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ABBA, a Syriac word, signifying Fa-1 ther. It is more particularly used in the Syriac. Coptic, and Ethiopicj churches, as a title given to the bishops. The bishops themselves bestowed the title Abba more eminently on the bishop of Alexandria, which occasioned the people to give him the title of Saba or j Pajia; that is, Grandfather: a title j which he bore before the bishop of Rome, It is a Jewish title of honour given to certain Rabbins called Tanaltes: it is also used by some writers of the middle age for the superior of a monastery. St. Mark and St Paul use this word in their Greek, Mark xiv. 36. Rom. viii. 15. Gal. iv. 6. because it was then commonly known in the synagogues and the primitive assemblies of the Christians. It is thought by Selden, Witsius, Doddridge, and others, that Saint Paul alluded to a law among the Jews which forbade servants or slaves to call their master Abba, or Father; and that the apostle meant to convey the idea that those who believed in Christ were no longer slaves to sin; but being brought into a state of holy freedom, might consequently address God as their Father.
ABBE. The same with Abbot, 'which see. Also the name of curious popular characters in France; who are persons who have not yet obtained any precise or fixed settlement in church or state, but most heartily wish for and would accept of either, just as it may happen. In the mean while their privileges are many. In college they are the instructors of youth, and in private families the tutors of young gentlemen.
ABBESS, the superior of an abbey or convent of nuns. The abbess has the same rights and authority over her nuns that the abbots regular nave over their monks. The sex, indeed, does not allow her to perform the spiritual functions annexed to the priesthood, wherewith the abbot is usually invested; but there are instances of some abbesses who have a right, or rather a privilege, to com
mission a priest to act for them. They have even a kind of episcopal jurisdiction, as well as some abbots who are exempted from the visitation of their diocesan.
ABBEY, a monastery, governed by a superior under the title of Abbot or Abbess. Monasteries were at first nothing more than religious houses, whither persons retired trom the bustle of the world to spend their time in solitude and devotion: out they soon degenerated from their original institution, and procured large privileges, exemptions, and riches. They prevailed greatly in Britain before the reformation, particularly in England; and as they increased in riches, so the state became poor, for the lands which these regulars possessed could never revert to the lords who gave them. These places were wholly abolished by Henry VIII. He first appointed visitors to inspect into the lives of the monks and nuns, which were found in some places very disorderly; upon which the abbots, perceiving their dissolution unavoidable, were induced to resign their houses to the king, who by that means became invested with the abbey lands; these were afterwards granted to different persons, whose descendants enjoy them at this day: thev were then valued at 2,853,000/. per annum; an immense sum in those days. —Though the suppression of these houses, considered in a religious and political light, was a great benefit to the nation, yet it must be owned, that, at the time they flourished, they were not entirely useless. Abbeys were then the repositaries as well as the seminaries of learning: many valuable books and national records have been preserved in their libraries; the only places wherein they could have been safely lodged in those turbulent times. Indeed, the historians of this country are chiefly beholden to the monks for the knowledge they have of former national events. Thus a kind Providence overruled even the institutions of superstition for good. See Monastebv.
ABBOT, the chief ruler of a monastery or abbey. At first they were laymen, and subject to the bishop and ordinary pastors. Their monasteries being remote from cities, and built in the farthest solitudes, they had no share in ecclesiastical affairs; bat, there being among them several persons of learning, they were called out of their deserts by the bishops, and fixed in the suburbs of the cities, and at length in the cities themselves. From that time they degenerated, and, learning to be ambitious, aspired to be independent of the bishops, which occasioned some severe laws to be made against them. At length, however, the abbots carried their point, and obtained the title of lord, wr.h other badges of the episcopate, particularly the mitre. Hence arosenew distinctions among them. 1'hose were termed mitred abbots who were privileged to wear the mitre, and exercise episcopal authority within their respective precincts, being exempted from the jurisdiction of the bishop. Others were called croaiered abbots, from their bearing the croairr, or pastoral staff. Others were styled ecumenical or universal abbots, in imitation of the patriarch of Constantinople , while others were termed cardinal abbots, from their superiority over all other abbots. At present, in the Roman catholic countries, the chief distinctions are those of regular and commendatory. The former take the vow and wear the habit of their order; whereas the latter are seculars, though they are obliged by their bulls to take orders when of proper age.
ABELIANS, or Abelonians, a sect which arose in the diocese of Hippoo in Africa, and is supposed to have begun in the reign of Arcadius, and ended in that of Theodosius. Indeed, it was not calculated for being of any long continuance. They regulated marriage after the example of Abel, who, they pretended, was married, but lived in a state of continence: they therefore allowed each man to marry one woman, but enjoined them to live in the same state. To keep up the sect, when a man and woman entered into this society, they adopted a boy and a girl, who were to inherit their goods, and to marry upon the same terms of not Jiaving children but of adopting two of different sexes.
ABEST A, the name of one of the sacred books of the Persian Magi, which they ascribe to their great founder Zoro aster. The Abesta is a commentary on two others of their religious books, called Zend and Pazend; the three toge
ther including the whole system of the Ignicold, or worshippers of fire.
