, obey the
divine commands. Moreover, the same grace of God,
without which we can do nothing good, they say exists
only in the free-will, which our natin-e, without any
previous merits received from Him, inasmuch as God
only assists us so far by His laws and doctrine, as to
teach us what we ought to do, and what to hope for ;
and not, forsooth, through the gift of His Spirit to
enable us to do what we have learnt to do. And by
this gift they allow, indeed, that knowledge is granted

' Eph. i. 5. - Coloss. i. 13. ^ John vi. 65,

♦ Rom. vi. 5. * Gal. v. G. « John xv. 5.


to US of God, whereby our ignorance is dispelled, but
deny tliat love is friven, whereby we live piously ; as
if knowledge, which without love puffeth up, might
be called tlie gift of God, and love itself, which so edi-
fieth that knowledge puff not up, were not the gift of
God. Tliey make void also the prayers which the
Chui'ch offers up, wliether for infidels and those who
resist the teaching of God, to obtain their conversion
to God, or for the faithful, to procure increase of faith
to them, and perseverance in the faith. For these
things, they affii-m men do not receive from God, but
have thcni from themselves, since they say that the
grace wliich delivers us from impiety, is given accord-
ing to our merits. This doctrine, indeed, Pelagius,
from fear of being himself condemned by the episcopal
tribunal in Palestine, was forced to condemn ; how-
ever, in liis later works, we find him teaching it. To
this extent even do they go, that they say that the life
of the just in this world is free from all sin ; and
consequently, that the Church of Christ is perfected in
this mortal state, so as to be without spot or wrinkle ;^
as if she were not Christ's Church who cries to God
all over the earth, ' Forgive us our trespasses.'* They
also deny that children born of Adam, according to the
flesh, (secundum Adam carnaViter natos) contract
by their first birth the infection of tlie old death. For
they assert that tliey ai-e born without any bond of
original sin, inasmuch that there is nothing whatever
that needs being remitted to them by a second birth ;
but that they are baptized, in order that being adopted
by regeneration, they may be admitted into the king-
dom of God, tliat is, transferred from what is good to

' Eph. V. 27. = Matt. vi. 12.

pelagianis:m in Britain. 119

what is better, and not by this renewal absolved from
the evil of any ancient bond. For even should they
not be baptized, they promise to them, out indeed of
the kingdom of God, a life of their own devising,
fmtam siiamj which shall nevertheless be eternal and
blessed. They also say that Adam himself, even if he
had not sinned, would have died in the body, and that
he did not die, as it happened, by the just effects of
guilt, but by the condition of nature. Some other
things also are imputed to them ; but these are they
chiefly on which the rest, either all, or nearly all, seem
to depend."

Those who have paid attention to the controversies
which have divided the world concerning Grace and
Free-will, will not be surprised that men of learning
and real holiness should have been over-reached at
times by the subtleties of Semi-Pelagianism, without
internally assenting to its perversions. St. Jerome we
know imposed a lasting silence on his tongue, for
having once given too favourable an ear to Pelagius
himself. And other good men might occasionally use
language which was offensive to dogmatic accuracy,
and yet was innocent in them. Of this class, as it is
said, was Fastidius the Briton, who lived at the time
we are considering. He was sixrnamed Priscus, and
was Bishop of London, the oldest see probably of
England. Some who have strained a little the exclu-
siveness of the Augustinian theology, as Cardinal Nor-
ris and TiUemont, use harsh terms with regard to the
work of Fastidius which has come down to us, and is
entitled "A Treatise of Christian Life.^ But our

' See this work, in vi. vol. August. Opera, ad finem, Alford,
Cressy, Usher, Stillingfleet, Collier, Cede, Pitts.


Englisli writers of different schools, are nearly all
agreed in defending him. Gennadius, a v(;ry early
writer,^ has bestovvcid great praise on Fastidius, and is
followed by Trithemius, a writer prior to the schism of
the sixteenth century. He calls him " a man learned
in the Holy Scriptures, distinguished for his life and
manners, and eminent for liis eloquence and talents."

