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in one of his apof the land,.n dignity their heads;
We have seen that, for the first three hundred years after Christ, his religion had no legal establishment in the world; on the contrary, it was every where and almost incessantly the object of persecution ;-it was propagated by means of the preaching of the Gospel, and the disciples were collected into churches to observe the ordinances of public worship, which Christ himself had appointed. The pastors and deacons were the servants of the churches; and so far were their offices from being an object of competition, as ministering to worldly ambition, that they were always placed in the foremost rank of sufferers from their merciless persecutors. But in the beginning of the fourth century, and during the reign of Constantine the Great, the scene changed-outward persecution ceased-Christianity was established by law as the religion of the Roman empire; and from this time those who ought to have been “ the servants of the church for Jesus' sake” began to be its lords and masters, in direct opposition to the Saviour's own command, and the example of his apostles. And, having now become “part and parcel of the law of the land,” Christianity must change her attire, in order that slie may with dignity fill the throne of her discarded rival. The clergy must raise their heads, extend their views, and become “ lords over God's heritage.” The simple institutions of the Gospel are found altogether unfit for this new order of things. Instead of meeting in a school or upper room, magnificent temples niust be built, and a hierarchy of ecclesiastics-bishops, priests, and deacons must be appointed to officiate at their altars. A spirit of innovation rages of courseSuperstition opens all her paltry treasures--Ignorance erects her leaden throne—the doctrines of the Gospel are corrupted, and its institutions mutilated-offices hitherto unknown are invented, and filled by a race of ecclesiastics under names and characters as foreign to Christian institution as that of a magician or a soothsayer :-and to all this they were pleased to give the name of Christianity! But, no: the religion of Christ disowns it in toto. It is AntiCHRIST, the Man of Sin-the Son of perdition-the mystery of iniquity, concerning which Daniel had prophesied eight hundred years before-and Paul had warned the churches of his day—and of which John had been favoured with visions and revelations in the isle of Patmos.
State of the Empire under the Successors of Constantine-Pro
gress of the Arian Controversy_Constantius favours the Arians—Some account of Athanasius–Orthodoxy regulated by Imperial Edicts—Turbulence of the Catholic Priesthood Reflections on the existing state of things Importance of dis tinguishing between the kingdom of Christ and that of the Clergy-Pomp and splendour of the Bishop of Rome-Contentions for the bishopric-Reign of the emperor Julian—He attempts to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem, but fails--- Estimate of Julian's character-Jovian-Valens-Gratian-And Theodosius the Great_Utter extinction of Paganism.-A. D. 337 to 400.
Constantine the Great, at his decease, left three sons, among whom the government of the various provinces of the Roman empire was divided. The names of the brothers were Constantine the second, Constans, and Constantius ; but none of them inherited the genius and talents of the father. They, however, so far trode in his steps as to extend their favour to the clergy of the Catholic church, and discountenance Paganism.
To the eldest son, Constantine the second, the western provinces, viz. Spain and Gaul and Britain, were assigned. To his brother Constans, Illyricum, Italy, and Africa ; whilst Constantius inherited the east, comprehending Asia, Syria, and Egypt, with the city of Constantinople, to which his father had transferred his imperial residence and made it the seat of government.
About three years after the father's death, a quarrel arose between
the two elder brothers, Constantine and Constans, which brought on a war, in the course of which Constantine lost his life. His victorious brother on this added the territories of the deceased prince to his own, and thus became sole master of all the western provinces. Of this immense territory he kept-possession till the year 350, when Magnentius, one of his own officers, conspired against him and procured his assassination, in the hope of being himself declared emperor. Thus two out of the three sons of Constantine were removed from the scene of action. The usurper, however, did not long enjoy the fruit of his perfidy; for the surviving brother, Constantius, justly incensed by his rebellious conduct, marched an army against him, and, defeating him at the outset, Magnentius, transported with despair and rage at his ill success, and dreading the consequence should he fall into the hands of the conqueror, put an end to his own existence. The result was that Constantius, in the year 353, became sole monarch of the Roman empire, which he governed till the year 361, when he was succeeded by his own kinsman Julian.
