tyrant from the ground.121 Such principles and such examples insensibly prepared the triumph of the Roman pontiffs, who have trampled on the necks of kings. vi. Freedom VI. Every popular government has experienced the effects of prnSjaf rude or artificial eloquence. The coldest nature is animated, the firmest reason is moved, by the rapid communication of the prevailing impulse; ana each hearer is affected by his own passions, and by those of the surrounding multitude. The ruin of civil liberty had silenced the demagogues of Athens and the tribunes of Rome; the custom of preaching, which seems to constitute a considerable part of Christian devotion, had not been introduced into the temples of antiquity; and the ears of monarchs were never invaded by the harsh sound of popular eloquence, till the pulpits of the empire were filled with sacred orators who possessed some advantages unknown to their profane predecessors.122 The arguments and rhetoric of the tribune were instantly opposed, with equal arms, by skilful and resolute antagonists; and the cause of truth and reason might derive an accidental support from the conflict of hostile passions. The bishop, or some distinguished presbyter, to whom he cautiously delegated the powers of preaching, harangued, without the danger of interruption or reply, a submissive multitude, whose minds had been prepared and subdued by the awful ceremonies of religion. Such was the strict subordination of the Catholic church that the same concerted sounds might issue at once from an hundred pulpits of Italy or Egypt, if they were tuned m by the master hand of the Roman or Alexandrian primate. The design of this institution was laudable, but the fruits were not always salutary. The preachers recommended the practice of the social duties; but they exalted the perfection of monastic virtue, which is painful to the individual and useless to mankind. Their charitable exhortations betrayed a secret wish that the clergy might be permitted to manage the wealth of the faithful

121 See Synesius, Epist. xlvii. p. 186, 187. Epist. lxxii. p. 218, 219. Epist. lxxxix. p. 230, 231.

J^See Thomassin (Discipline de l'Eglise, torn. ii. L iii. c. 83. p. 1761-1770) and Bingham (Antiquities, vol. i. 1. xiv. c. 4, p. 688-717). Preaching was considered as the most important office of the bishop; but this function was sometimes entrusted to such presbyters as Chrysostom and Augustin.

lMQueen Elizabeth used this expression, and practised this art, whenever she wished to prepossess the minds of her people in favour of any extraordinary measure of government The hostile effects of this mtisic were apprehended by her successor, and severely felt by his son. "When pulpit, dram ecclesiastic, &c. see Heylin's Life of Archbishop Laud, p. 153.

for the benefit of the poor. The most sublime representations of the attributes and laws of the Deity were sullied by an idle mixture of metaphysical subtleties, puerile rites, and fictitious miracles: and they expatiated, with the most fervent zeal, on the religious merit of hating the adversaries, and obeying the ministers, of the church. When the public peace was distracted by heresy and schism, the sacred orators sounded the trumpet of discord, and perhaps of sedition. The understandings of their congregations were perplexed by mystery, their passions were inflamed by invectives: and they rushed from the Christian temples of Antioch or Alexandria, prepared either to suffer or to inflict martyrdom. The corruption of taste and language is strongly marked in the vehement declamations of the Latin bishops; but the compositions of Gregory and Chrysostom have been compared with the most splendid models of Attic, or at least of Asiatic, eloquence.m

VII. The representatives of the Christian republic were vn. privilege regularly assembled in the spring and autumn of each year: and Sjmjsu1"''" these synods diffused the spirit of ecclesiastical discipline and legislation through the hundred and twenty provinces of the Roman world.125 The archbishop or metropolitan was empowered, by the laws, to summon the suffragan bishops of his province, to revise their conduct, to vindicate their rights, to declare their faith, and to examine the merit of the candidates who were elected by the clergy and people to supply the vacancies of the episcopal college. The primates of Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, Carthage, and afterwards Constantinople, who exercised a more ample jurisdiction, convened the numerous assembly of their dependent bishops. But the convocation of great and extraordinary synods was the prerogative of the emperor alone. Whenever the emergencies of the church required this decisive measure, he dispatched a peremptory summons to the bishops, or the deputies of each province, with an order for the use of post-horses, and a competent allowance for the expenses of their journey. At an early period, when Con-Aj>. su

1MThose modest orators acknowledged that, as they were destitute of the gift of miracles, they endeavoured to acquire the arts of eloquence.

