Chapter 28

CHAPTER XXVIII: NESTORIANS AND MONOPHYSITES.

From the time of the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451), to the end of
Justinian's reign, the Eastern Church was vexed by controversies
which arose out of the opinions of Eutyches (Chap. XXII). On account
of these quarrels, the Churches of Rome and Constantinople would
have no intercourse with each other for five-and-thirty years (AD
484-519). The party which had at first been called Eutychians (after
Eutyches) afterwards got the name of "Monophysites", (that is to
say, "maintainers of one nature only")--because they said that after
Our Blessed Lord had taken on Him the nature of man, His Godhead and
His manhood made up but one nature; whereas the Catholics held that
His two natures remain perfect and distinct in Him. The party split
up into a number of divisions, the very names of which it is
difficult to remember. And other quarrels arose out of the great
controversy with the Eutychians. The most noted of these was the
dispute as to what were called the "Three Articles." It was not
properly a question respecting the faith, but whether certain
writings, then a hundred years old, were or were not favourable to
Nestorianism. But it was thought so important, that a council, which
is reckoned as the fifth general council, was held on account of it
at Constantinople in the year 553.

Notwithstanding all their quarrels among themselves, the
Monophysites grew very strong in various countries. In Egypt they
were more in number than the Catholics. The Abyssinian Church
(which, as we saw in a former chapter (Chap X), was considered as a
daughter of the Egyptian Church) took up these opinions. The Nubians
were converted from heathenism by Monophysite missionaries; and in
Armenia the church exchanged the Catholic doctrine for the
Monophysite in the sixth century.

But the most remarkable man of this sect was a Syrian named Jacob.
He found his party suffering and greatly weakened, in consequence of
the laws which the emperors had made against it; and most of the
bishops and clergy had been removed by banishment imprisonment, or
other means. Being resolved to preserve the sect, if possible, from
dying out, Jacob went to Constantinople, made his way into the
prison where some of the Monophysite bishops were confined, and was
secretly consecrated by them as a bishop, with authority to watch
over all the congregations of their communion throughout Syria and
the East. For nearly forty (AD 541-578) he laboured in carrying out
the work which he had undertaken, with a zeal and a stedfastness
which we cannot but admire, although we must regret that they were
employed in the cause of heresy. In order that he might not be
known, as there were severe laws against spreading his opinions, he
dressed himself as a beggar, and thence got the dance of "The
Ragged". In this disguise, he travelled, without ceasing, over Syria
and Mesopotamia. His secret was faithfully kept by the members of
his party. He stirred up their spirit, ordained bishops and clergy
to minister among them in private, and at his death, in 578, he left
the sect large and flourishing. From this Jacob, the Monophysites of
other countries, as well as of his own, got the name of Jacobites,
in return for which they called the Catholics "Melchites,"--that is
to say, followers of the emperor's religion. And by these names of
Melchites and Jacobites, the remnants of the old Christian parties
in the East are known to this day. (These Jacobites of the East must
not be confounded with the Jacobites of English history, who were
the friends of James II, and of his family, after the Revolution of
1688.)

The Nestorians also continued to be a strong body. Both they and the
Monophysites were very active in missions--more active, indeed, than
the eastern Catholics. The Nestorians, in particular, made great
numbers of converts in Persia (where the heathen kings would allow
no other kind of Christianity than Nestorianism), in India, and in
other parts of Asia. And in the seventh century (which is somewhat
beyond the bounds of this little book) their missionaries made their
way even to China, where they preached with great success.