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Chapter XLVII: Ecclesiastical Discord.—Part IV.
Justinian has been already seen in the various lights of a prince, a conqueror, and a lawgiver: the theologian58235823 The strain of the Anecdotes of Procopius, (c. 11, 13, 18, 27, 28,) with the learned remarks of Alemannus, is confirmed, rather than contradicted, by the Acts of the Councils, the fourth book of Evagrius, and the complaints of the African Facundus, in his xiith book—de tribus capitulis, "cum videri doctus appetit importune...spontaneis quaestionibus ecclesiam turbat." See Procop. de Bell. Goth. l. iii. c. 35. still remains, and it affords an unfavorable prejudice, that his theology should form a very prominent feature of his portrait. The sovereign sympathized with his subjects in their superstitious reverence for living and departed saints: his Code, and more especially his Novels, confirm and enlarge the privileges of the clergy; and in every dispute between a monk and a layman, the partial judge was inclined to pronounce, that truth, and innocence, and justice, were always on the side of the church. In his public and private devotions, the emperor was assiduous and exemplary; his prayers, vigils, and fasts, displayed the austere penance of a monk; his fancy was amused by the hope, or belief, of personal inspiration; he had secured the patronage of the Virgin and St. Michael the archangel; and his recovery from a dangerous disease was ascribed to the miraculous succor of the holy martyrs Cosmas and Damian. The capital and the provinces of the East were decorated with the monuments of his religion; 58245824 Procop. de Edificiis, l. i. c. 6, 7, &c., passim. and though the far greater part of these costly structures may be attributed to his taste or ostentation, the zeal of the royal architect was probably quickened by a genuine sense of love and gratitude towards his invisible benefactors. Among the titles of Imperial greatness, the name of Pious was most pleasing to his ear; to promote the temporal and spiritual interest of the church was the serious business of his life; and the duty of father of his country was often sacrificed to that of defender of the faith. The controversies of the times were congenial to his temper and understanding and the theological professors must inwardly deride the diligence of a stranger, who cultivated their art and neglected his own. "What can ye fear," said a bold conspirator to his associates, "from your bigoted tyrant? Sleepless and unarmed, he sits whole nights in his closet, debating with reverend graybeards, and turning over the pages of ecclesiastical volumes."58255825 Procop. de Bell. Goth. l. iii. c. 32. In the life of St. Eutychius (apud Aleman. ad Procop. Arcan. c. 18) the same character is given with a design to praise Justinian. The fruits of these lucubrations were displayed in many a conference, where Justinian might shine as the loudest and most subtile of the disputants; in many a sermon, which, under the name of edicts and epistles, proclaimed to the empire the theology of their master. While the Barbarians invaded the provinces, while the victorious legion marched under the banners of Belisarius and Narses, the successor of Trajan, unknown to the camp, was content to vanquish at the head of a synod. Had he invited to these synods a disinterested and rational spectator, Justinian might have learned, "that religious controversy is the offspring of arrogance and folly; that true piety is most laudably expressed by silence and submission; that man, ignorant of his own nature, should not presume to scrutinize the nature of his God; and that it is sufficient for us to know, that power and benevolence are the perfect attributes of the Deity."58265826 For these wise and moderate sentiments, Procopius (de Bell. Goth. l. i. c. 3) is scourged in the preface of Alemannus, who ranks him among the political Christians—sed longe verius haeresium omnium sentinas, prorsusque Atheos—abominable Atheists, who preached the imitation of God's mercy to man, (ad Hist. Arcan. c. 13.)
