Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

incoherent ideas in fortuitous combinations, just as they offer themselves. They, moreover, neglect deducing the duties of mankind from their true principles, and even sometimes derive them from doctrines and precepts which are either manifestly false, or, at least, whose nature and meaning are not determined with any degree of accuracy. And hence it is, that the greatest part of them are extremely defective, when they come to demonstrate the obligations of virtue, and the incongruity and unfitness of vice. These pretended demonstrations, instead of being deduced by proper conclusions from the reason of things and the divine laws, are nothing more than a collection of airy fancies, cold and insipid allegories, quaint and subtile conceits, which are more proper to afford amusement to the imagination, than light to the understanding, or conviction to the judgment.

XII. But, however defective this method of inculcating the duties of morality may have been, it was much more tolerable than that which was followed by the amphibious disciples of Christ and Plato, those Alexandrian philosophers, of whom Ammonius Sacca was the chief. The double doctrine of morals which they invented, and which was compounded of two systems, one surpassing the other in perfection, gained much ground in this century, to the great detriment of true religion. A circumstance that strongly tends to convince us of the growth and progress of this fanatical sect is, that those who in former times had inculcated a secret doctrine concerning divine things, totally different from that which was publicly propagated among the multitude, gave now the finishing touch to this doctrine, and formed it into a system. The famous Grecian fanatic, who declared himself to be Dionysius the Areopagite, disciple of St. Paul, and who, under the protection of this venerable name, gave laws and instructions to such as were desirous of raising their souls above all human things, in order to unite them to their great source by sublime contemplation, lived most probably in this century, though some place him before, others after the present period. No sooner were the writings and instructions of this fanatic handed about among the Greeks and Syrians, and particularly among the solitaries and monks, than a gloomy cloud of religious darkness began to spread itself over the minds of many. An incredible number of proselytes joined those chimerical sectaries, who maintained that communion with God was to be sought by mortifying the senses, by withdrawing the mind from all external objects, by macerating the body with hunger and labour, and by a holy sort of indolence, which confined all the activity of the soul to a lazy contemplation of things spiritual and eternal.

XIII. The progress of this sect appears evidently from • Those who have written concerning this impostor, are enumerated by Jo. Franc. Buddeus, in his Isagoge ad Theologiam, lib. ii. cap. iv. See also Jo. Launou Judicium de Scriptis Dionysii. tom. ii. op. parti. La Croze (in his Histoire du Christianisme d'Ethiopie,) endeavours to prove, that Synesius, an Egyptian bishop, and also the most celebrated philosopher of the fifth century, composed the writings attributed to Dionysius, in order to defend the doctrine of those who held, that Christ only possessed one nature. The arguments, however, of La Croze are weak. Nor are those more satisfactory, which the learned Baratier has employed, in a dissertation added to his book de Successione Rom. Episcop. p. 286, to prove that Dionysius of Alexandria was the true author of the writings in question.

b For a full account of Antony, and the discipline established by him, see the Acta Sanctorum, tom. ii. Januar. ad d. 17.

See Jos. Simon. Asseman. Biblioth. Oriental. Clement. Vatican, tom. iii. part ii.

C

the prodigious number of solitary monks and sequestered virgins, which, upon the return of tranquillity to the church, had over-run the whole Christian world with an amazing rapidity. Many of this order of men had, for a long time, been known among the Christians, and had led silent and solitary lives in the deserts of Egypt; but Antony was the first who formed them into a regular body, engaged them to live in society with each other, and prescribed rules to them for the direction of their conduct. These regulations, which Antony brought forward in Egypt in 305, were, in the year following, introduced into Palestine and Syria, by his disciple Hilarion. Almost about the same time, Aones and Eugenius, with their companions Gaddanas and Azyzus, instituted the monastic order in Mesopotamia and the adjacent countries; and their example was followed with such rapid success, that, in a short time, the east was filled with a lazy set of mortals, who, abandoning all human connexions, advantages, pleasures, and concerns, wore out a languishing and miserable life, amidst the hardships of want and various kinds of suffering, in order to arrive at a more close and rapturous communion with God and angels. The Christian church would never have been disgraced by this cruel and insocial enthusiasm, nor would any have been subjected to those keen torments of mind and body to which it gave rise, had not many Christians been unwarily caught by the specious appearance and the pompous sound of that maxim of the ancient philosophy, "That, in order to the attainment of true felicity and communion with God, it was necessary that the soul should be separated from the body, even here below, and that the body was to be macerated and mortified for this purpose."

