Selected quotes of section titles and - in chapter 5 - actual text with my comments.
The History of Protestantism
by 'James Aitken Wylie'
Book 1 — Progress From the First to the Fourteenth Century
In other words, the 23 latter of the 24 books deal with 14th C onward. Even we Catholics usually don't dispute there is a Protestant continuity of some slight coherence from Lollards and Waldensians on.
Chapter 1 — Protestantism
Protestantism — The Seed of Arts, Letters, Free States, etc. — Its History a Grand Drama — Its Origin — Outside Humanity — A Great Creative Power — Protestantism Revived Christianity.
Chapter 2 — Declension of the early Christian Church
Early Triumphs of the Truth — Causes — The Fourth Century — Early Simplicity lost — The Church remodeled on the Pattern of the Empire — Disputes regarding Easter-day — Descent of the Gothic Nations — Introduction of Pagan Rites into the Church — Acceleration of Corruption — Inability of the World all at once to receive the Gospel in its greatness.
Chapter 3 — Development of the Papacy from the times of Constantine to those of Hildebrand
Imperial Edicts — Prestige of Rome — Fall of the Western Empire — The Papacy seeks and finds a New Basis of Power — Christ's Vicar — Conversion of Gothic Nations — Pepin and Charlemagne — The Lombards and the Saracens — Forgeries and False Decretals — Election of the Roman Pontiff.
Chapter 4 — Development of the Papacy from Gregory vii to Boniface viii
The Wax of Investitures — Gregory VII. and Henry IV. — The Miter Triumphs over the Empire — Noon of the Papacy under Innocent III. — Continued to Boniface VIII. — First and Last Estate of the Roman Pastors Contrasted — Seven Centuries of Continuous Success — Interpreted by Some as a Proof that the Papacy is Divine — Reasons explaining this Marvelous Success — Eclipsed by the Gospel's Progress
In other words, though this Protestant does not doubt Primitive Christianity was Protestantism, he can see no moment of any clear break of apostasy founding the Catholic Church, just a gradual decline.
Now, if Christianity were the work of man, a gradual decline would be pretty foreseeable. Even inevitable.
Look at the next shopping mall, and ask yourself if Greek and Gothic architecture have not declined.
Listen to the next hit, and ask yourself if Baroque and Classical Music have not declined.
So, to sum his position as given so far up:
- Rome started pretty close to the Gospel and fell away from it;
- The success of Christian mission at least appears to be a success, in the West of Rome;
- But it was really a success of the Gospel (which Rome never openly attacked except according to Protestant anachronistic interpretations, but on the contrary purported and was by most seen as serving);
- Wherefore this has nothing to prove Rome did not really fall away.
But where were the Protestants? If these were the Gospel, that is?
Chapter 5 — Mediaeval Protestant Witnesses
Ambrose of Milan — His Diocese — His Theology — Rufinus, Presbyter of Aquileia — Laurentius of Milan — The Bishops of the Grisons — Churches of Lombardy in Seventh and Eighth Centuries — Claude in the Ninth Century — His Labors — Outline of his Theology — His Doctrine of the Eucharist — His Battle against Images — His Views on the Roman Primacy — Proof thence arising — Councils in France approve his Views — Question of the Services of the Roman Church to the Western Nations.
OK, Ambrose of Milan a Prot? And I'm a baboon, next, why not?
The apostasy was not universal. At no time did God leave His ancient Gospel without witnesses.
That is, supposing there was an apostasy at all, a fair deduction of Matthew 28:18-20, isn't it? A Catholic calling Vatican II or even Pius XII apostasy can point to opponents keeping Catholicism alive despite, while detecting, and to non-adherents in worst aspects, keeping Catholicism alive despite, while neglecting. How many people who were even gushy on obeying Wojtyla as John Paul II have not, nevertheless, neglected the fact he was evolutionist and stayed themselves creationists, for one?
Well, we also know the Church is visible. God did not light a lamp to put it under a bushel. God did not found a city on a mountain so as to hide it better. In order to find it through history, we should not need to gloss over several centuries of a region summed up in a few names, and first name disputed if it belongs to our idea of the Church and last name very unknown and links between them very tenuous both as to doctrine - see previous article - and as to linking persons between the one's named.
Ambrose, who died A.D. 397, was Bishop of Milan for twenty-three years.
Saint Ambrose, otherwise we agree.
