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temporal death, and the honest feelings of nature resisted the artificial prejudices of theology. The humanity of Ambrose and Martin was confirmed by the scandalous irregularity of the proceedings against Priscillian and his adherents. The civil and ecclesiastical ministers had transgressed the limits of their respective provinces. The secular judge had presumed to receive an appeal, and to pronounce a definitive sentence, in a matter of faith and episcopal jurisdiction. The bishops had disgraced themselves by exercising the functions of accusers in a criminal prosecution. The cruelty of Ithacius,5' who beheld the tortures, and solicited the death of the heretics, provoked the just indignation of mankind; and the vices of that profligate bishop were admitted as a proof that his zeal was instigated by the sordid motives of interest. Since the death of Priscillian, the rude attempts of persecution have been refined and methodised in the holy office, which assigns their distinct parts to the ecclesiastical and secular powers. The devoted victim is regularly delivered by the priest to the magistrate, and by the magistrate to the executioner; and the inexorable sentence of the church, which declares the spiritual guilt of the offender, is expressed in the mild language of pity and intercession.
Among the ecclesiastics who illustrated the reign of Theodosius, AmhroM, Gregory Nazianzen was distinguished by the talents of an orCMi'un?p eloquent preacher; the reputation of miraculous gifts added i.o. 3j«-3»j. weignt ana* dignity to the monastic virtues of Martin of Tours;60 but the palm of episcopal vigour and ability was justly claimed by the intrepid Ambrose.61 He was descended from a noble family of Romans; his father had exercised the important office of Praetorian praefect of Gaul; and the son, after passing through the studies of a liberal education, attained, in the regular gradation of civil honours, the station of consular of Liguria, a province which included the Imperial residence of Milan. At the age of thirty-four, and before he had received the sacrament of baptism, Ambrose, to his own surprise and to that of the world, was suddenly transformed from a governor to an archbishop. Without the least mixture, as it is said, of art or intrigue, the whole body of the people unanimously saluted him with the episcopal title; the concord and perseverance
"The catholic preBbyter (Sulp. Sever. 1. ii. p. 448), and the Pagan orator (Pacat. in Panegyr. Vet. xii. 29), reprobate with equal indignation the character and conduct of Ithacius.
80 The Life of St. Martin, and the Dialogues concerning his miracles, contain facta adapted to the grossest barbarism, in a style not unworthy of the Augustan age. So natural is the alliance between good taste and good sense, that I am always astonished by this contrast.
el The short and superficial Life of St. Ambrose, by his deacon Paulinus (Appendix ad edit. Benedict, p. i.-xv.), has the merit of original evidence. Tillemont (Mem. Ecclos. torn. x. p. 78-306) and the Benedictine editors (p. xxxi.-lxiii.) have laboured with their usual diligence.
A.d. 385. TIIE EMPRESS JUSTINA. 377
of their acclamations were ascribed to a praeternatural impulse; and the reluctant magistrate was compelled to undertake a spiritual office for which he was not prepared by the habits and occupations of his former life. But the active force of his genius soon qualified him to exercise, with zeal and prudence, the duties of his ecclesiastical jurisdiction; and while he cheerfully renounced the vain and splendid trappings of temporal greatness, he condescended, for the good of the church, to direct the conscience of the emperors, and to control the administration of the empire. Gratian loved and revered him as a father; and the elaborate treatise on the faith of the Trinity was designed for the instruction of the young prince. After his tragic death, at a time when the empress Justina trembled for her own safety, and for that of her son Valentinian, the archbishop of Milan was despatched on two different embassies to the court of Treves. He exercised, with equal firmness and dexterity, the powers of his spiritual and political characters; and perhaps contributed, by his authority and eloquence, to check the ambition of Maximus, and to protect the peace of Italy.68 Ambrose had devoted his life and his abilities to the service of the church. Wealth was the object of his contempt; he had renounced his private patrimony; and he sold, without hesitation, the consecrated plate for the redemption of captives. The clergy and people of Milan were attached to their archbishop; and he deserved the esteem, without soliciting the favour, or apprehending the displeasure, of his feeble sovereigns.
