- Both in his native and his episcopal province, the
heresy of the unfortunate Nestorius was speedily obliterated. The Oriental bishops, who at Ephesus had resisted to his face the arrogance of Cyril, were mollified by his tardy concessions. The same prelates, or their successors, subscribed, not without a murmur, the decrees of Chalcedon; the power of the Monophysites reconciled them with the Catholics in the conformity of passion, of interest, and, insensibly, of belief; and their last reluctant sigh was breathed in the defence of the three chapters. Their dissenting brethren, less moderate, or more sincere, were crushed by the penal laws; and, as early as the reign of Justinian, it became difficult to find a church of Nestorians within the limits of the Roman empire. Beyond those limits they had discovered a new world, in which they might hope for liberty, and aspire to conquest. In Persia, notwithstanding the resistance of the Magi, Christianity had struck a deep root, and the nations of the East reposed under its salutary shade. The catholic, or primate, resided in the capital: in his synods, and in their dioceses, his metropolitans, bishops, and clergy, represented the pomp and order of a regular hierarchy: they rejoiced in the increase of proselytes, who were converted from the Zendavesta to the gospel, from the secular to the monastic life; and their zeal was stimulated by the presence of an artful and formidable enemy. The Persian church had been founded by the missionaries of Syria; and their language, discipline, and doctrine, were closely interwoven with its original frame. The catholics were elected and ordained by their own suffragans; but their filial dependence on the patriarchs of Antioch is attested by the canons of the Oriental church. ^113 In the Persian school of Edessa, ^114 the rising generations of the faithful imbibed their theological idiom: they studied in the Syriac version the ten thousand volumes of Theodore of Mopsuestia; and they revered the apostolic faith and holy martyrdom of his disciple Nestorius, whose person and language were equally unknown to the nations beyond the Tigris. The first indelible lesson of Ibas, bishop of Edessa, taught them to execrate the Egyptians, who, in the synod of Ephesus, had impiously confounded the two natures of Christ. The flight of the masters and scholars, who were twice expelled from the Athens of Syria, dispersed a crowd of missionaries inflamed by the double zeal of religion and revenge. And the rigid unity of the Monophysites, who, under the reigns of Zeno and Anastasius, had invaded the thrones of the East, provoked their antagonists, in a land of freedom, to avow a moral, rather than a physical, union of the two persons of Christ. Since the first preaching of the gospel, the Sassanian kings beheld with an eye of suspicion a race of aliens and apostates, who had embraced the religion, and who might favor the cause, of the hereditary foes of their country. The royal edicts had often prohibited their dangerous correspondence with the Syrian clergy: the progress of the schism was grateful to the jealous pride of Perozes, and he listened to the eloquence of an artful prelate, who painted Nestorius as the friend of Persia, and urged him to secure the fidelity of his Christian subjects, by granting a just preference to the victims and enemies of the Roman tyrant. The Nestorians composed a large majority of the clergy and people: they were encouraged by the smile, and armed with the sword, of despotism; yet many of their weaker brethren were startled at the thought of breaking loose from the communion of the Christian world, and the blood of seven thousand seven hundred Monophysites, or Catholics, confirmed the uniformity of faith and discipline in the churches of Persia. ^115 Their ecclesiastical institutions are distinguished by a liberal principle of reason, or at least of policy: the austerity of the cloister was relaxed and gradually forgotten; houses of charity were endowed for the education of orphans and foundlings; the law of celibacy, so forcibly recommended to the Greeks and Latins, was disregarded by the Persian clergy; and the number of the elect was multiplied by the public and reiterated nuptials of the priests, the bishops, and even the patriarch himself. To this standard of natural and religious freedom, myriads of fugitives resorted from all the provinces of the Eastern empire; the narrow bigotry of Justinian was punished by the emigration of his most industrious subjects; they transported into Persia the arts both of peace and war: and those who deserved the favor, were promoted in the service, of a discerning monarch. The arms of Nushirvan, and his fiercer grandson, were assisted with advice, and money, and troops, by the desperate sectaries who still lurked in their native cities of the East: their zeal was rewarded with the gift of the Catholic churches; but when those cities and churches were recovered by Heraclius, their open profession of treason and heresy compelled them to seek a refuge in the realm of their foreign ally. But the seeming tranquillity of the Nestorians was often endangered, and sometimes overthrown. They were involved in the common evils of Oriental despotism: their enmity to Rome could not always atone for their attachment to the gospel: and a colony of three hundred thousand Jacobites, the captives of Apamea and Antioch, was permitted to erect a hostile altar in the face of the catholic, and in the sunshine of the court. In his last treaty, Justinian introduced some conditions which tended to enlarge and fortify the toleration of Christianity in Persia. The emperor, ignorant of the rights of conscience, was incapable of pity or esteem for the heretics who denied the authority of the holy synods: but he flattered himself that they would gradually perceive the temporal benefits of union with the empire and the church of Rome; and if he failed in exciting their gratitude, he might hope to provoke the jealousy of their sovereign. In a later age the Lutherans have been burnt at Paris, and protected in Germany, by the superstition and policy of the most Christian king.
