SECTION 5: ORIENTAL CHURCHES CONTINUED
"It was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that you should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."--Jude 3.
1. The council of Nice, already referred to, took notice of two sorts of Dissenters, who held separate assemblies. These were the Cathari and Paulianists, the latter were a kind of semi-Arians; the former were Trinitarians (Novatianists,) who viewed the Catholic church as a worldly community. These Puritans or Novatianists were exceedingly numerous in Phrygia. [Lardner, Cred. of the Gos. v. iii. p. 2, c. 47, p. 310] These Dissenters baptized all that joined their assemblies by immersion in the name of the Trinity, on a personal profession of faith; and if they had been baptized before, they re-baptized them. Canons now were enacted by aspiring prelates,+ yet the Greek Christians paid very little regard to any ecclesiastical rule, and though successive assemblies were called, the more the bishops tried to enforce uniformity, the faster what they called heresy spread; so that, in the twelfth century, the world was full of (dissidents,) heretics. [Rob. Res. pp. 71-3]
[+ During the last century, baptism was viewed as preparing the soul for glory, and subsequently, it was delayed for years, or till death approached. This delay and neglect, these prelates were anxious to recover the people from, and in their expressions and zeal for the ordinance, they brought the people to the other extreme, and pernicious consequences ensued.
360 Basil expressed to his people the bitter complaints those would make, who died unbaptized.
360 Gregory Nazianzen speaks of different punishments for different persons, in another world, which is to be regulated by their treatment of baptism.
374 Ambrose says, "For no one comes to the kingdom of heaven but by baptism. Those not baptized may have a freedom from punishment, which is not clear."
380 Chrysostum declares, there is no receiving the bequeathed inheritance before one is baptized.
388 Augustin asserts, "Salvation of a person is completed by baptism and conversion."
These assertions awakened each person under these prelates charge, to receive baptism; the penitent, the prisoner, sickly persons and children, the dying, and dead bodies, received the purifying rite, in order to avoid the purgatory of the unbaptized. This was the strong limb to paedobaptism!]
2. It appears highly probable, from many circumstances, that both the greater and lesser Armenia were enlightened with the knowledge of the truth, not long after the first rise of Christianity. The interests in communion with Rome and Constantinople were, in this fourth century, incorporated with the parent society. The character of the Armenians was, that they were a frugal, laborious, stern, and peaceable people, if let alone, but formidable and warlike, if oppressed; which accounts for the policy of the government at early periods, and the evils resulting in its change of measures towards Dissenters in these and other provinces. [Rob. ut sup.] While the catholics were engaged about the relics of Palestine, and professors in hierarchies were subsiding into an awful and secure slumber, a reformer appeared, in the person of one AERIUS, a presbyter monk. "He excited divisions," says Mosheim [Mosh. Hist. c. -1, p. 2, ch. 3, ~ 21], throughout Armenia,+ Pontus, and Cappadocia, by propagating opinions different from those that were commonly received. He condemned prayers for the dead, stated fasts, the celebration of Easter, and other rites of that nature, in which the multitudes erroneously imagine that the life and soul of religion consists. One of his principal tenets was, that the bishops were not distinguished from presbyters by any divine right; but, that according to the institution of the New Testament their offices and authority were absolutely the same. His great purpose seems to have been that of reducing Christianity to its primitive simplicity.++ He erected a new society, and we know, with the utmost certainty, that it was highly agreeable to many good Christians, who were no longer able to bear the tyranny and arrogance of the bishops of this century.
[* Mosheim History, C. 4, pt. 1, chapter 1, ~ 19. note. No one circumstance ever gave such footing, or ever strengthened national establishments so much, as infant baptism. Minor baptism was confined to no age; it might have been at fourteen years, as in the Georgian nation, which embraced Christianity under Constantine, Wall, pt. 2, p. 260, or at seven or six, as recorded, Rob. Hist. Bap. pp. 144, 299. But the general delay of baptism was a distress to the clergy, Id. 249. 381 Gregory at Constantinople, A.D., 381, and Austin, at Hippo, introduced new views and rites. The first considered children might be dipped at three years of age, Id. 3-19, and also babes, if in danger of death, Id. 249, as dying unbaptized, left their future state uncertain, ut sup.; the latter asserts, infants are baptized for the pardon of sin, Wall, i. 303. The anxiety on the part of the orthodox, to rescue children from the errors of the Arians, was in this age manifest. No way promised so much success as the obligations to keep the creed into which each was solemnly baptized. This charity in both parties, Arians and Trinitarians, furthered the infant cause, and gave additional importance to those interests which aspired to orthodoxy or eminency in numbers. See Eight causes furthering Paedobaptism, Rob. Bap. c. 27.]
