« AnteriorContinuar »
before Easter. It is said that they do not consider confession as a divine precept, but allow it to be only a positive injunction of the church ; but if such be really the case, it does not readi. ly appear how it agrees with the definition of a sacrament. It used, however, to be a much more rational and edifying service here than in the church of Rome ; for the ancient Greek church, as Dr. Covil observes, commanded her penitents to confess their sins in secret to God alone ; and bade them consult their priest or pastor in what was then needful to instruct them, and “ restore them in the spirit of meekness ;" so that here the end of confession was the amendment of the penitent ; whereas, in the church of Rome, it serves rather to magnify the glory of the priest.
In the former church, the confessors pretended only to abate or remit the penance, declaring the pardon to come from God alone ; in the latter, they take upon them to remit or forgive the sin itself. But, if we may credit a learned and judicious traveller (Tournefort,) the practice of confession is now much abused among the Greeks. “And another learned author calls it “ one of the fundamental pillars of the Eastern churches; the axis upon which their whole ecclesiastical polity turns; and that, without which, the clergy would no longer have any au. thority or influence over the consciences of the people," &c.*
The next in order of their mysteries, or sacraments, is ordination, and in this church they have the same division of the clergy into regular and secular, as in that of Rome ; and there are five orders of them proinoted by imposition of the bishop's hands, with prayer, viz, Readers, t Subdeacons, Deacons, Pres. byters and Bishops. The forms used in the ordination of deacons, priests, and bishops, are serious and significant, bearing in themselves evident marks of great antiquity ; but it does not appear that that of the reader or subdeacon is donsidered by them as a sacrament, or that ordination in general was so considered in the primitive church. At the consecration of a bishop, several bishops lay on their hands, together with the archbishop ; but it does not appear from Dr. King, who gives these offices at full length, that in this church the attending presbyters lay on their hands, together with the bishop, at the ordination of a presbyter, as is the practice in the church of England.
Great care used to be taken that the candidate for holy orders have no lameness, or other defect, either of body or limbs ; but the ancient discipline of the Greek church, with respect to ordination, is said to be now much neglected ; the canons being seldom consulted about the requisile age and character of the candidate, or the interval that should take place between the several orders ; so that it frequently happens that they are all conferred in the space of three or four
* Ricaut's Preface to the Slale of the Greek Church, p. 12.
This office includes singers, acolothyste, &
days. Yet, in those who are candidates for the Mitre, celibacy, and the assumption of Monastic habits, are still indispensably requisite : and hence, few or no bishops are elected from among the secular clergy, but almost every bishop elect is an Archimandrite, or Hieromonachus, i. e. an abbot or chief monk in some monastary.
This church, as well as that of Rome, seems to admit matrimony into the number of sacraments, on the ground of an expression of St. Paul concerning marriage, where, speaking of the union of husband and wife as being a stronger tie than that of parents and children, he adds, “ this is a great mystery; but I speak cancerning Christ and the church."* But surely the apostle's language would have been different and more explicit, had he meant that a Christian sacrament should be built on this text. Besides, the term mystery is of much greater latitude than sacrament; every sacrament is a mystery, but every mystery is not a sacrament.
The ceremonies with which matrimony is performed in the Greek church, consists of three distinct offices, formerly cele. brated at different times, after certain intervals, which now make but one service. First, there was a solemn service when the parties betrothed themselves to each other, by giving and receiving rings, or other presents, as pledges of their mutua) fidelity and attachment. At this time the dowry was paid, and certain obligations were entered into to forfeit sums in proportion to it, if either of the parties should refuse to ratify the engagement. At this ceremony, called the espousals or betrothing, the priest gives lighted tapers to the parties to be contract. ed, making the sign of the cross on the forehead of each, with the end of the taper, before he delivers it.
