« PrécédentContinuer »
the reak hoxe ch as
himself was upon
still at variance among themselves. The Constantinopolitan er-
emperor. Each, however, of these petty powers was ambitious to assert, their independence. The Lombards, in their turn, neglected no opportunity of aggrandisement, and rendered abortive all the efforts of the Eastern emperors, to re-establish their authority in Italy.
France was portioned out into provinces, the chiefs or kings of which at first carried on a cruel war against each other, and then abandoned themselves without reserve to the pursuit of pleasure, indulged in effeminacy and sloth, and left the charge of government to a minister of state, designated by the title of Mayor of the Palace. In Spain, the sovereign power gradually devolved on those of the nobility, whom their fellow nobles thought fit to invest with regal dignity. These haughty and ambitious noblemen were much addicted to faction and intrigue, and not unfrequently assassinated their sovereigns, and usurped their throne. Thus, no less than fourteen kings reigned in their turn in Spain, during the course of this century, and of that number one half were dethroned, or murdered by the traiterous hands of unprincipled usurpers. Religious zeal was sometimes alleged as the motive or pretext of these conspirators. Almost all of them assembled councils to procure the condemnation of their predecessors, and to justify their own intrusion. Hence, during the lapse of this one century, were held nineteen synods in Spain alone.
In these synods, it is true, many wise and useful regulations were adopted relative to morality and social life. They excommunicate those subjects who scruple not to violate their allegiance to their sovereign ; while they earnestly exhort all kings to govern with justice, and with piety: against those who should abuse their power to the committing of evil, they solemnly denounce anathema.
The Saxons who had conquered England, had apportioned it into seven kingdoms; but their kings were perpetually at war, until, happily for their subjects and themselves, they all embraced the christian religion. Many monasteries of men and religious retreats for nuns were established and endowed by these princes, with a liberality truly royal; and some of them exchanged their sceptres for the silence and retirement of these asylums of perfect virtue.
The general state of literature and the polite arts continued to decline: while religious fanaticism, in the East, and an undiscerning partiality for the marvellous, had absorbed almost all the faculties of the human mind, in the West, the continual
wars of ferocious barbarians had left no leisure for the cultivation of science. Religion alone afforded a proper antidote against the pressure of such evils. The zeal and piety of the bishops, the sacerdotal order, and the monks, had in part relieved the unfortunate, consoled the miserable, and arrested the fury of savage conquerors, who notwithstanding their ferocity could not deny respect to virtue, nor hear without dismay the chastisements denounced against them—of a future world. The bishops remarked it; and, in union with the clergy and the monks, they turned their whole attention towards piety, and the practice of virtues the best calculated to make a wholesome impression upon the minds of the haughty conquerors of the West;—to render the christian religion recommendable ;-—to allure them to the observance of its precepts, and to rescue them from the tyranny of their furious passions. At length, however, the necessity of selfdefence against fresh invaders, forced even churchmen to fly to arms; and thus, becoming warriors themselves, they many of them relapsed into a state of ignorance and barbarism not much inferior to that of their oppressors.
Religion, notwithstanding, still opposed a powerful barrier to the passions, to ignorance and incivilization : she alone produced those striking instances of virtue which still appeared upon the earth; she alone afforded to letters and the sciences those sacred retreats where they labored in silence to soften the manners, and to enlighten the understanding of the ignorant-by forming a multitude of admirable characters, whose virtues secured to them the confidence of the sovereign and the veneration of the people; and whose lights were equally useful to them both. Such, for instance, were many popes and bishops ; St Gregory the Great, St Leo II, St Isidore, St Julian of Toledo, Št Sulpicius, St Columban and others, who almost every where established monasteries, and schools of piety and learning.
