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Historical Sketches: Volumes 1 To 3 -Blessed John Henry Newman

§ 1. Ambrose and Justina

NO considerate person will deny that there is much in the spirit of the times, and in the actual changes which the British Constitution has lately undergone, which makes it probable, or not improbable, that a material alteration will soon take place in the relations of the Church towards the State, to which it has been hitherto united. I do not say that it is out of the question that things may return to their former quiet and pleasant course, as in the good old time of King George III.; but the very chance that they will not makes it a practical concern for every churchman to prepare himself for a change, and a practical question for the clergy, by what instruments the authority of Religion is to be supported, should the protection and patronage of the Government be withdrawn. Truth, indeed, will always support itself in the world by its native vigour; it will never die while heaven and earth last, but be handed down from saint to saint until the end of all things. But this was the case before our Lord came, and is still the case, as we may humbly trust, in heathen countries. My question concerns the Church, that peculiar institution which Christ set up as a visible home and memorial of Truth; and which, as being in this world, must be manifested by means of this world. I know it is common to make light of this solicitude about the Church, under the notion that the Gospel may be propagated without it,—or that men are about the same under every Dispensation, their hearts being in fault, and not their circumstances,—or for other reasons, better or worse as it may be; to all which I am accustomed to answer (and I do not see how I can be in error), that, if Christ had not meant His Church to answer a purpose, He would not have set it up, and that our business is not to speculate about possible Dispensations of Religion, but to resign and devote ourselves to that in which we are actually placed.

Hitherto the English Church has depended on the State, i.e. on the ruling powers in the country—the king and the aristocracy; and this is so natural and religious a position of things when viewed in the abstract, and in its actual working has been productive of such excellent fruits in the Church, such quietness, such sobriety, such external propriety of conduct, and such freedom from doctrinal excesses, that we must ever look back upon the period of ecclesiastical history so characterized with affectionate thoughts; particularly on the reigns of our blessed martyr St. Charles, and King George the Good. But these recollections of the past must not engross our minds, or hinder us from looking at things as they are, and as they will be soon, and from inquiring what is intended by Providence to take the place of the time-honoured instrument, which He has broken (if it be yet broken), the regal and aristocratical power. I shall offend many men when I say, we must look to the people; but let them give me a hearing.

Well can I understand their feelings. Who at first sight does not dislike the thoughts of gentlemen and clergymen depending for their maintenance and their reputation on their flocks? of their strength, as a visible power, lying not in their birth, the patronage of the great, and the endowment of the Church (as hitherto), but in the homage of a multitude? I confess I have before now had a great repugnance to the notion myself; and if I have overcome it, and turned from the Government to the People, it has been simply because I was forced to do so. It is not we who desert the Government, but the Government that has left us; we are forced back upon those below us, because those above us will not honour us; there is no help for it, I say. But, in truth, the prospect is not so bad as it seems at first sight. The chief and obvious objection to the clergy being thrown on the People, lies in the probable lowering of Christian views, and the adulation of the vulgar, which would be its consequence; and the state of Dissenters is appealed to as an evidence of the danger. But let us recollect that we are an apostolical body; we were not made, nor can be unmade by our flocks; and if our influence is to depend on them, yet the Sacraments reside with us. We have that with us, which none but ourselves possess, the mantle of the Apostles; and this, properly understood and cherished, will ever keep us from being the creatures of a populace.

And what may become necessary in time to come, is a more religious state of things also. It will not be denied that, according to the Scripture view of the Church, though all are admitted into her pale, and the rich inclusively, yet, the poor are her members with a peculiar suitableness, and by a special right. Scripture is ever casting slurs upon wealth, and making much of poverty. “To the poor the Gospel is preached.” “God hath chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom.” “If thou wilt be perfect, sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor.” To this must be added the undeniable fact that the Church, when purest and when most powerful, has depended for its influence on its consideration with the many. Becket’s letters, lately published, have struck me not a little; but of course I now refer, not to such dark ages as most Englishmen consider these, but to the primitive Church—the Church of St. Athanasius and St. Ambrose. With a view of showing the power of the Church at that time, and on what it was based, not (as Protestants imagine) on governments, or on human law, or on endowments, but on popular enthusiasm, on dogma, on hierarchical power, and on a supernatural Divine Presence, I will now give some account of certain ecclesiastical proceedings in the city of Milan in the years 385, 386,—Ambrose being bishop, and Justina and her son, the younger Valentinian, the reigning powers.


Ambrose was eminently a popular bishop, as every one knows who has read ever so little of his history. His very promotion to the sacred office was owing to an unexpected movement of the populace. Auxentius, his Arian predecessor in the see of Milan, died, A.D. 374, upon which the bishops of the province wrote to the then Emperor, Valentinian the First, who was in Gaul, requesting him to name the person who was to succeed him. This was a prudent step on their part, Arianism having introduced such matter for discord and faction among the Milanese, that it was dangerous to submit the election to the people at large, though the majority of them were orthodox. Valentinian, however, declined to avail himself of the permission thus given him; the choice was thrown upon the voices of the people, and the cathedral, which was the place of assembling, was soon a scene of disgraceful uproar, as the bishops had anticipated. Ambrose was at that time civil governor of the province of which Milan was the capital: and, the tumult increasing, he was obliged to interfere in person, with a view of preventing its ending in open sedition. He was a man of grave character, and had been in youth brought up with a sister, who had devoted herself to the service of God in a single life; but as yet was only a catechumen, though he was half way between thirty and forty. Arrived at the scene of tumult, he addressed the assembled crowds, exhorting them to peace and order. While he was speaking, a child’s voice, as is reported, was heard in the midst of the crowd to say, “Ambrose is bishop;” the populace took up the cry, and both parties in the Church, Catholic and Arian, whether influenced by a sudden enthusiasm, or willing to take a man who was unconnected with party, voted unanimously for the election of Ambrose.

