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CHAP. 6.

THE TEN HORNS OF THE BEAST.

191

half a century, been overspreading Italy, Gaul and Spain, and erecting new kingdoms in these beautiful countries. This great event was depicted in the vision of Daniel, ages before, in which he beheld a beast, dreadful and terrible, which had ten horns. This beast was the Roman empire, and these horns were ten kingdoms, into which it was now divided by the barbarous nations. How wonderful the providence of God ! " He seeth the end from the beginning."

These barbarians, the Goths, Huns, Franks, Herulians and Vandals, were idolaters and strangers to Christianity; but they concerned themselves but little about religion of any description, being chiefly intent upon wealth and power, and were for the most part, induced to renounce their idolatry and become nominal, but wretched Christians. Some, however, of the old Pagans, who remained in the empire, hoped to revive their ancient worship, and, in a few instances, instigated the heathen to acts of cruelty and oppression towards those who would not bow to their idols. Had these idolaters been of the character of the old opposers

Christianity they might, in this degenerate age of the Church, have easily exterminated it from the earth. But they came down from the cold regions of the north for comfort and improvement; and finding Christianity in all respects, a better religion than their own, they embraced it; and it bad in time the happiest effects in softening their manners and refining their morals. They adopted the Arian system, and the Nicene believers received from them the bitterest persecutions.

One of the ten kingdoms was that of the Franks. Clovis, their king, had married Clotilda, niece of Gondebaud, king of the Burgundians. Her own nation had already embraced Christianity, because they thought the god of the Romans most able to protect them against their enemies. Such low ideas had these barbarians of the Gospel of Christ. But they, as well as the Vandals, Suevi and Goths had sided with the Arian party. Clotilda, however, was attached to the Nicene faith. She laboured much for the conversion of her husband to the Christian faith ; but he was obstinate, and when her child, which had been baptized, died, he attributed its death to its baptism. At length fearing destruction in a battle with the Alenmans, he prayed to Jesus Christ for victory; promising that if he would grant it, he would become a Christian. Victory ensued, and he was baptized at Rheims and received into the general Church, A. D. 496; but he was never an honour to any religion. Three thousand of his army were baptized with him. This was an important event. All the other rulers

of the world were either bowing to Pagan deities or infested with the Arian opinions. Clovis and his people embraced and revived the faith of the primitive churches.

In this century also, the Irish were led to renounce idolatry; and embrace Christianity; partly by the exertions of Palladius, but chiefly through the zeal of Patrick, a Scot, who has usually been styled, the Apostle of the Irish. He died A. D. 413, at the great age of one hundred and twenty.

The ancient Britons were idolators. Their priests, the druids, had some notions of a supreme dividity and of immortality, but they worshipped subordinate deities, as Taranus the thunderer, Hesus, the god of battles, Andrasse, the goddess of victory; and their immortality was little more than the Indian notion of the transmigration of souls. They built great temples of massy stone, in which they performed bloody rites. One of these, STONEHENGE, is still in part remaining. They secured a great revenue by compelling all the inhabitants to extinguish their fires on a certain day in the winter, and come and kindle them again from the sacred fire of the Druids.This they withheld from such as had not paid their revenues.

They held sacred the Misselloe. They were notorious, above all other heathen priests, for the practice of pretended magic. When a chief was afflicted with sickness, they sacrificed a human victim. Naked women assisted at the bloody rite.

Such were the abominations of the ancient inhabitants of England.

When and by whom the knowledge of Christianity was first introduced there is unknown. It is certain there were Christians there soon after the days of the Apostles, and they probably came from Rome. They were persecuted; and Christianity as well as the druidical religion was extirminated by the Saxons, Angles and other tribes who conquered the country. These practised their idolatries for about an hundred and fifty years. They worshipped the Sun, Moon, Thuth, Odin, Thor, Frigga, and Surtur. From these are derived the English names of the seven days of the week. They had idols in wood, stone and metals, temples and a regular priesthood. Their rites were bloody

One day in the sixth century, Gregory, an eminent man at Rome was walking in the market place, and beholding a number of fine youth with clear skins, flaxen hair and beautiful countenances for sale, he inquired from whence they came, and whether they were Christians. On being told that they were Pagans from Britain, his compassion was excited. On asking further by what name they were called, he was told they were

CHAP. 6.

CONVERSION OF THE ENGLISH.

193

Angli.“ Well,” said he, 6 may they be so called, for they have angelic countenances, and ought to be made co-heirs with the Angels in heaven.” And when farther informed that they came from the province of Deira, now Durham, he exclaimed, " De Dei ira ! from the wrath of God they must be delivered.” And it being added that Ella was their king, he replied, " Hal-lelujah ought to be sung in his dominions." Gregory soon offered his services as a missionary to England, but they were not accepted. When, however, in a few years, he was raised to the popedom, he sent forty monks under Augustine, to convert the English nation. They entered Britain in 597, and were kindly received by Bertha, a pious descendant of Clovis, who had married Ethelbert, king of Kent; permitted to preach the Gospel, and had a residence assigned them in the city of Canterbury. The king soon declared himself a converi, and his subjects followed his example. Other kings in the Saxon heptarchy, were soon persuaded with their people to renounce idolatry, and in a short period, the whole island became nominally Christian.