XIV. From the east this gloomy institution passed into the west, and first into Italy, and its neighbouring islands, though it is utterly uncertain who transplanted it thither. St. Martin, the celebrated bishop of Tours, erected the first monasteries in Gaul, and recommended this religious solitude with such power and efficacy, both by his instructions and his example, that his funeral is said to have been attended by no less than two thousand monks. Thence, the monastic discipline gradually extended its progress through the other provinces and countries of Europe.

It is, however, proper to observe, that there was a great difference in point of austerity between the western and oriental monks; the former of whom could never be brought to bear the severe rules to which the latter voluntarily submitted. And, indeed, the reason of this difference may be partly derived from the nature of the respective climates in which they dwelt. The European countries abound not so much with delirious fanatics, or with persons of a morose and austere complexion, as those arid regions

d Most writers, following the opinion of Baronius, maintain that St. Athanasius brought the monastic institution from Egypt into Italy, about the year 340, and was the first who built a monastery at Rome. See Mabillon, Præf. ad Acta Sanctorum Ord. Bened. tom. i.-The learned Muratori (Antiq. Ital. tom. v.) combats this opinion, and pretends that the first monastery known in Europe, was erected at Milan: and Just. Fontaninus, in his Hist. Liter. Aquileiens. affirms, that the first society of monks was formed at Aquileia. But these writers do not produce unexceptionable evidence for their opinions. If we may give credit to the Ballerini (Dissert. ii. ad Zenonem Veronensem,) the first convent of nuns was erected toward the end of this century, at Verona, by Zeno, bishop of that city.

See Sulpit. Sever. de vita Martini, cap. x. p. 17, edit. Veron., where the method of living, used by the Martinian monks, is accurately described. See also Histoire Literaire de la France, tom. i. part ii. p. 42.

east.

[ocr errors]

errors

that lie toward the burning east; nor are our bodies capa-gerated, in a manner pernicious to the interests of morality, ble of supporting that rigid and abstemious method of the discipline that is obligatory upon Christians, the interliving, which is familiar and easy to those who are placed ests of virtue and true religion suffered yet more grievously under a glowing firmament, and breathe in a sultry and by two monstrous errors which were almost universally scorching atmosphere. It was, therefore, rather the name adopted in this century, and became a source of innumeronly than the thing itself, which was transported into the able calamities and mischiefs in the succeeding ages. Of European countries, though this name was indeed accom- these maxims one was, "That it was an act of virtue to panied with a certain resemblance or distant imitation of deceive and lie, when by such means the interests of the the monastic life instituted by Antony and others in the church might be promoted;" and the second, equally horrible, though in another point of view, was, that " in religion, when maintained and adhered to, after proper admonition, were punishable with civil penalties and corporeal tortures." Of these erroneous maxims the former was now of a long standing; it had been adopted for some ages past, and had produced an incredible number of ridiculous fables, fictitious prodigies, and pious frauds, to the unspeakable detriment of that glorious cause in which they were employed. And it must be frankly confessed, that the greatest men, and most eminent saints of this century, were more or less tainted with the infection of this corrupt principle, as will appear evidently to such as look with an attentive eye into their writings and their actions. We would willingly except from this charge Ambrose and Hilary, Augustin, Gregory Nazianzen, and Jerome ; but truth, which is more respectable than these venerable fathers, obliges us to involve them in the general accusation. We may add also, that it was, probably, the contagion of this pernicious maxim, that engaged Sulpitius Severus, who is far from being, in general, a puerile or credulous historian, to attribute so many miracles to St. Martin. The other maxim, relating to the justice and expediency of punishing error, was introduced in those serene and peaceful times which the accession of Constantine to the imperial throne procured to the church. It was from that period approved by many, enforced by several examples during the contests that arose with the Priscillianists and Donatists, confirmed and established by the authority of Augustin, and thus transmitted to the following ages.

