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    September 2, 1897

    “How the Catholic Creed Was Made. After Four Centuries of Apostasy” The Present Truth 13, 35, pp. 549, 550.


    BY the pious zeal of Theodosius, “the unity of the faith” had been supposedly secured, since by imperial decree and inquisitorial repression, the empire had been made Catholic. As all his efforts in this direction had been put forth to secure the peace of the church it might be supposed that this result should have been assured. But peace was just as far from the church now as it ever had been.PTUK September 2, 1897, page 549.1


    BY this time, among the chief bishoprics of the empire, the desire for supremacy had become so all-absorbing that each one was exerting every possible influence to bring the others into subjection to himself. The rivalry, however, was most bitter between the bishopric of Alexandria and that of Constantinople. Of the great sees of the empire, Alexandria had always held the second place. Now, however, Constantinople was the chief imperial city; and the Council of Constantinople had ordained that the bishop of Constantinople should hold the first rank after the bishop of Rome. The Alexandrian party argued that this dignity was merely honourary, and carried with it no jurisdiction. Rome, seeing to what the canon might lead, sided with Alexandria. Constantinople, however, steadily insisted that the canon bestowed jurisdiction to the full extent of the honour. The Bishop of Constantinople therefore aspired to the complete occupancy of the second place, and Alexandria was supremely jealous of that aspiration.PTUK September 2, 1897, page 549.2

    Theodosius died A.D. 395, and was succeeded by his two sons, Arcadius and Honorius, by whom the empire was permanently divided. John surnamed Chrysostom—the golden-mouthed—became bishop of Constantinople. He “exposed with unsparing indignation the vices and venality of the clergy, and involved them all in one indiscriminate charge of simony and licentiousness.” (Milman.) He declared his free opinion “that the number of bishops who might be saved, bore a very small proportion to those who would be damned.” (Gibbon.) In addition to this, and with much more danger to himself, he incurred the enmity of the monks, who now existed in swarms throughout the East, by declaring with evident truth that they were “the disgrace of their holy profession.”PTUK September 2, 1897, page 549.3

    These measures set the whole ecclesiastical order against him, and they began to intrigue for his overthrow. This opened the way for the bishop of Alexandria again to assert his authority.PTUK September 2, 1897, page 549.4

    Theophilus, a violent and unscrupulous prelate, was now Bishop of Alexandria, and he immediately espoused the cause of the malcontents, who proudly accepted him as their leader. The contest waged gave now one side and then the other the advantage. One one occasion the partisans of Theophilus were slaughtered without mercy by the populace in the streets of Constantinople. At last Chrysostom was exiled by the Emperor, because of his denunciation of the vices of the court. His banishment was attended with bloodshed, as the soldiers subdued his party, and his friends, on the day that he was finally sent out of the city, set fire to the church of Santa Sophia.PTUK September 2, 1897, page 549.5

    The Bishop of Rome, to whom Chrysostom appealed, sided with him against Alexandria. The war with Chrysostom was ended, yet the roots of bitterness and seeds of strife still remained between Alexandria and Constantinople. And though the two men who were now bishops of these two cities were in harmony so far as the confusion about Chrysostom was concerned, the same jealousy as to the dignity of their respective sees still existed, and soon broke out more violently than ever before. The subject of the next dispute was a question of doctrine, and like that over the Homoousion, was so illusive, and the disputants believed so nearly alike and yet were so determined not to believe alike, and the men who led in it were so arrogant and cruel, that from the beginning the contention was more violent than any that had yet been.PTUK September 2, 1897, page 549.6


    In. A.D. 412, Cyril, the nephew of Theophilus, became Bishop of Alexandria. He was one of the very worst men of his time. He began his episcopacy by shutting up the churches of the Novatians, “the most innocent and harmless of the sectaries,” and taking possession of all their ecclesiastical ornaments and consecrated vessels, and stripping their bishop of all his possessions. Nor was Cyril content with the exercise of such strictly episcopal functions as these: he aspired to absolute authority, civil as well as ecclesiastical.PTUK September 2, 1897, page 549.7

    He drove out the Jews, forty thousand in number, destroyed their synagogues, and allowed his followers to strip them of all their possessions. Orestes, the prefect of Egypt, displeased at the loss of such a large number of wealthy and industrious people, entered a protest, and sent up a report to the Emperor. Cyril likewise wrote to the Emperor. No answer came from the court, and the people urged Cyril to come to a reconciliation with the prefect, but his advances were made in such a way that the prefect would not receive them. The monks poured in from the desert to the number of about five hundred, to champion the cause of Cyril.PTUK September 2, 1897, page 549.8

    Orestes was passing through the streets in his chariot. The monks flocked around him, insulted him, and denounced him as a heathen and an idolater. Orestes, thinking that perhaps they thought this was so, and knowing his life to be in danger, called out that he was a Christian, and had been baptized by Atticus, bishop of Constantinople. His defence was in vain. In answer, one of the monks threw a big stone which struck him on the head, and wounded him so that his face was covered with blood. At this all his guards fled for their lives; but the populace came to the rescue, and drove off the monks, and captured the one who threw the stone. His name was Ammonius, and the prefect punished him so severely that shortly afterward he died. “Cyril commanded his body to be taken up; the honors of a Christian martyr were prostituted on this insolent ruffian, his panegyric was pronounced in the church, and he was named Thaumasius—the wonderful.” (Milman.)PTUK September 2, 1897, page 549.9

