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    August 26, 1897

    “How the Catholic Creed Was Made. The Empire ‘Converted’” The Present Truth 13, 34, pp. 533, 534.


    AS we saw last week, Theodosius, Emperor of the East, had declared against Arianism and for the creed of the Council of Nice, and now called a general council at Constantinople to compose the quarrels in the Catholic party and again “settle” the faith of the Catholic Church.PTUK August 26, 1897, page 533.1


    THE Council met in the year 381, and was composed of one hundred and eighty-six bishops, of whom one hundred and fifty were Catholics. First it decided a quarrel as to who was Bishop of Constantinople, deciding in favour of Gregory Nazianzen, who had been installed in the bishop’s office by armed troops. Next they attempted to heal the schism which existed in the Catholic party in Syria, the quarrel as usual being between two factions who had rival candidates for the bishopric, this time the bishopric of Antioch.PTUK August 26, 1897, page 533.2

    While this was being considered Gregory Nazianzen succeeded to the presidency of the council. A way opened by the death of one of the rival bishops to allow the matter to drop, and Gregory did his best to persuade the council to let it do so. He was joined by other members of the council, but the vast majority loved discussion more than they loved anything else than power, and as disputes and schisms were the way to power, they could not bear to let slip such an opportunity to show that the East was not subject to the West—especially as the Western bishops, with the Bishop of Rome at their head, had already assumed the authority to dictate in the matter. They therefore took action which was sure only to aggravate the difficulty and prolong it.PTUK August 26, 1897, page 533.3

    Gregory Nazianzen, having done all he could to prevent this act of the council, and knowing that what they had done could only strengthen the contentions already rife, resigned his bishopric, and left both the council and the city of Constantinople. He likened a church council to a nest of wasps, or a flock of magpies, cranes, or geese; declared that no good ever came of one, and refused evermore to have anything to do with them. Had a few other men been as wise as Gregory Nazianzen showed himself to be in this case, what miseries the world might have escaped! how different history would have been! As Gregory has been, for ages, a Catholic saint, even the Catholic Church ought not to blame any one for adopting his estimate of the value of church councils.PTUK August 26, 1897, page 533.4

    Gregory’s resignation made it necessary to elect a new Bishop of Constantinople. The choice fell upon Nectarius, a senator and pretor of the city, who had never yet been baptized. He was first elected bishop, next baptized into membership of the church, and then by the bishops of the council was installed in his new office.PTUK August 26, 1897, page 533.5


    HAVING “settled” these things, the council proceeded to “settle” the Catholic faith again. The same question which had been so long discussed as to the nature of Christ was now up in regard to the nature of the Holy Spirit. Now, the question was whether the Holy Spirit is Homoousion with the Father and the Son. The Macedonians held that He is not. The council decided that He is. The Macedonians left the assembly, and the remaining hundred and fifty bishops framed the following creed:—PTUK August 26, 1897, page 533.6

    We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all times [ages], Light from Light, very God from very God, begotten, not created, of the same substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; who was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried, and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end. And we believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Life-giver, who proceedeth from the Father; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spake by the prophets. And in one Holy Catholic and apostolic church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. We look for a resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.PTUK August 26, 1897, page 533.7

    They also established seven canons, in one of which they attempted to settle the question of dignity between the Bishops of Alexandria and Constantinople by ordaining as follows:—PTUK August 26, 1897, page 533.8

    CANON 3. The bishop of Constantinople shall hold the first rank after the bishop of Rome, because Constantinople is New Rome.PTUK August 26, 1897, page 533.9

    This, however, like every other attempt to settle their ecclesiastical disputes, only bred new and more violent contentions. For, by a trick in words, and a casuistical interpretation, this canon was afterward made the ground upon which was claimed by the Bishopric of Constantinople, superiority over that of Rome. It was argued that the words “the first rank after the Bishop of Rome,” did not mean the second in actual rank, but the first, and really carried precedence over Old Rome; that the real meaning was that hitherto Rome had held the first rank, but now Constantinople should hold the first rank, i.e., after Rome had held it!PTUK August 26, 1897, page 533.10


    While the Council of Constantinople was sitting, the emperor Gratian called a council at Aquileia in Italy. The object of this council was, in unison with the Council of Constantinople, to establish the unity of the faith throughout the whole world. There happened to be three bishops in all the West who were accused of being Arians. They would not acknowledge that they were such; but the accusation of heresy was sufficient foundation upon which to call a council. They were deposed, and the council asked the civil power to see that the condemned bishops were not allowed any “further to disturb the peace of the church or to travel about from one town to another.” (Hefele.) The council also disagreed with the decision of the Council of Constantinople in the matter of the disputed bishopric and the rivalry of parties to which it has given rise, and they called for another general council, to meet at Alexandria, in Egypt.PTUK August 26, 1897, page 533.11

    The condemned bishops complained that they were misrepresented in the letters of the council, and protested against being confounded with the Arians. They likewise demanded another council, to be held at Rome. When these letters reached Theodosius, the Council of Constantinople was over, and the bishops had gone home. But instead of calling the council to meet in Alexandria, he recalled the bishops to Constantinople. He sent two special invitations to Gregory Nazianzen to attend the council, but Gregory, still retaining the wisdom he had acquired at the preceding council, positively refused, with the words, “I never yet saw a council of bishops come to a good end. I salute them from afar off, since I know how troublesome they are.”PTUK August 26, 1897, page 534.1

