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Art. 1.—The Catholic Letters addressed by a Jurist to a
Young K-sman proposing to join the Church of Rome. By E. H. DERBY. Boston : Jewett & Co. 1856. 12mo.
We resume from our last Review our dissection of Mr. Derby's Letters. The learned jurist opens his third letter by assuring his young kinsman that :
In my last letter I showed you that Peter, in the days of our Saviour and the Apostles, was not superior to his associates ; that the " keys ” are the Word of God ” given to all the disciples; that James became the first bishop of Jerusalem to the exclusion of Peter; that Paul, after his heavenly vision, without taking counsel of the disciples, began his mission to the heathen, and became the builder of that Church of which Christ himself was the chief corner-stone; that Paul planted the great churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome, chief cities of the Roman Empire, and in tracing the progress of the bishops of Rome, we must remember that Rome was the seat of empire, the mistress of the world, and it was to be expected that her bishops should be aspiring, that they should feel, like the Romish bishop of New York, the metropolis of our country, disposed to outrank their fellows and enlarge their jurisdiction. It was natural that they sbould struggle for supremacy, and by no means surprising they should atfain to power. Six centuries, however, expired before they acquired a positive ascendency, as appears by the concurrent testimony of the fathers and historians both of Church and state. Bishops were placed over hundreds of churches in Europe, Asia, and Africa, who for six centuries exercised the power of the Apostles, met in council, and by discussion and by concurrent votes regulated the faith and directed the worship of the Catholic Church.”—pp. 15, 16. NEW YORK SERIES. VOL. II. NO. II.
That St. James was the first bishop of Jerusalem is conceded ; but how does that prove that St. Peter was not the first bishop of Rome, or that the primacy was not given to him or to his successors in that See ? Whence has the learned jurist obtained his information that St. Paul “ began his mission to the heathen without taking counsel of the disciples," or without the authorization of Peter as head of the Apostolic college ? St. Paul himself tells him nothing of the sort ; we know he was with the disciples at Damascus; he tells us that he went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days,” and there is no evidence that he had commenced his mission to the heathen prior to that interview with the Prince of the Apostles. That St. Paul alone planted the Church of Rome, Mr. Derby fails to prove, and that it was planted by him and St. Peter all Catholics assert. Ephesus and Smyrna ranked in the Roman Empire below Antioch and Alexandria.
What authority has Mr. Derby for asserting that the “Romish” bishop of New York feels disposed to "outrank his fellows and enlarge his jurisdiction "? Has our Archbishop confided to him his feelings? Has he learned it from his Grace's “fellows”? Is he aware of a single fact which indicates such a disposition? Of course not, for no such fact exists; and the whole Church in the country would treat with derision any attempt on the part of any bishop to extend his jurisdiction or to claim precedency of his brother bishops, on the ground of the political, civil, or commercial importance of his see. If the learned jurist err so ridiculously with regard to the Archbishop of New York, his contemporary, and his own Metropolitan, what contidence can he expect us to place in his unsup: ported assertions with regard to the early bishops of Rome, so much more distant from him in both place and time ?
“Rome was the seat of empire, the mistress of the world, and it was to be expected that her bishops would be aspiring and...feel disposed to outrank their fellows, and enlarge their jurisdiction.” Expected,—by whom? “It was natural.” Natural,- to whom? To a Christian bishop who knew that his authority depended on his divine commission, was derived from God, and in no sense
from the political or civil power, and who found in that power not a friend, but a bitter enemy and ruthless persecutor ? Mr. Derby may think it would have been natural to him had he been in the place of those early bishops ; but Argumentum a genere ad genus, non volet, say the logicians. Between a railroad financier and an early bishop of Rome there is a disparity which vitiates all reasoning from the one to the other.
“Six centuries, however, expired before they acquired any positive ascendency.” That is, the bishops of Rome had no positive ascendency in the Church till nearly three hundred years after Rome had ceased to be the residence of the Emperors and the seat of empire, and till a century and over after the Barbarians had overthrown the Empire of the West and seated themselves on its ruins. Six centuries bring us to the opening of the seventh century, when the city of Rome had lost all her political importance, and yet her bishops owed their ascendency in the Church to the political supremacy of their see! Decidedly, our illustrious jurist has a rare genius for the philosophy of history.
