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A Key to the Knowledge of Church History (Ancient)
by John Henry Blunt
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[5] Ephesus is known to this day by the name of Aya-soluk, from Agios Theologos, or holy Divine, the title given to St. John.

[6] Or perhaps by Nero, as some ancient writers say. Nero's full name was Nero Claudius Domitianus, which may have caused this confusion.

[7] 1 Tim. vi. 20.

[8] As St. Chrysostom says, "When thou beholdest the curtains drawn up, then imagine that the heavens are let down from above, and that the Angels are descending."

[9] Annotated Book of Common Prayer, Ritual Introduction, pp. xlix, 1.

[10] We are told that St. John adopted the vestments of the High Priest of the old covenant, and especially "the plate of the holy crown," with its inscription, "Holiness to the Lord," thus exhibiting very forcibly the continuity of the two priesthoods.



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CHAPTER V

The Primitive Church

A.D. 100-A.D. 312

[Sidenote: Persecution increases round the Church.]

We have already had occasion to notice the beginnings of the persecution which the Church was to undergo for the sake of her Head and Spouse, not only those of a local and unorganized character, which are spoken of in the Book of Acts, but also some of a more cruel and systematic nature under the Roman Emperors Nero and Domitian. From the death of the last of the Apostles to the conversion of the Emperor Constantine, A.D. 312, the Church passed through a succession of fierce trials, in which her members were called to undergo similar sufferings to those which had been borne by the holy Apostles St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. John, and their fellow-martyrs[1].

Section 1. Causes of Persecution.

In considering the causes which led to the persecution of the Church by the heathen around her, we {58} must, of course, place first as the root and ground of all, the malice of Satan, and his hatred of God, and of the means appointed by God for saving souls. [Sidenote: Satan's enmity the great cause of persecution.] The Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan must ever be at war, and the fierce and varied sufferings inflicted by the cruel heathen on all who bore the name of Christ were so many assaults of the great adversary seeking to overthrow the Church in an open and deadly struggle. But the life-giving Presence of her Incarnate Lord, and "the patience and the faith of the Saints," were mightier weapons than "all the fiery darts of the Wicked," and "the gates of Hell" were not suffered to "prevail against her."

[Sidenote: Other minor causes.]

There were, however, other and secondary causes which led to the persecution of the Church. The Romans were not usually intolerant of religions which they did not themselves profess; their worship of their own false gods had come to be a form, as far as the educated classes were concerned, and what belief they had was given to philosophy rather than religion. Hence they were not unwilling that the nations they conquered should keep to their own respective creeds and religious ceremonies, so long as they did not interfere with Roman authority. But the religion of Christ required more than this. It could not be confined to any one country, nor be content with bare toleration, nor rank itself with the many forms of Pagan misbelief. It claimed to be the only True Religion, the only Way of Salvation, before which the superstitions of the ignorant, and the philosophy of the learned must alike give way. It made its way even into "Caesar's household." Besides this, Christians, owing to the nationality of the First Founders {59} of the Church, were often confounded with, and called by the same name as the Jews, who had a bad repute under the empire for rebellious and seditious conduct, and we know how, even in the days of St. Paul, the charge of sedition had begun to be most unjustly fastened upon the followers of the Meek and Lowly Jesus. This charge of disaffection to the powers of the state received an additional and plausible colouring from the fact that the consciences of the faithful members of the Church would not suffer them to pay, what they and the heathen around them considered to be Divine honour, to the emperor or the heathen deities, by sacrificing a few grains of incense when required thus to show their loyalty to their ruler and his faith. Over and over again was this burning of incense made a test by which to discover Christians or to try their steadfastness, and over and over again was its rejection followed by agonizing tortures and a cruel death.

[Sidenote: Nero's persecution.]

The persecution in the reign of Nero is immediately traceable to the accusation brought against the Christians by the emperor, that they had caused the terrible fire at Rome, which there seems little doubt was in reality the result of his own wanton wickedness, whilst that under Domitian appears to have been connected with the conversion of some of the members of his own family, his cousin Flavius Clemens being the first martyr sacrificed in it.

Section 2. Number and Duration of Persecutions.

The following table[2] will show how the early days of the Church were divided between times of persecution and intervals of rest.

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Chronological Table of Persecutions and Intervals of Rest.

A.D.

64-68. Persecution under Nero. Martyrdom of St. Peter and St. Paul.

68-95. Time of peace.

95-96. Persecution under Domitian. Banishment of St. John.

96-104. Time of peace.

104-117. Persecution under Trajan. Martyrdom of St. Ignatius.

117-161. Time of peace. Apologies of Aristides, Quadratus, and Justin Martyr.

161-180. Persecution under Marcus Aurelius. Martyrdom of St. Polycarp, and the martyrs of Lyons.

180-200. Time of peace.

200-211. Persecution under Severus. Martyrdom of St. Perpetua and others in Africa.

211-250. Time of peace, excepting— 235-237. Partial persecution under Maximinus.

250-253. Persecution under Decius. Martyrdom of St. Fabian.

253-257 Time of peace. Disputes concerning the lapsed.

257-260. Persecution under Valerian. Martyrdom of St. Cyprian.

260-303. Time of peace, excepting— 262. Persecution in the East under Macrianus. 275. Persecution threatened by Aurelian.

303-313. Persecution under Dioclesian, Galerius, and Maximinus.

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Section 3. Nature and Extent of Persecutions.

[Sidenote: Terrors of persecution.]

Words can hardly be found strong enough to express the many and varied tortures which were inflicted on the Christians of the Primitive Church by their heathen countrymen. Death itself seemed too slight a punishment in the eyes of these cruel persecutors, unless it was preceded and accompanied by the most painful and trying circumstances. It was by crucifixion, and devouring beasts, and lingering fiery torments that the great multitude of those early martyrs received their crown. Racked and scorched, lacerated and torn limb from limb, agonized in body, mocked at and insulted, they were objects of pity even to the heathen themselves. Persecuting malice spared neither sex nor age, station nor character; the old man and the tender child, the patrician and the slave, the bishop and his flock, all shed their blood for Him Who had died for them, rather than deny their Lord.

We have no possible means of estimating the number of this vast "cloud of witnesses," but authentic accounts have come down to us which prove that some places were almost depopulated by the multitude of martyrdoms; and when we remember the length of time over which the persecutions extended, the blood-thirsty rage of the persecutors, and the firm perseverance with which the immensely large majority of Christians kept the Faith to the end, we may form some idea as to the "multitude" of this noble army of martyrs "which no man could number."

[Sidenote: Persecution did not check the growth of the Church,]

So widely did the Church spread during the age {62} of persecution, in the face of all the fierce opposition of her enemies, that it was found at times to be impossible to carry out in their fulness the cruel laws against Christians, on account of the numbers of those who were ready to brave all for the sake of Christ. As has been often said, "The blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church."

[Sidenote: nor revive decaying heathenism,]

Paganism was gradually dying away in the Roman world, notwithstanding all the craft and power of Satan, whilst no number of martyrdoms seemed to check the growth of the Body of Christ. Vain and short-sighted, indeed, was the boast of the Emperor Dioclesian during the last and most bitter of all the persecutions, that he had blotted out the very name of Christian. No sooner had the conversion of Constantine brought rest to the Church, than she rose again from her seeming ruins, ready and able to spread more and more through "the kingdoms of this world," that they might "become the kingdoms of Christ."

[Sidenote: and thus helped to prove the Divine origin of the Church.]

We may well believe that no institution of human appointment could have stood firm against such terrible and reiterated shocks. Nothing less than a Divine Foundation, and a strength not of this world could have borne the Church through the ages of persecution, not only without loss of all vital principle, but even with actual invigoration and extension of it.

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Section 4. Effects of Persecution on the Worship and Discipline of the Church.

The fierce trials of the age of persecution were not without their influence on the inner life of the Church, both as regarded Worship and Discipline.

The cruel oppressions to which they were constantly liable, drove Christians to conceal their Faith from the eyes of the heathen world whenever such concealment did not involve any denial of their Lord, or any faithless compliance with idolatrous customs. [Sidenote: Seeking martyrdom forbidden.] Indeed, it was a law of the Church that martyrdom was not to be unnecessarily sought after, and the wisdom of this provision was more than once shown by the failure under torture of those who had presumptuously brought upon themselves the sufferings they had not strength to bear, and which did not come to them in the course of God's Providence.

[Sidenote: Holy Rites and Books kept hidden.]

The strictest secrecy was enjoined upon Christians as to the religious Rites and sacred Books of the Church, and we read of many martyrs who suffered for refusing to satisfy the curiosity of their Pagan judges respecting Christian worship, or for persisting in withholding from them the Christian writings.

[Sidenote: Church ritual temporarily checked.]

