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The body of constitutions published by Innocent III at the Fourth Lateran Council in November 1215 marks the completion of that achievement which, by slow degrees and through many vicissitudes, subordinated the Western Church to the spiritual authority of the Roman pontiff. The confession of faith with which it opens has thus a peculiar importance as a clear exposition, through the voice of the greatest of the Popes, of the mind of the Church upon fundamental doctrines which had assumed this irreducible form through centuries of controversy. While it summed up concisely the standpoint which had been reached at a moment when the papal monarchy was able to proclaim itself without contest the supreme interpreter of ecclesiastical law and dogma, it also fixed the foundation upon which subsequent declarations and definitions of articles of faith were to be based. In framing the statement, Innocent had the refutation of special heresies in view, with the result that its emphasis is confined to certain prominent aspects of the creeds and sacraments; but its implications involve the whole body of medieval doctrine. Its text therefore is a necessary starting-point for a survey of the development of those theories which were crystallised into dogmatic expression as the orthodox faith of Western Christendom.

We firmly believe and simply confess, that there is one only true God, eternal, without measure and unchangeable, incomprehensible, omnipotent and ineffable, the Father, and the Sou, and the Holy Spirit: three persons indeed, but one simple essence, substance or nature altogether; the Father of none, the Son of the Father alone, and the Holy Spirit of both alike, without beginning, always and without end; the Father begetting, the Son being born, and the Holy Spirit proceeding; consubstantial, and co-equal, and co-omnipotent, and co-eternal; one principle of all things; the creator of all things visible and invisible, spiritual and corporal; who by His omnipotent virtue at once from the beginning of time established out of nothing both forms of creation, spiritual and corporal, that is the angelic and the mundane, and afterwards the human creature, composed as it were of spirit and body in common. For the devil and other demons were created by God; but they became evil by their own doing. But man sinned by the suggestion of the devil.

This Holy Trinity, undivided as regards common essence, and distinct in respect of proper qualities of person, at first, according to the perfectly ordered plan of the ages, gave the teaching of salvation to the human race by means of Moses and the holy prophets and others His servants.

And at length the only-begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, incarnate of the whole Trinity in common, being conceived of Mary ever Virgin by the co-operation of the Holy Spirit, made very man, compounded of a reasonable soul and human flesh, one person in two natures, showed the way of life in all its clearness. He, while as regards His divinity He is immortal and incapable of suffering, nevertheless, as regards His humanity, was made capable of suffering and mortal. He also, having suffered for the salvation of the human race upon the wood of the cross and died, descended to hell, rose again from the dead, and ascended into heaven; but descended in spirit and rose again in flesh, and ascended to come in both alike at the end of the world, to judge the quick and the dead, and to render to every man according to his works, both to the reprobate and to the elect, who all shall rise again with their own bodies which they now wear, that they may receive according to their works, whether they be good or bad, these perpetual punishment with the devil, and those everlasting glory with Christ.

There is moreover one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no man at all is saved, in which the same Jesus Christ is both the priest and the sacrifice, whose body and blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under the species of bread and wine, the bread being transubstantiated into the body and the wine into the blood by the divine power, in order that, to accomplish the mystery of unity, we ourselves may receive of His that which He received of ours. And this thing, the sacrament to wit, no one can make (conficere) but a priest, who has been duly ordained, according to the keys of the Church, which Jesus Christ Himself granted to the apostles and their successors.

But the sacrament of baptism, which is consecrated in water at the invocation of God and of the undivided Trinity, that is of the Father, and of the Son and Holy Spirit, being duly conferred in the form of the Church by any person, whether upon children or adults, is profitable to salvation. And if anyone, after receiving baptism, has fallen into sin, he can always be restored (reparari) by true penitence.

Not only virgins and the continent, but also married persons, deserve, by right faith and good works pleasing God, to come to eternal blessedness.


No definition of the authority of the legislator is included in the matters of faith set forth in this statement, nor does it contain any assertion of the necessity of the Roman primacy as a consequence of the apostolic character of the Church and as the visible guarantee of its unity. In the circumstances, however, these points were self-evident. The confession of faith was uttered as the ipse dixit of the successor of Peter; it was registered by the approval of the sacred council without discussion, as the preliminary to a series of constitutions issued, not as matters for further debate, but as pronouncements of a supreme tribunal. At the root of doctrinal development throughout the Middle Ages lies the acceptance of the principle that the visible Church, one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, was also Roman, that the ultimate decision in questions of faith and order depended upon the judgment of the Roman see, that the primacy of Peter among the Apostles had been inherited by his successors. It is true that the continuous chain of historical testimony which was needed to connect this theory with the age of the Apostles was wanting; the foundation of the Roman episcopate by Peter was a received tradition which had probability, but rested upon no certain historical proof. But it is equally true that the tendency of the Church to look to the see of Peter for guidance in matters of difficulty was of early growth, and that it is impossible to determine whether this arose from an implicit belief in its claims to supreme authority, or whether those claims took their origin in the growth of custom, which at any rate did much to strengthen them and encourage their dogmatic expression.

It is always hard to draw a precise line of division between the spiritual and temporal aspects of human affairs where politics and religious belief come into contact, and the political element in the history of the Papacy, the growth of its temporal dominion and of its influence upon secular business, is closely interwoven with the expansion of its spiritual monarchy. Its association with Rome was a source of strength which, even without the background of apostolic tradition, could not have failed to give the bishop of the imperial city a place of singular significance in the councils of his brethren. After the fall of the Empire in the West, the survival of the Papacy in Rome kept alive the memories of the period in which Rome had ruled the world; amid the strife of the barbarian invaders of Italy and the rise and fall of their principalities, the head of the Christian Church in Rome remained the trustee and the symbol of imperial power, the champion of the Roman republic against the invader, and the link between classical antiquity and the new world which was in process of formation. As the hold of the Eastern Emperors upon Italy grew weaker, the influence of the Popes naturally increased. Their firm statesmanship preserved the continuity of Rome as the capital of the West, even in an isolation in which from time to time it was threatened with extinction; and when, faced with menaces against which they were unable to contend alone, the Popes called the Frankish kings to their aid, they surrendered their trusteeship of empire, not as a tribute exacted from them by a foreign conqueror, but as a free gift at their disposal, bestowed upon their defender as a reward to be held with filial gratitude.

Nevertheless, the prestige of Rome was insufficient of itself to give the Papacy its unique position. The reverence which Rome excited in the new nations which were coming into being in Europe was not a matter of historical imagination or romantic sentiment. It depended upon the fact that, in the city whose secular princes had abandoned it after a long period of decline and anarchy, the chief ruler founded claims to a spiritual authority, extending far beyond the limits to which the political influence of Rome had shrunk, upon the possession of privileges granted by the Founder of the Christian Church to His Apostles, and specially committed to that one of their number to whom the settlement of Christianity in Rome was generally attributed. It was upon this basis that the Popes themselves, from the date at which authentic documents are found, established the source of their authority. Its assertion became emphatic when for the first time the see of Constantinople, hitherto obscure, laid claim to the second place among the patriarchates on the express ground that Byzantium was New Rome. On the part of a see which could make no pretensions to apostolic foundation until that credit was given to St Andrew long after, this amounted to a declaration that the Roman episcopate was purely political in origin. To this there could be only one answer from Rome. Leo the Great and his successors took their stand upon the literal interpretation of Christ’s commission to Peter as a charge delivered to an individual person, not merely as a representative, but as the chosen head of the apostolic body. It was our Lord’s will that evangelic truth should be communicated to the world through the Apostles. But He so ordained that the gifts which they were to use should be vested in the person of Peter, as a head from which they were to be imparted to the other members. Peter was the rock on which the Church was built; the fabric of the eternal temple stood fast in the solidity of Peter, and to depart from that firm foundation was to incur exile from the unity of the Church. It was not that this doctrine was put forward for the first time in opposition to the dangerous ambition of the Byzantine patriarchs; its asseveration could be traced back as far as Cyprian and the age of the persecutions. But with Leo the Great, in the age of the Council of Chalcedon, it began to assume an emphatic and peremptory form. At the close of the fifth century a decretal of Gelasius expressed it in the clearest terms. The holy Roman Church, catholic and apostolic, owes its primacy, not to the constitutions of any synod, but to the voice of our Lord Himself in His words to Peter. The apostle Paul, indeed, shared the honour with Peter of consecrating it to the Lord’s service and crowning their joint work with simultaneous martyrdom; but the see was the see of Peter, and in this consisted the primacy of Rome, a Church not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing.

Until the time of Gregory the Great, however, the supremacy of Rome over local churches outside the geographical area of her immediate influence was a pious theory rather than an established fact; and Gregory himself made the power of Rome felt less by dogmatic assertion than by his statesmanlike exercise of patriarchal jurisdiction. If, by his dealings with the bishops of the Frankish kingdoms and the metropolitan see of Ravenna, by the value which he set upon the grant of the pallium as a papal privilege, by his maintenance of the superiority of Rome to the see whose holder claimed the title of ecumenical patriarch, and by the mission which introduced Roman Christianity into Britain, he extended the authority of his Church and left the Papacy far greater than he found it, it was not by formulating extravagant claims to obedience. In his arguments against the pretensions of Byzantium, he even allowed himself cautiously to ascribe to the patriarchal sees of Antioch, founded by Peter, and Alexandria, founded directly from him by Mark, a preeminence closely parallel to that of Rome, While stating, with special reference to Constantinople, the right of the Roman see to prohibit unlawful courses to its subordinate Churches, he professed himself ready to learn from and imitate them in good things. In his instructions to Augustine, he reminded him that he had been brought up in the customs of the Roman Church, but advised him to use his judgment in borrowing freely from those of other Churches, if, after careful examination, he found anything in them that was better. His assumption of the title servus servorum Dei was in keeping with the moderation with which he exerted his sway, and represented a genuine ambition to rule as one who served the Church. At the same time, there was policy in such humility. The Churches of the West could profit by the salutary contrast between their patriarch’s pride in service and the jealous obstinacy of Constantinople. With similar motives he rejected the title of universal bishop, with which Leo the Great had been acclaimed at Chalcedon, arguing that the appropriation of this title to a single prelate detracted from the honour of the episcopate of the universal Church. That honour was his own; its virtue lay in the collective strength of his brethren, and to isolate him from them was to endanger the unity and charity which he sought to maintain in the Church.

The position which Gregory secured for the Roman Church by his prudence and moderation was strengthened by the rigid orthodoxy of its pontiffs, as opposed to the Heresies which from time to time appeared in the East and gradually alienated it from communion with the Churches of the West. Further, their readiness to sanction missionary enterprise among the heathen tribes of Europe was a valuable evidence to their fitness to fill the post of guardians of the citral fount of episcopal jurisdiction. The relations which Boniface, during apostolate in Germany, established with Gregory II, Gregory III, and Zacharias placed his mission under the direct patronage of Rome. If, face to face with his converts and the problems arising from such contact, he occasionally found it expedient to take a line of his own, this did not affect his conviction that the approval of the Roman see was necessary to the validity of his work. While Christianity made its way in Northern Europe under papal auspices, the political tie between Rome and the Frankish rulers was cemented. The legation of Boniface was an important link in the chain of events which led to the revival of the Western Empire and the bestowal of the temporal crown upon Charles the Great as the reward and earnest of his defence of the spiritual power. With all his confidence in the theocratic character of his monarchy, Charles asserted the absolute obedience due in spiritual matters to the see of Peter. Rome was the mother of the priestly dignity, and consequently the mistress of ecclesiastical order; her commands, even when they laid a heavy tax upon human endurance, should be piously obeyed.

The authority thus ascribed to Rome by the first Frankish Emperor was enhanced, within no long time of his death, by the appearance of the False Decretals. It is now generally conceded that this compilation had its origin in the Frankish realm, and that its object was to limit the absolutism of local metropolitans by exalting the prerogative of the papal see. Its authors had in view a danger which was near at hand, and aimed at safeguarding their liberty by maintaining the existence of a single jurisdiction which, more remote than that of the provincial primate, could yet be used as an effective check upon his aggressions. If any excuse can be made for the manufacture of the evidence produced for this purpose, it may be found in the disorganised state of the Frankish dominions and the menace of civil war and feudal anarchy to the unity of the Church. Amid these perils, with non-Christian foes invading the frontiers of the distracted kingdoms, such pious frauds might be justified on the ground of motive. More than one collection of decrees and canons appeared about the middle of the ninth century in the district on the borders of Neustria and Australia; but of these the most important, which in process of time obtained universal acceptance, was that ascribed to Isidore Mercator. The author, professing to act upon the instigation of many bishops and others, founded his work upon a supposed collection made by Pope Damasus in the later part of the fourth century, containing decretals of Popes from the sub-apostolic age to the days of Constantine. This was supplemented by genuine acts of councils and by more decretals, partly forged and partly authentic, which carried the continuous chain of evidence as far as the first quarter of the eighth century. Earlier in origin than these, however, and probably proceeding from a quarter more near to Rome, was the document known as the Donation of Constantine, by which the Emperor, after his alleged healing and conversion by Pope Sylvester, was represented as bestowing upon the Popes his imperial dignity in the West, with a spiritual principate above all other patriarchs and local Churches. In this edict, which was included in the collection of the pseudo-Isidore, the papal supremacy was stated in an unqualified form. The Pope is set as a prince exalted above all the priesthood of the entire world, and all arrangements for the advancement of the worship of God and the establishment of the Christian faith are placed at his disposal. In view of the later assumption by the Popes of the title Vicar of Christ, it may be noted that the Donation of Constantine, while stating that Peter seems to have been appointed the earthly vicar of the Son of God, refers to his successors as the vicars of the prince of the Apostles.

It cannot be argued that the Forged Decretals enunciated an entirely new doctrine. At most, they gave a legal form to conclusions which could be drawn from a collation of the actual utterances of Popes during the four preceding centuries. They amplified existing canons with material which was to hand in a floating form and was now digested into a code of ecclesiastical law. The possibility that the Roman primacy was as old as the Church itself was assumed as a certainty. Its continuity was asserted by the bold expedient of assigning the documents thus fabricated to Popes whose names were accepted by common tradition. There is no sign that the Forged Decretals in any other way took advantage of the uncritical spirit of the age. Their principal end, the recognition of the Roman see as a final court of appeal for Christians, had already won the sanction of custom; they laid emphasis upon obedience to that court as a divinely appointed duty. There is, further, no definite ground for supposing that the Roman see itself had anything to do with their production, or took advantage of them till a much later period. On the one hand, they were no doubt accepted more readily because their doctrines tallied with the increasingly positive assertions which emanated from Rome. On the other, those assertions were independent utterances upon which the Forged Decretals became a local gloss.

The events of the pontificate of Nicholas I (858-67) put the primacy of Peter in the foreground of controversy. The long strife between Rome and Constantinople culminated in the schism of Photius, and, although the final breach was delayed for two centuries longer, there could be no hope henceforward of lasting union. The conflict was embittered by the claims of the two patriarchates to the allegiance of the Bulgarian Christians. While the arguments and mandates of Nicholas failed to restore unity, they were delivered with an assurance which impressed, if it did not convince. Urging the cause of his see with unwavering consistency and with a minute knowledge of the acts and pronouncements of his predecessors, he strengthened in the West that authority which the East refused to recognise. His letters and decretals reiterate, with all the force of a strong personality, formulas which summed up and confirmed all preceding claims. The Church of Rome was the principal Church, the possessor of privileges which were the gift of Christ Himself for the building up of religion and the restoration of peace and concord to disputants who approached its tribunal. Its rulers were the vicars of Peter, charged with the care of the Lord’s sheep, endowed with the gift of clear perception of dangers which might lead the flock astray. They were the source of doctrine, the champions of the integrity of the faith, the ultimate resort of the penitent sinner whose heart the grace of God had touched, the interpreters of ecclesiastical order in whose custody the canons of the Church and the decrees of councils remained inviolable. Their sanctions were law, against which private judgment was of no avail. Councils and synods were means employed for the general propagation of their directions, at which they submitted to the consent of many those matters for which their own authority was sufficient. The whole episcopate was thus dependent upon the see of Peter: the metropolitans of provinces, the bishops in provincial cities, were agents by whose means the cure of the universal Church was concentrated in that single see, the head to which the unity of the body was necessary. In appeal to its decision lay the essential solution of all disputed points; without its consent no debate could be settled. Finally, the claims of Nicholas, while asserting primarily the supremacy of the Roman see over the clergy, involved propositions which his successors extended to all estates of men.

In a letter addressed to the metropolitan Hincmar and the bishops of the kingdom of Charles the Bald, Nicholas set forth at length the causes and progress of his quarrel with the Eastern patriarch, and took occasion to refute, for the benefit of the faithful, the argument that the transference of empire to Constantinople involved the transference of the privileges of the Roman Church. It is noteworthy that such a letter contains no allusion either to the Donation of Constantine or to the spurious authorities which were already current in those regions; nor does it make any reference to that new Empire which the Papacy had brought into being. It relies solely upon the tradition derived from Peter, the consistent maintenance of the faith by his successors, and the permanence of his see as the transmitter of its institutions and doctrine to all younger Churches, of which the relations of Nicholas with the Bulgarian Church were a recent example. The influence which Nicholas exercised in the West was due to his single-minded advocacy of the purely spiritual foundation of his claims to obedience; the extreme form which they took was fearlessly urged without the intrusion of political considerations, and in his correspondence with kings, with Charles the Bald and the erring Lothar as with the Emperor Michael, his voice was that of the father in God, charged with the authority to exhort and rebuke without respect of persons.

The view which Nicholas I held of his office remained firm amid the vicissitudes through which the apostolic see passed during the next two centuries. Political causes contributed to maintain it, for it was to the advantage of the Saxon and Franconian Emperors to uphold the dignity of the spiritual monarch from whom they received their temporal crown. The reforming energy of the German kings placed the Papacy in a position which eventually enabled it to defy their successors and oppose the solid fact of the head of the Church, with his see in the old capital of the world, to the shadowy claims of the temporal monarch who was no longer necessary to its defence. The accession of Leo IX in 1048 marks the point at which the Papacy entered into the full and uninterrupted exercise of its dominion. It was a German bishop, the nominee of a German Emperor, his kinsman, who brought to the Papacy methods of administration learned in the imperial service, and so gave it the efficiency which it needed to carry out the task of ecclesiastical reform. The theories which had been enunciated clearly by Nicholas I were brought fully into practice: the Pope, exercising the universal cure of souls, was the supreme ordinary of the Church, whose duty it was to ordain, rule, and correct universally the churches subject to his apostolate. At the synod of Mayence in 1049, Leo declared that Christ, in raising him to the dignity of the apostolic see, had granted him, as head of the Christian body, the power to remove the defects and scandals of the Church by decrees promulgated in such assemblies. The supremacy of Rome was treated as an obvious fact which required no proof, even in distant parts of the Church. Thus the archbishop of Carthage was called the first archbishop and chief metropolitan of Africa after the Roman pontiff; this privilege, once granted to him by the Roman see, was one of which nothing could deprive him, and of which he would stand possessed for ever.