[+ Wolf, the Missionary, says, "The priest (of Armenia) puts the child into the water, and washes the head with three handfuls of water, and prays, and saith, I baptize thee in the name, &c., and then dips the child," &c., Bap. Mag. 1826, v. xviii. p. 29. This is confirmed by Missionaries Smith and Dwight, who say, according to the rules of the Armenian church, baptism consists in plunging the whole body in water three times, as the sacred formula is repeated. Miss. Reseat. in Armenia, p. 312, &c. See Simons Critical History of the Relig. and Customs of Eastern Nations, chap. 12 and 13, p. 134, &c.]
[++ We are unacquainted with the reformers views and success. The mode of baptizing in the East, is farther stated by Millar, who asserts, "In all the oriental provinces with the northern nations, immersion is the only mode of baptism, the child is dipped three times in Russia, as in the Greek church." Geog. v. ii. p. 480, col. 1.]
3. We have now no interesting matters to give, nor can we detail any information, to break the monotony of the aspect of the interests generally, for nearly two centuries. The Nonconformists continued to be dispersed all over the empire, and had trusted to Providence for liberty to worship. Their history is large, and has proved difficult to many. The clergy were always troublesome, but never attempted their conversion. Some emperors had been indifferent to them, others had cherished them, others had persecuted them. We shall leave the general history, and endeavor to identify one class of consistent Puritans. Few of the clergy of the establishments could compose a discourse in the seventh century, when Mahomet arose to scourge the nations.
[Mahomet has rendered baptizo in the Koran, divine dying. Immersion is only one part, the tinging of the soul with faith and grace, is the other; or tincturing the mind with the doctrines of the gospel, we should say. In this way all through the Koran, he has fully translated the word, Rob. Bap. p. 7, and 493. But dying is not done by sprinkling or pouring, but the subject dyed is dipped. Gales Ref. Let. 3, p. 83. The Mahometans are totally immersed, or bathed in water. Sales Koran, v. i. s. 4, pp. 13840. This mode of baptizing is further evident from the most respectable historians. The mosque of Damascus, says Dr. Pocock, has an octagon baptistery, View of the East, v. ii. b. 2, c. 8, p. 120. On each side of the mosque, are fountains for the purpose of washing before worship, Id. v. ii. b. 3, oh. 1, p. 128. No unbaptized person may enter a Mahometan church, Lon.]
Mosheim speaks of a drooping faction, in this century, "The Russians baptize adults in the river, by trine immersion," with whom the Greek church was engaged in the most bitter and violent controversy. This drooping faction in Armenia, he calls Manicheans, and says they were revived by Paul and John, two brothers, who revived the doctrine, and modified it, from which sprang a new sect. But as Dr. Mosheims account is at variance with others, we shall select our materials of this new sect from other sources. [by Millars Geog. ib. and see authorities quoted in Robinsons Letter to Dr. Turner, Works, iv. p. 235]
Bathing was a practice of great antiquity; the Greeks, as well as the heroic age, are said to have constantly bathed. Immersion would to such be very agreeable. [Floyers Hist. of Bathing; Dr. G.S. Howards New Royal Encyclo. v. i. Art. Bathing; Sir R. Ker Porters Travels, v. i. p. 231]
4. It was about the year 653, that a new sect came into notice in the East,* under the name of PAULICIANS, which deserves our attention. There resided in the city of Mananalis, in Armenia, an obscure person of the name of CONSTANTINE, with whom this sect appears to have originated. One day, a stranger called upon him, who had been a prisoner among the Saracens, in Syria, and having obtained his release, was returning home through this city; he was kindly received by Constantine, and entertained some days at his house. To requite the hospitality of his generous host, he gave Constantine two manuscripts, which he had brought out of Syria; and these were the four gospels, and the Epistles of the apostle Paul. From the nature of the gift, it is not