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The Fourth Ecumenical Council - A.D. 451

Edited from a variety of translations (mentioned in the preface) by H. R. Percival

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Page 2

General Introduction.

I should consider it a piece of impertinence were I to attempt to add anything to what has been already said with regard to the Council of Chalcedon. The literature upon the subject is so great and so bitterly polemical that I think I shall do well in laying before my readers the Acts, practically complete on all disputed points, and to leave them to draw their own conclusions. I shall not, however, be liable to the charge of unfairness if I quote at some length the deductions of the Eagle of Meaux, the famous Bossuet, from these acts; and since his somewhat isolated position as a Gallican gives him a singular fitness to serve in this and similar questions as a mediator between Catholics and Protestants, his remarks upon this Council will, I think, be read with great interest and respect.

(Bossuet. Defensio Dec. Cleri Gallic. Lib. VII., cap. xvij. [Translation by Allies].)

An important point treated in the Council of Chalcedon, that is, the establishing of the faith, and the approval of Leo's letter, is as follows: Already almost the whole West, and most of the Easterns, with Anatolius himself, Bishop of Constantinople, had gone so far as to confirm by subscription that letter, before the council took place; and in the council itself the Fathers had often cried out, "We believe, as Leo: Peter hath spoken by Leo: we have all subscribed the letter: what has been set forth is sufficient for the Faith: no other exposition may be made." Things went so far, that they would hardly permit a definition to be made by the council. But neither subscriptions privately made before the council, nor these vehement cries of the Fathers in the council, were thought sufficient to tranquillize minds in so unsettled a state of the Church, for fear that a matter so important might seem determined rather by outcries than by fair and legitimate discussion. And the clergy of Constantinople exclaimed, "It is a few who cry out, not the whole council which speaks." So it was determined, that the letter of Leo should be lawfully examined by the council, and a definition of faith be written by the synod itself. So the acts of foregoing councils being previously read, the magistrates proposed concerning Leo's letter, "As we see the divine Gospels laid before your Piety, let each one of the assembled bishops declare, whether the exposition of the 318 Fathers at Nice, and of the 150 who afterwards assembled in the imperial city, agrees with the letter of the most reverend Archbishop Leo."

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