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Century VI, Chapter II

CHAP. II.

The State of the Church in other Parts of the Roman Empire, till the Death of Justin, including the Life of Qasarius.

In the beginning of this century Alaric king of the Visigoths reigned at Toulouse, and was sovereign of a kingdom on the confines of France and Spain, though afterwards, by the victorious arms of the Franks, the Visigoths were confined to the latter country. Most of his subjects were of the general church, and he himself was an arian; yet he treated them with great humanity, and gave leave to the bishops of his kingdom to meet together at the city of Agde. Twenty-four bishops assembled, the president of whom was Cajsarius, bishop of Arles. They made a number of canons, relating to discipline and church externals, two or three particulars of which may be mentioned. " All clergymen who serve the church faithfully shall receive salaries proportionable to their services." This rule, so simple and general, was the ancient provision for the maintenance of pastors. But, by another canon of this council, clergy, men are allowed, provided they have the bishop'.-, leave, to reserve to themselves the revenues of the church,* saving its rights, but without the power of giving away or alienating any part; and here is the origin of benefices. " In all churches the creed shall be explained to the competentsf on the same day, a week before Easter. All such laymen as shall not receive the communion three times a year, at the three great festivals,^ shall be looked on as heathens. Oratories may be allowed in the country to

* Fleury, b. xxxi. 1. vol. iv.

t Who seem to have been those who applied for baptismi Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide.

those who live at a great distance from the parish churches, for the ease and convenience of their families; but they must appear at their parish churches on certain solemn festivals." This las. rule showed at once a regard for parochial order and for the instruction of the people.* The next is equally laudable: " Laymen are ordered to remain in the church, till the blessing is pronounced." Csesarius was very zealous against the abuses meant to be rectified by this canon. He observed one day some persons going out of the church to avoid hearing the sermon, " What are you about, my children? cried he with a loud voice, where are you going? Stay, stay for the good of your souls. At the day of judgment it will be too late to exhort you." This just and charitable zeal prevailed at length; but he was often obliged to cause the church doors to be shut, after the gospel was read, to prevent the impious practice. His people were however reclaimed, and they repented by degrees. There are still extant two of his sermons on this subject. Mankind in all ages are apt to be weary of God's word; there were however pastors in the western church, who served for charity, and not for lucre. Another canon will deserve to be mentioned. It forbade auguries, and divinations, and the opening of the scriptures with a view to make an omen of the first words that offered. We have seen, that Augustine had opposed this last mentioned superstition. Here it was forbidden under penalty of excommunication. Yet it still prevailed. I see the African school virtuously, but unsuccessfully, struggling against the increasing darkness and superstition.

Cajsarius himself had spent some part of his youth in the famous monastery of Lerins.f Hearing afterwards that he was actually designed to be made bishop

* The union of these two in just proportion gives a perfect idea of good discipline. It would be well if similar care were taken for many places in our own country, far distant from parish churches.

f This little island, which we have had repeated occasion to mention, is now called St. Honorat, is close to the French coast, and lies between Nice and Toulon.

of Arles, he hid himself among the tombs. But lie was taken out thence, at the age of thirty, was appointed bishop, and continued in that church above forty years. He was fond of singing, and as he found the laity were apt to talk in the church, while the clergy were singing, he induced the laity to join with them in psalmody; and, in a sermon still extant, he exhorts them to sing with their hearts, as well as their voices. In another sermon he exhorts them to throw off all distracting thoughts, before they prostrate themselves for prayer. " Whoever, says he, in his prayers, thinks on a public place of resort, or the house he is building, worships that place or that house." He directs them also not to be content with hearing the scriptures read in the church, but to read them also at home.

This holy man gave himself intirely to reading and preaching. He preached on all Sundays and holidays. If he was himself hindered from preaching, he caused his own sermons or those of Augustine, whom he highly revered, or those of Ambrose, to be read by other ministers. His style was plain, and adapted to common capacities. He entered into practical particulars, searched the consciences of his hearers, and severely reproved idolatrous and superstitious usages.

He was once, by calumny, ejected from his church; but Alaric, his sovereign, on the discovery of his innocence restored him. He was exposed to similar sufferings afterwards; but was again delivered, and amidst the confusions of the times distinguished himself exceedingly by acts of mercy. He died in the \ year 542, universally lamented.

In the mean time the cause of arianism was gradually declining, partly by the progress of the Franks, and partly by the influence of Sigismund, king of Burgundy, who succeeded his father Gondebaud, having been brought over to orthodoxy by Avitus, bishop of Vienne, a year before.

Sigismund, king of the Burgundians, having been induced to put to death his son Sigeric by the calumny of his second wife, and finding afterwards his error, repented in great bitterness, and besought God to punish him in this life and not in the next. His prayer seems to have been heard; for, in the year 523, he was attacked by Clodomir, king of the Franks, the successor of Clovis, and was afterwards slain with his wife and children. Clodomir himself was soon after slain in Burgundy, and his three sons were brought up by Clotilda, the widow of Clovis their grandmother.

Such was the state of the church of Christ in France during the former part of this century. In Italy, some degree of genuine piety may be presumed to have still existed, though I have no interesting particulars to record. If we turn our eyes to the east, the prospect is far more disagreeable. Factions and feuds, heretical perversions and scandalous enormities fill up the scene. Under the emperor Justin christianity began at length to wear a more agreeable aspect in some respects, and peace and good order, in external things at least, were in a measure restored. In the year 52^ Zamnaxes, king of the Lazi, a people who inhabited the country- anciently called Colchis, being dead, his son Zathes repaired to Constantinople, telling the emperor that he was desirous of receiving the gospel, and of relinquishing the idolatry of his ancestors. They had been vassals to the king of Persia, and had been obliged to perform sacrifices after the Persian mode. He put himself therefore under the protection of Justin, and desired to receive the crown from his hands. Justin granted his requests, and thus the Lazi became vassals to the eastern empire, and embraced christianity. The Iberians also, who bordered on their territories, and were also subjects to the king of Persia, had already received the gospel. How far any thing of the real spirit of Christ's religion was imbibed by either nation, I know not. I can only say, the limits of the christian name were extended in the east.*

In Arabia Felix* there were many christians subject to a kingt called Dounouas, a Jew, who caused those who were unwilling to become Jews to be cast into pits full of fire. In the year 522 he besieged Negra, a town inhabited by christians. Having persuaded them to surrender on articles, he broke his oath, burnt the pastors, beheaded the laymen, and carried all the youth into captivity. Here then the real church of Christ may be traced by sufferings voluntarily undergone for his sake. The next year Elesbaan, king of Abyssinia, a country, which, as we have formerly seen, had been christian since the days of Athanasius, supported by the emperor Justin, invaded the territcpr ries of the Arabian Jew, subdued his country and slew him. Thus the Arabian christians were relieved. Elesbaan himself was very zealous, and gave this proof of his zeal, that he resigned his crown to embrace the monastic life.