The church had defined-against Nestorius, that in Jesus Christ there was but one person; and, against Eutyches, it taught two distinct natures. The Eutychians pretended, that their doctrine could not be condemned by the church, without admitting with the Nestorians two distinct persons in Christ; the Nestorians on the contrary, maintained, that in condemning Nestorius, the church had fallen into Sabellianism, and had confounded, with Eutyches, the divine and human nature. The difficulty then was, to explain how two distinct natures could subsist in one and the self same person. Some would have it, that in Jesus Christ the Word was the only active principle, and that the human will was absolutely passive, like an instrument in the hands of the artist. Heraclius, struck with this erroneous idea, assembled a council, and then caused an edict to be published in which Monothelitism, or the error which implies only one will-in Christ; was made a rule of faith, and established by
an imperial law. Thus did that prince forfeit the glory' which Lire
he had acquired by his victories, for the imaginary honor of idote
dictating to the church a new article of faith, and of forcing upf the
on the consciences of his subjects the innovating doctrine conelier
tained in his expository edict termed the Ecthesis. All his suc
cessors a long time after busied themselves in defending or opfar could posing the Monothelite heresy, while the provinces groaned un
der the oppression of their governors and the collectors-general shops
of the imperial taxes, and were continually exposed to the in
roads of barbarians, who poured into the empire on every side ther
like an impetuous and overwhelming torrent. ce of
In this century also, a certain Manichean devotee in her re
treat among the mountains of Armenia, inspired her son with the : ob
enthusiastic ambition of becoming the apostle of her sect: from
him his proselytes and the entire sect received the denomination self
of Paulicians. Paul was succeeded by Sylvanus, who undertook
reform the Manichean system, and to reconcile the docy of
trine of two principles with holy scripture, and, like, the reuch
formers of the present times, affected to adopt scripture alone for : his rule of faith. Like them he accused the catholics of idolatry,
and of adoring the saints as so many divinities. His morals : to
were austere; and many among the ignorant were taught to consider this new-modelled sect as a society of perfect christians. Thus the Paulicians multiplied prodigiously in the seventh age.
the cred and
Eighth century of the christian era. le;
The empire of the Califs was indisputably the most powerful for
monarchy of any in the East: it extended from Canton in China, to the southern extremities of Spain, and comprised
within its boundaries many provinces which constituted heretohed
fore a part of the Constantinopolitan empire. The governors of the conquered provinces, who at first had treated them with mildness, afterwards became their tyrants; and the ambitious and the disaffected failed not to improve the general discontent
open rebellion; which was not quelled without great difficulty, and much loss of blood. The conquest of Spain, and the
inroads of the conquerors into Gaul, cost the lives of an infinite mint number of Arabs, Goths and Francs: while the empire of Con
stantinople lay exposed to the depredations—in their turnsHie
of Goths, Huns, Saracens and Lombards; and was moreover Id
torn in pieces by domestic faction. Justinian who had been exIto
pelled his own dominions towards the close of the seventh cenad tury, was re-established upon
the throne at the commencement of the eighth, and, eight years afterwards, was put to death. Philippicus who superseded him, was deposed in his turn. Ana
stasius his successor, was thrust into a monastery by Theodosius
it mat ut
III. whom the people compelled to accept the empire, and whom Leo the Isaurian despoiled of his imperial diadem, which he had assumed against his will. Leo reigned twenty years, and Con- por stantine Copronymus twenty-four. His son Leo reigned but three. Constantine Porphyrogenitus, after a reign of seventeen
heal years, was assassinated ; his mother Irene was deposed after a short reign of five. Almost all the emperors that wore the purple in
chu the eighth century, without attending much to the disorders of the We state, labored very industriously either to enforce some erroneous doctrine regarding faith, adopted by themselves; or, more laudably, to restore tranquillity to the church. Philippicus, for dere instance, was hardly seated on the throne, when he converted his whole attention towards the establishment of Monothelitism. Leo the Isaurian, and Constantine Copronymus, were equally not industrious in prohibiting the veneration paid to, sacred images proto in the church, and Irene with no less eagerness set herself to whi re-establish it. The edict of Leo the Isaurian against holy images, com produced some insurrections in Italy; of which the Lombards til availed themselves with a view to their own aggrandizement.
