Robert Smith.

The Friend : a religious and literary journal (Volume 16) online

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hand, the theological sects which distracted
the east, strove, each for itself, to gain an
interest at Rome, hoping to triumph over its
opponents, by the support of the principal of
the western churches. Rome carefully re-
corded these requests and intercessions, and
smiled to see the nations throw themselves into
her arms. She neglected no opportunity of
increasing and extending her power. The
praises, the Hattery, and exaggerated compli-
ments paid to her, and her being consulted by
other churches, became in her hands as titles
and documents of her authority. Such is the
heart of man exalted to a throne ; flattery
intoxicates him, and his head grows dizzy.
What he possesses impels him to aspire after
more.

The doctrine of " the church," and " the
necessity for its visible unity," which had
gained footing as early as the third century,
favoured the pretensions of Rome. The great
bond which originally bound together the
members of the church, was a living failh in
the heart, by which all were joined to Christ
as their one Head. But various causes ere
long conspired to originate and develope the
idea of a necessity for some exterior fellow-
ship. Men accustomed to the associations
and political forms of an earthly country, car-
ried their views and habits of mind into the
spiritual and everlasting kingdom of Jesus
Christ. Persecution — powerless to destroy,
or even to shake the new community, com-
pressed it into the form of a more compacted
body. To the errors that arose in the schools
of deism, or in the various sects, was opposed
the truth, " one and universal," received from
the apostles, and preserved in the church.
All this was well, so long as the invisible and
spiritual church was identical with the visible
and outward community. But soon a great
distinction appeared : — the form and the vital
principle parted asunder. The semblance of
identical and external organization was gradu-
ally substituted in place of the internal and



spiritual unity, which is the very essence of
a religion proceeding from God. Men suf-
fered the precious perfume of faith to escape,
while they boiced themselves before the empty
vase that had held it. Faith in the heart nc
longer knit together in one the members of
the church. Then it was that other ties were
sought; and Christians were united by means
of bishops, archbishops, popes, mitres, cere-
monies and canons. The living church, re-
tiring by degrees to the lonely sanctuary of a
feie solitary souls — an exterior church was
substituted in place of it, and installed in all
its forms as of Divine institution. Salvation
no longer flowing forth from that word which
was now hidden — it began to be affirmed that
it was conveyed by means of certain invented
forms, and that none could obtain it without
resorting to such means ! No one, it was said,
can by his fiiith attain to everlasting life.
Christ communicated to the apostles, and the
apostles to the bishops, the unction of the
Holy Spirit, and this Spirit is found only in
this order of communication. In the begin-
ning of the gospel, whosoever had received
the Spirit of Jesus Christ was esteemed a
member of the church: — now the order was
inverted ; and no one, unless a member of the
church, was counted to have received the Spi-
rit of Jesus Christ.

As soon as the notion of a supposed neces-
sity for a visible unity of the church had taken
root, another error began to spread : — namely,
that it was needful there should be some out-
ward representation of that unify. Though
no trace of any primacy of St. Peter above
the rest of the apostles appears in the gospels;
although the idea of a primacy is at variance
with the mutual relations of the disciples as
" brethren," — and even with the spirit of the
dispensation, which requires all the children
of the Father to minister one to another,
acknowledging but one Master and Head ; and
though the Lord Jesus had rebuked his disci-
ples whenever their carnal hearts conceived
desires of preeminence ; — a primacy of St.
Peter was invented, and supported by misin-
terpreted texts, and men proceeded to acknow-
ledge in that apostle, and in his pretended
successors, the visible representative of visible
unity — and head of the whole church. [Is it
not possible that in other churches members
who have not submitted to spiritual baptism,
or have parted with ils influence, may imper-
ceptibly place an undue reliance upon minis-
ters, and elders, and active Friends, concluding
if they appear to be in unity, the church will
rest safely in their hands, and thus give them-
selves little or no anxiety about ils concerns?
But what a lapse from primitive life and zeal.
With such indifierence how can all the chil-
dren of the Father minister one to another?- —
how can such be regarded as his adopted chil-
dren ? — and on what ground can they expect to
hear the heavenly salutation, " ^Vell done
good and faithful servant, thou hast been
faithful in a few things, I will make thee
ruler over more ; enter thou into the joy of
thy Lord ?"]

The constitution of the patriarchate contri-
buted further to the exaltation of the Roman
papacy. As early as the first three centuries,



196



THE FRIEND.



