Religion Of Ancient Rome
The ancient religion of the Romans was quite distinct from that of Greece. Though Greek and Etruscan elements were early imported into it, it was, in fact, a common inheritance of the Italians. Towards the end of the republic the theology of Greece was imported into the literature, and to some extent into the state religion. Later on all forms were tolerated.
The Roman religion was a polytheism less numerical In deities and with less of the human element in them than that of Greece. The chief deities were Jupiter, the father of gods and men; his wife Juno, the goddess of maternity; Minerva, the goddess of intellect; Mars and Bellona, god and goddess of war; Vesta, the patron of the state, the goddess of the national hearth where the sacred fire was kept burning; Saturnus and Ceres, the god and goddess of agriculture; Ops, the goddess of the harvest and of wealth; Hercules, god of gain, who also presided over contracts; Mercury, the god of traffic; and Neptunus, god of the Sea. Venus was originally a goddess of agriculture, but was early identified with the Greek god of love, Aphrodite. There were also, host of lesser deities presiding over private and public affairs; domestic gods, the Lares and Penates etc.. The worship consisted of ceremonies, offerings, prayers, sacrifices, and the public games, to secure the favour, avert the anger, or ascertain the intentions of the gods.
In private life the ceremonies were performed in the family; in matters concerning the whole community, by the state. The highest religious power in the state was the College of Pontifices, which had control of the calendar, and decided upon the action made necessary by the auguries.
The chief of this institution was the pontifex maximus. The members of the Collage of Augurs consulted the will of the gods as revealed in omens. The Collage of Fetiales conducted treaties, acted as heralds, and generally superintended the relations between Rome and other states. The officiating priests included the Flamines, who presided in the various temples; the Sell, or dancing priests of Mars; the Vestal Virgins, who had charge of the sacred fire of Vesta ; the Luperci, sacred to Pen, the god of the country; the Fratres Arvales, who had for example the charge of boundaries, and the division of lands. In addition to their other duties the priests had charge of conducting the various public games .
Religions of the Later Empire
Zeno the Stoic had still his followers and a disciple
in one of the best of the Emperors, Marcus Aurelius (121-180), whose "Meditations,"
still read in the twentieth century, reveal the ordered rationalism natural to the Roman mind. Greek speculation
and oriental mysticism were alike given tolerant consideration in Rome as they had been in Alexandria, but in the
cultured Latin mind they woke by this time little real response. Cæsar-worship, adopted from Egypt and the
East, was a political convenience, and the incense offered at imperial altars made rather a test of loyalty than
of piety or orthodox beliefs.
Thus a Roman mob, sensation-mongering, could enjoy strange oriental "mysteries"; the legions, who had picked up the Zoroastrian worship of Mithra (Light) from their Persian foes, sacrificed bulls in his honour; the Christians under certain conditions could have held the love-feast of their Saviour. All was permitted so long as Cæsar and the deities of Rome Triumphant also maintained their place of honour.
Jesus of Nazareth, the young prophet whom his followers called
"the Christ" (Anointed One - the Messiah) was born in the reign
of Augustus. Yet this first Emperor and his immediate successors probably
never even heard his name for early Christianity did not advertise itself, nor entice worshippers with intriguing
mysteries and ritual. It was a high moral code supported by the promise of the hope of a better existence, that
made an irresistible appeal to those placed in this world.
By the time Roman officials had grown suspicious of the denial of Cæsar-worship, its hold on the hearts and souls of numbers of ordinary men and women was well-established. The Gospel (Good News), of Mark, was probably written between A.D. 60-65, the accounts of the other two Gospels being partly based on it a few years later. Prophets and would-be Messiahs had been of frequent appearance in Palestine; but what was unusual about this teacher, was he was rejected and even put to death through the fanatical hatred of his own race, was within a few generations accepted by the Hellenized world of the Near East.
In the Gospel, of the Apostle John, "Humanity," says Renan, "seeks the ideal, but it seeks it in a person and not in an abstraction." Thus the nebulous Greek "Logos" (The Word) of the philosophers "became Flesh"; and Paul of Tarsus ("the first great Christian missionary and Theologian") reacting to his Graeco-Roman environment, proclaimed his "God made Man" as the central fact of the new Faith.
Herein lay the underlying strength of early Christianity. In the creed of Jesus there could be no compromise, and against the constancy of those who held it imprisonment, torture, and massacre did their worst in vain.
