Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

to the judges ; and he confers all benefices, except that of the Abuna.

The first conversion of the Abyssinians, or inhabitants of Ethiopia Superior, to Christianity, is attributed by some to the famous prime minister of their queen Candace, mentioned in the 8th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles; but however that may be, it is probable that the general conversion of that great empire was not perfected before the middle of the fourth century, when Frumentius, son of a Tyrian merchant, consecrated bishop of Axuma by Athanasius, exercised his ministry among them with the most astonishing success. They were esteemed a pure church before they embraced the sentiments of the Monophysites in the seventh century, or sooner; and Dr. M‘Laine ventures to say, that“ even since that period, they are still a purer church than that of Rome.” All accounts, however, concerning them are doubtful.

They boast themselves to be of Jewish extraction, and pretend to imitate the service of the Tabernacle and Temple of Jerusalem ; so that their doctrines and ritual form a strange compound of Judaism, Christianity, and superstition. They practice circumcision, and are said to extend the practice to females as well as males. They observe both Saturday and Sunday Sabbaths, and eat no meats prohibited by the law of Moses. They pull off their shoes before they enter their churches and sit upon the bare floor, and their divine service is said wholly to consist in reading the Scriptures, administering the Eucharist, and hearing some homilies of the Fathers. They read the whole of the four Evangelists every year in their churches, beginning with St. Matthew, and then proceeding to St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John, in order; and when they speak of any event, they say “ It happened in the days of St. Matthew,' i. e. while they were reading St. Matthew's Gospel in their churches.

DISTINGUISHING DOCTRINE OF THE WHOLE SECT.

Thus these Monophysites, both Asiatic and African, differ from other Christian societies, whether of the Greek or Latin communion, and from each other, in several points, both of destrine and worship ; though the principal reason of their separation lies in the opinion which they entertain concerning the nature and person of Jesus Christ. Following the doctrine of Dioscorus, Barsuma, Xenias, Fullo, and others, whom they consider as the heads, or chief ornaments of their sect, they maintain that in Christ the divine and human nature were reduced into one, and consequently reject both the decrees of the council of Chalcedon, and the famous letter of Leo the Great.

UNSUCCESSFUL ATTEMPTS OF THE CHURCH OF ROME TO CONVERT THEM.-Thus situated, the votaries of Rome might well suppose that the Monophysites would become an easy prey, and be readily brought under the papal yoke ; and they seem to have been no less indefatigable in attempting the subjection of the African Monophysites, than of those in Asia. The Portuguese having opened a passage into the country of the Abyssinians in the fifteenth century, this was thought to be a favourable occasion for extending the influence and authority of the Roman pontiff. Accordingly, John Bermudes was sent into Ethiopia for this purpose ; and, that he might appear with a certain degree of dignity, he was clothed with the title of Patriarch of the Abyssinians. The same important commission was afterwards given to the several Jesuits ; and, at first, several circumstances seemed to promise them a successful and happy ministry. But the event did not answer this fond expectation, for the Abyssinians stood so firm to the faith of their ancestors, that towards the end of the sixteenth century, the Jesuits had almost lost all hopes of succeeding in that quarter.

THE ARMENIAN CHURCH.

It appears highly probable, that both the Greater and the Lesser Armenia were enlightened with the knowledge of the truth in the first century, or early in the second ; but the Armenian church was not completely formed till the beginning of the fourth, when Gregory, the son of Anax, who is commonly called the Enlightener, from bis having dispelled the darkness of the Arinenian superstitions, converted to Christianity Tiridates, king of Armenia, and all the nobles of his court.

In consequence of this, Gregory was consecrated bishop of the Armenians, by Leontius, bishop of Cappadocia, and his ministry was crowned with such success, that the whole province was soon converted to the Christian faith.

From that period Armenia has undergone so niany revolutions, that it must appear more remarkable that the Armenians should still persevere in the Christian faith, than that they should deviate in many particulars from the original doctrines of their church. They no longer exist collectively as a nation, once famous for the wealth and luxury of its monarchs ; but successively conquered by, and alternately subject to the Turks, Tartars, and Persians, they have preserved only their native language, (and even it is disused at Constantinople,) and the remembrance of their ancient kingdom.

On the other hand, the state of religion in that church deriv. ed considerable advantages from the settlement of a vast number of Armenians in different parts of Europe, for the purs poses of commerce. These merchants, who had fixed their residence, during the seventeenth century, at London, Amsterdam, Marseilles, and Venice, were not uninindful of the interests of religion in their native country. And their situation furnished them with favourable opportunities of exercising their zeal in this good cause, and particularly of supplying their Asiatic brethren with Armenian translations of the Holy Scriptures, and other theological books, from the European presses, especially from those of England and Holland. "These pious and instructive productions, being dispersed among the Armenians who lived under the Persian and Turkish governments, contributed, no doubt, to preserve that illiterate and superstitious people from falling into the most consummate and deplorable ignorance."*

DISTINGUISHING DoctRINES.-The Armenian was considered as a branch of the Greek Church, professing the same faith, and acknowledging the same subjection to the see of Constantinople, till near the middle of the sixth century, when the heresy of the Monophysites spread far and wide through Africa and Asia, comprehending the Armenians also among its votaries. But, though the members of this church still agree with the other Monophysites in the main doctrine of that sect relating to the unity of the divine and human nature in Christ, they differ from them in so many points of faith, worship, and discipline, that they do not hold communion with that branch of the Monophysites who are Jacobites in the more limited sense of that term ; nor, I believe, with either the Copts or the Abyssinians.