Bishops were placed over hundreds of churches in Europe, Asia, and Africa.” No doubt of it. But who placed them over those churches, confirmed them in their sees, and defined their jurisdiction ? " Exercised the power of the Apostles.” In communion with the bishop of Rome their head, certainly; without him? That is the point for Mr. Derby to prove, which he has not yet done. “Met in council.” By the authority or consent of the Bishop of Rome, agreed ; without that authority or consent, denied ; for a meeting of bishops without the consent of the Apostolic See, is no more a council, than with us a political caucus is a legislature. “By discussion and by concurrent votes regulated the faith and directed the worship of the Catholic Church.” I do not know precisely what the jurist means by regulating faith and directing worship ; but if he means defining the faith and regulating the worship, we accept the statement. They did so, and do so still; but without the assent and approbation of the bishop of Rome, were their definitions and canons binding on the faithful ? This is the point Mr. Derby must prove in order to prove any thing to his purpose, and this he does not even attempt to prove, while we could easily, if it accorded with our present purpose, prove the contrary. There is no council without the Apostolic power, and there is, since the death of the Apostles, no Apostolic power, but in the Apostolic See, for bishops in their own right have no authority out of their own sees. At least such is the present constitution of the Catholic Church, and if Mr. Derby asserts that it was different in the early ages, it is for him to prove it. Thus far, we may say, the learned jurist either proves nothing at all, or nothing to his purpose, and we are forced to conclude that, lawyer as he is, he is not aware that an allegation counts for nothing till it is substantiated by evidence, and evidence pertinent to the case. We hope he manages better in court than he does in his letters. If not, we pity his clients.
“ The first authority on whom the Romish Church places any reliance is Irenæus, who lived about the year 170, and was a friend of Polycarp, the disciple of St. John. He wrote a treatise against the Gnostics, who claimed to know certain mysteries which the Apostles disclosed only to the perfect. In arguing against these heretics in his essay,* he says, if the Apostles had known any such mysteries, they would have intrusted them to those to whom they intrusted the Apostolic Churches they founded, and to confute the Gnostics cites the doctrines and faith derived from the Apostles by a succession of bishops in the great, most ancient, and universally known Church, founded at Rome by the glorious Apostles Peter and Paul, in which the faithful around it have always preserved the Apostolic doctrine, and adds, that not only Polycarp taught by the Apostles, and by them constituted bishop of Smyrna, but also the Church of Ephesus, founded by Paul, but in which John remained until the time of Trajan, are true witnesses of the faith transmitted by the Apostles.
“Irenæus gives to the Church of Rome the prominence she deserves from her position, size, importance, and founders, but brings in also the churches of Smyrna and Ephesus, as alike true witnesses against the heretics he is confuting, thus placing them on the same footing."-p. 16.
The jurist does not write good English. Romish is not an English adjective. The proper adjective is Roman. St. Irenæus is not our earliest witness after the Holy Scriptures. St. Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, on his way to martyrdom, in 107, addressed a letter to the Roman Church, in which he styles it the Church which PRESIDES, that is, the governing or ruling Church. The learned jurist, by not going to the fountain-heads, as he would have us believe he has done, has been 'deceived as to the testimony of St. Irenæus, for we cannot suppose that he would wilfully misrepresent it. St. Irenæus does not place the Churches of Ephesus and Smyrna, the two pet churches of our author, -on the same footing with the Church of Rome. He is arguing against the Gnostics, and other heretics of his time, from the tradition of the Church. He says all who wish to see the truth, may see in the entire Church throughout the world the Apostolic tradition. But there is no need of consulting all the churches to collect it, it suffices to confound all heretics to appeal to the greatest of the Apostolic Churches, the Church of Rome, founded by Peter and Paul, because “with that Church, on account of the primacy,-propter potentiorem principalitatem, every church, that is, all the faithful every where must agree."* This is the testimony of St. Irenæus, the holy bishop of Lyons, who suffered martyrdom in 202, and who had known St. Polycarp, the disciple of St. John, and the attempt to weaken its force by applying the preëminence he asserts for the Church of Rome to the City of Rome, then a pagan city, hostile to the Gospel, and without consideration in the kingdom of Christ, is too obviously absurd to require refutation.
* L 3, c. 3.
The next witness whose testimony Mr. Derby seeks to explain away is Tertullian. .
“Tertullian, one century afterwards, in his essay against Marcion, refers his opponent to his standard authorities against him, saying, *Run over the Apostolic churches in which the Apostles' chairs are still continued, in which their authentic letters are recited, sounding out the voice and representing the face of each one of them. In Achaia, nearest to you, you have Corinth. If you be not far from Macedonia, you have the Philippians and Thessalonians. If you can go to Asia, you have Ephesus. If you border on Italy, you have Rome, whence we also (namely, the Africans) can have authority.'
" Thus the ancient fathers taught the people to reform their doctrine, not only by the Church of Rome, but also by other notable Apostolic churches."-pp. 16, 17.
* S. Irenæus, adv. Hær. Lib. iii. Cap. iii.