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One totally new feature of the Work, as it now appears, is its Biographical department. Readers who have not the command of biographical dictionaries, are frequently at a loss in regard to dates, places, and other circumstances connected with the history of divines and others, to whom reference is currently made, both in conversation and in books on religious subjects. Yet, to supply this want within a reasonable compass, has been found to be a matter of no small difficulty. The selection has been regulated by a regard to the prominent station, the literary eminence, or the celebrated character of the individual; and those writers only have been made the subject of biographical notice, who have exerted, to a considerable extent, a decided influence over the religious opinions and practices of certain sections or communities, in the age in which they lived, and in after times. See the articles, AUGUSTINE, BARCLAY, CALVIN, EDWARDS, Knox, SANDEMAN, WESLEY, WHITFIELD, &c.
In preparing the additional articles, the Editor has availed himself of various sources which were not in existence in Mr. Buck's time, or to which he could not obtain access; and he flatters himself that the extent to which he has carried the improvements will meet with the approbation of general readers.
The volume will be found to contain a melancholy exhibition of the multiform corruptions of the Christian faith; of the unhappy influence which pride of intellect, an unbridled imagination, vain speculation, and selfish passions, have had in multiplying the diversity of religious opinion, and in giving rise to interminable dispute. The wide distance at which the various sections of the Christian family still stand from the simplicity and purity of Biblical Christianity, is powerfully adapted to inspire the reader with a practical distrust of himself, an everwakeful suspicion with respect to the exercise of human authority in matters of religion, an unrelaxing application to the study of the Holy Scriptures, as the only infallible source and standard of Divine Truth, and a constant Scriptural dependence on the promised instruction of that Sacred Teacher, one of whose offices it is to“ guide into all truth.” But while the Work necessarily presents error in almost all the diversity of its modifications, it will also be found to furnish sound, consistent, practical, and consolatory views of all the leading subjects of Revelation ; views calculated to afford instruction to the ignorant, relief to the perplexed, confirmation to the wavering, and conviction to gainsayers.
ABBA, a Syriac word, signifying Father. occupying the post of familiar friend and
sons of the nobility.
tion ; but they soon degenerated from derable convents came, in the ninth and their original institution, and procured tenth centuries, into the hands of secular large privileges, exemptions, and riches. masters, and their spiritual supervision They prevailed greatly in Britain before was devolved on inferior abbots, deans, the reformation, particularly in England; or priors. To the princes and princesses and as they increased in riches, so the of royal families, abbeys were presented state became poor, for the lands which to defray the expenses of their table, these regulars possessed could never re while the richest were retained by the vert to the lords who gave them. These kings themselves. Nunneries were someplaces were wholly abolished by Henry times assigned to men, and monasteries VIII. He first appointed visitors to in- to females. In the tenth century, the spect into the lives of the monks and convents under royal patronage were nuns, which were found in some places frequently given in reward for the servery disorderly; upon which the ab- vices of the crown vassals in war ; the bots, perceiving their dissolution un- abbots thus became a kind of military avoidable, were induced to resign their clergy, whose superiors bore, in the camp, houses to the king, who by that means the name of field-abbots. In consequence became invested with the abbey lands: of a reform commenced at Cluny, new these were afterwards granted to differ- monasteries arose without abbots, over ent persons, whose descendants enjoy which the abbot of reformed Benedictines them at this day: they were then valued at that place appointed priors or pro-abat 2,853,000l. per annum, an immense bates, or even co-abbates, who remained sum in those days. Though the sup- dependent on him. Besides the Benepression of these houses, considered in dictines, only the gray monks of Vala religious and political light, was a lombrosa, the Cistercians, Bernardines, great benefit to the nation, yet it must Trappists, Grand Montani, Præmonstrabe owned that, at the time they flou- tenses, and some bodies of regular chorished, they were not entirely useless. risters, denominate their superiors abbots. Abbeys were then the repositories as Besides the female branches of these well as the seminaries of learning: many orders, the nuns of Fontrevaud, and the valuable books and national records have female secular choristers, have abbesses. been preserved in their libraries, the These have always remained under the only places wherein they could have been jurisdiction of their diocesan bishop; but safely lodged in those turbulent times. the abbots of many other convents shook Indeed, the historians of this country are off the authority of the bishops, and acchietly beholden to the monks for the knowledged no master but the pope. knowledge they have of former national The mitred abbots enjoyed the right, events. Thus a kind of Providence over- frequently conferred on the Benedictines ruled even the institutions of supersti- in the middle ages by the papal legate, tion for good.--See MONASTERY. of adopting the episcopal title and in
