Page images
PDF
EPUB

presided. It resulted in the deposition and banishment of Arius, and the adoption of the “ Nicene Creed;" to which all were commanded to subscribe, upon pain of banishment. During its session, the different bishops began to complain to the emperor of each other, and to vindicate themselves. He listened for a while to their mutual recriminations, which were reduced to writing. At length, growing impatient, he threw all their billets into the fire ; saying, it did not belong to him to decide the differences of Christian bishops; which must be de.. ferred till the day of judgment. The council determined, that Easter should be kept at the same time; throughout the church; thạt celibacy was a virtue ; that new converts should not be introduced to orders; and that a certain course of penitence should be enjoined on the lapsed, &c.

The Council of Constantinople" was summoned, in the year 383, by Theodosius the Great; which deCreed that the “ Nicene Creed” should be the standard of orthodoxy, and all heresies condemned. Two edicts were issued against these ; the one, prohibiting holding any assemblies; the other, by the emperor, prohibiting the worshipping any inanimate idol, by the sacrifice of any animal, upon pain of death. This was a deathblow to paganism; for it soon began to fall, and, in twenty-eight years after the death of Theodosius, not a vestige of it could be found.

In 787, the question concerning the worship of images greatly agitated the Catholic church ; and a couneil was assembled at Nice, under the empress Frene, andi

This council established the worship of images, and anathematized all who should refuse. The, language employed in this anathema was as follows :

Long live Constantine, and his mother ;-damnation: to all heretics ;-damnation on the council that roared against venerable images ;-the Holy Trinity hath, deposed them.”

The “ Council of Clermont” was held in 1095, Here, the first crusade was determined upon; also the name of pope was first given to the head of the church,

her son.

exclusive of the bishops, who had occasionally assumed that title. The "

Council of Constance” convened in 1414; and was composed of several European princes, or their deputies, with the emperor of Germany at their head; twenty archbishops; one hundred and fifty bishops; one hundred and fifty other dignitaries; and two hundred doctors; with the pope at their head. At this time, there were three persons who claimed the papal chair ; between whom a violent contest was carried on. But the council deposed them all, and placed one Martin in the chair, as the legal head of the church.

The objeet of this council was, to put an end to the papal schism ; which was finally effected, after it had existed about forty years. Before this body, Huss and Jerome of Prague were cited to appear, condemned, and afterwards burnt alive. The writings of John Wickliffe, also, were here condemned.

The Council of Trent” was assembled in 1545, by Paul III., and was continued by twenty-five sessions, for eighteen years, under Julius III. and Pius IV., whose object was, to correct, illustrate, and fix, with perspicuity, the doctrines of the church, to restore the vigour of its discipline, and to reform the lives of its ministers. The decrees of this council, together with the creed of Pope Pius IV., contain a summary of the doctrines of the Romish church.

24. CONVERSION OF JUSTIN MARTYR. This great man was born at Neapolis, in Samaria anciently called Sichem. His father was a Gentile (probably one of the Greeks belonging to the colony transplanted thither), who gave his son a philosophical education. In his youth he travelled for the improvement of his understanding; and Alexandria afforded him all the entertainment which an inquisitive mind could derive from the fashionable studies. The Stcica appeared to him, at first, the masters of happiness. He gave himself up to one of this sect, till he found he

he:

could learn nothing from him of the nature of God. It is remarkable (as he tells us himself), that his tutor told him that this was a knowledge by no means necessary; which much illustrates the views of Dr. Warburton concerning these ancient philosophers that they were atheists in reality. He next betook himself to a Peripatetic, whose anxious desire of settling the price of instruction convinced Justin that truth did not dwell with him. A Pythagorean next engaged his attention, who, requiring of him the previous knowledge of music, astronomy, and geometry, dismissed him for the present, when he understood he was unfurnished with those studies. In much solicitude, he applied himself to a Platonic philosopher, with a more plausible appearance of success than from any of the foregoing. He now gave himself to retirement. As he was walking near the sea, he was met by an aged person, of a venerable appearance, whom he beheld with much attention. 6. Do you know me?" says when he answered in the negative, he asked why he surveyed him with so much attention ? “ I wondered," says he, "to find any person here.” The stranger observed, that he was waiting for some domestics. what brought you here?” says he. Justin professed his love of private meditation; the other hinted at the absurdity of mere speculation abstracted from practice; which gave occasion to Justin to express his ardent desire of knowing God, and to expatiate on the praise of philosophy. The stranger, by degrees, endeavoured to cure him of his ignorant admiration of Plato and Pythagoras, and to point out to him the writings of the Hebrew. prophets, as being much more ancient than any of those called philosophers; and led him to some view of Christianity in its nature and its evidences, adding, “ Above all things, pray that the gates of light may be opened unto thee; for they are not discernible, nor to be understood hy all, except God and his Christ give to a man to understand.” The man having spoken these things, and much more, “left me (says Justin), directing me to pursue these things, and ì saw him no

