Joseph Priestley.

A general history of the Christian church, from the fall of the western empire to the present time (Volume 2) online

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people went to refide in places not fubje£i; to the

After the Greek ambafifadors had left Rome,
the pope fentfoarto Conftantinople in a. d. 1278,
and doubtincr the fincerity of the Greek clergy,
he exhorted the patriarch to procure from every
bilhop a profeilion of his faith, an acknowledgment
of the fupremacy of the church ot Rome, and an
abjuration of the fchifm. The amb^^fladors were
alfo de fired to require of the emperor that he
Ihould infiR; upon the patriarch and other prelates
fending a confeffion of their faith in the very farhe
form v/ith that which he himfelf had fent, and that
the creed fhould be recited wiih the addition of^-
ioqiie. Particular cuftoms, to which the Greeks
had been ufed were to be tolerated, provided they
were not contrary to the faith, and the canons.
The pope alfo defired to have the confefiions of
the faith of the Greek prelates to be publicly regi-
ilered, and that they fhould apply to Rome to get
abfolved from the cenfures which they had in-
turred during the fchifm, and for a confirmation iri
their disunities: and alfo to have a cardinal legate
to refide at Conftantinople. The ambalfadors were
at the fame time charged to get an exacl knowledge
of the real difpofition of the Greeks, and a pofitivc
anfwer to dl his demands.



But in the Eaft things were by no means in fo
favourable a fituation as the pope wifhed. The
Greeks in general, and even the emperor's own re-
lations, were fo much offended at his fubmiffion
to the pope, that they revolted from him, calling
him the pope's patriarch, and all who joined him
lieretics. Thus the two parties being at open va-
riance excommunicated one another. The difaf-
feO:ed party invited Alexis Comnenus, who had
cftablilhed hirafell at Trebifonde on the taking of
Conftantinople by the Latins, to affume the title of
emperor, promifmg to join him, which they did.

In the mean time the emperor, in order to gain
the Greek bifhops, alTured them that he v/ould not
fwerve an iota from their faith or their cuRoms, and
leaft of all with refpeflt to the creed, but that in
his circumftances it was neceffary for him to tem-
porize with the Latins.

In anfwer to the demand of the pope to fend a
great number of fubfcriptions to the particular con-
feffion of faith required of the Greek clergy, many
were fent ; but they were all in the fame hand-
writing, and flill the expreffions concerning the
procefTion of the Holy Spirit were not clear, but
fuch as left the queftion undecided.

Notwithflanding all thefe precautions, the em-
peror was obliged to have recourfe to very cruel
and harfh meafures in order to enforce the union,
Vol. IV. T and


and thefe rendered him very unpopular. Befides,
it appearing to the court of Rome that he was not
able to carry his point, and even that he himfelf
was not fincere in it, his next ambaflador to pope
Martin IV was very ill received, and at the folici-
tation of Charles king of Sicily he was himfelf ex-
communicated in A. D. 1281, as a promoter of the
antient fchifm and herefy of ihe Greeks, Michael
did not long furvive thefe proceedings againft him,
dvin<T in a. d. 1282, and his fon Andronicus,
who fuccecded him, thought fo ill of his condu6t
in promoting the union, that he did not allow him-
the rites of Chriftian burial.

The members of the proper Greek church being
now the matters, they fummoned a council to meet
in A. D. 1283, and then they condemned and
burned the writings of Veccas in favour of the union.
He was baniflied to Prufa in Bythinia, and after-
wards almoil aU tlie bifhops who had favoured the
union were depofed.

The year foliovving the two parties in the Greek
church, in the intereft of the two patriarchs, agreed
to dra'.>r up in writing their feveral pretenfions, and
throw them into a fire at the fame time ; perfuaded
that, if either of them fhould not be burned, that
party had the fandion of heaven, but if both were
burned, they promifed to unite. This taking place,
they did unite, but afterwards repenting of this-



agreement, the difference was refumcd. The em-
peror was very defirous of promoting peace, and
for that purpofe he fummoned a council in which
Veccas was heard ; but it produced nothing befides
altercation about the terms in which the procefEon
of the Holy Spirit fhould be exprefled, and at the
termination of it Veccas was remanded to his place
of banifhment. -

Still the Greeks fuflFered much by faftions
among themfelves, and feveral patriarchs of Con-
flantinople were appointed and difplaced. The
chief caufe of their contentions, the particulars of
which would not now be at all interefting or in-
flru6livc, was an attempt of the patriarch Gregory
of Cyprus to explain what John of Damafcus hai
advanced concerning the proceflion of the H'oly '
Spirit, in a work which, for the fake of peace, he
afterwards retrafted; but the difference had no very-
material confequence.



