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importance it attained during those immediately following. The teachers of the Gospel, dependent as yet entirely on the voluntary contributions of their flocks, and exercising over them none of that indefinite magisterial authority which was assigned to them by the piety or the policy of the Christian emperors, seldom, if ever, fell under the eye of the government in their capacity of a corporate body. True, they were ever the foremost to suffer from the fury of the intolerant and to rejoice in the favour of the tolerant among the successors of Augustus, but their rulers had not yet learnt to view them as a main portion of the great machinery of the state, and to make use of them as an indispensable link to connect the ever more and more dislocated fragments of a tottering empire. It is not uncommonly urged by men who take a strange delight in inveighing against the weakness of the foundations of the ecclesiastical edifice which shelters them, while they admire its present excellence, that we can attribute no truly beneficial effects to the influence of the clergy and Church on the world without, previous to the public acknowledgment of the truth, because to the eye of secular history the moral progress of the empire during the first three centuries is imperceptible. They assert that the whole social movement of those ages was one of unmitigated degradation; that, in spite of Christianity, the misery of the many was, throughout Europe and Asia alike, more and more promoted by the inordinate luxury of the few; that lands, the ancient abodes of free nations, were rapidly consigned to the profitless cultivation of servile gangs, and that every noble and generous sentiment seemed to be fading away from among the sons of men. Such having been the undoubted condition of the political world, they plausibly demand the fruits of the moral and social reforms for which the Church reveres its early champions, and they attribute the traditional virtues of ecclesiastics to the partiality of their clerical chroniclers and successors. To such a charge as this, it would scarcely be sufficient to object that the kingdom of which they were ministers was not of this world, for abundant evidence is not lacking that though not of the world, it was not barren of good works in the world. A more convincing answer is to be found in the system of Christian instruction, from which the believer learnt to scorn the pomp of secular power, and to turn away with aversion from all those high civil offices, by which alone could the principles of a pure faith have been strikingly and convincingly borne to the relief of a decaying polity. The ambition of the aspiring Christian was sedulously turned from the curule chair to the more glorious, because more perilous elevation of the episcopal seat. The most splendid of Imperial dignities might well be despised by men who looked upon the honors of pastoral sway upon earth as a sure foretaste* of an exalted judgment-seat in the world to come, and they might reasonably consider as mis-spent in restoring the vigour of a Pagan system that force of unswerving rectitude which might have added but one denizen to the city of God below. Another * See Lactantius, Institut. Div. vii. c. 24.
yet more convincing proof that the changes proclaimed by the Christian clergy were those of inward heartfelt reform, not those of revolutionary social re-organization, may be found in the relation in which they placed themselves to the institution of slavery, the darkest blot on the civilization of the ancient world. It has been made a frequent subject of cavil that priests of a religion, whose very watchword was universal love and brotherly charity, should never have proclaimed liberty to the temporal as well as the spiritual captives, and rendered all the members of their flocks equal before men as they were in the sight of God. In answer to such charges as this let us hear the words of the venerable Ignatius;
"Despise not slaves, male or female; but neither let them be contemptuous; but as for the glory of God let them labor more abundantly, that they may be meet for that more excellent liberty which is of God. Let them not desire to be set at liberty from that which is common, that they may not be found the slaves of lusts*." Again, at a later period, we have not dissimilar sentiments expressed in the nervous language of Tertullian. "Ooronat libertas secularis. Sed tu jam redemptus es a Christo, et quidem magno. Servum alienum, quomodo seculum manumittet I Etsi libertas videtur, sed et servitus videbitur. Omnia imaginaria in seculo, et nihil veri. Nam et tunc liber hominis eras redemptus a Christo; et nunc servus es Christi, licet manumissus ab homine. Si veram
* Ep. to Polycarp, Qp. 7, Corp. Ign.'} ed. Cureton, [c. 4. ed. Jacobs.]
putas seculi libertatem, ut et corona earn consignes, redisti in servitutem hominis, quam putas libertatem; amisisti libertatem Christi, quam putas servitutem*." Such phrases clearly disclose to us the high mark towards which the exhortations of the Fathers urged on their disciples1. Worldly privileges and worldly contumely were equally contemptible to those whose entire energies were devoted to the preparation for an eternal kingdom. It appears, then, that under the mysterious guidance of their beneficent Head, the efforts of the Christian teachers were directed, not to remodel the Roman system, but to sow securely, in the propitious soil of the Church, such good seed, as might in a future and more auspicious age bring forth its fruit abundantly. The seal, moreover, with which in the hour of trial they confirmed their previous instructions, may assure us of the confidence with which they anticipated the final triumph of their cause—for they faced the terrors of martyrdom with the resolution of men who felt, like their worthy successors in our own land, that "they were lighting such a fire as was not soon to be put out."
* Be Corona, c. 13.
1 To take an instance, Cyprian (Ep. 13), rejoicing with Rogatian and other confessors in their position in the Church, urges them to perseverance in the faith, and to be an example to others in peaceableness and humility; chiefly as he had heard that some among them had forgotten their former life, had been puffed up by pride, and had fallen into vain and filthy conversation. He contrasts this with the silence of our Lord's sufferings, and adds warnings against contentious provocations among confessors.
It was scarcely to be expected that the wise or the great of this world should be attracted by a creed whose workings were to them so hidden,—whose results so apparently puny: much less that the self-interests of mankind should generally bow down before a faith whose virtues shone most brightly at the very moment when to imitate them was most perilous, or should adopt tenets the bare suspicion of which was the loss of all that the world counts great and honorable. Yet before the commanding uprightness of the doctrine and practice of the Gospel, even the prejudices of heathen philosophy gave way. Not to refer to the well known testimony of the younger Pliny, there have been preserved to us the following striking expressions of the philosophic physician Galen:
"Hi (i.e. Christiani) interdum talia faciunt, qualia qui vere philosophantur. Quod mortem contemnunt, id quidem omnes ante oculos habemus. * * Sunt etiam [inter eos] qui in animis regendis coercendisque et in acerrimo honestatis studio eo progressi sint, ut nihil cedant vere philosophantibus*." This is but a somewhat technical expression of the great fact in the clerical life,
* Galen, [De sent.pol. Plat., ap. Abulfedse Hist, anteisl. p. 109, ed. Fleischer. A similar passage (" Horum [Nazirseorum] non pauci revera philosophi sunt: amant enim temperantiam, perseverant in jejunio, adhibentque curam ut nihil gustent.") is likewise ascribed to Galen,] Comm. in Phcedonem, [ap. Bar-Hebrei Chron. Syr. p. 55. ed. Bruns et Kirsch.] quoted by Gieseler, Ch. History, Vol. I. [i. ii. 1. § 41], p. 126 [Eng. Tr.] Almost the same phrase is used by Melito, ap. Routh, Rel. Sac. n. p. 119.