Sidor som bilder

Now in this curious dialogue we are swayed backwards and forwards by the opposite assertions contained in it. It shews that a notion of some mysterious change, of worshipping the elements, and a communion something more than spiritual, prevailed abroad; though at the same time, it appears to be the opinion of Theodoret himself, that there was only a spiritual and mystical addition to the elements, not a direct alteration.

[ocr errors]

But he speaks again for himself in another of his dialogues "Our Saviour would have those who are partakers of the divine mysteries not to mind the nature of the things they see, but by the change of names to believe that change. For he that called his own natural body wheat and bread, and gave it the name of a vine, he also honoured the visible symptoms or elements with the name of his body and blood, not changing their nature, but adding grace to nature."*

There is one more father in this century who gives his opinions on this subject, Gelasius.f In treating upon the two natures of Christ, he is led to speak of the nature of the sacraments as follows:-"Certainly the sacrament which

*Theod. Dial. tom. 4. p. 17.

GELASIUS, Bishop of Rome, A.D. 495. A strenuous opposer of the Pelagians and Eutychians. The passage above cited is drawn forth as an argument in his writings against Eutyches.

we receive of the body and blood of Christ is a divine thing, because by them we are made partakers of the divine nature; and yet the substance and nature of bread and wine do not cease, but the image and similitude of the body and blood of Christ are celebrated in the action of the mysteries. It is, therefore, shewn as sufficiently evident to us, that we must so think in regard to our Lord Christ, as we profess, celebrate, and receive, under his image, that as they (the bread and wine) pass into the divine substance, by the efficacy of the Holy Spirit, and yet their proper nature remains, so is the great mystery whose efficacy and virtue they represent."*

Again, the error of communicating in one kind only, seems in this century to be first agitated; for we find Gelasius in another place thus speaking: "Certain men, when they have received that part of the sacrament which is conveyed by the sacred body, abstain from the cup of the sacred blood, who without doubt, (since I know not by what superstition they are hindered,) ought either to receive the whole sacrament, or to be kept away altogether; because there cannot be a division of one and the same mystery without great sacrilege."† Likewise upon the necessity of every person

*Gelas. de duabus in Christo naturis.-Bibl. Patr. v. 671. † Gratia.-De Consecr. Dist. 2 Can. 12.

in the church communicating, the Council of Toledo, which was very early in the present century, thus directs :-"Concerning those who enter the church, and are found never to communicate, let them be admonished that if they do not communicate, they must submit to penance."*

Such is the testimony for the fifth century. While it shews the continuance of the Eucharist as a Christian feast, at the same time it implies the doubts and false opinions of the rest of the Christian world. The necessity of arguing against transubstantiation, as in the case of Theodoret, implies that there had already commenced a notion of the visible and real presence of Christ's body in the sacrament. Nevertheless, the most eminent men in the church, as we see by these quotations, remained as yet sound in the faith, even as Jesus himself had delivered it.


The opening of the sixth century is not remarkable for any great change in religious opinion. It is occupied principally by the reign of the emperor Justinian in the east, while the western empire is divided between

*Conc. Tolet. 1 Can. 13.

the Exarchate of Ravenna, and the kingdom of the Lombards. The seat of dominion is transferred from the once proud city of Rome to Constantinople. The Italians groan under the joint pressure of famine, pestilence, and the tyranny of barbarous strangers; while the bishop or pope of Rome is now silently acquiring more spiritual influence and greater temporal authority. The distress of the people compels them to lean upon any arm that may be extended for their help, and they are content to obviate present emergences at the risk of future oppression. Thus it was, after many years of painful and vexatious misrule, when the papal chair was filled by Gregory the First, a politic and ambitious prelate, the citizens of Rome gladly threw themselves upon his protection, and established him in a much more extended temporal authority than any previous bishop had enjoyed. The words of a great historian, in relating this first approach to a temporal sovereignty, on the part of a Christian minister, are as follow. They well describe the craft and the imposture to which the church had resorted, to maintain her former dignity: "Like Thebes, or Babylon, or Carthage, the name of Rome might have been erased from the earth, if the city had not been animated by a vital principle, which again restored her to honour and dominion. A vague tradition was embraced, that two Jewish teachers, a tent


maker and a fisherman, had formerly been executed in the circus of Nero, and at the end of five hundred years, their genuine or fictitious relics were adored as the palladium of Christian Rome. The pilgrims of the east and west resorted to the holy threshold, but the shrines of the apostles were guarded by iniracles and invisible terrors; and it was not without fear that the pious catholic approached the object of his worship."-" But the power as well as virtue of the apostles resided with living energy in the breast of their successors, and the chair of St. Peter was filled, under the reign of Maurice, by the first and greatest of the name of Gregory." The substance of which is, that when temporal dominion and temporal glory deserted the once-favoured city of Rome, the remembrance of those primitive ages, when the blood of Christian martyrs flowed through her streets, became a refreshing comfort to her mind. And the clergy, taking advantage of the depression under which the people laboured as to temporal things, directed them to look to spiritual things for consolation, and scrupled not for this purpose, to use any fraud or imposture that might offer itself, to gain the attention of the populace. Thus their minds, taught to submit, to admire, and to reverence 'the superior sagacity of an ambitious clergy,

* Gibbon, vol. viii. p. 161, 8vo. edit.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »