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History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empir

Pope Leo and the council of Chalcedon


might allege the words of the

fathers of Constantinople, who profess themselves the slaves of the king; and they might relate, with malicious joy, how the decrees of Chalcedon had been inspired and reformed by the emperor Marcian and his virgin bride. The prevailing faction will naturally inculcate the duty of submission, nor is it less natural that dissenters should feel and assert the principles of freedom. Under the rod of persecution, the Nestorians and Monophysites degenerated into rebels and fugitives; and the most ancient and useful allies of Rome were taught to consider the emperor not as the chief, but as the enemy of the Christians. Language, the leading principle which unites or separates the tribes of mankind, soon discriminated the sectaries of the East, by a peculiar and perpetual badge, which abolished the means of intercourse and the hope of reconciliation. The long dominion of the Greeks, their colonies, and, above all, their eloquence, had propagated a language doubtless the most perfect that has been contrived by the art of man. Yet the body of the people, both in Syria and Egypt, still persevered in the use of their national idioms; with this difference, however, that the Coptic was confined to the rude and illiterate peasants of the Nile, while the Syriac, [110] from the mountains of Assyria to the Red Sea, was adapted to the higher topics of poetry and argument. Armenia and Abyssinia were infected by the speech or learning of the Greeks; and their Barbaric tongues, which have been revived
in the studies of modern Europe, were unintelligible to the inhabitants of the Roman empire. The Syriac and the Coptic, the Armenian and the Aethiopic, are consecrated in the service of their respective churches: and their theology is enriched by domestic versions [111] both of the Scriptures and of the most popular fathers. After a period of thirteen hundred and sixty years, the spark of controversy, first kindled by a sermon of Nestorius, still burns in the bosom of the East, and the hostile communions still maintain the faith and discipline of their founders. In the most abject state of ignorance, poverty, and servitude, the Nestorians and Monophysites reject the spiritual supremacy of Rome, and cherish the toleration of their Turkish masters, which allows them to anathematize, on the one hand, St. Cyril and the synod of Ephesus: on the other, Pope Leo and the council of Chalcedon. The weight which they cast into the downfall of the Eastern empire demands our notice, and the reader may be amused with the various prospect of, I. The Nestorians; II. The Jacobites; [112] III. The Maronites; IV. The Armenians; V. The Copts; and, VI. The Abyssinians. To the three former, the Syriac is common; but of the latter, each is discriminated by the use of a national idiom.

Yet the modern natives of Armenia and Abyssinia would be incapable of conversing with their ancestors; and the Christians of Egypt and Syria, who reject the religion, have adopted the language of the Arabians. The lapse of time has seconded the sacerdotal arts; and in the East, as well as in the West, the Deity is addressed in an obsolete tongue, unknown to the majority of the congregation.

[Footnote 108: In the Lateran synod of 679, Wilfred, an Anglo-Saxon bishop, subscribed pro omni Aquilonari parte Britanniae et Hiberniae, quae ab Anglorum et Britonum, necnon Scotorum et Pictorum gentibus colebantur, (Eddius, in Vit. St. Wilfrid. c. 31, apud Pagi, Critica, tom. iii. p. 88.) Theodore (magnae insulae Britanniae archiepiscopus et philosophus) was long expected at Rome, (Concil. tom. vii. p. 714,) but he contented himself with holding (A.D. 680) his provincial synod of Hatfield, in which he received the decrees of Pope Martin and the first Lateran council against the Monothelites, (Concil. tom. vii. p. 597, &c.) Theodore, a monk of Tarsus in Cilicia, had been named to the primacy of Britain by Pope Vitalian, (A.D. 688; see Baronius and Pagi,) whose esteem for his learning and piety was tainted by some distrust of his national character--ne quid contrarium veritati fidei, Graecorum more, in ecclesiam cui praeesset introduceret. The Cilician was sent from Rome to Canterbury under the tuition of an African guide, (Bedae Hist. Eccles. Anglorum. l. iv. c. 1.) He adhered to the Roman doctrine; and the same creed of the incarnation has been uniformly transmitted from Theodore to the modern primates, whose sound understanding is perhaps seldom engaged with that abstruse mystery.]


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