CHRISTIAN WRITERS OF THIS CENTURY.
The great luminary of the fifth century has been Chap.
copiously reviewed. The greatest praise of some 1
of the rest is, that they illustrated and defended the
evangelical views of faith and practice through him
revived; yet amidst the gloom of superstition we
• See Genesis ii.
Chap- may discover several rays of godliness, even among - xin- , persons who had never read the bishop of Hippo.
Mark*, the hermit, lived about the beginning of this century. He wrote on the spiritual life, and describes the conflicts and labours of men truly serious for eternity. Many of the ascetical or mystic writers are tarnished with Semi-Pelagianism. Mark is in the main an humble advocate for the doctrines of grace, and feels the depravity and helplessness of human nature. He describes views of the spirituality of the Law and the grace of the Gospel; and, amidst all his care to promote practical godliness, he protests against the idea of our being justified by our works, as a very dangerous notion. I regret that I can communicate no more of such a man. Even of his country I can find no account, except that he belonged to the Eastern church.
Theophilus, bishop of Alexandria, the unrighteous persecutor of Chrysostom, does not deserve a place in this list, on account of his writings, which are futile, and breathe a worldly spirit. But a reflection he made at the hour of his death may merit the attention of political and ambitious dignitaries of the church. " How happy, said he, art thou, Arsenius, to have had always this hour before thine eyes!" which shows, said a writer of that time, that monks who retire from the world to mourn in the wilderness, die more peaceably than bishops, who go out of their dioceses to disturb the peace of the church by caballing at court. It seems, Theophilus had lived, as if he were never to die. Pauiinm of Paulinus, of Nola, if not one of tlte most learnNoia, bom, was one 0f the most humble and pious writers A. D. of his time. He was born at Bourdeaux about the 433, year 453. He had a classical style and taste, and being of an illustrious family, had advanced to the greatest dignities of the empire. He married
* See Du Pin, from whom I derive particular information on subjects of this nature. .- —
Therasia, a rich lady, by whom he obtained a great Cent. estate. It pleased God to inspire his wife with the , xj , love of heavenly things, and she had great influence in inducing her husband to prefer a retired life before the grandeur of the world. In the prosecution of this scheme there was as much of genuine piety, and as little of superstition as in any saints of these times. He gradually parted with his wealth, and observed in one of his epistles, that it was to little purpose for a man to give up his worldly wealth, except he denied himself; and that a man might renounce the world heartily, who did not part with all his riches. The people of Barcelona in Spain, where he lived in retirement, conceived so great an esteem for him, that they insisted on his ordination. He writes thus on the occasion to a friend: " On Christmas-day, said he, the people obliged me to receive the order of priesthood, against my will: not that I have any aversion to the office; on the contrary, I could have wished to have begun at the porter's order, and so have gradually risen into the clerical ; I submitted, however, to Christ's yoke, and am now engaged in a ministry beyond my merit and strength.—lean scarcely yet comprehend the weight of that dignity ; I tremble, when I consider its importance, conscious as lam of my own weakness: but he that giveth wisdom to the simple, and out of the mouths of sucklings perfects praise, is able to accomplish his work in me, to give me his grace, and to make me worthy, whom he called when unworthy *."
* This humble and serious language is the obvious effect of a spirit truly conscientious, deeply sensible of the holiness of Cod, and its own unworthiness. There is not any thing, in which primitive piety appears to more advantage, when compared to modern religion, than in a review of men's conduct with respect to the pastoral office. In our times it frequently happens, that youths, who have really a religious cast, fancy themselves adequate to the most important of all offices, before they have attained the age of twenty. Parents also too often look 011 their dullest children, as competent to the sacred function ; and it is much to be feared, that worldly lucre is the spring that
After this he lived sixteen years at Nola, in prf
409. The incursions of the Goths disturbed himfor some time ; and on this occasion it was that he prayed in the manner that his friend Augustine tells us, that the Lord would not suffer him to be tormented on account of worldly goods, as he had longbeen weaned from them in his affections. It pleased God, that after the assault of Nola by the Goths was over, he peaceably enjoyed his bishopric till hisdeath in 431.