It is not wonderful that the subject of this sudden decision should have been unwilling to quit his civil office for a station of such high responsibility; for many days he fought against the popular voice, and that by the most extravagant expedients. He absconded, and was not recovered till the Emperor, confirming the act of the people of Milan, published an edict against all who should conceal him. Under these strange circumstances, Ambrose was at length consecrated bishop. His ordination was canonical only on the supposition that it came under those rare exceptions, for which the rules of the Church allow, when they speak of election “by divine grace,” by the immediate suggestion of God; and if ever a bishop’s character and works might be appealed to as evidence of the divine purpose, surely Ambrose was the subject of that singular and extraordinary favour. From the time of his call he devoted his life and abilities to the service of Christ. He bestowed his personal property on the poor: his lands on the Church; making his sister tenant for life. Next he gave himself up to the peculiar studies necessary for the due execution of his high duties, till he gained that deep insight into Catholic, truth, which is evidenced in his writings, and in no common measure in relation to Arianism, which had been the dominant creed in Milan for the twenty years preceding his elevation. Basil of Cæsarea, in Cappadocia, was at this time the main pillar of Catholic truth in the East, having succeeded Athanasius of Alexandria, who died about the time that both Basil and Ambrose were advanced to their respective sees. He, from his see in the far East, addresses the new bishop in these words in an extant Epistle:—

“Proceed in thy work, thou man of God; and since thou hast not received the Gospel of Christ of men, neither wast taught it, but the Lord himself translated thee from among the world’s judges to the chair of the Apostles, fight the good fight, set right the infirmities of the people, wherever the Arian madness has affected them; renew the old footprints of the Fathers, and by frequent correspondence build up thy love towards us, of which thou hast already laid the foundation.”—Ep. 197.

I just now mentioned St. Thomas Becket. There is at once a similarity and a contrast between his history and that of Ambrose. Each of the two was by education and society what would now be called a gentleman. Each was in high civil station when he was raised to a great ecclesiastical position; each was in middle age. Each had led an upright, virtuous life before his elevation; and each, on being elevated, changed it for a life of extraordinary penance and saintly devotion. Each was promoted to his high place by the act, direct or concurrent, of his sovereign; and each showed to that sovereign in the most emphatic way that a bishop was the servant, not of man, but of the Lord of heaven and earth. Each boldly confronted his sovereign in a great religious quarrel, and staked his life on its issue;—but then comes the contrast, for Becket’s earthly master was as resolute in his opposition to the Church as Becket was in its behalf, and made him a martyr; whereas the Imperial Power of Rome quailed and gave way before the dauntless bearing and the grave and gracious presence of the great prelate of Milan. Indeed, the whole Pontificate of Ambrose is a history of successive victories of the Church over the State; but I shall limit myself to a bare outline of one of them.


Ambrose had presided in his see about eleven years at the time when the events took place which are here to be related. Valentinian was dead, as well as his eldest son Gratian. His second son, who bore his own name, was Emperor of the West, under the tutelage of Justina, his second wife.

Justina was an Arian, and brought up her son in her own heretical views. This was about the time when the heresy was finally subdued in the Eastern Churches; the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople had lately been held, many Arian bishops had conformed, and laws had been passed by Theodosius against those who held out. It was natural under such circumstances that a number of the latter should flock to the court of Milan for protection and patronage. The Gothic officers of the palace were Arians also, as might be supposed, after the creed of their nation. At length they obtained a bishop of their persuasion from the East; and having now the form of an ecclesiastical body, they used the influence of Valentinian, or rather of his mother, to extort from Ambrose one of the churches of Milan for their worship.

The bishop was summoned to the palace before the assembled Court, and was formally asked to relinquish St. Victor’s Church, then called the Portian Basilica, which was without the walls, for the Arian worship. His duty was plain; the churches were the property of Christ; he was the representative of Christ, and was therefore bound not to cede what was committed to him in trust. This is the account of the matter given by himself in the course of the dispute:—

“Do not,” he says, “O Emperor, embarrass yourself with the thought that you have an Emperor’s right over sacred things. Exalt not yourself, but, as you would enjoy a continuance of power, be God’s subject. It is written, God’s to God, and Cæsar’s to Cæsar. The palace is the Emperor’s, the churches are the bishop’s.”—Ep. 20.

This argument, which is true at all times, was much more convincing in an age like the primitive, before men had begun to deny that Christ had left a visible representative of Himself in His Church. If there was a body to whom the concerns of religion were intrusted, there could be no doubt it was that over which Ambrose presided. It had been there planted ever since Milan became Christian, its ministers were descended from the Apostles, and it was the legitimate trustee of the sacred property. But in our day men have been taught to doubt whether there is one Apostolic Church, though it is mentioned in the Creed: nay, it is grievous to say, clergymen have sometimes forgotten, sometimes made light of their own privileges. Accordingly, when a question arises now about the spoliation of the Church, we are obliged to betake ourselves to the rules of national law; we appeal to precedents, or we urge the civil consequences of the measure, or we use other arguments, which, good as they may be, are too refined to be very popular. Ambrose rested his resistance on grounds which the people understood at once, and recognized as irrefragable. They felt that he was only refusing to surrender a trust. They rose in a body, and thronged the palace gates. A company of soldiers was sent to disperse them; and a riot was on the point of ensuing, when the ministers of the Court became alarmed, and despatched Ambrose to appease the tumult, with the pledge that no further attempt should be made on the possessions of the Church.

Now some reader will here interrupt the narrative, perhaps, with something of an indignant burst about connecting the cause of religion with mobs and outbreaks. To whom I would reply, that the multitude of men is always rude and intemperate, and needs restraint,—religion does not make them so. But being so, it is better they should be zealous about religion, and repressed by religion, as in this case, than flow and ebb again under the irrational influences of this world. A mob, indeed, is always wayward and faithless; but it is a good sign when it is susceptible of the hopes and fears of the world to come. Is it not probable that, when religion is thus a popular subject, it may penetrate, soften, or stimulate hearts which otherwise would know nothing of its power? However, this is not, properly speaking, my present point, which is to show how a Church may be in “favour with all the people” without any sub-serviency to them. To return to our history.


Justina, failing to intimidate, made various underhand attempts to remove the champion of orthodoxy. She endeavoured to raise the people against him. Failing in this object, next, by scattering promises of place and promotion, she set on foot various projects to seize him in church, and carry him off into banishment. One man went so far as to take lodgings near the church, and had a carriage in readiness, in order to avail himself of any opportunity which offered to convey him away. But none of these attempts succeeded.

This was in the month of March; as Easter drew on, more vigorous steps were taken by the Court. On April 4th, the Friday before Palm Sunday, the demand of a church for the Arians was renewed; the pledges which the government had given, that no further steps should be taken in the matter, being perhaps evaded by changing the church which was demanded. Ambrose was now asked for the New or Roman Basilica, which was within the walls, and larger than the Portian. It was dedicated to the Apostles, and (I may add, for the sake of the antiquarian,) was built in the form of a cross. When the bishop refused in the same language as before, the imperial minister returned to the demand of the Portian Church; but the people interfering, and being clamorous against the proposal, he was obliged to retire to the palace to report how matters stood.