The government of Italy, and of the young emperor, naturally devolved to his mother Justina, a woman of beauty and Hihucccmspirit, but who, in the midst of an orthodox people, had the tionT^tifo misfortune of professing the Arian heresy, which she Jstm endeavoured to instil into the mind of her son. Justina Jiulfcwaa persuaded that a Roman emperor might claim, in his APril 10own dominions, the public exercise of his religion; and she proposed to the archbishop, as a moderate and reasonable concession, that he should resign the use of a single church, either in the city or suburbs of Milan. But the conduct of Ambrose was governed by very different principles.68 The palaces of the earth might indeed belong to Caesar, but the churches were the houses of God; and, within the limits of his diocese, he himself, as the lawful successor of the apostles, was the only minister of God. The privileges of Chris
•* Ambrose himself (torn. ii. Epist. xxiv. p. 888-891) gives the emperor a very spirited account of his own embassy.
"His own representation of bis principles and conduct (torn. ii. Epist. xx. xxi. xxii. p. 852-880) is one of the curious monuments of ecclesiastical antiquity. It contains two letters to his sister Marcellina, with a petition to Valentinian, and the sermon d* Jiasiticis non tradendis.
tianity, temporal as well as spiritual, were confined to the true believers; and the mind of Ambrose was satisfied that his own theological opinions were the standard of truth and orthodoxy. The archbishop, who refused to hold any conference or negociation with the instruments of Satan, declared, with modest firmness, his resolution to die a martyr, rather than to yield to the impious sacrilege; and Justina, who resented the refusal as an act of insolence and rebellion, hastily determined to exert the Imperial prerogative of her son. As she desired to perform her public devotions on the approaching festival of Easter, Ambrose was ordered to appear before the council. He obeyed the summons with the respect of a faithful subject, but he was followed, without his consent, by an innumerable people : they pressed, with impetuous zeal, against the gates of the palace; and the affrighted ministers of Valentinian, instead of pronouncing a sentence of exile on the archbishop of Milan, humbly requested that he would interpose his authority to protect the person of the emperor, and to restore the tranquillity of the capital. But the promises which Ambrose received and communicated were soon violated by a perfidious court; and, during six of the most solemn days which Christian piety has set apart for the exercise of religion, the city was agitated by the irregular convulsions of tumult and fanaticism. The officers of the household were directed to prepare, first the Portian, and afterwards the new, Basilica, for the immediate reception of the emperor and his mother. The splendid canopy and hangings of the royal seat were arranged in the customary manner ; but it was found necessary to defend them, by a strong guard, from the insults of the populace. The Arian ecclesiastics who ventured to show themselves in the streets were exposed to the most imminent danger of their lives; and Ambrose enjoyed the merit and reputation of rescuing his personal enemies from the hands of the enraged multitude.
But while he laboured to restrain the effects of their zeal, the pathetic vehemence of his sermons continually inflamed the angry and seditious temper of the people of Milan. The characters of Eve, of the wife of Job, of Jezebel, of Herodias, were indecently applied to the mother of the emperor; and her desire to obtain a church for the Arians was compared to the most cruel persecutions which Christianity had endured under the reign of Paganism. The measures of the court served only to expose the magnitude of the evil. A fine of two hundred pounds of gold was imposed on the corporate body of merchants and manufacturers : an order was signified, in the name of the emperor, to all the officers and inferior servants of the courts of justice, that, during the continuance of the public disorders, they should strictly confine themselves to their houses : and the ministers
A.n. 3S5. TO THE EMPRESS JTJSTINA. 379
of Valentinian imprudently confessed that the most respectable part of the citizens of Milan was attached to the cause of their archbishop. He was again solicited to restore peace to his country, by a timely compliance with the will of his sovereign. The reply of Ambrose was couched in the most humble and respectful terms, which might, however, be interpreted as a serious declaration of civil war. "His "life and fortune were in the hands of the emperor; but he would "never betray the church of Christ, or degrade the dignity of the "episcopal character. In such a cause he was prepared to suffer "whatever the malice of the daemon could inflict; and he only wished M to die in the presence of his faithful flock, and at the foot of the "altar; he had not contributed to excite, but it was in the power of "God alone to appease, the rage of the people: he deprecated the "scenes of blood and confusion which were likely to ensue; and it "was his fervent prayer that he might not survive to behold the ruin "of a flourishing city, and perhaps the desolation of all Italy."64 The obstinate bigotry of Justina would have endangered the empire of her son, if, in this contest with the church and people of Milan, she could have depended on the active obedience of the troops of the palace. A large body of Goths had marched to occupy the Basilica, which was the object of the dispute: and it might be expected from the Arian principles and barbarous manners of these foreign mercenaries, that they would not entertain any scruples in the execution of the most sanguinary orders. They were encountered on the sacred threshold by the archbishop, who, thundering against them a sentence of excommunication, asked them, in the tone of a father and a master, Whether it was to invade the house of God that they had implored the hospitable protection of the republic? The suspense of the barbarians allowed some hours for a more effectual negociation; and the empress was persuaded by the advice of her wisest counsellors to leave the catholics in possession of all the churches of Milan; and to dissemble, till a more convenient season, her intentions of revenge. The mother of Valentinian could never forgive the triumph of Ambrose: and the royal youth uttered a passionate exclamation, that his own servants were ready to betray him into the hands of an insolent priest.
