Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

be the pagan party. The heresy of Arius, though it might suit the monotheistic views of the educated, did not commend itself to that large mass who had been so recently pagan. Already the elements of dissension were obvious enough; on one side there was an illiterate, intolerant, unscrupulous, credulous, numerous body, on the other a refined, better-informed, yet doubting sect. The Emperor Constantius, guided by his father's latest principles, having sided with the Arian party, soon found that under the new system a bishop would, without hesitation, oppose his sovereign. Athanasius, the Bishop of Alexandria, as the head of the orthodox party, became the personal Athana antagonist of the emperor, who attempted, after rebels against vainly using physical compulsion, to resort to the emperor. the celestial weapons in vogue by laying claim to Divine inspiration. Like his father, he had a celestial vision ; but, as his views were Arian, the orthodox rejected without scruple his supernatural authority, and Hilary of Poictiers wrote a book to prove that he was Antichrist. The horrible bloodshed and murders attending these quarrels in the great cities, and the private life of persons both of high and low degree, clearly showed that Christianity, through its union with politics, had fallen into such a state that it could no longer control the passions of men. The biography of the sons of Constantine is an awful relation of family murders. Religion had disappeared, theology had come in its stead. Even theology had gone mad. But in the midst of these disputes worldly interests Steady agwere steadily kept in view. At the Council of gression of the Ariminium, A.D. 359, an attempt was made to crimes of echave the lands belonging to the churches exempt clesiastics. from all taxation; to his credit, the emperor steadfastly refused. Macedonius, the Bishop of Constantinople, who had passed over the slaughtered bodies of three thousand people to take possession of his episcopal throne, exceeded in heresy even Arius himself, by not only asserting the inferiority of the Son to the Father, but by absolutely denying the divinity of the Holy Ghost.

As the fruits of these broils, two facts appear : 1st, that there is a higher law, which the faithful may Two results of obey, in opposition to the law of the land, when these events,

VOL. 1.-14

Church and

History of

it suits their views; the law of God, as expounded by the bishop, who can eternally punish the soul, must take precedence of the law of Cæsar, who can only kill the body and seize the goods ; 2d, that there is a supremacy in the Bishop of Rome, to whom Athanasius, the leader of the orthodox, by twice visiting that city, submitted his cause. The significance of these facts becomes conspicuous in later ages. Things were evidently shaping themselves for a trial of strength between the imperial and ecclesiastical powers, heretofore allied. They were about to quarrel over their booty.

We have now to consider this asserted supremacy of the Bishop of Rome, and how it came to be established as a

of political fact. We must also turn froin the Papal su. Oriental variations of opinion to those of the premacy. West. Except by thus enlarging the field to be traversed, we can gain no perfect conception of the general intellectual tendency.

For long after its introduction to Western Europe, Hellenized Christianity was essentially a Greek religion. Christianity. Its Oriental aspect had become Hellenized. Its churches had, in the first instance, a Greek organization, conducted their worship in that tongue, and composed their writings in it. Though it retained much of this foreign aspect so long as Rome continued to be the residence, or was more particularly under the eye of the emperors, it was gradually being affected by the influences to which it was exposed. On Western Europe, the questions which had so profoundly agitated the East, such as the nature of God, the Trinity, the cause of evil, had made but little impression, the intellectual peculiarity of the people being unsuited to such exercises. The foundation of Constantinople, by taking off the political pressure, permitted native peculiarities to manifest themselves, and Latin Christianity emerged in contradistinction to Greek.

Yet still it cannot be said that Europe owes its existing Modified by forms of Christianity to a Roman origin. It is Africanism. indebted to Africa for them. We live under African domination.

I have now with brevity to relate the progress of this interesting event; how African conceptions were firmly

established in Rome, and, by the time that Greek Christianity had lost its expansive power and ceased to be aggressive, African Christianity took its place, extending to the North and West, and obtaining for itself an organization copied from that of the Roman empire; sacerdotal prætors, proconsuls, and a Cæsar; developing its own jurisprudence, establishing its own magistracy, exchanging the Greek tongue it had hitherto used for the Latin, which, soon becoming a sacred language, conferred upon it the most singular advantages.

