« PreviousContinue »
which were not to revert to their children, unless the latter embraced the catholic faith. Some years before this, the Nicenians, or the Orthodox themselves, were cruelly persecuted by the Arian emperor Valens. We are assured by Socrates, that, not content with expelling them from the churches of the East, he punished them in a variety of ways, imprisoning some and executing others. The historian adds, that by his command, and under the immediate direction of his præfect, fourscore ecclesiastics were conveyed on board a ship, and, the vessel being set on fire, were inhumanly burnt to death”.
Of the calamities sustained on account of religion by particular persons, I shall notice those alone, which were endured by some among the Priscillianists. About the year 385, Priscillian, bishop of Avila, a man of genius and elaquence, Latronian, a learned Spaniard, Euchrocia, a lady of Bourdeaux, Felicissimus, a presbyter, and three others of the same sentiments, were publicly executed at Treves as heretics, on the ground of charges brought forward by some worthless prelates, and under the sanction of the civil magistrate. After the executions before-mentioned,' I now quote from Dr. Lardner,' the emperor Maximus, at the instigation of the bishops whom he had about him, gave a commission to some tribunes with power of the sword to go into Spain, to make inquiry after these heretics, and to confiscate their goods, or put to death such as should be apprehended. This Martings earnestly opposed, dreading the consequences, and at length prevented it..“ Nor can there be any question made,” says Sulpicius“, “ that if the commission had proceeded, it would have been fatal to multitudes of good men. For at that time little regard was had to men’s real characters: if a man looked pale, or
66 Anc. Univ. Hist. vol. xvi. p. 369, 426.
68 The celebrated bishop of Tours, who was, says Lardner, a wise and a good man.
69 It is scarcely necessary to remind the reader, that Sulpicius Severus was a contemporary ecclesiastical historian.
was modest in his garb, it was reckoned a mark of heresy, and sufficient to cast him, without making any particular inquiry concerning his faith?0.”
But to narrate the sufferings of particular sects or particular men is almost a superfluous task. All who adopted not the metaphysical creed of the orthodox church were subjected to the violence of wicked persecutors. Constantine, says Jortin, 'made a law against heretics, by which he forbad them to have any conventicles, and to meet together in public or in private to perform acts of religion. This was mere insolent tyranny ; and Eusebius deserves to be censured for having spoken favorably of it ; and yet he is forced to own that it made many hypocritical conformists, and nominal catholics. A fine acquisition?! When, says Lardner, the government of Constantine was firmly established, -as Eusebius has assured us, the private assemblies of all heretics, Valentinians, Marcionites, Cataphry. gians, and others were prohibited. According to that edict, Tertullian, who in the time of the emperor Severus published so noble an apology for the Christian religion and its professors, could not have had liberty of public worship under a Christian emperor: no, according to law, he could not now, any more than in his own time, have joined with his friends in the worship of God, in the most private place whatever. In short, liberty was still given to those only who were of the emperor's religion??.' And in the year 381 (I am again quoting from the ingenious author of Remarks on Ecclesiastical History), · Thodosius took
away from all heretics and schismatics ALL their churches, and made a present of them to the orthodox?3.' Theodosius also was " the first prince who established an
70 Lardner's Works, vol. IV. p. 454_480.
71 Vol. II. p. 305, " The two prevailing evils of this reign, as Eusebius owns, were avarice and hypocrisy. And for certain, authority and force in matters of a religious nature, will multiply hypocrites.' Lardner's Works, vol. IV. p. 182.
72 Vol. IV. p. 178.
73 The religious meetings of heretics, whether public or secret, by day or by night, in cities or in the country, were equally proscribed by the
Inquisition, a spiritual office. It was the outrageous zeal of the ecclesiastics, their desire to domineer over men's consciences, and their inhumanity covered with the maskof orthodoxy, which obliged the emperors to trample under foot justice, benevolence, charity, and prudence, and totally to neglect the true interest of the public, that they might gratify the ceaseless opportunity of the persecutors24.! To most of the emperors this observation may be justly applied ; but not to Constantine. To lessen the infamy of his persecutions, it cannot be alleged, that he was in any degree compelled to carry them on, or that he passed his days under the fear of ecclesiastics.
