VOLUME III NICENE AND POST-NICENE CHRISTIAINITY From Constantine the Great to Gregory the Great a.d. 311–600.
This is a reproduction of the Fifth Edition, Revised
PREFACE TO THE THIRD REVISION This third volume covers the eventful period of Christian emperors, patriarchs, and ecumenical Councils, from Constantine the Great to Gregory the Great. It completes the History of Ancient Christianity, which is the common inheritance of Greek, Latin, and Evangelical Christendom.
The first edition was published in 1867, and has not undergone any important changes. But in the revision of 1884 the more recent literature was added in an Appendix.
In this edition the Appendix has been revised and enriched with the latest literature. A few changes have also been made in the text to conform it to the present state of research (e.g., pp. 29, 353, 688, 689).
New York, July, 1889.
With sincere thanks to God for continued health and strength, I offer to the public a history of the eventful period of the Church from the beginning of the fourth century to the close of the sixth. This concludes my history of Ancient Christianity.
It was intended at first to condense the third period into one volume, but regard to symmetry made it necessary to divide it into two volumes of equal size with the first which appeared several years ago. This accounts for the continuous paging of the second and third volumes.
In preparing this part of my Church History for the press, I have been deprived of the stimulus of an active professorship, and been much interrupted in consequence of other labors, a visit to Europe, and the loss of a part of the manuscript, which had to be rewritten. But, on the other hand, I have had the great advantage of constant and free access to several of the best libraries of the country. Especially am I indebted to the Astor Library, and the Union Theological Seminary Library of New York, which are provided with complete sets of the Greek and Latin fathers, and nearly all other important sources of the history of the first six centuries.
I have used different editions of the fathers (generally the Benedictine), but these I have carefully indicated when they vary in the division of chapters and sections, or in the numbering of orations and epistles, as in the works of Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, Jerome, Augustine, and Leo. In addition to the primary sources, I have constantly consulted the later historians, German, French, and English.
In the progress of the work I have been filled with growing admiration for the great scholars of the seventeenth and early part of the eighteenth century, who have with amazing industry and patience collected the raw material from the quarries, and investigated every nook and corner of Christian Antiquity. I need only refer to the Benedictine editors of the fathers; to the Bollandists, in the department of hagiography; to Mansi and Hardouin, in the collection of the Acts of Councils; to Gallandi, Dupin, Ceillier, Oudin, Cave, Fabricius, in patristics and literary history; to Petau’sTheologica dogmata, Tillemont’s Mémoires, Bull’sDefensio Fidei Nicaenae, Bingham’s Antiquities, Walch’sKetzerhistorie. In learning, acumen, judgment, and reverent spirit, these and similar works are fully equal, if not superior, to the best productions of the modern Teutonic press; while we cheerfully concede to the latter the superiority in critical sifting, philosophical grasp, artistic reproduction of the material, and in impartiality and freedom of spirit, without which there can be no true history. Thus times and talents supplement each other.
With all due regard for the labors of distinguished predecessors and contemporaries, I have endeavored, to the best of my ability, to combine fulness of matter with condensation in form and clearness of style, and to present a truthful and lively picture of the age of Christian emperors, patriarchs, and ecumenical Councils. Whether, and how far, I have succeeded in this, competent judges will decide.
I must again express my profound obligation to my friend, the Rev. Dr. Yeomans, of Rochester, for his invaluable assistance in bringing these volumes before the public in a far better English dress than I could have given them myself. I have prepared the work in German, and have sent the copy to Leipsic, where a German edition will appear simultaneously with the American. Some portions I have myself reproduced in English, and have made considerable additions throughout in the final revision of the copy for the press. But the body of the work has been translated from manuscript by Dr. Yeomans. He has performed his task with that consummate union of faithfulness and freedom which does full justice both to the thought of the author and the language of the reader, and which has elicited the unqualified praise of the best judges for his translation of my History of the Apostolic Church, and that of the first three centuries.
The work has been, for the translator as well as for the author, truly a labor of love, which carries in it its own exceeding great reward. For what can be more delightful and profitable than to revive for the benefit of the living generation, the memory of those great and good men who were God’s own chosen instruments in expounding the mysteries of divine truth, and in spreading the blessings of Christianity over the face of the earth?