XV. The monastic order, of which we have been taking a general view, was distributed into several classes. It was first divided into two distinct orders, of which one received the denomination of Coenobites, the other that of Eremites. The former lived together in a fixed habitation, and made up one large community under a chief, whom they called father, or abbot, which signifies the same thing in the Egyptian language. The latter drew out a wretched life in perfect solitude, and were scattered here and there in caves, in deserts, in the cavities of rocks, sheltered from the wild beasts only by the cover of a miserable cottage, in which each lived sequestered from the rest of his speThe Anchorets were yet more excessive in the austerity of their manner of living than the Eremites. They frequented the wildest deserts without either tents or cottages; nourished themselves with the roots and herbs which grew spontaneously out of the uncultivated ground; wandered about without having any fixed abode, reposing wherever the approach of night happened to find them; and all this, that they might avoid the view and the society of mortals.

cies.

Another order of monks were those wandering fanatics, or rather impostors, whom the Egyptians called Sarabaites, who, instead of procuring a subsistence by honest industry, travelled through various cities and provinces, and gained a maintenance by fictitious miracles, by selling relics to the multitude, and other frauds of a like nature. Many of the Coenobites were chargeable with vicious and scandalous practices. This order, however, was not so generally corrupt as that of the Sarabaites, who were for the most part profligates of the most abandoned kind. As to the Eremites, they seem to have deserved no other reproach than that of a delirious and extravagant fanaticism.c All these different orders were hitherto composed of the laity, and were subject to the jurisdiction and the inspection of the bishops. But many of them were now adopted among the clergy, even by the command of the emperors; and the fame of monastic piety and sanctity became so general, that bishops were frequently chosen out of that fanatical order.d

XVI. If the enthusiastic phrensy of the monks exag

This difference between the discipline of the eastern and western monks, and the cause of it, have been ingeniously remarked by Sulpitius Severus, Dial. i. de Vita Martini, where one of the interlocutors, in the dialogue, having mentioned the abstemious and wretched diet of the Egyptian monks, adds what follows: "Placetne tibi prandium, fasciculus herbarum et panis dimidius viris quinque?" To this question the Gaul answers, "Facis tuo more, qui nullam occasionem omittis, quin nos (I. e. the Gallic monks) edacitatis fatiges. Sed facis inhumane, qui nos Gallos homines cogis exemplo angelorum vivere-Sed contentus sit hoc [prandio] Cyrenensis ille, cui vel necessitas vel natura est esurire: nos, quod tibi sæpe testatus sum, Galli sumus." The same speaker, in the above-mentioned dialogue, cap. viii. reproaches Jerome with having accused the monks of gluttony; and proceeds thus: "Sentio de orientalibus illum potius monachis, quam de occidentalibus disputâsse; nam

XVII. When we cast an eye toward the lives and morals of Christians at this time, w efind, as formerly, a mixture of good and evil; some eminent for their piety, others infamous for their crimes. The number, however, of immoral and unworthy Christians began so to increase, that the examples of real piety and virtue became extremely rare. When the terrors of persecution were totally dispelled; when the church, secured from the efforts of its enemies, enjoyed the sweets of prosperity and peace; when the major part of the bishops exhibited to their flock the contagious examples of arrogance, luxury, effeminacy, animosity, and strife, with other vices too numerous to mention; when the inferior rulers and doctors of the church fell into a slothful and opprobrious negligence of the duties edacitas in Græcis et Orientalibus gula est, in Gallis natura." It appears, therefore, that, immediately after the introduction of the monastic order into Europe, the western differed greatly from the eastern monks in their manners and discipline, and were, in consequence of this, accused by the latter of voraciousness and gluttony.

b See Sulpit. Sever. Dial. i. de vita Martini, cap. x.

