Century XI, Chapter II


The Opposition made to the Errors of Popery.

In the year 1017, certain persons, real or supposed heretics, were discovered in France, who were said to hold, " that they did not believe, that Jesus Christ was born of the virgin Mary; that he died for the salvation of mankind; that he was buried and rose again; that baptism procured the remission of sins; that the consecration by the priest constituted the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ; and that it was profitable to pray to the martyrs and confessors." Other practical matters of a detestable nature were ascribed to them. On tlieir refusal to recant before a council held at Orleans, thirteen of them were burnt

• Du Pin. ltt edit. vol. iv. cent. xi. p. 55.

alive.* It is not easy to say, what was the true character of these men. It is certain, that they opposed the then reigning superstitions, and that they were willing to suffer for the doctrines, which they espoused. The crimes alleged are so monstrous, and incredible, as to render the charges adduced against their doctrines very suspicious. That they, however, were truly evangelical christians, is what I dare not affirm.

Some time after there appeared, in Flanders, another sect, which was condemned in a synod held at Arras, in the year 1025, by Gerard, bishop of Cambray and Arras. They had come from Italy, being the disciples of Gundulphus, who taught there several supposed heretical doctrines. Gerard himself, in a letter, which he wrote on the subject, observes, that the disciples of Gundulphus travelled up and down to multiply converts, and that they had withdrawn many from the belief of the real presence in the sacrament; that they owned themselves to be the scholars of Gundulphus, who had instructed them in the evangelical and apostolical doctrine. " This," said they, M is our doctrine, to renounce the world, to bridle the lusts of the flesh, to maintain ourselves by the labour of our own hands, to do violence to no man, to love the brethren. If this plan of righteousness be observed, there is no need of baptism; if it be neglected, baptism is of no avail." They particularly objected to the baptism of infants, because they were altogether incapable of understanding or confessing the truth. They denied the real presence of Christ's body in the Lord's supper: they rejected the consecration of churches: they opposed various reigning superstitions, particularly the doctrine of purgatory and the practices connected with it. They likewise refused to worship the cross, or any images whatever. The bishop of Arras, having examined their supposed errors, and, in his own opinion, con luted them, drew up a confession of faith, contrary to those errors, which he required the heretics to sign

As they did not well understand the Latin tongue,- he caused the confession to be explained to them in the vulgar tongue,- by an interpreter^ then, according to this account, they approved and sigxied the instrument, and were dismissed in peace by the bishop. , It is very difficult to judge a cause by hearing only one side, and that side prejudiced to an extreme. If we are tempted to look on the doctrines of Gundulphus, in a favourable light, (whatever we may think of the characters of these his timorous disciples) from this short narrative of his enemies, how much more excellent might they appear, if we had his writings and sermons? As he did not deny the use of the Lord's supper, but only the doctrine of the real presence, it is probable that he held baptism also in a similar manner. If, however, he absolutely rejected the baptism of infants, the people, who call themselves baptists at this day may seem with justice to claim Gundulphus as belonging to their sect. The nature of mankind, ever prone to run from one extreme to another, will easily account for this circumstance of the rejection of infant baptism. The practice had long been sullied with superstitious fooleries: the transition to its total rejection was natural. Yet we shall afterwards see reason to doubt, whether this people did deny the absolute lawfulness of infant baptism, when we come to consider the religious views of the waldenses; for the probability is strong, that generally those called heretics in France, Flanders, and Italy, in these middle ages, were similar to each other in doctrines and customs. We have seen, however, a noble testimony to the existence of evangelical truth, a body of men in Italy before the year 10-6, in doctrine and practice directly opposite to the church of Rome, spreading purity of christian worship through the world with all their might, and distinguishing themselves from the general mass of christians in the west. I cannot believe that they held marriage as unlawful, though they were charged with this sentiment by their enemies: and, notwithstanding some errors nnd blemishes, it is not to be doubted, but that, on the whole they were of the true church of Christ. Faithfully to withstand idolatry and the reigning corruptions, required a light and strength far above nature, and I have only to regret, that, after a careful search, this is all the account I can find of them.

Not long after the supposed heretics of Orleans, arose the famous Berengarius of Tours, who wrote against the doctrine of the real presence. His writings called forth the most learned romanists to defend the tenets of Paschasius Radbertus; and Berengarius was compelled to renounce, and to burn his writings. But he recanted again and again, and returned, says a contemporary popish author,* like the dog to his vomit. Whether he died in the same sentiments, is strongly contested between the papists and the protestants. The former quote-William of Malmesbury, who says, he died trembling. " This day," said he, " will my Lord Jesus Christ appear to me, either to glory by his mercy through my repentance, or, as I fear, on the account of others, to my punishment." The sentiment, whether founded on fact or not, is strongly expressive of the genius of the then reigning religion, which excluded the spirit of adoption, and filial confidence in God through Christ, and supported the spirit of bondage and anxiety. And the effect was, in this case, proportional to the cause. Men had lost the christian article of justification through faith alone; and, believing salvation to be suspended on the merit of human works, they found it impossible for Berengarius, even on the most sincere repentance for his supposed heresy, to countervail the mischiefs which he had done by misleading others. Whether then we suppose the confession of Berengarius to be a forgery, or a real fact, it was delivered in the spirit of those, who weighed human merits and demerits in opposite scales, and found

• Bertold presbyter of Constantia. See bishop Newton's 3d vol. of tlie prophecies, p. 164. I have examined Du Pin, Natalis Alexander, A. Butler, and Mosheim on this subject, and find the whole mass of information so very uninteresting, though prolix beyond measure, that the few sentences in the text seem to me all that is needful to be observed on the Bcrengarian controversy.

no other method of determining the question ofa man's salvation or destruction, than that, which should result from the comparison of his good actions with his crimes. How impossible is it to give solid peace of conscience to a sinful creature by such a procedure! Joy, and love, and cheerful activity in the christian life can have no existence on such a plan: but such was the general spirit of the religion of the times we are reviewing. It is not easy to decide whether the papists or the protestants were in the right, in the determination of the question, In what sentiments did Berengarius die? The former have the advantage of positive testimony in their favour. The question is, however, perfectly immaterial. The doctrine of the real presence depends not on the character of Berengarius for its decision. I know no marks of his christian piety; and his repeated dissimulations render him no honour to either party. It is, however, of some moment to observe, that he was the instrument of calling forth a degree of salutary opposition to the errors of the times. He called the church of Rome a church of malignants, the council of vanity, and the seat of Satan. And he corrupted, say some old historians, almost all the French, Italians, and English, with his depravities. The expressions are much too strong; but, no doubt, a salutary check was given to the growing superstitions: the opposition to the popedom, though it did not lay hold of the central truths of the gospel, might yet pave the way for still more effective exertions; and served at least to inform mankind, that the court of Rome was not infallible.