The Roman's & Christianity
When you read in the New Testament, the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters written by Paul and others about the followers of Jesus, you will see the establishment of Christianity. Scattered about in the chief cities of the Roman Empire, especially in the eastern part of it, groups of men and women had found in the teachings of Jesus a better religion, than that of Rome or her conquered provinces. These men and women, were bound together by a common belief, from these little congregations, these teachings spread to more and more, until within a hundred years from the death of Jesus we find it taken up by men of learning and position.This was its first great triumph, and it was largely due to the insight and energy of Paul, who thus earned for himself the proud title of "Apostle to the Gentiles."
Tradition has declared that the Apostle Peter was the first Bishop of Rome, and put to death during Nero's persecution, also that he was a friend of Clement (St.), who afterwards succeeded to that office. The claim to supremacy on the part of the Bishop of Rome is based on the belief that Jesus Christ conferred on Peter a primacy of jurisdiction; that that apostle fixed his see at Rome; and that the bishops of Rome, have succeeded to his prerogative of supremacy, in unbroken succession. The foundation of the Christian church at Rome is uncertain, we know that Christian worship in Rome, was early established from the letters of Paul written to the Roman Christians, but he not visit Rome until after he had written his Epistle to the Romans.
The Roman government would not have cared about Christians or their beliefs, any more than it troubled with the numerous other religious sects of the Empire, had it not seemed especially dangerous to the state. We learn something of how the government felt about this matter from letters which passed between the Emperor Trajan and the famous writer Pliny the Younger, who was a Roman governor in about Asia Minor c. A.D.110. Pliny tried to fault the Christians, but without success, and wrote to ask the Emperor's orders, saying that so far as he could make out, their only offence was meeting in secret and performing certain harmless services to their God. Trajan replies that if any were known to be Christians, they were to be punished, but evidence against them was not to be sought for.
He speaks of them very much as he does in another letter of certain fire companies which might be very good things, but were not to be tolerated because they were associations, and associations were dangerous to the state. Indeed, we cannot wonder that a government which required obedience of every subject should be very hard upon persons who did not like to serve in the army, would not go before the courts of law, would not take an oath, and, worst of all, would not worship the statue of the emperor - all act which was regarded as a test of loyalty.
It was because Christianity brooked no divine rival that Emperors such as Trajan and Marcus Aurelius followed the example of Nero in persecuting its converts.
The story of the conversion of Constantine reminds one of the conversion of Clovis. Constantine was fighting with a rival emperor, Maxentius, in Italy, not far from Rome, when, just before a battle, he saw in broad daylight a glowing cross in the sky, bearing the words: "In this sign thou shalt conquer." He at once determined to become a Christian. Another legend is that Constantine adopted Christianity as a means of counteracting the magic arts of Maxentius; still another, that he could not find in any other form of religion so good a chance of forgiveness for the abominable crimes of which he had doubtless been guilty.
But whatever Constantine's personal motives, the important fact for us is that he was master of Italy he joined with his fellow-emperor, Licinius, c. A.D.313 published the Edict of Milan, which was the first general decree of toleration for the Christians.
Very early we find persons among them called "deacons, whose business it was to attend to the wants of the poor, and not much later we meet with "elders" (presbyters) who appear as the leading person of the community. As the congregation grew, it was found necessary to organize a Church (Ecclesia), and "overseeing presbyter" (epicopal presbyter, "bishop") were appointed with priests (presbyters) and deacons under them to carry out their orders. By the fourth century these Bishops had become important officials, whose power must be taken into account by pagan governments of the day. It was an early custom of the Church to call a bishop "Pope" (Pator "father"), but in time this title was reserved in the West for the Bishop of Rome (II Papa), whom citizens soon regarded as their King, since the Emperors had gone to live elsewhere.
When Constantine had made himself master of the western world, he turned his ambition toward the sole sovereignty of the Empire c. A.D. 323. A great victory over the Eastern Emperor Licinius gave him this highest earthly position.
Within two years he called together the leaders of the Church to the first great general (úcumenical) council at Nicæa, c. A.D.325 just across the straits from Constantinople. It was a magnificent display of power, but really the Church was entering into an alliance with the State, an alliance full of all dangers to both parties. These bishops who sat in council at Nicæa were the religion of the Empire, the spiritual head of all the citizens. Henceforth there was no such thing as Christian's separate from the state, all the Roman world was Christian because the Emperor so willed it. In other words, Christianity was declared to be a religion for all men everywhere, not merely for the men of one race. Persecution had bred in the early Christians courage and loyalty, but it had not tended to make them tolerant, or to develop the gentleness that had characterized their founder. From the moment pagan coercion ceased, differences of opinion on doctrine broke into furious controversy.