ABBOT, originally the name of every signia. Only a few, however, possessed aged monk ; but, after the eighth cen- the episcopal power with dioceses of their tury, it denotes the chief or head of a own, of whom there was not one in monastery. Since the second council of France. Before the period of seculariNice (787), abbots have always been zation, there were in Germany, but in priests, and have enjoyed the power of Germany only, princely abbots and conferring the lower orders of priesthood; princely abbesses. These abbeys were but in essential points of jurisdiction, secularized in 1803, and became princithey were everywhere subject to the dio- palities. By rule, the choice of abbots cesan bishop till the eleventh century, belongs to the chapters of their conwhen, in consequence of the wealth of vents. In the independent abbeys, this their monasteries, they were raised to the is followed by the papal confrmation ; in titles and privileges of bishops, held a the dependent, by the episcopal ; yet, rank next to that of bishop, and had a for a long time, mapy abbeys in Italy vote in the ecclesiastical councils. Equal have been conferred by the pope, and rights and privileges appertained to the in France by the king, notwithstanding abbesses as the superiors of the nunne the concordat of 1516. The secular ries, except that they have seldom been clergy, who enjoy these benefices withallowed to vote in synods. As the result out observing the rules of the order, are of the favour, or the wants of kings, and termed secular abbots; on the other other causes, many of the most consi- hand, their vicars in the convents them
selves, like all abbots of the monkish perty, on condition that they would adorder, are called regular abbots. Younger here to the principles of the sect. It sons of distinguished families have often does not appear to have continued long entered the ranks of the secular clergy, in existence, but it has recently been rein order to become secular abbots, and vived among the Shakers of America. to receive the income of an abbey with ABGARUS, or AGBARUS, a king of out being restricted by monastic rules. Edessa in Mesopotamia, who, according to As such expectants were called in France Eusebius, wrote a letter to our Saviour, abbés, this became a general appellation and received an answer from him, both for young secular clergy who were out of which are preserved by that historian, of office (see Abbè). Since the revolu- and may be seen also in Lardner's works, tion, which changed the abbeys into na- and Jones on the Canon. Though their tional property, and took from thosvex- genuineness has been advocated by pectants the objects of their exertions, Cave, Grabe, and others, they are genethis class has diminished in France, but rally considered to be spurious. The it is yet numerous in Italy, where young pretended epistle of Christ is by no scholars are called abbots, merely from means worthy of him, and appears to having undergone the tonsure, though be a mere piece of patchwork, taken from not in orders. Napoleon led a whole several passages of the Gospels. Nor is army of Italian abbots to Corsica, where it likely that anything written by the they lived on reduced incomes till the Saviour's own hand could have remained restoration again scattered them over unknown to the rest of the world till the Italy.
time of Eusebius. The royal epistle, At the time of the reformation, several too, is not in the style of an oriental abbeys and convents were retained for prince. the benefit of the clergy, and the sup ABJURATION, OATII OF, an oath port of unmarried females. Some Pro- by which an obligation was come under testant clergymen, therefore, still bear not to acknowledge any right in the the name of abbot, with which dignity Pretender to the throne of England. It the right of sitting in the Diet of the is also used to signify an oath, ordained States is united ; as, for example, in the by the 25th of Charles II., abjuring parWurtemberg Assembly. There are also ticular doctrines of the church of Rome. Protestant ladies who are called abbesses. ABLUTION, a ceremony in use In Lower Saxony, indeed, this dignity among the ancients, and still practised was abolished at the time of the confis- in several parts of the world. It concation of the cloisters, &c., under the sisted in washing the body, which was French Westphalian government; but always done before sacrificing, or even in some countries, as in the kingdom of entering their houses. Ablutions apHanover, it has been restored.
pear to be as old as any ceremonies, and In the Greek church, the superiors of external worship itself. Moses enjoined a convent are called Hegoumeni, and the them, the heathens adopted them, and abbots-general, Archimandrites.