The Greek churches were of the nature of confederated republics; the Latin Church instinctively tended to monarchy. Far from assuming an attitude of conspicuous dignity, the primitive bishops of Rome led a life of obscurity. In the earliest times, the bishops of Jerusalem, of whom James, the brother of our Lord, was the first, are spoken of as the heads of the Church, and so regarded even in Rome itself. The controversy respecting

Subordinate Easter, A.D. 109, shows, however, how soon the position of the disposition for Western supremacy was exhibited, early Roman

Church. Victor, the Bishop of Rome, requiring the Asiatic bishops to conform to the view of his Church respecting the time at which the festival of Easter should be observed, and being resisted therein by Polycrates, the Bishop of Ephesus, on behalf of the Eastern churches, the feud continuing until the determination of the Council of Nicea. It was not in Asia alone that the growth of Roman supremacy was resisted. There is no difficulty in selecting from ecclesiastical history proofs of the same feeling in many other quarters. Thus, when the disciples of Montanus, the Phrygian, who pretended to be the Paraclete, hid converted to their doctrines and austerities the Bishop of Rome and Tertullian the Carthaginian, on the former backsliding from that faith, the latter denounced him as a Patripassian heretic. Yet, for the most part, a good understanding obtained not only between Rome and Carthage, but also among the Gallic and Spanish churches, who looked upon Rome as conspicuous and illustrious, though as no more than equal to themselves. At the Council of Carthage St. Cyprian said, “ None of us ought to set himself up as a bishop of bishops, or pretend tyrannically

influence,

to restrain his colleagues, because each bishop has a liberty and power to act as he thinks fit, and can no more be judged by another bishop than he can judge another. But we must all wait for the judgment of Jesus Christ, to whom alone belongs the power to set us over the Church, and to judge of our actions."

Rome by degrees emerged from this equality, not by the splendid talents of any illustrious man, for among her

early bishops none rose above mediocrity, but increase in partly from her political position, partly from wealth and the great wealth she soon accumulated, and

partly from the policy she happened to follow. Her bishop was not present at the Council of Nicea, A.D. 325, nor at that of Sardica, A.D. 345; perhaps on these occasions, as on others of a like kind subsequently, the immediate motive of his standing aloof was the fear that he might not receive the presidency. Soon, however, was discerned the advantage of the system of appearing by representatives. Such an attitude, moreover, offered the opportunity of frequently holding the balance of power in the fierce conflicts that soon arose, made Rome a retreat for the discomfited ecclesiastic, and her bishop, apparently, an elevated and unbiased arbiter on his case. It was thus that Athanasius, in his contests with the emperor, found a refuge and protector. With this elevated position in the esteem of strangers came also domestic dignity. The prodigal gifts of the rich Roman ladies had already made the bishopric to be sought after by those who esteem the ease and luxuries of life, as well as by the ambitious. Fierce contests arose on the occurrence of vacancies. At the election of Damasus, one hundred and thirty of the slain lay in the basilica of Sisinnius: the competitors had called in the aid of a rabble of gladiators, charioteers, and other ruffians; nor could the riots bo ended except by the intervention of the imperial troops.

It was none too soon that Jerome introduced the monastic and early system at Rome, there was need of a change to corruptions. austerity; none too soon that legacy-hunting on the part of the clergy was prohibited by law-it had become a public scandal; none too soon that Jeromo struggled for the patronage of the rich Roman women; none too soon that this stern fanatic denounced the immorality of the Roman clergy, when even the Bishop Damasus himself was involved in a charge of adultery. It became clear, if the clergy would hold their ground in public estimation against their antagonists the monks, that celibacy must be insisted on. The doctrine of the pre-eminent value of virginity was steadily making progress; but it cost many years of struggle before the monks carried their point, and the celibacy of the clergy became compulsory.

It had long been seen by those who hoped for Roman supremacy that there was a necessity for the Necessity for establishment of a definite and ascertained doc- an apostolic trine-a necessity for recognizing some apostolic head. man, who might be the representative of a criterion of truth. The Eastern system of deciding by councils was in its nature uncertain. The councils themselves had no ascertained organization. Experience had shown that they were too much under the control of the court at Constantinople.

This tendency to accept the republican decisions of councils in the East, and monarchical ones by a Necessity for supreme pontiff in the West, in reality, however, Councils or a depended on a common sentiment entertained pontiff. by reflecting men everywhere. Something must be done to check the anarchy of opinion.

To show how this tendency was satisfied, it will be sufficient to select, out of the numberless controversies of the times, a few leading ones. A clear light is thrown upon the matter by the history of the Pelagian, Nestorian, and Eutychian heresies. Their chronological period is from about A.D. 400 to A.D. 450.

Pelagius was the assumed name of a British monk, who, about the first of those dates, passed through The Pelagian Western Europe and Northern Africa, teaching controversy. the doctrines that Adam was by nature mortal, and that, if he had not sinned, he nevertheless would have died ; that the consequences of his sin were confined to himself, and did not affect his posterity ; that new-born infants are in the same condition as Adam before his fall; that we are at birth as pure as he was ; that we sin by our own

« AnteriorContinuar »