This holy person was intimately acquainted with) Alipius, bishop of Tagasta, whom we have already celebrated as the townsman and friend of Augustine. Through this connection he became acquainted with the writings of the bishop of Hippo, whichwere peculiarly adapted to the taste of one, who, like Paulinus, knew what indwelling sin means. Hence arose a very peculiar friendship between the two bishops, cemented by their common interest in the privileges and doctrines of the GospeL
His letter to Amandus gives an excellent view of his divinity, which he illustrates both from the Old and New Testament, much after the manner of the bishop of Hippo. In writing to Delphinus, who had been dangerously sick, he speaks of the benefit of afflictions to the righteous, as they exercise their godliness, keep them from pride, and imprint in» them the fear of divine justice, which will dreadfully confound the ungodly, since it so-severely chastizesthe righteous.
Paulinus was intimate with Sulpicius Severus, thehistorian, who was a priest of Agen, a person of noble birth, fine talents, and much superstition; a disciple of Martin of Tours. That he could unite somuch elegance of the Roman language with so mucli childishness of thought, forms one of those incon
animates many to press into the ministry, who never had any charity for their own souls.
sistencies, which abound in human nature. And yet there want not here and there in his History marks of good judgment, and every where a spirit of piety prevails. Paulinus,comparingSulpicius'sconversion with his own, prefers that of his friend, " because, said he, in one of his letters, he had at once shaken off the yoke of sin, and broken the bands of flesh and blood in the flower of his age; and at a time when he was renowned at the bar, and in the career of worldly honour, he despised human greatness, that he might follow Jesus Christ, and preferred the preaching of fishermen before all the pieces of Ciceronian eloquence."
Severus had desired to have Paulinus's picture. The bishop of Nola refused, and called his request a piece of folly. He takes occasion, however, to give a picture of his own heart. Here is one passage of it, much admired by Augustine*: " How should I dare to give you my picture, who am altogether like the earthly man, and by my conduct represent the carnal person ? On every side shame oppresses me. I am ashamed to have my picture drawn as I am, and I dare not consent to have it made otherwise. I hate what I am, and I am not what I would wish to be. But what avails it me, wretched man, to have evil and love good, since I am what I hate, and sloth hinders me from endeavouring to do what I love ? I find myself at war with myself, and am torn by an intestine conflict. The flesh fights against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. rJ he law of the body opposes the law of the spirit . Wo is me, because I have not taken away the taste of the poisoned tree, by that of the saving cross. The poison communicated to all men from our first parent by his sin yet abideth in me f."
• Ep. 86 of Aug.
f All this is the peculiar language of a Christian, arising from just views of indwelling sin in its nature and its constant influence. Paulinus describes from the heart such things as none but a truly enlightened mind can know: for original sin is not
Chap. In a letter to Florentius, bishop of Cahors, the _ XI11- j reader may perhaps find an objection obviated, which might arise from the last article, namely, How can a man, who finds himself so miserable, enjoy any consolation? " Jesus Christ, says he, is the rock containing that spring of living water, which we happily find not far from us, when we are very thirsty in this world : this is that which refreshes us, and prevents us from being consumed by the heat of concupiscence. This is the rock on which the house is founded, that shall never fall. This is the rock, which being opened at the side, cast out water and blood, to make us taste of two wholesome fountains, the water of grace, and the blood of the sacrament, which proves at once both the source and the price of our salvation."
In another letter to Augustine, he discourses on the felicity of the saints after the resurrection : " All their employment shall then be, to praise God everlastingly, and to give him continual thanks."
This holy bishop was the delight of his age. lie led a retired and temperate life, but. with no great austerity, singularly remarkable for the tenderness of his conscience, the meekness of his spirit, and a constant sense of his own imbecility, and of the need of divine grace.
Isidore, of Pelusium in Egypt, spent his whole life in the monastic state, and he did honour to a course of life by no means the wisest. He lived in the practice of serious piety, and, by a number of
known at all, except by experience. I need not say to tlle evangelized reader, how consonant this language is to tbal of the best men in the Old Testament, and in the New. And although decent Pharisees may be inclined to think it excessive, I will add, that it is even too faint for the occasion. Every real Christian knows that no words can sufficiently describe the strength of internal corruption. Hence humility, the faith of Christ, the preciousness of the Gospel to the mind, and nil the true holiness which is exercised under the sun ; and uniformly it appears, that men who know the most of native wickedness, are the most holy in their lives and conversations.
letters which he has left, he appears to have known Cent.
the world much better, and to have been more use- » \'
fill to the Church, and to society, than might have been expected from a monk.
