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Title: Sketches of Church History - From A.D. 33 to the Reformation
Author: Robertson, James Craigie, 1813-1882
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Sketches of Church History - From A.D. 33 to the Reformation" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

[Illustration: Map illustrating the HISTORY OF THE CHURCH, during the
First Six Centuries.]


  _From_ A.D. 33 _to the Reformation_.



  NEW YORK: E. & J. B. YOUNG & CO.



  CHAP.                                                            PAGE

   1. The Age of the Apostles                                         1
   2. St. Ignatius                                                    5
   3. St. Justin, Martyr                                             10
   4. St. Polycarp                                                   13
   5. The Martyrs of Lyons and Vienne                                15
   6. Tertullian--Perpetua and her Companions                        17
   7. Origen                                                         21
   8. St Cyprian--Part I.                                            25
         "        Part II.                                           27
         "        Part III.                                          29
   9. The Last Persecution                                           31
  10. Constantine the Great                                          38
  11. The Council of Nicæa                                           43
  12. St. Athanasius--Part I.                                        47
              "       Part II.                                       51
              "       Part III.                                      54
  13. The Monks                                                      59
  14. St. Basil and St. Gregory of Nazianzum--Part I.                67
           "              "            "      Part II.               70
  15. St. Ambrose                                                    73
  16. The Temple of Serapis                                          77
  17. Church Government                                              80
  18. Christian Worship--Part I.                                     85
        "         "      Part II.                                    87
        "         "      Part III.                                   90
  19. Arcadius and Honorius                                          93
  20. St. John Chrysostom--Part I.                                   95
             "     "       Part II.                                 100
             "     "       Part III.                                103
             "     "       Part IV.                                 105
  21. St. Augustine--Part I.                                        108
            "        Part II.                                       111
            "        Part III. (Donatism)                           114
            "        Part IV.      "                                118
            "        Part V.       "                                120
            "        Part VI. (Pelagianism)                         124
            "        Part VII.     "                                127
  22. Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon                             128
  23. Fall of the Western Empire                                    131
  24. Conversion of the Barbarians--Christianity in Britain         133
  25. Scotland and Ireland                                          136
  26. Clovis                                                        140
  27. Justinian                                                     142
  28. Nestorians and Monophysites                                   144
  29. St. Benedict--Part I.                                         147
             "      Part II.                                        150
  30. End of the Sixth Century--Part I.                             152
             "          "       Part II.                            154
  31. St. Gregory the Great--Part I.                                156
             "          "    Part II.                               159
             "          "    Part III.                              160
             "          "    Part IV.                               163


   1. Mahometanism--Image-worship                                   169
   2. The Church in England                                         171
   3. St. Boniface                                                  173
   4. Pipin and Charles the Great--Part I.                          177
        "               "          Part II.                         179
   5. Decay of Charles the Great's Empire                           181
   6. State of the Papacy                                           184
   7. Missions of the Ninth and Tenth Centuries                     185
   8. Pope Gregory VII.--Part I.                                    191
             "           Part II.                                   193
             "           Part III.                                  194
             "           Part IV.                                   196
   9. The First Crusade--Part I.                                    198
            "            Part II.                                   201
            "            Part III.                                  204
  10. New Orders of Monks--Military Orders                          205
  11. St. Bernard--Part I.                                          211
             "     Part II.                                         213
  12. Adrian IV.--Alexander III.--Becket--The Third Crusade         214
  13. Innocent III.--Part I.                                        217
         "           Part II.                                       220
         "           Part III.                                      223
         "           Part IV.                                       225
  14. Frederick II--St. Lewis of France--Part I.                    228
         "          "         "          Part II.                   229
         "          "         "          Part III.                  230
  15. Peter of Murrone                                              232
  16. Boniface VIII.--Part I.                                       235
          "           Part II.                                      236
  17. The Popes at Avignon--The Ruin of the Templars--Part I.       239
              "              "           "            Part II.      241
  18. The Popes at Avignon (_continued_)                            245
  19. Religious Parties                                             247
  20. John Wyclif                                                   249
  21. The Popes return to Rome                                      252
  22. The Great Schism                                              254
  23. John Huss                                                     256
  24. The Council of Constance--Part I.                             258
         "           "          Part II.                            260
         "           "          Part III.                           261
  25. The Hussites                                                  263
  26. Councils of Basel and Florence                                265
  27. Nicolas V. and Pius II.                                       268
  28. Jerome Savonarola--Part I.                                    271
         "       "       Part II.                                   273
  29. Julius II. and Leo X.                                         275
  30. Missions--The Inquisition                                     277



  A.D.                                                             PAGE

    33. Descent of the Holy Ghost on the Day of Pentecost             1
    62. Martyrdom of St. James the Less                               3
    64. Persecution by Nero begins                                    2
    68. Martyrdom of St. Peter and St. Paul                           2
    70. Destruction of Jerusalem by Titus                             3
    95. Persecution by Domitian                                       3
   100. Death of St. John                                             5
   116. Martyrdom of Ignatius                                         9
   166. Martyrdoms of Justin and Polycarp                         10-15
   168. Montanus publishes his heresy                                17
   177. Persecution at Lyons and Vienne                              15
   190. Tertullian flourishes                                        18
   202. Persecution by Severus begins                                18
    --  Martyrdom of Origen's father                                 21
   206. Martyrdom of Perpetua and her companions                     18
   248. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage                                  25
   249. Persecution by Decius                                        23
   251. Paul, the first hermit                                       60
    --  Troubles at Carthage--Novatian separates from the Church     27
   253. Plague at Carthage                                           27
   254. Death of Origen                                              24
    --  Disagreement between Cyprian and Stephen, bishop of Rome     29
   257. Persecution by Valerian                                      29
   258. Martyrdom of Cyprian                                         31
   260. Conversion of the Goths begins                               40
   261. Valerian taken prisoner in Persia--Gallienus allows liberty
          to the Christians                                          32
   270. Manes publishes his heresy                                  110
   298. Diocletian requires soldiers, &c., to worship the heathen
          gods                                                       33
   303. The last general persecution begins                          34
   311. Separation of the Donatists from the Church             44, 116
   313. End of the persecution--Constantine and Licinius give
          liberty to the Christians                                  38
   314. Council of Arles about the affairs of the Donatists         117
   319. Arius begins to publish his heresy                           44
   324. Constantine defeats Licinius, and declares himself a
          Christian                                                  38
   325. The First General Council held at Nicæa--Arius
          condemned--The Nicene Creed made                           46
   326. Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria                             47
   335. Council of Tyre                                              48
    --  Athanasius banished to Treves                                49
   336. Death of Arius                                               50
   337. Death of Constantine                                         51
   338. Athanasius restored to his see                               52
   341. Second banishment of Athanasius                              52
   343. Persecution in Persia                                        41
   347. Revolt, defeat, and banishment of the Donatists             117
   348. Ulfilas, bishop of the Goths                                 93
   349. Second return of St. Athanasius                              52
   356. Third exile of Athanasius                                    53
    --  Death of Antony the hermit                                   61
   361. Julian, emperor--Paganism restored                           57
   362. The Donatists recalled                                      120
    --  Athanasius restored, but again banished                      56
    --  Attempt to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem                   57
   363. Death of Julian                                              58
   370. Basil, bishop of Cæsarea, in Cappadocia                      68
   372. Gregory of Nazianzum consecrated as bishop of Sasima         69
   373. Death of Athanasius                                          59
   374. Ambrose, bishop of Milan                                     73
   378. Gregory of Nazianzum goes to Constantinople                  69
   379. Theodosius, emperor                                          70
   380. Gregory, bishop of Constantinople--Death of Basil            70
   381. Second General Council held at Constantinople--Gregory
          withdraws from his see                                     70
   385. Execution of Priscillian                                     72
   387. Baptism of Augustine                                        113
    --  Sedition at Antioch                                          97
   390. Massacre at Thessalonica, and repentance of Theodosius       75
   391. Destruction of the Temple of Serapis                         78
   395. Death of Theodosius                                          77
    --  Augustine, bishop of Hippo                                  114
   397. Death of Ambrose                                             77
    --  Chrysostom, bishop of Constantinople                        100
   400. Pelagius teaches his heresy at Rome                         124
   403. Death of Telemachus at Rome                                  95
    --  Council of the Oak--Chrysostom banished and recalled        105
   404. Chrysostom banished to Cucusus                              106
   407. Death of Chrysostom                                         107
   409. The Romans withdraw from Britain                            135
   410. Rome taken by Alaric                                         93
    --  Pelagius and Celestius in Africa                            125
   411. Conference with the Donatists at Carthage                   122
   412. Ninian, bishop of Whithorn                                  136
   415. Councils in the Holy Land as to Pelagius                    126
   429. Pelagianism put down in Britain by German and Lupus         135
   430. Death of Augustine                                          128
   431. Third General Council held at Ephesus--Condemnation of
          Nestorius                                                 129
   432. Death of Ninian--Patrick goes into Ireland                  136
   449. Council, known as "The Meeting of Robbers," at Ephesus      129
    --  Landing of the Saxons in England                            136
   451. Fourth General Council held at Chalcedon--Condemnation
          of Eutyches                                               129
    --  Attila in France--Deliverance of Orleans                    131
   452. Attila in Italy                                             132
   455. Rome plundered by Genseric                                  132
   476. End of the Western Empire                                   133
   464-519. Separation between the Churches of Rome and
          Constantinople                                            144
   493. Death of Patrick                                            138
   496. Conversion of Clovis                                        141
   527. Justinian, emperor                                          142
   529. The heathen schools of Athens shut up                       143
    --  Benedict draws up his Rule for monks                        149
   541. Jacob, leader of the Monophysites                           145
   553. Fifth General Council held at Constantinople                145
   565. Columba settles at Iona                                     139
    --  Death of Justinian                                          142
   589. Third Council of Toledo--The Spanish Church renounces
          Arianism                                                  134
    --  Columban goes into France                                   139
   590. Gregory the Great, bishop of Rome                           155
   596. Mission of Augustine to England                             163
   597. Landing of Augustine in England--Conversion of Ethelbert    164
   604. Deaths of Gregory and Augustine                             166


   589-615. Missionary labours of St. Columban                      205
   612. Mahomet begins to publish his religion                      169
   627. Jerusalem taken by the Mussulmans                           169
   632. Death of Mahomet                                            169
   635. Settlement of Scottish missionaries in Holy Island          172
   664. Council of Whitby                                           172
   724. Beginning of controversy as to images                       170
   732. Victory of Charles Martel over the Saracens                 174
   734. Death of the Venerable Bede                                 173
   715-755. Missionary labours of St. Boniface                      174
   752. Pipin becomes king of the Franks                            177
   787. Second Council of Nicæa                                     180
   794. Council of Frankfort                                        180
   800. Charles the Great crowned as emperor                        178
    -- (about). Forgery of Constantine's donation                   192
   814. Death of Charles the Great                                  181
   826-865. Missionary labours of Anskar                            187
   846 (about). Forgery of the False Decretals                      192
   860-870. Conversion of Bulgarians, Moravians, Bohemians, &c.     185
   912. Foundation of the Order of Cluny                            206
   962. Otho I., emperor                                            183
   988. Conversion of Basil, great prince of Russia                 188
   999. Sylvester II., pope                                         184
   994-1030. Conversion of Norwegians                               189
  1046. Council of Sutri                                            185
  1048. Pope Leo IX.--Beginning of Hildebrand's influence over
          the papacy                                                193
  1073. Hildebrand elected pope (Gregory VII.)                      193
  1074. Foundation of the Carthusian Order                          207
  1085. Death of Gregory VII.                                       197
  1098. Foundation of the Cistercian Order                          208
  1099. Jerusalem taken in the First Crusade                        202
  1113. Order of St. John (or Hospitallers) founded                 209
  1116. Order of the Temple founded                                 210
  1123. Agreement between the pope and the emperor at Worms         198
  1147-1149. The Second Crusade                                     213
  1153. Death of St. Bernard                                        214
  1154. Nicolas Breakspeare, an Englishman, chosen pope
          (Adrian IV.)                                              214
  1170. Murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket                          216
  1189. The Third Crusade                                           217
  1198. Innocent III. elected pope                                  218
  1203. Constantinople taken by Crusaders                           222
  1208. England put under an interdict                              219
  1208-1229. War against the Albigenses                             223
  1215. Fourth Council of the Lateran--Innocent sanctions the
          Dominican and Franciscan Orders of Mendicant Friars       227
  1240. First Crusade of St. Lewis                                  230
  1270. Second Crusade and death of St. Lewis                       231
  1274. Second Council of Lyons                                     232
  1294. Election of Pope Celestine V.                               233
  ----  Election of Pope Boniface VIII.                             235
  1300. Boniface celebrates the first jubilee                       235
  1303. Death of Boniface                                           239
  1310. The popes settle at Avignon                                 240
  1312. Council of Vienne--The Order of the Temple dissolved        243
  1377. Gregory XI. removes the papacy from Avignon to Rome         253
  1378. Beginning of the Great Schism of the West                   254
  1384. Death of John Wyclif                                        251
  1414-1418. Council of Constance                                   258
  1415. Pope John XXIII. deposed                                    260
  ----  John Huss burnt by order of the Council                     261
  1417. Election of Pope Martin V., and end of the Schism           262
  1418. Religious war of Bohemia breaks out                         264
  1431. Council of Basel opened                                     265
  1438. Council of Ferrara and Florence                             267
  1453. Constantinople taken by the Turks                           268
  1455. Invention of Printing                                       269
  1464. Pope Pius II. vainly attempts a crusade                     270
  1498. Death of Savonarola                                         274
  1503. Death of Pope Alexander VI.                                 275
  1517. Appearance of Martin Luther as a reformer                   276


(_To be read after Chapter XXII._)

The Map is meant to give the names of such places only as are mentioned
in the History.

The bounds of the patriarchates of Constantinople, Antioch, and
Jerusalem are marked as they were settled at the Council of Chalcedon,
in the year 451.

Only the northern part of the Alexandrian patriarchate is seen, as the
Map does not reach far enough to take in Abyssinia, which belonged to

At the time of the Council of Nicæa (A.D. 325) the bishop of Rome's
patriarchate was confined to the middle and the south of Italy, with the
Islands of Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica. It afterwards grew by degrees,
until at length it took in all the countries of the west, although it
had lost Illyricum, which was once a part of it. But this was not until
long after the time to which our little book relates, and in the
meanwhile its extent varied very much. The reason why its bounds, at the
time of the Council of Chalcedon, or in the days of Gregory the Great,
cannot well be marked in a map is, that in some countries the bishops of
Rome had much _influence_, but had not _power_. They gave _advice_ to
the bishops of Gaul (or France), Spain, and Africa, and sometimes
ventured to give them _directions_. But they could not make the bishops
of those countries obey their directions, and had not _authority_ over
them in the same way as the patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria,
Antioch, or Jerusalem had over the bishops within their patriarchates.
To mark such countries as belonging to the Roman patriarchate would be
too much; to mark them as if they had no connexion with it would be too






FROM A.D. 33 TO A.D. 100.

The beginning of the Christian Church is reckoned from the great day on
which the Holy Ghost came down, according as our Lord had promised to
His Apostles. At that time, "Jews, devout men, out of every nation under
heaven," were gathered together at Jerusalem, to keep the Feast of
Pentecost (or Feast of Weeks), which was one of the three holy seasons
at which God required His people to appear before Him in the place which
He had chosen (_Deuteronomy_ xvi. 16). Many of these devout men were
converted, by what they then saw and heard, to believe the Gospel; and,
when they returned to their own countries, they carried back with them
the news of the wonderful things which had taken place at Jerusalem.
After this, the Apostles went forth "into all the world," as their
Master had ordered them, to "preach the Gospel to every creature" (_St.
Mark_ xvi. 15). The Book of Acts tells us something of what they did,
and we may learn something more about it from the Epistles. And,
although this be but a small part of the whole, it will give us a notion
of the rest, if we consider that, while St. Paul was preaching in Asia
Minor, in Greece, and at Rome, the other Apostles were busily doing the
same work in other countries.

We must remember, too, the constant coming and going which in those days
took place throughout the world; how Jews from all quarters went up to
keep the passover and other feasts at Jerusalem; how the great Roman
empire stretched from our own island of Britain as far as Persia and
Ethiopia, and people from all parts of it were continually going to Rome
and returning. We must consider how merchants travelled from country to
country on account of their trade; how soldiers were sent into all
quarters of the empire, and were moved about from one country to
another. And from these things we may get some understanding of the way
in which the knowledge of the Gospel would be spread, when once it had
taken root in the great cities of Jerusalem and Rome. Thus it came to
pass, that, by the end of the first hundred years after our Saviour's
birth, something was known of the Christian faith throughout all the
Roman empire, and even in countries beyond it; and if in many cases,
only a very little was known, still even that was a gain, and served as
a preparation for more.

The last chapter of the Acts leaves St. Paul at Rome, waiting for his
trial on account of the things which the Jews had laid to his charge. We
find from the Epistles that he afterwards got his liberty, and returned
into the East. There is reason to suppose that he also visited Spain, as
he had spoken of doing in his Epistle to the Romans (ch. xv. 28); and it
has been thought by some that he even preached in Britain; but this does
not seem likely. He was at last imprisoned again at Rome, where the
wicked Emperor Nero persecuted the Christians very cruelly; and it is
believed that both St. Peter and St. Paul were put to death there in the
year of our Lord 68. The bishops of Rome afterwards set up claims to
great power and honour, because they said that St. Peter was the first
bishop of their church, and that they were his successors. But although
we may reasonably believe that the Apostle was martyred at Rome, there
does not appear to be any good ground for thinking that he had been
settled there as bishop of the city.

All the Apostles, except St. John, are supposed to have been martyred
(or put to death for the sake of the Gospel). St. James the Less, who
was bishop of Jerusalem, was killed by the Jews in an uproar, about the
year 62. Soon after this, the Romans sent their armies into Judea, and,
after a bloody war, they took the city of Jerusalem, destroyed the
Temple, and scattered the Jews all over the earth. Thus the Jews were
punished, as our Lord had foretold, for the great sin of which they had
been guilty in refusing to believe in Him, and in putting Him to death.

Thirty years after Nero's time another cruel emperor, Domitian, raised a
fresh persecution against the Christians (A.D. 95). Among those who
suffered were some of his own near relations; for the Gospel had now
made its way among the great people of the earth, as well as among the
poor, who were the first to listen to it. There is a story that the
emperor was told that some persons of the family of David were living in
the Holy Land, and that he sent for them, because he was afraid lest the
Jews should set them up as princes, and should rebel against his
government. They were two grandchildren of St. Jude, who was one of our
Lord's kinsmen after the flesh, and therefore belonged to the house of
David and the old kings of Judah. But these two were plain countrymen,
who lived quietly and contentedly on their little farm, and were not
likely to lead a rebellion, or to claim earthly kingdoms. And when they
were carried before the emperor, they showed him their hands, which were
rough and horny from working in the fields; and in answer to his
questions about the kingdom of Christ, they said that it was not of this
world, but spiritual and heavenly, and that it would appear at the end
of the world, when the Saviour would come again to judge both the quick
and the dead. So the emperor saw that there was nothing to fear from
them, and he let them go.

It was during Domitian's persecution that St. John was banished to the
island of Patmos, where he saw the visions which are described in his
"Revelation." All the other Apostles had been long dead, and St. John
had lived many years at Ephesus, where he governed the churches of the
country around. After his return from Patmos he went about to all these
churches, that he might repair the hurt which they had suffered in the
persecution. In one of the towns which he visited, he noticed a young
man of very pleasing looks, and called him forward, and desired the
bishop of the place to take care of him. The bishop did so, and, after
having properly trained the youth, he baptised and confirmed him. But
when this had been done, the bishop thought that he need not watch over
him so carefully as before; and the young man fell into vicious company,
and went on from bad to worse, until at length he became the head of a
band of robbers, who kept the whole country in terror. When the Apostle
next visited the town, he asked after the charge which he had put into
the bishop's hands. The bishop, with shame and grief, answered that the
young man was dead, and, on being further questioned, he explained that
he meant _dead in sins_, and told all the story. St. John, after having
blamed him because he had not taken more care, asked where the robbers
were to be found, and set off on horseback for their haunt, where he was
seized by some of the band, and was carried before the captain. The
young man, on seeing him, knew him at once, and could not bear his look,
but ran away to hide himself. But the Apostle called him back, told him
that there was yet hope for him through Christ, and spoke in such a
moving way that the robber agreed to return to the town. There he was
once more received into the Church as a penitent; and he spent the rest
of his days in repentance for his sins, and in thankfulness for the
mercy which had been shown to him.

St. John, in his old age, was much troubled by false teachers, who had
begun to corrupt the Gospel. These persons are called _heretics_, and
their doctrines are called _heresy_, from a Greek word which means to
_choose_, because they _chose_ to follow their own fancies, instead of
receiving the Gospel as the Apostles and the Church taught it. Simon
the sorcerer, who is mentioned in the eighth chapter of the Acts, is
counted as the first heretic, and even in the time of the Apostles a
number of others arose, such as Hymenæus, Philetus, and Alexander, who
are mentioned by St. Paul (1 _Tim._ i. 19, 20; 2 _Tim._ ii. 17, 18).
These earliest heretics were mostly of the kind called _Gnostics_,--a
word which means that they pretended to be more _knowing_ than ordinary
Christians; and perhaps St. Paul may have meant them especially when he
warned Timothy against "science" (or _knowledge_) "falsely so called" (1
_Tim._ vi. 20). Their doctrines were a strange mixture of Jewish and
heathen notions with Christianity; and it is curious that some of the
very strangest of their opinions have been brought up again from time to
time by people who fancied that they had found out something new, while
they had only fallen into old errors, which had been condemned by the
Church hundreds of years before.

St. John lived to about the age of a hundred. He was at last so weak
that he could not walk into the church; so he was carried in, and used
to say continually to his people, "Little children, love one another."
Some of them, after a time, began to be tired of hearing this, and asked
him why he repeated the words so often, and said nothing else to them.
The Apostle answered, "Because it is the Lord's commandment, and if this
be done it is enough."



A.D. 116.

When our Lord ascended into Heaven, He left the government of His Church
to the Apostles. We are told that during the forty days between His
rising from the grave and His ascension, He gave commandments unto the
Apostles, and spoke of the things pertaining (or _belonging_) to the
kingdom of God (_Acts_ i. 2, 3). Thus they knew what they were to do
when their Master should be no longer with them; and one of the first
things which they did, even without waiting until His promise of sending
the Holy Ghost should be fulfilled, was to choose St. Matthias into the
place which had been left empty by the fall of the traitor Judas (_Acts_
i. 15-26).

After this we find that they appointed other persons to help them in
their work. First, they appointed the _deacons_, to take care of the
poor and to assist in other services. Then they appointed _presbyters_
(or _elders_), to undertake the charge of congregations. Afterwards, we
find St. Paul sending Timothy to Ephesus, and Titus into the island of
Crete (now called _Candia_), with power to "ordain elders in every city"
(_Tit._ i. 5), and to govern all the churches within a large country.
Thus, then, three kinds (or _orders_) of ministers of the Church are
mentioned in the Acts and Epistles. The _deacons_ are lowest; the
_presbyters_, or _elders_, are next; and, above these, there is a higher
order, made up of the Apostles themselves, with such persons as Timothy
and Titus, who had to look after a great number of presbyters and
deacons, and were also the chief spiritual pastors (or _shepherds_) of
the people who were under the care of these presbyters and deacons. In
the New Testament, the name of _bishops_ (which means _overseers_) is
sometimes given to the Apostles and other clergy of the highest order,
and sometimes to the presbyters; but after a time it was given only to
the highest order, and when the Apostles were dead, the _bishops_ had
the chief government of the Church. It has since been found convenient
that some bishops should be placed above others, and should be called by
higher titles, such as _archbishops_ and _patriarchs_; but these all
belong to the same _order_ of bishops; just as in a parish, although the
rector and the curate have different titles, and one of them is above
the other, they are both most commonly presbyters (or, as we now say,
_priests_), and so they both belong to the same _order_ in the

One of the most famous among the early bishops was St. Ignatius, bishop
of Antioch, the place where the disciples were first called Christians
(_Acts_ xi. 26). Antioch was the chief city of Syria, and was so large
that it had more than two hundred thousand inhabitants. St. Peter
himself is said to have been its bishop for some years; and, although
this is perhaps a mistake, it is worth remembering, because we shall
find by-and-by that much was said about the bishops of Antioch being St.
Peter's successors, as well as the bishops of Rome.

Ignatius had known St. John, and was made bishop of Antioch about thirty
years before the Apostle's death. He had governed his church for forty
years or more, when the Emperor Trajan came to Antioch. In the Roman
history, Trajan is described as one of the best among the emperors; but
he did not treat the Christians well. He seems never to have thought
that the Gospel could possibly be true, and thus he did not take the
trouble to inquire what the Christians really believed or did. They were
obliged in those days to hold their worship in secret, and mostly by
night, or very early in the morning, because it would not have been safe
to meet openly; and hence, the heathens, who did not know what was done
at their meetings, were tempted to fancy all manner of shocking things,
such as that the Christians practised magic; that they worshipped the
head of an ass; that they offered children in sacrifice; and that they
ate human flesh! It is not likely that the Emperor Trajan believed such
foolish tales as these; and, when he _did_ make some inquiry about the
ways of the Christians, he heard nothing but what was good of them. But
still he might think that there was some mischief behind; and he might
fear lest the secret meetings of the Christians should have something to
do with plots against his government; and so, as I have said, he was no
friend to them.

When Trajan came to Antioch, St. Ignatius was carried before him. The
emperor asked what evil spirit possessed him, so that he not only broke
the laws by refusing to serve the gods of Rome, but persuaded others to
do the same. Ignatius answered, that he was not possessed by any evil
spirit; that he was a servant of Christ; that by His help he defeated
the malice of evil spirits; and that he bore his God and Saviour within
his heart. After some more questions and answers, the emperor ordered
that he should be carried in chains to Rome, and there should be
devoured by wild beasts. When Ignatius heard this terrible sentence, he
was so far from being frightened, that he burst forth into thankfulness
and rejoicing, because he was allowed to suffer for his Saviour, and for
the deliverance of his people.

It was a long and toilsome journey, over land and sea, from Antioch to
Rome; and an old man, such as Ignatius, was ill able to bear it,
especially as winter was coming on. He was to be chained, too, and the
soldiers who had the charge of him behaved very rudely and cruelly to
him. And no doubt the emperor thought that, by sending so venerable a
bishop in this way to suffer so fearful and so disgraceful a death (to
which only the very lowest wretches were usually sentenced), he should
terrify other Christians into forsaking their faith. But instead of
this, the courage, and the patience with which St. Ignatius bore his
sufferings gave the Christians fresh spirit to endure whatever might
come on them.

The news that the holy bishop of Antioch was to be carried to Rome soon
spread, and at many places on the way the bishops, clergy, and people
flocked together, that they might see him, and pray and talk with him,
and receive his blessing. And when he could find time, he wrote letters
to various churches, exhorting them to stand fast in the faith, to be at
peace among themselves, to obey the bishops who were set over them, and
to advance in all holy living. One of the letters was written to the
Church at Rome, and was sent on by some persons who were travelling by a
shorter way. St. Ignatius begs, in this letter, that the Romans will not
try to save him from death. "I am the wheat of God," he says, "let me be
ground by the teeth of beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of
Christ. Rather do ye encourage the beasts, that they may become my
tomb, and may leave nothing of my body, so that, when dead, I may not be
troublesome to any one." He even says that, if the lions should hang
back, he will himself provoke them to attack him. It would not be right
for ordinary people to speak in this way, and the Church has always
disapproved of those who threw themselves in the way of persecution. But
a holy man who had served God for so many years as Ignatius, might well
speak in a way which would not become ordinary Christians. When he was
called to die for his people and for the truth of Christ, he might even
take it as a token of God's favour, and might long for his deliverance
from the troubles and the trials of this world, as St. Paul said of
himself, that he "had a desire to depart, and to be with Christ"
(_Phil._ i. 23).

He reached Rome just in time for some games which were to take place a
little before Christmas; for the Romans were cruel enough to amuse
themselves with setting wild beasts to tear and devour men, in vast
places called _amphitheatres_, at their public games. When the
Christians of Rome heard that Ignatius was near the city, great numbers
of them went out to meet him, and they said that they would try to
persuade the people in the amphitheatre to beg that he might not be put
to death. But he entreated, as he had before done in his letter, that
they would do nothing to hinder him from glorifying God by his death;
and he knelt down with them, and prayed that they might continue in
faith and love, and that the persecution might soon come to an end. As
it was the last day of the games, and they were nearly over, he was then
hurried into the amphitheatre (called the _Coliseum_), which was so
large that tens of thousands of people might look on. And in this place
(of which the ruins are still to be seen), St. Ignatius was torn to
death by wild beasts, so that only a few of his larger bones were left,
which the Christians took up and conveyed to his own city of Antioch.



A.D. 166.

Although Trajan was no friend to the Gospel, and put St. Ignatius to
death, he made a law which must have been a great relief to the
Christians. Until then, they were liable to be sought out, and any one
might inform against them; but Trajan ordered that they should not be
sought out, although, if they were discovered, and refused to give up
their faith, they were to be punished. The next emperor, too, whose name
was Hadrian (A.D. 117 to 138), did something to make their condition
better; but it was still one of great hardship and danger.
Notwithstanding the new laws, any governor of a country, who disliked
the Christians, had the power to persecute and vex them cruelly. And the
common people among the heathens still believed the horrid stories of
their killing children and eating human flesh. If there was a famine or
a plague,--if the river Tiber, which runs through Rome, rose above its
usual height and did mischief to the neighbouring buildings,--or if the
emperor's armies were defeated in war, the blame of all was laid on the
Christians. It was said that all these things were judgments from the
gods, who were angry because the Christians were allowed to live. And
then at the public games, such as those at which St. Ignatius was put to
death, the people used to cry out, "Throw the Christians to the lions!
away with the godless wretches!" For, as the Christians were obliged to
hold their worship secretly, and had no images like those of the heathen
gods, and did not offer any sacrifices of beasts, as the heathens did,
it was thought that they had no God at all; since the heathens could not
raise their minds to the thought of that God who is a spirit, and who is
not to be worshipped under any bodily shape. It was, therefore, a great
relief when the Emperor Antoninus Pius (A.D. 138 to 161), who was a
mild and gentle old man, ordered that governors and magistrates should
not give way to such outcries, and that the Christians should no longer
be punished for their religion only, unless they were found to have done
wrong in some other way.

There were now many learned men in the Church, and some of these began
to write books in defence of their faith. One of them, Athenagoras, had
undertaken, while he was a heathen, to show that the Gospel was all a
deceit; but when he looked further into the matter, he found that it was
very different from what he had fancied; and then he was converted, and,
instead of writing against the Gospel, he wrote in favour of it.

Another of these learned men was Justin, who was born at Samaria, and
was trained in all the wisdom of the Greeks. For the Greeks, as they
were left without such light as God had given to the Jews, set
themselves to seek out wisdom in all sorts of ways. And, as they had no
certain truth from heaven to guide them, they were divided into a number
of different parties, such as the Epicureans, and the Stoics, who
disputed with St. Paul at Athens (_Acts_ xvii. 18). These all called
themselves _philosophers_ (which means, _lovers of wisdom_); and each
kind of them thought to be wiser than all the rest. Justin, then, having
a strong desire to know the truth, tried one kind of philosophy after
another, but could not find rest for his spirit in any of them.

One day, as he was walking thoughtfully on the sea-shore, he observed an
old man of grave and mild appearance, who was following him closely, and
at length entered into talk with him. The old man told Justin that it
was of no use to search after wisdom in the books of the philosophers;
and went on to speak of God the maker of all things, of the prophecies
which He had given to men in the time of the Old Testament, and how they
had been fulfilled in the life and death of the blessed Jesus. Thus
Justin was brought to the knowledge of the Gospel; and the more he
learnt of it, the more was he convinced of its truth, as he came to know
how pure and holy its doctrines and its rules were, and as he saw the
love which Christians bore towards each other, and the patience and
firmness with which they endured sufferings and death for their Master's
sake. And now, although he still called himself a philosopher, and wore
the long cloak which was the common dress of philosophers, the wisdom
which he taught was not heathen but Christian wisdom. He lived mostly at
Rome, where scholars flocked to him in great numbers. And he wrote books
in defence of the Gospel against heathens, Jews, and heretics, or false

The old Emperor Antoninus Pius, under whom the Christians had been
allowed to live in peace and safety, died in the year 161, and was
succeeded by Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, whom he had adopted as his son.
Marcus Aurelius was not only one of the best emperors, but in many ways
was one of the best of all the heathens. He had a great character for
gentleness, kindness, and justice, and he was fond of books, and liked
to have philosophers and learned men about him. But, unhappily, these
people gave him a very bad notion of Christianity; and, as he knew no
more of it than what they told him, he took a strong dislike to it. And
thus, although he was just and kind to his other subjects, the
Christians suffered more under his reign than they had ever done before.
All the misfortunes that took place, such as rebellions, defeats in war,
plague, and scarcity, were laid to the blame of the Christians; and the
emperor himself seems to have thought that they were in fault, as he
made some new laws against them.

Now the success which Justin had as a teacher at Rome had long raised
the envy and malice of the heathen philosophers; and, when these new
laws against the Christians came out, one Crescens, a philosopher of the
kind called _Cynics_, or _doggish_ (on account of their snarling,
currish ways), contrived that Justin should be carried before a judge,
on the charge of being a Christian. The judge questioned him as to his
belief, and as to the meetings of the Christians; to which Justin
answered that he believed in one God, and in the Saviour Christ, the Son
of God, but he refused to say anything which could betray his brethren
to the persecutors. The judge then threatened him with scourging and
death: but Justin replied that the sufferings of this world were nothing
to the glory which Christ had promised to His people in the world to
come. Then he and the others who had been brought up for trial with him
were asked whether they would offer sacrifice to the gods of the
heathen, and as they refused to do this, and to forsake their faith,
they were all beheaded (A.D. 166). And on account of the death which he
thus suffered for the Gospel, Justin has ever since been especially
styled "The Martyr."



A.D. 166.

About the same time with Justin the Martyr, St. Polycarp, bishop of
Smyrna, was put to death. He was a very old man; for it was almost
ninety years since he had been converted from heathenism. He had known
St. John, and is supposed to have been made bishop of Smyrna by that
Apostle himself; and he had been a friend of St. Ignatius, who, as we
have seen, suffered martyrdom fifty years before. From all these things,
and from his wise and holy character, he was looked up to as a father by
all the Churches, and his mild advice had sometimes put an end to
differences of opinion which but for him might have turned into lasting

When the persecution reached Smyrna, in the reign of Marcus Aurelius, a
number of Christians suffered with great constancy, and the heathen
multitude, being provoked at their refusal to give up their faith,
cried out for the death of Polycarp. The aged bishop, although he was
ready to die for his Saviour, remembered that it was not right to throw
himself in the way of danger; so he left the city, and went first to one
village in the neighbourhood, and then to another. But he was discovered
in his hiding-place, and when he saw the soldiers who were come to seize
him, he calmly said, "God's will be done!" He desired that some food
should be given to them, and, while they were eating, he spent the time
in prayer. He was then set on an ass, and led towards Smyrna; and, when
he was near the town, one of the heathen magistrates came by in his
chariot, and took him up into it. The magistrate tried to persuade
Polycarp to sacrifice to the gods; but finding that he could make
nothing of him, he pushed him out of the chariot so roughly that the old
man fell and broke his leg. But Polycarp bore the pain without showing
how much he was hurt, and the soldiers led him into the amphitheatre,
where great numbers of people were gathered together. When all these saw
him, they set up loud cries of rage and savage delight; but Polycarp
thought, as he entered the place, that he heard a voice saying to him,
"Be strong and play the man!" and he did not heed all the shouting of
the crowd. The governor desired him to deny Christ, and said that, if he
would, his life should be spared. But the faithful bishop answered,
"Fourscore and six years have I served Christ, and He hath never done me
wrong; how then can I now blaspheme my King and Saviour?" The governor
again and again urged him, as if in a friendly way, to sacrifice; but
Polycarp stedfastly refused. He next threatened to let wild beasts loose
on him; and as Polycarp still showed no fear, he said that he would burn
him alive. "You threaten me," said the bishop, "with a fire which lasts
but a short time; but you know not of that eternal fire which is
prepared for the wicked." A stake was then set up, and a pile of wood
was collected around it. Polycarp walked to the place with a calm and
cheerful look, and, as the executioners were going to fasten him to the
stake with iron cramps, he begged them to spare themselves the trouble:
"He who gives me the strength to bear the flames," he said, "will enable
me to remain steady." He was therefore only tied to the stake with
cords, and as he stood thus bound, he uttered a thanksgiving for being
allowed to suffer after the pattern of his Lord and Saviour. When his
prayer was ended, the wood was set on fire, but we are told that the
flames swept round him, looking like the sail of a ship swollen by the
wind, while he remained unhurt in the midst of them. One of the
executioners, seeing this, plunged a sword into the martyr's breast, and
the blood rushed forth in such a stream that it put out the fire. But
the persecutors, who were resolved that the Christians should not have
their bishop's body, lighted the wood again, and burnt the corpse, so
that only a few of the bones remained; and these the Christians gathered
out, and gave them an honourable burial. It was on Easter eve that St.
Polycarp suffered, in the year of our Lord 166.



A.D. 177.

Many other martyrs suffered in various parts of the empire under the
reign of Marcus Aurelius. Among the most famous of these are the martyrs
of Lyons and Vienne, in the south of France (or _Gaul_, as it was then
called), where a company of missionaries from Asia Minor had settled
with a bishop named Pothinus at their head. The persecution at Lyons and
Vienne was begun by the mob of those towns, who insulted the Christians
in the streets, broke into their houses, and committed other such
outrages against them. Then a great number of Christians were seized,
and imprisoned in horrid dungeons, where many died from want of food, or
from the bad and unwholesome air. The bishop, Pothinus, who was ninety
years of age, and had long been very ill, was carried before the
governor, and was asked, "Who is the God of Christians?" Pothinus saw
that the governor did not put this question from any good feeling; so he
answered, "If thou be worthy, thou shalt know." The bishop, old and
feeble as he was, was then dragged about by soldiers, and such of the
mob as could reach him gave him blows and kicks, while others, who were
further off, threw anything which came to hand at him; and, after this
cruel usage, he was put into prison, where he died within two days.

The other prisoners were tortured for six days together in a variety of
horrible ways. Their limbs were stretched on the rack; they were cruelly
scourged; some had hot plates of iron applied to them, and some were
made to sit in a red-hot iron chair. The firmness with which they bore
these dreadful trials gave courage to some of their brethren, who at
first had agreed to sacrifice, so that these now again declared
themselves Christians, and joined the others in suffering. As all the
tortures were of no effect, the prisoners were at length put to death.
Some were thrown to wild beasts; but those who were citizens of Rome
were beheaded; for it was not lawful to give a Roman citizen up to wild
beasts, just as we know from St. Paul's case at Philippi that it was not
lawful to scourge a citizen (_Acts_ xvi. 37).

Among the martyrs was a boy from Asia, only fifteen years old, who was
taken every day to see the tortures of the rest, in the hope that he
might be frightened into denying his Saviour; but he was not shaken by
the terrible sights, and for his constancy he was cruelly put to death
on the last day. The greatest cruelties of all, however, were borne by a
young woman named Blandina. She was slave to a Christian lady; and,
although the Christians regarded their slaves with a kindness very
unlike the usual feeling of heathen masters towards them, this lady
seems yet to have thought that a slave was not likely to endure
tortures so courageously as a free person; and she was the more afraid
because Blandina was not strong in body. But the poor slave's faith was
not to be overcome. Day after day she bravely bore every cruelty that
the persecutors could think of; and all that they could wring out from
her was, "I am a Christian, and nothing wrong is done among us!"

The heathen were not content with putting the martyrs to death with
tortures, or allowing them to die in prison. They cast their dead bodies
to the dogs, and caused them to be watched day and night, lest the other
Christians should give them burial; and after this, they burnt the
bones, and threw the ashes of them into the river Rhone, by way of
mocking at the notion of a resurrection. For, as St. Paul had found at
Athens (_Acts_ xvii. 32), and elsewhere, there was no part of the Gospel
which the heathen in general thought so hard to believe as the doctrine
that that which is "sown in corruption" shall hereafter be "raised in
incorruption;" that that which "is sown a natural body" will one day be
"raised a spiritual body" (1 _Cor._ xv. 42-44).



A.D. 181-206.

The Emperor Marcus Aurelius died in 181, and the Church was little
troubled by persecution for the following twenty years.

About this time a false teacher named Montanus made much noise in the
world. He was born in Phrygia, and seems to have been crazed in his
mind. He used to fall into fits, and while in them, he uttered ravings
which were taken for prophecies, or messages from heaven: and some
women who followed him also pretended to be prophetesses. These people
taught a very strict way of living, and thus many persons who wished to
lead holy lives were deceived into running after them. One of these was
Tertullian, of Carthage, in Africa, a very clever and learned man, who
had been converted from heathenism, and had written some books in
defence of the Gospel. But he was of a proud and impatient temper, and
did not rightly consider how our Lord Himself had said that there would
always be a mixture of evil with the good in His Church on earth (_St.
Matt._ xiii. 38, 48). And hence, when Montanus pretended to set up a new
church, in which there should be none but good and holy people,
Tertullian fell into the snare, and left the true Church to join the
Montanists (as the followers of Montanus were called). From that time he
wrote very bitterly against the Church; but he still continued to defend
the Gospel in his books against Jews and heathens, and all kinds of
false teachers, except Montanus. And when he was dead, his good deeds
were remembered more than his fall, so that, with all his faults, his
name has always been held in respect.

After more than twenty years of peace, there were cruel persecutions in
some places, under the reign of Severus. The most famous of the martyrs
who then suffered were Perpetua and her companions, who belonged to the
same country with Tertullian, and perhaps to his own city, Carthage.
Perpetua was a young married lady, and had a little baby only a few
weeks old. Her father was a heathen, but she herself had been converted,
and was a _catechumen_--which was the name given to converts who had not
yet been baptized, but where in a course of _catechising_, or training
for baptism. When Perpetua had been put into prison, her father went to
see her, in the hope that he might persuade her to give up her faith.
"Father," she said, "you see this vessel standing here; can you call it
by any other than its right name?" He answered, "No." "Neither," said
Perpetua, "can I call myself anything else than what I am--a Christian."
On hearing this, her father flew at her in such anger that it seemed as
if he would tear out her eyes; but she stood so quietly that he could
not bring himself to hurt her; and he went away and did not come again
for some time.

In the meanwhile Perpetua and some of her companions were baptized; and
at her baptism she prayed for grace to bear whatever sufferings might be
in store for her. The prison in which she and the others were shut up
was a horrible dungeon, where Perpetua suffered much from the darkness,
the crowded state of the place, the heat and closeness of the air, and
the rude behaviour of the guards. But most of all she was distressed
about her poor little child, who was separated from her, and was pining
away. Some kind Christians, however, gave money to the keepers of the
prison, and got leave for Perpetua and her friends to spend some hours
of the day in a lighter part of the building, where her child was
brought to see her. And after a while she took him to be always with
her, and then she felt as cheerful as if she had been in a palace.

The martyrs were comforted by dreams, which served to give them courage
and strength to bear their sufferings, by showing them visions of
blessedness which was to follow. When the day was fixed for their trial,
Perpetua's father went again to see her. He begged her to take pity on
his old age, to remember all his kindness to her, and how he had loved
her best of all his children. He implored her to think of her mother and
her brothers, and of the disgrace which would fall on all the family if
she were to be put to death as an evil-doer. The poor old man shed a
flood of tears; he humbled himself before her, kissing her hands,
throwing himself at her feet, and calling her _Lady_ instead of
_Daughter_. But, although Perpetua was grieved to the heart, she could
only say, "God's pleasure will be done on us. We are not in our own
power, but in His!"

One day, as the prisoners were at dinner, they were suddenly hurried off
to their trial. The market-place, where the judge was sitting, was
crowded with people, and when Perpetua was brought forward, her father
crept as close to her as he could, holding out her child, and said,
"Take pity on your infant." The judge himself entreated her to pity the
little one and the old man, and to sacrifice; but, painful as the trial
was, she steadily declared that she was a Christian, and that she could
not worship false gods. At these words, her father burst out into such
loud cries that the judge ordered him to be put down from the place
where he was standing, and to be beaten with rods. Perhaps the judge did
not mean so much to punish the old man for being noisy as to try whether
the sight of his suffering might not move his daughter; but, although
Perpetua felt every blow as if it had been laid upon herself, she knew
that she must not give way. She was condemned, with her companions, to
be exposed to wild beasts; and, after she had been taken back to prison,
her father visited her once more. He seemed as if beside himself with
grief; he tore his white beard, he cursed his old age, and spoke in a
way that might have moved a heart of stone. But still Perpetua could
only be sorry for him; she could not give up her Saviour.

The prisoners were kept for some time after their condemnation, that
they might be put to death at some great games which were to be held on
the birthday of one of the emperor's sons; and during this confinement
their behaviour had a great effect on many who saw it. The gaoler
himself was converted by it, and so were others who had gone to gaze at
them. At length the appointed day came, and the martyrs were led into
the amphitheatre. The men were torn by leopards and bears; Perpetua and
a young woman named Felicitas, who had been a slave, were put into nets
and thrown before a furious cow, who tossed them and gored them cruelly:
and when this was over, Perpetua seemed as if she had not felt it, but
were awaking from a trance, and she asked when the cow was to come. She
then helped Felicitas to rise from the ground, and spoke words of
comfort and encouragement to others. When the people in the amphitheatre
had seen as much as they wished of the wild beasts, they called out
that the prisoners should be killed. Perpetua and the rest then took
leave of each other, and walked with cheerful looks and firm steps into
the middle of the amphitheatre, where men with swords fell on them and
dispatched them. The executioner who was to kill Perpetua was a youth,
and was so nervous that he stabbed her in a place where the hurt was not
deadly; but she herself took hold of his sword, and showed him where to
give her the death-wound.



A.D. 185-254.

The same persecution in which Perpetua and her companions suffered at
Carthage raged also at Alexandria in Egypt, where a learned man named
Leonides was one of the martyrs (A.D. 202). Leonides had a son named
Origen, whom he had brought up very carefully, and had taught to get
some part of the Bible by heart every day. And Origen was very eager to
learn, and was so good and so clever that his father was afraid to show
how fond and how proud he was of him, lest the boy should become forward
and conceited. So when Origen asked questions of a kind which few boys
would have thought of asking, his father used to check him; but when he
was asleep Leonides would steal to his bedside and kiss him, thanking
God for having given him such a child, and praying that Origen might
always be kept in the right way.

When the persecution began, Origen, who was then about seventeen years
old, wished that he might be allowed to die for his faith; but his
mother hid his clothes, and so obliged him to stay at home; and all that
he could do was to write to his father in prison, and to beg that he
would not fear lest the widow and orphans should be left destitute, but
would be steadfast in his faith, and would trust in God to provide for
their relief.

The persecutors were not content with killing Leonides, but seized on
all his property, so that the widow was left in great distress, with
seven children, of whom Origen was the eldest. A Christian lady kindly
took Origen into her house; and after a time, young as he was, he was
made master of the _Catechetical School_, a sort of college, where the
young Christians of Alexandria were instructed in religion and learning.
The persecution had slackened for a while, but it began again, and some
of Origen's pupils were martyred. He went with them to their trial, and
stood by them in their sufferings; but although he was ill-used by the
mob of Alexandria, he was himself allowed to go free.

Origen had read in the Gospel, "Freely ye have received, freely give"
(_St. Matt._ x. 8), and he thought that therefore he ought to teach for
nothing. In order, therefore, that he might be able to do this, he sold
a quantity of books which he had written out, and lived for a long time
on the price of them, allowing himself only about fivepence a day. His
food was of the poorest kind; he had but one coat, through which he felt
the cold of winter severely; he sat up the greater part of the night,
and then lay down on the bare floor. When he grew older, he came to
understand that he had been mistaken in some of his notions as to these
things, and to regret that, by treating himself so hardly, he had hurt
his health beyond repair. But still, mistaken as he was, we must honour
him for going through so bravely with what he took to be his duty.

He soon grew so famous as a teacher, that even Jews, heathens, and
heretics went to hear him; and many of them were so led on by him that
they were converted to the Gospel. He travelled a great deal: some of
his journeys were taken because he had been invited into foreign
countries that he might teach the Gospel to people who were desirous of
instruction in it, or that he might settle disputes about religion. And
he was invited to go on a visit to the mother of the Emperor Alexander
Severus, who was himself friendly to Christianity, although not a
Christian. Origen, too, wrote a great number of books in explanation of
the Bible, and on other religious subjects; and he worked for no less
than eight-and-twenty years at a great book, called the _Hexapla_, which
was meant to show how the Old Testament ought to be read in Hebrew and
in Greek.

But, although he was a very good, as well as a very learned man, Origen
fell into some strange opinions, from wishing to clear away some of
those difficulties which, as St. Paul says, made the Gospel seem
"foolishness" to the heathen philosophers (1 _Cor._ i. 23). Besides
this, Demetrius, the bishop of Alexandria, although he had been his
friend, had some reasons for not wishing to ordain him to be one of the
clergy; and when Origen had been ordained a presbyter (or priest) in the
Holy Land, where he was on a visit, Demetrius was very angry. He said
that no man ought to be ordained in any church but that of his own home;
and he brought up stories about some rash things which Origen had done
in his youth, and questions about the strange doctrines which he held.
Origen, finding that he could not hope for peace at Alexandria, went
back to his friend the bishop of Cæsarea, by whom he had been ordained,
and he spent many years at Cæsarea, where he was more sought after as a
teacher than ever. At one time he was driven into Cappadocia, by the
persecution of a savage emperor named Maximin, who had murdered the
gentle Alexander Severus; but he returned to Cæsarea, and lived there
until another persecution began under the Emperor Decius.

This was by far the worst persecution that had yet been known. It was
the first which was carried on throughout the whole empire, and no
regard was now paid to the old laws which Trajan and other emperors had
made for the protection of the Christians. They were sought out, and
were made to appear in the market-place of every town, where they were
required by the magistrates to sacrifice, and, if they refused, were
sentenced to severe punishment. The emperor wished most to get at the
bishops and clergy; for he thought that, if the teachers were put out
of the way, the people would soon give up the Gospel. Although many
martyrs were put to death at this time, the persecutors did not so much
wish to kill the Christians, as to make them disown their religion; and,
in the hope of this, many of them were starved, and tortured, and sent
into banishment in strange countries, among wild people who had never
before heard of Christ. But here the emperor's plans were notably
disappointed; for the banished bishops and clergy had thus an
opportunity of making the Gospel known to those poor wild tribes, whom
it might not have reached for a long time if the Church had been left in

We shall hear more about the persecution in the next chapter. Here I
shall only say that Origen was imprisoned and cruelly tortured. He was
by this time nearly seventy years old, and was weak in body from the
labours which he had gone through in study, and from having hurt his
health by hard and scanty living in his youth; so that he was ill able
to bear the pains of the torture, and, although he did not die under it,
he died of its effects soon after (A.D. 254).

Decius himself was killed in battle (A.D. 251), and his persecution came
to an end. And when it was over, the faithful understood that it had
been of great use, not only by helping to spread the Gospel, in the way
which has been mentioned, but in purifying the Church, and in rousing
Christians from the carelessness into which too many of them had fallen
during the long time of ease and quiet which they had before enjoyed.
For the trials which God sends on His people in this world are like the
chastisements of a loving Father; and, if we accept them rightly, they
will all be found to turn out to our good.



PART I. A.D. 200-253.

About the same time with Origen lived St Cyprian, bishop of Carthage. He
was born about the year 200, and had been long famous as a professor of
heathen learning, when he was converted at the age of forty-five. He
then gave up his calling as a teacher, and, like the first Christians at
Jerusalem (_Acts_ iv. 34-5), he sold a fine house and gardens, which he
had near the town, and gave the price, with a large part of his other
money, to the poor. He became one of the clergy of Carthage, and when
the bishop died, about three years after, Cyprian was so much loved and
respected that he was chosen in his place (A.D. 248).

Cyprian tried with all his power to do the duties of a good bishop, and
to get rid of many wrong things which had grown upon his Church during
the long peace which it had enjoyed. But about two years after he was
made bishop, the persecution under Decius broke out, when, as was said
in the last chapter, the persecutors tried especially to strike at the
bishops and clergy, and to force them to deny their faith. Now Cyprian
would have been ready and glad to die, if it would have served the good
of his people; but he remembered how our Lord had said, "When they
persecute you in this city, flee ye into another" (_St. Matt._ x. 23),
and how He Himself withdrew from the rage of His enemies, because His
"hour was not yet come" (_St. John_ viii. 20, 59; xi. 54). And it seemed
to the good bishop, that for the present it would be best to go out of
the way of his persecutors. But he kept a constant watch over all that
was done in his church, and he often wrote to his clergy and people from
the place where he was hidden.

But in the meanwhile, things went on badly at Carthage. Many had called
themselves Christians in the late quiet times who would not have done so
if there had been any danger about it. And now, when the danger came,
numbers of them ran into the market-place at Carthage, and seemed quite
eager to offer sacrifice to the gods of the heathen. Others, who did not
sacrifice, bribed some officers of the Government to give them tickets,
certifying that they _had_ sacrificed; and yet they contrived to
persuade themselves that they had done nothing wrong by their cowardice
and deceit! There were, too, some mischievous men among the clergy, who
had not wished Cyprian to be bishop, and had borne him a grudge ever
since he was chosen. And now these clergymen set on the people who had
_lapsed_ (or _fallen_) in the persecution, to demand that they should be
taken back into the Church, and to say that some martyrs had given them
letters which entitled them to be admitted at once.

