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Century VI, Chapter IX

CHAP. IX.

Writers of this Century.

FULGENTIUS adorned the beginning, and Gregory the close of this century, which produced no other authors of equal merit. And the decay in learning and knowledge was so great, that I shall detain the reader a very little time on this article.

Ennodius, bishop of Pavia, wrote against those, who affirmed, that man could only choose evil. With gross ignorance of the connexion and scope of St. Paul's argument, he quotes his words in the epistle to the Romans, c. vii. as favourable to his views. " For to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not;" thus ascribing to man as such, what the apostle evidently speaks of as descriptive of the regenerate. He maintains that man by nature has power to turn himself to God, and deduces from the contrary doctrine the consequences which the advocates for the doctrine of freewill in all ages have done from the days of Cicero, who, it is remarkable, reasons exactly in the same manner.

On the other hand, John Maxentius, a Scythian monk, in company with a number of monks, his brethren, strenuously defended the doctrines of grace. In a confession of their faith is this sentence: " that freewill, since the entrance of sin, has of itself no other power but that of choosing some carnal good. and pleasure,* and that it can neither desire nor will, nor do any thing for eternal life, but by the operation of the holy Spirit."

So remarkable a confession would seem to showsome distinct knowledge of the depravity of the heart. Maxentius and his brethren were ill treated by Hormisdas, bishop of Rome, a bold and dexterous politician, of whose theological knowledge and practical piety I find no proofs. He accused them of turbulence and selfconceit, and after a year's attendance at Rome they were expelled thence by his order. I cannot find that Hormisdas gave any decided opinion on the subject himself; probably he had never studied it; but he acted imperiously and decisively. Maxentius wrote with vigor in defence of the doctrines of grace; and I wish I could gratify the reader with a larger account of a man, who was counted worthy to suffer shame for the faith of Christ. The controversy between the defenders of grace and of human powers was still alive, and the western church continued still divided upon it.

Facundus, bishop of Hermiana in Africa, will deserve to be mentioned for the sake of one sentence. " The faithful, in receiving the sacrament of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, receive his body and his blood; not that the bread is properly his body, and the cup his blood; but because they contain in them the mystery of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. "t Though it makes no part of our system to confute the particular points of popery, I could not omit so clear a testimony against transubstantiation.

The western church is indebted for historical information to Gregory of Tours, the eastern to Evagrius. It must be confessed that they are inelegant and injudicious writers: they had the literary taste of this century.

The truly evangelical second council of Orange has been already reviewed. The second council of Mascon

• Du Pin. Cent. 6th. t Du Pin Facundus.

held in 585, will deserve to be mentioned. They were very zealous for the observation of Sunday. Let none follow any business on this day, say they: let none yoke oxen, or prosecute suits of law; but let all the world apply themselves to sing the praises of God. They decree penalties against sabbathbreakers. An advocate, who was guilty of the crime, was to be driven from the bar; a peasant or a slave to receive some stripes. They exhort christians also to spend the evening of Sunday in prayers. They forbid bishops to keep birds and dogs for game. They ordain the celebration of a synod every three years in a place appointed by the bishop of Lyons and king Gontranus. A proof may be drawn from hence that some spirit of genuine religion was still preserved in France.

Vol. IIL 14