It is my wish and purpose to resume this work as soon as other engagements will permit, and to complete it according to the original plan. In the mean time I have the satisfaction of having finished the first great division of the history of Christianity, which, in many respects, is the most important, as the common inheritance of the Greek, Latin, and Evangelical churches. May God bless it as a means to promote the cause of truth, and to kindle that devotion to his service which is perfect freedom.
THE CHURCH IN UNION WITH THE ROMAN EMPIRE
FROM CONSTANTINE THE GREAT TO GREGORY THE GREAT. a.d. 311–590.
Sources and Literature,
§ 1. Introduction and General View.
DOWNFALL OF HEATHENISM AND VICTORY OF CHRISTIANITY N THE ROMAN EMPIRE.
Sources and Literature,
§ 2. Constantine The Great. a.d. 306–337.
§ 3. The Sons of Constantine. a.d. 337–361.
§ 4. Julian the Apostate, and the Reaction of Paganism. a.d. 361–363.
§ 5. From Jovian to Theodosius. a.d. 363–392.
§ 6. Theodosius the Great and his Successors. a.d. 392–550.
§ 7. The Downfall of Heathenism.
CHAPTER II. THE LITERARY TRIUMPH OF CHRISTIANITY OVER GREEK AND ROMAN HEATHENISM.
Sources and Literature,
§ 8. Heathen Polemics. New Objections.
§ 9. Julian’s Attack upon Christianity.
§ 10. The Heathen Apologetic Literature.
§ 11. Christian Apologists and Polemics.
§ 12. Augustine’s City of God. Salvianus.
ALLIANCE OF CHURCH AND STATE AND ITS INFLUENCE ON PUBLIC MORALS AND RELIGION.
Sources and Literature,
§ 13. The New Position of the, Church in the Empire.
§ 14. Rights and Privileges of the Church. Secular Advantages.
§ 15. Support of the Clergy.
§ 16. Episcopal Jurisdiction and Intercession.
§ 17. Legal Sanction of Sunday.
§ 18. Influence of Christianity on Civil Legislation. The Justinian Code.
§ 19. Elevation of Woman and the Family.
§ 20. Social Reforms. The Institution of Slavery.
§ 21. Abolition of Gladiatorial Shows.
§ 22. Evils of the Union of Church and State. Secularization of the Church.
§ 23. Worldliness and Extravagance.
§ 24. Byzantine Court Christianity.
§ 25. Intrusion of Politics into Religion.
§ 26. The Emperor-Papacy and the Hierarchy.
§ 27. Restriction of Religious Freedom, and Beginnings of Persecution of Heretics.
Sources and Literature,
§ 28. Origin of Christian Monasticism. Comparison with other forms of Asceticism.
§ 29. Development of Monasticism.
§ 30. Nature and Aim of Monasticism.
§ 31. Monasticism and the Bible.
§ 32. Lights and Shades of Monastic Life.
§ 33. Position of Monks in the Church.
§ 34. Influence and Effect of Monasticism.
§ 35. Paul of Thebes and St. Anthony.
§ 36. Spread of Anchoretism. Hilarion.
§ 37. St. Symeon and the Pillar Saints.
§ 38. Pachomius and the Cloister life.
§ 39. Fanatical and Heretical Monastic Societies in The East.
§ 40. Monasticism in the West. Athanasius, Ambrose, Augustine, Martin of Tours.
§ 41. St. Jerome as a Monk.
§ 42. St. Paula.
§ 43. Benedict of Nursia.
§ 44. The Rule of St. Benedict.
§ 45. The Benedictines. Cassiodorus.
§ 46. Opposition to Monasticism. Jovinian.
§ 47. Helvidius, Vigilantius, and Aerius.
THE HIERARCHY AND POLITY OF THE CHURCH.
Sources and Literature,
§ 48. Schools of the Clergy.
§ 49. Clergy and Laity. Elections.
§ 50. Marriage and Celibacy of the Clergy.
§ 51. Moral Character of the Clergy in general.
§ 52. The Lower Clergy.
§ 53. The Bishops.
§ 54. Organization of the Hierarchy: Country Bishop, City Bishops, and Metropolitans.
§ 55. The Patriarchs.
§ 56. Synodical Legislation on the Patriarchal Power and Jurisdiction.
§ 57. The Rival Patriarchs of Old and New Rome.
§ 58. The Latin Patriarch.
§ 59. Conflicts and Conquests of the Latin Patriarchate.
§ 60. The Papacy.
§ 61. Opinions of the Fathers.
§ 62. The Decrees of Councils on the Papal Authority.
