Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the reason of man, but by the supreme will and revelation of God. Kings reigned, not by “divine right,” but by divine permission; hence they could be “ rejected,” as Saul was, by the word of the Lord, from being king. How such a singular and temporary government as this should have been erected into a model for Christian states, defies all efforts of reason to comprehend ! Second: From Christ to Constantine there was no State Church at all. Paganism was the established and dominant form of religion in the Roman empire. Each successive emperor, from Augustus to Constantine, was, what the Pope has since become, supreme Pontiff, i.e., “ bridge maker.” During this whole period of three hundred years the religion of Jesus was supported and extended by voluntary efforts, not tolerated, frequently bitterly persecuted, always despised. This religion, nevertheless, penetrated to nearly every corner of the empire. But at the end of this period, the era of State Churches commences. This era we shall divide into three sections :—that in which the Church was allied with the Statethat in which the Church was superior to the State--and that in which the Church fell back into a secondary and subjective condition. The first period extends from Constantine to Charlemagne, the second from Charlemagne to the Reformation, and the third from the Reformation to the present time.

Before the age of Constantine, nay, even before the death of the latest of the Apostles, evil germs began to develop in the Church of Christ. Pride, ambition, and greed, called forth the rebuke of Paul and John. These, held in check by the long winter of adversity, unfolded themselves rapidly under the sun of royal favour.

Misled by a Papal forgery, put forth about the end of the eighth century, the world .concluded that Constantine did more for the Church than he is now known to have done. Constantine's donation is a delusion. What, then, did Constantine do for the Church? By a series of edicts he first made the Church equal with Paganism, then superior to it. He repealed an old law against her acquiring property, restored the property which, by that law, had been taken from her; enacted a new law giving power to individuals to give or bequeath property to her; supplemented her revenues from the imperial exchequer : petted and flattered her bishops, styling them priests and gods upon earth; raising them first to the status of civil councillors, and afterwards to the position of “judges and dividers" over their brethren. He feigned humility in their presence, seating himself, with their permission, on a low stool in the midst of their councils, having left his guards at the door. Besides all this, he enacted bans for the suppression of Paganism, and the propagation of Christianity. Tbus Constantine took up the Church into an alliance with the State, and the State, nothing loath, submitted to the adulterous embrace.

Constantine is thought by some to be the best friend the Church ever possessed ; it will, perhaps, be the opinion of more that he was, unintentionally, the greatest enemy she ever encountered ! The Christian clergy now succeeded to the position and privileges formerly held and possessed by the Pagan priests; and thus was the door opened into the holiest of offices to the vilest of mankind.

The machinery thus erected by the “first Christian Emperor continued in operation, with few interruptions or modifications, until the age of Charlemagne. The emperors were really, though not nominally, the heads of the Church, as well as of the State. They convened councils, presided in them, and confirmed their decrees. They enacted laws relating to Church matters by their own authority, pronounced decrees concerning heresies and controversies, appointed bishops, and inflicted punishment upon ecclesiastical offenders. Some, indeed, complained that the emperors wielded too much power, others that the bishops did ; in truth, they both did ; for the power had been taken out of the hands of the Christian people where it had been originally lodged, and was now held by the emperors and the bishops between them. The Church was, in this period, in strict alliance with the State.

We proceed now to the second era- that embraced between Charlemagne and the Reformation. Even before the legal establishment of Christianity the bishops of Rome had aimed at a kind of ecclesiastical premiership; partly because Rome was the seat of Civil Government, and partly because it was the “ See of Peter, Chief of Apostles.” Their claims, for a while resisted, were constantly renewed, until in 347, A.D., the Council of Sardica granted to the See of Rome a kind of general superintendence of the whole Church. Thus wben, in 405, Honorius removed the seat of Government from Rome to Revenna, the Pope obtained additional scope for the carrying out of his ambitious designs. This policy was so successfully pursued, that, when Leo the Isaurian became,

in 726, an iconoclast in Constantinople, the Pope became a rebel in Rome. The Romans proclaimed a Republic, and placed the Pope at the head of it; and there and then were laid the foundations of the temporal sovereignty of the Roman See.

Granted a general supervision of the whole Church by the Council of Sardica, and proclaimed Monarch of Rome, the Pope now sought to become the actual head of the universal Church. But he found it difficult to realize his idea. The kings of the Frankist dynasty claimed to exercise the same powers in Church matters in the regions of Gaul as the emperors had done in Rome. England, too, though remissioned by Romish emissaries, and yielding a deference to the decisions of Rome, as an elder Church, by no means admitted the Pope's supremacy. But ambition never wearies; and long before the close of this period, the Pope was the recognized and absolute Head of the whole of Western Christendom.

Nor did his ambition stop here. The Head of the Church aspired to supreme authority in all the States of Europe. He accomplished his purpose in process of time by the aid of two forged documents. One of these, already referred to, respected the donation of Constantine to Pope Sylvester. In this it was stated that Constantine had given to the Pope the Western half of the Empire. The other was the celebrated Decretals, a body of canon law, which was made to take the place of the civil code whenever it could be introduced. For awhile the contest was doubtful, but from the time of Hildebrand, the victory was sure. Now and then a king would rebel, as in our own country; but a Bull, laying his whole country under an interdict, soon reduced him to obedience. For when all the churches and graveyards in a kingdom were closed, and people could neither get married nor buried, it would require a stouter heart than our English John possessed, to withstand the outcry. The last struggle for supreme dominion in the West, continued through a whole century by the Guelphs and Ghibbelines, ended in favour of the Papal party.

