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apostles of Christ in the primitive churches. In fact, scarcely any two things could be more dissimilar than was the simplicity of the gospel dispensation and the hierarchy established under Constantine the Great. It cannot be a subject of surprise, therefore that when Christianity had thus been corrupted, the bishop of Rome began to be distinguished by a pre-eminence over the prelates. During the first two centuries, says Mosheim, the pre-eminence of the bishop of Rome was a pre-eminence of order and association, and not of power and authority; now, however, a great variety of causes contributed to establish this superiority; but chiefly that grandeur and opulence by which too many professors of Christianity form ideas of pre-eminence and dignity, and which they generally confound with the reasons of a just and legal authority. The bishop of Rome surpassed all his brethren in the magnificence and splendor of the church over which he presided ; in the riches of his revenues and possessions; in the number and variety of his ministers; in his credit with the people; and in his sumptuous and splendid manner of living. In the year 366 Liberius, bishop of Rome, died, and a violent contest arose respecting his successor. The city was divided into two factions, one of which elected Damasus to that high dignity, while the other chose Ursicinus, a deacon of the church. The party of Damasus prevailed, and got him ordained. Ursicinus, enraged that Damasus was preferred before him, set up separate meetings, and, at length, he also obtained ordination from certain obscure bishops. This occasioned great disputes among the citizens, which gave rise to a dangerous schism, and to a sort of civil war within the city of Rome, which was carried on with the utmost barbarity and fury, and produced the most cruel massacres and desolations. This inhuman contest ended in the victory of Damasus; but whether his cause was more just than that of Ursicinus is a question not so easily to be determined; neither of the two, indeed, seems to have been possessed of such principles as constitute a good Christian, much less of that exemplary virtue that should distinguish a Christian bishop. And this state of things continued to increase in progressive enormity, until it ultimately brought forth that system of spiritual tyranny which so long enslaved the greatest part of the civilised world. Notwithstanding, however, the pomp and splendor that surrounded the Roman see, it is certain that the bishops of that city had not acquired, in this century, that pre-eminence of power and jurisdiction in the church which they afterwards enjoyed. In the ecclesiastical commonwealth they were, indeed, the most eminent order of citizens; but still they were citizens as well as their brethren, and subject, like them, to the edicts and laws of the emperors. All religious causes of extraordinary importance were examined and determined either by judges appointed by the emperors or in councils assembled for that purpose; while those of inferior moment were decided in each district by its respective bishop. The ecclesiastical laws were enacted either by the emperor or by councils. None of the bishops acknowledged that they de
rived their authority from the permission and appointment of the bishop of Rome, or that they were created bishops by the favor of the apostolic see; on the contrary, they all maintained that they were the ambassadors and ministers of Jesus Christ, and that their authority was derived from above. Several of those steps, however, by which the bishops of Rome mounted afterwards to the summit of ecclesiastical power and despotism, were laid at this period, partly by the imprudence of the emperors, partly by the craftiness of the Roman prelates themselves, and partly by the inconsiderate zeal and precipitate judgment of certain bishops. Constantine having transferred the seat of government from Rome to Byzantium, and having there built a city, called, after himself, Constantinople, employed all his efforts to augment the beauty and magnificence of the new metropolis of the world, and raised up the bishop of this new metropolis as a formidable rival to the Roman pontiff, and a bulwark which menaced a vigorous opposition to his growing authority. It is worthy of remark that the progress of papal power and papal superstition have ever kept pace. The rites and institutions by which the Greeks, Romans, and other nations, had formerly testified their religious veneration for fictitious deities were now adopted, with some slight alterations, by Christian bishops, and professedly employed in the service of the true God. Gorgeous robes, mitres, tiaras, wax tapers, crosiers, processions, lustrations, images, gold and silver vases, and many such circumstances of pageantry, were equally to be seen in the heathen temples and in the Christian churches. No sooner had Constantine the Great abolished the superstition of his ancestors, than magnificent churches were every where erected for the Christians, which were richly adorned with o and images, and bore a striking resemblance to the pagan temples, both in their outward and inward form. One of the earliest corruptions of the church grew out of the reverence which now began to be paid to the memory of