On Palm Sunday, after the lessons and sermon were over in the Basilica, in which he officiated, Ambrose was engaged in teaching the creed to the candidates for baptism, who, as was customary, had been catechized during Lent, and were to be admitted into the Church on the night before Easter-day. News was brought him that the officers of the Court had taken possession of the Portian Church, and were arranging the imperial hangings in token of its being confiscated to the Emperor; on the other hand, that the people were flocking thither. Ambrose continued the service of the day; but, when he was in the midst of the celebration of the Eucharistical rite, a second message came that one of the Arian priests was in the hands of the populace.

“On this news (he says, writing to his sister,) I could not keep from shedding many bitter tears, and, while I made oblation, I prayed God’s protection that no blood might be shed in the Church’s quarrel: or if so, that it might be mine, and that not for my people only, but for those heretics.”—Ep. 20.

At the same time he despatched some of his clergy to the spot, who had influence enough to rescue the unfortunate man from the mob.

Though Ambrose so far seems to have been supported only by a popular movement, yet the proceedings of the following week showed that he had also the great mass of respectable citizens on his side. The imprudent measures of the Court, in punishing those whom it considered its enemies, disclosed to the world their number and importance. The tradesmen of the city were fined two hundred pounds of gold, and many were thrown into prison. All the officers, moreover, and placemen of the courts of justice, were ordered to keep indoors during the continuance of the disorders; and men of higher rank were menaced with severe consequences, unless the Basilica were surrendered.

Such were the acts by which the Imperial Court solemnized Passion week. At length a fresh interview was sought with Ambrose, which shall be described in his own words:—

“I had a meeting with the counts and tribunes, who urged me to give up the Basilica without delay, on the ground that the Emperor was but acting on his undoubted rights, as possessing sovereign power over all things. I made answer, that if he asked me for what was my own—for instance, my estate, my money, or the like—I would make no opposition: though, to tell the truth, all that was mine was the property of the poor; but that he had no sovereignty over things sacred. If my patrimony is demanded, seize upon it; my person, here I am. Would you take to prison or to death? I go with pleasure. Far be it from me to entrench myself within the circle of a multitude, or to clasp the altar in supplication for my life; rather I will be a sacrifice for the altar’s sake.

“In good truth, when I heard that soldiers were sent to take possession of the Basilica, I was horrified at the prospect of bloodshed, which might issue in ruin to the whole city. I prayed God that I might not survive the destruction, which might ensue, of such a place, nay, of Italy itself. I shrank from the odium of having occasioned slaughter, and would sooner have given my own throat to the knife.… I was ordered to calm the people. I replied, that all I could do was not to inflame them; but God alone could appease them. For myself, if I appeared to have instigated them, it was the duty of the government to proceed against me, or to banish me. Upon this they left me.”

Ambrose spent the rest of Palm Sunday in the same Basilica in which he had been officiating in the morning: at night he went to his own house, that the civil power might have the opportunity of arresting him, if it was thought advisable.


The attempt to gain the Portian seems now to have been dropped; but on the Wednesday troops were marched before daybreak to take possession of the New Church, which was within the walls. Ambrose, upon the news of this fresh movement, used the weapons of an apostle. He did not seek to disturb them in their possession; but, attending service at his own church, he was content with threatening the soldiers with a sentence of excommunication. Meanwhile the New Church, where the soldiers were posted, began to fill with a larger congregation than it ever contained before the persecution. Ambrose was requested to go thither, but, desirous of drawing the people away from the scene of imperial tyranny, lest a riot should ensue, he remained where he was, and began a comment on the lesson of the day, which was from the book of Job. First, he commended them for the Christian patience and resignation with which they had hitherto borne their trial, which indeed was, on the whole, surprising, if we consider the inflammable nature of a multitude. “We petition your Majesty,” they said to the Emperor; “we use no force, we feel no fear, but we petition.” It is common in the leader of a multitude to profess peaceableness, but very unusual for the multitude itself to persevere in doing so. Ambrose went on to observe, that both they and he had in their way been tempted, as Job was, by the powers of evil. For himself, his peculiar trial had lain in the reflection that the extraordinary measures of the government, the movements of the Gothic guards, the fines of the tradesmen, the various sufferings of the faithful, all arose from, as it might be called, his obstinacy in not yielding to what seemed an overwhelming necessity, and giving the Basilica to the Arians. Yet he felt that to do so would be to peril his soul; so that the request was but the voice of the tempter, as he spoke in Job’s wife, to make him “say a word against God, and die,” to betray his trust, and incur the sentence of spiritual death.

Before this time the soldiers who had been sent to the New Church, from dread of the threat of excommunication, had declared against the sacrilege, and joined his own congregation; and now the news came that the royal hangings had been taken down. Soon after, as he was continuing his address to the people, a fresh message came to him from the Court to ask him whether he had an intention of domineering over his sovereign? Ambrose, in answer, showed the pains he had taken to be obedient to the Emperor’s will, and to hinder disturbance: then he added:—

“Priests have by old right bestowed sovereignty, never assumed it; and it is a common saying, that sovereigns have coveted the priesthood more than priests the sovereignty. Christ hid Himself, lest He should be made a king. Yes! we have a dominion of our own. The dominion of the priest lies in his helplessness, as it is said, ‘When I am weak, then am I strong.’ ”

And so ended the dispute for a time. On Good Friday the Court gave way; the guards were ordered from the Basilica, and the fines were remitted. I end for the present with the view which Ambrose took of the prospect before him:—

“Thus the matter rests; I wish I could say, has ended: but the Emperor’s words are of that angry sort which shows that a more severe contest is in store. He says I domineer, or worse than domineer. He implied this when his ministers were entreating him, on the petition of the soldiers, to attend church. ‘Should Ambrose bid you,’ he made answer, ‘doubtless you would give me to him in chains.’ I leave you to judge what these words promise. Persons present were all shocked at hearing them; but there are parties who exasperate him.”

