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doctrine being so fitly calculated to soften the rough and brutish manners of men, and to train them up in milder and more humane institutions. And a little after he makes it an uncontrolable argument of the truth and excellency of the Christian doctrine, that it teaches men to bear the reproaches and provocations of enemies with a generous and unshaken mind, and to be able not to revenge ourselves, by falling foul upon them with the like indignities and affronts; to be above anger and passion, and every inordinate and unruly appetite; to administer to the wants and necessities of the helpless, and to embrace every man as our kindred and countryman, and, though reputed a stranger to us, yet to own him as if by the law of nature he were our nearest friend and brother.' How much their religion contributed to the public tranquillity by forbidding pride, passion, covetousness, and such sins as are the great springs of confusion and disturbance, Justin Martyr tells the emperors : “ As for peace,” says he, “we above all men in the world promote and further it, forasmuch as we teach that no wicked man, no covetous or treacherous person, no good or virtuous man can lie hid from the eye of God, but that every man is travelling either towards an eternal happiness or misery according to the desert and nature of his works. The truth is, our blessed Lord came not to inspire men with principles of revenge and passion, to teach them to return evil for evil, but to encourage love and gentleness, to teach men to overcome by suffering, and to obtain the reward by meekness and patience."
| Præparat. Evangel. lib. i. c. 4, p. 10, 11. Vid. Athenas. de Verb. Incarnat. p. 78, tom. i.
2 Apol. ii. p. 59.
Such was the temper, such the carriage of Christians towards their enemies, and them that were without: within themselves they maintained the most admirable peace and harmony, and were in a manner of one heart and soul. They lived in the strictest amity, and abhorred all division as a plague and a firebrand. But because men's understandings not being all of one size, nor all truths alike plain and evident, differences in men's judgments and opinions must needs arise; yet no schism ever arose in the church about any of the more considerable principles of religion, but it was presently bewailed with universal resentment of all pious and good men, and the breach endeavoured to be made up; no ways left unattempted, no methods of persuasion omitted that might contribute to it. When Novatian had made some disturbance in the church of Rome concerning the receiving the lapsed into communion, Dionysius the good bishop of Alexandria writes to him to extinguish the schism, and tells him “it is better to suffer any thing than that the church of God should be rent in pieces:”' and Cyprian positively asserts (according to the apostle's resolution of the case) that without this unity and charity 'a man cannot enter into heaven ;' for he that rents the church, destroys the faith, disturbs the peace, dissolves charity, and profanes the boly sacrament.”5 How severely they branded all schism and division in the church, how industriously they laboured to take up all controversies amongst Christians, and to reconcile dissenting brethren, to maintain concord and agreement amongst themselves, and to prevent all occasions of
i Euseb. Hist. Eccl. lib. vi. c. 45, p. 247.
quarrel and dissension, might be easily made to appear out of the writers of those times. Hence those canonical epistles (as they call them) wherewith persons were wont to be furnished when going from once place to another; of which there were especially three sorts: first, Evsatikaì,' or commendatory epistles, mentioned by St. Paul," and were in use amongst the heathens. They were granted to clergymen going into another diocess by the bishop that ordained them, testifying their ordination, their soundness and orthodoxy in the faith, the innocency and unblamableness of their lives : to those that had been under, or bad been 'suspected of excommunication, declaring their absolution, and recommending them to be received in the number of the faithful: and to all, whether clergy or laity, that were to travel, as tickets of hospitality, that wherever they came, upon the producing these letters they might be known to be catholic and orthodox, and as such received and entertained by them. The second sort were 'Atolurikai, letters dimissory, whereby leave was given to persons going into another diocess, either to be ordained by the bishop of that place, or if ordained already, to be admitted and incorporated into the clergy of that churcb. Upon which account the ancient councils every where provide that no stranger shall either receive ordination at the hands of another bishop, or exercise any ministerial act in another diocess, without the consent and dimissory letters of the bishop of that place from whence he comes. The third were Eipnvikai, letters of peace, granted by the bishop to the poor that were oppressed, and such as fled to the church for its protection and assistance: but especially to such of the clergy as were to go out of one diocess into another, it being directed to the bishop of that diocess, that he would receive him, that so he might take no offence, but that peaceable concord and agreement might be maintained between them. By these arts the prudence of those times sought to secure the peace of the church, and as much as might be, prevent all dissensions that might arise. And where matters of any greater moment fell out, how quickly did they flock together to compose and heal them ?
' Arrian, Pliny, and the later writers, frequently mention these γραμματα συστατικα. They were somewhat similar to the tessera hospitalitis of the ancients ; from which perhaps they derived their origin among the Jews, Greeks, and Romans.- ED.
2 2 Cor. iii. l.
33 Hence the letters dimissory of bishops at the present day. LED.
Hence those many synods and councils that were convened to umpire differences, to explain or define articles of faith, to condemn and suppress the disturbers of the church, and innovators in religion. What infinite care did the good emperor Constantine take for composing the Arian controversies which then began first to infect and overrun the world! How much his heart was set upon it, his solicitous thoughts taken up about it, how many troublesome days and restless nights it cost him, with what strong and nervous arguments, what affectionate entreaties he presses it, may be seen in that excellent letter (yet extant in his life) which he wrote to the authors of those im pious and unhappy controversies. But when this would not do, he summoned the great council of Nice, consisting of
I De Vit. Constant. lib. ii. c. 64, et seqq. p. 473.
three hundred and eighteen bishops, and in his speech at the opening of that council conjured them by all that was dear and sacred to agree, and to compose those dissensions which were risen in the church, which he seriously protested he looked upon as more grievous and dangerous than any war whatsoever, and that they created greater trouble and inquietude to his mind, than all the other affairs of his empire. And when several of the bishops then in council had preferred libels and accusations one against another, without ever reading them, he bundled and sealed them all up together, and having reconciled and made them friends, produced the papers, and immediately threw them into the fire before their faces. So passionately desirous was that good prince to extinguish the flames, and to redeem the peace of the church at any rate.
Nor did there want meek and peaceable-minded men who valued the public welfare before any private and personal advantage, and could make their own particular concerns strike sail, when the peace and interest of the church called for it. When great contests and confusions were raised by some perverse and unquiet persons about the see of Constantinople, (then possessed by Gregory Nazianzen,) he himself stood up in the midst of the assembly and told the bishops, how unfit it was that they who were preachers of peace to others, should fall out amongst themselves; begged of them even by the sacred Trinity to manage their affairs calmly and peaceably; and, “If I,” says he, “ be the Jonas
De Vit. Constant. lib. iii. c. 12, p. 489. ? Theod. Hist. Eccl. lib. i. c. ll, p. 25.