Whoever is desirous of a more ample account of the vices of the monks of this century, may consult the above-mentioned dialogue of Sulp. Sever. cap. viii. p. 69, 70. cap. xxi. p. 88, where he particularly chastises the arrogance and ambition of those who aspired to clerical honours. See also Dial. ii. cap. viii. and also cap. xv., and Consultat. Apollonii et Zachæi, published by Dacherius, Spicileg. tom. i. lib. iii. cap. iii.

4 See J. Godofred. ad Codicem Theodosianum, tom. vi.

[ocr errors]

it

of their respective stations, and employed, in vain wranglings and idle disputes, that zeal and attention which were due to the culture of piety and to the instruction of their people; and when (to complete the enormity of this horrid detail) multitudes were drawn into the profession of Christianity, not by the power of conviction and argument, but by the prospect of gain or by the fear of punishment; then was, indeed, no wonder that the church was contaminated with shoals of profligate Christians, and that the virtuous few were, in a manner, oppressed and overwhelmed by the superior numbers of the wicked and licentious. It is true, that the same rigourous penitence, which had taken place before the time of Constantine, continued now in full force against flagrant transgressors; but, when the reign of corruption becomes universal, the vigour of the law yields to its sway, and a weak execution defeats the purposes of the most salutary discipline. Such was now unhappily the case the age was gradually sinking from one period of corruption to another; the great and the powerful sinned with impunity; and the obscure and the indigent alone felt the severity of the laws.

XVIII. Religious controversies among Christians were frequent in this century; and, as it often happens in the course of civil affairs, external peace gave occasion and leisure for the excitation of intestine troubles and dissensions. We shall mention some of the principal of these controversies, which produced violent and obstinate schisms, not so much, indeed, by their natural tendency, as by incidental

Occurrences.

In the beginning of this century, about the year 306, arose the famous Meletian controversy, so called from its author, and which, for a long time, divided the church. Peter, bishop of Alexandria, had deposed from the episcopal office, Meletius, bishop of Lycopolis in the Upper Egypt. The reasons that occasioned this violent act of authority, have not been sufficiently explained.

b

d

XIX. Some time after this, a certain person named Eustathius, was the occasion of great disorders and divisions in Armenia, Pontus, and the neighbouring countries; and he was consequently condemned and excommunicated by the council of Gangra, which soon followed that of Nice. Whether this was the same Eustathius, who was bishop of Sebastia in Armenia, and the chief of the Semi-Arians; or whether the ancient historians have confounded two different persons of the same name, is a matter extremely difficult to determine. However that may be, the leader of the Eustathian sect does not seem so much chargeable with the corruption of any religious doctrine, as with having set up a fanatical form of sanctity, an extravagant system of practical discipline, destructive of the order and happiness of society; for he prohibited marriage, the use of wine and flesh, feasts of charity, and other things of that nature. He prescribed immediate divorce to those who were joined in wedlock, and is said to have granted to children and servants the liberty of violating the commands of their parents and masters, upon pretexts of a religious nature.

