« AnteriorContinuar »
These things are their province: and the investigation of these things may be useful in its proper place; but we are concerned in another way,—" to find out God unto perfection ;" and him we follow in his dealings with men as a covenant God, from the first promise of the fatal bruise to the serpent's head, succeeded by the many covenants with Abraham and the fathers; and so onwards to the safe conduct of his people over the Red Sea,-the prophetic slaughter of the pascal lamb, the testimony of Moses and all the prophets, and the consummation of all these things in the death of Christ, our Passover, who was slain for us. The Son of God has died for man. That is the greatest fact with which man can be concerned; the events to arise out of it, and the hopes to be built on it, must be in some degree correspondent to the greatness of that event: and that they are to be such, we gather from the whole tenor of Scripture. Our dim eyesight will not allow us clearly to discern as to particulars what these events may be; but we know that evil will be mastered: and this promise includes all that the heart of man can desire. "The crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: FOR THE MOUTH OF THE LORD HATH SPOKEN IT."
And now, Christian reader, it shall be henceforward our task to discourse of the Church of God. To assert the privileges of the mystical body of our Lord, and to trace its wanderings through the wilderness; to detect the gradual aggressions of the spirit of apostasy, and the intrusions of the world into the sanctuary; to show the power and beauty of the pure government of the Holy Spirit; and to set forth the duties of believers, who owe exclusive obedience to Christ as their purchaser, patron, and deliverer,-is the labour before us: one so great that we might well be discouraged in undertaking it; but as we do not trust to our own strength or wisdom, and would offer this work on faith's altar, to be sanctified by the High Priest over the House of God, we are bold to hope that our investigations will not terminate without edifying in some degree the disciples of Jesus Christ.
CHRYSOSTOM ON THE PRIESTHOOD.
JOHN, surnamed Chrysostom, a surname which he afterwards gained by his eloquence, was born at Antioch about the year 348. His mother, Arthusa, was a lady of high family; his father, Secundus, served in the staff of the chief military governor of the eastern provinces of the empire. His father died when he was quite an infant,* leaving his mother a widow only twenty years of age.
In her widowhood, which she never changed by a second marriage, she endeavoured to secure a superior education for her only child, by placing him under the best masters. Chrysostom studied rhetoric under the famous heathen sophist, Libanius, the friend of the Emperor Julian ; and under this teacher his mind was so moulded as to give an artificial impression to the whole tenor of his subsequent oratory. Andragathius was his master in the study of philosophy; and whatever Chrysostom undertook to learn, he learned with effect. A letter from the sophist Libanius, to “ John," generally supposed to be Chrysostom, commends him for a panegyric upon the emperor, written according to the rhetorical art, and expresses a lively satisfaction that "John" had joined himself to the profession of the law, as offering an ample field for the exercise of his talents.
The avocations of the forum did not, however, suit the taste or the conscience of the young sophist: and partly by his own inclination, but more apparently in consequence of the solicitations of his friend Basilius, he at last withdrew from the courts of justice, to dedicate himself wholly to a religious life. “When the time approached," says Chrysostom, "for this blessed man to embrace the monastic life and the true philosophy (i. e. ascetism), then the balance of our conditions lost its equilibrium. His scale, from its lightness, mounted upwards, whilst I, then entangled by worldly desires, depressed mine, overloaded with youthful fancies.... Nor was it possible for any one who attended the courts of justice, and who pursued scenic entertainments-Tepe tag ev τη σκηνη τερψεις επτοημενον-to be intimate with another who devoted himself to books, and never frequented the forum: for this reason,-in spite of all former repulse, that he might allure me to the same course of life with himself, the desire that he had long laboured with, he quickly gave birth to; and suffering no part of the day to be spent away from
* His father seems to have died about the time of his birth, for Chrysostom describes his mother as saying to him, “ τας γαρ ωδινας τας επι σοι διεδεξαμενος ὁ θανατος εκείνου, σοι μεν ορφανιαν εμοι δε χηρειαν επεστησεν αωρον.
me, he assiduously advised our leaving our homes, and passing our lives together: he gained my consent," &c.
This statement is worthy of observation, as describing the origin of Chrysostom's religious life. There is nothing evangelical in it; nor can we discern in it any thing but the Popish spirit: for it is one thing to take up the cross to follow Christ, through whom, by the grace of God, there has been imparted a saving knowledge of the truth to the heart, and a change wrought in the affections by the Holy Spirit,-and another to flee into solitude, renounce a world from which, after all, there is no escape, and to work out self-righteousness in the penitential ignorance of the eremite's life.
When Chrysostom left the bar, he placed himself under the directions of Meletius, who had been first bishop of Sebaste, in Armenia, then of Beroe in Syria, and last of Antioch. From this prelate he received baptism; whence it is to be inferred that infant-baptism was not at that time a general practice in the church, otherwise the mother of Chrysostom, who was undoubtedly a Christian lady, would not have allowed her child to grow up without participating in the advantages of the rite. Indeed, there is ample proof in the writings of Chrysostom, that he was one of the fathers to whose influence infant baptism is indebted for its subsequent triumphs in the church; for he frequently recommends the practice as calculated to extend the influence of Christianity in domestic life; and the fact of his recommendation clearly indicates that the custom could not then be universal.
