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ARTICLE V.

NICHOLAS I. AND THE FORGED LITERATURE OF THE MIDDLE AGES.

By REV. EDWARD BEECHER, D.D., Boston.

IN speaking of the Forged Literature of the Middle Ages, we take the papacy of Nicholas the First, as the point of vision, A. D. 858-867; in the first place, because he first appealed to the forged Decretals, the most wonderful instance of forgery ever known in the history of the church, and then, because he is a fine exemplification of that spirit of matchless impudence with which the leaders of the corporation of Rome have imposed their forgeries and frauds on the world in all ages.

After Gregory the Great, A. D. 590-604, and before Gregory the Seventh, A. D. 1073-1085, this same Nicholas is, beyond all doubt, the most remarkable of the pontiffs. And although his name has not the same bad eminence in the popular mind with that of the notorious Hildebrand, yet so great was the influence exerted by him on the course of events, that Guizot does not hesitate to assert that the sovereignty of the Pope really takes date from his reign.

When he ascended the throne, the Popes of Rome, in their progress towards supremacy, were exposed to the resistance of four powers. The Patriarch of Constantinople, their most dangerous spiritual rival and antagonist; the national churches of Europe, which had arisen since the invasion of the Barbarians, especially those of Italy, France, Spain, and England; the Metropolitans, an ecclesiastical nobility who ruled the bishops of particular provinces; and the civil power, whether imperial or royal.

Three of these powers were represented by two men, quite as remarkable as Nicholas himself. The chair of the see of Constantinople was filled by Photius, a man of vast native powers, of unrivalled scholarship and learning, of exhaustless energy and infinite ambition. Before he was raised to the patriarchal throne, he had passed through almost all grades of civil office and promotion.

Without entering into the details of the warfare, it is enough to say, that these ambitious rulers of the Eastern and Western Churches met in fierce encounter. Nicholas excommunicated Photius, and Photius Nicholas; and the great and incurable Greek Schism was the ultimate result.

The national churches were represented in the person of the celebrated Hincmar, Archbishop of Rheims, and Primate of France, the great churchman of the age, and the most learned canonist of the church.

In his relations to his own bishops, he also represented the ecclesiastical nobility, whom the Pope needed to subdue, in order to centralize all the bishops directly in himself.

By the canons of the Council of Sardica, A. D. 347 (which yet was not œcumenical), the papal power was extended beyond all precedent, and contrary to all right, in merely allowing appeals at all, from metropolitan councils to the Roman pontiff; and for centuries after this council, the African bishops forbade such appeals. And yet even by these canons, the Pope could only order a new trial in the province, aided by his legates; and, if need be, by delegates from neighboring provinces (Bower 1: 57, 58). Nor did the East, or Africa, ever receive this council, nor did the Council of Chalcedon sanction its decrees.

This council, then, did not furnish the materials needed to establish and consolidate the papal power. Such materials, in fact, did not exist. It was necessary to forge them, and thus to set up claims which should give to the Pope the right of removing all such cases to Rome, to be tried before his own tribunal. And this point, too, was to be carried, and was carried, against such a man as Hincmar of Rheims.

The regal power was also to be subdued, and was subdued, in the person of the feeble Lotharius. Had the regal authority been represented by a sovereign like Charlemagne, swaying with strong grasp the power of a united empire, the aggressions of Nicholas would have met with less success, had he dared to engage in a warfare so unequal.

But the vast dominions of Charlemagne had been divided among his feeble descendants; and they had turned their arms against each other. Two grandsons and three great grandsons of Charlemagne, then sat on feeble thrones. The grandsons were, Louis in Germany, and Charles the Bald in France; the great-grandsons, Louis in Italy and Rhotia, Lotharius in Burgundy, Alsatia, and Lorraine, and Charles in Provence. The rest of these could, in a moment, be stirred up to invade the dominions of any of the five whom the Pope should excommunicate. Hence, each was pewerless in single combat with the Pope. A single papal anathema would become the signal for the invasion and subjugation of his territories by the others.

