Johann Christian Wilhelm Augusti Lyman Coleman.

The antiquities of the Christian church online

. (page 18 of 56)
Online LibraryJohann Christian Wilhelm Augusti Lyman ColemanThe antiquities of the Christian church → online text (page 18 of 56)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

portant in their writings, merely because they were subject to hu-
man infirmity, and were involved in some of those errors which grad-
ually gathered round the church from the second century, until the
days of the blessed Keformation.


The stern and awful sanctity of the primitive christians is pecu-
liarly manifest in the severity of that discipline to which they sub-

•* Siegers AIlerihQmer III. Bd. 79.

Digitized by VjOOQIC

174 OV dU>TNATlO!r.

jected offending members of their commnnroD. Their system of
discipline towards laymen who were subject to it, is Ailly developed
in a subsequent part of this work, chap. xvii. But the clergy of
every grade were the subjects of a discipline peculiar to their body ;
and in some respects even more severe than that of private members
of the church. The latter might, by suitable demonstrations of peai*
tence, be again restored to their former standing ; but this privilege
was never accorded to a degraded or excommunicated minister, if,
for any offence, he once fell under ecclesiastical censure, be was ex-
cluded from the clerical order entirely and forever.

The offences for which a clergyman was liable to censure or pun-
ishment were very numerous, and continually increased as the spirit
of ancient Christianity degenerated and gave place to the ostentatious
formalities of later times. They may, however, be comprised un-
der the following classes : apostasy, heresy, simony, neglect of daty
of any kind, especially departure from the prescribed forms of wor-
ship ; and open immorality.

Many of these offences evidently related to the peculiar trials to
which the primitive Christians were subject, and to the heresies and
defections which were consequent upon them. Offences of this
character were visited with peculiar severity upon the clergy.

The punishments inflicted upon offending members of the clerical
body during the first seven or eight centuries, may be reduced to die
following heads : suspension, degradation, exclusion from the com-
munion, imprisonment, corporal punishment, and excommunication.
1. Suspension. This related either to the salary of the clergyman,
or to his office. Both methods of punishment were practised by the
ancient church. An instance is related in the writings of Cypriao
of some whose monthly wages were suspended, while they were al-
lowed to continue in the discharge of their office. Decrees to this
effect were ordained by the councils of Nice, Bphesns, and Agde.

Suspension from office was varied according to circumstances.
At one time the offender was suspended from the performance of the
active duties of his office, whilst he still retained his clerical rank
with his brethren in the ministry.^ At another, he was forbidden to
perform some of the duties of his office, while he continued in the
discharge of others ; and again, he was debarred the performance of
all mmisterial duties for a definite period of time.
% Degradation, This punishment consisted, as its name implies,

Digitized by VjOOQIC


iDnremoTittf the offender from a higher to a lower grade of office.
This sentence of degradatioa appears to have heen final and irrevo-
cable.^ Bishops were in this manner transferred from a larger to a
smaller or less important diocesev^ Presbyters were degraded to the
Cider of deacons ; and deacons, to that of subdeacons. This spe-
cies of punishment was also inflicted upon bishops in Africa by su-
perseding them in their expected succession to the office of arch-
bishop or metropolitan.^

3. Exekaionfrom the communiofL Of this there weie two kinds,
which were denominated cammunio pertgrina^ and communio laiecu
The former has sometimes been confounded with the latter, or it
has been supposed to denote a communion in one kind, or commu-
nion only at the point of death, which, in the Romish church, was
regarded as a kind of passport to the future world. The roost prob-
able explanation of this point, confessedly obscure, is, that the term
eammunwt imyrfied not only a participation of the eucharist, but in
all the rights and privileges of a member of the church. Travellers
and strangers, unless they had testimonials certifying to their regular
standing in the church, were presumed to be under censure, and
were not allowed the privileges of full communion, though permitted
to receive, if need be, a maintenance from the funds of the church.
An instance is related of Chrysostom, who on a certain occa-
sion hospitably entertained the bishop of Alexandria, who had fled
from persecution to him at Constantinople ; but the bishop was not
allowed to partake of the eucharist, until it had been fully ascertained
that no just accusation could be brought against him. Clergy-
men under censure were sometimes treated in this way in their own
communion. They were placed in the same relations as strangers,
which was denoted by the phrase communio peregrina.^ Under
these circumstances they could neither officiate nor be present at the
celebralion of the Lord's supper, until they had given the prescribed

