The Religion of the Plain Man / by Robert Hugh Benson



I -- St Peter in Scripture

As regards the Petrine texts appended below, John notices the following points, to which his attention is drawn in a small controversial work which he meets with in the course of his studies:

1. Their full recognition has been of comparatively late date. By divine guidance St Peter himself sought the city and established his See just where he would gain all the aid that natural and human surroundings could give him for the swift and sure development of the final supremacy of his Chair. This supremacy was no more the result of mere worldly circumstances than the healthy growth of a tree is the result of the mere soil in which its seed once found a congenial home. If the authority on the one hand, and the seed on the other, had not existed, neither the Chair of Peter nor the tree would have emerged.

It was not, then, until the head had been fully established as supreme over the body that men had eyes to see how it had been so ordained and indicated from the beginning. After it had come to pass it was seen to have been inevitable. All this is paralleled, of course, by the ordinary course of affairs. Laws of nature, as well as laws of grace, act quite apart from man's perception or appreciation of them; and it is not until the law is recognized that its significance and inevitability, its illustrations and effects, are intelligently recognized either.

2. The weight of the following list of passages rests in its cumulative force. The direction of one or two or even three straws falling in a certain direction may be the result of a chance draught; thirty straws all falling in one direction practically indicate a steady wind.

1. St Peter's name occurs first in all lists of apostles (Matt. x, 2; Mark iii, 16; Luke vi, 14; Acts i, 13).

2. He alone receives a new name, solemnly conferred (John i, 42).

3. The name he receives is peculiarly inapplicable to his personal character and history; presumably, therefore, it is applied to his official position, and, moreover, it embodies a metaphor which is specially applied by him to CHRIST in an analogous sense (1 Peter ii, 4-8; cf. Matt. XXI, 42).

4. He is the first to confess CHRIST'S divinity, and receives special promises, namely, (a) "On this rock I will build My Church"; (b) "The keys of the kingdom of heaven"; (c) he alone is told that he has received divine knowledge by a special revelation (Matt. xvi, 17-19).

5. He is treated by the world as CHRIST'S representative; and he is so accepted by CHRIST, who by an unique miracle specially associates together Himself and Peter (Matt. xvii, 24 ff).

6. From his boat CHRIST teaches; and the miraculous draught and its interpretation follow that incident (Luke v, 3 ff).

7. He is indicated as being the object of CHRIST'S special prayer, distinct from the others ("Satan hath desired to have you. . . I have prayed for thee. . . and as the support of the others (Luke xxii, 31, 32).

8. He was the first of the apostles to set out for and, in spite of his age, to enter the empty tomb (Luke xxiv, 12; John xx, 6); and he is distinguished by the angel as the leader and representative of the rest (Mark xvi, 7).

9. He leads the apostles in fishing (John XXI, 2, 3) -- a significant metaphor.

10. He alone casts himself into the sea to come to JESUS (John xxi, 7).

11. He alone receives a special threefold commission as vicar of the Good Shepherd (John XX, 15ff.); and he is addressed by CHRIST as if in some special sense he was was to abide till CHRIST'S second coming (John XXI, 22).

12. He takes the lead in filling up the vacant apostolate (Acts i, 15).

13. He first preaches at Pentecost and summons men to salvation (Acts ii, 14); and is accepted by the world as the leader and interpreter of the rest (Acts ii, 37, 38, 41).

14. He works the first Church miracle, even though associated with John (as if to show his official relation as distinguished from John's personal relation to CHRIST) (Acts iii, 1-10); and comments on it to the crowd (Acts iii, 12).

15. He is the defender of the Church before the rulers (Acts iv, 8 ff.)

16. He utters the first anathema, and it is ratified markedly by GOD (Acts v, 2-11).

17. His shadow, alone among all, works miracles (Acts v, 15).

18. He is the first to raise the dead (Acts ix, 40).

19. He is indicated by GOD as the proper person to apply to for instruction and baptism; and is the first to receive the Gentiles (Acts x, 5, 34, 47).

