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never be disturbed, and spent his whole remaining time in prayer, until at length he calmly and peacefully expired, in the presence of all his friends, A.D. 430.
I have already spoken of St. CYRIL of Alexandria, and St. Leo the Great, bishop of Rome, as the great opponents of the Nestorian and Eutychian heresies in the fifth century: both of these eminent prelates left many writings, which are still extant. St. Benedict, a man of eminent piety and zeal, in 529 founded the monastery of Mount Casino, in Italy; and his rule was adopted for many centuries by all the monasteries in the western Church; but they very soon relaxed the strictness of its observance, and the conduct of the monks too frequently reflected disgrace on their profession.
UNITY AND DISCIPLINE OF THE CHURCH.
MONG the Christian Churches throughout the world, the Church of the imperial city of Rome had obtained an early distinction. Seated in the capital of
the world, abounding in wealth and in numbers, remarkable for a munificence which was felt by the distressed and afflicted in all parts, endowed with a firmness of faith which opposed a steady and formidable resistance to every heresy, and founded by the holy apostles Peter and Paul, the Roman Church stood conspicuous amongst Christian communities; and even in the third cene
tury, the neighbouring Churches in Italy, Sicily, and the adjoining islands, placed themselves under its jurisdiction. The first æcumenical synod of Nice approved of this jurisdiction, which constituted the patriarchate of Rome; but the bishop of Rome had no ordinary jurisdiction beyond his patriarchate. The appeals of St. Athanasius and the other orth dox bishops, when persecuted by the Arians, to Julius of Rome, and the support which they received from that bishop, led the great synod of Sardica, in 341, to give the Roman bishop the power of ordering the causes of bishops to be re-heard, in cases where it appeared to him that they were unjustly condemned. This decree was indeed never received in the eastern or the African Church; and only gradually, after the lapse of some centuries, in the western Church; but it laid a foundation, on which the Roman see began to build its pretensions. In the latter part of the fourth century, the spirit of encroachment began to work in that Church; its bishops now extended their jurisdiction beyond the ancient limits approved by the synod of Nice, and invested the bishop of Thessalonica with the title of “ Vicar of the Apostolical See" in Illyricum, with the view of bringing, by this means, that province and Greece under their ecclesiastical sway. In the following century, the bishops of Arles and of Seville were declared vicars for Gaul and Spain : in the sixth, Augustine was made vicar for Britain. The principal bishops in each country were thus engaged in the interests of Rome, and were encouraged gradually to make inroads on the liberties of the Churches. These vicars were appointed chiefly under the pretence that the Roman bishop was bound by his station to see that the ancient discipline of the Church, and the law of Christ, were duly observed; and this notion was confirmed, if not cre
ated, by the habit of many bishops, in all parts of the world, of consulting the Roman Church on difficult cases of discipline, and frequently adopting its advice. It is true that they merely sought the advice of a Church of apostolical antiquity and of strict discipline; but that advice was often given in a tone of authority; and the decretal epistles of the popes, which we possess from the time of Siricius (the latter part of the fourth century), formed gradually a body of precedents, which led the bishops of Rome and the western bishops to ascribe to the former a sort of legislative power in the Church, which was in the event productive of the most injurious consequences. But, during the period now before us, the authority of the Roman see, however encroaching, was almost always virtuously exercised; and if it excited somewhat of a spirit of ambition and encroachment on the part of other great sees, the evil was, in some degree, counterbalanced by the effective resistance which it was enabled to give to heresy, and to the ecclesiastical disorders and corruptions introduced by the invasions of the barbarous nations. Its efforts were chiefly limited to procure the observation of the canons, or laws of discipline, made by the ecumenical synods; to encourage the spread of Christianity in heathen nations; and to provide for the necessities and peculiar circumstances of newly-founded Churches.
The Church, however, felt that an authority which arose in any degree from a spirit of encroachment could not fail to be ultimately injurious; and accordingly the third ecumenical synod, in 431, expressly forbad any patriarch to assume jurisdiction over Churches which had not from the beginning been subject to his see; lest, as they said, under the guise of religion, the swelling of worldly pride should find an entrance, the canons of the fathers be vio
lated, and we imperceptibly lose that liberty which Christ purchased for us by his blood. According to this canon, it was unlawful for the Roman see to assume any ordinary jurisdiction in Britain; though, when religion had been oppressed by the heathen Saxons in that country, Pope Gregory acted most laudably in sending missionaries there to convert the barbarians. But this was only an act of charity, such as any Christian bishop might have done; and could not give his successors any right of jurisdiction in England, in opposition to the law of the æcumenical synod. Happy indeed had it been for religion, if the Roman Church had adhered to the spirit of this decree, and refrained from adding to its original and lawful jurisdiction.
The rival see of Constantinople now rose suddenly to dignity and power. When Constantine the Great removed the seat of empire from Rome to Constantinople, the bishop of that city soon obtained jurisdiction over the surrounding bishops of Thrace. The second ecumenical synod declared him second in dignity only to the Bishop of Rome ; and the fourth made them equal in dignity and authority, while it sanctioned the jurisdiction which St. Chrysostom and his successors had acquired over Asia Minor. The other patriarchs were those of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem ; but the patriarch of Constantinople, who was given the title of “æcumenical, or universal patriarch,” by the Roman emperors in the sixth century, became, and has always since continued, the head of the eastern Church.
By the middle of the fifth century, these five patriarchal sees were fully established ; and, as they occupy an important place in ecclesiastical history, it may be well, in this place, briefly to consider the extent and nature of their jurisdiction.
I have already spoken of the patriarchate of Rome: it extended over the “suburbicarian” provinces (so called from their vicinity to Rome, the capital of the empire), which included the greater portion of Italy, together with Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica. In these provinces there were about 240 bishoprics. The patriarchate of Constantinople extended over the whole of Asia Minor, with the exception of the province of Cilicia, as well as over Thrace in Europe, and comprised about 400 bishoprics. The patriarchate of Antioch included the provinces of Cilicia, Mesopotamia, Arabia, and others which intervened between them, and consisted of about 230 bishoprics. The patriarchate of Jerusalem consisted of the three provinces of Palestine, and included 50 bishoprics. The patriarchate of Alexandria extended over the provinces of Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis, which were divided into 108 episcopal sees.
Besides these provinces, which were subject to patriarchs by custom and the decrees of the ecumenical councils, there were many others which were independent of patriarchs, and governed only by their own metropolitans and provincial synods. Armenia, which is said to have contained about 200 sees, was subject to its own metropolitan, entitled catholic. There were also numerous episcopal sees in Persia, Assyria, Chaldea, Arabia, and India, probably not fewer than 100. The island of Cyprus was also independent of any foreign jurisdiction, and contained 15 bishoprics. The civil diocese of Illyricum, including Dacia, Mæsia, Dalmatia, Epirus, Macedonia, Greece, &c. consisted of about 130 episcopal sees. In the northern part of Italy, about 70 bishoprics existed beyond the Roman patriarchate, and were principally subject to the archbishop of Milan. In ancient Gaul, extend