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of a General Council has been allowed by the Catholic Church, is that of 165 bishops, assembled under the command of the Emperor Justinian the younger, in the year 553, at Constantinople; in which certain writings of Ibas, Bishop of Edessa, Theodore, Bishop of Mopsuestia, and of Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus, (commonly known as “the three chapters,") which savoured of the Nestorian heresy, were condemned. There were no Western bishops present at it. Vigilius, Bishop of Rome, who was in Constantinople at the time, refused to be present, and sent to the emperor a decree contrary to the course which the council was taking. The council, notwithstanding, persisted, and passed with anathema, resolutions contrary to his decrees. (Baron. Annal. Eccles. ad ann. 553.) Vigilius, refusing to subscribe to these reso lutions, . was sent into exile by the emperor, and at last consented to give his approbation. The Roman writers are hard put to it to vindicate the authority of the Bishop of Rome in this matter; and it is curious to see the different and inconsistent grounds of defence adopted by Baronius, Binius, De Marca, and which may be found in Labbé and Cossart, v. 601.731. I confess it seems to me that they might have spared themselves the trouble, as far as Vigilius is concerned. When it is known that this wretched being procured the uncanonical deposition of his predecessor, Silverius, by bribery to the Roman general Belisarius ; that he procured his own election to the Popedom, during the lifetime of his uncanonically deposed predecessor, by violence; and secured himself in it by putting Silverius to death ; impartial persons will agree in thinking that the See of Rome must be considered to have been at this time vacant. The account is given in the Breviarium Literati Diaconi, in Labbé and Cossart, v. 775.
VI. CONSTANTINOPLE III. A.D. 680.
The sixth synod to which the name and authority of a General Council has been ascribed by the Catholic Church, is that composed of 289 bishops, assembled under the command of the Emperor Constantine Pogonatus, in the year 680. They met to condemn a new heresy—a branch of the Eutychian; by which it was asserted that after the union of the two natures of Christ, there remained but one will; hence those who advocated this doctrine were called Monothelites. In this council Honorius, the deceased Bishop of Rome, was condemned of heresy, and his books ordered to be burned (N).- Labbé and Cossart, vi. 587 et seq.
Constantinople, A. D. 692.
The two last councils having edited no canons, the Emperor Justinian, at the request of the bishops, ordered another General Council to be assembled at Constantinople, in the year 692; for the purpose of supplying the deficiencies of the former. The
assembly, as far as its constitution went, had more claim to the character of a General Council than many to which both the title and authority has been ascribed. It consisted of upwards of 200 bishops, among whom were representatives of the Bishop of Rome, the other great patriarchs being all present in person; and the decrees were signed by all, not omitting the emperor, whose name appears first on the list. The council assumed the style of “the Holy and Universal Synod.” But its decrees were not received at Rome, because many of them were contrary to the Roman customs (o).” Thus another proof is afforded that the claim of a synod to the estimation of a General Council (P), depends entirely upon the general or universal reception of its decrees by the Catholic Church; and that no council is to be accounted general or universal, whose decrees are not generally or universally received by the Catholic Church. -Labbé and Cossart, vi. 1123431–85, 1317.
TABLE OF COUNCILS.
Note (A), PAGE 7.
Prior to this there had been many councils, but none that claimed to be, or was considered a council of the whole Church. These different councils had, however, put forth canons which were collected and formed into a code, sometimes called apostolical, sometimes primitive or ante-Nicene. To some of the canons in this code reference is made in the council of Nice and those subsequent to it, as well as by individual writers. See Beveridge's Codex Primitivæ Ecclesiæ Vindicatus.
Note (B), PAGE 7. The number of bishops is variously stated; by some 270, by others 318. The general opinion inclines to the latter number. (See Beveridge's Notes on the Council in the second volume of his Pandect.) The Emperor Constantine was present in person. The bishop of Rome, by reason of infirmity, was absent, but sent two presbyters to subscribe in his stead. The Roman writers do not hesitate to assert that these presbyters, together with Hosius, bishop of Cordova, presided in the council (Labbé and Cossart, ii. 3.); an assertion destitute of all foundation, not one of the Greek historians making the slightest mention of it. The individual who opened the proceedings, is said by Sozomen, to have been Eusebius the historian ; by Theodoret, to have been Eustathius, patriarch of Antioch; and others have ascribed it to Alexander, the patriarch of Alexandria. (See varior. annott. in Reading's edition, Cantab. 1720 ; Sozomen's Hist. p. 38.) Hosius had been employed on a mission to Alexandria, previously to the council, with a view to make peace between Arius and the patriarch, but he was sent on that mission not by the Pope, but by the Emperor, whose letter he conveyed, and who deeply loved and reverenced him. See Eusebius, Socrates, and Sozomen.
Note (c), Page 10. There is a curious circumstance connected with these canons. When the bishop of Rome, Boniface, tried to usurp over the African churches, by hearing appeals from them, he pleaded these canons as his authority, asserting them to be Nicene. The African bishops, having made inquiries concerning them, returned for answer, that no such canons were passed at Nice, and peremptorily rejected his claim of hearing appeals, alleging that they knew no canon of the Fathers authorizing such a course. Now as the African churches had no less than thirty-six representatives at the council of Sardica, the fair inference from all this is, that these canons are spurious. At any rate they were held of no authority. But, even admitting them to be genuine, the utmost they amount to is this, that, in certain cases, Julius, the then bishop of Rome, might order a cause to be re-heard by a greater synod; and this power was given, not as of right, but for convenience, out of respect to the memory of St. Peter, with an ei cokeī, if it seemed good to the council to permit it. The disputed canons are as follow:
Canon III.–Osius episcopus dixit: .... Quod si aliquis episcoporum judicatus fuerit in aliqua causa, et putat se bonam causam habere ut iterum concilium renovetur ; si vobis placet,