§ 63. Leo the Great. a.d. 440–461.
§ 64. The Papacy from Leo I to Gregory I. a.d. 461–590.
§ 65. The Synodical System. The Ecumenical Councils.
§ 66. List of the Ecumenical Councils of the Ancient Church,
§ 67. Books of Ecclesiastical Law.
CHURCH DISCIPLINE AND SCHISMS.
Sources and Literature,
§ 68. Decline of Discipline.
§ 69. The Donatist Schism. External History.
§ 70. Augustine and the Donatists. Their Persecution and Extinction.
§ 71. Internal History of the Donatist Schism. Dogma of the Church.
§ 72. The Roman Schism of Damasus and Ursinus.
§ 73. The Meletian Schism at Antioch.
PUBLIC WORSHIP AND RELIGIOUS CUSTOMS AND CEREMONIES.
Sources and Literature,
§ 74. The Revolution in Cultus.
§ 75. The Civil and Religious Sunday.
§ 76. The Church Year.
§ 77. The Christmas Cycle.
§ 78. The Easter Cycle.
§ 79. The Time of the Easter Festival.
§ 80. The Cycle of Pentecost.
§ 81. The Exaltation of the Virgin Mariology.
§ 82. Mariolatry.
§ 83. The Festivals of Mary.
§ 84. The Worship of Martyrs and Saints.
§ 85. Festivals of the Saints.
§ 86. The Christian Calendar. The Legends of the Saints. The Acta Sanctorum.
§ 87. Worship of Relics. Dogma of the Resurrection. Miracles of Relics.
§ 88. Observations on the Miracles of the Nicene Age.
§ 89. Processions and Pilgrimages.
§ 90. Public Worship of the Lord’s Day. Scripture-Reading and Preaching.
§ 91. The Sacraments in General.
§ 92. Baptism.
§ 93. Confirmation.
§ 94. Ordination.
§ 95. The Sacrament of the Eucharist.
§ 96. The Sacrifice of the Eucharist.
§ 97. The Celebration o f the Eucharist.
§ 98. The Liturgies. Their Origin and Contents.
§ 99. The Oriental Liturgies.
§ 100. The Occidental Liturgies.
§ 101. Liturgical Vestments.
Sources and Literature,
§ 102. Religion and Art.
§ 103. Church Architecture.
§ 104. The Consecration of Churches.
§ 105. Interior Arrangement of Churches.
§ 106. Architectural Style. The Basilicas.
§ 107. The Byzantine Style.
§ 108. Baptisteries. Grave-Chapels, and Crypts.
§ 109. Crosses and Crucifixes.
§ 110. Images of Christ.
§ 111. Images of Madonna and Saints.
§ 112. Consecrated Gifts.
§ 113. Church Poetry and Music.
§ 114. The Poetry of the Oriental Church.
§ 115. The Latin Hymn.
§ 116. The Latin Poets and Hymns.
THEOLOGY. DEVELOPMENT OF THE ECUMENICAL ORTHODOXY.
Sources and Literature,
§ 117. General Observations. Doctrinal Importance of the Period. Influence of the Ancient Philosophy.
§ 118. Sources of Theology. Scripture and Tradition.
I. – The Trinitarian Controversies. General Literature of the Arian Controversy.
§ 119. The Arian Controversy down to the Council of Nicaea, 318–325.
§ 120. The Council of Nicaea, 325.
§ 121. The Arian and Semi-Arian Reaction, a.d. 325–361.
§ 122. The Final Victory of Orthodoxy, and the Council of Constantinople, 381.
§ 123. The Theological Principles involved: Import of the Controversy.
§ 124. Arianism.
§ 125. Semi-Arianism.
§ 126. Revived Sabellianism. Marcellus and Photinus.
§ 127. The Nicene Doctrine of the Consubstantiality of the Son with the Father.
§ 128. The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit.
§ 129. The Nicene and Constantinopolitan Creed.
§ 130. The Nicene, Doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinitarian Terminology.
§ 131. The Post-Nicene Trinitarian Doctrine of Augustine.
§ 132. The Athanasian Creed.
II. – The Origenistic Controversies. §133. The Orgenistic Controversy in Palestine. Epiphanius, Rufinus, and Jerome, a.d. 394–399.
§ 134. The Origenistic Controversy in Egypt and Constantinople. Theophilus and Chrysostom a.d. 399–407.