He observes on the Holy Scriptures, that there is a divine wisdom in ordering some things to be very plain, and others obscure, at once to encourage our investigation, and to check our presumption. He gives good rules for the exposition of Scripture, guards against fanciful interpretations of concise expressions, where the connexion has not been considered, and teaches us not to attempt to draw the mysteries of the Gospel from every passage of the Old Testament. He agrees with the orthodox in the great doctrines of the Gospel ; his views* of divine grace are sound in the main, but escape not the taint of Semi-Pelagianism, which seems to have prevailed over the Eastern church: the doctrine of the African luminary never making any great progress among the Greek churches.
His conduct on occasion of the Nestorian controversy was admirable. He endeavoured to heal the ferocious spirits of the disputants, and condemned the tempers of those, whose doctrines he yet admitted to be sound.
The great excellence of this writer is his practical rules. For a specimen, take his advice to a physician who lived wickedly. " You profess a science requiring much wisdom; but you act inconsistently: you cure small wounds for others, and heal not your own distempers, which are great and dangerous. Begin at home."
Cassian was a monk from his childhood, and Cwiwn *• spent the latter part of his life at Marseilles. Hehas °" * been before mentioned as the father of Semi-Pelagianisra. His plausible views of moderation led him into inextricable confusion. He allows that grace is necessary even for the beginning of faith. Yet he affirms that man can naturally choose good, but needs
Chap, grace to accomplish it. He thinks that sometimes xnT- , grace, and sometimes the will of man, is the first mover. The cases of St. Paul and St. Matthew seem to him to illustrate the first position ; those of Zaccheus aud the penitent thief the second. In such endless jargon is a sensible man involved, while he vainly mixes opposite things, and forgets the Scripture declaration, " if by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace." Yet his system has since been adopted by many of the more decent sort of Christian professors, and will, whatever may be said, recommend itself to all of them, who are unacquainted with the entire depravity of human nature. In him, Semi-Pelagianism found a very powerful guardian, because his learning and morals were unquestionably respectable. And it happens in this case, that a system which discovers its absurdity and extreme inconsistency to every man endued with any real degree of self-knowledge, exhibits a most plausible appearance in theory, and seems to shun the opposite rocks of self-righteousness and Antinomianism. So* it pretends ; " but wisdom is justified of her children."
* Cassian wrote monastic rules and institutions, in which he teaches " for doctrines, the commandments of men." He instructs the poor monks in the duties of implicit submission, and of voluntary humility, by which their understandings would rather be enslaved, than any true mortification of sin acquired. In nothing does the system of Augustine triumph more sensibly over that of Cassian, than in this point of view. I conceive these two men both engaged in the design of leading men to a holy life. With superstition they both were infected. Bat in Cassian the fashionable evil prevails, reduces itself into a system, and leads the devotees into a tedious number of artificial externals, with an intention to break the human will, and force it into something like virtue. What, for instance, can be more absurd than his directions to the young probationer, to subject himself absolutely to the will of his superior in the convent ? To submit to orders in a manner impossible to be executed, to endure hardships and crosses, without any reason but the arbitrary will of a master ? Follies which, in the papacy, have continued for ages after. But see Augustine. His system leads him to stem a-torrent-of superstition: to
Ccelestine bishop of Rome, has already been Cent.
noticed as supporting Prosper and Hilary, disciples , XI1- .
of Augustine in Gaul, against the intrusions of Semi- ^"le*t'^' Pelagianism. He reproved those French bishops RoaeP. ° who favoured the doctrines of Cassian, and he. published some articles concerning grace, of which a summary has already been given. The earnestness of his manner shows that he felt what he said; and his testimony to the bishop of Hippo deserves to be recorded. " We have always had Augustine, of blessed memory, in our communion, whose life and merit is well known; his fame hath been unblemished, and his knowledge is so indisputable, that my predecessors have looked upon him as one of the most excellent teachers of the Church. All orthodox Christians have ever thought well of him ; and he hath been generally reverenced through the whole world."—The church of Rome, though at this time much degenerated from primitive purity, must not, however, be deemed antichristian, while the real doctrines of Christ were supported in it. And though secular ambition was gradually making its way among her bishops, yet some of them were real good men and faithful pastors; and I am willing to believe that Coelestine was of the number.