Another natural effect of persecution was to check for a time the development of the ritual of the Church, and to render necessary the use of the simplest and most essential forms even in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The immense subterranean excavations at Rome, known by the name of the Catacombs, are an abiding {64} proof to us of the straits to which the primitive martyrs and their companions were reduced, when these sand-galleries were at once their Church and their burying-place, and in some instances the scene of their martyrdom also.

[Sidenote: Church discipline very severe]

The discipline of the Church was made extremely strict by the lengthened continuance of severe persecution. In those days when so many gave proof of the strength and reality of their Faith by their persevering endurance of unspeakable agonies, any shrinking back was looked upon as very unworthy cowardice, and as an almost hopeless fall, to be hindered if possible by the merciful severity of the Church as shown in warnings and punishments. Even those who had so far succumbed to trial as to give up the Sacred Books were called "Traditores," and considered as very criminal; those who had consented to pay Divine honours to the emperors or to the heathen gods, fell under still more severe censure, whilst such Christians as led sinful and immoral lives were considered most worthy of blame and punishment. Very heavy penances were laid upon all who thus fell away, in proportion to their guilt, before they were again admitted to the Communion of the Church; and in some extreme cases the punishment was life-long, and only allowed to be relaxed when the penitent was actually in danger of death. [Sidenote: for a time.] But this very severe discipline was temporary in its nature, as was the danger to the Church which called it forth, and was somewhat modified by the Letters of Peace which martyrs and confessors were allowed to give to excommunicated persons, authorizing their readmission to Church privileges.

[Sidenote: Church government modified also for a time.]

A temporary modification in the government of the {65} Church was also brought about by these times of suffering. Bishops, under the pressure of persecution, were sometimes forced to leave their flocks, or were first tortured and then banished, and their places had to be filled as far as they could be by the presbyters, with the advice of the distant Bishop; whilst at Rome, in the middle of the third century, there was a year's vacancy in the see after the martyrdom of Fabian, on account of the impossibility of bringing neighbouring Bishops into the midst of a storm which was raging with especial fury against the rulers of the Church.



[1] St. John was a martyr in will, though not in deed, being miraculously preserved from injury in the caldron of boiling oil, into which he was plunged by order of Nero or Domitian.

[2] From Dr. Steere's "Account of the Persecutions of the Early Church under the Roman Emperors."



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CHAPTER VI

The Church under the Roman Empire

A.D. 312-A.D. 680

[Sidenote: Persecution arrested by conversion of Constantine.]

[Sidenote: Outward triumph of the Church.]

The conversion of the Emperor Constantine to the Faith worked a great change in the condition of the Christian Church. Even so early as the year 312, when the appearance to him of the luminous Cross in the sky was followed by victory over his enemies, Constantine began to issue edicts of toleration in favour of the Christians; and from the time of his sole supremacy, A.D. 324, Christianity and not Paganism became the acknowledged religion of the Roman empire.

Section 1. The altered Outward Circumstances of the Church.

[Sidenote: Consequent change in discipline and ritual.]

Such a change in the outward circumstances of the Church could not but produce a corresponding alteration in its discipline and mode of worship. The Kingdom of God on earth became a great power visible to the eyes of men, no longer hid like the leaven, but overshadowing the earth like the mustard-tree; and the power and influence of Imperial Rome were employed {67} in spreading the Faith instead of seeking to exterminate it. Christians were not now forced to shun the notice of their fellow-men; banished Priests and Bishops came back to their flocks; heathen temples were converted into Churches, and new Churches were built with great splendour. The vast resources of Roman wealth and refinement were employed to render the Worship of Almighty God costly and magnificent, and the ritual of the Church was probably more fully developed and brought more into harmony with the prophetic vision of St. John than circumstances had ever before allowed.

[Sidenote: The first Christian city.]

In Constantinople, built by the Emperor Constantine on the ruins of Byzantium, we have the first instance of a city which, from the time of its foundation, was entirely Christian.

[Sidenote: Endowment of the Church.]

The Church was now no longer dependent on the alms of private Christians; the revenues which had formerly been devoted by the state to the maintenance of the heathen temples and their ministers, were transferred to the support of Christian Churches and their Clergy, and to the relief of the poor. Christian schools were also founded and endowed by the emperors; and learning, as well as wealth, was thus brought in contact with the Faith.

[Sidenote: Church honoured by the world.]

Christian Rome soon became a great instrument in God's hands for extending the influence of the Church even amongst little-known and uncivilized nations; and as persecution ceased to try the earnestness of those who embraced the religion of Christ, and the name of Christian came to be treated with respect instead of with scorn, the Church began to assume a position somewhat like that which she holds in our own day. [Sidenote: Discipline relaxed.] The profession of {68} Christianity under these circumstances was naturally more of a matter of course with many of those who had grown up under its shadow, than when, in earlier times, such a profession was likely to involve loss and suffering, and even death itself, and discipline was gradually and necessarily relaxed from the severity needful in the days of persecution.

Section 2. Internal Trials of the Church.

[Sidenote: Heresy gathers strength in prosperity,]

The Church being thus firmly settled and delivered from outer enemies, was now to find troubles within. Even from the days of St. John the Divine heresies respecting the Person of our Blessed Lord had been rife; but these open denials of the Divinity of the Great Head of the Church had been successfully opposed without their leaving behind them any very lasting trace. [Sidenote: and is of a more dangerous nature.] Errors of a more subtle class followed, amounting in reality to unbelief in our Saviour's Godhead, but expressing that unbelief by assailing the teaching of the Church respecting His nature as Very God or as Very Man.

[Sidenote: Arianism.]

This species of error culminated in the heresy of Arius, who denied that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity was co-equal, co-eternal, and of One Substance with the Father, and whose false teaching was more widely listened to and followed than that of any of his predecessors in misbelief. Arianism, and various forms of error consequent upon it, long afflicted the Church, especially in the East, and the Emperor Constantine himself seems at one time to have had a leaning towards the theories of Arius.

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Section 3. The General Councils.

[Sidenote: The remedy provided for heresy.]

The full tide of the Arian heresy was, however, not suffered to come upon the Church without a barrier being raised up by God to stem the torrent. The Emperor Constantine was providentially guided to call together a Council of Bishops from every part of the world, to decide what was and always had been the Faith of the Church respecting the Nature of our Blessed Lord. This is the first instance of what are known by the name of General Councils of the Church. Other councils, called provincial synods, had indeed been frequently held from the earliest times; but they were of a much more limited and partial character, and their decrees were binding only on the province in which they were held, and not on the Church at large.

[Sidenote: Nature of General Councils.]

General Councils were called together by the Christian emperors, and, from the nature of their constitution, were not possible until all or nearly all the Christian world was governed by a ruler professing the Faith of Christ; nor has such a general synod been held since the breaking up of the universal empire of Rome helped to overthrow the external unity of the Church[1]. [Sidenote: Their number.] Four General Councils are officially {70} acknowledged by the Church of England as binding on her members, and to these are commonly added two, held somewhat later at Constantinople.

[Sidenote: I. Council.]

I. The First General Council was called together by Constantine the Great, A.D. 325. It was held at Nicaea in Bithynia, and was attended by 318 Bishops. The great work of this Council was the positive and explicit assertion of what the Church had always implicitly believed concerning the Nature of our Divine Lord, and His Oneness with the Father. It was at this Nicene Council that the great St. Athanasius, then only a deacon, first distinguished himself by his opposition to the heresies of Arius. The teaching of the Council was embodied in the creed which is known to us as the Nicene Creed[2], and which was signed by all the assembled Bishops with only two exceptions, these being probably personal friends of Arius. Besides the condemnation of Arius, the Council settled the time of keeping Easter, and passed twenty Canons which were confirmed by the Emperor.

[Sidenote: II. Council.]

II. The Second General Council was held at Constantinople, A.D. 381, in the reign of Theodosius the Great. It was summoned principally to condemn the heresy of Macedonius, who had been Patriarch of Constantinople, and who had added to the Arian heresy a denial of the Divinity of God the Holy Ghost. At this Council 150 Bishops were present, and it is especially remarkable for having completed the Creed of Nicaea[3], which is hence also called the Creed of Constantinople.

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[Sidenote: III. Council.]

III. The Third General Council was summoned by the Emperor Theodosius the Younger, A.D. 431, and met at Ephesus. It was held to consider the heresy of Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, who taught that the Blessed Virgin was the Mother of our Lord's Human Nature only, and that, therefore, the title of Theotokos, or "Mother of God," ought not to be given her. This assertion was, in fact, only a refinement of Arianism, implying as it did that our Saviour had not always been God as well as Man, and it was accordingly condemned by the Council, Nestorius being at the same time deposed from his see.

[Sidenote: IV. Council.]