departed saints. Hence there arose a train of error and fraud which ended in the grossest creature worship. But it is the condition of humanity that the best things are those which seem most easy to be abused. The prayer which was preferred with increased fervency at a martyr's grave was at length addressed to the martyr himself: virtue was imputed to the remains of his body, the rags of his apparel, even to the instrument of his sufferings; relics were required as an essential part of the church furniture ; it was decreed that no church should be erected unless some treasures of this kind were deposited within the altar, and so secured there that they could not be taken out without destroying it. It was made a part of the service to pray through the merits of the saints whose relics were there deposited, and the priest when he came to this passage was enjoined to kiss the altar. Thus an enormous train of different superstitions were gradually substituted in the place of true religion and genuine piety. Perhaps, however, this odious revolution was owing to a variety of causes. A ridiculous precipitation in receiving new opinions, a preposterour desire of imitating the pagan rites, and of blending them with the Christian worship, and that idle propensity which the generality of mankind have towards a gaudy and ostentatious religion, all contributed to establish the reign of superstition upon the ruins of Christianity. Accordingly, frequent pilgrimages were undertaken to Palestine as well as to the tombs of the martyrs, as if there alone the sacred principles of virtue and the certain hopes of salvation were to be acquired. The reins being once let loose to superstition, absurd notions and idle ceremonies multiplied every day. Quantities of dust and earth brought from Palestine, and other places remarkable for their supposed sanctity, were handed about as the most powerful remedies against the violence of wicked spirits, and were sold and bought every where at enormous prices. The public processions and supplications by which the pagans endeavoured to appease their gods were now adopted into the Christian worship, and celebrated with great pomp and magnificence in several places. The virtues that had formerly been ascribed to the heathen temples, to their lustrations, and to the statues of their gods and heroes, were now attributed to Christian churches, to water consecrated by certain forms of prayer, and to images of holy men. And the same privileges that the former enjoyed, under the darkness of paganism, were conferred upon the latter under the light of the gospel, or rather under that cloud of superstition that was obscuring its glory. It is true that, as yet, images were not very common; nor were there any statues at all. But it is, at the same time, as undoubtedly certain, as it is extravagant and monstrous, that the worship of the martyrs was modelled by degrees, according to the religious services that were paid to the gods before the coming of Christ. Rumors were artfully spread abroad of prodigies and miracles to be seen in certain places (a trick often practised by the heathen priests), and the design of the reports was to draw the populace in multitudes to these places, and to impose on their credulity. Nor was this all; certain tombs were falsely given out for the sepulchres of saints and confessors; the list of the saints was augmented with fictitious names, and even robbers were converted into martyrs. Some buried the bones of dead men in certain retired places, and then affirmed that they were divinely admonished by a dream that the body of some friend of God lay there. Many, especially of the monks, travelled through the different provinces, and not only sold, with the most frontless impudence, their fictitious relics, but also deceived the eyes of the multitude with evil spirits or genii. A whole volume would be requisite to contain an enumeration of the various frauds which artful knaves practised with success to delude the ignorant, o true religion was almost entirely superseded by horrid superstition. It would also be almost endless to enter into a minute detail of all the different parts of public worship, and to point out the changes to which they were subject. The j". prayers had lost much of that solemn and majestic simplicity that characterised them in the Drimitive times, and which
now began to degenerate into a vain and swelling bombast. The sermons, or public discourses addressed to the people, were composed according to the rules of human eloquence, and rather adapted to excite the stupid admiration of the populace who delight in vain embellishments, than to enlighten the understanding or to reform the heart. It would even seem as if all possible means had been industriously used, to give an air of folly and extravagance to the Christian assemblies; for the people were permitted, and even exhorted by the preacher himself, to crown his talents with clapping of hands and loud acclamations of applause, a recompense which was hitherto peculiar to the actors on the theatre and the orators in the forum. A variety of circumstances at this time c-ncurred to augment the power and authority of the Roman pontiff, though he had not yet assumed the dignity of supreme lawgiver and judge of the whole Christian church. Among all the prelates