See the zeal and uprightness of this bishop, in the subject of episcopal ordination. A person, named Daniel, who had come from the East, retired into France. The monastery where he lived accused him of scandalous crimes. Yet he had the address to get himself ordained a bishop in that country. Coelestine, in vain, had endeavoured to prevent this. He blames the bishop who had ordained him, and declares, that he had lost the episcopal dignity himself by ordaining one so unworthy. It does notap
attempt, at least, to emancipate Christians from the yoke of bondage: lo teach true, not fictitious, internal, not merely external, humility: to lead the soul to Christ, to instruct men in love, to enforce Christian practice from spiritual motives: i fine, to aim at purity of heart, and heavenly-mindedness.
pear that he fulminated a decree of excommunication against him. The superior dignity of the bishop of Rome in the Western world was hitherto rather founded on the opulence of the see, and the civil importance of the city of Rome, than on any positive claims of dominion. Coelestine's conduct was more like that of a Christian bishop than of a pope. He found fault with the conduct of the hierarchy in France, in raising at once to the episcopal office* laymen who had not gone through the several gradations of the priesthood. He -f- Decrees, that when a bishop is to be chosen, the clergy of the same church, whose characters are known, and who have deserved well, be preferred to strange and unknown clergymen; that a bishop be not imposed on any people against their consent, but that the votes and agreement of the clergy, people and magistrates, be followed ; that no clergyman be chosen out of another diocsse, when there is any one in the same church fit to be ordained bishop.
The same soundness of judgment which led Coelestine to oppose interested ordinations, and the undue interference of secular ambition, induced him also to oppose the democratic spirit, as appears from his letter to the bishops of Calabria and Apulia, whom he forbids to ordain laymen bishops on the demand of the people. " When this demand is against the rules of the Church, it should never be complied with;}]."
The three contemporary Greek historians, who continued ecclesiastical history, where Eusebius
• Fleury, B. xxiv. 56.
.f 1 use reluctantly the word Decree, because far some time the admonitions of the bishop of Rome had gone by the name of Decretals; though certainly as yet, bishops, out of Italy at 1eat.t, were not under his jurisdiction. However, the imperative style of the Roman bishops at this time 13 indefensible, and .intimates the too great growth of their power.
J Ccelestine succeeded Boniface I. A. D. 423: died in 43a. lie sent Deputies to the third General Council held at Ephesus, in June 431.
ended, through the fourth and part of the fifth century * are Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret of Cyrus. I have made use of them all along, and find them particularly serviceable, where I have not the much more satisfactory lights of the fathers themselves, w hose transactions are recorded. The first is doubtless a judicious writer, remarkable for his candour to the Novatians, and for a generous peaceable temper. Neither he nor Sozomen furnish us with sufficient documents, from which a decisive judgment of their own personal characters may be formed. The latter is less judicious, and very fond of monks. The third, ckaracterof however, surpasses all men in admiration of mo- Theodoret. nastic institutions, and is credulous beyond measure in subjects of that nature. Yet was he himself one of the most learned and best men in the Eastern churoh. His pacific conduct displeased the bigots, during the noise of the Nestorian and Eutychian controversies. It is evident, that his own views were orthodox ; but because he inclined to healing me- Condemned thods, he was condemned at one of the synods, and ofEphesus? was not without difficulty reinstated. Hear him speak in his letter to Leo of Rome, which will give us an epitome of his character and story*. " I have been a bishop these twenty-six years without reproach. I have brought over to the Church above a thousand Marcionites and many Arians. There is not now an heretic in the eight hundred parishes of my diocese. Often have I been assaulted with stones, and have sustained combats with Pagans and Jews.— Reject Restored at not, I beseech you, my humble prayer, nor despise ^n^!'|rlh my old age, loaded with disgrace, after so many la- Council bours.—God is my witness, that I am not concerned Chaicedon, for my own honour, but on account of the scandal A,d. given, and lest several of the ignorant, and particularly of the converted heretics, should look on me as heretical, seeing the authority of those who have * Fleury, xxvii. 44.
condemned me; and without considering that for so many years of my episcopacy, 1 have neither acquired house, nor land, nor money, but have embraced a voluntary poverty."
He was born at Antioch, in the year 386, and ordained bishop of Cyrus, a city of Syria, by the bishop of Antioch, about the year 420. The inhabitants spake chiefly the Syriac tongue, few of them understood Greek; and heathenish ignorance prevailed among them. The most shining part of Theodoret's character appeared in his pastoral employments. He laboured, and suffered for the love of Christ, and was often in danger of his life from the rage of the multitude. But God gave success to his endeavours in the manner stated above, and he found, what persevering pastors often find, the love of his people to attend him at his latter end. He resided constantly in his diocese, and no doubt was signally useful in it, by preaching and by example. When called, which was but seldom, by the superior bishop or patriarch of Antioch, to attend his synod, he went and preached on those occasions at Antioch in a manner that left a deep impression. All the time he was bishop, he had no suits at law with any man, nor did he or his clergy ever appear at the judgment-seats. His liberality Avas unbounded; and in every part of Christian morals he appears to have exhibited that peculiar spirit which none but true Christians are able to do.