[Footnote 113: See the Arabic canons of Nice in the translation of Abraham Ecchelensis, No. 37, 38, 39, 40. Concil. tom. ii. p. 335, 336, edit. Venet. These vulgar titles, Nicene and Arabic, are both apocryphal. The council of Nice enacted no more than twenty canons, (Theodoret. Hist. Eccles. l. i. c. 8;) and the remainder, seventy or eighty, were collected from the synods of the Greek church. The Syriac edition of Maruthas is no longer extant, (Asseman. Bibliot. Oriental. tom. i. p. 195, tom. iii. p. 74,) and the Arabic version is marked with many recent interpolations. Yet this Code contains many curious relics of ecclesiastical discipline; and since it is equally revered by all the Eastern communions, it was probably finished before the schism of the Nestorians and Jacobites, (Fabric. Bibliot. Graec. tom. xi. p. 363 - 367.)]
[Footnote 114: Theodore the Reader (l. ii. c. 5, 49, ad calcem Hist. Eccles.) has noticed this Persian school of Edessa. Its ancient splendor, and the two aeras of its downfall, (A.D. 431 and 489) are clearly discussed by Assemanni, (Biblioth. Orient. tom. ii. p. 402, iii. p. 376, 378, iv. p. 70, 924.)] [Footnote 115: A dissertation on the state of the Nestorians has swelled in the bands of Assemanni to a folio volume of 950 pages, and his learned researches are digested in the most lucid order. Besides this ivth volume of the Bibliotheca Orientalis, the extracts in the three preceding tomes (tom. i. p. 203, ii. p. 321
The desire of gaining souls for God and subjects for the
church, has excited in every age the diligence of the Christian priests. From the conquest of Persia they carried their spiritual arms to the north, the east, and the south; and the simplicity of the gospel was fashioned and painted with the colors of the Syriac theology. In the sixth century, according to the report of a Nestorian traveller, ^116 Christianity was successfully preached to the Bactrians, the Huns, the Persians, the Indians, the Persarmenians, the Medes, and the Elamites: the Barbaric churches, from the Gulf of Persia to the Caspian Sea, were almost infinite; and their recent faith was conspicuous in the number and sanctity of their monks and martyrs. The pepper coast of Malabar, and the isles of the ocean, Socotora and Ceylon, were peopled with an increasing multitude of Christians; and the bishops and clergy of those sequestered regions derived their ordination from the Catholic of Babylon. In a subsequent age the zeal of the Nestorians overleaped the limits which had confined the ambition and curiosity both of the Greeks and Persians. The missionaries of Balch and Samarcand pursued without fear the footsteps of the roving Tartar, and insinuated themselves into the camps of the valleys of Imaus and the banks of the Selinga. They exposed a metaphysical creed to those illiterate shepherds: to those sanguinary warriors, they recommended humanity and repose. Yet a khan, whose power they vainly magnified, is said to have received at their hands the rites of baptism, and even of ordination; and the fame of Prester or Presbyter John ^117 has long amused the credulity of Europe. The royal convert was indulged in the use of a portable altar; but he despatched an embassy to the patriarch, to inquire how, in the season of Lent, he should abstain from animal food, and how he might celebrate the Eucharist in a desert that produced neither corn nor wine. In their progress by sea and land, the Nestorians entered China by the port of Canton and the northern residence of Sigan. Unlike the senators of Rome, who assumed with a smile the characters of priests and augurs, the mandarins, who affect in public the reason of philosophers, are devoted in private to every mode of popular superstition. They cherished and they confounded the gods of Palestine and of India; but the propagation of