the cluirclies of the metropolitan cities had
been held in peculiar honour. The council
of Nice in its sixth canon, named especially
three cities, whose churches, according to it,
held an anciently estublished authority over
those of the surrounding provinces. These
were, Alexandria, Rome, and Antioch. The
political origin of this distinction may be dis-
cerned in the name, which was at first given
to the bishops of these cities ; they were
called Exarchs, like the political governors.
In later times, they bore the more ecclesias-
tical name of Patriarch. It is in the council
of Constantinople that we find this title first
used. The same council cre.ited a new Pa-
triarchate, that of Conslaiitiiiople itself, the
new Rome, the second capital of the empire.
Rome, at this period, shared the rank of
Patriarchate with these three churches. But
when the invasion of Mahomet had swept
away the bishoprics of Alexandria and An-
tioch, when the see of Constantinople fell
away, and in latter times, even separated
itself from the west, Rome alone remained,
and the circumstances of the times causing
every thing to rally around her, she remained
from that time without a rival. New and
more powerful partisans than all the rest soon
came to her assistance. Ignorance and super-
stition took possession of the church, and
delivered it vp to Rome, blindfold and mana-
cled. Yet this bringing into captivity was
not effected without a struggle. The voices
of particular churches frequently asserted their
independence. This couragtons remonstrance
was especially heard in proconsular Africa,
and in the east. [A man may be a vital
Christian with very little learning ; but igno-
rance, and a disinclination to make any effort
for the acquisition of useful knowledge, par-
ticularly of the stale of religious Society, its
doctrines and its discipline, whether they are
held and administered in the Spirit, and ac-
cording to their intent and signification, will
never add to the spiritual growth of any one.
Such a temper of mind fosters idleness and
laziness, and lands in stupidity. It prepares
the man who indulges it, to become the tool
of shrewd men, ambitious of their own conse-
quence in society, and they will be very likely
to use such in subserving their schemes of
aggrandisement and power.]

To silence tlie cries of the churches, Rome
found new allies. Princes, who, in these
troublesome times, often saw their thrones
tottering, offered their adherence to the
church, in exchange for her support. They
yielded to her spiritual authority, on condi-
tion of her paying them with secular domin-
ion. They left her to deal at will with the
souls of men, provided only she would deliver
them from their enemies. The power of the
hierarchy in the ascending scale, and of the
imperial power which was declining, leaned
thus one toward the other — and so accelerated
their two fold destiny. Rome could not lose
by this. An edict of Theodoseus II., and of
Valentine III., proclaimed the bishop of Rome
ruler of the whole church. Justinian issued a
similar decree. These decrees did not con-
tain all the popes pretended to see in them.
But in these times of ignorance, it was easy



or them to gain reception for that interpre-
tation which was most favourable to themselves.
The dominions of the Emperors in Italy be-
coming every day more precarious, the bishops
of Rome took advantage of it to withdraw
themselves from that dependence. But already
the forests of the north had poured forth the
most efliictual promoters of papal power. The
barbarians who had invaded the west, and
settled themselves therein — but recently con-
verted to Christianity — ignorant of the spi-
ritual character of the church, and feeling the
want of an external pomp of religion, prostra-
ted themselves in a half savage and half
heathen state of mind at the feet of the chief
priest of Rome. At the same time, the peo-
ple of the west also submitted to him. First,
the Vandals, then the Ostrogoths, a short
time after the Burguridians and the Alains,
then the Visigoths, and at last the Lombards
and the Anglo-Saxons came bowing the knee
to the Roman Pontiff It was the sturdy
shoulders of the children of the north which
elevated to the supreme throne of Christen-
dom, a pastor of the banks of the Tiber.
These events occurred in the west, at the
beginning of the seventh century, at the pre-
cise period that the Mahometan power arose
n the east, and prepared to overrun another
division of the earth. From that time the evil
continued increasing. In the eighth century,
we see the bishops of Rome on the one hand
resisting the Greek Emperors, their lawful
sovereigns, and endeavouring to expel them
from Italy ; whilst, on the other, they court
the French Mayors of the Palace, and demand
from this new power now rising in the west,
a share in the wreck of the Empire. We see
Rome establish her usurped authority between
the east, which she repelled, and the west,
which she courted ; thus erecting her throne
upon two revolutions.

Alarmed at the progress of the Arabs, who
had made themselves masters of Spain, and
boasted that they would speedily traverse the
Pyrenees and the Alps, and proclaim the
name of Mahomet on the seven hills — terri-
fied at the daring of Aistolpho, who at the head
of the Lombards, threatened to put every Ro-
man to death, and brandished his sword before
the city gates, Rome, in the prospect of ruin,
turned on all sides for protection, and threw
herself into the arms of the Franks. The usur-
per, Pepin, demanded the confirmation of his
claim to the throne: — the pope granted it ;
and in return obtained his declaration in de-
fence of the " Republic of God." Pepin
recovered from the Lombards their conquests
from the emperor, but instead of restoring
them to that prince, he deposited the keys of
the conquered cities on the altar of St. Peter ;
and with uplifted hand swore that it was not
in the cause of man that he had taken arms;
— but to obtain from God the remission of his
sins, and to do homage for his conquests to
St. Peter! Thus did France establish the tem-
poral power of the popes.

Charlemagne appeared. At one time we see
him climbing the stairs of St. Peter's, devoutly
kissing the steps. Again he presents himseif
— but it is as master of all the nations of the
western empire, and of Rome itself. Leo III.



decided to confer the rank on one who already
possessed the power ; and in the year 800,
on Christmas day, he placed the crown of the
Roman Emperors on the brow of the son of
Pepin. From this period, the pope belonged
to the empire of the Frardis, and his connec-
tion with the east, was at an end ; thus losing
his hold on a decayed tree, nodding to its fall,
in order to graft himself upon a wild but vigor-
ous sapling. Little could he then have dared
to hope for the elevation that awaited his suc-
cessors among the German natives to which
he thus joined himselt".

MOKNING HYMN.

Psallcry and harp, awake 1 awake !

Him will we praise, will) cheerful voice,
\\ hose consluiit power and goodness make

'I'he ouigoinjjs of the M.



Online LibraryRobert SmithThe Friend : a religious and literary journal (Volume 16) → online text (page 73 of 154)