Faustus, another Briton of the same time, who be-
came in process of time Abbot of Lerins, and Bisho|)
of Riez in France, has been also thought to entertain
Semi-Pelagian views. Yet even Cardinal Norris, before
mentioned, admits that he was revered as a Saint in
the church of Riez, and his name was preserved in the
calendar of the Galilean Church. It was struck out
long after by Molanus, and Baronius the great annalist
followed him, but upon admonition restored it.^ One
Martyrology observes that " his books are piously and
learnedly written, and that miracles are said to have
been wrought by hini."^ However Faustus is no ob-
scure character in history, for he took a prominent part
in the controversies of the time, and had the charge of
drawing up the Acts of a Council assembled on the
subject of heresy."*

On the whole, it is certain that the Bishops in
Britain opposed Agricola and his follow(irs by the most
strenuous measures.^ But though they assembled
synod after synod, tliey were unable to suppress the
heresy, and finally resolved to apply to foreign assis-

' Gcnnad. Catalog. -^ Hist. Pelajr. lib. ii. p. -297.

' Vid. Holland. Acta. Sanct. Ifith Jan.

* Comp. Sidon. Apol. Lit. is. Ep. 3-9. Ruric. Epis. 2. lib. i.

s Alford, ad. an. 420. Bcde, lib. i. c. 17.



The Council of Troyes.

Such were the events which preceded the mission
of German to England. But we have, hxstly, to state
what was the nature of the authority he I'eceived, and
what is known concerning the synod to which Con-
stantius, our original informer, refers. Much discus-
sion has been raised about this very point. It has
been thought by many, that the question whether the
Bi'itish Churches were dependent upon the Roman See
or were not, rests, in a great measure, upon the evi-
dence relating to this circumstance. We shall first put
before the reader that account which will here be con-
sidered genuine, and then state some of the objections.

Before the English Bishops applied for help abroad,
Palladius, the Apostle of the Scots, had been over to
Britain, apparently not having, as yet, received his
regular commission of Converter of the heathen in the
north of the Island, ^ and while he was yet Deacon.

Palladius was a Grreek by birth, ^ and attached to the
Roman See. When he returned to Rome, he carried
with him the news of the danger to which the Church
was exposed from the growing evil of Pelagianism, and
possibly was the bearer of the intelligence to the Galil-
ean clergy on the part of the Britons. When he arrived

' Vid. apud Alford Annal. 429.
- Usher thinks he was not a Greek, but this is of no im-


at Kome, he represented to Celestine, ^vlio was then
Pope, the state of that part of Britain wliich is now
(•ailed England and Wales, as well as of those districts
which he had purposely visited, ^ Urged by his coun-
sels, Celestine communicated his own intentions to the
Gallican Bishops, who either, upon tlie strength of the
message, immediately convoked a synod ; or when the
communication came, were already assembled, in order
not to lose time in succouring their Christian brethren
in Britain. This synod was held at Troyes, in Cham-
pagne, where St. Lupus was Bishop, in the autumn of
429, and the Gallican Prelates, after due consideration,
elected German of Auxerre to go over to Britain as
Apostle, with the authority of the Roman See, and
joined to him Lupus, the Bishop of Troyes. ^^ "Whether
Celestine proposed German for the examination of the
Council, in accordance with the information he had
obtained of his signal piety and wisdom, or whether he
left free choice to the assembled Bishops to elect
whomsoever they chose, we are not strictly told. But
the first hypothesis is probably the true one, and agrees
well with the unanimous consent of the bishops in ap-
pointing him.^ It will be seen, by reference to the
passage of Constantius given at the beginning of a
former chapter, that there is nothing in the view here
taken which offers violence to his expressions, though
there are some things which, in the brief description

' Vid. Prosper Chron. ad an. 429, and Contra Collatorcm,
ch. 41, 42.

- Vice sua, i e. Caelestini.