Of the State of Infidelity, and various Herejie's

in this Period,


HIS being an age of much and fabtli*
fpeculation, at the fame time thktthe abufes of the
church of Rome were glaring and enormous, we
cannot wonder that the reafon of many perfons
ftiould revolt at them, and that many fhould begin
to fufpe6l that the whole fyftem of Chriftianity had
its origin in impofture, and had no other object
than the emolument of the clergy. The rife of
this infidelity, as far as we are able to trace it, was
from the writings of Averroes, a Spaniard, a man
of great genius, who wrote commentaries on Ari-
ftotle, and pretended to find authorities for his
opinions in his writings.

As far as we can colle£l the outline of this
fyftem from the various condemnations of it, the
difciples of Averroes held that the world was eternal,
creation out of nothing being impoffible, that in-
telle£l is one principle, diffufed thro' all intelligent
beings, and confequently that all feparate con-
fcioufnefs ceafes at death, which was a fundamental
principle in the antient Greek philofcphy, derived



from the Eafl ; and that all the motions of the
intelleSual principle are virtuous. Since all fm
arifes from the afFedions of the inferior part of man,
they feem to have made light of fome a6lions that
have been fo denominated, efpecially as it was their
opinion that all the a£lions of men were neceffary,
being determined by, or connefted with, the mo-
tion of the ftars and other heavenly bodies. Con-
fidering the whole fyflem of things as a chain of
caufes and effefts, which has fubfifted uncharge-
ably from all eternity, they probably confidered
all deviations from it by miracles to be impoflible,
and the accfiounts of them incredible, unworthy of

In A. D. 1270 the following opinions were con.
demned by Tempier biOiop of Paris, «' The un-
*' der (landing is the Ume in all men. The will
" ofmanafts by ncccHity. Every thing below is
" governed by the celcflial bodies. The world
" is eternal. There was no firfl man. The foul
" is formed of matter, and decays with the body.
*' God knows nothing but himfelf. The aaions
•' of men are not conduced by divine providence.
*' God cannot give incorruptibility and immortali-
*' ty to that which is corruptible and mortal."
Ikiiry, Vol. 18. p. 137. Many of thefe queftions
were difculTed, and the opinions retuted by T.


T g Such


Such were, or feem to have been, the pre-
vailing opinions of thofe who were generally called
philofophers in this period, and in the time ot Pe-
trarch, who met with many of them at Venice,
and in other parts of Italy. At the fame time
thefe philofophers made no fcruple of declaring
their belief of all the doftrines of the church of
Rome, and conforming to its difcipline ; faying,
when they were interrogated, that, tho* the prin-
ciples above mentioned were true in philofophy,
they were falfe in theology ; fo that there were no
martyrs to them. However, the tendency of this
fyftem of philofophy to overturn that of theology
was fo evident, that it could not pafs unnoticed by
thofe who were interefted in its fupport, and the
fiifl cenfures that we meet with of it were from the
univerfity of Paris, which was the great fchool of
divinity in thofe times.

In A. D. 1276 the univerfity of Paris made a
decree, that nothing but grammar and logic fhould
be taught in private ; and the reafon given for it
was, that many errors had been introduced among
the ftudents, derived from the writings of heathens,
which they faid were true according to pliilofophy,
meaning that of Arillotlc, but not accordmg to
the Catholic faith. In enumerating the opinions
they condemned, they mention the following :
*| In God there is no trinity, God cannot engender

" his


his like. God knows nothing but himfelf. He
cannot make any more fouls. He cannot make
a man without a proper agent, that is, another
man. He cannot know future contingencies, or
' particular things. He cannot produce any
' thing from nothing, or any thing othervvife than

* it is, becaufe there are not in him different wills.
' The human intclleft is eternal. When feparated

from the body, it cannot fuffer by fire. Intel-
' left is one in all men. The foul is infeparablc
' from the body, and dies with it. The will and
' the intelle£l do not move of themfelves, but by
' the influence of the flars. The will is determined
' by defirable good, as matter by an agent. The
' world is eternal, becaufe there cannot be novel-
' ty in the effect without novelty in thccaufe. To
' fuppofe the world not to have been eternal is to
' fuppofe a vacuum, fince empty fpace mufl di-
' vide the things to be put into it," and it was a re-
ceived axiom, that nature abhorred a vacuum,

