Page images

Distressed that any cause of murmuring should exist among them, Agelius immediately ordained Marcian to the episcopal office, and thereby restored harmony and concord.

After having reigned fourteen years, Valens lost his life in a battle with the Goths, A. D. 378, and was suc

who succeeded, loved and honoured him. Moreover, all the eminent personages of the Senatorian order had a great affection for him and admired him. He wrote many books, but he is too studious about words in them, and intermixes too many poetic terms; he was more admired for his speaking than for his writings. In his countenance and voice, in his dress and aspect, and in the whole of his action and deportment, there was mach gracefulness-by reason of which accomplishments, he was beloved by all sects.” Upon another occasion, he remarks that, such was the high estimation in which Sisinnius was held by the Novatian people, that “his word was a law.”

Sisinnius died in the year 407, and was sncceeded by Chrysanthus, a man of signal prudence and modesty, by whose means the churches of the Novatians were not only upheld but increased. Eccles. Hist. b. vi. ch. 22. and b. vii. ch. 12.

It is quite amusing to witness Mr. Milner's spleen against the characters of Novatian and Sisinnius. He terms the latter a "facetious gentleman," and only mentions him for the sake of censuring his singularity in not conforming to the catholic clergy and the clerical garb. Indeed he seems to have regarded him in much the same light as that in which Dr. Johnson regarded Milton, when he said, “ He was not of the Church of England, he was not of the Church of Rome-to be of no church is dangerous.” But of Ærius (concerning whom the reader will meet with some account in the next section) he disdains, so far as I can perceive, even to record his name or his heresy—though on St. Angustine, a part of whose labours were employed in an attempt to refnte him, he has bestowed 172 closely printed pages !—that Augustine, of whom, after all, be is constrained to acknowledge that he understood not Paul's doctrine of justification—that he perpetually confounds it with sanctification, (vol. ii. p. 462, &c.) and that as to the doctrine of particular redemption, it was unknown to him and all the ancients, as he [Mr. Milner] wishes it had remained equally unknown to the moderns." p. 467. This was indeed, fulfilling the pledge Mr. M. had given the public, of writing Ecclesiastical History on a new plan. See his Preface to vol. 1. Na tory of the Christian Church.


ceeded in the governmont of the empire by Gratian, the son of Valentinian. He was of the orthodox party; and after the death of his uncle Valens, he recalled those that had been banished-restored them to their sees, and sent Sapores, one of his captains, to drive the Arians, like wild beasts, out of all their churches. This emperor, soon after his accession to power, united with himself as colleague in the government, “the great Theodosins, a name celebrated in history, and dear to the Catholic church.”

Immediately on his advancement to the throne of the empire, Theodosius betrayed a warm zeal for the orthodox opinions. Hearing that the city of Constantinople was divided into different religious parties, he wrote a letter to them from Thessalonica, wherein he acquaints them, that "it was his pleasure, that all his subjects should be of the same religious profession with Damasus, bishop of Rome, and Peter, bishop of Alexandria, and that their church alone should be denominated “Catholic,” who worshipped the divine Trinity as equal in honour, and that those who were of another opinion should be called heretics, become infamous, and be liable to other punishments.”* And on his arrival in the imperial city, he sent for Demophilus, the Arian bishop, demanding to know whether he would subscribe the Nicene confession of faith, adding, “if you refuse to do it, I will drive you from your churches”-and he kept his word, for he turned him and all the Arians out of the city.

The more effectually to extinguish heresy, he in the year 383, summoned a council of bishops of his own persuasion to meet at Constantinople, in order to confirm the Nicene faith; the number of them amounted to an

Sozomen, b. vii. ch. 4-6.

hundred and fifty, to wbich may be added, thirty-six of the Macedonian party. This is commonly termed the second Oecumenical or general council. They decreed that the Nicene faith should be the standard of orthodoxy, and that all heresies should be condemned. When the council was ended, the emperor issued two edicts against heretics; the first prohibited them from holding any assemblies; and the second, forbidding them to meet in fields or villages! And as though this were not sufficiently extravagant, he followed up this absurd procedure by a law, in which he forbade heretics to worship or to preach, or to ordain bishops or presbyters, commanding some to be banished, others to be rendered infamous and deprived of the common privileges of citizens. In the space of fifteen years he promulgated at least fifteen several edicts against the heretics. It is some apology for him certainly that he did not often put these execrable statutes in force; and one would charitably hope that Sozomen and Socrates, who have recorded the history of these whimsical transactions, are correct in thinking that he only intended by them to terrify others into the same opinions of the Divine Being with himself.