§ 2. Ambrose and Valentinian


IN the opposition which Ambrose made to the Arians, as already related, there is no appearance of his appealing to any law of the Empire in justification of his refusal to surrender the Basilica to them. He rested it upon the simple basis of the Divine Law, a commonsense argument which there was no evading. “The Basilica has been made over to Christ; the Church is His trustee; I am its ruler. I dare not alienate the Lord’s property. He who does so, does it at his peril.” Indeed, he elsewhere expressly repudiates the principle of dependence in this matter on human law. “Law,” he says, “has not brought the Church together, but the faith of Christ.” However, Justina determined to have human law on her side. She persuaded her son to make it a capital offence in any one, either publicly or privately, even by petition, to interfere with the assemblies of the Arians; a provision which admitted a fair, and might also bear, and did in fact receive, a most tyrannical interpretation. Benevolus, the Secretary of State, from whose office the edict was to proceed, refused to draw it up, and resigned his place; but of course others less scrupulous were easily found to succeed him. At length it was promulgated on the 21st of January of the next year, A.D. 386, and a fresh attempt soon followed on the part of the Court to get possession of the Portian Basilica, which was without the walls.

The line of conduct which Ambrose had adopted remained equally clear and straight, whether before or after the promulgation of this edict. It was his duty to use all the means which Christ has given the Church to prevent the profanation of the Basilica. But soon a new question arose for his determination. An imperial message was brought to him to retire from the city at once, with any friends who chose to attend him. It is not certain whether this was intended as an absolute command, or (as his words rather imply) a recommendation on the part of government to save themselves the odium, and him the suffering, of public and more severe proceedings, Even if it were the former, it does not appear that a Christian bishop, so circumstanced, need obey it; for what was it but in other words to say, “Depart from the Basilica, and leave it to us?”—the very order which he had already withstood. The words of Scripture, which bid Christians, if persecuted in one city, flee to another, are evidently, from the form of them, a discretionary rule, grounded on the expediency of each occasion, as it arises. A mere threat is not a persecution, nor is a command; and though we are bound to obey our civil rulers, the welfare of the Church has a prior claim upon our obedience. Other bishops took the same view of the case with Ambrose; and, accordingly, he determined to stay in Milan till removed by main force, or cut off by violence.


The reader shall hear his own words in a sermon which he delivered upon the occasion:—

“I see that you are under a sudden and unusual excitement,” he said, “and are turning your eyes on me. What can be the reason of this? Is it that you saw or heard that an imperial message had been brought to me by the tribunes desiring me to depart hence whither I would, and to take with me all who would follow me? What! did you fear that I would desert the Church, and, for fear of my life, abandon you? Yet you might have attended to my answer. I said that I could not, for an instant, entertain the thought of deserting the Church, in that I feared the Lord of all more than the Emperor of the day: in truth that, should force hurry me off, it would be my body, not my mind, that was got rid of; that, should he act in the way of kingly power, I was prepared to suffer after the manner of a priest.

“Why, then, are you thus disturbed? I will never leave you of my own will; but if compelled, I may not resist. I shall still have the power of sorrowing, of weeping, of uttering laments: when weapons, soldiers, Goths, too, assail me, tears are my weapons, for such are the defences of a priest. In any other way I neither ought to resist, nor can; but as to retiring and deserting the Church, this is not like me; and for this reason, lest I seem to do so from dread of some heavier punishment. Ye yourselves know that it is my wont to submit to our rulers, but not to make concessions to them; to present myself readily to legal punishment, and not to fear what is in preparation.

“A proposal was made to me to deliver up at once the Church plate. I made answer, that I was ready to give anything that was my own, farm or house, gold or silver; but that I could withdraw no property from God’s temple, nor surrender what was put into my hands, not to surrender, but to keep safely. Besides, that I had a care for the Emperor’s well-being; since it was as little safe for him to receive as for me to surrender: let him bear with the words of a free-spoken priest, for his own good, and shrink from doing wrong to his Lord.

“You recollect to-day’s lesson about holy Naboth and his vineyard. The king asked him to make it over to him, as a ground, not for vines, but for common pot-herbs. What was his answer? ‘God forbid I should give to thee the inheritance of my fathers!’ The king was saddened when another’s property was justly denied him; but he was beguiled by a woman’s counsel. Naboth shed his blood rather than give up his vines. Shall he refuse his own vineyard, and we surrender the Church of Christ?

“What Contumacy, then, was there in my answer? I did but say at the interview, ‘God forbid I should surrender Christ’s heritage!’ I added, ‘the heritage of our fathers;’ yes, of our Dionysius, who died in exile for the faith’s sake, of Eustorgius the Confessor, of Myrocles, and of all the other faithful bishops back. I answered as a priest: let the Emperor act as an Emperor; he shall rob me of my life sooner than of my fidelity.

“In what respect was my answer other than respectful? Does the Emperor wish to tax us? I make no opposition. The Church lands pay taxes. Does he require our lands? He has power to claim them; we will not prevent him. The contributions of the people will suffice for the poor. Let not our enemies take offence at our lands; they may away with them, if it please the Emperor; not that I give them, but I make no opposition. Do they seek my gold? I can truly say, silver and gold I seek not. But they take offence at my raising contributions. Nor have I any great fear of the charge. I confess I have stipendiaries; they are the poor of Christ’s flock; a treasure which I am well used in amassing. May this at all times be my offence, to exact contributions for the poor. And if they accuse me of defending myself by means of them, I am far from denying, I court the charge. The poor are my defenders, but it is by their prayers. Blind though they be, lame, feeble, and aged, yet they have a strength greater than that of the stoutest warriors. In a word, gifts made to them are a claim upon the Lord; as it is written, ‘He who giveth to the poor, lendeth to God;’ but a military guard oftentimes has no title to divine grace.

“They say, too, that the people are misled by the verses of my hymns. I frankly confess this also. Truly those hymns have in them a high strain above all other influence. For can any strain have more of influence than the confession of the Holy Trinity, which is proclaimed day by day by the voice of the whole people? Each is eager to rival his fellows in confessing, as he well knows how, in sacred verses, his faith in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Thus all are made teachers, who else were scarce equal to being scholars.

“No one can deny that in what we say we pay to our sovereign due honour. What indeed can do him higher honour than to style him a son of the Church? In saying this, we are loyal to him without sinning against God. For the Emperor is within the Church, but not over the Church; and a religious sovereign seeks, not rejects, the Church’s aid. This is our doctrine, modestly avowed, but insisted on without wavering. Though they threaten fire, or the sword, or transportation, we, Christ’s poor servants, have learned not to fear. And to the fearless nothing is frightful; as Scripture says, ‘Their blows are like the arrows of a child.’ ”—Serm. contr. Auxent.