The act of communion was indeed the highest privilege of a lay-
man ; but it was a severe rebuke to one who had been elevated to
the rank of the clergy to be again degraded to the condition of a
layman, and to be required to communicate as a layman at the table
of the Lord. This was a kind of mitigated excommunication. He
was excluded from the body of the clergy and reduced to the condition
of a humble individual. In this situation he was required to perform

Digitized by VjOOQIC


certain services for that same body from which ttt had been expelled*
This was styled communio laica^ and the subject of this penalty wai
said to be delivered over to the secular arm, curiae tradi^ in the
phraseology of the ancient canonists.

4. ImprisonmenL The custom of confining delioqueot clergy-
men in monasteries appears to have taken its rise in the fotorth wad
fiAb centuries. At a later period it became a frequent mode of piia»

5. Corporal punishment. This kind of punishment, together with
the last mentioned, was inflicted only on clergy of the ioierior or-
dere.^ This mode of punishmtnt was by no means oncoonnoQ in
the time of Augustine. A presbyter, who had given false witneas,
could first be deposed from his office ; and then, as a layman, might
be subjected to corporal punishment Connected with the cborcbes
in large cities, such as Constootinople, there were houses of eorrec-
tion, decanicay for administering the correction of im|prisonsient and
of corporal punishment

& Excommunicalion, This was the last and highest form ef ec-
clesiastical censure. It cat off all hope on the part of the ofifen<ter
from ^er being again reinstated io the ministry, eren if he were re-
stored to the fellowship of the churches. None who had at any time
been exposed te ptibllc censure^ were restored again to their office.''

The above penalties appear to have been mSicted by authority of
ecclesiastical councils alone, or at least to haw been prescribed by



§ 1. History of CHtrRCHEs.

Christians in difierent ages have called the places where they
were wont to meet together for religious worship by a great variety
of names. The primitive appellation was, acccording to some, i»-
MXfjoia^ 1 Cor. 11: 18, 20, 22. So it was used by Ignatius, Clemens
Alezandrinus, Tertullian, e\t. To this may be added Ae names of

Digitized by VjOOQIC


^hog ^rot^ olxog hndftvUtgy dominicum, Damua Dei, etc. KVfftmtoPy nffwr^
9vxTtiQi9v, ifmqy ten^htm^ etc., the Lord^s house, house of the church,
bouse of prayer, temple, etc These names became familiar in the
third and fourth centuries.

The Grepman kirche^ from which is derived the Scotch kirk, and
English churchy came into use in the eighth century. The original
of the word is xVQwnofj xi'^ioxif , the Lord's house. Churches have
also been entided fiaQtvgicty in honor of the holy martyrs, and for the
same reason particular churches have been called by the names of
difier«nt saints and martyrs, St. PauFs, St. Peter's, etc. The fol-
lowing names have also, at different times, and for various reasons,
been given to christian ohurchas : tUuliy {ritXoi)^ araxtogop, ii^aiaf
ampni, concilia^ coneUiabtday conveniicula^ casae^ avvodoi, fiwaat^^iw,
x9ifniTif^ior, colttmha^ corptu Chriati, paog, rijirogy anoatoWlm^, nqo^
if^^Pj and many others.

The primitive Christians were oompelled to unite in the worship
of Grod wherever they could meet without molestation,— in private
houses, in the open fields, in desert and solitary places, in caves and
dens of the earth.^ In view of these circumstances, many have sup*
posed that no sacred edifices were set apart for the worship of God
io the first and second centuries. But there is satisihctory evidence
of the existence of Buch churche9 in the year 202,^ and that
they were allowed to appropriate to themselves such places of wor»
ship, under the emperors, from A. D. 222 to 235,^ and again from
260 to 300.^ Prom this time, the evidence of the existence of chris-
tian churches becomes full and satisfactory.^ Diocleslao directs his
rage especially against them, ordering tbem by his edict, A.D. 308,
to be razed to the^arth,* of which more than forty had already been
erected in Rome. Optatus mentions that in his time there were forty
or more large churches in Rome. — De Schism. Donat. lib. 2. c. 4,