IV. The Fourth General Council met at Chalcedon during the reign of the Emperor Marcian, A.D. 451. Six hundred and thirty Bishops assembled at it and condemned the false teaching of Eutyches, who asserted that our Blessed Lord was God only, and not Man also.

[Sidenote: V. Council.]

V. The Fifth General Council was summoned at Constantinople by the Emperor Justinian, A.D. 533, and was attended by 165 Bishops. In it the decisions of the Four First Councils were confirmed, especially against the Nestorians.

[Sidenote: VI. Council.]

VI. The Sixth General Council was also held at Constantinople, A.D. 680, by command of the Emperor Constantine Pogonatus, and condemned a development of Eutychianism.

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Table of Councils.

Where held. Date. Emperor. Object.

I. Nicaea 325 Constantine Against the Arians. the Great

II. Constantinople 38l Theodosius Against the the Great Macedonians.

III. Ephesus 431 Theodosius Against the the Younger Nestorians.

IV. Chalcedon 451 Marcian Against the Eutychians.

V. Constantinople 553 Justinian Against a development of Nestorianism.

VI. Constantinople 680 Constantine Against a Pogonatus development of Eutychianism.

Section 4. Intellectual Development in the Church.

[Sidenote: Christian learning developed in peace.]

This portion of the History of the Church, comprising as it does the first period in which the master-minds within her fold were left free by the cessation of outward persecution to resist the increasing attacks of heresy, may be looked upon as offering to our view the greatest intellectual development which the Church has experienced since the times of the Apostles. [Sidenote: The Fathers.] Learned and eloquent men abounded, "mighty in the Scriptures" and "steadfast in the Faith," and their commentaries and sermons have come down to us as an abiding heritage and a continual witness to the teaching of the Church in early times. St. Athanasius, St. Ambrose, St. Chrysostom, and St. Augustine, are but a few out of many whose writings are still held in honour by our own as well as by every other branch of the Catholic Church.



[1] A General Council is the highest possible way in which the voice of the Church can be heard. But its authority is much increased by the fact that to become really a general Council its decrees must be generally received by the Christian world. This was the case with the first six General Councils, but has not been entirely so with any similar gatherings of later ages.

[2] That part of the Creed which follows the words, "I believe in the Holy Ghost," was added later.

[3] The subsequent addition in the clause, "Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son," will be noticed later.



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CHAPTER VII

The Early History of Particular Churches.

A.D. 67-A.D. 500

Section 1. The Church of England.

[Sidenote: St. Paul's visit to England.]

The CHURCH OF ENGLAND is believed, with good reason, to owe its foundation to the Apostle St. Paul, who probably came to this country after his first imprisonment at Rome. The writings of Tertullian, and others in the second and third centuries speak of Christianity as having spread as far as the islands of Britain, and a British king named Lucius is known to have embraced the Faith about the middle of the second century. [Sidenote: Martyrdom of St. Alban.] The Diocletian persecution made itself felt amongst the British Christians, the conversion of the proto-martyr St. Alban (A.D. 303) being followed by that of a large number of his countrymen, many of whom also suffered for their faith.

The persecution ceased (A.D. 305) under the influence of Constantius, who, before his accession to the imperial dignity, had been viceroy in Britain. His son and successor Constantine was, if not born in England, at any rate of English parentage on the side of his mother Helen, better known as the Saint and Empress {74} Helena. [Sidenote: English bishops at Councils.] Three English Bishops, those of York, Lincoln, and London, attended the Council summoned by Constantine at Arles, A.D. 314, a proof that at this time the Church of England was thoroughly organized and settled. English Bishops were also present at the Councils of Sardica, A.D. 347, and of Ariminium, A.D. 359.

[Sidenote: English Church depressed by Saxon invasion.]

When the Romans abandoned Britain early in the fifth century, the Saxons took advantage of the defenceless state of the inhabitants to settle in the island, at first as colonists and afterwards as conquerors. The intermingling of these fierce heathens with the Christian population had a depressing influence on the Church; and the Bishops and Clergy, belonging as they did to the weaker and conquered portion of the community, seem to have been unable to do much towards the conversion of the invaders. [Sidenote: Diminution and retreat of Clergy.] Gradually, as the Saxons became more and more powerful in the island, the number of Bishops and Clergy in the accessible portions of of England grew smaller and smaller; and such as remained were at last compelled to take refuge with their brethren, who had retired to the mountain fastnesses, rather than live in slavery. Hence the records of the Church of England in the sixth century are chiefly confined to those dioceses which were situated in what we call Wales, or in other mountainous districts.

Section 2. The Church of Ireland.

The CHURCH OF IRELAND is said by some to have been first founded in the Apostolic age, but this seems doubtful. The first certain information which we have {75} respecting the presence of Christianity in the island, is that in A.D. 431, a Bishop named Palladius was sent thither on a mission by Pope Celestine. He appears, however, not to have met with much success, and he soon left the country and died, probably in Scotland. [Sidenote: St. Patrick the Apostle of Ireland.] A few years later, about A.D. 440, the celebrated St. Patrick began his mission in Ireland. He is generally considered to have been a native of North Britain, who, at the age of sixteen, was taken prisoner by pirates, and carried as a slave to Ireland. On regaining his liberty, he resolved to devote his life to the conversion of the country of his captivity; and having been consecrated Bishop, he returned to Ireland, and spent fifty years as a missionary in that hitherto heathen land. At the time of his death, A.D. 493, the Church was firmly rooted in Ireland, and possessed a native priesthood and a native Episcopate.

[Sidenote: Late development of dioceses and parishes in Ireland.]

It may, however, be mentioned, that neither the diocesan nor the parochial systems were developed in Ireland until a very late period, whilst, from the very large number of Bishops existing there in early times, we are led to infer that in Ireland, as before in the earliest ages of the Church, each missionary was invested with episcopal powers, and that the office of priest, separate from that of Bishop, was at first almost unknown. Gradually there sprang up Cathedral chapters, whose members acted as curates to the Bishop, and to this succeeded the parochial system.

Section 3. The Church of Scotland.

The CHURCH OF SCOTLAND may, perhaps, like the Church of England, trace its foundation to the labours {76} of St. Paul, and seems to be included in Tertullian's mention of the far-off limits to which Christianity had reached in his days. [Sidenote: St. Ninian the first authenticated missionary in Scotland.] Little is, however, known of very early Church history in Scotland until the beginning of the fifth century, when St. Ninian, who is said to have been the son of a British chief, preached to the Southern Picts, A.D. 412-A.D. 432. We have already seen that St. Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland, was a Scotchman, and the fruits of the benefits thus conferred on the one country were reaped by the other in the next century, when St. Columba went from Ireland and founded the celebrated monastery of Iona in one of the isles of the Hebrides. [Sidenote: Intercourse between Irish and Scotch Churches.] Iona, like the Irish monasteries of the same period, sent out many missionaries, and the monks of the two countries appear to have kept up friendly communications with each other.

Section 4. Continental Churches.

The CHURCH OF ITALY, as we have already seen (pp. 42, 43), was founded by the joint labours of St. Peter and St. Paul, but the circumstances of its foundation were very different from those of the Churches of our own islands. [Sidenote: Difficulties encountered by the Church in Italy from high civilization] Christianity in Italy had to make its way amongst a highly civilized people, a nation of deep thinkers and philosophers, whose opposition to the truths of the Gospel was a far more subtle thing than the rude ignorance of barbarians. [Sidenote: and political power.] Besides this, the infant Church in Italy was brought face to face with the might of the Roman emperors who were at that time the rulers of the known {77} world; and though their persecution of their Christian subjects extended more or less to all parts of the empire, yet Italy was the chief battle-field on which the first great contest between the Church and the world was fought. Hence the history of the early Church of Italy is a history of alternating persecutions and times of peace[1], during which Christianity was constantly taking deeper root and spreading more widely through the country, until the conversion of Constantine, A.D. 312, led to the establishment and endowment of the Church. [Sidenote: Decay of the Roman empire.] As the Church was growing stronger and taking deeper root, the worn-out Roman empire was gradually decaying and fading away, and, practically, it came to an end with the division of East and West, A.D. 395.

Resistance to the inroads of the barbarians was no longer possible. Rome was sacked successively by different nations of Central Europe, and at length the kingdom of the Goths in Italy was established under Theodoric, A.D. 493. [Sidenote: Arianism of barbarian conquerors.] These rude nations, though professing Christianity, had received with it the heretical doctrines of Anus, owing to their teachers having belonged to those eastern portions of Europe, which, from their nearness to Asia, were most infected with this heresy.