In those days it was usual, when any Christian was known to have been
guilty of a heavy sin, that (as is said in our Commination service), he
should be "put to open _penance_" by the Church; that is, that he should
be required to show his repentance publicly. Persons who were in this
state were not allowed to receive the holy sacrament of the Lord's
Supper, as all other Christians then did very often. The worst sinners
were obliged to stand outside the church-door, where they begged those
who were going in to pray that their sins might be forgiven; and those
of the penitents who were let into the church had places in it separate
from other Christians. Sometimes penance lasted for years; and always
until the penitents had done enough to prove that they were truly
grieved for their sins, so that the clergy might hope that they were
received to God's mercy for their Redeemer's sake. But as it was counted
a great and glorious thing to die for the truth of Christ, and martyrs
were highly honoured in the Church, penitents had been in the habit of
going to them while they were in prison awaiting death, and of
entreating the martyrs to plead with the Church for the shortening of
the appointed penance. And it had been usual, out of regard for the
holy martyrs, to forgive those to whom they had given letters desiring
that the penitents might be gently treated. But now these people at
Carthage, instead of showing themselves humble, as true penitents would
have been, came forward in an insolent manner, as if they had a right to
claim that they might be restored to the Church; and the martyrs'
letters (or rather what they _called_ martyrs' letters) were used in a
way very different from anything that had ever been allowed. Cyprian had
a great deal of trouble with them; but he dealt wisely in the matter,
and at length had the comfort of settling it. But, as people are always
ready to find fault in one way or another, some blamed him for being too
strict with the _lapsed_, and others for being too easy; and each of
these parties went so far as to set up a bishop of its own against him.
After a time, however, he got the better of these enemies, although the
straiter sect (who were called _Novatianists_, after Novatian, a
presbyter of Rome) lasted for three hundred years or more.

PART II. A.D. 253-257.

Shortly after the end of the persecution, a terrible plague passed
through the empire, and carried off vast numbers of people. Many of the
heathen thought that the plague was sent by their gods to punish them
for allowing the Christians to live; and the mobs of towns broke out
against the Christians, killing some of them, and hurting them in other

But instead of returning evil for evil, the Christians showed what a
spirit of love they had learnt from their Lord and Master; and there was
no place where this was more remarkably shown than at Carthage. The
heathen there were so terrified by the plague that they seemed to have
lost all natural feeling, and almost to be out of their senses. When
their friends fell sick, they left them to die without any care; when
they were dead, they cast out their bodies into the street; and the
corpses which lay about unburied were not only shocking to look at, but
made the air unwholesome, so that there was much more danger of the
plague than before. But while the heathen were behaving in this way, and
each of them thought only of himself, Cyprian called the Christians of
Carthage together, and told them that _they_ were bound to do very
differently. "It would be no wonder," he said, "if we were to attend to
our own friends; but Christ our Lord charges us to do good to heathens
and publicans also, and to love our enemies. HE prayed for them that
persecuted Him, and if we are His disciples, we ought to do so too." And
then the good bishop went on to tell his people what part each of them
should take in the charitable work. Those who had money were to give it,
and were to do such acts of kindness as they could besides. The poor,
who had no silver or gold to spare, were to give their labour in a
spirit of love. So all classes set to their tasks gladly, and they
nursed the sick and buried the dead, without asking whether they were
Christian or heathens.

When the heathens saw these acts of love, many of them were brought to
wonder what it could be that made the Christians do them; and how they
came to be so kind to poor and old people, to widows, and orphans, and
slaves; and how it was that they were always ready to raise money for
buying the freedom of captives, or for helping their brethren who were
in any kind of trouble. And from wondering and asking what it was that
led Christians to do such things, which they themselves would never have
thought of doing, many of the heathen were brought to see that the
Gospel was the true religion, and they forsook their idols to follow

After this, Cyprian had a disagreement with Stephen, bishop of Rome.
Rome was the greatest city in the whole world, and the capital of the
empire. There were many Christians there even in the time of the
Apostles, and, as years went on, the church of Rome grew more and more,
so that it was the greatest, and richest, and most important church of
all. Now the bishops who were at the head of this great church were
naturally reckoned the foremost of all bishops, and had more power than
any other; so that if a proud man got the bishopric of Rome, it was too
likely that he might try to set himself up above his brethren, and to
lay down the law to them. Stephen was, unhappily, a man of this kind,
and he gave way to the temptation, and tried to lord it over other
bishops and their churches. But Cyprian held out against him, and made
him understand that the bishop of Rome had no right to give laws to
other bishops, or to meddle with the churches of other countries. He
showed that, although St. Peter (from whom Stephen pretended that the
bishops of Rome had received power over others) was the first of the
Apostles, he was not of a higher class or order than the rest; and,
therefore, that, although the Roman bishops stood first, the other
bishops were their equals, and had received an equal share in the
Christian ministry. So Stephen was not able to get the power which he
wished for over other churches, and, after his death, Carthage and Rome
were at peace again.

PART III. A.D. 257-258.

About six years after the death of the Emperor Decius, a fresh
persecution arose under another emperor, named Valerian (A.D. 257). He
began by ordering that the Christians should not be allowed to meet for
worship, and that the bishops and clergy should be separated from their
flocks. Cyprian was carried before the governor of Africa; and, on being
questioned by him, he said, "I am a Christian and a bishop. I know no
other gods but the one true God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and
all that is in them. It is this God that we Christians serve; to Him we
pray day and night, for ourselves and all mankind, and for the welfare
of the emperors themselves." The governor asked him about his clergy.
"Our laws," said Cyprian, "forbid them to throw themselves in your way,
and I may not inform against them; but if they be sought after, they
will be found, each at his post." The governor said that no Christians
must meet for worship, under pain of death; and he sentenced Cyprian to
be banished to a place called Curubis, about forty miles from Carthage.
It was a pleasant abode, and Cyprian lived there a year, during which
time he was often visited by his friends, and wrote many letters of
advice and comfort to his brethren. And, as many of these were worse
treated than himself, by being carried off into savage places, or set to
work underground in mines, he did all that he could to relieve their
distress, by sending them money and other presents.

At the end of the year, the bishop was carried back to Carthage, where a
new governor had just arrived. The emperor had found that his first law
against the Christians was of little use; so he now made a second law,
which was much more severe. It ordered that bishops and clergy should be
put to death; that such Christians as were persons of worldly rank
should lose all that they had, and be banished or killed; but it said
nothing about the poorer Christians who do not seem to have been in any
danger. Cyprian thought that his time was now come; and when his friends
entreated him to save himself by flight, he refused. He was carried off
to the governor's country house, about six miles from Carthage, where he
was treated with much respect, and was allowed to have some friends with
him at supper. Great numbers of his people, on hearing that he was
seized, went from Carthage to the place where he was, and watched all
night outside the house in fear lest their bishop should be put to
death, or carried off into banishment without their knowledge. Next
morning Cyprian was led to the place of judgment, which was a little way
from the governor's palace. He was heated with the walk, under a burning
sun; and, as he was waiting for the governor's arrival, a soldier of the
guard, who had once been a Christian, kindly offered him some change of
clothes. "Why," said the bishop, "should we trouble ourselves to remedy
evils which will probably come to an end to-day?"

The governor took his seat, and required Cyprian to sacrifice to the
gods. He refused; and the governor then desired him to consider his
safety. "In so righteous a cause," answered the bishop, "there is no
need of consideration;" and, on hearing the sentence, which condemned
him to be beheaded, he exclaimed, "Praise be to God!" A cry arose from
the Christians, "Let us go and be beheaded with him!" He was then led by
soldiers to the place of execution. Many of his people climbed up into
the trees which surrounded it, that they might see the last of their
good bishop. After having prayed, he took off his upper clothing; he
gave some money to the executioner, and as it was necessary that he
should be blindfolded before suffering, he tied the bandage over his own
eyes. Two of his friends then bound his hands, and the Christians placed
cloths and handkerchiefs around him, that they might catch some of his
blood. And thus St. Cyprian was martyred, in the year 258.

Valerian's attempts against the Gospel were all in vain. The Church had
been purified and strengthened by the persecution under Decius, so that
there were now very few who fell away for fear of death. The faith was
spread by the banished bishops, in the same way as it had been in the
last persecution[1]; and, as has ever been found, "the blood of the
martyrs was the seed of the Church."

[1] See page 25.



A.D. 261-313.

Valerian, who had treated the Christians so cruelly, came to a miserable
end. He led his army into Persia, where he was defeated and taken
prisoner. He was kept for some time in captivity; and we are told that
he used to be led forth, loaded with chains, but with the purple robes
of an emperor thrown over him, that the Persians might mock at his
misfortunes. And when he had died from the effects of shame and grief,
it is said that his skin was stuffed with straw, and was kept in a
temple, as a remembrance of the triumph which the Persians had gained
over the Romans, whose pride had never been so humbled before.

When Valerian was taken prisoner, his son Gallienus became emperor (A.D.
261). Gallienus sent forth a law by which the Christians, for the first
time, got the liberty of serving God without the risk of being
persecuted. We might think him a good emperor for making such a law; but
he really does not deserve much credit for it, since he seems to have
made it merely because he did not care much either for his own religion,
or for any other.

And now there is hardly anything to be said of the next forty years,
except that the Christians enjoyed peace and prosperity. Instead of
being obliged to hold their services in the upper rooms of houses, or in
burial-places under ground, and in the dead of night, they built
splendid churches, which they furnished with gold and silver plate, and
with other costly ornaments. Christians were appointed to high offices,
such as the government of countries; and many of them held places in the
emperor's palace. And, now that there was no danger or loss to be risked
by being Christians, multitudes of people joined the Church who would
have kept at a distance from it if there had been anything to fear. But,
unhappily, the Christians did not make a good use of all their
prosperity. Many of them grew worldly and careless, and had little of
the Christian about them except the name; and they quarrelled and
disputed among themselves, as if they were no better than mere heathens.
But it pleased God to punish them severely for their faults; for at
length there came such a persecution as had never before been known.

At this time there were no fewer than four emperors at once; for
Diocletian, who became emperor in the year 284, afterwards took in
Maximian, Galerius, and Constantius, to share his power, and to help
him in the labour of government. Galerius and Constantius, however, were
not quite so high, and had not such full authority, as the other two.
Galerius married Diocletian's daughter, and it was supposed that both
this lady and the empress, her mother, were Christians. The priests and
others, whose interest it was to keep up the old heathenism, began to be
afraid lest the empresses should make Christians of their husbands; and
they sought how this might be prevented.

Now the heathens had some ways by which they used to try to find out the
will of their gods. Sometimes they offered sacrifices of beasts, and,
when the beasts were killed, they cut them open, and judged from the
appearance of the inside, whether the gods were well pleased or angry.
And at certain places there were what they called _oracles_, where
people who wished to know the will of the gods went through some
ceremonies, and expected a voice to come from this or that god in answer
to them. Sure enough, the voice very often _did_ come, although it was
not really from any god, but was managed by the juggling of the priests.
And the answers which these voices gave were often contrived very
cunningly, that they might have more than one meaning, so that, however
things might turn out, the oracle was sure to come true. And now the
priests set to frighten Diocletian with tricks of this kinds. When he
sacrificed, the insides of the victims (as the beasts offered in
sacrifice were called) were said to look in such a way as to show that
the gods were angry. When he consulted the oracles, answers were given
declaring that, so long as Christians were allowed to live on the earth,
the gods would be displeased. And thus Diocletian, although at first he
had been inclined to let them alone, became terrified, and was ready to

The first order against the Christians was a proclamation requiring that
all soldiers, and all persons who held any office under the emperor,
should sacrifice to the heathen gods (A.D. 298). And five years after
this, Galerius, who was a cruel man, and very bitter against the
Christians (although his wife was supposed to be one), persuaded
Diocletian to begin a persecution in earnest.

Diocletian did not usually live at Rome, like the earlier emperors, but
at Nicomedia, a town in Asia Minor, on the shore of the Propontis (now
called the Sea of Marmora). And there the persecution began, by his
sending forth an order that all who would not serve the gods of Rome
should lose their offices; that their property should be seized, and, if
they were persons of rank, they should lose their rank. Christians were
no longer allowed to meet for worship; their churches were to be
destroyed, and their holy books were to be sought out and burnt (Feb.
24, 303). As soon as this proclamation was set forth, a Christian tore
it down, and broke into loud reproaches against the emperors. Such
violent acts and words were not becoming in a follower of Him, "who,
when he was reviled, reviled not again, and when he suffered, threatened
not" (1 _Peter_ ii. 23). But the man who had forgotten himself so far,
showed the strength of his principles in the patience with which he bore
the punishment of what he had done, for he was roasted alive at a slow
fire, and did not even utter a groan.

This was in February, 303; and before the end of that year, Diocletian
put forth three more proclamations against the Christians. One of them
ordered that the Christian teachers should be imprisoned; and very soon
the prisons were filled with bishops and clergy, while the evil-doers
who were usually confined in them were turned loose. The next
proclamation ordered that the prisoners should either sacrifice or be
tortured; and the fourth directed that not only the bishops and clergy,
but all Christians, should be required to sacrifice, on pain of torture.

These cruel laws were put in execution. Churches were pulled down,
beginning with the great church of Nicomedia, which was built on a
height, and overlooked the emperor's palace. All the Bibles and
service-books that could be found, and a great number of other Christian
writings, were thrown into the flames; and many Christians, who refused
to give up their holy books, were put to death. The plate of churches
was carried off, and was turned to profane uses, as the vessels of the
Jewish temple had formerly been by Belshazzar.

The sufferings of the Christians were frightful, but after what has been
already said of such things, I shall not shock you by telling you much
about them here. Some were thrown to wild beasts; some were burnt alive,
or roasted on gridirons; some had their skins pulled off, or their flesh
scraped from their bones; some were crucified; some were tied to
branches of trees, which had been bent so as to meet, and then they were
torn to pieces by the starting asunder of the branches. Thousands of
them perished by one horrible death or other, so that the heathens
themselves grew tired and disgusted with inflicting or seeing their
sufferings; and at length, instead of putting them to death, they sent
them to work in mines, or plucked out one of their eyes, or lamed one of
their hands or feet, or set bishops to look after horses or camels, or
to do other work unfit for persons of their venerable character. And it
is impossible to think what miseries even those who escaped must have
undergone; for the persecution lasted ten years, and they had not only
to witness the sufferings of their own dear relations, or friends, or
teachers, but knew that the like might, at any hour, come on themselves.

It was in the East that the persecution was hottest and lasted longest;
for in Europe it was not much felt after the first two years. The
Emperor Constantius, who ruled over Gaul (now called France), Spain and
Britain, was kind to the Christians; and after his death, his son
Constantine was still more favourable to them. There were several
changes among the other emperors, and the Christians felt them for
better or for worse, according to the character of each emperor; but it
is needless to speak much of them in a little book like this. Galerius
went on in his cruelty until, at the end of eight years, he found that
it had been of no use towards putting down the Gospel, and that he was
sinking under a fearful disease, something like that of which Herod,
who had killed St. James, died (_Acts_ xii. 23). He then thought with
grief and horror of what he had done, and (perhaps in the hope of
getting some relief from the God of Christians) he sent forth a
proclamation allowing them to rebuild their churches, and to hold their
worship, and begging them to remember him in their prayers. Soon after
this he died (A.D. 311).

The cruellest of all the persecutors was Maximin, who, from the year
305, had possession of Asia Minor, Syria, the Holy Land, and Egypt. When
Galerius made his law in favour of the Christians, Maximin for a while
pretended to give them the same kind of liberty in _his_ dominions. But
he soon changed again, and required that all his subjects should
sacrifice--even that little babies should take some grains of incense
into their hands, and should burn it in honour of the heathen gods; and
when a season of great plenty followed after this, Maximin boasted that
it was a sign of the favour with which the gods received his law. But it
very soon appeared how false his boast was, for famine and plague began
to rage throughout his dominions. The Christians, of course, had their
share in the distress; but instead of triumphing over their persecutors,
they showed the true spirit of the Gospel by treating them with
kindness, by relieving the poor, by tending the sick, and by burying the
dead, who had been abandoned by their own nearest relations.

Although there is no room to give any particular account of the martyrs
here, there is one of them who especially deserves to be remembered,
because he was the first who suffered in our own island. This good man,
Alban, while he was yet a heathen, fell in with a poor Christian priest,
who was trying to hide himself from the persecutors. Alban took him into
his own house, and sheltered him there; and he was so much struck with
observing how the priest prayed to God, and spent long hours of the
night in religious exercises, that he soon became a believer in Christ.
But the priest was hotly searched for, and information was given that he
was hidden in Alban's house. And when the soldiers came to look for him
there, Alban knew their errand, and put on the priest's dress, so that
the soldiers seized him and carried him before the judge. The judge
found that they had brought the wrong man, and, in his rage at the
disappointment, he told Alban that he must himself endure the punishment
which had been meant for the other. Alban heard this without any fear,
and on being questioned, he declared that he was a Christian, a
worshipper of the one true God, and that he would not sacrifice to idols
which could do no good. He was put to the torture, but bore it gladly
for his Saviour's sake, and then, as he was still firm in professing his
faith, the judge gave orders that he should be beheaded. And when he had
been led out to the place of execution, which was a little grassy knoll
that rose gently on one side of the town, the soldier, who was to have
put him to death, was so moved by the sight of Alban's behaviour, that
he threw away his sword, and desired to be put to death with him. They
were both beheaded, and the town of Verulam, where they suffered, has
since been called St. Alban's, from the name of the first British

This martyrdom took place early in the persecution; but, (as we have
seen,) Constantius afterwards protected the British Christians, and his
son Constantine, who succeeded to his share in the empire, treated them
with yet greater favour. In the year 312, Constantine marched against
Maxentius, who had usurped the government of Italy and Africa.
Constantine seems to have been brought up by his father to believe in
one God, although he did not at all know who this God was, nor how He
had revealed Himself in Holy Scripture. But as he was on his way to
fight Maxentius, he saw in the sky a wonderful appearance, which seemed
like the figure of a cross, with words around it--"By this conquer." He
then caused the cross to be put on the standards (or colours) of his
army; and when he had defeated Maxentius, he set up at Rome a statue of
himself, with a cross in its right hand, and with an inscription which
declared that he owed his victory to that saving sign. About the same
time that Constantine overcame Maxentius, Licinius put down Maximin in
the East. The two conquerors now had possession of the whole empire; and
they joined in publishing laws by which Christians were allowed to
worship God freely according to their conscience (A.D. 313).



A.D. 313-337.

It was a great thing for the Church that the emperor of Rome should give
it liberty; and Constantine, after sending forth the laws which put an
end to the persecution, went on to make other laws in favour of the
Christians. But he did not himself become a Christian all at once,
although he built many churches, and gave rich presents to others, and
although he was fond of keeping company with bishops, and of conversing
with them about religion. Licinius, the emperor of the East, who had
joined with Constantine in his first laws, afterwards quarrelled with
him, and persecuted the eastern Christians cruelly. But Constantine
defeated him in battle (A.D. 324), and the whole empire was once more
united under one head.

After his victory over Licinius, Constantine declared himself a
Christian, which he had not done before; and he used to attend the
services of the Church very regularly, and to stand all the time that
the bishops were preaching, however long their sermons might be. He used
even himself to write a kind of discourses something like sermons, and
to read them aloud in the palace to all his court; but he really knew
very little of Christian doctrine, although he was very fond of taking
part in disputes about it. And, although he professed to be a Christian,
he had not yet been made a member of Christ by baptism; for, in those
days, people had so high a notion of the grace of baptism, that many of
them put off their baptism until they supposed that they were on their
death-bed, for fear lest they should sin after being baptized, and so
should lose the benefit of the sacrament. This was of course wrong; for
it was a sad mistake to think that they might go on in sin so long as
they were not baptized. God, we know, might have cut them off at any
moment in the midst of all their sins; and even if they were spared,
there was a great danger that, when they came to beg for baptism at
last, they might not have that true spirit of repentance and faith
without which they could not be fit to receive the grace of the
sacrament. And therefore the teachers of the Church used to warn people
against putting off their baptism out of a love for sin; and when any
one had received _clinical_ baptism, as it was called (that is to say,
_baptism on a sick-bed_), if he afterwards got well again, he was
thought but little of in the Church.

But to come back to Constantine. He had many other faults besides his
unwillingness to take on himself the duties of a baptized Christian;
and, although we are bound to thank God for having turned his heart to
favour the Church, we must not be blind to the emperor's faults. Yet,
with all these faults, he really believed the Gospel, and meant to do
what he could for the truth.

It took a long time to put down heathenism; for it would not have been
safe or wise to force people to become Christians before they had come
to see the falsehood of their old religion. Constantine, therefore, only
made laws against some of its worst practices, and forbade any
sacrifices to be offered in the name of the empire; but he did not
hinder the heathens from sacrificing on their own account if they liked.

Soon after professing himself a Christian, the emperor began to build a
new capital in the East. There had been a town called Byzantium on the
spot before; but the new city was far grander, and he gave it the name
of _Constantinople_, which means the _City of Constantine_. It was
meant to be altogether Christian,--unlike Rome, which was full of
temples of heathen gods. And the emperors, from this time, usually lived
at Constantinople, or at some other place in the East.

There will be more to say about Constantine in the next chapter. In the
mean time, let us look at the progress of the Gospel.

It had, by this time, made its way into many countries beyond the bounds
of the empire. There were Christians in Scotland and in India; there had
long been great numbers of Christians in Persia and Arabia. Many of the
Goths, who then lived about the Danube, had been converted by captives
whom they carried off in their plundering expeditions, during the reigns
of Valerian and Gallienus (about A.D. 260); and other roving tribes had
been converted by the same means. About the end of the third century,
Gregory, who is called the _Enlightener_, had gone as a missionary
bishop into Armenia, where he persuaded the king, Tiridates, to receive
the Gospel, and to establish it as the religion of his country; so that
Armenia had the honour of being the first Christian kingdom. The
Georgians were converted in the reign of Constantine; and about the same
time, the Ethiopians or Abyssinians (who live to the south of Egypt)
were brought to the knowledge of the truth in a very remarkable way.

There was a rich Christian of Tyre, named Meropius, who was a
philosopher, and wished to make discoveries in the countries towards
India, which were then but little known. So he set out in a ship of his
own, sailed down the Red Sea, and made a voyage to the East. On his way
back, he and his crew landed at a place on the coast of Ethiopia, in
search of fresh water, when the people of the country fell on them, and
killed all but two youths named Ædesius and Frumentius, who were
relations of Meropius. These lads were taken to the king's court, where,
as they were better educated than the Ethiopians, they soon got into
great favour and power. The king died after a time, leaving a little boy
to succeed him; and the two strangers were asked to carry on the
government of the country until the prince should be old enough to take
it into his own hands. They did this faithfully, and stayed many years
in Ethiopia; and they used to look out for any Christian sailors or
merchants who visited the country, and to hold meetings with such
strangers and others for worship, although they were distressed that
they had no clergy to minister to them. At length the young prince grew
up to manhood, and was able to govern his kingdom for himself; and then
Ædesius and Frumentius set out for their own country, which they had
been longing to see for so many years. Ædesius got back to Tyre, where
he became a deacon of the Church. But Frumentius stopped at Alexandria,
and told his tale to the bishop, the great St. Athanasius (of whom we
shall hear more by-and-by); and he begged that a bishop might be sent
into Ethiopia to settle and govern the Church there. Athanasius,
considering how faithful and wise Frumentius had shown himself in all
his business, how greatly he was respected and loved by the Ethiopians,
and how much he had done to spread the gospel in the land of his
captivity, said that no one was so fit as he to be bishop; and he
consecrated Frumentius accordingly. To this day the chief bishop of the
Abyssinian Church, instead of being chosen from among the clergy of the
country, is always a person sent by the Egyptian bishop of Alexandria;
and thus the Abyssinians still keep up the remembrance of the way in
which their Church was founded, although the bishopric of Alexandria is
now sadly fallen from the height at which it stood in the days of
Athanasius and Frumentius.

Constantine used his influence with the king of Persia, whose name was
Sapor, to obtain good treatment for the Christians of that country; and
the Gospel continued to make progress there. But this naturally raised
the jealousy of the magi, who were the priests of the heathen religion
of Persia, and they looked out for some means of doing mischief to the
Christians. So a few years after the death of Constantine, when a war
broke out between Sapor and the next emperor, Constantius, these magi
got about the king, and told him that his Christian subjects would be
ready to betray him to the Romans, from whom they had got their
religion. Sapor then issued orders that all Christians should pay an
enormous tax, unless they would worship the gods of the Persians. Their
chief bishop, whose name was Symeon, on receiving this order, answered
that the tax was more than they could pay, and that they worshipped the
true God alone, who had made the sun, which the Persians ignorantly

Sapor then sent forth a second order, that the bishops, priests, and
deacons of the Christians should be put to death, that their churches
should be destroyed, and that the plate and ornaments of the churches
should be taken for profane uses; and he sent for Symeon, who was soon
brought before him. The bishop had been used to make obeisance to the
king, after the fashion of the country; but on coming into his presence
now, he refused to do so, lest it should be taken as a sign of that
reverence which he was resolved to give to God alone. Sapor then
required him to worship the sun, and told him that by doing so he might
deliver himself and his people. But the bishop answered, that if he had
refused to do reverence to the king, much more must he refuse such
honour to the sun, which was a thing without reason or life. On this,
the king ordered that he should be thrown into prison until next day.

As he was on his way to prison, Symeon passed an old and faithful
servant of the king, named Uthazanes, who had brought up Sapor from a
child, and stood high in his favour. Uthazanes, seeing the bishop led
away in chains, fell on his knee and saluted him in the Persian fashion.
But Symeon turned away his head, and would not look at him; for
Uthazanes had been a Christian, and had lately denied the faith. The old
man's conscience was smitten by this, and he burst out into
lamentation--"If my old and familiar friend disowns me thus, what may I
expect from my God whom I have denied!" His words were heard, and he
was carried before the king, who tried to move him both by threats and
by kindness. But Uthazanes stood firm against everything, and, as he
could not be shaken in his faith, he was sentenced to be beheaded. He
then begged the king, for the sake of the love which had long been
between them, to grant him the favour that it might be proclaimed why he
died--that he was not guilty of any treason, but was put to death only
for being a Christian. Sapor was very willing to allow this, because he
thought that it would frighten others into worshipping his gods. But it
turned out as Uthazanes had hoped; for when it was seen how he loved his
faith better than life itself, other Christians were encouraged to
suffer, and even some heathens were brought over to the Gospel. Bishop
Symeon was put to death after having seen a hundred of his clergy suffer
before his eyes; and the persecution was renewed from time to time
throughout the remainder of Sapor's long reign.



A.D. 325.

We might expect to find that, when the persecutions by the heathen were
at an end within the Roman empire, Christians lived together in peace
and love, according to their Lord's commandment; but it is a sad truth
that they now began to be very much divided by quarrels among
themselves. There had, indeed, been many false teachers in earlier
times; but now, when the emperor had become a Christian, the troubles
caused by such persons reached much further than before. The emperors
took part in them, and made laws about them, and the whole empire was
stirred by them.

Constantine was, as I have said,[2] very fond of taking a part in Church
matters, without knowing much about them. Very soon after the first law
by which he gave liberty to the Christians, he was called in to settle a
quarrel which had been raised in Africa by the followers of one Donatus,
who separated from the Church and set up bishops of their own, because
they said that the bishops of Carthage and some others had not behaved
rightly when the persecutors required them to deliver up the Scriptures.
I will tell you more about these _Donatists_ (as they are called)
by-and-by,[3] and I mention them now only because it was they who first
invited the emperor to judge in a dispute about religion.

[2] Page 40.

[3] See Chapter XXI., Parts III., IV., and V.

When Constantine put down Licinius and got possession of the East (as
has been said), he found that a dispute of a different kind from the
quarrel of the Donatists was raging there. One Arius, a presbyter (or
priest) of Alexandria, had begun some years before this time to deny
that our blessed Lord was God from everlasting. Arius was a crafty man,
and did all that he could to make his opinion look as well as possible;
but, try as he might, he was obliged to own that he believed our Lord to
be a _creature_. And the difference between the highest of created
beings and God, the maker of all creatures, is infinite; so that it
mattered little how Arius might smooth over his shocking opinion, so
long as he did not allow our Lord to be truly God from all eternity.

The bishop of Alexandria, whose name was Alexander, excommunicated Arius
for his impiety; that is to say, he solemnly turned him out of the
Church, so that no faithful Christian should have anything to do with
him in religious matters. Thus Arius was obliged to leave Egypt, and he
lived for a while at Nicomedia, with a bishop who was an old friend of
his. And while he was there, he made a set of songs to be sung at meals,
and others for travellers, sailors, and the like. He hoped that people
would learn these songs, without considering what mischief was in them;
and that so his heresy would be spread.

When Constantine first heard of these troubles, he tried to quiet them
by advising Alexander and Arius not to dispute about trifles. But he
soon found that this would not do, and that the question whether our
Lord and Saviour were God or a creature was so far from being a trifle,
that it was one of the most serious of all questions. In order,
therefore, to get this and some other matters settled, he gave orders
for a general council to meet. Councils of bishops within a certain
district had long been common. In many countries they were regularly
held once or twice a year; and, besides these regular meetings, others
were sometimes called together to consider any business which was
particularly pressing. Some of these councils were very great; for
instance, the bishop of Alexander could call together the bishops of all
Egypt, and the bishop of Antioch could call together all the bishops of
Syria and some neighbouring countries. But there was no bishop who could
call a council of the whole Church, because there was no one who had any
power over more than a part of it. But now, Constantine, as he had
become a Christian, thought that he might gather a council from all
quarters of his empire, and this was the first of what are called the
_general_ councils.

It met in the year 325, at Nicæa (or Nice), in Bithynia, and 318 bishops
attended it. A number of clergy and other persons were also present;
even some heathen philosophers went, out of curiosity to see what the
Christians were to do. Many of the bishops were very homely and simple
men, who had not much learning; but their great business was only to say
plainly what their belief had always been, so that it might be known
whether the doctrines of Arius agreed with this or no; and thus the good
bishops might do their part very well, although they were not persons of
any great learning or cleverness. One of these simpler bishops was drawn
into talk by a philosopher, who tried to puzzle him about the truth of
the Gospel. The bishop was not used to argue or to dispute much, and
might have been no match for the philosopher in that way; but he
contented himself with saying his Creed; and the philosopher was so
struck with this, that he took to thinking more seriously of
Christianity than he had ever thought before, and he ended in becoming a
Christian himself.

There was a great deal of arguing about Arius and his opinions, and the
chief person who spoke against him was Athanasius, a clergyman of
Alexandria, who had come with the bishop, Alexander. Athanasius could
not sit as a judge in the council, because he was not a bishop; but he
was allowed to speak in the presence of the bishops, and pointed out to
them the errors which Arius tried to hide. So at last Arius was
condemned, and the emperor banished him, with some of his chief
followers. And, in order to set forth the true Christian faith beyond
all doubt, the council made that creed which is read in the
Communion-service in our churches--all but some of the last part of it,
which was made at a later time, as we shall see. It is called the
_Nicene_ Creed, from the name of the place where the council met; and
the great point in it is, that it declares our blessed Lord to be "Very
God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of _one substance_ (that is
to say, _of the same nature_) with the Father." For this truth, that our
Lord has the _same nature_ with the Almighty Father--this truth that He
is really _God_ from everlasting--was what the Arians could not be
brought to own.

The emperor attended the council during the latter part of its sittings;
and a story is told of him and a bishop named Acesius, who belonged to
the sect of Novatianists. You will remember that this sect broke off
from the Church in St. Cyprian's days, because Novatian and others
thought that St. Cyprian and the Church were too easy with those who
repented after having sacrificed in time of persecution[4]; and, from
having begun thus, it came to be hard in its notions as to the treatment
of all sorts of penitents. But, as it had been only about the treatment
of persons who had behaved weakly in persecution that the Novatianists
at first differed from the Church, and as persecution by the heathens
was now at an end, Constantine hoped that, perhaps, they might be
persuaded to return to the Church; so he invited some bishops of the
sect to attend the council, and Acesius among them. When the creed had
been made, Acesius declared that it was all true, and that it was the
same faith which he had always believed; and he was quite satisfied with
the rules which the council made as to the time of keeping Easter, and
as to some other things. "Why, then," asked Constantine, "will you not
join the Church?" Acesius said, that he did not think the Church strict
enough in dealing with penitents. "Take a ladder, then," said the
emperor, "and go up to heaven by yourself!"

[4] See page 27.



PART I. A.D. 325-337.

Alexander, the bishop of Alexandria by whom Arius had been
excommunicated, died soon after returning home from the Council of
Nicæa; and Athanasius, who was then about thirty years of age, was
chosen in his stead, and governed the Alexandrian church for
six-and-forty years. Every one knows the name of St. Athanasius, from
the creed which is called after it. That creed, indeed, was not made by
St. Athanasius himself; but, as the Prayer-book says, it is "_commonly
called_" his, because it sets forth the true Christian faith, of which
he was the chief defender in his day. And we are bound to honour this
learned and holy bishop, as the man by whom especially God was pleased
that His truth should be upheld and established against all the craft of
Arius and his party, and even against all the power of the emperors of

For, although Arius had been sent into banishment, he soon managed to
get into favour at the emperor's court. One of his friends, a priest,
gained the ear of Constantine's sister; and this princess, when she was
dying, recommended the priest to the emperor. Neither Constantine nor
his sister understood enough of the matter to be on their guard against
the deceits of the Arian, who was able to persuade the emperor that
Arius had been ill-used, and that he did not really hold the opinions
for which the council had condemned him. Arius, then, was allowed to
return from banishment, and Constantine desired Athanasius to receive
him back into the Church, saying that he was not guilty of the errors
which had been laid to his charge. But Athanasius knew that this was
only a trick; and he answered that, as Arius had been condemned by a
council of the whole Church, he could not be restored by anything less
than another such council.

The Arians, on finding that they could not win Athanasius over, resolved
to attack him. They contrived that all sorts of charges against him
should be carried to the emperor; and in the year 335, a council was
held at Tyre for his trial. One story was, that he had killed an
Egyptian bishop, named Arsenius, that he had cut off his hand, and had
used it for magical purposes (for among other things, Athanasius was
said by his enemies to be a sorcerer!); and the dried hand of a man was
shown, which was said to be that of Arsenius. But when the time came for
examining this charge, what was the confusion of the accusers at seeing
Arsenius himself brought into the council! He was dressed in a long
cloak, and Athanasius lifted it up, first on one side, and then on the
other, so as to show that the man was not only alive, but had both his
hands safe and sound. The leaders of the Arians had known that Arsenius
was not dead, but they had hoped that he would not appear. But, happily
for Athanasius, one of his friends had discovered Arsenius, and had kept
him hidden until the right moment came for producing him.

Athanasius was able to answer the other charges against him, as well as
that about Arsenius; and the Arians, seeing that they must contrive some
new accusation, sent some of his bitterest enemies into Egypt, to rake
up all the tales that they could find. Athanasius knew what he might
expect from people who could act so unfairly; he therefore resolved not
to wait for their return, but got on board a ship which was bound for
Constantinople. On arriving there, he posted himself in a spot outside
the city, where he expected the emperor to pass in returning from a
ride; and when Constantine came up, he threw himself in his way. The
emperor was startled; but Athanasius told him who he was, and entreated
him, by the thought of that judgment in which princes as well as
subjects must one day appear, to order that the case should be tried
before himself, instead of leaving it to judges from whom no justice was
to be looked for. The emperor agreed to this, and was very angry with
those who had behaved so unjustly in the council at Tyre. But after a
time some of the Arians got about him and told him another story--that
Athanasius had threatened to stop the sailing of the fleet which carried
corn from Alexandria to Constantinople. This was a charge which touched
Constantine very closely; because Constantinople depended very much on
the Egyptian corn for food, and he thought that the bishop, who had so
much power at Alexandria, might perhaps be able to stop the fleet, and
to starve the people of the capital, if he pleased. And, whether the
emperor believed the story, or whether he wished to shelter Athanasius
for a while from his persecutors by putting him out of the way--he sent
him into banishment at Treves, on the banks of the Moselle, in a part of
Gaul which is now reckoned to belong to Germany. Except for the
separation from his flock, this banishment would have been no great
hardship for Athanasius; for he was treated with great respect by the
bishop of Treves, and by the emperor's eldest son, who lived there, and
all good men honoured him for his stedfastness in upholding the true

But, although Athanasius was removed, the Alexandrian Church would not
admit Arius. So, after a while, the emperor resolved to have him
admitted at Constantinople, and a council of bishops agreed that it
should be so. The bishop of Constantinople, whose name was Alexander,
and who was almost a hundred years old, was grievously distressed at
this; he desired his people to entreat God, with fasting and prayer,
that it might not come to pass, and he threw himself under the altar,
and prayed very earnestly that the evil which was threatened might be
somehow turned away, or that, at least, he himself might not live to see

At length, on the evening before the day which had been fixed for
receiving Arius into the Church, he was going through the streets of
Constantinople, in high spirits, and talking with some friends of what
was to take place on the morrow. But all at once he felt himself ill,
and went into a house which was near; and in a few minutes he was dead!
His death, taking place at such a time and in such a way, made a great
impression, and people were ready enough to look on it as a direct
judgment of God on his impiety. But Athanasius, although he felt the
awfulness of the unhappy man's sudden end, did not take it on himself to
speak in this way; and we too shall do well not to pronounce judgment in
such cases, remembering what our Lord said as to the Galileans who were
slain by Pilate, and as to the men who were killed by the falling of the
tower in Siloam (_St. Luke_ xiii. 1-5). While we abhor the errors of
Arius, let us leave the judgment of him to God.

Although Constantine in his last years was very much in the hands of the
Arians, we must not suppose that he meant to favour their heresy. For
these people (as I have said already, and shall have occasion to say
again) were very crafty, and took great pains to hide the worst of their
opinions. They used words which sounded quite right, except to the few
persons who, like Athanasius, were quick enough to understand what bad
meanings might be disguised under these fair words. And whenever they
wished to get one of the faithful bishops turned out, they took care
not to attack him about his faith, but about some other things, as we
have seen in the case of Athanasius. Thus they managed to blind the
emperor, who did not know much about the matter, so that, while they
were using him as a tool, and were persuading him to help them with all
his power, he all the while fancied that he was firmly maintaining the
Nicene faith.

Constantine, after all that he had done in religious disputes, was still
unbaptized. Perhaps he was a _catechumen_, which (as has been explained
before),[5] was the name given to persons who were supposed to be in a
course of training for baptism; but it is not certain that he was even
so much as a catechumen. At last, shortly after the death of Arius, the
emperor felt himself very sick, and believed that his end was near. He
sent for some bishops, and told them that he had put off his baptism
because he had wished to receive it in the river Jordan, like our Lord
Himself; but as God had not granted him this, he begged that they would
baptize him. He was baptized accordingly, and during the remaining days
of his life he refused to wear any other robes than the white dress
which used then to be put on at baptism, by way of signifying the
cleansing of the soul from sin. And thus the first Christian emperor
died, at a palace near Nicomedia, on Whitsunday in the year 337.

[5] Page 18.

PART II. A.D. 337-361.

At Constantine's death, the empire was divided between his three sons.
The eldest of them, whose name was the same with his father's, and the
youngest, Constans, were friendly to the true faith. But the second son,
Constantius, was won over by the Arians; and as, through the death of
his brothers, he got possession of the whole empire within a few years,
his connexion with that party led to great mischief. All through his
reign, there were unceasing disputes about religion. Councils were
almost continually sitting in one place or another, and bishops were
posting about to one of them after another at the emperor's expense.
Constantius did not mean ill; but he went even further than his father
in meddling with things which he did not understand.

The Arians went on in the same cunning way as before. I may mention, by
way of example, the behaviour of Leontius, bishop of Antioch. The
Catholics[6] (that is to say, those who held the faith which the Church
throughout all the world held), used to sing in church, as we do--"Glory
be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;" but the Arians
sang, "Glory be to the Father, _by_ the Son, _in_ the Holy Ghost"--for
they did not allow the Second and Third Persons to be of the same nature
with the First. Leontius, then, who was an Arian, and yet did not wish
people to know exactly what he was, used to mumble his words, so that
nobody could make them out, until he came to the part in which all
parties agreed; and then he sang out loudly and clearly--"As it was in
the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen." He
was an old man, and sometimes he would point to his white hair, and say,
"When this snow melts, there will be a great deal of mud," meaning that
after his death the two parties would come to open quarrels, which he
had tried to prevent during his lifetime by such crafty behaviour as
that which has just been mentioned.

[6] The word _Catholic_, which means _Universal_, is not to be
confounded with _Roman-Catholic_.

The three young emperors met shortly after their father's death. It was
agreed between them that Athanasius should be allowed to return to
Alexandria; and for this favour he was chiefly indebted to young
Constantine, who had known him during his banishment at Treves. The
bishop returned accordingly, and was received with great rejoicing by
his flock. But in about three years his enemies contrived that he should
be again turned out (A.D. 341), and he was in banishment eight years. He
was then restored again (A.D. 349); but his enemies watched their time,
and spared no pains to get rid of him. One by one, they contrived to
thrust out all the chief bishops who would have been inclined to take
part with him; and at length, in the beginning of 356, Constantius sent
a general named Syrianus to Alexandria, with orders to drive out
Athanasius. The Alexandrians were so much attached to their great bishop
that there was a fear lest they might prevent any open attempt against
him. But Syrianus contrived to throw them off their guard; and one
night, while Athanasius was keeping watch, with many of his clergy and
people, in one of the churches (as the Christians of those days used to
do before their great festivals and at other times), Syrianus suddenly
beset the church with a great number of soldiers, and a multitude made
up of Arians, Jews, and the heathen rabble of the city. When Athanasius
heard the noise outside the church, he sat down calmly on his throne,
and desired the congregation to chant the hundred and thirty-sixth
psalm, in which God's deliverances of His people in old times are
celebrated; and the whole congregation joined in the last part of every
verse--"For His mercy endureth for ever." The doors were shut, but the
soldiers forced them open and rushed in; and it was a fearful sight to
see their drawn swords and their armour flashing by the lamplight in the
house of God. As they advanced up the church, many of the congregation
were trodden down or crushed to death, or pierced through with their
darts. Athanasius stood calm in the midst of all the terrible din. His
clergy, when they saw the soldiers pushing on towards the sanctuary (as
the part of the church was called which was railed off for the clergy),
entreated him to save himself by flight; but he declared that he would
not go until his people were safe, and waited until most of them had
made their escape through doors in the upper part of the church. At
last, when the soldiers were pressing very close to the sanctuary, the
clergy closed round their bishop, and hurried him away by a secret
passage. And when they had got him out of the church, they found that he
had fainted; for although his courage was high, his body was weak and
delicate, and the dreadful scene had overcome him. But he escaped to the
deserts of Egypt, where he lived in peace among the monks for six years,
until the death of Constantius. His enemies thought that he might,
perhaps, seek a refuge in Ethiopia; and Constantius wrote to beg that
the princes of that country would not shelter him, and that the bishop,
Frumentius,[7] might be sent to receive instruction in the faith from
the Arian bishop who was put into the see of Alexandria. But Athanasius
was safe elsewhere, and Frumentius wisely stayed at home.

[7] See page 41.

The new Arian bishop of Alexandria was a Cappadocian named George. He
was a coarse, ignorant, and violent man, and behaved with great cruelty
to Athanasius's friends--even putting many of them to death. But
Athanasius, from his quiet retreat, kept a watch over all that was done
as to the affairs of the Church, both at Alexandria and elsewhere; and
from time to time he wrote books, which reached places where he himself
could not venture to appear. So that, although he was not seen during
these years, he made himself felt, both to the confusion of the Arians,
and to the comfort and encouragement of the faithful.

PART III. A.D. 361-371.

Constantius had no children, and after the death of Constans (A.D. 350),
his nearest male relation was a cousin named Julian. The emperor gave
his sister in marriage to this cousin, and also gave him the government
of a part of the empire; but he always treated him with distrust and
jealousy, so that Julian never loved him. And this was not the worst of
it; for Julian, who had lost his father when he was very young, and had
been brought up under the direction of Constantius, took a strong
dislike to his cousin's religion, which was forced on him in a way that
a lively boy could not well be expected to relish. He was obliged to
spend a great part of his time in attending the services of the Church,
and was even made a _reader_, (which was one of the lowest kinds of
ministers in the Church of those times;) and, unfortunately, the end of
all this was, that instead of being truly religious, he learnt to be a
hypocrite. When he grew older, and was left more to himself, he fell
into the hands of the heathen philosophers, who were very glad to get
hold of a prince who might one day be emperor. So Julian's mind was
poisoned with their opinions, and he gave up all belief in the Gospel,
although he continued to profess himself a Christian for nine years
longer. On account of his having thus forsaken the faith he is commonly
called the _Apostate_.

At length, when Julian was at Paris, early in the year 361, Constantius
sent him some orders which neither he nor his soldiers were disposed to
obey. The soldiers lifted him up on a shield and proclaimed him emperor;
and Julian set out at their head to fight for the throne. He marched
boldly eastward, until he came to the Danube; then he embarked his
troops and descended the great river for many hundreds of miles into the
country which is now called Hungary. Constantius left Antioch, and was
marching to meet Julian's army, when he was taken ill, and died at a
little town in Cilicia. Like his father, he was baptized only a day or
two before his death.

Julian now came into possession of the empire without further dispute;
and he did all that he could to set heathenism up again. But in many
parts of the empire, Christianity had taken such root that very few of
the people held to the old religion, or wished to see it restored. Thus,
we are told that once, when the emperor went to a famous temple near
Antioch, on a great heathen festival, in the hope of finding things
carried on as they had been before Constantine's time, only one old
priest was to be seen; and, instead of the costly sacrifices which had
been offered in the former days of heathenism, the poor old man had
nothing better than a single goose to offer.

Julian knew that in past times Christians had always been ready to
suffer for their faith, and that the patience of the martyrs had always
led to the increase of the Church. He did not think it wise, therefore,
to go to work in the same way as the earlier persecuting emperors; but
he contrived to annoy the Christians very much by other means, and
sometimes great cruelties were committed against them under his
authority. Yet, with all this, he pretended to allow them the exercise
of their religion, and he gave leave to those who had been banished by
Constantius to return, home,--not that he really meant to do them any
kindness, but because he hoped that they would all fall to quarrelling
among themselves, and that he should be able to take advantage of their
quarrels. But in this hope he was happily disappointed; for they had
learnt wisdom by suffering, and were disposed to make peace with each
other as much as possible, while they were all threatened by the enemies
of the Saviour's very name.

The first thing that the heathens of Alexandria did when they heard of
the death of Constantius had been to kill the Arian bishop, George; for
he had behaved in such a way that the heathens hated him even more than
the Catholics did. Another Arian bishop was set up in his place; but
when Julian had given leave for the banished to return, Athanasius came
back, and the Arian was turned out.

The Alexandrians received Athanasius with great joy, and he did all that
was in his power to reconcile the parties of Christians among
themselves. For, although no one could be more earnest than he in
maintaining every particle of the faith necessary for a true Christian,
he was careful not to insist on things which were not necessary. He
knew, too, that people who really meant alike were often divided from
each other by not understanding one another's words; and he was always
ready to make allowance for them as far as he could do so without giving
up the truth. But Julian was afraid to let him remain at Alexandria, and
was greatly provoked at hearing that he had converted and baptized some
heathen ladies of rank. So the emperor wrote to the Alexandrians,
telling them that, although they might choose another bishop for
themselves, they must not let Athanasius remain among them, and
banishing the bishop from all Egypt. Athanasius, when he heard of this,
said to his friends, "Let us withdraw; this is but a little cloud which
will soon pass over;" and he set off up the river Nile in a boat. After
a while, another boat was seen in pursuit of him; but Athanasius then
told his boatmen to turn round, and to sail down the river again; and
when they met the other boat, from which they had not been seen until
after turning, they answered the questions of its crew in such a way
that they were allowed to pass without being suspected of having the
bishop on board. Thus Athanasius got safe back to the city, and there he
lay hid securely while his enemies were searching for him elsewhere. But
after a little time he withdrew to the deserts, where he was welcomed
and sheltered by his old friends the monks.

In his hatred of Christianity, Julian not only tried to restore
heathenism, but showed favour to the Jews. He sent for some of them, and
asked why they did not offer sacrifice as their law had ordered? They
answered that it was not lawful to sacrifice except in the temple of
Jerusalem, which was now in ruins, and did not belong to them, so that
they could no longer fulfil the duty of sacrificing. Julian then gave
them leave to build the temple up again, and the Jews came together in
vast numbers from the different countries into which they had been
scattered. Many of them had got great wealth in the lands of their
banishment, and it is said that even the women laboured at the work,
carrying earth in their rich silken dresses, and that tools of silver
were used in the building. The Jews were full of triumph at the thought
of being restored to their own land, and of reviving the greatness of
David and Solomon. But it had been declared that the temple was to be
overthrown, and that Jerusalem was to be "trodden down of the Gentiles,"
on account of the sin of God's ancient people (_St. Luke_ xxi. 6, 24,
&c.): so that this undertaking to rebuild the temple was nothing less
than a daring defiance of Him who had so spoken; and it pleased Him to
defeat it in a terrible manner. An earthquake scattered the foundations
which had been laid; balls of fire burst forth from the ground,
scorching and killing many of the workmen; their tools were melted by
lightning; and stories are told of other fearful sights, which put an
end to the attempt. Julian, indeed, meant to set about it once more,
after returning from a war which he had undertaken against the Persians.
But he never lived to do so. Athanasius was not mistaken when he said
that his heathen emperor's tyranny would be only as a passing cloud; for
Julian's reign lasted little more than a year and a half in all. He led
his army into Persia in the spring of 363, and in June of that year he
was killed in a skirmish by night.

Julian left no child to succeed him in the empire, and the army chose as
his successor a Christian named Jovian, who soon undid all that Julian
had done in matters of religion. The new emperor invited Athanasius to
visit him at Antioch, and took his advice as to the restoration of the
true faith. But Jovian's reign lasted only eight months, and
Valentinian, who was then made emperor, gave the empire of the East to
his brother Valens, who was a furious Arian, and treated the Catholics
with great cruelty. We are told, for instance, that when eighty of their
bishops had carried a petition to him, he put them on board a ship, and
when it had got out to sea, the sailors, by his orders, set it on fire,
and made their escape in boats, leaving the poor bishops to be burned to

Valens turned many orthodox bishops (that is to say, bishops _of the
right faith_) out of their sees, and meant to turn out Athanasius, who
hid himself for a while in his father's tomb. But the people of
Alexandria begged earnestly that their bishop might be allowed to remain
with them, and the emperor did not think it safe to deny their request,
lest there should be some outbreak in the city. And thus, while the
faith of which Athanasius had so long been the chief defender, and for
the sake of which he had borne so much, was under persecution in all
other parts of the eastern empire, the great bishop of Alexandria was
allowed to spend his last years among his own flock without disturbance.
He died in the year 373, at the age of seventy-six.



In the story of St. Athanasius, _monks_ have been more than once
mentioned, and it is now time to give some account of these people and
of their ways.

The word _monk_ properly means one who leads a _lonely_ life; and the
name was given to persons who professed to withdraw from the world and
its business that they might give themselves up to serve God in
religious thoughts and exercises. Among the Jews there had been whole
classes of people who practised this sort of retirement: some, called
_Essenes_, lived near the Dead Sea; and others, called _Therapeutæ_, in
Egypt, where a great number of Jews had settled. Among the heathens of
the East, too, a like manner of living had been common for ages, as it
still continues to be; and many of them carry it to an excessive
strictness, as we are told by travellers who have visited India, Thibet,
and other countries of Asia.

Nothing of the kind, however, is commanded for Christians in the New
Testament; and when Scripture warrant for the monkish life was sought
for, the great patterns who were produced were Elijah and St. John the
Baptist--the one of them an Old Testament prophet; the other, a holy man
who lived, indeed, in the days when our Lord Himself was on the earth,
but who was not allowed to enter into His Church, or to see it fully
established by the coming of the Holy Ghost at the day of Pentecost. But
still it was very natural that the notion of a life of strict poverty,
retirement from the world, and employment in spiritual things, should
find favour with Christians, as a means of fulfilling the duties of
their holy calling; and so it seems that some of them took to this way
of life very early. But the first who is named as a _hermit_ (that is to
say, a _dweller in the wilderness_) was Paul, a young man of Alexandria,
who, in the year 251, fled from the persecution of Decius into the
Egyptian desert, where he is said to have lived ninety years. Paul,
although he afterwards became very famous, spent his days without being
known, until, just before his death, he was visited by another great
hermit, St. Antony. But Antony himself was a person of great note and
importance in his own lifetime.

He was born in the district of Thebes, in Egypt, in the very same year
that Paul withdrew from the world. While a boy, he was thoughtful and
serious. His parents died before he had reached the age of twenty, and
left him considerable wealth. One day, when in church, he was struck by
hearing the story of the rich young man who was charged to sell all that
he had, give to the poor, and follow our Lord (_St. Luke_ xviii. 18-22).
At another time he was moved by hearing the charge to "take no thought
for the morrow" (_St. Matt._ vi. 34). And in order to obey these
commands (as he thought), Antony parted with all that belonged to him,
bade farewell to his only sister, and left his home, with the intention
of living in loneliness and devotion. He carried on this life for many
years, and several times changed his abode, that he might seek out some
place still wilder and more remote than the last. But he grew so famous
that people flocked even into the depths of the wilderness to see him. A
number of disciples gathered around him, and hermits or monks began to
copy his way of life in other parts of Egypt. Antony's influence became
very great; he made peace between enemies, comforted mourners, and gave
advice to all who asked him as to spiritual concerns; and when he took
the part of any oppressed person who applied to him, his interference
was always successful. Affairs of this kind sometimes obliged him to
leave his _cell_ (as the dwellings of the monks were called); but he
always returned as soon as possible, for he used to say that "a monk out
of his solitude is like a fish out of water." Even the emperors,
Constantine and his sons, wrote to him with great respect, and asked him
to visit their courts. He thanked them, but did not accept their
invitation; and he wrote more than once to them in favour of St.
Athanasius, whom he steadily supported in his troubles on account of the
faith. On two great occasions he visited Alexandria, for the purpose of
strengthening his brethren in their sufferings for the truth. The first
of these visits was while the last heathen persecution, under Maximin,
was raging.[8] Antony stood by the martyrs at their trials and in their
death, and took all opportunities of declaring himself a Christian; but
the persecutors did not venture to touch him: and, after waiting till
the heat of the danger was past, he again withdrew to the wilderness.
The second visit was in the time of the Arian disturbances, when his
appearance had even a greater effect than before. The Catholics were
encouraged by his exhortations, and a great number of conversions took
place in consequence. Antony died, at the age of a hundred and five, in
the year 356, a few days before the great bishop of Alexandria was
driven to seek a refuge in the desert.[9]

[8] See page 36.

[9] See page 54.