ABIL1FY. See Inability.
ABLU riON, a ceremony in use among the ancients, and still practised in several parts of the world. It consisted in washing the body, which was always done before sacrificing, or even entering their houses. Ablutions appear to be as old as any ceremonies, and external worship itself. Moses enjoined them, the heathens adopted them, and Mahomet and his followers have continued them. The Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Jews, all had them. The ancient Christians had their ablutions before communion, which the Romish church still retain before their mass, and sometimes after. The Syrians. Copts, &c have their solemn washings on Good Friday; the lurks also have their ablutions, their Ghast, their Wodou, Aman, &c.
ABRAHAM1TES, an order of monks exterminated for idolatry by Theophilus. in the ninth century. Also the name of another sect of heretics who had adopted the errors of Paulus. See Paulicians.
ABSOLUTION signifies acquittal. It is taken also from that act whereby the priest declares the sins of such as are penitent remitted. 1 he Romanists hold absolution a part of the sacrament of penance: and the council of Trent and that of Florence declare the form or essence of the sacrament to lie in the words of absolution. "I absolve thee "of thy sins." According to this, no one can receive absolution without the privity, consent and declaration of the priest; except, therefore, the priest be willing, God himself cannot pardon any man. This is a doctrine as blasphemous as it is ridiculous. The chief passage on which they ground their power of absolution is that in John xx. 23: "Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained." Hut this is not to the purpose; since this was a special commission to the apostles themselves, and the first preachers of the Gospel, and most probably referred to the power he gave them of discerning spirits. By virtue of this power, Peter struck Ananias and Saphira dead, and Paul struck Elimas blind. But, supposing tie passage in question to apply to the successors of the apostles, and to ministers in general, it can only import that their office is to preach pardon to the penitent, assuring those who believe that their sins are forgiven 11 through the merits of Jesus Christ; and that those who remain in unbelief are in a state of condemnation. Any idea of authority given to fallible, uninspired men to absolve sinners, different from this, is unscriptural; nor can I see much utility in the terms ministerial or declarative absolution, as adopted by some divines, since absolution is wholly the prerogative of God; and the terms above-mentioned, may, to s*y the least, have no good influence on the minds of the ignorant and superstitious.
ABSTEM1I, a name given to such persons as could not partake of the cup of the eucharist, on account of their natural aversion to wine.
ABSTINENCE, in a general sense, is the act of refraining from something which we have a propension to or find pleasure in. It is more particularly used for fasting or forbearing of necessary food. Among the Jews, various kinds of abstinence were ordained by their law. Among the primitive Christians, some denied themselves the use of such meats as were prohibited by that law; others looked upon this abstinence with contempt. as to which Paul gives his opinion, /lorn. xiv. 1. 3. The council of Jerusalem, which was held by the apostles, enjoined the Christian converts to abstain from meats strangled, from blood, from fornication, and from idolatry. Acts xv. Upon this passage. Dr. Doddridge observes, " that though neither things sacrificed to idols, nor the flesh of strangled animals, nor blood, have or can have any moral evil in them, which should make the eating of them absolutely and universally unlawful , yet they were forbidden to the Gentile converts, because the Jews had such an aversion to them, that they could not converse freely with any who used them. This is plainly the reason which James assigns in the very next words, the 21st verse, and it is abundantly sufficient. This reason is now ceased, and the obligation to abstain from eating these things ceases with it. But were we in like circumstances again. Christian charity would surely require us to lay ourselves under the same restraint."—The spiritual monarchy of the western world introduced another sort of abstinence, which may be called ritual, and consists in abstaining from particular meats at certain times and seasons, the rules of which are called rogations. If I mistake not, the impropriety of this kind of abstinence is clearly pointed out in 1 Tim iv 3—In England, abstinence from flesh has been enjoined by statute, even since the reformation; particularly on Fridays and Saturdays, on vigils, and
on all days commonly called fish days. The like injuncions were renewed under queen Elizabeth; but at the same time it was declared, that this was done not out of motives of religion, as if there were any difference in meats, but in favour of the consumption of fish, and to multiply the number of fishermen and mariners, as well as to spare the stock of sheep. See Fasting.
ABSTIN EN TS, a set of heretics that appeared in France and Spain about the endof the third century. 1 hey are supposed to have borrowed part of their opinions from the Gnostics and Manichsans. because they opposed marriage, condemned the use of flesh meat, and placed the Holy Ghost in the class of created beings.
ABYSS, in a general sense, denotes something profound; in its literal sense it signifies without a bottom; in a more particular sense it denotes a deep mass or fund of waters. In this last sense the word is used in the Septuagint for the water which God created at the beginning with the earth, which our translators render by deefi. Thus it is that darkness is said to have been on the face of the abyss. Gen. i. 2. Abyss is also used for an immense cavern in the earth, wherein God is supposed to have collected all those waters on the third day, which in our version is rendered the seat, and elsewhere the great deep. Abyss is likewise used to denote the grave or common receptacle of the dead, Rom. x. 7: also hell, or the bottomless pit, Luke viii. 31. Rev. ix. 1. Rev. xi. 7. See Deluge.