^ It is impossible to say whether Lupus had the same direct
authority from the Pope. Prosper does not mention him in this
connexion. More probably, he was the proper appointment of
the Synod.


he lias given, are not mentioned by bim. On tbe
otber hand, his omissions have been supplied from the
authority of St. Prosper of Aquitain, ^ himself a wit-
ness even nearer to the times than Constantius, a more
precise and less poetical writer, inasmuch as he was
composing a chronology, and one who had closer con-
nexion with the Bishop of Rome than any other Galil-
ean author, at the same time that he was necessarily
conversant with the affairs of his own country.

The objections to the account here given, and which
have been urged Avith the greatest force by Bishop
Stillingfleet, - are drawn up concisely by Collier^ in his
Ecclesiastical History in the following manner. " I
have observed," he says, "that the orthodox Britons
applied to the Galilean Bishops to reinforce them
against the Pelagians, and that Germanus and Lupus
Avere sent by a deputation of a synod in Gaul ; but it
is objected on the other side that Celestine, Bishop of
Rome, sent Germanus as his legate hither, and for this
the testimony of Prosper is alleged. But this assertion
seems sufficiently overthrown by the authorities of
Constantius, Bede, Paulus Diaconus, Freculphus, Er-
ricus of Auxerre, and Ado of Vienne, who all agree
that Germanus and Lupus received their commission
for this employment from the Bishops of Gaul. Baro-
nius, who is always careful to set the Pope at the head
of Church business, endeavours to reconcile this mat-
ter, and offers to make Prosper's testimony consistent
with the rest. To this purpose, he tells us, ' that the

' Tillemont says, " II parait que St. Prosper a travaille trois
fois a sa chronique et en a fait, pour ainsi dire, trois editions en
433 en 445 & en 455.

= Stillingfleet, Orig. 192. ^ Collier, p. 103. torn. i.


Pope might approve of the choice of the synod, or
might leave the nomination of hU representative to the
liisJiops of Gaul.' But neither of these pretences will
hold ; for Prosper affirms Celestine sent him, vice sua,
in his own stead, which is very different from appoint-
ing a council to choose one to be sent. And Constan-
tius affirms, ' that Ciermanus and Lupus undertook their
voyage immediately,' which is a tign they did not stay
for the Pope's instructions and approbation. Besides,
the Gallican Bishops and Celestine had no good un-
derstanding at this time of day, they being looked upon
at Home as somewhat inclined to Semi-Pelagianism.
This makes it highly improbable, that either Celestine
should refer the choice of his legate to these prelates,
or that they should wait for his direction. There are
likewise some dilferent accounts in chronology, hardly
to be reconciled. As to the testimony of Prosper, about
Celestine's sending St. German, it may be answered ;
first, that the Prosper published by Pithoeus, never
mentions it. Secondly, Prosper in his tract against
Cassian, which undoubtedly belongs to him, does not
affirm it. For there he only declares that Celestine
took care to disengage Britain from Pelagianism. To
this we may add, that supposing Pi'osper's testimony is
not interpolated, yet Constantius's authority is prefer-
able to Prosper's in this matter : for Constantius was
not only in a manner contemporary with St. German,
but likewise a person of great eminency, as appears by
Sidonius ApoUinaris's Letters, and wrote with great
exactness even by the confession of Baronius. Neither
does Constantius stand single in this point, but the
author of the Life of St. Lupus gives account, and so
does Bede, and the rest of the historians above men-


Having given Collier's words, let iis see whether
they have in reality that weight wliieh at first sight
they appear to have, with an especial reference to the
more laboured dissertation of Stillingfleet, to whom
Collier is chiefly indebted.