    By the time the bishops were again got together at Constantinople, it was early in the summer of 382. They there received another letter from a council which had just been held under the presidency of Ambrose, at Milan, asking them to attend a general council at Rome. The bishops remained at Constantinople; but sent three of their number as their representatives, and also a letter affirming their strict adherence to the Nicene Creed. Lack of time and space alike forbid that the proceedings of these councils should be followed in detail. Council after council followed; another one at Constantinople in 383, at Bordeaux in 384, at Treves in 385, at Rome in 386, at Antioch in 388, at Carthage in 389, Rome again in 390, Carthage again in 390, Capua in 391, at Hippo in 393, at Nimes in 394, and at Constantinople again in 394.PTUK August 26, 1897, page 534.2


    ON his part Theodosius was all this time doing all he could to second the efforts of the church to secure unanimity of faith, and to blot out all heresy. “In the space of fifteen years he promulgated at least fifteen severe edicts against the heretics, more especially against those who rejected the doctrine of the Trinity.” (Gibbon.) In these edicts it was enacted that any of the heretics who should usurp the title of bishop or presbyter, should suffer the penalty of exile and confiscation of goods, if they attempted either to preach the doctrine or practise the rites of their “accursed” sects. A fine of about £4,000 was pronounced upon every person who should dare to confer, or receive, or promote, the ordination of a heretic. Any religious meetings of the heretics, whether public or private, whether by day or by night, in city or country, were absolutely prohibited; and if any such meeting was held, the building, or even the ground which should be used for the purpose, was declared confiscated. The Manichean heretics were to be punished with death, as were also the heretics “who should dare to perpetrate the atrocious crime” of celebrating Easter on a day not appointed by the Catholic Church.PTUK August 26, 1897, page 534.3


    THAT these laws might not be vain, the office of “inquisitor of the faith” was instituted, and it was not long before capital punishment was inflicted upon “heresy,” though not exactly under Theodosius himself. Gratian was killed in A.D. 383, by command of a certain Maximus, who had been declared emperor by the troops in Britain, and acknowledged by the troops in Gaul. A treaty of peace was formed between him and Theodosius, and the new Emperor Maximus stepped into the place both in church and State which had been occupied by Gratian.PTUK August 26, 1897, page 534.4

    A certain Priscillian and his followers were condemned as heretics by the Council of Bordeaux in A.D. 384. Priscillian himself, two presbyters, two deacons, Latronian, a poet, and Euchrocia, the widow of an orator of Bordeaux,—seven in all,—were beheaded, while others were banished.PTUK August 26, 1897, page 534.5

    Thus the union of Church and State, the clothing of the church with civil power, bore its inevitable fruit. It is true that there were some bishops who condemned the execution of the Priscillianists; but the others fully justified it. Those who condemned it, however, did so more at the sight of actual bloodshed than for any other reason; because they fully justified, and in fact demanded, every penalty short of actual death. And those who persecuted the Priscillianists, and who advocated and secured and justified their execution, were never condemned by the church nor by any council. In fact, their course was actually endorsed by a council. Even the disagreement as to whether it was right or not was silenced when, twenty years afterward, Augustine set forth his principles, asserting the righteousness of whatever penalty would bring the incorrigible to the highest grade of religious development; and the matter was fully set at rest for all time when, in A.D. 447, Leo, bishop of Rome, justified the execution of Priscillian and his associate heretics, and declared the righteousness of the penalty of death for heresy.PTUK August 26, 1897, page 534.6


    IN re-establishing the unity of the Catholic faith, Theodosius did not confine his attention to professors of Christianity only. In his original edict, it will be remembered that all his subjects should be Catholic Christians. A good many of his subjects were pagans, and still conformed to the pagan ceremonies and worship. In 382 Gratian, at the instance of Ambrose, had struck a blow at the pagan religion by rejecting the dignity of Pontifex Maximus, which had been borne by every one of his predecessors; and had also commanded that the statue and altar of Victory should be thrown down. Maximus was killed in 388, and on account of the youth of Valentinian II, Theodosius, as his guardian, became virtually ruler of the whole empire; and at Rome the same year, he assembled the Senate and put to them the question whether the old or the new religion should be that of the Empire.PTUK August 26, 1897, page 534.7

    By the imperial influence, the majority of the Senate, as in the church councils, adopted the will of the emperor, and “the same laws which had been originally published in the provinces of the East, were applied, after the defeat of Maximus, to the whole extent of the Western Empire .... A special commission was granted to Cynegius, the praetorian perfect of the East, and afterward to the counts Jovius and Gaudentius, two officers of distinguished rank in the West, by which they were directed to shut the temples, to seize or destroy the instruments of idolatry, to abolish the privileges of the priests, and to confiscate the consecrated property for the benefit of the emperor, of the church, or of the army.” (Gibbon.)PTUK August 26, 1897, page 534.8

    Thus was the Catholic faith finally established as that of the Roman Empire; thus was that empire “converted;” and thus was Pagan Rome made Papal Rome.PTUK August 26, 1897, page 534.9

    A. T. JONES.

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