« PreviousContinue »
in the souls of a numerous and waiting assembly in the contemplation of the reconciliation of all things to God. The duties of the Christian minister were set forth in a very chaste and forcible manner. The interest and importance of the sacred deposit, with which the called and chosen servants of Jesus are entrusted, were convincingly shown. The trickling tear and the engaged attention on that occasion, indicated that many could say, it is good for us to be here. The joyful solemnities of that season were much enhanced by the administration of the sacrament, when many of the followers of the Savior of the world partook, in sweet communion, of the eucharistic symbols.
It will be peculiarly pleasing to all lovers of the truth to know that not only many are coming in to labor with us from other denominations; but many worthy and well qualified brethren of our own order are disposed to renounce the vanities of this world, and spend their time in the service of the Captain of our salvation. We have the pleasure to announce to our friends the reception of two young men of promising talents and christian deportment, to the fellowship of the ministry of reconciliation. We feel no less a pleasure to give information of the setting apart to the work of the ministry, by solemn ordination, two other approved but youthful laborers in the vineyard of God's dear Son.
Brethren, believers in the "final restitution of all things," our prospects are now brightening before us; altho opposition is still formidable, yet we have much reason to rejoice and be glad. Let us then co-operate in the great and good work of faith-living to him who died for us that we may live with him forever.
Names and residence of the Ministers present.
Edward Turner, Portsmouth; Warren Skinner, Lang
don; Wm. Bell, Washington; Ezekiel Vose, Andover Josiah C. Waldo, Weare, N. H. Paul Dean, Nathanie Wright, Jr. and Thomas J. Whitcomb, Boston, Mass. Samuel C. Loveland, and Otis A. Skinner, Reading; Robert Bartlett, Hartland; John Moore, Strafford, Vt. Lemuel Willis, Troy, N. Y.
For the Repository.
A SUCCINCT HISTORY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, FROM THE BIRTH OF CHRIST DOWN TO THE PRESENT TIME. DIVIDED INTO SIX PERIODS.
Period II.......From the accession of Constantine, A. D. 313, to the fall of the Western Empire, A. D. 473.
After the accession of Constantine to the throne, this pious and well meaning emperor strove to unite all contending parties among the Christians, and to produce uniformity of faith. In the course of his reign arose a warm contention, called the Arian controversy, respecting the person of Christ. This dispute the emperor attempted to adjust by writing to the contending parties, and exhorting them to forbearance; but to no effect. He then summoned a council of several hundred bishops to meet at Nice; in which council the opinions of Arius were condemned, and Arius and his adherents were sent into banishment. This happened in 325. This council also recommended celibacy to the clergy. This council by their decree, gave countenance to the doctrine of the Trinity, and by banishing Arius, thought to put this subject at
Tho banished by the council of Nice, Arius was soon recalled by the emperor, who became friendly to the Arians. This circumstance, together with other things, gave such currency to their opinions, that the Arians became the more popular sect, and banished some of their opponents. The instance before us teaches us the folly of pretending to bring the minds of all men to one
standard. For Constantine, with all his popularity and power, was unable to effect it. By this example we also learn that opposition always conduces to the growth of any religious sentiment. For the Arians, who went into banishment, were constantly promulgating their own views, so that they soon became more extensively known than they would otherwise have been; and by this means the Orthodox, as the Trinitarians began to style themselves, instead of profiting, actually suffered by their own measures.
From the death of the emperor Constantine, to that of his son Constantius, who reigned 24 years, nothing of moment took place. We have a long, tedious account of the Arian controversy, during this period. In fact the whole history exhibits a scene of contention relative to the person of Christ;-synods after synods, bishops excommunicating bishops, and councils censuring councils. To give a view of the hair-breadth distinctions for which hundreds of bishops together with the emperor, would meet in council, I will observe that many of these august bodies assembled to decide whether Christ were of the SAME substance with the Father, or of LIKE substance with the Father! These councils would generally meet in pomp, and part in bitterness. They were generally convened by order of the emperor, and they stand as lasting monuments of the impropriety of princes interposing their power in religious controversy. For if these powerful and popular monarchs could not promote the interest of religion by interposing their authority, sovereigns of our day may despair of doing it.
There are in this period some instances of remarkable superstition. Many of the Monks who secluded themselves from society, pretended to great sanctity of life and manners, and attempted to impose upon the world by pretending miracles. But these stories are generally so improbable, absurd, and silly, that they carry their ⚫wn confutation along with them.
About this time a cruel persecution of the Christians broke out in Persia, to which Christianity had extended itself. In this persecution vast numbers, especially of the clergy, suffered death, and in many instances with torture. This is the first persecution of which we have any account, without the limits of the Roman empire.
From the view of Christianity during the reign of Constantius, we are not to conclude that there was no real virtue. It is the boisterous wickedness of men, and not their silent virtue, which is generally presented by the historian, and handed down to posterity. It is generally admitted that the Christians at that period were, as a sect, moral; or at least, vastly more so than the heathen.
In the year 361, on the death of Constantius, Julian was proclaimed emperor. Tho educated a Christian, he was always attached to heathenism; and on his accession to the throne, he used every secret art to subvert Christianity. The Christians were so numerous that he could not with any safety, command an open persecu tion, consequently he took every method to draw them secretly into idolatry. He strove to excite divisions among them, banished many of their clergy, deprived them of their privileges, and restored as far as possible the heathen worship. Tho there was no open persecution during his reign, still many Christians suffered death for the most trifling offences, and many were destroyed by the fury of the mob, which he did not attempt to restrain. In the second year of his reign he was killed in battle with the Persians.
The doctrine of the Trinity received one advance in this period. The dispute heretofore related chiefly to the person of Christ. It had never been pretended that the Holy Spirit was a person, and equal to the Father. But as this began to be agitated in this reign, a few of the Orthodox bishops assembled in council, and decreed
that the Holy Spirit was a person, and one of the Holy Trinity. Thus does the article which is contended for so warmly at the present day, owe its origin to a council of bishops, and those of one party only.
From the death of the emperor Julian, till 380, a period of about eighteen years, nothing of moment occurred. The controversy between the Orthodox and Arians raged with considerable violence. The emperors took sides in this dispute, and banished those whom they suspected to be their opponents in religious faith; and the result imposes upon our minds, this useful lesson;that civil power cannot control the consciences of men, and that sects always prosper in the midst of opposition. About 380, Theodosius on being proclaimed emperor, took every method to strengthen the Orthodox party, to which he was firmly attached. He convened a council at Constantinople, consisting of one hundred and fifty bishops, and those of his own party, to condemn the Arians, and to establish the catholic faith, as they were pleased to denominate it.
Altho the doctrine of the Trinity, which has been the cause of so much contention in the church, was advanced before this period, it received a considerable alteration at this time. The Trinitarians before this council, had not pretended that the Son was EQUAL with the Father. This idea had been advanced by some popular writers a few years before this council; but it was not held by the generality of the Orthodox. They had been content to say that the Son was of the SAME SUBSTANCE with the Father, without contending for his strict equality. Neither had they contended for the personality of the Spirit, till the middle of the fourth century. But at this celebrated council, it was decreed that the Son and the Spirit were distinct persons, possessing divine attributes, and equal with the Fther. -The doctrine of the Trinity was then established, and