Toleration was not the virtue of the times, and indulgence to rebels has seldom been the virtue of princes. But when the prince descends to the narrow and peevish character of a disputant, he is easily provoked to supply the defect of argument by the plenitude of power, and to chastise without mercy the perverse blindness of those who wilfully shut their eyes against the light of demonstration. The reign of Justinian was a uniform yet various scene of persecution; and he appears to have surpassed his indolent predecessors, both in the contrivance of his laws and the rigor of their execution. The insufficient term of three months was assigned for the conversion or exile of all heretics;58275827 This alternative, a precious circumstance, is preserved by John Malala, (tom. ii. p. 63, edit. Venet. 1733,) who deserves more credit as he draws towards his end. After numbering the heretics, Nestorians, Eutychians, &c., ne expectent, says Justinian, ut digni venia judicen tur: jubemus, enim ut...convicti et aperti haeretici justae et idoneae animadversioni subjiciantur. Baronius copies and applauds this edict of the Code, (A.D. 527, No. 39, 40.) and if he still connived at their precarious stay, they were deprived, under his iron yoke, not only of the benefits of society, but of the common birth-right of men and Christians. At the end of four hundred years, the Montanists of Phrygia58285828 See the character and principles of the Montanists, in Mosheim, Rebus Christ. ante Constantinum, p. 410—424. still breathed the wild enthusiasm of perfection and prophecy which they had imbibed from their male and female apostles, the special organs of the Paraclete. On the approach of the Catholic priests and soldiers, they grasped with alacrity the crown of martyrdom the conventicle and the congregation perished in the flames, but these primitive fanatics were not extinguished three hundred years after the death of their tyrant. Under the protection of their Gothic confederates, the church of the Arians at Constantinople had braved the severity of the laws: their clergy equalled the wealth and magnificence of the senate; and the gold and silver which were seized by the rapacious hand of Justinian might perhaps be claimed as the spoils of the provinces, and the trophies of the Barbarians. A secret remnant of Pagans, who still lurked in the most refined and most rustic conditions of mankind, excited the indignation of the Christians, who were perhaps unwilling that any strangers should be the witnesses of their intestine quarrels. A bishop was named as the inquisitor of the faith, and his diligence soon discovered, in the court and city, the magistrates, lawyers, physicians, and sophists, who still cherished the superstition of the Greeks. They were sternly informed that they must choose without delay between the displeasure of Jupiter or Justinian, and that their aversion to the gospel could no longer be distinguished under the scandalous mask of indifference or impiety. The patrician Photius, perhaps, alone was resolved to live and to die like his ancestors: he enfranchised himself with the stroke of a dagger, and left his tyrant the poor consolation of exposing with ignominy the lifeless corpse of the fugitive. His weaker brethren submitted to their earthly monarch, underwent the ceremony of baptism, and labored, by their extraordinary zeal, to erase the suspicion, or to expiate the guilt, of idolatry. The native country of Homer, and the theatre of the Trojan war, still retained the last sparks of his mythology: by the care of the same bishop, seventy thousand Pagans were detected and converted in Asia, Phrygia, Lydia, and Caria; ninety-six churches were built for the new proselytes; and linen vestments, Bibles, and liturgies, and vases of gold and silver, were supplied by the pious munificence of Justinian. 58295829 Theophan. Chron. p. 153. John, the Monophysite bishop of Asia, is a more authentic witness of this transaction, in which he was himself employed by the emperor, (Asseman. Bib. Orient. tom. ii. p. 85.) The Jews, who had been gradually stripped of their immunities, were oppressed by a vexatious law, which compelled them to observe the festival of Easter the same day on which it was celebrated by the Christians.58305830 Compare Procopius (Hist. Arcan. c. 28, and Aleman's Notes) with Theophanes, (Chron. p. 190.) The council of Nice has intrusted the patriarch, or rather the astronomers, of Alexandria, with the annual proclamation of Easter; and we still read, or rather we do not read, many of the Paschal epistles of St. Cyril. Since the reign of Monophytism in Egypt, the Catholics were perplexed by such a foolish prejudice as that which so long opposed, among the Protestants, the reception of the Gregorian style. And they might complain with the more reason, since the Catholics themselves did not agree with the astronomical calculations of their sovereign: the people of Constantinople