Century X, Chapter IV

CHAP. IV.

Writers and Eminent Men in this Century.

In a dearth so excessive, there are few, who will deserve to be noticed either for knowledge or for piety; and fewer still for both. My chief view, in this chapter, is to give the reader an idea of the state of true religion in these times; nor will the picture here exhibited be materially erroneous, though it could be proved, that Theophylact, one of the authors, whom I shall quote, belonged to the next century, as Mosheim thinks. For the spirit and taste of the tend: and eleventh centuries are so similar, that what illustrates the one, will illustrate the other. The very toleration of the Roman popedom itself, after the detection of its flagitiousness before all the world, evinces the uncommonly low condition of christian knowledge in this age: proofs, however, will appear, that the Spirit of God had not forsaken the church, and that there were those, who reverenced and felt the po«'(J of her doctrines.

It is not in Rome, but in the more recent churchesthat this power appears. Whether it was practically exemplified by Bruno, archbishop of Cologne, »' Germany, is not very evident. But, in knowledge and learning, he was very eminent. He was brother to Otho I. and, by the desire of the people of Cologne, was fixed by that great prince in the archbishopric. We must not expect much regard to ecclesiastical discipline in these times; and therefore are not to be surprised, that a prince, so religious as Otho was, should invest his relation also with the civil power of a dukedom. Bruno is remarked, however, to have been among the first, who united offices so discordant in the same person.* This was to secularize the church; and Cologne continues in a similar" state to this day. Bruno was nevertheless an assiduous promoter of religion. Normans, Danes, and various others, who travelled in his province, he brought over to the profession of christianity. He restrained the luxury both of clergy and people; and was himself a shining example of modest and frugal manners. He died about the year 965.

Unni, a far more decided character, has been already celebrated. As archbishop of Hamburg, he acted with a vigor and a piety worthy the importance of that see. He was highly reverenced by the German emperors of his time; and that a person so opulent should choose to labour as a missionary in such countries as Denmark and Sweden, argues a zeal of no common degree. He died at Stockholm in 936.f

By the advice of Adolvard, bishop of Verden, Adeldagus, who had discharged some petty office in the church, was sent for to court by the great Otho, and made his chancellor. On the death of Unni, he was appointed archbishop of Hamburg, but was so acceptable, by his talents and industry, to the emperor, that he still continued in the same secular employments. Adeldagus sent a number of pastors into Denmark, and was present with Otho at Rome when the popedom was reformed. His flock, however, at Hamburg complained, and not without reason, of his absence from them. The emperor, at length, gave him liberty to return home. His care of the poor, and

many rather princely than pastoral virtues, were remarkable. But I can form no great idea of the spirituality of a man, who neglects residence among his flock, and continues to act in a secular capacity under three successive princes, while he holds a bishopric. He served Otho II. and III. with the same success and ability with which he had done Otho I. and after he had held his bishopric 53 vears, he died under Otho III. in the year 988.*

Libentius, an Italian, by the desire of Adeldagus, was appointed his successor. Much is said in praise of this prelate. He often visited the Vandals, a barbarous people in Poland, about the Vistula, and taught them the way of salvation. He sent pastors to distant nations, and was a shining exemplar of piety and beneficence. He died in 1013.f

Adolvard, bishop of Verden, who, as we have mentioned, recommended Adeldagus to the patronage of Otho I. was himself an excellent pattern of piety and probity. He discharged the oflice of a faithful pastor in his diocese, and took pains to instruct the ignorant Vandals in the way of salvation.J

Of Adalbert, archbishop of Prague, I can find no more than has been already mentioned; though his labours deserve to have been minutely recorded.

That the true doctrines of the gospel, and some true knowledge of their experimental use and power, were not lost in the church altogether, the following quotations will abundantly evince; though of the authors themselves no particular account can be given, nor is it very clear at what exact period of time some of them lived: the passages selected from them will serve, however, to show the religious taste of the times.

