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History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empir

Digested and illustrated by Petavius and Le Clerc


Theological History Of The Doctrine Of The Incarnation.--The Human And Divine Nature Of Christ.--Enmity Of The Patriarchs Of Alexandria And Constantinople.--St. Cyril And Nestorius. --Third General Council Of Ephesus.--Heresy Of Eutyches.-- Fourth General Council Of Chalcedon.--Civil And Ecclesiastical Discord.--Intolerance Of Justinian.--The Three Chapters.--The Monothelite Controversy.--State Of The Oriental Sects:--I. The Nestorians.--II. The Jacobites.-- III. The Maronites.--IV. The Armenians.--V. The Copts And Abyssinians.

After the extinction of paganism, the Christians in peace and piety might have enjoyed their solitary triumph. But the principle of discord was alive in their bosom, and they were more solicitous to explore the nature, than to practice the laws, of their founder. I have already observed, that the disputes of the Trinity were succeeded by those of the Incarnation; alike scandalous to the church, alike pernicious to the state, still more minute in their origin, still more durable in their effects.

It is my design to comprise in the present chapter a religious war of two hundred and fifty years, to represent the ecclesiastical and political schism of the Oriental sects, and to introduce their clamorous or sanguinary contests, by a modest inquiry into the doctrines of the primitive church. [1]

[Footnote

1: By what means shall I authenticate this previous inquiry, which I have studied to circumscribe and compress?--If I persist in supporting each fact or reflection by its proper and special evidence, every line would demand a string of testimonies, and every note would swell to a critical dissertation. But the numberless passages of antiquity which I have seen with my own eyes, are compiled, digested and illustrated by Petavius and Le Clerc, by Beausobre and Mosheim. I shall be content to fortify my narrative by the names and characters of these respectable guides; and in the contemplation of a minute or remote object, I am not ashamed to borrow the aid of the strongest glasses: 1. The Dogmata Theologica of Petavius are a work of incredible labor and compass; the volumes which relate solely to the Incarnation (two folios, vth and vith, of 837 pages) are divided into xvi. books--the first of history, the remainder of controversy and doctrine. The Jesuit's learning is copious and correct; his Latinity is pure, his method clear, his argument profound and well connected; but he is the slave of the fathers, the scourge of heretics, and the enemy of truth and candor, as often as they are inimical to the Catholic cause. 2. The Arminian Le Clerc, who has composed in a quarto volume (Amsterdam, 1716) the ecclesiastical history of the two first centuries, was free both in his temper and situation; his sense is clear, but his thoughts are narrow; he reduces the reason or folly of ages to the standard of his private judgment, and his impartiality is sometimes quickened, and sometimes tainted by his opposition to the fathers. See the heretics (Cerinthians, lxxx. Ebionites, ciii. Carpocratians, cxx. Valentiniins, cxxi. Basilidians, cxxiii. Marcionites, cxli., &c.) under their proper dates. 3. The Histoire Critique du Manicheisme (Amsterdam, 1734, 1739, in two vols. in 4to., with a posthumous dissertation sur les Nazarenes, Lausanne, 1745) of M. de Beausobre is a treasure of ancient philosophy and theology. The learned historian spins with incomparable art the systematic thread of opinion, and transforms himself by turns into the person of a saint, a sage, or a heretic. Yet his refinement is sometimes excessive; he betrays an amiable partiality in favor of the weaker side, and, while he guards against calumny, he does not allow sufficient scope for superstition and fanaticism. A copious table of contents will direct the reader to any point that he wishes to examine. 4. Less profound than Petavius, less independent than Le Clerc, less ingenious than Beausobre, the historian Mosheim is full, rational, correct, and moderate. In his learned work, De Rebus Christianis ante Constantinum (Helmstadt 1753, in 4to.,) see the Nazarenes and Ebionites, p. 172--179, 328--332. The Gnostics in general, p. 179, &c. Cerinthus, p. 196--202. Basilides, p. 352--361. Carpocrates, p. 363--367. Valentinus, p. 371--389 Marcion, p. 404--410. The Manichaeans, p. 829-837, &c.]


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