Was Jesus God or a man, or both, the question was taken up by a Egyptian presbyter, named Arian, on one side, and Athanasius, afterward the bishop of Alexandria, on the other. both admitted that Jesus was the Son of God who had become an actual flesh-and-blood man to redeem the world from sin. Athanasius maintained, however, that Jesus was of the same substance with God and co-eternal with im, while Arius denied both these points, because it seemed to him that Athanasius was either making two gods, or else dividing God into two parts.
The Council of Nicæa
The Four written records of the life and teaching of Jesus, are found in the New Testament, some of the learned men began to make mischief, and questioned the belief of the Church .
There was an embittered dispute on the former question between Arius, a presbyter of Alexandria, and his Bishop; and finally a Council was held at Nicaea (A.D. 325), presided over by Constantine, to decide the matter. Here the views of Arius were declared heresy, and the Nicene Creed was drawn up as the belief of the orthodox Catholic (Universal) Church. This was chiefly due to an impassioned denunciation of Arius by a Greek priest Athanasius, whose name the Church at a much later date affixed to yet a third Creed.
The Council of Nicæa was called mainly to settle this Arian-Athanasian controversy. It decided by a great majority in favor of Athanasius, and his doctrine has remained to this day the belief of the orthodox Catholic Church, both Greek and Roman, and has been kept by the vast majority of the Protestant churches which grew out of the Roman Catholic. Thus we see that at the time of the Council of Nicæa the Church had taken on the form, both as to belief and organization, which it was to maintain for fifteen hundred years.
If the Roman church accepted a doctrine, this was generally enough to make it accepted by all the churches of the West, and by west we mean the countries lying westward from the Adriatic Sea.
The Arian heresy rent Christendom, for the Egyptian
priest did not accept his condemnation but continued to preach and win over converts, arousing the sympathy of
Constantine himself, who tried to suppress his rival Athanasius. It was from Arian missionaries that a number of
the Gothic tribes learned of the new Faith.
While the East was torn by the great Arian controversy, the whole Church of the West stood firmly under the lead of Rome for the Athnansian doctrine, and this could not fail to strengthen the belief throughout the West that Rome was its natural head. In the case of some important questions affecting the membership, the Church of Rome took the Catholic view that the Church was not a closed corporation, but was open to every one who in good faith wanted to be a member of it; and this view, after some hard struggles, prevailed.
Then again, when the emperors began to live less at especially after the building of Constantinople, the church of Rome was left more free to exercise an influence upon the government of the city. After Constantine it began to get lands and wealth very fast, and every gain of this sort was used to add to its moral control over the minds of men. It was believed for many centuries that Constantine had given to the Roman bishop a great quantity of land in Italy, over which he might. rule like a king over his people. It was not until the fifteenth century that this story was proved to be false, but the fact that men believed it made them look upon the later gains of land and sovereignty by the Roman bishops as only a proper carrying out of Constantine's intentions. Such men, however, as the great poet Dante, who lived in the early part of the fourteenth century, saw the dangers of this mingling of worldly power with spiritual, and cursed the Bishop Silvester, who was supposed to have received the gift of Constantine, as the worst enemy the Church had ever had.
Eastern and Western Churches
The separation of the Eastern and Western Churches was the result of many causes. In spite of the fact that Rome had conquered all the countries lying about the Mediterranean, it was still clear that all of these countries lying east of the Adriatic formed a Greek world. Their habitants talked Greek and thought Greek. They had for generations been educated by Greeks according to Greek modes of thought. West of the Adriatic all was in the same way Latin. The people had become famous for government and law and military skill. If everywhere in this western world we find Greek schools and an enthusiastic reverence for Greek learning, this was a varnish upon a civilization which was really Roman. And when the Church came to be spread over the whole Empire, it, too, showed the effects of this different character of the Eastern and Western populations.
The great quarrels about doctrine raged almost wholly in the East, where the people were more highly educated and given to speculations of every sort. Even a the Council of Nicæa the same controversies went on in the East under other forms, where as the Western Church accepted the Nicene decrees as final and never wavered from the Athanasian faith. In the same way, when it came to organization, we find the Eastern Church without any real centre of government or authority, while the Western churches grew with Rome as its centre.
The simplest expression of Christian belief was the Apostles' Creed ( Apostolicum [Derived from the Confession of Marcellus of Ancyra, A.D. 340] ), but before this took shape, some of the early Fathers of the Church were insisting on exact definitions of the nature of Christ and of the Trinity.