20. He receives an unique threetold revelation (Acts x, 10 ff.)

21. He instructs the other apostles on the catholicity of the Church (Acts xi, 5-17).

22. He is the object of the first divine interposition on behalf of an individual; and is rescued from death when another apostle is killed (Acts xii, 5-17).

23. He opens the first Council, and lays down principles afterwards accepted by it (Acts xv, 7-11).

24. St Paul mentions the appearance to Cephas as first in importance (1 Cor. xv, 5).

25. St Paul goes to visit him, specially, at Jerusalem, considering him of more importance than James the local bishop (Gal. i, 18).

26. St Paul twice speaks of resisting him, as if it were a very serious step (Gal. ii, 11, 14).

27. He is spoken of as if in some sense distinct from the rest, many times (Mark i, 36; Luke ix, 28; Acts ii, 37, and v, 29, etc.); and he is often spokesman for the rest.

28. He is spoken of as the first of the inner three several times (Matt. xvii, 1; Mark v, 37; Matt. xxvi, 37, 40; Mark xiv, 37).

29. He himself refers twice to the "shepherding" of CHRIST; as if this function of his Master's were much in his mind (1 Pet. ii, 25, and v, 4; cf. John xxi, 15).

II -- Primitive Papalists

THERE also are appended a few patristic and conciliar quotations, which John finds in the same little controversial work as the Scripture texts on St Peter. He finds it difficult to resist the conclusion that his dawning belief in the validity of the Petrine claims was the belief held also in the early ages of the Church. He notices that the authenticity of the quotations in question rests upon the word of Dom John Chapman, O.S.B.

1. St Clement of Rome, A.D. 96:

"If any should disobey the things spoken by Him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in no light transgression and danger." --- Ad Cor. c. lix, 1.

(Bishop Lightfoot describes this letter of St Clement to the Corinthians as "the first step towards papal aggression.")

2. St Irenaeus, A.D. 185, writes of Rome:

By "pointing out. . . that 'faith announced to all men' (Rom. i, 8), which through the succession of her bishops has come down to us, we confound all those who in any way, whether through caprice, or vainglory, or blindness, or perverse opinion, gather otherwise than it behoveth. For with this Church, on account of her more powerful headship, it is necessary that every Church, that is, the faithful everywhere dispersed, should agree (or 'come together'); in which Church has always been preserved that tradition which is from the apostles." -- Haer. iii, 3.

3. St Cyprian writes, A.D. 251, of certain heretics:

"After all this, and having had a false bishop set up for them by heretics, they dare to set sail, and to carry letters from schismatic and profane persons to the Chair of Peter and the primatial Church, whence sacerdotal unity had its rise; nor do they consider that those are the Romans whose faith was celebrated by the praise of the apostle [cf. Rom. i, 81, to whom unfaith cannot have access." -- Ep. lix, 14.

4. The council of Arles, A.D. 314, writes to Pope Silvester:

"Since you have been unable to leave those parts, where the apostles also sit daily, and their blood testifies without intermission the glory of God. . ." -- Mansi, ii, 469.

5. St Athanasius, A.D. 339, appeals to Rome and goes there; and Socrates, A.D. 439, thus writes of it:

"Eusebius, having accomplished what he desired. sent an embassy to Julius, Bishop of Rome, calling upon him to be the judge of the charges against Athanasius, and to summon the case to himself." -- Hist. Eccl. ii, 2.

Sozomen, A.D. 450, writes thus:

"Eusebius wrote to Julius that he should be judge of what had been decreed at Tyre." -- Hist. Eccl. iii, 7.

Theodoret, A.D. 450, thus describes it:

"He [Pope Julius] following the law of the Church, both ordered them to repair to Rome, and also summoned the divine Athanasius to judgement." -- Hist. Eccl. ii, 4.

6. The Council of Sardica, A.D. 346, writes:

"For this will seem to be best, and by far the most proper course, if the bishops of the Lord, from every province, shall refer to the head, that is, the See of Peter." -- Letter to Pope Julius, Mansi, iii, 40.