Of the religion of the English converted to Christianity, we have very imperfect accounts. One fact speaks highly in its praise. Missionaries issued forth, who spread the light of truth through Bavaria, Friesland, Cimbria and Denmark, delivering the North and West of Europe from pagan darkness and idolatry. The venerable Bede, who died in 735, was an ornament to the age in which he lived. He translated the Psalter and the Gospels into the Anglo Saxon, and wrote a valuable Church history. Alcuinus, one of his pupils, and who became the instructer of Charlemagne, deserves mention for his learning and piety. But a great and general degeneracy soon took place. The Danes broke up every thing good in the nation.. When Alfred came to the throne in the ninth century, there was scarce a priest who understood Latin enough to construe his daily prayers. His efforts to restore learning and religion were princely. The whole Bible was translated by his order. He began to translate the Psalms himself. But when he had passed away, monachism reared its heud, and the light which, had been permitted to shine in Britain was extinguished, and gross darkness brooded over the land. As the papacy arose, the monarchs found that a convenient engine in the despotic exercise of civil power, and soon the whole country was subjected to its tremendous dominion.

In the East, some Indians on the Malabar coast were converted to Christianity, by the Syrian Mar Thomas, as early as the fifth century. Their churches still remain.' The principal . propagators of Christianity, subsequent to this, were the Nes

torians, who gained a firm footing in Persia, established their patriarch at Seleucia, passed over Tartary and India, and penetrated even into China. A prodigious number of people through all these countries, which are now overrun by Mahometanism and Idolatry, were induced to embrace Christianity.

We cannot however form a very exalted opinion of the conversions of this period, either in the East or West. They were little more than nominal,-a change of religion ; and, in many cases, the converted retained many of their heathen customs, and all their vices. Yet they paved the way for the establishment of the kingdom of the Redeemer in the hearts of men.

Two men of eminent piety adorned the sixth century; Fulgentius, bishop of Ruspæ in Africa, and Gregory first, bishop of Rome. The one lived near the beginning, the other near the close, and were both authors of much celebrity and merit. Gregory introduced Christianity into England.

The Emperor Justinian, who succeeded to the Roman empire A. D. 527, was an eminent champion for Christianity, though he seems himself to have been unacquainted with vital piety. He endeavored to bring all nations to nominal subjection to Christ; built sumptuous temples, and suppressed every where what remained of idolatry. In his time, Chosroes, king of Persia waged a most cruel and desolating war against the Christians, and the God of the Christians.

The disputes in which the churches had been involved concerning the nature and person of Christ; the depravity of man, anil the necessity of divine grace in order to salvation, had elicited much truth, so that these great subjects were now much better understood by many throughout Christendom in the 5th and 6th centuries, than they were for a considerable period before the reign of Constantine. But unhappily, almost every part of the Christian world were fiercely engaged for the peculiarities of some distinguished leader of a sect or party,

who had the boldness to advance some new opinion, overlooking, as of no value, the great essentials of Christianity. The numer ous sects into which the Arians split, maintained with vehemence their peculiar views.

In the East the Nestorians, a powerful body, had broken off from the general Church. Their leader, Nestorius, a bishop of Constantinople in the 5th century, had affirmed that in Christ there were two persons, or two natures united by one operation and will, and that, as only the human nature could proceed from Mary, it was improper to call her the mother of God. In this he was opposed by Eutyches, an abbot of monks, who declared that in Christ there was but one nature, that of

CHAP. 6. INCREASE OF ERROR AND SUPERSTITION.

195

the incarnate word, which proceeded from Mary, who ought, therefore, to be called the mother of God. His adherents were called Eutycheans. Both were successively condemned by general councils. The Theopaschites were furious in maintaining that all the three persons in the Godhead suffered on the cross. The Monophasites, that the divine nature absorbed the human. The Corrupticolæ looked upon the body of Christ as corruptible; and the Agnætæ, upon the human nature of Christ as knowing all things. The Donatists ipcreased and became powerful amid violent persecutions in Africa. The Manicheans also continued to disperse in the East, their wild opinions of two original principles, good and evil.

Before the close of the sixth century, the world was at ease, and superstition had made most rapid strides. The great mass of ministers were excessively ignorant, and led away themselvesby the strangest phantasies, did little but delude and destroy the people. A thousand rites were performed; each one of which was supposed to have some wonderful power. A thousand relics were produced, whose touch, it was said, could heal the body and the mind. The most marvellous feats, called. miracles, were performed. The most superstitious services were rendered to departed souls. Images of saints were worshipped, under the belief, that such worship drew down their propitious presence. Tombs and grave-yards were viewed as the places most frequented by departed spirits, and were the general rendezvous of the ignorant. The doctrine of purgatory, or the purification of souls by fire, beyond the grave, had gained strong hold of the minds of the multitude. Some starved themselves with a frantic obstinacy. Some, possessed of a superstitious phrenzy, erected high pillars and stood on them for many years. The leader of this debased class of men, was one Simeon, a Syrian, who, to climb as near to heaven as he could, passed thirty-seven years of his life upon five pillars, of six, twelve, twenty-two, thirty-six, and forty cubits high; attracting the admiration of the world around him. Such things are disgusting to the rational and pious mind. It is a subject of gratitude that religion is not answerable for them. Religion is the love of God and men, holiness of heart and life; not the superstitious veneration of a bone, or standing upon stilts a spectacle of folly. These things belong properly to the history of the age, to the history of the kingdom of darkness, and not of the Church of Christ. Let those who will,stumble over them,and fall into a like fatal whirlpool, the whirpool of infidelity. “Wisdom is justitied of her children.' Such reflections will be more needed as wę ada vance; for a period of Egyptian darkness is before us.

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