The lasting controversy with Constantinople reached its last stage under Leo IX. Like Nicholas I in his correspondence with Photius and the Emperor Michael, so Leo, writing to the patriarch Michael Cerularius and his ally the Bulgarian archbishop, admitted no compromise with regard to the supremacy and orthodoxy of his Church. Coming from the district in which the Forged Decretals were composed and had been accepted as genuine, he used their material without question as evidence for his assertions, and quoted the Donation of Constantine at length in this connexion. But his most forcible protest against the presumption of the Eastern prelates was founded upon the unshaken orthodoxy of Rome, the Church founded by Peter, in which St Paul found nothing to correct, but was full of praises of its faith, a faith to which countless martyrdoms had since borne witness. In his grief at the recalcitrance of Constantinople, he turned with relief to the confession of orthodox faith which he received from the patriarch of Antioch. A letter which congratulated this prelate upon his loyalty to the Roman see, and ends with a profession of faith in the same terms, contains a remarkable statement of the inviolable primacy of Rome.

This is the declaration of all the venerable councils and of human laws, this is confirmed by the Holy of holies, the King of kings and Lord of lords Himself, that the reverend head of the principal dignity and of the entire discipline of the Church is, in its preeminence of splendour and excellence, in that place where Peter, the very summit and cardinal member of the apostles, waits for the blessed resurrection of his flesh in the last day.

The doctrine of the Papacy as the supreme judge of faith and order, whose decrees, in themselves final and without appeal, were made public to the whole Church through the approbation of councils, was thus firmly fixed upon the eve of that struggle on which it was about to enter with the temporal power during the pontificate of Gregory VII. By the Popes themselves it had been held with little change for centuries; what was positively expressed by Nicholas I and, with increased dogmatism, was reasserted by the Popes of the Hildebrandine age was the logical development of the position taken by their predecessors. With the growth of the recognition of a permanent tribunal of appeal at Rome, overriding the decisions of metropolitans and superior to the claims of the declining patriarchates of the East, the grounds of its authority were formulated more boldly; and the Forged Decretals, concocted without aid from Rome and with the intention merely of providing a remedy against local tyrannies, served the purpose of implanting that authority in districts where the welfare and unity of the Church were threatened by civil anarchy. Rome, it is true, by her failure to propitiate the jealousy of the Eastern Empire and its patriarch, severed communion with a large section of Christian believers; in the dispute, each side argued systematically from a different standpoint, and the inevitable result was a complete deadlock. But the assertions which were rejected by the Eastern Church gained credence throughout the whole Western patriarchate. While the legend of the Donation of Constantine, accepted and included in the armoury of papal evidences, gave immense strength to the encroachments of the Papacy, as time went on, upon temporal dominion, the real influence of Rome over the minds and wills of its spiritual subjects lay in the mere reiteration of the powers conferred upon Peter by the Founder of the Catholic Church; and to this the confirmation of spurious documents was a subsidiary matter.

The single-minded fearlessness of Gregory VII in the contest which he waged with kings, in spite of the checks and apparent defeats which he suffered, raised the Papacy to an eminence for which the work of his predecessors had been but a preparation. It is too much to say that, during the twelfth century, the holy see was always consistent in its defence of the Church against the encroachments of the temporal power or disregarded policy by throwing caution to the winds. In the quarrel between Henry II and Becket, Alexander III showed no superfluous energy on the side of the champion of clerical privilege. The same Pope, in the encouragement which he afforded to the cities of the Lombard League in their war against German feudalism, was actuated quite as much by the menace of imperial supremacy in Italy to his own temporal dominions as by the abstract love of liberty. But, amid the disorder of the age, the Papacy represented a stable element with which were associated ideas of order and righteousness. To the Papacy was due the inception and recurrent revival of the crusading movement which bound together the races of Europe in one common object of pious endeavour. Its orthodoxy kept vigilant note of the progress of heresies which threatened the union of the Church; its administrative system penetrated into every diocese of the West. In its repeated enforcement of the truce of God and the ban which it placed on tournaments, it exercised an influence which counteracted the lawlessness of feudal society, while the example which it presented of a spiritual monarchy uniting the nations under its dominion was the very opposite of that anarchy which unrestrained feudalism produced in temporal affairs.

At the close of the twelfth century, the force of character and the determination of Gregory VII were revived in the person of Innocent III, with higher qualities of statesmanship. Through the eighteen years of his pontificate he was indefatigable in the assertion of the rights of his see and successful in the employment of the spiritual censures by which he secured their recognition. The immense mass of material which his official correspondence contributed to the Canon Law is the standing testimony to the untrammelled exercise and lasting influence of his authority. From these documents passage after passage might be quoted which reiterates the sovereignty inherited from Peter by the Roman pontiffs. It is a sovereignty which brings the whole episcopate under their jurisdiction; once elected and confirmed by the holy see, a bishop cannot be released from the bond which unites him to his diocese without papal permission. The episcopate is subject to Peter, to whom the Lord gave charge of his sheep; the pall, the symbol of metropolitan jurisdiction, is bestowed by the Pope alone, and, while its grant confers upon the recipient the plenitude of his office and the right to wear it in the church from which his jurisdiction is derived, the Pope alone possesses that plenitude of ecclesiastical power which enables him to wear it semper et ubique. How deeply such a theory penetrated the smallest details of ecclesiastical jurisdiction is seen in the almost innumerable cases which came before Innocent for decision from the dioceses of distant lands. The unique position claimed for his see was supported by picturesque figures drawn from Scripture. The throne described in the Revelation of St John is the apostolic see, the seat of the Lamb, of Him who lives for ever and ever; the four beasts round about it are the four patriarchal Churches—this was after the Latin conquest of Constantinople, and that troublesome patriarchate is allowed the fourth place in the quartet—which stand like daughters in its family, and like servants round about it. The occupant of this exalted seat is at the apex of the Christian hierarchy; his power is felt in every grade of it, transfusing itself into every part of the organisation.

Soon after he ascended the papal throne, Innocent III began to use the phrase Vicar of Christ in connexion with his office. It had not been used before his time, and the implication that the successors of Peter were not his deputies, but received their commission, as he did, immediately from Christ, is significant of the conviction upon which the policy of Innocent was founded. At the end of his life, he was the spiritual lord of the Christian world; and his last act of importance was the summoning of the council which should crown his achievements by proclaiming the orthodox faith of the Church, putting an end to irregularities within its borders, and repelling the heresies which attacked it from outside. The assertions of Innocent III went far to establish the Papacy in the possession of semi-divine honours; but his ideal was a monarchy wielded by the earthly representative of Him who said that His kingdom was not of this world, and his interference with kings and princes was guided by their attitude as sons of the Church to him as its head. Nevertheless, his own position as master of a temporal principality and his treatment of the southern Italian kingdom as a fief of the Church showed another side of the case on which his successors were not slow to enlarge. The idea that the two swords which Peter offered to Christ in the garden were in the hands of Peter’s successor and represented the spiritual and temporal powers, both at his disposal, received expression at the opening of the fourteenth century in the bull of Boniface VIII Unam sanctam, with the corollary that it was altogether necessary to human salvation that every creature should be subject to the Roman pontiff. These were extensions of the lofty claims advanced by Innocent, and, when they were formulated, forces were at work to hinder them from obtaining the easy acceptance which Innocent had won for his conception of the papal sovereignty.


The acknowledgement of Rome as the source of ecclesiastical law and order and of the definition of doctrine was thus complete. Metropolitans might issue statutes in provincial councils, but such statutes constituted no provincial code; they were founded on and enforced papal law, and, generally speaking, quoted freely from the language of papal decrees. After the time of Gratian, who used the authority of papal utterances copiously in the Decretum, side by side with quotations from the Fathers and the decrees of councils, the books added to the received code of Canon Law consisted of collections of papal pronouncements, with a few canons of early councils thrown in here and there. Similarly, liturgical practice looked for its model to Rome, and, long before the time of Innocent III, in spite of the prevalence of provincial and diocesan uses, the Roman liturgy had become the norm which was at the foundation of all these, and their peculiarities of ritual were minor matters of local custom.

There were two main and distinct forms of liturgy in the West which for a time prevailed in different areas. The Roman rite assumed its special form in Rome itself and in the Italian dioceses that constituted the papal province. Outside this area, at any rate from the fourth century, a rite was adopted with local variations to which the name Gallican is usually given. Probably of Eastern origin—it has been conjectured to be the liturgy of the Church of Ephesus—it was established at one of the great diocesan centres of the West, according to the older theory at Lyons, but more probably at Milan. It spread to the West, to Gaul and Spain and to the Celtic communities of the west and north of Britain. It even showed signs of spreading into the Roman area, so that, as early as 416, Innocent I warned the Bishop of Gubbio that the only traditions which the Church ought to observe were those derived from the example of St Peter, and that, if he needed information about rites and ceremonies, it was his duty to come to Rome and observe the practice there. The Pope, in support of this, stated that it was clear that no Church had been founded in Italy, Gaul, Spain, Africa, and Sicily by anyone who had not received ordination from the prince of the apostles. Nevertheless the Gallican rite had free course in the western countries, and, after it had been superseded in Gaul, Survived in the strongly local custom of the Church of Spain under the Visigothic monarchy.

The ultimate victory of the Roman rite is primarily to be ascribed to the missions sent out to the tribes of the North under papal protection. Augustine brought the Roman liturgy with him to England, and, though in Northumbria its acceptance was delayed by the influence of Celtic missionaries, it eventually won its way. To Boniface, an Englishman trained in Roman traditions, the authority and practice of the holy see were of first-rate importance, and through him Roman customs found their way into the Frankish kingdom, just at the period when the Merovingian dynasty was in its final stage of decay and the sovereign power was in the hands of the great mayors of the palace. In the reorganisation of the Gallican Church under the new rulers, Rome was the natural source of advice, and the bonds between Rome and the new dynasty were knit closely by the appearance of the Frankish kings as champions of the Church. At the request of Charles the Great, Hadrian II sent to him a copy of the Sacramentary ascribed to Gregory the Great, comprising the ordinary of the mass with the proper of the seasons and the forms for the ordination of bishops, priests, and deacons. In the form in which this Sacramentary has come down to us, through manuscripts used in France, it is clearly of Roman origin, and the proper collects are distinguished by rubrics naming the various stations or basilicas in Rome appointed for the chief service on the several feast-days; but, as such, much of it is subsequent to the age of Gregory the Great, and it received considerable supplements in Gaul from the hands of Alcuin and others. The similar collection, which received the title of the Gelasian Sacramentary from its supposed origin in the sacramentorum praefationes et orationes attributed to Gelasius I by the Liber Pontificalis, had appeared in Gaul at an earlier date. The still earlier Leonine book, of which a single manuscript exists, was equally Roman in origin, but is a private compilation which had no official currency. Consequently, the Gregorian and Gelasian books, both of a later date than that of their alleged compilers, while supplying the earliest complete forms of the Roman rite, have reached us through Gaul. Here the Gallican liturgy was superseded, and the rite which took its place was appropriated and amplified in the course of the Carolingian period.

The dissemination of the Roman liturgy was achieved simply by the provision of copies of Sacramentaries, such as that given by Hadrian to Charlemagne, while others may have been brought from Rome by visitors from Gallican churches. Those which we possess very probably had their origin in books arranged for the Pope’s use in officiating at the Roman stations. Similarly the Ordines Romani of various dates, with their ritual directions, refer to Roman ceremonies, and for the most part to those, such as the visits to the stationary basilicas, in which the Pope took the chief part. These also were used in Gaul as models for ritual. Thus, from the eighth century onward, the old Gallican books were discarded, and, in the kingdom to which, with the favour and help of the Roman pontiffs, the imperial dignity of the West had passed, Roman practice was acclimatised in the services of the Church and the papal authority consequently strengthened.

From these considerations we pass to the development of doctrine which accompanied the growth of the papal supremacy. The survey may be divided into three main portions, dealing (1) with the relations between God and man involved in the doctrine of the creation and fall and the allied subjects of predestination and grace; (2) with the work of salvation manifested in the Incarnation and Passion, and in the operation of the Holy Spirit; and (3) with the doctrine of the Sacraments, especially as regards the important subjects of the Eucharist and penance.


The course which medieval dogma was to take was determined by the overpowering influence of St Augustine upon religious thought. That influence, proceeding from a mind incessantly and profoundly active, which expressed itself in a style of wonderful fluency and variety, as sensitive to the casual impressions of a fervent imagination as it was emphatic in recording the permanent convictions implanted by a peculiar intensity of religious experience, not only provided a basis for orthodox doctrine, but suggested lines of argument also of which in process of time impugners of orthodoxy were ready to avail themselves. In his controversies with the Pelagians Augustine laid down the formulas which guided the medieval conception of the relations between God and man, between the omnipotent will which did all things as it would in heaven and earth and the will of man to choose between good and evil; he gave lasting shape to the fundamental principles of the evil of human nature, rooted in original sin, and the counteracting effects of the free grace of God. The Donatist controversy brought out his theory of ecclesiastical polity, of the visible Church possessed of a valid ministry, entrusted with the dispensation of the Word and Sacraments, the divinely appointed means of grace. But between these two main aspects of Augustine’s teaching there was a certain degree of incompatibility. On the one hand, his doctrine of grace, founded upon his conviction of the immutability of God’s omnipotent will, confined the operation of the free gift to a few persons in comparison with the multitude of human beings born in sin. To such persons, chosen from eternity to salvation by the unchangeable counsels of God, there came, whether they were willing to receive it or not, the grace of God through Christ, disposing them to faith, producing in the unwilling the will to believe, and in those who were willing directing the will aright. Thus, by the working of prevenient grace, the soul predestined to salvation accepted or was prepared to accept the call of God. The soul’s progress through the stages of faith which followed the call, with the assistance of cooperating grace, culminated in justification, the attainment of righteousness in the sight of God through the gift of the Holy Spirit and the consequent suffusion of faith by the love in which God became the one object of man’s desire. But still there was necessary to the final enjoyment of union with God the gift of final perseverance; and with those to whom this was granted grace was irresistible. The grace of God worked undisturbed in their hearts, and their freedom to will anything but good was entirely supplanted by this principle.

While this theory limited salvation to a small minority of mankind, the visible Church, on the other hand, appeared to be the guarantee of God’s will that all men should be saved. The taint of original sin was washed away in the sacrament of baptism, where the Holy Spirit moved upon the face of the regenerating waters. The means of grace with their ensuing benefits were open to all baptised Christians. In the Eucharist they were refreshed by the body and blood of Christ with their saving virtue; in the ministry of penance and reconciliation they made atonement for actual sin committed after baptism. This did not imply, of course, that all who took advantage of the means of grace offered by the Church were saved from perdition thereby. It did not exclude the probability that the ultimate benefit of these gifts was restricted to a small circle, known only to God as the chosen recipients of His grace. But it could not be over­looked that the theory of the bestowal of free grace upon a chosen few in accordance with God’s unchangeable purpose made the sacramental system of the Church of secondary importance. The action of grace upon the soul of the true believer was a spiritual experience of whose immediate efficacy the sacraments were at best signs and tokens; the heart swayed by irresistible grace had achieved its mystical union with God and was independent of any mediate connexion. The doctrine of election by grace, by which man’s free will was entirely subordinated to the absolute will of God, could be only imperfectly reconciled with a doctrine by which the errors of man’s will were continually repaired and the will itself kept in a right direction by resort to the means of grace furnished by the Church.

Thus, while Augustine’s doctrine of grace had immense influence upon the development of orthodox dogma, it raised problems which were unfavourable to its complete acceptance. His doctrine of original sin, of the complete corruption of man’s nature as the consequence of the fall of Adam, of the transmission of Adam’s sin to all his descendants, and of the necessity of spiritual regeneration to counteract the hereditary taint of man’s natural birth, remained firmly implanted in religious thought, allowing for diversities of theory with regard to the origin of the individual soul, whether as coming into being with the sinful body, or as the result of an independent act of creation. But the Augustinian doctrine of grace, taking form as an express denial of the Pelagian insistence upon the power of man’s unaided free will to determine his destiny, took away from man all liberty of choice between good and evil. Such freedom of choice was open, to man before the Fall, while he was in a state of righteousness approaching, though still capable of further, perfection. But the choice of evil had rendered the human will incapable of good. Grace alone could quicken it, and, so quickened, it was no longer man’s will, but became simply absorbed in the divine will. So far as any free will was left to man, it was to do evil and follow the lusts of the flesh; and, as the saving power of grace communicated itself merely to the chosen, the predestined few selected from the mass of perdition composed of the whole human race, it followed that man’s will, if it could still be called his own, was irrevocably set towards destruction. Augustine did not deny free will, but he confined it to a groove in which there was no alternative to its action; and, although this could be attributed to the natural weakness of the will of fallen man and its impotence for good without the prompting and support of grace, it also opened the way to more severe conclusions. The tendency of man to evil might imply a total loss of free will, with the argument that, as part of the human race was predestined to eternal life, so the vast residue was predestined to damnation.

The distinction between God’s foreknowledge with the act of volition implied by His predestination of the elect, and the position that, as evil was merely the privation of good, God, whose will was entirely good, could not be conceived as predestining man to a course of evil, did not remove the difficulty of the narrow limit set to man’s free will by the Augustinian doctrine. Yet the groundwork of this doctrine, the universal incidence of original sin and the necessity of grace to initiate good in fallen man, were left undisputed by the orthodox. Semi-Pelagianism is an unsatisfactory term for a system which was more strongly opposed to the Pelagian theory of an untrammelled free will than to strict Augustinianism, and was in fact an attempt to harmonise the strict doctrine with a theory which allowed the human will a wider scope. It combined the acknowledgement that God’s grace was independent in special cases of man’s will with the principle that the will, though weakened by sin, could work in the right direction and be rewarded by the gift of grace so as to become actively good. It admitted a degree of good implanted in the soul by God so as to counteract the natural tendency to evil; while God in His foreknowledge predestined special persons to salvation, yet His will was that all men should be saved. The theory of irresistible grace, compelling the elect to final perseverance irrespective of any effort of will, was rejected: final perse­verance was achieved by the continual efforts of the will aided by grace.

While semi-Pelagianism in various forms was condemned by the Council of Orange in 529, that assembly nevertheless committed itself to a modification of Augustinian doctrine which allowed the sacramental system of the Church an active share, in the work of grace which was hard to reconcile with a theory of grace absolute and unconditionally bestowed. The community of original sin to soul and body alike was upheld, excluding any possibility of innate virtue in the soul; but the cleansing of the soul in baptism from the inherited taint was the beginning of the operation of grace which it was open to all men to receive or reject in the sequel. Thus the will was recognised as cooperating with the grace which supported it in its weakness, and without which it could do nothing of itself; and thus irresistible grace, with its negation of the human will, was implicitly denied. Further, while the scheme of a two­fold predestination, general and special, was condemned, it was laid down that God had predestined no one to damnation. His eternal purpose was the salvation of mankind, and His predestination was exercised only with that object. These general propositions represent an attitude which, avoiding extreme conclusions, gained ground with orthodox believers as a rational statement of a mystery whose complete solution was beyond the power of man; and the same line of thought, followed by Gregory the Great at the end of the same century, permanently affected the doctrine of the Church on this point.