The CHURCH OF FRANCE was probably founded by St. Paul, but we have no certain account of its early history. [Sidenote: Asiatic origin of Early French Bishops,] "Trophimus the Ephesian" is believed to have been the first Bishop of Arles, and Pothinus, another Greek Asiatic, occupied the see of Lyons at the time of the persecution under Marcus Aurelius, A.D. 161-A.D. 180, during which he suffered martyrdom. His {78} successor was St. Irenaeus, a native, probably, of Smyrna, who was martyred under Severus, A.D. 202. This long-continued connexion with the Churches of Asia Minor left its traces on the liturgy and customs of the Church of France, and through it of Britain and Ireland, these latter Churches adhering to the Eastern mode of computing Easter even after the Western reckoning had been adopted in France. [Sidenote: and of French Liturgy.] The liturgy used in France, as well as in Britain and Spain, is known to have been founded on that used in Ephesus and in the other Asiatic cities, which was almost certainly that used by St. John himself.

[Sidenote: Intercourse between English and French Churches.]

A Council was summoned by Constantine, A.D. 314, at the French city of Arles, and one French Bishop at least was present at the great Nicaean Council, A.D. 323. About a century later (A.D. 429), St. Germanus, Bishop of Auxerre, and St. Lupus, Bishop of Troyes, were sent over to Britain to assist in combating the errors of Pelagius, the neighbour Churches of England and France maintaining apparently very friendly relations. Many of the barbarian tribes who overran France in the beginning of the fifth century, though professing Christianity, were deeply infected with the Arian heresy. The Franks, however, who were heathens at their first entrance into the country, embraced the orthodox faith, and eventually became masters of the kingdom under Clovis, A.D. 486.

[Sidenote: St. Paul and St. James in Spain.]

The CHURCH OF SPAIN AND PORTUGAL traces its foundation to St. Paul, who speaks of his intended visit to Spain, Rom. xv. 24; and there is also a tradition that St. James the Great preached the Gospel here. This Church, too, is spoken of by St. Irenaeus, and again by Tertullian. {79} Its first known martyr was St. Fructuosus, A.D. 259, and its first Council that of Elvira, about A.D. 300. The names of nineteen Spanish Bishops are mentioned as present at it. The Council of Nice, A.D. 325, was under the presidency of Hosius, the Bishop of the Spanish diocese of Cordova. [Sidenote: Arianism of Visigoths.] About A.D. 470, the Visigoths, who were Arians, passed over from France into Spain, and were only gradually converted to the Catholic Faith.

We must look to a later period (see Chapter XI.) for the foundation of other Churches of the West in Northern and Central Europe, that is to say, the SCANDINAVIAN CHURCHES, including NORWAY, SWEDEN, and DENMARK, as well as those contained in the large extent of country to which we often give the comprehensive name of Germany.

The Churches now comprehended in EUROPEAN TURKEY and GREECE were, as we have already seen (pp. 37 to 40), the fruits of the labours of St. Paul, and, like the Church of Rome, had wealth and learning to encounter instead of poverty and ignorance. The Book of Acts records very fully the earliest history of these Churches, and a large proportion of St. Paul's Epistles are addressed to them. [Sidenote: Liability of the Greeks to heresy.] The theorizing and philosophical tendencies of the Greeks made them very liable be led away by heretical teachers, and we find that the Church in Greece, from St. Paul's time downwards, was continually disturbed by the presence of those who taught or listened to "some new thing." Hence all the General Councils, summoned for the authoritative settlement of the faith of the Church, were held either in Greece, or in that part of Asia which had been colonized by Greeks. Arianism in particular, {80} for a long period, caused the most violent dissensions throughout the Eastern world, and these were the occasion of that first Great Council of Nicaea which, though not actually held in Greece, was only separated from it by the narrow strait of the Bosphorus. [Sidenote: Origin of jealousies between Rome and Constantinople.] The building of Constantinople, A.D. 330, gave a Christian capital to Greece, and, indeed, to the whole of the Eastern Roman empire; and from this time may be dated the jealousies and struggles for supremacy which took place between the Church in Italy and the Church in Greece, and resulted eventually in the Great schism between East and West[2].

[Sidenote: St. Andrew in Russia.]

The CHURCH OF RUSSIA is believed to have been founded by the Apostle St. Andrew, who extended his labours northwards from Thrace (which now forms part of Turkey in Europe), to that portion of Scythia lying north of the Black Sea, and now constituting the southern part of European Russia. The bulk of the present Russian empire was, however, converted at a much later period.

Section 5. The Church in Africa.

[Sidenote: St. Simon Zelotes and St. Mark in Africa.]

The first evangelizing of North Africa, including what we now know as Egypt, Algeria, and Morocco, is ascribed to St. Simon Zelotes and St. Mark, the latter of whom founded the CHURCH OF ALEXANDRIA, of which he became the first Bishop. Christianity appears to have {81} made very rapid progress in Africa, since, in the fifth century, the Church numbered more than four hundred African Bishops. [Sidenote: Patriarchate of Alexandria.] Alexandria, from its wealth and importance, as well as from its reputation for learning, was looked up to by the other African Churches, and its Bishops were acknowledged as patriarchs throughout the Christianized portion of the continent. [Sidenote: Its school.] The Alexandrian school of philosophy was very famous, and was at one time presided over by the Christian philosopher Clement of Alexandria, who died about A.D. 216. His pupil Origen was, for a while, at the head of the same college, and employed his vast learning both before and after his ordination, in comparing the extant copies of the Old Testament Scriptures, in order to bring the text of the original languages to a state of the greatest possible correctness. He died A.D. 253.

[Sidenote: Heresies at Alexandria.]

The Church of Alexandria was much distracted by inward troubles. In A.D. 306, the schism of Meletius led many astray, and amongst them the too notorious Arius, who began to publish in Alexandria the heresy since known by his name, about the year A.D. 320. [Sidenote: St. Athanasius and Arius.] St. Athanasius, who became Patriarch of Alexandria, A.D. 326, was the chief instrument raised up by God for combating the errors of Arius, a work which he carried on unflinchingly both before and after his elevation to the episcopal throne, though his defence of the orthodox faith brought upon him long and severe persecution, including an exile of twenty years from his diocese. The Arian heresy, though checked, was however not exterminated, and long remained a source of trouble and weakness to the whole Church. [Sidenote: St. Cyril and Nestorius.] St. Cyril, {82} who afterwards succeeded to the patriarchate of Alexandria, A.D. 412, was also called upon to defend Catholic truth against the errors of Nestorius, whilst his successor, Dioscorus, openly embraced the false teaching of Eutyches, and denied the Manhood, as Arius and Nestorius had before denied the Divinity, of our Blessed Lord. The evil example of the patriarch was followed by a large proportion of African Christians, who refused to receive the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon, A.D. 431, or to submit to Catholic Bishops.

[Sidenote: St. Cyprian. St. Augustine.]

Two other well-known names which adorn the records of the Church in North Africa may be mentioned: St. Cyprian, a native of Carthage, and afterwards Bishop of that city, who suffered martyrdom, A.D. 258, and St. Augustine, a native of Numidia (or what we now call Algeria), who was educated at Carthage, was consecrated Bishop of Hippo, A.D. 393, and died A.D. 430. He left behind him a great number of writings, the influence of which has been largely felt by the Church of England.

[Sidenote: St. Matthew in Ethiopia.]

The CHURCH OF ETHIOPIA, now represented by Abyssinia, was planted by St. Matthew, the way having, perhaps, been prepared by that "man of Ethiopia," the eunuch "under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians," of whom we read in Acts viii. 27-39. Little is clearly known of the early Christian history of this region; but the Ethiopian Church appears to have come under the patriarchal rule of the Bishop of Alexandria towards the beginning of the fourth century. Though keeping clear of Arianism, the Ethiopian Christians became deeply tinged with the Eutychian heresy, by which Dioscorus and his successors were unhappily led away.

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Section 6. The Eastern Church.

Of the Churches now comprehended in Turkey in Asia, the foundation and early history of PALESTINE, as represented by the CHURCH IN JERUSALEM, and of SYRIA, as represented by the CHURCH IN ANTIOCH, have been already related (Chapters I. and II.).

[Sidenote: Death of St. James.]

St. James the Less, first Bishop of Jerusalem, was martyred A.D. 63, and succeeded by Simeon, the son of Cleopas, in whose episcopate the destruction of Jerusalem took place, A.D. 70. [Sidenote: Flight to Pella.] The Christians, in obedience to the prophetic teaching of their Divine Master, had already fled for safety to Pella, whence they afterwards returned to take up their abode amongst the ruins of the Holy City. In A.D. 132, a rebellious outbreak of the Jews, under the leadership of Barchochebas, drew down on them a severe chastisement from the Emperor Hadrian, and the Jewish Christians suffered much from being confounded with their rebellious countrymen. The ruins of the ancient city were completely destroyed, whilst no Jew was allowed to enter the new city of Aelia Capitolina, which was built on its site. [Sidenote: Extinction of Judaism in Church of Jerusalem.] The Jewish Christians now entirely gave up all profession of Judaism, and the first Judaism in Gentile Bishop of Jerusalem was appointed A.D. 135.