AAer the persecution of Dioclesian, under Constantino and his suc-
cessors, the demolished churches were rebuilt, and such as had been
closed were again opened.*^ Pagan temples were, in some instances,
converted into christian churches ; but they were usually destroyed,
as not suited for public worship.^ Churches in great numbers were
erected, in a style of magnificence before unknown, in Constanti-
nople, in Jerusalem, and throughout the cities of Palestine, and sol-
emnly dedicated to the worship of God.^ This religious rite was
first introduced by Constantino.'^


Digitized by VjOOQIC


In his zeal for building churches, Justinian I. far surpassed all oth-
ers, and throughout his long reign, from A.D. 527 to 566^ made this
the great business of his life. But his chief care he expended in
building the magnificent and colossal church of St Sophia at CJon-
slantinople. Such was the splendor of ihis work, that at the conse-
cration of it ho exclaimed, NtvUrixa <n SoXofAtop^ " 1 have surpassed
thee, O Solomon." The perpendicular height, from the summit of
the grand arch to llie pavement of this edifice, was one hundred and
eighty feet. Some idea of this great work may be obtained from the
number of ministers and attendants who were appointed by the de-
cree of the emperor for the service of this church. They were as
follows : sixty presbyters, one hundred deacons, forty deaconesses,
ninety subdeacons, one hundred and ten readers, twenty-five singers,
one hundred door-keepers ; making a retinue of five hundred and
twenty-five ministers and attendants ! The value of 40,000 pounds*
of silver was expended in ornamenting the altar and the parts adja-
cent. The entire cost was nearly $5,000,000."

After the death of Justinian, the zeal for building churches greatly
declined, and few of any notoriety were erected from the fifth to the
eighth century. The arts of architecture, sculpture and painting,
had fallen into disrepute, and the churches which were erected were
of an inferior character, devoid, in a great degree, of ornament and

The Byzantine, or ancient Gothic style of architecture, was intro-
duced under Theodoric, in the beginning of the sixth century ;J«
and in this and the following centuries, many churches of this order
were built in Italy, Spain, France, England, and Germany. From
the seventh to the twelfth century, the resources of the christian
church were expended chiefly on cloisters, monasteries, and other
establishments suited to the ascetb life, to which Christians of those
ages generally addicted themselves.

The vast cathedrals of Europe, in the style of Modem Gothic,
are the product of the middle ages, and some of them date back
even to the thirteenth century. About this time ecclesiastical archi*
lecture attained to the height of its perfection. After the introduc*
(ion of the pointed arch, at the beginning of this period, buildings
were erected which exceeded, in size and architectural beauty, all
which had hitherto been dedicated to the services of the church.
The style of architecture which obtained at this time has been

Digitized by VjOOQIC


ally deooroinated Gothic, or new Gothic ; but it may more properly
claim the title of Grerman, or English. It prevailed in Grermany,
the Netherlands, England, and Denmark ; and from those countries
it was introduced into Italy, France, and Spain. Some suppose that
Saxony is the country to which its origin may be traced.

Some antiquaries regard the beautiful architecture of this period
as a sudden efiect produced by the invention of the pointed arch ;
while others contend that it was the result of a gradual improvement
in the art during the course of ibe eleventh and twelfth centuries.
Certain, however, it is, that this style of building, after having at-
tained its perfection more or less rapidly in the thirteenth century,
prevailed almost exclusively during the fourteenth and fifteenth.

Opinions are divided also upon a question relating to the quarter
from which this style was originally derived. Some persons sup-
pose that it was brought from the Arabians or Saracens, at the time
of the Crusades, or from the same people, in Spain and Sicily, at a
still earlier date. And it seems likely that some of its forms, at least,
may have originated in this quarter. Others refer the design to the
talent and invention of ono or two great masters, whom they sup-
pose to have flourished in the early part of the century, but without
being able to say who they were. While others again consider that
we are indebted for the improvement to the societies of masons,
which existed from a very early period, and were greatly encour-
aged by popes and emperors during the middle ages. They had
lodges in England and on the Continent ; some place their beginning
in Germany, others in France, and others in England under the
Saxon kings. These architectural corporations must not be con-
founded with the modern freemasons.