[graphic]

e

XX. Lucifer, bishop of Cagliaria in Sardinia, a man remarkable for his prudence, the austerity of his character, and the steadiness of his resolution and courage, was banished by the emperor Constantius, for having defended the Nicene doctrine, concerning the three persons in the Godhead. He broke the bonds of fraternal communion with Eusebius, bishop of Verceil, in the year 363, because the latter had consecrated Paulinus, bishop of Antioch; and he afterwards separated himself from the whole church, on account of the absolution which it had decreed in favour of those who, under Constantius, had deserted to the Arians. The small tribe, at least, that followed this prelate, under the title of Luciferians, scrupulously and obstinately avoided all commerce and fellowship, both with those bishops who had declared themselves in favour of the Arians, and with those also who consented to an absolution for such as returned from this desertion, and acknowledged their error; and thus of consequence they dissolved the bonds of their communion with the church in general. The Luciferians are also said to have entertained erroneous notions concerning the human soul, whose generation they considered as of a carnal nature, and maintained, that it was transfused from the parents into the children.

The partisans of Peter allege, that Meletius had sacrificed to the gods, and charge him also with various crimes; while others affirm, that his only failing was an excessive severity against the lapsed. However that may be, Meletius treated the sentence of Peter with the utmost contempt, and not only continued to perform all the duties of the episcopal function, but even assumed the right of consecrating presbyters; a privilege, which, by the laws of Egypt, belonged only to the bishop of Alexandria. The XXI. About this time Erius, a presbyter monk, and venerable gravity and eloquence of Meletius drew many to a Semi-Arian, erected a new sect, and excited divisions his party; and, among others, a considerable number of throughout Armenia, Pontus, and Cappadocia, by propagamonks adhered to his cause. The council of Nice made ting opinions different from those which were commonly several ineffectual attempts to heal this breach; the Mele- received. His principal tenet was that bishops were no' tians, on the other hand, whose chief aim was to oppose distinguished from presbyters by any divine right, but that the authority of the bishop of Alexandria, joined them- according to the institution of the New Testament, their selves to the Arians, who were his irreconcileable enemies. offices and authority were absolutely the same. How far Hence it happened, that a dispute, which had for its first Erius pursued this opinion, through its natural conseobject the authority and jurisdiction of the bishop of Alex-quences, is not certainly known; but we know, with cerandria, gradually degenerated into a religious controversy. 'T'he Meletian party was yet subsisting in the fifth century.

• Athanasius, Apologia secunda, tom. i. op.

b Epiphanius, Hæres. lxviii. tom. i. op. See also Dion. Petavius, Not. in Epiphanium, tom. ii. and Sam. Basnagii Exercitat. de Rebus sacris contra Baronium.

Socrates, Hist. Eccles. lib. i. c. vi. p. 14. Theodoret. Hist. Eccles. lib. i. cap. viii. p. 548.

See Sam. Basnage. Annal. Polit. Eccles. tom. ii.

Socrates, lib. i. cap. xliii.-Sozomen, lib. iii. cap. xiv. lib. iv. cap.

c

tainty, that it was highly agreeable to many good Christians, who were no longer able to bear the tyranny and

xxiv.-Epiphan. Hæres. Ixvi.-Philostorgius, Hist. Eccles. lib. iii. cap. xvi.-Wolfg. Gundling, Not. ad Concilium Gangrense.

f Rufin. Hist. Eccles. lib. i. cap. xxx.-Socrates, lib. iii. cap. ix. See also Tillemont's Memoires pour servir à l'Histoire de l' Eglise. tom. vii. See, in the works of Sirmond, a book of Prayers, addressed to Theodosius by Marcellinus and Faustinus, who were Luciferians. h Augustin. de Hæres. cap. lxxxi. with the observations of Lamb. Da næus, p. 346.

arrogance of the bishops of this century. There were other things in which rius differed from the common notions of the time; he condemned prayers for the dead, stated fasts, the celebration of Easter, and other rites of that nature, in which the multitude erroneously imagine that the life and soul of religion consist. His great purpose seems to have been that of reducing Christianity to its primitive simplicity; a purpose, indeed, laudable and noble when considered in itself, though the principles whence it springs, and the means by which it is executed, may in some respects deserve censure.b

to vindicate the honour of their master from these injurious insinuations. Of these the most eminent was Eusebius, bishop of Cæsarea, as appears by his learned work, entitled, An Apology for Origen. It is extremely probable, that these clamours raised against the memory and reputation of a man, whom the whole Christian world beheld with respect, would have been soon hushed, had it not been for the rise of new commotions, which proceeded from another source, and of which we shall treat in the following section.