The authority of Leo, bishop of Rome, was of service to him in the persecution before spoken of; and he died peaceably in his bishopric; though calumny and prejudice after his death prevailed so far as to procure his condemnation in the time of Justinian. His works are large, on a variety of subjects; but they speak not for him equally with his life; and it will be sufficient to say, that his theology, with a strong mixture of superstition, was of the same kind as that of Chrysostom. But his spirit was Cent. humble, heavenly, charitable ; and he seems to have ^' walked in the faith, hope, and love, of the Gospel, a shining ornament in a dark age and country.
Leo, bishop of Rome, was one of the greatest Leo made men of his time. In secular affairs, his successful of negotiations have already been noticed. In the * p. ehurch, it must be owned that he took much pains 440. concerning matters of discipline; that so far as appears from circumstances, he supported the cause of truth and uprightness in general, though with a constant attention to the amplification of the Roman See. Antichrist was not yet risen to its stature; but was growing apace. He attempted to extend his influence in France, but met with a firm resistance. The celibacy of the clergy was more strictly enforced by him than by any bishop of Rome before. Yet, in Christian doctrine he was not only evangelical in general, but also in a very elaborate and perspicuous manner, so as to evince the pains he had taken to understand the Scriptures. His letter to the Eastern churches, on the divine and human nature of Christ, is allowed to have been remarkably scriptural. He opposed Pelagianism with much zeal; he detected the evasions of its defenders, who made grace the effect of human merits; and he resolved every thing into the grace of God in so full and clear a manner, that if his own heart was influenced by the sentiments which he espoused, he must have been an humble, holy Christian. But his piety was not so unquestionable as his capacity and accuracy of sentiment. Candour, however, will rather incline to impute what is suspicious in his conduct, to the times, than to his disposition. Leo justly reproved the great and scandalous violations of order and decorum in the African ordinations of bishops, which preceded the invasion of Genseric. And he has left us several decrees, from which the
Chap- reader may collect what were the ancient ideas of _XIJ1, , pastoral and ecclesiastical discipline.
" What, says this prelate, can be the meaning of laying hands Suddenly on any man; but the conferring of priests orders on persons of whose worth we are ignorant,—before we have had time to try them; before they have approved themselves competent by their industry, and have given some tokens of knowledge and experience r"
He is of opinion, that pastors should have passed through all the inferior orders, and have exercised them for some t im e, before they be appointed bishops.
He declares, that those who have not been chosen by the clergy, nor desired by the people, nor ordained by the bishops of the province, with the consent of the metropolitan, are not to be accounted bishops.
" He ought to be chosen bishop, who is chosen by the clergy and people. In case their judgment be divided, the metropolitan should prefer him who is of greatest worth, and hath most votes. But no man should be appointed bishop whom the people refuse."
" He, who would go from one church to another, out of contempt of his own, shall be deprived both of that which he hath, and of that which he would have; that he may neither preside over those whom, through avarice, he hath desired, nor those whom, through pride, he hath despised."
Bishop Leo himself preached and fed his flock at Rome ; and a number of his sermons are yet extant. The faith of the church, concerning the union of the divine and human nature in the person of Christ, was not neglected in the course of his ministry. This was still the prevailing doctrine, notwithstanding the subtil and manifold opposition made to it. Leo himself was one of the ablest instruments of its vindication; and whether it is probable that he was so only in a speculative manner, let the reader judge from the following passage of his ninth sermon on
the Nativity. " For unless faith believe, that both Cent. substances were united in one person, language ex- t ^ plains it not; and therefore matter for divine praise never fails, because the abilities of him who praises never suffice. Let us rejoice, then, that we are unequal to speak of so great a mystery of our mercy; ahd when we are not able to draw forth the depth of our salvation, let us feel that it is good for us to be vanquished in our researches. For no man more Lcodits. approaches to the knowledge of the truth, than he A. D. who understands, that in divine things, though he 461. makes much proficiency, something always remains for him to investigate."
