Location: Greensboro, NC, United States

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Idolatry takes many forms, #5: It Ain’t Always Been This Way

Speaking of the state of the Scottish church in the fifth century, John Howie, in his book The Scots Worthies, wrote the following:

The Pelagian heresy had now gained considerable ground in Britain; it is so called from Pelagius, a Monk at Rome: its chief articles are – (1.) That original sin is not inherent; (2.) That faith is a thing natural; (3.) That good works done by our own strength, of our own free-will, are agreeable to the law of God, and worthy of heaven. Whether all, or only part of these errors, then infected the Scottish church, is uncertain; but Celestine, then Bishop of Rome, embraced this opportunity to send Palladius among them, who, joining with the orthodox of South Britain, restored peace to that part of the church, by suppressing the heresy. King Eugenius the Second, being desirous that this church should likewise be purged of the impure leaven, invited Palladius hither, who obtained liberty from Celestine, and being enjoined to introduce the hierarchy as opportunity should offer, came into Scotland, and succeeded so effectually in his commission, as both to confute Pelagianism and new-model the government of the church.

The church of Scotland as yet knew no officers vested with pre-eminence above their brethren, nor had anything to do with the Roman Pontiff, until the year 450. Bede says, that “Palladius was sent unto the Scots, who believed in Christ as their first bishop.” (Bede’s Eccles. His. Lib. i. ch. 13. Buchanan His. Book v.). Boetius likewise says, “that Palladius was the first of all who did bear holy magistracy among the Scots, being made bishop by the great Pope.” Fordun, in his Chronicle, tells us – “that before the coming of Palladius, the Scots had, for teachers of the faith, and ministers of the sacraments, Presbyters only, of monks, following the customs of the primitive church (Book iii. cap. 8).

But we are not to fix the era of diocesan bishops even so early as this, for there were no such office-bearers in the church of Scotland, until the reign of Malcolm II in the eleventh century. During the first thousand years after Christ, there were no divided dioceses, nor superiorities over others, but they governed in the church in common with Presbyters; so that they were no more than nominal bishops, possessing little or nothing of that lordly dignity which they now do, and for a long time past have enjoyed. Spottiswoode himself testifies (His History, page 29), that the Scottish bishops, before the eleventh century, exercised their functions indifferently in every place to which they came. Palladius may be said to have rather laid the foundation of the after degeneracy of the church of Scotland, than to have built that superstructure of corruption and idolatry which afterwards prevailed, because she continued for nearly two hundred years in a state comparatively pure and unspotted, when we cast our eyes on the following times. (pg. 3-4)

For more on bishops, see this quote.


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