Mention is made in this extract of the Psalmody which Ambrose adopted about this time. The history of its introduction is curiously connected with the subject before us, and interesting, inasmuch as this was the beginning of a change in the style of Church music, which spread over the West, and continues even among ourselves to this day; it is as follows:—

Soldiers had been sent, as in the former year, to surround his church, in order to prevent the Catholic service there; but being themselves Christians, and afraid of excommunication, they went so far as to allow the people to enter, but would not let them leave the building. This was not so great an inconvenience to them as might appear at first sight: for the early Basilicas were not unlike the heathen temples, or our own collegiate chapels, that is, part of a range of buildings, which contained the lodgings of the ecclesiastics, and formed a fortress in themselves, which could easily be fortified from within or blockaded from without. Accordingly, the people remained shut up within the sacred precincts for some days, and the bishop with them. There seems to have been a notion, too, that he was to be seized for exile, or put to death; and they naturally kept about him to see the end,” to suffer with him or for him, according as their tempers and principles led them. Some went so far as to barricade the doors of the Basilica; nor could Ambrose prevent this proceeding, unnecessary as it was, because of the good feelings of the soldiery towards them, and indeed impracticable in such completeness as might be sufficient for security.

Some persons may think that Ambrose ought to have used his utmost influence against it, whereas in his sermon to the people he merely insists on its uselessness, and urges the propriety of looking simply to God, and not at all to such expedients, for deliverance. It must be recollected, however, that he and his people in no sense drew the sword from its sheath; he confined himself to passive resistance. He had violated no law; the Church’s property was sought by a tyrant: without using any violence, he took possession of that which he was bound to defend with his life. He placed himself upon the sacred territory, and bade them take it and him together, after St. Laurence’s pattern, who submitted to be burned rather than deliver up the goods with which he had been intrusted for the sake of the poor. However, it was evidently a very uncomfortable state of things for a Christian bishop, who might seem to be responsible for all the consequences, yet was without control over them. A riot might commence any moment, which it would not be in his power to arrest. Under these circumstances, with admirable presence of mind, he contrived to keep the people quiet, and to direct their minds to higher objects than those around them, by Psalmody. Sacred chanting had been one especial way in which the Catholics of Antioch had kept alive, in Arian times, the spirit of orthodoxy. And from the first a peculiar kind of singing—the antiphonal or responsorial, answering to our cathedral chanting—had been used in honour of the sacred doctrine which heresy assailed. Ignatius, the disciple of St. Peter, was reported to have introduced the practice into the Church of Antioch, in the doxology to the Trinity. Flavian, afterwards bishop of that see, revived it during the Arian usurpation, to the great edification and encouragement of the oppressed Catholics. Chrysostom used it in the vigils at Constantinople, in opposition to the same heretical party; and similar vigils had been established by Basil in the monasteries of Cappadocia. The assembled multitude, confined day and night within the gates of the Basilica, were in the situation of a monastic body without its discipline, and Ambrose rightly considered that the novelty and solemnity of the oriental chants, in praise of the Blessed Trinity, would both interest and sober them during the dangerous temptation to which they were now exposed. The expedient had even more successful results than the bishop anticipated; the soldiers were affected by the music, and took part in it; and, as we hear nothing more of the blockade, we must suppose that it thus ended, the government being obliged to overlook what it could not prevent.

It may be interesting to the reader to see Augustine’s notice of this occurrence, and the effect of the Psalmody Upon himself, at the time of his baptism.

“The pious populace (he says in his Confessions) was keeping vigils in the church prepared to die, O Lord, with their bishop, Thy servant. There was my mother, Thy handmaid, surpassing others in anxiety and watching, and making prayers her life.

“I, uninfluenced as yet by the fire of Thy Spirit, was roused however by the terror and agitation of the city. Then it was that hymns and psalms, after the oriental rite, were introduced, lest the spirits of the flock should fail Under the wearisome delay.”—Confess. ix. 15.

In the same passage, speaking of his baptism, he says:—

“How many tears I shed during the performance of Thy hymns and chants, keenly affected by the notes of Thy melodious Church! My ears drank up those sounds, and they distilled into my heart as sacred truths, and overflowed thence again in pious emotion, and gushed forth into tears, and I was happy in them.”—Ibid. 14.

Elsewhere he says:—

“Sometimes, from over-jealousy, I would entirely put from me and from the Church the melodies of the sweet chants which we use in the Psalter, lest our ears seduce us; and the way of Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, seems the safer, who, as I have often heard, made the reader chant with so slight a change of note, that it was more like speaking than singing. And yet when I call to mind the tears I shed when I heard the chants of Thy Church in the infancy of my recovered faith, and reflect that at this time I am affected, not by the mere music, but by the subject, brought out, as it is, by clear voices and appropriate tune, then, in turn, I confess how useful is the practice.”—Confess. x. 50.

Such was the influence of the Ambrosian chants when first introduced at Milan by the great bishop whose name they bear; there they are in use still, in all the majestic austerity which gave them their original power, and a great part of the Western Church uses that modification of them which Pope Gregory introduced at Rome in the beginning of the seventh century.


Ambrose implies, in the sermon from which extracts were given above, that a persecution, reaching even to the infliction of bodily sufferings, was at this time exercised upon the bishops of the Exarchate. Certainly he himself was all along in imminent peril of his life, or of sudden removal from Milan. However, he made it a point to frequent the public places and religious meetings as usual; and indeed it appears that he was as safe there as at home, for he narrowly escaped assassination from a hired ruffian of the Empress’s, who made his way to his bedchamber for the purpose. Magical arts were also practised against him, as a more secret and certain method of ensuring his destruction.

I ought to have mentioned, before this, the challenge sent to him by the Arian bishop to dispute publicly with him on the sacred doctrine in controversy; but was unwilling to interrupt the narrative of the contest about the Basilica. I will here translate portions of a letter sent by him, on the occasion, to the Emperor.

“To the most gracious Emperor and most happy Augustus

“Valentinian, Ambrosius Bishop,—

“Dalmatius, tribune and notary, has come to me, at your Majesty’s desire, as he assures me, to require me to choose umpires, as Auxentius has done on his part. Not that he informed me who they were that had already been named; but merely said that the dispute was to take place in the consistory, in your Majesty’s presence; as final arbitrator of it.