unreasonable to conclude that the stranger set a value upon these manuscripts, that he was acquainted with their contents, and was one who knew the truth, all which receives corroboration from the fact, that he had been an office-bearer, a deacon in a Christian church. It is equally probable that the conversation of Constantine and his guest would occasionally turn upon the contents of these manuscripts. That his conversation and present had some effects on the mind of Constantine, is evident, for, from the time he got acquainted with the contents of these writings, it is said he would touch no other books. He threw away his Manichean library, exploded and rejected many of the absurd notions of his countrymen. He became a teacher of the doctrines of Christ and his apostles. [Joness Lecr. on Ec. Hist. v. ii. p. 179. 9, ch. 2] "He formed to himself," says Milner, "a plan of divinity from the New Testament; and as Paul is the most systematic of all the apostles, Constantine very properly attached himself to his writings with peculiar attention. From the attention this sect paid to this apostles epistles and doctrine, they obtained the name of Paulicians." "In the present instance," continues Milner, "I see reason to suppose the Paulicians to have been perfect originals. The little that has been mentioned concerning them, carries entirely this appearance; and I hope it may be shortly evident that they originated from a heavenly influence, teaching and converting them; and that, in them we have one of those extraordinary effusions of the divine Spirit (on his word), by which the knowledge of Christ and the practice of godliness is kept alive in the world." [History of Church, Cent. 9, ch. 2]
These originals, or rather, restorers of the New Testament order of things, being allowed by all historians to have been the encouragers, if not the main strength of the Albigensian churches in France, at after periods; we shall be the more particular in our attention to their character and practice. [Gibbons Ro. Hist. Ch. 54]
[* In Vaughans Life of Wickliff, v. i. c. 2, s. 1, p. 115, the denominational aspect of this sect is suppressed, though Gibbon has spoken out; this course is pursued through that work. Those who neglect part of the commission, are afraid to mention its performance in other denominations.]
[The Syrians, the Armenians, the Persians, and all the oriental nations, who must have understood the Greek word baptizo, have practised dipping, and it is so rendered in their versions of the Scriptures. Rob. Hist. Bap. p. 7; Rylands Cand. Reasons. Baptizo is rendered to dip, by the Peshito, Syriac, Arabic, Ethiopic, Coptic, Gothic, German or Luther, Dutch, Danish, and Swedish versions. See Greenfields Del. of the Mahratta version, pp. 40-44]
5. The Paulicians sincerely condemned the memory and opinions of the Manichean sect, and complained of the injustice which impressed that invidious name on the simple followers of Paul and Christ. The objects which had been transformed by the magic of superstition, appeared to the eyes of the Paulicians in their genuine and naked colors. Of the ecclesiastical chain, many links were broken by these reformers; and against the gradual innovations of discipline and doctrine, they were strongly guarded by habit and aversion, as by the silence of Paul and the Evangelists. They attached themselves with peculiar devotion to the writings and character of Paul, and in whom they gloried. In the gospels, and epistles of Paul, Constantine investigated the creed of the primitive Christians; and whatever might be the success, a Protestant reader will applaud the spirit of the inquiry. In practice, or at least in theory, of the sacraments, the Paulicians were inclined to abolish all visible objects of worship, and the words of the gospel were, in their judgments, the baptism and communion of the faithful. A creed thus simple and spiritual, was not adapted to the genius of the times, and the rational Christian was offended at the violation offered to his religion by the Paulicians. [Gibbon, ut sup]
6. In confirmation of the above historian, as to their views of the ordinance of Baptism, we subjoin the authorities of a few respectable writers.