The second ceremony, which is properly the marriage, is Galled the office of matrimonial coronation, from a singular circumstance in it, that of crowning the parties. This is done in token of the triumph of continence ; and therefore it has, in some places, been omitted at second marriages. Formerly these crowns were garlands, made of flowers or shrubs ; but now there are generally kept in most churches crowns of silver, or some other metal, for the celebration of matrimony. At the putting of them on, the priest says, “ M. the servant of God, is crowned for the hand-maid of God, N. ;” and “N. the handmaid of God, is crowned for the servant of God, M. in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost ; adding thrice, “ O Lord our God, crown them with glory and honour.),
The third cerernony is that of dissolving the crowns on the eighth day ; after which the bride is conducted to the bridegroom's house, immediately to enter on the cares of his family.
The Greeks have no good opinion of second marriages, and a much worse of those who engage in holy matrimony a third time; and the fourth marriage is condemned as absolutely sin
* Ephes, y: 32
ful. It is required that the man be above fourteen years of age, and the woman above thirteen, before they enter into the state of matrimony ; and the consent of parents or guardians is deemed so necessary, that the want of it destroys the validity of the marriage. The solemnization of marriage during the fasts is prohibited, and divorces are not frequent, nor easy to be obtained.
The lust sacrament of the Greek church is that of the holy oil, or euchelaion, which is not confined to persons at the point of death, or dangerously ill, like the extreme unction of the church of Rome, but is administered, if required, to devout persons, upon the slightest malady. This ceremony, or mystery, as they are pleased to call it, is chiefly founded upon the advice of St. James, ch, v. ver. 14. 15. but is not deemed necessary to salvation ; and it is well that it is not, for seven priests are required to administer it regularly, and it cannot be administered at all by fewer than three.
This oil may be consecrated by a priest ; and when consecrated, each priest in his turn, takes a twig, and dipping it in the oil, now made holy, anoints the sick person crossways, on the forehead, on the nostrils, on the paps, the mouth, the breast, and both sides of the hands, praying that he may be delivered from the bodily infirmity under which he labours, and raised up by the grace of Jesus Christ.
This service the Latins, who are desirous to make all the ceremonies of the Greek church coincide with their own, consider the same as, or equivalent to, extreme unction : but though the Greek church reckons it in the number of her mysteries or sacraments, it differs from the Roman sacrament in its not being confined to persons periculose ægrotantibus, et mortis periculo imininente, and in its adhering more closely to the text on which it is founded, by requiring more priests than one to administer it.
The invocation of saints is practised in the Greek as well as in the Roman Church. They pay a secondary adoration to the Virgin Mary, to the twelve apostles, and to a vast number of saints with which the Greek kalendar abounds; but they deny that they adore them as believing them to be gods. The primary object of all religious worship is undoubtedly the Supreme Being; and the homage paid to those saints is only a respect as they define it, due to those who are cleansed froin original sin, and admitted to minister to the Deity,“ thinking it more modest, and more available, to apply to them to intercede with God, than to address themselves immediately to the Almighty.” Thus, as to the object, they assert that they are clearly distinguished from idolaters, notwithstanding their offering prayers, and burning incense to their saints.
But however plausible this reasoning may at first sight appear, it certainly implies the ascription of the divine and incommunicable attribute of ubiquity to the saints, and it will be difficult to reconcile it with that text of St. Paul, “ There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."*
Though the members of this church abhor the use of carved or graven images, and charge the Latins with idolatry on that account, they, notwithstanding, admit into their houses and churches the pictures of our Saviour, the Virgin Mary, and a wbole multitude of saints, to instruct, they say, the ignorant, and to animate the devotions of others. These pictures are usually suspended on the partition or screen that separates the chancel from the body of the church, which, from thence, receives the name of Iconostos ; and they honor them by bowing, kissing them, and offering up their devotions before them : they likewise sometimes perfume them with incense.
