Century IX, Chapter IV


The Case of Gotteschalcus.

THE subject of predestination and grace had been formerly controverted, in the churches of France, with a considerable degree of acuteness and ingenuity, and what is still more pleasing to a christian mind, with seriousness, candor, and charity. We have seen with what zeal the doctrine of divine grace had been defended and illustrated by the. followers of Augustine, and what a salutary influence had attended that doctrine on the knowledge, the spirit, and the lives of christians. It has appeared also, that many, who, partly through an ill grounded fear of pernicious consequences, and partly through a misunderstanding of the nature of the subject, were averse to the sentiments of Augustine, did still sincerely abhor pelagianism, and, with an happy inconsistency, lived humbly dependent on divine grace alone, though they maintained semipelagianism in their sentiments. But, as superstition, idolatry, and ignorance increased, the truly evangelical views of Augustine were more and more thrown into the shade, and the case of Gotteschalcus showed, that it was now no longer permitted to a divine to promulge the sentiments of the bishop of Hippo with impunity.

Gotteschalcus was born in Germany: from early life he had been a monk; and had devoted himself to theological inquiries. He was peculiarly fond of the writings of Augustine, and entered with much zeal into his sentiments.* That he really held the doctrines

• I have extracted the best account of this person which I could, from Fleury and Du Pin, both Roman catholic writers: I have availed myself

of that father, seems evident from the account, which is transmitted to us, though it be but scanty. He expressly owned, that the wicked were condemned for their own demerits: and, if he was charged with making God the author of sin, it is no more than what befel the bishop of Hippo; and Fleury himself owns, that he was misrepresented by his adversaries. The most culpable thing, which I find in him, if indeed a certain confession of faith, ascribed to him, be genuine, is this, that he offered to undergo a trial by fire, on this condition, that if he was preserved unhurt, his doctrine should be allowed to be divine. If he was really guilty of this enthusiastic presumption, the issue of the persecution, which he afterwards underwent, was calculated to humble him, and cause him to learn more practically than he had ever done, the real power of those doctrines, for which he honestly suffered.

About the year 846, he left his monastery, and went into Dalmatia and Pannonia, where he spread the doctrines of Augustine, under a pretence, it was said by his enemies, of preaching the gospel to the infidels. At his return, he remained some time in Lombardy, and in 847, he held a conference with Notingus, bishop of Vienne, concerning predestination. His zeal gave offence to the bishop, who prevailed on Rabanus, the archbishop of Mentz, to undertake the confutation of the novel heresy, as it was now decreed. Rabanus calumniated Gotteschalcus with those monstrous and licentious consequences, with which the doctrines of divine grace have in all ages been aspersed, and from which St. Paul himself was not exempted: and having dressed the sentiments of his adversary in the most odious colours, he found it no hard task, to expose him to infamy. The learned monk undertook to defend himself in writing, and proposed the subject to

also of the remarks of Mosheim: from the writings of the Magdubergensian centuriators, where I might have expected the most equitable and the most just account, I could collect nothing. They handle the subject briefly and confusedly, and join with the enemies of Gotteschalcus in condemning him, without affording their readers any proper materials, on which they might form a judgment for themselves.

the consideration of the most able men of his time; and, against the great credit and authority of his adversary, he opposed the renow ned name of Augustine. But no cause ever appeared with more disadvantage in our times than that of Gotteschalcus. For we have not his treatise, composed against Rabanus; only some fragments of it have been preserved to us, by Hincmar, archbishop of Rheims, who, the reader will soon be convinced, was not a man fit to be trusted with the care of the reputation of Gotteschalcus. In a synod held at Mentz, the latter was condemned; and Rabanus observing that the monk was of the diocese of Soissons, which was subject to the archbishop of Rheims, sent him to Hincmar, calling him a vagabond, and declaring that he had seduced several persons, who were become less careful of their salvation, since they had learned from Gotteschalcus to say, why should I labour for my salvation? If I am predestinated to damnation, I cannot avoid it; and, on the contrary, if I am predestinated to salvation, whatever sins I am guilty of, I shall certainly be saved.* Thus have I in a few words, said he, showed you his doctrine.