In these churches of the Paulicians, the sacraments of baptism and the Lords Supper, they held to be peculiar to the communion of the faithful; i.e., to be restricted to believers." [Joness Lect. v. ii. p. 181]
The Paulicians or Bogomilians baptized and re-baptized adults by immersion, as the Manicheans and all other denominations did in the East, upon which mode there was no dispute in the Grecian church. [Rob. Bapt. p. 211; and Res. pp. 90]
"It is evident," says Mosheim, "they rejected the baptism of infants. They were not charged with any error concerning baptism." [Mosh. Hist., Cent. 2, pt. 2, oh. 5, ~ 4 and note]
"They, with the Manicheans, were Anabaptists, or rejecters of infant baptism," says Dr. Allix, "and were consequently often reproached with that term." [Rem. Ch. Pied. eh. 15, p. 138, and Rob. Bap., p. 497]
"They were simply scriptural in the use of the sacraments," says Milner, "they were orthodox in the doctrine of the Trinity, they knew of no other Mediator than the Lord Jesus Christ." [Ch. Hist. Cent. 9, ch. 2]
7. These people were called ACEPHALI, or headless (from having no distinct order of clergy or presiding person in their assemblies) and were hooted in councils for re-baptizing in private houses, says Robinson, and holding conventicles; and for calling the established church a worldly community, and re-baptizing such as joined their churches. [Res. p. 92] The religious principles and practices of these people are purposely mangled and misrepresented, but it is possible to obtain some evidences of what they were. They are charged with neglecting the Old Testament; but they knew that economy was abolished, they therefore rejected it as a rule of faith, not as history. The expounders of Genesis filled the church with vain disputes about matter and spirit, the origin and duration of the world. They saw the priests set up Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, as rules for an hierarchy. The books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, gave kings authority to slay and kill in the cause of Jesus. And the infant cause not complied with, required the cutting off, which has been but too successfully prosecuted by the advocates of the rite. The Paulicians, with other dissenters, rejected the Pentateuch and the historical books down to Job, as a rule of faith and practice in a Christian community, and received the devotional and prophetical parts with the New Testament, as a law for the Lords house. [Res. p. 90, and Hist. of Bap. p. 450] The writings and the lives of their eminent ministers are totally lost; so that we know nothing of these men but from the pens of their enemies, yet even these confess their excellency. [Milners Ch. Hist. Cent. 9, ch. 2]
8. But we now return to their efforts. Constantine gave himself the scriptural name of SYLVANUS. He preached with great success in Pontus and Cappadocia, regions once enlightened and renowned for Christianity and suffering piety (1 Pet. 1) were again blessed with the gospel through his exertions. Great numbers of disciples were made and gathered into societies. The body of Christians in Armenia came over to the Paulicians, and embraced their views. In a little time, congregations were gathered in the provinces of Asia Minor, to the westward of the river Euphrates. Their opinions were also silently propagated in Rome, Milan, and in the kingdom beyond the Alps (France).
Churches were formed as much upon the plan and model of the apostolic churches as it was in their power to bring them. Six of their principal churches took the names of those to which Paul addressed his epistles, Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse, Thessalonica; while the names of Sylvanuss fellow-teachers were Titus, Timothy, Tychicus, "This innocent allegory," says Gibbon [Ro. Hist., ch. 54], "revived the memory and example of the first ages." The Paulician teachers were thus distinguished only by their scriptural names. They were known by the modest title of fellow-pilgrims, by the austerity of their lives, their zeal or knowledge, and the credit of some extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit. They were incapable of desiring the wealth and honors of the Catholic prelacy; such antichristian pride they bitterly censured; and even the rank of elders or presbyters was condemned as an institution of the Jewish synagogue. ["The candor of Gibbon is remarkable in this part of his history."--Milner] There is no mention in all the account of this people of any clergy among them. [Rob. Res. p. 80] Though charged with the Manichean errors, they have been honorably freed from this reproach by respectable writers. [Jortins Rem. on Hist. v. iii., p. 498, and Lardners Cred. of the Gosp. History, pt. 2, oh. 63, v. iii., p. 546] They called themselves Christians, but the Catholics they named Romans, as if they had been heathens. [Lardner, Id. p. 407]
9. We have here exhibited a confession of simple worship, a scriptural constitution to their churches and its officers, with a blameless feature in the manners of these Christians, which has been conceded by their enemies. Their standard of perfection was so high in Christian morals that their increasing congregations were divided into two classes of disciples. [These two classes can be traced through the Albigensian, Waldensian, German, and Dutch Baptist Churches, from this parent stock.] They had not any ecclesiastical government, administered by bishops, priests, or deacons: they had no sacred order of men distinguished by their manner of life, their habit, or any other circumstance from the rest of the assembly. They had certain teachers whom they called companions in the journey of life; among these there reigned a perfect equality, and they had no peculiar rights, privileges, nor any external mark of dignity to distinguish them from the people. They recommended to the people without exception, and that with the most affecting and ardent zeal, the constant and assiduous perusal of the Scriptures, and expressed the utmost indignation against the Greeks who allowed to the priests alone an access to those sacred fountains of divine knowledge [Mosh. Hist. C. 9, p. 2, ch. 5,~5]
No object can be more laudable than the attempt to bring back the Christian profession to its original simplicity, which evidently appears to have been the aim of the Paulicians, though for this commendable conduct, terms of reproach and epithets of disgrace have been heaped on their memories by interested historians and dictionary writers. In this good work of preaching and evangelizing provinces, Sylvanus spent twenty-seven years of his life, taking up his residence at Cobossa, and disseminating his opinions all around. The united exertions of these people, their scriptural views, doctrine, discipline, and itinerating system, were attended with evident displays of divine approbation, and multitudes embraced a gospel simply and fully preached.