    But the party of Cyril proceeded to yet greater violence than this. At that time there was in Alexandria a teacher of philosophy, a woman, Hypatia by name. she gave public lectures which were so largely attended by the chief people of the city, that Cyril grew jealous that more people went to hear her lecture than came to hear him preach. She was a friend of Orestes, and it was also charged that she, more than any other, was the cause why Orestes would not be reconciled to Cyril. One day as Hypatia was passing through the street in a chariot, she was attacked by a crowd of Cyril’s partisans, whose ring-leader was Peter the Reader.PTUK September 2, 1897, page 550.1

    She was torn from her chariot, stripped naked in the street, dragged into a church, and there beaten to death with a club, by Peter the Reader. Then they tore her limb, and with shells scraped the flesh from her bones, and threw the remnants into the fire, March, A.D. 414. This was Cyril,—now Saint Cyril,—Bishop of Alexandria.PTUK September 2, 1897, page 550.2


    In 428, there was appointed to the bishopric of Constantinople a monk of Antioch, Nestorius by name, who in wickedness of disposition was only second to Cyril of Alexandria. In his ordination sermon before the great crowd of people, he personally addressed to the emperor these words:—PTUK September 2, 1897, page 550.3

    Give me, my prince, the earth purged of heretics, and I will give you heaven as a recompense. Assist me in destroying heretics, and I will assist you in vanquishing the Persians.PTUK September 2, 1897, page 550.4

    The fifth day afterward, in accordance with this proposition, Nestorius began his part in purging the earth of heretics. Arians and Novatians suffered, but specially the Quarto-Decimans, who refused to celebrate Easter on the Catholic Sunday, and multitudes perished in the tumults which he stirred up.PTUK September 2, 1897, page 550.5

    And now these two desperate men, Nestorius and Cyril, became the respective champions of the two sides of a controversy touching the faith of the Catholic Church, as to whether Mary was the mother of God or not. In the long contention and the fine-spun distinctions as to whether the Son of God is of the same substance, or only of like substance with the Father, Christ had been removed entirely beyond the comprehension of the people. And owing to the desperate character and cruel disposition of the men who carried on the controversy as the representatives of Christ, the members of the Church were made afraid of Him. And now, instead of Jesus standing forth as the mediator between men and God, He was removed so far away and was clothed with such a forbidding aspect, that it became necessary to have a mediator between men and Christ. And into this place the Virgin Mary was put.PTUK September 2, 1897, page 550.6

    This gave rise to the question as to what was the exact relationship of Mary to Christ. Was she actually the mother of the divinity of Christ, and therefore the mother of God? or was she only the mother of the humanity of Christ? For a considerable time already the question had been agitated, and among a people whose ancestors for ages had been devout worshipers of the mother goddesses—Diana and Cybele—the title “Mother of God” was gladly welcomed and strenuously maintained. This party spoke of Mary as “God-bearer;” the opposite party called her only “man-bearer;” while a third party coming between tried to have all speak of her as “Christ-bearer.”PTUK September 2, 1897, page 550.7

    As before stated, this question had already been agitated considerably, but when two such characters as Cyril and Nestorius took it up, it speedily became the one all-important question, and the all-absorbing topic. Nestorius started it in his very first sermon after becoming bishop of Constantinople. He denied that Mary could properly be called the mother of God. Some of his priests immediately withdrew from his communion, and began to preach against his heresy, and the monks rushed in also. Nestorius denounced them all as miserable men, called in the police, and had some of them flogged and imprisoned, especially several monks who had accused him to the Emperor. From this the controversy spread rapidly, and Cyril, urged on by both natural and inherited jealousy, came to the rescue in defence of the title, “Mother of God.”PTUK September 2, 1897, page 550.8


    IT is not necessary to put into this book the blasphemous arguments of either side. It is enough to say that in this controversy, as in that regarding the Homoousion, the whole dispute was one about words and terms only. Each determined that the other should express the disputed doctrine in his own words and ideas, while he himself could not clearly express his ideas in words different from the others. Says Milman:—PTUK September 2, 1897, page 550.9

    Never was there a case in which the contending parties approximated so closely. Both subscribed, both appealed, to the Nicene Creed; both admitted the pre-existence, the impassibility, of the Eternal Word; but the fatal duty ... of considering the detection of heresy the first of religious obligations, mingled, as it now was, with human passions and interests, made the breach irreparable.PTUK September 2, 1897, page 550.10

    Cyril demanded of Nestorius that he should confess Mary to be the mother of God, without any distinction, explanation, or qualification. And because Nestorius would not comply, Cyril denounced him everywhere as a heretic, stirred up the people of Constantinople against him, and sent letters to the Emperor, the empress, and to Pulcheria, to prove to them that the Virgin Mary “ought to be called” the Mother of God. He sought to have the court take his side at once against Nestorius. But Nestorius had the advantage with respect to the court, because he was present in Constantinople.PTUK September 2, 1897, page 550.11

    Fierce letters also passed between Cyril and Nestorius, and both sent off letters to Celestine, Bishop of Rome. Celestine called a council in Rome, A.D. 430. The letters and papers of both Cyril and Nestorius were read, after which Celestine made a long speech to prove that “the Virgin Mary was truly the mother of God.”PTUK September 2, 1897, page 550.12

    The council declared that Nestorius was “the author of a new and very dangerous heresy,” praised Cyril for opposing it, declared the doctrine of Cyril strictly orthodox, and condemned to deposition all ecclesiastics who should refuse to adopt it. Nestorius refused to recant. Both parties were calling for a general council, and so to “settle” the faith again the joint emperors ordered a general council to meet at Ephesus in 431.PTUK September 2, 1897, page 550.13

    A. T. JONES.

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