But the zeal of Theodosius was not wholly absorbed in the establishment of uniformity among the professors of Christianity; he was equally anxious to extinguish the expiring embers of Paganism. About the year 390, he issued a law, in which he expressly states that “ It is our will and pleasure, that none of our subjects, whether magistrates or private citizens, however exalted, or however humble may be their rank and condition, shall presume, in any city or in any place, to worship an inanimate idol, by the sacrifice of a guiltless victim.”* The act of sacrificing, and the practice of divination by the entrails of the

* Theod, I. xvi. tit. 10. leg. 12.

victim, are declared a crime of high treason against the state which can be expiated only by the death of the guilty. The rites of pagan superstition are abolished, as highly injurious to the truth and honour of religion; and luminaries, garlands, frankincense, and libations of wine are enumerated and condemned.

Such were the persecuting edicts of Theodosius against the pagans, which were rigidly executed; and they were attended with the desired effect, “ for so rapid and yet so gentle was the fall of Paganism, that only twenty-eight years after the death of Theodosius, the faint and minute vestiges were no longer visible to the eye of the legislator *.”+

Gibbon's Rome, vol. v. ch. xx. + The increase of the Christian profession in the world, must always be an interesting topic with those who rightly estimate the importance of the gospel to human happiness; but every one must be aware of the difficulty there is in arriving at certain calculations on the subject. The reader, however, will require no apology from me for subjoining, in this place, a short extract from Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. “ Under the reign Theodosius,” says he,“ after Christianity had enjoyed, more than sixty years, the sunshine of imperial favour, the ancient and illustrious church of Antioch (in Syria) consisted of one hundred thousand persons; three thonsand of whom were supported out of the public obla. tions. The splendour and dignity of the Queen of the East, [the name then given to Antioch] the acknowledged populonsness of Cæsarea, Se. lencia, and Alexandria, and the destruction of two hundred and fifty thousand souls in the earthquake which afflicted Antioch under the elder Jas. tin, are so many convincing proofs that the whole number of its inhabi. tants was not less than half a million." Vol. ii. ch. xv.

Now according to this calculation, the reader will see that at the time Theodosius attempted to enforce an uniformity of worship throughout the empire, the proportion which the nominal Christians in Antioch bore to the rest of the citizens, was as one to five. Taking this as a fair average, there must have been in Rome two hundred and fifty thousand professed Christians at that time, and at Alexandria, in Egypt, which was the second city in the empire, probably one hundred and fifty thousand. Thus in those three cities alone there were half a million of nominal Christians. The number of inhabitants included in the whole of the Roman Empire at that period, was one hundred and twenty millions ; and if we extend the com



From the commencement of the fifth century to the

establishment of the dominion of the popes.

A. D. 401-606.

The fall of paganism, which may be considered as having begun to take place in the reign of Constantine, and as nearly consummated in that of Theodosius, is probably one of the most extraordinary revolutions that ever took place on the theatre of this world. Their own writers have described it as "a dreadful and amazing prodigy, which covered the earth with darkness, and restored the ancient dominion of chaos and of night.” * But the pen of inspiration has depicted the awful catastrophe in strains of much higher sublimity and grandeur, and doubtless upon very different principles_“I beheld,” says the writer of the Apocalypse," when he had opened the sixth seal, and lo, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven sell unto the earth, even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll, when it is rolled together :

See Gibbon's Rome, vol. v. ch. xxviii. putation to that multitnde, we should be led to conclude that there were among them twenty-four millions that professed the Christian religion. We must, however, keep this consideration always in view, that Christi. anity had, at this time, been sixty years established by law as the religion of the empire, and consequently was not a little corrupted from its origi. nal purity. VOL. I.


« PreviousContinue »