Antony, as we have seen, was a _hermit_, living in the wilderness by
himself. But by-and-by other kinds of monks were established, who lived
in companies together. Sometimes they were lodged in clusters of little
cells, each of them having his separate cell, or two or three living
together; sometimes the cells were all in one large building, called a
_monastery_. The head of each monastery, or of each cluster of cells,
was called _abbot_, which means _father_. And in some cases there were
many monasteries belonging to one _order_, so that they were all
considered as one society, and there was one chief abbot over all. Thus
the order founded by Pachomius, on an island in the Nile, soon spread,
so that before his death it had eight monasteries, with three thousand
monks among them; and about fifty years later, it had no fewer than
fifty thousand monks.

These monks of Pachomius lived in cells, each of which contained three.
Each cluster of cells had its abbot; the head of the order, who was
called the _archimandrite_ (which means _chief of a sheep-fold_), went
round occasionally to visit all the societies which were under him; and
the whole order met every year at the chief monastery, for the festival
of Easter, and a second time in the month of August. The monks of St.
Pachomius prayed many times a-day. They fasted every Wednesday and
Friday, and communicated every Sunday and Saturday. They took their
meals together and sang psalms before each. They were not allowed to
talk at table, but sat with their hoods drawn over their faces, so that
no one could see his neighbours, or anything but the food before him.
Their dress was coarse and plain; the chief article of it was a rough
goat-skin, in imitation of the prophet Elijah. They slept with their
clothes on, not in beds, but in chairs, which were of such a shape as to
keep them almost standing. They spent their time not only in prayers and
other religious exercises, but in various kinds of simple work, such as
labouring in the fields, weaving baskets, ropes, and nets, or making
shoes. They had boats in which they sent the produce of their labour
down the Nile to Alexandria; and the money which they got by selling it
was not only enough to keep them, but enabled them to redeem captives,
and to do such other acts of charity.

This account of the monks of St. Pachomius will give some notion of the
monkish life in general, although one order differed from another in
various ways. All that the monks had was considered to belong to them in
common, after the pattern of the first Christians, as was supposed
(_Acts_ ii. 34; iv. 32); and no one was allowed to have anything of his
own. Thus we are told that when a monk was found at his death to have
left a hundred pieces of silver, which he had earned by weaving flax,
his brethren, who were about three thousand in number, met to consider
what should be done with the money. Some were for giving it to the
Church; some, to the poor. But the fathers of the society quoted St.
Peter's words to Simon the sorcerer, "Thy money perish with thee"
(_Acts_ viii. 20); and on the strength of this text (which in truth had
not much to do with the matter), they ordered that it should be buried
with its late owner. St. Jerome, who tells the story, says that this was
not done out of any wish to condemn the dead monk, but in order that
others might be deterred from hoarding.

These different kinds of monks were first established in various parts
of Egypt; but their way of life was soon taken up in other countries;
and societies of women, who were called _nuns_ (that is to say
_mothers_), were formed under the same kind of rules.

One thing which had much to do with making monkish life so common was,
that when persecution by the heathen was at an end, many Christians felt
the want of something which might assure them that they were separate
from the world, as Christ's true people ought to be. It was no longer
enough that they should call themselves Christians; for the world had
come to call itself Christian too. Perhaps we may think that it would
have been better if those who wished to live religiously had tried to go
on doing their duty in the world, and to improve it by the example and
the influence of holy and charitable lives, instead of running away from
it. And they were certainly much mistaken if they fancied that by hiding
themselves in the desert they were likely to escape temptation. For
temptations followed them into their retreats, and we have only too many
proofs, in the accounts of famous monks, that the effect of this mistake
was often very sad indeed. And we may be sure that if the good men who
in those days were active in recommending the life of monks had been
able to foresee how things would turn out, they would have been much
more cautious in what they said of it.

It was not every one who was fit for such a life, and many took it up
without rightly considering whether they _were_ fit for it. The kind of
work which was provided for them was not enough to occupy them
thoroughly, and many of them suffered grievously from temptations to
which their idleness laid them open. It was supposed, indeed, that they
might find the thoughts of heavenly things enough to fill their minds;
and, when a philosopher asked Antony how he could live without books, he
answered that for him the whole creation was a book, always at hand, in
which he could read God's word whenever he pleased. But it was not every
one who could find such delight in that great book; and many of the
monks, for want of employment, were tormented by all sorts of evil
thoughts, nay, some of them were even driven into madness by their way
of life.

The monks ran into very strange mistakes as to their duty towards their
kindred. Even Antony himself, although he was free from many of the
faults of spiritual pride and the like, which became too common among
his followers, thought himself bound to overcome his love for his young
sister. And, as another sample of the way in which monks were expected
to deaden their natural affections, I may tell you how his disciple Pior
behaved. Pior, when a youth, left his father's house, and vowed that he
would never again look on any of his relations--which was surely a very
rash and foolish and wrong vow. He went into the desert, and had lived
there fifty years, when his sister heard that he was still alive. She
was too infirm to go in search of him, but she contrived that the abbot,
under whose authority he was, should order him to pay her a visit. Pior
went accordingly, and, when he had reached her house, he stood in front
of it, and sent to tell her that he was there. The poor old woman made
all haste to get to him; her heart was full of love and delight at the
thoughts of seeing her brother again after so long a separation. But as
soon as Pior heard the door opening, he shut his eyes, and he kept them
shut all through the meeting. He refused to go into his sister's house,
and when he had let her see him for a short time in this way, without
showing her any token of kindness, he hurried back to the desert.

In later times monks were usually ordained as clergy of the Church. But
at first it was not intended that they should be so, and in each
monastery there were only so many clergy as were needed for the
performance of Divine service and other works of the ministry. And in
those early days, many monks had a great fear of being ordained
clergymen or bishops, because they thought that the active business in
which bishops and other clergy were obliged to engage, would hinder
their reaching to the higher degrees of holiness. Thus a famous monk,
named Ammonius, on being chosen for a bishopric, cut off one of his
ears, thinking that this blemish would prevent his being made a priest,
as it would have done under the law of Moses (_Lev._ xxi. 17-23); and
when he was told that it was not so in the Christian Church, he
threatened to cut out his tongue.

It was not long before the sight of the great respect which was paid to
the monks led many worthless people to call themselves monks for the
sake of what they might get by doing so. These fellows used to go about,
wearing heavy chains, uncouthly dressed, and behaving roughly; and they
told outrageous stories of visions and of fights with devils which they
pretended to have had. By such tricks they got large sums of money from
people who were foolish enough to encourage them; and they spent it in
the most shameful ways.

But besides these vile hypocrites, many monks who seem to have been
sincere enough ran into very strange extravagances. There was one kind
of them called _Grazers_, who used to live among mountains, without any
roof to shelter them, browsing, like beasts, on grass and herbs, and by
degrees growing much more like beasts than men. And in the beginning of
the fifth century, one Symeon founded a new sort of monks, who were
called _Stylites_ (that is to say, _pillar saints_), from a Greek word,
which means a pillar. Symeon was a Syrian, and lived on the top of one
pillar after another for seven-and-thirty years. Each pillar was higher
than the one before it; the height of the last of them was forty cubits
(or seventy feet), and the top of it was only a yard across. There
Symeon was to be seen, with a heavy iron chain round his neck, and great
numbers of people flocked to visit him; some of them even went all the
way from our own country. And when he was dead, a monk, named Daniel,
got the old cowl which he had worn, and built himself a pillar near
Constantinople, where he lived three-and-thirty years. The high winds
sometimes almost blew him from his place, and sometimes he was covered
for days with snow and ice, until the emperor Leo made him submit to let
a shed be built round the top of his pillar. The fame and influence
which these monks gained were immense. They were supposed to have the
power of prophecy and of miracles; they were consulted even by emperors
and kings, in the most important matters; and sometimes, on great
occasions, when a stylite descended from his pillar, or some famous
hermit left his cell, and appeared among the crowds of a city, he was
able to make everything bend to his will.

We must not be blind to the serious errors of monkery; but we are bound
also to own that God was pleased to make it the means of great good. The
monks did much for the conversion of the heathen, and when the ages of
darkness came on, after the overthrow of the Roman empire in the West,
they rendered inestimable service in preserving the knowledge of
learning and religion, which, but for them, might have utterly perished
from the earth.



PART I. A.D. 373-381.

Although St. Athanasius was now dead, God did not fail to raise up
champions for the true faith. Three of the most famous of these were
natives of Cappadocia--namely, Basil, his brother Gregory of Nyssa, and
his friend Gregory of Nazianzum. But although Gregory of Nyssa was a
very good and learned man, and did great service to the truth by his
writings, there was nothing remarkable in the story of his life; so I
shall only tell you about the other two.

Basil and Gregory of Nazianzum were both born about the year 329. Basil
was of a noble Christian family. Gregory's father had belonged to a
strange sect called Hypsistarians, whose religion was a mixture of
Jewish and heathen notions; but he had been converted from it by his
wife, Nonna, who was a very pious and excellent woman, and, before his
son's birth, he had risen to be bishop of Nazianzum.

The two youths became acquainted at school in Cappadocia, and, when they
were afterwards sent to the famous schools of Athens, they grew into the
closest friendship. They lived and read and walked together: Gregory
says that they had all things common, and that it was as if they had
only one soul in two bodies. Athens was an excellent place for learning
all that the wise men of this world could teach, and therefore students
flocked to it from distant countries. But it was a dangerous place for
Christian young men; for the teachers were heathen philosophers, and
knew well how to entangle them in arguments, so that many of the pupils,
who did not rightly understand the grounds of their faith, were deceived
into giving it up. Thus, at the very time when Basil and Gregory were
at Athens, Julian was also there, sucking in the heathen notions which
led to so much evil when he afterwards became emperor. But the two
Cappadocians kept themselves clear from all the snares of "philosophy
and vain deceit" (_Coloss._ ii. 8); and although they were the foremost
of all the students in Athens for learning, and might have hoped to make
a great figure in the world by their talents, they resolved to give up
all worldly ambition, and to devote themselves to the ministry of the

So they were both ordained to be clergymen, and their friendship
continued as warm as ever. Gregory did many kind offices to Basil, and
at length, when the archbishopric of Cæsarea, the chief city of
Cappadocia, fell vacant, Gregory had a great share in getting his friend
chosen to it. Basil was now in a very high office, with many bishops
under him; and he had become noted as one of the chief defenders of the
Catholic faith. And when the emperor Valens set up Arianism in all other
parts of his dominions, Basil remained at his post, and kept the Church
of Cæsarea free from the heresy. Valens came into Cappadocia, and was
angry that, while his wishes were obeyed everywhere else, Basil should
hold out against them: so he sent an officer named Modestus to Cæsarea,
and ordered him to require the archbishop to submit, on pain of being
turned out. Modestus told Basil his errand, and threatened him with loss
of his property, torture, banishment, and even death, in case of his
refusal. But Basil was not at all daunted. "Think of some other threat,"
he said, "for these have no influence on me. As for loss of property, I
run no risk, for I have nothing to lose except these mean garments and a
few books. Nor does a Christian care for banishment, since he has no
home upon earth, but makes every country his own; or rather, he looks on
the whole world as God's, and on himself as God's pilgrim upon earth.
Neither can tortures harm me, for my body is so weak that the first blow
would kill me; and death would be a gain, for it would but send me the
sooner to Him for whom I live and labour, and to whom I have long been

Modestus returned to his master with an account of what had been said,
and Valens himself soon after came to Cæsarea. But when he went to the
cathedral on the festival of the Epiphany, and saw Basil at the head of
his clergy, and witnessed their solemn service, he was struck with awe.
He wished to make an offering, as the custom was, but none of the clergy
went to receive his gift, and he almost fainted at the thought of being
thus rejected from the Church, as if he had no part or lot in it. He
afterwards sent for Basil, and had some conversation with him; and the
end of the affair was, that he not only left Basil in possession of his
see, but bestowed a valuable estate on a hospital which the archbishop
had lately founded.

While Basil had risen, by Gregory's help, to be an archbishop, Gregory
himself was still a presbyter. He would not have taken even this office
but that his father ordained him to it almost by force; and he had a
great dread of being raised to the high and difficult office of a
bishop. But Basil, for certain reasons, wished to establish a bishop in
a little town called Sasima, and he fixed on his old friend, without,
perhaps, thinking so much as he ought to have thought, whether the place
and the man were likely to suit each other. The old bishop of Nazianzum
did all that he could to overcome his son's unwillingness, and Gregory
was consecrated; but he thought himself unkindly used, and complained
much of Basil's behaviour in the matter.

After a time, Basil and other leaders of the orthodox (that is, of those
who _held the right faith_) urged Gregory to undertake a mission to
Constantinople, and he agreed to go, in the hope of being able to do
some good (A.D. 378). The bishopric of that great city had been in the
hands of Arians for nearly forty years, and although there were many
people of other sects there, the orthodox were but a handful. Gregory,
when he began his labours, found that there was a strong feeling against
him and his doctrine. He could not get the use of any church, and was
obliged to hold his service in a friend's house. He was often attacked
by the Arian mob; he was stoned; he was carried before the magistrates
on charges of disturbing the peace; the house which he had turned into a
chapel was broken into by night, and shocking outrages were committed in
it. But the good Gregory held on notwithstanding all this, and, after a
while, his mild and grave character, his eloquent and instructive
preaching, and the piety of his life, wrought a great change, so that
his little place of worship became far too small to hold the crowds
which flocked to it. While Gregory was thus employed, Basil died, in the
year 380.


Both parts of the empire were now again under orthodox princes. Valens
had lost his life in war, without leaving any children (A.D. 378), so
that Valentinian's sons, Gratian and Valentinian the Second, were heirs
to the whole. But Gratian felt the burden of government too much for
himself, a lad of nineteen, and for his little brother, who was but
seven years old; and he gave up the East to a brave Spaniard, named
Theodosius, in the hope that he would be able to defend it.

Theodosius came to Constantinople in the year 380, and found things in
the state which has just been described. He turned the Arian bishop and
his clergy out of the churches, and gave Gregory possession of the
cathedral. Gregory knew that the emperor wished to help the cause of the
true faith, and he did as Theodosius wished; but he was very sad and
uneasy at being thus thrust on a flock of which the greater part as yet
refused to own him.

Theodosius then called a council, which met at Constantinople in the
year 381, and is reckoned as the second General Council (the Council of
Nicæa[10] having been the first). One act of this council was to add to
the Nicene Creed some words about the Holy Ghost, by way of guarding
against the errors of a party who were called Macedonians, after one
Macedonius, who had been bishop of Constantinople; for these people
denied the true doctrine as to the Holy Ghost, although they had given
up the errors of Arius as to the Godhead of our blessed Lord.

[10] See chapter XI.

But afterwards, some of the bishops who attended the council fell to
disputing about the choice of a bishop for Antioch; and Gregory, who
tried to persuade them to agree, found that, instead of heeding his
advice, they all fell on him; and they behaved so shamefully to him that
he gave up his bishopric, which, indeed, he had before wished to do.
Theodosius was very sorry to lose so good a man from that important
place; but Gregory was glad to get away from its troubles and anxieties
to the quiet life which he best loved. He took charge of the diocese of
Nazianzum (which had been vacant since his father's death, some year's
before), until a regular bishop was appointed to it; and he spent his
last days in retirement, soothing himself with religious poetry and
music. One of the holiest men of our own Church, Bishop Ken (the author
of the Morning and Evening Hymns), used often to compare himself with
St. Gregory of Nazianzum; for Bishop Ken, too, was driven from his
bishopric in troubled times, and, in the poverty, sickness, and sorrow
of his last years, he, too, used to find relief in playing on his lute,
and in writing hymns and other devout poems.

Theodosius was resolved to establish the right faith, according as the
council had laid it down. But it seems that at one time some of the
bishops were afraid lest an Arian, named Eunomius, should get an
influence over his mind, and should persuade him to favour the Arians.
And there is a curious story of the way in which one of these bishops,
who was a homely old man, from some retired little town, tried to show
the emperor that he ought not to encourage heretics. On a day when a
number of bishops went to pay their respects at court, this old man,
after having saluted the emperor very respectfully, turned to his
eldest son, the young emperor Arcadius, and stroked his head as if he
had been any common boy. Theodosius was very angry at this behaviour,
and ordered that the bishop should be turned out. But as the officers of
the palace were hurrying him towards the door, the old man addressed the
emperor, and told him that as _he_ was angry on account of the slight
offered to the prince, even so would the Heavenly Father be offended
with those who should refuse to His Son the honours which they paid to
Himself. Theodosius was much struck by this speech; he begged the
bishop's forgiveness, and showed his regard for the admonition by
keeping Eunomius and the rest of the Arians at a distance.

The emperor then made some severe laws, forbidding all sorts of sects to
hold their worship, and requiring them to join the Catholic Church. Now
this was, no doubt, a great mistake; for it is impossible to force
religious belief on people; and although Christian princes ought to
support the true faith by making laws in favour of it, it is wrong to
make men pretend a belief which they do not feel in their hearts. But
Theodosius had not had the same opportunities which we have since had of
seeing how useless such laws are, and what mischief they generally do;
so that, instead of blaming him, we must give him credit for acting in
the way which he believed most likely to promote the glory of God and
the good of his subjects. And, although some of his laws seem very
severe, there is reason to think that these were never acted on.

But about the same time, in another part of the empire, which had been
usurped by one Maximus, an unhappy man, named Priscillian, and some of
his companions, were put to death on account of heresy. Such things
became sadly too common afterwards; but at the time the punishment of
Priscillian struck all good men with horror. St. Martin, bishop of
Tours, who was called "The Apostle of the Gauls," did all that he could
to prevent it. St. Ambrose (of whom you will hear more in the next
chapter) would not, on any account, have to do with the bishops who had
been concerned in it; and the chief of these bishops was afterwards
turned out of his see, and died in banishment. We may do well to
remember that this first instance of punishing heresy with death, was
under the government of an usurper, who had made his way to power by
rebellion and murder.



A.D. 374-397.

The greatest bishop of the West in these times was St. Ambrose, of
Milan. He was born about the year 340, and thus was ten or twelve years
younger than St. Basil and St. Gregory of Nazianzum. His father had held
a very high office under the emperors; Ambrose himself was brought up as
a lawyer, and had risen to be governor of Liguria, a large country in
the north of Italy, of which Milan was the chief city.

The bishop of Milan, who was an Arian, died in the year 374, and then a
great dispute arose between the orthodox and the Arians as to choosing a
new bishop, so that it seemed as if they might even come to blows about
it. When both parties were assembled in the cathedral for the election,
the governor, Ambrose, went and made them a speech, desiring them to
manage their business peaceably; and it is said that, as soon as he had
done, a little child's voice was heard crying out "Ambrose bishop!" All
at once, the whole assembly caught up the words, which seemed to have
something providential in them; and they insisted that the governor
should be the new bishop. Now although Ambrose had been brought up as a
Christian, he was still only a catechumen, and had never thought of
being a bishop, or a clergyman of any kind; and he was afraid to
undertake so high and holy an office. He therefore did all that he could
to get himself excused. He tried to make the people of Milan think that
his temper was too severe; but they saw through his attempts. He then
escaped from the town more than once, but he was brought back.
Valentinian, who was then emperor, approved the choice of a bishop; and
Ambrose was first baptized, and a few days afterwards he was

He now studied very hard, in order to make up for his want of
preparation for his office. He was very active in all sorts of pious and
charitable works, and he soon became famous as a preacher. His steady
firmness in maintaining the orthodox faith was especially shown when
Valentinian's widow, Justina, who was an Arian, wished to take one of
the churches of Milan from the Catholics, and to give it to her own
sect; and after a hard struggle, Ambrose got the better of her. He
afterwards gained a very great influence both over Justina's son,
Valentinian II., and over his elder brother Gratian. And when Gratian
had been murdered by the friends of Maximus (the same Maximus who put
Priscillian to death), and Theodosius came into the West to avenge his
murder (A.D. 388), Ambrose had no less power with Theodosius than he had
had with the younger emperors.

Theodosius took up his abode for a time at Milan after he had defeated
and slain the usurper Maximus. Soon after his arrival in the city, he
went to service at the cathedral, and was going to seat himself in the
part of it nearest to the altar, as at Constantinople the emperor's seat
was in that part of the church. But Ambrose stopped him, and told him
that none but the clergy were allowed to sit there; and he begged the
emperor to take a place at the head of the people outside the
altar-rails. Theodosius was so far from being angry at this, that he
thanked the bishop, and explained to him how it was that he had made the
mistake of going within the rails; and when he got back to
Constantinople, he astonished his courtiers by ordering that his seat
should be removed to a place answering to that in which he had sat at
Milan; for that, he said, was much more seemly and proper.

There are other stories about Ambrose's dealings with Theodosius; but I
shall mention only one, which is the most famous of all. One day when
there was to be a great chariot race at Thessalonica, it happened that a
famous charioteer, who was a favourite with the people of the town, had
been put in prison by the governor on account of a very serious crime.
On this a mob went to the governor, and demanded that the man should be
set at liberty. The governor refused; and thereupon the mob grew
furious, and murdered him, with a number of his soldiers and other
persons. The emperor might have been excused for showing heavy
displeasure at this outrage; but unhappily the great fault of his
character was a readiness to give way to violent fits of passion; and on
hearing what had been done, his anger knew no bounds. Ambrose, who was
afraid lest some serious mischief should follow, did all that he could
to soothe the emperor, and got a promise from him that the Thessalonians
should be spared. But some other advisers afterwards got about
Theodosius, and again inflamed his mind against the offenders, so that
he gave orders for a fearful act of cruel and treacherous vengeance. The
people of Thessalonica were invited in the emperor's name to some games
in the circus or amphitheatre, which was a building open to the sky, and
large enough to hold many thousands. And when they were all gathered
together in the place, instead of the amusement which had been promised
them, they were fallen on by soldiers, who for three hours carried on a
savage butchery; sparing neither old men, women, nor children, and
making no difference between innocent and guilty, Thessalonian or
stranger. Among those who had come to see the games there was a foreign
merchant, who had had no concern in the outrage of the mob, which was
punished in this frightful way. He had two sons with him, and he offered
his own life, with all that he had, if the soldiers would but spare one
of them. The soldiers were willing to agree to this, but the poor
father could not make up his mind which of the sons he should choose;
and the soldiers, who were too much enraged by their horrid work to make
any allowance for his feelings, stabbed both the youths before his eyes
at the same moment. The number of persons slain in the massacre is not
certain: there were at least as many as seven thousand, and some writers
say that there were fifteen thousand.

When Ambrose heard of this shocking affair, he was filled with grief and
horror; for he had relied on the emperor's promise to spare the
Thessalonians, and great care had been taken that he should not know
anything of the orders which had been afterwards sent off. He wrote a
letter to Theodosius, exhorting him to repent, and telling him that,
unless he did so, he could not be admitted to the holy Communion. This
letter brought the emperor to feel that he had done very wrongly; but
Ambrose wished to make him feel it far more. As Theodosius was about to
enter the cathedral, the bishop met him in the porch, and, laying hold
on his robe, desired him to withdraw, because he was a man stained with
innocent blood. The emperor said that he was deeply grieved for his
offence; but Ambrose told him that this was not enough--that he must
show some more public proofs of his repentance for so great a sin. The
emperor withdrew accordingly to his palace, where he shut himself up for
eight months, refusing to wear his imperial robes, and spending his time
in sadness and penitence. At length, when Christmas was drawing near, he
went to the bishop, and humbly begged that he might be admitted into the
Church again. Ambrose desired him to give some substantial token of his
sorrow, and the emperor agreed to make a law by which no sentence of
death should be executed until thirty days after it had been passed.
This law was meant to prevent any more such sad effects of sudden
passion in princes as the massacre of Thessalonica. The emperor was then
allowed to enter the church, where he fell down on the pavement, with
every appearance of the deepest grief and humiliation; and it is said
that from that time he never spent a day without remembering the crime
into which his passion had betrayed him.

Theodosius was the last emperor who kept up the ancient glory of Rome.
He is called "the Great," and in many respects was well deserving of the
name. He died in 395, and St. Ambrose died within two years after, on
Easter eve, in the year 397.



A.D. 391.

In the account of Constantine, it was mentioned that the emperors after
their conversion did not try to put down heathenism by force, or all at
once.[11] For the wise teachers of the Church knew that this would not
be the right way of going to work, but that it would be more likely to
make the heathens obstinate, than to convert them. Thus St. Augustine
(of whom I shall have more to tell you by-and-by) says in one of his
sermons--"We must first endeavour to break the idols in their hearts.
When they themselves become Christians, they will either invite us to
the good work of destroying their idols, or they will be beforehand with
us in doing so. And in the mean while, we must pray for them, not be
angry with them."

[11] Page 39.

But in course of time, as the people were more and more brought off from
heathenism, and as the belief of the Gospel worked its way more
thoroughly among all classes of them, laws were sent forth against
offering sacrifices, burning incense, and the like, to the heathen gods.
These laws were by degrees made stricter and stricter, until, in the
reign of Theodosius, it was forbidden to do any act of heathen worship.
And I may now tell you what took place as to the idols of Egypt in this

It was in the year 391 that an old heathen temple at Alexandria was
given up to the bishop of the city, who wished to build a church on the
spot. In digging out the foundation for the church, some strange and
disgusting things, which had been used in the heathen worship, were
found; and some of the Christians carried these about the streets by way
of mocking at the religion of the heathens. The heathen part of the
inhabitants were enraged; a number of them made an uproar, killed some
Christians, and then shut themselves up in the temple of one of their
gods called Serapis, whom they believed to be the protector of
Alexandria. This temple was surrounded by the houses of the priests and
other buildings; and the whole was so vast and so magnificent, that it
was counted as one of the wonders of the world.

The rioters, who had shut themselves up in the temple, used to rush out
from it now and then, killing some of the Christians who fell in their
way, and carrying off others as prisoners. These prisoners were desired
to offer sacrifice: if they refused, they were cruelly tortured, and
some of them were even crucified. A report of these doings was sent to
Theodosius, and he ordered that all the temples of Alexandria should be
destroyed. The governor invited the defenders of the temple of Serapis
to attend in the market-place, where the emperor's sentence was to be
read; and, on hearing what it was, they fled in all directions, so that
the soldiers, who were sent to the temple, found nobody there to
withstand them.

The idol of Serapis was of such vast size that it reached from one side
of the temple to the other. It was adorned with jewels, and was covered
with plates of gold and silver; and its worshippers believed that, if it
were hurt in any way, heaven and earth would go to wreck. So when a
soldier mounted a ladder, and raised his axe against it, the heathens
who stood by were in great terror, and even some of the Christians could
not help feeling a little uneasiness as to what might follow. But the
stout soldier first made a blow which struck off one of the idol's
cheeks, and then dashed his axe into one of his knees. Serapis, however,
bore all this quietly, and the bystanders began to draw their breath
more freely. The soldier worked away manfully, and, after a while, the
huge head of the idol came crashing down, when a swarm of rats, which
had long made their home in it, rushed forth, and scampered off in all
directions. Even the heathens who were in the crowd, on seeing this,
began to laugh at their god. The idol was demolished, and the pieces of
it were carried into the circus, where a bonfire was made of them; and,
in examining the temple, a number of tricks by which the priests had
deceived the people were found out, so that many heathens were converted
in consequence of having thus seen the vanity of their old religion, and
the falsehood of the means by which it was kept up.

Egypt, as you perhaps know, does not depend on rain for its crops, but
on the rising of the river Nile, which floods the country at a certain
season; and the heathens had long said that the Christians were afraid
to destroy the idols of Egypt, lest the gods should punish them by not
allowing the water to rise. After the destruction of Serapis, the usual
time for the rising of the river came, but there were no signs of it;
and the heathens began to be in great delight, and to boast that their
gods were going to take vengeance. Some weak Christians, too, began to
think that there might be some truth in this, and sent to ask the
emperor what should be done. "Better," he said, "that the Nile should
not rise at all, than that we should buy the fruitfulness of Egypt by
idolatry!" After a while the Nile began to swell; it soon mounted above
the usual height of its flood, and the Pagans were now in hopes that
Serapis was about to avenge himself by such a deluge as would punish the
Christians for the destruction of the idol; but they were again
disappointed by seeing the waters sink down to their proper level.

The emperor's orders were executed by the destruction of the Egyptian
temples and their idols. But we are told that the bishop of Alexandria
saved one image as a curiosity, and lest people should afterwards deny
that their forefathers had ever been so foolish as to worship such
things. Some say that this image was a figure of Jupiter, the chief of
the heathen gods; others say that it was the figure of a monkey; for
even monkeys were worshipped by the Egyptians!



By this time the Gospel had not only been firmly settled as the religion
of the great Roman empire, but had made its way into most other
countries of the world then known. Here, then, we may stop to take a
view of some things connected with the Church; and it will be well, in
doing so, to remember what is wisely said by our own Church, in her
thirty-fourth article, which is about "the Traditions of the Church"
(that is to say, the practices _handed down_ in the Church):--"It is not
necessary that traditions and ceremonies be in all places one, and
utterly like; for at all times they have been divers" (that is, they
have differed in different parts of Christ's Church), "and they may be
changed according to the diversities of countries, times, and men's
manners, so that nothing be ordained against God's word."

First, then, as to the ministers of the Church. The three orders which
had been from the beginning,--bishops, presbyters (or priests), and
deacons,[12] were considered to stand by themselves, as the only orders
_necessary_ to a church. But early in the third century a number of
other orders were introduced, all lower than that of deacons. These were
the _sub-deacons_, who helped the deacons in the care of the poor, and
of the property belonging to the church; the _acolyths_, who lighted
the lamps, and assisted in the celebration of the sacraments; the
_exorcists_, who took charge of persons suffering from afflictions
resembling the possession by devils which is spoken of in the New
Testament; the _readers_, whose business it was to read the Scriptures
in church; and the _doorkeepers_. All these were considered to belong to
the clergy; just as if among ourselves the organist, the clerk, the
sexton, the singers, and the bell-ringers of a church were to be
reckoned as clergy, and were to be appointed to their offices by a
religious ceremony or ordination. But these new orders were not used
everywhere, and, as has been said, the persons who were in these orders
were not considered to be clergy in the same way as those of the three
higher orders which had been ever since the days of the Apostles.

[12] Page 6.

There were also, in the earliest times, women called _deaconesses_, such
as Phoebe, who is mentioned in the Epistle to the Romans (xvi. I).
These deaconesses (who were often pious widows) were employed among
Christians of their own sex, for such works of mercy and instruction as
were not fit for men to do (or, at least, were supposed not to be so
according to the manners of the Greeks, and of the other ancient
nations). But the order of deaconesses does not seem to have lasted

All bishops, as I have said already, are of one order.[13] But in course
of time, it was found convenient for the government of the Church, that
some of them should be placed higher than others; and the way in which
this was settled was very natural. The bishops of a country found it
desirable to meet sometimes, that they might consult with each other, as
we are told that the Apostles did at Jerusalem (_Acts_ xv.); and in most
countries these meetings (which were called _synods_ or _councils_) came
to be regularly held once or twice a year. The chief city of each
district was naturally the place of meeting; and the bishop of this city
was naturally the chairman or president of the assembly--just as we
read that, in the council of the Apostles, St. James, who was bishop of
Jerusalem, where it was held, spoke with the greatest authority, after
all the rest, and that his "sentence" was given as the judgment of the
assembly. These bishops, then, got the title of _metropolitans_, because
each was bishop of the _metropolis_ (or _mother-city_) of the country in
which the council was held; and thus they came to be considered higher
than their brethren. And, of course, when any messages or letters were
to be sent to the churches of other countries, the metropolitan was the
person in whose name it was done.

[13] Page 6.

And, as all this was the natural course of things in every country, it
was also natural that the bishops of very great cities should be
considered as still higher than the ordinary metropolitans. Thus the
bishoprics of Rome, of Alexandria, and of Antioch, which were the three
greatest cities of the empire, were regarded as the chief bishoprics,
and as superior to all others. Those of Rome and Antioch were both
supposed to have been founded by St. Peter, and Alexandria was believed
to have been founded by St. Mark, under the direction of St. Peter.
Hence it afterwards came to be thought that this was the cause of their
greatness; and the bishops of Rome, especially, liked to have this
believed, because they could then pretend to claim some sort of especial
power, which they said that our Lord had given to St. Peter above the
other Apostles, and that St. Peter had left it to his successors. But
such claims were quite unfounded, and it is clear that the real reason
why these three churches stood higher than others was that they were in
the three greatest cities of the whole empire.

But the Church of Rome had many advantages over Alexandria and Antioch,
as well as over every other. It was the greatest and the richest of all,
so that it could send help to distressed Christians in all countries. No
other church of the West had an Apostle to boast of, but Rome could
boast of the two great Apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul, who had
laboured in it, and had given their blood for the faith in the Gospel in
it. Most of the western nations had received their knowledge of the
Gospel through the Roman Church, and on this account they looked up with
respect to it as a mother. And as people from all parts of the empire
were continually going to Rome and returning, the Church of the great
capital kept up a constant intercourse with other churches in all
quarters. Thus the bishops of Rome were naturally much respected
everywhere, and, so long as they did not take too much upon themselves,
great regard was paid to their opinion; but when they tried to interfere
with the rights of other bishops, or to lord it over other churches,
they were firmly withstood, and were desired to keep within their proper
bounds, as Stephen of Rome was by St. Cyprian of Carthage.[14]

[14] Page 29.

Another thing must be mentioned as creditable to the Roman Church, and
as one which did much to raise the power of its bishops. The heresies
which we have read of, all began in the East, where the people were more
sharp-witted and restless in their thoughts than those of the West. The
Romans, on the other hand, had not the turn of mind which led to these
errors, but rather attended to practical things. Hence they were
disposed to hold to the faith which had come down to them from their
fathers, and to defend it against the new opinions which were brought
forward from time to time. This steadiness, then, gave them a great
advantage over the Christians of the East, who were frequently changing
from one thing to another. It gained for the Roman Church much credit
and authority; and when the great Arian controversy arose, the effects
of the difference between the eastern and the western character were
vastly increased. The Romans (except for a short time, when a bishop
named Liberius was won over by the Arians) kept to their old faith. The
eastern parties looked to the bishop of Rome as if he had the whole
western Church in his hands. They constantly carried their quarrels to
him, asking him to give his help, and he was the strongest friend that
they could find anywhere. And when the side which Rome had always
upheld got the victory at last, the importance of the Roman bishops rose
in consequence. But even after all this, if the bishop of Rome tried to
meddle with other churches, his right to do so was still denied. Many
canons (that is to say, _rules of the Church_) were made to forbid the
carrying of any quarrel for judgment beyond the country in which it
began; and, however glad the churches of Africa and of the East were to
have the bishop of Rome for a friend, they would never allow him to
assume the airs of a master.

And from the time when Constantinople was built in the place of
Byzantium, a new great Church arose. Byzantium had been only a common
bishopric, and for a time Constantinople was not called anything more
than a common bishopric; but in real importance it was very much more,
so that even a bishop of Antioch, the third see in the whole Christian
world, thought himself advanced when he was made bishop of
Constantinople instead. But the second General Council (which as we have
seen[15] was held at Constantinople in the year 381) made a canon by
which Constantinople was placed next to Rome, "because," as the canon
said, "it is a new Rome." This raised the jealousy, not only of Antioch,
and still more of Alexandria, at having an upstart bishopric (as they
considered it) put over their heads; but it gave great offence to the
bishops of Rome, who could not bear such a rivalry as was now
threatened, and were besides very angry on account of the reason which
was given for placing Constantinople next after Rome. For the council,
when it said that Constantinople was to be second among all Churches,
because of its being "a new Rome," meant to say that the reason why Rome
itself stood first was nothing more than its being the old capital of
the empire, whereas the bishops of Rome wished it to be thought that
their power was founded on their being the successors of St. Peter.

[15] Page 70.

We shall by-and-by see something of the effects of these jealousies.




In the early days of the Gospel, while the Christians were generally
poor, and when they were obliged to meet in fear of the heathen, their
worship was held in private houses, and sometimes in burial-places
under-ground. But after a time buildings were expressly set apart for
worship. It has been mentioned that in the years of quiet, between the
death of Valerian and the last persecution (A.D. 261-303), these
churches were built much more handsomely than before, and were furnished
with gold and silver plate and other rich ornaments.[16] And after the
conversion of Constantine, they became still finer and costlier. The
clergy then wore rich dresses at service, the music was less simple, and
the ceremonies were multiplied. Some of the old heathen temples were
turned into churches; but temples were not built in a shape very
suitable for Christian worship, and the pattern of the new churches was
rather taken from the halls of justice, called _Basilicas_, which were
to be found in every large town. These buildings were of an oblong
shape, with a broad middle part, and on each side of it an aisle,
separated from it by a row of pillars. This lower part of the basilica
was used by merchants who met to talk about their business, and by all
sorts of loungers who met to tell and hear the news. But at the upper
end of the oblong there was a half circle, with its floor raised above
the level of the rest; and in the middle of this part the judge of the
city sat. Now if you will compare this description with the plan of a
church, you will see that the broad middle part of the basilica answers
to what is called the _body_ or _nave_ of the church; that the side
_aisles_ are alike in each; and that the further part of the basilica,
with its raised floor, answers to the _chancel_ of a church; while the
_holy table_, or _altar_, stands in the place answering to the judge's
seat in the basilica. Some of these halls were given up by the emperors
to be turned into churches, and the plan of them was found convenient as
a pattern in the building of new churches.

[16] Page 32.

On entering a church, the first part was the _Porch_, in which there
were places for the catechumens (that is to say, those who were
preparing for baptism); for those who were supposed to be possessed with
devils, and who were under the care of the _exorcists_;[17] and for the
lowest kinds of those who were undergoing penance. Beyond this porch
were the _Beautiful Gates_, which opened into the _Nave_ of the church.
Just within these gates were those penitents whose time of penance was
nearly ended; and the rest of the nave was the place for the
_faithful_--that is to say, for those who were admitted to all the
privileges of Christians. At the upper end of the nave, a place called
the _Choir_ was railed in for the singers; and then, last of all, came
the raised part or chancel, which has been spoken of. This was called
the _Sanctuary_, and was set apart for the clergy only. The women sat in
church apart from the men; sometimes they were in the aisles, and
sometimes in galleries. Churches generally had a court in front of them
or about them, in which were the lodgings of the clergy, and a building
for the administration of baptism, called the _Baptistery_.

[17] Page 81.

In the early times, churches were not adorned with pictures or statues;
for Christians were at first afraid to have any ornaments of the kind,
lest they should fall into idolatry like the heathen. No such things as
images or pictures of our Lord, or of His saints, were known among them;
and in their every-day life, instead of the figures of gods, with which
the heathens used to adorn their houses, their furniture, their cups,
and their seals, the Christians made use of emblems only. Thus, instead
of pretending to make a likeness of our Lord's human form, they made a
figure of a shepherd carrying a lamb on his shoulders, to signify the
Good Shepherd who gave his life for his sheep (_St. John_ x. 11). Other
ornaments of the same kind were--a _dove_, signifying the Holy Ghost; a
_ship_, signifying the Church, the ark of salvation, sailing towards
heaven; a _fish_, which was meant to remind them of their having been
born again in the water, at their baptism; a musical instrument called a
_lyre_, to signify Christian joy; and an _anchor_, the figure of
Christian hope. About the year 300, the Council of Elvira, in Spain,
made a canon forbidding pictures in church, which shows that the
practice had then begun, and was growing; and also that in Spain, at
least, it was thought to be dangerous (as indeed it too surely proved to
be). And a hundred years later, Epiphanius, a famous bishop of Salamis,
in the island of Cyprus, tore a curtain which he found hanging in a
church, with a figure of our Lord, or of some saint, painted on it. He
declared that such things were altogether unlawful, and desired that the
curtain might be used to bury some poor man in, promising to send the
church a plain one instead of it.

Christians used to sign themselves with the sign of the cross on many
occasions, and figures of the cross were early set up in churches. But
crucifixes (which are figures of our Lord on the cross, although
ignorant people sometimes call the cross itself a crucifix) were not
known until hundreds of years after the time of which we are now


The church-service of Christians was always the same as to its main
parts, although there were little differences as to order and the like.
Justin Martyr, who lived (as we have seen) about the middle of the
second century,[18] describes the service as it was in his time. It
began, he says, with readings from the Scriptures; then followed a
discourse by the chief clergyman who was present; and there was much
singing, of which a part was from the Old Testament psalms, while a part
was made up of hymns on Christian subjects. The discourses of the clergy
were generally meant to explain the Scripture lessons which had been
read. At first these discourses were very plain, and as much as possible
like ordinary talk; and from this they got the name of _homilies_, which
properly meant nothing more than _conversations_. But by degrees they
grew to be more like speeches, and people used to flock to them, just as
many do now, from a wish to hear something fine, rather than with any
notion of taking the preacher's words to heart, and trying to be made
better by them. And in the fourth century, when a clergyman preached
eloquently, the people used to cheer him on by clapping their hands,
waving their handkerchiefs, and shouting out, "Orthodox!" "Thirteenth
apostle!" or other such cries. Good men, of course, did not like to be
treated in this way, as if they were actors at a theatre; and we often
find St. Chrysostom and St. Augustine (of both of whom you will hear
by-and-by) objecting to it in their sermons, and begging their hearers
not to show their admiration in such foolish and unseemly ways. But it
seems that the people went on with it nevertheless; and no doubt there
must have been some preachers who were vain enough and silly enough to
be pleased with it.

[18] See Chapter III.

In the time of the Apostles the sacrament of the Lord's Supper was
celebrated in the evening, as it had been by our blessed Lord Himself on
the night in which He was betrayed. Thus it was, for instance, when the
disciples at Troas "came together upon the first day of the week
(Sunday) to break bread" (that is, to celebrate the Lord's Supper), and
"Paul preached unto them, and continued his speech until midnight"
(_Acts_ xx. 7). In the service for this sacrament there was a
thanksgiving to God for His bounty in bestowing the fruits of the earth.
The congregation offered gifts of bread and wine, and from these the
elements which were to be consecrated were taken. They also brought
gifts of money, which was used for the relief of the poor, for the
support of the clergy, and for other good and religious purposes. Either
before or after the sacrament, there was a meal called the _Love-feast_,
for which all the members of the congregation brought provisions,
according as they could afford. All of them sat down to it as equals, in
token of their being alike in Christ's brotherhood; and it ended with
psalm-singing and prayer. But even in very early days (as St. Paul shows
us in his first epistle to the Corinthians, xi. 21, 22), there was sad
misbehaviour at these meals; and besides this, such religious feasts
gave the heathen an excuse for their stories that the Christians met to
feed on human flesh and to commit other abominations in secret.[19] For
these reasons, after a time, the love-feast was separated from the holy
Communion, and at length it was entirely given up.

[19] See page 7.

In the second century, the administration of the Lord's Supper, instead
of being in the evening as at first, was added on to the morning
service, and then a difference was made between the two parts of the
service. At the earlier part of it the catechumens and penitents might
be present, but when the Communion office was going to begin, a deacon
called out, "Let no one of the catechumens or of the hearers stay."
After this none were allowed to remain except those who were entitled to
communicate, which all baptized Christians did in those days, unless
they were shut out from the Church on account of their misdeeds. The
"breaking of bread" in the Lord's Supper was at first daily, as we know
from the early chapters of the Acts (ii. 46); but this practice does not
seem to have lasted beyond the time when the faith of the Christians was
in its first warmth, and it became usual to celebrate the holy Communion
on the Lord's day only. When Christianity became the religion of the
empire, and there was now no fear of persecution, the earlier part of
the service was open not only to catechumens and penitents, but to Jews
and heathens; and in the fifth century, when the Church was mostly made
up of persons who had been baptized and trained in Christianity from
their infancy, the distinction between the "service of the catechumens"
and the "service of the faithful" was no longer kept up.

The length of time during which converts were obliged to be catechumens
before being admitted to baptism differed in different parts of the
Church. In some places it was two years, in some three years; but if
during this time they fell sick and appeared to be in danger of death,
they were baptized without waiting any longer.

At baptism, those who received it professed their faith, or their
sponsors did so for them, and from this began the use of _creeds_,
containing, in few words, the chief articles of the Christian faith. The
sign of the cross was made over those who were baptized, "in token that
they should not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and
manfully to fight under His banner against sin, the world, and the
devil, and to continue Christ's faithful soldiers and servants unto
their life's end." The kiss of peace was given to them in token of their
being taken into spiritual brotherhood; white robes were put on them, to
signify their cleansing from sin; and a mixture of milk and honey was
administered to them, as if to give them a foretaste of their heavenly
inheritance, of which the earthly Canaan, "flowing with milk and honey"
(_Exod._ iii. 8, &c.) had been a figure. Other ceremonies were added in
the fourth century, such as the use of salt and lights, and an anointing
with oil in token of their being "made kings and priests to God" (_Rev._
i. 6; 1 _Pet._ ii. 5-9), besides the anointing with a mixture called
_chrism_ at confirmation, which had been practised in earlier times.

The usual time of baptism was the season from Easter-eve to Whitsuntide;
but in case of danger, persons might be baptized at any time.


During the fourth century there was a growth of superstitions and
corruptions in the Church. Great numbers of converts came into it,
bringing their old heathen notions with them, and not well knowing what
they might expect, but with an eager desire to find as much to interest
them in the worship and life of Christians as they had found in the
ceremonies and shows of their former religion. And in order that such
converts might not be altogether disappointed, the Christian teachers of
the age allowed a number of things which soon began to have very bad
effects; thus, as we are told in the preface to our own Prayer-book, St.
Augustine complained that in his time (which was about the year 400)
ceremonies "were grown to such a number that the estate of Christian
people was in worse case concerning that matter than were the Jews."
Among the corruptions which were now growing, although they did not come
to a head until afterwards, one was an excess of reverence for saints,
which led to the practices of making addresses to them, and of paying
superstitious honours to their dead bodies. Another corruption was the
improper use of paintings or images, which even in St. Augustine's time
had gone so far that, as he owns with sorrow, many of the ignorant were
"worshippers of pictures." Another was the fashion of going on
pilgrimage to the Holy Land, in which Constantine's mother, Helena, set
an example which was soon followed by thousands, who not only fancied
that the sight of the places hallowed by the great events of Scripture
would kindle or heighten their devotion, but that prayers would be
especially pleasing to God if they were offered up in such places. And
thus great numbers flocked to Palestine from all quarters, and even from
Britain, among other countries; and on their return they carried back
with them water from the Jordan, earth from the Redeemer's sepulchre, or
what they believed to be chips of the true cross, which was supposed to
have been found during Helena's visit to Jerusalem. The mischiefs of
this fashion soon showed themselves. St. Basil's brother, Gregory of
Nyssa, wrote a little book expressly for the purpose of persuading
people not to go on pilgrimage. He said that he himself had been neither
better nor worse for a visit which he had paid to the Holy Land; but
that such a pilgrimage might even be dangerous for others, because the
inhabitants of the country were so vicious that there was more
likelihood of getting harm from them than good from the sight of the
holy places. "We should rather try," he said, "to go out of the body
than to drag it about from place to place." Another very learned man of
the same time, St. Jerome, although he had taken up his own abode at
Bethlehem, saw so much of the evils which arose from pilgrimages that he
gave very earnest warnings against them. "It is no praise," he says, "to
have been at Jerusalem, but to have lived religiously at Jerusalem. The
sight of the places where our Lord died and rose again are profitable to
those who bear their own cross and daily rise again with Him. But for
those who say, 'The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord'
(_Jerem._ vii. 4), let them hear the Apostle's words, '_Ye_ are the
temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you' (1 _Cor._ iii.
16). The court of heaven is open to approach from Jerusalem and from
Britain alike; 'for the kingdom of God is _within_ you'" (_St. Luke_
xvii. 21).

There were, indeed, some persons who rose up to oppose the errors of
which I have been speaking. But unhappily they mixed up the truths which
they wished to teach with so many errors of their own, and they carried
on their opposition so unwisely, that, instead of doing good, they did
harm, by setting people against such truth as they taught on account of
the error which was joined with it, and of the wrong way which they took
of teaching it. By such opposition the growth of superstition was not
checked, but advanced and strengthened.



A.D. 395-423.

The great emperor Theodosius was succeeded in 395 by his two sons,
Arcadius, who was eighteen years of age, and Honorius, who was only
eleven. Arcadius had the east, and Honorius the west; and after this
division, the empire was never again united in anything like the full
extent of its old greatness. The reigns of these princes were full of
misfortunes, especially in the western empire, where swarms of
barbarians poured down from the north, and did a vast deal of mischief.
One of these barbarous nations, the Goths, whose king was named Alaric,
thrice besieged Rome itself. The first time, Alaric was bought off by a
large sum of money. After the second siege, he set up an emperor of his
own making; and after the third siege, the city was given up to his
soldiers for plunder. Rude as these Goths were, they had been brought
over to a kind of Christianity, although it was not the true faith of
the Church. There had, indeed, been Christians among the Goths nearly
150 years before this time; for many of them had been converted by
Christian captives, whom they carried off in the reigns of Valerian and
Gallienus, about the year 260; and a Gothic bishop, named Theophilus,
had sat at the council of Nicæa. But great changes had since been
wrought among them by a remarkable man named Ulfilas, who was
consecrated as their bishop in the year 348. He found that they did not
know the use of letters; so he made an alphabet for them, and translated
the Scriptures into their language, and he taught them many useful arts.
Thus he got such an influence over them, that they received all his
words as law, and he was called "the Moses of the Goths." But,
unhappily, Ulfilas was drawn into Arianism, and this was the doctrine
which he taught to his people, instead of the sound faith which had
before been preached to them by Theophilus and others. But still,
although their Christianity was not of the right kind, it had good
effects on these rough people; and so it appeared when Rome was given
over by the conqueror Alaric to his soldiers. Although they destroyed
temples, they paid great respect to churches; and they did not commit
such terrible acts of cruelty and violence as had been usual when cities
were taken by heathen armies.

I need not say more about these sad times; but I must not forget to tell
what was done by a monk, named Telemachus, in the reign of Honorius. In
the year 403, one of the emperor's generals defeated Alaric in the north
of Italy; and the Romans, who in those days were not much used to
victories, made the most of this one, and held great games in honour of
it. Now the public games of the Romans were generally of a cruel kind.
We have seen how, in former days, they used to let wild beasts loose
against the Christian martyrs in their amphitheatres;[20] and another of
their favourite pastimes was to set men who were called gladiators (that
is, _swordsmen_) to fight and kill each other in those same places. The
love of these shows of gladiators was so strong in the people of Rome,
that Constantine had not ventured to do away with them there, although
he would not allow any such things in the new Christian capital which he
built. And the custom of setting men to slaughter one another for the
amusement of the lookers-on had lasted at Rome down to the time of

[20] Page 9.

Telemachus, then, who was an eastern monk, was greatly shocked that
Christians should take pleasure in these savage sports; and when he
heard of the great games which were preparing, he resolved to bear his
witness against them. For this purpose, therefore, he went all the way
to Rome, and got into the amphitheatre, close to the _arena_ (as the
place where the gladiators fought was called); and when the fight had
begun, he leaped over the barrier which separated him from the arena,
rushed in between the gladiators, and tried to part them. The people who
crowded the vast building grew furious at being baulked of their
amusement; they shouted out with rage, and threw stones, or whatever
else they could lay their hands on, at Telemachus, so that he was soon
pelted to death. But when they saw him lying dead, their anger suddenly
cooled, and they were struck with horror at the crime of which they had
been guilty, although they had never thought of the wickedness of
feasting their eyes on the bloodshed of gladiators. The emperor said
that the death of Telemachus was really a martyrdom, and proposed to do
away with the shows of gladiators; and the people, who were now filled
with sorrow and shame, agreed to give up their cruel diversions. So the
life of the brave monk was not thrown away, since it was the means of
saving the lives of many, and of preserving multitudes from the sin of
sacrificing their fellow-men for their sport.



A.D. 347-407.


At this time lived St. John Chrysostom, whose name is known to us all
from the prayer in our service which is called "A Prayer of St.

He was born at Antioch about the year 347. While he was still a little
child, he lost his father; but his mother, Anthusa, who was left a widow
at the age of twenty, remained unmarried, and devoted herself to the
training of her son. During his early years, she brought him up with
religious care, and he was afterwards sent to finish his education
under a famous heathen philosopher. I have already had occasion to tell
you that Christian youths, while in the schools of such teachers, ran a
great risk of being turned from the Gospel, and that many of them fell
away;[21] but John was preserved from the danger by daily studying the
Scriptures, and thus his faith was kept fresh and warm. The philosopher
had such a high notion of his talents, that he long after spoke of John
as the best of all the pupils he had ever had, and said that he would
have been the worthiest to succeed him as a teacher, "if the Christians
had not stolen him."

[21] Page 67.

When he left this master, John studied law; but, after trying it for a
time, he found that there were things about the business of an Antioch
lawyer which went against his conscience; so he resolved to give up the
law, and to become a monk. But his mother thought that he might lead a
really Christian life without rushing away into the wilderness and
leaving his natural duties behind him. She took him by the hand, led him
into her chamber, and made him sit down beside her on the bed. Then she
burst into tears: she reminded him of all the kindness which she had
shown him, and of the cares and troubles which she had borne for his
sake. She told him that it had been her chief comfort to look on his
face, which put her in mind of the husband whom she had lost. "Make me
not once more a widow," she said: "wait only for my death, which may,
perhaps, not be far off. When you have laid me in the grave, then you
may go where you will--even beyond the sea, if such be your wish, but so
long as I live, bear to stay with me, and do not offend God by
afflicting your mother." The young man yielded to these entreaties, and
remained in his mother's house, although he gave up all worldly
business, and lived after the strict manner of the monks. But when the
good Anthusa was dead, he withdrew to the mountains, near Antioch, in
which a great number of monks dwelt. There he spent four years in a
monastery, and two as a hermit in a cave. But at last his hard life made
him very weak and ill, so that he was obliged to return to Antioch; and
soon after this he was ordained to be one of the clergy, and was
appointed chief preacher of the city (A.D. 386).

Of all the great men of the ancient Church, John was the most famous for
eloquence; and from this it was that he got the name of _Chrysostom_,
which means _golden-mouthed_. His sermons (of which hundreds still
remain) were not mere displays of fine words, but were always meant to
instruct and to improve those who heard them. And, while he was chief
preacher at Antioch, he had a very remarkable opportunity of using his
gifts of speech. An outbreak had taken place in the city, on account of
a new tax which Theodosius, who was then emperor, had laid on the people
(A.D. 387). The statues of the emperor and of his family, which stood in
public places, were thrown down, and were dragged about the streets with
all sorts of mockery and insult. But the riot was easily put down, and
then the inhabitants began to be in great anxiety and terror as to the
punishment which Theodosius might inflict on them. For although the
frightful massacre of Thessalonica[22] had not at that time taken place,
they knew that the emperor was not to be trifled with, and that his fits
of anger were terrible. They expected that they might be given up to
slaughter, and their city to destruction. For a time, few of them
ventured out of their houses; and those few slunk along the streets as
if they were afraid of being seized. Many were imprisoned, and were
cruelly tortured or put to death; others ran away, leaving all that they
had behind them; and the public amusements, of which the people of
Antioch were excessively fond, were, for a time, quite given up.