* The unirerfe can never end, becaufe the firfl
' agent mufl eternally make matter pafs from one
' form to another. The celeftial bodies are moved
' by an internal principle, which is a foul. Divers
' fians in the heavens indicate the different difpo-

* fitions of men, and by thcfe figns the inteniions
« of men, and the events of their lives, may be

known. Theological difcourfes are founded on

T 4 tl fables,


" fables, and men are not wifer for knowing them.
*' There is no occafion to pray, or to be concerned
*' about confeflTion, or the rites of burial, except
*• for appearance. Simple fornication is no fin.
*' The refurreftion is impofTible. Our happinefs
" is in this life." Fkury, Vol. 18. p. 230.

Religion v/as not, however, without advocates
in this early period of infidelity. Bernard Moneta,
who wrote againft the Cathari and Waldenfes, alfo
wrote with great ability againfl the unbelievers.
MoJJicim, Vol. 3. p. 1 3.

It was the ftudy of the works of Ariflotle to
which thefe opinions were generally afcribed.
From the fame fource it was alfo thought that the
do6lrines of Amalric, or Amauri, a profeffor of lo-
gic and theology at Paris about A. D. 1210, were de-
rived. It is certain, fays Mofheim (Vol. 3. p. 129.)
that he taught that all things were the parts of one
fubftance, or in other words, that the univerfe wai
God, and that not only the forms of all things,
but alfo their matter, or fubftance, proceeded from
the deity, and nmft return to the fource from
whidi they v/ere derived. From thefe principles
he deduced a fyftera ot devotion, pretending to de-
monftrate the poffibility of incorporating or trans-
lating the human nature into the divine, and re-
jefted all kinds of external worfhip as infignificant
and ufelefs. His difciples, he fays, were men of



exemplary piety, diftinguilhed by the gravity and
auftenty of their lives, and tuffered death in the
moll dreadful forms with the utmoQ: conftancy.

The opinion of the origin of all things from
God I have obferved to have been a principle in
the oriental philofophy, and that of the union of
fouls to God by abdracl meditation ivas held by
the later Platonifts, and has been adopted with
fome modifications by many perfons of a fpecula-
tive and devotional term in all ages of Chriflianity,
and by fome of the zealous members of the church
of Rome, as we fhall fee hereafter. But thefe ex-
alted ideas of devotion, which rendered external
forms of lefs value, were naturally regarded with a
jealous eye by the political and ruling Catholics.

According to Fleury, Amauri held that, in
order to be faved, every perfon muft believe that
he is a member of Jefus Chrift, but that the pope
condemning this opinion, he retrafted it before his
death. Fieury alfo afcribes to the followers of
Amauri an opinion which is faid to have taken its
rife froni a book entitled the Everlajiing Gojpcl,
viz. that Jefus Chrift aboliihed the old law, and
that, in his time commenced the dilpenfation of
the Holy Spirit, in which confeffion, baptifm, the
euchanft, and ether facraments, would have no
place; but that perfons might be faved by the in-
terior grace of the Holy Spirit, without any exter-

T 5 nal


nal a6ls. He moreover fays, that he denied the
refurre6lIon, faid that heaven and hell were in
men's own breads, that the pope was Antichrill, and
Rome Babylon. His difciples had among them a
prophet named William, a Clver fmith, who gave
out that four great plagues would come in five
years. Being examined in a council of bifhops and
do6lors of theology, they were condemned, and
burned alive, except four, who were fentenced to
perpetual imprifonment. At the fame time they
condemned the memory of Amauri, who was con-
sidered as the founder of the fe6l ; and being ex-
communicated after his death a. d. 1209, ^^^ bones
were dug up, and thrown upon a dunghill.

Amauri, Mofheimfays, entertained the fenti-
ments of thofe who were called the brethren and
Jljlers of the free fpirit, and they were fometimes
called Beghards. They frequently ran about with
an air ot lunacy and di{lra61;ion, begging their
bread with much clamour, rejefting labour, as in-
eonfillent with ihat contemplation which they fup-
pofed united the foul to God ; in confequence of
which they faid they enjoyed a ftate of freedom
from all laws, and had the fame union with God
that Chrift himfelt had. For they were faid to
hold that all rational fouls are portions of the di-
vinity. But among them there were many perfons
of emineat piety, often called myjlics^ who only



thought themfelvcs exempt from the forms of exter-
nal worfhip, and the pofitive laws of the church ;
tho* others of them are faid to have abandoned all
decency, and to have lived in fenfual indulgence,
as not afFeding the purity of the foul. Mofhcim^
Vol. 3. p. 124. 129.