Ansbert, speaking of the effect of the divine word, observes; " There is no doubt, but by the holy preaching of the word the faithful receive the grace of the holy Spirit, the Lord bearing witness to this, the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."$

The value of the inward teaching of the holy Spirit, has been frequently attested in these memoirs, and in a language very similar to the following passage of Smaragdus on the same subject. " Our sense is renewed by the exercises of wisdom, meditation on the word of God, and the understanding of his statutes; and the more proficiency any person daily makes by reading, and the deeper hold the truth has upon his understanding, the more the new man grows day by day. Let no man attribute to the teacher, that he understands from his mouth; for unless there be an Internal Teacher, the external one labours in vain. The Jews heard Christ preach in one manner, the apostles in another; those to judgment, these to salvation: for the Spirit taught these in the heart, what those heard outwardly by the ear. Unless the Lord shine into the heart of the hearer, the teacher labours in darkness. For the faith of the nations comes not by the wisdom of the composition, but by the gift of divine vocation."*

" If thou wouldst have thy sons obedient to thee," says Theophylact, " instruct them in the divine word. Say not, that it belongs only to persons professionally religious to read the scriptures. It is the duty of every christian, particularly of those, who are in the midst of secular employments: they need the greatest help, as they live in a tempest. It is for thy own interest, that thy children be well versed in scripture; thence they will learn to reverence their parents." Let modern sceptics and infidels attend to the voice of a writer who lived in a dark age of the church; for he was a luminary of these dark ages. He most probably lived in the eleventh century; and the plain precepts just mentioned deserve, from gentlemen of the eighteenth century, more serious attention than whole volumes of metaphysical subtilities, or political speculations.

Speaking of the state of man after the fall, Theo■ Id

phylact observes: " Some are found, indeed, to be good tempered and benign by nature, none by exercise and meditation. And though some be reckoned good men, they adulterate every action by vainglory. But he, whose goodness centres in his own glory, not in goodness itself, whenever an opportunity offers, will indulge evil lusts. For, if among us christians, the threatening of hell, every advantage of study, and the lives of innumerable saints, can scarce preserve men in the practice of virtue, how can the nugatory tales of the gentiles teach them virtue? It will not be matter of surprise, indeed, if they confirm them in wickedness."*

With such discrimination of ideas did this writer distinguish between the state of nature and of grace! Let us hear him express his thoughts on the gospel, as opposed to the law. " The law, if it detect any man sinning, even in a circumstance that may appear trifling, as in gathering sticks on the sabbath day,t condemns him to death: but the holy Spirit, receiving those, who have committed innumerable offences, in the laver of baptismal regeneration justifies them, and quickens those, who are dead in sin.—The righteousness of God preserves us; not our own righteousness: for what righteousness can we have, who are altogether corrupt? But God hath justified us, not by our works, but by faith, which grace ought to grow more and more consummate; as the apostle said unto the Lord, increase our faith. J Truly it is not enough to have once believed. For, as the benefits of divine grace exceed human thoughts, there is absolute need of faith to conceive and apprehend them. The righteousness of God is by faith. This needs not our labours and works; but the whole belongs to the grace of God. Moses asserts that man is justified by works. J But none are found to fulfil them. Justification by the law is therefore rendered impossible. This

• Cent. Maijd. id. p. 64. f Numbers, xv. 32. &c. f Luke, xvii. 5.

§ He appears to mean the same thing which St. Paul does, by the expression, " Moses describeth the righteousness, which is of the law, that the man, which doeth those things, shall live by them." Rom. x. 5.

is the righteousness of God, when a man is justified by grace, so that no blemish, no spot is found in him."*

" Maxime Teucrorum ductor, quo sospite nunquam
Res equidem Trojae victas aut regna l'atebor."

So speaks Evander to Virgil's hero. With great pro-
priety may we say of justification by Christ through
faith, the leading doctrine of christianity, that while
its existence is preserved in the church, the power of .
Christ's kingdom is not destroyed in the world. There,
doubtless, were those in Theophylact's time, who
knew how to feed on the doctrine of grace, and con-
vert it into spiritual nourishment. This writer, it should
be observed, belonged to the eastern church, of which
we hear very little in the dark ages before us. Serious
and humble spirits, therefore, in those regions, were
not left without a light shining amidst the tenfold ob-
scurity of the times, by which their feet might be
guided in the paths of peace. And as it is not to be
supposed, that the light was preserved to no purpose,
we may safely conclude, that the real church was still
in existence in fhe east.