III. – The Christological Controversies. § 135. General View. Alexandrian and Antiochian Schools.
§ 136. The Apollinarian Heresy, a.d. 362–381.
§ 137. The Nestorian Controversy, a.d. 428–431.
§ 138. The Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, a.d. 431. The Compromise.
§ 139. The Nestorians.
§ 140. The Eutychian Controversy. The Council of Robbers, a.d. 449.
§ 141. The Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, a.d. 451.
§ 142. The Orthodox Christology—Analysis and Criticism.
§ 143. The Monophysite Controversies.
§ 144. The Three, Chapters, and the Fifth Ecumenical Council, a.d. 553.
§ 145. The Monophysite Sects: Jacobites, Copts, Abyssinians, Armenians, Maronites.
IV. – The Anthropological Controversies. Works on the Pelagian Controversy in General.
§ 146. Character of the Pelagian Controversy.
§ 147. External History of the Pelagian Controversy, a.d. 411–431.
§ 148. The Pelagian Controversy in Palestine.
§ 149. Position of the Roman Church. Condemnation of Pelagianism.
§ 150. The Pelagian System: Primitive State and Freedom of Man; the Fall.
§ 151. The Pelagian System Continued: Doctrine, of Human Ability and Divine Grace.
§ 152. The Augustinian System: The Primitive State of Man, and Free Will.
§ 153. The Augustinian System: The Fall and its Consequences.
§ 154. The Augustinian System: Original Sin, and the Origin of the Human Soul.
§ 155. Arguments for the Doctrine of Original Sin and Hereditary Guilt.
§ 156. Answers to Pelagian Objections.
§ 157. Augustine’s Doctrine of Redeeming Grace.
§ 158. The Doctrine of Predestination.
§ 159. Semi-Pelagianism.
§ 160. Victory of Semi-Augustinianism. Council of Orange, a.d. 529.
CHURCH FATHERS, AND THEOLOGICAL LITERATURE.
I.—The Greek Fathers. § 161. Eusebius of Caesarea.
§ 162. The Church Historians after Eusebius.
§ 163. Athanasius the Great.
§ 164. Basil the Great.
§ 165. Gregory of Nyssa.
§ 166. Gregory Nazianzen.
§ 167. Didymus of Alexandria.
§ 168. Cyril of Jerusalem.
§ 169. Epiphanius.
§ 170. John Chrysostom.
§ 171. Cyril of Alexandria.
§ 172. Ephraem the Syrian.
II.—The Latin Fathers. § 173. Lactantius.
§ 174. Hilary of Poitiers.
§ 175. Ambrose.
§ 176. Jerome as a Divine and Scholar.
§ 177. The Works of Jerome.
§ 178. Augustine.
§ 179. The Works of Augustine.
§ 180. The Influence of Augustine upon Posterity and his Relation to Catholicism and Protestantism.
Alphabetical Index to the Second and Third Volumes, Appendix to the Revised Edition of 1884. Addenda et Corrigenda. Alphabetical Index to the Third Volume. ———————————
THIRD PERIOD FROM CONSTANTINE THE GREAT TO GREGORY THE GREAT.
a. d. 311–590. SOURCES.
I. Christian Sources: (a) The Acts Of Councils; in the Collectiones conciliorum of Hardouin, Par. 1715 sqq. 12 vols. fol.; Mansi, Flor. et Ven. 1759 sqq. 31 vols. fol.; Fuchs: Bibliothek der Kirchenversammlungen des 4ten und 5ten Jahrh. Leipz. 1780 sqq.; and Bruns: Biblioth. eccl. vol. i. Canones Apost. et Conc. saec. iv.–vii. Berol. 1839.
(b) The Imperial Laws and Decrees referring to the church, in the Codex Theodosianus, collected a.d. 438, the Codex Justinianeus, collected in 529, and the Cod. repetitae praelectionis of 534.
(c) The Official Letters of popes (in the Bullarium Romanum), patriarchs, and bishops.
(d) The writings of all the Church Fathers from the beginning of the 4th century to the end of the 6th. Especially of Eusebius, Athanasius, Basil, the two Gregories, the two Cyrils, Chrysostom, and Theodoret, of the Greek church; and Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, and Leo the Great, of the Latin. Comp. the Benedictine Editions of the several Fathers; the Maxima Bibliotheca veterum Patrum, Lugd. 1677 sqq. (in all 27 vols. fol.), vols. iii.–xi.; Gallandi: Biblioth. vet. Patrum, etc. Ven. 1765 sqq. (14 vols. fol.), vols. iv.–xii.