His theology, and that of his diocese, was in no essential respects different from that which Protestants hold at this day.
That we Catholics dispute.
The Bible alone was his rule of faith; Christ alone was the foundation of the Church; the justification of the sinner and the remission of sins were not of human merit, but by the expiatory sacrifice of the Cross;
Trentine Catholicism definitely underlines the latter part, which is why going to Confession is a sacrament and not a "pious work" like giving alms.
As to Bible alone, for rule of faith, any expressions he may have used that the Protestant twist in that sense were not meant to exclude tradition or magisterium. Similarily, as to Christ alone as foundation of Church, he never can have meant to say that St Peter was not at least his representative.
Btw, I'd like to see the exact words.
The wrongness of Wylie's analysis as to "figurative presence" hardly allows me to take just HIS word for this being the case with St Ambrose's faith.
there were but two Sacraments, Baptism and the Lord's Supper,
There were two or three Sacraments on which St Ambrose treated in De Mysteriis (Confirmation too, perhaps?). Ordination would have been so well known even by then that neophytes had no need to be told of it on the rim of the baptismal font. He had been a catechumen, he had been elected bishop, he had been baptised, confirmed, ordained priest and consecrated bishop on the same day.
Talking of marriage might have been inappropriate if he hoped some neophytes would choose virginity. Talking of extreme unction was hardly very pressing if all neophytes for whom he held the speech were young and healthy.
and in the latter Christ was held to be present only figuratively.
No, precisely wrong, in the Mannah, in the Desert, Christ was present under OT only figuratively, but in the Eucharist He is Really There, which is why NT is far more excellent than OT, see chapter 8 quoted in my previous article.
Such is a summary of the faith professed and taught by the chief bishop of the north of Italy in the end of the fourth century.
Such is a wrongful summary of it.
Now, here Wylie makes a pretty important admission, which is damning for his case:
It must be acknowledged that these men, despite their great talents and their ardent piety, had not entirely escaped the degeneracy of their age. The light that was in them was partly mixed with darkness. Even the great Ambrose was touched with a veneration for relics, and a weakness for other superstitious of his times.
Is venerating relics an act of Apostasy or not?
If it is, Ambrose of Milan was on this admission an apostate. If it is not, why excuse it in St Ambrose just so as to condemn it in others, as if it were if not totally apostatic at least highly suspect?
Obviously, Wylie wants to have it both ways. If Cardinal Beaton (who was killed by a Calvinist after burning some on the stake) venerated relics, this is proof he was an Apostate and that it was the true Christian faith he was persecuting. But if St Ambrose venerated relics, why let that come between Wylie and his desire to find very early Protestants AFTER Constantine?
But as regards the cardinal doctrines of salvation, the faith of these men was essentially Protestant, and stood out in bold antagonism to the leading principles of the Roman creed.
In bold antagonism? At least not at all true of St Ambrose! Especially not as regards the Roman creed of St Ambrose's own day. His disciple the Bishop of Hippo Regia was going to state "Roma loquuta est, causa finita est" in a Latin which was as posh as that of St Ambrose himself. In their day it may have given an air, not so much of me writing a Swedish grammatically of 19th C (when one ancestor of mine arrived there), but of me writing a Swedish in grammar, pronunciation, partly even word choice and phraseology mirroring the Swedish of Gustavus Adolphus in the 30 Years War, not so much of an US American boycotting Webster's spelling reform in favour of (!) British spelling, but of an English speaker trying to use the exact language of King James Version or Shakespear - with the exception that it was generally done, it was a requirement to be taken seriously as an educated man. Because one was proud of the Roman past. So were Sts Ambrose and Augustine. None of them is said to have ever opposed the Popes of their day one bit. So much for "bold antagonism" ...
Oh, I kind of get the rubber phraseology of Wylie! Not "in bold antagonism to the Roman creed" as visibly and testably there in their day, but only in bold antagonism to its "leading principles" ... as analysed by Wylie, of course.
I somehow don't think either St James (the greater or the lesser) would be very fond of Wylie bearing their name ... and I will not insult my patron St John by taking Wylie as a model. Wonder if some Catholic was thinking of him when Wylie Coyote was being invented. Oh, sorry, "Wile E. Coyote" ... and Chuck Jones was from Spokane ... well, probably just a wild association of mine, then.
Hans Georg Lundahl
Bpi, Georges Pompidou
St John's Day or Third Christmas Day