The case of Paul of Samosata, bishop of Antioch, was a matter of extreme difficulty and anxiety. The prelate of the capital of the East, who also held civil office under the powerful queen of Palmyra, gave scandal not only by the secularity (to say no more) of his conduct, but by the combination of two heresies of the first magnitude - that Jesus was a mere man, and that the Word or Wisdom of God was a mere divine attribute. How was he dealt with? Not by any authoritative pronouncement from the Roman see - then filled, as we have just seen, by one most competent to handle such a


question; but by repeated meetings of a great Eastern Council. At last in 269, Paul's skill in evasion was baffled; he was convicted and deposed; and a circular letter announced the event to the bishops of Rome and Alexandria, and to all other bishops, to priests and deacons, "and to the whole Catholic Church under heaven," without a single word indicating any special obligation to Rome. But as the Council was unable to expel the condemned bishop from "the church house," as Eusebius calls it, of Antioch, application was made to the Emperor Aurelian, who ruled that possession should be awarded to that prelate - whether Paul or his orthodox successor - with whom "the Christian bishops in Italy and in the city of the Romans" should communicate. [1] This imperial test is very significant: the bishops throughout the peninsula are co-ordinated with their Roman brother, and named before him: nay, he himself is not individually referred to; he is but constructively, so to speak, allowed to appear at all. Is this language, whether it be a quotation from Aurelian's rescript or Eusebius own way of representing it, compatible with anything like


Papalism? When Mr. Rivington refers to these "bishops of Italy" as merely "a select number" employed as "the normal organ of papal decisions," [2] in short, "a papal consistory," he simply exhibits his own entire lack of historical perception, his inability to realise the conditions of ancient Church life.

* * *

This Ante-nicene period suggests to Mr. Rivington a plea which might have been expected to come in later, a plea for the validity of the "Popes'" own "witness to their office." Here the "witness" is greatly exaggerated; and at the same time it is forgotten that not only in mediaeval but in earlier times bishops might be truly earnest and self-devoted, and wholly devoid of personal ambition, and yet be unconsciously affected by the temptation to aggrandise their own see, and in so doing to deal in large indiscriminate claims, or to reproduce, in spite of confutation, assertions which had become traditional and had done service. [3] The manifest impossibility of any vulgar gain


might lay them all the more open to this snare of great officials; especially when they were subject to the mysterious influence which the old imperial city, the traditional centre of the spirit of domination, was allowed to exercise over the rulers of its Church. Tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento! It is not an ignoble suspiciousness, nor a controversial animus, which compels us to recognise human nature, with all its strange involutions and subtle combinations, in those who sit upon Church thrones, Roman or other. "Is there no such thing," we may ask, with a great analyst of character, "as evil working under a veil?" [4] Is zeal for a cause a guarantee against all wrongdoing in support of it? After all these ages of sad experience as to the leavening malignity of the corruptio optimi, are we still so simple as to assume that high-minded ecclesiastics are exempt from the tendency to fight for the kingdom not of this world with weapons of the earth, earthy, to stifle scrupulosity as unpractical, to override legitimate opposition by despotism, to dream of serving the All-righteous by injustice, or even,


at last, mentiri pro Deo? If we think thus, we must be lingering in dreamland - must have all too faint a sense of "the imperfections of religious men," [5] of the extent to which the salt may become vapid without entirely losing its savour.

We have seen, in a brief survey of evidence extending, roughly speaking, through the interval between A.D. 100 and A.D. 300, what was the historical position of the Roman Church and bishopric in a period which, if not altogether "golden," was yet comparatively simple in its relations and its requirements. In entering on the fourth century, we confront a condition of Church life at once richer in ascertained facts, and crossed at all points by more intricate complications. It is a time of "wars of the Lord," inasmuch as questions arise and are multiplied which affect the most vital interests of Christian faith and devotion; a time of stir and movement and well-nigh ceaseless agitation, banishing repose, exacting self-sacrifice, trying the pith and inmost force of patience, endurance, and loyalty; a time of brilliant hopes too soon overclouded - of apparent victories for the Kingdom of Christ, too easily neutralised by the


leavening influence of "the world;" a time of difficulty and bewilderment for simple souls that had hoped to walk on a road too plain for stumbling; [6] a time in which the Church needed guidance at once firm and wise and tender, and in which she obtained it through two or three magnificent personalities, pre-eminently through the "royal-hearted Athanase." On the Roman theory, she had throughout this "needful time of trouble" a single unfailing resource - one guide who could not fail as a leader, one teacher "at whose mouth" she could "seek" and be sure to find "the law." Let us see whether this theory fits in with the evidence; whether it comes out of the facts, or has to be forced into them.


[1] Euseb. vii. 30. Not, as Mr. Rivington (p. 123) represents Eusebius's phrase, "the bishops of Italy and the bishop of Rome."

[2] A few pages further, we find this "organ" itself ignored "St. Felix achieved the peace of the Church by deposing the bishop of Antioch" (p. 132). Felix I. sat 269-275.

[3] On the Roman habit or "principle of making the very largest demands ... on the chance of their being allowed," see Church Quart. Review, xii. 183; and Gore, Leo the Great, p. 101.

[4] Mozley, Essays, i. 308. He adds, "A Christian is enlightened, hardened, sharpened, as to evil: he sees it where others do not; ... it rolls itself in its folds, and he uncovers it," etc.

[5] Church, Cathedral and University Sermons, p. 274 ff.

[6] Hooker, E. P. v. 42. II. See the vivid picture in H. S. Holland's On Behalf of Belief, p. 173.