« AnteriorContinua »
existence of different systems of faith, while all should be united in acknowledging him for their chief and master. All the varying sects, a long while tolerated by the emperors, or concealed from their observation, had no power to persecute and proscribe each other, as they were all equally subject to the Roman magistrates. They possessed only the power of disputing with each other. When the magistrates prosecuted. them, they all claimed the rights of nature. They said: Permit us to worship God in peace; do not deprive us of the liberty you allow to the Jews.
All the different sects existing at present may hold the same language to those who oppress them. They may say to the nations who have granted privileges to the Jews: Treat us as you treat these sons of Jacob: let us, like them, worship God according to the dictates of conscience. Our opinion is not more injurious to your state or realm than Judaism. You tolerate the enemies of Jesus Christ; tolerate us, therefore, who adore Jesus Christ, and differ from yourselves only upon subtle points of theology; do not deprive yourselves of the services of useful subjects. It is of consequence to you to obtain their labour and skill in your manufactures, your marine, and your agriculture, and it is of no consequence at all to you that they hold a few articles of faith different from your own. What you want is their work, and not their catechism.
Faction is a thing perfectly different. It always happens, as a matter of necessity, that a persecuted sect degenerates into a faction. The oppressed unite, and console and encourage one another. They have more industry to strengthen their party than the dominant sect has for their extermination. To crush them or be crushed by them is the inevitable alternative. Such was the case after the persecution raised in 303 by the Cæsar Galerius, during the two last years of the reign of Dioclesian. The christians, after having been favoured by Dioclesian for the long period of eighteen years, had become too numerous and wealthy to be extirpated. They joined the party of Constan
tius Chlorus: they fought for Constantine his son; and a complete revolution took place in the empire.
We may compare small things to great, when both are under the direction of the same principle or spirit. A similar revolution happened in Holland, in Scotland, and in Switzerland. When Ferdinand and Isabella expelled from Spain the Jews,-who were settled there not merely before the reigning dynasty, but before the Moors and Goths, and even the Carthaginians,the Jews would have effected a revolution in that country, if they had been as warlike as they were opulent, and if they could have come to an understanding with the Arabs.
In a word, no sect has ever changed the government of a country but when it was furnished with arms by despair. Mahomet himself would not have succeeded, had he not been expelled from Mecca and a price set upon his head.
If you are desirous, therefore, to prevent the overthrow of a state by any sect, shew it toleration. Imitate the wise conduct exhibited at the present day by Germany, England, Holland, Denmark, and Russia. There is no other policy to be adopted with respect to a new sect, than to destroy, without remorse, both leaders and followers, men, women, and children, without a single exception, or to tolerate them when they are numerous. The first method is that of a monster, the second that of a sage.
Bind to the state all the subjects of that state by their interest: let the Quaker and the Turk find their advantage in living under your laws. Religion is between God and man; civil law is between you and your people.
It is impossible not to regret the loss of a History of Heresies which Strategius wrote by order of Constantine. Ammianus Marcellinus* informs us, that the emperor, wishing to ascertain the opinions of the different
Book xv. chap. 13.
sects, and not finding any other person who could give correct ideas on the subject, imposed the office of drawing up a report or narrative upon it on that officer, who acquitted himself so well, that Constantine was desirous of his being honoured in consequence with the name of Musonianus. M. de Valois, in his notes upon Ammianus, observes that Strategius, who was appointed prefect of the east, possessed as much knowledge and eloquence, as moderation and mildness; such, at least, is the eulogium passed upon him by Libanius.
The choice of a layman by the emperor shows that an ecclesiastic at that time had not the qualities indispensible for a task so delicate. In fact, St. Augustin* remarks, that a bishop of Bresse, called Philastrius, whose work is to be found in the collection of the fathers, having collected all the heresies, even including those which existed among the Jews before the coming of Jesus Christ, reckons twenty-eight of the latter and one hundred and twenty-eight from the coming of Christ; while St. Epiphanius, comprising both together, makes the whole number but eighty. The reason assigned by St. Angustin for this difference is, that what appears heresy to the one, does not appear so to the other. Accordingly, this father tells the Manicheans," We take the greatest care not to treat you with rigour; such conduct we leave to those who know not what pains are necessary for the discovery of truth, and how difficult it is to avoid falling into errors; we leave it to those who know not with what sighs and groans even a very slight knowledge of the divine nature is alone to be acquired. For my own part, I consider it my duty to bear with you as I was borne with formerly myself, and to show you the same tolerance which I experienced when I was in error."