delayed the beginning of their Lent a whole week after it had been ordained by authority; and they had the pleasure of fasting seven days, while meat was exposed for sale by the command of the emperor. The Samaritans of Palestine58315831 For the religion and history of the Samaritans, consult Basnage, Histoire des Juifs, a learned and impartial work. were a motley race, an ambiguous sect, rejected as Jews by the Pagans, by the Jews as schismatics, and by the Christians as idolaters. The abomination of the cross had already been planted on their holy mount of Garizim,58325832 Sichem, Neapolis, Naplous, the ancient and modern seat of the Samaritans, is situate in a valley between the barren Ebal, the mountain of cursing to the north, and the fruitful Garizim, or mountain of cursing to the south, ten or eleven hours' travel from Jerusalem. See Maundrel, Journey from Aleppo &c. but the persecution of Justinian offered only the alternative of baptism or rebellion. They chose the latter: under the standard of a desperate leader, they rose in arms, and retaliated their wrongs on the lives, the property, and the temples, of a defenceless people. The Samaritans were finally subdued by the regular forces of the East: twenty thousand were slain, twenty thousand were sold by the Arabs to the infidels of Persia and India, and the remains of that unhappy nation atoned for the crime of treason by the sin of hypocrisy. It has been computed that one hundred thousand Roman subjects were extirpated in the Samaritan war,58335833 Procop. Anecdot. c. 11. Theophan. Chron. p. 122. John Malala Chron. tom. ii. p. 62. I remember an observation, half philosophical. half superstitious, that the province which had been ruined by the bigotry of Justinian, was the same through which the Mahometans penetrated into the empire. which converted the once fruitful province into a desolate and smoking wilderness. But in the creed of Justinian, the guilt of murder could not be applied to the slaughter of unbelievers; and he piously labored to establish with fire and sword the unity of the Christian faith.58345834 The expression of Procopius is remarkable. Anecdot. c. 13.
With these sentiments, it was incumbent on him, at least, to be always in the right. In the first years of his administration, he signalized his zeal as the disciple and patron of orthodoxy: the reconciliation of the Greeks and Latins established the tome of St. Leo as the creed of the emperor and the empire; the Nestorians and Eutychians were exposed. on either side, to the double edge of persecution; and the four synods of Nice, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon, were ratified by the code of a Catholic lawgiver.58355835 See the Chronicle of Victor, p. 328, and the original evidence of the laws of Justinian. During the first years of his reign, Baronius himself is in extreme good humor with the emperor, who courted the popes, till he got them into his power. But while Justinian strove to maintain the uniformity of faith and worship, his wife Theodora, whose vices were not incompatible with devotion, had listened to the Monophysite teachers; and the open or clandestine enemies of the church revived and multiplied at the smile of their gracious patroness. The capital, the palace, the nuptial bed, were torn by spiritual discord; yet so doubtful was the sincerity of the royal consorts, that their seeming disagreement was imputed by many to a secret and mischievous confederacy against the religion and happiness of their people.58365836 Procopius, Anecdot. c. 13. Evagrius, l. iv. c. 10. If the ecclesiastical never read the secret historian, their common suspicion proves at least the general hatred. The famous dispute of the Three Chapters,58375837 On the subject of the three chapters, the original acts of the vth general council of Constantinople supply much useless, though authentic, knowledge, (Concil. tom. vi. p. 1-419.) The Greek Evagrius is less copious and correct (l. iv. c. 38) than the three zealous Africans, Facundus, (in his twelve books, de tribus capitulis, which are most correctly published by Sirmond,) Liberatus, (in his Breviarium, c. 22, 23, 24,) and Victor Tunnunensis in his Chronicle, (in tom. i. Antiq. Lect. Canisii, 330—334.) The Liber Pontificalis, or Anastasius, (in Vigilio, Pelagio, &c.,) is original Italian evidence. The modern reader will derive some information from Dupin (Bibliot. Eccles. tom. v. p. 189—207) and Basnage, (Hist. de l'Eglise, tom. i. p. 519—541;) yet the latter is too firmly resolved to depreciate the authority and character of the popes. which has filled more volumes than it deserves lines, is deeply marked with this subtile and disingenuous spirit. It was now three hundred years since the body of Origen58385838 Origen had indeed too great a propensity to imitate the old philosophers, (Justinian, ad Mennam, in Concil. tom. vi. p. 356.) His moderate opinions were too repugnant to the zeal of