Let us now turn to the third question, which is, of course, our principal subject. Did the early Church recognise in the Roman bishop, for the time being, a Supreme Pontiff, in a sense substantially of the Vatican decrees?  One might go back to a prior question - Did she believe that St. Peter himself had any supremacy, as distinct from eminence or leadership, among his fellow-apostles, or any universal jurisdiction beyond what they possessed, so that, for instance, he could issue commands to St. Paul, or exact from St. John an account of his ministry? But, by way of simplifying, let us inquire into the evidence alleged for an acknowledgment, during the early centuries, of a Papal supremacy in the sense already defined. And once for all, let the ambiguous term "primacy" be put out of court. It has all too often been used, on the Roman side, as a disguise for something that
far outruns its scope. As a highly elastic word, capable of meaning comparatively little or absolutely very much, it has repeatedly obscured the true issue, and allured an opponent into admission of which he did not at the moment perceive the real bearing. 
Here, then, is the point: Did the Primitive Church look up to and obey the bishop of Rome as a veritable Pope, and that by virtue of Divine rights inherited from St. Peter?
 It is understood on both sides that the wording of the Roman dogma is modern; the question is, whether the powers represented by it were anciently acknowledged or not.
 "Primacy may signify primacy in place or primacy in time; and again, primacy in place may mean primacy of power or primacy of honour; and still again, primacy of power may mean fifty different thing, according as the degree of power is greater or less" (Christian Remembrancer, April 1853, p. 389). The Roman Church's "precedence of honour and dignity is a matter about which there has not been, and need not be, any dispute" (Salmon, Infallibility, etc., p. 373).
(I.) THE EPISTLE OF ST. CLEMENT OF ROME.
The first piece of evidence before us would suggest a different form for the question. Did the early Roman bishops claim such a position for themselves as the Vatican decree affirms to have been theirs from the outset? The letter of remonstrance, in the name of the
Church of Rome, to the Church of Corinth, on the occasion of a factious movement against certain Corinthian presbyters, is accurately described by a later Corinthian bishop as "written by the agency of Clement,"  and hence it is freely called "Clement's epistle." Now, the tenor of this document shows that no exercise of jurisdiction by Rome over Corinth is so much as thought of. It is moral pressure  on the part of a great and influential Church, brought to bear on an inferior Church with a view of correcting disorders which menace the general interest of Christian unity, and the general maintenace of the Christian moral standard. And, if the Roman Church,
as such, is not commanding but exhorting the Corinthian, if she speaks as a sister, not as a mistress, still less does any undertone of "papal" authority make itself heard. Nothing but the strongest kind of preconception could make so moderate and learned a writer as Duchesne say that in this letter Clement, at the end of the first century, écrit déja comme un pape:  but when an Anglo-Roman advocate tells us that of course the Corinthians would understand "the Vicar of Christ" to be speaking through a letter in which Clement simply suppresses himself,  the assumption is such as to make one marvel at the condition of mind which could think it consistent with argumentative decorum.  It is true, indeed, that, according to St. Cyprian, "the bishop is in the Church, and
the Church in the bishop;" but what has to be proved is, that, according to the belief of Christians at the end of the first century, the "Pope" was in the Roman Church, and the Roman Church in the "Pope." It will not do to assume the existence of such a belief, and then to use it as explanatory of the language under dicussion.
 Dion. Corinth. ap. Euseb. iv. 23. He is writing to bishop Soter of Rome; but he treats both Soter's letter and Clement's as proceeding from the Romans (umwn). Mr. Rivington had quoted Irenaeus' expression about Clement's letter, sumbibazousa autous (the Corinthians), and translated it "forcing them together;" but this has been "corrected" into "bringing them together."
 If in c. 63. the Corinthians are urged to "become obedient to what we have written through the Holy Spirit" (cf. c. 59, "if some should disobey what has been spoken by" God "through us"), the obedience is claimed in virtue of the Scriptural warrant of the expostulation, and the whole plea of the letter is called an "entreaty." See Salmon, Infallibility, etc., p. 179: "Such a letter could clearly not be regarded as an attempt by Rome to domineer over provincial churches;" the Corinthian church authorities "could be grateful for moral support," etc.
 Origines du Culte Chrétien, p. 15.
 Rivington, p. 7. In a later passage we are succinctly informed that "St. Clement's brief was at once obeyed" (p. 132).
 On the papal hypothesis, it would be not "lowliness," but unfaithfulness to a trust, which would make a supreme pontiff thus keep his own name and personality in the background. For it was to him, not to his church, that the spiritual sovereignty, on that supposition, had been committed by our Lord; and it was the part of true charity to enforce a much needed admonition by the full sanction of the supposed Petrine "charter." It must be owned that the modesty which Mr. Rivington imputes to Clement has not been imitated by his later successors, who were at least not personally less "unworthy" than himself.