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fourth century, and shortly after commenced that fearful persecution in which sixteen thousand Christians are said to have suffered. It lasted thirty years, and is said to have recommenced at the end of the century.
The second persecution lasted for at least another thirty years of the next, at the very time when the Nestorian troubles were in progress in the Empire. Trials such as these show the populousness as well as the faith of the Churches in those parts ; and the number of the Sees, for the names of twenty-seven Bishops are preserved who suffered in the former persecution. One of them was apprehended together with sixteen priests, nine deacons, besides monks and nuns of his diocese; another with twenty-eight companions, ecclesiastics or regulars; another with one hundred ecclesiastics of different orders; another with one hundred and twenty-eight; another with his chorepiscopus and two hundred and fifty of his clergy. Such was the Church, consecrated by the blood of so many martyrs, which immediately after its glorious confession fell a prey to the theology of Theodore ; and which through a succession of ages discovered the energy, when it had lost the purity of saints.
The members of the Persian school, who had been driven out of Edessa by Rabbula, found a wide field open
for their exertions under the pagan government with which they had taken refuge. The Persian monarchs, who had often prohibited by edict” the intercommunion of the Church under their sway with the countries towards the west, readily extended their protection to exiles, who professed the means of destroying its Catholicity. Barsumas, the most energetic of them, was placed in the metropolitan See of Nisibis, where also the fugitive school was settled under the presidency of another of their party ; while Maris was promoted to the See of Ardaschir. The primacy of the Church had from an early period belonged to the See of Seleucia in Babylonia. Catholicus was the title appropriated to its occupant, as well as to the Persian Primate, as being depu
5 Gibbon, ch. 47.
ties of the Patriarch of Antioch, and was derived apparently from the Imperial dignity so called, denoting their function as Procurators-general, or officers-in-chief for the regions in which they were placed. Acacius, another of the Edessene party, was put into this principal See, and suffered, if he did not further, the innovations of Barsumas. The mode by which the latter effected his purposes has been left on record by an enemy.
“Barsumas accused Barbuæus, the Catholicus, before King Pherozes, whispering, “These men hold the faith of the Romans, and are their spies. Give me power against them to arrest them 6.99 It is said that in this way he obtained the death of Barbuæus, whom Acacius succeeded. When a minority resisted' the process of schism, a persecution followed. The death of seven thousand seven hundred Catholics is said by Monophysite authorities to have been the price of the severance of the Chaldaic Churches from Christendom 8. Their loss was compensated in the eyes of the government by the multitude of Nestorian fugitives, who flocked into Persia from the Empire, numbers of them industrious artisans, who sought a country where their own religion was in the ascendant.
The foundation of that religion lay, as we have already seen, in the literal interpretation of Scripture, of which Theodore was the principal teacher. The doctrine, in which it formerly consisted, is known by the name of Nestorius: it lay in the ascription of a human as well as a Divine Personality to our Lord ; and it showed itself in denying the title of “Mother of God” or Ocotókos, to St. Mary. As to our Lord's Personality, it is to be observed that the question of language came in, which always serves to perplex a subject and make a controversy seem a matter of words. The native Syrians made a distinction between the word
Person,” and “Prosopon, which stands for it in Greek ; they allowed that there was one Prosopon or Parsopa, as they called it, and they held that there were two Persons. 6 Asseman. p. lxxviii.
7 Gibbon, ibid. 8 Asseman. t. 2, p. 403, t. 3, p. 393.
It is asked what they meant by parsopa : the answer seems to be, that they took the word merely in the sense of character or aspect, a sense familiar to the Greek prosopon, and quite irrelevant as a guarantee of their orthodoxy. It follows moreover that, since the aspect of a thing is its impression upon the beholder, the personality to which they ascribed unity must have lain in our Lord's manhood, and not in His Divine Nature. But it is hardly worth while pursuing the heresy to its limits. Next, as to the phrase “Mother of God,” they rejected it as unscriptural ; they maintained that St. Mary was Mother of the humanity of Christ, not of the Word, and they fortified themselves by the Nicene Creed, in which no such title is ascribed to her.
Whatever might be the obscurity or the plausibility of their original dogma, there is nothing obscure or attractive in the developments, whether of doctrine or of practice, in which it issued. The first act of the exiles of Edessa, on their obtaining power in the Chaldean communion, was to abolish the celibacy of the clergy, or, in Gibbon's forcible words, to allow "the public and reiterated nuptials of the priests, the bishops, and even the patriarch himself.” Barsumas, the great instrument of the change of religion, was the first to set an example of the new usage, and is even said by a Nestorian writer to have married a nun'. He passed a Canon at Councils, held at Seleucia and elsewhere, that Bishops and priests might marry, and might renew their wives as often as they lost them. The Catholic who followed Acacius went so far as to extend the benefit of the Canon to Monks, that is, to destroy the Monastic order; and his two successors availed themselves of this liberty, and are recorded to have been fathers. A restriction, however, was afterwards placed upon the Catholic, and upon the Episcopal order.
Such were the circumstances, and such the principles, under which the See of Seleucia became the Rome of the
9 Asseman. t. 3, p. 67.
East. In the course of time the Catholic took on himself the loftier and independent title of Patriarch of Babylon; and though Seleucia was changed for Ctesiphon and for Bagdad ", still the name of Babylon was preserved from first to last as a formal or ideal Metropolis. In the time of the Caliphs, it was at the head of as many as twenty-five Archbishops ; its Communion extended from China to Jerusalem; and its numbers, with those of the Monophysites, are said to have surpassed those of the Greek and Latin Churches together.
1 Gibbon, ibid.
THE DOCTRINE OF THE DIVINE GENNESIS ACCORDING TO
THE EARLY FATHERS.
(Vide supra, p. 246.)
ALREADY in the Notes on Athanasius (Athan. Tr. pp.
272280,) and in Dissert. Theolog. iii. I have explained my difficulty in following Bull and others in the interpretation they assign to certain statements made in the first
of the Church concerning the Divine Sonship. Those statements, taken in their letter, are to the effect that our Lord was the Word of God before He was the Son ; that, though, as the Word, He was from eternity, His gennesis is in essential connexion both with the design and the fact of creation ; that He was born indeed of the Father apart from all time, but still with a definite relation to that beginning of time when the creation took place, and though born, and not created, nevertheless born definitely in order to create.
Before the Nicene Council, of the various Schools of the Church, the Alexandrian alone, is distinctly clear of this doctrine; and even after the Council it is found in the West, in Upper Italy, Rome, and Africa; France, as represented by Hilary and Phæbadius, having no part in it. Nay, at Nicæa, when it lay in the way of the Council to condemn it, it was not distinctly condemned, though to pass it over was in fact to give it some countenance. Bull indeed considers it was even recognized indirectly by the assembled Fathers, in their anathematizing those who contradicted its distinctive formula, “He was before He was born ;" in this (as I have said in the Notes on Athanasius), I cannot agree with him, but at least it is unaccountable that the Fathers should not have guarded their anathema from Bull's easy misinterpre
1 Vide however Hilar. in Matt. xxxi. 3; but he corrects himself, de Trin. xii.