Christianity awakened the jealousy of the state, and, after a short vicissitude of favor and persecution, the foreign sect expired in ignorance and oblivion. ^118 Under the reign of the caliphs, the Nestorian church was diffused from China to Jerusalem and Cyrus; and their numbers, with those of the Jacobites, were computed to surpass the Greek and Latin communions. ^119 Twenty-five metropolitans or archbishops composed their hierarchy; but several of these were dispensed, by the distance and danger of the way, from the duty of personal attendance, on the easy condition that every six years they should testify their faith and obedience to the catholic or patriarch of Babylon, a vague appellation which has been successively applied to the royal seats of Seleucia, Ctesiphon, and Bagdad. These remote branches are long since withered; and the old patriarchal trunk ^120 is now divided by the Elijahs of Mosul, the representatives almost on lineal descent of the genuine and primitive succession; the Josephs of Amida, who are reconciled to the church of Rome: ^121 and the Simeons of Van or Ormia, whose revolt, at the head of forty thousand families, was promoted in the sixteenth century by the Sophis of Persia. The number of three hundred thousand is allowed for the whole body of the Nestorians, who, under the name of Chaldeans or Assyrians, are confounded with the most learned or the most powerful nation of Eastern antiquity.
[Footnote 116: See the Topographia Christiana of Cosmas, surnamed Indicopleustes, or the Indian navigator, l. iii. p. 178, 179, l.
[Footnote 117: In its long progress to Mosul, Jerusalem, Rome, &c., the story of Prester John evaporated in a monstrous fable, of which some features have been borrowed from the Lama of Thibet, (Hist. Genealogique des Tartares, P. ii. p. 42. Hist. de Gengiscan, p. 31, &c.,) and were ignorantly transferred by the Portuguese to the emperor of Abyssinia, (Ludolph. Hist. Aethiop. Comment. l. ii. c. 1.) Yet it is probable that in the xith and xiith centuries, Nestorian Christianity was professed in the horde of the Keraites, (D'Herbelot, p. 256, 915, 959. Assemanni, tom. iv. p. 468 - 504.)
Note: The extent to which Nestorian Christianity prevailed
among the Tartar tribes is one of the most curious questions in Oriental history. M. Schmidt (Geschichte der Ost Mongolen, notes,
Note: This famous monument, the authenticity of which many
have attempted to impeach, rather from hatred to the Jesuits, by whom it was made known, than by a candid examination of its contents, is now generally considered above all suspicion. The Chinese text and the facts which it relates are equally strong proofs of its authenticity. This monument was raised as a memorial of the establishment of Christianity in China. It is dated the year 1092 of the era of the Greeks, or the Seleucidae, A.D. 781, in the time of the Nestorian patriarch Anan-jesu. It was raised by Iezdbouzid, priest and chorepiscopus of Chumdan, that is, of the capital of the Chinese empire, and the son of a priest who came from Balkh in Tokharistan. Among the various arguments which may be urged in favor of the authenticity of this monument, and which has not yet been advanced, may be reckoned the name of the priest by whom it was raised. The name is Persian, and at the time the monument was discovered, it would have been impossible to have imagined it; for there was no work extant from whence the knowledge of it could be derived. I do not believe that ever since this period, any book has been published in which it can be found a second time. It is very celebrated amongst the Armenians, and is derived from a martyr, a Persian by birth, of the royal race, who perished towards the middle of the seventh century, and rendered his name celebrated among the Christian nations of the East. St. Martin, vol. i. p.
