Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

CHAPTER LIV.

OHIOTN And DOCTRINE OF THE PAULICIANS. THEIR PERSB

C'JTIGN BY THE GREEK EMPERORS. REVOLT IN ARMENIA

AC. TRANSPLANTATION INTO THRACE. PROPAGATION IB

THE WEST.—THE SEEDS, CHARACTER, AND CONSEQUENCES OF THE REFORMATION.

In the profession of Christianity, the variety of national characters may be clearly distinguished. The natives of Syria and Egypt abandoned their lives to lazy and contem plative devotion: Rome again aspired to the dominion of the world; and the wit of the lively and loquacious Greeks was consumed in the disputes of metaphysical theology. The incomprehensible mysteries of the Trinity and Incarnation, instead of commanding their silent submission, were agitated in vehement and subtile controversies, which enlarged their faith at the expense, perhaps, of their charity and reason. From the council of Nice to the end of the seventh century, the peace and unity of the church was invaded by these spiritual wars; and so deeply did they affect the decline and fall of the empire, that the historian has too often been compelled to attend the synods, to explore the creeds, and to enumerate the sects, of this busy period of ecclesiastical annals. From the beginning of the eighth century to the last ages of the Byzantine empire, the sound of controversy was seldorr heard: curiosity was exhausted, zeal was fatigued, and, in the decrees of six councils, the articles of the Catholic faith had been irrevocably defined. The spirit of dispute, however vain and pernicious, requires some energy and exercise of tlie mental faculties; and the prostrate Creeks were content to fast, to pray, and to believe in blind obedience to the patriarch and his clergy. During a long dream of superstition, the Virgin and the Saints, their visions and miracles, their relics and images, were preached by the monks, and worshipped by the people; and the appellation of people might be extended, without injustice, to the first ranks of civil Bociety. A.t an unseasonable moment, the Isaurian emperon attempted somewhat rudely to awaken their subjects: undei their mtiuence reason might obtain some proselytts, a tar greater number was swayed by interest or fear; but the

Eastern world embraced or deplored their visible deities, and the restoration of images was celebrated as the feast of orthodoxy. In this passive and unanimous state the ecclesiastical rulers were relieved from the toil, or deprived of the pleasure, of persecution. The Parana had disappeared; the Jews were «ilent and obscure; the disputes with the Latins were rare and remote hostilities against a national enemy; and the sects of Egypt and Syria enjoyed a free toleration under the shadow of the Arabian caliphs. About the middle of the seventh century, a branch of Manichseans was selected as the victims of spiritual tyranny; their patience was at length exasperated to despair and rebellion; and their exile has scattered over the West the seeds of reformation. These important events will justify some inquiry into the doctrine and story of the PauliCians :' and, as they cannot plead for themselves, our candid criticism will magnify the good, and abate or suspect the evil, that is reported bv their adversaries.

The Gnostics, who had distracted the infancy, were oppressed by the greatness and authority, of the church. Instead of emulating or surpassing the wealth, learning, and numbers of the Catholics, their obscure remnant was driven from the capitals of the East and West, and confined to the villages and mountains along the borders of the Euphrates. Some vestige of the Marcionites may be detected in the fifth century;a but the numerous sects were finally lost in the

1 The errors and virtues of the Paulicians are weighed, with his asual judgment and candor, by the learned Mosheim, (Hist. Ecclesiast. seculum ix. p. 311, <fcc.) He draws his original intelligence from Photius (contra Manichseos, 1. i.) and Peter Siculus, (Hist. Manichaeorum.) The first of these accounts has not fallen into my hands; the second, which Mosheim prefers, lhave read in a Latin version inserted in the Maxima Bibliotheca Patrum, (torn. xvi. p. 754—764,) from the edition of the Jesuit Radorus, (Ingolstadii, 1604, in 4to.)*

2 In the time of Theodoret, the diocese of Cyrrhus, in Syria, era tained eight hundred villages. Of these, two were inhabited by Ariana aid Eunomians, and eight by Marcionites, whom the laborious bishop reconciled to the Catholic church, (Dupin, Bibliot. Ecclesiastiqua, torn. It. p. 81, 82.)

"Compare Haham's Middle Ages, p. 461—471. Mr. Hallam justly o> •ervs that this chapter " appears to be accurate as welt as luminous, si-i it fti veast far superior to any modern work on the subject."—M

odious nainu of the Manichieans; and these heretics, whu presumed to reconcile the doctrines of Zoroaster and Christ, were pursued by the two religions with equal and unrelenting hatred. Uwhr the grandson of Heraclius, in the lrighborhood of Samosata, more famous for the birth of Lucian thai for the title of a Syrian kingdom, a reformer arose, esteemed by the Paulicians as the chosen messenger of truth. In hi? humbie dwelling of Mananalis, Constantine entertained a dea son, who returned from Syrian captivity, and received the inestimable gift of the New Testament, which was already concealed from the vulgar by the prudence of the Greek, and perhaps of the Gnostic, clergy." These books became the measure of his studies and the rule of his faith; and the Catholics, who dispute his interpretation, acknowledge that his text was genuine and sincere. But he attached himself with peculiar devotion to the writings and character of St Paul: the name of the Paulicians is derived by their enemies from some unknown and domestic teacher; but I am confident that they gloried in their affinity to the apostle of the Gentiles. His disciples, Titus, Timothy, Sylvanus, Tychicus, were represented by Constantine and his fellow-laborers: the names of the apostolic churches were applied to the congregations which they assembled in Armenia and Cappadocia; and this innocent allegory revived the example and memory of the first ages. In the Gospel, and the Epistles of St. Paul, his faithful follower investigated the Creed of primitive Christianity; and, whatever might be the success, a Protestant reader will applaud the spirit, of the inquiry. But if the Scripture? of the Paulicians were pure, they were not perfect. Their founders rejected the two Epistles of St. Peter,4 the apostle of the circumcision, whose dispute with their favorite for the observance of the law could not easily be forgiven.6 They

* Nobis profanis ista (sacra Evangelia) legere non licet sed sacerdoti bus duntaxat, was the first scruple of a Catholic when he was advised to read tie Bible, (Petr. Sicul. p 761.)

