Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

In the same year the haughty Chosroes, king of Persia, having conquered Alexandria and Egypt, and taken Chalcedon, Heraclius who saw the ruin of his empire approaching, begged for peace. “ That I will never consent to," replied the tyrant, “ till you renounce him who was crucified, whom you call God, and with me adore the sun." . If one compare Chosroes and Heraclius, their personal characters will not appear intrinsically different. In one is seen a daring blasphemer of Christ, in the other a nominal professor of his religion, whose life brought no honour to the name. Their oftenfible characters in the world were, however, extremely different. The Lord, who is a jealous God, has ever been used to confound his open enemies in the view of all mankind. Chofroes was a second Sennacherib, and he was treated as such by the Sovereign of the universe. The spirit of Heraclius was roused, and God gave him wonderful success: the Persian king was repeatedly vanquished, though he ceased not to persecute the Christians, fo long as he had power; and after he had loft the greatest part of his dominions, he was murdered by his own son, as was the case with Sennacherib, and in the year 628 the Persian power ceased to be formidable to the Roman empire *.

It is not without reason that St. Paul exhorts us “to shun profane and vain bablings; because their word will eat like a canker *." The Nestorian and Eutychian heresies, opposite extremes, the one dividing the person, the other confounding the two natures of Jesus Christ, though condemned by councils, ftill flourished in great vigour in the east. And the refiftance of the orthodox had little effect, for want of the energy of true spiritual life, which still fubfifted in a meafure in the west.

For • Fleury, B. XXXVII. 34. + 2 Tim. ii. 16, 17. 1 Fleury, XLVII. 41.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

A.D.

For there the found doctrine of grace, the guard
of true humility, was an ensign, around which truly
pious men were wont to rally their strength from
time to time. But, in Asia and Egypt, religion was
for the most part heartless speculation. And about
the year 630 the Eutychian herefy produced ano. 630.
ther, the Monothelite, which ascribed only one
will to Jesus Christ. This opinion was the natural
consequence of that, which gave him only one na-
ture. Theodore, bishop of Pharan in Arabia, first
started this notion, which was also readily received
by Sergius, bishop of Constantinople, whose pa-
rents had been Eutychians. Cyrus, who foon after
was made bishop of Alexandria, supported the fame
heresy. The ambiguous fubtilties of the party
drew the emperor Heraclius into the fame net,
and the east was rapidly overspread with the heresy.

Sophronius, formerly the disciple of John the
Almoner, a man of sincerity and simplicity, with
tears bewailed and protested against the innovation
in a council at Alexandria, but in vain. Having
been elected bishop of Jerusalem in 629, he after- A.D.
wards in 633 exerted his authority against the 633.
growing heresy, but with meekness of wisdom. In
a fynodical letter he explained with equal folidity
and accuracy the divine and human operations of
Jesus Christ, and gave pertinent instances of both*.

When he thought fit, he gave his human nature an opportunity to act or to suffer whatever belonged to it. His incarnation was no fancy, and he always acted voluntarily, Jesus Christ, as God, willingly took on himself human nature, and he willingly suffered in his flesh to save us, and, by his merits, to free us from fuffering. His body was subject to our natural and innocent paffions; he permitted it to suffer, according to its

nature, * Fleury, XXXVIII. S.

DI

[ocr errors]

nature, till his resurrection; then he freed himself
from all that is corruptible in our nature, that he
might deliver us from the fame.” Sophronius re-
commends himself to the prayers of Sergius, to
whom he writes, and adds, “ pray for our em-
perors,” he means Heraclius and his son, “ that
God may give them victory over all the barbarians;
particularly, that he would humble the pride of the
Saracens, who for our fins have suddenly risen
upon us, and lay all waste with fierce barbarity
and impious confidence.

Thus, in the lowest times of evangelical religion,
God ever raised up men who understood the
truth, and knew how to defend it by found argu-
ment, a charitable spirit, and an holy life. This
seems to have been the case of Sophronius. In
the mean time the Monothelite heresy spread
wider and wider. Even Honorius, bishop of Rome,
was led into the snare, owned but one will in Jesus
Christ, and imposed silence on all the controversial-
ists. Heraclius himself, who lent his imperial autho-
rity to the support of a speculative phantom, while
he imposed on his own heart by a fpecious shew of
theological nicety, lived in the gross and open
wickedness of incest, by marrying his own niece.