(e) Contemporary Church Historians, (1) of the Greek church: Eusebius of Caesarea († about 340): the ninth and tenth books of his H. E. down to 324, and his biography of Constantine the Great, see § 2 infra; Socrates Scholasticus of Constantinople: Histor. ecclesiast. libri vii, a.d. 306–439; Hermias Sozomen of Constantinople: H. eccl. l. ix, a.d. 323–423; Theodoret, bishop of Cyros in Mesopotamia: H. eccl. l. v, a.d. 325–429; the Arian Philostorgius: H. eccl. l. xii, a.d. 318–425, extant only in extracts in Photius Cod. 40; Theodorus Lector, of Constantinople, epitomizer of Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret, continuing the latter down to 518, preserved in fragments by Nicephorus Callistus; Evagrius of Antioch: H. eccl. l. vi, a.d. 431–594; Nicephorus Callistus (or Niceph. Callisti), about 1330, author of a church history in 23 books, to a.d. 911 (ed. Fronto Ducaeus, Par. 1630). The historical works of these Greek writers, excepting the last, are also published together under the title: Historiae ecclesiasticae Scriptores, etc., Graec. et Lat., with notes by H. Valesius (and G. Reading), Par. 1659–1673; and Cantabr. 1720, 3 vols. fol. (2) Of the Latin church historians few are important: Rufinus, presb. of Aquileia (†410), translated Eusebius and continued him in two more books to 395; Sulpicius Severus, presb. in Gaul: Hist. Sacra, l. ii, from the creation to a.d. 400; Paulus Orosius, presbyter in Spain: Historiarum libri vii. written about 416, extending from the creation to his own time; Cassiodorus, about 550: Hist. tripartite, l. xii. a mere extract from the works of the Greek church historians, but, with the work of Rufinus, the chief source of historical knowledge through the whole middle age; and Jerome († 419): De viris illustrious, or Catalogus scriptorum eccles., written about 392, continued under the same title by Gennadius, about 495, and by Isidor of Seville, about 630.
(f) For chronology, the Greek Pascavlion, or Chronicon Paschale (wrongly called Alexandrinum), primarily a table of the passovers from the beginning of the world to a.d. 354 under Constantius, with later additions down to 628. (Ed. Car. du Fresne Dom. du Cange. Par. 1688, and L. Dindorf, Bonn. 1832, 2 vols.) The Chronicle of Eusebius and Jerome (Cronika; suggravmmata, pantodaph; iJstoriva), containing an outline of universal history down to 325, mainly after the chronography of Julius Africanus, and an extract from the universal chronicle in tabular form down to 379, long extant only in the free Latin translation and continuation of Jerome (ed. Jos. Scaliger. Lugd. Batav. 1606 and later), since 1792 known also in an Armenian translation (ed. J. Bapt. Aucher. Ven. 1818, and Aug. Mai, Script. vet. nov. coll. 1833. Tom. viii). In continuation of the Latin chronicle of Jerome, the chronicle of Prosper of Aquitania down to 455; that of the Spanish bishop Idatius, to 469; and that of Marcellinus Comes, to 534. Comp. Chronica medii aevi post Euseb. atque Hieron., etc. ed. Roesler, Tüb. 1798.
II. Heathen Sources: Ammianus Marcellinus (officer under Julian, honest and impartial): Rerum gestarum libri xiv-xxxi, a.d. 353–378 (the first 13 books are lost), ed. Jac. Gronov. Lugd. Batav. 1693 fol., and J. A. Ernesti, Lips. 1778 and 1835. Eunapius (philosopher and historian; bitter against the Christian emperors): Cronikh; iJstoriva, a.d. 268–405, extant only in fragments, ed. Bekker and Niebuhr, Bonn. 1829. Zosimus (court officer under Theodosius II., likewise biassed): storiva neva, l. vi, a.d. 284–410, ed. Cellarius 1679, Reitemeier 1784, and Imm. Bekker, Bonn. 1837. Also the writings of Julian the Apostate (against Christianity), Libanius and Symmachus (philosophically tolerant), &c. Comp. the literature at § 2 and 4.
