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στοιχεία Or γράμματα, nor mentioning in what language it was written , seems to speak rather of an emblem or picture, than of a writing.
Add to this, that in the standard which Constantine, ordered to be made in form of a cross, in memory of this omen, he placed a crown of gold and jewels on the top of it, and a cypher denoting the name of Christ, but not the words TOUTW víxa. Euseb. Vit. Const. i. 31.
Amongst the Panegyrici Veteres,' the eighth is in praise of Constantine, and celebrates his victory over Maxentius, but says not a word of the cross. The author of this Panegyric was a Pagan. The ninth also, composed by Nazarius, is silent concerning this prodigy. One of the panegyrists speaks of a bad omen, by which he might mean the cross. See Tillemont, H. des Emp. iv. 632. Not.
But, after all, it seems rather more natural to interpret γραφήν λέγουσαν, of a writing than of a picture. It is an ugly circumstance, and I wish we could get fairly rid of it.
Licinius, if we may believe the writer “de Mortibus Per. secutorum,' was instructed by an angel how to obtain the victory over Maximinus, cap. xlvi. p. 276.
276. This seems to have been a military stratagem of Licinius, to regain the favour of the Christians, and to animate his soldiers.
It hath been controverted whether Licinius ever were a Christian. Cardinal Noris takes the negative, Pagi and Basnage the affirmative.
The truth of the case seems to have been, that he pretended for some time to be a Christian, but never was so ; and that finding the Christians to be much more fond of Constantine than of himself, he threw off the mask. See S. Basnage, Ann. ii. 667.
When the church, under Constantine and his successors, enjoyed the protection of the civil powers, the Christians compared their present with their past condition, and called to mind the sufierings of their predecessors, and the
• Philostorgius supplies that defect, and says that it was in Latin :
In hoc vince.' p. 478. But Philostorgius did not see it, and his testimony ought to go for nothing. Vol. II.
patience and fortitude which they had exerted, particularly in the last and severest persecution. These considerations raised in them a high, and indeed a just veneration for the martyrs: but it did not stop here ; it ran into excess, and produced bad effects. Every rumour concerning the behaviour of those saints was received without due examination, the number of the sufferers was augmented, the sufferings of some of them were exaggerated, and many fictitious miracles were added to the account. Their bodies were discovered by the help of visions and revelations, and were said to emit perfumes, and to work miracles without end. This drew a great resort to their graves, and every one had his story to tell of the benefits which himself or his neighbour had received. To have been suspicious or slow of belief on such occasions, would have passed for little better than atheism; and thus the phrensy grew epidemical. In the time of Augustin, many real or pretended monks went strolling about, as hawkers and pedlars, selling the bones and reliques of martyrs. August. de Op. Monach. 28.
The Fathers of those times, as Athanasius, Gregory Nazianzen, and who not, but particularly Chrysostom with his popular eloquence, contributed to the utmost of their power to encourage the superstitious veneration and invocation of saints, the love of monkery, and the belief of miracles wrought by monks and reliques. Some of these Fathers, particularly Gregory, were in other respects valuable men; but this was the distemper of the age, and they were not free from it. See Chrysostom, t. i. Orat. 40. p. 485. ed. Par.
Thence arose religious addresses to the martyrs, who were considered as patrons and intercessors, which tended to lessen the reliance and gratitude due to Christ, and to substitute new expedients in the room of rational piety and strict morality, and those Christians who were conscious of their own defects, began to pay immoderate honours to the martyrs, that by their interest they might obtain remission of sins. Prudentius, who had a fine genius, and
See a dissertation of Mabillon, De Cultu Sanctorum ignotorum, in the Act. Erud. 1699. p. 107.
was a good poet for the time in which he flourished, to atone, as he says, for the follies of his youth, spent his latter days in defending the Catholic faith, and in composing hymns to the martyrs, and expresses his hopes that Saint Romanus would do him a considerable service at the day of judgment, for the sake of a poem in which he had celebrated that martyr.
- Vellem sinister inter Hædorum greges
Ut sum futurus, eininus dinoscerer,
Sit dexter agnus ; induatur vellere.
These practices suited the half-converts and nominal Christians, who came over for the loaves, under Christian emperors. The gay and splendid appearance of the church helped to allure them; they found new religious amusements to make up for those which they had quitted, and if they were superstitious before, they might be so still, "mutatis mutandis.' In the room of gods and god. desses, they had saints male and female, lord and lady protectors, to whom they might pay their respects; and instead of sleeping in their old temples, they could slumber over the bones of the martyrs, and receive as good information and assistance. If they longed for miracles, portents, prodigies, prophecies, visions, dreams, omens, divinations, amulets, charms, &c., they might be supplied. .
Thus the Fathers of the fourth century, in general, introduced an irregular worship of the saints. I am sorry that I cannot entirely acquit Eusebius upon this head : He speaks thus in his Præparatio, xiii. 11.