Mahomet and his followers have conABDIAS, a reputed disciple of Christ tinued them. The Egyptians, the Greeks, in Babylon, to whom is ascribed a book the Romans, the Jews, all had them. purporting to contain the Lives of the The ancient Christians had their abluAposties, but which is full of fabulous tions before communion, which the Rostories utterly unworthy of the least mish church still retain before their credit.
mass, and sometimes after. The Syrians, ABELIANS, ABELITES, ABELO- Copts,&c., have their solemn washings on NIANS, a sect which arose about the Good Friday: the Turks also have their year 360, near Hippo, in Africa, and ablutions, their Ghasl, their Wodou, &c, borrowed their name from Abel, the son ABRAHAMITES. - I. A sect of of Adam, because, as they supposed, he heretics so called from their founder, died unmarried, and without children. who, towards the end of the eighth cenThough they did not abstain from ma- tury, revived, at Antioch, his native place, trimony, yet they had no carnal know- that of the Paulicians, and corrupted a ledge of their wives, that they might great part of the Syrians; but Cyriacus, not be instrumental in propagating ori- the bishop of the Syrian church, power ginal sin. That their numbers might fully opposed him, and soon put an end be kept up, they adopted the children of to his party. others, on whom they settled their pro II. An order of monks in the ninth
century, who were exterminated by Theo ABSOLUTION signifies acquittal. philus for the idolatrous practices in which It is taken, also, for that act whereby the they indulged.
priest declares the sins of such as are III. A modern sect which sprang up penitent remitted. In the earlier ages in Bohemia about the middle of the last it was a judicial act, by which the priest, century. They take the name because in the name of the community, invoking they profess to be of the same religion the favour of God, announced to the that Abraham was before he was circum- penitent his remission from ecclesiastical cised. They reject this rite, though punishment, and readmission into the some of them are circumcised, having bosom of the church. Private absoluformerly been Jews: the rest have either tion having in the course of time become been Catholics or Protestants. They prevalent, through priests acting in the believe in one God, the immortality of nams of the bishop, the opinion was the soul, and future rewards and punish- spread among the people, that they had ments; but they deny the divine lega- the power of absolving by their own aution of Moses, and only receive the Ten thority, and without the consent of the Commandments and the Lord's Prayer. church. The formula of absolution in They reject the doctrine of original sin, the church of Rome has been said to be the Trinity, and other peculiar doctrines absolute; in the Greek church, depreof revelation. To avoid persecution they catory; and, in Protestant churches, at first attended worship in the churches ; declaratory. The Romanists hold abbut on the publication of the edict of solution à part of the sacrament of Joseph II., establishing entire toleration penance ; and the council of Trent and throughout his dominions, they avowed that of Florence declare the form or estheir sentiments, and presented a peti- sence of the sacrament to lie in the tion to the emperor, who declared that words of absolution, “I absolve thee of he would not violate their consciences; thy sins.” According to this, no one can but, false to his promise, he only allowed receive absolution without the privity, them till the 24th of March, 1783, to consent, and declaration of the priest ; incorporate themselves with one of the except, therefore, the priest be willing, religions tolerated in the empire, and God himself cannot pardon any man. threatened them with banishment if they This is a doctrine as blasphemous as it did not comply. Proving obstinate, the is ridiculous. The chief passage on which imperial menace was carried into execu- they ground their power of absolution is tion; and they were transported to Tran- that in John xx. 23: “Whosesoever sins sylvania and the Bannat of Temeswar. ye remit, they are remitted unto them, There are still in Bohemia numbers and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are between whom and the Abrahamites retained.” But this is not to the pursome connexion has been traced; but pose ; since this was a special commisthey are not molested by the govern- sion to the apostles themselves, and the ment. They are known by the name of first preachers of the Gospel, and most Deists and Nihilists, because they be- probably referred to the power Christ lieve in nothing. -Gregoire's Histoire gave them of discerning spirits. By virtue des Sectes, b. ix. ch. xi.
of this power, Peter struck Ananias and ABRASAX STONES, gems found in Sapphira dead, and Paul struck Elymas great abundance in Spain, which repre- blind. But, supposing the passage in sent a human body, with the head of a question to apply to the successors of the cock and the feet of a reptile. They apostles, and to ministers in general, it have often the inscription Abrasax, or can only import that their office is to Abraxas in Greek characters, which is preach pardon to the penitent, assuring supposed, however, to be of Persian or those who believe that their sins are Egyptian origin. According to Beller- forgiven through the merits of Jesus man, they belonged to the religious sect Christ; and that those who remain in of the Basilidians, and were used, partly unbelief are in a state of condemnation. as means for teaching secret doctrines, Any idea of authority given to fallible, partly as symbols, and partly as amulets uninspired men to absolve sinners, difor talismans. The name is also given ferent from this, is unscriptural ; nor is to those stones which bear the emblems there any propriety in the terms ministeof Sahæism. Dr. Neander, of Berlin, rial or declarative absolution, as adopted has written an interesting dissertation on by some divines, since absolution is wholly the subject.
the prerogative of God; and the terms