The same intelligent writer gives us an illustration of the abundance of grace, spoken of in Rom. v. which will deserve to be mentioned. " Suppose a person is thrown into prison with his wife and children, because he is deep in debt, and then should be not only freed from the prison and the demands of the law, but also receive at once innumerable talents, be introduced into the royal palace, be presented with a kingdom, and accounted worthy of the same, and be reckoned a son of the king; This is the abundance of grace."f

Hear how experimentally he speaks of christian faith. " Faith is looked on as contemptible, because of the foolishness of preaching—He, who believes with great affection, extends his heart to God. He is united to him. His heart, inflamed, conceives a strong assu

rance, that it shall gain its desire. We all know this by experience, because Christ hath said, Whatever ye ask in prayer, believing ye shall receive. He who believes, gives himself wholly to God; he speaks to him with tears; and in prayer holds the Lord, as it were, by the feet. O rich advantage, exceeding human thought, that every one who believes on him, gains two things, one, that he does not perish, the other, that he has eternal life. The faith of Christ is an holy work, and sanctifies its possessor. It is a guide to every good work: for works without faith are dead, and so is faith without works. There needs not the circuitous and afflictive course of legal works, but God justifies in a summary way, those who believe. For, if thou confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thine heart, that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.* Faith is a shield, not vain sophisms, not fallacious argumentations. These hinder the soul, faith protects it. Know, that thou must not exact a reason from God; but however he dispose of thee, thou must believe him."f

It would have been wonderful indeed, if the Grecian divine before us, had been exempt from the errors relating to the Will, which for ages of greater light had pervaded the eastern church. He appears to have mixed the powers of grace and nature in the confused manner of Chrysostom; but it is not necessary to quote any passage for this purpose. A specimen of his writings on this point may be seen in the 139th page, vol. 3. Magd.

Giselbert, or a theologian, whose works bear that name, and who lived in or near this century, speaks of justification in the usual manner of Augustine, and of the later Latin fathers, and with the same valuable tincture of divine truth. " When I speak of the righteousness of God," says he, " I do not mean his absolute righteousness, but that, with which he clothes man, when he justifies the ungodly. The law and the

prophets bear witness to this righteousness. The law, indeed, by commanding and threatening, and yet justifying no man, sufficiently indicates, that man is justified by the gift of God, through the quickening spirit. From God, beyond question, arises the beginning of salvation, never from us, nor with us. But the consent and the work, though not originating from us, is, however, not without us."* Of the work of grace and of the duty of man in sanctification, he seems to speak with evangelical accuracy. The only error is, that by speaking of justification, as effected through the quickening Spirit, he seems to confound justification with sanctification. A common mistake! The great luminary of Africa fell into it; and, by his authority, gave it a sanction throughout the western church. In another passage, Giselbert, by speaking of a variety of justifications, which he multiplies to seven, and, with equal reason, he might have multiplied them to seventy times seven,J tarnishes the precious doctrine of salvation exceedingly, and leaves no distinct ground for the afflicted conscience, to seek peace with God. " The first remission is baptism; the seventh is by tears and confession." Whenever men are brought to feel what sin is, what their own sin is, they should learn the scripture doctrine of justification, which is, from first to last, by grace alone through Jesus Christ, and by the instrumentality of faith. Careless and selfrighteous spirits may trifle at their ease with other views of doctrine; the contrite spirit cannot rest but in Christ alone; and by the truth, as it is in Jesus, the conscience finds peace, and the heart is set at liberty to serve God in love. However, a serious investigation of the doctrine of christian righteousness, argues some just concern for the salvation of the soul, and often leads to the most salutary consequences. The worst state of the church is, when a deep silence is preserved concerning justification in any mode or sense, however men's minds may be amused or agitated with a

• 78.

Vol. III.

4

t Id. 139.

variety of religious speculations or controversies. In that case, religion lives only in the brain, and has for* saken the conscience altogether.

But no writer of this age pierces more deeply into the spirit of divine truth, than the monk Radulph, who certainly flourished about the tenth century,* though very little is known concerning him. " Since," says he, " in every good work, divine mercy prevents us, if a man seek what recompence he may render to the Lord, he finds it not, unless he receive it also from God. Divine grace, therefore, obliges us by its beneficence, and helps us when thus obliged, by many repetitions of the same grace, that we may not remain ungrateful." ** In us all, who are by nature children of wrath, and born under the yoke of diabolical slavery, it is not expected, who will choose to come out of the mass, but whom celestial clemency will deliver. For it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy, "f And he adds more to the same purport, speaking very fully concerning the " election of grace,":): and connecting that doctrine with practical views of humility and gratitude.

