became the residence of the Saracen monarchs ;
whose empire then began to carry more the ap-
pearance of a regular government, and ceased to
be fo troublesome to the remains of the old Roman
empire, as it had formerly been.

Leo, the son and succeffour of Constantine, trode

in the steps of his father and grandfather, and exerA.D. cised severities on the supporters of image-worship. 780. But, as he died in the year 780*, his wife Irene

assumed the government in the name of her son
Constantine, who was only ten years old. She
openly and zealously supported idolatry. The east
was so eagerly addicted to it, that there wanted
only the authority of a sovereign to render it tri-
umphant. Images gained the ascendency; and the
monastic life, which either the piety or the pru-
dence of three emperors,—for I cannot ascertain their

real character,—had much discouraged, became
A.D. again victorious in Greece and Asia.
784. In 784 Irene wrote to Adrian, desiring his pre.

fence at a council to be held for the support of
image-worship; at least that he would send legates
to it. Tarasius, bishop of Constantinople, just
appointed, and perfectly harmonizing with the
views of the empress, wrote to the same purport.
Adrian's answer is worthy of a pope. He expresses
his joy at the prospect of the establishment of
image-worship; and, at the same time, testifies his
displeasure at the presumption of Tarasius, in calling
himself universal patriarch: he demands the resto-
ration of St. Peter's patrimony, which, during the

• Fleury, XLIV. 16.

+ If the plan, on which I have chosen to write a Church-history, need the authority of any writer to support it, the words of Fleury are very decisive. B. XLIV. 17. • The temporal affairs of the Church, nay, of the Roman Church, do not belong to an ecclefiaftical history.”

schism, the emperors of Constantinople had withheld; and sets before the empress the munificent pattern of Charlemagne, who had given to the Roman Church, to be enjoyed for ever, provinces, cities, and castles, once in possession of the Lombards, but which of right belonged to St. Peter. Ambition and avarice were thus covered with the thin veil of superstition. But this was the age of clerical usurpations. Large domains were now commonly annexed, by superstitious princes, to the Church, for the pardon of their fins; but the pope was the greatest gainer by this traffic. That, which is most to our purpose to observe, is the awful departure, which had commonly been made, throughout Christendom, from the all-important article of justification. While this is firmly believed and reverenced, it is impossible for men to, think of commuting for their offences with heaven; and it is itself the fureft defence against clerical encroachments, superstition, idolatry, and hypocrisy. But the pulpits were silent on this doctrine: during this whole century, false religion grew without any check or molestation; and vices, both in publick and private life, increased in proportion.

In the year 787 the second council of Nice was 787. held under the empress: and, of such a council it is sufficient to say, that it confirmed idolatrous worship. Pope Adrian, having received the acts of the council, fent them to Charlemagne, that he might procure the approbation of the bishops of the welt. But here his expectations were disappointed. United in politics by the coincidence of interested views, they were however found to disagree in religious sentiments. Charlemagne, though illiterate himself, was one of the greatest patrons of learning: and, if he may be supposed to have been in earnest in any opinions, he would naturally be

M 4



[ocr errors]

much influenced by the famous Alcuin, an Eng. lishman, whom he cherished and esteemed. The customs and habits of the west were far from universally favouring the reigning idolatry. I am anxiously looking for the features of the Church of Christ in this very gloomy period, and seem to think that her existence was most probably to be found in the Churches lately planted, or, in those, which were then in an infant state. Our own island was decidedly, at that time, against idolatry. The British Churches execrated the second council of Nice*; and some even of the Italian bishops protested against the growing evil. Nor is it

probable, that the churches of Germany, now forming, were at all disposed to receive it. Men, who first receive Christianity from zealous teachers, are simple and sincere ; nor is it easy to convince an ingenuous person, that idolatry, however qualified or explained, is allowable on the plan of the Scriptures, either of the Old or New Testament. France itself had, as yet, shewn no disposition positively in favour of idolatry. The Roman See alone, in Europe, had in form fupported and defended it. And experience proves, that the greatest stages of degeneracy are

found in the Churches, which have subfifted the longest.

Charlemagne could not but be struck at the discordancy of the Nicene council with the habits of the west ; and was therefore so far from receiving, with implicit faith, the recommendation of it by pope Adrian, that he ordered the bishops of the weft to examine the merits of the question. The issue was, the publication of the Carolin books,


to be

* Hoveden Annal. pars prior. p. 232. Usher Annals. p. 19,

The former of these writers tells us, that Alcuin composed the Carolin books.


in which the famous Alcuin had at least a distinguished share. In these the authors find fault with a former fynod held in Greece, under Constantine, which forbad the use of images. For they held the dangerous opinion of Gregory ist, namely, that these might be set up in churches, and serve as books for the instruction of the people. But they condemn, in very free terms, the late Grecian fynod, which enjoined the worship of images. They find fault with the flattering addresses made by the Greek bishops to pope Adrian, They allow the primacy of St. Peter's See, but are far from founding their faith on the pope's decrees. They condemn the worship of images by scriptural arguments, by no means impertinent or contemptible, but which there is no occasion for me to

repeat *.

Engilbert, the ambassador of Charles, presented these books to Adrian. This ambitious politician, who subsisted by the protection of Charlemagne, and who was concerned to maintain the honour of his See, replied with great prudence. It is evident, from his whole conduct, that his object was the temporal interests of the popedom. Hence his answer to Charles was tame and insipid, and his defence of image-worship weak and inconclusive t. Charles and the French Churches persevered in their own middle practice : they used images, but they abhorred the adoration of them. In the year A.D. 794, at Frankfort upon the Maine, a fynod was 794. held, consisting of 300 bishops, who condemned the second council of Nice, and the worship of images. In this fynod, Paulinus, bishop of Aquileia, in Italy, bore some share. Adrian, however, continued on good terms with Charlemagne, to

the • See Du Pin, Councils of 8th century. + This is allowed by Du Pin. Ibid.


the death of the former, which took place before the close of the century, when he was succeeded by Leo III. Political intrigue, and fecular artifice, not theological study, was then the practice of Roman bishops. The Irish, at this time, particularly excelled in divinity, travelled through various countries, and became renowned for knowledge; and the superior light of England and France, in the controversy concerning images, feems to Thew both those countries, in knowledge and in regard for the doctrines of Scripture, to have been far superior to Rome. Yet so strongly were men prejudiced in favour of the dignity of the Roman See, that it still remained in the height of its power, and was enabled in process of time to communicate its idolatrous abominations through Europe. In the east the worship of images was triumphant, but as yet not universal*.

This chapter contains the narrative of the most fatal events, which the Church had ever feen. The Arian heresy had disfigured and deeply wounded her conftitution, but she had recovered, and confounded this adversary. The Pelagian poison had operated for a time; but its detection and expul. fion had even contributed to recover her health, and to restore her to a great degree of apostolical purity. Other heresies, which affected the doctrine of the Trinity, had been successfully oppofed : superstition, for a number of centuries, had sullied her beauty, but had left her vitals untouched. Idolatry, at length, aided by the same superstitious propensity, prevailed to disunite her from Christ,


* Irene, toward the close of this century, dethroned her son Constantine, and put out his eyes with such violence, that he lost his life. This monster, a worthy patroness of idolatry, then reigned alone, and cooperated with the pope of Rome, in the support of Satan's kingdom.

« VorigeDoorgaan »