At the fame time alfo, Ariflotle's treatife of
metaphylicks being fuppofed to have led men into
thefe errors, the council ordered all his works to be
burned, and forbad the tranfcribing them, reading
them, or keeping copies of them, under pain of
excommunication. As to his books of natural
philofophy, the reading of them was forbidden for
three years ; but they forbad for ever the reading
of the books of one David Dinant, an eminent dif-
ciple of Amauri, who faved himfelf by flight. The
council alfo condemned all French books of theo-
logy. This is faid in the notes to Mofheim to have
feecn done at a council at Paris in a. d, 1210.
Vol. 3. p. 23.

In this period much attention was excited to a
book entitled, as I have obferved, tht Everlajling
Go/pel, afcribed, but without reafon, to Joachim
of Calabria, who died in a. d. 1202, and was con-
fidered as a faint in his own country. He wrote
commentaries on the prophetical books of fcnptur®
With conjeiEiures about the fpeedy accomplifhmenfc
of fome of them. According to this treatife, who-


ever was the author of it, tlic Father operated from
the creation to the coming of Chrifl, as he faid,
My Father workdh hitherto, and now I work, but
at the expiration of the thoufand two hundred and
lixty years, mentioned in the Revelation, the Ho-
ly Spirit is to operate, who was to come, and lead,
men into all truth. They alfo faid, that the firft
difpenfationwas toconfift of married perfons, living
according to the flefh as under the old teflament, that
the reign of the Son was to be that of priefts, li\''ing
according to the flefh and (pirit, fome being mar-
ried ; but that the third difpenfation would be that
of monks, living according to the fpirit only. The
firfl was the age of the old teflament, the fecond
that of the new, and the third that of the Ever-
laflin.cT Gofpel, in which there was no occahon for
facraments, or vifible figns. Thefe principles
havin<7 fpread very much, chiefly by means of the
Francifcans, who flattered themfelves that their
inftitute was the third, and moft pcrfeft flate of
ChriRianity ; they were condemned in a council
htid at Aries in a. d. 1260.

There was another book entitled An Intro*
duBion to the Everlafimg Gofpel, afcribed with great
probability to John of Parma, a general of the
Francifcars, who explained the obfcure predidions
of the former work, and applied them to his own
order. Uojlum, Vol. 3. p. 6j, The principles of


S£c. xr. The christian church. sm

thefe books began to be publicly taught in a. d.
1254; but in A. D. 1256 pope Alexander IV,
tho* a great favourer of the Francifcans, could not
help condemning them,, and the books were burned
though privately, at the fame time that he made
fome decrees in favour of that order.

Thofe who diftinguiftied themfelves the mod
by the acutenefs of their fpccuiations, and nice
diftinflions, were the mendicants. The clergy,
who never liked them, and who wifhed to have all
fludy confined to the fcripturcs, the antient Fathers,
and the canons, took umbrage at the liberty they
took in fpcculation, and thought the opinions they
adopted fometimes bordered on herefy. To give
fome idea of the queilions they agitated, and the
opinions then formed, I fhall felefi the followin'*
which were condemned in an airembly of the clergy
at Paris in a. d. 1243. " The divine effencecan-
*' not itfelf be viewed either by glorified men or by
" angels. Tho' the divine ellence is the fame in
" the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, neverthelefs
«« with refpeft to form, it is not the fame in the
*' Holy Spirit as in the Father and the Son taken
*' together. The Holy Spirit, as he is love, or a
" bond of union, doth not proceed from the Son,
*' but from the Father only. Neither bodies nor
*' fouls in a flate of glory, not even the blelTed vir*
*' gin, will be in the empyreal heaven along with

" the


" the angels, but in the aqueous or cryftalline
*' heaven, above the firmament. The wicked an-
*' gels were Co from the inftant of their creation.
*' There are feveral truths which have been from
*' eternity, and yet are not God. An angel may
*' be at the fame moment in different places, and
*' ev^cn every where, if he chufe it. The firft in-
■*' ftant of time, the beginning, and alfo creation
*' and paffion, are neither creature nor creator.
*' The wicked angel has never had wherewith to
" fupport himfelf, any more than Adam, in a ftate
*' of innocence. He who has the beft natural difpo-
*' fitions will necefTarily have mofl grace and glo-
" ry." Flmry, Vol. 17. p. 265,

