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was virtues which seem adapted to the character of a saint and a martyr.” an . The same causes which at first had destroyed the equality of: of the presbyters introduced among the bishops a pre-eminence of: ted rank, and from thence a superiority of jurisdiction. As often to as in the spring and autumn they met in provincial synod, the go difference of personal merit and reputation was very sensibly use felt among the members of the assembly, and the multitude no was governed by the wisdom and eloquence of the few. But le; the order of public proceedings required a more regular and to less invidious distinction; the office of perpetual presidents in ul the councils of each province was conferred on the bishops of on the principal city, and these aspiring prelates, who soon acquired m; the lofty titles of Metropolitans and Primates, secretly prepared he themselves to usurp over their episcopal brethren the same | authority which the bishops had so lately assumed above the he college of presbyters.” Nor was it long before an emulation he of pre-eminence and power prevailed among the metropolitans er themselves, each of them affecting to display, in the most pompof us terms, the temporal honours and advantages of the city over th. which he presided; the numbers and opulence of the Christians he who were subject to their pastoral care; the saints and martyrs he who had arisen among them, and the purity with which they w. preserved the tradition of the faith, as it had been transmitted of through a series of orthodox bishops from the apostle or the so, postolic disciple, to whom the foundation of their church was & scribed.” From every cause, either of a civil or of an ecclesiis stical nature, it was easy to foresee that Rome must enjoy the of respect, and would soon claim the obedience, of the provinces. h. The society of the faithful bore a just proportion to the capital Ambition of it of the empire; and the Roman church was the greatest, the *:::: * is most numerous, and, in regard to the West, the most ancient of on all the Christian establishments, many of which had received their religion from the pious labours of her missionaries. Inso tead of one apostolic founder, the utmost boast of Antioch, of of Ephesus, or of Corinth, the banks of the Tiber were supposed he to have been honoured with the preaching and martyrdom of
* If Novatus, Felicissimus, &c., whom the bishop of Carthage expelled from his church, and from Africa, were not the most detestable monsters of wickedness, the zeal of Cyprian must occasionally have prevailed over his veracity. For a very Rst account of these obscure quarrels, see Mosheim, p. 497–512. o, in Mosheim, p. 269, 574. Dupin, Antiquae Eccles. Disciplin., p. 19, 20. jo, in Tertullian, in a distinct treatise, has pleaded against the heretics the right dprescription, as it was held by the apostolic churches.
Laity and clergy
the two most eminent among the apostles; * and the bishops
these appellations comprehended the body of the Christian people; the latter, according to the signification of the word, was appropriated to the chosen portion that had been set apart for the service of religion; a celebrated order of men which has furnished the most important, though not always the most edifying, subjects for modern history. Their mutual hostilities sometimes disturbed the peace of the infant church, but their real and activity were united in the common cause, and the love of power, which (under the most artful disguises) could insinuate itself into the breasts of bishops and martyrs, animated them to increase the number of their subjects, and to enlarge the limits of the Christian empire. They were destitute of any temporal force, and they were for a long time discouraged and oppressed, rather than assisted, by the civil magistrate; but they had acjuired, and they employed within their own society, the two most efficacious instruments of government, rewards and punishments; the former derived from the pious liberality, the latter from the devout apprehensions, of the faithful. I. The community of goods, which had so agreeably amused the imagination of Plato,” and which subsisted in some degree mong the austere sect of the Essenians,” was adopted for a short time in the primitive church. The fervour of the first proselytes prompted them to sell those worldly possessions which they despised, to lay the price of them at the feet of the apostles, and to content themselves with receiving an equal share out of the general distribution.” The progress of the Christian religion relaxed, and gradually abolished, this generous institution, which, in hands less pure than those of the apostles, would too soon have been corrupted and abused by the returning selfishness of human nature; and the converts who embraced the new religion were permitted to retain the possession of their patrimony, to receive legacies and inheritances, and to increase their separate property by all the lawful means of trade and industry. Instead of an absolute sacrifice, a moderate proportion was accepted by the ministers of the gospel; and in their weekly or monthly assemblies, every believer, according to the exigency of the occasion, and the measure of his wealth and piety, presented his voluntary offering for the use of the common fund.” Nothing, however inconsiderable, was refused; but it was diligently inculcated that, in the article of Tythes, the Mosaic law was still of divine obligation; and that, since the