who ruled the church of Rome, during this century, there was not one who ass reu the authority and pretensions of the Roman pontiff with such vigor and success as Leo, surnamed the Great. He commenced his pontificate with the most zealous exertions. In the year 445 he quarrelled with Hilary, bishop of Arles, for opposing the power of the papal see, and obtained an edict from the emperor Valentinian, which put an end to the ancient liberties of the Gallican churches, and enforced those appeals to Rome which gradually subjected all the western churches to the jurisdiction of the pretended successors of St. Peter. During the pontificate of Leo, the fourth general council was held at Chalcedon in the year 451, in which the famous canon was enacted, which rendered the see of Constantinople equal to the see of Rome in all respects, except precedency. This canon was evidently intended to check the growing power, and to oppose the daily encroachments of the bishop of Rome. Leo opposed with vehemence the passing of these decrees, and his opposition was seconded by that of many other prelates. But their efforts were vain, as the emperors threw in their weight into the balance, and thus supported the decisions of the Grecian bishops. Neither Leo nor his immediate successors were, therefore, able to overcome all the obstacles that were laid in their way, or the various checks which were given to their ambition. Many examples might be alleged in proof of this assertion, particularly the case of the Africans, whom no threats or i. could engage to submit the decision of their controversies, and the determination of their causes, to the Roman tribunal. From this time till the close of the sixth century the history of the Roman church presents nothing worthy of notice but the increasing wickedness and superstition of its members, especially of the clergy, whose vices were now carried to the most enormous lengths ; the writers of this century, whose probity and virtue render them worthy of credit, are unanimous in their accounts of the luxury, arrogance, avarice, and voluptuousness of the sacerdotal orders. If, before these times, the lustre of religion was clouded with superstition, and its divine precepts adulterated with a mixture of human inventions, this evil, instead of diminishing, increased daily. The happy souls of departed Christians were invoked by numbers, and their aid implored by assiduous and fervent prayers; while none stood up to censure or opposesopreposterous a worship. The question, how the prayers of mortals ascended to the celestial spirits (a question which afterwards produced much wrangling, and many idle fancies) did not as yet occasion any difficulty; for the Christians of this century did not imagine that the souls of the saints were so entirely confined to the celestial mansions, as to be deprived of the privilege of visiting mortals, and travelling when they pleased, through various countries. They were further of opinion that the places most frequented by departed spirits were those where the bodies they had formerly animated were interred ; and this opinion, which the Christians borrowed from the Greeks and Romans, rendered the sepulchres of the saints the general rendezvous of suppliant multitudes. The images of those who, during their lives, had acquired the reputation of uncommon sanctity, were now honored with a particular worship in several places. A singular and irresistible efficacy was also attributed to the bones of martyrs, and to the figure of the cross, in defeating the attempts of Satan, removing all sorts of calamities, and in healing, not only the diseases of the body, but also those of the mind. We shall not enter here into a particular account of the public supplications, the holy pilgrimages, the superstitious services paid to departed souls, the multiplication of temples, altars, penitential garments, and a multitude of other circumstances that showed the decline of genuine piety, and the corrupt darkness that was eclipsing the lustre of primitive Christianity. Divine worship was now daily rising from one degree of pomp to another, and degenerating more and more into a gaudy spectacle; only proper to attract the stupid admiration of a gazing pulace. The sacerdotal garments were emellished with a variety of ornaments, with a view to excite in the minds of the multitude a greater veneration for the sacred order. A new method also of proceeding with penitents was now introduced into the Latin church. Grievous offenders, who had formerly been obliged to confess their guilt in the face of the congregation, were now delivered from this mortifying penalty, and obtained from Leo the Great a permission to confess their crimes privately, to a priest appointed for that purpose. The external form of church government continued without any remarkable alteration during the course of this century. But the bishops of Rome and Constantinople, who were considered as the most eminent and principal rulers of the Christian church, were engaged in perpetual disputes about the extent and limits of their respective jurisdictions, and seemed both to aspire at the supreme authority in ecclesiastical matters. In the year 588 John, bishop of Constantinople, surnamed the Faster, on account of his extraordinary abstinence and austerity, assembled, by his own authority, a council at Constantin)ple, to enquire into an accusation brought against