Temporary Reaction against Christianity
Civilization was destined to be Christian, but it
was inevitable its first triumphs should suffer reaction. The Roman government persecuted the Christians, and the more they persecuted them the more
they increased.The Emperor Julian (d.
A,D. 363), nephew of Constantine, gained for himself the title "The Apostate" by renouncing Christianity and attempting to revive Hellenic paganism.
He was the last of the Roman Emperors to oppose Christianity, though many were to quarrel with the Church's accepted leaders on matters of authority. In the West there could not be the same unquestioning loyalty to rulers of Constantinople as in the East; and Ambrose (St.), Bishop of Milan (d.. A.D 397), had when he defied the edicts of Theodosius. He had been described as "a man of pure character, vigorous mind, un-wearying zeal, and uncommon generosity-" When some of his flock were carried off by the Barbarians he did not hesitate to melt down the Church plate to pay their ransom.
One of the students who visited Ambrose (St.) in
Milan was a young Numidian, Augustine, who after a wild youth had been converted, as he declared, by the prayers
of his mother Monica (St.). After studying in Italy he returned to North Africa, where he became Bishop of Hippo.
Of his writings the best known are his "Confessions," a spiritual autobiography, and his "Civitas
Dei," evoked by the news that Rome "the
immortal" had been taken by
barbarians. "Who would believe," wrote Jerome (St.) from his cell at Bethlehem, "that she would one day fall?"
Pagan reactionaries declared it was because she had forsaken the old gods. Augustine (St.) (d.. A.D. 430) took up the challenge, bidding men look from the earthly city Rome, doomed to crumble, to a civitas dei built by God and everlasting. His book is a key that opens the door of mediævalism.
Monasticism originated in the East, where asceticism
and religious zeal are usually allied. The world of the fourth and fifth centuries, though Christian in name, had
not yet rid itself of the pagan licence of declining Rome. Thus some of the more spiritually-minded converts determined
to live apart from the world, hoping either to pray and meditate more easily in solitude or eke by some act of
public mortification to awake those who saw them to the need of repentance. Simon Stylites (St.) (d. A.D. 399)
spent thirty years on a high pillar at the mercy of wind and rain.
Basil (St.) (d. A.D. 309), one of the most formidable opponents of Arianism, formed a community of monks near Pontus, in Asia Minor, and here also for a while lived the theologian Gregory (St.) (ci. A.D. 396). Amongst these early Fathers, who by their writings laid the foundations of Christian theology, were Origen (d.. A.D. 254), "the most prolific author of the ancient Church," and Tertullian (d.. A.D.. 222), who "in fact created Christian Latin literature " by writing mainly in that tongue.
Jerome (St.) (d.. A.D. 420), although born in Dalmatia, was early attracted by Eastern asceticism, and went from Rome, where he studied, to Palestine, settling finally at Bethlehem with a large number of converts who included some or the wealthiest ladies in Roman society. Jerome's life-work was to translate the New Testament into Latin, and his Vulgate became the authorized version of the Catholic Church.
Division Of The Empire
The Church was greatly affected by
division of the Empire itself. This had begun before the time of Constantine,
and though he actually governed both halves, it was clear that they were two halves, and not a whole, as had been
in the time of Augustus. From the time Diocletian the city of Rome had been less and less popular as an imperial
residence, and when Constantine became sole Emperor, he gave the final blow to political supremacy of Rome by building
for himself a new capital on the shores of the Bosphorus, which he called Constantinople. At his death the Empire
was again divided, and from that time on, in spite of an occasional reunion in one hand, there were always two
centres of government. The close connection of the government with the Church then brought it about that the Church
also began more and more to group itself about the same two centres.
Finally, resulting from these differences in the character of the people and in method of growth, there began to be differences of doctrine upon which the Eastern and Western Churches were sharply divided. These were chiefly the doctrines with regard to the worship of images, and then, after the violence of that controversy had subsided, the question of the so-called "procession of the Holy Spirit." You will often hear it said that they were the cause of the separation of the churches, but the thing to be remembered is that this separation was a long, slow process, growing out of deep-seated differences of character and tradition in the two populations. Numerous attempts were made to unite them; but however willing a few leading men might be to come to an agreement, the churches as a whole were too widely apart ever to hope for a real union.
The chief centre of trade, also become
a centre of church life. It became a vigorous mother-church, from which branches were sent out to all the countries
of the West. These churches would naturally send to ask the opinion of the Roman bishop, and these opinions, given
at first by way of advice and counsel, soon came to have a sort of legal force.