Early in the eleventh century began the system of raising money
for ecclesiastical buildings by the sale of indulgences. The example
of this practice was set by Pontius, bishop of Aries, in the year 1016.
According to Morinus, (De Sacram, Pcmil. lib. vii. c, 14, 20,) the
French bishops professed, during the twelfth century, to remit a
third or fourth part of penance to persons who should contribute a
certain sum of money towards the building or restoring of a place
of worship, in this way Mauritius, bishop of Paris, built the splen-
did cathedral Qf Notre Dame, and four abbeys ; for which, however,
he incurred the censure of some of his contemporaries. In later
times the example was frequently followed at Rome ; and it is well

Digitized by VjOOQIC


known that the collection of Peter's pence, and the sale of indul-
gences in raising money for the building of St. Peter's, was one of
the proximate causes of the German reformation.

<J 2. Form, Site, and Position of Churches.

1. Fbrm, The most ancient and approved form for churches
was an oblong ; sometimes with parallel sides, but more frequently
elliptical, like the form of a ship. So tlie Apostolical Constitutions
direct, lib. 2. c. 57, n(^mov fih o olxof taita tmfivurjg^ (oblong) o(rTf^
Boixt vrji'. As it was common to speak of the christian community
under the metaphor of a ship, so the edifice in which they worship-
ped was denominated nat)is^ a ship, arca^ an ark, nams Noae^ the
ark of Noah, natncula Pelri^ the boat of Peter ; having an allegori-
cal reference to the perils to which the church was exposed, and its
safety in God.

Another favorite form for several ages after Constantino the Great
was that of a cross, otovqov dixrjr^ atavgotidtj, axavi^wja. Some
were also quadrangular, octagonal, polygonal, and sometimes,though
very rarely, circular ; this was the usual form of heathen temples,
and therefore was disapproved by Christians.

2. Site. For the location of their churches the primitive Chris-
tians selected the summit of some high hill or elevated ground, unless
compelled for the sake of concealment to resort to some place leas
conspicuous. At other times they erected their churches over the
graves of martyrs and confessors. And not unfrequently for some
special reason, they prepared for thera^lves churches and oratories
under ground, which served both for devotional purposes, and as
sepulchres for their dead.^ In the tenth and eleventh centuries,
theie were many such in Germany ; these were denominated ngvx-
to/, eryptae,

^* During the sanguinary persecutions that assailed the primitive
disciples, the myrmidons of imperial vengeance often broke io up-
on their worship, dispersed their assemblies, and violently disposses-
sed them of the " upper rooms," in which they were wont to con-
gregate ; and in these circumstances, while some fled to the moun-
tuns and some to the deserts, multitudes took permanent refuge in
the spacious cemeteries that were situated in the outskirts of the an-
cient cities. Amid the deep and unbroken solitude of the cata-

Digitized by VjOOQIC


combs— places of abode less irksome, perhaps, from the ancient
style of building, than we are apt to imagine, — ^tbey solaced and ani-
mated one another from midnight till dawn, with spiritual exhortar
tions to constancy in the faith; and while the sword of vengeance
was sheathed, and the fury of their persecutors slumbered in the
night, they continued, in those undiscovered retreats, their wonted
exercises of prayer and praise. About forty-three of such subter-
ranean excavations still remain in the neighborhood of Rome alone,
containing the most convincing evidences that they were employed
for the ordinances of religion, as well as for concealment ; and when
we consider that numbers died, and deposited their bones there,
some of whom had eminently distinguished themselves as martyrs
in the cause of Christ, it is not difficult to imagine the strong emo-
tions that would animate the primitive Christians for the venerable
dust that surrounded them, and the intense power which religion
would acquire over their minds, in places which served at once ibr
the offices of worship and for the burial of the saints.^^*

8. Posilion, or aspect. In the aspect of their churches, the an-
cient Christians reversed the order of the Jews, placing the altar on
the East, so that in facing towards the altar in their devotions they
were turned to the East, in opposition to the Jewish custom of turn-
ing towards the West in prayer. As the Jews began their day with
the setting sun, so the followers of Christ began theirs with the
rinng sun. The eye of the Christian turned with peculiar interest
to the East, whence the day-spring from on high had visited him.
There the morning star of his hope fixed his admiring gaze. Thence
arose the Sun of righteousness with all his heavenly influences.
Thither in prayer his soul turned with kindling emotions to the altar
of hb Grod. And even in his grave, thither still he directed his
slumbering eye, in quiet expectation of awaking to behold in the
same direction the second appearing of his Lord, when he shall
come in the clouds of heaven to gather his saints.^

§ 3. Arrangement, and constituent parts.