I mentioned, in a former Lecture, the dispute that had arisen in the church of Alexandria on the subject of the sonship of Christ, for the sake of deciding which the council of Nice was convened, at which the emperor Constantine himself presided. At that famous council the doctrine of Arius was condemned by an overwhelming majority, he himself was exiled to Illyricum, and his abettors were compelled to acquiesce in the confession of faith drawn up by the venerable council ; the writings of Arius were proscribed as being heretical, and the punishment of death denounced against all who were found guilty of the crime of harbouring them in their houses. But persecuting edicts cannot reach the thoughts, nor is it easy by means of them to impose an effectual restraint on the tongue. The controversy was far from being put to rest by the decisions of the council of Nice. It would indeed seem as if the conduct of the emperor, on that memorable occasion, had not been such as his own reflections in his cooler moments could approve ; for, three years from the council of Nice were scarcely elapsed, before the exiles were re called ; and Eusebius of Nicomedia, who was one of the dissidents, resumed his influence over the mind of Constantine, and was restored to all his sacerdotal dignities, from which he had been
PROGRESS OF THE ARIAN CONTROVERSY.
ignominiously dégraded. Arius himself was treated by the whole court with the respect which would have been due to an innocent and oppressed man ; his opinions' on the disputed point were sanctioned by the synod of Jerusalem, and the emperor issued his orders that he should be admitted to the communion of the cathedral church of Constantinople ; but, on the day which was fixed for the triumph of Arius, he died suddenly, not without suspicions that his death was occasioned by means which reflect no credit on his adversaries. Adverting to these strange occurrences, the historian of the Decline and Fall of the Roman empire has remarked that “the ecclesiastical government of Constantine cannot be justified from the reproach of levity and weakness; but the credulous monarch, unskilled in the stratagems of theological warfare, might be deceived by the modest and specious professions of the heretics whose sentiments he never properly understood ; and, while he protected Arius and persecuted Athanasius, he still considered the council of Nice as the bulwark of the Christian faith and the peculiar glory of his own reign.*
It may serve to amuse us, as affording one instance among many of the versatility of an established creed-I mean, a creed established by human laws and the decision of councils and synods—to remark that the successor of Constantine, viz. his son Constantius, had no sooner obtained the undivided government of the empire, than he began to show a manifest predilection for the Arians, and their creed became that of the court; the emperor favouring only the bishops of that party. The see of Constantinople was filled by an orthodox bishop of the name of Paul ; but he was ejected by the emperor's order, and Macedonius placed in his stead. The latter adopted a theory of the Sonship of Christ which differed from that contended for by either Arius or Athanasius ;t he contended that the Son was not consubstantial but of a like substance with the Father; and thus, by the addition of a single letter, he affected to settle the whole dispute! Frivolous as was this distinction, it enraged the Athanasian party, who rose in a body to oppose Hermogenes, the officer whose business it was to introduce this new bishop into his episcopate, burnt down his house, and drew him by the heels round the streets of the city, till they dispatched the victim of their cruelty. This was certainly a novel method, at that day, of defending orthodoxy, but it showed the spirit of the times, and proved too good an example not to be imitated by the Catholic church!
* Gibbon, ch, xxi. + In place of Omononos, he proposed to substitute 'O Moldonos. .
Athanasius, the great champion of orthodoxy, who had rendered such signal services to his bishop Alexander in managing the controversy with Arius at the council of Nice, had, by this time, risen to great popularity, and was in reality the oracle of his party. Even to this day, he is in high repute with the advocates of ecclesiastical establishments, such as Milner and Haweis, who extol him as a prodigy of evangelical light. But, whatever may be said of the soundness of his speculative creed, he was unquestionably a man of aspiring views and of persecuting principles. In a letter which he addressed to Epictetus, bishop of Corinth, referring to some heretical opinions then prevalent, he says, “I wonder that your piety hath borne these things, and that you did not immediately put those heretics under restraint and propose the true faith to them, that, if they would not forbear to contradict, they might be declared heretics; for it is not to be endured that these things should be either said or heard among Christians ;” and, on another occasion, he declares, “they ought to be held in universal abhorrence for opposing '(what he held to be) truth;" comforting himself with the reflection that the emperor, when properly informed, would put a stop to their wickedness, and that they would not be suffered long to live! In one of his letters, he exhorts those to whom he wrote, to "hold fast the confession of the Fathers, and to reject all who should speak more or less than was contained in it;" and, in his first oration against the Arians, he declares, in plain terms, that “the expressing a person's sentiments in the words of Scripture was no sufficient proof of orthodoxy ; because the devil himself used the words of Scripture, to cover his wicked designs upon our Saviour; and that heretics were not to be received, though they made use of the very expressions of orthodoxy itself.”
From this time the Scriptures were no longer the standard of the Christian faith, in what was called the Catholic church, that