the church, and he was found guilty of the heresy of reason. had been eaten by the worms: his soul, of which he held the preexistence, was in the hands of its Creator; but his writings were eagerly perused by the monks of Palestine. In these writings, the piercing eye of Justinian descried more than ten metaphysical errors; and the primitive doctor, in the company of Pythagoras and Plato, was devoted by the clergy to the eternity of hell-fire, which he had presumed to deny. Under the cover of this precedent, a treacherous blow was aimed at the council of Chalcedon. The fathers had listened without impatience to the praise of Theodore of Mopsuestia;58395839 Basnage (Praefat. p. 11—14, ad tom. i. Antiq. Lect. Canis.) has fairly weighed the guilt and innocence of Theodore of Mopsuestia. If he composed 10,000 volumes, as many errors would be a charitable allowance. In all the subsequent catalogues of heresiarchs, he alone, without his two brethren, is included; and it is the duty of Asseman (Bibliot. Orient. tom. iv. p. 203—207) to justify the sentence. and their justice or indulgence had restored both Theodore of Cyrrhus, and Ibas of Edessa, to the communion of the church. But the characters of these Oriental bishops were tainted with the reproach of heresy; the first had been the master, the two others were the friends, of Nestorius; their most suspicious passages were accused under the title of the three chapters; and the condemnation of their memory must involve the honor of a synod, whose name was pronounced with sincere or affected reverence by the Catholic world. If these bishops, whether innocent or guilty, were annihilated in the sleep of death, they would not probably be awakened by the clamor which, after the a hundred years, was raised over their grave. If they were already in the fangs of the daemon, their torments could neither be aggravated nor assuaged by human industry. If in the company of saints and angels they enjoyed the rewards of piety, they must have smiled at the idle fury of the theological insects who still crawled on the surface of the earth. The foremost of these insects, the emperor of the Romans, darted his sting, and distilled his venom, perhaps without discerning the true motives of Theodora and her ecclesiastical faction. The victims were no longer subject to his power, and the vehement style of his edicts could only proclaim their damnation, and invite the clergy of the East to join in a full chorus of curses and anathemas. The East, with some hesitation, consented to the voice of her sovereign: the fifth general council, of three patriarchs and one hundred and sixty-five bishops, was held at Constantinople; and the authors, as well as the defenders, of the three chapters were separated from the communion of the saints, and solemnly delivered to the prince of darkness. But the Latin churches were more jealous of the honor of Leo and the synod of Chalcedon: and if they had fought as they usually did under the standard of Rome, they might have prevailed in the cause of reason and humanity. But their chief was a prisoner in the hands of the enemy; the throne of St. Peter, which had been disgraced by the simony, was betrayed by the cowardice, of Vigilius, who yielded, after a long and inconsistent struggle, to the despotism of Justinian and the sophistry of the Greeks. His apostasy provoked the indignation of the Latins, and no more than two bishops could be found who would impose their hands on his deacon and successor Pelagius. Yet the perseverance of the popes insensibly transferred to their adversaries the appellation of schismatics; the Illyrian, African, and Italian churches were oppressed by the civil and ecclesiastical powers, not without some effort of military force;58405840 See the complaints of Liberatus and Victor, and the exhortations of Pope Pelagius to the conqueror and exarch of Italy. Schisma.. per potestates publicas opprimatur, &c., (Concil. tom. vi. p. 467, &c.) An army was detained to suppress the sedition of an Illyrian city. See Procopius, (de Bell. Goth. l. iv. c. 25:). He seems to promise an ecclesiastical history. It would have been curious and impartial. the distant Barbarians transcribed the creed of the Vatican, and, in the period of a century, the schism of the three chapters expired in an obscure angle of the Venetian province.58415841 The bishops of the patriarchate of Aquileia were reconciled by Pope Honorius, A.D. 638, (Muratori, Annali d' Italia, tom. v. p. 376;) but they again relapsed, and the schism was not finally extinguished till 698. Fourteen years before, the church of Spain had overlooked the vth general council with contemptuous silence, (xiii. Concil. Toretan. in Concil. tom. vii. p. 487—494.) But the religious discontent of the Italians had already promoted the conquests of the Lombards, and the Romans themselves were accustomed to suspect the faith and to detest the government of their Byzantine tyrant.