This church, at the celebration of the Lord's Supper, commemorates the faithful departed, and even prays for the remis. sion of their sins; at the same time, she rejects purgatory, and pretends not to determine dogmatically concerning the state or condition of departed souls. She must, however, believe in a middle or intermediate state between death and the general resurrection, and that no final judgment is passed upon the great body of mankind, till the consummation of all things, othorwise such prayers could not be offered without absurdity; and in this belief she is countenanced by most of the primitive fathers of the church, if not by several passages of scripture.t This commemoration of, and these prayers for, their deceased friends, seem to have been established, partly out of respect to the dead, and for their benefit, and partly to impress on the minds of the living a sense of their mortality. It is upon the same principle that a regard is paid to the reliques of saints and martyrs, of which, it must be owned, too superstitious a use is made in this church, as well as in that of Rome.
Works of supererogation, with their consequent indulgences and dispensations, which were once so profitable, and afterwards so fatal, to the interests of this last church, are utterly disallowed in that now under consideration ; nor does she lay claim, with her daughter of Rome, to the character of infallibility. Yet, on this head, she seems to be, like some other churches, not a little inconsistent ; for, while she wisely disowns an absolute freedom from error, her clergy seem to consider their own particular mode of worship as that which is alone acceptable to God, and their own church that which alone is entitled to the character of true and orthodox, whereby they assume in effect, what they deny in terms.
Predestination is a doctrine of this church : but if viewed in the same light by her members in general, as amongst the people of Russia, where Dr. King tells us it is a very prevailing opinion, viz. “ as depending on the attribute of prescience in
*1 Tim. ii. 15.
+ The period between death and the resurrection is an intermediate state of sensible existence of the soul, but it is not a period of probation:
the divine nature ;" few, I presume, of the most anti-calvinistical in this, or any country, will find much difficulty in subscribing to their doc!rine on this most intricate subject.
They consider the Septuagint as the authentic version of the Old Testament ;--acknowledge the eighty-five apostolical canons as ot great authority ;-receive nine provincial councils ; and allow nearly the same authority that is due to the sacred Scriptures, to the canons of the first seven oecumenical or general ones ; which are these : 1. The council of Nice, held in the year 325, under Constan
tine, against Arius, who denied the divinity of the Son, ex
cept in an inferior sense. 2. The first council of Constantinople, held A. D. 381, under · Theodosius the Great, against Macedonius, who denied the
divinity of the Holy Ghost. 3. The council of Ephesus, A. D. 431, in the reign of Theo
dosius Minor, against Nestorius, who maintained the same : opinion as Arius, and asserted, besides, that our blessed Lord
had two persons, as well as two natures. 4. The council of Chalcedon, A. D. 451, in the reign of Mar
cian, against Eutyches, who denied the humanity of Christ, and asserted that there was only one nature in him, the oppo
site extreme to the Nestorians. 5. The second council of Constantinople, A. D. 553, in the
reign of Justinian, in which the three chapters, and certain
doctrines of Origen, &c. were condemned. 6. The third council of Constantinople, in Trullo, A. D. 680, under Constantine Pogonatus, against Sergius, pope Honorius, Macarius, bishop of Antioch, and others, who held that Christ had but one nature and one will, and were thence called
Monothelites. 7. The second council of Nice, A. D. 787, in the reign of
Constantine and his mother Irene, against the Iconomachi, who condemned the use of pictures and images ; and it is on the authority of this council that the 'Greeks defend the use of their pictures in their churches and worship:
The Greeks observe a great number of holy days, and days of abstinence; and keep four fasts in the year more solemn than the rest, of which that of Lent is the chief. It is even said that there is not a day in the year, which, in their church, is not either a fast or a festival : and that the several books containing the church-service for all the days in the year, amount to more than twenty volumes folio, besides one large volume called the Regulation, which contains the directions how the rest are to be used.
They have twenty-two fixed and immoveable feasts, besides those of the church of England. Their other festivals are moveable, and depend upon Easter, in assigning which, they make use of the old pascal or lunar cycle, as established by the first general council of Nice.