10. Alarmed at the progress these novel opinions were making, and discovering the growing importance of the Paulicians, the church party "engaged in the most bitter and virulent controversy with them." Ineffectual in their efforts, the Greek emperors began to persecute them with the most sanguinary severity. The Paulicians were sentenced to be capitally punished, and their books, wherever found, to be committed to the flames; and further, that if any person was found to have secreted them, he was to be put to death, and his goods confiscated.
A Greek officer named Simeon, armed with legal and military authority, appeared at CORONIA to strike the shepherd, Sylvanus, and to reclaim, if possible, the lost sheep. By a refinement of cruelty, this minister of justice placed the unfortunate Sylvanus before a line of his disciples, who were commanded, as the price of their pardon, and as proof of their penitence, to stone to death their spiritual Father. The affectionate flock turned aside from the impious office; the stones dropped from their filial hands; and of the whole number, only one executioner could be found. This apostate, Justus, after putting Sylvanus to death, gained by some means admittance into communion, and again deceived and betrayed his unsuspecting brethren; and as many as were treacherously ascertained, and could be collected, were massed together into an immense pile, and by order of the emperor, consumed to ashes. Simeon, the officer, struck with astonishment at the readiness with which the Paulicians could die for their religion, examined their arguments, and became himself a convert, renounced his honors and fortune, and three years afterwards went to Cobossa, and became the successor of Constantine Sylvanus, a zealous preacher among the Paulicians, and at last sealed his testimony with his blood. [Milner and Jones, ut sup] To free the East from those troubles and commotions said to arise from the Paulician doctrines, a great number of them were transported into THRACE during this century; but still a greater number were left in Syria and the adjoining countries. From Thrace these people passed into Bulgaria and Sclavonia, where they took root, and settled in their own church order.
From these churches, at after periods colonies were sent out, and they are said to have inundated Europe, [Mosh. Hist. c. 11, p. 2, ch. 5, ~ 2, 3] though some relics of these ancient communities were to be traced till the fifteenth century.
11. From the blood and ashes of the first Paulician victims, a succession of teachers and congregations repeatedly arose. The Greeks, to subdue them, made use both of arguments and arms, with all the terror of penal laws, without effecting their object. The great instrument of this peoples multiplication was, the alone use of the New Testament, of which some pleasing anecdotes are related. One Sergius was recommended by a Paulician woman to read Pauls writings, and his attention to the sacred records brought him to embrace their views. For thirty-four years he devoted himself to the ministry of the gospel. Through every city and province that Sergius could reach, he spread abroad the savor of the knowledge of Christ, and with such success, that the clergy in the hierarchies considered him to be the forerunner of Antichrist; and declared he was producing the great apostasy foretold by Paul. The emperors, in conjunction with the clergy, exerted their zeal with a peculiar degree of bitterness and fury against this people. Though every kind. of oppressive measure and means was used, yet all efforts for their suppression proved fruitless, "nor could all their power and all their barbarity, exhaust the patience nor conquer the obstinacy of that inflexible people, who possessed," says Mosheim, "a fortitude worthy of a better cause"!
