Page images


of being the principal opponent of this heresy.* The adhe. rents of Nestorius, being banished from the Roman empire, obtained an establishment from the King of Persia, and have continued to exist as a distinct sect even to the present day.

In opposing the errors of Nestorius, some persons fell into the opposite error of confounding the divine and human natures of our Lord. Eutyches, an abbot at Constantinople, taught that in Jesus Christ was but one nature, compounded of the divine and human natures; so that, according to his doctrine, our Lord was not properly either God or man, but a sort of third being between the two, of a mixed and compounded nature. Deposed for this heresy by many bishops at Constantinople, he was irregularly restored by a synod at Ephesus, which under the direction of Dioscorus, bishop of Alexandria, acted with the most savage violence against the defenders of orthodoxy. THE FOURTH SYNOD of Chalcedon, consisting of six hundred and thirty

bishops, finally judged in this cause, and having A.D. 451.

condemned Dioscorus and Eutyches, established the true and sound doctrine of the Church, derived from holy Scripture, and taught by St. Leo, bishop of Rome, in his celebrated epistle,--i. e. that in our Lord Jesus Christ there are two perfect and distinct natures, the Godhead and manhood, united in one person, without mixture, change, or confusion. This doctrine was immediately approved and accepted by the great body of Christians throughout the world, and has so continued to the present day. The adherents of Dioscorus, called Monophysites (i. e. upholders of the one nature,) or Jacobites, abounded in Egypt and Syria, and their sect has survived in those countries till the present day.

The Church was consoled under these various afflictions

on the personal question, whether Nestorius and others did heretically depart from the doctrine of the Church.—Am. Ed.]

[But not without sullying himself by the use of very unbefitting means. AM. ED.]

by the conversion of several heathen nations. The natives of Libanus and of a portion of Arabia were converted by the persuasions and authority of St. Simeon Stylites. The apostolical labours of St. Patrick were rewarded by the conversion of the Irish nation to Christianity. Palladius had been previously ordained to the same mission by Cælestinus, bishop of Rome ;* but dying soon, was succeeded by St. Patrick. The Gospel had indeed already some

A.D. 432, adherents in that country, but Christianity now became general, and for the next four or five centuries learn. ing and religion shed a bright lustre on that remote island, when barbarism and ignorance prevailed over the rest of Europe. The Church of Ireland during these ages remain. ed independent, and was not subject to the papal jurisdiction. Clovis, king of the Franks, and founder of the French monarchy, received baptism, with many of his people, from Remigius, bishop of Rheims, A.D. 496.

The East still remained troubled by the remains of the Eutychian heresy, and the West was subject to the dominion of savage nations, who either rejected Christianity, or were imbued with the Arian heresy,—when a controversy arose in the East concerning certain writings of Theodorus, Ibas, and Theodoret, which supported the Nestorian heresy, and which were used by its adherents to promote their views. A coun. cil of one hundred and sixty bishops, assembled at Constantinople by the Emperor Justinian, and which the

A.D. 553. Church acknowledges as THE FIFTH ECUMENKAL SYNOD, condemned these writings and various errors of the Nestorians, and approved all the doctrine of the four preceding ecumenical synods. This synod was thus a sort of supplement to the third ecumenical synod. It was immediately received by the great body of the Church, though some bishops in Africa and Italy for a time did not acknowledge it; as they supposed, through mistake, that the writings of Theodore and Theodoret had been approved by the synod of Chalcedon.

*[This is extremely doubtful: or rather, almost certainly untrue. That both Palladius and Patrick preached in Ireland, early in the 5th century, is certain. That neither of them had any direct connexion with Rome, is in the highest degree probable. All else is inextricably involved in doubt.Am. Ed.]