Besides the contemporary histories named above under 1 (e) among the sources, we should mention particularly Baronius (R.C. of the a.d.Ultramontane school, † 1607): Annales Eccles. vol. iii.–viii. (a heavy and unreadable chronicle, but valuable for reference to original documents). Tillemont (R.C. leaning to Jansenism, † 1698): Mémoires, etc., vol. vi.–xvi. (mostly biographical, minute, and conscientious). Gibbon († 1794): Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, from ch. xvii. onward (unsurpassed in the skilful use of sources and artistic composition, but skeptical and destitute of sympathy with the genius of Christianity). Schröckh (moderate Lutheran, † 1808): Christl. Kirchengesch. Theil v.–xviii. (A simple and diffuse, but thorough and trustworthy narrative). Neander (Evangel. † 1850): Allg. Gesch. der Chr. Rel. und Kirche. Hamb. vol. iv.–vi., 2d ed. 1846 sqq. Engl. transl. by Torrey, vol. ii. (Profound and genial in the genetic development of Christian doctrine and life, but defective in the political and aesthetic sections, and prolix and careless in style and arrangement). Gieseler (Protest. † 1854): Kirchengesch. Bonn. i. 2. 2d ed. 1845. Engl. transl. by Davidson, and revised by H. B. Smith, N. York, vol. i. and ii. (Critical and reliable in the notes, but meagre, dry, and cold in the text).
Isaac Taylor (Independent): Ancient Christianity, and the Doctrines of the Oxf. Tracts for the Times. Lond. 4th ed. 1844. 2 vols. (Anti-Puseyite). Böhringer (G. Ref.): Kirchengeschichte in Biographieen, vol. i. parts 3 and 4. Zür. 1845 sq. (from Ambrose to Gregory the Great). Carwithen And Lyall: History of the Christian Church from the 4th to the 12th Cent. in the Encycl. Metrop. 1849; published separately in Lond. and Glasg. 1856. J. C. Robertson (Angl.): Hist. of the Christ. Church to the Pontificate of Gregory the Great. Lond. 1854 (pp. 166–516). H. H. Milman (Angl.): History of Christianity from the Birth of Christ to the abolition of Paganism in the Roman Empire. Lond. 1840 (New York, 1844), Book III. and IV. Milman: Hist. of Latin Christianity; including that of the Popes to the Pontificate of Nicholas V. Lond. 1854 sqq. 6 vols., republished in New York, 1860, in 8 vols. (vol. i. a resumé of the first six centuries to Gregory I., the remaining vols. devoted to the middle ages). K. R. Hagenbach (G. Ref.):Die Christl. Kirche vom 4ten his 6ten Jahrh. Leipz. 1855 (2d vol. of his popular "Vorlesungen über die ältere Kirchengesch."). Albert de Broglie (R.C.): L’église et l’empire romain au IVme siècle. Par. 1855–’66. 6 vols. Ferd. Christ. Baur: Die Christl. Kirche vom Anfang des vierten bis zum Ende des sechsten Jahrhunderts in den Hauptmomenten ihrer Entwicklung. Tüb. 1859 (critical and philosophical). Wm. Bright: A History of the Church from the Edict of Milan, a.d. 313, to the Council of Chalcedon, a.d. 451. Oxf. and Lond. 1860. Arthur P. Stanley: Lectures on the History of the Eastern Church. Lond. 1861 (pp. 512), republished in New York from the 2d Lond. ed. 1862 (a series of graphic pictures of prominent characters and events in the history of the Greek and Russian church, but no complete history).
§ 1. Introduction and General View. From the Christianity of the Apostles and Martyrs we proceed to the Christianity of the Patriarchs and Emperors.
The third period of the history of the Church, which forms the subject of this volume, extends from the emperor Constantine to the pope Gregory I.; from the beginning of the fourth century to the close of the sixth. During this period Christianity still moves, as in the first three centuries, upon the geographical scene of the Graeco-Roman empire and the ancient classical culture, the countries around the Mediterranean Sea. But its field and its operation are materially enlarged, and even touch the barbarians on the limit of the empire. Above all, its relation to the temporal power, and its social and political position and import, undergo an entire and permanent change. We have here to do with the church of the Graeco-Roman empire, and with the beginning of Christianity among the Germanic barbarians. Let us glance first at the general character and leading events of this important period.