XXIV. The monks in general, and the Egyptian XXII. The progress of superstition in this century, and monks in particular, were enthusiastically devoted to Orithe erroneous notions that prevailed concerning the true gen, and spared no labour to propagate his opinions in all nature of religion, excited the zeal and the efforts of many places. Their zeal, however, met with opposition, nor to stem the torrent. But their labours only exposed them to could they convince all Christians of the truth and soundinfamy and reproach. Of these worthy opposers of the reign- ness of the notions invented or adopted by that eminent ing superstitions, the most eminent was Jovinian, an Italian writer. Hence arose a controversy concerning the reasons monk, who toward the conclusion of this century, taught and foundations of Origenism, which was at first manafirst at Rome, and afterwards at Milan, that all those who ged in a private manner, but afterwards, by degrees, broke kept the vows they made to Christ at their baptism, and lived out into an open flame. Among the numerous partisans according to the rules of piety and virtue laid down in the of Origen was John bishop of Jerusalem; which furnishGospel, had an equal title to the rewards of futurity; and ed Epiphanius and Jerome with a pretext to cast an odium that, consequently, those who passed their days in insocial upon this prelate, against whom they had been previously celibacy, and severe mortifications and fastings, were in no exasperated on other accounts. But the ingenious bishop respect more acceptable in the eye of God, than those who conducted matters with such admirable dexterity, that, in lived virtuously in the bonds of marriage, and nourished defending himself, he vindicated, at the same time, the retheir bodies with moderation and temperance. These judi-putation of Origen, and drew to his party the whole mocious opinions, which many began to adopt, were first con-nastic body, and also a prodigious number of those who demned by the church of Rome, and afterwards by Am- were spectators of this interesting combat. This was brose, in a council holden at Milan in the year 390. The merely the begining of the vehement contests concerning emperor Honorius seconded the authoritative proceedings of the doctrine of Origen, that were carried on both in the the bishops by the violence of the secular arm, answered eastern and western provinces. These contests were parthe judicious reasonings of Jovinian by the terror of coer- ticularly fomented in the west by Rufinus, a presbyter of cive and penal laws, and banished this pretended heretic Aquileia, who translated into Latin several books of Origen, to the island of Boa. Jovinian published his opinions in and insinuated, with sufficient plainness, that he acquiesa book against which Jerome, in the following century, ced in the sentiments they contained, which drew upon wrote a most bitter and abusive treatise, still extant. him the implacable rage of the learned and choleric Jerome. But these commotions seemed to cease in the west after the death of Rufinus, and in consequence of the efforts which men of the first order made to check, both by their authority and by their writings, the progress of Origenism in those parts.

XXIII. Among all the religious controversies that diviied the church, the most celebrated, both for their imporance and their duration, were those relating to Origen and his doctrine.

This illustrious man, though he had been, for a long time, charged with many errors, was deemed, by the generality of Christians, an object of high veneration; and his name was so sacred as to give weight to the cause in which it appeared. The Arians, who were sagacious in searching for succours on all sides to maintain their sect, affirmed that Origen had adopted their opinions. In this they were believed by some, who consequently included this great man in the hatred which they entertained against the sect of the Arians. But several writers of the first learning and note opposed this report, and endeavoured

[ocr errors]