145 The council of Nice, in the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh canons, has made some fundamental regulations conce-ning synods, metropolitans, and primates. The Nicene canons have been variously tortured, abused, interpolated, or forged, according to the interest of the clergy. The Suburbicarian churches, assigned (by Rufinus) to the bishop of Rome, have been made the subject of vehement controversy. See Sirmond. Opera, torn. iv. p. 1-238.

stantine was the protector, rather than the proselyte, of Christianity, he referred the African controversy to the council of Aries; in which the bishops of York, of Treves, of Milan, and of Carthage, met as friends and brethren, to debate in their native tongue on the common interest of the Latin or Western church.12* Eleven years afterwards, a more numerous and celebrated assembly was convened at Nice in Bithynia, to extinguish, by their final sentence, the subtle disputes which had arisen in Egypt on the subject of the Trinity. Three hundred and eighteen bishops obeyed the summons of their indulgent master; the ecclesiastics, of every rank and sect and denomination, have been computed at two thousand and forty-eight persons ;m the Greeks appeared in person; and the consent of the Latins was expressed by the legates of the Roman pontiff". The session, which lasted about two months, was frequently honoured by the presence of the emperor. Leaving his guards at the door, he seated himself (with the permission of the council) on a low stool in the midst of the hall. Constantine listened with patience and spoke with modesty: and, while he influenced the debates, he humbly professed that he was the minister, not the judge, of the successors of the apostles, who had been established as priests and as gods upon earth.128 Such profound reverence of an absolute monarch towards a feeble and unarmed assembly of his own subjects can only be compared to the respect with which the senate had been treated by the Roman princes, who adopted the policy of Augustus. Within the space of fifty years, a philosophic spectator of the vicissitude of human affairs might have contemplated Tacitus in the senate of Rome, and Constantine in the council of Nice. The fathers of the capitol and those of the church had alike degenerated from the virtues of their founders ; but, as the bishops were more deeply rooted in the public opinion, they sustained their dignity with more decent pride, and sometimes opposed, with a manly spirit, the wishes of their sovereign. The progress of time and

raWe have only thirty-three or forty-seven episcopal subscriptions: but Ado, a writer indeed of small account, reckons six hundred bishops in the council of Aries. Tillemont, Mem. torn. vi. p. 422.

127 See Tillemont, torn vi. p. 915, and Beausobre, Hist, du Manichfeme, torn, i. p. 529. The name of Hstof, which is given by Eutychius to the 2048 ecclesiastics (Annal. torn. i. p. 440, vers. Pococic), must be extended far beyond the limits of an orthodox or even episcopal ordination.

TM See Euseb. in Vit. Constantin. 1. iii. c. 6-21. Tillemont, Mem. Ecclesiastiques, torn. vi. p. 669-759.

superstition erased the memory of the weakness, the passion, the ignorance, which disgraced these ecclesiastical synods; and the Catholic world has unanimously submitted 1->u to the infallible decrees of the general councils.130

19 Sancimus igitur vicem leguni obtinere, quae a quatuor Sanctis Conciliis . . . expositae sunt aut firmatae. Praedictarum enim quatuor synodorum dogmata sicut sanctas Scripturas et regulas sicut leges observamus. Justinian. Novell, cxxxi. Beveridge (ad Dandect. proleg. p. 2) remarks that the emperors never made new laws in ecclesiastical matters; and Giannone observes, in a very different spirit, that they gave a legal sanction to the canons of councils. Istoria Civile di Napoli, torn. i. p. 136.

130 See the article Concile in the Encyclopedic, torn. iii. p. 668-679, Mil ion de Lucernes. The author, M. le docteur Bouchaud, has discussed, according to the principles of the Gailican church, the principal questions which relate to the form and constitution of general, national, and provincial councils. The editors (see Preface, p. xvi.) have reason to be proud of this article. Those who consult their immense compilation seldom depart so well satisfied.


Persecution of HeresyThe Schism of the DonatistsThe Arian ControversyAthanasiusDistracted State of the Church and Empire under Constantine and his SonsToleration of Pagan

The grateful applause of the clergy has consecrated the memory of a prince who indulged their passions and promoted their interest. Constantine gave them security, wealth, honours, and revenge: and the support of the orthodox faith was considered as the most sacred and important duty of the civil magistrate. The edict of Milan, the great charter of toleration, had confirmed to each individual of the Roman world the privilege of choosing and professing his own religion. But this inestimable privilege was soon violated: with the knowledge of truth, the emperor imbibed the maxims of persecution; and the sects which dissented from the Catholic church were afflicted and oppressed by the triumph of Christianity. Constantine easily believed that the Heretics, who presumed to dispute his opinions or to oppose his commands, were guilty of the most absurd and criminal obstinacy; and that a seasonable application of moderate severities might save those unhappy men from the danger of an everlasting condemnation. Not a moment was lost in excluding the ministers and teachers of the separated congregations from any share of the rewards and immunities which the emperor had so liberally bestowed on the orthodox clergy. But, as the sectaries might still exist under the cloud of royal disgrace, the conquest of the East was immediately followed by an edict which announced their total destruction.1 After a preamble filled with passion and reproach, Constantine absolutely prohibits the assemblies of the Heretics, and confiscates their public property to the use either of the revenue or of the Catholic church. The sects against whom the Imperial severity was directed appear to have been the adherents of Paul of Samosata; the Montanists of Phrygia, who maintained

1 Eusebius in Vit. Constantin. 1. iii. c. 63, 64, 65, 66,

« ForrigeFortsett »