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Julian Pe- country where he might happen to travel. When Christianity Asia Mir riod, 4799. began to be more extensively dispersed, the Church at Rome Valgar Era, was distinguished above all others by the number and wealth of its converts. The Bishop of Rome was soon enabled, by the munificent donations which were made to the Church, to assume greater pomp, and exercise more extensive power, than other Bishops. Many circumstances occurred to increase and establish his influence. The provinces had been accustomed to bring their civil appeals to Rome; this became the precedent for the members of the provincial Churches to appeal from their own bishops to the Bishop of Rome. A general deference was paid among the western Churches in the first centuries to the see of Rome, though its more open usurpations were repelled with contempt. When Victor, who was Bishop of Rome in the year 195, excommunicated the Churches of Asia, who refused to observe Easter in the manner which he judged to be right, Irenæus, the Metropolitan of France, reproved his presumption. In the year 250, the African Bishops peremptorily refused to submit to the mandate of the Bishop of Rome, and received again their heretical bishops. The Church of Spain also, a few years afterwards, refused submission to the Roman Pontiff, when he insisted on their restoration, after they had been deposed for offering sacrifice to idols. These facts prove the early assumption of power, and the continued ambition of the Popes in the primitive ages; and the refusal of the independant episcopal Churches to submit to their dominion.
The political divisions of Italy in the fourth century considerably increased the influence and power of the see of Rome, the ecclesiastical divisions of the Church being made conformable with those of the empire. Every province had its Metropolitan (Hallam, vol. ii. p. 21), and every vicariate its ecclesiastical primate. The Bishop of Rome presided in the latter capacity over the Roman vicariate, which comprehended southern Italy, and the three chief Mediterranean islands. But none of the ten provinces which formed this division, had any Metropolitan, so that the Popes exercised all metropolitical functions within them, such as the consecration of bishops, the convocation of synods, the ultimate decision of appeals, and many other acts of authority. These provinces were called the Roman Patriarchate, and by gradually enlarging its boundaries, and by applying the maxims of jurisdiction by which it was governed to all the western Churches, the asserted primacy was extended and strengthened over the fairest portion of the empire. Illyricum, for instance, was added to the Patriarchate of Rome, by an act of primacy, and no consecration of bishops was permitted without the sanction of the Bishop of Rome. This took place before the end of the fourth century.
Another principal circumstance which contributed to the establishment of the power of the Church of Rome, was the removal of the seat of empire from that city, to Constantinople. The political influence always attendant on the immediate presence of the Sovereign, consequently ceased; and the principal magistrate at Rome was the head of its Church. The sudden power which was thus unavoidably, though unintentionally, conferred on the Pontiff, was increased by the abandonment of Rome and of Italy, by its principal senators. To this cause of influence we must add the progress of the conversion of the northern nations, and the grant of patriarchal power to Pope Damasus, by Gratian and Valentinian, over the whole western Church, sanctioning the custom of appeals to Rome. The renewal of this edict by Valentinian the Third, still further increased the power of the Pontif. The custom of pilgrimages to
Julian Pe- the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul-the introduction of the riod, 4799. Gregorian Litany-and, more than all these, the granting the Vulgar Æra, title of Universal Bishop by Phocas, completed the worldly structure of ecclesiastical ambition, which had now usurped the name of the Church of Christ, and appeared to be the rolling stone which should become the predicted mountain, and fill the whole earth.
III. Progress and triumph of the Church of Rome.
The universal good which Christianity will eventually produce to the world, will be accomplished in that one only manner which results from our state of trial, the gradual overruling of evil. The freedom of man's actions counteracts for a time the designs of his Creator. The increasing divisions among nations, the general ignorance, the continued ambition of Rome, and the speculative philosophy which founded on words and imaginations, obscured the simplicity of the primitive Christianity. Every corruption was made permanent by the establishment of the power of Rome, by the authority of Phocas. From this period, to the time of the council of Trent, the history of Christianity in Europe presents us with little else than a detail of increasing errors in its doctrines, gradual addition to the temporal dominion of the Roman pontiffs, and continued opposition to the falsehood which abounded on the one side, and to the encroachments which prevailed on the other.
Though many superstitious practices and unscriptural opinions had debased the purity of the early faith, there can be no comparison between the state of religious error when the grant of Phocas conferred political power on the Roman Pontiff, and the extent to which the system of imposturc, deceit, and falsehood, subsequently attained, by the time when the council of Trent impressed its seal on the great charter of papal slavery. The published works of Pope Leo, who sent Augustine to England, prove that the religious faith of that day was essentially different in the most important doctrines, from the Creed which was sanctioned by the council of Trent. The parallel between the faith of the two periods has been drawn at some length by an eminent divine of the last century. I have elsewhere extracted from Bishop Stillingfleet the passage to which I refer (e). It will be seen that the doctrines of solitary masses, masses for the dead, transubstantiation, the supremacy of the pope, the equal authority of Scripture and tradition, the equal authority of the apocryphal with the canonical books of Scripture, the power of good works to deserve salvation, the confession of sins in private to the priest, communion in one kind, and the worship of images, were all condemned by Pope Leo: and were all decreed to be articles of faith, and as such to be implicitly received on pain of damnation, by the council of Trent. This remarkable fact destroys at once the truth of the assertion so generally made, that the Church of Rome has retained an unchangeable Creed. The faith of that Church is an embodied collection of true and false opinions; partly derived from misinterpreted Scripture, but principally invented in the course of the controversies and discussions which have ever prevailed in the world, and which would have escaped from the memory of mankind, with other absurdities of the age of ignorance; if they had not been preserved, and sanctioned, and enforced, by the asserted infallibility of the most fallible Church on earth. Like the ghosts, and sorcerors, and witches, and magicians, of the midnight darkness, which the morning beams of our knowledge has dispersed, all would have fled for ever, if the usurper of the throne of God had not said, let there be night, and it was, and is night. The council of Trent, with the Gorgon look of
Julian Pe- an intellectual death, has gazed on the chaos which extends Asia Minor. riod, 4799. over the ages of ignorance. Spurious decretals, useless Vulgar Era, vows, abominable doctrines, unreasonable, and idolatrous, and superstitious practices, are frozen into one solid bridge; and error and falsehood pass freely from hell to earth, to enslave, and to curse mankind.