Hilary, bishop of Aries*, was the successor of Hilary, Honoratus in that see. The latter was abbot of the o'iMk) monastery of Lerinsf, an isle of France, famous in those days for its monks. He took pains to draw Hilary into serious Christianity, which in these times was too much connected with the monastic life. Honoratus himself was afterwards chosen bishop of Aries, and his disciple Hilary was unanimously elected to succeed him. Hilary has left us the life of Honoratus; in which he vindicates the custom of writing encomiums on deceased holy men. He says, with a happy inconsistency, for he must be considered as a Semi-Pelagian, " God is praised in his saints, as all their worth and excellency ought to be imputed to the Author of Grace." An excellent sentiment, and truly Christian! Let it only be firmly and consistently maintained, and let it influence the heart; men then must be humble, the grace of
• This is not the Hilary, who, in conjunction with Prosper, supported in France the doctrine of Augustine, concerning grace. His sentiments approach more to Semi-Pelagianism; yet he deserves a place in these memoirs, because he held, implicitly at least, the fundamentals of divine truth ; was truly humble and pious; and evidenced to all men, that he was a sincere member of the Church of Christ.
f Now called St. Honorat, or Honore de Lerin.
Christ must engage their whole dependence ; and they, who hold in sentiment the doctrines of Cassian, will only be found to be illogically defective in their arguments, not unsound in their practical views. However, the fashionable prevalence of the sentiments of Cassian in France, and the plausible support which they received from several highly respected characters, besides Hilary of Aries, would no doubt have a pernicious effect on the minds of the next generation.
No fault can be found with Hilary's writing the life of a saint. But the manner of his doing it, though unhappily by no means singular, is to be blamed. With him, Honoratus is all excellency, and looks more like an angel than a man. Suffice it just to mention the circumstances of his exit. He fell into a languishing distemper, which yet hindered him not from executing his priestly office. He preached in the church in the year 420, but his disease increasing, he died a few days after. Hilary bears witness to the piety of his last hours, having been present with him.
The life of Hilary himself is written, it is supposed, by Honoratus *, bishopof Marseilles, with the same partial exaggerations. Yet some circumstances are mentioned which bear strong marks of credibilitv. He often admonished in private the governor of the city, whose conduct had been very faulty, and seeing him one day come into church with his guards, he brake oft' in the midst of his discourse, and said, that those, who disregarded private admonitions, were unworthy of public. It is recorded, to the praise of this bishop, that, though he knew how to address the most polished auditory, and occasionally showed great literary powers, he could, however, adapt himself in the plainest manner to the apprehensions of the vulgar: a rare, but precious talent of a preacher, and surely more dependant on the * See page 546 of this Vol.
heart than the head. The labours of this holy person were very great, and in preaching he was so zealous, that he was obliged to check himself by a sign agreed on, lest he should carry his discourse to too great a length. Prosper candidly allows, that his life and death were holy. Leo, of Rome, who had an unhappy quarrel with him in his lifetime, spake Hilary honourably of him after his death. I have only to died' regret that I have it not in my power to gratify the reader with more particulars of the labours and works ^' of so pious a man, and so zealous a preacher.
Vincentius, of the same monastery of Lerins, Vincentim was likewise renowned for his piety. He left behind 0,Lerin8him a treatise on the marks of heresy. With him, besides the testimony of Scripture, universality and antiquity are added as essential and concurring requisites of the evidence of orthodoxy; and though popery can by no means stand the test of these, (lor it had not as yet properly existed in the church,) it has notwithstanding availed itself of his rules, and pressed them into her service.
Eucherius, of Lyons, is another of the same Euchn-ju* stamp, and his excellent life and death are attested Thupuc'
by Prosper. Lyons,
Prosper, of Ries in Aquitain, was a layman who 4'^34distinguished himself in this century in the defence w*. of the doctrines of grace. He largely extracted from Augustine's works the fundamentals of his positions; and wrote with much earnestness a defence of them. He was engaged in a laboured controversy with the Semi-Pelagians in France; but controversy, managed with a spirit like his, serious, candid, and argumentative, not abusive and censorious, and conversant on topics of real importance, is an advantage, not a detriment to the cause of true religion. He bears a cheerful testimony to the solid piety of several of his opponents in Prance, as we have seen already, and appears only zealous for divine truths, and not for any particular party. It
Chap- was an advantage to the truth revived by Augustine, XUI- J that under the cautious and judicious management of Prosper, it was cleared of objections and explained, and rescued from aspersions, withoutlosingany thing of its sterling purity. Of Prosper himself, I can say nothing; except that his writings speak for his piety, humility and integrity. Suffice it to give two or three quotations*, one of which obviates the most specious objections that have been made to the sentiments of Augustine : "Setting aside that distinction which the divine knowledge confines within the secret of eternal justice, we ought most sincerely to believe and profess, that God would have all men to be saved ; since the apostle, whose sentence this is, most earnestly directs, what in all churches is most purely observed, that prayer be made to God for all men, whence, that many perish, is the desert of those who perish; that many are saved, is the gift of the Saviour f."
