« ForrigeFortsett »
time, of accident, and of their own industry. But the liberality of the Christian emperors had actually endowed them with some legal prerogatives, which secured and dignified the sacerdotal character. 1. Under a despotic government, the bishops alone enjoyed and asserted the inestimable privilege of being tried only by their peers, and even in a capital accusation, a synod of their brethren were the sole judges of their guilt or innocence. Such a tribunal, unless it was inflamed by personal resentment or religious discord, might be favourable, or even partial, to the sacerdotal order: but Constantine was satisfied," that secret impunity would be less pernicious than public scandal: and the Nicene council was edified by his public declaration, that if he surprised a bishop in the act of adultery, he should cast his imperial mantle over the episcopal sinner. 2. The domestic jurisdiction of the bishops was at once a privilege and a restraint of the ecclesiastical order, whose civil causes were decently withdrawn from the cognizance of a secular judge. Their venial offences were not exposed to the shame of a public trial or punishment; and the gentle correction, which the tenderness of youth may endure from its parents or instructors, was inflicted by the temperate severity of the bishops. But if the clergy were guilty of any crime which could not be sufficiently expiated by their degradation from an honourable and beneficial profession, the Roman magistrate drew the sword of justice, without any regard to ecclesiastical immunities. 3. The arbitration of the bishops was ra
The subject of ecclesiastical jurisdiction has been involved in a mist of passion, of prejudice, and of interest. Two of the fairest books which have fallen into my hands, are, the Institution of the Canon Law, by the abbé de Fleury, and the Civil History of Naples, by Giannone. Their moderation was the effect of situation as well as of temper. Fleury was a French ecclesiastic, who respected the authority of the parliaments ; Giannone was an Italian lawyer, who dreaded the power of the church. And here let me observe, that as the general propositions which I advance are the result of many particular and imperfect facts, I must either refer the reader to those modern authors who have expressly treated the subject , or swell these notes to a disagreeable and disproportioned size.
u Tillemont has collected from Rufinus, Theodoret, &c. 'the sentiments and language of Constantine. Mem. Eccles. tom. 3. p. 749,750.
tified by a positive law; and the judges were instructed to execute, without appeal or delay, the episcopal de crees, whose validity had hitherto depended on the consent of the parties. The conversion of the magistrates themselves, and of the whole empire, might gradually remove the fears and scruples of the Christians. But they still resorted to the tribunal of the bishops, whose abilities and integrity they esteemed ; and the venerable Austin enjoyed the satisfaction of complaining that his spiritual functions were perpetually interrupted by the invidious labour of deciding the claim or the possession of silver and gold, of lands and cattle. 4. The ancient privilege of sanctuary was transferred to the Christian temples, and extended, by the liberal piety of the younger Theodosius, to the precincts of consecrated ground. The fugitive, and even guilty, suppliants were permitted to implore, either the justice, or the mercy, of the Deity and his ministers. The rash violence of despotism was suspended by the mild interposition of the church; and the lives and fortunes of the most eminent sabjects might be protected by the mediation of the bishop V. Spiri
V. The bishop was the perpetual censor of the tual cen- morals of his people. The discipline of penance
was digested into a system of canonical jurisprudence, which accurately defined the duty of private or public confession, the rules of evidence, the degrees of guilt, and the measure of punishment. It was impossible to execute this spiritual censure, if the Christian
* See Cod. Theod. lib. 9. tit. 45. leg. 4. In the works of Fra. Paolo (tom. 4. p. 192, &c.) there is an excellent discourse on the origin, claims, abuses, and limits, of sanctuaries. He justly observes, that ancient Greece might perhaps contain fifteen or twenty azyla or sanctuaries; a number which at present may be found in Italy within the walls of a single city.
y The penitential jurisprudence was continually improved by the canons of the councils. But as many cases were still left to the discretion of the bishops, they occasionally published, after the example of the Roman prætor, the rules of discipline which they proposed to observe. Among the canonical epistles of the fourth century, those of Basil the Great were the most celebrated. They are inserted in the Pandects of Beveridge, (tom. 2. p. 47—151.) and are translated by Chardon. Hist. des Sacremens, tom. 4. p. 219-277.
pontiff, who punished the obscure sins of the multitude, respected the conspicuous vices and destructive crimes of the magistrate; but it was impossible to arraign the conduct of the magistrate, without controlling the administration of civil government. Some considerations of religion, or loyalty, or fear, protected the sacred persons of the emperors from the zeal or resentment of the bishops; but they boldly censured and excommunicated the subordinate tyrants, who were not invested with the majesty of the purple. St. Athanasius excommunicated one of the ministers of Egypt; and the interdict which he pronounced, of fire and water, was solemnly transmitted to the churches of Cappadocia. Under the reign of the younger Theodosius, the polite and eloquent Synesius, one of the descendants of Hercules, filled the episcopal seat of Ptolemais, near the ruins of ancient Cyrene, and the philosophic bishop supported with dignity the character which he had resumed with reluctance. He vanquished the monster of Lybia, the president Andronicus, who abused the authority of a venal office, invented new modes of rapine and torture, and ag
z Basil (Epistol. 47. in Baronius, Annal. Eccles. A. D.370. no. 91.) who declares that he purposely relates it, to convince governors that they were not exempt from a sentence of excommunication. In his opinion, even a royal head is not safe from the thunders of the Vatican; and the cardinal shews himself much more consistent than the lawyers and theologians of the Gallican church.