No established order of arrangement and division prevailed in the
first three centuries. The churches of this period were rude and

** JamiesoD, pp. 106, 107.

Digitized by VjOOQIC


simple structures, varying in forn) and size according to circumstaD-
ces ; but about the fourth century, great uniformity began to be ob-
served in thia respect. The body of the church was divided into
three divisions^ corresponding with the three orders anuxig Chris-
tians ; the clergy^ including all officers of the community, the/ot/ib-
fiU^ or believers^ and the catechumens. This arrangement also bore
a resemblance to the division of the Jewish temple into the holy of
holies, the sanctuary, and the court. Perhaps there was an inten-
tional reference to both of these divisions ; for it must be remembered
that there was, at this time, an increasing disposition, in the chris-
tian church, to imitate the rites of Jewish worship. The thr^ divi-
sions were, 1. The bema or sanctuary, a sacred enclosure around
the altar appropriated to the clergy. 2. The naos or nave, occa-
pied by the' faithful, the lay members of the church. 3. The nar-
thex, or ante-temple, the place of the penitents and catechumens.
' Sometimes four or five divisions are enumerated ; which arise from
sub-dividing the narlhex into outer and inner, and reckoning the eze-
drael, or cmier buildings, as a portion of the church. We adhere to
the threefold, or more simple division, and proceed to speak of each
part in the order already described.

§ 4. Of the Bema, or Sanctuary.*

The bema, or sanctuary, the inner portion of the church which
was appropriated to the clergy, was known by many different
names. It was called the chorus or choir, ^ from the singing of the
service by the clergy, /9f^/ia from awapalntp, to ascend^ being an ele-
vated platform, ay toy ^ iylaafiOy a/ioi', iyiwv, sanctum^ sanduaruan^*
etc., because it was the sanctuary where most of the sacred rites
were performed. It was also denominated Ugcniiopf^ jr^Mr/^vrf^ioir,
duixopinai, ^writurnjgiop^'^ allar^ Spaiop, advtop^^ places not to heen^
tered. Neither laymen nor females were permitted, on any ooca-
sion^ to enter it ; kings and emperors were privileged with a seat
Within this sacred enclosure, from whene it received the name of
ordntoQon^ royal palace.

The platform of this portion of the church was a semi-circular or
elliptical recess, with a corresponding arch overhead, and separated

* See plan of ancient ehurchea, at the beginning.

Digitized by VjOOQIC


from the nave by a railing curioosly wrought in the form of net work
cancelliy hence the nanne chancel. Within was the throne of the
bishop, and subordinate seats on the right and left fo|r the lower
clergy.^ The bishop^s throne was usually covered with a veil, and
for this reason was styled cathedra velata'' In the middle of the
church stood the holy altar, or communion table, ruanfia Ugi^ fiwr-
tM?/, Ttysv/uonrixi}, the sacred, mysterums, or spiritual table, in such a
position as to be easily encompassed on every side. On this the sa-
cred elements were placed in the sacrament of the Lord^s supper.
On one side of the altar was a small table or secretary for receiving
the eustomary oblations previotis to the sacrament ; -and on the other
stood the (rx9vo<pv)UxxM>y, a recess into which the sacramental vessels
were conveyed to be washed and replaced before being removed to
the sacristry in which they were usually kept.

In process of time, this part of the church became the depository
of sacred relics, and the burial place of the sainted dead.

§ 5. The Nave.

The nave, or main body of the church, was called by different
names derived from the uses to which it was applied. It was called
the oratory of the people ;: because there they met for religious wor-
ship, reading the Scriptures, prayer and the preaching of the word.
It was also called the place of assembly, and the quadrangle, from
its quadrangular form in contrast with the circular or elliptical form
of the chancel.

In a central position stood the combo, fi^fut tw arayrwnMf^ sug*
gestam lectorum^ or reader^s desk, elevated on a platform above the
level of the surrounding seats. This was sometimes called the puU.
pit and the tribunal of the church,^ in distinction from the fiiifiu or
tribunal of the choir .^ All public notices, letters missive, and docu-
ments of public interest, were also communicated from the reader's
desk. The choristers and professional singers, navwtnol ftiltai, were
provided with seats on or near this desk. The seats in front and on
either side were occupied by the belitvers or christian communi-

Online LibraryJohann Christian Wilhelm Augusti Lyman ColemanThe antiquities of the Christian church → online text (page 18 of 56)