If the absurdities to which I allude had been harmless and innocent; if falsehood could be publicly taught, and the peace and happiness of nations continue; he who opposed error, and maintained the cause of truth, might be justly condemned for disturbing the peace of society, whatever were the falsehoods which were received by the community. If the volumes of theologians only recorded the weakness of human intellect, the tale might excite contempt or pity; and the Protestant objector to falsehood be regarded with the same lofty contempt as we now entertain for its proposer and defender. But the history of Christian nations is nothing else but a detail of the consequences of the prevalence of certain religious opinions. Vice itself is only forbidden by the Deity, because it is injurious to the happiness of man. The voice of prophecy would not have stigmatized the corruptions of Rome by its stern and bitter reproach, if the falsehood which it teaches had been consistent either with the temporal or future happiness of nations. From considering the gradual success of erroneous principles, let us look to their consequences, as they are recorded by history. From the grant of Phocas, to the age of Luther, the annals of Europe are filled with one long catalogue of crime, produced by the influence of the corruptions of the Church of Rome. The depositions of princes, the fomenting of rebellions, the flagitious lives of the Popes, the scandalous decrees againt the freedom of opinion, the persecutions of the objectors to the power of Rome, which disgrace this sad portion of the history of the world, have been so amply, and so frequently related, that it is. only now necessary to allude to them. The principles which produced these deplorable effects on religion, and liberty, and happiness, are still maintained. They are triumphant on the Continent; they are reviving in England. Their defenders are heard with applause; their opponents are treated with insult. IV. The Reformation; its good and bad effects.
The friends of the Church of Rome had long endeavoured to effect its reformation, before the age of Luther. Indignant remonstrances, the most energetic appeals, the most affecting entreaties, the most bitter and galling satire, were alike in vain exerted to induce the removal of abuses. The natural reason of thinking men was shocked at the consequences of the papal doctrines. I could select, from the writings of the Romanist divines themselves, a collection of recorded immoralities, the unavoidable result of the religious principles incui cated by the Church of Rome, which would not be credible if they had been related by a Protestant. In this state of things, the injudicious enforcement of one of the more objectionable doctrines of its absurd creed, elicited the spark which fired the long prepared train of public indignation. Permissions to commit sin were publicly sold, under the pretence of remitting the penalties of the guilt which their commission would have contracted; the quarrel between the rival societies of monks, who were desirous of participating in the profits of this scandalous traffic, occasioned that gradual, open, and indignant opposi tion to the Church of Rome, which ended in the alienation of its fairest provinces, and the restoration of that pure religion. and unfettered liberty of mind, which it had been among the original objects of Christianity to secure to its adherents.
Julian Pe- We shall never be able to appreciate, to their full extent, the Asia Minor. riod, 4799. blessings which the Reformation has recovered to the world, Vulgar Era, unless we remember the evils which the preceding superstition
had proposed, and confirmed. The Scriptures were opened.
The evil which has resulted from the Reformation is the
I will not weary the reader with a detail of the battles which were fought, the treaties which were made, or the crimes which were committed, by both parties, before the Reformation became permanent in Europe, or in England. With each there was much to be condemned. Both parties may be proud, or ashamed, of its saints, its bypocrites, or its martyrs. The consequences will deserve our gratitude, while the Scriptures of truth, the freedom of intellect, the establishment of pure religion, and the principles of civil liberty, can be appreciated by the natives of Europe. Public happiness had been destroyed, because the morality on which it rests had been corrupted by the religion of Rome. The Reformation was the effect of the desire of the people of Christendom to throw off the yoke of an immoral and enslaving despotism; and the providential overruling of apparent accident, caused that Luther should become the successful organ of expressing the general opinion, and accomplishing the overthrow of the usurpations and errors of the ages of ignorance,
V. History of Christianity since the Reformation, with the prospect of its future dominion over all mankind.
The enactment of the decrees of the council of Trent, and the general adoption of Protestant Principles in Germany, Sweden, France, and England, occasioned long and fierce wars, and many opposite religious theories, systems, and confessions of faith. The federated republic of Europe was divided by a religious civil war, of which Spain and the Pope were the
riod, 4799. Vulgar Era,
leaders on the one part; and England and Holland the heads of Asia Minst.
The testimony of any modern theologian, who may profess
I may be permitted to observe here, that the long controversy, which has been so frequently agitated between various