" Let human debility, says he, acknowledge itself, and the condemned succession of all generations in the first man; and when the dead are quickened, the blind illuminated, the ungodly justified, let them confess Jesus Christ their life, and light, and righteousness."
" AVe act with liberty, but with liberty redeemed, over which God is the governor."
" Grace does more than persuade and teach by kind advice and exhortation; it changes also the mind within, and forms it anew, and from a broken vessel makes it new in the energy of creation. This,
• Pro. Aug. doct.
f The attentive reader has seen this to he the sentiment of the anonymous author of the Calling of the Gentiles. Perhaps no two propositions are more certainly and decisively scriptural than these two of Prosper. It is the vain attempt to clear them of a supposed inconsistency, which has confounded many reasoners. The Church of England has exactly hit this medium in all her public writings. To know where to stop is true wisdom.
not the admonitions of the Law, not the words of a Cent'
prophet, not nature so studiously preferred to her, v^ ,
performs. He only who made, renews. An apostle may -run through the world, preach, exhort, plant, water, rebuke, and be urgent; but that the hearer may benefit by these means, neither the scholar, nor the teacher effects, but Grace alone.—This orders the seed of faith to take root in the mind, this keeps and cherishes the harvest to maturity.—It is God who raises the dead, frees the prisoners, pours understanding into dark hearts, and infuses love, by which we love him again; and the love which he infuses is himself."
Once more; hear his vigorous testimony to the entire depravity of nature, from a practical sense of which, he was, I doubt not, led to seethe suitableness of his views of grace to the exigencies of fallen humanity.
" The mind, which originally had light from the Supreme Light, involves the will in darkness, and leaViog the light, chooses to grow black in earthly darkness; not can it voluntarily lift up its captive eyes on high, because, by the robbery of the tyrant, it hath even lost the knowledge of the greatness of the wound under which it lies prostrate." . PRiMLASrus was an African bishop, who for SOme Primnsiu*. years attended the ministry of Auerustine, whose dnctP];: "f views Jie tallowed, as appears tromhis writings, particularly his comments on St. Paul's epistles. But though he seems conversant in the writings of Augustine and Jerom, he is not a mere copyist, but discovers an original vein of thought, and appears to have been well furnished with polite learning. He says, ** Faith is the gift of God, and is infused by the secret inspiration of grace, not by human labour, nor by nature, but by the Holy Spirit." He vehemently opposes self-righteous sentiments, and defends with much accuracy the genuine doctrines of the Gospel. It is surprising, that of so able a Vol. ir. N N
writer, we should have no account with respect to his life and transactions*.
Ti Motheus Jelv Rus, bishop of Alexandria, wrote nothing worthy of a distinct memorial. I mention him only as an instance of the unhappy state of that once flourishing Christian city. It had a succession of turbulent, ambitious bishops: the bad effect on the inhabitants was but too fully evidenced by their conduct: they had murdered his predecessor, and the way which he took to fix himself in his See, was by flattering them in their vices. I scarcely remember any thing good of Alexandria in all this century. It seems to have been precipitating itself into the darkness of Mahometanism, which God was preparing for it as a scourge on account of its dreadful abuse of the light of the Gospel.
Salvian, priest of Marseilles, was an eloquent, neat and beautiful writer. His manner is very serious, and he presses the necessity of good works, and particularly of almsgiving, with great vehemence. He excels in vindicating the judgments of God on the wicked nominal Christians of his time. But of his acquaintance with real Christianity, from the scanty materials, which I have seen of him, I find no evidence.
Honoratus, bishop of Marseilles, is celebrated as a great extempore preacher; his ministry was much attended by clergy and people, and he was desired often to preach in other churches. Gelasius, bishop of Rome had a high esteem for him. These accounts may seem simple and mean; but much evidence arises from them, that true religion had some prevalence in France in this century. Much preaching and much controversy on matters of evangelical importance, though attended with evils, prove that Christ is present by his Spirit.