7. St Gregory of Nazianzum, A.D. 307:

"The faith [of Rome] was of old, and still is now, right, binding the whole West by the saving word: as is just in her who presides over all, reverencing the whole harmony of God. " -- Carmen de Vita sua, 568-72.

8. St Jerome, c. A.D. 376, writes to Pope Damasus:

"I am linked in communion with the Blessedness, that is, with the Chair of Peter. On that rock I know that the Church is built. Whoso shall eat the Lamb outside this house is profane. . . Whoso gathereth not with thee scattereth: that is, he who is not of Christ is of Antichrist." -- Ep. xv.

And in another place, c. A.D. 377:

"Meanwhile I cease not to cry out: If anyone is joined to the See of Peter, he is mine. . . I conjure your Blessedness. . . that you would signify to me by your letters with which bishop in Syria it is my duty to communicate. " -- Ep. xvi.

9. The Council of Aquileia, A. D. 381, writes:

"We . . . beseech your clemency not to allow the Roman Church, the head of the whole Roman world, and that most holy faith of the apostles, to be troubled; for from thence the rights of venerable communion flow forth to all." -- St Ambrose, Ep. xi, 4.

10. The Council of Rome under Damasus, A.D. 382, writes:

"Although all the Catholic Churches in the world are one bridal chamber of Christ, yet the holy Roman Catholic Apostolic Church has been preferred to the other Churches by no synodical constitutions, but has obtained the primacy by the voice of our Lord and Saviour in the Gospel, saying, 'Thou art Peter and upon this rock . . . . loosed in heaven.'" -- See C. H. Turner in Journal of Theol. Studies, Jan. 1900.

11. St Optatus, A.D. 385:

"That in that one Chair [established by Peter] unity might be preserved by all . . . . and that he might at once be condemned as a schismatic and sinner, who against that pre-eminent Chair should place another. Therefore in that one Chair, which is the first of the prerogatives, Peter sat first, to whom succeeded Linus; to Linus, Clement . . . . Siricius with whom the whole world is in accordance with us in the one bond of communion, by the intercourse of letters of peace." -- ii, 2.

12. Pope Siricius, A.D. 385:

"You referred to the Roman Church as to the head of your body; . . . . in me that burden is borne by the blessed Apostle Peter, who, we trust, in all things protects and has regard to us who are the heirs of his government." Ep. i, 20.

13. St Augustine, A.D. 391:

"I am held by the succession of bishops from the very Chair of Peter the Apostle, to whom the Lord commended His sheep to be fed, up to the present episcopate; lastly, I am held by the very name of Catholic, which, not without cause amid so many heresies, this Church alone has retained, in such sort that whereas all heretics wish to be called Catholics, nevertheless to any stranger who asked, 'Where is the meeting of the Catholic Church held ?~ no heretic would dare to point out his own basilica or house.' -- C. Ep. Manich. Pundarn. iv, 5.

Again he writes, after quoting a letter of Pope Innocent, A.D. 419:

"Do you see what the Catholic faith holds by her minister ?" -- Op. Imperf. vi, 11.

Again at Carthage he said A.D. 417:

"Already two councils have been sent to the Apostolic See concerning this matter, and rescripts have come from thence. The case is concluded: would that the error would soon cease also." -- Serm. 131, 10.

14. Pope St Anastasius, A. D. 401:

"I will certainly not be wanting . . . . to call upon the parts of my body throughout the various regions of the world." -- Ep. I. ad Joan. Hicros.

15. Paulinus of Milan, A.D. 417, writes to Pope Zosnnus:

"Let that which . . . has been publicly brought to light be now cut off by your Holiness with the spiritual sword, that the flock of the Lord [the whole Church] which you govern as a good shepherd. may no longer be torn by this wild beast's teeth." -- Op. S. Augstini, vol. x, Appendix, p. 1725 (Migne).