Julian the Apostate (A.D. 361-A.D. 363) presumptuously attempted to rebuild Jerusalem, but his attempt was frustrated by a miraculous interposition, a failure which had already been predicted by St. Cyril, the then Bishop of Jerusalem.

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[Sidenote: Double Episcopate at Antioch.]

The CHURCH IN ANTIOCH having been probably founded by St. Peter, that Apostle is believed to have left behind him two Bishops in the city, the one Evodius, having the episcopal care of the Jewish converts, whilst Ignatius was placed in charge of the Gentile Christians; but, on the death of Evodius, A.D. 70, Ignatius became sole Bishop. [Sidenote: St. Ignatius.] This holy man is said to have been the child whom our Lord took in His arms and set in the midst of His disciples. He was intimate with some or all of the Apostles, especially with St. John, and was martyred by being thrown to wild beasts at Rome, A.D. 107. The synods held at Antioch were very numerous, and far larger than any others, approaching almost in size and importance to General Councils. [Sidenote: St. John Chrysostom.] It was at Antioch that the celebrated and eloquent St. John Chrysostom was born about A.D. 347: he became Bishop of Constantinople, and died A.D. 407, after undergoing persecutions which almost amounted to a martyrdom.

[Sidenote: St. Paul and St. John in Asia Minor.]

We have already seen (pp. 31, 32) that the CHURCHES OF ASIA MINOR owe their foundation chiefly to St. Paul, whilst their perfect organization and development was entrusted to St. John the Divine (pp. 49 to 51). The Seven Churches of the Apocalypse seem to have been in a special manner the charge of the latter Apostle, Ephesus, the chief of them, being the home of his later earthly years, and the scene of his decease and burial. [Sidenote: The "Angels" of the Seven Churches.] St. Timothy, the first Bishop of Ephesus, had been succeeded probably by Onesimus; St. Polycarp (martyred A.D. 167) had the episcopal charge of Smyrna; {85} Archippus, it is believed, had followed Epaphras at Laodicea. The names of the other "Angels" spoken of in the Apocalypse have not come down to us, but there is no doubt that at the time when the seven inspired Epistles were addressed to these Churches, there was in each of them a firmly established episcopacy, and that this form of government was followed by all other Churches throughout the world. There is little that needs recording of the history of these Churches of Asia Minor, unless we except the Great Council of Ephesus, held in that city, A.D. 431, to condemn the heresy of Nestorius (p. 71).

[Sidenote: St. Bartholomew in Armenia.]

The CHURCH OF ARMENIA, now included in Asiatic Turkey, is believed to have been first founded by St. Bartholomew. The country is said to have been further evangelized by a mission sent by St. Gregory the Illuminator in the third century. It is known that, in the following century, a flourishing Church existed there.

[Sidenote: Several Apostles in Parthia.]

The CHURCH OF PARTHIA, or PERSIA, embraced the country lying between the Tigris and the Indus, with Mesopotamia and Chaldea; what we now call Persia, Cabul, and Belochistan; as well as part of Arabia and Turkey; and is said to have been planted by St. Peter, St. Bartholomew, St. Jude, St. Matthew, and St. Thomas. The inhabitants of this region were of different races: Greek colonists; many Jews, the residue of the Babylonish Captivity; Arabs, and ancient Persians. Till the fourth century the Parthian Church appears to have flourished in peace. It was beyond the jurisdiction of the persecuting emperors of Rome, and the Parthian monarchs, though not Christians themselves, protected or tolerated their Christian subjects. [Sidenote: Persecution there.] Two Bishops were sent from {86} Parthia to the Council of Nicaea, A.D. 323, but shortly afterwards, A.D. 330, persecution broke out, occasioned apparently by the jealousy felt by the king towards the now Christian emperors of Rome, and the intercourse kept up between the fellow Christians of the two empires. Sixteen thousand martyrs are said to have shed their blood for their Faith, and amongst them was St. Simeon, the Patriarch of the Church, and Bishop of Seleucia. Another persecution took place in the beginning of the fifth century, and shortly afterwards Persian Christianity became strongly infected with the errors of Nestorius, the Shahs apparently favouring the heresy on account of its having been discouraged by the Roman emperors.

[Sidenote: Uncertainty as to the first conversion of Arabia.]

There is no record of the actual founding of the CHURCH IN ARABIA. We know, from Gal. i. 17, that St. Paul "went into Arabia" soon after his conversion, but there is no mention of his having preached the Gospel there at that time, when indeed he was not yet called to be an Apostle; and the Arabia to which he went was probably the northern portion stretching up to the east of Syria, almost to Damascus itself. The Apostle of the Gentiles may probably have revisited this country at a later period; but, at any rate, we know that Christianity was firmly established there early in the third century, and that Origen made two several journeys thither between A.D. 220 and A.D. 248, to combat heresies which troubled the Arabian Church. The Bishop of Bostra, or Bozrah, was present at the Council of Antioch, A.D. 269. [Sidenote: Nestorianism and Eutychianism in Arabia.] In the fifth century the errors of Nestorius, and, a little later, of Eutyches, made great inroads amongst {87} the Christians of Arabia, several even of the Bishops being led away by them.

[Sidenote: St. Thomas and St. Bartholomew in India.]

There is an ancient tradition that St. Thomas and St. Bartholomew laid the foundations of the CHURCH IN INDIA, but very little is known of its early history. Pantaenus is said to have been sent as a missionary from Alexandria to India towards the end of the second century, though it is a matter in dispute whether by India in this case we are to understand the country now known under that name, or Ethiopia, or Arabia Felix.

There are still Christians in India who reverence St. Thomas as their founder, and use a liturgy which goes by his name. Nestorianism spread to India in the fifth century.

The Church is believed to have been planted in CHINA by St. Thomas and St. Bartholomew, and the Chinese are mentioned by Arnobius in the fourth century amongst those nations which had received the Gospel. It does not seem, however, that Christianity existed for any length of time in this country.



[1] See Chap. V.

[2] In speaking of the Greek Church of the present day, we usually understand the whole body of orthodox Eastern Christians, and not merely those dwelling in Greece itself.



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CHAPTER VIII

The Inroads of Mahometanism

A.D. 609-A.D. 732

[Sidenote: Arianism prepares the way for Mahometanism.]

The various heresies, and especially the heresy of Arius, which had so widely troubled the peace of the Eastern Church, though they were not suffered by God's Mercy to cause a lasting schism, yet left behind them a certain weakness resulting in the decay of many of the Churches of the East, and finally in their overthrow by the false faith of the impostor Mahomet. The present state of the Churches of Ephesus, Sardis, and Laodicea, if viewed in the light shed upon it by the prophetic Epistles of St. John the Divine, may serve to show us how God withdraws His Blessing from a Church no less surely than from an individual Christian, when His Grace is obstinately rejected and despised.

Section 1. Mahomet.

[Sidenote: Mahomet's birth,]

The false prophet Mahomet was born A.D. 569, of the chief family in the Arabian tribe of the Koreish; but it was not till after he had amassed a large fortune, partly by diligence in trade {89} and partly by a wealthy marriage, that, at the age of forty, A.D. 609, he declared himself to be a prophet. [Sidenote: and claim to be a prophet and reformer.] This announcement was at first confined to the members of his own immediate family, till, at the end of four years, Mahomet proclaimed that he had a mission from God to reform the state of religion in his native city, Mecca, and to put down the idolatry which prevailed there. [Sidenote: Flight to Medina.] The opposition which the false prophet encountered from his fellow-citizens did not hinder him from making many converts to the religion he was beginning to invent for himself and for them, until at length (A.D. 622) an insurrection, caused by the preaching and success of Mahomet, obliged him to fly for his life from Mecca, and take refuge at Yatreb or Medina[1].

[Sidenote: Founds a new religion.]

Here he was gladly received both by Jews and Arabs, rival races, who divided the city between them. The Jews were ready to welcome him as their expected Messiah, whilst the Arabs had heard of his fame from their brethren at Mecca; and Mahomet seems from this time to have entirely laid aside the character of a mere reformer, for that of the founder of a new revelation. The Koran and the Sword were now called in to aid in their respective ways in extending the power of the ambitious adventurer. [Sidenote: Cruelty.] Violence and bloodshed enforced the pretended inspiration by which Mahomet claimed to be acknowledged as the Prophet of God, and the civil and religious head of the nation; and the last ten years of his life present an almost unbroken {90} course of warfare, which too often degenerated into simple robbery and murder. [Sidenote: and conquests of Mahomet.] He made himself master of the whole of Arabia, including the city of Mecca, where he destroyed the idols against which he had in earlier days protested, and then made an ineffectual attempt to take possession of Palestine. [Sidenote: His death.] Mahomet died on June 8th, A.D. 632, partly from the effects of poison, which had been given to him some years before, and partly from the consequences of a life of excess and self-indulgence.