Jews, under a less perfect discipline, had been commanded to pay a tenth part of all that they possessed, it would become the disciples of Christ to distinguish themselves by a superior degree of liberality,” and to acquire some merit by resigning a superfluous treasure, which must so soon be annihilated with the world itself.” It is almost unnecessary to observe that the revenue of each particular church, which was of so uncertain and fluctuating a nature, must have varied with the poverty or the opulence of the faithful, as they were dispersed in obscure villages, or collected in the great cities of the empire. In the time of the emperor Decius, it was the opinion of the magistrates that the Christians of Rome were possessed of very considerable wealth; that vessels of gold and silver were used in their religious worship; and that many among their proselytes had sold their lands and houses to increase the public riches of the sect, at the expense, indeed, of their unfortunate children, who found themselves beggars, because their parents had been saints.” We should listen with distrust to the suspicions of strangers and enemies: on this occasion, however, they receive a very specious and probable colour from the two following circumstances, the only ones that have reached our knowledge, which define any precise sums, or convey any distinct idea. Almost at the same period, the bishop of Carthage, from a society less opulent than that of Rome, collected a hundred thousand sesterces (above eight hundred and fifty pounds sterling), on a sudden call of charity, to redeem the brethren of Numidia, who had been carried away captives by the barbarians of the desert.” About an hundred years before the reign of Decius, the Roman church had received, in a single donation, the sum of two hundred thousand sesterces from a stranger of Pontus, who proposed to fix his residence in the capital.” These oblations, for the most part, were made in money; nor was the society of Christians either desirous or capable of acquiring, to any considerable degree, the incumbrance of landed property. It had been provided by several laws, which were enacted with the same design as our statutes of mortmain, that no real estates should be given or bequeathed to any corporate body, without either a special privilege or a particular dispensation from the emperor or from the senate;” who were seldom disposed to grant them in favour of a sect, at first the object of their contempt, and at last of their fears and jealousy. A transaction, however, is related under the reign of Alexander Severus, which discovers that the restraint was sometimes eluded or suspended, and that the Christians were permitted to claim and to possess lands within the limits of Rome itself.” The progress of Christianity and the civil confusion of the empire contributed to relax the severity of the laws; and, before the close of the third century, many considerable estates were bestowed on the opulent churches of Rome, Milan, Carthage, Antioch, Alexandria, and the other great cities of Italy and the provinces.
*The community instituted by Plato is more perfect than that which Sir Thomas More had imagined for his Utopia. The community of women, and that of tem goods, may be considered as inseparable parts of the same system.
*Joseph. Antiquitat. xviii. 2. Philo, de Vit. Contemplativ.
in See the Acts of the Apostles, c. ii. 4, 5, with Grotius's Commentary. Mosheim, in a particular dissertation, attacks the common opinion with very inconclusive arguments.
Oblations and revenue of the
13° Justin. Martyr, Apolog. Major, c. 89. Tertullian, Apolog. c. 39.
1* Irenaeus ad Haeres. l. iv. c. 27, 34. Origen in Num. Hom. ii. Cyprian de Unitat. Eccles. Constitut. Apostol. l. ii. c. 34, 35, with the notes of Cotelerius. The Constitutions introduce this divine precept by declaring that priests are as much above kings, as the soul is above the body. Among the tythable articles, they enumerate corn, wine, oil, and wood. On this interesting subject, consult Prideaux's History of Tythes, and Fra Paolo delle Materie #. two writers of a very different character.
1*The same opinion which prevailed about the year 10oo was productive of the same effects. Most of the donations express their motive, “appropinquante mundi fine". See Mosheim's General History of the Church, vol. i. p. 457.
1*Tum summa cura est fratribus,
(Ut sermo testatur loquax)
Offerre, fundis venditis
Addicta avorum praedia
Foedis sub auctionibus,
Successor exheres gemit
Sanctis egens parentibus.
Haec occuluntur abditis
Ecclesiarum in angulis,
Et summa pietas creditur
Nudare dulces liberos.
Prudent, nepi orreóávov, Hymn 2.
The subsequent conduct of the deacon Laurence only proves how proper a use was made of the wealth of the Roman church; it was undoubtedly very considerable;
but Fra Paolo (c. 3) appears to exaggerate when he supposes that the successors of Commodus were urged to persecute the Christians by their own avarice, or that of their Praetorian praefects.
*Cyprian, Epistol. 62.
in Tertullian de Praescriptionibus, c. 30. [The stranger was the heretic Marcion.]
*Diocletian gave a rescript, which is only a declaration of the old law : “Collegium, si nullo speciali privilegio subnixum sit, hereditatem capere, non asse, dubium non est”. Fra Paolo (c. 4) thinks that these regulations had been much neglected since the reign of Valerian.
*Hist. August. p. 131 [xviii. 49, 6]. The ground had been public; and was now disputed between the society of Christians and that of butchers.