16. Pope St Innocent, A.D. 417:

"You decided that it was proper to refer to our judgement, knowing what is due to the Apostolic See."

"You have . . . . preserved the customs of the Fathers, and have not spurned that which they decreed by a divine and not human sentence, that whatsoever is done, even though it be done in distant provinces, should not be ended without being brought to the knowledge of this See; that by its authority the whole just pronouncement should be strengthened; and that from it all other Churches (like waters, flowing from their natal source and flowing through the different regions of the world, the pure streams of one uncorrupted head), should receive what they ought to enjoin." -- S. Aug. Ep. 181.

17. Pope St Zosimus, A.D. 417 writes:

"We must pray incessantly that, by the continual grace and unceasing assistance of God, from this fountain [the Apostolic See] the peace of the faith and of Catholic brotherhood may be sent into the whole ~vorld. " -- Ep. ii.

18. Pope St Boniface, A.D. 419, writes:

"Never was it lawful to discuss again any matter which had once been decided by the Apostolic See." -- Ep. xiii.

19. Pope St Celestine, A.D. 422:

"We, on whom Christ has, in the person of holy Peter the Apostle, when He gave him the keys to open and shut, imposed as a necessity to be engaged about all men . . . . " -- Ep. iii.

20. Council of Ephesus, A.D. 431, writes in sentence of deposition against Nestorius:

"Whereas [etc.] . . . . we being necessarily compelled by the sacred canons and by the letter of our most holy Father and colleague, Bishop Celestine, Bishop of the Roman Church, with many tears, have arrived at this sad sentence against him. " -- Mansi, iv, p. 1212.

21. Pope St Sixtus III, A.D. 434:

"The blessed Peter, in his successors, has delivered that which he received. " -- Ep. vi.

22. St Vincent of Lerins, A.D. 434, writes:

"Pope Stephen, of blessed memory, Prelate of the Apostolic See, together with the rest of his colleagues indeed, yet above the rest, resisted; thinking, I ween, that it was right that he should conquer them all by the devotion of his faith as much as he surpassed them by the authority of his place." -- Common. vi.

23. Pope St Leo, A.D. 450:

"By the see of blessed Peter, made the head of the universe, thou (O Rome) mightest rule more widely by divine religion than by earthly empire" (Serm. 82). "The first of all the Sees . . . the Head . . . that See which the Lord appointed to preside over the rest . . ." (Ep. cxx). "The care of the universal Church should converge to the one See of Peter, and no part anywhere be at variance with its Head." -- Ep. xiv.

24. Council of Chalcedon, A.D. 457, writes in the sentence of deposition, read by the papal legates and signed by all the bishops, against Dioscorus:

"Wherefore the most holy and blessed archbishop great and elder Rome, Leo, by us and by the present holy synod, together with the thrice blessed and glorious Peter the Apostle, who is the rock and base of the Catholic Church and the foundation of the orthodox faith, has stripped Dioscorus of the episcopal . . . dignity." -- Mansi, vi, p. 1,048.

And the Council writes to Pope Leo:

"The bishops . . . over whom you presided as a head over the members . . . " -- Op. S. Leonis, Ep. 98.

And of Dioscorus:

"He [Dioscorus] stretched forth his madness against him who was entrusted by the Saviour with the guardianship of the Vine -- we mean your Holiness . . ." [and further with regard to the twenty-eighth canon] ". . . We beg you honour the judgement with your approbation also; as we have added our consent to the Head in all good things, so let the Head fulfil what is befitting towards the children . . ." [and further] ". . . We have made known to you the whole tenor of the business, for our own defence and for the confirmation and approval of what has been done by us. " -- Ibid.

25. Anatolius, Patriarch of Constantinople, +.D. 451, writes to Pope Leo with reference to the Council of Chalcedon:

"This decree the holy synod and we have referred to your Holiness in order to obtain from you approval and confirmation . . . For the the throne of Constantinople has your apostolic throne as its father." -- Op. S. Leonis, Ep. 101, 5.

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