The laws of the empire, some of which were inscribed with the name of Valentinian, still condemned the Arian heresy, and seemed to excuse the resistance of the catholics. By
•* Retz had a similar message from the queen to request that he would appease the tumult of Paris. It was no longer in his power, &c. A quoi j'ajoutai tout ce que vous pouvez vous imagiuer de respect, de douleur, de regret, et de soumission, &c. (Mcnioires, torn. i. p. 140). Certainly I do not compare either the causes or the men; yet the coadjutor himself had some idea (p. 84) of imitating St. Ambrose
the influence of Justrna, an edict of toleration was promulgated in all the provinces which were subject to the court of Milan; the free exercise of their religion was granted to those who professed the faith of Rimini; and the emperor declared that all persons who should infringe this sacred and salutary constitution should be capitally punished, as the enemies of the public peace.*1 The character and language of the archbishop of Milan may justify the suspicion that his conduct soon afforded a reasonable ground, or at least a specious pretence, to the Arian ministers, who watched the opportunity of surprising him in some act of disobedience to a law which he strangely represents as a law of blood and tyranny. A sentence of easy and honourable banishment was pronounced, which enjoined Ambrose to depart from Milan without delay, whilst it permitted him to choose the place of his exile and the number of his companions. But the authority of the saints, who have preached and practised the maxims of passive loyalty, appeared to Ambrose of less moment than the extreme and pressing danger of the church. He boldly refused to obey; and his refusal was supported by the unanimous consent of his faithful people." They guarded by turns the' person of their archbishop; the gates of the cathedral and the episcopal palace were strongly secured; and the Imperial troops, who had formed the blockade, were unwilling to risk the attack of that impregnable fortress. The numerous poor, who had been relieved by the liberality of Ambrose, embraced the fair occasion of signalizing their zeal and gratitude; and as the patience of the multitude might have been exhausted by the length and uniformity of nocturnal vigils, he prudently introduced into the church of Milan the useful institution of a loud and regular psalmody. While he maintained this arduous contest, he was instructed, by a dream, to open the earth in a place where the remains of two martyrs, Gervasius and Protasius," had been deposited above three hundred years. Immediately under the pavement of the church two perfect skeletons were found,68 with the heads separated from their bodies, and a plentiful effusion of blood.
45 Sozomen alone (1. vii. c. 13) throws this luminous fact into a dark and perplexed narrative.
** Excubabat pia plebs In ecclesia mori parata cum episcopo suo . . . Nos adhuc frigidi excitabaniur tamen civitate attonita atque turbata. AuguBtin. Confession. 1. ix. c. 7.
"Tillemont, Mem. Eccles. torn. ii. p. 78, 498. Many churches in Italy, Gaul, 4c, were dedicated to these unknown martyrs, of whom St. Gervase seems to have been more fortunate than his companion.
** Invenimus mine magnitudinis viroB duos, ut prisca aetas ferebat. torn. ii. Epist. xxii. p. 875. The size of these skeletons was fortunately, or skilfully, suited to the jiopular prejudice of the gradual decrease of the human stature, which has prevailed in every age since the time of Homer.
Grandiaque effossis mirabitur ossa sepulchris.