[22] Page 75.

The bishop, Flavian, who was a very aged man, in bad health and infirm,
left the bedside of his sister (who was supposed to be dying) to set out
for Constantinople and implore the emperor's mercy. And while he was
absent Chrysostom took the lead among the clergy. He preached every day
in a solemn and awakening tone; he tried to turn the terrors of the
people to their lasting good, by directing their thoughts to the great
judgment, in which all men must hereafter appear, and urging them,
whatever their present fate might be, to strive after peace with God,
and a share in his mercy, through Christ, in that awful day. The effect
of this preaching was wonderful;--day after day, vast crowds flocked to
listen to it, forgetting every thing else: even many heathens were among

The news of the disturbances at Antioch had reached Constantinople long
before Flavian; and the bishop, as he was on his way, met two
commissioners, who had been sent by the emperor to declare his sentence
to the people. The buildings of the city were to be spared; but it was
to lose its rank among the cities of the empire. The baths, which in
those countries were reckoned almost as a necessary of life, were to be
shut up, and all public amusements were to be at an end. The officers,
after reaching Antioch, and publishing this sentence, set about
inquiring who had taken a part in the tumult. Judgment was to be
executed without mercy on all whose guilt could be proved; and the
anxiety of the people became extreme. A number of monks and hermits came
down from the mountains, and busied themselves in trying to comfort
those who were in distress. One of these monks, Macedonius, a man of
rough and simple appearance, but of great note for holiness, met the
emperor's commissioners as they were riding through the market-place;
whereupon he laid hold of one of them by the cloak, and desired them
both to dismount. At first they were angry; but, on being told who he
was, they alighted and fell on their knees before him; for, in those
days, monks famous for their holiness were looked on much as if they had
been prophets. And Macedonius spoke to them in the tone of a
prophet:--"Go," he said, "say to the emperor, You are a man; your
subjects too are men, made in the image of God. You are enraged on
account of images of brass; but a living and reasonable image is of far
higher worth than these. Destroy the brazen images, and it is easy to
make others; but you cannot restore a single hair of the heads of the
men whom you have put to death." The commissioners were much struck with
the way in which Macedonius uttered this, although they did not
understand what he said (as he spoke in the Syrian language); and when
his words were explained to them in Greek, they agreed that one of them
should go to the emperor, to tell him how things were at Antioch, and to
beg for further instructions.

In the mean time, Bishop Flavian had made his way to the emperor's
presence. Theodosius received him with kindness, and spoke calmly of the
favour which he had always shown to Antioch, and of the base return
which the citizens had made for it. The bishop wept bitterly when he
heard this. He owned that his flock had deserved the worst of
punishments; but, he said, no punishment could be so severe as
undeserved mercy. He told the emperor that, instead of the statues which
had been thrown down, he had now the opportunity of setting up far
better monuments in the hearts of his people, by showing them
forgiveness. He urged the duty of forgiveness in all the ways that he
could think of; he drew a moving picture of the misery of the
inhabitants of Antioch, which he could not bear to see again; and he
declared that, unless he gained the favour which he had come to beg for,
he would never return to his city.

Theodosius was moved almost to tears by the old man's words. "What
wonder is it," he said, "if I, who am but a man, should pardon my
fellow-men, when the Maker of the world has come on earth, and has
submitted to death, for the forgiveness of mankind?" and he pressed
Flavian to return to Antioch with all speed, for the comfort of his
people. The bishop, on reaching home, found that his sister, whom he had
not hoped to see any more in this world, was recovered; and we may well
imagine that his flock were full of gratitude to him for what he had
done. But he refused all thanks or credit on account of the success of
his mission. "It was not my doing," he said: "it was God who softened
the emperor's heart."


When Chrysostom had been chief preacher of Antioch about twelve years,
the bishopric of Constantinople fell vacant (A.D. 397); and there was so
much strife for it, that at length the people, as the only way of
settling the matter quietly, begged the emperor Arcadius to name a
bishop for them. Now it happened that the emperor's favourite
counsellor, Eutropius, had been at Antioch a short time before, and had
been very much struck with Chrysostom's preaching; so he advised the
emperor to choose him. Chrysostom was appointed accordingly; and, as he
was so much beloved by the people of Antioch that they might perhaps
have made a disturbance rather than part with him, he was decoyed
outside the city, and was then secretly sent off to Constantinople.
Eutropius was so worthless a man that we can hardly suppose him to have
acted from quite pure motives in this affair. Perhaps he wished to get
credit with the people for making so good a choice. Perhaps, too, he may
have hoped that he might be able to do as he liked with a bishop of his
own choosing. But if he thought so, he was much disappointed; for
Chrysostom behaved as a faithful and true pastor, without any fear of

The new bishop's preaching was as much admired at Constantinople as it
had been at Antioch, and he soon gained great influence among his flock.
And besides attending diligently to his work at home, he set on foot
missions to some heathen nations, and also to the Goths, who, as we have
seen,[23] were Arians. But besides the Goths at a distance, there were
then a great number of the same people at Constantinople; for the Greeks
and Romans of those days were so much fallen away from the bravery of
their forefathers, that the emperors were obliged to hire Gothic
soldiers to defend their dominions. Chrysostom, therefore, took great
pains to bring over these Goths at Constantinople to the Church. He
ordained clergy of their own nation for them, and set apart a church for
them. And he often went himself to this church, and preached to them in
Greek, while an interpreter repeated his words to them in their own

[23] Page 93.

But unhappily he soon made enemies at Constantinople. For he found the
church there in a very bad state, and, in trying to set things right, he
gave offence to many people of various kinds; and, although he was
indeed an excellent man, perhaps he did not always act with such wisdom
and such calmness of temper as might have been wished. The last bishop,
Nectarius, was a man of high rank, who had never dreamt of being a
bishop or any such thing, until at the council of Constantinople he was
suddenly chosen instead of the good Gregory.[24] At that time Nectarius
was not even baptized; so that he had first to receive baptism, and then
within a week he was consecrated as bishop of the second church in the
whole Christian world. And it proved that he was too old to change his
ways very much. He continued to live in a costly style, as he had done
all his life before; and he let the clergy go on much as they pleased,
so that they generally fell into easy and luxurious habits, and some of
them were even quite scandalous in their conduct. Now Chrysostom's ways
and notions were quite opposite to all this. He sold the rich carpets
and other valuable furniture which he found in the bishop's palace; nay,
he even sold some of the church ornaments, that he might get money for
building hospitals and for other charitable purposes. He did not care
for company, and his health was delicate; and for these reasons he
always took his meals by himself, and did not ask bishops who came to
Constantinople to lodge in his palace or to dine with him, as Nectarius
had done. This does not seem to be quite according to St. Paul's saying,
that a bishop should be "given to hospitality" (1 _Tim._ iii. 2); but
Chrysostom thought that among the Christians of a great city like
Constantinople the strange bishops could be at no loss for
entertainment, and that his own time and money might be better spent
than in entertaining them. But many of them were very much offended, and
it is said that one, Acacius, of Berrhoea, in Syria, declared in
anger, "I will cook his pot for him!"

[24] See page 71.

Chrysostom's reforms also interfered much with the habits of his clergy.
He made them perform service at night in their churches for people who
were too busy to attend during the day; and many of them were very
unwilling to leave their homes at late hours and to do additional work.
Some of them, too, were envious of him because he was so famous as a
preacher, and they looked eagerly to find something in his sermons which
might be turned against him. And besides all these enemies among the
clergy, he provoked many among the courtiers and the rich people of
Constantinople, by plainly attacking their vices.

Although Chrysostom had chiefly owed his bishopric to Eutropius, he was
afterwards drawn into many disputes with him. For in that age and in
that country things were very different from what they happily are among
ourselves, and a person in power like Eutropius might commit great acts
of tyranny and oppression, while the poor people who suffered had no
means of redress. But many of those whom Eutropius meant to plunder or
to imprison took refuge in churches, where debtors and others were then
considered to be safe, as it was not lawful to seize them in the holy
buildings. Eutropius persuaded the emperor to make a law by which this
right of shelter (or _asylum_, as it was called) was taken away from
churches. But soon after he himself fell into disgrace, and in his
terror he rushed to the cathedral, and laid hold of the altar for
protection. Some soldiers were sent to seize him; but Chrysostom would
not let them enter; and next day, when the church was crowded by a
multitude of people who had flocked to see what would become of
Eutropius, the bishop preached on the uncertainty of all earthly
greatness. While Eutropius lay crouching under the holy table,
Chrysostom turned to him and reminded him how he had tried to take away
that very privilege of churches from which he was now seeking
protection; and he desired the people to beg both God and the emperor to
pardon the fallen favourite. By all this he did not mean to insult the
wretched Eutropius, but to turn the rage of the multitude into pity. It
was said, however, by some that he had triumphed over his enemy's
misfortunes; and he also got into trouble for giving Eutropius shelter,
and was carried before the emperor to answer for doing so. But the
bishop boldly upheld the right of the Church to protect the defenceless,
and Eutropius was, for the time, allowed to go free.


Thus there were many at Constantinople who were ready to take part
against Chrysostom, if an opportunity should offer; and it was not long
before they found one.

The bishop of Alexandria at this time was a bold and bad man, named
Theophilus. He was jealous of the see of Constantinople, because the
second general council had lately placed it above his own;[25] he
disliked the bishop because he had hoped to put one of his own clergy
into the place, and had seen enough of Chrysostom at his first meeting
to know that he could not make a tool of him; and although he had been
obliged by the emperor and Eutropius to consecrate Chrysostom as bishop,
it was with a very bad grace that he did so.

[25] See page 84.

There were then great quarrels as to the opinions of the famous Origen,
who had lived two hundred years before.[26] Some of his opinions were
really wrong, and others were very strange, if they were not wrong too.
But besides these, a number of things had been laid to his charge of
which he seems to have been quite innocent. If Theophilus really cared
at all about the matter, he was in his heart favourable to Origen. But
he found it convenient to take the opposite side; and he cruelly
persecuted such of the Egyptian monks as were said to be touched with
Origen's errors. The chief of these monks were four brothers, called the
_long_ or _tall brothers_: one of them was that same Ammonius who cut
off his ear, and was ready to cut out his tongue, rather than be a
bishop.[27] Theophilus had made much of these brothers, and had employed
two of them in managing his accounts. But these two found out such
practices of his in money matters as quite shocked them, and as, after
this, they refused to stay with the bishop any longer, he charged them
and their brothers with Origenism (as the following of Origen's opinions
was called). They denied that they held any of the errors which
Theophilus laid to their charge; but he went with soldiers into the
desert, hunted out the brothers, destroyed their cells, burnt a number
of books, and even killed some persons. The tall brothers and some of
their friends fled into the Holy Land, but their enemy had power enough
to prevent their remaining there, and they then sought a refuge at

[26] See Chapter VII.

[27] See page 65.

On hearing of their arrival in his city, Chrysostom inquired about them,
and, finding that they bore a good character, he treated them kindly;
but he would not admit them to communion until he knew what Theophilus
had to say against them. Theophilus, however, was told that Chrysostom
_had_ admitted them, and he wrote a furious letter to him about it. The
brothers were very much alarmed lest they should be turned away at
Constantinople, as they had been in the Holy Land; and one day when the
empress Eudoxia was in a church, they went to her and entreated her to
get the emperor's leave that a council might be held to examine their

Theophilus was summoned to appear before this council, and give an
account of his behaviour to the brothers; but when he got to
Constantinople, he acted as if, instead of being under a charge of
misbehaviour himself, he had been called to judge the bishop of the
capital. He would have nothing to do with Chrysostom. He spent large
sums of money in bribing courtiers and others to favour his own side;
and, when he thought he had made all sure, he held a meeting of six and
thirty bishops, at a place called the Oak, which lay on the Asiatic
shore, opposite to Constantinople (A.D. 403). A number of trumpery
charges were brought against Chrysostom, and, as he refused to appear
before such a meeting, which was almost entirely made up of Egyptian
bishops, and had no right whatever to try him, they found him guilty of
various offences, and, among the rest, of high treason! The emperor and
empress had been drawn into taking part against him, and he was
condemned to banishment. But on the night after he had been sent across
the Bosphorus (the strait which divides Constantinople from the Asiatic
shore), the city was shaken by an earthquake. The empress in her terror
supposed this to be a judgment against the injustice which had been
committed, and hastily sent off a messenger to beg that the bishop would
return. And when it was known next day that he was on his way back, so
great was the joy of his flock that the Bosphorus was covered with
vessels, carrying vast multitudes of people, who eagerly crowded to
welcome him.


Within a few months after his return, Chrysostom again got into trouble
for finding fault with some disorderly and almost heathenish rejoicings
which were held around a new statue of the empress, close to the door of
his cathedral. Theophilus had returned to Egypt, and did not again
appear at Constantinople, but directed the proceedings of Chrysostom's
other enemies who were on the spot. Another council was held, and, of
course, found the bishop guilty of whatever was laid to his charge. He
did not mean to desert his flock, unless he were forced to do so; he,
therefore, kept possession of the cathedral and of the episcopal house
for some months. During this time he was often disturbed by his enemies;
nay, more than once, attempts were even made to murder him. At last, on
receiving an order from the emperor to leave his house, he saw that the
time was come when he must yield to force. His flock guarded the
cathedral day and night, and would have resisted any attempt to seize
him; but he did not think it right to risk disorder and bloodshed. He,
therefore, took a solemn leave of his chief friends, giving good advice
and speaking words of comfort to each. He begged them not to despair for
the loss of him, but to submit to any bishop who should be chosen by
general consent to succeed him. And then, while, in order to take off
the people's attention, his mule was held at one door of the church, as
if he might be expected to come out there, he quietly left the building
by another door, and gave himself up as a prisoner, declaring that he
wished his case to be fairly tried by a council (A.D. 404).

He was first carried to Nicæa, where he remained nearly a month. During
this time he pressed for a fresh inquiry into his conduct, but in vain;
and neither he nor his friends could obtain leave for him to retire to
some place where he might live with comfort. He was sentenced to be
carried to Cucusus, among the mountains of Taurus--a name which seemed
to bode him no good, as an earlier bishop of Constantinople, Paul, had
been starved and afterwards strangled there, in the time of the Arian
troubles (A.D. 351).

On his way to Cucusus, he was often in danger from robbers who infested
the road, and still more from monks of the opposite party, who were
furious against him. When he arrived at the place, he found it a
wretched little town, where he was frozen by cold in winter, and parched
by excessive heat in summer. Sometimes he could hardly get provisions;
and when he was ill (as often happened), he could not get proper
medicines. Sometimes, too, the robbers, from the neighbouring country of
Isauria, made plundering attacks, so that Chrysostom was obliged to
leave Cucusus in haste, and to take refuge in a castle called

But, although there was much to distress him in his banishment, there
was also much to comfort him. His great name, his sufferings, and his
innocence were known throughout all Christian churches. Letters of
consolation and sympathy poured in on him from all quarters. The bishop
of Rome himself wrote to him as to an equal, and even the emperor of the
west, Honorius, interceded for him, although without success. The bishop
of Cucusus, and his other neighbours, treated him with all respect and
kindness, and many pilgrims made their way over the rough mountain roads
to see him, and to express their reverence for him. His friends at a
distance sent him such large sums of money that he was able to redeem
captives and to support missions to the Goths and to the Persians, and,
after all, had to desire that they would not send him so much, as their
gifts were more than he could use. In truth, no part of his life was so
full of honour and of influence as the three years which he spent in

At length the court became jealous of the interest which was so
generally felt in Chrysostom, and he was suddenly hurried off from
Cucusus, with the intention of removing him to a still wilder and more
desolate place at the farthest border of the empire. He had to travel
rapidly in the height of summer, and the great heat renewed the ailments
from which he had often suffered. At length he became so ill that he
felt his end to be near, and desired the soldiers who had the charge of
him to stop at a town called Comana. There he exchanged his mean
travelling dress for the best which he possessed; he once more received
the sacrament of his Saviour's body and blood; and, after uttering the
words "Glory be to God for all things," with his last breath he added
"Amen!" (September 14th, 407).

Thirty years after this, Chrysostom's body was removed to
Constantinople. When the vessel which conveyed it was seen leaving the
Asiatic shore of the Bosphorus, a multitude, far greater than that
which had hailed his first return from banishment, poured forth from
Constantinople, in shipping and boats of all kinds, which covered the
narrow strait. And the emperor, Theodosius II., son of Arcadius and
Eudoxia, bent humbly over the coffin, and lamented with tears the guilt
of his parents in the persecution of the great and holy bishop.



A.D. 354-430.


The church in the north of Africa has hardly been mentioned since the
time of St. Cyprian.[28] But we must now look towards it again, since in
the days of St. Chrysostom it produced a man who was perhaps the
greatest of all the old Christian fathers--St. Augustine.

[28] Chapter VIII.

Augustine was born at Thagaste, a city of Numidia, in the year 354. His
mother, Monica, was a pious Christian, but his father, Patricius, was a
heathen, and a man of no very good character. Monica was resolved to
bring up her son in the true faith: she entered him as a catechumen of
the Church when a little child, and carefully taught him as much of
religious things as a child could learn. But he was not then baptized,
because (as has been mentioned already)[29] people were accustomed in
those days to put off baptism, out of fear lest they should afterwards
fall into sin, and so should lose the blessing of the sacrament. This,
as we know, was a mistake, but it was a very common practice

[29] Page 39.

When Augustine was a boy, he was one day suddenly taken ill, so that he
seemed likely to die. Remembering what his mother had taught him, he
begged that he might be baptized, and preparations were made for the
purpose; but all at once he began to grow better, and the baptism was
put off for the same reason as before.

As he grew up, he gave but little promise of what he was afterwards to
become. Much of his time was spent in idleness; and through idleness he
fell into bad company, and was drawn into sins of many kinds. When he
was about seventeen, his father died. The good Monica had been much
troubled by her husband's heathenism and misconduct, and had earnestly
tried to convert him from his errors. She went about this wisely, not
lecturing him or arguing with him in a way that might have set him more
against the Gospel, but trying rather to show him the beauty of
Christian faith by her own loving, gentle, and dutiful behaviour. And at
length her pains were rewarded by seeing him before his death profess
himself a believer, and receive Christian baptism.

Monica was left rather badly off at her husband's death. But a rich
neighbour was kind enough to help her in the expense of finishing her
son's education, and the young man himself now began to show something
of the great talents which God had been pleased to bestow on him.
Unhappily, however, he sank deeper and deeper in vice, and poor Monica
was bitterly grieved by his ways. A book which he happened to read led
him to feel something of the shamefulness and wretchedness of his
courses; but, as it was a heathen book (although written by one of the
wisest of the heathens, Cicero), it could not show him by what means he
might be able to reach to a higher life. He looked into Scripture, in
the hope of finding instruction there; but he was now in that state of
mind to which, as St. Paul says (1 _Cor._ i. 23), the preaching of
Christ sounds like "foolishness;" so that he fancied himself to be above
learning anything from a book so plain and homely as the Bible then
seemed to him, and he set out in search of some other teaching. And a
very strange sort of teaching he met with.

About a hundred years before this time, a man named Manes appeared in
Persia (A.D. 270), and preached a religion which he pretended to have
received from Heaven, but which was really made up by himself, from a
mixture of Christian and heathen notions. It was something like the
doctrines which had been before taught by the Gnostics,[30] and was as
wild nonsense as can well be imagined. He taught that there were two
gods--a good god of light, and a bad god of darkness. And he divided his
followers into two classes, the lower of which were called _hearers_,
while the higher were called _elect_. These _elect_ were supposed to be
very strict in their lives. They were not to eat flesh at all;--they
might not even gather the fruits of the earth, or pluck a herb with
their own hands. They were supported and were served by the hearers; and
they took a very odd way of showing their gratitude to these; for it is
said that when one of the elect ate a piece of bread, he made this
speech to it:--"It was not I who reaped or ground or baked thee; may
they who did so be reaped and ground and baked in their turn!" And it
was believed that the poor "hearers" would after death become corn, and
have to go through the mill and the oven, until they should have
suffered enough to clear away their offences and make them fit for the
blessedness of the elect.

[30] Page 5.

The Manichæans (as the followers of Manes were called) soon found their
way into Africa, where they gained many converts; and, although laws
were often made against their heresy by the emperors, it continued to
spread secretly; for they used to hide their opinions, when there was
any danger, so that persons who were really Manichæans pretended to be
Catholic Christians, and there was some of them even among the monks and
clergy of the Church.

In the humour in which Augustine now was, this strange sect took his
fancy; for the Manichæans pretended to be wiser than any one else, and
laughed at all submission to doctrines which had been settled by the
Church. So Augustine at twenty became a Manichæan, and for nine years
was one of the hearers,--for he never got to be one of the elect, or to
know much about their secrets. But before he had been very long in the
sect, he began to notice some things which shocked him in the behaviour
of the elect, who professed the greatest strictness. In short, he could
not but see that their strictness was all a pretence, and that they were
really a very worthless set of men. And he found out, too, that, besides
bad conduct, there was a great deal very bad and disgusting in the
opinions of the Manichæans, which he had not known of at first. After
learning all this, he did not know what to turn to, and he seems for a
time to have believed nothing at all,--which is a wretched state of mind
indeed, and so he found it.


Augustine now set up as a teacher at Carthage, the chief city of Africa;
but among the students there he found a set of wild young men who called
themselves _Eversors_--a name which meant that they turned everything
topsy-turvy; and Augustine was so much troubled by the behaviour of
these unruly lads, that he resolved to leave Carthage and go to Rome.
Monica, as we may easily suppose, had been much distressed by his
wanderings, but she never ceased to pray that he might be brought round
again. One day she went to a learned bishop, who was much in the habit
of arguing with people who were in error, and begged that he would speak
to her son; but the good man understood Augustine's case, and saw that
to talk to him while he was in such a state of mind would only make him
more self-wise than he was already. "Let him alone awhile," he said:
"only pray God for him, and he will of himself find out by reading how
wrong the Manichæans are, and how impious their doctrine is." And then
he told her that he had himself been brought up as a Manichæan, but that
his studies had shown him the error of the sect, and he had left it.
Monica was not satisfied with this, and went on begging, even with
tears, that the bishop would talk with her son. But he said to her, "Go
thy ways, and may God bless thee; for it is not possible that the child
of so many tears should perish." And Monica took his words as if they
had been a voice from Heaven, and cherished the hope which they held out
to her.

Monica was much against Augustine's plan of removing to Rome; but he
slipped away and went on shipboard while she was praying in a chapel by
the seaside, which was called after the name of St. Cyprian. Having got
to Rome, he opened a school there, as he had done at Carthage; but he
found that the Roman youth, although they were not so rough as those of
Carthage, had another very awkward habit--namely, that, after having
heard a number of his lectures, they disappeared without paying for
them. While he was in distress on this account, the office of a public
teacher at Milan was offered to him, and he was very glad to take it.
While at Rome, he had a bad illness; but he did not at that time wish or
ask for baptism as he had done when sick in his childhood.

The great St. Ambrose was then Bishop of Milan. Augustine had heard so
much of his fame, that he went often to hear him, out of curiosity to
know whether the bishop were really as fine a preacher as he was said to
be; but by degrees, as he listened, he felt a greater and greater
interest. He found, from what Ambrose said, that the objections by which
the Manichæans had set him against the Gospel were all mistaken; and,
when Monica joined him, after he had been some time at Milan, she had
the delight of finding that he had given up the Manichæan sect, and was
once more a catechumen of the Church.

Augustine had still to fight his way through many difficulties. He had
learnt that the best and highest wisdom of the heathens could not
satisfy his mind and heart; and he now turned again to St. Paul's
epistles, and found that Scripture was something very different from
what he had supposed it to be in the pride of his youth. He was filled
with grief and shame on account of the vileness of his past life; and
these feelings were made still stronger by the accounts which a friend
gave him of the strict and self-denying ways of Antony and other monks.
One day, as he lay in the garden of his lodging, with his mind tossed to
and fro by anxious thoughts, so that he even wept in his distress, he
heard a voice, like that of a child, singing over and over "Take up and
read! take up and read!" At first he fancied that the voice came from
some child at play; but he could not think of any childish game in which
such words were used. And then he remembered how St. Antony had been
struck by the words of the Gospel which he heard in church;[31] and it
seemed to him that the voice, wherever it might come from, was a call of
the same kind to himself. So he eagerly seized the book of St. Paul's
Epistles, which was lying by him, and, as he opened it, the first words
on which his eyes fell were these,--"Let us walk honestly, as in the
day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness,
not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make
not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof" (_Rom._ xiii.
13, 14). And, as he read, the words all at once sank deeply into his
heart, and from that moment he felt himself another man. As soon as he
could do so without being particularly noticed, he gave up his office of
professor and went into the country, where he spent some months in the
company of his mother and other friends; and at the following Easter
(A.D. 387), he was baptized by St. Ambrose. The good Monica had now seen
the desire of her heart fulfilled; and she soon after died in peace, as
she was on her way back to Africa, in company with her son.

[31] Page 60.

Augustine, after her death, spent some time at Rome, where he wrote a
book against the Manichæans, and then, returning to his native place
Thagaste, he gave himself up for three years to devotion and study. In
those days, it was not uncommon that persons who were thought likely to
be useful to the Church should be seized on and ordained, whether they
liked it or not; and if they were expected to make very strong
objections, their mouths were even stopped by force. Now Augustine's
fame grew so great, that he was afraid lest something of this kind
should be done to him; and he did not venture to let himself be seen in
any town where the bishopric was vacant, lest he should be obliged to
become bishop against his will. He thought, however, that he was safe in
accepting an invitation to Hippo, because it was provided with a bishop
named Valerius. But, as he was one day listening to the bishop's sermon,
Valerius began to say that his church was in want of another presbyter;
whereupon the people laid hold of Augustine, and presented him to the
bishop, who ordained him without heeding his objections (A.D. 391). And
four years later (A.D. 395), he was consecrated a bishop, to assist
Valerius, who died soon after.

Augustine was bishop of Hippo for five-and-thirty years, and, although
there were many other sees of greater importance in Africa, his uncommon
talents, and his high character, made him the foremost man of the
African church. He was a zealous and exemplary bishop, and he wrote a
great number of valuable books of many kinds. But the most interesting
of them all is one which may be read in English, and is of no great
length--namely, the "Confessions," in which he gives an account of the
wanderings through which he had been brought into the way of truth and
peace, and humbly gives thanks to God, whose gracious providence had
guarded and guided him.


Augustine had a great many disputes with heretics and others who
separated from the Church, or tried to corrupt its doctrine. But only
two of his controversies need be mentioned here. One of these was with
the Donatists, and the other was with the Pelagians.

The sect of the Donatists had arisen soon after the end of the last
heathen persecution, and was now nearly a hundred years old. We have
seen that St. Cyprian had a great deal of trouble with people who
fancied that, if a man were put to death, or underwent any other
considerable suffering, for the name of Christ, he deserved to be held
in great honour, and his wishes were to be attended to by other
Christians, whatever his character and motives might have been.[32] The
same spirit which led to this mistake continued in Africa after St.
Cyprian's time; and thus, when the persecution began there under
Diocletian and Maximian[33] (A.D. 303), great numbers rushed into
danger, in the hope of being put to death, and of so obtaining at once
the blessedness and the glory of martyrdom. Many of these people were
weary of their lives, or in some other respect were not of such
characters that they could be reckoned as true Christian martyrs. The
wise fathers of the Church always disapproved of such foolhardy doings,
and would not allow people, who acted in a way so unlike our Lord and
His apostle St. Paul, to be considered as martyrs; and Mensurius, who
was the bishop of Carthage, stedfastly set his face against all such

[32] See page 27.

[33] See Chapter IX.

One of the ways by which the persecutors hoped to put down the Gospel,
was to get hold of all the copies of the Scriptures, and to burn them;
and they required the clergy to deliver them up. But most of the
officers who had to execute the orders of the emperors did not know a
Bible from any other book; and it is said that, when some of them came
to Mensurius, and asked him to deliver up his books, he gave them a
quantity of books written by heretics, which he had collected (perhaps
with the intention of burning them himself), and that all the while he
had put the Scriptures safely out of the way, until the tyranny of the
heathens should be overpast. When the persecution was at an end, some of
the party whom he had offended by setting himself against their wrong
notions as to martyrdom, brought up this matter against the bishop. They
said that his account of it was false; that the books which he had
given up were not what he said, but that he had really given up the
Scriptures; and that, even if his story were true, he had done wrong in
using such deceit. They gave the name of _traditors_,[34] (or, as we
should say, _traitors_,) to those who confessed that they had been
frightened into giving up the Scriptures; and they were for showing no
mercy to any traditor, however much he might repent of his weakness.

[34] This means persons who _give up_ or _betray_.

This severe party, then, tried to get up an opposition to Mensurius.
They found, however, that they could make nothing of it. But when he
died, and when Cæcilian, who had been his archdeacon and his righthand
man, was chosen bishop in his stead, these people made a great outcry,
and set up another bishop of their own against him. All sorts of people
who had taken offence at Cæcilian or Mensurius thought this a fine
opportunity for having their revenge; and thus a strong party was
formed. It was greatly helped by the wealth of a lady named Lucilla,
whom Cæcilian had reproved for the superstitious habit of kissing a
bone, which she supposed to have belonged to some martyr, before
communicating at the Lord's table. The first bishop of the party was one
Majorinus, who had been a servant of some sort to Lucilla; and, when
Majorinus was dead, they set up a second bishop, named Donatus, after
whom they were called Donatists. This Donatus was a clever and a learned
man, and lived very strictly; but he was exceedingly proud and
ill-tempered, and used very violent language against all who differed
from him; and his sect copied his pride and bitterness. Many of them,
however, while they professed to be extremely strict, neglected the
plainer and humbler duties of Christian life.

The Donatists said that every member of their sect must be a saint:
whereas our Lord himself had declared that evil members would always be
mixed with the good in His Church on earth, like tares growing in a
field of wheat, or bad fishes mixed with good ones in a net; and that
the separation of the good from the bad would not take place until the
end of the world (_St. Matt._ xiii. 24-30, 36-43, 47-50). And they said
that their own sect was the only true Church of Christ, although they
had no congregations out of Africa, except one which was set up to
please a rich lady in Spain, and another at Rome. Whenever they made a
convert from the Church, they baptized him afresh, as if his former
baptism were good for nothing. They pretended to work miracles, and to
see visions; and they made a very great deal of Donatus himself, so as
even to pay him honours which ought not to have been given to any child
of man; for they sang hymns to him, and swore by his gray hairs.

Shortly after Constantine got possession of Africa by his victory over
Maxentius, and declared liberty of religion to the Christians (A.D.
312-313),[35] the Donatists applied to him against the Catholics;[36]
and it was curious that they should have been the first to call in the
emperor as judge in such a matter, because they were afterwards very
violent against the notion of an earthly sovereign's having any right to
concern himself with the management of religious affairs. Constantine
tried to settle the question by desiring some bishops to judge between
the parties; and these bishops gave judgment in favour of the Catholics.
The Donatists were dissatisfied, and asked for a new trial; whereupon
Constantine gathered a council for the purpose at Arles, in France (A.D.
314). This was the greatest council that had at that time been seen:
there were about two hundred bishops at it, and among them were some
from Britain. Here again the decision was against the Donatists, and
they thereupon begged the emperor himself to examine their case; which
he did, and once more condemned them (A.D. 316). Some severe laws were
then made against them; their churches were taken away; many of them
were banished, and were deprived of all that they had; and they were
even threatened with death, although none of them suffered it during
Constantine's reign.

[35] Page 37.

[36] Page 44.

The emperor, after a while, saw that they were growing wilder and
wilder, that punishment had no effect on them, except to make them more
unmanageable, and that they were not to be treated as reasonable people.
He then did away with the laws against them, and tried to keep them
quiet by kindness; and in the last years of his reign his hands were so
full of the Arian quarrels nearer home that he had little leisure to
attend to the affairs of the Donatists.


After the death of Constantius, Africa fell to the share of his youngest
son, Constans, who sent some officers into the country with orders to
make presents to the Donatists, in the hope of thus bringing them to
join the Church. But Donatus flew out into a great fury when he heard of
this--"What has the emperor to do with the Church?" he asked; and he
forbade the members of his sect (which was what he meant by "the
church") to touch any of the money that was offered to them.

By this time a stranger set of wild people called _Circumcellions_ had
appeared among the Donatists. They got their name from two Latin words
which mean _around the cottages_; because, instead of maintaining
themselves by honest labour, they used to go about, like sturdy beggars,
to the cottages of the country people, and demand whatever they wanted.
They were of the poorest class, and very ignorant, but full of zeal for
their religion. But, instead of being "pure and peaceable" (_St. James_
iii. 17), this religion was fierce and savage, and allowed them to go
on, without any check, in drunkenness and all sorts of misconduct. Their
women, whom they called "sacred virgins," were as bad as the men, or
worse. Bands of both sexes used to rove about the country, and keep the
peaceable inhabitants in constant fear. As they went along, they sang or
shouted "Praises be to God!" and this song, says St. Augustine, was
heard with greater dread than the roaring of a lion. At first they
thought that they must not use swords, on account of what our Lord had
said to Peter (_St. Matt._ xxvi. 52); so they carried heavy clubs, which
they called _Israels_; and with these they used to beat people, and
often so severely as to kill them. But afterwards the Circumcellions got
over their scruples, and armed themselves not only with swords, but with
other weapons of steel, such as spears and hatchets. They attacked and
plundered the churches of the Catholics, and the houses of the clergy;
and they handled any clergyman whom they could get hold of very roughly.
Besides this, they were fond of interfering in all sorts of affairs.
People did not dare to ask for the payment of debts, or to reprove their
slaves for misbehaviour, lest the Circumcellions should be called in
upon them. And things got to such a pass, that the officers of the law
were afraid to do their duty.

But the Circumcellions were as furious against themselves as against
others. They used to court death in all manner of ways. Sometimes they
stopped travellers on the roads, and desired to be killed, threatening
to kill the travellers if they refused. And if they met a judge going on
his rounds, they threatened him with death if he would not hand them
over to his officers for execution. One judge whom they assailed in this
way played them a pleasant trick. He seemed quite willing to humour
them, and told his officers to bind them as if for execution; and when
he had thus made them harmless and helpless, instead of ordering them to
be put to death, he turned them loose, leaving them to get themselves
unbound as they could. Many Circumcellions drowned themselves, rushed
into fire, or threw themselves from rocks and were dashed to pieces; but
they would not put an end to themselves by hanging, because that was the
death of the _traditor_ (or traitor) Judas. The Donatists were not all
so mad as these people, and some of their councils condemned the
practice of self-murder. But it went on nevertheless, and those who
made away with themselves, or got others to kill them in such ways as
have been mentioned, were honoured as martyrs by the more violent part
of the sect.

Constans made three attempts to win over the Donatists by presents, but
they held out against all; and when the third attempt was made, in the
year 347, by means of an officer named Macarius, the Circumcellions
broke out into rebellion, and fought a battle with the emperor's troops.
In this battle the Donatists were defeated, and two of their bishops,
who had been busy in stirring up the rebels, were among the slain.
Macarius then required the Donatists to join the Church, and threatened
them with banishment if they should refuse, but they were still
obstinate: and it would seem that they were treated hardly by the
government, although the Catholic bishops tried to prevent it. Donatus
himself and great numbers of his followers were sent into banishment;
and for a time the sect appeared to have been put down.


Thus they remained until the death of the emperor Constantius (A.D.
361), and Donatus had died in the mean time. Julian, on succeeding to
the empire, gave leave to all whom Constantius had banished on account
of religion to return to their homes.[37] But the Donatists were not the
better for this, as they had not been banished by Constantius, but by
Constans, before Constantius got possession of Africa: so they
petitioned the emperor that they might be recalled from banishment; and
in their petition they spoke of Julian in a way which disagreed
strangely with their general defiance of governments, and which was
especially ill suited for one who had forsaken the Christian faith and
was persecuting it at that very time. Julian granted their request, and
forthwith they returned home in great triumph, and committed violent
outrages against the Catholics. They took possession of a number of
churches, and, professing to consider everything that had been used by
the Catholics unclean, they washed the pavement, scraped the walls,
burnt the communion-tables, melted the plate, and cast the holy
sacrament to the dogs. They soon became strong throughout the whole
north of Africa, and in one part of it, Numidia, they were stronger than
the Catholics. After the death of Julian, laws were made against them
from time to time, but do not seem to have been carried out. And
although the Donatists quarrelled much among themselves, and split up
into a number of parties, they were still very powerful in Augustine's
day. In his own city of Hippo he found that they were more in number
than the Catholics; and such was their bitter and pharisaical spirit
that the bishop of the sect at Hippo would not let any of his people so
much as bake for their Catholic neighbours.

[37] Page 56.

Augustine did all that he could to make something of the Donatists, but
it was mostly in vain. He could not get their bishops or clergy to argue
with him. They pretended to call themselves "the children of the
martyrs," on account of the troubles which their forefathers had gone
through in the reign of Constans: and they said that the children of the
martyrs could not stoop to argue with sinners and traditors. Although
they professed that their sect was made up of perfect saints, they took
in all sorts of worthless converts for the sake of swelling their
numbers; whereas Augustine would not let any Donatists join the Church
without inquiring into their characters, and, if he found that they had
done anything for which they had been condemned by their sect to do
penance, he insisted that they should go through a penance before being
admitted into the Church.

But, notwithstanding the difficulties which he found in dealing with
them, he and others succeeded in drawing over a great number of
Donatists to the Church. And this made the Circumcellions so furious
that they fell on the Catholic clergy whenever they could find them, and
tried to do them all possible mischief. They beat and mangled some of
them cruelly; they put out the eyes of some by throwing a mixture of
lime and vinegar into their faces; and, among other things, they laid a
plan for waylaying Augustine himself, which, however, he escaped,
through the providence of God. Many reports of these savage doings were
carried to the emperor, Honorius, and some of the sufferers appeared at
his court to tell their own tale; whereupon the old laws against the
sect were revived, and severe new laws were also made. In these even
death was threatened against Donatists who should molest the Catholics;
but Augustine begged that this penalty might be withdrawn, because the
Catholic clergy, who knew more about the sect than any one else, would
not give information against it, if the punishment of the Donatists were
to be so great. And he and his brethren requested that the emperor would
appoint a meeting to be held between the parties, in order that they
might talk over their differences, and, if possible, might come to some

The emperor consented to do so; and a meeting took place accordingly, at
Carthage, in 411, in the presence of a commissioner named Marcellinus.
Two hundred and eighty-six Catholic bishops found their way to the city
by degrees. But the Donatists, who were two hundred and seventy-nine in
number, entered it in a body, thinking to make all the effect that they
could by the show of a great procession. At the conference (or meeting),
which lasted three days, the Donatists behaved with their usual pride
and insolence. When Marcellinus begged them to sit down, they refused,
because our Lord had stood before Pilate. On being again asked to seat
themselves, they quoted a text from the Psalms, "I will not sit with the
wicked" (_Ps._ xxvi. 5); meaning that the Catholics were the wicked, and
that they themselves were too good to sit in such company. And when
Augustine called them "brethren," they cried out in anger that they did
not own any such brotherhood. They tried to throw difficulties in the
way of arguing the question fairly; but on the third day their shifts
would serve them no longer. Augustine then took the lead among the
Catholics, and showed at great length both how wrongly the Donatists
had behaved in the beginning of their separation from the Church, and
how contrary to Scripture their principles were.

Marcellinus, who had been sent by the emperor to hear both parties, gave
judgment in favour of the Catholics. Such of the Donatist bishops and
clergy as would join the Church were allowed to keep possession of their
places; but the others were to be banished. Augustine had at first been
against the idea of trying to force people in matters of religion. But
he saw that many were brought by these laws to join the Church, and
after a time he came to think that such laws were good and useful; nay,
he even tried to find a Scripture warrant for them in the text "Compel
them to come in" (_St. Luke_ xiv. 23). And thus, unhappily, this great
and good man, was led to lend his name to the grievous error of thinking
that force, or even persecution, may be used rightly, and with good
effect, in matters of religion. It was one of the mistakes to which
people are liable when they form their opinions without having the
opportunity of seeing how things work in the long run, and on a large
scale. We must regret that Augustine seemed in any way to countenance
such means; but even although he erred in some measure as to this, we
may be sure that he would have abhorred the cruelties which have since
been done under pretence of maintaining the true religion, and of
bringing people to embrace it.

While some of the Donatists were thus brought over to the Church, others
became more outrageous than ever. Many of them grew desperate, and made
away with themselves. One of their bishops threatened that, if he were
required by force to join the Catholics, he would shut himself up in a
church with his people, and that they would then set the building on
fire and perish in the flames. There were many among the Donatists who
would have been mad enough to do a thing of this kind; but it would seem
that the bishop was not put to the trial which he expected.

The Donatists dwindled away from this time, and were little heard of
after Augustine's days, although there were still some in Africa two
hundred years later, as we learn from the letters of St. Gregory the


Of all the disputes in which Augustine was engaged, that with the
Pelagians was the most famous. The leader of these people, Pelagius, was
a Briton. His name would mean, either in Latin or in Greek, a _man of
the sea_; and it is said that his British name was Morgan--meaning the
same as the Greek or Latin name. Pelagius was the first native of our
own island who gained fame as a writer or as a divine; but his fame was
not of a desirable kind, as it arose from the errors which he ran into.
He was a man of learning, and of strict life; and at Rome, where he
spent many years, he was much respected, until in his old age he began
to set forth opinions which brought him into the repute of a heretic. At
Rome he became acquainted with a man named Celestius, who is said by
some to have been an Italian, while others suppose him an Irishman. It
is not known whether Celestius learnt his opinions from Pelagius, or
whether each of them had come to think in the same way before they knew
one another. But, however this may be, they became great friends, and
joined in teaching the same errors.

Augustine, as we have seen, had passed through such trials of the spirit
that he thoroughly felt the need of God's gracious help in order to do,
or even to will, any good thing. Pelagius, on the contrary, seems to
have always gone on steadily in the way of his religion. Now this was
really a reason why he should have thanked that grace and mercy of God
which had spared him the dangers and the terrible sufferings which
others have to bear in the course of their spiritual life. But unhappily
Pelagius overlooked the help of grace. He owned, indeed, that all is
from God; but, instead of understanding that the power of doing any
good, or of avoiding any sin, is the especial gift of the Holy Spirit,
he fancied that the power of living without sin was given to us by God
as a part of our _nature_. He saw that some people made a wrong use of
the doctrine of our natural corruption. He saw that, instead of throwing
the blame of their sins on their own neglect of the grace which is
offered to us through Christ, they spoke of the weakness and corruption
of their nature as if these were an excuse for their sins. This was,
indeed, a grievous error, and one which Pelagius would have done well to
warn people against. But, in condemning it, he went far wrong in an
opposite way: he said that man's nature is _not_ corrupt; that it is
nothing the worse for the fall of our first parents; that man can be
good by his own natural power, without needing any higher help; that men
might live without sin, and that many _had_ so lived. These notions of
his are mentioned and are condemned in the ninth Article of our own
Church, where it is said that "Original sin standeth not in the
following of Adam, as the Pelagians do vainly talk" [that is to say,
original sin is not merely the actual imitation of Adam's sin]; "but it
is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man that naturally is
engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from
original righteousness" [that is, he is very far gone from that
righteousness which Adam had at the first]. And then it is said in the
next Article--"The condition of man, after the fall of Adam, is such
that he cannot turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength and
good works to faith and calling upon God. Wherefore we have no power to
do good works, pleasing and acceptable to God, without the grace of God
by Christ preventing us [or _going before_ us], that we may have a good
will, and working with us when we have that good will." Thus at every
step there is a need of grace from above to help us on the way of

After Rome had been taken by the Goths, in the year 410,[38] Pelagius
and Celestius passed over into Africa, from which Pelagius, after a
short stay, went into the Holy Land. Celestius tried to get himself
ordained by the African church; but objections were made to him, and a
council was held which condemned and excommunicated him. Augustine was
too busy with the Donatists to attend this council; but he was very much
alarmed by the errors of the new teachers, and soon took the lead in
writing against them, and in opposing them by other means.

[38] Page 93.

Pelagius was examined by some councils in the Holy Land, and contrived
to persuade them that there was nothing wrong in his doctrines. He and
Celestius even got a bishop of Rome, Zosimus, to own them as sound in
the faith, and to reprove the African bishops for condemning them. The
secret of this was, that Pelagius used words in a crafty way, which
neither the synods in the Holy Land nor the bishop of Rome suspected.
When he was charged with denying the need of grace, he said that he
owned it to be necessary; but, instead of using the word _grace_ in its
right meaning, to signify the working of the Holy Spirit on the heart,
he used it as a name for other means by which God helps us; such as the
power which Pelagius supposed to be bestowed on us as a part of our
nature; the forgiveness of our sins in baptism; the offer of salvation;
the knowledge and instruction given to us through Holy Scripture, or in
other ways. By such tricks the Pelagians imposed on the bishop of Rome
and others; but the Africans, with Augustine at their head, stood firm.
They steadily maintained that Pelagius and Celestius were unsound in
their opinions; they told Zosimus that he had no right to meddle with
Africa, and that he had been altogether deceived by the heretics. So,
after a while, the bishop of Rome took quite the opposite line, and
condemned Pelagius with his followers; and they were also condemned in
several councils, of which the most famous was the General Council of
Ephesus, held in the year 431. Augustine did great service in opposing
these dangerous doctrines; but in doing so, he said some things as to
God's choosing of his elect, and predestinating them (or _marking them
out beforehand_) to salvation, which are rather startling, and might
lead to serious error. But as to this deep and difficult subject, I
shall content myself with quoting a few words from our Church's
seventeenth Article--"We must receive God's promises in such wise as
they be generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture; and in our doings,
that will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared to
us in the word of God."


Augustine was still busied in the Pelagian controversy when a fearful
calamity burst upon his country. The commander of the troops in Africa,
Boniface, had been an intimate friend of his, and had been much under
his influence. A rival of Boniface, Aëtius, persuaded the empress,
Placidia, who governed in the name of her young son, Valentinian the
Third, to recall the general from Africa; and at the same time he
persuaded Boniface to disobey the order, telling him that his ruin was
intended. Boniface, who was a man of open and generous mind, did not
suspect the villany of Aëtius; and, as the only means of saving himself,
he rebelled against the emperor, and invited the Vandals from Spain to
invade Africa. These Vandals were a savage nation, which had overrun
part of Spain about twenty years before. They now gladly accepted
Boniface's invitation, and passed in great numbers into Africa, where
the Moors joined them, and the Donatists eagerly seized the opportunity
of avenging themselves on the Catholics, by assisting the invaders. The
country was laid waste, and the Catholic clergy were treated with
especial cruelty, both by the Vandals (who were Arians) and by the

Augustine had urged Boniface to return to his duty as a subject of the
empire. Boniface, who was disgusted by the savage doings of the Vandals,
and had discovered the tricks by which Aëtius had tempted him to revolt,
begged the Vandal leader Genseric to return to Spain; but he found that
he had rashly raised a power which he could not manage, and the
barbarians laughed at his entreaties. As he could not prevail with them
by words, he fought a battle with them; but he was defeated, and he then
shut himself up in Augustine's city, Hippo.

During all these troubles Augustine was very active in writing letters
of exhortation to his brethren, and in endeavouring to support them
under their trials. And when Hippo was crowded by a multitude of all
kinds, who had fled to its walls for shelter, he laboured without
ceasing among them. In June, 430, the Vandals laid siege to the place,
and soon after, the bishop fell sick in consequence of his labours. He
felt that his end was near, and he wished, during his short remaining
time, to be free from interruption in preparing for death. He,
therefore, would not allow his friends to see him, except at the hours
when he took food or medicine. He desired that the penitential
psalms--(the seven psalms which are read in church on Ash-Wednesday, and
which especially express sorrow for sin)--should be hung up within his
sight; and he read them over and over, shedding floods of tears as he
read. On the 28th of August, 430, he was taken to his rest, and in the
following year Hippo fell into the hands of the Vandals, who thus became
masters of the whole of northern Africa.



A.D. 431-451.

Augustine died just as a great council was about to be held in the East.
In preparing for this council, a compliment was paid to him which was
not paid to any other person; for, whereas it was usual to invite the
chief bishop only of each province to such meetings, and to leave him
to choose which of his brethren should accompany him, a special
invitation was sent to Augustine, although he was not even a
metropolitan,[39] but only bishop of a small town. This shows what fame
he had gained, and in what respect his name was held, even in the
Eastern church.

[39] See page 82.

The object of calling the council was to inquire into the opinions of
Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople. It would have been well for it if
it had enjoyed the benefit of the great and good Augustine's presence;
for its proceedings were carried on in such a way that it is not
pleasant to read of them. But, whatever may have been the faults of
those who were active in the council, it laid down clearly the truth
which Nestorius was charged with denying--that (as is said in the
Athanasian creed) our blessed Lord, "although He be God and man, yet is
He not two, but one Christ;" and this council, which was held at Ephesus
in the year 431, is reckoned as the third general council.

Some years after it, a disturbance arose about a monk of Constantinople,
named Eutyches, who had been very zealous against Nestorius, and now ran
into errors of an opposite kind. Another council was held at Ephesus in
449; but Dioscorus, bishop of Alexandria, and a number of disorderly
monks who were favourable to Eutyches, behaved in such a furious manner
at this assembly, that, instead of being considered as a general
council, it is known by a name which means a _meeting of robbers_. But
two years later, when a new emperor had succeeded to the government of
the east, another general council was held at Chalcedon (A.D. 451); and
there the doctrines of Eutyches were condemned, and Dioscorus was
deprived of his bishopric. This council, which was the fourth of the
general councils, was attended by six hundred and thirty bishops. It
laid down the doctrine that our Lord is "One, not by conversion [or
_turning_] of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of the manhood into
God: One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of
person; for, as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and
man is one Christ."

According, then, to these two councils, which were held against
Nestorius and Eutyches, we are to believe that our blessed Lord is
really God and really man. The Godhead and the manhood are not _mixed_
together in Him, so as to make something which would be neither the one
nor the other (which is what the creed means by "confusion of
substance"); but they are in Him distinct from each other, just as the
soul and the body are distinct in man; and yet they are not two
_Persons_, but are joined together in one Person, just as the soul and
the body are joined in one man. All this may perhaps be rather hard for
young readers to understand, but the third and fourth general councils
are too important to be passed over, even in a little book like this;
and, even if what has been said here should not be quite understood, it
will at least show that all those distinctions in the Athanasian creed
mean _something_, and that they were not set forth without some reason,
but in order to meet errors which had actually been taught.

I may mention here two other things which were settled by the Council of
Chalcedon--that it gave the bishops of Constantinople authority over
Thrace, Asia, and Pontus; and that it raised Jerusalem, which until then
had been only an ordinary bishopric, to have authority of the same kind
over the Holy Land. These chief bishops are now called _patriarchs_, and
there were thus five patriarchs--namely, the bishops of Rome,
Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. The map will show
you how these patriarchates were divided;[40] but there were still some
Christian countries which did not belong to any of them.

[40] Read here the Explanation of the Map, at the end of the volume.

Having thus mentioned the title of patriarchs, I may explain here the
use of another title which we hear much oftener,--I mean the title of
_pope_. The proper meaning of it is _father_; in short, it is nothing
else than the word _papa_, which children among ourselves use in
speaking to their fathers. This title of pope (or father), then, was at
first given to all bishops; but, by degrees, it came to be confined in
its use; so that, in the east, only the bishops of Rome and Alexandria
were called by it, while in the west it was given to the bishop or
patriarch of Rome alone.



A.D. 451-476.

The empire of the west was now fast sinking. One weak prince was at the
head of it after another, and the spirit of the old Romans, who had
conquered the world, had quite died out. Immense hosts of barbarous
nations poured in from the north. The Goths, under Alaric, who took Rome
by siege, in the reign of Honorius, have been already mentioned.[41]
Forty years later, Attila, King of the Huns, who was called "The scourge
of God," kept both the east and the west in terror. In the year 451, he
advanced as far as Orleans, and, after having for some time besieged it,
he made a breach in the wall of the city. The soldiers of the garrison,
and such of the citizens as could fight, had done their best in the
defence of the walls; those who could not bear arms betook themselves to
the churches, and were occupied in anxious prayer. The bishop, Anianus,
had before earnestly begged that troops might be sent to the relief of
the place; and he had posted a man on a tower, with orders to look out
in the direction from which succour might be hoped for. The watchman
twice returned to the bishop without any tidings of comfort; but the
third time he said that he had noticed a little cloud of dust as far off
as he could see. "It is the aid of God!" said the bishop; and the
people who heard him took up the words, and shouted, "It is the aid of
God!" The little cloud, from being "like a man's hand" (1 _Kings_ xviii.
44), grew larger and drew nearer; the dust was cleared away by the wind,
and the glitter of spears and armour was seen; and just as the Huns had
broken through the wall, and were rushing into the city, greedy of
plunder and bloodshed, an army of Romans and allies arrived and forced
them to retreat. After having been thus driven from Orleans, Attila was
defeated in a great battle near Châlons, on the river Marne, and
withdrew into Germany.

[41] Page 93.

In the following year (452), Attila invaded Italy, where he caused great
consternation. But when the bishop of Rome, Leo the Great, went to his
camp near Mantua, and entreated him to spare the country, Attila was so
much struck by the bishop's venerable appearance and his powerful words,
that he agreed to withdraw on receiving a large sum of money. A few
months later he suddenly died, and his kingdom soon fell to pieces.

By degrees, the Romans lost Britain, Gaul, Spain, and Africa; and Italy
was all that was left of the western empire.