The admiration of Gregory for Augustine is a remarkable example of the dependence of one great teacher upon another for the material of his thought. It is specially remarkable because the cast of mind of the two men was so different. The genius of Augustine, trained in philosophy and the traditions of pagan learning, and profoundly affected by an experience of the grace of God as startling and convincing as that which had befallen the Apostle of the Gentiles, was exercised upon theological speculations with a fertility which the inheritors of his labours found it impossible to exhaust, and with an insight into mental and spiritual processes which remained unrivalled. Of intellectual originality Gregory had little or nothing. His acuteness of mind was that of a lawyer and administrator, engaged in bringing into order and coherent system the diverse elements which he found ready to his hand. As theologian, he initiated no new theory and produced no connected scheme of thought. His position as a doctor of the Church was the outcome of a practical piety which, in the task of ruling Western Christendom, was confronted, not indeed with controversies such as had called out the full powers of Augustine, but with the need of meeting obscurity and ignorance with fixed statements of doctrine. That such statements are unsystematic in form, and that a full estimate of Gregory’s thought can be gathered only by collating passages scattered widely throughout his works, are circumstances due to his preoccupation with the direction of the visible ecclesiastical system, the central object of his practical activity. It is no doubt true that he introduced a coarsening element into the dogmatic teaching of the Church by the readiness with which he availed himself of popular superstition in its service: the marvellous tales of the Dialogues, the inculcation of belief in miracles, in the efficacy of the relics of the saints, in the ordered hierarchies of good and evil angels, worked upon the credulity and fear of contemporaries whom only visible signs or the assurance of supernatural wonders could keep within the fold of the Church. Such teaching, appealing to the least spiritual elements of human imagination, brought Christian doctrine down from the heights of Augustine’s thought to a prosaic level. But, whether for good or ill, the influence of Gregory, as a supplement to that of Augustine, giving plain form to lofty abstractions and modifying their difficulties in the process, dominated the medieval attitude to religion. Just as he laid the foundation of the power of the see which he ruled, so the development of its authority in matters of doctrine was affected by his example; and he is primarily responsible for that habit of mind which, throughout the Middle Ages, regarded the supernatural, not without awe, but at the same time with a matter-of-fact familiarity.

It cannot be said that Gregory’s views upon the doctrine of grace were completely consistent with his opinions upon the fundamental subject of predestination. He was powerfully swayed by the Augustinian dogma that God had chosen a definite number of persons for salvation without respect to His foreknowledge of any merit which they might acquire by the right use of their will. The natural consequence of this is the denial that the will can be so used without the constraining power of grace; grace is all-powerful, man’s will is nowhere, and all such merit as man may acquire is the work of grace. On the other hand, Gregory could not accept this annihilation of free will. The will was not merely impaired by the Fall, as the semi-Pelagians taught; it was chained by sin. But it still existed, and the application of grace freed it, so that it became capable of cooperating with grace in the work of salvation. While this did not reconcile the Augustinian with the semi-Pelagian view of predestination and grace, but rather left the contrast between the two unhealed, it at any rate provided a half-way house between them on the subject of the will, admitting its powerlessness without prevenient and cooperating grace, but rejecting the irresistible action of grace upon the justified soul.

The importance thus given to free will, coupled with the general admission that no man, however far advanced in the spiritual life, could be certain that he was chosen to salvation in the eternal counsels of God, put the question of the method of predestination into the background. It was not until the ninth century that this question was seriously raised in controversy. In 829 Gottschalk, a monk of Fulda, appealed to the Archbishop of Mayence for release from his vows, on the ground that he had been devoted to the monastic life as a boy, before he was capable of using his own will. Although his appeal was granted, his abbot, the famous Rabanus Maurus, intervened and obtained a decree from Louis the Pious, as the result of which Gottschalk was relegated from Fulda to the monastery of Orbais. Here he consoled himself with studies which led him to embrace the doctrines of Augustine and Fulgentius on predestination with a fervour and a passionate self-assertion which soon brought him into trouble with his superiors. He appears to have escaped from the monastery after several years of durance, when he entered on a wandering life, having obtained ordination to the priesthood by means which laid him open to the charge of irregularity. His advocacy of a theory of a double or twin form of predestination, to life on the one hand and to damnation on the other, led to his condemnation by a synod under the presidency of Rabanus, who had recently become Archbishop of Mayence, in 848, and to his expulsion from the German kingdom. On his return to northern France, he was summoned by Hincmar of Rheims to a synod at the royal vill of Quierzy, where he is said to have behaved with insane violence, and was punished by flogging and sent into imprisonment at the monastery of Hautvillers, near Epernay. Here he died twenty years later in 869, maintaining his position to the end. In addition to his predestinarian views, he developed an attack upon Hincmar for the alteration of the phrase trina Deitas in the hymn Te trina Deitas unaque poscimus into summa Deitas, as implying the denial of the triune Godhead. On his deathbed he refused to sign a recantation of his doctrines prepared in harmony with Hincmar’s views, and died without the sacraments of the Church.

The case of this recalcitrant monk, whose obstinacy was by no means quelled by captivity, provoked remarkable interest at a period when theological controversy was much in the air. Hincmar, Rabanus Maurus, and Ratramnus of Corbie, more famous in connexion with the contemporary dispute on the Eucharist, entered into the strife with treatises; Johannes Scotus came forward with novel arguments on behalf of the orthodox view, which themselves came under suspicion of heterodoxy. The opinions of Gottschalk came under the notice of Pope Nicholas I, to whom he sent an appeal from Hautvillers in 859, without ultimate effect, as Hincmar took no definite action for the relief of his troublesome prisoner. Of the two documents in which these opinions have come down to us, a brief summary of his main position, and the Confessio Prolixior, in which it is developed with fuller detail, the second, written in the form of a prayer in obvious imitation of Augustine’s Confessions, contains clear evidence of the mystical ardour and fanatical insistence upon the absolute truth of his theories which made Gottschalk’s life a misery to himself and a perplexity to those who came in contact with him. His point of view was perfectly definite. God foreknew all things, whether good or evil, but His predestination was confined to what was good, that is, He could not be the author of anything that was evil. It assumed two forms: on the one hand, He bestowed the benefits of grace, on the other, the judgments of His justice. Free grace was conferred unconditionally upon the elect; eternal punishment was the doom of the reprobate and the reward of those ill deserts which God foresaw from everlasting. The argument rested upon a conviction of the changelessness of God; it was impossible that His knowledge and purpose should be obedient to the fluctuating conditions of time and space. What He knew and willed once, He willed and knew always. It postulated also the total inability of man to acquire grace by merit. Punishment was incurred deservedly; grace was given freely, without any motion on the part of man.

The greater part of Gottschalk’s Confessio Prolixior is a string of citations from Scripture, followed by references to Augustine, Fulgentius, and Gregory, whose utterances on predestination he regarded as at one with those of the two elder writers. Throughout the document he passionately asserts his own orthodoxy and condemns the opposite opinion as heretical, and in one extraordinary passage he prays God to give him the opportunity of vindicating his belief in public before the king and the whole hierarchy in a national assembly by an ordeal of fire. It cannot be said that anything in the belief on which he set so high a value was new; its key-note, the phrase gemina praedestinatio was derived from Isidore of Seville. The sincerity with which he defended his tenets was marred and rendered suspect by his pertinacity and vanity; his persistence in controversy was spurred on by his resentment against the authorities who kept him under surveillance, and he took a bitter pleasure in arraigning them of heresy. But it is a tribute to his power of expounding his theories, and a testimony to the influence exercised by them, that he became the centre of a conflict which agitated the rulers and theologians of the Frankish Church for more than twenty years.

Of the two lengthy dissertations De Praedestinatione Dei in which Hincmar refuted Gottschalk, only the second remains. The long and involved arguments brought forward to elaborate the points in which Gottschalk could be shown to differ from his master Augustine, and the reasoning applied to the proposition arising from the premises of the controversy that Christ died for all men, and not merely for the elect, are preceded by an historical survey of the growth of the theory of a dual predestination, and include a somewhat broken narrative of the relations between Gottschalk and his superiors. The work was dedicated to Charles the Bald, in whose presence Gottschalk had been flogged at Quierzy, and to whom Ratramnus had addressed a treatise in explanation of Gottschalk’s position. Hincmar found an ally in Scotus, whose book De Divina Praedestinatione decisively rejected dual predestination and defended the orthodoxy of Augustine. But Scotus introduced a speculative element into his work which was in itself a source of danger. His attempt to merge theology in philosophy, his free treatment of the literal meaning of Scripture and Augustine to suit his own philosophical theories, and his insistence upon the divine origin of free will and the ability of man to choose the good, went beyond the bounds of strictly orthodox opinion; and Hincmar himself, who had invited Scotus to write and received the dedication of his book, hesitated to endorse its conclusions.

A synod held at Quierzy in 853 passed four decrees under the influence of Hincmar which summed up the orthodox attitude upon the controverted points. (1) The complete unity of divine predestination was asserted. The gift of grace and the retribution of God’s justice were two aspects of the same thing. Man was created in paradise without sin and with free will. But, by the abuse of free will, he fell, and so the whole human race became a mass of perdition. God, in His goodness and justice, chose out of this mass according to His foreknowledge those whom He predestined through grace to life, and to these He predestined eternal life. The residue were left in the mass of perdition by the judgment of justice, but, although God foreknew that they must perish, He predestined, not them to eternal punishment, but, because He is just, eternal punishment to them. (2) The loss of free will in Adam was recovered for man by Christ. With the prevention and aid of grace, man has free will to good; but, abandoned by grace, his will is to evil. Grace frees the will and heals it from the corruption of sin. (3) God wills that all men should be saved without exception. It does not follow that all are saved; but some are saved by the gift of the Saviour, while those who perish receive their due reward. (4) Christ adopted human nature without respect of persons and died for the redemption of every man. If all are not redeemed, it is because they are without faith or are deficient in the faith that works through love. The cup of human salvation, in which human weakness is mingled with divine strength, is for all men to drink; but without drinking there is no healing from sin.

While the decrees of Quierzy were issued by a local synod in the course of a dispute which affected a limited, though by no means small area, they represented the general mind of the Church upon the debated points. The medieval Church as a whole, while founding its doctrine of predestination and grace upon Augustine, interpreted his view of man’s free will in a more humane sense than a perfectly logical exposition could allow it to bear, and refused to admit that predestination to destruction was a consequence of his teaching. Such an admission, even safeguarded by the proviso that the righteous judgments of God were inseparable from His goodness and were part of a single Divine purpose, opened the way to the Manichaeism which, after Augustine had escaped from it, had still left some trace upon his conception of the antithesis between good and evil. The heresies of the Cathari and Albigenses, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, reviving the Manichaean tenet of a duality of good and evil principles, induced the theory of two distinct forms of predestination, a praedestinatio duplex or bifaria which depended on a less intricate argument than the gemina praedestinatio advocated by Gottschalk. But the orthodox mind recognised a sharp distinction between the predestination and the foreknowledge of God. In scholastic language the elect are praedestinati, the reprobate praesciti. In both classes of men free will exists, weakened and corrupted by sin; but with the reprobate it is merely a will to evil. In the elect it is powerless to act until awakened by grace. The work of grace delivers it to the enjoyment of the full freedom in which man is able by its exercise to obtain merit in the sight of God, who has called it to cooperate with His free gift.

At the same time, the abstract discussion of the process of grace was overshadowed by the visible organisation of the Church and the benefits offered by it in the sacraments. The elect and reprobate were known only to God, but the means of grace entrusted to the Church were open to all its members. Baptism was not merely the rite of admission to the company of professing Christians; it removed original sin by the operation of the Holy Spirit, and was the necessary preliminary to the saving work of grace. The mystery of the dispensation which allowed infants, incapable of actual sin, to die unbaptised was a constant topic with writers on predestination. Although opinions might vary with regard to the degree of punishment allotted to them for the sin inherited from Adam, there was no escape from the conclusion that they were part of the mass of perdition to which baptism alone could open the gate of salvation. Speculations upon the uncovenanted mercies of God could not alter the fact that the Church possessed only one means of entry to the way of eternal life, without which the infant was as helpless as the unbaptised adult whose apparent virtues were but splendida vitia.

The official teaching of the Church, therefore, laid all its emphasis upon the use of the means of grace. It will be noted that the Lateran confession of faith in 1215 laid down no explicit doctrine of predestination. It assumed the existence of the elect and the reprobate who, at Christ’s second coming, would receive judgment according to their works. But the only guarantee of salvation was membership of the visible Church, with its crowning benefit of union with Christ through the sacrament of His body and blood. Its initial rite, baptism, was profitable to salvation for all, children and adults alike; and for those who fall into sin after baptism the Church provided a means of recovery in the sacrament of penance. Of that progress in faith and attainment of love which are the offspring and accompaniment of the work of grace nothing was said; of the inner spiritual life God was the sole judge. The criterion which the Church applied to man’s approach to salvation was perseverance in good works, initiated, aided, and continually repaired by the grace communicated through the sacraments according to her recognised forms.


As has been shown, the question of the saving work of Christ arose necessarily out of the predestinarian controversy; for, on the strictest interpretation of the Augustinian doctrine, its benefits applied to the elect alone. The part, however, which this question played in the dispute was subordinate to the principal subject of discussion; by both sides in the controversy the method by which the salvation of man, whether as a whole or in part, was achieved was taken for granted. The Catholic doctrine of the two natures of Christ, divine and human, coexistent in one person, had been laid down, once and for all, at Chalcedon in 451: through the Eternal Word, incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, suffering in human form, risen and ascended in His glorified body, the prospect of everlasting life was opened to mankind. Early in the seventh century, however, a new problem in Christology was raised in the East, which was not settled until the beginning of the eighth. The acknowledgment of the two natures of Christ implied the coexistence in Him of two wills directing two modes of operation, distinct but in perfect agreement. Sergius, Patriarch of Constantinople (610-38), professing to rely upon a phrase attributed to his predecessor Mennas (536-52), brought forward the theory that in the two natures there was only one will and one operation, the divine will working through the human instrument. The Monothelete controversy, originating in this way, might have died out early, had it not been for its entanglement with politics. Acceptance of the theory afforded a basis for reconciliation with the Monophysite sects, disaffected subjects of the orthodox Empire; and, as the century advanced and the conq uests of Islam absorbed three of the Eastern patriarchates, the need of such a basis became all the more urgent. But the object of its defenders was rather to procure its tacit recognition by stifling public discussion than to assert it openly; and in this they failed, owing to the passionate championship of the opposite cause by orthodox enthusiasts. The Ecthesis of Heraclius (639), who was prompted to support the Monothelete party for the reasons of state already mentioned, imposed silence on both sides, but at the same time shewed an obvious bias in favour of the heresy. In 648 the Type of Constans II renewed the prohibition of debate with a more impartial attitude; but the implied alternative of two opposite doctrines was even more distasteful to the orthodox than the partial pronouncement which the Type superseded.

The historical importance of the Monothelete controversy lies in the severance which it produced between the Churches of the West and the East, temporary indeed, but the beginning of wider divergences which led to ultimate separation. The theory, made in Constantinople, was admitted at Rome by Pope Honorius I, but by him alone of the Popes. At the Lateran Council of 649, held under Martin I, the Ecthesis and the Type were alike condemned, together with the writings of the Monotheletes, as heretical. The somewhat ambiguous term theandric energy, borrowed by Cyrus of Alexandria from Dionysius the Areopagite to express the operation of the one will in Christ, was explained in the opposite sense, and the doctrine of the two wills and two operations was formulated as that of the Church. The result of these decrees was a persecution of the orthodox by the Emperor Constans. In 653 the Pope was taken prisoner to Constantinople and died in exile; Maximus of Chrysopolis, who had succeeded Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, as the most ardent defender of the two united wills in the East, died a martyr to his cause. The policy of Constans, however, was reversed in the sequel, and the decrees of the Lateran Council were upheld by the council summoned by Constantine Pogonatus in 680, which met in the hall of the imperial palace called Trullus and was attended by the deputies of Pope Agatho. Here the rival doctrines were again threshed out, with the result that the council confessed the presence of two natural wills and two natural operations in Christ, without division or confusion, The heretics were again condemned, and with their names was joined that of Pope Honorius. Monothelism was not wholly stamped out in 681, when the sixth general council concluded its sittings, nor did the improved relations between Rome and Constantinople lead to permanent cordiality. Agatho, who made his influence felt in 680-681, rejected the disciplinary canons passed ten years later by the “Quinisext” council which met again in the Trullus. But in the condemnation of Monothelism the East and West were at one, and its supporters dwindled. The attempt of the Emperor Philippicus to revive the doctrine in 712 was followed by his overthrow in the following year, and, although it lingered among the Maronites until the close of the twelfth century, it had no vogue outside that limited and remote sect.

The Monothelete dispute, indeed, was wholly forgotten in the fresh excitement of the Iconoclastic controversy of the eighth century, which renewed the breach between Rome and the imperialist Church of Constantinople. From the doctrinal point of view, the significance of a religious warfare which, under the leadership of Leo the Isaurian and Constantine Copronymus, was eminently political, is its bearing upon the doctrine of the Incarnation. On the details of the degree of veneration due to images there were cross-currents of opinion in the West, which reflected to some extent the sharp distinction in the East between Iconoclasts and the defenders of image-worship. When the second Council of Nicaea in 787 put an end to the long conflict and formulated, in re-establishing the use of images, the difference between the proskinesis due to them and the service of Latria, due to God alone, the council of the Frankish kingdom at Frankfort in 794, acting upon the statement of the case put forward in the Libri Caroling rejected its decrees, distinguishing between the employment of images as an aid to devotion and the payment of worship or service to them. Fundamentally, the controversy turned upon the propriety of pictorial or graven representations of Divinity; the most celebrated incident in its progress is the removal of the image of the Saviour, known as the Andifonitis, in 730 from its position above the Brazen Gate of the palace at Constantinople. It was argued that such representations, picturing the divine in human form, were heretical; the council which condemned them in 754 argued that they encouraged the principal heresies which in time past had denied the Godhead of Christ or confounded His divine with His human nature. The only visible image of Christ which the council allowed to be lawful was the elements in the Holy Eucharist; here, by the union of divine grace with material objects, the union of Godhead with humanity was presentedto the eyes of the faithful. This view of the Eucharist was rejected at Nicaea in 787, conflicting as it did with the doctrine that the elements were the very body and blood of Christ. But the theory at the foundation of the defence of images was that the prohibition of the use of images under the old dispensation was annulled by the Incarnation, and that the appearance of God in human shape legalised representations which brought the memory of their originals before the minds of wor­shippers and deserved the honour that was paid to those originals through .their medium.