Nilus, of Greek extraction, was born in the year 910, in Calabria. He was allowed to have lived in a state of eminent sanctity, though a married man; a singular circumstance for those times. After his wife's death he retired about the year 940 into a convent. In 976, the bishop of Calabria, and a lord of the territory, named Leo, with many priests went to visit him, rather with a view to try his skill than to derive any benefit from his instructions. Nilus treated them civilly, prayed with them a short time, and then put into Leo's hands a book of maxims concerning the small number of the Saved. The company expressed their dissatisfaction at the harshness of the doctrine. This induced Nilus to undertake the proof of it from the writings of the fathers, from St. Paul, and from the gos

• Id. 363. t W. 65- t Rom. xi. 5

pels. " These maxims seem terrible," said he, " but

the only reason why they do so, is this, they condemn your practice. Unless you be sincerely holy, you cannot escape everlasting torments.'" They sighed, and they trembled. He had, however, said no more than what the whole new testament inculcates continually. And the conduct of these men, and of men like these, who abound in every age, shows how little the scripture is really believed. One of the company, whom Nilus knew to live in open sin, asked the monk, whether Solomon was saved or not? What is it to us, answered the upright Nilus, whether Solomon be saved or not? It is sufficient for you to know, that Christ pronounces damnation against all workers of iniquity. I should think it a more interesting object of inquiry for you, to consider whether you shall be saved or not. As for Solomon, the scripture mentions not his repentance, as it does that of Manasseh. What effect his discourse had upon his visitors we know not. But it deserved to be recorded, both to show how dangerously men exercise their ingenuity in furnishing themselves with excuses to live in sin, and also to give a sample of plaindealing in those, who undertake to instruct mankind.

Euphraxus, an haughty nobleman, was governor of Calabria, under the Greek emperor. For the eastern part of Italy remained subject to that monarch a considerable time after the establishment of the popedom. Euphraxus sought every occasion of mortifying Nilus, because he gave him no presents, as other abbots did. Falling sick, however, he sent for him, and begged of him the monastic habit. Your baptismal vows suffice, said Nilus. Repentance requires no new vows, but a change of heart and life. This sentiment of Nilus was somewhat extraordinary for the tenth century. But Euphraxus, who sought to pacify his conscience at the easiest rate, with miserable ignorance importuned the abbot to invest him with the habit, to which he at length consented. Euphraxus died three days after. Infidelity may smile, but if ever the conscience become thoroughly alarmed, even in the most hardened sceptics and sensualists, it will quickly find, that the best of our moral works arc no covering to the soul from the justice of an holy God; and therefore, unless the real doctrine of salvation be understood, men in their distress will betake themselves to such paltry refuges as this of Euphraxus. A licentious Charles II. having sedulous recourse to popish ceremonies, in his dying hours, is not a singular case. Others, who, like him in health, despised the doctrines of grace, have done the same.

Nilus refused the offer of the bishopric of Capua; nor could the most flattering invitations induce him to go to Constantinople. He seemed likely to enjoy tranquil retirement to his death, in his convent. But providence ordered it otherwise. The Saracens invaded Calabria, of which they afterwards gained possession. Nilus was driven from his home, and lived a longtime in other convents. Otho III. upon a visit, pressed him to accept some situation in his dominions, wherever he should choose. Nilus thanked the emperor, but said, our divine Master will not forsake my brethren, if they be true monks, after I am gone. Ask what you please, said the emperor, I will give it you with pleasure. " The only thing, I ask you," replied Nilus, " is, that you would save your soul. For you must give an account to God, as well as other men." This good abbot died at Tusculum, in an extreme old age in the year 1005.*

Such was the light, scattered here and there, in the darkness of the times, by which the God of grace and mercy called, nourished, and sanctified his church, and preserved to himself a godly seed in the earth, who should serve him in the gospel of his Son, and prevent the cruel tyranny of the prince of darkness from completely overspreading the world.

• A. Butler.