[Footnote 119: Jacobitae et Nestorianae plures quam Graeci et Latini Jacob a Vitriaco, Hist. Hierosol. l. ii. c. 76, p. 1093, in the Gesta Dei per Francos. The numbers are given by Thomassin, Discipline de l'Eglise, tom. i. p. 172.] [Footnote 120: The division of the patriarchate may be traced in the Bibliotheca Orient. of Assemanni, tom. i. p. 523 - 549, tom.
[Footnote 121: The pompous language of Rome on the submission of a Nestorian patriarch, is elegantly represented in the viith book of Fra Paola, Babylon, Nineveh, Arbela, and the trophies of Alexander, Tauris, and Ecbatana, the Tigris and Indus.]
According to the legend of antiquity, the gospel was
preached in India by St. Thomas. ^122 At the end of the ninth century, his shrine, perhaps in the neighborhood of Madras, was devoutly visited by the ambassadors of Alfred; and their return with a cargo of pearls and spices rewarded the zeal of the English monarch, who entertained the largest projects of trade and discovery. ^123 When the Portuguese first opened the navigation of India, the Christians of St. Thomas had been seated for ages on the coast of Malabar, and the difference of their character and color attested the mixture of a foreign race. In arms, in arts, and possibly in virtue, they excelled the natives of Hindostan; the husbandmen cultivated the palm-tree, the merchants were enriched by the pepper trade, the soldiers preceded the nairs or nobles of Malabar, and their hereditary privileges were respected by the gratitude or the fear of the king of Cochin and the Zamorin himself. They acknowledged a Gentoo of sovereign, but they were governed, even in temporal concerns, by the bishop of Angamala. He still asserted his ancient title of metropolitan of India, but his real jurisdiction was exercised in fourteen hundred churches, and he was intrusted with the care of two hundred thousand souls. Their religion would have rendered them the firmest and most cordial allies of the Portuguese; but the inquisitors soon discerned in the Christians of St. Thomas the unpardonable guilt of heresy and schism. Instead of owning themselves the subjects of the Roman pontiff, the spiritual and temporal monarch of the globe, they adhered, like their ancestors, to the communion of the Nestorian patriarch; and the bishops whom he ordained at Mosul, traversed the dangers of the sea and land to reach their diocese on the coast of Malabar. In their Syriac liturgy the names of Theodore and Nestorius were piously commemorated: they united their adoration of the two persons of Christ; the title of Mother of God was offensive to their ear, and they measured with scrupulous avarice the honors of the Virgin Mary, whom the superstition of the Latins had almost exalted to the rank of a goddess. When her image was first presented to the disciples of St. Thomas, they indignantly exclaimed, "We are Christians, not idolaters!" and their simple devotion was content with the veneration of the cross. Their separation from the Western world had left them in ignorance of the improvements, or corruptions, of a thousand years; and their conformity with the faith and practice of the fifth century would equally disappoint the prejudices of a Papist or a Protestant. It was the first care of the ministers of Rome to intercept all correspondence with the Nestorian patriarch, and several of his bishops expired in the prisons of the holy office.