“I trust my answer will prove sufficient. No one should call me contumacious, if I insist on what your father, of blessed memory, not only sanctioned by word of mouth, but even by a law:—That in cases of faith, or of ecclesiastics, the judges should be neither inferior in function nor separate in jurisdiction—thus the rescript runs; in other words, he would have priests decide about priests. And this extended even to the case of allegations of wrong conduct.

“When was it you ever heard, most gracious Emperor, that in a question of faith laymen should be judges of a bishop? What! have courtly manners so bent our backs, that we have forgotten the rights of the priesthood, that I should of myself put into another’s hands what God has bestowed upon me? Once grant that a layman may set a bishop right, and see what will follow. The layman in consequence discusses, while the bishop listens; and the bishop is the pupil of the layman. Yet, whether we turn to Scripture or to history, who will venture to deny that in a question of faith, in a question, I say, of faith, it has ever been the bishop’s business to judge the Christian Emperor, not the Emperor’s to judge the bishop?

“When, through God’s blessing, you live to be old, then you will know what to think of the fidelity of that bishop who places the rights of the priesthood at the mercy of laymen. Your father, who arrived, through God’s blessing, at maturer years, was in the habit of saying, ‘I have no right to judge between bishops;’ but now your Majesty says, ‘I ought to judge.’ He, even though baptized into Christ’s body, thought himself unequal to the burden of such a judgment; your Majesty, who still have to earn a title to the sacrament, claims to judge in a matter of faith, though you are a stranger to the sacrament to which that faith belongs.

“But Ambrose is not of such value, that he must degrade the priesthood for his own well-being. One man’s life is not so precious as the dignity of all those bishops who have advised me thus to write; and who suggested that Auxentius might be choosing some heathen perhaps or Jew, whose permission to decide about Christ would be a permission to triumph over Him. What would pleasure them but blasphemies against Him? What would satisfy them but the impious denial of His divinity—agreeing, as they do, full well with the Arian, who pronounces Christ to be a creature with the ready concurrence of Jews and heathens?

“I would have come to your Majesty’s Court, to offer these remarks in your presence; but neither my bishops nor my people would let me; for they said that, when matters of faith were discussed in the Church, this should be in the presence of the people.

“I could have wished your Majesty had not told me to betake myself to exile somewhere. I was abroad every day; no one guarded me. I was at the mercy of all the world; you should have secured my departure to a place of your own choosing. Now the priests say to me, ‘There is little difference between voluntarily leaving and betraying the altar of Christ; for when you leave, you betray it.’

“May it please your Majesty graciously to accept this my declining to appear in the Imperial Court. I am not practised in attending it, except in your behalf; nor have I the skill to strive for victory within the palace, as neither knowing, nor caring to know, its secrets.”—Ep. 21.

The reader will observe an allusion in the last sentence of this defence to a service Ambrose had rendered the Emperor and his mother, upon the murder of Gratian; when, at the request of Justina, he undertook the difficult embassy to the usurper Maximus, and was the means of preserving the peace of Italy. This Maximus now interfered to defend him against the parties whom he had on a former occasion defended against Maximus; but other and more remarkable occurrences interposed in his behalf, which shall be mentioned in the next section.

§ 3. Ambrose and the Martyrs


A TERMINATION was at length put to the persecution of the Church of Milan by an occurrence of a very different nature from any which take place in these days. And since such events as I am to mention do not occur now, we are apt to argue, not very logically, that they did not occur then. I conceive this to be the main objection which will be felt against the following narrative. Miracles never took place then, because we do not see reason to believe that they take place now. But it should be recollected, that if there are no miracles at present, neither are there at present any martyrs. Might we not as cogently argue that no martyrdoms took place then, because no martyrdoms take place now? And might not St. Ambrose and his brethren have as reasonably disbelieved the possible existence of parsonages and pony carriages in the nineteenth century, as we the existence of martyrs and miracles in the primitive age? Perhaps miracles and martyrs go together. Now the account which is to follow does indeed relate to miracles, but then it relates to martyrs also.

Another objection which may be more reasonably urged against the narrative is this: that in the fourth century there were many miraculous tales which even Fathers of the Church believed, but which no one of any way of thinking believes now. It will be argued, that because some miracles are alleged which did not really take place, that therefore none which are alleged took place either. But I am disposed to reason just the contrary way. Pretences to revelation make it probable that there is a true Revelation; pretences to miracles make it probable that there are real ones; falsehood is the mockery of truth; false Christs argue a true Christ; a shadow implies a substance. If it be replied that the Scripture miracles are these true miracles, and that it is they, and none other but they, none after them, which suggested the counterfeit; I ask in turn, if so, what becomes of the original objection, that no miracles are true, because some are false? If this be so, the Scripture miracles are to be believed as little as those after them; and this is the very plea which infidels have urged. No; it is not reasonable to limit the scope or an argument according to the exigency of our particular conclusions; we have no leave to apply the argument for miracles only to the first century, and that against miracles only to the fourth. If forgery in some miracles proves forgery in all, this tells against the first as well as against the fourth century; if forgery in some argues truth in others, this avails for the fourth as well as for the first.

And I will add, that even credulousness on other occasions does not necessarily disqualify a person’s evidence for a particular alleged miracle; for the sight of one true miracle could not but dispose a man to believe others readily, nay, too readily, that is, would make him what is called credulous.

Now let these remarks be kept in mind while I go on to describe the alleged occurrence which has led to them. I know of no direct objection to it in particular, viewed in itself; the main objections are such antecedent considerations as I have been noticing. But if Elisha’s bones restored a dead man to life, I know of no antecedent reason why the relics of Gervasius and Protasius should not, as in the instance to be considered, have given sight to the blind.


The circumstances were these:—St. Ambrose, at the juncture of affairs which I have described in the foregoing pages, was proceeding to the dedication of a certain church at Milan, which remains there to this day, with the name of “St. Ambrose the Greater;” and was urged by the people to bury relics of martyrs under the altar, as he had lately done in the case of the Basilica of the Apostles. This was according to the usage of those times, desirous thereby both of honouring those who had braved death for Christ’s sake, and of hallowing religious places with the mortal instruments of their triumph. Ambrose in consequence gave orders to open the ground in the church of St. Nabor, as a spot likely to have been the burying-place of martyrs during the heathen persecutions.