Genseric, who, as has been mentioned,[42] had led the Vandals into
Africa, long kept the Mediterranean in constant dread of his fleets.
Three years after the invasion of Italy by Attila, he appeared at the
mouth of the Tiber (A.D. 455), having been invited by the empress
Eudoxia, who wished to be revenged on her husband, in consequence of his
having told her that he had been the cause of her former husband's
death. As the Vandals approached the walls of Rome, the bishop, Leo,
went forth at the head of his clergy. He pleaded with Genseric as he had
before pleaded with Attila, and he brought him to promise that the city
should not be burnt, and that the lives of the inhabitants should be
spared; but Genseric gave up the place for fourteen days to plunder,
and the sufferings of the people were frightful. The Vandal king
returned to Africa with a vast quantity of booty, and with a great
number of captives, among whom were the unfortunate empress and her two
daughters. On this occasion the bishop of Carthage, Deogratias, behaved
with noble charity;--he sold the gold and silver plate of the church,
and with the price he redeemed some of the captives, and relieved the
sufferings of others. Two of the churches were turned into hospitals.
The sick were comfortably lodged, and were plentifully supplied with
food and medicines; and the good bishop, old and infirm as he was,
visited them often, by night as well as by day, and spoke words of
kindness and of Christian consolation to them.

[42] Page 127.

This behaviour of Deogratias was the more to his honour, because his own
flock was suffering severely from the oppression of the Vandals, who, as
we have already seen,[43] were Arians. Genseric treated the Catholics of
Africa very tyrannically; his son and successor, Hunneric, was still
more cruel to them; and, as long as the Vandals held possession of
Africa, the persecution, in one shape or another, was carried on almost
without ceasing.

[43] Page 127.

The last emperor of the west, Augustulus, was put down in the year 476,
and a barbarian prince named Odoacer became king of Italy.



As the old empire of Rome disappears, the modern kingdoms of Europe
begin to come to view; and we may now look at the progress of the Gospel
among the nations of the west.

The barbarians who got possession of France, Spain, South Germany, and
other parts of the empire, were soon converted to a sort of
Christianity; but, unfortunately, it was not the true Catholic faith. I
have told you[44] that Ulfilas, "the Moses of the Goths," led his people
into the errors of Arianism. As it was from the Goths that the
missionaries generally went forth to convert the other northern nations,
these nations, too, for the most part, became Arians; while some of
them, after having been converted by Catholics, afterwards fell into
Arianism. It is curious to observe how opposite the course of conversion
was among these nations to what it had been in earlier times. In the
Roman empire, the Gospel worked its way up from the poor and simple
people who were the first to believe it, until the emperor himself
became at length a convert. But among the nations which now overran the
western empire, the missionaries usually began by making a convert of
the prince; when the prince was converted, his subjects followed him to
the font; and if he changed from Catholicism to Arianism, or from
Arianism to Catholicism, the people did the same. In the course of time,
all the nations which had professed Arianism, were brought over to the
true faith. The last who held out were the Goths in Spain, who gave up
their errors at a great council which was held at Toledo in 589; and the
Lombards, in the north of Italy, who were converted in the early part of
the following century.

[44] Page 93.

Our own island was little troubled by Arianism, and St. Athanasius bears
witness to the firmness of the British bishops in the right faith. But
Pelagius, as we have seen,[45] was himself a Briton; and, although he
did not himself try to spread his errors here, one of his followers,
named Agricola, brought them into Britain, and did a great deal of
mischief (A.D. 429). The Britons had been long under the power of the
Romans; but, as the empire grew weaker, the Romans found that they could
not afford to keep up an army here; and they had given up Britain in
the year 409. But after this, when the Picts and Scots of the north
invaded the southern part of the island (or what we now call England),
the Britons in their alarm used to beg the assistance of the Romans
against them. And it would seem as if the British clergy had come to
depend on the help of others in much the same way; for when they found
what havoc the Pelagian Agricola was making among their people, they
sent over into Gaul, and begged that the bishops of that country would
send them aid against him.

[45] Page 124.

Two bishops, German of Auxerre, and Lupus of Troyes, were sent
accordingly by a council to which the petition of the Britons had been
made. These two could speak a language which was near enough to the
British to be understood by the Britons; it was something like the
Welsh, or the Irish, or like the Gaelic, which is spoken in the
highlands of Scotland (for all these languages are much alike). Their
preaching had a great effect on the people, and their holy lives
preached still better than their sermons; they disputed with the
Pelagian teachers at Verulam, the town where St. Alban was martyred,[46]
and which now takes its name from him; and they succeeded for the time
in putting down the heresy.

[46] Page 37.

It is said that while German and Lupus were in this country, the Picts
and Saxons joined in invading it; and that the Britons, finding their
army unfit to fight the enemy, sent to beg the assistance of the two
Gaulish bishops. So German and Lupus went to the British army, and
joined it just before Easter. A great number of the soldiers were
baptized at Easter, and German put himself at their head. The enemy came
on, expecting an easy victory, but the bishops thrice shouted
_Hallelujah!_ and all the army took up the shout, which was echoed from
the mountains again and again, so that the pagans were struck with
terror, and expected the mountains to fall on them. They threw down
their arms, and ran away, leaving a great quantity of spoil behind them,
and many of them rushed into a river, where they were drowned. The place
where this victory is said to have been gained is still pointed out in
Flintshire, and is known by a Welsh name, which means, "German's Field."
Pelagianism began to revive in Britain some years later, but St. German
came over a second time, and once more put it down.

But soon after this, the Saxons came into Britain. It is supposed that
Hengist and Horsa landed in Kent in the year 449; and other chiefs
followed, with their fierce heathen warriors. There was a struggle
between these and the Britons, which lasted a hundred years, until at
length the invaders got the better, and the land was once more
overspread by heathenism, except where the Britons kept up their
Christianity in the mountainous districts of the west,--Cumberland,
Wales, and Cornwall. You shall hear by-and-by how the Gospel was
introduced among the Saxons.



The only thing which seems to be settled as to the religious history of
Scotland in these times, is, that a bishop named Ninian preached among
the Southern Picts between the years 412 and 432, and established a see
at Whithorn, in Galloway. But in the year of St. Ninian's death, a far
more famous missionary, St. Patrick, who is called "the Apostle of
Ireland," began his labours in that island.

It is a question whether Patrick was born in Scotland, at a place called
Kirkpatrick, near the river Clyde, or in France, near Boulogne. But
wherever it may have been, his birth took place about the year 387. His
father was a deacon of the church, his grandfather was a presbyter, and
thus Patrick had the opportunities of a religious training from his
infancy. He did not, however, use these opportunities so well as he
might have done; but it pleased God to bring him to a better mind by the
way of affliction.

When Patrick was about sixteen years old, he was carried off by some
pirates (or _sea-robbers_), and was sold to a heathen prince in Ireland,
where he was set to keep cattle, and had to bear great hardships. But
"there," says he, "it was that the Lord brought me to a sense of the
unbelief of my heart, that I might call my sins to remembrance, and turn
with all my heart to the Lord, who regarded my low estate, and, taking
pity on my youth and ignorance, watched over me before I knew Him or had
sense to discern between good and evil, and counselled me and comforted
me as a father doth a son. I was employed every day in feeding cattle,
and often in the day I used to betake myself to prayer; and the love of
God thus grew stronger and stronger, and His faith and fear increased in
me, so that in a single day I could utter as many as a hundred prayers,
and in the night almost as many, and I used to remain in the woods and
on the mountains, and would rise for prayer before daylight, in the
midst of snow and ice and rain; and I felt no harm from it, nor was I
ever unwilling, because my heart was hot within me. I was not from my
childhood a believer in the only God, but continued in death and in
unbelief until I was severely chastened; and in truth I have been
humbled by hunger and nakedness, and it was my lot to go about in
Ireland every day sore against my will, until I was almost worn out. But
this proved rather a blessing to me, because by means of it I have been
corrected of the Lord, and He has fitted me for being what it once
seemed unlikely that I should be, so that I should concern myself about
the salvation of others, whereas I used to have no such thoughts even
for myself."[47]

[47] See King's "History of the Church in Ireland," i. 19-21.

After six years of captivity, Patrick was restored to his own country.
It is said that he then travelled a great deal; and he became a
presbyter of the Church. He was carried off captive a second time, but
this captivity did not last long, and he afterwards lived with his
parents, who begged him never to leave them again. But he thought that
in a vision or dream he saw a man inviting him to Ireland, as St. Paul
saw in the night a man of Macedonia, saying to him, "Come over into
Macedonia and help us" (_Acts_ xvi. 9). And Patrick was resolved to
preach the Gospel in the land where he had been a captive in his youth.
His friends got about him, and entreated him not to cast himself among
the savage and heathen Irish. One of them, who was most familiar with
him, when there seemed no hope of shaking his purpose, went so far as to
tell of some sin which Patrick had committed in his boyhood, thirty
years before. It was hoped that when this sin of his early days was
known (whatever it may have been) it would prevent his being consecrated
as a bishop. But Patrick broke through all difficulties, and was
consecrated bishop of the Irish in the year 432.

There had already been some Christians in that country, and a missionary
named Palladius had lately attempted to labour there, but had allowed
himself to be soon discouraged, and had withdrawn. But Patrick had more
zeal and patience than Palladius, and gave up all the remainder of his
life to the Irish, so that he would not even allow himself the pleasure
of paying a visit to his native country. He was often in great danger,
both from the priests of the old Irish heathenism, and from the
barbarous princes who were under their influences. But he carried on his
work faithfully, and had the comfort of seeing it crowned with abundant
success. His death took place on the 17th of March, 493.

The greater number of the Irish are now Romanists, and fancy that St.
Patrick was so too, and that he was sent by the Pope to Ireland. But he
has left writings which clearly prove that this is quite untrue. And
moreover, although the bishops of Rome had been advancing in power, and
although corruptions were growing on the Church in his time, yet
neither the claims of these bishops, nor the other corruptions of the
Roman Church, had then reached anything like their present height. Let
us hope and pray that God may be pleased to deliver our Irish brethren
of the Romish communion from the bondage of ignorance and error in which
they are now unhappily held!

The Church continued to flourish in Ireland after St. Patrick's death,
and learning found a home there, while wars and conquests banished it
from most other countries of the west. In the year 565, the Irish Church
sent forth a famous missionary named Columba, who, with twelve
companions, went into Scotland. He preached among the Northern Picts,
and founded a monastery in one of the western islands, which from him
got the name of Icolumbkill (that is to say, the _Island of Columba of
the Churches_). From that little island the light of the Gospel
afterwards spread, not only over Scotland, but far towards the south of
England, and many monasteries, both in Scotland and in Ireland, were
under the rule of its abbot.

For hundreds of years the schools of Ireland continued to be in great
repute. Young men flocked to them from England, and even from foreign
lands, and many Irish missionaries laboured in various countries abroad.
The chief of those who fall within the time to which this little book
reaches, was Columban (a different person from Columba, although their
names are so like). He left Ireland with twelve companions, in the year
589, preached in the east of France for many years, and afterwards in
Switzerland and in Italy, and died in 615, at the monastery of Bobbio,
which he had founded among the Apennine mountains. One of his disciples,
Gall, is styled "The Apostle of Switzerland," and founded a great
monastery, which from him is called St. Gall.



A.D. 496.

The most famous and the most important of all the conversions which took
place about this time was that of Clovis, king of the Franks. From being
the chief of a small, though brave people, on the borders of France and
Belgium, he grew by degrees to be the founder of the great French
monarchy. His queen, Clotilda, was a Christian, and long tried in vain
to bring him over to her faith. "The gods whom you worship," she said,
"are nothing, and can profit neither themselves nor others; for they are
graven out of stone, or wood, or metal, and the names which you give
them were not the names of gods but of men. But He ought rather to be
worshipped who by His word made out of nothing the heavens and the
earth, the sea and all that in them is." Clovis does not seem to have
cared very much about the truth, one way or the other; but he had the
fancy (which was common among the heathens, and which is often mentioned
in the Old Testament), that if people did not prosper in this world, the
god whom they served could not have the power to protect them and give
them success. And, as he lived in the time when the Roman empire of the
west came to an end, the fall of the empire, which had now been
Christian for more than a hundred and fifty years, seemed to him to
prove that the Christian religion could not be true.

Clotilda persuaded her husband to let their eldest son be baptized. But
the child died within a few days after, and Clovis said that his baptism
was the cause of his death. When another prince was born, however, he
allowed him too to be baptized. Clotilda continued to press her husband
with all the reason that she could think of in order to bring him over
to the Gospel. Some of her reasons were true and good; some of them were
drawn from the superstitious opinions of these times, such as stories
about miracles wrought at the tomb of St. Martin at Tours. Perhaps the
bad reasons were more likely than the good ones to have an effect on a
rough barbarian prince such as Clovis; but Clotilda could make nothing
of him in any way.

At length, in the year 496, he was engaged in battle with a German
tribe, at a place called Tolbiac, near Cologne, and found himself in
great danger of being defeated. He called on his own gods, but without
success, and at last he bethought himself of the God to whose worship
Clotilda had so long been trying to convert him. So, in his anxiety, he
stretched out his arms towards the sky, and called on the name of
Christ, promising that, if the God of Clotilda would help him in his
strait, he would become a Christian. A victory followed, which Clovis
ascribed to the effect of his prayer. He then put himself under the
instruction of St. Remigius, bishop of Rheims, that he might get a
knowledge of Christian doctrine, and at the following Christmas he was
baptized in Rheims cathedral, where the kings of France were afterwards
crowned for centuries, down to the unfortunate Charles X., in 1824.
Remigius caused it to be decked for the occasion with beautiful carpets
and hangings. A vast number of tapers shed their bright light over the
building, while all without was covered by the darkness of a December
evening; and we are told that the sweet perfume of incense seemed to
those who were there like the air of paradise. As Clovis entered the
church, and heard the solemn chant of psalms, he was overcome with awe.
Turning to Remigius, who led him by the hand, he asked, "Is this the
kingdom of heaven which you have promised me?" "No," answered the
bishop; "but it is the beginning of the way to it." When they had
reached the font, Remigius addressed the king by a name on which the
noblest among the Franks prided themselves,--"Sicambrian, gently bow thy
neck; worship that which thou hast burnt, and burn that which thou hast
worshipped." Three thousand of the Frankish warriors were forthwith
baptized, in imitation of their leader.

Remigius had much influence over Clovis as to religious things, and
instructed him as he found opportunity. One day, as he was reading to
the king the story of our Lord's sufferings, Clovis was so much moved by
it that he started up in anger and cried out--"If I had been there with
my Franks, I would have avenged His wrongs!"

From what has been said, it will be understood that the religion of
Clovis was not of an enlightened kind; and there was much in his
character and actions which did not become his Christian profession. Yet
his conversion, such as it was, appears to have been sincere. As his
conquests spread, he put down Arianism wherever he found it, and planted
the Catholic faith instead of it. And from the circumstance that Clovis
was converted to Catholic Christianity at a time when all the other
princes of the west were Arians, and when the emperor of the east
favoured the heresy of Eutyches,[48] the kings of France got the title
of "Eldest Son of the Church."

[48] See page 129.



A.D. 527-565.

It would be wearisome to follow very particularly the history of the
Church in the East for the next century and a half after the Council of
Chalcedon (A.D. 451).

The most important reign during this time was that of the Emperor
Justinian, which lasted eight-and-thirty years, from 527 to 565. Under
him the Vandals were conquered in Africa, and the Goths in Italy. Both
these countries became once more parts of the empire, and Arianism was
put down in both.

Justinian also, in the year 529, put an end to the old heathen
philosophy, by ordering that the schools of Athens, in which St. Basil,
St. Gregory of Nazianzum, and the emperor Julian had studied together
two hundred years before,[49] should be shut up. The philosophers, who
had continued to teach their heathen notions there (although they had
been obliged to treat the religion of the empire with outward respect),
were in great distress at finding their trade taken away from them. They
thought it unsafe to remain in Justinian's dominions, and made their way
into Persia, where the king was a heathen, and was said to be a friend
of learned men. The king received them kindly; but the Persian
heathenism was very different from their own, and the ways of the
country were altogether strange to them; so that they felt themselves
very uncomfortable in Persia, and became so home-sick as to be willing
to risk even their lives for the sake of getting back to their own
country. Happily for them, the Persian king was able to intercede for
them in making a peace with Justinian; and it was agreed that they might
live within the empire as they liked, without being troubled by the
laws, if they would only remain quiet, and not try to draw Christian
youths away from the faith. The philosophers were too glad to return on
such terms. I wish I could tell that they became Christians themselves:
but all that is said of them is, that when they died, there were no more
of the kind, and that heathen philosophy no longer stood in the way of
the Gospel.

[49] See page 68.

Justinian spent vast sums of money on buildings, especially on churches;
but it is said that much of what he spent in this way had been got by
oppressive taxes and by other bad means, so that we cannot think much
the better of him for it. The grandest of all his buildings was the
cathedral of Constantinople. The church had been founded by Constantine
the Great, but was once burnt down after the banishment of St.
Chrysostom, and a second time in this reign. Justinian rebuilt it at a
vast expense, and, as he cast his eyes around it on the day of the
consecration, after expressing his thankfulness to God for having been
allowed to accomplish so great a work, he gave vent to the pride of his
heart in the words: "I have beaten thee, O Solomon!" The cathedral was
afterwards partly destroyed by an earthquake, but Justinian again
restored it, and caused it to be once more consecrated, about two years
before his death. We learn from one of his laws that this church had
sixty priests, a hundred deacons, forty deaconesses, ninety subdeacons,
a hundred and ten readers, five-and-twenty singers, and a hundred
doorkeepers. And (which we should perhaps not have expected to hear) the
law was made for the purpose of preventing the number of clergy
connected with the cathedral from increasing beyond this, lest it should
not have wealth enough to maintain a greater number! This great building
is still standing (although it is now in the hands of the Mahometan
Turks); and it is regarded as one of the wonders of the world. It was
dedicated to the Eternal Wisdom, and is now commonly known by the name
of St. Sophia (_sophia_ being the Greek word for _wisdom_).



From the time of the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451), to the end of
Justinian's reign, the Eastern Church was vexed by controversies which
arose out of the opinions of Eutyches.[50] On account of these quarrels,
the Churches of Rome and Constantinople would have no intercourse with
each other for five-and-thirty years (A.D. 484-519). The party which had
at first been called Eutychians (after Eutyches) afterwards got the
name of Monophysites, (that is to say, _Maintainers of one nature
only_,)--because they said that after our blessed Lord had taken on Him
the nature of man, His Godhead and His manhood made up but _one_ nature;
whereas the Catholics held that His two natures remain perfect and
distinct in Him. The party split up into a number of divisions, the very
names of which it is difficult to remember. And other quarrels arose out
of the great controversy with the Eutychians. The most noted of these
was the dispute as to what were called the "Three Articles." It was not
properly a question respecting the faith, but whether certain writings,
then a hundred years old, were or were not favourable to Nestorianism.
But it was thought so important, that a council, which is reckoned as
the fifth general council, was held on account of it at Constantinople
in the year 553.

[50] See Chap. XXII.

Notwithstanding all their quarrels among themselves, the Monophysites
grew very strong in various countries. In Egypt they were more in number
than the Catholics. The Abyssinian Church (which, as we saw in a former
chapter,[51] was considered as a daughter of the Egyptian Church) took
up these opinions. The Nubians were converted from heathenism by
Monophysite missionaries; and in Armenia the church exchanged the
Catholic doctrine for the Monophysite in the sixth century.

[51] Chap. X.

But the most remarkable man of this sect was a Syrian named Jacob. He
found his party suffering and greatly weakened, in consequence of the
laws which the emperors had made against it; and most of the bishops and
clergy had been removed by banishment, imprisonment, or other means.
Being resolved to preserve the sect, if possible, from dying out, Jacob
went to Constantinople, made his way into the prison where some of the
Monophysite bishops were confined, and was secretly consecrated by them
as a bishop, with authority to watch over all the congregations of their
communion throughout Syria and the East. For nearly forty years (A.D.
541-578) he laboured in carrying out the work which he had undertaken,
with a zeal and a stedfastness which we cannot but admire, although we
must regret that they were employed in the cause of heresy. In order
that he might not be known, as there were severe laws against spreading
his opinions, he dressed himself as a beggar, and thence got the name of
_The Ragged_. In this disguise, he travelled, without ceasing, over
Syria and Mesopotamia. His secret was faithfully kept by the members of
his party. He stirred up their spirit, ordained bishops and clergy to
minister among them in private, and at his death, in 578, he left the
sect large and flourishing. From this Jacob, the Monophysites of other
countries, as well as of his own, got the name of Jacobites;[52] in
return for which they called the Catholics _Melchites_--that is to say,
_followers of the emperor's religion_. And by these names of Melchites
and Jacobites, the remnants of the old Christian parties in the East are
known to this day.

[52] These Jacobites of the East must not be confounded with the
Jacobites of English history, who were the friends of James II., and of
his family, after the Revolution of 1688.

The Nestorians also continued to be a strong body. Both they and the
Monophysites were very active in missions--more active, indeed, than the
eastern Catholics. The Nestorians, in particular, made great numbers of
converts in Persia (where the heathen kings would allow no other kind of
Christianity than Nestorianism), in India, and in other parts of Asia.
And in the seventh century (which is somewhat beyond the bounds of this
little book) their missionaries made their way even to China, where they
preached with great success.



PART I. A.D. 480-529.

Let us now look again at the monks. Their way of life was at first
devised as a means of either practising repentance for sin, or rising to
such a height of holiness as was supposed to be beyond the reach of
persons busied in the affairs of this world. But in course of time a
change took place. As the life of monks grew more common, it grew less
strict; indeed, it would seem that whenever any way of life which
professes to be very strict becomes common, its strictness will pretty
surely be lessened, or given up altogether. People at first turned monks
because they felt that such means of holy living as they had been used
to did not make them so good as they ought to be, and because they hoped
to do better in this new kind of life. But when the monkish life was no
longer new, monks neglected its rules, just as those before them had
neglected the rules which holy Scripture and the Church had laid down
for all Christians.

In the unhappy days which had now come on, the monasteries of the west
had in great measure escaped the evils of war and conquest which laid
waste everything around them. The barbarians, who overwhelmed the
empire, generally respected them; and now the life of monks, instead of
being chosen for its hardships, as it had been at first, came to be
regarded as the easiest and the safest life of all. It was sought after
as one which would free people from the dangers to which they would be
liable if they remained in the world, and took the common share in the
world's risks and troubles.

Another important matter was this--that monkery had taken its rise in
Egypt and in Syria, where the climate and the habits of the people were
very different from those of the western countries. And a great part of
the monkish rules were fitted only for the particular circumstances and
character of the eastern nations;--for instance, they could do with less
food than the people of the west, so that a writer of the fifth century
said, "A large appetite is gluttony in the Greeks, but in the Gauls it
is nature." Again, the Egyptians and the Syrians, in their hot climate,
did not need active employment in the same way as the western nations
do, in order to keep their minds and their bodies healthful. They could
spend their hours and their days in calmly thinking of spiritual things,
or of nothing at all, in a way which the more active mind of Europeans
cannot bear. And again, many rules as to dress, which are suitable for
one sort of climate, are quite unfit for a different sort.

Now the earlier rules for monks had been drawn up either in the east or
after eastern patterns. And although, when they were brought into the
west, people for a time obeyed them as well as they could, it was found
that they would not obey them any longer when the first heat of zeal for
monkery had passed away. Hence it followed, that, throughout the
monasteries of the west, there was a general neglect of the rules by
which they professed to be governed; and it was high time that there
should be some reformation.

A reformer arose in the sixth century. This was Benedict, who was born
near Nursia, in Italy, in the year 480. At the age of twelve he was sent
to school at Rome, under the care of a nurse, as seems to have been
usual in those days. He worked hard at his studies, but the bad
behaviour of the other boys and young men at Rome so shocked him, that,
when he had been there two years, he resolved to bear it no longer. He
therefore suddenly ran away from the city, and, after his nurse had gone
a considerable distance with him, he left her, and made his way into a
rough and lonely country near Subiaco, where he took up his abode in a
cave. Here he was found out by a monk of a neighbouring house, named
Romanus, who used daily to save part of his own allowance of food, and
to carry it to his young friend. The cave opened from the face of a
lofty rock, and the way that Romanus took of conveying the food to
Benedict was by letting it down at the end of a string from the top of
the rock.

Benedict had lived in this manner for three years when he was discovered
by some shepherds, who at first took him for some wild animal; but they
soon found that he was something very different. He taught them and
others to whom they made his abode known, and his character came to be
so much respected in the neighbourhood that he was chosen abbot of a
monastery. He warned the monks that they would probably not like him,
but they were resolved to have him nevertheless. Their habits, however,
were so bad, that Benedict felt himself obliged to check them rather
sharply; and the monks then attempted to get rid of him by mixing poison
in his drink. But he found out their wicked design, and the only reproof
which he gave them was by reminding them how he had warned them not to
make him their abbot. With this he left them to themselves, and went
quietly back to his cave.

His name now grew more and more famous. Great multitudes of people
flocked to see him, and even persons of high rank sent their sons to be
trained under him. He built twelve monasteries, each for an abbot and
twelve monks. But there was a spiteful monk, named Florentius, who would
not allow him any peace so long as they were near each other; so
Benedict thought it best to give way, and in 528 he left Subiaco, with
some companions, and, after some wanderings, arrived at Mount Cassino.
There he found that the country people still worshipped some of the old
heathen gods, and that there was a grove which was held sacred to these
gods. But he set boldly to work, and, notwithstanding all that could be
done to oppose him, he cut down the grove, destroyed the idols, and
built a little chapel, from which in time grew up a great and famous
monastery, which still exists. And at Mount Cassino he drew up his Rule
in the year 529; so that the beginning of the monks of St. Benedict was
in the very same year in which heathen philosophy came to its end by the
closing of the schools of Athens.[53]

[53] See page 143.

PART II. A.D. 529-543.

Benedict had seen the mischief which arose from too great strictness of
rules. He saw how it led to open disobedience and carelessness in some,
and to hypocritical pretence in others; and therefore he meant to guard
against these faults by making his rule milder than those of the East.
It was to be such that Europeans might keep it without danger to their
health, and he allowed it to be varied according to the circumstances of
the different countries in which it might be established.

Every Benedictine monastery was to be under an abbot, who was to be
chosen by the monks. The brethren were to obey the abbot in everything,
while the abbot was charged not to be haughty or tyrannical in using his
authority. Next to the abbot there might either be a _provost_, or
(which Benedict liked better) there might be a number of _elders_ or
_deans_, who were to help and advise the abbot in the government of his
monastery. Any one who wished to join the order was to undergo trial for
a year before admission. Those who were admitted into it were required
to give in a written vow that they would continue in it, that they would
amend their lives, and that they would obey those who were set over
them. Every monk was obliged to give up all his property to the order;
nobody was allowed to have anything of his own, but all things were
common to the brethren. The monks might not receive any presents or
letters, even from their nearest relations, without the abbot's
knowledge and leave, and if a present were sent for one of them, the
abbot had the power to keep it from him, and to give it to any other

It was one important part of the rule that the monks should have
sufficient employment provided, for them. They were to get up at two
o'clock in the morning; they were to attend eight services a day, or, if
they happened to be at a distance from their monastery, they were to
observe the hours of the services by prayer; and they were to work seven
hours. Portions of time were allowed for learning psalms by heart, and
for reading the Scriptures, lives of holy men, and other edifying books.
At meals the monks were not to talk, but some book was to be read aloud
to them. Their food was to be plain and simple; no flesh was allowed,
except to the sick. But all such matters were to be settled by the
abbot, according to the climate and the season, to the age, the health,
and the employment of the monks. Their dress was to be coarse, but was
to be varied according to circumstances. They were to sleep by ten or
twenty in a room, each in a separate bed, and without taking off their
clothes. A dean was to have the care of each room, and a light was to be
kept burning in each. No talking was to be allowed after the last
service of the day.

The monks were never to go beyond the monastery without leave, and, in
order that there might be little occasion for their going out, it was to
contain within its walls the garden, the well, the mill, the bakehouse,
and other such necessary things. The abbot was to set every monk his
work; if it were found that any one was inclined to pride himself on his
skill in any art or trade, he was not to be allowed to practise it, but
was obliged to take up some other employment.

Benedict died in 543, and by that time his order had made its way into
France, Spain, and Sicily. It soon drew into itself all the monks of the
west, and was divided into a number of branches, which all looked up to
Benedict as their founder; and, although it would be a sad mistake to
wish for any revival of monkery in our own days, we ought, in justice,
to see and to acknowledge that through God's providence these monks
became the means of great benefits to mankind. Not only were their
services important for the maintenance of the Gospel where it was
already planted, and for the spreading of it among the heathen, but they
cleared forests, brought waste lands into tillage, and did much to
civilize the rude nations among whom they laboured. After a time,
learning began to be cultivated among them, and during the troubled ages
which followed, it found a refuge in the monasteries. The monks taught
the young; they copied the Scriptures and other ancient books (for
printing was as yet unknown); they wrote histories of their times, and
other books of their own. To them, indeed, it is that we are mainly
indebted for preserving the knowledge of the past through many




We must not suppose that the conversion of the western barbarians was of
any very perfect kind. They mixed up a great deal of their own barbarism
with their Christianity, and, besides this, they took up many of the
vices of the old and worn-out nations, whose countries they had
conquered and occupied. Much heathen superstition lingered among them:
it was even a common saying in Spain, that "if a man has to pass between
heathen altars and God's Church, it is no harm if he pay his respects to
both." The clergy were very wealthy and prosperous, but did not venture
to interfere with the vices of the great and powerful; or, if they did,
it was at their peril. For instance, when a bishop of Rouen had offended
the Frankish queen Fredegund, she caused him to be murdered in his own
cathedral, at the most solemn service of Easter-day.

Religion became a protection to crime; murderers were allowed to take
refuge in churches, and might not be dragged out until after an oath had
been made that their lives should be safe. It had been the ancient
custom of the Germans to let all crimes be atoned for by the payment of
money: if, for example, a person had killed another, he had no more to
do than to pay a certain sum to the dead man's relations. And this way
of making up for misdeeds was now brought into the Church; it was
thought that men might make satisfaction for their sins by paying money,
and that the effect would be the same if others paid for them after
their death. We may understand how this worked, from another story of
queen Fredegund, who seems to have been a perfect monster of wickedness.
She set two of her pages to murder a king, named Sigebert; and, by way
of encouraging them, she said that she would honour them highly, if they
came off with their lives; but that, if they were slain, she would lay
out a great deal of money in alms for the good of their souls!

As might naturally have been expected among such people, it came to be
very commonly thought that the observance of outward worship and
ceremonies was all that religion required. Pretended miracles were
wrought in great numbers, for the purpose of imposing on the ignorant;
and all, from the king downwards, were then ignorant enough to be
deceived by them. The superstitions which had begun in the fourth
century[54] continued to grow on the Church; such as the reverence paid
to saints, and especially to the Blessed Virgin, so that people allowed
them a part of the honour which ought to have been kept for God alone.
Among other such corruptions were the reverence for the _relics_ of
saints (that is, for parts of their bodies, or for things which had
belonged to them), and the religious honour paid to images and pictures.
These and other evils increased more and more, until, at length, they
could be borne no longer, and, in many countries, they caused the great
religious change which is called the _Reformation_.

[54] See page 90.

But nearly a thousand years had to pass before the time of the
Reformation; and, in the meanwhile, although much was amiss in the
Christianity which prevailed, it yet was the means of blessing and of
salvation. And there were never wanting good men who, although there
were many defects and errors in their opinions, firmly held and clearly
taught the necessity of a real living faith in Christ, and of a
thoroughly earnest endeavour to obey God's holy will.


The state of Italy towards the end of the sixth century was very
wretched. Vast numbers of its people had perished in the course of the
wars by which Justinian's generals had wrested the country from the
Goths, and had again united it to the empire;[55] multitudes of others
had been destroyed by famine and pestilence. The Lombards, who had
crossed the Alps in the year 568, had obliged the emperors to yield the
north, and part of the middle of Italy, to them; and they continually
threatened the portions which still remained to the empire. No help
against them was to be got from Constantinople; and the governors whom
the emperors sent to manage their Italian dominions, instead of
directing and leading the people to resist the Lombards, only hindered
them from taking their defence into their own hands.

[55] Page 142.

The land was left uncultivated, partly through the loss of inhabitants,
and partly because those who remained were disheartened by the miseries
of the time. They had not the spirit to bestow their labour on it, when
there was almost a certainty that their crops would be destroyed or
carried off by the Lombard invaders; and the soil, when left to itself,
had in many places become so unwholesome, that it was not fit to live
on. Italy had in former times been so thickly peopled, that it had been
necessary to get supplies of corn from Sicily and from Africa. But now
such foreign supplies were wanted for a very different reason--that the
inhabitants of Italy could not, or did not, grow corn for themselves.
The city of Rome had suffered from storms, and from repeated floods of
the river Tiber, which did a great deal of damage to its buildings, and
sometimes washed away or spoiled the stores of corn which were laid up
in the granaries. The people were kept in terror by the Lombards, who
often advanced to their very walls, so that it was unsafe to venture
beyond the gates.

The condition of the Church too was very deplorable. The troubles of the
times had produced a general decay of morals and order both among the
clergy and among the people. The Lombards were Arians, and religious
enmity was added to the other causes of dislike between them and the
Romans. In Istria, there was a division which had begun after the fifth
general council,[56] and which kept the Church of that country separate
from the communion of Rome for a hundred and fifty years. The sunken
condition of Christianity in Gaul (or France) has been described in the
beginning of this chapter. Spain was just recovered from Arianism,[57]
but there was much to be done before the Catholic faith could be
considered as firmly established there. In Africa, the old sect of the
Donatists began again to lift up its head, and took courage from the
confusions of the time to vex the Church. The Churches of the east were
torn by quarrels as to Eutychianism and Nestorianism. And the patriarchs
of Constantinople seemed likely, with the help of the emperor's favour,
to be dangerous rivals to the popes of Rome.

[56] Page 145.

[57] Page 134.

Such was the state of things when Gregory the Great became pope or
bishop of Rome, in the year 590.



A.D. 540-604.


Gregory was born at Rome, of a noble and wealthy family, in the year
540. In his youth he engaged in public business, and he rose to be
prætor of Rome, which was one of the chief offices under the government.
In this office he was much beloved and respected by the people. But
about the age of thirty-five, a great change took place in his life. He
resolved to forsake the pursuit of worldly honours, and spent all his
wealth in founding seven monasteries. He gave up his family house at
Rome to begin a monastery, in which he became at first a simple monk,
and was afterwards chosen abbot. A pope, named Pelagius, showed him
great favour, by making him his secretary, and employing him for some
years as a sort of ambassador at the emperor's court at Constantinople.
And when Pelagius was carried off by a plague, in the year 589, the
nobles, the clergy, and the people of Rome all agreed in choosing
Gregory to succeed him.

Gregory was afraid to undertake the office. It was necessary that the
emperor should consent to his appointment; and he wrote to beg that the
emperor would refuse his consent. But the governor of Rome stopped the
letter, and all the other attempts which Gregory made to escape the
honour intended for him were baffled; so that in the end he was obliged
to submit, and was consecrated as bishop of Rome in September, 590.

Gregory felt all the difficulties of his new place. He compares his
Church to an old ship, shattered by winds and waves, decayed in its
timbers, full of leaks, and in continual danger of going to wreck. The
vast quantity and variety of business which he went through appears to
us from the collection of his letters, of which about eight hundred and
fifty still remain. We see from these how he strove to strengthen his
Church in all quarters, and what steps he took for the government of it.
Some of the letters are addressed to emperors and kings, and treat about
the greatest affairs of Church or State. And then all at once we find
him passing from such high matters to direct that some poor tenant on
one of his estates should be excused from paying a part of his rent, or
that relief should be given to some widow or orphan who had written from
a distance to ask his help.

The bishops of Rome had by degrees become very rich. They had estates,
not only in Italy and Sicily, but in Africa, in France, and even in
Asia. And the people who managed these estates were employed by Gregory
to carry on his other business in the same countries, and to report the
state of the Church to him from all quarters. Very little of his large
income was spent on himself. We may have some notion of the plain way in
which the great bishop lived from one of his letters to the steward of
his estates in Sicily. "You have sent me," says Gregory, "one wretched
horse, and five good asses. I cannot ride the horse because he is
wretched; nor the good beasts, because they are but asses." He lived
chiefly in the company of monks and clergy, employing himself in study
with them. And, in the midst of all the business which took up his time,
he wrote a number of books, of which some are very valuable. He was also
famous as a preacher. Among his sermons are a set of twenty-two on the
prophet Ezekiel, which he had meant to carry further. But he was obliged
to break off by the attacks of the Lombards, as he told his people in
the end of the last sermon--"Let no one blame me," he says, "if after
this discourse I stop, since, as you all see, our troubles are
multiplied on us. On every side we are surrounded with swords; on every
side we dread the danger of death which is close at hand. Some come back
to us with their hands cut off; we hear of some as being taken
prisoners, and of others as slain. I am forced to with-hold my tongue
from expounding, since my soul is weary of my life (_Job_ x. 1). How can
I, who am forced daily to drink bitter things, draw forth sweet things
to you? What remains for us, but that in the chastisement which we are
suffering because of our misdeeds, we should give thanks with weeping to
Him who made us, and who hath bestowed on us the spirit of adoption
(_Rom._ viii. 15)--to Him who sometimes nourisheth His children with
bread, and sometimes correcteth them with a scourge--who, by benefits
and by sufferings alike, is training us for an eternal inheritance?"

Gregory laboured zealously in improving the education of the clergy, and
in reforming such disorders as he found in his Church. He founded a
school for singing, and established a new way of chanting, which from
him has the name of the _Gregorian Chant_, and is used to this day. We
are told that the whip with which he used to correct his choristers was
kept at Rome as a relic for hundreds of years.

His charities were very great. On the first day of every month he gave
out large quantities of provisions to the people of Rome. The old
nobility had suffered so much by the wars, and by the loss of their
estates in countries which had been torn from them by the barbarians,
that many of them were glad to come in for a share of the good pope's
bounty. Every day he sent relief to a number of poor persons in all
parts of the city; and he used to send dishes from his own table to
those whom he knew to be in distress, but ashamed to ask for assistance.
Once when a poor man was found dead in the streets, Gregory denied
himself the holy communion for some days, because it seemed to him that
he must be in some measure to blame. He used to receive strangers and
wanderers at his own table, out of regard for our Lord's
words--"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my
brethren, ye have done it unto me" (_St. Matt._ xxv. 40).


Having thus seen something of Gregory's life at home, we must now look
at his proceedings in other quarters.

He had a sharp dispute with a bishop of Constantinople, on account of
the title of _Universal Bishop_, which the patriarchs of the eastern
capital had for some time taken to themselves. When we hear such a
title, we may naturally fancy that it signified a claim to authority
over the whole Church on earth. But, as it was then used, it really had
no such meaning. The Greeks were fond of lofty and sounding titles,
which seemed to mean much more than they were really understood to mean.
This fondness appears in the titles of the emperors and of the officers
of their empire, and it was by it that the patriarchs were led to style
themselves "Universal Bishop." If the title had been intended as a claim
to authority over all Churches, it could only have been given to one
person at a time; but we find that the emperor Justinian gave it to the
bishops both of Constantinople and of Rome, and that he styled each of
them "Head of all the Churches;" and, whatever the patriarchs of
Constantinople may have meant by it, they certainly did not make any
claim to authority over Rome or the western Church.

But there was an old jealousy between the sees of Rome and
Constantinople, ever since the time when the second general council in
381 gave the bishop of Constantinople the second place of honour in the
whole Church.[58] This jealousy had grown greater in late times, when
there was no very kindly feeling between the emperors and their Italian
subjects, and when it seemed not impossible that the bishop of the new
capital, backed by the emperor, might even try to dispute the first
place with the bishop of Rome. And Gregory, who did not understand the
Greek language, or how little the Greeks meant by their fine titles, was
ready to take offence at the name of "Universal Bishop." So, when a
bishop of Constantinople, John the Faster, styled himself so on an
important occasion, Gregory objected strongly;--he wrote to John, to the
emperor, and to the bishops of Alexandria and of Antioch, declaring that
the title was proud and foolish, that it came from the devil, and was a
token of Antichrist's approach, and that it was unfit for any Christian
bishop to use. The emperor, however, would not help him against the
patriarch. John would not yield, and the other eastern patriarchs
(partly from a wish to be at peace, and partly because the words did not
seem offensive to them, as they did to Gregory), were little disposed to
take up his quarrel. After a time, another emperor, who had special
reasons for wishing to stand well with Gregory, forbade the successor of
John to call himself "Universal;" but the title was soon restored by the
emperors to the bishops of Constantinople, although not until after the
death of Gregory. The most curious part of the story, however, is
this--that Gregory's successors in the popedom have taken up the very
title which he condemned so strongly; and that, instead of using it in
the harmless meaning which it had in the east, they have intended it as
a claim to power over the whole Church,--that claim of which the very
notion filled Gregory with such horror and indignation, and which he
declared to be unfit for any bishop whatever to make.

[58] See page 84.


Gregory did much to bring over the Lombards from their Arianism, and he
succeeded in part, although the work was not completed until after his
time. He also laboured earnestly to revive the Church in France and in
other countries. But instead of dwelling on these things, I shall
content myself with telling of the chief work which he did in spreading
the Gospel; and it is one which very much concerns ourselves.

In those days slavery was common throughout all the known world, and,
although the Gospel had wrought a great improvement in the treatment of
slaves, by making the masters feel that they and their slaves were
brethren in Christ, it yet had not forbidden slavery. But there was a
feeling of pity for those who fell into this sad condition by the
chances of war or otherwise. It was a common act of charity for good
Christians to redeem captives and to set them at liberty. This, indeed,
was thought so holy a work, and so agreeable to the words of
Scripture--"I will have mercy, and not sacrifice" (_Hos._ vi. 6; _St.
Matt._ ix. 13), that bishops often broke up and sold even the
consecrated plate of their churches in order that they might get the
means of ransoming captives whom they heard of. And, although slavery
was still allowed by the laws of Christian kingdoms, those laws took
care that Christian slaves should not be under Jews, or masters of any
other than their own religion.

Gregory, then, while he was yet a monk, went one day into the market at
Rome, just after the arrival of some merchants with a large cargo of
slaves for sale. Some of these poor creatures, perhaps, had been taken
in war; others had probably been sold by their own parents for the sake
of the price which they fetched; for we are told that this shocking
practice was not uncommon among some of the ruder nations. As Gregory
looked at them, his eyes fell on some boys with whose appearance he was
greatly struck. Their skin was fair, unlike the dark complexions of the
Italians and other southern nations whom he had been used to see. Their
features were beautiful, and they had long light flowing hair. He asked
the merchants from what land these boys had been brought. "From
Britain," they said; and they told him that the bright complexion which
he admired so much was common among the people of that island. Perhaps
Gregory had never thought of Britain before. It was nearly two hundred
years since the Roman troops had been withdrawn from it, and its
inhabitants had been left to themselves. And since that time the pagan
Saxons had overrun it; the Romans had lost the countries which lay
between them and it; and Britain had quite disappeared from their
knowledge. Gregory, therefore, was obliged to ask whether the people
were Christians or heathens, and he was told that they were still
heathens. The good monk sighed deeply. "Alas, and woe!" said he, "that
people with such faces of light should belong to the author of darkness,
and that so goodly an outward favour should be void of inward grace." He
asked what was the name of their nation, and was told that they were
_Angles_. "It is well," he said, "for they have _angels'_ faces, and
such as they ought to be joint-heirs with the angels in heaven.--What is
the name of the province from which they come?" He was told that it was
Deira (a Saxon kingdom, which stretched along the eastern side of
Britain, from the Humber to the Tyne). The name of Deira sounded to
Gregory's ears like two Latin words, which mean "from wrath." "Well,
again," he said, "they are delivered _from the wrath_ of God, and are
called to the mercy of Christ.--What is the name of the king of that
country?" "Aella," was the answer. "Alleluiah!" (_Praise to God!_)
exclaimed Gregory; "the praises of God their maker ought to be sung in
that kingdom."

He went at once to the pope, and asked leave to go as a missionary to
the heathens of Britain. But, although the pope consented, the people of
Rome were so much attached to Gregory that they would not allow him to
set out, and he was obliged to give up the plan. Yet he did not forget
the heathens of Britain; and when he became pope, although he could not
himself go to them, he was able to send others for the work of their

An opening had been made by the marriage of Ethelbert, king of Kent, the
Saxon kingdom which lay nearest to the continent, with Bertha, daughter
of Charibert, a Frankish king, whose capital was Paris (A.D. 570). As
Charibert and his family were Christians, it had been agreed that the
young queen should be allowed freely to practise her religion, and a
French bishop, named Luidhard, came to England with her, and acted as
her chaplain. Ethelbert by degrees became much more powerful than he was
at the time of his marriage, and in 593 he was chosen Bretwalda, which
was the title given to the chief of the Saxon kings. This office gave
him much influence over most of the other kingdoms; so that, if his
favour could be gained, it was likely to be of very great advantage for
recommending the Gospel to others. But Ethelbert was still a heathen,
after having been married to Bertha about five-and-twenty years,
although we may well suppose that she had sometimes spoken to him of her
religion, and had tried to bring him over to it. And perhaps Bertha may
have had a share in sending Gregory the reports which he mentions, that
the Saxons in England were ready to receive the Gospel, and in begging
him to take pity on them.


In the year 596 Gregory sent off a party of monks as missionaries to the
English Saxons. The head of them was Augustine, who had been provost
(that is, the highest person after the abbot)[59] of the monastery to
which the pope himself had formerly belonged. And, at the same time,
Gregory directed the manager of his estates in France to buy up a number
of captive Saxon youths, and to place them in monasteries, that they
might learn the Christian faith, and might afterwards become
missionaries to their own countrymen.

[59] See page 150.

When Augustine and his brethren had got as for as the south of France,
they heard many terrible stories of the English, so they took fright at
the thought of going among such savages, whose very language was unknown
to them; and Augustine went back to Rome to beg that they might be
allowed to give up their undertaking. But Gregory would not consent to
this. He encouraged them to go on, and he gave Augustine letters to some
French kings and bishops, desiring them to assist the missionaries, and
to supply them with interpreters who understood the language of the
Saxons. Augustine, therefore, returned to the place where he had left
his companions. They made their way across France, and in 597 he landed,
with about forty monks, in the Isle of Thanet.

Ethelbert lived at Canterbury, the capital of the Kentish kingdom, at no
great distance from the place where the missionaries had landed. On
receiving notice of their arrival, he sent to desire that they would
remain where they were until he should visit them; and within a few days
he went to them. The meeting was held in the open air; for Ethelbert had
a superstitious fear that they might do him some mischief by magical
arts, if he were to trust himself under a roof with them. The
missionaries advanced in procession, with a silver cross borne before
them, and displaying a picture of the crucified Saviour; and, as they
slowly moved onwards, they chanted a prayer for their own salvation and
that of the people to whom they had been sent. Ethelbert received them
courteously, and desired them to sit down; and then Augustine made a
speech, telling the king that they were come to preach the word of life
to him and to his subjects. "These are indeed fair words and promises
which you bring with you," said Ethelbert; "but, because they are new
and uncertain, I cannot at once take up with them, and leave the faith
which I and all my people have so long observed. But as you have come
from far, and as I think you wish to give us a share in things which you
believe to be true and most profitable, we will not show you unkindness,
but rather will receive you hospitably, and not hinder you from
converting as many as you can to your religion."

He then granted them a lodging in his capital, and ordered that they
should be supplied with all that they might need. As they drew near to
Canterbury, they again displayed the silver cross, and the banner on
which the Saviour was painted; and they entered the city in procession,
chanting a litany which Gregory had made for the people of Rome, during
the great plague which carried off pope Pelagius.

A little way outside the city they found a small church, which had been
built in the days of the old British Christianity, and in which Luidhard
had since held his service for Queen Bertha and the Christians of her
court. It was called by the name of St. Martin; for even before the
Saxon invasion his name had become so famous that many churches were
called after it; and we may well believe that Queen Bertha, on arriving
from France, was glad to find that the church in which she was to
worship had long ago been named in honour of the great saint of her own
land. There Augustine and his brethren now held their service; and the
sight of their holy, gentle, and self-denying lives soon drew many to
receive their instructions. Ethelbert himself was baptized on
Whitsunday, 597, and, although he would not force his people to profess
the Gospel, he declared himself desirous of their conversion.

Gregory had desired Augustine, if he met with success in the beginning
of his mission, to return from Britain into France and be consecrated as
a bishop. He now obeyed this direction, and was consecrated at Arles;
and without any delay he again crossed the sea, and renewed his labours
among the Saxons. Such was his progress in the work of conversion, that
at Christmas of the year in which he first landed in Britain ten
thousand persons were baptized in one day. Four years later, Gregory
made him an archbishop; and he sent him a fresh body of clergy to help
him, with a large supply of books, vestments, and other things for the
service of the Church. He also gave him instructions how to proceed, so
as to advance the true faith without giving needless offence to the
prejudices of the heathen.

Augustine's chief difficulties, indeed, were not with the Saxons, but
with the clergy of the ancient British Church, whom he could not succeed
in bringing to an agreement. We must not lay the blame wholly on either
side; if the Britons were somewhat jealous and obstinate, Augustine
seems to have taken too much upon himself in his way of dealing with
them. But, whatever his faults may have been, we are bound to hold his
memory in honour for the zealous and successful labours by which the
Gospel was a second time introduced into the southern part of this
island. Before his death, in 604, he had established a second bishop for
Kent, in the city of Rochester, and one at London, which was then the
capital of the kingdom of Essex. And by degrees, partly by the followers
of St. Augustine, and partly by the Scotch monks of Icolumbkill,[60] all
the Saxon kingdoms of England were converted to the Christian faith.

[60] See page 139.

In the same year with Augustine, Gregory also died, after long and
severe illness, which obliged him for years to keep his bed, but could
not check his activity in watching over the interests of religion.

Gregory had intended that Augustine should be archbishop of London,
because in the old Roman days London had been the chief city of Britain;
and it might seem natural that the chief bishop of our Church should now
take his title from the capital of all England. But when Gregory sent
forth his missionaries he did not know that England had been divided by
the Saxons into several kingdoms. In consequence of this division of the
country, Augustine, instead of becoming archbishop of London, fixed
himself in the capital of Kent, the first kingdom which he converted,
and then the most powerful of all. Hence it is that his successors, the
primates of all England, to this day, are not archbishops of London but
of Canterbury.

And, although Canterbury be not now a very large town, it is a very
interesting place, and is full of memorials of its first archbishop. The
noble cathedral, called Christ Church, stands in the same place with an
ancient Roman-British church which Augustine recovered from heathen uses
and consecrated in honour of the Saviour. Close to it are the remains of
the archbishop's palace, built on the same ground with the palace of
Ethelbert, which he gave up to the missionaries. A little church of St.
Martin still stands on a rising ground outside the city, on the spot
where Bertha and Luidhard had worshipped before the arrival of
Augustine, and where he and his brethren celebrated their earliest
services. And, although it has been rebuilt since then, we may still see
in its walls a number of bricks which by their appearance are known to
be Roman,--the very same materials of which the little church was built
at first, while the Romans were yet in Britain, fourteen centuries and a
half ago; nay, it is even supposed that some part of the masonry is
Roman too. Between St. Martin's and the cathedral lay the great
monastery of St. Peter and St. Paul, which Augustine began to build. He
died before it was finished; but, as soon as it was ready, his body was
removed to it, and in it Queen Bertha and her husband were afterwards
buried. After a time the name of the monastery was changed to St.
Augustine's, and for hundreds of years it was the chief monastery of all
England. The Reformation in the sixteenth century put an end to
monasteries; and the buildings of St. Augustine's went through many
changes, until in the year 1844 the place was turned to a purpose
similar to that which Augustine and Gregory had at heart when they
undertook the conversion of England; for it is now a college for
training missionaries. And, as Gregory wished that Saxon boys should be
brought up with a view to converting their countrymen, so there are now
at St. Augustine's College young men from distant heathen nations,
receiving an education which may fit them hereafter to become
missionaries of the Church of England to their brethren.[61] Nor is the
good Gregory forgotten in the city which owes so much to him; for within
the last few years a beautiful little church called by his name has
been built, close to the college of St. Augustine.

[61] Among those who were at the College when this volume was first
printed was Kalli, the Esquimaux, of whom an account has since been
written by the Rev. T. B. Murray, and published by the Society for
Promoting Christian Knowledge. He afterwards went to the diocese of
Newfoundland, where he died of consumption.

Here this little book must close. It ends with the replanting of the
Gospel in our own land. And, if hereafter the story should be carried
further, some of its brightest pages will be filled by the labours of
the missionaries who went forth from England to preach the faith of
Christ in Germany and the adjoining countries.




A.D. 612-794.

Within a few years after the death of Gregory the Great, a new religion
was set up by an Arabian named Mahomet, who seems to have been honest,
although mistaken, at first, but grew less honest as he went on, and as
he became more successful and powerful. His religion was made up partly
from the Jewish, partly from the Christian, and partly from other
religions which he found around him; but he gave out that it had been
taught him by visions and revelations from heaven, and these pretended
revelations were gathered into a book called the Koran, which serves
Mahomet's followers for their Bible. This new religion was called
_Islam_, which means submission to the will of God; and the sum of it
was declared to be that "there is but one God, and Mahomet is his

One point in the new religion was, that every faithful Mahometan (or
Mussulman, as they were called) was required once in his life to go on
pilgrimage to Mecca, a city which was Mahomet's birthplace, and was
considered to be especially holy; and to this day it is visited every
year by great companies of pilgrims. Another remarkable thing was, that
he commanded his followers to spread their religion by force; and this
was done with such success, that within about sixty years after
Mahomet's death they had conquered Syria and the Holy Land, Egypt,
Persia, parts of Asia Minor, and all the north of Africa. A little
later, they crossed the Straits of Gibraltar, and got possession of
Spain, where their kingdom of Granada lasted until 1492, nearly eight
hundred years. In the countries which the Mussulmans subdued, Christians
were allowed to live and to keep up their religion; but they had to pay
a heavy tribute, and to bear great hardships and disgraces at the hands
of the conquerors.

I have mentioned that before Gregory the Great's time almost all Europe
had been overrun by the rude nations of the north.[62] Learning nearly
died out, and what remained of it was kept up by the monks and clergy
only. There is but little to tell of the history of those times; for,
although in the Greek empire there were great disputes about some
doctrines and practices, these matters were such as you would not care
to know about, nor would you be much the wiser if you did know.

[62] See Part I., chap XXIII.

