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AMONGST the antient Christian books which claim our attention are the Apostolical Constitutions, which, if they be genuine, are a sacred treatise, and of equal authority with the New Testament; and, if they be not genuine, are an infamous imposture, for which the forger well deserved the punishment inflicted by the Roman laws on the falsarii. Digest. l. xlviii. tit. x. 1.
The authors of them are, it is pretended, the twelve apostles and St. Paul gathered together, with Clemens their amanuensis.
If their authority should appear only ambiguous, it would be our duty to reject them, lest we should adopt as divine doctrines the commandments of men ;' for, since each Gospel contains the main parts of Christianity, and might be sufficient to make men wise unto salvation,' there is less danger in diminishing than in enlarging the number of canonical books; and less evil would have ensued from the loss of one of the four Gospels, than from the addition of a fifth and spurious one.
But the Constitutions are a medley of old treatises jumbled together, enlarged and adulterated, without much wit or judgment, by some compiler after the days of Constantine.
And yet they have their value, and may be useful on many accounts, and contain several things of antiquity relating to the doctrine and discipline of the church, and extracts from cld liturgies, though the whole be so blended with insertions of a later date, that it is now beyond human skill to make the separation with any certainty.
I offered some remarks upon them in Disc. vi. on the Christ. Rel. and I shall here add a few more.
They have a chapter Περί Χαρισμάτων, in which they. observe, that the word Xágoua means either the gift of working miracles, or the gift of spiritual and Christian graces; that the first is conferred on some, the second on all true Christians; and that miraculous powers are not so much for the use of Christians, as for the sake and for the conviction of unbelievers. viii. 1.
Baptism also and the Lord's Supper are sometimes called Xapíopata. Ignatius Saw Polycarp at Smyrna -και πνευματικών αυτώ κοινωνήσας xageopátw-~' et quum eum spiritualium charismatum par.
ticipem fecisset – 'Martyr. Ignat. S iii
. IIvEvpatina xapiou.ca Ta videntur hic significare symbola eucharistica. Certe baptisma non raro apud veteres vocatur χάρισμα. Clericus.
In the form for the ordination of presbyters, they pray that the presbyter may have the gift of healing conferred upon hinm-όπως πλησθείς ενεργημάτων ιατικών, και λόγου διδακτικού, εν πραότητι παιδεύη σου τον λαόν- ut repletus operationibus vim sanandi habentibus, ac sermone ad docendum apto, erudiat cum mansuetudine populum tuum.' viji. 16. Taken, I suppose, from 1 Cor. xii. 9. õraco de χαρίσματα ιαμάτων.
They introduce the apostles, one or all, sometimes speak. ing and commanding in their own names, and sometimes citing the New Testament as we now cite it. This single observation is sufficient to overset the book. “Jesus Christ,' say they, “began to do before he began to teach, WS TECŨ λέγει ο Λουκάς Ων ήρξατο ο Ιησούς ποιείν και διδάσκειν. “This is wanting in one of the MSS.' says Le Clerc, and seems to have been struck out by some critic, who thought it wrong to introduce the apostles citing the testimony of Luke. But it signified nothing to strike out one passage whilst five hundred of the same kind were left. Besides, it was all in vain, because, though the citation here were taken away, the allusion to it would remain. ii. 6.
They repeat it over and over, lest Christians should chance to forget it, that a bishop is a god, a god upon earth, and a king, and infinitely superior to a king, and ruling over rulers and kings. They command Christians to give him tribute as to a king, and to reverence him as a god, and to pay him tithes and first-fruits, according, say they, to God's command; and they strictly forbid Christians to make any inquiry, and to take any notice, whether he disposes of these revenues well or ill, ii. 11. 26. 35. et passim : which seems to have been drawn up at a time when there were Christian emperors.
Here is strange language indeed! even far beyond all eminencies and holinesses.
Le Clerc had a suspicion that Leontius, an Arian bishop of the fourth century, was the inventor or the interpolator of the Constitutions. Le Clerc received the hint from Thomas Bruno, who was a learned and ingenious man,
and a canon of Windsor in the days of Charles II. The learned Isaac Vossius, who also was canon of Windsor, dedicated to him his book De Sibyllinis Oraculis. Bruno conjectured that Leontius might be the collector of the greater part of the Apostolical Canons, and says many things in favour of Leontius. Speaking of the religious controversies in the time of Constantius, which were not very edifying, he says: ‘Et certe præter unum Athanasium inter orthodoxos, et Leontium inter Arianos, vix ullos repe. rias homines quadratos, dictis, factis, formulis suis Fidei stantes; sed potius versipelles, chamæleontes, nunc in hanc nunc in illam partem paratos, prout ferebat animus TÔ Tra• paduvao Tevóvrwv apud imperatorem ; qui vel eunuchos imperatorios opibus ecclesiæ et nummis, vel mulierculas y yuvainwvítido sermonum lenociniis et blanditiis pelliciebant in partes suas, omniaque pro libitu suo agebant, ferebant, cæteris majore ex parte, more pecudum, non qua eundum erat, sed qua ibatur, prospicientibus,' &c. Judic. de Canon. in the second volume of the Patres Apostolici.