The danger from the Saracens, mentioned by

Sophronius, was no other than the victorious arms A.D. of Mahomet, the Arabian impostor. He had be608. gun in the year 608 to declare himself a prophet,

and, by the assistance of a Jew and a renegado
Christian, had formed a farrago of doctrines and
rites, in which there was a mixture of Paganism,
Judaism, and Christianity, whence he found means
to draw over to his party some of the various forts of
men who inhabited Arabia. An age of excessive
ignorance favoured his schemes: at this day so
senseless and absurd a book as the Koran could

scarce

scarce move the minds of any persons in Europe. But he laid hold of the corrupt passions of man, and by indulging his followers in sensuality, ambition, and the love of booty, and by promising them a carnal heaven hereafter, he contrived a religion more directly adapted to please mankind than any other of which we have heard. At the same time by declaring war against all who did not receive him, he gave an undoubted right to all nations to attack a system which could only thrive by the oppression of others. But there are seasons of infatuation, when, for the sins of men, empires and kingdoms are permitted to slumber, and enter into no effectual measures of resistance, till invaders, at first weak and contemptible, grow in time to an enormous height. This was the case with Mahometanism. The time was come when the Saracen locusts were about to torment the Christian world, and the prophecy of Rev. ix. (1-12) was going to be fulfilled. The Greeks were idly employed in the new dispute: vice and wickedness prevailed over the east in all forms. A few indeed mourned over the times, and adorned the truth by humility and holiness, but scarce any Christian writers appeared to make a serious opposition to the doctrines of Mahomet, and at the time of his death, which happened in the year 631, he had conquered almost all Arabia *,

Notwithstanding * It has pleased God to permit the existence of this odious and contemptible religion to this day. And it should be carefully observed, that Mahomet, wicked and deceitful as he doubtless was altogether, did not openly oppose God or his Chrift. He did not deny directly, though he did confequentially, the divine revelation either of Old or New Testament. He always fpake respectfully of the inspired prophetical character of Moses and of Christ.' He received so much of Christianity as agrees with Socinianism. Jehovah was not therefore openly

despised

A.D.

631.

14

Notwithstanding the decease of the impostor, the Mahometan arms proceeded still with the same rapidity. Damascus fell into the hands of his suc

ceffours; and Sophronius exhorted his flock to take A.D. warning and repent. Jerusalem however was taken 637. by the enemy in the year 637, and Sophronius

died soon after. Antioch and Alexandria succes-
sively sunk under thein. Persia itself was subdued.
Thus did God equally punish the persecuting ido-
laters, and the vicious professors of Christianity in
the east. They were doomed to a long night of

fervitude under Mahometanism, which continues A.D. to this time. Heraclius himself died in the year 641. 641. God had shewed him great mercies and

given him very great encouragement to seek true
religion, by the remarkable success of his arms against
the Persians in the middle of his reign. But he lived
wickedly and speculated unfcripturally. And a
new power was erected, which reaped the fruits of
all his Persian triumphs, and tore from him the
fairest provinces of the east.

To what purpose should I run through the mazes
of the Monothelite controversy! Yet something
must be said of the part which Maximus acted in
it. He was one of the most learned men of the
age, and had been employed by Heraclius as his
secretary; but I wonder not that a man, who loved
real godliness, as he did, should have a strong

"

aversion despised by him as he was by Julian, Chosroes, and Sennache, rib. On them was fulfilled that Scripture, “ he repayeth them, that hate him, to destroy them; he will not be Nack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face.” Deuter. vii.

A speedy destruction of such avowed enemies seems to be menaced, that the divine character may be vindicated. His covert enemies, who yet treat him with respectful decorum, are often permitted long to exist, for the punishment of false professors. For the truth and majesty of God are not so fenfibly di honoured by them in the view of the whole world, as to call for their inmediate extirpation.

IO.

« VorigeDoorgaan »