In A. D. 1278 fome opinions of Roger Bacon,
an Englifh Francifcan (but what they were are not
fpecified) were condemned by the legate of pope
Nicolas III at Paris, and he was committed to pri-
fon, where he lived ten years ; but obtaining his
liberty, he fpent the remainder of his life in peace,
in the college of his order at Oxford, and died in a.
D. 1294. He was indefatigable in his purfuit of
knowledge, and feems to have been mailer of all
that was known in his time, efpecially in mathe-
matics and philofophy. It is probable that he
cither difcovered, or had learned, the compofition
of gunpowder, and was acquainted with many
wonderful difcoveriss in optics, mathematics, and
chcmillry, J*eter


Peter Lombard, having faid that there was a
diftinftion between the divine cjfcnce, and the three
perfons in the Godhead, the abbot Joachim denied
that there was any cffencc common to them ; by
which it was faid that that which conftitutes their
union was taken away. On this account his opi-
nions were condemned by Innocent III in the
council of Lateranin a. d. 1205, butwithoutany
reflexion upon Joachim himfclf. MoJIicim, Vol. 3.

P- 134-

At a council held in London In a. d. 128G,
the following opinion among others of a fimilar
nature was condemned, " The facramental bread
** is changed into the living body of Jefus Chrift,
** fo that the matter of the bread is changed into
" the matter of the body, and the form of the bread
" is the iorm of the body, which is the rsafonabk
" foul." It is poffible, however, that thefc, and
other opinions, might have pafled without cenfure
if the efpoufers of them had not maintained that,
*' with refpeft to them, they were not obliged to
" yield to the authority of the pope, of St. Grego-
*' ry, or St. Auftin, or any do6lor whatever, but
" only the authority of the Bible, and demonflrative
** reafon." However Fleury fays the principle on.
which all the opinions hinged was that the reafon-
able foul is the fubftantial form of man, a principle,
he fays, advanced by Thomas Aq^uinas.

I woul4


I would obferve in this place, that the term
tranfuhjlantiation is firft ufed in any inftrument of
authority in the canons of the council of Lateran in

A. D. 1215.

The laft of the curious opinions that I fhall re-
cite as occurring within this period, is that, at the
fame council it was mentioned as a thing allowed
by all, that the virgin Mary was taken up into
heaven in the body ; fince Gilbert of Nogent fays
that, in his time, which was a century before, the
church did not affert it, but that perfons were al-
lowed to be of that opinion. Fleury, Vol. 16. p. 256.


Some Particulars concerning the Superjlition, and
falulous Hijiories of this Period,

.F I had thought proper, I might have
-given my readers abundant entertainment on the
fubjea ot this feftion in every period of this hiRoryr
but I confine myfelf to fuch narratives as ferve to
give what ought not to be omitted, vix.a juft idea of
the flateot prevailing opinions and praftices, which
cannot fail to be inftruaive. We may often per-
edve the beft difpofitions and intentions in the


Sec.XII. the christian church. SOoT

mofl wild and abfurd pra6lices ; but to form a juft
eflimate of them we muft take into confideration
the prevailing principles and maxims of the times.
The firil account I fhall give will be that of the

In A. D. 1259, Italy being in a flate of great
diflraftion, a fpirit of devotion feized a great num-
ber of perfons in a very fudden and extraordinary
manner, but probably arofe from the preaching of
the mendicants, who, in imitation of John the
Baptift, and Jefus Chrifl, called upon all men to
repent. It began at Perufia. whence it palTed to
Rome, and the reft of Italy. Old and young,
even children of five years of age, went thro' the
country, as naked as decency would permit, two
and two, whipping themfelves with leathern thongs,
till the blood flowed out, with groans and tears
imploring the mercy of God, and the afhftance of
the bleffed virgin. They made thefe prccefTions
even in the night, with lighted torches, andalfoin
the winter, by hundreds and thoufands, preceded
by priefls with croifes and banners. Wherever
they came they went into the churches, and pro .
ftrated themfelves before the altars. They did the
fame both in the villages and the towns, {0 that
the mountains and plains ecchoed with their cries.
Their devotion did not, however, terminate here.
Enemies were reconciled, ufurers and thieves
Vol. IV. U reftored


reftored what they hadunjuflly taken, other fmners
confeffed their crimes and reformed, and good
works of all kinds were performed ; and in this we
fee the difference between Chrittian and heathen
fuperflition, the latter having no connexion what*
ever with moral virtue.

This pra8ice, it was obferved, did not arife

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