I may, however, mention that one of these disputes was about images, to
which the Christians of those ages, and especially the Greeks, had come
by degrees to pay a sort of reverence which St. Augustine and other
fathers of older days would have looked on with horror. It had become
usual to fall down before images, to pray to them, to kiss them, to burn
lights and incense in their honour, to adorn them with gold, silver, and
precious stones, to lay the hand on them in taking oaths, and even to
use them as godfathers or godmothers for children in baptism. Those who
defend the use of images would tell us that the honour is not given to
them, but to Almighty God, to the Saviour, and to the saints, through
the images. But when we find, for instance, that people paid more honour
to one image of the blessed Virgin than to another, and that they
supposed their prayers to have a greater hope of being heard when they
were said before one image than when they were said before another, we
cannot help thinking that they believed the images themselves to have
some particular virtue in them.

There were, then, some of the Greek emperors who tried to put down the
superstitious regard for images; and they were the more set on this
because the Mahometans, who abhorred images, reproached the Christians
for using them. These emperors, wishing to do away with the grounds for
such reproaches, caused the figures of stone or metal to be broken, and
the sacred pictures to be smeared over; and they persecuted very cruelly
those who were foremost in defending them. Then came other emperors who
were in favour of images; or widowed empresses, who governed during the
boyhood of their sons, and took up the cause of images with great zeal;
and thus the friends and the enemies of images succeeded each other by
turns on the throne, so that the battle was fought, backwards and
forwards, for a long time, until at length an agreement was come to
which has ever since continued in the Greek Church. By this agreement,
it was settled that the figures made by carving in stone or wood, or by
casting metal into a mould, should be forbidden, but that the use of
religious pictures (which were also called by the name of images) should
be allowed. Hence it is said that the Greeks may not worship anything of
which one can take the tip of the nose between his finger and his thumb.
But in the Latin Church the carved or molten images are still allowed;
and among the poorer and less educated people there is a great deal of
superstition connected with them.



A.D. 604-734.

While the light of the Gospel was darkened by the Mahometan conquests in
some parts of the world where it had once shone brightly, it was
spreading widely among the nations which had got possession of western
Europe. In England, the successors of St. Augustine converted a large
part of the Anglo-Saxons by their preaching, and much was also done by
missionaries from the island of Iona, on the west of Scotland. There, as
we have seen,[63] an Irish abbot, named Columba, had settled with some
companions about the year 565, and from Iona their teaching had been
carried all over the northern part of Britain. These missionaries from
Iona to England found a home in the island of Lindisfarne, on the
Northumbrian coast, which was given up to them by Oswald, king of
Northumbria, and from them got the name of Holy Island. Oswald himself
had been converted while an exile in Scotland; and, as he had learnt the
language of the country there, he often helped the missionaries in their
labours by interpreting what they said into the language of his own
subjects who listened to them. The Scottish missionaries carried their
labours even as far south as the river Thames; and their modest and
humble ways gained the respect and love of the people so much that, as
we are told by the Venerable Bede, wherever one of them appeared, he was
joyfully received as the servant of God. Even those who met them on the
road used eagerly to ask their blessing, and, whenever one of them came
to any village, the inhabitants flocked to hear from him the message of
the Gospel.

[63] Part I., p. 139.

But these Scottish missionaries differed in some respects from the
clergy who were connected with St. Augustine; and after a time a great
meeting was held at Whitby, in Yorkshire, to settle the questions
between them and the Roman Church. We must not suppose that these
differences were of any real importance; for they were only about such
small matters as the reckoning of the day on which Easter should be
kept, and the way in which the hair of the clergy should be clipped or
shaven. But, although these were mere trifles, the two parties were each
so set on their own ways that no agreement could be come to; and the
end was, that the Scottish missionaries went back to their own country,
and did no more work for spreading the Gospel in England, although after
a while the Scottish clergy, and those of Ireland too, were persuaded to
shave their hair and to reckon their Easter in the same way as the other
clergy of the West.

In those dark times some of the most learned and famous men were English
monks. Among them I shall mention only Bede, who is commonly called the
Venerable, and to whose care we owe almost all our knowledge of the
early history of the Church in this land. Bede was born about the year
673, near Jarrow, in Northumberland, and at the age of seven he entered
the monastery of Jarrow, where the rest of his life was spent. He tells
us of himself that he made it his pleasure every day "either to learn or
to teach or to write something;" and, after having written many precious
books during his quiet life in his cell at Jarrow, he died on the eve of
Ascension-day in the year 734, just as he had finished a translation of
St. John's Gospel.



A.D. 680-755.

Although the Church of Ireland was in a somewhat rough state at home,
many of its clergy undertook missionary work on the Continent; and by
them and others much was done for the conversion of various tribes in
Germany and in the Netherlands. But the most famous missionary of those
times was an Englishman named Winfrid, who is styled the Apostle of

Winfrid was born near Crediton, in Devonshire, about the year 680. He
became a monk at an early age, and perhaps it was then that he took the
name of Boniface, by which he is best known. He might probably have
risen to a high place in the church of his own country if he had wished
to do so; but he was filled with a glowing desire to preach the Gospel
to the heathen. He therefore refused all the tempting offers which were
made to him at home, crossed the sea, and began to labour in Friesland
and about the lower part of the Rhine. For three years he assisted
another famous English missionary, Willibrord, bishop of Utrecht, who
wished to make Boniface his successor; but Boniface thought that he was
bound rather to labour in some country where his work was more needed;
so, leaving Willibrord, he went into Hessia, where he made and baptized
many thousands of converts. The pope, Gregory the Second, on hearing of
this success, invited him to Rome, consecrated him as a bishop, and sent
him back with letters recommending him to the princes and people of the
countries in which his work was to lie. (A.D. 723.)

The government of the Franks was then in a very odd state. There were
kings over them; but these kings, instead of carrying on the government
for themselves, and leading their nation in war, were shut up in their
palaces, except that once in the year they were brought out in a cart
drawn by bullocks to appear at the national assemblies. These poor
"do-nothings" (as the kings of the old French race are called) were
without any strength or spirit. From their way of life, they allowed
their hair to grow without being shorn; and the Greeks, who lived far
away from them, and knew of them only by hearsay, believed, not only
that their hair was long, but that it grew down their backs like the
bristles of a hog. And, while the kings had sunk into this pitiable
state, the real work of the kingly office was done, and the kingly power
was really enjoyed, by great officers who were called mayors of the

At the time which I am speaking of, the mayor of the palace was Charles,
who was afterwards known by the name of Martel, or _The Hammer_. Charles
had done a great service to Christendom by defeating a vast army of
Mahometans, who had forced their way from Spain into the heart of
France, and driving the remains of them back across the Pyrenees. It is
said that they lost 375,000 men in the battle which they fought with
Charles near Poitiers (A.D. 732); and, although this number is no doubt
beyond the truth, it is certain that the infidels were so much weakened
that they never ventured to attempt any more conquests in western
Europe. But, although Charles had thus done very great things for the
Christian world, it would seem that he himself did not care much for
religion; and, although he gave Boniface a letter of protection, he did
not help or encourage him greatly in his missionary labours. But
Boniface was resolved to carry on bravely what he believed to be God's
work. He preached in Hessia and Thuringia, and made many thousands of
converts. He built churches and monasteries, and brought over from
England large numbers of clergy to help him in preaching and in the
Christian training of his converts, for which purpose he also obtained
supplies of books from his own country. He founded bishoprics, and held
councils of clergy and laymen for the settlement of the Church's
affairs. Finding that the Hessians paid reverence to an old oak-tree,
which was sacred to one of their gods, he resolved to cut it down. The
heathens stood around, looking fiercely at him, cursing and threatening
him, and expecting to see him and his companions struck dead by the
vengeance of their gods. But when he had only just begun to attack the
oak we are told that a great wind suddenly arose, and struck it so that
it fell to the ground in four pieces. The people, seeing this, took it
for a sign from heaven, and consented to give up their old idolatry; and
Boniface turned the wood of the huge old oak to use by building a chapel
with it.

In some places Boniface found a strange mixture of heathen superstitions
with Christianity, and he did all that he could to root them out. He had
also much trouble with missionaries from Ireland, whose notions of
Christian doctrine and practice differed in some things from his; and
perhaps he did not always treat them with so much of wisdom and
gentleness as might have been wished. But after all he was right in
thinking that the sight of more than one kind of Christian religion,
different from each other and opposed to each other, must puzzle the
heathen and hinder their conversion; so that we can understand his
jealousy of those Irish missionaries, even if we cannot wholly approve
of it.

In reward of his labours and success, Boniface was made an archbishop by
Pope Gregory III. in 732; and, although at first he was not fixed in any
one place, he soon brought the German Church into such a state of order
that it seemed to be time for choosing some city as the seat of its
chief bishop, just as the chief bishop of England was settled at
Canterbury. Boniface himself wished to fix himself at Cologne; but at
that very time the bishop of Mentz got into trouble by killing a Saxon,
who, in a former war, had killed the bishop's father. Although it had
been quite a common thing in those rough days for bishops to take a part
in fighting, Boniface and his councils had made rules forbidding such
things, as unbecoming the ministers of peace; and the case of the bishop
of Mentz, coming just after those rules had been made, could not well be
passed over. The bishop, therefore, was obliged to give up his see; and
Mentz was chosen to be the place where Boniface should be fixed as
archbishop and primate of Germany, having under him five bishops, and
all the nations which had received the Gospel through his preaching.

When Boniface had grown old, he felt himself again drawn to Frisia,
where, as we have seen,[64] he had laboured in his early life; and at
the age of seventy-five he left his archbishopric, with all that invited
him to spend his last days there in quiet and honour, that he might once
more go forth as a missionary to the barbarous Frieslanders. Among them
he preached with much success; but on Whitsun eve, 755, while he was
expecting a great number of his converts to meet, that they might
receive confirmation from him, he and his companions were attacked by
an armed party of heathens, and the whole of the missionaries, fifty-two
in number, were martyred. But although Boniface thus ended his active
and useful life by martyrdom at the hands of those whom he wished to
bring into the way of salvation, his work was carried on by other
missionaries, and the conversion of the Frisians was completed within no
long time. Boniface's body was carried up the Rhine, and was buried at
Fulda, a monastery which he had founded amidst the loneliness of a vast
forest; and there the tomb of the "Apostle of the Germans" was visited
with reverence for centuries.

[64] Page 174.



A.D. 741-814.


Towards the end of St. Boniface's life, a great change took place in the
government of the Franks. Pipin, who had succeeded his father, Charles
Martel, as mayor of the palace, grew tired of being called a servant
while he was really the master; and the French sent to ask the pope,
whose name was Zacharias, whether the man who really had the kingly
power ought not also to have the title of king. Zacharias, who had been
greatly obliged to the Franks for helping him against his enemies the
Lombards, answered them in the way that they seemed to wish and to
expect; and accordingly they chose Pipin as their king. And while,
according to the custom in such cases, Pipin was lifted up on a shield
and displayed to the people, while he was anointed and crowned, the last
of the poor old race of "do-nothing" kings was forced to let his long
hair be shorn until he looked like a monk, and was then shut up in a
monastery for the rest of his days.

Pipin afterwards went into Italy for the help of the pope, and bestowed
on the Roman Church a large tract of country which he had taken from the
Lombards. And this _donation_ (as it was called) or gift, was the first
land which the popes possessed in such a way that they were counted as
the sovereigns of it.

Pipin died in 768, and was succeeded by his son Charles, who is commonly
called Charlemagne (or Charles the Great). Under Charles the connexion
between the Franks and the Popes became still closer than before; and
when Charles put down the Lombard kingdom in Italy (A.D. 774), the popes
came in for part of the spoil.

But the most remarkable effect of this connexion was at a later time,
when Pope Leo III. had been attacked in a Roman street by some
conspirators, who tried to blind him and to cut out his tongue. But they
were not able to do their work thoroughly, and Leo recovered the use
both of his tongue and of his eyes. He then went into Germany to ask
Charles to help him against his enemies; and on his return to Rome he
was followed by Charles. There, on Christmas Day, A.D. 800, when a vast
congregation was assembled in the great church of St. Peter, the pope
suddenly placed a golden crown on the king's head, while the people
shouted, "Long life and victory to our emperor, Charles!" So now, after
a long time, an emperor was set up again in the West; and, although
these new emperors were German, they all styled themselves emperors of
the Romans. The popes afterwards pretended that they had a right to
bestow the empire as they liked, and that Leo had taken it from the
Greeks, and given it to the Germans. But this was quite untrue. Charles
seems to have made up his mind to be emperor, but he was very angry with
the pope for giving him the crown by surprise, instead of letting him
take his own way about it; and, if he had been left to himself, he would
have taken care to manage the matter so that the pope should not appear
to do anything more than to crown him in form after he had been chosen
by the Roman people.


Charles was really a great man, although he had very serious faults, and
did many blameable things. He carried his conquests so far that the
Greeks had a proverb, "Have the Frank for thy friend, but not for thy
neighbour,"--meaning that the Franks were likely to try to make their
neighbours' lands their own. He thought it his duty to spread the
Christian faith by force, if it could not be done in a gentler way; and
thus, when he had conquered the Saxons in Germany, he made them be
baptized and pay tithes to the Church. But I need hardly say that
people's belief is not to be forced in this way; and many of those who
submitted to be baptized at the conqueror's command had no belief in the
Gospel, and no understanding of it. There is a story told of some who
came to be baptized over and over again for the sake of the white
dresses which were given to them at their baptism; and when one of these
had once got a dress which was coarser than usual, he declared that such
a sack was fitter for a swineherd than for a warrior, and that he would
have nothing to do with it or with the Christian religion. The Saxons
gave Charles a great deal of trouble, for his war with them lasted no
less than thirty-three years; and at one time he was so much provoked by
their frequent revolts that he had the cruelty to put 4,500 Saxon
prisoners to death.

But there are better things to be told of Charles. He took very great
pains to restore learning, which had long been in a state of decay. He
invited learned men from Italy and from England to settle in his
kingdom; and of all these, the most famous was a Northumbrian named
Alcuin. Alcuin gave him wise and good advice as to the best way of
treating the Saxons in order to bring them to the faith; and when
Charles was on his way to Rome, just before he was crowned as emperor,
Alcuin presented him with a large Latin Bible, written expressly for his
use; for we must remember that printing was not invented until more than
six hundred years later, so that all books in Charles's days were
_manuscript_ (or written by hand). Some people have believed that an
ancient manuscript Bible which is now to be seen in the great library at
Paris is the very one which Alcuin gave to Charles.

We are told that when Charles found himself at a loss for help in
educating his people, he said to Alcuin that he wished he might have
twelve such learned clerks as Jerome and Augustine; and that Alcuin
answered, "The Maker of heaven and earth has had only two such; and are
you so unreasonable as to wish for twelve?"

Alcuin was made master of the palace school, which moved about wherever
the court was, and in which the pupils were Charles's own children and
the sons of his chief nobles; and besides this, care was taken for the
education of the clergy and of the people in general. Charles himself
tried very hard to learn reading and writing when he was already in
middle age; but although he became able to read, and used to keep little
tablets under his pillow, in order that he might practise writing while
lying awake in bed, he never was able to write easily. Many curious
stories are told of the way in which he overlooked the service in his
chapel, where he desired that everything should be done as well as
possible. He would point with his finger or with his staff at any person
whom he wished to read in chapel, and when he wished any one to stop he
coughed; and it was expected that at these signals each person would
begin or stop at once, although it might be in the middle of a sentence.

During this time the question of images, which I have already
mentioned,[65] came up again in the Greek Church. A council was held in
787 at Nicæa, where the first general council had met in the time of
Constantine, more than four centuries and a half before;[66] and in this
second Nicene council images were approved of. In the West, the popes
were also for them; but they were condemned in a council at Frankfort,
and a book was written against them in the name of Charles. It is
supposed that this book was mostly the work of Alcuin, but that Charles,
besides allowing it to go forth with his name and authority, had really
himself had a share in making it.

[65] Page 170.

[66] See Part I., chap. XI.

Charles the Great died in the year 814. A short time before his death,
he sent for his son Lewis, and in the great church at Aix-la-Chapelle,
which was Charles's favourite place of abode, he took from the altar a
golden crown, and with his own hands placed it on the head of Lewis. By
this he meant to show that he did not believe the empire to depend on
the pope's will, but considered it to be given to himself and his
successors by God alone.



A.D. 814-887.

Lewis, the son of Charles the Great, was a prince who had very much of
good in him, so that he is commonly called the Pious. But he was of weak
character, and his reign was full of troubles, mostly caused by the
ambition of his own sons, who were helped by a strong party among the
clergy, and even by Pope Gregory the Fourth. At one time he was obliged
to undergo public penance, and some years later he was deprived of his
kingdom and empire, although these acts caused such a shock to the
feelings of men that he found friends who helped him to recover his
power. And after his death (A.D. 840) his children and grandchildren
continued to quarrel among themselves as long as any of them lived.

Besides these quarrels among their princes, the Franks were troubled at
this time by enemies of many kinds.

First of all I may mention the Northmen, who poured down by sea on the
coasts of the more civilized nations. These were the same who in our
English history are called Danes, with whom the great Alfred had a long
struggle, and who afterwards, under Canute, got possession of our
country for a time. They had light vessels,--_serpents_, as they were
called,--which could sail up rivers; and so they carried fire and sword
up every river whose opening invited them, making their way to places so
far off the sea as Mentz, on the Rhine; Treves, on the Moselle; Paris,
on the Seine; and even Auxerre, on the Yonne. They often sacked the
wealthy trading cities which lay open to their attacks; they sailed on
to Spain, plundered Lisbon, passed the Straits of Gibraltar, and laid
waste the coasts of Italy.

After a time they grew bolder, and would leave their vessels on the
rivers, while they struck across the country to plunder places which
were known to be wealthy. They made fortified camps, often on the
islands of the great rivers, and did all the mischief they could within
a large circle around them. These Northmen were bitter enemies of
Christianity, and many of them had lost their homes because they or
their fathers would not be converted at Charlemagne's bidding; so that
they had a special pleasure in turning their fury against churches and
monasteries. Wherever they came, the monks ran off and tried to save
themselves, leaving their wealth as a prey to the strangers. People were
afraid to till the land, lest these enemies should destroy the fruits of
their labours. Famines became common; wolves were allowed to multiply
and to prey without check; and such were the distress and fear caused by
the invaders, that a prayer for the deliverance "from the fury of the
Northmen" was added to the service-books of the Frankish church.

Another set of enemies were the Mahometan Saracens, who got possession
of the great islands of the Mediterranean and laid waste its coasts. It
is said that some of them sailed up the Tiber and carried off the altar
which covered the body of St. Peter. One party of Saracens settled on
the banks of a river about halfway between Rome and Naples; others in
the neighbourhood of Nice, and on that part of the Alps which is now
called the Great St. Bernard; and they robbed pilgrims and merchants,
whom they made to pay dearly for being let off with their lives.

Europe also suffered much from the Hungarians, a very rude, heathen
people, who about the year 900 poured into it from Asia. We are told
that they hardly looked human, that they lived like beasts, that they
ate men's flesh and drank their blood. They rode on small active horses,
so that the heavy-armed cavalry of the Franks could not overtake them;
and if they ran away before their enemies, they used to stop from time
to time, and let fly their arrows backwards. From the Elbe to the very
south of Italy these barbarians filled Europe with bloodshed and with

The Northmen at length made themselves so much feared in France, that
King Charles III., who was called the Simple, gave up to them, in 911, a
part of his kingdom, which from them got the name of Normandy. There
they settled down to a very different sort of life from their old habits
of piracy and plunder, so that before long the Normans were ahead of all
the other inhabitants of France; and from Normandy, as I need hardly
say, it was that William the Conqueror and his warriors came to gain
possession of England.

The princes of Charles the Great's family, by their quarrels, broke up
his empire altogether; and nobody had anything like the power of an
emperor until Otho I., who became king of Germany in 936, and was
crowned emperor at Rome in 962.



A.D. 891-1046.

All this time the papacy was in a very sad condition. Popes were set up
and put down continually, and some of them were put to death by their
enemies. The body of one pope named Formosus, after it had been some
years in the grave, was taken up by order of one of his successors
(Stephen VI.), was dressed out in the full robes of office, and placed
in the papal chair; and then the dead pope was tried and condemned for
some offence against the laws of the Church. It was declared that the
clergy whom he had ordained were not to be reckoned as clergy; his
corpse was stripped of the papal robes; the fingers which he had been
accustomed to raise in blessing were cut off; and the body, after having
been dragged about the city, was thrown into the Tiber (A.D. 896).

Otho the Great, who has been mentioned as emperor, turned out a young
pope, John XII., who was charged with all sorts of bad conduct (A.D.
963); and that emperor's grandson, Otho III., put in two popes, one
after another (A.D. 996, 999). The second of these popes was a very
learned and clever Frenchman, named Gerbert, who as pope took the name
of Sylvester II. He had studied under the Arabs in Spain (for in some
kinds of learning the Arabs were then far beyond the Christians); and it
was he who first taught Christians to use the Arabic figures (such as 1,
2, and 3) instead of the Roman letters or figures (such as I., II., and
III.). He also made a famous clock; and on account of his skill in such
things people supposed him to be a sorcerer, and told strange stories
about him. Thus it is said that he made a brazen head, which answered
"Yes" and "No" to questions. Gerbert asked his head where he should
die, and supposed from the answer that it was to be in the city of
Jerusalem. But one day as he was at service in one of the Roman churches
which is called "Holy Cross in Jerusalem," he was taken very ill; and
then he understood that that church was the Jerusalem in which he was to
die. We need not believe such stories; but yet it is well to know about
them, because they show what people were disposed to believe in the time
when the stories were made.

The troubles of the papacy continued, and at one time there were no
fewer than three popes, each of whom had one of the three chief churches
of Rome, and gave himself out for the only true pope. But this state of
things was such a scandal that the emperor, Henry III., was invited from
Germany to put an end to it, and for this purpose he held a council at
Sutri, not far from Rome, in 1046. Two of the popes were set aside, and
the third, Gregory VI., who was the best of the three, was drawn to
confess that he had given money to get his office, because he wished to
use the power of the papacy to bring about some kind of reform. But on
this he was told that he had been guilty of simony--a sin which takes
its name from Simon the sorcerer, in the Acts of the Apostles (ch.
viii.), and which means the buying of spiritual things with money. This
had never struck Gregory before; but when told of it by the council he
had no choice but to lay aside his papal robes, and the emperor put one
of his own German bishops into the papacy.



It will be pleasanter to tell you something about the missions of those
times; for a great deal of missionary work was then carried on.

(1.) The Bulgarians, who had come from Asia in the end of the seventh
century, and had settled in the country which still takes its name from
them, were converted by missionaries of the Greek Church. It is said
that, when some beginning of the work had been made, and the king
himself had been baptized by the patriarch of Constantinople (A.D. 861),
the king asked the Greek emperor to send him a painter to adorn the
walls of his palace; and that a monk named Methodius was sent
accordingly, for in those times monks were the only persons who
practised such arts as painting. The king desired him to paint a hall in
the palace with subjects of a terrible kind, by which he meant that the
pictures should be taken from the perils of hunting. But, instead of
such subjects, Methodius painted the last judgment, as being the most
terrible of all things; and the king, on seeing the picture of hell with
its torments, and being told that such would be the future place of the
heathen, was so terrified that he gave up the idols which he had kept
until then, and that many of his subjects were also moved to seek
admission into the Church.

Although the conversion of Bulgaria had been the work of Greek
missionaries, the popes afterwards sent some of their clergy into the
country, and claimed it as belonging to them; and this was one of the
chief causes why the Greek and the Latin churches separated from each
other, so that they have never since been really reconciled.

(2.) It is not certain whether the painter Methodius was the same with a
monk of that name, who, with his brother, named Cyril, brought about the
conversion of Moravia (A.D. 863). These missionaries went about their
work in a different way from what was common; for it had been usual for
the Greek clergy to use the Greek language, and for the Western clergy
to use the Latin, in their church-service and in other things relating
to religion; but instead of this, Cyril and Methodius learnt the
language of the country, and translated the church-services, with parts
of the holy Scriptures, into it, so that all might be understood by the
natives. In Moravia, too, there was a quarrel between the Greek and the
Latin clergy; but, although the popes usually insisted that the services
of the Church should be either in Latin or in Greek (because these were
two of the languages which were written over the Saviour's cross), they
were so much pleased with the success of Cyril and Methodius, that they
allowed the service of the Moravian Church to be still in the language
of the country.

(3.) Soon after the conversion of the Moravians, the duke of Bohemia
paid a visit to their king, Swatopluk, who received him with great
honour, but at dinner set him and his followers to sit on the floor, as
being heathens. Methodius, who was at the king's table, spoke to the
duke, and said that he was sorry to see so great a prince obliged to
feed as if he were a swineherd. "What should I gain by becoming a
Christian?" he replied; and when Methodius told him that the change
would raise him above all kings and princes, he and his thirty followers
were baptized.

A story of the same kind is told as to the conversion of the
Carinthians, which was brought about in the end of the eighth century by
a missionary named Ingo, who asked Christian slaves to eat at his own
table, while he caused food to be set outside the door for their heathen
masters, as if they had been dogs. This led the Carinthian nobles to ask
questions; and in consequence of what they heard they were baptized, and
their example was followed by their people generally.

The second bishop of Prague, the chief city of Bohemia, Adalbert, is
famous as having gone on a mission to the heathens of Prussia, by whom
he was martyred on the shore of the Frische Haff in 997.

(4.) In the north of Germany, in Denmark, and in Sweden, Anskar, who had
been a monk at Corbey, on the Weser, laboured for thirty-nine years with
earnest devotion and with great success (A.D. 826-865). In addition to
preaching the Gospel of salvation, he did much in such charitable works
as the building of hospitals and the redemption of captives; and he
persuaded the chief men of the country north of the Elbe to give up
their trade in slaves, which had been a source of great profit to them,
but which Anskar taught them to regard as contrary to the Christian
religion. Anskar was made archbishop of Hamburg and Bremen, and is
styled "The Apostle of the North." But he had to suffer many dangers and
reverses in his endeavours to do good. At one time, when Hamburg was
burnt by the Northmen, he lost his church, his monastery, his library,
and other property; but he only said, with the patriarch Job, "The Lord
gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!"
Then he set to work again, without being discouraged by what had
befallen him, and he even made a friend of the heathen king who had led
the attack on Hamburg. Anskar died in the year 865. It is told that when
some of his friends were talking of miracles which he was supposed to
have done, he said, "If I were worthy in my Lord's sight, I would ask of
Him to grant me one miracle--that He would make me a good man!"

(5.) The Russians were visited by missionaries from Greece, from Rome,
and from Germany, so that for a time they wavered between the different
forms of the Christian religion which were offered to them; but at
length they decided for the Greek Church. When their great prince (who,
at his baptism, took the name of Basil) had been converted (A.D. 988) he
ordered that the idol of the chief god who had been worshipped by the
Russians should be dragged at a horse's tail through the streets of the
capital, Kieff, and should be thrown into the river Dnieper. Many of the
people burst into tears at the sight; but when they were told that the
prince wished them to be baptized, they said that a change of religion
must be good if their prince recommended it; and they were baptized in
great numbers. "Some," we are told, "stood in the water up to their
necks, others up to their breasts, holding their young children in their
arms; and the priests read the prayers from the bank of the river,
naming at once whole companies by the same name."

(6.) I might give an account of the spreading of the Gospel in Poland,
Hungary, and other countries; but let us keep ourselves to the north of
Europe. Although Anskar had given up his whole life to missionary work
among the nations near the Baltic Sea, there was still much to be done,
and sometimes conversion was carried on in ways which to us seem very
strange. As an instance of this, I may give some account of a Norwegian
king named Olave, the son of Tryggve.

Olave was at first a heathen, and had long been a famous sea-rover, when
he was converted and baptized in one of the Scilly islands (A.D. 994).
He took up his new religion with a great desire to spread it among his
people, and he went about from one part of Norway to another, everywhere
destroying temples and idols, and requiring the people to be baptized
whether they were willing or not. At one place he found eighty heathens,
who were supposed to be wizards. He first tried to convert them in the
morning when they were sober, and again in the evening when they were
enjoying themselves over their horns of ale; and as he could not
persuade them, whether they were sober or drunk, he burnt their temple
over their heads. All the eighty perished except one, who made his
escape; and this man afterwards fell into the king's hands, and was
thrown into the sea.

At another time, Olave fell in with a young man named Endrid, who agreed
to become a Christian if any one whom the king might appoint should beat
him in diving, in archery, and in sword-play. Olave himself undertook
the match, and got the better of Endrid in all the trials; and then
Endrid gave in, and allowed himself to be converted and baptized. These
were strange ways of spreading the Gospel; but they seem to have had
their effect on the rough men of the North.

At last, Olave was attacked by some of his heathen neighbours, and was
beaten in a great sea-fight (A.D. 1000). It was generally believed that
he had perished in the sea; but there is a story of a Norwegian pilgrim
who, nearly fifty years later, lost his way among the sands of Egypt,
and lighted on a lonely monastery, with an old man of his own country as
its abbot. The abbot put many questions to him, and asked him to carry
home a girdle and a sword, and to give them with a message to a warrior
who had fought bravely beside King Olave in his last battle; and on
receiving them the old warrior was assured that the Egyptian abbot could
be no other than his royal master, who had been so long supposed to be

Somewhat later than Olave the son of Tryggve (A.D. 1015) Norway had
another king Olave, who was very zealous for the spreading of the Gospel
among his people, and, like the elder Olave, was willing to do so by
force if he could not manage the matter otherwise. On his visiting a
place called Dalen, a bishop named Grimkil, who accompanied him, set
forth the Christian doctrine; but the heathens answered that their own
god was better than the God of the Christians, because he could be seen.
The king spent the greater part of the night in prayer, and next morning
at daybreak the idol of the northern god Thor was brought forward by his
worshippers. Olave pointed to the rising sun, as being a witness to the
glory of its Maker; and, while the heathens were gazing on its
brightness, a tall soldier, to whom the king had given his orders
beforehand, lifted up his club and dashed the idol to pieces. A swarm of
loathsome creatures, which had lived within the idol's huge body, and
had fattened on the food and drink which were offered to it, rushed
forth, as in the case of the image of Serapis, hundreds of years
before;[67] whereupon the men of Dalen were convinced of the falsehood
of their old religion, and consented to be baptized. King Olave was at
length killed in battle against his heathen subjects (A.D. 1030), and
his memory is regarded as that of a saint.

[67] See Part I., chap. XVI.

(7.) From Norway the Gospel made its way to the Norwegian settlements in
Iceland, and even in Greenland, where it long flourished, until, in the
middle of the fifteenth century, ice gathered on the shores so as to
make it impossible to land on them. About the same time a great plague,
which was called the Black Death, carried off a large part of the
settlers, and the rest were so few and so weak that they were easily
killed by the natives.

It seems to be certain that some of the Norwegians from Greenland
discovered a part of the American continent, although no traces of them
remained there when the country was again discovered by Europeans,
hundreds of years later.




In the times of which I have been lately speaking, the power of the
popes had grown far beyond what it was in the days of Gregory the Great.

I have told you Gregory was very much displeased because a patriarch of
Constantinople had styled himself _Universal Bishop_.[68] But since that
time the popes had taken to calling themselves by this very title, and
they meant a great deal more by it than the patriarchs of Constantinople
had meant; for people in the East are fond of big words, so that, when a
patriarch called himself _Universal Bishop_, he did not mean anything in
particular, but merely to give himself a title which would sound
grandly. And thus, although he claimed to be universal, he would have
allowed the bishops of Rome to be universal too. But when the popes
called themselves _Universal Bishops_, they meant that they were bishops
of the whole church, and that all other bishops were under them.

[68] Part I., p. 159.

They had friends, too, who were ready to say anything to raise their
power and greatness. Thus, about the year 800, when the popes had begun
to get some land of their own, through the gifts of Pipin and
Charlemagne,[69] a story was got up that the first Christian emperor,
Constantine, when he built his city of Constantinople, and went to live
in the East, made over Rome to the pope, and gave him also all Italy,
with other countries of the West, and the right of wearing a golden
crown. And this story of Constantine's gift (or _donation_, as it was
called), although it was quite false, was commonly believed in those
days of ignorance.

[69] See p. 178.

About fifty years later another monstrous falsehood was put forth, which
helped the popes greatly. Somebody, who took the name of Isidore, a
famous Spanish bishop who had been dead more than two hundred years,
made a collection of Church law and of popes' letters; and he mixed up
with the true letters a quantity which he had himself forged, but which
pretended to have been written by bishops of Rome from the very time of
the Apostles. And in these letters it was made to appear that the pope
had been appointed by our Lord Himself to be head of the whole Church,
and to govern it as he liked; and that the popes had always used this
power from the beginning. This collection of laws is known by the name
of the _False Decretals_; but nobody in those times had any notion that
they were false, and so they were believed by every one, and the pope
got all that they claimed for him.

But in course of time the popes would not be contented even with this.
In former ages nobody could be made pope without the emperor's consent,
and we have seen how Otho the Great, his grandson, Otho III., and
afterwards Henry III., had thought that they might call popes to account
for their conduct; how these emperors brought some popes before councils
for trial, and turned them out of their office when they misbehaved.[70]
But just after Henry III., as we have read, had got rid of three popes
at once, a great change began, which was meant to set the popes above
the emperors. The chief mover in this change was Hildebrand, who is said
to have been the son of a carpenter in a little Tuscan town, and was
born between the years 1010 and 1020.

[70] Pp. 184, 185.


Hildebrand became a monk of the strictest kind, and soon showed a
wonderful power of swaying the minds of other men. Thus, when a German
named Bruno, bishop of Toul, had been chosen as pope by Henry III., to
whom he was related, and as he was on his way to Rome that he might take
possession of his office, his thoughts were entirely changed by some
talk with Hildebrand, whom he happened to meet. Hildebrand told him that
popes, instead of being appointed by emperors, ought to be freely chosen
by the Roman clergy and people; and thereupon Bruno, putting off his
fine robes, went on to Rome in company with Hildebrand, whose lessons he
listened to all the way, so that he took up the monk's notions as to all
matters which concerned the Church. On arriving at Rome, he told the
Romans that he did not consider himself to be pope on account of the
emperor's favour, but that if they should think fit to choose him he was
willing to be pope. On this he was elected by them with great joy, and
took the name of Leo IX. (A.D. 1048). But, although Leo was called pope,
it was Hildebrand who really took the management of everything.

When Leo died (A.D. 1054), the Romans wished to put Hildebrand into his
place; but he did not yet feel himself ready to take the papacy, and
instead of this he contrived to get one after another of his party
elected, until at length, after having really directed everything for no
less than five-and-twenty years, and under the names of five popes in
succession, he allowed himself to be chosen in 1073, and styled himself
Gregory VII.

The empire was then in a very sad state. Henry III. had died in 1056,
leaving a boy less than six years old to succeed him; and this poor boy,
who became Henry IV., was very badly used by those who were about him.
One day, as he was on an island in the river Rhine, Hanno, archbishop of
Cologne, gave him such an account of a beautiful new boat which had been
built for the archbishop, that the young prince naturally wished to see
it; and as soon as he was safe on board, Hanno carried him off to
Cologne, away from his mother, the empress Agnes. Thus the poor young
Henry was in the hands of people who meant no good by him; and, although
he was naturally a bright, clever, amiable lad, they did what they could
to spoil him, and to make him unfit for his office, by educating him
badly, and by throwing in his way temptations to which he was only too
ready to yield. And when they had done this, and he had made himself
hated by many of his people on account of his misbehaviour, the very
persons who had done the most to cause his faults took advantage of
them, and tried to get rid of him as king of Germany and emperor. In the
meantime Hildebrand (or Gregory, as we must now call him) and his
friends had been well pleased to look on the troubles of Germany; for
they hoped to turn the discontent of the Germans to their own purpose.

Gregory had higher notions as to the papacy than any one who had gone
before him. He thought that all power of every kind belonged to the
pope; that kings had their authority from him; that all kingdoms were
held under him as the chief lord; that popes were as much greater than
kings or emperors as the sun is greater than the moon; that popes could
make or unmake kings just as they pleased; and although he had asked the
emperor to confirm his election, as had been usual, he was resolved that
such a thing should never again be asked of an emperor by any pope in
the time to come.


One way in which Gregory tried to increase his power was by forcing the
clergy to live unmarried, or, if they were married already, to put away
their wives. This was a thing which had not been required either in the
New Testament or by the Church in early times. But by degrees a notion
had grown up that single life was holier than married life; and many
canons (or laws of the Church) had been made against the marriage of the
clergy. But Gregory carried this further than any one before him,
because he saw that to make the clergy different from other men, and to
cut them off from wife and children and the usual connexions of family,
was a way to unite them more closely into a body by themselves. He saw
that it would bind them more firmly to Rome; that it would teach them to
look to the pope, rather than to their national sovereign, as their
chief; and that he might count on such clergy as sure tools, ready to be
at the pope's service in any quarrel with princes. He therefore sent out
his orders, forbidding the marriage of the clergy, and he set the people
against their spiritual pastors by telling them to have nothing to do
with the married clergy, and not to receive the sacraments of the Church
from them. The effects of these commands were terrible: the married
clergy were insulted in all possible ways, many of them were driven by
violence from their parishes, and their unfortunate wives were made
objects of scorn for all mankind. So great and scandalous were the
disorders which arose, that many persons, in disgust at the evils which
distracted the Church, and at the fury with which parties fought within
it, forsook it and joined some of the sects which were always on the
outlook for converts from it.

Another thing on which Gregory set his heart, as a means of increasing
the power of the popes, was to do away with what was called
_Investiture_. This was the name of the form by which princes gave
bishops possession of the estates and other property belonging to their
sees. The custom had been that princes should put the pastoral staff
into the hands of a new bishop, and should place a ring on one of his
fingers; but now fault was found with these acts, because the staff
meant that the bishop had the charge of his people as a shepherd has of
his flock, and the ring meant that he was joined to his Church as a
husband is joined to his wife in marriage. For now it was said to be
wrong to use things which are signs of spiritual power, when that which
the prince gives is not spiritual power, but only a right to the earthly
possessions of the see. Gregory, therefore, ordered that no bishop
should take investiture from any sovereign, and that no sovereign should
give investiture; and out of this grew a quarrel which lasted fifty
years, and was the cause of grievous troubles in the Church.

Gregory had also quarrels with enemies at home. One of these, a rough
and lawless man named Cencius, went so far as to seize him when he was
at a service about midnight on Christmas Eve, and carried him off to a
tower, where the pope was exposed all night to the insults of a gang of
ruffians, and of Cencius himself, who even held a sword to his naked
throat, in the hope of frightening him into the payment of a large sum
as ransom. But Gregory was not a man to be terrified by any violence,
and held out firmly. A woman who took pity on him bathed his wounds, and
a man gave him some furs to protect him against the cold; and in the
morning he was delivered by a party of his friends, by whom Cencius and
his ruffians were overpowered, and frightened into giving up their


In Germany many of the princes and people threw off their obedience to
Henry. They destroyed his castles and reduced him to great distress;
they held meetings against him, and were strong enough to make him give
up his power of government for a time, and leave all questions between
him and his subjects to be settled by the pope. Henry was so much afraid
of losing his kingdom altogether, that, in order to beg the pope's
mercy, he crossed the Alps, with his queen and a few others, in the
midst of a very hard winter, running great risks among the snow and ice
which covered the lofty mountains over which his road lay. In the hope
of getting the pope's forgiveness, he hastened to Canossa, a castle
among the Apennines, at which Gregory then was; but Gregory kept the
emperor standing three days outside the gate, dressed as a penitent, and
pierced through and through by the bitter cold of that terrible winter,
before he would allow himself to be seen. When at last Henry was
admitted, the pope treated him very hardly; some say that he even tried
to make him take the holy sacrament of our Lord's body, by way of
proving whether he were innocent or guilty of the charges which his
enemies brought against him. And, after all that Henry had gone through,
no peace was made between him and his enemies. The troubles of Germany
continued: the other party set up against Henry a king of their own
choosing, named Rudolf; and Henry, in return for this, set up another
pope in opposition to Gregory.

After a time, Henry was able to put down his enemies in Germany, and he
led a large army into Italy, where he got almost all Rome into his
hands; and on Easter Day, 1084, he was crowned as emperor, in St.
Peter's Church, by Clement III., the pope of his party. Gregory
entreated the help of Robert Guiscard, the chief of some Normans who had
got possession of the south of Italy; and Guiscard, who was glad to have
such an opportunity for interfering, speedily came to his relief and
delivered him. But in fighting with the Romans in the streets, these
Normans set the city on fire, and a great part of it was destroyed, so
that within the walls of Rome there are even in our own day large spaces
which were once covered with buildings, but are now given up to
cornfields or vineyards. Gregory felt himself unable to bear the sight
of his ruined city, and, when the Normans withdrew, he went with them to
Salerno, where he died on the 25th of May, 1085. It is said that his
last words were, "I have loved righteousness and hated iniquity;
therefore I die in exile;" and the meaning seems to be, that by these
words he wished to claim the benefit of our Lord's saying, "Blessed are
they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake; for theirs is the
kingdom of heaven."

Of all the popes, Gregory VII. was the one who did most to increase the
power of the papacy. No doubt he was honest in his intentions, and
thought that to carry them out would be the best thing for the whole
Church, as well as for the bishops of Rome. But he did not care whether
the means which he used were fair or foul; and if his plans had
succeeded, they would have brought all mankind into slavery to Rome.



A.D. 1095-1099.


The popes who came next after Gregory VII. carried things with a high
hand, following the example which he had set them. They got the better
of Henry IV., but in a way which did them no credit. For when Henry had
returned from Italy to his own country, and had done his best, by many
years of good government, to heal the effects of the long troubles of
Germany, the popes encouraged his son Conrad, and after Conrad's death,
his younger son Henry, to rebel against him. The younger Henry behaved
very treacherously to his father, whom he forced to give up his crown;
and, at last, Henry IV. died broken-hearted in 1106. When Henry was thus
out of the way, his son, Henry V., who, until then, had seemed to be a
tool of the pope and the clergy, showed what sort of man he really was
by imprisoning Pope Paschal II. and his cardinals for nine weeks, until
he made the pope grant all that he wanted. But at length this emperor
was able to settle for a time the great quarrel of investitures, by an
agreement made at the city of Worms, on the Rhine, in 1123.

But before this time, and while Henry IV. was still emperor, the popes
had got a great addition to their power and importance by the
_Crusades_,--a word which means wars undertaken for the sake of the
Cross. I have told you already, how, from the fourth century, it became
the fashion for Christians to flock from all countries into the Holy
Land, that they might warm their faith (as they thought) by the sight of
the places where our Blessed Lord had been born, and lived, and died,
and where most of the other things written in the Scripture history had
taken place.[71] Very often, indeed, this pilgrimage was found to do
more harm than good to those who went on it; for many of them had their
minds taken up with anything rather than the pious thoughts which they
professed: but the fashion of pilgrimage grew more and more, whether the
pilgrims were the better or the worse for it.

[71] Part I., p. 91.

When the Holy Land had fallen into the hands of the Mahometans, as I
have mentioned,[72] these often treated the Christian pilgrims very
badly, behaving cruelly to them, insulting them, and making them pay
enormously for leave to visit the holy places. And when Palestine was
conquered by the Turks, who had taken up the Mahometan religion lately,
and were full of their new zeal for it (A.D. 1076), the condition of the
Christians there became worse than ever. There had often been thoughts
among the Christians of the West as to making an attempt to get back the
Holy Land from the unbelievers; but now the matter was to be taken up
with a zeal which had never before been felt.

[72] Page 169.

A pilgrim from the north of France, called Peter the Hermit, on
returning from Jerusalem, carried to Pope Urban II. a fearful tale of
the tyranny with which the Mahometans there treated both the Christian
inhabitants and the pilgrims; and the pope gave him leave to try what he
could do to stir up the Christians of the West for the deliverance of
their brethren. Peter was a small, lean, dark man, but with an eye of
fire, and with a power of fiery speech; and wherever he went, he found
that people of all classes eagerly thronged to hear him; they even
gathered up the hairs which fell from the mule on which he rode, and
treasured them up as precious relics. On his bringing back to the pope a
report of the success which he had thus far met, Urban himself resolved
to proclaim the crusade, and went into France, as being the country
where it was most likely to be welcomed. There, in a great meeting at
Clermont, A.D. 1095, where such vast numbers attended that most of them
were forced to lodge in tents, because the town itself could not hold
them, the pope, in stirring words, set forth the reasons of the holy
war, and invited his hearers to take part in it. While he was speaking,
the people broke in on him with shouts of "God wills it!"--words which
from that time became the cry of the Crusaders; and when he had done,
thousands enlisted for the crusade by fixing little crosses on their

All over Europe everything was set into motion; almost every one,
whether old or young, strong or feeble, was eager to join; women urged
their husbands or their sons to take the cross, and any one who refused
was despised by all. Many of those who enlisted would not wait for the
time which had been fixed for starting. A large body set out under Peter
the Hermit and two knights, of whom one was called Walter the Pennyless.
Other crowds followed, which were made up, not of fighting men only, but
of poor, broken-down old men, of women and children who had no notion
how very far off Jerusalem was, or what dangers lay in the way to it.
There were many simple country folks, who set out with their families in
carts drawn by oxen; and whenever they came to any town, their children
asked, "Is this Jerusalem?" And besides these poor creatures, there were
many bad people, who plundered as they went on, so as to make the
crusade hated even by the Christian inhabitants of the countries through
which they passed.

These first swarms took the way through Hungary to Constantinople, and
then across the Bosphorus into Asia Minor. Walter the Pennyless, who,
although his pockets were empty, seems to have been a brave and good
soldier, was killed in battle near Nicæa, the place where the first
general council had been held,[73] but which had now become the capital
of the Turks; and the bones of his followers who fell with him were
gathered into a great heap, which stood as a monument of their rashness.
It is said that more than a hundred thousand human beings had already
perished in these ill-managed attempts before the main forces of the
Crusaders began to move.

[73] Part I., p. 45.


When the regular armies started at length, A.D. 1096, part of them
marched through Hungary, while others went through Italy, and there took
ship for Constantinople. The chief of their leaders was Godfrey of
Bouillon, a brave and pious knight; and among the other commanders was
Robert, duke of Normandy, whom we read of in English history as the
eldest son of William the Conqueror, and brother of William Rufus. When
they reached Constantinople, they found that the Greek emperor, Alexius,
looked on them with distrust and dislike rather than with kindness; and
he was glad to get rid of them by helping them across the strait to

In passing through Asia Minor, the Crusaders had to fight often, and to
struggle with many other difficulties. The sight of the hill of bones
near Nicæa roused them to fury; and, in order to avenge Walter the
Pennyless and his companions, they laid siege to the city, which they
took at the end of six weeks. After resting there for a time, they went
on again and reached Antioch, which they besieged for eight months
(Oct., 1097-June, 1098). During this siege they suffered terribly. Their
tents were blown to shreds by the winds, or were rotted by the heavy
rains which turned the ground into a swamp; and, as they had wasted
their provisions in the beginning of the siege (not expecting that it
would last so long), they found themselves in great distress for food,
so that they were obliged to eat the flesh of horses and camels, of dogs
and mice, with grass and thistles, leather, and the bark of trees. Their
horses had almost all sunk under the hardships of the siege, and the men
were thinned by disease and by the assaults of their enemies.

At length Antioch was betrayed to them; but they made a bad use of their
success. They slew all of the inhabitants who refused to become
Christians. They wasted the provisions which they found in the city, or
which were brought to them from other quarters; and when a fresh
Mahometan force appeared, which was vastly greater than their own, they
found themselves shut in between it and the garrison of the castle,
which they had not been able to take when they took the city.

Their distress was now greater than before, and their case seemed to be
almost hopeless, when their spirits were revived by the discovery of
something which was supposed to be the lance by which our blessed Lord's
side was pierced on the cross. They rushed, with full confidence, to
attack the enemy on the outside; and the victory which they gained over
these was soon followed by the surrender of the castle. But a plague
which broke out among them obliged them to remain nearly nine months
longer at Antioch.

Having recruited their health, they moved on towards Jerusalem, although
their numbers were now much less than when they had reached Antioch.
When at length they came in sight of the holy city, a cry of "Jerusalem!
Jerusalem! God wills it!" ran through the army, although many were so
moved that they were unable to speak, and could only find vent for their
feelings in tears and sighs. All threw themselves on their knees and
kissed the sacred ground (June, 1099). The siege of Jerusalem lasted
forty days, during which the Crusaders suffered much from hunger, and
still more from thirst: for it was the height of summer, when all the
brooks of that hot country are dried up; the wells, about which we read
so much in holy Scripture, were purposely choked with rubbish, and the
cisterns were destroyed or poisoned. Water had to be fetched from a
distance of six miles, and was sold very dear; but it was so filthy that
many died after drinking it. The besiegers found much difficulty in
getting wood to make the engines which were then used in attacking the
walls of cities; and when they had at length been able to build such
machines as they wanted, the defenders tried to upset them, and threw at
them showers of burning pitch or oil, and what was called the Greek
fire, in the hope that they might set the engines themselves in flames,
or at least might scald or wound the people in them. We are even told
that two old women, who were supposed to be witches, were set to utter
spells and curses from the walls; but a stone from an engine crushed the
poor old wretches, and their bodies tumbled down into the ditch which
surrounded the city. The Crusaders were driven back in one assault, and
were all but giving way in the second; but Godfrey of Bouillon thought
that he saw in the sky a bright figure of a warrior beckoning him
onwards; and the Crusaders pressed forward with renewed courage until
they found themselves masters of the holy city (July 15, 1099). It was
noted that this was at three o'clock on a Friday afternoon,--the same
day of the week, and the same hour of the day, when our Blessed Lord was

I shall not tell you of the butchery and of the other shocking things
which the Crusaders were guilty of when they got possession of
Jerusalem. They were, indeed, wrought up to such a state that they were
not masters of themselves. At one moment they were throwing themselves
on their knees with tears of repentance and joy; and then again they
would start up and break lose into some frightful acts of cruelty and
plunder against the conquered enemy, sparing neither old man, nor woman,
nor child.


Eight days after the taking of Jerusalem, the Crusaders met to choose a
king. Robert of Normandy was one of those who were proposed; but the
choice fell on Godfrey of Bouillon. But the pious Godfrey said that he
would not wear a crown of gold when the King of kings had been crowned
with thorns; and he refused to take any higher title than that of
Defender and Baron of the Holy Sepulchre.

Godfrey did not live long to enjoy his honours, and his brother,
Baldwin, was chosen in his room. The kingdom of Jerusalem was
established, and pilgrims soon began to stream afresh towards the sacred
places. But, although we might have expected to find that this recovery
of the Holy Land from the Mahometans by the Christians of the West would
have led to union of the Greek and Latin Churches, it unhappily turned
out quite otherwise. The popes set up a Latin patriarch, with Latin
bishops and clergy, against the Greeks, and the two Churches were on
worse terms than ever.

This crusade was followed by others, as we shall see by and by; but
meanwhile, I may say that, although the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem was
never strong, and soon showed signs of decay, these crusades brought the
nations of the West, which fought side by side in them, to know more of
each other; that they served to increase trade with the East, and so to
bring the produce of the Eastern countries within the reach of
Europeans; and, as I have said already,[74] they greatly helped to
increase the power of the popes, who had seen their way to take the
direction of them, and thus get a stronger hold than before on the
princes and people of Western Christendom.

[74] Page 199.



In the times of which I have lately been speaking, the monks did much
valuable service to the Church and to the world in general. It was
mostly through their labours that heathen nations were converted to the
Gospel, that their barbarous roughness was tamed, and that learning,
although it had greatly decayed, was not altogether lost. Often, where
monks had built their houses in lonely places, little clusters of huts
grew up round them, and in time these clusters of huts became large and
important towns. Monks were very highly thought of, and sometimes it was
seen that kings and queens would leave all their worldly grandeur, and
would withdraw to spend their last years under the quiet roof of a
monastery. But it was found, at the same time, that monks were apt to
fall away from the strict rules by which they were bound, so that
reforms were continually needed among them.

As the popes became more powerful, they found the monks valuable friends
and allies, and they gave _exemptions_ to many monasteries; that is to
say, they took it on themselves to set those monasteries free from the
control which the bishops had held over them, so that the monks of these
exempt places did not own any bishop at all, and would not allow that
any one but the pope was over them.

I have already told you of the rule which was drawn up for monks by St.
Benedict of Nursia.[75] Some other rules were afterwards made, such as
that of Columban, an Irish abbot, who for many years (A.D. 589-615)
laboured in France, Switzerland, and the north of Italy. Columban went
more into little matters than Benedict had done, and laid down exact
directions in cases where Benedict had left the abbots of monasteries to
settle things as they should think fit. Thus Columban's rule laid down
that any monk who should call anything his own should receive six
strokes, and appointed the same punishment for every one who should omit
to say _Amen_ after the abbot's blessing, or to make the sign of the
cross over his spoon or his candle; for every one who should talk at
meals, or should cough at the beginning of a psalm. There were ten
strokes for striking the table with a knife, or for spilling beer on it;
and for heavier offences the punishment sometimes rose as high as two
hundred: besides that, other punishments were used, such as fasting on
bread and water, psalm-singing, humble postures, and long times of

[75] Part I., p. 150.

Still, however, Benedict's rule was that by which the greater part of
the Western monks were governed. But, although they were under the same
rule, they had no other connexion with each other; each company of monks
stood by itself, having no tie outside its own walls. There was not as
yet, in the West, anything like the society which St. Pachomius had long
before established in Egypt,[76] where all the monasteries were supposed
to be as so many sisters, and all owned the mother-monastery as their
head. It was not until the tenth century that anything of this kind was
set on foot in the Western Church.

[76] See Part I., p. 62.

(1.) In the year 912, an abbot named Berno founded a new society at
Cluny, in Burgundy. He began with only twelve monks; but by degrees the
fame of Cluny spread, and the pattern which had been set there was
copied far and wide, until at length more than two thousand monasteries
were reckoned as belonging to the "Congregation" (as it was called), or
Order of Cluny; and all these looked up to the great abbot of the
mother-monastery as their chief. The early abbots of Cluny were very
remarkable men, and took a great part in the affairs both of the Church
and of kingdoms: some of them even refused the popedom; and bishops
placed themselves under them, as simple monks of Cluny, for the sake of
their advice and teaching.