Justinian was neither steady nor consistent in the nice process of fixing his volatile opinions and those of his subjects. In his youth he was, offended by the slightest deviation from the orthodox line; in his old age he transgressed the measure of temperate heresy, and the Jacobites, not less than the Catholics, were scandalized by his declaration, that the body of Christ was incorruptible, and that his manhood was never subject to any wants and infirmities, the inheritance of our mortal flesh. This fantastic opinion was announced in the last edicts of Justinian; and at the moment of his seasonable departure, the clergy had refused to subscribe, the prince was prepared to persecute, and the people were resolved to suffer or resist. A bishop of Treves, secure beyond the limits of his power, addressed the monarch of the East in the language of authority and affection. "Most gracious Justinian, remember your baptism and your creed. Let not your gray hairs be defiled with heresy. Recall your fathers from exile, and your followers from perdition. You cannot be ignorant, that Italy and Gaul, Spain and Africa, already deplore your fall, and anathematize your name. Unless, without delay, you destroy what you have taught; unless you exclaim with a loud voice, I have erred, I have sinned, anathema to Nestorius, anathema to Eutyches, you deliver your soul to the same flames in which they will eternally burn." He died and made no sign.58425842 Nicetus, bishop of Treves, (Concil. tom. vi. p. 511-513:) he himself, like most of the Gallican prelates, (Gregor. Epist. l. vii. 5 in Concil. tom. vi. p. 1007,) was separated from the communion of the four patriarchs by his refusal to condemn the three chapters. Baronius almost pronounces the damnation of Justinian, (A.D. 565, No. 6.) His death restored in some degree the peace of the church, and the reigns of his four successors, Justin Tiberius, Maurice, and Phocas, are distinguished by a rare, though fortunate, vacancy in the ecclesiastical history of the East.58435843 After relating the last heresy of Justinian, (l. iv. c. 39, 40, 41,) and the edict of his successor, (l. v. c. 3,) the remainder of the history of Evagrius is filled with civil, instead of ecclesiastical events.
The faculties of sense and reason are least capable of acting on themselves; the eye is most inaccessible to the sight, the soul to the thought; yet we think, and even feel, that one will, a sole principle of action, is essential to a rational and conscious being. When Heraclius returned from the Persian war, the orthodox hero consulted his bishops, whether the Christ whom he adored, of one person, but of two natures, was actuated by a single or a double will. They replied in the singular, and the emperor was encouraged to hope that the Jacobites of Egypt and Syria might be reconciled by the profession of a doctrine, most certainly harmless, and most probably true, since it was taught even by the Nestorians themselves.58445844 This extraordinary, and perhaps inconsistent, doctrine of the Nestorians, had been observed by La Croze, (Christianisme des Indes, tom. i. p. 19, 20,) and is more fully exposed by Abulpharagius, (Bibliot. Orient. tom. ii. p. 292. Hist. Dynast. p. 91, vers. Latin. Pocock.) and Asseman himself, (tom. iv. p. 218.) They seem ignorant that they might allege the positive authority of the ecthesis. (the common reproach of the Monophysites) (Concil. tom. vii. p. 205.) The experiment was tried without effect, and the timid or vehement Catholics condemned even the semblance of a retreat in the presence of a subtle and audacious enemy. The orthodox (the prevailing) party devised new modes of speech, and argument, and interpretation: to either nature of Christ they speciously applied a proper and distinct energy; but the difference was no longer visible when they allowed that the human and the divine will were invariably the same.58455845 See the Orthodox faith in Petavius, (Dogmata Theolog. tom. v. l. ix. c. 6—10, p. 433—447:) all the depths of this controversy in the Greek dialogue between Maximus and Pyrrhus, (acalcem tom. viii. Annal. Baron. p. 755—794,) which relates a real conference, and produced as short-lived a conversion. The disease was attended with the customary symptoms: but the Greek clergy, as if satiated with the endless controversy of the incarnation, instilled a healing