Britain had now been for many years subject to the Saxons, who gradually subdued the Christian inhabitants, and formed settlements among them. These invaders, however, still remained in their heathenism, when St. Gregory the Great, bishop of Rome, commiserating their condition, sent St. AUGUSTINE and other pious brethren to preach the Gospel in this country. Arriving about 590, he founded several Christian churches; but the conversion of the Saxons to the faith was chiefly due to several holy bishops and missionaries from Ireland in the following century. The ancient churches of the Britons which still continued, as well as the Irish churches, were not subject to the jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome; nor was the Anglo-Saxon Church for several cen. turies, though much reverence was felt for the ancient and celebrated Church of Rome, and much assistance derived from it in the earlier stages of their existence.

In the seventh century, a heresy began to be advocated, which, like the Eutychian, endangered the doctrine of the perfect divinity and perfect humanity of our Lord: for it was now asserted, that, after the incarnation, there was but one will in our Lord,--that of the incarnate God. But it is plain, that if we admit the doctrine of two perfect natures, each possessed of all its distinctive capacities and faculties, the doctrine of two wills, the divine and human, immediately follows. If this latter doctrine be denied, then the doctrine of two natures cannot be maintained; so that the Monothe. lites, who did deny that two wills perfectly united and harmonious, exist in our Lord, were only a branch of the Eu. tychians. After a struggle, which continued for more than half a century, the Monothelite heresy, and its supporters, Theodore of Pharan, Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul and Peter of Con

stantinople, Honorius, bishop of Rome, Cyrus of Alexandria, and others, were condemned in the sixth ECUMENICAL SYNOD of one hundred and seventy bishops, held at Constantinople by order of the Emperor Constantine Pogonatus in 680.

The circumstance of Honorius of Rome's condemnation for heresy by this synod, which has been clearly established by Bossuet, and many other of the most eminent Romish controversialists, affords an irresistible proof that the bishops of Rome were not infallible in faith, and that the universal Church has never acknowledged them to be so. It is also worthy of remark, that the sixth æcumenical synod was the last which could justly claim the title of universal, or pretend to represent the judgment of the whole Church. The succeeding synods, which are styled universal by Romanists, have never been acknowledged by the whole Eastern and Western Church, as the early synods were. The seventh synod, as it is called, remained rejected by the Western Church up to the fourteenth century. The eighth and fol. lowing synods have been always rejected by the Eastern Churches, even to the present day.

Whilst the Monothelite heresy was disturbing the Church, the false prophet Mahomet and his followers were

A.D. 612. conquering the Asiatic possessions of the eastern empire, and extending their triumphs through Egypt, and along the northern coast of Africa. In Egypt and the East the invaders were assisted by the Eutychian and Nestorian heretics, and their religion received a degree of favour which was denied to the Church. Persecution at length assailed the faith of Christians; and the result was, that in Africa, after four or five centuries, we hear no more of those five hundred episcopal sees which had formerly shed light on that region. In the East, Christianity slowly de. clined under oppression and persecution; but it was always preserved; and after the lapse of twelve nundred years, there are still many churches in Asia Minor, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, though they bear but a small proportion to the eight hundred episcopal churches which, in the fifth century, existed in those countries.

1 See Palmer's Treatise on the Church, vol. ii. p. 200-249

The decline of Christianity in the East and Africa was, however, very gradual, and the Church beheld the spread of the Gospel amongst many other nations. Christianity was now subduing the remnants of paganism in England, and exciting there and in Ireland a spirit of apostolical zeal, which disseminated the light of truth among many barbarous nations in the west of Europe. The Suevi, Boii, and Franks of Germany were converted by St. Columban, in the early part of the seventh century. St. Gall became the apostle of Switzerland ; St. Kilian, of the eastern Franks; and St. Willibrord, and his companions, of Batavia, Friesland, and Westphalia. These holy missionaries were all natives of Ireland, except the last, who was an Anglo-Saxon.



A.D. 320-680.

We have now seen the promises of our Saviour verified in the continual existence of his true Church, amidst the ter. rors of persecution and the temptations of heresy. We have seen it expanding itself “from the river to the ends of the earth ;” and though some branches

66 minished and brought low,” yet containing a principle of vitality which enabled it to repair its losses by new and vigorous shoots. We have seen those great truths which Scripture teaches unanimously and firmly maintained during this period. Let

« EelmineJätka »