Peter, patriarch of Antioch; and upon this occasion assumed the title of oecumenical, or universal bishop. Now, although this title had been formerly enjoyed by the bishops of Constantinople, and was also susceptible of an interpretation that might have prevented its giving umbrage or offence to any, yet Pelagius, the then bishop of Rome, suspected, both from the time and the occasion of }. renewing his claim to it, that he was aiming at a supremacy over all the Christian churches; and, therefore, he opposed his claim in the most vigorous manner in letters to that purpose, addressed to the emperor, and to so persons as he judged proper to second his opposition. To Pelagius succeeded Gregory the Great, under whose administrations missionaries were sent from Rome to Britain; of this event the following account is given:-Being one day led into the market-place of Rome with a great concourse of persons, to look at a large importation of foreign merchandise, which had just arrived, among other articles, there were some boys exposed for sale like cattle. There was nothing remarkable in this, for it was the custom every where in that age, and had been so from time immemorial; but he was struck with the appearance of the boys; their fine clear skins, the beauty of their flaxen or golden hair, and their ingenuous countenances; so that he asked from what country they came; and when he was told from the island of Britain, where the inhabitants in general were of that complexion and comeliness, he enquired if the people were Christians, and sighed for compassion at hearing that they were in a state of pagan darkness. Upon asking further to what particular nation they belonged of the many among whom that island was divided, and being told that they were Angles, he played upon the word with a compassionate and pious feeling, saying, “well may they be so called, for they are like angels, and ought to be made coheritors with the angels in heaven.” Then demanding from what province they were brought, the answer was, ‘ from Deira,’ and in the same humor he observed, that rightly might this also be said, for de Dei irá, from the wrath of God they were to be delivered. And when he was told that their king was named Ælla, he replied, that Hallelujah ought to be sung in his dominions. This trifling sprung from serious thought, and ended in serious endeavours. From this day the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons became a favorite object with Gregory; and, when he was elected to the papacy, he took the first opportunity of beginning the good work on which he was intent. The letter written by Gregory to the emperor Maurice at Constantinople, in consequence of John, the patriarch of i. city, assuming the title of universal bishop, casts so much light upon the history of that age that we shall give our readers an extract:- Every man that has read the Gospel knows that, even by the words of our Lord, the care of the whole church is committed to St. Peter the apostle, the prince of all the apostles; and yet he is not called universal apostle, though this holy man, John, my fellow priest, labors to be called universal bishop ! I am compelled to cry out, O the corruption of times and manners! Behold the barbarians are become lords of all Europe; cities are destroyed; castles are beaten down; provinces are depopulated ; there is no husbandman to till the ground. Idolaters rage and domineer over Christians; and yet priests, who ought to lie weeping upon the pavement, in sack-cloth and ashes, covet names of vanity, and glory in new and profane titles. But, far from Christians be this blasphemous name, by which all honor os taken from all other priests, while it is foolishly arrogated by one.” Gregory, with all his flattery, was unable to prevail upon the emperor Maurice to second his views; and the former, as might be expected, became not a little dissatisfied with his most religious lord. Soon after this the emperor was dethroned by one of his centurions, who first murdered him, and then usurped the crown. This wretch, whose name was Phocas, was one of the vilest of the human race, a monster, stained with those vices that serve most to blacken human nature: other tyrants had been cruel from policy;-the cruelties of Phocas are not to be accounted for, but on the hypothesis of the most diabolical and disinterested malice. He caused five of the children of the emperor Maurice to be massacred before the eyes of the unhappy father, whom he reserved to the last, that he might be a spectator of the destruction of his children before his own death. The empress Constantine and her three daughters had taken refuge in one of the churches of the city under sanction of the patriarch of Constantinople, who defended them for a time with great spirit and resolution, not permitting them to be dragged by force from their asylum. The consequence was, that they instantly became the helpless victims of his fury, and suffered on the same spot on which the late emperor and his five sons had been recently murdered. What should we expect would be the reception which the accounts of all this series of horrid cruelty would meet with at Rome, from a man so renowned for piety, equity, and mildness