counsel into the ear of the prince and people. They declared themselves Monothelites, (asserters of the unity of will,) but they treated the words as new, the questions as superfluous; and recommended a religious silence as the most agreeable to the prudence and charity of the gospel. This law of silence was successively imposed by the ecthesis or exposition of Heraclius, the type or model of his grandson Constans;58465846 Impiissimam ecthesim.... scelerosum typum (Concil. tom. vii p. 366) diabolicae operationis genimina, (fors. germina, or else the Greek in the original. Concil. p. 363, 364,) are the expressions of the xviiith anathema. The epistle of Pope Martin to Amandus, Gallican bishop, stigmatizes the Monothelites and their heresy with equal virulence, (p. 392.) and the Imperial edicts were subscribed with alacrity or reluctance by the four patriarchs of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch. But the bishop and monks of Jerusalem sounded the alarm: in the language, or even in the silence, of the Greeks, the Latin churches detected a latent heresy: and the obedience of Pope Honorius to the commands of his sovereign was retracted and censured by the bolder ignorance of his successors. They condemned the execrable and abominable heresy of the Monothelites, who revived the errors of Manes, Apollinaris, Eutyches, &c.; they signed the sentence of excommunication on the tomb of St. Peter; the ink was mingled with the sacramental wine, the blood of Christ; and no ceremony was omitted that could fill the superstitious mind with horror and affright. As the representative of the Western church, Pope Martin and his Lateran synod anathematized the perfidious and guilty silence of the Greeks: one hundred and five bishops of Italy, for the most part the subjects of Constans, presumed to reprobate his wicked type, and the impious ecthesis of his grandfather; and to confound the authors and their adherents with the twenty-one notorious heretics, the apostates from the church, and the organs of the devil. Such an insult under the tamest reign could not pass with impunity. Pope Martin ended his days on the inhospitable shore of the Tauric Chersonesus, and his oracle, the abbot Maximus, was inhumanly chastised by the amputation of his tongue and his right hand.58475847 The sufferings of Martin and Maximus are described with simplicity in their original letters and acts, (Concil. tom. vii. p. 63—78. Baron. Annal. Eccles. A.D. 656, No. 2, et annos subsequent.) Yet the chastisement of their disobedience had been previously announced in the Type of Constans, (Concil. tom. vii. p. 240.) But the same invincible spirit survived in their successors; and the triumph of the Latins avenged their recent defeat, and obliterated the disgrace of the three chapters. The synods of Rome were confirmed by the sixth general council of Constantinople, in the palace and the presence of a new Constantine, a descendant of Heraclius. The royal convert converted the Byzantine pontiff and a majority of the bishops;58485848 Eutychius (Annal. tom. ii. p. 368) most erroneously supposes that the 124 bishops of the Roman synod transported themselves to Constantinople; and by adding them to the 168 Greeks, thus composes the sixth council of 292 fathers. the dissenters, with their chief, Macarius of Antioch, were condemned to the spiritual and temporal pains of heresy; the East condescended to accept the lessons of the West; and the creed was finally settled, which teaches the Catholics of every age, that two wills or energies are harmonized in the person of Christ. The majesty of the pope and the Roman synod was represented by two priests, one deacon, and three bishops; but these obscure Latins had neither arms to compel, nor treasures to bribe, nor language to persuade; and I am ignorant by what arts they could determine the lofty emperor of the Greeks to abjure the catechism of his infancy, and to persecute the religion of his fathers. Perhaps the monks and people of Constantinople58495849 The Monothelite Constans was hated by all, (says Theophanes, Chron. p. 292). When the Monothelite monk failed in his miracle, the people shouted, (Concil. tom. vii. p. 1032.) But this was a natural and transient emotion; and I much fear that the latter is an anticipation of the good people of Constantinople. were favorable to the Lateran creed, which