The Monothelete and Iconoclastic controversies, and especially the second, were to some extent affected by the growth of Mohammedanism, with its Unitarian conception of divinity and its prohibition of images and pictures in worship. The opposition of the council of Frankfort in 794 to the decrees of Nicaea, and its denial of the payment of adoratio or servitus to images, sprang rather from the dread of the idolatry which flourished upon the northern and eastern outskirts of the Frankish kingdom. At the same time, it was faced by a new heresy with regard to the Incarnation which had come into being upon the southern limits of western Christendom, close to the frontier of the Arab caliphate and in a district in which Arianism had long prevailed. Felix, Bishop of Urgel (c. 783-99), was the author, or at any rate the transmitter, of the theory that the humanity of Christ was not derived directly from the Divine essence, but was merely adopted by the Father. He found an energetic supporter in Elipandus, the metropolitan of Toledo, and their propagation of the doctrine was warmly contested by the orthodox prelates of the Spanish Church in their efforts to keep alive the embers of a faith almost extinguished by the victory of Islam. Felix did not deny the divinity of Christ, but recognised a double form of sonship: as divine, He was the true Son o| God, as human, the adoptive son. The opinion was condemned in a council of twenty-six bishops, held at Narbonne in 791, at which Felix hipiself was present. In the following year, it received a second condemnation at Ratisbon, and Felix was sent to Rome, where he confessed and recanted his heresy before Hadrian II. But, like Berengar at a later date, he was no sooner back in familiar surroundings than he renewed his teaching. The orthodox answer to a doctrine which specially threatened Frankish Christianity came from Alcuin, who by correspondence and a formal treatise combated the confusion of ideas into which the Adoptionists had fallen. The gist of his argument was that the sonship of Christ depends, not upon a question of nature, but of person; the two natures are united without division in the single person of the Son. The idea of the son of man, made by adoption and grace the Son of God, was therefore inadmissible. Meanwhile the condemnation of Felix and Elipandus was placed in the forefront of the canons passed by the council of Frankfort, and in 799 Felix was deprived of his see. At Aix-la-Chapelle he was confronted by Alcuin, whose arguments led him to retract his opinions once more; but he was sent into retirement under the supervision of the Archbishop of Lyons, and his final perseverance in orthodoxy is at least doubtful. Although the Adoptionist heresy was weakly defended, and its fate was sealed by the condemnation of Felix, it was still maintained by the aged Elipandus, whose talent for vituperation was more remarkable than his theological ability, until shortly before his death in 808.

Adoptionism was also opposed in writing by Paulinus, Patriarch of Aquileia, and condemned at a council over which he presided at Cividale in 796. But the strength of the heresy, such as it was, lay in the region of its origin, the Aquitanian march which, as the Middle Ages advanced, became notorious as a breeding-ground of heterodoxy. Like the Monophysite and Monothelete controversies, however, the Adoptionist dispute was concentrated upon a single aspect of the Incarnation, the nature and person of the Incarnate Being. The effect of the Incarnation upon the relations between man and God did not en ter into it, save in so far as the assumption of humanity by Christ implied a consequent change in those relations as they concerned the whole human race. It has been already shown that in the discussions which were waged round the subject of predestination the effect of the Incarnation was presupposed as assuring the salvation of man; the question at issue was whether this effect was particular or general. The work of grace, begun in baptism, brought man within reach of the benefits obtained for him by the life and death of Christ; whether in this state he was capable of acquiring merit for himself by good works, or whether his justification depended entirely upon his faith in the merits of Christ’s passion, was a consequent alternative to wliich there was no very certain answer, although the view that salvation was open to the whole of mankind swayed the balance in favour of the first of these opinions. But, apart from the general agreement that Christ, by taking upon Himself our nature uncontaminated by sin, broke the dominion of sin over the world, no theory had as yet explained the Incarnation as a necessary means for the re-establishment of the relationship between God and man which had been forfeited by the sin of Adam, and it was not until the end of the eleventh century and the early days of scholastic theology that a proof of this hypothesis was furnished.

The weight of St Augustine’s teaching had fallen upon the sinfulness of mankind and the inability of man to rise to the state of grace by any merits of his own. Christ by the merits of His life and passion restored union between God and man; the death of the perfect Man was a sacrifice for human sin. Thus the Incarnate Son is the mediator who makes Himself responsible for the sin of man and reconciles him to the God whom he has offended by removing him from the dominion of sin. But, side by side with the view that the voluntary sacrifice of Christ delivered man from his natural sinfulness, the theory, derived through Origen, gained ground that man, as a consequence of the Fall, had been subjected to the power of the devil, and that the sacrifice of Christ was demanded to free him from this thraldom to a personal master. It was an act of redemption, a payment made by God to the devil for the ransom of a slave. Such a payment could be made only in the person of one who was sinless and therefore free from the devil’s power. On the other hand, it was inconceivable that the devil would accept a sinless ransom; this would be payment without an equivalent. It was necessary therefore that he should enter into the bargain without certainty of the true nature of the offering from which he expected to obtain compensation, and in the hope that Christ was a man liable to succumb to temptation to sin. The Incarnation was thus designed to deceive him and keep him in suspense, and of this successful deception the death of Christ was the climax. This once achieved, the work of redemption was completed; when once the devil witnessed the triumph of Christ over death, he knew himself de­frauded where he had expected to get the full advantage of the transaction.

Grotesquely inconsistent with the righteousness of God as this theory seems, it won acceptance; it was at least reasonable to suppose that the arch-deceiver could be conquered only by the use of weapons similar to his own. Augustine, never wholly freed from the notion of the dualism of good and evil which his early Manichaeanism had left behind, represented the devil as caught in a mouse-trap; Gregory, who enriched the idea with much detailed and imaginative treatment, likened the Incarnation to a hook baited for Behemoth, who, seeking to devour the humanity of Christ, was pierced by the sharp point of His divinity. If all writers did not indulge in such images, yet the general view of the sacrifice of Christ was that it was a ransom paid by God to the arch-enemy.

From another point of view, however, the righteousness of God was regarded independently of His will to win back sinful man to Himself. By falling into sin, when, in his paradisal condition, he still possessed the power to refrain from sin, man had offended God and provoked His wrath; and, though God in His love was willing to restore him to favour, yet His justice required satisfaction, a payment of an adequate penalty. This idea, founded upon a legal conception of justice, alternates in Gregory Is writings with the ransom-theory; fostered by the penitential system of the Church, it eventually superseded it. The sin of man was so great that man himself could pay no satisfaction which could meet the case. Therefore, in perfect union with the will of the Father, the Son became man and gave Himself as the sinless offering. But the development of this theory left room for the question whether it was by this means alone that satisfaction could have been found, although no other act could have proved more signally the union of mercy with justice in the Divine mind.

Until Anselm, in the treatise Cur Deus Homo?, produced the argument which profoundly affected the theology of the Incarnation for centuries after his day, it was generally held that God, in His omnipotence, might have chosen some other means for the redemption of the world. Anselm set out to prove, in the form of a dialogue between himself and a pupil, the necessity of the assumption of human nature by God Himself for this purpose. In themselves, the analogy between the entry of death into the world through man’s disobedience and the restoration of life by the obedience of a man, between the sin of Eve and the birth of the Saviour from Mary, between the tree of the garden and the tree of the cross, were merely picturesque unless this necessity could be demonstrated. The idea, however, that God could have restored man to the dignity for which He intended him by means of an angel or some man created without sin, might be rejected; for in that case man, the servant of God and equal to the angels, would have become the servant of a redeemer who was not divine. Anselm further decides against the popular theory that the Incarnation was the means of ransoming man from the power of the devil; the devil had no claims over man which demanded a legal ransom. The writing against man which was blotted out by the death of Christ was not a deed to which the devil was a party; it was the confirmation of the righteous judgment of God, by which man, having sinned of his own will, was condemned to sin and to its punishment.

The foundation of Anselm’s argument is his definition of sin as the failure to render to God the honour which is due to Him, the withholding of a just debt. For this satisfaction is necessary, and this implies not merely the payment of the thing withheld, but further compensation for the wrong done. If God were to leave sin unpunished, this would be contrary to His justice and would introduce disorder into His kingdom. In God’s order of things there is nothing so intolerable as the subtraction of due honour from the Creator by the creature. That honour must be paid, or punishment must follow; otherwise we must conclude that God is unjust to Himself or unable to exact either alternative. Anselm’s view of punishment for sin was that it is a payment forced upon an unwilling debtor; he who withholds from God what is His has to forfeit something of his own. By removing from the sinner that happiness which depends upon obedience to the Creator, God repairs His offended honour and asserts His lordship; not that His honour is affected in itself by the disobedience of angels or men, but such disobedience is an attempt to disturb the order of the universe, and cannot be overlooked by the will from whose domination it endeavours to escape. From these premises Anselm proceeded to discuss the creation and fall of man. In creating man without sin, the intention of God was to fill the gap left by the fall of the rebellious angels and to perfect their number. But the sin of man made it impossible for him, if it were left unpunished, to take his place among the good angels who had never sinned. To recover the blessedness which he lost by sin, he must make satisfaction, and satisfaction must be proportionate to the offence for which it is paid. No atonement for sin which man can make by his own efforts is a sufficient equivalent, for it is merely the payment of the duty which he owes to God, not the restoration of a debt, and there is nothing in it which can outweigh the enormity of a single sin. If man, in the state in which it was in his power to avoid sin, succumbed of his own will to the temptation of the devil, and so frustrated God’s purpose of perfecting human nature, how can he now, born in sin and weakness, conquer the devil and render to God His due? His weakness is no excuse for him, for it is the result of deliberate disobedience; his inability to pay the debt is as much a fault as his failure to pay it. To assume, then, that God is ready to forgive man the debt which man should voluntarily render Him, simply because man cannot pay it, is to reduce God’s mercy to an absurdity, the forgiveness of a bad debt which He cannot recover. Punishment would be forgone, and man would achieve through sin that blessedness which his sin has made it impossible for him to attain without satisfaction.

Nevertheless, if there were not some means by which the debt could be paid, the mercy of God would be utterly overcome by His justice. Hitherto, the argument has been confined to the relations between an all-powerful and offended God and powerless and sinning man; ignorance of Christ and His work has been expressly supposed. But it has been proved that man cannot pay the debt and so restore himself to his lost blessedness. It follows of necessity that the prospect of salvation assured him by the Christian faith, with its emphasis upon the mercy of God, depends upon Christ. Thus, by the development of the theory of satisfaction through a negative form of reasoning, Anselm arrived at the positive argument for the necessity of the Incarnation, which is worked out in the second book of the treatise.

God created man with a rational nature which could choose between good and evil, and made that nature righteous, so that it could attain blessedness in the enjoyment of the highest good, which is God Himself. If man had not sinned, he would not die: as it is, his perfect restoration to blessedness must be accompanied by the resurrection of the dead in their incorruptible human bodies, for God will perfect the noble work which He has begun and cannot have made in vain. But, as has been shown, full satisfaction for sin is indispensable to this consummation, and this man cannot pay. In one sense of the word, there is no necessity for God to perfect His creation, for He is bound by no compulsion, and the good which He does is entirely of His grace. On the other hand, the unchangeableness of His nature makes it necessary that His goodness should bring to an end what it has begun. This, however, cannot be achieved without the payment of a satisfaction for sin greater than everything which is not God; and it follows that the person who makes this payment must possess this superior greatness. Now, there is nothing greater than everything which is not God but God Himself. Therefore the payment must be made by God; but, since the satisfaction is due from man, it must be given by a God-man, in whom the two natures, divine and human, are not converted from one into the other or confused, but are both perfect and coexistent in one person. It is further necessary that, as the human race sinned in Adam, so its restoration should be effected by one who should take humanity from the seed of Adam; and, as sin entered the world through the act of a woman who was previously sinless and was made of man without woman, so that humanity which redeems sin should come into the world as the offspring of a pure virgin.

Thus God became man in the person of the Incarnate Word, for the unity of the human person could not combine the three persons of the Godhead, and the son of the virgin could be none of the three but the eternal Son of God, to whom further the act of intercession for man with His Father is proper. Being Himself God and without sin, He could not undergo a mortal death as a debt incurred by the sin of Adam, who, in his perfect state, would not have died. His death was a voluntary offering to God’s honour, which He had it in His power to give or withhold, and which. God could not exact from Him. Man had alienated himself from God to the uttermost by his sin; the satisfaction made by the Redeemer took the form of the uttermost payment, the laying down of His life. This voluntary death, undergone by the Almighty whom no necessity could bind, and by the sinless One who owed no debt to God, prevailed over the sins of the whole world.

Cur Deus Homo? is the most important of a series of treatises in which Anselm discussed the question of sin and redemption in its various aspects, and it remains one of the great theological classics of the Middle Ages. The theory of the satisfaction due to God for sin eventually superseded the crude notion of the ransom paid by God to the devil. All that was due to the devil from God was punishment; all that man owed him was conquest in return for the victory which he had gained at the Fall. But that conquest was actually the payment of a debt demanded by God. It would be inappropriate in an historical survey to enter into the merits and defects of a theory which has been subjected to searching criticism by modern theologians. Two points, however, may be remarked. In the first place, the whole line of argument was determined by the legal character of Anselm’s mind. The working of the free grace of God in the deliverance of man from sin was entirely subordinated to the idea of the penalty due to an offended God and the method of satisfaction by which punishment could be averted. Whether Anselm merely transferred the ecclesiastical conception of the reconciliation of the sinner to the Church by penance to the fundamental question of the redemption of humanity from the sin of Adam, or whether he combined with that conception the secular principle of the wergild, is not a matter of great importance. But the inevitable tendency of the opposition, as in a court of law, between the offended judge and the impotent sinner, and the voluntary interposition of the mediator, was to establish a distinction between the justice and the mercy of God; and, though Anselm himself strove to reconcile these, yet the impression of justice as the peculiar property of the Father, and mercy as That of the Son, was bound to have its influence upon popular thought, especially as the work of the third Person of the Trinity in the Incarnation was hardly considered. Secondly, the stress of the argument was laid entirely upon the act of satisfaction, with the result that the idea of the Incarnation became subordinate to that of the atonement for sin by the death of Christ which was its ultimate object. It is true that Anselm dealt incidentally with the example which the whole life of Christ affords to man, but merely in demonstration of the sinlessness which gave unique value to His death as the expiation of the sin of the world.

The importance of Anselm’s work did not appeal noticeably to his contemporaries; it was not until a later generation that its influence was manifest. The old idea of the ransom of man from the power of the devil still held the field. Among the doctrines of Abelard condemned at Sens in 1141 was the proposition, no less strenuously expressed by Anselm, that the devil had never any legal claim upon man, but was merely, by the permission of Divine justice, his gaoler, and that therefore the object of the Incarnation was not the deliverance of man from his yoke. At the same time, while Abelard was under the influence of more than one theory of the Incarnation, he saw in it conspicuously a manifestation of the love of God, exhibited in the life and teaching of Christ and consummated by His death. The plan and purpose of the Incarnation were that God should enlighten the world by His wisdom and kindle it to His love. Its effects are subjective: man is justified and redeemed by the love which the passion of Christ implants in his heart, not only freeing him from the slavery of sin, but admitting him to the liberty of the sons of God, casting out fear and filling him with the sense of the boundless grace which could make such a sacrifice. This view was echoed by Abelard’s disciple Peter Lombard, who, at the opening of his discussion of the work of redemption, represented the death of Christ as a pledge of the love of God by which man is excited and kindled to love Him and is thus justified. Nevertheless in the sequel Peter demonstrated what he had actually taken as his hypothesis, that the real effect of the passion is redemption from the devil and the bonds of sin in which he had enchained mankind, and, swayed consistently by the authority of Augustine, accepted the theory of the deception of the devil by God, quoting the famous “mouse-trap” passage. Of the theory of satisfaction he had nothing to say; his only approach to it was the statement that without the cooperation of the penalty paid by Christ the penalty in which the Church binds her penitents would be insufficient.

This being the attitude of the theological text-book which established its authority in the schools, it is not surprising that the permeation of the Anselmic theory was gradual, and that older doctrines still held their own beside it. A century after Peter Lombard, Aquinas presented several parallel views of the purpose of the Incarnation, in which the traditional doctrine of ransom from the devil was included, though without its more grotesque elements of the act of deception and the justice of the devil’s dominion. There was thus no definite dogmatic position upon this point. The Lateran Council, which forms the limit of our period, produced no formula to bind speculation with regard to it. Its statement of the doctrine of the Incarnation merely amplified the clauses of the creeds. The Incarnation was represented as the fulfilment of God’s eternal plan, by which, for the salvation of the world from the sin into which it had fallen, the Son of God, immortal and incapable of suffering as regards His Divinity, assumed human nature and suffered as a mortal man, to rise again in His glorified body, and return from heaven as the judge of mankind at the last day.

Thus the Incarnation is a cardinal fact of Christian belief, the explanation of which was the ultimate cause of the various controversies amid which medieval doctrine assumed a fixed shape. To this all discussion came back in the end, whether it concerned the foreknowledge of God, the origin of evil, or the question most intimately associated with the assumption of manhood by God, the nature of the Trinity. Upon this last subject the Lateran Council declared the existence of the three Persons, with unity of being, substance, and nature. With regard to the third Person, it affirmed the double procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son. Of this little need be said, for the history of the doctrine is of political rather than theological significance. The earliest definite statement of the double procession came from regions of Arian controversy, and was made by the bishops of the Spanish Visigothic kingdom at the council of Toledo in 589. But their incorporation of the Filiogue clause in the text of the Nicene creed represented an orthodox opinion which was a natural consequence of the doctrine of unity of substance, and was intended primarily to avoid all ambiguity of thought which its omission might produce. Subsequently, the hesitation with which the clause was regarded by the orthodox was due, not to any doubt upon the point, but to the question whether it was advisable or necessary to make an addition to the words of the creed. Its gradual acceptance by the councils of the Western Church might have passed unnoticed, had it not been for the attack made upon it by Photius in his encyclical letter to the Eastern patriarchs in 867, in which its admission was placed in the forefront of the heresies attributed to the Latins. From that time, not only its position in the creed, but its doctrinal propriety, came into dispute, and with its introduction into controversy began the irreconcilable division between the West and East which culminated in 1054. The West was forced to make dogmatic assertion of the necessity to orthodoxy of a phrase which the East rejected aS heretical.