The reign of Constantine the Great marks the transition of the Christian religion from under persecution by the secular government to union with the same; the beginning of the state-church system. The Graeco-Roman heathenism, the most cultivated and powerful form of idolatry, which history knows, surrenders, after three hundred years’ struggle, to Christianity, and dies of incurable consumption, with the confession: Galilean, thou hast conquered! The ruler of the civilized world lays his crown at the feet of the crucified Jesus of Nazareth. The successor of Nero, Domitian, and Diocletian appears in the imperial purple at the council of Nice as protector of the church, and takes his golden throne at the nod of bishops, who still bear the scars of persecution. The despised sect, which, like its Founder in the days of His humiliation, had not where to lay its head, is raised to sovereign authority in the state, enters into the prerogatives of the pagan priesthood, grows rich and powerful, builds countless churches out of the stones of idol temples to the honor of Christ and his martyrs, employs the wisdom of Greece and Rome to vindicate the foolishness of the cross, exerts a molding power upon civil legislation, rules the national life, and leads off the history of the world. But at the same time the church, embracing the mass of the population of the empire, from the Caesar to the meanest slave, and living amidst all its institutions, received into her bosom vast deposits of foreign material from the world and from heathenism, exposing herself to new dangers and imposing upon herself new and heavy labors.
The union of church and state extends its influence, now healthful, now baneful, into every department of our history.
The Christian life of the Nicene and post-Nicene age reveals a mass of worldliness within the church; an entire abatement of chiliasm with its longing after the return of Christ and his glorious reign, and in its stead an easy repose in the present order of things; with a sublime enthusiasm, on the other hand, for the renunciation of self and the world, particularly in the hermitage and the cloister, and with some of the noblest heroes of Christian holiness.
Monasticism, in pursuance of the ascetic tendencies of the previous period, and in opposition to the prevailing secularization of Christianity, sought to save the virgin purity of the church and the glory of martyrdom by retreat from the world into the wilderness; and it carried the ascetic principle to the summit of moral heroism, though not rarely to the borders of fanaticism and brutish stupefaction. It spread with incredible rapidity and irresistible fascination from Egypt over the whole church, east and west, and received the sanction of the greatest church teachers, of an Athanasius, a Basil, a Chrysostom, an Augustine, a Jerome, as the surest and shortest way to heaven.
It soon became a powerful rival of the priesthood, and formed a third order, between the priesthood and the laity. The more extraordinary and eccentric the religion of the anchorets and monks, the more they were venerated among the people. The whole conception of the Christian life from the fourth to the sixteenth century is pervaded with the ascetic and monastic spirit, and pays the highest admiration to the voluntary celibacy, poverty, absolute obedience, and excessive self-punishments of the pillar-saints and the martyrs of the desert; while in the same degree the modest virtues of every-day household and social life are looked upon as an inferior degree of morality.
In this point the old Catholic ethical ideas essentially differ from those of evangelical Protestantism and modern civilization. But, to understand and appreciate them, we must consider them in connection with the corrupt social condition of the rapidly decaying empire of Rome. The Christian spirit in that age, in just its most earnest and vigorous forms, felt compelled to assume in some measure an anti-social, seclusive character, and to prepare itself in the school of privation and solitude for the work of transforming the world and founding a new Christian order of society upon the ruins of the ancient heathenism.
In the development of doctrine the Nicene and post-Nicene age is second in productiveness and importance only to those of the apostles and of the reformation. It is the classical period for the objective fundamental dogmas, which constitute the ecumenical or old Catholic confession of faith. The Greek church produced the symbolical definition of the orthodox view of the holy Trinity and the person of Christ, while the Latin church made considerable advance with the anthropological and soteriological doctrines of sin and grace. The fourth and fifth centuries produced the greatest church fathers, Athanasius and Chrysostom in the East, Jerome and Augustine in the West. All learning and science now came into the service of the church, and all classes of society, from the emperor to the artisan, took the liveliest, even a passionate interest, in the theological controversies. Now, too, for the first time, could ecumenical councils be held, in which the church of the whole Roman empire was represented, and fixed its articles of faith in an authoritative way.