The flock, without a shepherd, was assaulted by the power of the Portuguese, the arts of the Jesuits, and the zeal of Alexis de Menezes, archbishop of Goa, in his personal visitation of the coast of Malabar. The synod of Diamper, at which he presided, consummated the pious work of the reunion; and rigorously imposed the doctrine and discipline of the Roman church, without forgetting auricular confession, the strongest engine of ecclesiastical torture. The memory of Theodore and Nestorius was condemned, and Malabar was reduced under the dominion of the pope, of the primate, and of the Jesuits who invaded the see of Angamala or Cranganor. Sixty years of servitude and hypocrisy were patiently endured; but as soon as the Portuguese empire was shaken by the courage and industry of the Dutch, the Nestorians asserted, with vigor and effect, the religion of their fathers. The Jesuits were incapable of defending the power which they had abused; the arms of forty thousand Christians were pointed against their falling tyrants; and the Indian archdeacon assumed the character of bishop till a fresh supply of episcopal gifts and Syriac missionaries could be obtained from the patriarch of Babylon. Since the expulsion of the Portuguese, the Nestorian creed is freely professed on the coast of Malabar. The trading companies of Holland and England are the friends of toleration; but if oppression be less mortifying than contempt, the Christians of St. Thomas have reason to complain of the cold and silent indifference of their brethren of Europe. ^124
[Footnote 122: The Indian missionary, St. Thomas, an apostle, a Manichaean, or an Armenian merchant, (La Croze, Christianisme des Indes, tom. i. p. 57 - 70,) was famous, however, as early as the time of Jerom, (ad Marcellam, epist. 148.) Marco-Polo was informed on the spot that he suffered martyrdom in the city of Malabar, or Meliapour, a league only from Madras, (D'Anville, Eclaircissemens sur l'Inde, p. 125,) where the Portuguese founded an episcopal church under the name of St. Thome, and where the saint performed an annual miracle, till he was silenced by the profane neighborhood of the English, (La Croze, tom. ii. p. 7 -
[Footnote 123: Neither the author of the Saxon Chronicle (A.D. 833) not William of Malmesbury (de Gestis Regum Angliae, l. ii.
Note: The St. Thome Christians had excited great interest in
the ancient mind of the admirable Bishop Heber. See his curious and, to his friends, highly characteristic letter to Mar Athanasius, Appendix to Journal. The arguments of his friend and coadjutor, Mr. Robinson, (Last Days of Bishop Heber,) have not convinced me that the Christianity of India is older than the Nestorian dispersion. - M]
- The history of the Monophysites is less copious and
interesting than that of the Nestorians. Under the reigns of Zeno and Anastasius, their artful leaders surprised the ear of the prince, usurped the thrones of the East, and crushed on its native soil the school of the Syrians. The rule of the Monophysite faith was defined with exquisite discretion by Severus, patriarch of Antioch: he condemned, in the style of the Henoticon, the adverse heresies of Nestorius; and Eutyches maintained against the latter the reality of the body of Christ, and constrained the Greeks to allow that he was a liar who spoke truth. ^125 But the approximation of ideas could not abate the vehemence of passion; each party was the more astonished that their blind antagonist could dispute on so trifling a difference; the tyrant of Syria enforced the belief of his creed, and his reign was polluted with the blood of three hundred and fifty monks, who were slain, not perhaps without provocation or resistance, under the walls of Apamea. ^126 The successor of Anastasius replanted the orthodox standard in the East; Severus fled into Egypt; and his friend, the eloquent Xenaias, ^127 who had escaped from the Nestorians of Persia, was suffocated in his exile by the Melchites of Paphlagonia. Fifty-four bishops were swept from their thrones, eight hundred ecclesiastics were cast into prison, ^128 and notwithstanding the ambiguous favor of Theodora, the Oriental flocks, deprived of their shepherds, must insensibly have been either famished or poisoned. In this spiritual distress, the expiring faction was revived, and united, and perpetuated, by the labors of a monk; and the name of James Baradaeus ^129 has been preserved in the appellation of Jacobites, a familiar sound, which may startle the ear of an English reader. From the holy confessors in their prison of Constantinople, he received the powers of bishop of Edessa and apostle of the East, and the ordination of fourscore thousand bishops, priests, and deacons, is derived from the same inexhaustible source. The speed of the zealous missionary was promoted by the