As a rider to its confession of faith, however, the Lateran Council of 1215 produced a lengthy statement of the doctrine of the Trinity, arising from opinions contained in the works of Joachim, the celebrated Abbot of Flora in Calabria, who had died thirteen years before. The influence of this remarkable mystic upon the thought of his day was exercised mainly through his prophetic writings, in which he announced the approaching end of the present dispensation and the appearance in the world of that final state to which he gave the name of “the everlasting gospel.” It was not, however, upon this ground that his views were condemned; and, indeed, he and the small congregation of monasteries which he founded were expressly exempted from censure in the second canon of the Lateran Council, as no fault could be found with his personal profession of faith, the obedience with which he had submitted his works to the sanction of the holy see, and the regularity of the religious life led by him and his followers. Nevertheless, his impatience of the rigid system of definition applied by scholastic theology to the mysteries which occupied his fervent brain had led to an attack upon the doctrine of the Trinity enunciated by Peter Lombard in the Sentences. The distinction between the unity of the Godhead and the separate properties of the three Persons appeared to Joachim to convert the Trinity into a quaternity, composed of the three Persons, begetting, begotten, and proceeding, and the common substance of which none of these qualities could be predicated. The refutation by the council of this strange attempt to fasten the stigma of heresy upon a book of unimpeachable orthodoxy, which had devoted a long series of chapters to the proof of the consubstantiality of the three Persons, was singularly elaborate, with its citation of passages from Scripture and its appeal to the analogy of the union of many earthly members in a single Church. The fame of Joachim, however, gave a passing importance to his scruples with regard to the use of terms in the theological manual which had become the text-book of the schools, and the prevalence of heresies which set at naught, not only received doctrines, but the efficacy of the whole ecclesiastical system, demanded the vindication of its formulas from all suspicion of unsound teaching.


The final paragraphs of the Lateran confession, following its definition of the Triune Godhead and its statement of the plan of salvation and its fulfilment in Christ, are devoted to the visible Church and the means of grace which it affords to the faithful. There is no enumeration of sacraments, and of two, Confirmation and Unction, no mention is made. Holy Order is touched upon only in so far as it is a necessary condition to the celebrant of the Eucharist, and Marriage only in a brief clause intended to protect its sanctity against the assertions of sectaries who assailed it. The chief emphasis of this part of the canon is laid upon the Holy Eucharist as the central function of the life of the Church, and the paragraph in which this is treated is followed by the declaration of the Church’s belief with regard to the two other sacraments essential to the spiritual life of every Christian—Baptism, in which the stain of original sin is washed away and he is brought into membership with the Church, and Penance, by which post-baptismal sin is cleansed and the privileges which it forfeits are restored.

The ecclesiastical doctrine of the sacraments assumed a fixed form with the development of scholastic theology. Until that period the use of the term sacrament, though tending to be confined to certain special rites, was somewhat loose. Augustine’s definition of the word, sacrae rei signum, could be and was constantly applied to any religious symbol, whether act or concrete object. All doctrine, in the words of the same authority, is concerned either with things or with signs; and, where the mystical temperament was strong, analogies between visible tokens and unseen realities could be discovered indefinitely. But, while there was no strict limitation of its employment, the word acquired a special significance in connexion with those mysteries which were the outward signs of the believer’s fellowship with the Church and his union with its Head. Enumerations of these, where they were attempted, differed; but from an early date Baptism and the Eucharist stood out prominently as the two sacraments of the gospel necessary to salvation. To Gregory the Great they had this preeminence over the multitude of lesser ritual observances which could be described as sacraments. A special importance was also attached to the consecration of the holy chrism, from which was derived the ultimate conception of Confirmation and the Unction of the sick as distinct sacraments. As long, however, as the purely general use of the term prevailed, individual writers were at perfect liberty to ascribe it to as many or as few rites as they pleased, or to represent the various forms of one rite, such as the profession and consecration of different classes of religious persons, as separate sacraments.

The technical limitation of the sacraments of the Church to seven in number does not appear before the twelfth century, and the first categorical statements of the number are found in the Sentences of the future Alexander III and in the more famous work of Peter Lombard. In the formulation of the scholastic doctrine of the sacraments, however, Peter Lombard was anticipated by Hugh of St Victor, who died in 1141, in his Liber de Sacramentis. The number of seven, which Hugh implied rather than stated, was no doubt, as in so many other cases, influenced by mystical reasons, and chiefly by its association with the gifts of the Holy Ghost; at the same time, the establishment of the number itself depended upon the recognition of the principle that, while every sacrament is a sign of an invisible thing, not every such sign is a sacrament. Sacraments are visible forms of invisible grace; as such, they wear the likeness of the realities of which they are tokens, as the water in Baptism signifies the mystical washing of the soul by the Holy Spirit, and the bread and wine in the Eucharist signify the spiritual food which is there partaken. Further, they actually contain by consecration and convey those realities, or at any rate possess and impart their effect, to the recipient; they are the means by which grace communicates itself directly to the soul, as remedies* against original and actual sin. As means of grace, their institution was deferred until the coming of Christ, which was the begin­ning of the work of grace. Marriage, indeed, existed before that time as a sacrament and as a duty; but it was not until the gospel dispensation that it acquired the essential character of a remedy for sin. The old law had its sacraments, circumcision preceded Baptism. But these were merely promises of salvation, while those of the new law actually give it.

Peter Lombard points to three reasons for the institution of the sacraments. They were intended to encourage our humility and obedience to God, by the reverence with which man is commanded to regard the inanimate instruments used as outward signs of God’s grace. They are for our instruction, because through them man, blinded by sin, learns to recognise the divine things which he cannot see unaided. They are also given for our exercise, so that by their diligent use the soul may be built up and temptation avoided. In Hugh of St Victor we find the triple distinction between their likeness to the thing signified, their significance, and their efficacy. The first is natural, the work of the Creator, the second is the result of their institution, which was referred to Christ, and the third arises from their consecration by the priest. Further, there are two necessary constituent parts of a sacrament. These are defined by Peter Lombard as verba and res, the words by which consecration is effected or the grace of the sacrament is bestowed, and the material which is used. In this con­nexion, we must distinguish between the use of res and its application to the inward reality which the sacrament betokens and veils. The latter is, properly speaking, the res sacramenti, and, as the doctrine became more fully systematised, verba and res were supplanted by the termsf/drma and materia, the form and matter of the sacraments.

These are the principal points of a doctrine whose full implications, together with the multitude of questions which they suggested, were, at the time of the Lateral! Council, still awaiting discussion by the theologians of the thirteenth century. The doctrine was formulated in Paris, the heart of theological teaching in Europe; its contents were still speculative and open to argument in an age distinguished by extreme subtlety of dialectic. Although the seven sacraments were generally accepted, no authoritative pronouncement of their number was made until 1439. While, with regard to certain sacraments, and especially Baptism and the Eucharist, it was easy to define the form and matter, either the form or the matter, or both, of others were more open to discussion. But, while there was room for fluidity of opinion on details and for the debate of numerous problems dependent on or emerging from the main subject, the ground-work of the doctrine of the sacraments was settled in the twelfth century. The task of formulating their theological basis marked no fresh starting-point in the history of ecclesiastical practice or popular belief; it was a necessary outcome of the gradual process by which, as Christianity and, with it, social order advanced, the dispensation of the benefits of the Incarnation of Christ was regarded as vested in theflordained ministry of the Church. The recognition of the special distinction which separated Baptism and the Eucharist from all minor acts that could be considered as having a sacramental character was an obvious consequence of their importance in the life of every Christian, who in the first was restored to the favour of God and by the second was maintained in His grace. The same universal application belonged to the two sacraments of chrism, the one with its renewal of grace to the child who took upon himself the responsibility of the vows made for him in Baptism, the other with its means of defence against the temptations that assailed the death­bed of the Christian. The admission of Marriage to the number of the sacraments gave specially needed sanctity to a bond upon whose maintenance the orderly character of Christian society depended. The requisite of repentance from sin as a condition of the worthy reception of the Eucharist gave significance to Penance as the means by which pardon from actual sin was secured. Finally, the general invalidity of the sacraments, unless dispensed by a ministry consecrated for their exercise, emphasised the peculiar gifts bestowed upon a special class by the rites of ordination, and set apart Holy Order from those acts of consecration to certain offices and conditions of life to which some writers, chiefly those who saw in the spread of monasticism the most fertile method of filling up the number of the elect, were inclined to ascribe sacramental virtue.


The most original feature of the statement of faith issued by the Fourth Lateran Council was its definition of the doctrine of the Holy Eucharist. With the idea of the Catholic Church, the body of the faithful, membership of which is essential to salvation, was closely united the idea of the eternal priesthood of its Founder and Head, whose sacrifice of Himself upon the Cross was commemorated and its redeeming merits imparted in the continually repeated celebration of that sacred feast which He instituted on the eve of His passion. Here, as in so many other cases, the versatile mind of Augustine had anticipated the chief problems which beset this subject and influenced both of those opposite currents of opinion in whose conflicting course the sacrament of peace and unity became a source of division and warfare. At the root of his thought was the conception of the rite of the Eucharist, the partaking of the elements of bread and wine by the Christian congregation, as the mystery of unity, in which the bread, composed of many grains, and the wine, pressed from clusters of many grapes, were the visible symbols of the unity of the members of the Christian body, who, by the act of partaking, were incorporated in mystical union with their Head. They became the Lord’s bread; His life was diffused through the whole body, which was one in Him. This was the most striking and definite aspect of Augustine’s teaching with regard to the Eucharist. On the othev hand, his conception of the elements of bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ was less consistent and uniform. If in certain passages he assumed their objective identity with the body and blood, and was at one with the clearly expressed statements of St Ambrose that the consecration of the elements by the recital of the words of institution is the act of Christ Himself, by which they are changed into His body and blood, he also used language which implied that faith in the recipient was an antecedent condition to that feeding upon Christ in the sacrament which, connected with our Lord’s words in the sixth chapter of St John’s Gospel, is the safeguard of eternal life to the believer. The sacrament is the outward sign; the elements upon the altar signify the inward virtue of the sacrament, the body and blood which are offered to the faithful partaker. All, worthy and unworthy, partake of the sacrament, and the unworthy run the certain risk which attends the misuse of holy things; but the virtue of the sacrament is confined to the worthy. They alone, fortified by faith, receive the res sacramenti; the rest are partakers merely of the species, for the res sacramenti is life to all who receive it, and cannot involve the privation of spiritual life which is the consequence of unworthy reception. The phrase crede et manducasti, which Augustine summed up the essential conditions in which the virtue of the sacrament is effective, points to his conclusion that, whatever change might take place in the species after consecration, the ultimate test of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist was in the heart of the believer. Further, although the doctrine of an objective change in the elements may be inferred from Augustine, he nowhere defined the exact method of such a change; and, taken into account with his fervent acceptance of the principle “the Spirit quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing,” his literal use of the words body and blood was qualified by the suggestion of a figurative and mystical interpretation.

While, on the one hand, the nature of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist is the question which stands first in the history of the development of Eucharistic dogma, the sacrificial aspect of the sacramental rite was doctrinally of equal importance. Here again the Fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries, while teaching that the Eucharist was a sacrifice, supplied no precise definition of the general statement. It was an offering to God, in which Christ, through His own words, was the true priest and consecrator. If St Ambrose and the nearly contemporary author of the Liber de Sacramentis, in asserting the operation of the Heavenly Word in the consecration of the elements, did not speak of the confectio sacramenti as a sacrifice, this is nevertheless the logical inference from their language; to them the visible officiant was the priest (sacerdos) who offers the sacrifice of the new Law for the people. Augustine, speaking of the pre-Christian sacrifices, defined the sacrifice which was offered as the visible sacrament, the sacred token, of the sacrifice which was invisible. It was offered for sin; its invisible significance was the sacrifice of a broken and contrite heart. He transferred this offering of the heart and will to the sacrifice of the Christian dispensation. Every work which has for its end the abiding relationship of man to God in holy fellowship is true sacrifice. By such works, which are works of mercy exercised with the object of delivering ourselves or our neighbours from misery, the whole fellowship of the redeemed is offered as an universal sacrifice to God by the great High Priest, in union with His offering of Himself in His passion. This is the fact which is celebrated by the faithful in the sacrament of the altar; in the oblation offered there, the Church itself is offered to God. The true Mediator, who, as God, receives the sacrifice, offered Himself in the form of a servant. Thus He is Himself at once priest and oblation. According to His will, the sacrament or sacred sign of His offering is the daily sacrifice of the Church, which, being the body of which He is the Head, thus learns to offer herself through Him.

The ruling thought of these statements is that the Eucharist is a corporate act in which the Church, relying upon the merits of the one sacrifice, presents herself as a living sacrifice to God. It follows that the remembrance of the death and passion which were the consummation of that one sacrifice must be prominently before the minds of the faithful in this connexion. It follows also that the perpetual presentation of the sacrifice on earth is closely allied with the perpetual mediation of the risen Lord in heaven. The act of communion, by which the Christian, receiving the hallowed elements, becomes a partaker of the body and blood of Christ and so unites himself with God, is the consummation of his part in the sacrifice. The idea of sacrifice is thus inseparable from the visible oblations which are the food of the faithful and, offered upon the altar, become by consecration the body and blood of Him who is both priest and sacrifice. If these aspects of the sacrament emerge from the writings of Augustine and his contemporaries without being consistently formulated, more than one of them are summed up in the earliest form in which part of the canon of the Roman mass has come down to us, the quotations which occur in the De Sacramentis, a work probably composed in northern Italy about 400.

"Therefore, mindful of His most glorious passion and of His resurrection from the dead and His ascension into heaven, we offer unto Thee this spotless offering, this holy bread and cup of eternal life; and we pray and beseech Thee to receive this oblation on Thine heavenly altar by the hands of Thine angels, as Thou didst deign to receive the gifts of Thy righteous servant Abel and the sacrifice of our patriarch Abraham and that which the high priest Melchizedek offered unto Thee".

It was in the emphasis which he laid upon the sacrificial character of the Eucharist that Gregory the Great made his contribution to the teaching of the Church on this subject. His observations upon the presence of Christ in the elements amount to little more than an assertion of his belief that the bread and wine in the sacrament are, by an undefined process of conversion, the body and blood of Christ. In one place, indeed, he represents the feeding of the redeemed upon the flesh of Christ as the object of the passion. The reception of His flesh and blood avail to salvation. Here we come to the essential point of Gregory’s teaching. The victim, the daily oblation of Christ’s body and blood, saves the soul from eternal ruin. It renews (reparat) through a mystery the death of the Only-Begotten to ourselves’; although He has risen and by His rising has conquered death, yet, while in Himself He lives immortally and without corruption, He is sacrificed for us again in the mystery of the sacred oblation. This sacrifice for our absolution perpetually imitates His passion.

"What faithful person can doubt that, in the very moment of the offering, the heavens are opened at the voice of the priest, that in that mystery of Jesus Christ the choirs of angels are present, the lowest things are united to the highest, things earthly are joined to things divine, and the visible and invisible become one?"

In his belief in the efficacy of the offering for the living and the dead, and of the application of its benefits to all circumstances in the life of the believer, Gregory prepared the way for much that is characteristic of medieval doctrine on the point. The stress laid upon the perpetual repetition of the oblation as a means of securing eternal life, the extension of its virtue to the dead who cannot partake of it, led naturally to an objective and mechanical theory in which the idea of the sacrifice, the imitation of our Lord’s passion enacted at the altar before the eyes of the faithful, became dissociated from, the idea of the sacrifice as an act of communion in which the whole Church shared. At the same time, while Gregory’s language unquestionably tended to promote this change of view and was guarded by insufficient qualifications which may pass almost unnoticed, he nevertheless coupled with his veneration for the sacrifice on the altar a recognition of the necessity of personal sacrifice on the part of the believer to the full efficacy of the sacrament. Without the faithful heart and good works, the sacrament is incomplete; it must be received, not merely by the mouth of the body, but by the mouth of the heart; and to the evil recipient it brings no profit. Thus, if we can discover in Gregory the beginning of a divergency from the spiritual and subjective view of sacrament and sacrifice inculcated by Augustine, the attitudes of the two Fathers were not contradictory or greatly different. Where Gregory seems to depart from Augustinian tradition, he was moved by the desire to put his case clearly in unambiguous terms, and in so doing concentrated himself upon a single aspect rather than upon the whole subject with the variety of implications arising from it.

Not even in Gregory, however, did the doctrine of the Eucharist go beyond the general statement of certain outstanding principles. The elements after consecration become the body and blood of Christ, at any rate to the faithful partaker. The sacrament is in some sense a sacrifice. It is an offering made by the Church through its Head, the great High Priest; as such, it is united with His passion and His risen life of eternal intercession. It is also in some sense a memorial and an imitation of His passion. But as yet nothing was subjected to strict definition; the construction put upon these conclusions was not uniform, but varied considerably according to the temperament of the individual mind. Nor was there an approach to a connected theory of the Eucharist until a later date, when controversy was aroused and each side examined the grounds of its belief. The tendency of pious opinion to crystallise into dogma in this connexion appears earlier in the East than in the West. The belief in the operation of the Holy Spirit in effecting the change in the elements, which is found in the Eastern liturgies, established a parallel between the mystery of the Eucharist and the Incarnation. The epiclesis of these liturgies, which is found also in some of the early Gallican liturgies, invokes the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the elements. To this the recital of the words of institution is merely preliminary; the change in the elements is effected by the invocation. In the West, on the other hand, this change from an early date had been associated with the words of institution; the invocation which followed those words took, as in the passage already quoted from De Sacramentis, the form of a prayer that the consecrated gifts might be presented at the heavenly altar by the angels, or, as in the form assumed by the canon of the mass in the Sacramentaries of the sixth, and subsequent centuries, by the Angel of God, that is, the Angel of the Covenant. While there is this difference between East and West with regard to the point in the service at which the change takes place, the Eastern theologians also employed more definite language with reference to the change itself. It is metapoiesis, a transmaking analogous to that by which natural food is incorporated in the body and blood of the eater. Further, the parallel with the mystery of the Incarnation and the analogy derived from natural processes suggest that the body and blood of Christ into which the bread and wine are thus transmade are literally His incarnate body and blood.

The Eastern doctrine was strongly influenced by the iconoclastic controversy of the eighth century. The position taken by the iconoclasts and formulated at Constantinople in 754 was that the Eucharist was the only image by which Christ’s incarnation could be represented. To the elements, the image of His body, divinity was imparted by consecration through the descent of the Holy Spirit. In answer to this, orthodox belief, expressed in its clearest form by St John of Damascus, rejected the application of the terms image or figure to the consecrated elements. These were the body and blood of Christ; the terms antitype, image, and figure, which had been used by earlier writers, could apply only to the bread and wine before consecration. The effect of this acknowledgement that the unconsecrated elements were the image of Christ’s body and blood was to give them a special sanctity and invite for them a veneration which marks a further difference between Eastern and Western thought. Under such influences the general tendency of Eastern theology at this period was to assert an objective presence of Christ in the sacrament. While orthodox exposition was devoted mainly to the effect of consecration, the idea of the Eucharist as a sacrifice in which the consecrated bread and wine are offered to God was taken for granted by both parties. To the orthodox it was the bloodless sacrifice, the memorial at once of Christ’s passion and of His whole work as redeemer and mediator.