ABYSSINIAN CHURCH, that which is established in the empire of Abyssinia. They are a branch of the Copts, with whom they agree in admitting only one nature in ]csus Christ, and rejecting the council of Chalcedon; whence they are also called Monophysites and Eutychians, which see. The Abyssinian church is governed by a bishop styled abuna. They have canons also, and monks. The emperor has a kind of supremacy in ecclesiastical matters. The Abyssinians haveatdivers times expressed an inclination to be reconciled to the see of Rome: but rather from interested views than any other motive. They practise circumcision on females as well as males. They eat no meats prohibited by the law of Moses. l'hey observe both Saturday and Sunday sabbaths. Women are obliged to the legal purifications. Brothers marry brothers' wives, Sec. On the other hand, they celebrate the Epiphany with peculiar festivity; have four Lents; pray for the dead; and invoke angels. Images in painting they venerate; but abhor all those in relievo, except the cross. They admit the apocryphal books and the canons of the apostles, as well as the apostolical constitutions, for genuine. They allow of divorce, which is easily granted among them, and by the civil judge; nor do their civil laws prohibit polygamy.—They have, at least, as many miracles and legends of saints as the Romish church. They hold that the soul of man is not created; because, say they, God finished all his works on the sixth day. Thus we see that the doctrines and ritual of this sect form a strange compound of Judaism andChristianity, ignorance and superstition. Some, indeed, have been at a loss to know whether they are most Christians or Jews: it is to be feared, however, that there is little beside the name of Christianity among them. Should the reader be desirous to know more of this sect, he may Gonsult Father Lobo's Voyage to Abyssinia; Bruce'a Travels; Ludolflh's Hist, of Ethiopia; and Diet, of Arts and Sciences, vol. i. p. 15.
AC ACIANS, a sect of heretics in the 4th century; so named from Acacius, bishop of Cxsarea, who denied the Son to be of the same substance with the Father, though some of them allowed that he was of a similar substance. Also the name of another sect, named after Acacius, patriarch of Constantinople, in the fifth century, who favoured the opinions of Eutychus. See Eutychians.
AC ADEMICS, a denomination given to the cultivators of a species of philosophy originally derived from Socrates, and afterwards illustrated and enforced by Plato. The contradictory systems which had been successively urged upon the world were become so numerous, that, from a view of the variety and uncertainty of human opinions, many were led to conclude that truth lay beyond the reach of our comprehension. The consequence of this conclusion was absolute scepticism: hence the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, the preferableness of virtue to vice, were all held as uncertain. This sect, with that of the Epicureans, were the two chief that were in vogue at the time of Christ's appearance, and were embraced and supported by persons of high rank and wealth. A consideration of the principles of these two sects [see EpiCureans] will lead us to form an idea of the deplorable state of the world at the time of Christ's birth; and the necessity there was of some divine teacher to convey to the mind true and certain
principles of religion and wisdom. Jesus Christ, therefore, is with great propriety called the Day Spring from on High, the Sun of Righteousness, that arose upon a benighted world to dispel the clouds of ignorance and error, and discover to lost man the path of happiness and heaven. But, as we do not mean to enlarge much upon these and some other sects, which belong rather to philosophy than theology, we shall refer the reader to Buddeus's Introduction to the History of Philosophy; Stanley's Lives; Brucker's History of Philosophy; or (which is more modern) Enfield's Abridgment.
ACCLAMATIONS, ecclesiastical, were shouts of joy which the people expressed by way of approbation of their preachers. It hardly seems credible to us that practices of this kind should ever have found their way into the church, where all ought to be reverence and solemnity. Yet so it was in the fourth century. The people were not only permitted, but sometimes even exhorted, by the preacher himself, to approve his talents by clapping of hands, and loud acclamations of praise. The usual words they made use of were, "Orthodox," "Third apostle," &c. These acclamations being carried to excess, and often misplaced, were frequently prohibited by the ancient doctors, and at length abrogated. Even as late, however, as the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, we find practices that were not very decorous; such as loud humming, frequent groaning, strange gestures of the body, &c. See articles Dancers, Shakers.
ACCOMMODATION OF SCRIPTURE is the application of it, not to its literal meaning, but to something analagous to it. 1 hus a prophecy is said to be fulfilled properly when a thing foretold comes to pass; and, by way of accommodation, when an event happens to any place or people similar to what fell out some time Defore to another. Thus the words of Isaiah, spoken to those of his own time, are said to be fulfilled in those who lived in our Saviour's, —" Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy," &c.: which same words St. Paul afterwards accommodates to the Jews of his time, Is. xxxix. 14. Matt. xv. 8. Acts xiii- 41. Great care, however, should be taken by preachers who are fond of accommodating texts, that they first clearly state the literal sense of the passage.
ACCURSED, something that lies under a curse or sentence of excommunication. In the Jewish idiom, accursed and crucified were synonymous: among