The founders of the Cluniac order added many precepts to the rule of St.
Benedict. Thus the monks were required to swallow all the crumbs of
their bread at the end of every meal; and when some of them showed a
wish to escape this duty, they were frightened into obedience by an
awful tale that a monk, when dying, saw at the end of his bed a great
sack of the crumbs which he had left on the table rising up as a witness
against him. The monks were bound to keep silence at times; and we are
told that, rather than break this rule, one of them allowed his horse to
be stolen, and another let himself be carried off as a prisoner by the
Northmen. During these times of silence they made use of a set of signs,
by which they were able to let each other know what they wanted.

This congregation of Cluny, then, was the first great monkish order in
the West, and others soon followed it. They were mostly very strict at
first--some of them so strict that they not only forbade all luxury in
the monks, but would not allow any fine buildings, or any handsome
furniture in their churches. But in general the monks soon got over this
by saying that, as their buildings and their services were not for
themselves, but for God, their duty was to honour Him by giving Him of
the best that they could.

These orders were known from each other by the difference of their
dress: thus the Benedictines were called Black Monks, the Cistercians
were called White Monks, and at a later time we find mention of Black
Friars, White Friars, Grey Friars, and so forth.

(2.) About the time of Gregory VII., several new orders were founded;
and of these the most famous were the Carthusians and the Cistercians.

As to the beginning of the Carthusian order, a strange story is told.
The founder, Bruno, is said to have been studying at Paris, when a
famous teacher, who had been greatly respected for his piety, died. As
his funeral was on its way to the grave, the corpse suddenly raised
itself from the bier, and uttered the words, "By God's righteous
judgment I am accused!" All who were around were struck with horror, and
the burial was put off until the next day. But then, as the mourners
were again moving towards the grave, the dead man rose up a second time,
and groaned out, "By God's righteous judgment I am judged!" Again the
service was put off; but on the third day, the general awe was raised to
a height by his lifting up his head and saying, "By God's righteous
judgment I am condemned!" And it is said that on this discovery as to
the real state of a man who had been so highly honoured for his supposed
goodness, Bruno was so struck by a feeling of the hollowness of all
earthly judgment that he resolved to hide himself in a desert.

I have given this story as a sample of the strange tales which have been
told and believed; but not a word of it is really true, and Bruno's
reasons for withdrawing from the world were of quite a different kind.
It is, however, true that he did withdraw into a wild and lonely place,
which is now known as the Great Chartreuse, among rough and awful rocks,
near Grenoble; and there an extremely severe rule was laid down for the
monks of his order (A.D. 1084). They were to wear goatskins next to the
flesh, and their dress was altogether to be of the coarsest and roughest
sort. On three days of each week their food was bread and water; on the
other days they were allowed some vegetables; but even their highest
fare on holidays was cheese and fish, and they never tasted meat at all.
Once a week they submitted to be flogged, after confessing their sins.
They spoke on Sundays and festivals only, and were not allowed to use
signs like the Cluniacs. It is to be said, to the credit of the
Carthusians, that, although their order grew rich and built splendid
monasteries and churches, they always kept to their hard way of living,
more faithfully, perhaps, than any other order.

(3.) The Cistercian order, which I have mentioned, was founded by Robert
of Molême (A.D. 1098), and took its name from its chief monastery,
Citeaux, or, in Latin, _Cistercium_. The rule was very strict. From the
middle of September to Easter they were to eat but one meal daily.
Their monasteries were not to be built in towns, but in lonely places.
They were to shun pomp and pride in all things. Their services were to
be plain and simple, without any fine music. Their vestments and all the
furniture of their churches were to be coarse and without ornament. No
paintings, nor sculptures, nor stained glass were allowed. The ordinary
dress of the monks was to be white.

At first it seemed as if the hardness of the Cistercian rule prevented
people from joining. But the third abbot of Citeaux, an Englishman,
named Stephen Harding, when he was distressed at the slow progress of
the order, was comforted by a vision in which he saw a multitude washing
their white robes in a fountain; and very soon the vision seemed to be
fulfilled. In 1113 Bernard (of whom we shall hear more presently)
entered the monastery of Citeaux, and by and by the order spread so
wonderfully that it equalled the Cluniac congregation in the number of
houses belonging to it. These were not only connected together like the
Cluniac monasteries, but had a new kind of tie in the general chapters,
which were held every year. For these general chapters every abbot of
the order was required to appear at Citeaux, to which they all looked up
as their mother. Those who were in the nearer countries were bound to
attend every year; those who were further off, once in three, or five,
or seven years, according to distance. Thus the smaller houses were
allowed to have a share in the management of the whole; and the plan was
afterwards imitated by Carthusians and other orders.

(4.) I need not mention any more of the societies of monks which began
about the same time; but I must not omit to say that the Crusades gave
rise to what are called _military orders_, of which the first and most
famous were the Templars and the Hospitallers, or Knights of St. John.
These orders were governed by rules which were much like those of the
monks; but the members of them were knights, who undertook to defend the
Holy Land against the unbelievers. The Hospitallers were at first
connected with a hospital which had been founded at Jerusalem for the
benefit of pilgrims by some Italian merchants, and took its name from
St. John, an archbishop of Alexandria, who was called the Almsgiver.
They had a black dress, with a white cross on the breast, and, from
having been at first employed in nursing the sick and relieving the
poor, they became warriors who fought against the Mussulmans.

The Templars, who wore a white dress, with a red cross on the breast,
were even more famous as soldiers than the Hospitallers. The knights of
both these orders were bound by their rules to remain unmarried, to be
regular and frequent in their religious exercises, to live plainly, to
devote themselves to the defence of the Christian faith and of the Holy
Land; and for the sake of this work emperors, kings, and other wealthy
persons bestowed lands and other gifts on them, so that they had large
estates in all the countries of Europe. But as they grew rich, they
forgot their vows of poverty and humility, and, although they kept up
their character for bravery, they were generally disliked for their
pride and insolence.

We shall see by and by how it was that the order of the Temple came to
ruin. But the Hospitallers lasted longer. When the Christians were
driven out of the Holy Land, the knights of this order removed first to
Cyprus, then to Rhodes, and, last of all, to Malta, where they continued
even until quite late times.

Other military orders were founded after the pattern of the Templars and
the Hospitallers. The most famous of them were the Teutonic (or German)
knights, who fought the heathens on the shores of the Baltic Sea, and
got possession of a large country, which afterwards became the kingdom
of Prussia; and the order of St. James, which belonged to Spain, and
there carried on a continual war with the Mahometan Moors, whose
settlement in that country has already been mentioned.[77]

[77] Page 170.



A.D. 1091-1153.


St. Bernard was mentioned a little way back,[78] when we were speaking
of the Cistercian order. But I must now tell you something more
specially about him; for Bernard was not only famous for his piety and
for his eloquent speech, but by means of these he gained such power and
influence that he was able to direct the course of things in the Church
in such a way as no other man ever did.

[78] Page 209.

Bernard, then, was born near Dijon, in Burgundy, in the year 1091. His
father was a knight; his mother, Aletha, was a very religious woman, who
watched carefully over his childhood, and prayed earnestly and often
that he might be kept from the dangers of an evil world. As Bernard was
passing from boyhood to youth, the good Aletha died. We are told that
even to her last breath she joined in the prayers and psalm-singing of
the clergy who stood round her bed; and he afterwards fancied that she
appeared to him in visions, warning him lest he should run off in
pursuit of worldly learning so as to forget the importance of religion
above all things.

After a time, Bernard was led to resolve on becoming a monk. But before
doing so he contrived to bring his father, his uncle, his five brothers,
and his sister to the same mind; and when he asked leave to enter the
Cistercian order, it was at the head of a party of more than thirty. It
is said that, as they were setting out, the eldest brother saw the
youngest at play, and told him that all the family property would now
fall to him. "Is it heaven for you, and earth for me?" said the boy;
"that is not a fair division;" and he followed Bernard with the rest.

We have seen that, although the Cistercian order had been founded some
years, people were afraid to join it because the rule was so strict.[79]
But the example of Bernard and his companions had a great effect, and so
many others were thus led to enter the order, that the mother-monastery
was far too small to hold them. Bernard was chosen to be head of one of
the swarms which went forth from Citeaux. The name of his new monastery
was Clairvaux, which means _The Bright Valley_. When he and his party
first settled there, they had to bear terrible hardships. They suffered
from cold and from want of clothing. For a time they had to feed on
porridge made of beech-leaves; and even when the worst distress was
over, the plainness and poverty of their way of living astonished all
who saw it.

[79] Page 209.

Bernard himself went so far in mortification that he made himself very
ill, and would most likely have died, if a bishop, who was his friend,
had not stepped in and taken care of him for a time. Bernard afterwards
understood that he had been wrong in carrying things so far; but the
people who saw how he had worn himself down by fasting and frequent
prayer, were willing to let themselves be led to anything that so
saintly a man might recommend to them. It was even believed that he had
the gift of doing miracles; and this added much to the admiration which
he raised wherever he went.

Perhaps there never was a man who had greater influence than Bernard;
for, although he did not rise to be anything more than Abbot of
Clairvaux, and refused all higher offices, he was able, by the power of
his speech, and by the fame of his saintliness, to turn kings and
princes, popes and emperors, and even whole assemblies of men, in any
way that he pleased. When two popes had been chosen in opposition to
each other, Bernard was able to draw all the chief princes of
Christendom into siding with that pope whose cause he had taken up; and
when the other pope's successor had been brought so low that he could
carry on his claims no longer, he went to Bernard, entreating him to
plead for him with the successful pope, Innocent II., and was led by the
abbot to throw himself humbly as a penitent at Innocent's feet.

Some years after this, one of Bernard's old pupils was chosen as pope,
and took the name of Eugenius III. Eugenius was much under the direction
of his old master, and Bernard, like a true friend, wrote a book "On
Consideration," which he sent to Eugenius, showing him the chief faults
which were in the Roman Church, and earnestly exhorting the pope to
reform them.


Bernard was even the chief means of getting up a new crusade. When
tidings came from the East that the Christians in those parts had
suffered heavy losses (A.D. 1145), he travelled over great part of
France and along the river Rhine in order to enlist people for the holy
war. He gathered meetings, at which he spoke in such a way as to move
all hearts, and stirred up his hearers to such an eagerness for
crusading that they even tore the clothes off his back in order to
divide them into little bits, which might serve as crusaders' badges.
And he drew in the emperor Conrad and king Lewis VII. of France, besides
a number of smaller princes, to join the expedition, although it was so
hard to persuade Conrad, that, when at last he was brought over, it was
regarded as a miracle.

It had been found, at the time of the first crusade, that many people
were disposed to fall on the Jews of their own neighbourhood, as being
enemies of Christ no less than the Mahometans of the Holy Land, and the
same was repeated now. But Bernard strongly set his face against this
kind of cruelty, and was not only the means of saving the lives of many
Jews, but brought the chief preacher of the persecution to own with
sorrow and shame that he had been utterly wrong.

Although, however, a vast army was raised for the recovery of the Holy
Land, and although both the emperor and the French king went at the head
of it, nothing came of the crusade except that vast numbers of lives
were sacrificed without any gain; and even Bernard's great fame as a
saint was not enough to protect him from blame on account of the part
which he had taken in getting up this unfortunate attempt.

These were some of the most remarkable things in which Bernard's command
over men's minds was shown; and he was able also to get the better of
some persons who taught wrong or doubtful opinions, even although they
may have been men of sharper wits and of greater learning than himself.

In short, Bernard was the leading man of his age. No doubt he believed
many things which we should think superstitious or altogether wrong; and
in his conduct we cannot help noticing some tokens of human
frailty--especially a jealous love of the power and influence which he
had gained. But, although he was not without his defects, we cannot fail
to see in him an honest, hearty, and laborious servant of God, and we
shall not wish to grudge him the title of _saint_, which was granted to
him by a pope in 1173, and has ever since been commonly attached to his
name. Bernard died in 1153.



A.D. 1153-1192.

In the year of Bernard's death Adrian IV. was chosen pope; and he is
especially to be noted by us because he was the only Englishman who ever
held the papacy. His name at first was Nicolas Breakspeare; and he was
born near St. Albans, where, in his youth, he asked to be received into
the famous abbey as a monk. But the monks of St. Albans refused him; and
he then went to seek his fortune abroad, where he rose step by step,
until at length the poor Hertfordshire lad, who would have had no chance
of any great place in his own country (for he was of Saxon family, and
the Normans, after the Conquest, kept all the good places for
themselves), was chosen to be the head of Christendom (A.D. 1154).

Adrian had a high notion of the greatness and dignity of his office.
When the emperor Frederick I. (who is called _Barbarossa_, or
_Redbeard_) went from Germany into Italy, and was visited in his camp by
the pope, Adrian required that the emperor should hold his stirrup as he
mounted his horse, and said that such had been the custom from the time
of the great Constantine. Frederick had never heard of such a thing
before, and was not willing to submit; but on inquiry he found that a
late emperor, Lothair III., had held a pope's stirrup, and then he
agreed to do the like. But he took care to do it so awkwardly that every
one who saw it began to laugh; and thus he made his submission appear
like a joke.

Frederick Redbeard carried on a long struggle with the popes. When, at
Adrian's death, two rival popes had been chosen (A.D. 1159), the emperor
required them to let him judge between their claims; and, as one of
them, Alexander III., refused to admit any earthly judge, Frederick took
part with the other, who called himself Victor IV. And when Victor was
dead, Frederick set up three more anti-popes, one after another, to
oppose Alexander.

But Alexander had the kings of France and England on his side, and at
last he not only got himself firmly settled, but brought Frederick to
entreat for peace with him, and with some cities of North Italy, which
had formed themselves into what was called the Lombard League (A.D.
1177). But we must not believe a story that, when this treaty was
concluded in the great church of St. Mark at Venice, the pope put his
foot on the emperor's neck, and the choir chanted the words of the 91st
Psalm, "Thou shalt go upon the lion and the adder:" for this story was
not made up until long after, and has no truth at all in it.

It was in Alexander III.'s time that the great quarrel between Henry II.
of England and Archbishop Thomas Becket took place. Becket had been
raised by the king's favour to be his chancellor, and afterwards to be
archbishop of Canterbury and head of all the English clergy (A.D. 1162).
But, although until then he had done everything just as the king wished,
no sooner had he become archbishop than he turned round on Henry. He
claimed that any clergyman who might be guilty of crimes should not be
tried by the king's judges, but only in the Church's courts. He was
willing to allow that, if a clergyman were found guilty of a great crime
in these courts, he might be degraded,--that is to say, that he should
be turned out of the ranks of the clergy,--and that, when he had thus
become like other men, he might be tried like any other man for any
fresh offences which he might commit. But for the first crime Becket
would allow no other punishment than degradation at the utmost. The king
said that in such matters clergy and laity ought to be alike; and about
this chiefly the two quarrelled, although there were also other matters
which helped to stir up the strife.

In order to get out of the king's way, the archbishop secretly left
England (A.D. 1164), and for six years he lived in France, where king
Lewis treated him with much kindness, partly because this seemed a good
way to annoy the king of England. But at length peace was made, and
Becket had returned to England, when some new acts of his provoked the
king to utter some hasty words against him; whereupon four knights, who
thought to do Henry a service, took occasion to try to seize the
archbishop, and, as he refused to go with them, murdered him in his own
cathedral (A.D. 1170). But as you must have read the story of Becket in
the history of England, I need not spend much time in repeating it.

In 1185, when Urban III. was pope, tidings reached Europe that
Jerusalem had been taken by the great Mussulman hero and conqueror,
Saladin; and at once all Western Christendom was stirred up to make a
grand attempt for the recovery of the Holy City. The lion-hearted
Richard of England, Philip Augustus of France, and the emperor Frederick
Redbeard, who had lately made his peace with the pope, were all to take
part; but very little came of it. Frederick, after having successfully
made his way by Constantinople into Asia Minor, was drowned in the river
Cydnus, in Cilicia. Richard, Philip, and other leaders, after reaching
the Holy Land, quarrelled among themselves; and the Crusaders, after a
vast sacrifice of life, returned home without having effected the
deliverance of Jerusalem. You will remember how Richard, in taking his
way through Austria, fell into the hands of the emperor Henry VI., the
son of Frederick Redbeard, and was imprisoned in Germany until his
subjects were able to raise the large sum which was demanded for his



A.D. 1198-1216.


The popes were continually increasing their power in many ways, although
they were often unable to hold their ground in their own city, but were
driven out by the Romans, so that they were obliged to seek a refuge in
France, or to fix their court for a time in some little Italian town.
They claimed the right of setting up and plucking down emperors and
kings. Instead of asking the emperor to confirm their own election to
the papacy, as in former times, they declared that no one could be
emperor without their consent. They said that they were the chief lords
over kingdoms; they required the emperors to hold their stirrup as they
mounted on horseback, and the rein of their bridle as they rode. And
while such was their treatment of earthly princes, they also steadily
tried to get into their own hands the powers which properly belonged to
bishops, so that the bishops should seem to have no rights of their own,
but to hold their office and to do whatever they did only through the
pope's leave and as his servants. They contrived that, whenever any
difference arose in the Church of any country, instead of being settled
on the spot, it should be carried by an appeal to Rome, that the pope
might judge it. They declared themselves to be above any councils of
bishops, and claimed the power of assembling general councils, although
in earlier times this power had belonged to the emperors, as was seen in
the case of the first great council of Nicæa. They interfered with the
election of bishops, and with the appointment of clergy to offices, in
every country; and they sent into every country their ambassadors, or
_legates_ (as they were called), whom they charged people to respect and
obey as they would respect and obey the pope himself. These legates
usually made themselves hated by their pride and greediness; for they
set themselves up far above the archbishops and bishops of any country
that they might be sent into, and they squeezed out from the clergy of
each country which they visited the means of keeping up their pomp and

The popes who followed Gregory VII. all endeavoured to act in his
spirit, and to push the claims of their see further and further. And of
these popes, by far the strongest and most successful was Innocent III.,
who was only thirty-seven years old when he was elected in 1198. I have
told you how Gregory said that the papacy was as much greater than any
earthly power as the sun is than the moon. And now Innocent carried out
this further by saying that, as the lesser light (the moon) borrows of
the greater light (the sun), so the royal power is borrowed from the
priestly power.

Innocent pretended to a right of judging between the princes who
claimed the empire and the kingdom of Germany, and of making an emperor
by his own choice. He forced the king of France, Philip Augustus, to do
justice to a virtuous Danish princess, whom he had married and had
afterwards put away. And he forced John of England to accept Stephen
Langton as archbishop of Canterbury, although Langton was appointed by
the pope without any regard to the rights of the clergy or of the
sovereign of England. Both in France and in England Innocent made use of
what was called an _interdict_ to make people submit to his will. By
this sentence (which had first come into use about three hundred years
before), a whole country was punished at once, the bad and the good
alike; all the churches were closed, all the bells were silenced, all
the outward signs of religion were taken away. There was no blessing for
marriage, there were no prayers at the burial of the dead; the baptism
of children and the office for the dying were the only services of the
Church which were allowed while the interdict lasted. And it was
commonly found, that, although a king might not himself care for any
spiritual threats or sentences which the pope might utter, he was unable
to hold out against the general feeling of his people, who could not
bear to be without the rites of religion, and cried out that the
innocent thousands were punished for the sake of one guilty person.

John was completely subdued to the papacy, and agreed to give up his
crown to the pope's commissioner, Pandulf; after which he received it
again from Pandulf's hands, and promised to hold the kingdoms of England
and Ireland under the condition of paying a yearly tribute as an
acknowledgment that the pope was his lord.

Archbishop Langton, although he had been forced on the English Church by
the pope, yet afterwards took a different line from what might have been
expected. For when John, by his tyranny, provoked his barons to rise
against him, the archbishop was at the head of those who wrung from the
king the Great Charter as a security for English liberty; and, although
the pope was violently angry, and threatened to punish the archbishop
and the barons severely, Langton stood firmly by the cause which he had
taken up.


While Innocent was thus carrying things with a high hand among the
Christians of the West, he could not but feel distress about the state
of affairs in the East. There, countries which had once been Christian,
and among them the Holy Land, where the Saviour had lived and died, had
fallen into the hands of unbelievers, and all the efforts which had been
made to recover them had hitherto been vain. The pope's mind was set on
a new crusade, and in order to raise money for it he gave much out of
his own purse, stinted himself as to his manner of living, obliged the
cardinals and others around him to do the like, and caused collections
to be gathered throughout Western Christendom. Eloquent preachers were
sent about to stir people up to the great work, and the chief beginning
was made at a place called Ecry, in the north of France. It so happened
that the most famous of the preachers, whose name was Fulk, arrived
there just as a number of nobles and knights were met for a tournament
(which was the name given to the fights of knights on horseback, which
were regarded as sport, but very often ended in sad earnest). Fulk, by
the power of his speech, persuaded most of these gallant knights at Ecry
to take the cross; and, as the number of Crusaders grew, some of them
were sent to Venice, to provide means for their being carried by sea to
Egypt, which was the country in which it was thought that the Mahometans
might be attacked with the best hope of success.

When these envoys reached Venice, which was then the chief trading city
of Europe, they found the Venetians very willing to supply what they
wanted. It was agreed that for a certain sum of money the Venetians
should prepare ships and provisions for the number of Crusaders which
was expected; and they did so accordingly. But when the Crusaders came,
it was found that their numbers fell short of what had been reckoned on;
for many had chosen other ways of going to the East; and, as the
Venetians would take nothing less than the sum which they had bargained
for, the Crusaders, with their lessened numbers, found themselves unable
to pay. In this difficulty, the Venetians proposed that, instead of the
money which could not be raised, the Crusaders should give them their
help against the city of Zara, in Dalmatia, with which Venice had a
quarrel. The Crusaders were very unwilling to do this; because the pope,
in giving his consent to their enterprise, had forbidden them to turn
their arms against any Christians. But they contrived to persuade
themselves that the pope's words were not to be understood too exactly;
and at a meeting in the great church of St. Mark, Henry Dandolo, the
doge or duke of Venice, took the cross, and declared to the vast
multitude of citizens and Crusaders who crowded the church that,
although he was ninety-four years of age, and almost or altogether
blind, he himself would be the leader.

A fleet of nearly five hundred vessels sailed from Venice accordingly
(Oct., 1202), and Zara was taken after a siege of six days, although the
inhabitants tried to soften the feelings of the besiegers by displaying
crosses and sacred pictures from the walls, as tokens of their
brotherhood in Christ. After this success, the Crusaders were bound by
their engagement to go on to Egypt or the Holy Land; but a young Greek
prince, named Alexius, entreated them to restore his father, who had
been dethroned by a usurper, to the empire of the East; and, although
the French were unwilling to undertake any work that might interfere
with the recovery of the Holy Land, the Venetians, who cared little for
anything but their own gain, persuaded them to turn aside to

When the Crusaders came in sight of the city, they were so astonished at
the beauty of its lofty walls and towers, of its palaces and its many
churches, that (as we are told) the hearts of the boldest among them
beat with a feeling which could not be kept down, and many of them even
burst into tears. They found the harbour protected by a great chain
which was drawn across the mouth of it; but this chain was broken by the
force of a ship which was driven against it with the sails swollen by a
strong wind. The blind old doge, Henry Dandolo, stood in the prow of the
foremost ship, and was the first to land in the face of the Greeks who
stood ready to defend the ground. Constantinople was soon won, and the
emperor, who had been deposed and blinded by the usurper, was brought
from his dungeon, and was enthroned in the great church of St. Sophia,
while his son Alexius was anointed and crowned as a partner in the

But quarrels soon arose between the Greeks and the Latins. Alexius was
murdered by a new usurper; his father died of grief: and the Crusaders
found themselves drawn on to conquer the city afresh for themselves.
This conquest was disgraced by much cruelty and unchecked plunder; and
the religion of the Greeks was outraged by the Latin victors as much as
it could have been by heathen barbarians.

The Crusaders set up an emperor and a patriarch of their own, and the
Greek clergy were forced to give way to Latins. The pope, although he
was much disappointed at finding that his plan for the recovery of the
Holy Land had come to nothing, was yet persuaded by the greatness of the
conquest to give a kind of approval to it. But the Latin empire of the
East was never strong; and after about seventy years it was overthrown
by the Greeks, who drove out the Latins and restored their own form of
Christian religion.

Innocent did not give up the notion of a crusade, and at a later time he
sent about preachers to stir up the people of the West afresh; but
nothing had come of this when the pope died. I must, however, mention a
strange thing which arose out of this attempt at a crusade.

A shepherd boy, named Stephen, who lived near Vendome, in the province
of Orleans, gave out that he had seen a vision of the Saviour, and had
been charged by Him to preach the cross. By this tale Stephen gathered
some children about him, and they set off for the crusade, displaying
crosses and banners, and chanting in every town or village through which
they passed, "O Lord, help us to recover Thy true and holy cross!" When
they reached Paris, there were no less than 15,000 of them, and as they
went along their numbers became greater and greater. If any parents
tried to keep back their children from joining them, it was of no use;
even if they shut them up, it was believed that the children were able
to break through bars and locks in order to follow Stephen and his
companions. Ignorant people fancied that Stephen could work miracles,
and treasured up threads of his dress as precious relics. At length the
company, whose numbers had reached 30,000, arrived at Marseilles, where
Stephen entered the city in a triumphal car, surrounded on all sides by
guards. Some shipowners undertook to convey the child-crusaders to Egypt
and Africa for nothing; but these were wretches who meant to sell them
as slaves to the Mahometans; and this was the fate of such of the
children as reached the African coast, after many of them had been lost
by shipwreck on the way.

Innocent, although he had nothing to do with this crusade, or with one
of the same kind which was got up in Germany, declared that the zeal of
the children put to shame the coldness of their elders, whom he was
still labouring, with little success, to enlist in the cause of the Holy


A war of a different kind, but which was also styled a crusade, was
carried on in the south of France while Innocent was pope. In that
country there were great numbers of persons who did not agree with the
Roman Church, and who are known by the names of Waldenses and
Albigenses. The opinions of these two parties differed greatly from each
other. The Waldenses, whose name was given to them from Peter Waldo, of
Lyons, who founded the party about the year 1170, were a quiet set of
people, something like the Quakers of our own time. They dressed and
lived plainly, they were mild in their manners, and used some rather
affected ways of speech; they thought all war and all oaths wrong, they
did not acknowledge the claims of the clergy, and, although they
attended the services of the Church, it is said that they secretly
mocked at them. They were fond of reading the Holy Scripture in their
own language, while the Roman Church would only allow it to be read in
Latin, which was understood by few except the clergy, and not by all of
_them_. And so eager were the Waldenses to bring people to their own way
of thinking, that we are told of one of them, a poor man, who, after his
day's work, used to swim across a river in wintry nights, that he might
reach a person whom he wished to convert.

The Albigenses, on whom the persecution chiefly fell, held something
like the doctrines of Manes, whom I mentioned a long way back,[80] so
that they could not properly be considered as Christians at all. But,
although we cannot think well of their doctrines, the treatment of these
people was so cruel and so treacherous as to raise the strongest
feelings of anger and horror in all who read the accounts of it. Tens of
thousands were slain, and their rich and beautiful country was turned
into a desert.

[80] Part I., p. 110.

The chief leader of the crusade in the south of France was Simon de
Montfort, father of that Earl Simon who is famous in the history of
England. Innocent, although he seems to have been much deceived by those
who reported matters to him, was grievously to blame for having given
too much countenance to the cruelties and injustice which were practised
against the unhappy Albigenses.

Among the clergy who accompanied the Crusaders into southern France and
tried to bring over the Albigenses and Waldenses to the Roman Church was
a Spaniard named Dominic, who afterwards became famous as the founder
of an order of mendicant friars (that is to say, _begging brothers_). He
also founded the Inquisition, which was a body intended to search out
and to put down all opinions differing from the doctrines of the Roman
Church. But the cruelty, darkness, and treachery of its proceedings were
so shocking, that, although Dominic was certainly its founder, we need
not suppose that he would have approved of all its doings.

The Waldenses and Albigenses had been used to reproach the clergy of the
Church for their habits of pomp and luxury; and Dominic had done what he
could to meet these charges by the plainness and hardness of the life
which he and his companions led while labouring in the south of France.
And when he resolved to found a new order of monks, he carried the
notion of poverty to an extreme. His followers were to be not only poor,
but beggars. They were to live on alms, and from day to day, refusing
any gifts of money so large as to give the notion of a settled provision
for their needs.


About the same time another great begging order was founded by Francis,
who was born in 1182 at Assisi, a town in the Italian duchy of Spoleto.
The stories as to his early days are very strange; indeed, it would seem
that, when he was struck with a religious idea, he could not carry it
out without such oddities of behaviour as in most people would look like
signs of a mind not altogether right. When Francis heard in church our
Lord's charge to His apostles, that they should go forth without money
in their purses, or a staff, or scrip, or shoes, or changes of raiment
(_St. Matt._ x. 9, 10), he went before the bishop of Assisi, and,
stripping off all his other clothes, he set forth to preach repentance
without having anything on him but a rough gray woollen frock, with a
rope tied round his waist. He fancied that he was called by a vision to
repair a certain church; and he set about gathering the money for this
purpose by singing and begging in the streets. He felt an especial
charity for lepers, who, on account of their loathsome disease, were
shut out from the company of men, and were subject to miseries of many
kinds; and, although many hospitals had already been founded in various
countries for these unfortunate people, the kindness which Francis
showed to them had a great effect in lightening their lot, so far as
human fellow-feeling could do so.

Francis wished his followers to study humility in all ways. They were to
seek to be despised, and were told to be uneasy if they met with usage
of any other kind. They were not to let themselves be called _brethren_
but _little brethren_; they must try to be reckoned as less than any
other persons. They were especially to be on their guard against the
pride of learning; and, in order to preserve them from the danger of
this, Francis would hardly allow them even a book of the Psalms. But, in
truth, all these things might really be turned the opposite way, and in
making such studied shows of humility it was quite possible that the
Franciscans might fall under the temptations of pride.

Francis was very fond of animals, which he treated as reasonable
creatures, speaking to them by the names of brothers and sisters. He
used to call his own body _brother ass_, on account of the heavy burdens
and the hard usage which it had to bear. He kept a sheep in church, and
it is said that the creature, without any training, used to take part in
the services by kneeling and bleating at proper times. He preached to
flocks of birds on the duty of thanking their Maker for His goodness to
them; nay, he preached to fishes, to worms, and even to flowers.

Perhaps the oddest story of this kind is one about his dealing with a
wolf which infested the neighbourhood of Gubbio. Finding that every one
in the place was overcome by fear of this fierce beast, Francis went out
boldly to the forest where the wolf lived, and, meeting him, began to
talk to him about the wickedness of killing, not only brute animals,
but men; and he promised that, if the wolf would give up such evil ways,
the citizens of Gubbio would maintain him. He then held out his right
hand; whereupon the wolf put his paw into it as a sign of agreement, and
allowed the saint to lead him into the town. The people of Gubbio were
only too glad to fulfil the promise which Francis had made for them; and
they kept the wolf handsomely, giving him his meals by turns, until he
died of old age, and in such general respect that he was lamented by all

There is a strange story that Francis, towards the end of his life,
received in his body what are called the _stigmata_ (that is to say, the
marks of the wounds which were made in our Lord's body at the
crucifixion). And a great number of other superstitious tales became
connected with his name; but with such things we need not here trouble

       *       *       *       *       *

When Dominic and Francis each applied to Pope Innocent for his approval
of their designs to found new orders, he was not forward to give it;
but, on thinking the matter over, he granted them what they asked. Each
of them soon gathered followers, who spread into all lands. The
Franciscans, especially, made converts from heathenism by missions; and
these orders, by their rough and plain habits of life, made their way to
the hearts of the poorest classes in a degree which had never been known
before. And the influence which they thus gained was all used for the
papacy, which found them the most active and useful of all its servants.

In the year 1215, Innocent held a great council at Rome, what is known
as the fourth Lateran Council, and is to be remembered for two of its
canons; by one of which the false doctrine of the Roman Church as to the
sacrament of the Lord's Supper was, for the first time, established; and
by the other, it was made the duty of every one in the Roman Church to
confess to the priest of his parish at least once a year.



A.D. 1220-1270.


The popes still tried to stir up the Christians of the West for the
recovery of the Holy Land; and there were crusading attempts from time
to time, although without much effect. One of these crusades was
undertaken in 1228 by Frederick II., an emperor who was all his life
engaged in struggles against one pope after another. Frederick had taken
the cross when he was very young; but when once any one had done so, the
popes thought that they were entitled to call on him to fulfil his
promise at any time they pleased, no matter what other business he might
have on his hands. He was expected to set off on a crusade whenever the
pope might bid him, although it might be ruinous to him to be called
away from his own affairs at that time.

In this way, then, the popes had got a hold on Frederick, and when he
answered their summons by saying that his affairs at home would not just
then allow him to go on a crusade, they treated this excuse as if he had
refused altogether to go; they held him up to the world as a faithless
man, and threatened to put his lands under an interdict,[81] and to take
away his crown. And when at last Frederick found himself able to go to
the Holy Land, the pope and his friends set themselves against him with
all their might, saying that he was not hearty in the cause, and even
that he was not a Christian at all. So that, although Frederick made a
treaty with the Mahometans by which a great deal was gained for the
Christians, it came to little or nothing, because the popes would not
confirm it.

[81] See page 219.

I need not say much more about Frederick II. There was very much in him
that we cannot approve of or excuse; but he met with hard usage from the
popes, and after his death (A.D. 1250) they pursued his family with
constant hatred, until the last heir, a spirited young prince named
Conradin, who boldly attempted to recover the dominions of his family in
Southern Italy, was made prisoner and executed at Naples in 1268.


At the same time with Frederick lived a sovereign of a very different
kind, Lewis IX. of France, who is commonly called St. Lewis, and
deserves the name of _saint_ better than very many persons to whom it is
given. There was a great deal in the religion of Lewis that we should
call superstition; but he laboured very earnestly to live up to the
notions of Christian religion which were commonly held in his time. He
attended several services in church every day, and when he was told that
his nobles found fault with this, he answered, that no one would have
blamed him if he had spent twice as much time in hunting or in playing
at dice. He was diligent in all other religious exercises, he refrained
from all worldly sports and pastimes, and, as far as could be, he
shunned the pomp of royalty. He was very careful never to use any words
but such as were fit for a Christian. He paid great respect to clergy
and monks, and said that if he could divide himself into two, he would
give one half to the Dominicans and the other half to the Franciscans.
It is even said that at one time he would himself have turned friar, if
his queen had not persuaded him that he would do better by remaining a
king and studying to govern well and to benefit the Church.

But with all this, Lewis took care that the popes should not get more
power over the French Church than he thought due to them. And if any
bishop had tried to play the same part in France which Becket played in
English history, we may be sure that St. Lewis would have set himself
steadily against him.

In 1244 Jerusalem was taken by the Mongols, a barbarous heathen people,
who had none of that respect which the Mahometans had shown for the holy
places of the Jewish and Christian religions; thus these holy places
were now profaned in a way which had not been known before, and stories
of outrages done by the new conquerors, with cries for help from the
Christians of the Holy Land, reached the West.

Soon after this King Lewis had a dangerous illness, in which his life
was given over. He had been for some time speechless, and was even
supposed to be dead, when he asked that the cross might be given to him;
and as soon as he had thus engaged himself to the crusade he began to
recover. His wife, his mother, and others tried to persuade him that he
was not bound by his promise, because it had been made at a time when he
was not master of himself; but Lewis would not listen to such excuses,
and resolved to carry it out faithfully. The way which he took to enlist
companions was very curious. On the morning of Christmas day, when a
very solemn service was to be held in the chapel of his palace (a chapel
which is still to be seen, and is among the most beautiful buildings in
Paris), he caused dresses to be given to the nobles as they were going
in; for this was then a common practice with kings at the great
festivals of the Church. But when the French lords, after having
received their new robes in a place which was nearly dark, went on into
the chapel, which was bright with hundreds of lights, each of them found
that his dress was marked with a cross, so that, according to the
notions of the time, he was bound to go to the holy war.


The king did what he could to raise troops, and appointed his mother,
Queen Blanche, to govern the kingdom during his absence; and, after
having passed a winter in the island of Cyprus, he reached Damietta, in
Egypt, on the 5th of June, 1249. For a time all went well with the
Crusaders; but soon a change took place, and everything seemed to turn
against them. They lost some of their best leaders; a plague broke out
and carried off many of them; they suffered from famine, so that they
were even obliged to eat their horses; and the enemy, by opening the
sluices of the Nile, let loose on them the waters of the river, which
carried away a multitude. Lewis himself was very ill, and at length he
was obliged to surrender to the enemy, and to make peace on terms far
worse than those which he had before refused.

But even although he was a prisoner, his saintly life made the
Mahometans look on him with reverence; so that when the Sultan to whom
he had become prisoner was murdered by his own people, they thought of
choosing the captive Christian king for their chief. Lewis refused to
make any treaty for his deliverance unless all his companions might have
a share in it; and, although he might have been earlier set free, he
refused to leave his captivity until all the money was made up for the
ransom of himself and his followers. On being at length free to leave
Egypt, he went into the Holy Land, where he visited Nazareth with deep
devotion. But, although he eagerly desired to see Jerusalem, he denied
himself this pleasure, from a fear that the crusading spirit might die
out if the first of Christian kings should consent to visit the holy
city without delivering it from the unbelievers.

After an absence of six years, Lewis was called back to France by
tidings that his mother, whom he had left as regent of the kingdom, was
dead (A.D. 1254). But he did not think that his crusading vow was yet
fulfilled; and sixteen years later he set out on a second attempt, which
was still more unfortunate than the former. On landing at Tunis, he
found that the Arabs, instead of joining him, as he had expected,
attacked his force; but these were not his worst enemies. At setting
out, the king had been too weak to bear armour or to sit on horseback;
and after landing he found that the bad climate, with the want of water
and of wholesome food, spread death among his troops. One of his own
sons, Tristan, who had been born during the king's captivity in Egypt,
fell sick and died. Lewis himself, whose weak state made him an easy
victim to disease, died on the 25th of August, 1270, after having shown
in his last hours the piety which had throughout marked his life. And,
although his eldest son, Philip, recovered from an attack which had
seemed likely to be fatal, the Crusaders were obliged to leave that
deadly coast with their number fearfully lessened, and without having
gained any success. Philip, on his return to France, had to carry with
him the remains of his father, of his brother, of one of his own
children, and of his brother-in-law, the king of Navarre. Such was the
sad end of an expedition undertaken by a saintly king for a noble
purpose, but without heeding those rules of prudence which, if they
could not have secured success, might at least have taught him to
provide against some of the dangers which were fatal to him.



A.D. 1294.

In that age the papacy was sometimes long vacant, because the cardinals,
who were the highest in rank of the Roman clergy, and to whom the choice
of a pope belonged, could not agree. In order to get over this
difficulty, rules were made for the purpose of forcing the cardinals to
make a speedy choice. Thus, at a council which was held by Pope Gregory
X. at Lyons, in 1274 (chiefly for the sake of restoring peace and
fellowship between the Greek and Latin Churches), a canon was made for
the election of popes. This canon directed that the cardinals should
meet for the choice of a new pope within ten days after the last pope's
death; that they should all be shut up in a large room, which, from
their being locked in together, was called the _conclave_;[82] that they
should have no means of speaking or writing to any person outside, or of
receiving any letters; that their food should be supplied through a
window; that, if they did not make their choice within three days, their
provisions should be stinted, and if they delayed five days more,
nothing should be given them but bread and water. By such means it was
thought that the cardinals might be brought to settle the election of a
pope as quickly as possible.

[82] _Con_ meaning _together_, and _clavis_ meaning _a key_.

We can well believe that the cardinals did not like to be put under such
rules. They contrived that later popes should make some changes in them,
and tried to go on as before, putting off the election so long as seemed
desirable for the sake of their own selfish objects. At one time, when
there had been no pope for six months, the people of Viterbo confined
the cardinals in the public hall of their city until an election should
be made. At another time, the cardinals were shut up in a Roman
monastery, where six of them died of the bad air. But one cardinal, who
was more knowing than the rest, drove off the effect of the air by
keeping up fires in all his rooms, even through the hottest weather; and
at length he was chosen pope.

On the death of this pope, Nicolas IV. (A.D. 1292), his office was
vacant for two years and a quarter; and when the cardinals then met, it
seemed as if they could not fix on any successor. But one day one of
them told the rest that a holy man had had a vision, threatening heavy
judgments unless a pope were chosen within a certain time; and he gave
such an account of this holy man that all the cardinals were struck at
once with the idea of choosing _him_ for pope. His name was Peter of
Murrone. He lived as a hermit in a narrow cell on a mountain; and there
he was found by certain bishops who were sent by the cardinals to tell
him of his election. He was seventy-two years of age; roughly dressed,
with a long white beard, and thin from fasting and hard living. He could
speak no other tongue than the common language of the country-folks
around, and he was quite unused to business of any kind, so that he
allowed himself to be led by any one who would take the trouble. The
fame of Peter's holiness had been widely spread, and he was even
supposed to do miracles; so that his election was welcomed by
multitudes. Two hundred thousand persons flocked to see his coronation,
where the old man appeared in the procession riding on an ass, with his
reins held by the king of Naples on one side and by the king's son on
the other (A.D. 1294).

This king of Naples, Charles II., got the poor old pope completely into
his power. He made him take up his abode at Naples, where Celestine V.
(as he was now called) tried to carry on his old way of life by getting
a cell built in his palace, just like his old dwelling on the rock of
Fumone; and into this little place he would withdraw for days, leaving
all the work of his office to be done by some cardinals whom he trusted.

Other stories are told which show that Celestine was quite unfit for his
office. The cardinals soon came to think that they had made a great
mistake in choosing him; and at length the poor old man came to think so
too. One of the cardinals, Benedict Gaetani, who had gained a great
influence over his mind, persuaded him that the best thing he could do
was to resign; and, after having been pope about five months, Celestine
called the cardinals together, and read to them a paper, in which he
said that he was too old and too weak to bear the burden of his office;
that he wished to return to his former life of quiet and contemplation.
He then put off his robes, took once more the rough dress which he had
worn as a hermit, and withdrew to his old abode. But the jealousy of his
successor did not allow him to remain there in peace. It was feared that
the reverence in which the old hermit was held by the common people
might lead to some disturbance; and to prevent this he was shut up in
close confinement, where he lived only about ten months. The poorer
people had all manner of strange notions about his holiness and his
supposed miracles; and about twenty years after his death, he was
admitted into the Roman list of saints.



A.D. 1294-1303.


In Celestine's place was chosen Benedict Gaetani, who, although even
older than the worn-out and doting late pope, was still full of
strength, both in body and in mind. Benedict (who took the name of
Boniface VIII.) is said to have been very learned, especially in matters
of law; but his pride and ambition led him into attempts which ended in
his own ruin, and did serious harm to the papacy.

In the year 1300 Boniface set on foot what was called the Jubilee. You
will remember the Jubilee which God in the Law of Moses commanded the
Israelites to keep (Leviticus xxv.). But this new Jubilee had nothing to
do with the law of Moses, and was more like some games which were
celebrated every hundredth year by the ancient Romans. Nothing of the
sort had ever before been known among Christians; but when the end of
the thirteenth century was at hand, it was found that people's minds
were full of a fancy that the year 1300 ought to be a time of some great
celebration. Nay, they were even made to believe that such a way of
keeping every hundredth year had been usual from the beginning of the
Church, although (as I have said) there was no ground whatever for this
notion; and one or two lying old men were brought forward to pretend
that when children they had attended a former jubilee a hundred years

How the expectation of the jubilee was got up we do not know. Most
likely Boniface had something to do with it; at all events, he took it
up and reaped the profits of it. He sent forth letters offering
extraordinary spiritual benefits to all who should visit Rome and the
tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul during the coming year; and immense
numbers of people flocked together from all parts of Europe. It is said
that all through the year there were two hundred thousand strangers in
Rome; for as some went away, others came to fill up their places. The
crowd is described to us as if, in the streets and on the bridge leading
to the great church of St. Peter's, an army were marching each way.

It is said that Boniface appeared one day in the robes of a pope, and
next day in those of an emperor, with a sword in his hand, and that he
declared to some ambassadors that he was both pope and emperor. And
after all this display of his pride and grandeur, he found himself much
enriched by the offerings which the pilgrims had made; for these were so
large, that in one church alone (as we are told) two of the clergy were
employed day and night in gathering them in with long rakes. If this be
anything like the truth, the whole amount collected from the pilgrims at
the jubilee must have been very large indeed.


Boniface got into serious quarrels with princes and others; but the most
serious of them all was a quarrel with Philip IV. of France, who is
called _The Fair_ on account of his good looks--not that there was any
fairness in his character, for it would not be easy to name any one more
utterly _un_fair. If Boniface wished to exalt himself above princes,
Philip, who was a thoroughly hard, cold, selfish man, was no less
desirous to get the mastery over the clergy; and it was natural that
between two such persons unpleasant differences should arise. I need
not mention the particulars, except that Boniface wrote letters which
seemed to forbid the clergy of any kingdom to pay taxes and such-like
dues to their sovereign, and to claim for the pope a right to dispose of
the kingdoms of the earth. Philip, provoked by this, held meetings of
what were called the _estates_ of France,--clergy, nobles, and
commons,--and charged the pope with all sorts of vices and crimes, even
with disbelief of the Christian faith. The estates declared against the
pope's claims; and when Boniface summoned a council of bishops from all
countries to meet at Rome, Philip forbade the French bishops to obey,
and all but a few stayed away. One of the pope's letters to the king was
cut in pieces and thrown into the fire, and the burning was proclaimed
through the streets of Paris with the sound of the trumpet.

The pope was greatly enraged by Philip's conduct. He prepared a bull by
which the king was declared to be excommunicated and to be deprived of
his crown; and it was intended to publish this bull on the 8th of
September, 1303, at Anagni, Boniface's native place, where he was
spending the summer months. But on the day before something took place
which hindered the carrying out of the pope's design.

Early in his reign Boniface had been engaged in a quarrel with the
Colonnas, one of the most powerful among the great princely families of
Rome. He had persecuted them bitterly, had deprived them of their
estates and honours, and, after having got possession of a fortress
belonging to them by treachery, he had caused it to be utterly
destroyed, and the ground on which it stood to be ploughed up and sown
with salt. The Colonnas were scattered in all quarters, and it is said
that one of them, named James, who was a very rough and violent man, had
been for a time in captivity among pirates, and was delivered from this
condition by the money of the French king, who wished to make use of

On the 7th of September, 1303, this James Colonna, with other persons
in King Philip's service, appeared at Anagni with an armed force, and
made their way to the pope's palace. Boniface sent to ask what they
wanted; and in answer they required that he should give up his office,
should restore the Colonnas to all that they had lost, and should put
himself into the hands of James Colonna. On his refusal, they set fire
to the doors of a church which adjoined the palace, and rushed in
through the flames. Boniface heard the forcing of the doors which were
between them and the room in which he was; and as one door after another
gave way with a crash, he declared himself resolved to die as became a
pope. He put on the mantle of his office, with the imperial crown which
bore the name of Constantine; he grasped his pastoral staff in one hand
and the keys of St. Peter in the other, and, taking his seat on his
throne, he awaited the approach of his enemies. On entering the room,
even these rude and furious men were awed for a moment by his venerable
and dauntless look; but James Colonna, quickly overcoming this feeling,
required him to resign the papacy. "Behold my neck and my head,"
answered Boniface: "if I have been betrayed like Christ, I am ready to
die like Christ's vicar." Colonna savagely dragged him from the throne,
and is said to have struck him on the face with his mailed hand, so as
to draw blood. Others of the party poured forth torrents of reproaches.
The pope was hurried into the streets, was paraded about the town on a
vicious horse, with his face toward the tail, and was then thrown into
prison, while the ruffians plundered the palaces and churches of Anagni.

The citizens, in their surprise and alarm, had allowed these things to
pass without any check. But two days later they took heart, and with the
help of some neighbours got the better of the pope's enemies and
delivered him from prison. He was brought out on a balcony in the
market-place, where his appearance raised the pity of all, for he had
tasted nothing since his arrest. The old man begged that some good woman
would save him from dying by hunger. On this the crowd burst out into
cries of, "Life to you, holy father!" and immediately people hurried
away in all directions, and came back with abundance of food and drink
for his relief. The pope spoke kindly to all who were near him, and
pronounced forgiveness of all but those who had plundered the Church.

Boniface was soon afterwards removed to Rome. But the sufferings which
he had gone through had been too much for a man almost ninety years old
to bear. His mind seems to have given way; and there are terrible
stories (although we cannot be sure that they are true) about the manner
of his death, which took place within a few days after he reached the
city (Nov. 22, 1303). It was said of him, "He entered like a fox, he
reigned like a lion, he went out like a dog;" and although this saying
was, no doubt, made up after his end, it was commonly believed to have
been a prophecy uttered by old Pope Celestine, to whom he had behaved so
treacherously and so harshly.



A.D. 1303-1312.


The next pope, Benedict XI., wished to do away with the effects of
Boniface's pride and ambition, and especially to soothe the king of
France, whom Boniface had so greatly provoked. But Benedict died within
about seven months (June 27, 1304) after his election, and it was not
easy to fill up his place. At last, about a year after Benedict's death
(June 5, 1305), Bertrand du Got, archbishop of Bordeaux, was chosen. It
was said that he had held a secret meeting with King Philip in the
depths of a forest, and that, in order to get the king's help towards
his election, he bound himself to do five things which Philip named,
and also a sixth thing, which was not to be spoken of until the time
should come for performing it. But this story seems to have been made up
because the pope was seen to follow Philip's wishes in a way that people
could not understand, except by supposing that he had bound himself by
some special bargain.

For some years Clement V. (as he was called) lived at the cost of French
cathedrals and monasteries, which he visited one after another; and then
(A.D. 1310) he settled at Avignon, a city on the Rhone, where he and his
successors lived for seventy years--about the same length of time that
the Jews spent as captives in Babylon. Hence this stay of the popes at
Avignon has sometimes been spoken of as the "Babylonian Captivity" of
the Church. Although there were some good popes in the course of those
seventy years, the court of Avignon was usually full of luxury and vice,
and the government of the Church grew more and more corrupt.

Philip the Fair was not content with having brought Boniface to his end,
but wished to persecute and disgrace his memory. He caused all sorts of
shocking charges to be brought against the dead pope, and demanded that
he should be condemned as a heretic, and that his body should be taken
up and burnt. By these demands Pope Clement was thrown into great
distress. He was afraid to offend Philip, and at the same time he wished
to save the memory of Boniface; for if a pope were to be condemned in
the way in which Philip wished, it must tell against the papacy
altogether. And besides this, if Boniface had not been a lawful pope (as
Philip and his party said), the cardinals whom he had appointed were not
lawful cardinals, and Clement, who had been partly chosen by their
votes, could have no right to the popedom. He was therefore willing to
do much in order to clear Boniface's memory; and Philip craftily managed
to get the pope's help in another matter on condition that the charges
against Boniface should not be pressed. This is supposed to have been
the secret article which we have heard of in the story of the meeting
in the forest.


I have already mentioned the order of Knights Templars, which was formed
in the Holy Land soon after the first crusade.[83] These soldiers of the
cross showed at all times a courage worthy of their profession; but they
also showed faults which were beyond all question. As they grew rich,
they grew proud, and, from having at first been very strict in their way
of living, it was believed that they had fallen into habits of luxury.
They despised all men outside of their own order; they showed no respect
for the kings of Jerusalem, or for the patriarchs, and were, indeed,
continually quarrelling with them.

[83] Page 210.

At this time the number of the Templar Knights was about fifteen
thousand--the finest soldiers in the world; and the whole number of
persons attached to the order was not less than a hundred thousand.
About half of these were Frenchmen, and all the masters or heads of the
order had been French.

But, although the charges which I have mentioned were enough to make the
Templars generally disliked, they were not the worst charges against
them. It was said that during the latter part of their time in the Holy
Land they had grown friendly with the unbelievers, whom they were bound
to oppose in arms to the uttermost; that from such company they had
taken up opinions contrary to the Christian faith, and vices which were
altogether against their duty as soldiers of the Cross, or as Christians
at all; that they practised magic and unholy rites; that when any one
was admitted into the order, he was required to deny Christ, to spit on
the cross and trample on it, and to worship an idol called Baphomet (a
name which seems to have meant the false prophet Mahomet).

Philip the Fair was always in need of money for carrying on his
schemes, and at one time, when some tricks which, he had played on the
coin of his kingdom had provoked the people of Paris to rise against
him, he took refuge in the house of the Templars there. This house
covered a vast space of ground with its buildings, and was finer and
stronger than the royal palace; and it was perhaps the sight which
Philip then got of the wealth and power of the Templars that led him to
attack them, in the hope of getting their property into his own hands.

Philip set about this design very craftily. He invited the masters of
the Templars and of the Hospitallers (whom you will remember as the
other great military order)[84] into France, as if he wished to consult
them about a crusade. The master of the Hospital was unable to obey the
summons; but the master of the Temple, James de Molay, who had been in
the order more than forty years, appeared with a train so splendid that
Philip's greed was still more whetted by the sight of it. The master was
received with great honour; but, in the meantime, orders were secretly
sent to the king's officers all over the kingdom, who were forbidden to
open them before a certain day; and when these orders were opened, they
were found to require that the Templars should everywhere be seized and
imprisoned without delay. Accordingly, at the dawn of the following day,
the Templars all over France, who had had no warning and felt no
suspicion, were suddenly made prisoners, without being able to resist.

[84] See page 209.

Next day, which was Sunday, Philip set friars and others to preach
against the Templars in all the churches of Paris; and inquiries were
afterwards carried on by bishops and other judges as to the truth of the
charges against them. While the trials were going on, the Templars were
very hardly used. All that they had was taken away from them, so that
they were in grievous distress. They were kept in dungeons, were loaded
with chains, ill fed and ill cared for in all ways. They were examined
by tortures, which were so severe that many of them were brought, by
the very pain, to confess everything that they were charged with,
although they afterwards said that they had been driven by their
sufferings to own things of which they were not at all guilty. Many were
burnt in companies from time to time; at one time no fewer than
fifty-four were burnt together at Paris; and such cruelties struck
terror into the rest.

Some of the Templars on their trials told strange stories. They said,
for instance, that some men on being admitted to the order were suddenly
changed, as if they had been made to share in some fearful secrets;
that, from having been jovial and full of life, delighting in horses and
hounds and hawks, they seemed to be weighed down by a deep sadness,
under which they pined away. It is not easy to say what is to be made of
all these stories. As to the ceremonies used at admitting members, it
seems likely enough that the Templars may have used some things which
looked strange and shocking, but which really meant no harm, and were
properly to be understood as figures or acted parables.