12. The face of things changed towards the end of the eighth century, and the prospects of this harassed people brightened under the emperor Nicephorus, who restored to them their civil and religious privileges. During this auspicious season the Paulicians widely disseminated their opinions, and it is recorded that they became formidable to the East. [Chambers Cyclop. Art. Paulicians] Those persecuting laws which had been suspended for some years, were renewed and enforced with redoubled fury under the reigns of Michael and Leo, who made strict inquisition throughout every province in the Grecian empire, and inflicted capital punishment upon such of them as refused to return to the bosom of the church. These decrees drove the Paulicians into desperate measures. "Oppression maketh a wise man mad." [Gibbon renders an indirect apology for the conduct of these people at this period. Hist. ch. 54] The Paulicians are now charged with having put to death some of their clerical oppressors, and also of taking refuge in those provinces governed by Saracens, and that in union with those barbarians, they infested the Grecian states.
The power and influence of these dissidents were found to be so great as to suggest the policy of allowing them to return to their own habitations, and dwelling there in tranquility. The severest persecution experienced by them was encouraged by the empress Theodora, A.D. 845. Her decrees were severe, but the cruelty with which they were put in execution by her officers was horrible beyond expression. Mountains and hills were covered with inhabitants. Her sanguinary inquisitors explored cities and mountains in lesser Asia. After confiscating the goods and property of one hundred thousand of these people, the owners to that number were put to death in the most barbarous manner, and made to expire slowly under a variety of the most exquisite tortures. The flatterers of the empress boast of having extirpated in nine years that number of Paulicians. Many of them were scattered abroad, particularly in Bulgaria. Some fortified the city of Tephrice and Philippopolis, from which last city they were called Philippopolitans; and though they were driven hence, yet the spirit of independence was not subdued. A portion of this people emigrated from Thrace, and their doctrines soon struck deep root in European soil. Such as escaped from the inquisitors fled to the Saracens, who received them with compassion; and in conjunction with whom, under experienced officers, they maintained a war with the Grecian nation for the period of one hundred and fifty years. During the reign of John Zimicus, they gained considerable strength, and during the tenth century, they spread themselves abroad throughout different provinces. From Bulgaria they removed into Italy, and spreading themselves from thence through the other provinces of Europe, "they became extremely troublesome to the Roman pontiffs upon many occasions. Here the history of this interesting-people rests, so far as it respects the Levant; but we shall give a slight statement of their migratory movements in order to make our future sections illustrative of these people, though under different names.
13. "From Italy," says Mosheim, "the Paulicians sent colonies into almost all the other provinces of Europe, and formed gradually a considerable number of religious assemblies, who adhered to their doctrine, and who realized every opposition and indignity from the popes. It is undoubtedly certain, from the most authentic records, a considerable number of them were, about the middle of the eleventh century, settled in Lombardy, Insubria, but principally at Milan; and that many of them led a wandering life in France, Germany, and other countries, where they captivated the esteem and admiration of the multitude by their sanctity. In Italy, they were called Paterini and Cathari. In France, they were denominated Bulgarians, from the kingdom of their emigration, also Publicans, instead of Paulicians, and boni homines, good men; but were chiefly known by the term Albigenses, from the town of Alby, in the Upper Languedoc. The first religious assembly which the Paulicians formed in Europe is said to have been at Orleans, in the year 1017, on which we shall enlarge under the churches in France, to which we shall repair after we have traced their existence and labors in the kingdom of Italy.
14. Here we may be permitted to review the apostolic character and exertions of this extensive body of people, while we may express our surprise at the virulent opposition, the cruel measures used, and the extensive sacrifice of human life, for successive ages, on the alone ground of religious views. A special instance of divine grace was displayed in this peoples rise and early success; and we must attribute their preservation and enlargement to the exercise of the same compassion. An evident mark of apostolic spirit possessed by this people must be admitted by all; without any funds or public societies to countenance or support the arduous undertaking, otherwise than their respective churches, the Paulicians fearlessly penetrated the most barbarous parts of Europe, and went single-handed, and single eyed, to the conflict with every grade of character. In several instances they suffered death or martyrdom, not counting their lives dear, so that they could promote the cause of their Redeemer. [See Mosheims History; Gibbons Ro. Hist. ch. 54; Robinsons Eccl. Res. ch. 6, pp. 77-79; Joness Lectures on Eccl. Hist. v. ii., pp. 179--184]