Augustine, who was in Milan at the time, alleges that Ambrose was directed in his search by a dream. Ambrose himself is evidently reserved on the subject in his letter to his sister, though he was accustomed to make her his confidant in his ecclesiastical proceedings; he only speaks of his heart having burnt within him in presage of what was to happen. The digging commenced, and in due time two skeletons were discovered, of great size, perfect, and disposed in an orderly way; the head of each, however, separated from the body, and a quantity of blood about. That they were the remains of martyrs, none could reasonably doubt; and their names were ascertained to be Gervasius and Protasius; how, it does not appear, but certainly it was not so alleged on any traditionary information or for any popular object, since they proved to be quite new names to the Church of the day, though some elderly men at length recollected hearing them in former years. Nor is it wonderful that these saints should have been forgotten, considering the number of the Apostolic martyrs, among whom Gervasius and Protasius appear to have a place.

It seems to have been usual in that day to verify the genuineness of relics by bringing some of the energumeni, or possessed with devils, to them. Such afflicted persons were present with St. Ambrose during the search; and, before the service for exorcism commenced, one of them gave the well-known signs of horror and distress which were customarily excited by the presence of what had been the tabernacle of divine grace.

The skeletons were raised and transported to the neighbouring church of St. Faustus. The next day, June 18th, on which they were to be conveyed to their destination, a vast concourse of people attended the procession. This was the moment chosen by Divine Providence to give, as it were, signal to His Church, that, though years passed on, He was still what He had been from the beginning, a living and a faithful God, wonder-working as in the lifetime of the Apostles, and true to His word as spoken by His prophets unto a thousand generations. There was in Milan a man of middle age, well known in the place, by name Severus, who, having become blind, had given up his trade, and was now supported by charitable persons. Being told the cause of the shoutings in the streets, he persuaded his guide to lead him to the sacred relics. He came near; he touched the cloth which covered them; and he regained his sight immediately.

This relation deserves our special notice from its distinct miraculousness and its circumstantial character; but numerous other miracles are stated to have followed. Various diseases were cured and demoniacs dispossessed by the touch of the holy bodies or their envelopments.


Now for the evidence on which the whole matter rests. Our witnesses are three: St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, and Paulinus, the secretary of the latter, who after his death addressed a short memoir of his life to the former.

1. St. Augustine, in three separate passages in his works, two of which shall here be quoted, gives his testimony. First, in his City of God, in an enumeration of miracles which had taken place since the Apostles’ time. He begins with that which he himself had witnessed in the city of St. Ambrose:—

“The miracle,” he says, “which occurred at Milan, while I was there, when a blind man gained sight, was of a kind to come to the knowledge of many, because the city is large, and the Emperor was there at the time, and it was wrought with the witness of a vast multitude, who had come together to the bodies of the martyrs Protasius and Gervasius; which, being at the time concealed and altogether unknown, were discovered on the revelation of a dream to Ambrose the bishop; upon which that blind man was released from his former darkness, and saw the day.”—xxii. 8.

And next in his sermon upon the feast-day of the two martyrs:—

“We are celebrating, my brethren, the day on which, by Ambrose the bishop, that man of God, there was discovered, precious in the sight of the Lord, the death of His Saints; of which so great glory of the martyrs, then accruing, even I was a witness. I was there, I was at Milan, I know the miracles which were done, God attesting to the precious death of His Saints; that by those miracles henceforth, not in the Lord’s sight only, but in the sight of men also, that death might be precious. A blind man, perfectly well known to the whole city, was restored to sight; he ran, he caused himself to be brought near, he returned without a guide. We have not yet heard of his death; perhaps he is still alive. In the very church where their bodies are, he has vowed his whole life to religious service. We rejoiced in his restoration, we left him in service.”—Serm. 286. vid. also 318.

The third passage will be found in the ninth book of St. Augustine’s Confessions, and adds to the foregoing extracts the important fact that the miracle was the cause of Justina’s relinquishing her persecution of the Catholics.

2. Now let us proceed to the evidence of St. Ambrose, as contained in the sermons which he preached upon the occasion. In the former of the two he speaks as follows of the miracles wrought by the relics:—

“Ye know, nay, ye have yourselves seen, many cleansed from evil spirits, and numbers loosed from their infirmities, on laying their hands on the garment of the saints. Ye see renewed the miracles of the old time, when, through the advent of the Lord Jesus, a fuller grace poured itself upon the earth; ye see most men healed by the very shadow of the sacred bodies. How many are the napkins which pass to and fro! what anxiety for garments which are laid upon the most holy relics, and made salutary by their very touch! It is an object with all to reach even to the extreme border, and he who reaches it will be made whole. Thanks be to Thee, Lord Jesus, for awakening for us at this time the spirits of the holy martyrs, when Thy Church needs greater guardianship. Let all understand the sort of champions I ask for—those who may act as champions, not as assailants. And such have I gained for you, my religious people, such as benefit all, and harm none. Such defenders I solicit, such soldiers I possess, not the world’s soldiers, but soldiers of Christ. I fear not that such will give offence; because the higher is their guardianship, the less exceptionable is it also. Nay, for them even who grudge me the martyrs, do I desire the martyrs’ protection. So let them come and see my bodyguard; I own I have such arms about me. ‘These put their trust in chariots and these in horses; but we will glory in the name of the Lord our God.’

“Elisæus, as the course of Holy Scripture tells us, when hemmed in by the Syrian army, said to his frightened servant, by way of calming him, ‘There are more that are for us than are against us.’ And to prove this, he begged that Gehazi’s eyes might be opened; upon which the latter saw innumerable hosts of Angels present to the prophet. We, though we cannot see them, yet are sensible of them. Our eyes were held as long as the bodies of the saints lay hid in their graves. The Lord has opened our eyes: we have seen those aids by which we have often been defended. We had not the sight of these, yet we had the possession. And so, as though the Lord said to us in our alarm, ‘Behold what martyrs I have given you!’ in like manner our eyes are unclosed, and we see the glory of the Lord, manifested, as once in their passion, so now in their power. We have got clear, my brethren, of no slight disgrace; we had patrons, yet we knew it not. We have found this one thing, in which we have the advantage of our forefathers—they lost the knowledge of these holy martyrs, and we have obtained it.