The position at which the Eastern Church arrived at this period remained fixed with little subsequent variation, and it was in the West that the work of definition, though beginning later and affected little, if at all, by the influence of a Church with which the bond of unity was broken, was carried on. An epoch in the history of the doctrine was marked by the appearance of the treatise De Corpore et Sanguine Domini by Paschasius Radbertus, a monk of Corbie in Neustria. Written about 831 at the request of Warinus, Abbot of the daughter house of Corvey on the Weser, it was revised and presented to Charles the Bald by its author after he had become Abbot of Corbie in 844. Starting from the premise that to the omnipotent will of God nothing is impossible, he laid down the positive statement that, by God’s will, the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist are very flesh and very blood, although they remain in the figure or species of bread and wine, and further that they are the flesh and blood which were born of Mary, suffered on the cross, and rose again the third day from the tomb. Faith is necessary to the perception of the reality under the species, just as faith alone could see that it was God who died on the cross in the form of a servant; the difference between the reality and the outward form is a test of the faith which is unto righteousness. In the visible sacrament Divine virtue works invisibly, sus­taining the worthy partaker, and uniting him with the heavenly Word whose flesh is given for the life of the world.

"If He dwells in us, in order that we, the members of His body, may abide in Him, it is just, because we are in Him, that we should live of Him, and therefore do we feed upon the flesh of the Word and drink His blood".

The important point of Paschasius’ doctrine was his definite assertion of an objective change, wrought at the consecration of the elements by the word of Christ and through the operation of the Holy Spirit. Like the Greek theologians, he pressed the parallel between this mystery and the manifestation of God in the flesh through the same operation. For the nature of the change he had no special or exclusive term. The visible sacrament is made or created (conficitur, efficitur, creatur) the body and blood of Christ, or is transferred (transfertur) into these invisible realities. But the species, the res sensibilis, remains; and the essential question which Paschasius endeavoured to answer was whether the mystic change is wrought in very truth or merely figuratively. The fact that the sacrament is mystical, that no apparent change takes place, makes it impossible to deny that it is in one sense a figure of the truth. But it is at one and the same time a figure and the truth itself, a figure as regards the impression of the outward senses, the truth as regards the understanding and belief of the inward heart.

In affirming the necessity of a lively faith as the essential cdhdition of worthy communion, Paschasius safeguarded his teaching against a merely carnal or mechanical interpretation. The sacrament indeed is received by all, and by some ignorantly or unworthily. But it is the believer alone who partakes of its truth, the virtue of the sacrament; the unfaithful recipient, not discerning the Lord’s body, receives judgment to himself. The spiritual nature of the feast is strongly emphasised; the flesh and blood of Christ are not converted into our body and blood, but raise us above fleshly things and make us spiritual beings. They nourish that which is born in us of God, not that which is born of flesh and blood. Thus, while Christ Himself is present beneath the species of bread and wine, the operation of the sacrament is wholly transcendent and spiritual; the gift of eternal life promised to those who feed upon the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood is restricted to the worthy partaker. In one place Paschasius adds stress to this doctrine by enlarging upon the fatal presumption of the unworthy who dare, like Judas at the Last Supper, to violate the holy mysteries. They do not understand that the flesh of Christ is never rightly received, unless from His own hand and from the heavenly altar where He, the High Priest of good things to come, is present on behalf of all men. This is proved by reference to the epiclesis at the beginning of the offering of the consecrated gifts, where they are committed to the Angel of God for presentation on high.

Here we meet the doctrine of the Eucharistic sacrifice. The gifts hallowed on the earthly altar by the ministry of the priest are presented through a mystical transference by Christ Himself at the heavenly altar, where He pleads continually for the sins of the world. The sacrifice of His death has been offered once, but its effects are eternal. Man still sins daily through his mortal infirmity, but a means of reparation is provided by the mystical daily sacrifice; by the mystery of His body and blood, the continual memorial of His passion, He who by dying once conquered death never ceases the work of releasing man from his constant transgressions.

"Not only did He wash us from our sins in His own blood, when He gave His blood, upon the cross for us, or when each one of us was washed in the mystery of His most holy passion and by the baptism of water; but every day He takes away the sins of the world, and washes us daily from our sins in His blood, when the memory of His blessed passion is repeated at the altar, when the creatures of bread and wine are translated into the sacrament of His body and blood by the ineffable sanctification of the Spirit".

Although there was no ambiguity in the form which Paschasius gave to his spiritual conception of the virtue of the sacrament, his identification of the consecrated bread and wine with the incarnate body and blood of Christ was a hard saying which provoked controversy. Rabanus Maurus, while asserting that the real body and blood of Christ are received in the sacrament, condemned Paschasius' explicit definition by raising the objection that the incarnate body in its glorified state could not be thus received. Thus the reality of the body and blood must imply their presence in some special state dependent upon consecration, in which their virtue is conveyed to the believer. Charles the Bald, on reading the work of Paschasius, felt some doubt about it and committed it for examination to Ratramnus, a monk of Corbie, who reported upon the opinions of his abbot in a carefully argued tract De Corpore et Sanguine Domini, without personal reference to Paschasius. His actual conclusions are somewhat obscure, and elaborate pains have been taken to shew that they are actually in harmony with those of Paschasius; but the use made of the book at a much later date by convinced opponents of the doctrine of trausubstantiation is against the complete validity of this view. At any rate, in his discussion of the distinction between figura and veritas, on which his whole argument turns, he leaned strongly to the figurative interpretation of the sacrament as an image or mystery of the body and blood of Christ, and his acknowledgement of an objective presence as the result of consecration is at least doubtful, although it is not definitely rejected. His work is shorter than that of Paschasius and is free from any employment of pious anecdote such as Paschasius used to illustrate his case. It discusses two questions, whether the body and blood of Christ received in the sacrament are merely a figure or actually His true body and blood, and whether that which is received is identical with His incarnate body.

To the first question he answers in terms which are generally in accordance with the language of Paschasius. The sacrament is a mystery, the meaning of which implies the necessity of a significant figure. Although a change takes place at the words of consecration, it is not a visible change; the figure of Christ’s body and blood, the visible species, remains. The change is spiritual; as in baptism, the senses perceive one thing, and faith receives another. The operation of faith is promoted by the visible figure, for, if only the true body and blood remained after consecration, there would be no need of faith. Bodily, then, the elements are bread and wine; spiritually they are the mysteries of the body and blood of Christ which are received by believers. It is the working of the Spirit w'hich gives them their life-giving power, and without which they would be of no avail to feed the soul. Further, the distinction between figura and veritas, or the equivalent distinction between sacramentum and res sacramenti, is not mutually exclusive. The sacrament is given the name of the res sacramenti, the body and blood, because it bears a likeness to it; it is called by the name of the truth of which it is a figure. So far in detail Ratramnus shows a strong inclination to stress the permanence of the figure. When, by Christ’s command, we use the terms body and blood, we mean that elements made of the fruits of the earth are sanctified and become a sacrament by the invisible operation of the Spirit. The result is a transposition, by which the Word of God, the living bread existing invisibly in the sacrament, recreates the souls of the faithful. Therefore the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament are figures according to the visible species but, with reference to the invisible substance, which is the power of the Divine Word, they are truly the body and blood of Christ. The visible species feeds the body, but the virtue of the sacrament feeds and sanctifies the soul. Thus, in spite of his repugnance to an unqualified use of the term veritas, so as to induce the idea that the figure of the truth is superseded, he arrives practically at the same conclusion as Paschasius. Similarly, his references to the sacrament as a sacrifice show no striking difference of view. It is the daily commemoration of the passion; what Christ did once, He now celebrates daily. On the other hand, the sacrifice is treated without detailed exposition, and the thought which is brought out prominently is not its effectual operation for the sins of the world, but the example which this memorial affords to the faithful of their duty to be partakers in the sufferings of Christ.

The discussion of the second point is fortified by frequent references to Ambrose and other Fathers. The antithesis between figura and veritas, which had been reconciled in the previous conclusion, is renewed when the presence of Christ’s incarnate body is in question. In the sacramental bread there is a life unapparent to the bodily eye, but seen by faith. The flesh in which Christ died and was buried was not a mystery, but a natural verity. On the other hand, the flesh which now contains its likeness in a mystery is not flesh in species, but sacramentally. The bread is the body of Christ and the wine His blood, but not in a corporal sense. The sense in which the phrase must be understood is spiritual; the body which is said to be the mystery of God is spiritual, and therefore neither visible nor palpable. Now, the body which Christ took of Mary remained visible and palpable, and in its glorified state the body of the risen Lord is incorruptible, eternal, impassible. On the other hand, the species in the sacrament, which is all we can see, is corruptible, temporary, subject to material change. It is obvious that the species is not the body and blood; how then, in face of its corruptibility, can we speak of veritas rei, which implies the actual manifestation of the incarnate and glorified body? What we see is not ipsa res, but imago rei, a pledge of eternal life and a sacramental image, both of which must disappear when the veritas rei is manifest. Therefore in the sacrament the truth is present only in a mental and spiritual sense. When we speak of the presence of the body of Christ, we mean that the Spirit of Christ, the power of the Divine Word, is present in the mystery of the sacrament, not only feeding the soul, but cleansing it. The summing up of the argument is that the bread and the cup are a figure, because they are a mystery. The mystical body differs from the actual body, in which there is no figure or signification, but the thing itself is evident. Moreover, the body is mystical and spiritual in the sense in which the bread is a figure of the Church, the whole body of the faithful. Finally, the sacrament is the figure or memorial of the Lord’s death, so that, being made mindful of His passion, we may be made partakers of the divine gift. When we come to the actual vision of Christ, we shall no longer need these similitudes or instruments.

It would be a mistake to interpret Ratramnus’ work as an attack upon the doctrine of his abbot. Its object was, however, to clear away the possibility of a loose employment of terms which might lead to a material conception of the sacrament and a confusion between the visible outward form and the hidden reality. Already the stories with which Paschasius had garnished his treatise, to say nothing of earlier reports of marvels, gave some excuse for insistence upon the spiritual nature of the mystery. But, while Ratramnus found some followers, and his doctrine was echoed in England more than a century later by the homilist Aelfric, he failed to dislodge the theory which had been enunciated by Paschasius with less precision, but with more display of fervent emotion. His authorship of the treatise was forgotten, and in the eleventh century it appears to have been assigned to Johannes Scotus Eriugena. Scotus at all events was the authority appealed to by Berengar of Tours in the controversy which, beginning about 1045, lasted for some thirty-five years; and the book of Scotus which was publicly burned at Vercelli in 1050 wras probably the treatise of Ratramnus.

Berengar, archdeacon of Tours, had studied in the cathedral school of Chartres under Fulbert, whose views upon the mystical nature of the gift in the sacrament may have had some influence in directing his line of thought. Holding his archdeaconry with the office of scholasticus at Tours, his teaching upon the Eucharist, in or shortly after 1045, acquired some notoriety and provoked expostulations from Hugh, Bishop of Langres, and Adelman, the scholasticus of Liege, some three or four years later. These private representations seem to have encouraged him to a public profession of his doctrine in a letter to Lanfranc, then at the height of his reputation as a teacher of theology at Bec. Berengar may have chosen his correspondent with the desire to pit the learning of the secular cathedral schools against monastic scholarship. The letter was at any rate a challenge to Lanfranc to explain his support of the doctrine of Paschasius and his rejection of that of “Scotus” as heretical. Berengar’s own view was strongly on the opposite side; if the opinions of Scotus were heresy, then the Fathers on whose statements they were founded—incidentally, those whom Ratramnus had quoted in support of his thesis—were heretics. Lanfranc made no immediate reply, but took steps to clear himself of any suspicion of unorthodox teaching at Rome. At the synod there in 1050 Berengar was excommunicated. He met with hard treatment, for, when summoned to defend his opinions at Vercelli later in the year, he was imprisoned by royal order, and, being thus prevented from appearing, his judgment went by default. The synod condemned the view that the sacrament was a figure or pledge of Christ’s body and blood, and the book attributed to Scotus from which this was derived was burned. The condemnation was repeated at a synod held shortly afterwards in Paris under the presidency of the French king, whose conduct to Berengar seems to have been influenced by unwillingness to allow him to answer for his heresy before a synod held outside the realm, although in a monastery of which the king himself was lord and patron. He is said also to have appeared at a council held at Brionnc by William of Normandy, which was equally adverse to him. At Tours, however, in 1054, he made a solemn profession on oath before the legate Hildebrand, in which he denied the charge of holding that the consecrated bread of the altar was merely bread, and stated that the elements after consecration became the real body and blood of our Lord.

This, however, did not wholly solve the difficulty, for the charge was put in a crude form, which could easily be denied by a convinced supporter of the spiritual view of the mystery advocated by Ratramnus, while the assent demanded was not incompatible with that theory. Berengar’s teaching after 1054 laid itself open to renewed objection, and, at a synod held in 1059 at Rome under Nicholas II, a profession of belief was apparently forced upon him by the Burgundian cardinal Humbert, in which the doctrine of the Eucharist was stated, in a frankly material form.

"I Berengar, an unworthy deacon of the church of St Maurice of Angers, recognising the true, catholic, and apostolic faith, anathematise all heresy, and chiefly that of which I have hitherto been defamed, namely that which endeavours to establish that the bread and wine which are set upon the altar are after the consecration only the sacrament, and not the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that they cannot be handled by the hands of the priests, or broken, or crushed by the teeth of the faithful with the senses (sensualiter) but only in a sacramental manner (in solo sacramento). And I assent to the holy Roman church and the apostolic see, and with my mouth and heart profess that, with regard to the sacrament of the Lord’s table, I hold the same faith which the lord and venerable Pope Nicholas and this holy synod, by evangelic and apostolic authority, have delivered to be held, and have confirmed to me: to wit, that the bread and wine which are set upon the altar are after consecration not only the sacrament, but also the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that with the senses, not only sacramentally but in very truth, these are handled by the hands of the priests, are broken, and are crushed by the teeth of the faithful."

This statement, was confirmed by Berengar’s oath and declaration of anathema against contrary opinions. He also burned his writings and acknowledged that any return to another form of teaching would expose him to canonical penalties.

On returning to France, Berengar appears to have disregarded the binding power of an oath taken under compulsion, to have complained of his treatment at Rome, and to have reasserted his old heresies. In or after 1063, Lanfranc entered the lists against him with a book De Corpore et Sanguine Domini, in which extracts from a letter of protest and recantation which Berengar had circulated were produced and combated. Lanfranc’s legal training and natural subtlety of intellect made him a dangerous and persuasive adversary; with some scorn for his opponent’s inconsistency, he was also convinced that he himself was arguing upon behalf of the catholic faith against its enemy. His own position and the authority by which it was supported are stated as a preliminary to the arguments with which the treatise concludes.

"We believe therefore that the earthly substances, which are divinely consecrated at the Lord’s table through the priestly mystery, are, by the ineffable, incomprehensible, wondrous operation of heavenly power, converted into the essence of the Lord’s body, while the appearance and certain other qualities of the same realities remain behind, in order that men should be spared the shock of perceiving raw and bloody things, and that believers should receive the fuller rewards of faith. Yet at the same time the same body of the Lord is in heaven at the right hand of the Father, immortal, inviolate, entire, without contamination or injury; so that it may truly be said that we receive the same body that was taken of the Virgin, and yet not the same. The same, as regards its essential being, and the property of its true nature and its virtue; but not the same, if we take into account the species of bread and wine and the other qualities included, in the preceding statement. This is the faith that the Church, which, being spread through the whole world, is called catholic, has held from ancient times and holds today."

It need hardly be pointed out that the question at issue was not one of change in the species of the elements, for both parties were agreed that the species of bread and wine remained after consecration. But the change which Lanfranc asserted was a material change in which the essential being of bread and wine was superseded by that of the Incarnate Word, whole and entire in every particle. On the other hand, while Berengar was careful to explain in his answer to Lanfranc, the book De Coena Domini, that his actual teaching was different from the crude doctrine attributed to him, and that he recognised that the consecration effected a change, he nevertheless held that this change was purely spiritual and did not annihilate the material bread and wine. The controversy was not stilled, and eventually in 1079 Berengar once more came to Rome, and, after protracted discussion of his case, signed a second profession of faith, to the effect that the elements were substantially converted by the mystery of the sacred prayer and the words of Christ into His very flesh and blood, and so were the incarnate body and blood, not figuratively and virtually, but in their own proper nature and true substance. This form of words, less strict than the form of twenty years before, allowed more latitude of construction, and Berengar is said to have accepted it in the first instance with the mental reservation that the phrase “substantially converted” might be taken to imply that in the process of conversion the substance of the elements was retained. In the end his orthodoxy was admitted in accordance with the terms of this form, and the final act in the long dispute was his presentation of an apparently satisfactory statement of his belief at a council held at Bordeaux in 1080, eight years before his death.

The result of the Berengarian controversy was the vindication of the Paschasian doctrine of the Eucharist as the official faith of the Church. The material change in the elements which Paschasius had implied was now specifically stated. To this doctrine, which, difficult and mysterious as it was in detail, was nevertheless definite in its general form, Berengar, like his prototype Ratramnus, could oppose no clear-cut theory. Unwilling to commit himself to the bare theory of the Eucharist as a communion of hallowed bread and wine, the Berengarian might be conceived as holding either that consecration imparted to the elements a spiritual efficacy which they had not possessed before, or that it involved an actual Divine presence which did not displace, but permeated the bread and wine. This second theory owes the name “impanation'” to Witmund of Aversa, a pupil of Lanfranc and one of the most distinguished theologians who attacked Berengar. Witmund also combated theories which upheld a partial presence of Christ in the elements, akin to the later doctrine of eon substantiation, and an entire presence which, in the case of unworthy reception, is reconverted into material bread and wine.

To the casual observer this controversy seems merely an acute renewal, with bitterness of feeling on both sides, of the dispute in which Paschasius and Ratramnus had been amicable protagonists. Both parties, however, on this occasion, were provided with weapons which were not within the reach of the monks of Corbie. The terms of scholastic philosophy and theology, which were hardening into systems with a scientific terminology of their own, gave precision to definitions of belief and enabled distinctions, other than the familiar antithesis between figura and veritas, to be applied to possible modes of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In this connexion there came into being the convenient word which defined the material change expounded by Lanfranc. We have seen that the second profession of belief submitted to Berengar in 1079 referred to this change as a substantial conversion, meaning that it affects the substance beneath the species, the invisible matter clothed in the visible form. Some years earlier, a treatise upon the canon of the mass, attributed to St Peter Damiani, who died in 1071, had employed the word Transubstantiation to signify the character of the change. The substance of the elements is transubstantiated; a new substance, that of the body and the blood, fills its place. The word did not pass at once into general use, nor was it adopted in official language until the promulgation of the Lateran formula in 1215; but its introduction marks a noteworthy epoch in the progressive shaping of doctrine on this point into a compact and permanent form.

The quotation already given from Lanfranc is a concise statement of the orthodox view of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist; and from the time of Lanfranc onwards this view, although lending itself to some variety of expression and to expansion in certain directions, remained as a stable element of Eucharistic doctrine. The services of Lanfranc to this side of medieval theology were less remarkable, from the point of view of constructive imagination, than the contribution of Anselm to the doctrine of the Incarnation; he simply applied clear definition to the theory for which he contended, and in so doing provided a firm foundation for future argument. In both instances, however, the trained legal mind of an Italian scholar brought order into the floating conceptions of Gallic theologians and controversialists and substituted dogma for tentative opinion. The controversy was not finally settled; Abelard, who included opposite pronouncements upon the doctrine in Sic et Non, recognised the permanence of antagonistic theories. The Berengarian heresy, however, was checked for the time being, until, at the close of the Middle Ages, it manifested itself with a strength nurtured by a long period of repose.