Faustus, bishop of Ries, was an Englishman, and was first a monk of the monastery of Lerins, of which * Centur. Magdeb. Century V. c. x.
be was chosen abbot. After the death of Maximus, .cent.
bishop of Ries, he was chosen his successor. He ,
composed several treatises, governed his dioces unblamably, led a holy life, and died regretted and esteemed by the church. Though, in the controversy which has so much called for our attention in this century, he favoured the Semi-Pelagians, he seems to have done so rather through fear of the abuses of predestination, and a misunderstanding of the consequences of Augustine's doctrine, than through the want of piety and humility. For he composed a treatise concerning saving grace, in which he showed that the grace of God always allures, precedes, and assists the human will, and that all the reward of our labour, is the gift of God. A priest, named Lucidus, was very tenacious of the sentiments of Augustine, and was opposed at least by the greater part of the French bishops in his neighbourhood. Faustus endeavoured to correct his ideas, by suggesting, that we must not separate grace and human industry; that we must abhor Pelagius, and yet detest those who believe, that a man may be in the number of the elect without labouring for salvation. He adds many other cautionary maxims of the same kind, to which no sober and judicious follower of Augustine will object. His treatment of Lucidus is gentle and candid. Hence I wonder not that the presbyter was induced, at the council which was called, to assent to all that was required of him.
On the whole, after a careful review of the lights of antiquity on this subject, it appears to me, that there were a number of serious and pious persons .on both sides of the question in France; that the controversy was carried on with a degree at least of moderation ; that men, who really feared God, and lived by faith on his Son, in practical humility, differed rather in words than in things, while they debated on this difficult subject; that yet the views of Augustine are scriptural, and most consistent, and Chap- would in all ages be allowed so to be, if men had a
,- x"|- , sufficient degree of patient attention to distinguish his positions from the abuses which may be made of them, that the Semi-Pelagian notions have, how* ever, been held by men, whose experience was contradictory to their sentiments, men truly pious and holy; but, that the danger of these notions (as all errors in subjeots relating to grace must be danger* ous) lies in the bad use, which persons unacquainted with the operations of the Holy Spirit will be sure to make of them. France was at this time divided between the two parties; but as ignorance of true religion increased, Augustine's views of grace grew less and less fashionable, and were confined to particular situations, while wickedness flourished.
I add only, that profaneness has no right to triumph on account of these controversies. Their existence, and the serious and charitable manner of conducting them, showed that real godliness was alive in that country; nor is it probable, that there was, in any part of the world, at that time, morfe genuine piety than in France. When men are silent on topics of divine grace, when they gladly listen to the sneers of secular writers, who affect to treat all the controversialists with equal contempt, and are content to think so superficially on religion, as to live without any determinate sentiments on the doctrines of Scripture, then is the time when wickedness will reign without a check; and then what is called philosophy will domineer. God hath left such a people, for the present at least, to their own imaginations. « 1
A'icior. Victoh, of Vita, of whose affecting historyof
the African persecutions, 1 have made much use, and who himself suffered for righteousness sake, will deserve to be added to this list.
GeUsjus. Of Gelasius, bishop of Rome, no more needs to be added to what has been said, than that he wrote zealously against Pelagianism.
Julian Pomerius, a priest in France about the Cent. end of this century, deserves attention for his prac- t ... tical works. A few sentences, descriptive of the Julian characters of good and bad bishops and preachers, PoBleriu»will show the taste of the times, as well as afford some sentiments not uninteresting to the pastors of this day.
" A wicked bishop seeks after preferment and riches; chiefly aims to gratify his passions, to confirm his authority, and to enrich himself. He avoids the laborious and humbling part of his office, and delights in the pleasant and the honourable." Julian applies to such men's consideration the views of the 34th chapter of EzekieL " A good bishop converts sinners to God by his preaching and example— lastly, he holds himself fast to God only, in whom alone he puts his trust."
The difference between a good and a bad preacher he thus lays down : " The one seeks the glory of Jesus Christ, by explaining doctrines in familiar discourse. The other uses the utmost strength of his eloquence to gain reputation. The latter handles trifles with elaborate language; the former elevates a plain discourse by the weight of his thoughts."
END OF THE SECOND VOLUME.
Luke Hansard & Sons,
near Lincoln's-Inn Fields, London.