The authorities of Constantius, Bede, Paulus Dia-
conus, Freculphus, Erricus of Auxerre, and Ado of
Vienne, are opposed to Prosper. Now it so happens
that Constantius is the only one of these that can be
cited as an original testimony, for all have borrowed
from hiin even his very expressions, and all lived long
after the events they commemorate. Bede wrote
nearly three centuries after ; and Paulus Diaconus,
Freculphus, Ado of Vienne, and Erricus of Auxerre,
flourished about a century later than Bede. ^ It would
have been desirable that Usher, Stillingfleet, and Col-
lier had given distinct references to these authors
whom they cite among the other testimonies which
they likewise appeal to, but with greater precision.
If we except Bede, their writings are not very gene-
rally known, and are found in few collections. ^

With regard to Bede, any one who will take the
trouble to inspect his account of German's mission to
Britain in all its circumstances will at once perceive
that Bede has closely followed Constantius through
several successive pages, so as to make it unquestionable
that he was guided by Constantius alone in his relation

' Bede was born 673, and died 735, or later. Collier 294
Paulus Diaconus, called Warnefrid, born 740. Freculphus born
at the end of the eighth century. Bishop of Lisieus. Ado,
Archbishop of Vienne, born about SOO. Vid. B'log. Univer.
Erricus of Auxerre dedicated his book to Charles le Chauve,
in 876. Vid. Boll. Commen. Praev.

2 Vid. Eccl. Hist. eh. xvii.


of those circumstances which ai'e mentioned by this
author. Constantius had said nothing about the origi-
nators of the heresy in Britain ; this Bede first sujjplies
apparently from Prosper. He says, "The Pelagian
heresy introduced by Agi'icola, the son of Severianus, a
Pelagian Bishop, had infected the faith of the Britons.
But when the nation refused to accept this perverse
doctrine and blaspheme in any way against the grace of
Christ, and yet were not able to refute the deceits of
these impious tenets, they adopted the salutary course of
applying to the Galilean Bishops for assistance in their
religious contest." He then falls into the narrative of
Constantius, in which he continues for five chapters,
deviating little from his authority. He describes the
synod mentioned by Constantius with no other differ-
ence than what the explanation of one or two words
required ; while on the other hand, some of the very
same expressions are used. As Constantius gave no
hint of the part Celestine the Pope had taken, neither
does Bede. He says a council was assembled, enquiry
into the emergency was instituted, German of Auxerre
and Lupus of Troyes were elected, and the two Apostles
and Bishops lost no time in setting ofi" for Britain.
But he says nothing about the manner in which the sy-
nod was convened, or the reasons that prevailed, or the
persons who directed the deliberations. On the other
hand, Bede supports the view here adopted by placing
the mission of Palladius to the Scots at an earlier date^
than that of German, and he distinctly says with Pros-
per, that Pelagius the Bishop was sent by Celestine the
Pontiff of Rome to the Scots, who believed in Christ. ^

' 430, A. D.
2 Eccl. Hist. ch. xiil., and also De sex tEtatibus mundi. ad
annum 4376 and 4402.


This accounts therefore for the part which Prosper as-
signs to Palladius in turning the attention of Celestine
towards Britain and the Pelagian heresy. On the
wliole, Bede gives nothing i-elative to the mission of
German but what is found in Coustantius and Prosper ;
while he omits to mention a fact which we shall see
Prosper in two different works asserts.

Paulus Diaconus is the first in order of time among
the other authors quoted by Collier. There are three
historical works of his in the Bibliotheca Patrum ;^ in
none of them can we find any statement concerning the
subject in question. In his Historia ]\Escella, (p. 265,
p. 2G6, p. 2G8,) during the period Avhich extends from
Constantine's usurpation in Britain, A. D. 407, to 511,
there are indeed three notices of the civil affairs of
Britain, but nothing is to be found concerning the
ecclesiastical condition of that country. His work, de
Episcopis Metensibus, is alike destitute of information
to the point. And his history of the Lombards fur-
nishes a mere view of the origin of that nation, and its
fortunes from Justinian's time.

In the works of Freculphus and Ado we have some-
thing more to om* purpose.^ But then they are the
mere copyists of Bede ;^ and their clu'onology is evi-
dently false, for they make German and Lupus visit
Britain for the first time, after the Anglo and Saxons

' Tom. xiii. Bibl. Patrum. Luyduni.

= See Bibl. Patr. torn. 14. p. 1 189 and ] ]90.tom. xvi. p. 796-7.