The Armenians believe that neither the souls nor bodies of any saints or prophets departed this life, are in heaven, unless. it be the blessed Virgin, and the prophet Elias. Yet, notwithstanding their opinion that the saints shall not be admitted into heaven until the day of judgment, “ by a certain imitation of the Greek and Latin churches, they invoke them with prayers, reverence and adore their pictures or images, and burn lamps to them, and candles. The saints which are commonly invoked by them, are all the prophets and apostles, likewise, St. Silvester, St. Savorich, &c.

WORSHIP, Rites, AND CEREMONIES.-" Their manner of worship is performed after the Eastern fashion, by prostrating their bodies, and kissing the ground three times, which the Turks likewise practise in their prayers.) At their first entrance into the church, they uncover their heads, and cross

* Dr. Mosheim's Eccl. Hist. vol. v. pp. 261-2. Many religious books, principally Bibles, Liturgies, and the beatific visions of their saints, have also been printed at Venice and Constantinople. In 1704, the Acts of the Apostles were translated into Armenian verse by Cosmo di Carbognano; and in 1737 they printed St. Chrysostom's " Commentary on St. John,” at Constantinople, where the Armenian Diess is still employed.

themselves three times, but afterwards cover their heads, and sit cross-legged on carpets, after the manner of the Turks. The most part of their public divine service they perform in the morning, before day, which is very commendable, and I have been greatly pleased to meet hundreds of Armenians in a summer morning about sun-rising, returning from their devotions at the church, wherein, perhaps they had spent two hours before, not only on festival, but on ordinary days of work : in like manner, they are very devout on vigils to feasts, and Saturday evenings, when they all go to church, and, returning home, perfume their houses with incense, and adorn their little pictures with lamps. In their monasteries the whole Psalter of David is read over every twenty-four hours : but, in the cities and parochial churches, it is otherwise observed : for the Psalter is divided into eight divisions, and every division into eight parts ; at the end of every one of which is said the Gloria Patri, &c."*

The Armenian is the language that is still used in the services of this church ; and in her rites and ceremonies there is so great a resemblance to those of the Greeks, that a particular detail here might be superfluous. Their liturgies also are either essentially the same with those of the Greeks, or are at least ascribed to the same authors.

CHURCH GOVERNMENT AND DISCIPLINE.-When the Armenians withdrew from the communion of the Greek church, they made no change in their ancient episcopal form of church government : they only claimed the privilege of choosing their own spiritual rulers. The name and office of patriarch was continued; but three, or according to Sir P. Ricaut, four prelates, shared that dignity. The chief of these resides in the monastery at Ekmiazin, near Erivan, and at the foot of Mount Ararat, in Turcomania; his jurisdiction extends over Turcomania, or Armenia Dlajor, and he is said to number among his suffragans no fewer than forty-two archbishops, each of whom may claim the obedience of four or five suffragans.t His opulent revenues of 600,000 crowns, are considered only as a fund for his numerous charities : for, though elevated to the highest rank of ecclesiastical power and preferment, he rejects all the splendid insignia of authority ; and, in his ordinary dress, and mode of living, he is on a level with the poorest monastic. Nay, the Armenians seem to place much of their religion in fastings and abstinences ; and, among the clergy, the higher the degree, the

* Sir P. RICAUT, pp. 407-8. M. Tavernier observes, that “ they all put off their shoes before they go into church. Nor do the Armenians kneel, as in Europe, but stand all the while upright."-Lib. i. c. 3.

+ Father Simon has subjoined to his Crit. Hist. (p. 184, &c.) a list of the churches that are subject to this grand patriarch. But this list, though taken from Uscanus, an Armenian bishop, is said by Dr. Mosheim to be “ defective in many respects,”

lower they must live, insomuch, that it is said the archbishops live on nothing but pulse.

In the Armenian church, as in the Greek, a monastery is considered as the only proper seminary for dignified ecclesiastics; for it seems to be a tenet of their church, that abstinence in diet, and austerity of manners, should increase with preferment. Hence, though their priests are permitted to marry once, their patriarchs and mastabets, (or martabets) i. e. bishops, must remain in a state of strict celibacy; at least no married priest can be promoted in their church until he shall have become a widower. It is likewise necessary, that their dignified clergy should have assumed the sanctimonious air of an ascetic.

Their monastic discipline is extremely severe. The religious neither eat sesh nor drink wine; they sometimes continue in prayer from midnight till three o'clock in the afternoon, during which time they are required to read the Psalter through, besides many other spiritual exercises.

THE NESTORIAN CHURCHES.

Names, Rise, Histoy, &c.-The denomination of Christians now to be considered, who are frequently called Chaldæans, from the country where they long principally resided, derive the name of Nestorians, by which they are more generally known, froin Nestorius, a Syrian and patriarch of Constantinople, in the beginning of the fifth century ; "a man,” says Dr. Moshiem, “ remarkable for his learning and eloquence, which were, however, accompanied with much levity, and with intolerable arrogance ; and, it may be added, with violent enmity to all the sectaries.

The occasion of the fatal controversy in wbich he involved the church, was furnished by Anastasius, who was honoured with his friendship.

This presbyter, in a public discourse, delivered in 424, declaimed warmly against the title of Mother of God, which was then frequently attributed to the Virgin Mary in the controversy with the Arians, giving it as his opinion that the Holy Virgin was rather to be called Mother of Christ, since the Deity can neither be born nor die, and, of consequence, the Son of man alone could derive his birth from an earthly parent. Nestorius applauded these sentiments, and explained and defended them in several discourses. But both he and his friend were keenly opposed by certain monks at Constantinople, who maintained that the Son of Mary was God incarnate, and excited the zeal and fury of the populace against him, from an idea that he had revived the error of Paulus Samosatenus and Photinus, who taught that Jesus Christ was a mere inan. His piscourses were, however, well received in many places, and had the majority on their side, particularly among the monks

« ZurückWeiter »