Section 2. The Religion of Mahomet.

The false faith of which Mahomet was at once the prophet and the founder, seems to have taken for its basis the traditionary religion then prevalent amongst the Arab tribes. These traditions were probably compounded of dim remnants of the Truth which had been revealed to Abraham and handed down through his son Ishmael, and of a very corrupt form of Sabaeanism, which included the worship of the heavenly bodies, as well as of idols, and which had been the religion of Terah and his fellow-countrymen. [Sidenote: Mixture of truth and error in Mahometanism.] Upon this foundation was engrafted a mixture of Persian philosophy, and of such perversions of Christianity and of Scriptural doctrine as Mahomet could gather from a Persian Jew and a Nestorian monk. [Sidenote: Opposition of the Koran to Christianity.] The Koran, which Mahomet pretended to have received from heaven by the mouth of the archangel Gabriel, makes mention of our Blessed Lord and of many of the facts of Old Testament History, but its teaching is essentially {91} anti-Christian and blasphemous, inasmuch as it denies the Divinity of Christ, and represents Him as a Teacher and Prophet far inferior to Mahomet himself. An intended contradiction of the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity is also conveyed in its opening sentence, which is the Mahometan confession of faith,—"There is but one God, and Mahomet is His prophet."

[Sidenote: Mahomet's Iconoclastic tendencies.]

Mahomet's energetic opposition to idolatry was, no doubt, a good feature in his religious system, though, like that of the Iconoclasts[2], it was carried to an extravagant extent, and this agreement, with their undue fears and prejudices on this head, seems to have been a sufficient inducement to many unstable Christians to deny the Lord, for Whose Honour they professed such deep concern, and to give themselves up to an impostor who was perhaps the nearest approach to Anti-Christ which the world has yet seen.

Christian people are found even in these days who do not hesitate to speak with some degree of favour of the great apostasy of which Mahomet was the founder, because of its opposition to idolatry, its recognition of our Blessed Lord as a Prophet, the certain admixture of truth contained in its grievous error, and the alleged moral teaching and beauty of language of particular passages in the Koran. [Sidenote: Moral effects of Mahometanism.] Any such favour or tenderness is, however, altogether out of place in professed worshippers of Him Whom Mahomet so grievously blasphemed, whilst the grossly sensual and immoral lives led by the false prophet and the large proportion of his followers down to {92} the present time, serve to show us that wrong belief and wrong practice go hand in hand, and that whatever show of morality there may be in some few of the precepts of the Koran, it has no influence on the conduct of those who profess to be guided by it.

Section 3. The Spread of Mahometanism.

[Sidenote: Mahometan conquests]

The work of conquest which Mahomet had begun was continued by his successors. Abu Bekr, the father of Mahomet's favourite wife, was the first of the four Caliphs who pushed the power of the Mahometan arms beyond the confines of Arabia, and laid the foundations of the future empire. [Sidenote: of the Holy Land,] Jerusalem was taken by Omar, the next Caliph, in A.D. 637, and, with the exception of a short interval during the Crusades, the Holy City has ever since remained in the hands of the unbelievers. [Sidenote: Egypt,] Omar made himself master of Egypt as well as of Syria, and showed his savage contempt for learning by burning the famous and valuable collection of MSS. contained in the Alexandrian library. [Sidenote: Persia, and North Africa.] Under Othman, Persia and the North of Africa were added to the empire, and after the death of Ali, son-in-law to Mahomet and fourth Caliph, the seat of government was removed to Damascus.

[Sidenote: Other portions of Asia and part of Europe.]

The Caliphs of Damascus carried on the same system of warfare and bloodshed, took possession of Asia Minor, of the Northern parts of India, of Spain, and overran the South of France, where, however, A.D. 732, the Mahometan troops received such a check at Tours from the hands of {93} Charles Martel, as hindered them from extending their conquests any farther in Western Europe.

[Sidenote: Present extent of Mahometanism.]

At the present day Mahometanism is the professed faith of the inhabitants of the Northern half of Africa, of Turkey in Europe, of Arabia, Persia, the Holy Land, Asia Minor, and some parts of India, and its adherents number ninety-six millions. We shall perhaps realize still more strongly the havoc which this soul-destroying apostasy has been suffered to work, if we remember that some of the countries where it now reigns unchecked were formerly the seats of flourishing Christian Churches, the Church in Africa boasting of such great Saints as St. Cyprian and St. Augustine, whilst Palestine and Asia Minor witnessed the first foundation of the Church, as well as its earliest settlement in the form it was permanently to retain.



[1] It is from this Hegira (or Flight) of Mahomet, July 16th, A.D. 622, that Mahometans compute their time.

[2] See Chap. VIII.



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CHAPTER IX

The Division between East and West

A.D. 680-A.D. 1054

[Sidenote: Outward unity of the Church broken]

So far we have contemplated the Church of Christ as one in external communion, no less than by the inner bonds of charity and of sacramental life; but we now come to a period in which this external unity began to be to a certain extent dissolved, and that in great measure by the same outward influences which had at first secured its cohesion. [Sidenote: with the breaking up of the Roman Empire.] Heresies and schisms, especially the great heresy of Arius, had indeed troubled the Church and threatened to break the visible union existing between its branches in different countries; but it was not until after the dissolution of the Roman empire that the breach really came.

Section I. Jealousy between Rome and Constantinople.

[Sidenote: Reasons for Roman ascendancy.]

During the flourishing days of the empire the city of Rome had naturally been looked up to with great reverence by all the other Churches of the world. Its political importance as the centre of government, the vast number {95} of its martyrs, its comparative freedom from heresy, and its connexion with the lives and deaths of St. Peter and St. Paul, all tended to give it a moral ascendancy which was gradually claimed as a right. This, however, did not take place without protests on the part of other Bishops, nor even without very definite disclaimers of any wish for or right to supreme authority on the part of the Bishops of Rome themselves.

[Sidenote: Ambition of an Eastern Patriarch.]

Constantinople, as being the new Rome and capital of the Eastern empire, was especially jealous of the claims of the mother city, and one of her Patriarchs, John the Faster, in the sixth century, first set the evil example of assuming the title of "Universal Bishop," a title which the Roman Pontiffs have since taken and retained. In proportion as the political division between East and West became more complete, so also did the tendency towards separation in ecclesiastical matters increase. [Sidenote: Beginnings of disunion.] Western dioceses, now peopled by the barbarian nations who had overrun Europe, still looked up to Rome as their centre and head; whilst the Eastern Bishops, under the sway of the decaying empire, clung to Constantinople. [Sidenote: Its crisis.] The controversy respecting the use of Images, and that about the Procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son as well as from the Father, were, however, the means of actually bringing about the cessation of all outward communion between East and West.

Section 2. The Iconoclast (or Image-breaking) Controversy.

[Sidenote: Dislike of images]

There had been from very early times an extensive though not universal feeling in the Church, against the use of painting or sculpture in {96} Divine Worship. This feeling was occasioned partly by dread of the idolatry still prevalent amongst the heathen, and partly, especially in the East, where it was strongest, by the remains of Judaism still lingering in the Church of Christ. [Sidenote: lost in the West, but retained in the East.] As heathenism died out, it was gradually felt in the West that the strong reasons formerly existing against the adornment of Churches with pictures and images had passed away; but the Eastern Church, with that dread of change which distinguishes it to this day, clung as before to the old sentiment.

[Sidenote: Image-breaking legislation]

In the eighth century, Leo III., "the Isaurian," then reigning at Constantinople, passed a decree for the removal of all images and paintings from Churches, and his violent conduct in the matter occasioned such discontent in the West, that Italy withdrew altogether from the nominal allegiance she had hitherto paid to the emperors, about A.D. 730. [sidenote: dissolved the link between Eastern and Western Empires.] Other emperors were as fanatical in their Iconoclastic (or image-breaking) prejudices as Leo, and their extravagance excited a reaction in the other extreme in the Western empire. [Sidenote: Reactionary decrees in the West.] In A.D. 786, a Council, which was held at Nicaea, not only protested against the violent fanaticism of the East, but sanctioned the veneration of images and pictures to an extent which we find it hard to justify, and which was, in fact, deemed unjustifiable by many in the West, who yet wished for their retention as decorations and aids to devotional feeling. Charlemagne, under the influence of our English Alcuin, opposed the decision of the Council, and held provincial synods (especially one at Frankfort, A.D. 794) {97} to condemn what was, at any rate, very like image-worship.