“Bring the victorious victims to the spot where is Christ the sacrifice. But He upon the altar, who suffered for all; they under it, who were redeemed by His passion. I had intended this spot for myself, for it is fitting that where the priest had been used to offer, there he should repose; but I yield the right side to the sacred victims; that spot was due to the martyrs. Therefore let us bury the hallowed relics, and introduce them into a fitting home; and celebrate the whole day with sincere devotion.”—Ep. 22.

In his latter sermon, preached the following day, he pursues the subject:—

“This your celebration they are jealous of, who are wont to be; and, being jealous of it, they hate the cause of it, and are extravagant enough to deny the merits of those martyrs, whose works the very devils confess. Nor is it wonderful; it commonly happens that unbelievers who deny are less bearable than the devil who confesses. For the devil said, ‘Jesus, Son of the living Son, why hast Thou come to torment us before the time?’ And, whereas the Jews heard this, yet they were the very men to deny the Son of God. And now ye have heard the evil spirits crying out, and confessing to the martyrs, that they cannot bear their pains, and saying, ‘Why are ye come to torment us so heavily?’ And the Arians say, ‘They are not martyrs, nor can they torment the devil, nor dispossess any one;’ while the torments of the evil spirits are evidenced by their own voice, and the benefits of the martyrs by the recovery of the healed, and the tokens of the dispossessed.

“The Arians say, ‘These are not real torments of evil spirits, but they are pretended and counterfeit.’ I have heard of many things pretended, but no one ever could succeed in feigning himself a devil. How is it we see them in such distress when the hand is laid on them? What room is here for fraud? what suspicion of imposture?

“They deny that the blind received sight; but he does not deny that he was Cured. He says, ‘I see, who afore saw not.’ He says, ‘I ceased to be blind,’ and he evidences it by the fact. They deny the benefit, who cannot deny the fact The man is well known; employed as he was, before his affliction, in a public trade, Severus his name, a butcher his business: he had given it up when this misfortune befell him. He refers to the testimony of men whose charities were supporting him; he summons them as evidence of his present visitation, who were witnesses and judges of his blindness. He cries out that, on his touching the hem of the martyrs’ garment, which covered the relics, his sight was restored to him. We read in the Gospel, that when the Jews saw the cure of the blind man, they sought the testimony of the parents. Ask others, if you distrust me; ask persons unconnected with him, if you think that his parents would take a side. The obstinacy of these Arians is more hateful than that of the Jews. When the latter doubted, at least they inquired of the parents; these inquire secretly, deny openly, as giving credit to the fact, but denying the author.”—Ibid.

3. We may corroborate the evidence of those two ‘Fathers with that of Paulinus, who was secretary to St. Ambrose, and wrote his life, about A.D. 411.

“About the same time,” he says, “the holy martyrs Protasius and Gervasius revealed themselves to God’s priest. They lay in the Basilica, where, at present, are the bodies of the martyrs Nabor and Felix; while, however, the holy martyrs Nabor and Felix had crowds to visit them, as well the names as the graves of the martyrs Protasius and Gervasius were unknown; so that all who wished to come to the rails which protected the graves of the martyrs Nabor and Felix, were used to walk on the graves of the others. But when the bodies of the holy martyrs were raised and placed on litters, thereupon many possessions of the devil were detected. Moreover, a blind man, by name Severus, who up to this day performs religious service in the Basilica called Ambrosian, into which the bodies of the martyrs have been translated, when he had touched the garment of the martyrs, forthwith received sight. Moreover, bodies possessed by unclean spirits were restored, and with all blessedness returned home. And by means of these benefits of the martyrs, while the faith of the Catholic Church made increase, by so much did Arian misbelief decline.”—§ 14.


Now I want to know what reason is there for stumbling at the above narrative, which will not throw uncertainty upon the very fact that there was such a Bishop as Ambrose, or such an Empress as Justina, or such a heresy as the Arian, or any Church at all in Milan. Let us consider some of the circumstances under which it comes to us.

1. We have the concordant evidence of three distinct witnesses, of whom at least two were on the spot when the alleged miracles were wrought, one writing at the time, another some years afterwards in a distant country. And the third, writing after an interval of twenty-six years, agrees minutely with the evidence of the two former, not adding to the miraculous narrative, as is the manner of those who lose their delicate care for exactness in their admiration of the things and persons of whom they speak.

2. The miracle was wrought in public, on a person well known, on one who continued to live in the place where it was professedly wrought, and who, by devoting himself to the service of the martyrs who were the instruments of his cure, was a continual memorial of the mercy which he professed to have received, and challenged inquiry into it, and refutation if that were possible.

3. Ambrose, one of our informants, publicly appealed, at the time when the occurrence took place, to the general belief, claimed it for the miracle, and that in a sermon which is still extant.

4. He made his statement in the presence of bitter and most powerful enemies, who were much concerned, and very able to expose the fraud, if there was one; who did, as might be expected, deny the hand of God in the matter; but who, for all that appears, did nothing but deny what they could not consistently confess, without ceasing to be what they were.

5. A great and practical impression was made upon the popular mind in consequence of the alleged miracles: or, in the words of an historian, whose very vocation it is to disbelieve them, “Their effect on the minds of the people was rapid and irresistible; and the feeble sovereign of Italy found himself unable to contend with the favourite of heaven.”

6. And so powerfully did all this press upon the Court, that, as the last words of this extract intimate, the persecution was given up, and the Catholics left in quiet possession of the churches.

On the whole, then, are we not in the following dilemma? If the miracle did not take place, then St. Ambrose and St. Augustine, men of name, said they had ascertained a fact which they did not ascertain, and said it in the face of enemies, with an appeal to a whole city, and that continued during a quarter of a century. What instrument of refutation shall we devise against a case like this, neither so violently à priori as to supersede the testimony of Evangelists, nor so fastidious of evidence as to imperil Tacitus or Cæsar? On the other hand, if the miracle did take place, a certain measure of authority, more or less, surely must thereby attach to St. Ambrose—to his doctrine and his life, to his ecclesiastical principles and proceedings, to the Church itself of the fourth century, of which he is one main pillar. The miracle gives a certain sanction to three things at once, to the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity, to the Church’s resistance of the civil power, and to the commemoration of saints and martyrs.

Does it give any sanction to Protestantism and its adherents? shall we accept it or not? shall we retreat, or shall we advance? shall we relapse into scepticism upon all subjects, or sacrifice our deep-rooted prejudices? shall we give up our knowledge of times past altogether, or endure to gain a knowledge which we think we have already—the knowledge of divine truth?

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