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sect. 11.] Reign of Treodosius the great:

271 dred and fifty, to which may be added, thirty-six of the Macedonian party. This is commonly termed the second Oecumenical or general council. They decreed that the Nicene faith should be the standard of orthodoxy, and that all heresies should be condemned. When the council was ended, the emperor issued two edicts against heretics ;

the first prohibited them from holding any assemblies; and the second, forbidding them to meet.in fields or villages! And as though this were not sufficiently extravagant, he followed up this absurd procedure by a law, in which he forbade heretics to worship or to preach, to ordain bishops or presbyters, commanding some to be banished, others to be rendered infamous and deprived of the common privileges of citizens. In the space of fifteen years he promulgated at least fifteen several edicts against the heretics. It is some apology for him certainly that he did not often put these execrable statutes in force ; and one would, charitably hope that Sozomen and Socrates, who have recorded the history of these whimsical transactions, are correct in thinking that he only intended by them to terrify others into the same opinions of the divine Being with himself.

But the zeal of Theodosius was not wholly absorbed in the establishment of uniformity among the professors of Christianity; he was equally anxious to extinguish the expiring embers of paganism. About the year 390, he issued a law, in which he expressly states that “ It is our will and pleasure, that none of our subjects, whether magistrates or private citizens, however exalted, or however humble may be their rank and condition, shall presume, in any city or in any place, to worship an inanimate idol, by the sacrifice of a guiltless victim.”* The act of sacrificing and the praetice of divination by the entrails of the victim, are declared a crime of high treason against the state, which can be expiated only by the death of the guilty. The rites of pagan superstition are abolished, as highly injurious to the truth and honour of religion; and luminaries, garlands, frankincense, and libations of wine are enumerated and condemned.

* Theod, 1. xvi. tit. 10. leg. 12.

Such were the persecuting edicts of Theodosius against the pagans, which were rigidly executed; and they were attended with the desired effect, for “ so rapid and yet so gentle was the fall of paganism, that only twenty-eight years after the death of Theodosius, the faint and minute vestiges were no longer visible to the eye of the legislatort." I

+ Gibbon's Rome, vol. v. ch. 20.

# The increase of the Christian profession in the world, must always be an interesting topic with those who rightly estimate the importance of the gospel to luman happiness; but every one must be aware of the difficulty there is in arriving at certain calculations on the subject. The reader, however, will require no apology from me for subjoining, in this place, a short extract from Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman empire. Under the reign of Theodosius,” says he “after Christianity had enjoyed, more than sixty years, the sunshine of imperial favor, the ancient and illustrious church of Antioch (in Syria) consisted of one hundred thousand persons ; three thousand of whom were supported out of the public oblations. The splendour and dignity of the Queen of the East, [the name then given to Antioch] the acknowledged populousness of Cæsarea, Seleucia and Alexandria, and the destruction of two hundred and fifty thousand souls in the earthquake which afflicted Antioch under the elder Justin, are so many convincing proofs that the whole number of its inhabitants was not less than half a million." Vol. ii. ch. 15.

Now according to this calculation, the reader will see that at the time Theodosius attempted to enforce an uniformity of worship throughout the empire, the proportion which the nominal Christians in Antioch bore to the rest of the citizens, was as one to five. Taking this as a fair average, there must have been in Rome two hundred and fifty thousand professed Chris. tians at that time, and in Alexandria, in Egypt, which was the second city in the empire, probably one hundred and fifty thousand. Thus in those three cities alone there were half a million of nominal Christians. The number of inhabitants included in the whole of the Roman Empire at that period, was one hundred and twenty millions; and if we extend the com

SECT. III.] Reflections on the fall of Paganism.

973

SECTION III.

THE SUBJECT CONTINUED.

From the commencement of the fifth century to the establish

ment of the dominion of the popes.

A. D. 401-606.

The fall of paganism, which may be considered as having begun to take place in the reign of Constantine, and as nearly consummated in that of Theodosius, is probably one of the most extraordinary revolutions that ever took place on the theatre of this world. Their own writers have described it as “ a dreadful and amazing prodigy, which covered the earth with darkness, and restored the ancient dominion of chaos and of night.”* But the pen of inspiration has depicted the awful catastrophe in strains of much higher sublimity and grandeur, and doubtless upon very different principles—“ I beheld,” says the writer of the Apocalypse," when he had opened the sixth seal, and lo, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll, when it is rolled together : and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And

* See Gibbon's Rome, vol. v. ch. 28. putation to that multitude, we should be led to conclude that there were among them twenty-four millions that professed the Christian religion, We must, however, keep this consideration always in view, that Christi. anity had, at this time, been sixty years established by law as the religion of the empire, and consequently not a little corrupted from its original purity. VOL. I.

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the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bond man, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains--and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the lamb, for the great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand ?”* The same thing seems to be intended, when the writer says, “ There was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven; and the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”+ In this highly wrought figurative language we are taught to conceive of the dreadful conflict which subsisted between the Christian and heathen professions, the persecutions which for three centuries had been inflicted upon the former, with the issue of the whole, in the ultimate overthrow of the

pagan persecuting powers, and the subversion of that idolatrous system in the empire.

From the time of the establishment of Christianity under Constantine to the end of the fourth century, a period of more than seventy years, the disciples of Jesus were highly privileged. They were in general permitted to sit under their own vine and fig-tree, exempt from the dread of molestation. The clergy of the Catholic church, indeed, persisted in waging a sanguinary and disgraceful contest with each other, about church preferments, and similar objects of human ambition; but, notwithstanding the squabbles of those men of corrupt minds, it must have been a season of precious repose and tranquillity to the * Rev. vi. 12-17.

Chap. xii. 7-9.

SECT. 111.] The discriminating principles of Ærius. 275 real churches of Christ, which stood aloof from such scandalous proceedings, and kept their garments unspotted from the world.

There are few things more gratifying to the friend of TRUTH, than to have an opportunity of recording the disinterested labours of such as, under circumstances of

discouragement, and frequently at the expense of all that *: men in general account valuable, have stood forth the

champions of her noble cause, against a prevailing torrent of error. We have already adverted to the rise of the Novatianist churches, which stood firmly attached to the simple doctrine and order of the first Christian churches, and maintained a public testimony against the corrupt state of the Catholic party. Towards the close of the fourth century arose LUCIFER, bishop of Cagliari, in the island of Sardinia, a man remarkable for his prudence, the austerity of his character, and the firmness of his mind in all his resolutions. Though he wrote in defence of the doctrine of the Trinity against the Arians, he refused all religious fellowship with both parties, on account of the corruption of their doctrine and the laxity of their discipline; while, he and his followers were content to suffer the persecution of either party.

About the same time, rose up Ærius, the founder of a new sect, who propagated opinions different from those that were commonly received, and collected various societies throughout Armenia, Pontus, and Cappadocia. We are indebted to Epiphanius, bishop of Cyprus, who died early in the fifth 'century, for recording the discriminating tenets of this denomination of Christians. Ærius was an elder of the church of Sebastia in Pontus; and, as Epiphanius, who underlook to confute him and all other heretics, informs us, obstinately defended four great er: rors. These were, 1. That bishops were not distinguished

* Mosheim, vol. i. p. 586.

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