of disposition as pope Gregory was 2 If we look into his letters of congratulation, we find them stuffed with the vilest and most venal flattery; insomuch that, were we to learn the character of Phocas only from this pontiff's letters, we should certainly conclude him to have been rather an angel than a man. “As a subject and a Christian,’ says Gibbon, “it was the duty of Gregory to acquiesce in the established government; but the joyful applause with which he salutes the fortune of the assassin, has sullied, with indelible disgrace, the character of the saint. His object in this abject behaviour was, that he might, by means of the influence of the emperor, defeat the attempt of the patriarch to assume the title of universal bishop. This he plainly told to Leontia, the new empress, representing to her what blessings she might expect from St. Peter in heaven, provided they obliged the patriarch to relinquish the title, which the Pope considered derogatory to the honor, dignity, and interests of his see. In this object he succeeded ; for Phocas enacted a law by which he prohibited the bishop of Constantinople from
styling himself oecumenical, or general Patriarch, declaring that this title belonged to none but the bishop of ancient Rome. Although Gregory did not himself assume the appellation of universal bishop, which, after anathematizing in his letter to the emperor, would have been too gross a violation of all decency to have been borne even in this age, yet his successor, Boniface III., did not hesitate to assume this very title; and the grant of this to Boniface's dignity by the emperor Phocas might be said to establish the ecclesiastical power of the papal see. The succeeding pontiffs used all sorts of methods to maintain and enlarge the authority and pre-eminence which they had acquired by a grant from the most odious tyrant that ever disgraced the annals of history. We find, however, in the most authentic accounts of the transactions of this century, that not only several emperors and princes, but also whole nations, opposed the ambitious views of the bishops of Rome. Besides all this, multitudes of private o expressed publicly, and without the east hesitation, their abhorrence of the vices, and particularly of the lordly ambition, of the Roman pontiffs: and it is highly probable, that the Valdenses or Vaudois had already in this century retired into the valleys of Piedmont, that they might be more at liberty to oppose the tyranny of those imperious prelates. Little of particular notice occurs during the seventh and eighth centuries; we may, however, cursorily observe that infallibility was first claimed by pope Agatho, in 678. In 710 the emperor Justinian, having met the pope at Nicomedia, gave to the world the first example of kissing the pontiff's foot. This act of great personal veneration became the precedent for the continued ceremony. That corruption of manners which dishonored the clergy in the former centuries, instead of diminishing in this, discovered itself under the most odious characters. The endowments of the churches and monasteries, and the revenues of the bishops, were hitherto considerable; but in this century a new and ingenious method was found out of acquiring much greater riches to the church, and of increasing its wealth through succeeding ages. An opinion prevailed universally at this time, though its authors are not known, that the punishment which the righteous Judge of the world has reserved for the transgressions of the wicked, was to be prevented and annulled, by liberal donations to God, to the saints, to the churches, and to the clergy. In consequence of this notion the great and opulent, who were generally speaking the most remarkable for their flagitious and abominable lives, offered, out of the abundance which they had received by inheritance or acquired by rapine, rich donations to departed saints, their ministers upon earth, and the keepers of the temples that were erected in their honor, in order to avoid the sufferings and penalties annexed by the priests to transgression in this life, and to escape the misery denounced against the wicked in a future state. This new and commodious method of making atonement for iniquity was the principal source of those immense treasures which from this period began
to flow in upon the clergy, the churches, and monasteries, and continued to enrich them through succeeding ages down to the present time. Emperors, kings, and princes, signalised their superstitious veneration for the clergy, by investing bishops, churches, and monasteries, in the possession of whole |. cities, castles, and fortresses, with all the rights of sovereignty that were annexed to them under the dominion of their former masters. Hence it came to pass that they who by their holy profession were appointed to proclaim to the world the vanity of human grandeur, and to inspire into the minds of men, by their example, a noble contempt of sublunary things, became themselves scandalous spectacles of worldly pomp, ambition, and splendor; were created dukes, counts, and marquises; judges, legislators, and sovereigns; and not only gave laws to nations, but also upon many occasions gave battle to their enemies at the head of numerous armies of their own raising. The Roman pontiff now acted in all respects like a