Chrysostom now betook himself to the ascetic life; not, however, by the form of the monastic vow, but by uniting himself as an associate to the theoretic monks or hermits, who dwelt in cells on the hills near the city of Antioch. The life of these persons was extremely rigorous; prayers, meditations, the study of sacred writings, and devotional music were their sole intellectual employments; long fasts, austere penances, bodily labour, and a diet always rigidly abstemious, were the means adopted by them for subduing the flesh, and sanctifying it for the contemplative life, which, in their idea, was righteousness. Chrysostom tells us, that they had four hours for worship, the first before sun-rise, and the last after sun-set. "When they have finished their daily work," he says "they seat themselves at table, and truly they have not many dishes; some eat only bread and salt, others take oil besides, the weaker add herbs and vegetables (that is, they never touched animal food): having closed their meal with hymns, they lay themselves upon straw. No complaints are heard amongst them. They accompany the departed with songs: they say not 'He is dead,' but He is perfected.'
They all thank God; and each man prayeth for such an end-thus to have come through the struggle of life, thus to have reposed from strife and toil, thus to have attained to the beholding of Christ." In another passage he intimates, that these ascetics would spend the night on the bare earth, covered with ashes, and "mourn without ceasing." Into all this discipline, pernicious alike both to soul and body, Chrysostom entered with the most unflinching ardour, and the most perfect sincerity, believing it to be the appointed means for perfecting himself in holiness; but, after a six years' apprenticeship in monkery, his health sunk under the experiment, and he was obliged to descend from his hill-cavern and rejoin his friends at Antioch. It should be observed, that his mother had most earnestly implored him not to leave her, when he first announced his intention of joining the ascetics, very touchingly making this appeal to him, as he himself has reported it: "When you shall have committed me to earth, and mingled mine with your father's bones,—project what long travel, cross what long sea you will, no one will then prohibit you; but while I live, do not refuse to reside in the same house with me, lest you rashly incur the anger of God, and expose her to ills, who never did you any injury."
Having returned to Antioch, Chrysostom again placed himself under the direction of Meletius, who, anxious to secure the services of so gifted and zealous a disciple for the benefit of the church, ordained him deacon. On the death of Meletius, the next bishop, Flavian, ordained him priest; and then Chrysostom began to put forth his great powers as a preacher, or rather as an orator, and to exhibit those lessons of rhetoric, which he had received from Libanius; and which, by the management of his surpassing genius, soon gained him the highest renown. His pulpit orations were attended by vast crowds. Sectarians and heretics, who abominated his doctrine, could not deny themselves the pleasure of hearing so fluent and able a speaker; and it was no uncommon thing for the audience to express their approbation by loud clapping and long rounds of applause—a custom highly revolting to our feelings of propriety, and one which Chrysostom frequently endeavoured, but in vain, to put down.
The celebrity of Chrysostom soon reached Constantinople, the great metropolis of the East; the eunuch Euterpius, a person of power at court, in passing through Antioch, accidentally heard Chrysostom preach, and, struck with the brilliancy of the oration, he described in glowing terms to the emperor the effect which the wonderful presbyter of Antioch had produced.
On the death of Nectarius, archbishop of Constantinople, the court
resolved to secure this illustrious preacher for the archiepiscopal throne of Constantinople; and the emperor condescended to employ all his authority in order to kidnap Chrysostom out of Antioch; for it was only by stratagem that the imperial emissaries were able to get possession of his person, and conduct him to Constantinople. Arrived at the metropolis of the East, he was immediately elected to the vacant see, by the unanimous consent of the court, the clergy, and the people. Theophilus, bishop of Alexandria, was commanded to ordain Chrysostom; but, animated by a spirit of jealousy, he declined the task. Overawed, however, at last, by the threats of the court, he unwillingly consented; and on March 1, 398, Chrysostom was solemnly ordained archbishop of Constantinople. The new archbishop, by his eloquence, his personal austerities, his liberal alms, and the restless activity of his pastoral labours, soon created a sensation in the imperial city, which had been accustomed to the milder, more tranquil, and more luxurious government of the indolent Nectarius. The sermons of Chrysostom were a continued roll of thunder against the vices and luxuries of the age: neither did he scruple to denounce the clergy from the pulpit of St. Sophia, as degenerate pastors, who, by their example and negligence, allowed the sheep to be lost in the paths of error. Rigid ascetism was the unfailing standard of his perfection: it was "the true philosophy," as he frequently terms it, borrowing the idea from Plato, uniting it with the Buddhistical theology (which is the true source of all monkery), and decorating, though not sanctifying it, with Christian phrases. The pastoral interferences of Chrysostom, though originating in honourable motives, were not always managed with discretion; and sometimes not without passion. His temper was naturally hasty; and he could not always gain that assent to his wishes, which, in the purity of his intentions, he judged to be beneficial, without exercising his authority in a manner frequently offensive, and sometimes unjust. In a visitation through Asia, he deposed thirteen bishops of Lydia and Phrygia; and, disgusted with the simony and the licentiousness which he found among the higher orders of the clergy, he expressed his feelings in no measured terms.
Whilst Chrysostom was thus acting the censor in Asia, Severian, bishop of Gabala, a famous preacher, to whom he had entrusted the church of Constantinople in his absence, exerted himself, and with much success, to gain the good opinion of the people. This seems to have excited the jealousy of the archbishop, who, on his return, drove him out of Constantinople. The empress commanded Severian to return,