« Των δε δη αποθανόντων επί στρατείας, δς αν ευδοκιμήσας τελευτήση, αρ' ου πρώτον μεν φήσομεν του χρυσου γένους είναι; Παν γε, μάλιστα. "Αλλ' ού πεισόμεθα “Ησιόδο, επειδάν τινες του τοιούτου γένους τελευτήσωσιν, ώς άρα,
Οι μεν, δαίμονες αγνοί επιχθόνιοι τελέθουσιν,
Έσθλοί, αλεξίκακοι, φύλακες μερόπων ανθρώπων και Πεισόμεθα μεν ούν. Διαπυθόμενοι άρα τω Θεώ, πως χρη
τους δαιμονίους τε και θείους τιθέναι, και τίνι διαφόρω, ούτω και ταύτη θήσομεν, ή αν εξηγηται. Τί δ' ου μέλλομεν ; Και τον λοιπόν δη χρόνον, ως δαίμονας γεγονότας, ούτω θεραπεύσομεν τε, και προσκυνήσομεν αυτών τας θήκας. Τα αυτα δε ταύτα νομιού μεν, όταν τις γήρα, ή τινι άλλο τρόπο τελευτήση, των όσοι αν διαφερόντως εν τω βίω αγαθοί κριβωσι. Και ταύτα δε αρμόζει επί τή των Θεοφιλών τελευτή, ούς στρατιώτας της αληθούς ευσεβείας ουκ αν αμάρτοις είπων, παραλαμβάνεσθαι. όθεν και επί τας θήκας αυτών, έθος ημίν παριέναι, και τας ευχας παρά ταύταις ποιείσθαι, τιμάν το τας μακαρίας αυτών ψυχας, ως ευλόγως και τούτων υφ' ημων γιγνομένων. “ Jam vero (inquit Plato) qui post egregia virtutis exempla, honestam in bello mortem occubuerint, numquid eos in primis ex aureo illo genere fuisse dicemus? Maxime vero. Num etiam Hesiodum audiemus, dum ex eo genere qui vivendi finem fecerint, de illis ita pronunciat,
Sunt alii heroes casti, terrasque frequentant,
Sane audiemus. Consulto itaque numine, quonam heroes illos ac semideos ritu, quove discrimine consecrari oporteat, religiose omnino quicquid responderii, observabimus. Enimvero faciendum id erit. Tum illos deinceps tanquam heroas venerabimur, eorumque sepulcra sanctiore cultu prosequemur. Eadem porro statuimus, ubi quis post vitam cum excellentis probitatis opinione traductam, supremum aut senio, aut alio quovis modo diem obierit.” Hæc Plato. Quæ quidem in hominum Deo carissimorum obitus egregie conyeniunt, quos veræ pietatis milites jure appellaris. Nam et eorum sepulcra celebrare, et preces ibi votaque nuncupare, et beatas illorum animas venerari consuevimus, idque a nobis merito fieri statuimus.'
This, though it contain no direct invocation of saints, inclines too much towards it. Therefore Vigerus thought it worthy of a marginal note, and writes martyrum culius,' lest the unattentive reader should pass it by.
The argument stands thus : Why should not we Christians show the same regard to our saints and martyrs. which the Pagans paid to their heroes ? and the argument,
together with the authority of Plato in this point, is good
Montfaucon observes, that Eusebius", p. 486. testifies that the good actions of holy men, which he calls their merits, may be beneficial, after their death, to him who shall pray to God to show him mercy for their sakes. This may be admitted in some sense; for, after all, God may, if he think fit, show favour to a person for the memory of a saint: but as it is Jesus Christ who is the sole foundation of our redemption, and as he has ordered us to pray to God only in his name, it is much more safe to hold fast to that, and not to establish from our own head, new forms of devotion, which were unknown in the apostolical times, and which at last grew to an excess that was past all bearing.' Le Clerc, Bibl. A. et M. iv. 16.
To observe a proper mean in the public respect due to departed saints was a difficult point, and required more care and caution than the Fathers and Ecclesiastics of the fourth century thought fit to bestow upon it. Nothing seemed more reasonable than to celebrate suffering virtue, and to reverence those illustrious persons who had preferred duty to riches, honours, pleasures, and length of days. Gratitude, and dear affection, and friendship, and every commendable disposition, pleaded for such a practice, and by it a holy emulation was kindi.d, and Christians were excited to imitate those whom they admired, and whom they saw thus honoured and praised. But the transition from lawful to unlawful veneration was easily made; and as the Pagans from honouring their heros soon began to deify them, it was easy to foresee that the Christians who were come over, or half over from Paganism, would behave themselves much in the same manner towards saints and martyrs, unless they were diligently re.. strained. And
the Fathers, instead of guarding against this rising evil, gave it encouragement by their many indiscretions.
Hubertus Languetus, in one of his Epistles, observes, that the day of the martyrdom of John Huss was kept at
a In his Commentary on the Psalms, published by Montfaucon.