The pope seems, too, not to have known what to make of the case; but, as
we have seen, he had bound himself to serve King Philip in the matter of
the Templars, in order that Pope Boniface's memory might be spared. At a
great council held under Clement, at Vienne, in 1312, it was decreed
that the order of the Temple should be dissolved; yet it was not said
that the Templars had been found guilty of the charges against them, and
the question of their guilt or innocence remains to puzzle us as it
puzzled the Council of Vienne.

The master of the Temple, James de Molay, was kept in prison six years
and a half, and was often examined. At last, he and three other great
officers of the order were condemned to imprisonment for life, and were
brought forward on a platform set up in front of the cathedral of Paris
that their sentence might be published. A cardinal began to read out
their confessions; but Molay broke in, denying and disavowing what he
had formerly said, and declaring himself worthy to die for having made
false confessions through fear of death and in order to please the king.
One of his companions took part with him in this; but the other two,
broken down in body and in spirit by their long confinement, had not the
courage to join them. Philip, on hearing what had taken place, gave
orders that James de Molay and the other who took part with him should
be burnt without delay; and on the same day they were led forth to death
on a little island in the river Seine (which runs through Paris), while
Philip from the bank watched their sufferings. Molay begged that his
hands might be unbound; and, as the flames rose around him and his
companion, they firmly declared the soundness of their faith, and the
innocence of the order.

Within nine months after this, Philip died at the age of forty-six (A.D.
1314); and within a few years his three sons, of whom each had in turn
been king of France, were all dead. Philip's family was at an end, and
the crown passed to one of his nephews. And while the clergy supposed
those misfortunes to be the punishment of Philip's doings against Pope
Boniface, the people in general regarded them as brought on by his
persecution of the Templars. It is not for us to pass such judgments at
all; but I mention these things in order to show the feelings with which
Philip's actions and his calamities were viewed by the people of his own

In other countries, such as England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, and
Spain, the Templars were arrested and brought to trial; and, rightly or
wrongly, the order was dissolved. Its members were left to find some
other kind of life; and its property was made over to the order of the
Hospital, or to some other military order. In France, however, Philip
contrived to lay his hands on so much that the Hospitallers for a time
were rather made poorer than richer by this addition to their


THE POPES AT AVIGNON (_continued_).

A.D. 1314-1352.

Pope Clement V. died a few months before Philip (April, 1314), and was
succeeded by John XXII., a Frenchman, who was seventy years old at the
time of his election, and lived to ninety. The most remarkable thing in
John's papacy was his quarrel with Lewis of Bavaria, who had been chosen
emperor by some of the electors, while others voted for Frederick of
Austria. For the choice of an emperor (or rather of a king of the
Romans) had by this time fallen into the hands of seven German princes,
of whom four were laymen and three were the archbishops of Mentz,
Cologne, and Treves. And hence it is that at a later time we find that
some German princes had _elector_ for their title, as the electors of
Hanover and the electors of Brandenburg; and even that the three
clerical electors were more commonly called electors than archbishops.
It is not exactly known when this way of choosing the kings of the
Romans came in; but, as I have said, it was quite settled before the
time of which we are now speaking.

There was, then, a disputed election between Lewis of Bavaria and
Frederick of Austria; and Pope John was well pleased to stand by and
watch their quarrel, so long as they only weakened each other without
coming to any settlement of the question. But when Lewis had got the
better of Frederick, then John stepped in and told him that it was for
the pope to judge in such a case which of the two ought to be king of
the Romans. And he forbade all people to obey Lewis as king, and
declared that whatever he might have done as king should be of no
effect. But people had become used to such sentences, so that they would
not mind them unless they thought them just; and thus Pope John's
thunder was very little heeded. Although he excommunicated Lewis, the
sentence had no effect; and by this and other things (especially a
quarrel which John had with a part of the Franciscan order) people were
set on inquiring into the rights of the papacy in a way which was quite
new, so that their thoughts took a direction which was very dangerous to
the power of the popes.

Lewis answered the pope by setting up an antipope against him. But this
was a thing which had never succeeded; and so it was that John's rival
was obliged to submit, and, in token of the humblest repentance,
appeared with a rope round his neck at Avignon, where the rest of his
life was spent in confinement.

The pope on his part set up a rival emperor, Charles of Moravia, son of
that blind King John of Bohemia whose death at the battle of Cressy is
known to us from the history of England. But Charles found little
support in Germany so long as Lewis was alive.

The next pope, Benedict XII. (A.D. 1334-1342), although of himself he
would have wished to make peace with Lewis, found himself prevented from
doing so by the king of France; and his successor, Clement VI. (A.D.
1342-1352), who had once been tutor to Charles of Moravia, strongly
supported his old pupil. Lewis died excommunicate in 1347, and was the
last emperor who had to bear that sentence. But, although he suffered
much on account of it, he had yet kept his title of emperor as long as
he lived; and he left a strong party of supporters, who were able to
make good terms for themselves before Charles was allowed to take
peaceable possession of the empire.



While the popes were thus trying to lord it over all men, from the
emperor downwards, there were many who hated their doctrines and would
not allow their authority. The Albigenses and Waldenses, although
persecuted as we have seen, still remained in great numbers, and held
the opinions which had drawn so much suffering on them. The Albigenses,
indeed, were but a part of a greater body, the _Cathari_, who were
spread through many countries, and had an understanding and fellowship
with each other which were kept up by secret means. And there were other
sects, of which it need only be said here that in general their opinions
were very wild and strange, and very unlike, not only to the papal
doctrines, but to the Christianity of the Bible and of the early Church.
Whenever any of the clergy, from the pope downwards, gave an occasion by
pride or ambition, or worldly living, or neglect of duty, or any other
fault, these sects took care to speak of the whole Church as having
fallen from the faith, and to gain converts for themselves by pointing
out the blemishes which were allowed in it.

On the other hand, as I have mentioned,[85] the Inquisition was set on
foot for the discovery and punishment of such doctrines as the Roman
Church condemned; and it was worked with a secrecy, an injustice, and a
cruelty which made men quake with fear wherever it was established. It
is a comfort to know that in the British islands this hateful kind of
tyranny never found a footing.

[85] Page 225.

There were large numbers of persons called Mystics, who thought to draw
near to God, and to give up their own will to His will, in a way beyond
what ordinary believers could understand. Among these was a society
which called itself the _Friends of God_; and these friends belonged to
the Church at the same time that they had this closer and more secret
tie of union among themselves. There is a very curious story how John
Tauler, a Dominican friar of Strasburg, was converted by the chief of
this party, Nicolas of Basel. Tauler had gained great fame as a
preacher, and had reached the age of fifty-two, when Nicolas, who had
been one of his hearers, visited him, and convinced him that he was
nothing better than a Pharisee. In obedience to the direction of
Nicolas, Tauler shut himself up for two years, without preaching or
doing any other work as a clergyman, and even without studying. When, at
the end of that time, he came forth again to the world, and first tried
to preach, he burst into tears and quite broke down; but on a second
trial, it was found that he preached in a new style, and with vastly
more of warmth and of effect than he had ever done before. Tauler was
born in 1294, and died in 1361.

In these times many were very fond of trying to make out things to come
from the prophecies of the Old Testament and of the Revelation, and some
people of both sexes supposed themselves to have the gift of prophecy.
And in seasons of great public distress, multitudes would break out into
some wild sort of religious display, which for a time carried everything
before it, and seemed to do a great deal of good, although the wiser
people looked on it with distrust; but after a while it passed away,
leaving those who had taken part in it rather worse than better than
before. Among the outbreaks of this kind was that of the _Flagellants_,
which showed itself several times in various places. The first
appearance of it was in 1260, when it began at Perugia, in the middle of
Italy, and spread both southwards to Rome and northwards to France,
Hungary, and Poland. In every city, large companies of men, women, and
children moved about the streets, with their faces covered, but their
bodies naked down to the waist. They tossed their limbs wildly, they
dashed themselves down on the ground in mud or snow, and cruelly
_flagellated_ (or flogged) themselves with whips, while they shouted out
shrieks and prayers for mercy and pardon.

Again, after a terrible plague called the Black Death, which raged from
Sicily to Greenland about 1349,[86] parties of flagellants went about
half-naked, singing and scourging themselves. Whenever the Saviour's
sufferings were mentioned in their hymns, they threw themselves on the
ground like logs of wood, with their arms stretched out in the shape of
a cross, and remained prostrate in prayer until a signal was given them
to rise.

[86] See page 191.

These movements seemed to do good at first by reconciling enemies and by
forcing the thoughts of death and judgment on ungodly or careless
people. But after a time they commonly took the line of throwing
contempt on the clergy and on the sacraments and other usual means of
grace. And when the stir caused by them was over, the good which they
had appeared to do proved not to be lasting.



(BORN ABOUT 1324. DIED 1384.)

At this time arose a reformer of a different kind from any of those who
had gone before him. He was a Yorkshireman, named John Wyclif, who had
been educated at Oxford, and had become famous there as a teacher of
philosophy before he began to show any difference of opinions from those
which were common in the Church. Ever since the time when King John
disgusted his people by his shameful submission to the pope,[87] there
had been a strong feeling against the papacy in England; and it had been
provoked more and more, partly because the popes were always drawing
money from this country, and thrusting foreigners into the richer
places of the English Church. These foreigners squeezed all that they
could out of their parishes or offices in England; but they never went
near them, and would have been unable to do much good if they had gone,
because they did not understand the English language. And another
complaint was, that, while the popes lived at Avignon, they were so much
in the hands of their neighbours, the kings of France, that the English
had no chance of fair play if any question arose between the two
nations, and the pope could make himself the judge. And thus the English
had been made ready enough to give a hearing to any one who might teach
them that the popes had no right to the power which they claimed.

[87] Page 219.

There had always been a great unwillingness to pay the tribute which
King John had promised to the Roman see. If the king was weak, he paid
it; if he was strong, he was more likely to refuse it. And thus it was
that the money had been refused by Edward I., paid by Edward II., and
again refused by Edward III., whom Pope Urban V., in 1366, asked to pay
up for thirty-three years at once. In this case, Wyclif took the side of
his king, and maintained that the tribute was not rightly due to the
pope. And from this he went on to attack the corruptions of the Church
in general. He set himself against the begging friars, who had come to
great power, worming themselves in everywhere, so that they had brought
most of the poorer people to look only to them as spiritual guides, and
to think nothing of the parish clergy. In order to oppose the friars,
Wyclif sent about the country a set of men whom he called _poor
priests_. These were very like the friars in their rough dress and
simple manner of living, but taught more according to a plain
understanding of the Scriptures than to the doctrines of the Roman
Church. It is said that once, when Wyclif was very ill, and was supposed
to be dying, some friars went to him in the hope of getting him to
confess that he repented of what he had spoken and written and done
against them. But Wyclif, gathering all his strength, rose up in his
bed, and said, in words which were partly taken from the 118th Psalm, "I
shall not die but live, and declare the evil deeds of the friars." He
was several times brought before assemblies of bishops and clergy, to
answer for his opinions; but he found powerful friends to protect him,
and always came off without hurt.

It was in Wyclif's time that the rebellion of Wat Tyler and Jack Straw
broke out, as we read in the history of England (A.D. 1381); but,
although Wyclif's enemies would have been very glad to lay some of the
blame of it at his door, it is quite certain that he had nothing to do
with it in any way.

In those days almost all books were written in Latin, so that none but
learned people could read them. But Wyclif, although he wrote some books
in Latin for the learned, took to writing other books in good, plain
English, such as every one could understand; and thus his opinions
became known to people of all classes. But the greatest thing that he
did was the translation of the Bible into English. The Roman Church
would not allow the Scriptures to be turned into the language of the
country, but wished to keep the knowledge of it for those who could read
Latin, and expected the common people to content themselves with what
the Church taught. But Wyclif, with others who worked under him,
translated the whole Bible into English, so that all might understand
it. We must remember, however, that there was no such thing as printing
in his days, so that every single book had to be written with the pen,
and of course books were still very dear, and could not be at all

It is said that Pope Urban V. summoned Wyclif to appear before him at
Rome; but Wyclif, who was old, and had been very ill, excused himself
from going; and soon after this he died, on the last day of the year

Wyclif had many notions which we cannot agree with; and we have reason
to thank God's good providence that the reform of the Church was not
carried out by him, but at a later time and in a more moderate and
sounder way than he would have chosen. But we must honour him as one
who saw the crying evils of the Roman Church and honestly tried to cure

Wyclif's followers were called _Lollards_, I believe from their habit of
_lulling_ or chanting to themselves. After his death they went much
farther than he had done, and some of them grew very wild in their
opinions, so that they would not only have made strange changes in
religious doctrine, but would have upset the government of kingdoms.
Against them a law was made by which persons who differed from the
doctrines of the Roman Church were sentenced to be burnt, under the name
of heretics, and many Lollards suffered in consequence. The most famous
of these was Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham, a brave but rather
hot-headed and violent soldier, who was suspected of meaning to get up a
rebellion. For this and his religious opinions together he was burnt in
Smithfield, which was then just outside London (A.D. 1417); the same
place where, at a later time, many suffered for their religion in the
reigns of Henry VIII. and Mary.



A.D. 1367-1377.

While the popes lived at Avignon, Rome suffered very much from their
absence. There was nothing like a regular government. The great Roman
families (such as the Colonnas, whom I have mentioned in speaking of
Boniface VIII.) carried on their quarrels with each other, and no one
attempted or was strong enough to check them. Murders, robberies, and
violences of all sorts were common. The vast and noble buildings which
had remained from ancient times were neglected; the churches and
palaces fell to decay; even the manners of the Romans became rough and
rude, from the want of anybody to teach them better and to show them an

And not only Rome, but all Italy missed the pope's presence. The princes
carried on their wars by means of hired bands of soldiers, who were
mostly strangers from beyond the Alps. These bands hired out their
services to any one who would pay enough, and, although they were
faithful to each employer for the time that was agreed on, they were
ready at the end of that time to engage themselves for money to one who
might be their late master's enemy. The most famous captain of such
hireling soldiers was Sir John Hawkwood, an Englishman, who is commonly
said to have been a tailor in London before he took to arms; but this I
believe to be a mistake. He fought for many years in Italy, and a
picture of him on horseback, which serves for his monument, is still to
be seen in Florence Cathedral.

The Romans again and again entreated the popes to come back to their
city. The chief poet and writer of the age, Petrarch, urged them both in
verse and in prose to return. But the cardinals, who at this time were
mostly Frenchmen, had grown so used to the pleasures of Avignon that
they did all they could to keep the popes there. At length, in 1367,
Urban V. made his way back to Rome, where the emperors both of the East
and of the West met to do him honour; but after a short stay in Italy he
returned to Avignon, where he soon after died (A.D. 1370). His
successor, Gregory XI., however, was more resolute, and removed the
papacy to Rome in 1377; and this was the end of what was styled the
seventy years' captivity in Babylon.[88]

[88] See page 240.



A.D. 1378-1410.

Gregory XI. died in 1378, and the choice of a successor to him was no
easy matter. The Romans were bent on having a countryman of their own,
that they might be sure of his continuing to live among them. They
guarded the gates, they brought into the city a number of rough and
half-savage people from the hills around, to terrify the cardinals; and,
when these were shut up for the election, the mob surrounded the palace
in which they were, with cries of "We will have a Roman, or at least an
Italian!" Day and night their shouts were kept up, with a frightful din
of other kinds. They broke into the pope's cellars, got drunk on the
wine, and were thus made more furious than before. At length, the
cardinals, driven to extreme terror, made choice of Bartholomew
Prignano, archbishop of Bari, in south Italy, who was not one of their
own number. It is certain that he was not chosen freely, but under fear
of the noise and threats of the Roman mob; but all the forms which
follow after the election of a pope, such as that of coronation, were
regularly gone through, and the cardinals seem to have given their
approval of the choice in such a way that they could not well draw back

But Urban VI. (as the new pope called himself), although he had until
then been much esteemed as a pious and modest man, seems to have lost
his head on being raised to his new office. He held himself vastly above
the cardinals, wishing to reform them violently, and to lord it over
them in a style which they had not been used to. By such conduct he
provoked them to oppose him. They objected that he had not been freely
chosen, and also that he was not in his right mind; and a party of them
met at Fondi, and chose another pope, Clement VII., a Frenchman, who
settled at Avignon.

Thus began what is called the Great Schism of the West. There were now
two rival popes--one of them having his court at Rome, and the other at
Avignon; and the kingdoms of Europe were divided between the two. The
cost of keeping up two courts weighed heavily on the Christians of the
West; and all sorts of tricks were used to squeeze out fees and money on
all possible occasions. As an instance of this, I may mention that
Boniface IX., one of the Roman line of popes, celebrated two jubilees,
with only ten years between them, although in Boniface VIII.'s time it
had been supposed that the jubilee was to come only once in a hundred

The princes of Europe were scandalized by this division, and often tried
to heal it, but in vain; for the popes, although they professed to
desire such a thing, were generally far from hearty in saying so. At
length it seemed as if the breach were to be healed by a council held at
Pisa in 1409, which set aside both the rivals, and elected a new pope,
Alexander V. But it was found that the two old claimants would not give
way; and thus the council of Pisa, in trying to cure the evil of having
two popes, had saddled the Church with a third.

Alexander did not hold the papacy quite eleven months (June, 1409, to
May, 1410). He had fallen wholly under the power of a cardinal named
Balthasar Cossa; and this cardinal was chosen to succeed him, under the
name of John XXIII. John was one of the worst men who ever held the
papacy. It is said that he had been a pirate, and that from this he had
got the habit of waking all night and sleeping by day. He had been
governor of Bologna, where he had indulged himself to the full in
cruelty, greed, and other vices. He was even suspected of having
poisoned Alexander; and, although he must no doubt have been a very
clever man, it is not easy to understand how the other cardinals can
have chosen one who was so notoriously wicked to the papacy.



A.D. 1369-1414.

It would seem that after a time Wyclif's opinions almost died out in
England. But meanwhile they, or opinions very like them, were eagerly
taken up in Bohemia. If we look at the map of Europe, we might think
that no country was less likely than Bohemia to have anything to do with
England; for it lies in the midst of other countries, far away from all
seas, and with no harbours to which English ships could make their way.
And besides this, the people are of a different race from any that have
ever settled in this country, or have helped to make the English nation,
and their language has no likeness to ours. But it so happened that
Richard II. of England married the Princess Anne, granddaughter of the
blind king who fell at Cressy, and daughter of the emperor Charles IV.,
who usually lived in Bohemia. And when Queen Anne of England died, and
the Bohemian ladies and servants of her court went back to their own
country, they took with them some of Wyclif's writings, which were
readily welcomed there; for some of the Bohemian clergy had already
begun a reform in the Church, and Wyclif's name was well known on
account of his writings of another kind.

Among those who thus became acquainted with Wyclif's opinions was a
young man named John Huss. He had been an admirer of Wyclif's
philosophical works; but when he first met with his reforming books, he
was so little taken with them that he wished they were thrown into the
Moldau, the river which runs through Prague, the chief city of Bohemia.
But Huss soon came to think differently, and heartily took up almost all
Wyclif's doctrines.

Huss made many enemies among the clergy by attacking their faults from
the pulpit of a chapel called Bethlehem, where he was preacher. He was,
however, still so far in favour with the archbishop of Prague, that he
was employed by him, together with some others, to inquire into a
pretended miracle, which drew crowds of pilgrims to seek for cures at a
place called Wilsnack, in the north of Germany. But he afterwards fell
out of favour with the archbishop who had appointed him to this work,
and he was still less liked by later archbishops.

From time to time some doctrines which were said to be Wyclif's were
condemned at Prague. Huss usually declared that Wyclif had been wrongly
understood, and that his real meaning was true and innocent. But at
length a decree was passed that all Wyclif's books should be burnt (A.D.
1410), and thereupon a grand bonfire was made in the courtyard of the
archbishop's palace, while all the church bells of the city were tolled
as at a funeral. But as some copies of the books escaped the flames, it
was easy to make new copies from these.

Huss was excommunicated, but he still went on teaching. In 1412, Pope
John XXIII. proclaimed a crusade against Ladislaus, king of Naples, with
whom he had quarrelled, and ordered that it should be preached, and that
money should be collected for it all through Latin Christendom. Huss and
his chief friend, whose name was Jerome, set themselves against this
with all their might. They declared it to be unchristian that a crusade
should be proclaimed against a Christian prince, and that the favours of
the Church should be held out as a reward for paying money or for
shedding of blood. One day, as a preacher was inviting people to buy his
indulgences (as they were called) for the forgiveness of sins, he was
interrupted by three young men, who told him that what he said was
untrue, and that Master Huss had taught them better. The three were
seized, and were condemned to die; and, although it would seem that a
promise was afterwards given that their lives should be spared, the
sentence of death was carried into effect. The people were greatly
provoked by this, and when the executioner, after having cut off the
heads of the three, proclaimed (as was usual), "Whosoever shall do the
like, let him look for the like!" a cry burst forth from the multitude
around, "We are ready to do and to suffer the like." Women dipped their
handkerchiefs in the blood of the victims, and treasured it up as a
precious relic. Some of the crowd even licked the blood. The bodies were
carried off by the people, and were buried in Bethlehem chapel; and Huss
and others spoke of the three as martyrs.

By this affair his enemies were greatly provoked. Fresh orders were sent
from Rome for the destruction of Wyclif's books, and for uttering all
the heaviest sentences of the Church against Huss himself. He therefore
left Prague for a time, and lived chiefly in the castles of Bohemian
noblemen who were friendly to him, writing busily as well as preaching
against what he supposed to be the errors of the Roman Church.

We shall hear more of Huss by-and-by.



A.D. 1414-1418.


The division of the Church between three popes cried aloud for
settlement in some way; and besides this there were general complaints
as to the need of reform in the Church. The emperor Sigismund urged Pope
John to call a general council for the consideration of these subjects;
and, although John hated the notion of such a meeting, he could not help
consenting. He wished that the council should be held in Italy, as he
might hope to manage it more easily there than in any country north of
the Alps; and he was very angry when Constance, a town on a large lake
in Switzerland, was chosen as the place. It seemed like a token of bad
luck when, as he was passing over a mountain on his way to the council,
his carriage was upset, and he lay for a while in the snow, using bad
words as to his folly in undertaking the journey; and when he came in
sight of Constance at the foot of the hill, he said that it looked like
a trap for foxes. In that trap Pope John was caught.

The other popes, Gregory XII. and Benedict XIII., did not attend,
although both had been invited; but some time after the opening of the
council (which was on the 5th of November, 1414), the emperor Sigismund
arrived. He reached Constance in a boat which had brought him across the
lake very early on Christmas morning, and at the first service of the
festival, which was held before daybreak, he read the Gospel which tells
of the decree of Cæsar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. For
it was considered that the emperor was entitled to take this part in the
Christmas service of the Church.

It was proposed that all the three popes should resign, and that a new
pope should be chosen. In answer to this, John said that he was ready to
resign if the others would do the same; but it soon became clear that he
did not mean to keep his promise honestly. He tried by all manner of
tricks to ward off the dangers which surrounded him; and, after he had
more than once tried in vain to get away from Constance, he was able to
escape one day when the members of the council were amusing themselves
at a tournament given by a prince whom John had persuaded to take off
their attention in this way. The council, however, in his absence went
on to examine the charges against him, many of which were so shocking
that they were kept secret, out of regard for his office. John, by
letters and messengers, asked for delay, and did all that he could for
that purpose; but, notwithstanding all his arts, he was sentenced to be
deposed from the papacy for simony (that is, for trafficking in holy
things),[89] and for other offences. On being informed of this, he at
once put off his papal robes, saying, that since he had put them on he
had never enjoyed a quiet day (May 31, 1415).

[89] See page 185.


John Huss, the Bohemian reformer, had been summoned to Constance, that
he might give an account of himself, and had been furnished with a
safe-conduct (as it was called), in which the emperor assured him of
protection on his way to the council and back. But, although at first he
was treated as if he were free, it was pretended, soon after his
arrival, that he wished to run away; and under this pretence he was shut
up in a dark and filthy prison. Huss had no friends in the council; for
the reforming part of the members would have nothing to do with him,
lest it should be thought that they agreed with him in all his notions.
And when he was at length brought out from prison, where his health had
suffered much, and when he was required to answer for himself, without
having been allowed the use of books to prepare himself, all the parties
in the council turned on him at once. His trial lasted three days. The
charges against him were mostly about Wyclif's doctrines, which had been
often condemned by councils at Rome and elsewhere, but which Huss was
supposed to hold; and when he tried to explain that in some things he
did not agree with Wyclif, nobody would believe him. Some of his
bitterest persecutors were men who had once been his friends, and had
gone with him in his reforming opinions.

After his trial, Huss was sent back to prison for a month, and all kinds
of ways were tried to persuade him to give up the opinions which were
blamed in him; but he stood firm in what he believed to be the truth. At
length he was brought out to hear his sentence. He claimed the
protection of the emperor, whose safe-conduct he had received (as we
have seen). But Sigismund had been hard pressed by Huss's enemies, who
told him that a promise made to one who is wrong in the faith is not to
be kept; and the emperor had weakly and treacherously yielded, so that
he could only blush for shame when Huss reminded him of the

Huss was condemned to death, and was _degraded_ from his orders, as the
custom was; that is to say, they first put into his hands the vessels
used at the consecration of the Lord's Supper, which were the signs of
his being a priest; and by taking away these from him, they reduced him
from a priest to a deacon. Then they took away the tokens of his being a
deacon, and so they stripped him of his other orders, one after another;
and when at last they had turned him back into a layman, they led him
away to be burnt. It is said that, as he saw an old woman carrying a
faggot to the pile which was to burn him, he smiled and said, "O holy
simplicity!" meaning that her intention was good, although the poor old
creature was ignorant and misled. He bore his death with great patience
and courage; and then his ashes and such scorched bits of his dress as
remained were thrown into the Rhine, lest his followers should treasure
them up as relics (July 6, 1415).

About ten months after the death of Huss, his old friend and companion,
Jerome of Prague, was condemned by the council to be burnt, and suffered
with a firmness which even those who were most strongly against him
could not but admire (May 30, 1416).


When Pope John had been got rid of, Gregory XII., the most respectable
of the three rival popes, agreed to resign his claims. But the third
pope, Benedict XIII., would hear of no proposals for his resignation,
and shut himself up in a castle on the coast of Spain, where he not only
continued to call himself pope, but after his death two popes of his
line were set up in succession. The council of Constance, however,
finding Benedict obstinate, did not trouble itself further about him,
and went on to treat the papacy as vacant.

There was a great dispute whether the reform of the Church (which people
had long asked for), or the choice of a new pope, should be first taken
in hand; and at length it was resolved to elect a pope without further
delay. The choice was to be made by the cardinals and some others who
were joined with them; and these electors were all shut up in the
Exchange of Constance--a building which is still to be seen there. While
the election was going on, multitudes of all ranks, and even the emperor
himself among them, went from time to time in slow procession round the
Exchange, chanting in a low tone litanies, in which they prayed that the
choice of the electors might be guided for the good of the Church. And
when at last an opening was made in the wall from within, and through it
a voice proclaimed, "We have a pope: Lord Otho of Colonna!" the news
spread at once through all Constance. The people seemed to be wild with
joy that the division of the Church, which had lasted so long, was now
healed. All the bells of the town pealed forth joyfully, and it is said
that a crowd of not less than 80,000 people hurried at once to the
Exchange. The emperor in his delight threw himself at the new pope's
feet; and for hours together vast numbers thronged the cathedral, where
the pope was placed on the high altar, and gave them his blessing. It
was on St. Martin's day, the 11th of November, 1417, that this election
took place; and from this the pope styled himself Martin V. But the joy
which had been shown at his election was more than the effect warranted.
The council had chosen a pope before taking up the reform of the Church;
and the new pope was no friend to reform. During the rest of the time
that the council was assembled, he did all that he could to thwart
attempts at reform; and when, at the end of it, he rode away from
Constance, with the emperor holding his bridle on one side and one of
the chief German princes on the other, while a crowd of princes, nobles,
clergy, and others, as many as 40,000, accompanied him, it seemed as if
the pope had got above all the sovereigns of the world.

The great thing done by the council of Constance was, that it declared a
general council to be above the pope, and entitled to depose popes if
the good of the Church should require it.



A.D. 1418-1431.

The news of Huss's death naturally raised a general feeling of anger in
Bohemia, where his followers treated his memory as that of a saint, and
kept a festival in his honour. And when the emperor Sigismund, in 1419,
succeeded his brother Wenceslaus in the kingdom of Bohemia, he found
that he was hated by his new subjects on account of his share in the
death of Huss.

But, although most of the Bohemians might now be called Hussites, there
were great divisions among the Hussites themselves. Some had lately
begun to insist that in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper both the
bread and the wine should be given to all the people, according to our
Lord's own example, instead of allowing no one but the priest to receive
the wine, according to the Roman practice. These people who insisted on
the sacramental cup were called _Calixtines_, from the Latin _calix_,
which means a _cup_ or _chalice_. But among those who agreed in this
opinion there were serious differences as to some other points.

In the summer of 1419, the first public communion was celebrated at a
place where the town of Tabor was afterwards built. It was a very
different kind of ceremony from what had been usual. There were three
hundred altars, but they were without any covering; the chalices were
of wood, the clergy wore only their every-day dress; and a love-feast
followed, at which the rich shared with their poorer brethren. The
wilder party among the Hussites were called _Taborites_, from Tabor,
which became the chief abode of this party. They now took to putting
their opinions into practice. They declared churches and their
ornaments, pictures, images, organs, and the like, to be abominable; and
they went about in bands, destroying everything that they thought
superstitious. And thus Bohemia, which had been famous for the size and
beauty of its churches, was so desolated that hardly a church was left
in it; and those which are now standing have almost all been built since
the time when the Hussites destroyed the older churches.

The chief leader of the Taborites was John Ziska, whose name is said by
some to mean _one-eyed_; and at least he had lost an eye in early life.
Ziska had such a talent for war, that, although his men were only rough
peasants, armed with nothing better than clubs, flails, and such like
tools, which they had been accustomed to use in husbandry, he trained
them to encounter regular armies, and always came off with victory. He
taught his soldiers to make their flails very dangerous weapons by
tipping them with iron; and to place their waggons together in such a
way that each block of waggons made a sort of little fortress, against
which the force of the enemy dashed in vain. But Ziska's bravery and
skill were disgraced by his savage fierceness. He never spared an enemy;
he took delight in putting clergy and monks to the sword, or in burning
them in pitch, and in burning and pulling down churches and monasteries.
In the course of the war he lost his remaining eye; but he still
continued to act as general with the same skill and success as before.
His cruelty became greater continually, and the last year of his life
was the bloodiest.

Ziska died in October, 1424. It is said that he directed that his skin
should be taken off his body, and made into the covering of a drum, at
the sound of which he expected all enemies to flee in terror; but the
story is probably not true. At his death, a part of his old companions
called themselves _orphans_, as if they had lost their father, and could
never find another. But other generals arose to carry on the same kind
of war, while their wild followers were wrought up to a sort of fury
which nothing could withstand.

On the side of the Church a holy war was proclaimed, and vast armies,
made up from all nations of Europe, were gathered for the invasion of
Bohemia. One of these crusades was led by Cardinal Beaufort, bishop of
Winchester, and great-uncle of King Henry VI. of England; another, by a
famous Italian cardinal, Julian Cesarini. But the courage and fury of
the Bohemians, with their savage appearance and their strange manner of
fighting, drove back all assaults, with immense loss, in one campaign
after another; until Cesarini, the leader in the last crusade, was
convinced that there was no hope of putting the Bohemians down by force,
and that some other means must be tried.



A.D. 1431-9.

It had been settled at the council of Constance that regularly from time
to time there should be held a general council, by which name was then
meant a council gathered from the whole of the Western Church, but
without any representatives of the Eastern Churches; and according to
this decree a council was to meet at Basel, on the Rhine, in the year
1431. It was just before the time of its opening that Cardinal Cesarini
was defeated by the Hussites of Bohemia, as we have seen. Being
convinced that some gentler means ought to be tried with them, he begged
the pope to allow them a hearing; and he invited them to send deputies
to the council of Basel, of which he was president.

The Bohemians did as they were asked to do, and thirty of them appeared
before the council,--rough, wild-looking men for the most part, headed
by Procopius, who was at once a priest and a warrior, and was called the
great, in order to distinguish him from another of the same name. A
dispute, which lasted many weeks, was carried on between the leaders of
these Bohemians and some members of the council; and, at length, four
points were agreed on. The chief of these was, that the chalice at the
Holy Communion should not be confined to the priest alone, but might be
given to such grown-up persons as should desire it. This was one of the
things which had been most desired by the Bohemian reformers. We need
not go further into the history of the Hussites and of the parties into
which they were divided; but it is worth while to remember that the use
of the sacramental cup was allowed in Bohemia for two hundred years,
while in all other churches under the Roman authority it was forbidden.

Soon after the meeting of the council of Basel, the pope, whose name was
Eugenius IV., grew jealous lest it should get too much power, and sent
orders that it should break up. But the members were not disposed to
bear this. They declared that the council was the highest authority in
the Church, and superior to the pope; and they asked Eugenius to join
them at Basel, and threatened him in case of his refusal. Just at that
time Eugenius was driven from Rome by his people, and therefore he found
it convenient to try to smooth over differences, and to keep good terms
with the council; but after a while the disagreement broke out again.
The pope had called a council to meet at Ferrara, in Italy, in order to
consult with some Greeks (at the head of whom were the emperor and the
patriarch of Constantinople) as to the union of the Greek and Latin
Churches; and he desired the members of the Basel council to remove to
Ferrara, that they might take part in the new assembly. But only a few
obeyed; and those who remained at Basel were resolved to carry on their
quarrel to the uttermost. First, they allowed Eugenius a certain time,
within which they required him either to appear at Basel or to send some
one in his stead; then, they lengthened out this time somewhat; and as
he still did not appear, they first suspended him from his office, then
declared him to be deposed, and at length went on to choose another pope
in his stead (Nov. 17, 1439).

The person thus chosen was Amadeus, who for nearly thirty years had been
duke of Savoy, but had lately given over his dukedom to his son, and had
put himself at the head of twelve old knights, who had formed themselves
into an order of hermits at Ripaille, near the lake of Geneva. The new
pope bargained that he should not be required to part with the long
white beard which he had worn as a hermit; but after a while, finding
that it looked strange among the smooth chins of those around him, he,
of his own accord, allowed it to be shaved off. But this attempt to set
up an antipope came to very little. Felix V. (as the old duke called
himself on being elected) was obliged to submit to Eugenius; and the
council of Basel, after dwindling away by degrees, and being removed
from one place to another, died out so obscurely that its end was
unnoticed by any one.

Eugenius held his council at Ferrara, and afterwards removed it to
Florence (A.D. 1438-9); and it seemed as if by his management the
Greeks, who were very poor, and were greatly in need of help against the
Turks, were brought to an agreement with the Latins as to the questions
which had been so long disputed between the Churches. The union of the
Churches was celebrated by a grand service in the cathedral of Florence.
But, as in former times,[90] the Greeks found, on their return home,
that their countrymen would not agree to what had been done; and thus
the breach between the two Churches continued, until a few years later
Constantinople was taken by the Turks, and so the Greek Empire came to
an end.

[90] See page 232.



A.D. 1447-1464.

The next pope, Nicolas V., was a man who had raised himself from a
humble station by his learning, ability, and good character. He was
chiefly remarkable for his love of learning, and for the bounty which he
spent on learned men. For learning had come to be regarded with very
high honour, and those who were famous for it found themselves persons
of great importance, who were welcome at the courts of princes, from the
Emperor of the West down to the little dukes and lords of Italy. But we
must not fancy that these learned men were all that they ought to have
been. They were too commonly selfish and jealous, vain, greedy,
quarrelsome, unthrifty; they flattered the great, however unworthy these
might be; and in religion many of them were more like the old heathen
Greeks than Christians.

In the time of Nicolas, a terrible calamity fell on Christendom by the
loss of Constantinople. The Turks, a barbarous and Mahometan people, had
long been pressing on the Eastern empire, and swallowing up more and
more of it. It was the fear of these advancing enemies that led the
Greeks repeatedly to seek for union with the Latin Church, in the hope
that they might thus get help from the West for the defence of what
remained of their empire. But these reconciliations never lasted long,
more especially as the Greeks did not gain that aid from their Western
brethren for the sake of which they had yielded in matters of religion.
One more attempt of this kind was made after the council of Florence;
but it was vain, and in 1453 the Turks, under Sultan Mahomet II., became
masters of Constantinople.

A great number of learned Greeks, who were scattered by this conquest,
found their way into the West, bringing with them their knowledge and
many Greek manuscripts; and such scholars were gladly welcomed by Pope
Nicolas and others. Not only were their books bought up, but the pope
sent persons to search for manuscripts all over Greece, in order to
rescue as much as possible from destruction by the barbarians. Nicolas
founded the famous Vatican library in the papal palace at Rome, and
presented a vast number of manuscripts to it. For it was not until this
very time that printing was invented, and formerly all books were
written by hand, which is a slow and costly kind of work, as compared
with printing. For in writing out books, the whole labour has to be done
for every single copy; but when a printer has once set up his types, he
can print any number of copies without any other trouble than that of
inking the types and pressing them on the paper, by means of a machine,
for each copy that is wanted. The art of printing was brought from
Germany to Rome under Nicolas V., and he encouraged it, like everything
else which was connected with learning.

Nicolas also had a plan for rebuilding Rome in a very grand style, and
began with the Church of St. Peter; which he intended to surround with
palaces, gardens, terraces, libraries, and smaller churches. But he did
not live to carry this work far.

One effect of the new encouragement of learning was, that scholars began
to inquire into the truth of some things which had long been allowed to
pass without question. And thus in no long time the story of
Constantine's donation and the false Decretals[91] were shown to be
forged and worthless.

[91] See page 192.

The shock of the loss of Constantinople was felt all through
Christendom, and Nicholas attempted to get up a crusade, but died before
much came of it. When, however, the Turks, in the pride of victory,
advanced further into Europe, and laid siege to Belgrade on the Danube,
they were driven back with great loss by the skill of John Huniades, a
general, and by the courage which John of Capistrano, a Franciscan
friar, was able by his exhortations and his prayers to rouse in the
hearts of the besieged.

Nicolas died in 1455, and his successor, Calixtus III., in 1458. The
next pope, Æneas Sylvius Piccolomini, who took the name of Pius II., was
a very remarkable man. He had taken a strong part against Pope Eugenius
at Basel, and had even been secretary to the old duke-antipope Felix.
But he afterwards made his peace by doing great services to Eugenius,
and then he rose step by step, until at the death of Calixtus he was
elected pope. Pius was a man of very great ability in many ways; but his
health was so much shaken before he became pope, that he was not able to
do all that he might have done if he had been in the fulness of his
strength. He took up the crusade with great zeal, but found no hearty
support from others. A meeting which he held at Mantua for the purpose
had little effect. At last, although suffering from gout and fever, the
pope made his way from Rome to Ancona, on the Adriatic, where he
expected to find both land and sea forces ready for the crusade. But on
the way he fell in with some of the troops which had been collected for
the purpose, and they turned out to be such wretched creatures, and so
utterly unfit for the hardships of war, that he could only give them his
blessing and tell them to go back to their homes. And, although, after
reaching Ancona, he had the pleasure of seeing twenty-four Venetian
ships enter the harbour for his service, he was so worn out by sickness
that he died on the next day but one (Aug. 14, 1464). And after his
death the crusade, on which he had so much set his heart, came to



A.D. 1452-1498.


There is not much to tell about the popes after Pius II. until we come
to Alexander VI., who was a Spaniard named Roderick Borgia, and was pope
from 1492 to 1503. And the story of Alexander is too shocking to be told
here; for there is hardly anything in all history so bad as the accounts
which we have of him and of his family. He is supposed to have died of
drinking, by mistake, some poison which he had prepared for a rich
cardinal whose wealth he wished to get into his hands.

Instead, therefore, of telling you about the popes of this time, I shall
give some account of a man who became very famous as a preacher--Jerome

Savonarola was born in 1452 at Ferrara, where his grandfather had been
physician to the duke; and his family wished him to follow the same
profession. But Jerome was set on becoming a monk, and from this nothing
could move him. He therefore joined the Dominican friars, and after a
while he was removed to St. Mark's, at Florence, a famous convent of his
order. He found things in a bad state there; but he was chosen prior (or
head) of the convent, and reformed it, so that it rose in character, and
the number of the monks was much increased. He also became a great
preacher, so that even the vast cathedral of Florence could not hold the
crowds which flocked to hear him. He was especially fond of preaching on
the dark prophecies of the Revelation, and of declaring that the
judgments of God were about to come on Florence and on all Italy because
of sin; and he sometimes fancied that he not only gathered such things
from Scripture, but that they were revealed to him by visions from

At this time a family named Medici had got the chief power in Florence
into their hands; and Savonarola always opposed them, because he thought
that they had no right to such power in a city which ought to be free.
But when Lorenzo, the head of the family, was dying (A.D. 1492), he sent
for Savonarola, because he thought him the only one of the clergy who
would be likely to speak honestly to him of his sins, and to show him
the way of seeking forgiveness. Savonarola did his part firmly, and
pointed out some of Lorenzo's acts as being those of which he was
especially bound to repent. But when he desired him to restore the
liberties of Florence, it was more than the dying man could make up his
mind to; and Savonarola, thinking that his repentance could not be
sincere if he refused this, left him without giving him the Church's

But, although Savonarola was a very sincere and pious man, he did not
always show good judgment. For instance, when he wished to get rid of
the disorderly way in which the young people of Florence used to behave
at the beginning of Lent, he sent a number of boys about the city (A.D.
1497), where they entered into houses, and asked the inhabitants to give
up to them any _vanities_ which they might have. Then these vanities (as
they were called) were all gathered together, and were built up into a
pile fifteen stories high. There were among them cards and dice,
fineries of women's dress, looking-glasses, bad books, musical
instruments, pictures, and statues. The whole heap was of great value,
and a merchant from Venice offered a large sum for it. But the money was
refused, and he was forced to throw in his own picture as an addition to
the other vanities. When night came, a long procession under
Savonarola's orders passed through the streets, and then the pile was
set on fire, amidst the sound of bells, drums, and trumpets, and the
shouts of the multitude, who had been worked up to a share of
Savonarola's zeal.

But the wiser people were distressed by the mistakes of judgment which
he had shown in setting children to search out the faults of their
elders, and in mixing up harmless things in the same destruction with
those which were connected with deep sinfulness and vice. And this want
of judgment was still more shown a year later, when, after having
repeated the bonfire of vanities, Savonarola's followers danced wildly
in three circles around a cross set up in front of St. Mark's, as if
they had been so many crazy dervishes of the East.


Savonarola had raised up a host of enemies, and some of them were
eagerly looking for an opportunity of doing him some mischief. At length
one Francis of Apulia, a Franciscan friar, challenged him to what was
called the _ordeal_ (or judgment) of fire, as a trial of the truth of
his doctrine; and after much trouble it was settled that a friend of
each should pass through this trial, which was supposed to be a way of
finding out God's judgment as to the truth of the matter in dispute. Two
great heaps of fuel were piled up in a public place at Florence. They
were each forty yards long and two yards and a half high, with an
opening of a yard's width between them; and it was intended that these
heaps should be set on fire, and that the champions should try to pass
between the two, as a famous monk had done at Florence in Hildebrand's
time, hundreds of years before. But when a vast crowd had been brought
to see the ordeal, they were much disappointed at finding that it was
delayed, because Savonarola's enemies fancied that he might perhaps make
use of some magical charms against the flames. There was a long dispute
about this, and, while the parties were still wrangling, a heavy shower
came down on the crowd. The magistrates then forbade the trial; the
people, tired and hungry from waiting, drenched by the rain, provoked by
the wearisome squabble which had caused the delay, and after all balked
of the expected sight, broke out against Savonarola; and he had great
difficulty in reaching St. Mark's under the protection of some friends,
who closed around him and kept off the angry multitude. Two days later,
the convent was besieged; and when the defenders were obliged to
surrender it, Savonarola and the friar who was to have undergone the
ordeal on his side were sent to prison.

Savonarola had a long trial, during which he was often tortured; but
whatever might be wrung from him in this way, he afterwards declared
that it was not to be believed, because the weakness of his body could
not bear the pain of torture, and he confessed whatever might be asked
of him. This trial was carried on under the authority of the wicked Pope
Alexander VI.

Although no charge of error as to the faith could be made out against
Savonarola, his enemies were bent on his death; and he and two of his
companions were sentenced to be hanged and burnt. Like Huss, they had to
go through the form of being degraded from their orders; and at the end
of this it was a bishop's part to say to each, "I separate thee from the
Church militant" (that is, from the Church which is carrying on its
warfare here on earth). But the bishop, who had once been one of
Savonarola's friars at St. Mark's, was very uneasy, and said in his
confusion, "I separate thee from the Church triumphant" (that is, from
the Church when its warfare has ended in victory and triumph).
Savonarola saw the mistake, and corrected it by saying, "from the
militant, not from the triumphant; for _that_ is not thine to do."

Savonarola's party did not die out with him, but long continued to
cherish his memory. Among those who were most earnest in this was the
great artist, Michael Angelo Buonarotti, who had been one of his hearers
in youth, and even to his latest days used to read his works with
interest, and to speak of him with reverence.



A.D. 1503-1521.

Alexander VI. was succeeded by a pope who took the title of Pius III.,
and lived only six and twenty days after his election. And after Pius
came Julius II., who was pope from 1503 to 1513, and Leo X., who lived
to the year 1521.

Julius, who owed his rise in life to the favour of his uncle Sixtus IV.
(one of the popes who had come between Pius II. and Alexander VI.), was
desirous to gain for the Roman see all that it had lost or had ever
claimed. He was not a man of religious character, but plunged deeply
into politics, and even acted as a soldier in war. Thus, at the siege of
Mirandola, in the winter of 1511, he lived for weeks in a little hut,
regardless of the frost and snow, of the roughness and scantiness of his
food; and when most of those around him were frightened away by the
cannon-balls which came from the walls of the fortress, the stout old
pope kept his place, and directed the pointing of his own cannon against
the town.

His successor, Leo, who was of the Florentine family of Medici,[92] was
fond of elegant pleasures and of hunting. His tastes were costly, and
continually brought him into difficulties as to money. The manner of
life in Leo's court was gay, luxurious, and far from strict. He had
comedies acted before him, which were hardly fit for the amusement of
the chief bishop of Christendom. He is famous for his encouragement of
the arts; and it was in his time that the art of painting reached its
highest perfection through the genius of Michael Angelo Buonarotti (who
has been already mentioned as a disciple of Savonarola)[93] and of
Raphael Sanzio. In the art of architecture a great change took place
about this time. For some hundreds of years it had been usual to build
in what is called the _Gothic_ style, of which the chief mark is the use
of pointed arches. Not that there was no change during all that time;
for there are great differences between the earlier and the later kinds
of Gothic, and these have since been so carefully studied that skilful
people can tell from the look of a building the time at which every part
of it was erected. But a little before the year 1500, the Gothic gave
way to another style, and one of the greatest works ever done in this
new style was the vast church of St. Peter, at Rome. I have mentioned
that Nicolas V. thought of rebuilding the ancient church, which had
stood since the time of Constantine the Great, and that he had even
begun the work.[94] But now both the old basilica[95] and the beginning
of a new church which Nicolas had made were swept away, and something
far grander was designed. There were several architects who carried on
the building of this great church, one after another; but the grand dome
of St. Peter's, which rises into the air over the whole city, was the
work of Michael Angelo, who was not only a painter, but an architect and
a sculptor. It was by offering indulgences (or spiritual favours,
forgiveness of sins, and the like) as a reward for gifts towards the new
St. Peter's, that Julius raised the anger and disgust of the German
reformer, Martin Luther. And thus it was the building of the most
magnificent of Roman churches that led to the revolt which took away
from the popes a great part of their spiritual dominion.

[92] See page 272.

[93] Page 274.

[94] See p. 269.

[95] See Part I., p. 85.



All through the times of which I had been speaking, missions to the
heathen were actively carried on. Much of this kind was done in Asia,
and, indeed, the heart of Asia seems to have been more open and better
known to Europeans during some part of the middle ages than it has ever
been since. But as those parts were so far off, and so hard to get at,
it often happened that dishonest people, for their own purposes, brought
to Europe wonderful tales of the conversion of Eastern nations, or of
their readiness to be converted, which had no real ground. And sometimes
the crafty Asiatic princes themselves made a pretence of willingness to
receive the Gospel when all that they really wanted was to get some
advantages of other kinds from the pope and the Christians of the West.

A great deal was heard in Europe of a person who was called Prester
(that is to say, _presbyter_ or _priest_) John. He was believed to live
in the far East, and to be both a king and a Christian priest. And there
really was at one time a line of Christian princes in Asia, between lake
Baikal and the northern border of China, whose capital was Karakorum;
but in 1202 their kingdom was overthrown by the Tartar conqueror,
Genghis-khan; although the belief in Prester John, which had always been
mixed with a good deal of fable, continued long after to float in the
minds of the Western Christians.

The mendicant orders, which (as we have seen) were founded in the time
of Innocent III.,[96] took up the work of missions with great zeal; and
some of the Franciscan missionaries especially, by undergoing martyrdom,
gained great credit for their order in its early days. There were also
travellers who made their way into the East from curiosity or some
other such reason, and brought home accounts of what they had seen. The
most famous of these travellers was Marco Polo, a Venetian of a trading
family, who lived many years in China, and found his way back to Europe
by India and Ceylon. Some of these travellers report that they found the
Nestorian[97] clergy enjoying great influence at the courts of Asiatic
sovereigns; for the Nestorians had been very active in missions at an
earlier time, and had made many converts in Asia; but the travellers,
who saw them only after they had been long settled there, describe them
very unfavourably in all ways. John of Monte Corvino, an Italian, was
established by Pope Clement V. as Archbishop of Cambalu (or Pekin), with
seven bishops under him; and Christianity seemed thus far to be
flourishing in that region (A.D. 1307).

[96] Pages 225-227.

[97] Part I, p. 146.

In the meantime the people of countries bordering on the Baltic Sea were
converted, although not without much trouble. Sometimes they would
profess to welcome the Gospel; but as soon as the preachers had left
them they disowned it, and washed themselves, as if by doing so they
might get rid of their Christian baptism. And the missionaries often
found themselves at a loss how to deal with the ignorant superstition of
these people. Thus a missionary in Livonia, named Dietrich, was
threatened with death because an eclipse had taken place during his
visit to their country, and they fancied that he had swallowed the sun!
At another time his life was in danger because the natives saw that his
fields were in better condition than theirs, and, instead of
understanding that this was the effect of his greater skill and care,
they charged him with having brought it about by magical arts. They
therefore resolved to settle his fate by bringing forward a horse who
was regarded as sacred to their gods, and observing how the beast
behaved. At first the horse put forward his right foot, which would have
saved the missionary's life; but the heathen diviners said that the God
of Christians was sitting on the horse's back, and directing him; and
they insisted that the back should be rubbed, in order to get rid of
such influence. But after this had been done, the horse again put
forward the same foot, and, much against the will of the Livonians,
Dietrich was allowed to go free.

Sometimes the missionaries tried other things to help the effect of
their preaching. Thus, a later missionary in Livonia, Albert of
Apeldern, in order to give the people some knowledge of Scripture
history, got up what was called a prophetical play, in which Gideon,
David, and Herod were to appear. But when Gideon and his men began to
fight the Midianites on the stage, the heathens took alarm lest some
treacherous trick should be practised on them, and they all ran away in

Albert of Apeldern founded a military order, somewhat on the plan of the
Templars, for the conversion of the heathen on the Baltic; and it was
afterwards joined with another order. The Teutonic (or German) order,
which was thus formed, became very famous. By subduing the nations of
the Baltic coasts, it forced them to receive Christianity, got
possession of their lands, and laid the foundation of a power which has
grown by degrees into the great Prussian (or German) empire.

The work of missions was carried on also in Russia, Lithuania, and other
northern countries, so that by the time which we have now reached it
might be said that all Europe was in some way or other converted to
profess the Gospel.

About the end of the fifteenth century the discoveries of the Portuguese
in Africa and the East, and those of the Spaniards in the great Western
continent, opened new fields for missionary labour; but of this we need
not now speak more particularly.

Unhappily the Church was not content with trying to convince people of
the truth of its doctrine by gentle means, but disgraced itself by
persecution. We have already noticed the horrible wars against the
Albigenses in the south of France;[98] and cruel persecutions were
carried on in Spain against Jews, Mahometans, and persons suspected of
heresy, or such like offences. The conduct of these persecutions was in
the hands of the Inquisition, which did its work without any regard to
the rules of Justice, and was made more terrible by the darkness and
mystery of its proceedings. It kept spies to pry into all men's concerns
and to give secret information against them; even the nearest relatives
were not safe from each other under this dreadful system. Multitudes
were put to death, and others were glad to escape with such punishments
as entire loss of their property, or imprisonment, which was in many
cases for life.

[98] See p. 223.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the course of all these hundreds of years, Christian religion had
been much corrupted from its first purity. The power of the clergy over
the ignorant people had become far greater than it ought to have been;
and too commonly it was kept up by the encouragement of superstitions
and abuses. The popes claimed supreme power on earth. They claimed the
right of setting up and plucking down emperors and kings. They meddled
with appointments to sees, parishes, and all manner of offices in the
Church, throughout all Western Europe. They wished to make it appear as
if bishops had no authority except what they held through the grant of
the pope. There were general complaints against the faults of the
clergy, and among the mass of men religion had become in great part
little better than an affair of forms. From all quarters cries for
reform were raised, and a reform was speedily to come, by which, among
other things, our own country was set free from the power of the popes,
and the doctrine of our Church was brought back to an agreement with
Holy Scripture and with the Christianity of early times.






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  =The Gospels of the New Testament: their Genuineness=
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    at Lincoln's Inn, &c., &c.
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  =Science and the Bible.=
    a Lecture by the Right Rev. BISHOP PERRY, D.D.
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  =A Lecture on the Bible.=
    By the Very Rev. E. M. GOULBURN, D.D., Dean of
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*** _For List of TRACTS on the Christian Evidences, see the Society's
Catalogue B._


      Transcribers note:
    Text enclosed between = signs in
    the above advertisements indicates
    boldface type in the original book.

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