fleetest dromedaries of a devout chief of the Arabs; the doctrine and discipline of the Jacobites were secretly established in the dominions of Justinian; and each Jacobite was compelled to violate the laws and to hate the Roman legislator. The successors of Severus, while they lurked in convents or villages, while they sheltered their proscribed heads in the caverns of hermits, or the tents of the Saracens, still asserted, as they now assert, their indefeasible right to the title, the rank, and the prerogatives of patriarch of Antioch: under the milder yoke of the infidels, they reside about a league from Merdin, in the pleasant monastery of Zapharan, which they have embellished with cells, aqueducts, and plantations. The secondary, though honorable, place is filled by the maphrian, who, in his station at Mosul itself, defies the Nestorian catholic with whom he contests the primacy of the East. Under the patriarch and the maphrian, one hundred and fifty archbishops and bishops have been counted in the different ages of the Jacobite church; but the order of the hierarchy is relaxed or dissolved, and the greater part of their dioceses is confined to the neighborhood of the Euphrates and the Tigris. The cities of Aleppo and Amida, which are often visited by the patriarch, contain some wealthy merchants and industrious mechanics, but the multitude derive their scanty sustenance from their daily labor: and poverty, as well as superstition, may impose their excessive fasts: five annual lents, during which both the clergy and laity abstain not only from flesh or eggs, but even from the taste of wine, of oil, and of fish. Their present numbers are esteemed from fifty to fourscore thousand souls, the remnant of a populous church, which was gradually decreased under the impression of twelve centuries. Yet in that long period, some strangers of merit have been converted to the Monophysite faith, and a Jew was the father of Abulpharagius, ^130 primate of the East, so truly eminent both in his life and death. In his life he was an elegant writer of the Syriac and Arabic tongues, a poet, physician, and historian, a subtile philosopher, and a moderate divine. In his death, his funeral was attended by his rival the Nestorian patriarch, with a train of Greeks and Armenians, who forgot their disputes, and mingled their tears over the grave of an enemy. The sect which was honored by the virtues of Abulpharagius appears, however, to sink below the level of their Nestorian brethren. The superstition of the Jacobites is more abject, their fasts more rigid, ^131 their intestine divisions are more numerous, and their doctors (as far as I can measure the degrees of nonsense) are more remote from the precincts of reason. Something may possibly be allowed for the rigor of the Monophysite theology; much more for the superior influence of the monastic order. In Syria, in Egypt, in Ethiopia, the Jacobite monks have ever been distinguished by the austerity of their penance and the absurdity of their legends. Alive or dead, they are worshipped as the favorites of the Deity; the crosier of bishop and patriarch is reserved for their venerable hands; and they assume the government of men, while they are yet reeking with the habits and prejudices of the cloister. ^132 [Footnote 125: Is the expression of Theodore, in his Treatise of the Incarnation, p. 245, 247, as he is quoted by La Croze, (Hist. du Christianisme d'Ethiopie et d'Armenie, p. 35,) who exclaims, perhaps too hastily, "Quel pitoyable raisonnement!" Renaudot has touched (Hist. Patriarch. Alex. p. 127 - 138) the Oriental accounts of Severus; and his authentic creed may be found in the epistle of John the Jacobite patriarch of Antioch, in the xth century, to his brother Mannas of Alexandria, (Asseman. Bibliot. Orient. tom. ii. p. 132 - 141.)]
[Footnote 126: Epist. Archimandritarum et Monachorum Syriae Secundae ad Papam Hormisdam, Concil. tom. v. p. 598 - 602. The courage of St. Sabas, ut leo animosus, will justify the suspicion that the arms of these monks were not always spiritual or defensive, (Baronius, A.D. 513, No. 7, &c.)] [Footnote 127: Assemanni (Bibliot. Orient. tom. ii. p. 10 - 46) and La Croze (Christianisme d'Ethiopie, p. 36 - 40) will supply the history of Xenaias, or Philoxenus, bishop of Mabug, or Hierapolis, in Syria. He was a perfect master of the Syriac language, and the author or editor of a version of the New Testament.]
[Footnote 128: The names and titles of fifty-four bishops who were exiled by Justin, are preserved in the Chronicle of Dionysius, (apud Asseman. tom. ii. p. 54.) Severus was personally summoned to Constantinople - for his trial, says Liberatus (Brev.
[Footnote 129: The obscure history of James or Jacobus Baradaeus, or Zanzalust may be gathered from Eutychius, (Annal. tom. ii. p.