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· Quotations might easily be multiplied from cotemporary authors, and from learned and judicious writers of later date, to shew by their testimony, that this is the true history of the Christian Church in the fourth century. I shall content myself with a few.
Gregory of Nazianzum will be allowed to be a most unexceptionable witness, both as to character, and as to the time in which he wrote ; about the middle of the fourth century.
This writer, speaking of the Emperor Julian, says, * “ It was not long before this (power of injuring “the Christians) was afforded him against us, by " the abounding wickedness of the many, and by “the prosperity of the Christians, verging, as one “may say, from the highest pitch to a contrary “change, and the power, and the honour, and the “ plenty, by which we were become insolent.” Then, after asserting the danger of prosperity, and supporting his assertion by quotations from Scripture, he continues; “ For having been exalted when we were “meek and moderate, and by degrees advanced, so “as to arrive, under the Divine conduct, to so great " a figure and multitude, when we were fed up we “ kicked, and when we were enlarged and set at liberty "we were reduced and narrowed : and that glory and "power, which we had acquired in persecutions and " afflictions, we lost in prosperity.” Jerome wrote at the close of this century, and at the beginning of the next. This learned and able Father, speaking of the Christian Church, says, “ After it came to the Chris“ tian emperors, in power indeed and in riches it " became greater, but in virtues less *:" These ancient . cotemporary testimonies are far superior in credibility to those of Eusebius and Lactantius, quoted by Bishop Newton, to shew the beata tranquillitas, the rare felicity, of the Church, from the time the emperors became Christian. And this, not from the superior veracity or judgment of the writers, but because Eusebius and Lactantius lived at the time when the change was taking place, and seeing the Church delivered from persecution, and supported by the supreme power, they naturally promised to themselves and their successors the most flourishing prosperity. But Gregory and Jerome lived a generation or two later, and had thereby the opportunity of seeing the actual effects of these measures, which proved highly detrimental to the true prosperity of the Church, and are acknowledged to be so by all our judicious writers on Ecclesiastical History.
* Ου σολν το εν μεσω, και ταυτην διδωσιν αυτω καθ' ημων, η πληθυνθεισα των πολλων ανομια, και η επ' ακρων, ώς αν ειποι τις, Χριστιανων ευεξια την tværtian Intern Metabonny, sau ý troll, xas ý thun, xa ó xogos, Si'wv ilgre σαμεν. Ημεις γουν υψωθεντις, οτε ημεν επιεικεις τε και μετριοι, και κατα μικρον αυξηθεντις ως υς τoδε το σχημα και πληθος συν χειραγωγια Θεα σροέλθειν, ηνικα shefar nuev, toxigthoeue, xaud hvona #Tha Tur musy OTEVOXWpr Omules xar ým tv τους διωγμους και ταις θλιψισι συνελεξαμεθα δοξαν και δυναμιν, ταυτην εν σρατToplas ratiausauer. Orat. iii. p. 62, edit. Morelli.
The learned Dr. Jortin seems to have had this passage of Jerome in mind, when, introducing his remarks on the ecclesiastical history of the times of Constantine, he mentions his subject in these words ;' “ The Church of Christ increasing in splendour, and “ decreasing in virtue t.” And to these times of
* Scribere enim disposui, ab adventu Salvatoris usque ad nostram ætatem; id est, ab apostolis usque ad nostri temporis fæcem ; quomodo, et per quos, Christi Ecclesia nata sit, et adulta persecutionibus creverit, martyriis coronata sit; et postquam ad Christianos principes venit, potentiâ quidem et divitiis major, sed virtutibus minor facta sit. Hieron. de Vitâ Malchi; tom. i. p. 116, edit. Basil. # Dedication to vol. iii.
Constantine, he justly attributes the rise of those two most pernicious maxims in the Church; Ist, that her interests may be laudably served by deceit and lying; and 2dly, that heretics are to be punished with civil penalties, and corporal punishments. By such steps, not Christianity, but Antichristianity was advanced. " The number of immoral and un" worthy Christians,” continues this author, " began so. “ to increase, that the examples of real piety and vir" tue became extremely rare.”