In the latter part of the 4th century persecution was also let loose against the Pagans. "If a sacrifice was offered up in a private place, with the knowlege of the owner, the place was to be confiscated. If not, twenty-five pounds weight of gold was to be paid ; and the penalty was the same for a sacrifice offered in a temple. If any one consulted the entrails of a victim, to discover future events, it was high treason. In the pillage and demolition of the temples the monks' were the dragoons usually employed.-We have an oration of Libanius in behalf of the temples, in which the Pagan orator acts the same part before Theodosius, as the Christian apologists had acted before Pagan emperorss,' Surely in this part of the 4th century, the genuine religion of Jesus cannot be supposed in any degree to have prevailed in the hearts of those who entitled themselves his disciples, when they applauded, and almost universally applauded, transactions thus decidedly antichristian.
Intolerant as the church of Rome has been, it may with truth be asserted, that even she, in the periods of her
edicts of Theodosius ; and the building or ground, which had been used for that illegal purpose, was forfeited to the imperial domain.' Gibbon, vol. V. p. 32.
74 Jortin, vol. IV. p. 100.143. 75 Jortin, vol. IV. p. 145, 146.
greatest prosperity and arrogance, allowed a wider latitude of belief and disputation, than the prelates of the latter part of the 4th century. I am aware, that this may appear an extraordinary assertion; an assertion which runs coun. ter to the prejudices which protestants have been wont to imbibe. But let an inquiry be made into the fact ; and to the following citation let due attention be paid. “In the Theodosian code, it is said, that they are comprised under the denomination of heretics, and subject to the punishments imposed on such, who are found to deviate even an hair's breadth from the catholic church.-What a vile oppressive law! what an everlasting source of calumny, and of vexatious and scandalous informations77!' are the exclamations which naturally fall from Jortin after reciting the law.
Macedonius, archbishop of Constantinople in the reign of Constantius, was more than usually violent in compel. ling men to subscribe to the creed of the court. To enable him to effect this design, the civil and military powers were directed to obey his commands ;' and ' the sacraments of the church,' says Mr. Gibbons, were administered to the reluctant victims, who denied the vocation, and abhorred the principles, of Macedonius. The rites of baptism were conferred on women and children, who, for that purpose, had been torn from the arms of their friends and parents ; the mouths of the communicants were held open by a wooden engine, while the consecrated bread was forced down their throats ; the breasts of tender virgins were either burnt with red-hot egg-shells, or inhumanly compressed between sharp and heavy boards. The principal assistants of Macedonius, in the work of persecution, were the two bishops of Nicomedia and Cyzicus.'
Every honest man is accustomed to express his indignation at the barbarous policy adopted by the court of Rome,
76 L. XVI. Tit. V. p. 144. 78 Vol. III. p. 369.
77 Vol. IV. p. 148.
when its emissaries desolated the towns of the Albigenses, and endeavored to extirpate heresy by the torch and the sword. But their conduct was by no means unprecedented. Of those who styled themselves the followers of Jesus in the fourth century, some blushed not to be the authors of similar outrages. Macedonius?, being informed that a large district of Paphlagonia was almost entirely inhabited by the Novatians, who refused to profess his peculiar tenets,
resolved either to convert or to extirpate them ; and as he distrusted, on this occasion, the efficacy of an ecclesiastical mission, he commanded a body of four thousand legionaries to march against the rebels, and to reduce the territory of Mantinium under his spiritual dominion. The Novatian peasants, animated by despair and religious fury, boldly encountered the invaders of their country ; and though many of the Paphlagonians were slain, the Roman legions were vanquished by an irregular multitude, armed only with scythes and axes ; and, except a few who escaped by an ignominious flight, four thousand soldiers were left dead on the field of battle. The successor of Constantius has expressed, in a concise but lively manner, some of the theological calamities which afflicted the empire, and more especially the East, in the reign of a prince who was the slave of his own passions, and of those of his eunuchs. Many were imprisoned, and persecuted, and driven into exile. Whole troops of those who are called heretics were massacred, particularly at Cyzicus, and at Samosata. In Paphlagonia, Bithynia, Galatia, and in many other pro
79 The manner in which he obtained power corresponded to the manner in which he used it. As the claims and the principles of Macedonius were odious to the citizens of Constantinople, he was surrounded with troops of guards with drawn swords, as he passed through the streets of that ca. pital in order to be consecrated. • The military procession advanced towards the cathedral; the Arians and the Catholics eagerly rushed to oc. cupy that important post; and 3150 persons lost their lives in the confusion of the tumult. Macedonius, who was supported by a regular force, ob tained a decisive victory.' Gibbon, vol. III. p. 394.