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THE EXTERNAL HISTORY OF THE CHURCH,
Concerning the prosperous Events that happened to the Church.
The state of
I. In order to arrive at a true knowlege of the CENT. V. causes to which we are to attribute the outward state of the church, and the events which happened to it the Roman
empire. during the fifth century, we must keep in view the civil history of this period. It is, therefore, proper to observe, that, in the beginning of this century, the Roman empire was divided into two sovereignties; one of which comprehended the eastern provinces, the other those of the west. Arcadius, the emperor of the east, reigned at Constantinople; and Honorius, who governed the western provinces, chose Ravenna for the place of his residence. The latter prince, remarkable only for the sweetness of his temper and the goodness of his heart, neglected the great affairs of the empire; and, inattentive to the weighty duties of his station, held the reins of government with an unsteady hand. The Goths, taking advantage of this criminal indolence, made incursions into Italy, laid waste its fairest provinces, and sometimes carried their desolations as far as Rome, which they ravaged and plundered in the most dreadful manner. These calamities, which fell upon the western part of the empire from the Gothic depredations, were followed by others still VOL. II.
cent. v. more dreadful under the succeeding emperors. A fierce
and warlike people, issuing from Germany, overspread
These new monarchs of the west pretended to
calamities with which they were attended, were
a See, for a fuller illustration of this branch of history, the
. ad Histor. Ludovici S. p. 280.
younger distinguished himself in this pious and noble CENT. V. work, and many remarkable monuments of his zeal are still preserved ©; such as the laws which enjoined either the destruction of the heathen temples, or the dedication of them to Christ and his saints; the edicts, by which he abrogated the sacrilegious rites and ceremonies of Paganism, and removed from all offices and employments in the state such as persisted in their attachment to the absurdities of Polytheism.
This spirit of reformation appeared with less vigor in the western empire. There the feasts of Saturn and Pan, the combats of the gladiators, and other rites that were instituted in honor of the pagan deities, were celebrated with the utmost freedom and impunity; and persons of the highest rank and authority publicly professed the religion of their idolatrous ancestors.. This liberty 'was, however, from time to time, reduced within narrower limits; and all those public sports and festivals, which were more peculiarly incompatible with the genius and sanctity of the Christian religion, were every where abolished e.
III. The limits of the church continued to extend Nations conthemselves, and gained ground daily upon the idola- Christianity, trous nations, both in the eastern and western empires. In the east, the inhabitants of the mountains Libanus and Anti-Libanus, being dreadfully infested with wild beasts, implored the assistance and counsels of the famous Simeon the Stylite, of whom we shall have
c See the Theodosian Code, tom. vi. p
327. See the Saturnalia of Macrobius, lib. i.-Scipio Maffei delli Anfiteatri, lib. i. p. 56.-Pierre le Brun, Hist. Critique des Pratiques superstitieuses, tom. i. p. 237; and, above all," Montfaucon's Diss. de Moribus Tempore Theodosii M. et Arcadii, which is to be found in Latin, in the eleventh volume of the works of St. Chrysostom, and in French, in the twentieth volume of the Memoires de l'Academie des Inscriptions et des Belles Lettres, p. 197.
e Anastasius prohibited, toward the conclusion of this century, the combats with the wild beasts, and other shews. Asseman. Biblioth. Orient. Vatic. tom. i. p. 246.
CENT. V. occasion to speak hereafter. Simeon gave them for
answer, that the only effectual method of removing this calamity was, to abandon the superstitious worship of their ancestors, and substitute the Christian religion in its place. The docility of this people, joined to the extremities to which they were reduced, engaged them to follow the counsels of this holy man. They embraced Christianity, and, in consequence of their conversion, they had the pleasure of seeing their savage enemies abandon their habitations, if we may believe the writers wno affirm the truth of this prodigy. The same Simeon, by his influence and authority, introduced the Christian worship into a certain district of the Arabians : some allege, that this also was effected by a miracle, which to me appears more than doubtfulf. To these instances of the progress of the Gospel, we may add the conversion of a considerable number of Jews in the isle of Crete: finding themselves grossly deluded by the impious pretensions of an impostor, called Moses Cretensis 8, who gave himself out for the Messiah, they opened their eyes upon the truth, and spontaneously embraced the Christian religion h.
IV. The German nations, who rent in pieces the Roman empire in the west, were not all converted to
Christianity at the same time. Some of them had Christianity
The conversion of the German nations to
f Vide idem Opus, tom. i. p.
246. K & We shall give the relation of Socrates, concerning this impostor, in the
words of the learned and estimable author of the Remarks on Ecclesiastical History. “ In the time of Theo“ dosius the younger, an impostor arose, called Moses Cretensis. “ He pretended to be a second Moses, sent to deliver the Jews “ who dwelt in Crete, and promised to divide the sea, and give “ them a safe passage through it. They assembled together, “ with their wives and children, and followed him to a promon
tory. He there commanded them to cast themselves into " the sea. Many of them obeyed, and perished in the waters; “ and many were taken up and saved by fishermen. Upon this,
the deluded Jews would have torn the impostor to pieces “ but he escaped them, and was seen no more."
Jortin's Remarks, vol. iii.
h Socrates, Hist. Eccles, lib. vii. cap. xxxviii. p. 383.