Of course, Nicholas felt that he was their master, and declared himself such. He singled out Lotharius as the object of an attack, designed to demonstrate and establish his power. Lotharius, having married one wife, Theutberga, desired, like Henry the Eighth in after days, to divorce her and to take another, Waldrada. So, in fact, he did, and that with the countenance of his own bishops, led on by the archbishops, Gunthier and Teutgaud, a brother and uncle of Waldrada. Notice now the influence of weakness in a king, on the conscience of a Pope. Charlemagne twice did the same thing.

He also left illegitimate children behind him as the fruit of his licentious excesses. But he was strong, therefore the papal conscience was undisturbed, and he was sainted. But Lotharius, his luckless descendant, was weak. This aroused the tender conscience of the Pope; and with apostolic zeal he declared war upon him for his manifest crime.

Even so the conscience of Gregory the Seventh was very sensitive, in the case of Henry the Fourth, who was enfeebled by a revolt in his empire; but was quite torpid in the case of William the Conqueror, for he was unconquerably strong. Yet William had sinned as grievously as Henry. At the Synod of Winchester, A. D. 1076, Gregory's law, enjoining the celibacy of the clergy, was very materially modified. The bishops, whom Gregory had summoned to Rome, were forbidden by William to obey the summons, to the very great annoyance and chagrin of Gregory. The King, too, continued to exercise the right of investiture, which, in the case of Henry, was so impious. Other presumptuous demands of Gregory were repelled with cold indifference. Yet no thunderbolts of divine wrath were hurled from the pontifical throne against the royal sinner. Gregory prudently declined the encounter with so vigorous an antagonist-fearful of provoking him to terrific retaliation. Hence the spirit of the papal policy in all ages is truly described in the old saying, in which we are told that the chief end of man is to keep what he has got, and to get what he can. The aggrandizement of their power has been their constant end in all ages. In pursuit of this, they have, as circumstances favored, steadily augmented their claims, regarding merely the principles of selfish policy, and never those of benevolence, honor, or truth.

So Nicholas acted in the case of Lotharius. Theutberga solicited his aid. He undertook her cause, and under pretext of defending her, put forth and established the most arrogant claims of papal supremacy. He encountered and defeated both king, archbishops, and bishops.

Though the council of bishops at Aix la Chapelle, in accordance with the wishes of the king, had divorced her, this was nothing to Nicholas. He sent legates into Lorraine, and at a second council at Metz, caused the case to be reëxamined by his legates. Lotharius bribed the legates, and the second council confirmed the doings of the first. Nicholas was enraged, but not dismayed. By an extravagant assumption of power, by his own authority, he declared the decision null and void, and deposed at a blow, the king's archbishops, Gun hier and Teutgaud, and he was victorious. Though they struggled long and desperately against him, they could not retain their office, but fell before his power. He also excommunicated Waldrada, and compelled Lotharius to take back Theutberga. Thus did he effectually subdue the regal power.

Twice also, in an ecclesiastical conflict, he defeated Hincmar, and here he invested himself in the panoply of the forged Decretals. Of these we may safely say that, of all the forgeries that ever disgraced the nominal followers of Christianity, they are the most gigantic in conception, successful in execution, and terrific in power. They changed the whole face of the Christian world, and are the spirit of the canon law, and the basis of the papal corporation to this day.

Gieseler fixes their composition between A. D. 829 and 845, in France, and ascribes them to Benedict Levita of Mentz. Guizot coincides. As to the direct agency of the Popes in their composition, opinions vary. But Mosheim does not hesitate to regard the Popes as their knowing and deliberate authors. He regards it as impossible that such a forgery should have come into existence and use, touching, as it does, all the springs of their influence and authority, without their knowledge and cooperation. At all events, Nicholas the First has the unenviable notoriety of having first appealed to them as authentic documents.