Spanheim's observations on this part of ecclesiastical history are to the same effect: “Luxus glisa“cens in ecclesiam cum opibus, dignitatibus, am"bitione, superbiâ clericorum, et requie à persecu" tionibus, sub Christianis jam principibus, unde “morum, corruptio; &c * "
Mosheim, having produced some strong facts, as specimens of the degenerate state of Christianity in this century, adds; “ the discerning reader will easily "perceive what detriment the church received from “the peace and prosperity procured by Constantinet." Joseph Mede, speaking of this century, says; “ Alas! “ now began the esegou nespor, or latter times ; this was " the fatal time, and thus was the Christian apostacy “ to be ushered in: if they had known this, it would “ have turned their joyous shoutings and triumphs “ into mourning ."--"Alas! (says an eloquent and “ learned writer of our own times) from the very “æra of the security, prosperity, and splendour of “ the Christian Church, we must date the decay " of the true spirit of Christianity! Honour, wealth, " and power, soon excited pride, avarice, ambition :
Introduct. ad Hist. Nov. Test. tom. I. p. 373. + Eccl. Hist. cent. iv. part ii. e. 3. Works, p. 680. 2 2
" and the contests for these worldly advantages were “ but too often carried on with the greatest ani"mosity, under pretence of contending for the “faith.”
The six first seals having been now opened, and their contents exposed, and appearing to contain an unity within themselves; before we proceed to new matter, let us review them. They contain, according to this our interpretation, a short, rapid, and general sketch of the progress of Christianity, from its establishment to the end of time; from the first, to the final, coming of our Lord. (1.) We see this Religion setting forth in purity, with primitive piety and charity, in which array we are assured it shall prosper, both at its first outset, and at the last. But between 'these two periods, of commencement, and of final victory and prosperity, there are intermediate ages : and in the progress of the Church through these, the form of Christianity changes; she is no longer the same; for, (..) a fire-coloured hue succeeds to white. Unchristian animosities and contentions, then becoming general, proceed even to mutual bloodshed and slaughter. (3.) The form changes again, and for the worse. Under the cover of dark ignorance and superstition, the agents of the enemy fix a yoke of unauthorized observances on the necks of the disciples, and thereby make the passage easy for (4.) another and still more fatal change, when true Religion is so completely banished from that which bears the name of the Christian Church, that they, who continue to practise it in its purity, become objects of hatred and of persecution
• Bishop Lowth's Visitation Sermon, 1758.
to the powers ruling under the Christian name. (5.) Then comes the cry of the Martyrs, bursting forth from this persecution, and continuing through a long period. (6.) But the day of Divine vengeance, although delayed, will come; when they, who have the inark of true Christian faith and purity, shall be saved triumphantly from the never-ending calamities which shall overwhelm their enemies, the enemies of Christ.
Such appears to be this general outline of the Christian history. Many important intervals remain yet to be filled up, under the seventh seal, which will be found to contain all the prophecies remaining; and, by tracing the history over again, to supply many events which were only touched upon before. This method of Divine prediction, presenting, at first, a general sketch or outline, and afterwards a more complete and finished colouring of events, is not peculiar. to this prophetical book. It is the just observation of Sir Isaac Newton, that “the Prophecies of Daniel are “all of them related to each other;" and that “every “ following prophecy adds something new to the “ former *." We may add to this observation, that the same empires in Daniel are represented by various types and symbols. The four parts of the Image, and the four Beasts, are varied symbols of the same Empires. The Bear and the He-Goat, in different visions, represent the same original: and so do the Ram and the Leopard. We are not therefore to be surprised, when we find the same history of the Church beginning anew, and appearing under other, yet corresponding types; thus filling up the outlines which had been traced before.
* On Daniel, Part I. c. iii.