Pope Gregory II. issued a brief of excommunication against lis fa the exarch of Ravenna, who attempted to enforce the execution : E of the imperial edict; and wrote to Luitprand, to the Vene- her tians, and to all the principal cities of Italy, to exhort them to mere persevere stedfastly in the faith. Almost all appeared on the eve beir of insurrection and of open rebellion, which the holy pontiff suite sought in vain to tranquillize; and the whole disposable force of ich the Eastern empire was transported into Italy. Rome successively owed its deliverance, first, to Luitprand, and then, to civil the renowned Charles Martel, by whom the imperialists were S compelled once for all to fall back upon Ravenna. Under the br condnct of Astolphus, the Lombards possessed themselves of oft the exarchate itself, and subsequently undertook the conquest of an Rome. Pepin, second son to Charles Martel, relieved Rome, the and rescued it from the tyranny of the Lombards, under the au popedom of Zachary and Stephen. The church of Rome
que had never received a more noble donation than that which the piety of this prince now made it, namely, of the territory which he had conquered from the Lombards. Pepin, tai smiled at the pretensions of Copronymus, who had the assurance to demand that these conquests should be restored to him; C although, after repeated applications for assistance against the Lombards, he had not been able to protect them from their fury, and had left them to their fate. This noble act of generosity, and other signal services, obtained for Pepin the honourable epithet of protector of the Roman people, and defender of the church of Rome ;-a title which became hereditary in his family, and appropriate to the kings of France. had been raised to the throne by the election of the states general, and was crowned by St Boniface the apostle of Germany,
and now a second time by Pope Stephen, at his own request. Rome was once more threatened by the Lombards, during the pontificate of Adrian, who implored the aid of Charlemagne against these warlike and ambitious neighbours. Charlemagne marched against the Lombards; annihilated their dynasty in Italy; confirmed the donations made by Pepin his father to the church; and was crowned by Pope Leo III. emperor of the West.
This prince extended his empire from the Ebro to the Vistula, over a vast variety of uncivilized nations and savage tribes,devoid alike of every principle of religion and of justice ;-habituated to a life of rapine and every species of licentiousness ; ever ready to rise against their conquerors in despight of the most solemn treaties, and the most sacred engagements.
The profound policy of Charlemagne, in order to enforce obedience to his laws, combined the powerful persuasives of religion with compulsive measures, and the terror of his arms; while his vigilance and activity, joined with a spirit of heroism and an admirable discipline which reigned throughout his army, kept his foreign enemies in awe.
England was in a state of distraction-under sovereigns who knew no other laws than those of their respective passions, and were always in arms. Religion alone was able to set bounds to their lawless career ; and only christian charity was qualified to soften their ferocious dispositions into mildness, and the peaceable forbearance of the gospel. To effect this, was the object of certain truly apostolical men, who laboured with success to civilize the nation, and to establish in it the faith of Christ.
Spain, at the commencement of this century, was governed by a set of kings who abused their authority--to the oppression of their subjects. One of these invited the Saracens into Spain; and they were joined by the disaffected natives. Roderic, the then reigning prince, was defeated ; and his territories were annexed to the dominions of the califs, who extended their conquests even into Gaul; whence, however, they were soon expelled by the extraordinary valour of Charles Martel, and afterwards by Charlemagne. Certain Spanish fugitives in the mountains, animated by the heroism of the renowned Pelagius, gradually became formidable to the Saracens. With the aid of Charlemagne, they arrested the progress of their arms in Spain, and eventually effected their destruction.
Literature, in the early part of this century, was still in a state of the utmost depression. At the birth of Mahometism, the Mussulmans declared war indiscriminately—against all that refused to embrace their superstition: the vanquished they condemned to die. But after the first transports of their enthusiasm had subsided, they mitigated the excessive cruelty of so impolitic a maxim, and for fear of changing their new-acquired ter