6. But

more. Immediately a fire was kindled in my soul, and I had a strong affection for the prophets, and those men who are the friends of Christ ; and weighing within myself his words, I found this to be the only sure philosophy.” We have no more particulars of the exercises of his soul in religion. His conversion took place from hence, sometime in the reign of Adrian. But he has shown us enough to make it evident, that conversion was then looked on as an inward spiritual work upon the soul, and that he had the substance of the same work of grace which the Spirit operates at this day on real Christians.-Milner's Church Historya

25. PELAGIANS. ABOUT the end of the fourth century, there appeared a sect called Pelagians. They maintained the following doctrines :-1. That Adam was by nature mortal, and, whether he had sinned or not, would have died ; 2. That the consequences of Adam's sin were confined to his own person ; 3. That newborn infants are in the same situation with Adam before the fall; 4. That the law qualified men for the kingdom of heaven, and was founded upon equal promises with the gospel ; 5. That the general resurrection of the dead does not follow in virtue of our Saviour's resurrection ; 6. That the grace of God is given accordingto our merits; 7. That this grace is not granted for the performance of every moral act, the liberty of the will and information in points of duty being sufficient.

'I'he founder of this sect was one Pelagius, a native of Great Britain. He was educated in the monastery of Banchor, in Wales, of which he became a monk, and afterwards an abbot. In the early part of his life he went over to France, and thence to Rome, where he and his friend Celestius propagated their opinions, though in a private manner. Upon the approach of the Goths, A. D. 410, they retired from Rome, and went thence into Sicily, and afterwards into Africa, where they published their doctrines with more free

ast.

It was

dom. From Africa, Pelagius passed into Palestine, while Celestius remained at Carthage, with a view to preferment, desiring to be admitted among the presbyters of that city. But the discovery of his opinions having blasted all his hopes, and his errors being condemned in a council held at Carthage, A. D. 412, he departed from that city, and went into the from this time that Augustine, the famous bishop of Hippo, began to attack the tenets of Pelagius and Celestius, in his learned and elegant writings; and to him, indeed, is principally due the glory of having suppressed this sect in its very birth.

Things went more smoothly with Pelagius in the east, where he enjoyed the protection and favour of John, bishop of Jerusalem, whose attachment to the sentiments of Origen led him naturally to countenance those of Pelagius, on account of the conformity that there seemed to be between these two systems.

Under the shadow of this powerful protection, Pelagius made a public profession of his opinions, and formed disciples in several places ; and though, in the year 415, he was accused by Orosius, a Spanish presbyter (whom Augustine had sent into Palestine for that purpose), before an assembly of bishops met at Jerusalem, yet he was dismissed without the least censure ; and not only so, but soon after fully acquitted of all errors by the council of Diospolis.

This controversy was brought to Rome, and referred to the decision of Zosimus, who was raised to the pontificate, A. D. 417. The new pontiff, gained over by the ambiguous and seemingly orthodox confession of faith that Celestius, who was now at Rome, had artfully drawn up, and also by the letters and protestations of Pelagius, pronounced in favour of these monks; declared the sound in the faith, and unjustly persecuted by their adversaries. The African bishops, with Augustine at their head, little affected at this declaration, continued obstinately to maintain the judgment they had pronounced in this matter, and to strengthen it by their exhortations, their letters, and their writings

« PreviousContinue »