Imatges de pÓgina

a laborious and unsuccessful mission, was replaced by Succathus, better known by the name of St. Patrick, a native of Scotland. He arrived A. D. 432; converted great numbers of the Irish ; and after a ministry of about forty years, founded the archbishopric of Armagh. During these transactions Christianity continued to gain ground in the Eastern empire over the remnants of Paganism; but had to sustain a sanguinary persecution of six years from the Persian monarch Vararenes.

In the course of this century, new heresies and schisms co-operated with the unsubdued remains of those which already existed to trouble the peace, and impair the charity, of Christians. The Donatists, sometimes prosperous, sometimes driven into obscurity, continued, though their affairs declined on the whole, to afflict Africa. The Arians, flying before the Imperial edicts, spread their tenets among the Goths, the Vandals, the Burgundians, and other barbarous tribes. At Rome, and in the East, about A.D. 410, Pelagius, a British monk, with his associate Celestius, a native of Ireland, denying the original depravation of human nature at the fall, and the necessity of the sanctifying aid of Divine grace to enable man to arrive even at the highest degrees of piety and virtue, introduced a new and most important heresy into the church. The capacity, the shrewdness, and the moral character of Pelagius, and the specious interpretations with which at critical times he veiled his doctrine, repeatedly imposed, not only on private individuals, but on bishops and synods. By the unwearied exertions of Augustine, who stood foremost in the controversy, and of other eminent opponents, his tenets were completely unmasked. When unmasked, they were generally and publicly condemned throughout the Christian world.


A sect of Semipelagians afterwards arose, who maintained that without Divine assistance man can originally turn to God; but admitted that without that assistance he cannot afterwards persevere in righteous

Controversies no less vehement were excited, first, by Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople; and afterwards, by Eutyches, abbot of a convent in the same city. Nestorius, who is to this day held in the highest esteem among the Christians of Syria and the adjacent countries, having published his disapprobation of the highly unwarrantable title of “ Mother of God," which was frequently ascribed to the Virgin Mary; was accused of dividing the divine and human natures of Christ into two distinct persons, and condemned by a general council and banished. The sentiments ascribed to him he denied the last: and, at any rate, though his presumption and violence are unquestionable, he was treated with harshness and injustice, being condemned unheard, his explanations of his doctrine not being even read, nor any attention paid to his offers of submission. In opposing Nestorianism, Eutyches plunged into the opposite extreme of excluding the human nature of our Redeemer. The predestinarian opinions upheld by Augustine were also the source of warm discussion.

Ignorance, in the mean time, attended the progress of the uncultivated subverters of the Western empire. And both in the West and East the superstitions of the preceding century took firmer root, and extended their branches far and wide. Departed saints were assiduously invoked; and, in order to conciliate their protection, their very images were honoured with religious worship. Reliques of martyrs were valued more and more; pilgrimages augmented; ceremonies increased in number and ostentation ; austerities became more extravagant and senseless. 1 In the decision of religious controversies it was adopted as a standing law, even in councils, to determine questions according to the sentiments of the plurality of the ancient doctors, who had left behind them an opinion applicable to the subject.

It is now time to attend to the conduct and authority of the bishops of Rome. Antecedently to the reign of Constantine, while a new capital of the world had not yet arisen on the shores of the Hellespont, the bishop of the metropolis easily obtained not only a precedence in dignity over all his brethren of the provinces, but some degree of jurisdiction over such of them as were stationed within his reach. The power which by his rank, his magnificence, his princely revenues, and his sacred character, he had acquired over the people of Rome, rendered him by degrees dreaded and courted by the emperors. His authority was in consequence enlarged. He received, about A.D. 379, by an edict from the emperors Valentinian and Gratian, a somewhat undefined yet apparently supreme jurisdiction over the church of the Western empire. The pope thenceforward issued decretal epistles : ap

1 Among the fanatics of this age the pillar-saints were the most remarkable and the most venerated. Simeon, denominated Stylites (from a Greek word signifying a column), is recorded to have passed thirty-seven years on the top of five successive pillars; the first of which was six cubits high, and the last forty. His reputation, and the fame of his miracles, was unbounded ; and the desire of imitating him extreme. The practice continued in the East even to the twelfth century. In the West it never was permitted to establish itself. Wulfilaicus, an imitator of Simeon, having erected a pillar in the vicinity of Treves, the neighbouring bishops ordered it to be pulled down.

pointed vicars in the provinces; cited the bishops to Rome; convoked general councils; and openly announced himself as head and sovereign of the universal church. 1 From Theodosius and Valentinian III. he obtained, A.D. 445, another edict? confirming in the amplest manner these enormous pretensions: which we find fully recognised within some few years in the letters of the Gallican bishops; and ascribed to the pope on the very grounds on which he rested his claim, namely, as being successor to the inheritance and the sovereignty of St. Peter. But when a rival of Rome became the seat of empire, at the opposite extremity of Europe, the prelate of the ancient capital surveyed with an eye of jealous indignation the growing honours and authority of his brother of Constantinople; and exerted himself with the most active vigour to uphold a pre-eminence, which the latter laboured with equal zeal to shake off. Every weapon which presented itself was employed to check the rising independence of the East. When the provincial bishops subjected to the patriarchal see of Antioch or of Alexandria felt their rights invaded by their rulers; when those patriarchs themselves perceived their inability to resist the lordly prelate of Byzantium ; the Roman pontiff heard with delight the complainants appeal to himself. As yet, however, he contended in vain. He saw the weight of the Eastern emperors thrown into the scale of his competitor. He saw Asia, Thrace, and even the Illyrian shores of the Adriatic, subjected to the Oriental bishop. He saw that bishop triumphant over his most violent efforts, A.D. 451, in the council of Chalcedon ; and crowned by its decrees with rights and honours in every respect equal to those which had been conferred on the ecclesiastical sovereign of Rome. christian spirit of these ambitious rivals inflamed their partisans throughout Asia and Europe ; and most efficaciously contributed to excite dissensions and virulence and a worldly temper in the church.

1 In proof of these facts, and of others to be mentioned, see Sir Isaac Newton's Observations on the Prophecies of Daniel, chap. viii.

2 See the edict in Sir I. Newton as above: which, though recognising in the most extravagant terms the power claimed by the pope, ascribes it not to Divine right, but to the grants of preceding emperors.

The un

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