It is certain that Leontius carried his head high enough. He reprimanded the emperor Constantius for meddling in ecclesiastical affairs; and sent word to the empress Eusebia, who is said to have been haughty, that he would not com. ply with her request, and pay her a visit, unless she would promise to bow down before him and receive his blessing, and then to stand up, whilst he sat, till he should give her leave to sit down ; which put the lady into a violent rage. See Tillemont Hist. des Emp. iii. 381. or Le Clerc Dissert. de Constit. in the Patr. Apost.
I know not whether Leontius learned from the Jews to take this state upon him. Their rabbins say that the highpriest never went to court but when he had a mind, and that then he sat before the king, and the king stood up
in his presence. See Basnage Hist. des Juifs, i. 4.
It is, I believe, labour lost to inquire who the compiler was: we can only say of this pretended Clemens, that he was long-lived ; and if any one should ever compile a book De Macrobiis, or De Incredibilibus, like those of Phlegon and Palæphatus, he ought to take notice of our author, for he flourished in the first, second, third, and fourth centuries. It is no wonder, therefore, if his memory failed him some
times, and if he fell into some small mistakes. But there have been two men, since the Christian æra, who in length of days greatly surpassed him : Josephus Ben Gorion, who, according to his own chronology, lived to be a thousand years old ; and the Wandering Jew, who was seen by an Armenian bishop five hundred years ago, and is supposed to be still alive, and pursuing his travels.
The Constitutions confirm many frivolous precepts by texts of Scripture, which in these critical days would be thought inconclusive. For example: 'A vintner's money must not be accepted by the bishop.' Why? Because Isaias, i. 22. according to the LXX, says, “Thy vintners mix wine with water.' iv. 6. But it would be endless to produce their misinterpreted and misapplied citations of Scripture, both canonical and apocryphal.
The antiquity of Solomon's Song is sufficiently established by the Hebrew original, and by the version of the LXX; and it is mentioned in the seventy-sixth apostolical
It has been observed, that it is never cited in the New Testament. It is mentioned as a book of the Old
Testament by Melito, in Eusebius E. H. iv. 26. and Hippolytus and Origen wrote commentaries upon it: whether any Christian before them has cited it I know not. A writer, whom I need not mention, is for uncanonizing it: but there is nothing new under the sun; Theodorus Mopsuestenus was of the same mind, who lived in the fourth and fifth centuries, and was a learned bishop, a bold critic, and an enemy to allegorical interpretations. Leontius of Jerusalem finds great fault with him, and says, “Imo et sanctorum sanctissimum Canticum canticorum ab omnibus divinarum rerum peritis et ab omnibus ecclesiis cuncti orbis notum, et a Judæis inimicis crucis Christi in admiratione habitum, libidinose pro sựå et mente et linguâ meretricia interpretans, sua supra modum incredibili audaciâ ex libris sacris abscidit.' It seems, Theodorus took the spouse in that book to be one of Solomon's queens. See Fabricius Bibl. Gr. ix. 159.
This Theodorus and Origen are looked upon as the fathers of a doctrine which, in the fifth century, was called Pelagianism, or Semi-pelagianism. Cardinal Noris charges them with it in his Historia Pelagiana ; and I verily believe that he does them no great wrong, and that they had notions
entirely different from those of Augustin and of Jansenius
, about predestination; and that the arguments of the bishop of Hippo, or of the bishop of Ypres, would have converted neither the one nor the other.
The Anti-Jansenists of the church of Rome condemn the predestinarian doctrines of Luther, and Calvin, and Jansenius, but excuse Augustin, and pretend to agree with this Latin father, whilst they plainly reject his notions. They are not so ingenuous as the inonk, who being pressed with an argument taken from St. Paul, replied, that "St. Paul might as well have refrained from saying some things which smelt of the faggot.
Chardin tells us, that the sublimest and best esteemed poetry among the Persians is that which sets out religious subjects in the phrase of libertines. Whether this be applicable to Solomon's Song, I will not take upon me to determine. There are also many passages in the Old, and some in the New Testament, where things spiritual are couched under phrases, which the reserved modesty of modern language will hardly permit us to illustrate.
The Constitutions, however, twice allude to Solomon's Song; and they seem to have borrowed the allusions from the larger Epistles of Ignatius.
Heretics, say they, are αλωπέκων μερίδες και χαμαιζήawy a une córwy d Davrtal vulpium partes, et vinearum humiliorum vastatores. vi. 13.
And again : την εκκλησίαν Θεού διαφθείροντες, ως αλώπεH55 peregoi cutremüveo qui ecclesiam Dei devastant, sicut parvæ vulpes vineam. vi. 18.
Ignatius, Epist. Interpol. ad Philad. iïi. fotiv alumně, φθορευς αμπελώνος Χριστου: “ est vulpes corruptrix vines Christi.'
Cantic. i. 15. Πιάσατε ημίν αλώπειας μικρούς αβανί(Oures ciutancūras. • Take us the little foxes that spoil the vines.'
So, according to the Constitutions and the interpolated Ignatius, the heretics are the little foxes who spoil the vineyards.' I blame not the allusion ; it is pretty enough, and better than the remark of a commentator, whom I will not name, who explaining 1 Kings x. 22. · Once in three years came the navy of Tharshish, bringing gold and silver
, ivory, apes, and peacocks,' says, that by the apes we are to