=• Usher p. 335, admits that all these writers have disregarded
Prosper's chronology and followed Bede. Bede himself gene-
rally follows Prosper, and the reason for his departing in this
instance, is probably that he had one of the early and imperfect
copies of Prosper's Chronicon, which seems to have been three
times written.



had taken possession of Britain. But let the reader
convince himself of the little corroboration they supply
to Bede's account, by comparing the following passages,
the similarity of which requires not any scholarship to

BeDE DE sex iETAT.

AD AN. 4376.

Ad Scofos in Chris-
tum credentes, ordi-
natus a Papa Ca^ies-
tino, Palladius 1.,
Episcopus mittitur.

AD. AN. 4402.

Haerosis Pelagiana
Britannorum tui'bat
fidem, qui a Galli-
canis Episcopis aux-
iiium quaerentes,
Germanum Altissio-
dorensis Ecclcsiae
Episcopum et Lu-
pum Trecassenum
anque Apostolica?
gratiae antistitem
fidei defensores ac-
cipiunt, &c.



Ado. Chron.

(Tunc equidcm) Scotis in Christum

ad Scofos in Chris- credentibus, ordina-

tum credentes or- tus a Papa Caeles-

dinatus a Papa tino Palladius pri-

Caelestino Palla- mus Episcopus mit-

dius I. Episcopo titur.

(Tunc) haeresis
Pclagiana Britan-
norum turbat fi-
dem, qui a Galli-
canis Episcopis
auxilium quaeren-
tes, Germanum
Ecclesiae Episco-
pum et Lupum
'J'recassinum aeque
Apostolicae gratiae
antistitem fidei de-
fensores accipiunt,

Haeresis Pelagiana
Britannorum tur-
bat fidem, qui a
Gallicanis Episco-
pis auxilia quaG-
rentes Germanum
Altissiodorensis Ec-
clesiae Episcopum
et Lupum Tricas-
sinum aaque Apos-
tolicae gratiaG antis-
tites fidei defensores

Surely these writers, distinguished as they were, can-
not be considered as independent testimonies even if we
overlook the late date to which they belong. Nor has
Erricus of Auxerre left any passage which might shake
Prosper's testimony. Though somewhat farther removed


from the age of German, yet as a Monk of Auxerre,
and a special enquirer into the life and miracles of our
Saint, he might be expected to throw some fresh light
on the point we are considering. But any one who will
be at the pains to peruse the poetical version he has
given of Constantius, will be surprised to find how very
little real matter he has added to his model. In his
account of the synod he merely paraphrases Constantius
without any appearance of having consulted other testi-
mony.^ This author is more worthy of attention in
what regards the circumstances which followed German's
death, than for any information strictly biographical.

To conclude what may be said respecting these au-
thorities quoted by Collier and Stillingfleet, with some
remarks upon Constantius himself : it is asked, why did
this writer omit all indication of Celestine's part in the
transactions under enquiry if there were gi'ounds for
believing it. The answer is, first that Constantius is a
very unequal writer as regards plan and method ; he
sometimes gives long details about one event, and passes
cursorily over others of equal importance ; nay, he is
silent on subjects which are of great interest. Thus,
German's education and early life, his political career,
the Bishops who consecrated him, the rule and customs
of his monastery, (to mention a few instances), are left
in great obscurity by him. His object was, in the
main, plainly to give a narrative of the mii-acles and
distinguished actions of German, in compliance with
the taste of the day. ^ There is little or nothing about

' Moreover, often what he did not learn from Constantius,
like the rest, he took from Bede — Vid. De Mirac. 24. Boll.

-■ Hence the expression, " vitara gestaque, in connexion with
' pro miraculorum numerositate,' innumerabilium miraculorum
exempla." — Prolog. Const.



Church matters, theological questions, and the like,
altliougli his great eminence in the literary world was
noted in liis own time. ^ In fact, they were not to his

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanLives of the English saints (Volume 2) → online text (page 20 of 33)