Hincmar entered fully into the views of Rabanus; and, in a council of bishops, examined Gotteschalcus, who still maintained his doctrine with firmness. On this account, the monk was condemned as an heretic, degraded from the priesthood, and ordered to be beaten with rods and imprisoned. As nothing however, was proved against him, except his adherence to the sentiments of Augustine, which were still held in estimation in the church, this shows, says Du Pin, that he was an injured man.

And now the presumptuous boasts of Gotteschalcus, if they were his boasts indeed, met with an

• It is evident, that such reasoning as this, might, with equal plausibility, be alleged against the doctrine of the ninth chapter to the Romans. Whoever would see this method of argumentation sifted to the bottom, may consult the admirable analogy of Butler c. vi. part 1. who, though no predestinarian in his sentiments, candidly admits, and, I think, irrefragably proves, the fallacy of the vulgar objections.

humiliating check. For, while he was whipped in the presence of the emperor Charles and the bishops with great severity, and was given to understand that he must cast into the fire with his own hand a writing, in which he had made a collection of scripture texts, in order to prove his opinion, he, at length, overpowered by his sufferings, dropped the book into the flames; after which he was kept close prisoner by Hincmar in a monastery. This method of convincing an heretic of his errors, seems, however, to have been by no means satisfactory to him, who had made use of it. For Hincmar still took pains to persuade Gotteschalcus, to retract his sentiments, but in vain. The injured pastor maintained, with his last breath, the doctrine for which he suffered, and died in prison in the year 870. *

Hincmar, hearing that he lay at the point of death, sent him a formulary, which he was to subscribe, in order to his being received into the communion of the church. Gotteschalcus rejected the offer with indignation. He refused to retract to the last; and was denied christian burial, by the orders of Hincmar.

This is all that I can find material concerning Gotteschalcus. That he was an humble and sincere follower of Christ, in the main, will scarce be doubted by those, who make a fair estimate of his constancy in suffering, and at the same time reflect, that no moral turpitude is affixed to his memory. Even in that age there wanted not men, who remonstrated loudly against the barbarity, with which he had been treated. Remigius, archbishop of Lyons, distinguished himself among these; and, in a council held at Valence, in Dauphiny, in the year 855, both Gotteschalcus and his doctrine were vindicated and defended. Two subsequent councils confirmed the decrees of this council. The churches of Lyons, Vienne, and Aries, formerly renowned for piety, vigorously supported the sentiments of Gotteschalcus; and it was apparent, that all

relish for the doctrines of grace was not lost in the church. It is very extraordinary, that the cause of Gotteschalcus should prove, in the end, victorious, while he himself remained under the power of persecution. But the great secular influence of Hincmar, who for near forty years presided at Rheims, and made himself highly useful to kings and princes, seems to account for this.

It would be uninteresting to detail an account of the writings on both sides, which were published on the occasion of this controversy. One lesson the case before us is peculiarly calculated to teach, namely, not to condemn any person for consequences, which others may draw from his doctrine, and which he himself both speculatively and practically disavows. This injustice was never more flagrantly committed, than in the transactions, which we have briefly reviewed. Of Hincmar, much information indeed is left us in ecclesiastical story; but I do not seem to have any more employment for him in this work, than I have for the princes of France and Germany of that period. It is not hard to form, on the whole, some estimate of the state of religion at that time in France. The spirit of Christianity was much decayed; but there were, doubtless, a number of persons, to whom Christ and his grace were precious: and the influence of evangelical truth was still so strong, that all the cruelty, activity, and artifice of one of the most subtle politicians of that age, for such was Hincmar, were not able to extirpate it.