The controversy which has been reviewed gave prominence to a special aspect of the Eucharist. Diversity of view upon the nature of the gifts offered necessarily implies some difference of opinion upon the doctrine of the sacrifice and its effects. The disputants, however, did not proceed to discuss this point; and there was no serious discrepancy of thought upon it. To both sides the Eucharist was the memorial of the passion, in which the sacrifice upon the cross was presented before God. In the liturgy common to both the presentation of the gifts at the heavenly altar simultaneously with their consecration upon the earthly altar was explicitly recognised; the question was the nature of the form in which they were given back to be partaken by the faithful. But the general acceptance of the doctrine of the objective substantial presence of Christ had two results which profoundly influenced the medieval conception of the Eucharist. In the first place, it directed the attention primarily to the incarnate body present on the altar as an object of adoration, and loosened, save in minds predisposed to mystical interpretation, the symbolic analogy between the elements and the life of the Church, knit together with its Head by the mystery of unity. Secondly, the idea of the Eucharist as a propitiatory sacrifice for sin, which, if not actually a daily repetition of Christ’s vicarious sacrifice, was a continuation of it, obscured the idea of the oblation of the Church as a living sacrifice to God. The consummation of the sacrifice was shifted from the act of communion, upon the importance of which early writers had insisted, to the act of consecration, from the self-devotion of the believing member of the Church to the visible hallowing of the gifts. The act of communion ceased to be an essential part of the rite, so far as the majority of those who took part in it were concerned. The union of the Church with Christ was effected vicariously by the communion of the officiating priest, in which the faithful participated only on special occasions. The Eucharist thus became a mystical drama enacted before a body of worshippers, who recognised in it, according to their powers, a continual representation of Christ’s saving work, culminating in the moment of consecration, when, beneath the veils of bread and wine, the eternal Priest and Victim manifested Himself for the worship of His people and, without interval of time or change of place, presented Himself at the throne of God as the living offering for their sins.

Thus the real presence of the incarnate Christ, effected by the process of transubstantiation of the elements, formed the centre of the official Eucharistic teaching of the Church. The theologians of the twelfth century, after the Berengarian controversy was over, continued to search for rational explanations of the mystery; but in their acceptance of the main dogma they were generally agreed. Such crude phrases as had been used for the sake of clearness in the profession uttered by Berengar in 1059 needed to be guarded from misunderstanding. If Christ’s body was said to be broken or pressed by the teeth of the faithful, this implied no division of the substance; in its glorified state, His body was incorruptible, immortal, impassible, and, in the sacrament, it was received entire by each partaker. The distinction between the incarnate body before the passion and after the resurrection needed constant emphasis and raised subsidiary questions. Thus Alger of Liege, whose De Sacramentis Corporis et Sanguinis Dominici takes a high place among early twelfth-century treatises on account of the precision of its language and its detailed refutation of heterodox opinions, touches upon the nature of the gift conveyed to the disciples at the Last Supper, before the Passion, and concludes that, just as our Lord manifested Himself in the Transfiguration in a form anticipatory of His glorified state, and after the Resurrection shewed the wounds of His passible body to His followers, so the body and blood which He then gave for meat and drink were by anticipation those with which He rose from the grave and ascended into heaven.

With the doctrine of the entirety of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist was also connected the question whether the body and blood were separate in several species or were concomitant with one another. The obvious answer was that, as Christ was received entire in both, they were necessarily concomitant. The Eucharist was instituted under a double species in order to signify the assumption by Christ of a human body and soul and the liberation of body and soul wrought by Him. Christ therefore is received whole in both species, neither more in both or less in one. At the same time, the operative change does not convert the bread into blood or the wine into flesh; the blood, however, is concomitant with the first, the body with the second, and in both species there is only one sacrament. The important consequence of this theory was the gradual exclusion of the laity from communion in both kinds, which was effected during the twelfth century; the practice of the reservation of the sacrament in one kind for the sick was extended to all ordinary communions apart from that of the officiating priest. Where it was held that Christ was present entire in either kind, the benefit to the communicant was not lessened by the withdrawal of the chalice, while the risk of accidents in the administration of the latter was removed.

The subject of the Eucharist was treated concisely by Peter Lombard in the Sentences, with his customary apparatus of running citations from Augustine and other Fathers, including the most important of those standard passages which were collected by early canonists and were brought together in a more or less consecutive form in the second part of the title De Consecrations in Gratian’s Decretum. The Eucharist, says Peter Lombard, is a source of spiritual refreshment, not merely a token of virtue and grace, but a sacrament in which the fountain and origin of all grace is received. By the words of consecration, which are those of the Heavenly Word, a conversion takes place of bread and wine into the substance of Christ’s body and blood. The species of both remain, and thus the reality of the sacrament, the body and blood of the Lord, is at once signified and contained in the mystery. But the sacrament also signifies, though it does not actually contain, the mystical unity of the faithful. He proceeds to distinguish between sacramental communion, in which good and bad are alike sharers, and the spiritual communion which is the privilege of the good alone: to the good the body of Christ brings salvation, while to the unworthy it is condemnation. The figurative theory is then discussed, with severe criticism of those who measure God’s power by the modes of nature, and the conversion of the elements reasserted at length. This is followed by an enquiry into the mode of this conversion. Formal it cannot be, because the species are unchanged. The substantial theory seems to be the true answer. An objection may be raised to it, that this implies the constant addition of substantial matter to the body of Christ, as it were, a daily incarnation and creation of a new substance. But this is not so. If priests are said to makethe body and blood of Christ, it is because by their ministry the substance of bread is made the body of Christ, and the substance of wine His blood, without addition or increase. Faith refuses to investigate the matter further, but acknowledges the will and power of God. Certain explanations of the change are examined and rejected, the annihilation or resolution into prejacent matter of the substance of bread and wine by substitution of substance, and the hypothesis of impanation. After dealing with the double species and the entirety of Christ in both, and the mingling of water with the wine as a symbol of the people redeemed by the passion, Peter Lombard turns to the question of accident and subject, introducing terms which indicate how far means of discussion had advanced since the days of Paschasius and Ratramnus. What is the subject, the fundamental matter, of the accidents which remain after consecration, the species, their savour and weight? He concludes that they exist without subject, for the only substance which is there is that of the body and the blood, which is unaffected by these accidents. They therefore subsist independently for the purposes of the mysterious rite and to be tasted as an assistance to faith, while the body of Christ, having its own form and nature, is covered by them.

In this passage the formula accidens sine subiecto, which became the orthodox solution of this problem, is put forward tentatively, to be worked out more fully by Aquinas in the next century. The fraction of the bread is treated at some length, with reference to the admissions made by Berengar with regard to the nature of the body consumed. On the other hand, the sacrificial aspect of the sacrament is very briefly dismissed. No reference is made to the heavenly offering. That which is offered and consecrated by the priest is called sacrifice and oblation, because it is the memorial and representation of the true sacrifice and holy immolation made upon the altar of the cross. Christ was sacrificed once; the daily sacrifice is sacramental, a remembrance of what was clone then once and for all. Much more space is given to the final topic, which had long exercised the minds of theologians, the validity of the sacrament when celebrated by unworthy priests. Consecration, it is answered, depends not on the merit of the officiant, but on the word of the Creator; the virtues of a good priest cannot enhance the value of the sanctifying influence of the Spirit, nor can the faults of a bad priest diminish it. Only the heretic or schismatic can affect its validity.

The teaching of the standard theological text-book of the Middle Ages may well conclude this summary of the development of Eucharistic doctrine. By the theologians of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, with their command of a language whose terms for abstract conceptions were being multiplied and stereotyped in the schools, elements of thought which were inherent in Eucharistic literature from the early days of the Christian Church were harmonised into a compact doctrine. In the Lateran confession of faith this doctrine was summed up with careful attention to its essential components. In the catholic Church, Christ is both priest and sacrifice, offering and offered in its central rite, the sacrament of the altar. In this His body and blood are truly present, by a process of transubstantiation divinely effected, so that the mystery of unity between Head and members may be duly accomplished, and that God may give back to man that flesh and blood which He took from him and glorified by raising it to the clouds at God’s right hand.


The whole stress of the clauses of the Lateran canon which deal with the sacraments was laid upon the Eucharist. In this rite the Head of the Church is both sacrifice and priest, and here the unity of the Church is shown forth. It is added that for its celebration is necessary the ministry of a priest who has received the apostolic commission in due form. The sacrament of Holy Order is thus alluded to, so far as it concerns the all-important matter of the Church’s central ceremony. Beside this, Baptism is secondary. As Peter Lombard had pointed out, Baptism, although its effect was to renew the heart and justify the sinner, nevertheless was of no more effect than its predecessor circumcision in opening the kingdom of heaven to the believer; that was the result of the sacrifice of Christ alone, and the efficient means whereby that result was ensured were the sacrament of His body and blood. The traditional doctrine of Baptism was so well known and universally received that there was little occasion for Innocent III to refer to the part of the sacrament in the scheme of salvation. He made the simple statement that it was profitable to salva­tion, without dwelling upon its power to remove sin; but the words of the canon were directed mainly to the points which constitute the validity of the rite. In view of the stirrings of heresies, with rites of initiation which deviated from the orthodox model, it was important to affirm the fixed rule of the Church with regard to the matter and form of the sacrament. Two points were also laid down. Baptism is open to infants and adults alike, and the ceremony may be performed by anyone, provided that the essentials prescribed by the Church are duly observed.

These are points intimately connected with the indispensable character of the sacrament as a preliminary to the Christian life; it was necessary that all men should receive it, and the need for its reception in individual cases was so pressing that its dispensation could not be confined to the hands of a limited class, or even to those whose personal orthodoxy was beyond doubt, although normally its proper dispensers were the ordained ministers of the Church. But to these clauses was added another which dealt with the question of actual sin committed after baptism. The sacrament provides the remedy for original sin, but for subsequent lapses a further remedy is needed. As we shall see, another canon of the Lateran Council was especially concerned with this remedy; in the general confession of faith it is simply said that post-baptismal sin can be removed by vera poenitentia. The ambiguity of the word poenitentia, which is equally applicable to repentance and to the technical term penance, makes this statement by itself seem extremely vague, and, apart from the fact that the existence of a remedy for sin implies its sacramental character, the clause contains no more than a hint that the sacrament of penance is implied.

The history of the penitential system of the Church exhibits a development in doctrine and practice of which the Council of 1215 was actually the climax. The theory which traced the institution of the sacraments to Christ Himself relied upon the power of binding and loosing given to the apostles as the origin of the sacrament of penance; but the revelation of the transmission of this power from the apostles to the whole priesthood of the Church was long in coming. In the early Church the act of penance for sins committed after baptism had a purely judicial significance. Public confession of sin was followed by a long and severe course of penance, extending over a considerable period. The act of reconciliation by which the penitent was restored to communion was his formal readmission to the privileges of the Church from which he had been excluded; it was not an act of absolution from sin. His pardon was left to God. Moreover, such penance was a single solemn act which could not be repeated if he subsequently relapsed into sin. It is obvious that this practice, pos­sible in small and struggling communities to which strictness of discipline was essential, was bound to receive modification with the growth of the Church. In any case, the sins which it affected were of a specially grievous character; it was a remedy for crime which left trifling sins out of account. In process of time, the practical inconvenience of dealing with voluntary confessions in the presence of the whole congregation, aided by the natural repugnance of sinners, especially if they were people of importance in the community, to expose themselves to public humiliation, led to the introduction of private confession. Although this in time entirely superseded the public act, yet public confession of sin still remained the ideal of the Church. Nowhere is this more clear than in the long survival of the practice in those societies whose object was the strict observance of the Christian life; although the solemn and unique confession, incapable of repetition, disappeared, yet public confession, followed by the imposition of penance, continued to form a regular feature of the proceedings of monastic chapters, and, even as late as the twelfth century, was the only method of this kind definitely prescribed in religious houses.

Even with the beginning of private confession, the main idea was still that the penitent desired to make his peace with the Church by less obtrusive means than were implied by the public act. Naturally, penance itself acquired a less openly humiliating form; the performance of good works was an effective equivalent for the self-abasement imposed upon the penitent under the older system. But the theory that confession and penance were a direct method of obtaining God’s forgiveness did not appear at once. While the mind of the Church was so deeply imbued with predestinarian doctrine, even in modified forms, the idea that an act of absolution could convey assurance of pardon to the sinner whose destiny lay hidden in the counsels of God was inadmissible; grace, which lay at the absolute disposal of God, could not be forced by the act of man. For a sure pledge of God’s grace, the mind naturally turned to the Eucharist and its worthy reception. There was the further circumstance that the restoration of communion with the Church, which was the object of confession and penance, lay solely with the bishops; they alone could pronounce the declaration which freed the offender from the Church’s ban. Upon the meaning of the gift of the keys to Peter and the apostles there was more than one construction; but the general practice in this matter indicates the prevalent belief that, in the transmission of the keys from the apostles to the Church, their custody was reserved to the episcopate. It is remarkable that the earliest form of ordination which is known, that in the Hippolytean canons, contains, in the case of priests as well as of bishops, the formula from St John xx. 23, conveying the gift of the Holy Ghost and the power of binding and loosing. But this is merely a local and isolated instance. It was not until the middle of the twelfth century that the words found their way into the ordination of priests according to the Latin ri te, and it is noteworthy that in the False Decretals, which reflect the opinions and practice of the Frankish Church in the ninth century, the power of binding and loosing from the censures of the Church vms treated as an exclusive possession of bishops.

The extension of this episcopal privilege to the priesthood was powerfully affected by that career of missionary enterprise on which the Church embarked under the influence of Gregory the Great. In the work of pushing forward the frontiers of Christendom, individual missionaries were always in contact with converts, from whom confession of sins and signs of repentance were required as preliminaries to baptism. It was in these outposts of the Church’s influence, and especially in the Frankish kingdoms, that the practice of private confession as a binding duty was systematised. The assurance of the Church’s pardon, for which in the circumstances personal resort to the tribunal of the bishop was generally impossible, was delegated almost as a matter of course to priests. As a purely delegated power it long remained; indeed, it may be said to have continued to be such in theory until the imperative formula was inserted in the ordinal for priests. The variety of sins with which priests in this position were confronted demanded some variety of treatment, and missionaries were constrained to seek guidance from their superiors, as Augustine, faced with this difficulty in England, sought the advice of Gregory. With this special object Penitentials were compiled as authoritative guides to confessors, enumerating forms of sin and assessing equivalent penances. Thus, under legal influence and embodying ideas familiar to people living under laws which prescribed fixed penalties in compensation for wrongs committed, penance assumed the character of satisfaction for sin. Its original character of outward humiliation, betokening heart-felt repentance, and of a state of probation by which the sinner qualified for the recovery of lost privileges, was thus exchanged for that of an act of compensation, by which the sinner paid an equivalent for his sin, and received pardon in return. How profoundly the theology of the Church was influenced by its penitential system has been seen already in the discussion of Anselm’s theory of the Incarnation. The satisfaction which, according to that theory, man owes to God for the insult done to His honour is, on an infinitely larger scale, the obligation which the individual sinner incurs in proportion to his guilt.

As the theory of the power of the keys advanced in strength and the authority delegated to the priesthood became everywhere the normal manifestation of its working, the positive conception of absolution from sin as an accompaniment to satisfaction displaced the older idea of reconciliation to the Church as the end of penance. The satisfaction, though it may involve compensation for injury to a fellow-man, is paid to God; its payment demands the assurance of God’s pardon. Accordingly, confession of sin to a priest, made with sincere purpose of amendment and satisfaction, was followed by the pronouncement of absolution. At first, such pronouncement took a declaratory form in which merely the assurance of God’s pardon was contained. Just as, when the value of the prayers of the saints was first recognised, the circuitous method was adopted of asking the Creator to authorise the prayers of His elect creatures, so in this case the Church hesitated to put an indicative formula of forgiveness into the possession of its priesthood. Nor was it actually laid down that the penitent who had received absolution was thereby freed from his sin. On this point the evidence of Gratian is clear. The Decretum was compiled towards the close of the first half of the twelfth century. The first chapter of the distinction De Poenitentia contains a large number of citations, illustrating on the one hand the view that confession is merely a manifestation of repentance, not a means of obtaining pardon, and on the other hand the directly contrary opinion that confession and satisfaction are the avenue to pardon, and that pardon for sin cannot be obtained without them. In his comments, Gratian treats the matter with perfect impartiality. It is an open question, the solution of which he leaves to the judgment of the reader. Both sides are supported by wise and religious men; and a final quotation, which Gratiaii and other canonists referred to the Penitential of Theodore, by an apparent confusion with Theodulf of Orleans, is given to shew that, while God forgives sins which are confessed to Him directly, He also uses the ministration of priests for this purpose.

The same difference of opinion was discussed at length by Peter Lombard, with an attempt at reconciliation. Three elements constitute the sacrament of penance, contrition or compunction of heart, confession with the mouth, and satisfaction in deed. Contrition by itself, manifested to God, is met by God’s forgiveness. But satisfaction is necessary, and for this reason confession to a priest has been instituted; the priest sits as a judge to decide upon the appropriate penalty, and by confession the penitent learns humility and caution. This, however, is not all. It is agreed that the priest possesses the power of the keys. There are two keys, one of which is the key of knowledge and discernment, the other the key of judgment, or of binding and loosing. It is clear that the priest can bind the penitent by imposing satisfaction upon him; but, if God can forgive sin without the aid of the priest, in what does the sacerdotal power of loosing consist? The answer is, that this power lies in the remission of the penalty and the restoration of the penitent to the benefit of the sacraments of the Church. When Christ cleansed the lepers, He told them to shew themselves to the priest; when He restored Lazarus to life, He gave him to the disciples to be loosed from his grave-clothes. The parallel is obvious: the function of the priests of the old law, who certified the bodily cleansing of the lepers, is analogous to that of the priests of the new, who judge of the spiritual cleansing of the sinner. The man justified from sin by contrition of heart must still look to human ministry for complete freedom from the bonds in which he has been held. Thus the exercise of the sacrament of Penance by the Church through confession and absolution is rationalised, and its necessity to the penitent is inferred.

Numerous questions, of course, arose in this connexion. There was, for example, the question of the validity of confession to laymen, which appeared to be sanctioned by the general precept of confession in the epistle of St James. This might cover merely venial sins; but for graver offences the ministry of the priest was necessary, save in extreme cases where no priest might be had. There was, again, some doubt with regard to the power of the keys; for it was patent that to some priests the key of knowledge and discernment was denied, and it might be suspected that the other key may not be given to all alike. We may conclude, however, that all possess it, though not all in a right and worthy manner; and the unworthiness of a priest is no bar to the efficacy of the satisfaction which he enjoins. There was the question of death-bed repentance, when there was no opportunity for the penitent to make satisfaction. There was the obscure problem of the recurrence of forgiven sins, when the penitent relapses into his old sin or one similar to it. Finally, there was the difficulty of distinguishing between the sacrament and the res sacramentis the outward sign of repentance and the inward penitence of heart which accompanies and generally precedes it. But these were academic questions ancillary to the main points of the doctrine. Penance is a sacrament consisting of three parts, for the perfect fulfilment of which the agency of the priest, as the judge appointed bv God, is necessary. From the actual sin and its guilt God, approached by the contrite sinner, absolves; the absolution given by the priest after confession removes the punishment which is due to sin and is atoned for by works of satisfaction which lie at the discretion of the priest.