Now also, however, the lines of orthodoxy were more and more strictly drawn; freedom of inquiry was restricted; and all as departure from the state-church system was met not only, as formerly, with spiritual weapons, but also with civil punishments. So early as the fourth century the dominant party, the orthodox as well as the heterodox, with help of the imperial authority practised deposition, confiscation, and banishment upon its opponents. It was but one step thence to the penalties of torture and death, which were ordained in the middle age, and even so lately as the middle of the seventeenth century, by state-church authority, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, and continue in many countries to this day, against religious dissenters of every kind as enemies to the prevailing order of things. Absolute freedom of religion and of worship is in fact logically impossible on the state-church system. It requires the separation of the spiritual and temporal powers. Yet, from the very beginning of political persecution, loud voices rise against it and in behalf of ecclesiastico-religious toleration; though the plea always comes from the oppressed party, which, as soon as it gains the power, is generally found, in lamentable inconsistency, imitating the violence of its former oppressors. The protest springs rather from the sense of personal injury, than from horror of the principle of persecution, or from any clear apprehension of the nature of the gospel and its significant words: "Put up thy sword into the sheath;" "My kingdom is not of this world."
The organization of the church adapts itself to the political and geographical divisions of the empire. The powers of the hierarchy are enlarged, the bishops become leading officers of the state and acquire a controlling influence in civil and political affairs, though more or less at the expense of their spiritual dignity and independence, especially at the Byzantine court. The episcopal system passes on into the metropolitan and patriarchal. In the fifth century the patriarchs of Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem stand at the head of Christendom. Among these Rome and Constantinople are the most powerful rivals, and the Roman patriarch already puts forth a claim to universal spiritual supremacy, which subsequently culminates in the mediaeval papacy, though limited to the West and resisted by the constant protest of the Greek church and of all non-Catholic sects. In addition to provincial synods we have now also general synods, but called by the emperors and more or less affected, though not controlled, by political influence.
From the time of Constantine church discipline declines; the whole Roman world having become nominally Christian, and the host of hypocritical professors multiplying beyond all control. Yet the firmness of Ambrose with the emperor Theodosius shows, that noble instances of discipline are not altogether wanting.
Worship appears greatly enriched and adorned; for art now comes into the service of the church. A Christian architecture, a Christian sculpture, a Christian painting, music, and poetry arise, favoring at once devotion and solemnity, and all sorts of superstition and empty display. The introduction of religious images succeeds only after long and violent opposition. The element of priesthood and of mystery is developed, but in connection with a superstitious reliance upon a certain magical operation of outward rites. Church festivals are multiplied and celebrated with great pomp; and not exclusively in honor of Christ, but in connection with an extravagant veneration of martyrs and saints, which borders on idolatry, and often reminds us of the heathen hero-worship not yet uprooted from the general mind. The multiplication and accumulation of religious ceremonies impressed the senses and the imagination, but prejudiced simplicity, spirituality, and fervor in the worship of God. Hence also the beginnings of reaction against ceremonialism and formalism.
Notwithstanding the complete and sudden change of the social and political circumstances of the church, which meets us on the threshold of this period, we have still before us the natural, necessary continuation of the pre-Constantine church in its light and shade, and the gradual transition of the old Graeco-Roman Catholicism into the Germano-Roman Catholicism of the middle age.
Our attention will now for the first time be turned in earnest, not only to Christianity in the Roman empire, but also to Christianity among the Germanic barbarians, who from East and North threaten the empire and the entire civilization of classic antiquity. The church prolonged, indeed, the existence of the Roman empire, gave it a new splendor and elevation, new strength and unity, as well as comfort in misfortune; but could not prevent its final dissolution, first in the West (a.d. 476), afterwards (1453) in the East. But she herself survived the storms of the great migration, brought the pagan invaders under the influence of Christianity, taught the barbarians the arts of peace, planted a higher civilization upon the ruins of the ancient world, and thus gave new proof of the indestructible, all-subduing energy of her life.
In a minute history of the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries we should mark the following subdivisions:
1. The Constantinian and Athanasian, or the Nicene and Trinitarian age, from 311 to the second general council in 381, distinguished by the conversion of Constantine, the alliance of the empire with the church, and the great Arian and semi-Arian controversy concerning the Divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit.
2. The post-Nicene, or Christological and Augustinian age, extending to the fourth general council in 451, and including the Nestorian and Eutychian disputes on the person of Christ, and the Pelagian controversy on sin and grace.
3. The age of Leo the Great (440–461), or the rise of the papal supremacy in the West, amidst the barbarian devastations which made an end to the western Roman empire in 476.
4. The Justinian age (527–565), which exhibits the Byzantine state-church despotism at the height of its power, and at the beginning of its decline.
5. The Gregorian age (590–604) forms the transition from the ancient Graeco-Roman to the mediaeval Romano-Germanic Christianity, and will be more properly included in the church history of the middle ages.