is indeed the least reasonable of the two: and the suspicion is countenanced by the unnatural moderation of the Greek clergy, who appear in this quarrel to be conscious of their weakness. While the synod debated, a fanatic proposed a more summary decision, by raising a dead man to life: the prelates assisted at the trial; but the acknowledged failure may serve to indicate, that the passions and prejudices of the multitude were not enlisted on the side of the Monothelites. In the next generation, when the son of Constantine was deposed and slain by the disciple of Macarius, they tasted the feast of revenge and dominion: the image or monument of the sixth council was defaced, and the original acts were committed to the flames. But in the second year, their patron was cast headlong from the throne, the bishops of the East were released from their occasional conformity, the Roman faith was more firmly replanted by the orthodox successors of Bardanes, and the fine problems of the incarnation were forgotten in the more popular and visible quarrel of the worship of images.58505850 The history of Monothelitism may be found in the Acts of the Synods of Rome (tom. vii. p. 77—395, 601—608) and Constantinople, (p. 609—1429.) Baronius extracted some original documents from the Vatican library; and his chronology is rectified by the diligence of Pagi. Even Dupin (Bibliotheque Eccles. tom. vi. p. 57—71) and Basnage (Hist. de l'Eglise, tom. i. p. 451—555) afford a tolerable abridgment.
Before the end of the seventh century, the creed of the incarnation, which had been defined at Rome and Constantinople, was uniformly preached in the remote islands of Britain and Ireland;58515851 In the Lateran synod of 679, Wilfred, an Anglo-Saxon bishop, subscribed pro omni Aquilonari parte Britanniae et Hiberniae, quae ab Anglorum et Britonum, necnon Scotorum et Pictorum gentibus colebantur, (Eddius, in Vit. St. Wilfrid. c. 31, apud Pagi, Critica, tom. iii. p. 88.) Theodore (magnae insulae Britanniae archiepiscopus et philosophus) was long expected at Rome, (Concil. tom. vii. p. 714,) but he contented himself with holding (A.D. 680) his provincial synod of Hatfield, in which he received the decrees of Pope Martin and the first Lateran council against the Monothelites, (Concil. tom. vii. p. 597, &c.) Theodore, a monk of Tarsus in Cilicia, had been named to the primacy of Britain by Pope Vitalian, (A.D. 688; see Baronius and Pagi,) whose esteem for his learning and piety was tainted by some distrust of his national character—ne quid contrarium veritati fidei, Graecorum more, in ecclesiam cui praeesset introduceret. The Cilician was sent from Rome to Canterbury under the tuition of an African guide, (Bedae Hist. Eccles. Anglorum. l. iv. c. 1.) He adhered to the Roman doctrine; and the same creed of the incarnation has been uniformly transmitted from Theodore to the modern primates, whose sound understanding is perhaps seldom engaged with that abstruse mystery. the same ideas were entertained, or rather the same words were repeated, by all the Christians whose liturgy was performed in the Greek or the Latin tongue. Their numbers, and visible splendor, bestowed an imperfect claim to the appellation of Catholics: but in the East, they were marked with the less honorable name of Melchites, or Royalists;58525852 This name, unknown till the xth century, appears to be of Syriac origin. It was invented by the Jacobites, and eagerly adopted by the Nestorians and Mahometans; but it was accepted without shame by the Catholics, and is frequently used in the Annals of Eutychius, (Asseman. Bibliot. Orient. tom. ii. p. 507, &c., tom. iii. p. 355. Renaudot, Hist. Patriarch. Alexandrin. p. 119.), was the acclamation of the fathers of Constantinople, (Concil. tom. vii. p. 765.) of men, whose faith, instead of resting on the basis of Scripture, reason, or tradition, had been established, and was still maintained, by the arbitrary power of a temporal monarch. Their adversaries might allege the words of the fathers of Constantinople, who profess themselves the slaves of the king; and they might relate, with malicious joy, how the decrees of Chalcedon had been inspired and reformed by the emperor Marcian and his virgin bride. The prevailing faction will naturally inculcate the duty of submission, nor is it less natural that dissenters should feel and assert