Epiphanius, Hæres. lxxv. p. 905.-Augustin. de Hæres. cap. liii. b The desire of reducing religious worship to the greatest possible simplicity, however rational it may appear in itself, when abstractedly considered, will be considerably moderated in such as bestow a moment's attention upon the imperfection and infirmities of human nature in its present state. Mankind, generally speaking, have too little elevation of mind to be much affected with those forms and methods of worship, in which there is nothing striking to the outward senses. The great difficulty lies in determining the lengths, which it is prudent to go in the accommodation of religious ceremonies to human infirmity; and the grand point is, to fix a medium, in which a due regard may be shown to the senses and imagination, without violating the dictates of right reason, or tarnishing the purity of true religion. It has been said, that the Romish church has gone thus far solely in condescension to the infirmities

e

XXV. The troubles which the writings and doctrines of Origen excited in the east were more grievous and obstinate. Theophilus, bishop of Alexandria, irritated for several reasons against the Nitrian monks, represented them as infected with the contagion of Origenism, and ordered them to give up and abandon all the productions of Origen. The monks refused obedience to this command, and alleged in their defence two considerations: one was, that the passages in the writings of this holy and venerable man, which seemed to swerve from the truth, were insertof mankind; and this is what the ablest defenders of its motley worship have alleged in its behalf. But this observation is not just; the church of Rome has not so much accommodated itself to human weakness as it has abused that weakness by taking occasion from it to establish an absurd variety of ridiculous ceremonies, destructive of true religion, and only adapted to promote the riches and despotism of the clergy, and to keep the multitude still hoodwinked in their ignorance and superstition. How far a just antipathy to the church puppet-shows of the Papists has unjustly driven some Protestant churches into the opposite extreme, is a matter that I shall not now examine, though it cer tainly deserves a serious consideration.

C

Hieronymus in Jovinianum, tom. ii. op.-Augustin. de Hæres. cap. lxxxii.-Ambros. Epist. vi. d Codex Theodosianus. tom. iii. vi. • See Just. Fontaninus, Historia Literar. Aquileiensis. lib. iv. cap. iii,

ed in them by ill-designing heretics; and the other, that a few censurable things were not sufficient to justify the condemnation of the rest. Matters were more exasperated by this refusal of submission to the order of Theophilus; for this violent prelate called a council at Alexandria, in the year 399, in which having condemned the followers of Origen, he sent a band of soldiers to drive the monks from their residence on mount Nitria. The poor monks, thus scattered abroad by an armed force, fled first to Jerusalem, whence they retired to Scythopolis; and finding that they could not live here in security and peace, determined, at length, to set sail for Constantinople, and there plead their cause in presence of the emperor. The issue of these proceedings will come under the history of the following century.

It is, however, necessary to observe here, that we must not reduce to the same class all those who are called Origenists in the records of this century: for this ambiguous title is applied to persons who differed widely in their religious notions. Sometimes it merely signifies such friends of Origen, as acknowledged his writings to have been adulterated in many places, and who were far from patronising the errors of which he was accused; in other places this title is attributed to those who confess Origen to be the author of all the doctrines which are imputed to him, and who resolutely support and defend his opinions; of which latter there was a considerable number among the monastic orders.

CHAPTER IV.

sense of the native beauty of genuine Christianity. These fervent heralds of the Gospel, whose zeal outran their candour and integrity, imagined that the nations would receive Christianity with more facility, when they saw the rites and ceremonies to which they were accustomed, adopted in the church, and the same worship paid to Christ and his martyrs, which they had formerly offered to their idol deities. Hence it happened, that, in these times, the religion of the Greeks and Romans differed very little, in its external appearance, from that of the Christians. They had both a most pompous and splendid ritual. Gorgeous robes, mitres, tiaras, wax-tapers, crosiers, processions, lustrations, images, gold and silver vases, and many such circumstances of pageantry, were equally to be seen in the heathen temples and in the Christian churches.

II. No sooner had Constantine abolished the superstitions of his ancestors, than magnificent churches were every where erected for the Christians, which were richly adorned with pictures and images, and bore a striking resemblance to the pagan temples, both in their outward and inward form. Of these churches some were built over the tombs of martyrs, and were frequented only at stated times; while others were set apart for the ordinary assemblies of Christians in divine worship. The former were called Martyria, from the places where they were erected; and the latter Tituli. Both of them were consecrated with great pomp, and with certain rites borrowed mostly from the ancient laws of the Roman pontiffs.

