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alone." John vi. 15. The fruits of the Spirit are not turbulence and strife ; “but love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, fidelity, meekness, and temperance; and they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts." Gal. v: 22. The orthodox were deposed, and the Arians substituted in their places, with the murder of thousands; and as the controversy was now no longer about the plain doctrines of uncorrupted Christianity, but about secular honours and dignified preferments, so the bishops were introduced into their churches and placed upon their thrones by armed soldiers. And when once in actual possession, they treated those who differed from them without moderation or mercy, turning them out of their churches, denying them the liberty of worship, fulminating anathemas against them, and persecuting them by every species of cruelty, as is evident from the accounts given by the ecclesiastical historians of Athanasius, Macedonius, George, and others. In short, they seem to have treated one another with the same implacable bitterness and severity, as their common enemies, the heathen, had ever exercised towards them, or as though they thought persecution for conscience-sake had been the distinguishing characteristic of the Christian religion, and that they could not more effectually recommend themselves as the disciples of Christ, than by devouring each other. This made Julian, the emperor, say of them, that he found by experience, that even the beasts of the forest are not so cruel as the generality of Christians then were to one another. Such was the wretched state of things in the reign of Constantius, which affords us little more than the history of councils and creeds differing from, and clashing with each other-bishops deposing, censuring, and anathematizing their adversaries, and the people divided into factions under their respective leaders, for the sake of words, of the meaning of which they understood nothing, and contending for victory even to bloodshed and death. Thus, as Socrates observes,“ was the church torn in pieces for the sake of Athanasius and the word consubstantial!"
It probably would not be easy to sketch in few words a more striking picture of these times than that which is given us by Ammianus Marcellinus, who, having served in the armies, had the best opportunities of studying the character of Constantius. “The Christian religion, which in itself," says he, “is plain and simple, he confounded by the dotage of superstition. Instead of reconciling the parties by the weight of his authority, he cherished and propagated, by verbal disputes, the differences which his rain curiosity had excited. The highways were corered with troops of bishops, galloping from every side to the assemblies, which they called synods; and while they laboured to reduce the whole sect to their own particular opinions, the public establishment of the posts was almost rained by their hasty and repeated journies." It was certainly a very just, though severe censure, which Gregory Nazianzen passed upon the councils that were held about this time. “If I must speak the truth,” says be, “this is my resolution, to aroid all councils of the bishops, for I have not seen any good end answered by any synod whatsoever; for their love of contention, and their last of power, are too great even for words to erpress.” † The shepticism of Gibbon has subjected him to an unmeasurable effusion of rancour from the clergy of his day; and far be it from me to stand forward the advocate of skepticism in any man; but I most cordially agree with that eminent writer, when he says, “ the patient and humble virtues of Jesus should not be con
Ammianus Marcellinus, 1. xxi. ch. 16.
+ Opera, vol. i. Epist. 55.
founded with the intolerant zeal of princes and bishops, who have disgraced the name of his disciples."*
So fascinating is the influence of worldly pomp and splendour upon the human mind, that it is not to be wondered at, that the see of Rome became at this time a most seducing object of sacerdotal ambition. In the episcopal order, the Bishop of Rome was the first in rank, and distinguished by a sort of pre-eminence over all other prelates. He surpassed all his brethren in the magnificence and splendour of the church over which he presided; in the riches of his revenues and possessions; in the number and variety of his ministers; in his credit with the people; and in his sumptuous and splendid manner of living. Ammianus Marcellinus, a Roman historian, who lived during these times, adverting to this subject, says,
“ It was no wonder to see those who were ambitious of human greatness, contending with so much heat and animosity for that dignity, because when they had obtained it, they were sure to be enriched by the offerings of the matrons, of appearing abroad in great splendour, of being admired for their costly coaches, sumptuous in their feasts, out-doing sovereign princes in the expences of their table.” This led Prætextatus, an heathen, who was præfect of the city, to say, “ Make me Bishop of Rome, and I'll be a Christian too!”
In the year 366, Liberius, bishop of Rome, died, and a violent contest arose respecting his successor. The city was divided into two factions, one of which elected Damasus to that high dignity, while the other chose Ursicinus, a deacon of the church. The party of Damasus prevailed, and got him ordained. Ursicinus, enraged that Damasus was preferred before him, set up separate meetings, and at length he also obtained ordination
* Decline and Fall, vol. ix. ch. 50.
from certain obscure bishops. This occasioned great disputes among the citizens, as to which of the two should obtain the episcopal dignity; and the matter was carried to such a height, that great numbers were murdered on either side in the quarrel-no less than one hundred and thirty-seven persons being destroyed in the very church itself!* But the very detail of such shameful proceedings is sutlicient to excite disgust, and enough has been said to convince any unprejudiced mind of the absurdity of looking for the kingdom of the Son of God in the “Catholic church," as it now began to be denominated. “The mystery of iniquity," which had been secretly working since the very days of the apostles, (2 Thess. ii. 7.) had nevertheless been subject to considerable control, so long as paganism remained the established religion of the empire, and Christians were consequently compelled to bear their cross, by patiently suffering the hatred of the world, in conformity to the captain of their salvation. But no sooner was this impediment removed, by the establishment of Christianity, under Constantine, than “the Man of Sin" -“the Son of perdition” began to be manisest. Men were now found, professing themselves the disciples of the meek and lowly Jesus, yet walking after the course of this world, “lovers of their ownselves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers,-traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God" -“having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." † And, as this state of things continued to increase in progressive enormity, until it ultimately brought forth that monstrous system of iniquity, denominated “ MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS, AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE
• Socrates' Eccl. Hist. b. asvü, ch. S.
* 2 Tim. iii. 3–5.
EARTH”-described by the prophetic pen, as “the habitation of devils,--the hold of every foul spirit,--the cage of every unclean and hateful bird," * we may rest fully assured that the sheep of Christ,- those who heard his voice and followed his will,+ would see it their indispensable duty to separate themselves from such an impure communion, in obedience to the reiterated commands of God. I
be proper to remark, that long before the times of which we now treat, some Christians had seen it their duty to withdraw from the communion of the church of Rome. The first instance of this that we find on record, if we except that of Tertullian, is the case of NOVATIAN, who in the year 251, was ordained the pastor of a church in the city of Rome, which maintained no fellowship with the catholic party. It is a difficult matter, at this very remote period, to ascertain the real grounds of difference between Novatian and his opponents. Those who are in any tolerable degree conversant with theological controversy, will scarcely need to be apprised how much caution is necessary to guard against being misled by the false representations which different parties give of each other's principles and conduct. Novatian is said to have refused to receive into the communion of the church any of those persons who, in the time of persecution, had been induced through fear of sufferings or death, to apostatize from their profession, and offer sacrifices to the heathen deities; a principle which he founded upon a mistaken view of Heb. vi. 4-6. We may readily conceive how interesting and difficult a subject this must have been to all the churches of Christ in those distressing times, and the danger that must have arisen from laying down any fixed rule of conduct that
* Rev, xvii. 5. and xviii. 2. +John X. 27. 1 2 Cor, vi. 14—18. 2 Tim. iii. 5. Rev. xviii, 4.