If however any one considers the infamous imputations, which we have noticed under the article GENEALOGY, and the abominations of which this professedly
* Letter ccxxii.
+ Letter against the Heresy of Manes, chap. 2 and 3.
indulgent and candid father accused the Manicheans in the celebration of their mysteries (as we shall see under the article ZEAL) we shall be convinced that toleration was never the virtue of the clergy. We have already seen, under the article COUNCIL, what seditions were excited by the ecclesiastics in relation to Arianism, Eusebius informs us,* that in some places the statues of Constantine were thrown down, because he wished the Arians to be tolerated; and Sozomen says,† that on the death of Eusebius of Nicomedia, when Macedonius, an Arian, contested the see of Constantinople with Paul, a catholic, the disturbance and confusion became so dreadful in the church, from which each endeavoured to expel the other, that the soldiers, thinking the people in a state of insurrection, actually charged upon them; a fierce and sanguinary conflict ensued, and more than three thousand persons were slain or suffocated. Macedonius ascended the episcopal throne, took speedy possession of all the churches, and persecuted with great cruelty the Novatians and Catholics. It was in revenge against the latter of these that he denied the divinity of the holy spirit, just as he recognised the divinity of the word, which was denied by the Arians out of mere defiance to their protector Constantius, who had deposed him.
The same historian adds,‡ that on the death of Athanasius, the Arians, supported by Valens, apprehended, bound in chains, and put to death those who remained attached to Peter, whom Athanasius had pointed out as his successor. Alexandria resembled a city taken by assault. The Arians soon possessed themselves of the churches, and the bishop, installed by them, obtained the power of banishing from Egypt all who remained attached to the Nicean creed.
We read in Socrates,§ that, after the death of Sisinnius, the church of Constantinople became again divided on the choice of a successor, and Theodosius the
*Life of Constantine, book iii. chap. 4.
+ Ibid, book iv. chap. 21.
Ibid, book vi. chap. 20.
younger placed in the patriarchal see the violent and fiery Nestorius. In his first sermon he addresses the following language to the emperor:-"Give me the land purged of heretics, and I will give you the kingdom of heaven; second me in the extermination of heretics, and I engage to furnish you with effectual assistance against the Persians." He afterwards expelled the Arians from the capital, armed the people against them, pulled down their churches, and obtained from the emperor rigorous and persecuting edicts to effect their extirpation. He employed his powerful influence subsequently in procuring the arrest, imprisonment, and even whipping the principal persons among the people, who had interrupted him in the middle of a discourse, in which he was delivering his distinguishing system of doctrine, which was soon condemned at the council of Ephesus.
Photius relates, that when the priest reached the altar, it was customary in the church of Constantinople for the people to chaunt,-"Holy God, powerful God, immortal God;" and the name given to this part of the service was "the trisagion." The priest Peter, had added-"Who hast been crucified for us, have mercy upon us." The catholics considered this addition as containing the error of the Eutychian Theopathists, who maintained that the divinity had suffered; they, however, chaunted the trisagion with the addition, to avoid irritating the emperor Anastasius, who had just deposed another Macedonius, and placed in his stead Timotheus, by whose order this addition was ordered to be chaunted. But on a particular day the monks entered the church, and, instead of the addition in question, chaunted a verse from one of the psalms: the people instantly exclaimed-" The orthodox have arrived very seasonably!" All the partisans of the council of Chalcedon chaunted, in union with the monks, the verse from the psalm; the Eutychians were offended; the service was interrupted, a battle commenced in the church; the people rushed out, obtained arms as
Bibliotheca, chap. 222.