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speedily as possible, spread carnage and conflagration through the city, and were pacified only by the destruction of ten thousand lives.*
The imperial power at length established through all Egypt the authority of this council of Chalcedon; but the massacre of more than a hundred thousand Egyptians, on different occasions, for having refused to acknowledge the council, had planted in the hearts of the whole population an implacable hatred against the emperors. A part of those who were hostile to the council withdrew to Upper Egypt, others quitted altogether the dominions of the empire, and passed over to Africa and among the Arabs, where all religions were tolerated.†
We have already observed, that under the reign of the empress Irene, the worship of images was re-established and confirmed by the second council of Nice. Leo the Armenian, Michael the stammerer, and Theophilus neglected nothing to effect its abolition; and this opposition caused farther disturbance in the empire of Constantinople, till the reign of the empress Theodora, who gave the force of law to the second council of Nice, extinguished the party of Iconoclasts, or imagebreakers, and exerted the utmost extent of her authority against the Manicheans. She dispatched orders throughout the empire to seek for them everywhere, and put all those to death who would not recant. More than a hundred thousand perished by different modes of execution. Four thousand, who escaped from this severe scrutiny and extensive punishment, took refuge among the Saracens, united their own strength with theirs, ravaged the territories of the empire, and erected fortresses in which the Manicheans, who had remained concealed through terror of capital punishment, found an asylum, and constituted a hostile force, formidable from their numbers, and from their burning hatred both of the emperors and catholics.
Evagras-Life of Theodosius, book iii. chap. 33 and 44. + History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria, p. 164. See the article INQUISITION.
They frequently inflicted on the territories of the empire dread and devastation, and cut to pieces its disciplined armies.*
We abridge the details of these dreadful massacres: those of Ireland, those of the valleys of Piedmont, those which we shall speak of under the article INQUISITION, and, lastly, the massacre of St. Barthomew, displayed in the west the same spirit of intolerance, against which nothing more pertinent and sensible has been written than what we find in the works of Salvian.
The following is the language employed respecting the followers of one of the principal heresies by this excellent priest of Marseilles, who was surnamed the master of bishops, who deplored with bitterness the violence and vices of his age, and who was called the Jeremiah of the fifth century. "The Arians," says he, are heretics; but they do not know it; they are heretics among us, but they are not so among themselves; for they consider themselves so perfectly and completely catholic, that they treat us as heretics. We are convinced that they entertain an opinion injurious to the divine generation, inasmuch as they say that the son is less than the father. They, on the other hand, think that we hold an opinion injurious to the father because we regard the father and the son equal. The truth is with us, but they consider it as favouring them. We give to God the honour which is due to him, but they, according to their peculiar way of thinking, maintain that they do the same. They do not acquit themselves of their duty; but in the very point where they fail in doing so, they make the greatest duty of religion consist. They are impious, but even in being so they consider themselves as following, and as practising, genuine piety. They are then mistaken, but from a principle of love to God; and, although they have not the true faith, they regard that which they have actually embraced as the perfect love of God. "The sovereign judge of the universe alone knows
* Dupin-Bibliotheca. Ninth century.
how they will be punished for their errors in the day of judgment. In the meantime he patiently bears with them, because he sees, that if they are in error, they err from pure motives of piety."
Hermes or Ermes, Mercury Trismegistus, or Thaut, Taut, or Thot.
WE neglect reading the ancient book of Mercury Trismegistus, and we are not wrong in so doing. To philosophers it has appeared a sublime piece of jargon, and it is perhaps for this reason that they believed it the work of a great Platonist.
Nevertheless, in this theological chaos, how many things there are to astonish and subdue the human mind! God, whose triple essence is wisdom, power, and bounty; God, forming the world by his thought, his word; God creating subaltern gods; God commanding these gods to direct the celestial orbs, and to preside over the world; the sun; the son of God; man his image in thought; light, his principal work a divine essence; all these grand and lively images dazzle a subdued imagination.
It remains to be known whether this work, as much celebrated as little read, was the work of a Greek or of an Egyptian. St. Augustin hesitates not in believing that it is the work of an Egyptian, who pretended to be descended from the ancient Mercury, from the ancient Thaut, the first legislator of Egypt. It is true that St. Augustin knew no more of the Egyptian than of the Greek; but in his time it was necessary that we should not doubt that Hermes, from whom we received theology, was an Egyptian sage, probably anterior to the time of Alexander, and one of the priests whom Plato consulted.
It has always appeared to me, that the theology of Plato in nothing resembled that of other Greeks, with the exception of Timeus, who had travelled in Egypt, as well as Pythagoras.
The Hermes Trismegistus that we possess, is written
This is a
in barbarous Greek, and in a foreign idiom. proof that it is a translation in which the words have been followed more than the sense.
Joseph Scaliger, who assisted the lord of Candale, bishop of Aire, to translate the Hermes, or Mercury Trismegistus, doubts not that the original was Egyptian. Add to these reasons, that it is not very probable that a Greek would have addressed himself so often to Thaut. It is not natural for us to address ourselves to strangers with so much warm-heartedness; at least we see no example of it in antiquity.
The Egyptian Esculapius, who is made to speak in this book, and who is perhaps the author of it, wrote to Ammon, king of Egypt:-"Take great care how you suffer the Greeks to translate the books of our Mercury, our Thaut, because they would disfigure them." Certainly a Greek would not have spoken thus; there is therefore every appearance of this book being Egyptian.
There is another reflection to be made, which is, that the systems of Hermes and Plato were equally formed to extend themselves through all the Jewish schools, from the time of the Ptolemies. This doctrine made great progress in them; you see it completely displayed by the Jew Philo, a learned man after the manner of those times.
He copies entire passages from Mercury Trismegistus, in his chapter on the formation of the world. "Firstly," says he, "God made the world intelligible the heavens incorporeal, and the earth invisible; he afterwards created the incorporeal essence of water and spirit; and finally, the essence of incorporeal light, the origin of the sun, and of the stars."
Such is the pure doctrine of Hermes. He adds, that the word, or invisible and intellectual thought, is the image of God. Here is the creation of the world by the word, by thought, by the logos, very strongly expressed.
Afterwards follows the doctrine of Numbers, which descended from the Egyptians to the Jews. He calls reason the relation of God. The number of seven is
the accomplishment of all things, "which is the reason," says he, "that the lyre has only seven strings."
In a word, Philo possessed all the philosophy of his
We are therefore deceived, when we believe that the Jews, under the reign of Herod, were plunged in the same state of ignorance in which they were previously immersed. It is evident that St. Paul was well informed. It is only necessary to read the first chapter of St. John, which is so different from those of the others, to perceive that the author wrote precisely like Hermes and Plato. "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made. In him was life; and the life was the light of man."
It is thus that St. Paul says," that God made the worlds by his Son."*
In the time of the apostles were seen whole societies of christians who were only too learned and thence substituted a fantastic philosophy for simplicity of faith. The Simons, Menanders, and Cerinthuses, taught precisely the doctrines of Hermes. Their Eons were only the subaltern gods, created by the great Being. All the first christians, therefore, were not ignorant men, as it always has been asserted; since there were several of them who abused their literature: even in the Acts, the governor Festus says to St. Paul, "Paul thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad."
Cerinthus dogmatised in the time of St. John the evangelist. His errors were of a profound, refined, and metaphysical cast. The faults which he remarked in the construction of the world made him think,—at least so says Dr. Dupin,-that it was not the sovereign God who created it, but a virtue inferior to this first principle, which had not the knowledge of the sovereign God. This was wishing to correct even the system of
* Epistle to the Hebrews, chap. i., ii.