temporal prince, of whose enormous power history records this shocking and remarkable instance:—Charles Martel was succeeded in his office of mayor of the palace to Childeric III. by his son Pepin. In the exercise of that high office, he was possessed in reality of the royal power and authority; but, not content with this, he aspired to the titles and honors of majesty, and formed the design of dethroning his sovereign. For this purpose the states of the realm were assembled by Pepin, A. D. 751; and, though they were devoted to the interests of this ambitious usurper, they gave it as their opinion that the bishop of Rome was previously to be consulted, whether the execution of such a project was lawful or not. In consequence of this, ambassadors were sent by Pepin to Zachary, the reigning pontiff, with the following question :“Whether the divine law did not permit a valiant and warlike people to dethrone a pusillanimous and indolent monarch, who was incapable of discharging any of the functions of royalty, and to substitute in his place one more worthy to rule, and who had already rendered most important services to the state o' The situation of Zachary, who stood much in need of the aid of Pepin against the Greeks and Lombards, rendered his answer such as the usurper desired ; who in return conferred on Zachary the domains of Ravenna, which could not have been secured from the degraded Childeric. Thus by his spiritual authority the !". deposed a sovereign who had committed no crime; receiving from the usurper, in return, the temporal jurisdiction. When this favorable decision of the Roman oracle was published in France, the unhappy Childeric was stripped of royalty without the least opposition; and Pepin, without the smallest resistance from any quarter, stepped into the throne of his master and his sovereign. This decision was solemnly confirmed by Stephen II., the successor of Zachary, who undertook a journey into France in the year 754 in order to solicit assistance against the Lombards; and who at the same time dissolved the obligation of the oath of fidelity and allegiance which Pepin had sworn to Childeric, and
violated by his usurpation in the year 751; and, to render his title to the crown as sacred as possible, Stephen anointed and crowned him, with his wife and two sons, and, by the authority of St. Peter, forbade the French lords, on pain of excommunication, to choose a king of another race. . Thus did these two ambitious men support one another in their schemes of rapacity and injustice. The criminality of the pope was indeed greatly aggravated by the pretence of religion. “It is you,' said he, addressing Pepin, “whom God hath chosen from all etermity; for whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he called them he also justified.’ This compliance of the Roman pontiffs proved an abundant source of opulence and credit to the church. When Aistulphus meditated the conquest of Rome and its territory, and formed the ambitious project of reducing all Italy under the yoke of the Lombards, the terrified pontiff, Stephen II, addressed himself to his powerful o and protector Pepin, represented to him is deplorable condition, and implored his assistance. The French monarch embarked with zeal in the cause of the suppliant pontiff, crossed the Alps A. D. 754 with a numerous army and, having twice defeated Aistulphus, obliged him by a solemn treaty to deliver up to the see of Rome the exarchate of Ravenna, Pentapolis, and all the cities, castles, and territories, which he had seized in the Roman dukedom. Pepin then caused an instrument to be drawn up, signed by himself and his sons, by which he ceded for ever to the holy see all the places thus yielded up by the Lombard king, including the exarchate, which he had taken from the emperor of Constantinople. He afterwards caused the instruments of donation, with the keys of all the cities, to be laid on the tomb of St. Peter in Rome. Stephen thus became proprietor of the exarchate and its dependencies; and, by adding rapacity to his rebellion, was established as a o monarch. Thus was the sceptre added to the keys, the sovereignty to the o: and thus were the popes enriched with the spoils of the Lombard kings, and of the Roman em|. The question concerning images, which ad long agitated both the eastern and western churches, was, at this time, far from being put to rest either at Rome or Constantinople; but still gave occasion to the assembling of council after council, one council annulling what the other had decreed. During the reign of the emperor Constantine Copronymus (who employed all his influence in abolishing and extirpating the worship of images) a synod was held at Constantinople, A. D. 754, to determine the controversy. e fathers being met to the number of 330, after considering the doctrine of scripture and the opinions of the fathers, decreed that every image, of whatsoever materials, made and formed by the artist, should be cast out of the Christian church as a strange and abominable thing; notwithstanding Paul I., who was at that time pope of Rome, sent a legate to Constantinople, to admonish the emperor to restore the sacred images and statues to the churches, threatening him with excommunication in case of refusal. But Copronymus treated his message with the contempt it deserved.