a The long series of his ancestors, as high as Eurysthenes, the first Doric king of Sparta, and the fifth in lineal descent from Hercules, was inscribed in the public registers of Cyrene, a Lacedemonian colony. (Synes. Epist. 57. p. 197. edit. Petav.). Such a pure and illustrious pedigree of seventeen hundred years, with. out adding the royal ancestors of Hercules, cannot be equalled in the history of mankind,
6 Synesius (de Regno, p. 2.) pathetically deplores the fallen and ruined state of Cyrene, πολις Ελληνις, παλαιον ονομα και σεμνον, και εν ωδη μυρια των παλαι σοφων, νυν TEVNS nai xatnons, xai Meya epelv. Ptolemais, a new city, eighty-two miles to the westward of Cyrene, assumed the metropolitan honours, of the Pentapolis, or Upper Libya, which were afterward transferred to Sozusa. See Wesseling Itinerar. p. 67, 68.732. Cellarius Geograph. tom. 2. part. 2. p.77–74. Carolus, a Sto Paulo Geograph. Sacra, p. 273. d'Anville Geographie Ancienne, tom. 3. p. 43, 44. Memoires de l'Acad. des Inscriptions, tom. 37. p. 363_-391.
Synesius had previously represented his own disqualifications. (Epist. c. 5. p. 246_-250.) He loved profane studies and profane sports ; he was incapable of supporting a life of celibacy; he disbelieved the resurrection; and he refused to preach fables to the people, unless he might be permitted to philosophite at home. Theophilus, primate of Egypt, who knew his merit, accepted this extraordinary compromise. See the life of Synesius in Tillemont. Mem. Eccles. tom. 12. p. 499 -554.
gravated the guilt of oppression and that of sacrilege. After a fruitless attempt to reclaim the haughty magistrate by mild and religious admonition, Synesius proceeds to inflict the last sentence of ecclesiastical justice, which devotes Andronicus, with his associates and their families, to the abhorrence of earth and heaven. The impenitent sinners, more cruel than Phalaris or Sennacherib, more destructive than war, pestilence, or a cloud of locusts, are deprived of the name and privileges of Christians, of the participation of the sacraments, and of the hope of paradise. The bishop exhorts the clergy, the magistrates, and the people, to renounce all society with the enemies of Christ; to exclude them from their houses and tables; and to refuse them the common offices of life, and the decent rights of burial. The church of Ptolemais, obscure and contemptible as she may appear, addresses this declaration to all her sister churches of the world; and the profane, who reject her decrees, will be involved in the guilt or punishment of Andronicus and his impious followers. These spiritual terrors were enforced by a dexterous application to the Byzantine court; the trembling president implored the mercy of the church; and the descendant of Hercules enjoyed the satisfaction of raising a prostrate tyrant from the ground. Such principles, and such examples, insensibly prepared the triumph of the Roman pontiffs, who have trampled on the necks of kings.
VI. Every popular government has experienced
the effect of rude or artificial eloquence. The public preach: coldest nature is animated, the firmest reason is
moved, by the rapid communication of the pred See the invective of Synesius, epist. 57. p. 191–201. The promotion of Andronicus was illegal; since he was a native of Berenice, in the same province. The instruments of torture are curiously specified, the morngiov, or press, the daxTu, the ποδοστραβη, the ρινογαζις, the ωταγρα, and the χειλoστροφιον, that variously pressed or distended the fingers, the feet, the nose, the ears, and the lips, of the victims.
• The sentence of excommunication is expressed in a rhetorical style. (Syvesius, epist. 58. p. 201—209.) The method of involving whole families, though somewhat unjust, was improved into national interdicts.
See Synesius, Epist. 47. p, 186, 187. epist. 72. p. 218, 219. epist. 89. p. 250,
VI. Free dom of
vailing impulse; and 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. 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 a hundred pulpits of Italy or Egypt, if they were tuned" 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, for the benefit of the
See Thomassin (Discipline de l'Eglise, tom. 2. lib. 3. c. 83. p. 1761—1770.) and Bingham. (Antiquities, vol. 1. lib. 14. c. 4. p. 688—717.) Preaching was considered as the most important office of the bishop; but this function was sometimes intrusted to such presbyters as Chrysostom and Augustin.
Queen 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 music were apprehended by her successor, and severely felt by his son.“ When pulpit, drum ecclesiastic,” &c. See Heylin's Life of Archbishop Laud, p. 152. VOL. II.