4 In rejecting the second Epistle of St. Peter, the Paulicians are justified by some of the most respectable of the ancients and moderns, (see Wetstein ad loc, Simon, Hist. Critique du Nouveau Testament. c. 17.) They likewise overlooked the Apocalypse, (Petr. Sicul. p. 756 ;) but as such neglect is not imputed as a crime, the Greeks of the ixtb century must have been careless of the credit and honor of the Reve lations.

* This contention, which has not escaped the malice of Porphyrx, wppo-e* some error and passion in one or both of the aj)ostle8. by

agreed with their Gnostic brethren in the iniversal contempt for the Old Testan.ent, the books* of Moses and the prophets, which have been consecrated by the decrees of the Catholic church. With equal boldpess, and doubtless with more rea Bon, Constantine, the new Sylvanus, disclaimed the visions, which, in so many bulky and splendid volumes, had been published by the Oriental sects;" the fabulous productions of the Hebrew patriarchs and the sages of tht East; the spurious gospels, epistles, and acts, which in the first age had overwhelmed the orthodox code; the theology of Manes, and the authors of the kindred heresies; and the thirty generations, or aeons, which had been created by the fruitful fancy of Valentine. The Paulicians sincerely condemned the memory and opinions of the Manichaean sect, and complained of the injustice which impressed that invidious name on the simple votaries of St. Paul and of Christ.

Of the ecclesiastical chain, many links had been broken by the Paulician reformers; and their liberty was enlarged, as they reduced the number of masters, at whose voice profane reason must bow to mystery and miracle. The early separation of the Gnostics had preceded the establishment of the Catholic worship; and against the gradual innovations of discipline and doctrine they were as strongly guarded by habit and aversion, as by the silence of St. Paul and the evangelists. The objects which had been transformed by the magic of superstition, appeared to the eyes of the Paulicians in their genuine and naked colors. An image made without hands was the common workmanship of a mortal artist, to whose skill alone the wood and canvas must be indebted for thei. merit or value. The miraculous relics were a heap of bones and ashes, destitute of life or virtue, or of any relation, per haps, with the person to whom they were ascribed. The true snd vivifying cross was a piece of sound or rotten timber, the body and blood of Christ, a loaf of bread and a cup of

Chrysostom, Jerome, and Erasmus, it is represented as a sham quarrel a pious fraud, for the benefit of the Gentiles and the correction of the Jews, (Middleton's Works, vol. ii. p. 1—20.)

6 Those who are curious of this heterodox library, may consult the researches of Beausobre, (Hist. Critique du Manicheisme, torn. i. p. 305 —437.") Even in Africa. St. Austin could describe the Manichaean books, tarn multi, tarn grandes, tarn pretiosi codices, (contra Faust, xiii. 14;) but he adds, without pity, Incendite omnes illas membranas: and hii advice had been rigorously followed.

wiue, the gifts of nature and the symbols of grace. The mother of God was degraded from her celestial honors and immaculate virginity; and the saints and angels were no longer solicited to exercise the laborious office of meditation in heaven, and ministry upon earth. In the practice, or at least in the theory, of the sacraments, the Paulicians were inclined to abolish all visible objects of worship, and the words of the gospel were, in their judgment, the baptism and communion of the faithful. They indulged a convenient latitude for the interpretation of Scripture: and as often as they were pressed by the literal sense, they could escape to the intricate mazes of figure and allegory. Their utmost diligence must have been employed to dissolve the connection between the Old and the New Testament; since they adored the latter as the oracles of God, and abhorred the former as the fabulous and absurd invention of men or daemons. We cannot be surprised, that they should have found in the Gospel the orthodox mystery of the Trinity: but, instead of confessing the human nature and substantial sufferings of Christ, they amused their fancy with a celestial body that passed through the virgin like water through a pipe; with a fantastic crucifixion, that eluded the vain and important malice of the Jews. A creed thus simple and spiritual was not adapted to the genius of the times;' and the rational Christian, who might have been contented with the light yoke and easy burden of Jesus and his apostles, was justly offended, that the Paulicians should dare to violate the unity of God, the first article of natural and revealed religion. Their belief and their trust was in the Father, of Christ, of the human soul, and of the invisible world. But they likewise held the eternity of matter; a stubborn and rebellious substance, the ori gin of a second principle of an active being, who has created this visible world, and exercises his temporal reign till the final consummation of death and sin.* The appearances of moral and physical evil had established the two principles in the ancient philosophy and religion of the East; from whence this doctrine was transfused to the various swarms of the Gnos

'The six capital errors of the Paulicians are defined ty Peter Sica ue (p. 756,) with much prejudice and passion.

Primum illorum axioma est. duo rerum esse principia; Deiun ma.uin et Deum bonum, aliumque hujus mur.d; conditorem et princi oem, ^t alium futuri &ni, (Petr Sicul. 766.)

« ForrigeFortsett »