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ror Heraclius and Constans issued new edicts, commanding silence on the controversy, and endeavoured to stifle the voice of the orthodox believers. The truth prevailed; and after a struggle, which continued for upwards of half a century, the Monothelite heresy, and its supporters, Theodore of Pharan, Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul and Peter of Constantinople, 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 oecumenical 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 following 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 conquering the Asiatic possessions of the eastern empire, and extending their triumphs

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

through Egypt, and along the northern coast of Africa.

Mahomet was an impostor whose pretensions would have sunk into immediate obscurity, like those of many other pretended prophets, had they not been sustained by force of arms and vast military success. Born of a noble but indigent family in Arabia, he repaired his fortunes by marriage with a rich widow, and early in the seventh century conceived the design of assuming the character of a prophet. With this view he assumed an appearance of great sanctity, retiring frequently to a cave for the purpose of private meditation; and at length he announced that he had been favoured with a new revelation from God. During the first two years

of his mission, however, he made very few converts ; but in A.D. 622 he was invited to the city of Medina by the inhabitants of that place, who hoped, by establishing Mahomet as their sovereign, to put an end to a long train of divisions and factions which had afflicted them. Thus invested with sovereign power, Mahomet assumed a new tone, and declared that a divine commission had been given to him to establish the true religion by force of arms, and to destroy idolatry. The state of Arabia was at that time peculiarly favourable to his designs. A number of different sects and religions existed in that country, none of which was sufficiently strong to check the career of the impostor. He strenuously inculcated the doctrine of the unity of God, and other points which were held in common by large classes of his countrymen. He admitted that the Jewish and the Christian revelations were divine; but he pretended that they were only introductory to his own: and while he denounced eternal damnation to those who should refuse to receive it, he forced them, at the point of the sword, to take

the alternative of slavery or death. It is not wonderful that such pretensions, coupled with such power, should have speedily rendered the impostor and his religion triumphant in Arabia. From thence he issued forth upon the provinces of the eastern empire, which, swayed by a feeble government, and rent by divisions and heresies, were unable to offer any opposition. Mahomet died in the midst of military triumphs; but his successors followed his example, and the greater portion of the East and of Africa became their prey.

In Egypt and the East the invaders were assisted by the Eutychian and Nestorian heretics, and their religion consequently received a degree of favour which was denied to that of 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 declined under oppression and persecution; but it was always preserved; and after the lapse of twelve hundred

there are still


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.

It would be in vain for us to attempt to fathom the profound depths of those divine counsels which permitted so large a portion of Christianity to pine away and perish beneath the yoke of Mahommedan infidelity. What may be the final ends and objects of this visitation are at present concealed from our view; but some lessons it does distinctly convey. The Nestorians and Eutychians of the East had revolted against the truth of the Gospel, and arrogantly despised the united judgments of the whole

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Christian world. The Donatists in Africa hạd separated from their Christian brethren, and by violence and bloodshed had established their human church. In all those countries which Mahommedanism permanently subjugated, schism and heresy had struck deep roots and obtained many adherents. paratists made common cause with the infidels, and rejoiced to see the Church oppressed; but they brought destruction on themselves. All were involved in a common ruin; and those who had rejected the truth, as well as those who retained it, were delivered over to the tyranny and the degradation of the infidel dominion. How great must have been those offences, and how odious in the sight of God, which brought down so terrible a punishment on these nations, involving even the Church of God in their calamities! And may we not most justly fear, lest nations in which similar offences extensively and long prevail, may be delivered over to judgments equally awful, and deprived of those means of grace, and that way of salvation, which so many of them have despised and rejected ? Such examples should furnish new arguments against voluntary separations from the Church of Christ; arguments addressed as much to those who love peace and order, and the welfare of their country, as to those who are fearful of incurring the displeasure of that God, who is not the Author of turbulence and disorder under the

pretence of religion, but of meekness, humbleness, brotherly love, and unity.

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 dissemi

nated the light of truth among many barbarous nations in the west of Europe. The Suevi, Boii, and Franks of Germany, were converted by St. Columbanus, in the early part of the seventh century. St. Gallus became the apostle of Switzerland; St. Kilianus, 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.

PE have now seen the promises of our

Saviour verified in the continual existW ence of his true Church, amidst the

terrors of persecution and the tempta

tions of heresy. We have seen it expanding itself “ from the river to the ends of the earth;” and though in some branches “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 us now contemplate the fruits which that faith continued to produce.

The holy men of this period may be divided into two classes : those who spent their time in a private religious life, and those who were engaged in the

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