[Sidenote: Charitable supposition regarding them.]

Probably dread of Judaism and Mahometanism, with their hatred of our Blessed Lord and of His Image, as well as of all sculpture, had some influence on the decisions of the council of A.D. 786, and we may reasonably hope that it was not really intended to encourage any worship or veneration contrary to the express law of God. At any rate, the Iconoclast controversy aided very strongly to put an end to all political union, and with it to all public ecclesiastical intercourse, between East and West; though the bonds of external communion were not yet broken, and they were still one both in faith and practice.

Section 3. The Controversy respecting the Double Procession of the Holy Ghost.

[Sidenote: Western addition to the Nicene creed.]

We have seen[1] that the summary of Christian belief, known to us as the Nicene Creed, was completed at the Council of Constantinople, A.D. 381; but with this exception, that the article defining the faith of the Church concerning the Third Person of the Ever-Blessed Trinity, asserted only that "the Holy Ghost . . . . proceedeth from the Father," without the addition of the words "and the Son;" and it was the controversy as to the admission or non-admission of these words into the Creed which caused the formal division between Eastern and Western Christendom. The question is said to have first arisen in the fifth {98} century; and gradually the words in dispute came to be sung in the West during Divine Service. [Sidenote: Decrees against it.] In the ninth century an appeal was made on the subject to Pope Leo III., who decided in a provincial Council that no such addition could lawfully be made to the Creed, and ordered it to be engraved on silver plates exactly as the Council of Constantinople had left it. Towards the end of the same century another Council was held at Constantinople, which also decreed the disuse of the addition, and then the matter dropped for about a hundred and fifty years. [Sidenote: Dispute stirred up again for political purposes.] Its revival seems to have been chiefly owing to political jealousies and to the struggle for supremacy which was continually going on between Rome and Constantinople. We may be allowed to believe that the dispute was, in reality, a question of mere words, and that the two branches of the One Church did, and still do, hold the "One Faith," although differing in their mode of expressing it. [Sidenote: Actual schism in consequence.] Still the ultra-conservatism which has always distinguished the Eastern Church, and the unyielding temper which has been no less conspicuous in the Church of Rome, did in time bring about a formal schism; and in A.D. 1053, the Pope Leo IX. issued a sentence of excommunication against the Patriarch of Constantinople and all who adhered to him. In the following year the Patriarch Michael Cerularius summoned a synod at Constantinople, and retorted the excommunication upon the Latins. Two attempts at reconciliation were afterwards made, one in A.D. 1274, following the close of the last Crusade, and another which, after lengthened negotiations, came to an equally unsuccessful termination at the Council of Florence, A.D. 1430.

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[Sidenote: Outward union never since restored.]

Since that time the two great Branches of the One Vine, whilst still drawing Life and Nourishment from the same Divine Root of Jesse by means of the same Holy Sacraments, have yet abstained from all acts of outward communion, and have failed to recognize in each other those essential marks of Catholicity which God's Mercy and Providence has preserved to them even in the midst of all their respective defects of Charity, or their errors in theory and practice.



[1] Chap. VI., sec. 3.



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CHAPTER X

The Church of the Middle Ages

A.D. 900-A.D. 1500

[Sidenote: Foundation of the temporal power of the Popedom.]

The temporal power of the Popes gradually increased after the ninth century, when part of the territory since known as the States of the Church was bestowed on them by Pepin, whose son, the famous Emperor Charlemagne, confirmed the donation. The change thus wrought in the position of the Popes, who to their spiritual office of Bishop now added the temporal one of sovereign, was productive of a corresponding change in the claims they made upon the submission of the rest of Christendom, and these altered claims first assumed a definite form in the eleventh century.

Section 1. The Supremacy of the Popes.

[Sidenote: Papal claims to spiritual supremacy.]

The Bishops of Rome had at first limited their ideas of universal supremacy to spiritual things: it was as Universal Bishop that they desired to be honoured and obeyed, and we have seen in the preceding chapter that a certain priority seemed to accrue to them by force of {101} circumstances. Rome had come to be regarded as the Mother of the Churches, much as Jerusalem was in the first ages of Christianity, and appeals for advice and help were at first voluntarily made to the learning and piety of the Bishops of Rome. [Sidenote: Further claims to temporal authority.] Later, instead of advisers they claimed to be absolute judges in ecclesiastical matters, and when the temporal possessions of the Popedom made the chair of St. Peter an object of ambition to covetous, designing men, the character of Bishop was too often merged in that of Prince, and spiritual power ceased to satisfy those who thought it their duty or their interest to enforce what was in fact an Universal Sovereignty.

[Sidenote: Plausibleness and actual advantages of Papal supremacy.]

It is not difficult to understand that the idea of one Visible Head and Centre of Christendom would appear to have much to recommend it; nor even that the power of the Popes was in reality the source of many blessings in the lawless state in which European society found itself for many centuries after the fall of the Roman empire. An authority which could reduce rebellious subjects to obedience, overawe refractory nobles, or check the tyranny of an irresponsible sovereign, could hardly fail to be productive of some good effects when wielded by disinterested men, and with singleness of purpose. [Sidenote: Its corruptions and dangers.] But in the hands of worldly-minded and ambitious prelates, such as too many of the Popes undoubtedly were, this usurped prerogative of interference in the affairs of foreign states became an engine of mighty evil, and in the course of time it was felt to be such an intolerable yoke by the people of Europe that continued submission to it became impossible.

{102}

[Sidenote: What the Reformation really was.]

The Reformation was in fact a casting off of an unjustifiable usurpation in temporal as well as in spiritual things, and a violent reaction against that course of events which, from the eighth century downwards, had been tending to reduce the different sovereigns of Western Christendom to the rank of vassals of the Roman See.

Section 2. Some account of the Popes of the Middle Ages.

A clearer view of the rise and results of papal supremacy may perhaps be gained by entering into a somewhat more detailed account of such Popes as from various causes occupy conspicuous places in the history of the Roman Church. [Sidenote: St. Leo the Great, and the first "papal aggression."] In order to do this effectually, it will be necessary to go back a little farther than the date at the head of the chapter, to the time of St. Leo the Great (A.D. 440-A.D. 461), whose claim to interfere between St. Hilary, Bishop of Arles, and Chelidonius, Bishop of Besancon, may be looked upon as the first "papal aggression" of which history gives us an example. Chelidonius had been deposed by a General Council of the Church of France under the presidency of Hilary, and so deeply did the French Bishops resent the unjust attempts of Leo to set aside their decision, that the Bishop of Rome found an appeal to the secular power necessary for the purpose of enforcing his claim to exercise jurisdiction over a foreign Church. But even the authority of Valentinian III., Emperor of the West, did not succeed in obliging Hilary to cede the liberties of the Church of France, and it is a significant fact that the Bishop of {103} Arles is reverenced as a saint by the whole Western Church, although his sense of what was due to his position as a member of the French episcopate would not suffer him to yield his just rights, in order to obtain a reconciliation with one so personally worthy of esteem and honour as St. Leo.

[Sidenote: Papal claims strengthened and extended by St. Gregory]

The good and wise St. Gregory the Great (A.D. 590-A.D. 604), though he strenuously disclaimed for himself, and denied to others, the right of assuming the title of "Universal Bishop," appears to have had very strong ideas respecting the authority which he conceived to belong to the successors of St. Peter, whilst his talents and holiness gave him an extensive influence over his contemporaries. [Sidenote: and Hadrian I.] Succeeding Popes laid claim to more extended powers, especially Hadrian I. (A.D. 772-A.D. 793), who first advanced the doctrine that the whole Christian Church was subject to the see of Rome. [Sidenote: Rise of the temporal power of the Popes under Leo III.] His successor, Leo III. (A.D. 795-A.D. 816), having crowned Charlemagne Emperor of the West, A.D. 800, received from that monarch the sovereignty of Rome, and thus became a temporal prince as well as a Bishop, and about the same time there began to appear certain forged canons (or Church laws), professing to be ancient decrees collected by St. Isidore of Seville, in the seventh century, and having for their object to give primitive sanction to Roman Supremacy. [Sidenote: "Pseudo-Isidore" Decretals] These "Pseudo-Isidore" Decretals, as they were afterwards called, were frequently appealed to, apparently in good faith, by subsequent Popes; and their genuineness was generally believed in, almost without question, until the time of the Reformation in {104} the sixteenth century. By about the middle of the ninth century these decretals were made use of to settle ecclesiastical questions, and Nicholas I. (A.D. 858-A.D. 867) laid great stress upon them when the liberties of the French Church were again defended by Hincmar, Archbishop of Rheims, in a very similar case to that in which St. Hilary had offered opposition to St. Leo. [Sidenote: Hincmar's opposition to papal claims.] Hincmar's zeal in opposing the usurpations of the Roman see had some little success during the episcopate of Hadrian II. (A.D. 867-A.D. 872), but its effects passed away when John VIII. (A.D. 872-A.D. 882) espoused the cause of Charles the Bald, and thus enlisted the interests of the crown on his side.

