תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

pressed the bishop of Rome with emoluments and honours, according as his avarice or love of power suggest. ed. The Christian system had been heretofore taught in that native beauty, and perfect simplicity, in which it was originally promulged by Christ and his apostles. But few disputes about vain subtelties or researches into the hidden things of God, had began to disgrace the real Church of Christ, as her severe discipline never suffered Heretics and Schismatics to continue in communion with the Catholic and Apostolic Church.

But it must here be remarked, for the sake of historical accuracy, that in the latter end of the last century, while the man of sin was rising to his state of manhood, that offences in the church began to increase and multiply. “ No opportunity,” says Mr. Gibbon, “ could be more favourable for the display of the Pope's ambition, his deceit, and his superstition, than the unhappy state of the Christian world in the 5th century. The members of the eastern and western Churches, were divided into parties by religious disputes, the most unimportant; in consequence of which they persecuted each other with the greatest animosity and rancour. They were erroneous in the faith, and degenerate in practice.” Their cre. dulity and ignorance fully prepared them for the reception of him whose coming was after the working of Sa. tan, with all power and signs and lying wonders.* Although, as yet, they had kept from spiritual whoredom or image worship.

The Pope of Rome had began to shew his attachment 'to power and a fondness to lord it over God's heritage.

In 445 Leo obtained a rescript from Valentinian the 3d. commanding all bishops to hold and observe as a law,

* 2d Thess. ï. 9.

Qq

те

whatever it shall please the bishop of Rome to ordain and decree, and strictly enjoins the magistracy to oblige all to obey his summons.

In 451 the Popes of Rome began to exercise a usurp. ed power over the western churches. Leo sent legates to the council at Nice, (which adjourned to Chalcedon at the emperor's request,) who rising in the midst of the assembly, said, “ we have here an order from the most blessed and apostolic Pope of the city of Rome, who is the head of all the Churches, ordering that Dioscorus, bishop of Alexandria, shall not be allowed to sit in this council.”

Dioscorus was prosecuted in this council, and memorials against him were addressed and directed to Leo the most holy, blessed, and universal patriarch of the great city of Rome, and to the holy and occumenical council of Chalcedon. This title of universal patriarch was then taken notice of. The sentence of this council was pronounced in Leo's name, though not present or one of the council. “Leo, archbishop of the great and ancient city of Rome, by us and the present synod, with the authority of St. Peter,” &c.

In 496 the Pope thought his powers so complete that he might venture to assert his claim as matter of right. He therefore, by his own authority, enacted “that it was not to any councils, or the decrees of any, that the holy Roman Catholicand Apostolic Church owed her primacy; but to the words of our Saviour, saying in the Gospel, Thou art Peter, &c. thereby building the Church upon him as upon a rock that nothing could shake. That the Roman Church, not having spot or wrinkle, was consecrated and exalted above all other Churches, by the presence as well as the death, martyrdom, and glorious

triumph of the two chief apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul, who suffered at Rome under Nero,” &c. &c. *

From this time the power of the Pope was established.

In 502, Symmachus, in an apology he wrote to the em. peror of the east, treats him with the utmost contempt. He tells him that the successor of St. Peter is, at least, as great as an emperor. He compares the episcopal with the imperial dignity, and concludes that a bishop is as much above an emperor, as heavenly things, which the bishops dispense, are above all the trash of the earth which are disposed of by emperors.

In 525 king Theodoric sent Leo to the emperor at Constantinople on an embassy. The patriarch of that city received him with great honour and respect, and in. vited him to perform divine service in the great Church with him. Leo would not accept the invitation, nor even see the patriarch, till he agreed, not only to yield him the first place but to seat him in a kind of throne above the patriarch. The only reason assigned was, quia Romanus esset Pontifex, because he was bishop of Rome.

The general doctrines, hitherto insisted on, had been confined to the plain and common capacities of the hear. ers. The teachers of the Christian system, had been, generally speaking, and with some exceptions, simple and illiterate men as to profane learning, but who having the love of God shed abroad in their hearts, were thoroughly acquainted with the principles and doctrines of the Gospel. But in this century the vices of the clergy (according to the best historians) began to break out, and in so fertile a soil, soon grew to a size unknown before among the professors of the Gospel.

The witnesses now indeed began, in a woful manner, to prophesy literally in sackloth. The luxury, arro

• 2 Bow. Hist. of Popes, 233.

mero

[ocr errors]

gance, avarice, and voluptuousness of the clergy, especially the dignified orders, are announced by all the historians of credit, who record the manners and practices of this century. · The bishops increased the number of their dependants, by numerous creations of inferior officers, who lessened their cares in the diocesses, and left them chiefly the labour of establishing pompous courts, and inviting nu. merous sycophants and flatterers to pay their homage to those representatives of St. Peter and the other apostles, who considered their main business to be in direct contradiction to their divine master's injunctions, the lording it over God's heritage.

In the year 529 Justinian issued the famous edict con. cerning his faith, wherein he threatens all' who should dissent from it, that they should have no manner of in dulgence, and that they should be adjudged as heretics. He denominates the Church of Rome, the head of all Churches, and decrees a rule of faith for the bishops of the east.

The Papal throne now advanced itself to all the power and grandeur of the Pontifex Maximus of the Romans, and by degrees assumed even the temporal authority of a prince. Nay it was not long before he began to exercise a despotic power even over the princes of the earth, whom, in the most tyrannical and insolent manner, he claimed a right to depose and even murder at his pleasure, and in some instances obliged the most powerful monarchs to receive their crowns at his hands. Thus he exalted himself above all that was called God by the Gentiles or worshipped. The doctrine of his infallibility, claimed by him, shews that he was meant by “ sitting as God in the temple of God," and granting indulgences afterwards

Sassu

W

OT

established by him, with the forgiving of sins, “plainly points out who was meant by shewing himself that he is God,” and “by his coming after the working of Satan, with power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceiveableness of unrighteousness in them who perish,” was fulfilled in the pious frauds and impostors, set up and encouraged by him. • To such an extravagant pitch of grandeur and eccle

siastical domination, did even the common bishops, those deserters from the simplicity of the Gospel, carry their deviations, after the example of their master and head, within half a century from the commencement of their degeneracy, that it is well reported, on good authority, that Martin, bishop of Tours, was so audacious as to maintain at a public entertainment, that the emperor was inferior, in dignity, to a presbyter of his Church.

Among the apostolic canons, as they are called, now pretty well ascertained to have been written about the fifth century, is the following declaration : “By how much therefore the soul is more valuable than the body, so much the priesthood excels the kingdom ; therefore, you ought to love the bishop as a father, fear him as a king, and honour him as a lord. For if he who rises up against kings is worthy of punishment, how much more he who rises up against the priests. Why should you not then esteem the dispensers of the word as prophets, and reverence them as Gods. You ought therefore, bre, thren, to bring your sacrifice and offerings to the bishop, as to your high priest, either by yourselves or your deacons. Yet thou shalt not call thy bishop to account, nor observe his administration or distribution-how he does it, or when, or to whom, or where, nor whether he does it well or ill. Let the laity, therefore, show due honour

« הקודםהמשך »