The Kings of England, Scotland, Arragon, Portugal, Sardinia, and the two Sicilies, became vassals of the Pope and consented to receive their crowns from him. The Church was not now allied with the State ; but the State was utterly subservient to the Church. When the Pope, in the 12th century, could describe himself as set up by God to govern, not alone the Church, but the whole world, the last shred of civil and religious freedom had disappeared from Europe.

In exact proportion as the Church rose in wealth, power, and worldly influence, the States sunk into feebleness and impoverishment. Starting as they did upon equal terms, the Church had distanced the States immensely. The Church had been gradually conquering; the States gradually succumbing. The Church had been constantly rising, till she could rise no higher; the States had been constantly sinking, till they could sink no lower. The Church acquired her influence by ecclesiastical assumptions; her wealth by ecclesiastical terrors. If tithes were paid at all before the age

of Constantine, they were paid voluntarily; but in this period they were made compulsory, and recoverable by law, under the severest penalties. To tithes-personal, predial, industrial, mechanical, commercial was added a host of other“ dues,”—soul shot, church shot, light shot, plough alms, mortuaries, and so on. To them again was added a vast amount of real property, insomuch that, in the twelfth century, about half the soil of Europe was in the possession of the Church. Blackstone observes that, had William the Conqueror come about two hundred years later than he did, he would have found every inch of the soil of England in the Church's possession.

R

A prez

who, in the middle of a Scripture lesson, made an abrupt stop. said, “ Brethren, this sounds very like ism, let us another lesson," and then turned over to another part that he relish better. Such a preacher would be very likely to select an texts of a given character. This is trifling and unworthy our office as ministers. Exposition affords no shelter for dish, as short texts do. He who takes a large tract of ground as it up, with all that it includes and encloses, feels challenged to h. treatment. The prejudice he may have imbibed against a doctrine or in favour of some other, will be shaken when her face to face with sections in which the said doctrines seem pl, taught, or powerfully impinged on, and qualified, and checker course is left for him but to handle honestly what is before to submit to his findings, and to rejoice in them. If it con this, the creed and the Scripture are not exactly of the same it is fitter that the creed should have something taken i. added to it, than that the Scripture should be tamper Any of the differing schools of theology, and all of ther. be benefited by a freer investigation of the whole Another advantage of exposition is, that

It enables us to speak out without offence on delio cal points. In the whole duty of man many odd it cluded which the brief text never reaches. come at them without climbing a wall, or forcing a hed ping across a field, or swimming a river. Dealing with verse he must perform some abrupt feat or freak to remote point supposed. Such a violent introduction notice, and makes the speaker the subject of critic benefit of the thing is lost, and the hearers retire con bad taste of the speaker for dragging in what was subject. Amongst topics unsuitable for notice will of the one-verse text, we may name some of the da and wives, of parents and children, of masters and tions of debtor and creditor; the respect due charity, the maxims of business, and the obli to sustain church funds. These in their mani entitled to a place within the compass of the the desk, and nothing opens the door so habit of exposition. An entire book bein one of the gospels, or an epistle, the tes fairly. There is nothing awkward. requires no ceremony. Everything turn reproof be involved iu the exercze, th the charge of personality 2 his author. Or if there be men due to certain

Lead flattery, sincs

[graphic]
[graphic]

TIL THE DOHON PEQCTRESS

ure and discrimination,

etting aside what we judge talent could fint se ai do goods

useful to an expositor we The ites is an ermm ballenge

on their respective excel

New Testament; Gnomon light after it mayyiz tkan

rt Bengel; Hodge on the wentary on the Romans ;

to the Hebrews; Stuart's

stenberg on the Revelation discourse me never

Ims; Brown's Discourses serte freness a trest. But

ar going further. We have Inad information ini teatenssire aequum

New Testament Greek.-as oli me mar de titeettime being

vuish it from classical Greek, for young direstudieminemes to

Teem not so imperative to main themselves. Sara que totes

more than we insist on is the following partienas

ough exposition. They say Familiarity with the meetinal tros

d Greek, but several other ministers. Our work is with the Bible

which these two respectively es to be as familiar with its vocable

are made, we might ask, how prophecies, doctrines, and preeen

now extended to the antediwhich he has boxers off into

any centuries as it numbers charge given to the kings amn

ler basis of studies. Our time home to every minister:

conscientious and judicious unt of tiy mouth, but then

several purposes it is claimed w of life forbids us to spread u for the sacred tongues, because r's calling. For exposition they necessary. A moderate knowledge

consult with full advantage the us issuing from the Press in our

there is no one thing which goes in to explain the Sacred Volume than

which it was first written. in the breast of any young minister a le indicated, or shall cheer on in his

egun the practice recommended, or if it ons, not ministers, with respect for the 1 expository style, and make them better be grateful and give God the praise.

[graphic]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »