Слике страница
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

a

Cyprian upon all occasions consulted his own clergy and people, and desired their consent. The bishops of Rome at that time began to take upon them and to domineer, and Stephen, dealing about his censures and excommunications, behaved himself with indecency and arrogance towards Cyprian and many others, in the affair of rebaptizing.

In a Council of Carthage, consisting of eighty-seven bishops, Cyprian said to them, “ None of us ought to set himself up as a bishop of bishops, or pretend tyrannically to constrain his colleagues, because each bishop hath a liberty and a power to act as he thinks fit, and can no more be judged by another bishop than he can judge another. But we must all wait for the judgment of Jesus Christ, to whom alone belongs the power to set us over the Church, and to judge of our actions.” Du Pin inserted these words in his “ Biblioth.” i. p. 164, to buffet the Pope by the hand of Cyprian.

Many passages there are in Cyprian's writings containing high notions of Episcopal authority and ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Whilst he strenuously opposed the domination of one pope, he seemed in some manner to make as many popes as bishops, and mere arithmetical noughts of the rest of the Christians; which yet, I believe, was not his intent.

In the persecution under Decius, he fled from Carthage, and was proscribed, and his effects were seized. He was censured by some persons as a deserter of his flock; but the decent constancy and the Christian piety with which he laid down his life afterwards, afford a presumption that he had not retired for want of

courage. His death was lamented even by many of the Pagans, whose esteem he had gained by his affable and charitable behaviour.

He often talks of his visions and revelations, some of which he had on occasions which in all appearance were small and inconsiderable enough, whilst he had none to guide him and set him right in points of more importance. He appeals to these visions, and makes use of them to justify his conduct. It would be dealing too severely with him, considering his character in other respects, to ascribe this entirely to artifice and policy, and it would be more candid and charitable to suppose that with much piety, he had a mixture of African enthusiasm, and that what he thought upon in the day, he dreamed of at night, and the next morning took his dreams for Divine admonitions. Some perhaps will choose to leave it ambiguous---dum Elias venerit.

In his treatise “ De Lapsis,” he relates some strange miracles, one of which is that the consecrated bread was turned into a cinder in the hands of a profane person, who thus found, according to the proverb, pro thesauro carbones.

When the Corinthians shewed a want of reverence and decency in receiving the Lord's Supper, what was the consequence ? “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” The correetion was solemn and tremendous. But of these transformations what can we say ? and how can

? we give credit to them?

Macarius of Alexandria, a celebrated monk and saint of the fourth century, is said to have related this story, that when the monks approached to the holy communion, and stretched out their hands to receive it, devils under the figure of little ugly Æthiopian boys (who were only visible to Macarius) prevented the officiating priest, and gave to some of them coals instead of the consecrated bread, which bread, though to by-standers it seemed to be given by the priest and received by these monks, returned back again to the altar : whilst other monks, who were more pious and better disposed, when they approached to receive the sacrament, chased the evil spirits away, who fled with great terror and precipitation, because an angel, who assisted at the altar, put his hand upon the hand of the presbyter when he delivered the sacrament to these good men. This account is in the Vitæ Patrum, and inserted, with a thousand more stories of the same kind, in Tillemont, H. E. viii. 641. To such a degree the boldness of feigning miracles, and the facility of admitting them, was carried in those days !

*

MIRACULOUS LEGENDS.

143

There is a story of the same kind, of bread turned into a stone, related by Sozomen. An heretic of the sect of the Macedonians had a wife of the same sect. The man was converted by Chrysostom, and used many arguments, in vain, to bring over his stubborn spouse.

At last he told her that if she would not receive the Lord's Supper with him at church, he would live with her no longer. She consented, but was resolved to deceive him, and instead of eating the bread which the minister gave her, she took some which she had brought with her; but as she was biting it, it was turned into a stone in her mouth, a stone neither in substance nor colour like other stones, and bearing upon it the impression of her teeth, which made her repent and publicly confess her crime.

This happened about the end of the fourth century, and Sozomen can supply us with an hundred miracles as good. His sending unbelievers to the church to look at the stone which was kept there as a rarity was very judicious.

I would willingly have paid a greater deference to the authority and testimony of this pious father and martyr concerning visions and miracles; and if I dissent from him, it is not without some reluctance. I have no notion of differing from worthy persons, living or dead, for the sake of singularity or of contradiction, in which I can discern no charms, and neither pleasure nor profit. To an opinion commonly received, and received by good men, when I cannot assent, I am inclined to say,

" Invitus, Regina, tuo de littore cessi."

But alas ! Opinion is a queen who will not accept of such

excuses:

" Illa solo fixos oculos aversa tenebat ;

Nec magis incepto vultum sermone movetur,
Quam si dura silex aut stet Marpesia cautes."

our

Origen and other ancient Christians ascribed to Saviour this saying—"Act like skilful bankers, rejecting what is bad, and retaining what is good." This precept is proper for all who apply themselves to the study of religious antiquities. Good and bad money is offered to them, and they ought to beware of the coin which will not pass current in the republic of letters and in the critical world, and of that which is found light when weighed in the balance of the sanctuary.

PULPIT ORATORS.

A PREACHER who writes a new sermon every week, produces a thousand in twenty years, and we have no doubt that many a minister might boast an unpublished authorship, quite as extensive as the hundred printed octavos of Sir Walter Scott. Nor are the instances few where all this elaborate preparation has been gone through for the sake of a very limited auditory. The inhabitants of a rural hamlet, the frequenters of a village chapel, have monopolised the whole of it. Could we conceive a poet or a pamphleteer issuing a weekly publication to the inhabitants of a Pitcairn's Island or an Iona, we should have a case somewhat equivalent to the conscientious and unambitious pastor, who spends the best part of his time preparing for his scanty audience the weekly quota of exhortation and instruction, and who feels it "an over-payment of delight,” if now and then a sinner is converted from the error of his ways, or if a parishioner shews symptoms of incipient amendment.

What becomes of all the sermons ?' We do not mean, What becomes of all the manuscripts ? for many sermons were never written; but, What is the result or product from all this preaching? In our melancholy moods, we are apt to fear that it is very small. Is it not a rare thing to hear of a district solemnised, and devoting even temporary attention to the concerns of eternity? Is it not rare to find so much as an individual, on whom a change so conspicuous has taken place, as to deserve the name of conversion ? How many

ministers can point to infidels whom their preaching has convinced, or drunkards whom it has sobered ? How often is a sermon followed by the healing of a family feud, or the setting up of family worship,-by the restitution of stolen property, or by

VOL. IV.

N

« ПретходнаНастави »