the principles of freedom. Under the rod of persecution, the Nestorians and Monophysites degenerated into rebels and fugitives; and the most ancient and useful allies of Rome were taught to consider the emperor not as the chief, but as the enemy of the Christians. Language, the leading principle which unites or separates the tribes of mankind, soon discriminated the sectaries of the East, by a peculiar and perpetual badge, which abolished the means of intercourse and the hope of reconciliation. The long dominion of the Greeks, their colonies, and, above all, their eloquence, had propagated a language doubtless the most perfect that has been contrived by the art of man. Yet the body of the people, both in Syria and Egypt, still persevered in the use of their national idioms; with this difference, however, that the Coptic was confined to the rude and illiterate peasants of the Nile, while the Syriac,58535853 The Syriac, which the natives revere as the primitive language, was divided into three dialects. 1. The Aramoean, as it was refined at Edessa and the cities of Mesopotamia. 2. The Palestine, which was used in Jerusalem, Damascus, and the rest of Syria. 3. The Nabathoean, the rustic idiom of the mountains of Assyria and the villages of Irak, (Gregor, Abulpharag. Hist. Dynast. p. 11.) On the Syriac, sea Ebed-Jesu, (Asseman. tom. iii. p. 326, &c.,) whose prejudice alone could prefer it to the Arabic. from the mountains of Assyria to the Red Sea, was adapted to the higher topics of poetry and argument. Armenia and Abyssinia were infected by the speech or learning of the Greeks; and their Barbaric tongues, which have been revived in the studies of modern Europe, were unintelligible to the inhabitants of the Roman empire. The Syriac and the Coptic, the Armenian and the Aethiopic, are consecrated in the service of their respective churches: and their theology is enriched by domestic versions58545854 I shall not enrich my ignorance with the spoils of Simon, Walton, Mill, Wetstein, Assemannus, Ludolphus, La Croze, whom I have consulted with some care. It appears, 1. That, of all the versions which are celebrated by the fathers, it is doubtful whether any are now extant in their pristine integrity. 2. That the Syriac has the best claim, and that the consent of the Oriental sects is a proof that it is more ancient than their schism. both of the Scriptures and of the most popular fathers. After a period of thirteen hundred and sixty years, the spark of controversy, first kindled by a sermon of Nestorius, still burns in the bosom of the East, and the hostile communions still maintain the faith and discipline of their founders. In the most abject state of ignorance, poverty, and servitude, the Nestorians and Monophysites reject the spiritual supremacy of Rome, and cherish the toleration of their Turkish masters, which allows them to anathematize, on the one hand, St. Cyril and the synod of Ephesus: on the other, Pope Leo and the council of Chalcedon. The weight which they cast into the downfall of the Eastern empire demands our notice, and the reader may be amused with the various prospect of, I. The Nestorians; II. The Jacobites;58555855 In the account of the Monophysites and Nestorians, I am deeply indebted to the Bibliotheca Orientalis Clementino-Vaticana of Joseph Simon Assemannus. That learned Maronite was despatched, in the year 1715, by Pope Clement XI. to visit the monasteries of Egypt and Syria, in search of Mss. His four folio volumes, published at Rome 1719—1728, contain a part only, though perhaps the most valuable, of his extensive project. As a native and as a scholar, he possessed the Syriac literature; and though a dependent of Rome, he wishes to be moderate and candid. III. The Maronites; IV. The Armenians; V. The Copts; and, VI. The Abyssinians. To the three former, the Syriac is common; but of the latter, each is discriminated by the use of a national idiom.
Yet the modern natives of Armenia and Abyssinia would be incapable of conversing with their ancestors; and the Christians of Egypt and Syria, who reject the religion, have adopted the language of the Arabians. The lapse of time has seconded the sacerdotal arts; and in the East, as well as in the West, the Deity is addressed in an obsolete tongue, unknown to the majority of the congregation.
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