The troubles and disorders consequent on the breaking up of the great empire of Charlemagne, had had a very injurious effect on morals and religion; and unworthy persons, to whom the temporal possessions of the Popes had by this time become an object of ambition, took advantage of the depressed state of the Church to seize upon the bishopric of Rome either for themselves or for others in whom they had an interest. [Sidenote: Unspirituality caused by temporal power.] Hence the history of the papacy during the next century and a half is full of dreary records of corruption and wickedness. The elevation of John XII. to the papal throne at the age of eighteen (A.D. 955), and his evil life, called forth the interference of the Emperor Otho the Great, who deposed him and elected Leo VIII. (A.D. 963-A.D. 965) in his stead. [Sidenote: Interference of Emperors of the West.] From this time the emperors frequently interfered to check the continual disputes between Popes and anti-Popes, which often ended in the murder of one of the rivals. Silvester II. (Gerbert) (A.D. 999-A.D. 1003), {105} who was made Pope through the influence of Otho III., was prevented by death from carrying out the reforms he meditated, and at length, in A.D. 1046, the Emperor Henry III. was called upon to decide between three claimants to the papal throne. He settled the question by appointing a German, Clement II. (A.D. 1046-A.D. 1047), after the synod of Sutri had put aside the claims of the original disputants. Henry thus took the election of the Popes entirely out of the hands of the Clergy of Rome, with whom it had hitherto nominally rested, and appropriated it to himself. [Sidenote: This interference unjustifiable.] This was an undoubted usurpation on the part of the secular power, though Henry seems to have been in earnest in his endeavours to check the simony which had been so disgracefully prevalent in the papal elections, and to appoint Bishops who might be worthy of their position. [Sidenote: Hildebrand's influence.] [Sidenote: Overthrow of secular interference.] Leo IX. (A.D. 1048-A.D. 1054) and his successor, Victor II. (A.D. 1055-A.D. 1057), aided and influenced by the famous Hildebrand (afterwards Gregory VII.), succeeded in effecting considerable reforms in religion and morals, and were very zealous in discouraging simoniacal appointments to offices in the Church, but a gradual and increasing resistance was growing up against the imperial encroachments, and after the death of Henry, Pope Nicholas II. (A.D. 1059-A.D. 1061) was enabled to obtain a decree that the election of the Popes should, for the future, rest with the Roman Cardinals, subject to the consent of the Roman Clergy and people, and with some vague reference to the emperor's wishes.

[Sidenote: Hildebrand Pope.]

At length Hildebrand, the counsellor and support of {106} several preceding Popes, was himself called to the see of Rome under the title of Gregory VII. (A.D. 1073-A.D. 1083), and at once devoted the energies of his powerful mind to the work of reforming the Church. [Sidenote: His reforms] The two means on which he chiefly relied for accomplishing his object were the enforcing of celibacy on the Clergy, and the abolition of simony, under which head he included every species of lay investiture. [Sidenote: and their consequences.] The prosecution of his plans soon brought him into a violent dispute with the weak and wicked Emperor Henry IV., who was as eager to secure the right of bestowing upon Bishops the ring and pastoral staff, as well as of their sole appointment, and thus reduce them to the state of mere secular vassals, as Gregory was by the same means to secure their ecclesiastical obedience to the see of Rome, and their total independence of any civil power. [Sidenote: Result of the contest.] The contest lasted till the death of Gregory in exile, and was carried on by his successors, until during the popedom of Calixtus II. (A.D. 1119-1124) a compromise was agreed upon by which the emperor left to each Church the free election of its Bishops, who were to receive the ring and staff from the altar, and the temporalties of their sees from the crown.

[Sidenote: Wars between Rome and Germany.]

This arrangement did not, however, bring peace between the Popes and the emperors, the Popes siding with the Guelphs in the long civil wars of the next two centuries, in opposition to the Ghibelline emperors. Hadrian IV. (A.D. 1154-A.D. 1159), or Nicholas Breakspear, the only English Pope, found it expedient to seek the assistance of the Emperor Frederic Barbarossa, to aid him in quelling the insurrection headed by Arnold of {107} Brescia; but Alexander III. (A.D. 1159-A.D. 1181) came into fresh collision with Frederic, who was at length obliged to submit and beg for peace. [Sidenote: Climax of the papal power under Innocent III.] The minority of Frederic II. was favourable to the ambitious schemes of Pope Innocent III. (A.D. 1198-A.D. 1216), and under him the power of the popedom reached its greatest height. He laid both England and France under an interdict, placed on the imperial throne, and then deposed, Otho IV., and took measures for the suppression of the Albigenses, which eventually resolved themselves into the dreaded Inquisition. The old strife was continued by Gregory IX. (A.D. 1227-A.D. 1241), who excommunicated Frederic II., and the sentence was renewed by Innocent IV. (A.D. 1243-A.D. 1254). The treatment of the emperor by these successive Popes was something akin to a persecution, and was apparently occasioned by a feeling of opposition to any authority which conflicted with the claims of Rome, and by a hatred of the Ghibelline race.

[Sidenote: Decline of the temporal power of the Popes.]

From the death of Innocent IV. the excessive power of the Popes may be said to decrease. Gregory X. (A.D. 1271-A.D. 1276) and the Emperor Rudolf of Hapsburg were good, earnest-minded men, who put an end to the long-standing feud between Rome and the empire, and after a succession of short pontificates, Boniface VIII. (A.D. 1294-A.D. 1303) usurped the papal throne in the place of the "hermit Pope," Celestine V. [Sidenote: Interference of the King of France in papal affairs.] Boniface was a thoroughly bad and unscrupulous man, and at last died in a fit of disappointed rage at being taken prisoner by the troops of his equally unscrupulous enemy, Philip IV. of France, who had refused to acknowledge the {108} authority of the papal legate. Philip caused the death of Benedict XI. (A.D. 1303-A.D. 1304), whose honest goodness he feared, and then used his influence to procure the election of Clement V. (A.D. 1303-A.D. 1314), on condition of his pledging himself to aid in the French king's schemes to plunder and oppress the Church. Clement, having thus sold himself, was not allowed to leave France, and the papal court was fixed at Avignon. The Pope was now completely at the mercy of Philip, who robbed the Church at his will, and plundered and murdered the Knights Templars with the connivance of Clement. [Sidenote: The Popes at Avignon.] The sojourn of the Popes at Avignon (A.D. 1305-A.D. 1376) was a great blow to the temporal power of the papacy, and was often called by the Italians the Seventy Years' Captivity. Meanwhile the Popes were again plunged into contests with the German emperors: Louis of Bavaria was excommunicated, and his empire laid under an interdict, on account of his refusal to accept his dominions from John XXII. (A.D. 1316-A.D. 1334). The papal authority in Italy had become almost nominal except in Rome itself, and even there it was much weakened by the rebellion under Rienzi, A.D. 1352. Pope Innocent VI. (A.D. 1333-A.D. 1362), soon after his election, sent a legate to Rome, with orders to reduce not only the city itself to obedience, but all that was then included in the States of the Church; and this having been successfully accomplished, the Popes began to think of returning to Rome. [Sidenote: The return to Rome.] The court at Avignon had become fearfully corrupt, and some of those who composed it, and loved its evils, were ready to oppose any change; but Urban V. (A.D. 1362-A.D. 1370), a really upright man, spent some of his episcopate at Rome, and his {109} successor, Gregory XI. (A.D. 1370-A.D. 1378) removed thither with his court two years before his death. The Cardinals however still clung to Avignon, and though, in compliance with the earnest wishes of the Roman people, they elected an Italian to be Pope under the name of Urban VI. (A.D. 1378-A.D. 1389), yet they were so offended at his zealous but indiscreet endeavours to reform the evils around him, that they declared him deposed, and set up an anti-Pope at Avignon. [Sidenote: The consequent schism.] The schism thus begun lasted nearly forty years (A.D. 1378-A.D. 1417), England, Germany, North Italy, Poland, and the Scandinavian kingdoms siding with the true Popes, while France, Scotland, Spain, and South Italy held with the anti-Popes. [Sidenote: Its results.] The troubles and corruptions of the Church now multiplied, Popes and anti-Popes alike made the acquisition of power and revenue their great object, and wickedness was left unrebuked both in Clergy and laity. A great impulse was given to the sale of indulgences or pardons, an evil practice which brought in large sums of money to the papal exchequer, and at the same time led to such abuses as probably to become a principal proximate cause of the Reformation.

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