It remained for a later age to develop the doctrine in a direction which gained for the power of the keys a less qualified authority and claimed for priestly absolution a share in the remission of the guilt as well as the penalty. We have not yet arrived at the distinction between the attrition, or mere sorrow of heart, which precedes the saving work of contrition, or at the complete identification of the contrite sinner’s confession to God with the oral confession made to the priest. But the essentials of the doctrine were fixed, and it is significant that the age of Gratian and Peter Lombard was the period at which the formula bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost and the potentia iudicandi became a normal part of the ordination of priests. Long before the middle of the twelfth century, the sacrament of Penance had become a regular part of the Church’s ministrations. Public confession, except in monasteries, was obsolete; the tribunals of bishops and their delegates dealt with spiritual crimes by regular legal procedure, and the public penances which they enjoined had no sacramental character. The forum internum, in which the priest sat as judge of the sin-laden soul and ordained satisfaction for sin, was completely distinct from the forum externum in which the local ordinary pronounced excommunication upon transgressors or reconciled them to the Church. Nevertheless, the general acknowledgment that sacramental penance was a salutary medicine for the soul, which every Christian could use with advantage, did not yet extend to the recognition of its obligatory character; and a momentous step was taken when, in the twenty-first canon of the Council of 1215, resort to Penance was imposed upon every Christian as a duty.

The canon Omnis utriusque sexus directed that every person who had arrived at years of discretion should make full private confession of his sins to his own priest at least once a year, and endeavour to perform the penance enjoined upon him. Confession was made a necessary preliminary to the reception of the Eucharist, for which Easter was prescribed as the statutory time unless the priest should determine otherwise. Neglect of this order was visited with suspension from entering church for the living, and by denial, of Christian burial to the dead. Stress was laid upon the jurisdiction of the parish priest: if the penitent wished to confess to anyone else, he had to obtain the licence of his own priest; otherwise, no other priest had the ability to bind or loose him. Discretion and caution were enjoined upon the priest himself. He was the skilled physician, pouring oil and wine into the wounds of his patient, diagnosing the disease by diligent enquiry into the sin and its circumstances, and so discovering what remedy to apply. He must be careful to preserve what was afterwards known as the seal of confession, avoiding any word or sign which might betray his penitent; and, if he found it desirable to call in another judgment, his statement of the case must be general without mention of names. To violate this prohibition was to incur deprivation of his priesthood and perpetual penance in a strict monastery.

This order was not altogether revolutionary. Its obvious intention was to regularise existing practice and to bring those who neglected the tribunal of Penance into line with the faithful, while it sought to remove those irregularities to which experience had shown that the sacrament was liable. By making Penance a requisite of communion, it safeguarded the most important of the sacraments from the abuse to which its reception was open in an unruly age. But, by imposing privacy upon priest and penitent alike, and by its insistence upon the control of the sacrament by priests vested with local jurisdiction, it put into the hands of the Church, in her struggle with the temporal power, a weapon of extraordinary effectiveness. The salutary discipline of penance was converted into a compulsory test of fitness for a share in the full privileges of membership of the Church, without which man was debarred from the hope of eternal salvation. Within the narrow area of his jurisdiction, the parish priest became the judge of sin and its penalty, with powers that were of greater ultimate importance than the judgments of temporal courts. The system, it need hardly be said, imposed a burden upon him for which few parish priests in practice were adequate; and, by the reservation of a large number of sins, subjected to scientific distinction, to higher jurisdictions, his power was limited by the superior authority of his diocesan, while this in turn was itself restrained by the supreme authority of the holy see. This, hoover, was a consequence of the establishment of the general principle, and its development belongs to later history. The fact remains that, at the close of the period in which the greatest of the Popes had successfully vindicated the claims of the Church as the guardian of man’s spiritual liberty from feudal dominion, she asserted, by an action in itself perfectly logical, her right to assume complete control of his spiritual life and to withhold the means of grace from those who would not submit to her sacramental discipline.

At this date the scholastic doctrine was still in the making, and Peter Lombard’s theories by no means represent the last word upon the subject; in process of time, indeed, they were held to be erroneous in their recognition of pardon of sin by God as antecedent to priestly absolution. The distinction between the pardon of guilt and the remission of its penalty is not touched in the Lateran canon which made confession to a priest obligatory. Already, however, definitions were being formed which connected the work of the minister with more than the treatment of the penalty for sin by the injunction of satisfaction, and made the full distinction between satisfaction and punishment. In the theory enunciated by Richard of St Victor the view of Penance which eventually became prevalent in the medieval Church was clearly foreshadowed. While God’s forgiveness alone can remove the guilt of sin and deliver the sinner from eternal perdition, there yet remains the temporary punishment of purgatory after death, and for the remission of this the priest cooperates with God. Thus confession, absolution, and the performance of the satisfaction prescribed remit for the sinner the endurance of pains which, though not lasting, were possibly as severe as those of hell. The doctrine of purgatory, in the earlier centuries a pious opinion falteringly expressed with complete uncertainty of the degree of sin which merited punishment in this intermediate state, developed side by side with the doctrine of penance; and the intimate connexion between the two appears in the treatise De Vera et Falsa Poenitentia, a late compilation falsely ascribed to Augustine on which Peter Lombard and his contemporaries placed much reliance. As a matter of fact, Augustine in his genuine writings had said no more than that the opinion that, between death and the final judgment, the soul suffered purgatorial fire, was perhaps true, and it was long before this opinion shewed more than a tendency to crystallise into a general belief. Its progress was aided by the practice of prayers for the dead and its close connexion with the intercessory virtue of the sacrifice of the mass. But, if purgatory was taking its place in the eschatology of the Church, there was no early consensus of opinion either with regard to its certainty or the actual time at which the soul was to be submitted to this trial, whether after death or after the last judgment. Gregory the Great strongly influenced future doctrine by inculcating belief in purgatory as a state into which the soul entered after death; but in his view it was intended as a remedy merely for those small sins which did not merit the punishment of hell, but precluded the sinner from immediate entrance into heaven. It was only, however, with the growth of the sacramental theory of penance that the temporary punishment of purgatory assumed its real importance. Purgatory now, for the sinner who used the way of repentance provided by the Church, whether his sins were mortal or venial, entirely superseded hell, which was no longer to be feared; and over against the pains of purgatory was set the satisfaction which was the final condition of penance.

The whole conception of satisfaction was also modified with the growth of time. The legalism of the Penitentials had strictly assessed the satisfaction in proportion to the gravity of the sin, and the severity of their scale of punishment was hardly less than that of the arduous process through which penitents had to pass to obtain reconciliation in the early centuries of the Church, It was admitted, however, that, if the penitent shewed real progress in his performance of the penance enjoined, the priest had power to remit part of it. The obvious method was, after a certain time, to enjoin the performance of some work of piety in commutation of the remainder of the penance. Such partial remission was in fact an indulgence granted in consideration of good conduct; and, while there was no suggestion that it did anything to remit sin or do more than mitigate severity, the custom opened the way to the introduction of indulgences as a supplementary element in the development of the theory of penance.

Although in theory the strictness of the penalties prescribed by the Penitentials was not relaxed, the character of penance was altered as its injunction became subject to the discretion of the individual confessor. Even in the age which produced the Penitentials, the rigidity of their directions was met by means of commuting or redeeming inconvenient sentences. In place of fasting and other works of expiation, alms were offered to and received by the Church in the person of the priest. Thus in 747 the council of Clovesho condemned this easy way of lessening or transforming satisfaction by a money payment. A century later Hincmar of Rheiras forbade such transactions as simoniacal. In spite of these warnings, the commutation of penance had the effect of relaxing its seriousness. Light penances were reduced to forms which involved little or no trouble to the penitent; for the satisfaction of mortal sins which demanded heavy penalties were substituted pious works which drew upon the sinner’s worldly substance. The impetus which this gave to the foundation of monasteries by powerful laymen, whose lives were inevitably stormy and irregular, is clear; and this movement rose to its height amid the political turbulence of the twelfth century. It is easy to see how expensive benefactions of this kind, undertaken as a substitute for penance, were regarded as bringing about remission of sin. Not only were they amends for the sins of the founders themselves; they were offered also on behalf of the members of their family and the friends who contributed to them, and not only for the remission of the sins of the living, but those of the desal as well. Further, the express object of the life which was led n these foundations was continual intercession for the founders in life and after death, and to the actual founders was added a whole crowd of benefactors who from time to time made offerings at their altars and at the shrines of the saints in whose special honour they were established. The Books of Life preserved upon the high altars of monasteries recorded the names of such benefactors, and, like the surviving books of Durham and Hyde, were augmented as the centuries passed. They bear witness, not to mere disinterested gratitude, though that doubtless played its part, but to the substantial gifts by which the applicant earned his right to become a partaker in the benefits of the prayers and other good works wrought in the house, and was admitted into its fraternity as an honorary associate. At the root of the pious transaction was the desire to obtain forgiveness of sin and remission of the penalty due to it by the easiest means of satisfaction.

In the importance attached to the help afforded by the intercession of others there is involved the admission that satisfaction can be performed by vicarious means. A parallel has been sometimes drawn between the custom of offering single combat in the person of a professional champion retained for the purpose and that of relying upon the prayers of others for the fulfilment of the satisfaction owed by oneself; and the first custom may certainly have had some influence upon the second. In general the performance of penance by substitutes became an admitted practice; just as personal service in warfare was commuted by the equipment of persons in proportion to the responsibilities of the military tenant, so penance redeemed by the obligation to go on a pilgrimage could be satisfied by deputy. The movement of the crusades brought this to a climax. The advantages offered to those who took the cross could be obtained by meeting the expenses of a substitute; and the transition from this to the direct payment of a sum of money for the object of the crusade without further action was an obvious consequence.

The crusades mark an epoch in the history of penance. At the Council of Clermont in 1095, Urban II, in order to stimulate the zeal of the faithful for the first crusade, proclaimed that to all who confessed their sins the journey to the Holy Land should be reckoned as taking the place of all penance. This large grant, the first example of a plenary indulgence on record, assured full pardon of sin and eternal salvation to those who died on the journey. While the principle involved was the familiar idea of commutation of penance, the indefiniteness of the concession and its far-reaching character differentiated it from ordinary grants made to individuals. Before this date, the custom of granting indulgences in the form of remissions of limited periods of penance had emerged out of the practice of such individual relaxations. Bishops and abbots encouraged the faithful to give of their substance to pious objects, such, as the building of churches, by promising them remission for a stated time of the penances enjoined upon them by their priest. It is difficult to trace the exact beginning of this custom, which has been obscured by the citation of spurious instances and by the admission of ordinary examples of remission of penance within the wider sphere of the indulgence. But, while plenary indulgences such as that, of 1095 were entirely exceptional, and in the nature of things could proceed only from the highest ecclesiastical authority, partial indulgences increased in number throughout the twelfth century and became general towards its end. By such grants places of pilgrimage, especially Rome and Compostela, benefited, churches and hospitals swelled their fabric funds, and minor works of a quasi-religious nature, such as bridge-building, profited. The principle of redeeming penance by the payment of money as nominal aims was, in fact, extended to the need of money for pious objects, to be collected from the faithful by the sale of assurances of spiritual compensation.

The full theory of the resources which were drawn upon for these grants was not formulated until the thirteenth century; but Urban II's plenary grant was prefaced by the statement that it was made with full trust in the mercy of God and of the apostles Peter and Paul. Belief in the communion of saints and in a common fund made up of their merits, which could be transferred to supply the defects of contrite sinners, influenced the contributions to religious foundations which, as we have seen, were repaid by the prayers of the communities so endowed. The doctrine of the illimitable treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints, however, which produced such an effect upon the grant of indulgences as time went on, that their wide and unqualified assurances put confession and penance altogether in the shade, was not yet understood, though it existed in embryo. The value of the merits and prayers of the saints to those who invoked their help, and the virtue exercised by their relics were of course matters of common belief; and no one had such an influence upon promoting the veneration due to them as Gregory the Great. But it was not for centuries after his day that their merits were explicitly recognised as a vast capital sum which could be used to any extent by constituted authority for the removal of sin and the remission of the pains of purgatory. As this doctrine advanced, the indulgence, still regarded theoretically as an equivalent for the penance enjoined by the confessor, assumed the character of a means of liberation from sin as well as from its penalty, and the satisfaction which atoned for that penalty was superseded, at any rate in popular thought, by release from the penalty itself.

Thus the indulgence was capable of a construction which weakened the effect of the sacrament of Penance. Confession of sin and absolution were in fact reduced to a formality which qualified at best for the receipt of an indulgence; and indulgences, freely put on sale in the hands of licensed traders, became a formidable bar to the proper working of the penitential system of the Church. The Lateran Council, in its insistence upon the duty of confession and penance, foresaw the danger of the unlimited grant of indulgences, and, in two of its canons, the sixtieth and the sixty-second, attempted to put it under restriction. The first of these condemned the encroachments of abbots upon the episcopal authority, and mentioned their injunction of public penances and their grants of letters of indulgence. These were forbidden in future. The second alluded to the extravagant promises made by itinerant preachers who collected alms for special purposes, and required them to establish their mission by exhibiting letters from the Pope or from the bishop of the diocese, composed in the customary form issued by the apostolic see. The form, which was given in full, enjoined the giving of alms for the special object in remissionem peccatorum, so that by these and other good works, done by the inspiration of God, the giver might attain eternal bliss. While it contained no mention of confession and penance as a preliminary requisite for the benefit to be derived from alms, the phrase in remixsionem peccatorum was purely indefinite, and the question at issue, was the authorised collection of alms, not the sale of indulgences. In fact, the terms of the letter prescribed the limit of the prospect of profit which such preachers should hold out to their hearers. But the canon, while authorising the grant of such letters by the diocesan, went on to censure the “indiscreet and superfluous indulgences which some prelates of churches are not afraid to grant, whereby the keys of the Church are made contemptible and the satisfaction of penance is deprived of its force.” Henceforward indulgences granted at the dedication of a church, whether one or more bishops were present, were not to be granted for a longer period than a year, and those at the anniversary of the dedication for not more than forty days. Such indulgences were explicitly qualified as remissions of penances enjoined. The effect of this decree was to restrain indulgences from taking a direction in which they would become a substitute for penance, whether in the incautious utterances of irresponsible mendicants or in the excessive liberality of prelates. The allusion to the multiplication of indulgences, when several prelates took part in a ceremony, is noticeable. A further safeguard against the reckless granting of indulgences was provided by the prescription of the observation of the example furnished by the holy see. The beggars’ letters were to follow the form employed in the papal chancery. The customary forty days' indulgence was ordered as the period to which the Pope usually limited his own grants. Nevertheless, the anxiety of Innocent III to check indulgences in the interests of penance did not bind his successors. In the emphasis which the twenty-first canon of the Council laid upon the sacrament of Penance he had asserted the claims of the Church over the souls of all its members; it is not too much to say that the enforcement of penance upon the faithful was the consummation of the policy with which he had consistently upheld the supremacy of the Church in human affairs. In the development of the system of indulgences he rightly recognised a force which weakened the hold of the Church upon the individual conscience. But, in putting them under papal control with the best intentions, he hardly foresaw the extent to which the holy see would turn them to profit in the future and so defeat his own ends.


In tracing these aspects of the progress of Christian doctrine, we see that their development passed almost, uniformly through the same stages. The period overruled by the ardent imagination of Augustine, open to the most diverse impressions and providing a bewildering variety of suggestions, supplied the framework for later thought. Here the medieval conception of the Church found its origin, and the most characteristic of its doctrines were foreshadowed or casually anticipated. The far different intellect of Gregory the Great, working upon the heritage of Augustine without conspicuous originality, but with the clarity necessary to one who is primarily an expositor, prepared the way for dogmatic statement of doctrine; in this respect, and especially in the definiteness with which he elaborated the relation between man and the supernatural world, his influence was hardly less important than in the administrative sphere. It was not, however, in Rome that further progress was to take place. The centre of activity in religious thought was shifted to the Carolingian kingdom, the seat of those controversies in which fluid opinion was hardened into fixed form. To this transitional period succeeded the growth of scholasticism. While the influence of Anselm, and in a less degree of Lanfranc, legally minded Italians, made contributions of high significance to the beginnings of scholastic theology, its foundation lay in the schools of Paris. Here argument was applied to give a rational basis to the mysteries of the faith, and isolated dogmas were moulded into systematic form. With the Lateran Council we leave this work uncompleted. The reign of Innocent III saw the rise of the Dominican and Franciscan orders, whose doctors were to produce the highest achievements of scholastic reasoning. The work of crystallisation of doctrine, however, was fully in progress, and the twelfth century was the epoch to which medieval dogma owed its consistency and its characteristic shape.

One point remains to be noticed. The final clause of the first canon of the Lateran Council, at first sight a somewhat irrelevant postscript, asserted the possibility of salvation for married persons. The object of inserting this clause in a confession of faith was to safeguard the sacrament of Marriage against the attacks of heretics who regarded it as a mere licence for the satisfaction of carnal desires. The various shapes which were taken by contemporary heresy do not belong to our subject; but the need for authoritative declarations upon essential matters of faith was urged by periodical outbreaks of Catharism and by the stubbornness of the Albigensian movement, which had been condemned by the Lateran Council of 1179 and was now the object of a crusade for which plenary indulgences were offered. To such departures from the faith, involving the rejection of the means of grace offered by the Church, or substituting for the sacraments rites of initiation and spiritual communion derived from infidel sources, the council gave no quarter. We have seen how its second canon condemned the opinion of Joachim of Flora on a matter which affected the orthodoxy of an accredited exposition of the Church’s doctrine of the Trinity. Another clause of the same canon condemned the heresies of Amaury of Bene, who taught a form of pantheism under which the Christian revelation was merely a detail in a uniform Divine scheme, and a doctrine of the progressive manifestation of the Trinity through three successive periods. The inclusion of Amaury with Joachim of Flora was possibly due to the superficial resemblance of this latter opinion to Joachim’s prophetic assertion of the three states of the world which preceded the imminent advent of the everlasting gospel. The third canon dealt comprehensively and at great length with all heretics, pronouncing anathema and excommunication against them, delivering them over for punishment to the secular power, and declaring secular lords who favoured them to be deprived ipso facto of their estates. The centre of the system of belief to which the council gave its assent was the unity of the visible Church and the impossibility of salvation outside its boundaries, and to its positive proclamation of the essentials of dogma the condemnation, with the severest penalties, of all who wilfully departed from that unity and impugned its symbols was an inevitable corollary.