But our wonder will not cease here; it will rather be

Concerning the Rites and Ceremonies used in the augmented when we learn, that, at this time, it was looked

it.

Church during this Century.

I. WHILE the Roman emperors were studious to promote the honour of Christianity by the auspicious protection they afforded to the church, and to advance its interests by their most zealous efforts, the inconsiderate and illdirected piety of the bishops cast a cloud over the beauty and simplicity of the Gospel, by the prodigious number of rites and ceremonies which they had invented to embellish And here we may apply that well-known saying of Augustin, that 'the yoke under which the Jews formerly groaned, was more tolerable than that imposed upon many Christians in his time.' The rites and institutions, by "hich the Greeks, Romans, and other nations, had formerly testified their religious veneration for fictitious deities, were now adopted, with some slight alterations, by Christian bishops, and employed in the service of the true God. We have already mentioned the reasons alleged for this imitation, so likely to disgust all who have a just

See Pierre Daniel Huet, Origeniana, lib. ii. cap. iv.-Louis Doucin. Histoire de l' Origenisme, livr. iii.-Hier. a Prato, Diss. vi. in Sulpitium Severum de Monachis ob Origenis noman ex Nitra totaque Egypto pulsis, p. 273.

Augustin. Epist. cxix. ad Januarium. according to the ancient divi

sion. B The lituus, which, among the ancient Romans, was the chief ensign of the augurs, and derived its name from its resemblance to the military trumpet, became a mark of Episcopal dignity. We call it the crosier or bishop's staff.

d The word supplicationes, which I have rendered by that of processiones, signified among the pagans, those solemn and public acts of gratitude for national blessings, or deprecation of national calamities, which were expressed by the whole body of the people by a religious approach to the temples of the gods, which by a decree of the senate, were open to all without distinction. See Cic. Catil. iii. 6. liv. x. 23.

This

upon as an essential part of religion, to have in every country a multitude of churches; and here we must look for the true origin of what is called the right of patronage, which was introduced among Christians with no other view than to encourage the opulent to erect a great number of churches, by giving them the privilege of appointing the ministers that were to officiate in them.s was a new instance of that servile imitation of the ancient superstitions which reigned at this time; for it was a very common notion among the people of old, that nations and provinces were happy and free from danger, in proportion to the number of fanes and temples, which they consecrated to the worship of gods and heroes, whose protection and succour could not fail, as it was thought, to be shed abundantly upon those who worshipped them with such zeal, and honoured them with so many marks of veneration and respect. The Christians unhappily contracted the same erroneous way of thinking. The more numer ous were the temples which they erected in honour of

See Ezek. Spanheim, Preuves sur les Cesars de Julien, and particularly Le Brun's Explication literale et historique des Ceremonies de la Messe, tom. ii. A description of these churches may be found in Eusebius, de vita Constantini M. lib. iii. cap. xxxv. and an exact plan of their interior structure is accurately engraven in Bishop Beverage's Adnotationes in Pandectas Canonum, tom. ii. and in Frederic Spanheim's Institut. Hist. Eccl. It must also be observed, that certain parts of the Christian churches were formed after the model of the Jewish temples. See Camp. Vitringa de Synagogâ vetere. lib. iii.

f Jo. Mabillon, Mus. Ital. tom. ii. in Comment. ad ordin. Roman. p xvi. The Tituli were the smaller churches so called from this circumstance, that the presbyters, who officiated in them, were called by the names of the places were they were erected, i. e. received titles, which fixed them to those particular cures.

Just. Hen. Bohmeri Jus Eccles. Protestant. tom. ii. p. 466.-Bibliotheque Italique, tom. v. p. 166.

« AnteriorContinuar »