From him, till the Reformation detected the cheat, that is, for about seven centuries, they were appealed to without suspicion, in the public affairs of the Church, and used by the Popes to gain their ends without any material opposition. That we do not falsely charge Nicholas, facts show. None of his predecessors have referred to them.

Leo IV., A.D. 850, does not include them among the standards of judgment. Nor does even Nicholas I., in 863; but in 865, in his letters to all the French bishops, he defends their authority.1

Nicholas was a fit leader in the enterprise of introducing so vast a scheme of fraud, for the purposes of hierarchical aggrandizement. He is an exact image of Gregory VII., or Innocent III. He was a man of uncommon intellectual power, of great attainments for his age, and of gigantic energy of will. He was also ambitious to the highest degree, and strained his claims of supreme authority, infallibility, and irresponsibility to man, to the highest pitch of extravagance and arrogance. And having fought and gained a great battle with the civil power, in the person of King Lothaire II, on the points already specified, he also determined to gain a victory over the ecclesiastical nobility that came between the Pope and the common order of bishops, and over national churches, in the person of Hincmar, Archbishop of Rheims, head of the French Church. Hincmar had, without sufficient reason, suspended Rothade, bishop of Soissons. He appealed to the Pope. Hincmar disregarded his appeal, and deposed him at the synod of Soissons. Rothade appealed again, and Nicholas called up the affair at Rome, and by his own authority, annulled the decision of the council, and restored Rothade. Hincmar resisted, but was obliged to submit.

1 Gieseler, II., 65–69.

To defend himself in this high-handed measure, Nicholas appealed to the authority of the forged Decretals, thus introducing the use of that vast system of fraud; for this is the first example, as before stated, of an appeal to this forgery.

On this occasion, also, he asserted the Pseudo-Isidorian principles in full, that obedience was due to all papal decrees as such, and demanded from all metropolitans, at their investiture with the pallium, an oath to this effect. Hincmar was the most learned canonist of the age; but so low was the general standard of scholarship and of criticism at that time, that he could not expose the forgery. He did not deny the genuineness of the Decretals as he ought, but resisted their authority. Nicholas, of course, prevailed.

But we should misunderstand Nicholas, and the men of that age, if we supposed that they suddenly, and by one gigantic stride, so enormously overleaped the eternal barriers of truth, and unaided, and uninfluenced by preceding generations, at once completed, like Satan and his workmen in Hell, the vast fabric of falsehood, so that at once" the ascending pile stood fixed in stately height." Neither communities nor individuals become suddenly thus corrupt. The conscience of the Church had been seared as with a hot iron, and she had spoken lies in hypocrisy, long before Nicholas. These portentous results were but the mature fruit of seed early sown, and plants assiduously cultivated, from almost the earliest ages of the Church. One who comes fresh from the pure morality of the New Testament, consigning all liars to the lake of fire, finds it impossible to utter the feelings of shame and disappointment which agitate the mind, when the history of the opinions and practices of the early ages on the subject of pious frauds is first unfolded. When, however, the power of these first emotions has somewhat subsided, and he attempts to take a philosophical view of the facts, he finds in depraved human nature a deep foundation for such frauds; and soon discovers that a propensity to them is not limited to the Romish church, but that even in the Protestant world there is a constant temptation to fall into them. For a more full illustration of this dangerous tendency, we refer to an able essay of Archbishop Whately, on Pious Frauds, in his work entitled, "The Errors of Romanism traced to their origin in Human Nature."

We shall, therefore, proceed to speak of the general nature of pious fraud; the early introduction of it into the Christian Church; of its pernicious effects in the earlier ages, upon the literature and history of the Christian body; its most perfect development in the forged Decretals, in the frauds of Baronius, Bellarmine, and others; the subsequent power and state of the system among the Romanists; and finally among the Puseyites. In a field so extensive, only a general sketch can be expected in a brief essay.

Pious frauds, as defined by Whately, are "those which any one

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