Thus in all these ways the Roman bishopric was coming to be looked up to as the leader of the Western Church. The word "papa" (pope) had long been in common use for any bishop, as an affectionate form of address, but now from the fourth century onward it was assumed as a title of especial dignity the bishops of Rome, whom we may now, therefore always call "popes," remembering that both the name and the power were of slow growth, and had nothing do with the original position of the Roman bishopric.
Disputes still arose out of the difference of opinion, between Arian-Athanasian which were supposed to have been settled at Nicæa a century and a quarter before. A council had been held at Ephesus, in Asia Minor, in 449, at which the priests of one party had forced those of the other by violence to agree with them, at which even the patriarch of Alexandria is said to have beaten the patriarch of Constantinople so that he died of his wounds. No wonder that this gathering has been known in history as the "Robber-council" of Ephesus. This was just at the time when the feeble Emperor Theoclosius II. died, and the wise woman became Empress. A new council was called at Chalcedon, (451) close by Constantinople, where the government could at least keelp order. This was Leo's the Great, (440-461) opportunity, he drew up a statement of his belief on the disputed questions, and sent it by his representatives to Chalcedon. He had in fact tried the same plan at Ephesus, but what he had to say had been received with open contempt. This time, however, his words were heard with the greatest respect, and the council passed a decree in complete agreement with Leo's opinion. The wholeWestern Church had spoken by the mouth of the papacy, and its belief was now declared by a most imposing assembly to be the true doctrine of Christendom.
We might suppose that the papacy would have been content to remain, on solid ground for calling itself, the spiritual leader of the West. But it went further than this, and claimed not only a leadership, but a divinely appointed authority or right of government, and this not only over the West, but over the East as well. It supported this claim by what is called the theory of the "Petrine supremacy." This theory included several stages.
1. Peter was given by Jesus authority over the other apostles, hence
2. A church founded by Peter would have rights of authority over those founded in any other way.
3. Peter was the first bishop of Rome.
4. The successors of Peter would have authority over the successors of all other founders of churches, therefore
5. The Roman bishop or pope had authority over all the churches of Christendom.
It put its claim to authority on the ground of a divine commission, and thus made it quite independent of any accidents which might at some time have changed those other and more practical foundations.
The popes of the fifth century were men of quite remarkable character, who fully understood their great opportunity and were disposed to make the most of it. The chief of these men was Leo the Great, the first in the line of popes who comprehended the wide possibilities of the future. There is no part of time policy of the future papacy which we do not see clearly outlined in the work of Leo. We see him at one moment as head of the Roman city government, displaying all the splendor of his office to check the ravages of Attila the Hun (452) and of Gaiseric the Vandal (455). At another we see him assuming the right to punish a bishop in Gaul for what he considered a violation of the papal rights. The resistance he met with here shows how far the Western Church was as yet from tamely submitting to the extreme claims of papal authority. Again, we hear preaching with such effect against a certain most offensive form of wrong belief in the Church of Italy, that an imperial edict was published which ordered all who shared this belief to be driven from the country. And finally, we find him taking so decisive and vigorous action in a great doctrinal controversy which was tearing the Church to pieces, that he seemed for the moment to be the one man in the whole Christian world who knew just what the Church needed.
Rome had fallen, never to rise again, new customs, new laws, new languages, had taken the
place of the one civilization, the one law, and the one language which had spread from Rome over all these southern
and western lands.However, the barbarian rulers (476-555) of Italy, Odoacer, Theodoric, and his Ostrogothic successors,
acted as the protectors, and at times as the dictators, of the Roman bishops, while the connection of the latter
with their proper sovereigns in the East was as feeble as it was remote. The re-conquest of Italy under Justinian
brought back the allegiance of Rome once more to the imperial governments. But even in this interval there was
little to unite the papacy to Constantinople, and there was much to separate them. The Lombard occupation of Italy
drew about Rome a fiery circle of barbarian warfare which the Empire was powerless to break. During this time arose
the controversy about image-worship, which was separating the two churches more and more, and whatever separated
the churches, helped to make the papacy ever more independent of all other authority and more able to insist upon
its own authority over the whole spiritual life of the western world.
During all these years in which the South and West of Europe had been going through the change from the sovereignty of Rome to that of the Germanic peoples (Arian Christians), one great institution, and one only, had power and influence. This was the Roman Church. The Germanic nation of the Franks brought all the rest under its rule and did what it could to reduce the confusion of law and order. Its most useful helper in that great work was the Church under the form of the Roman papacy, as the faithful Catholics of the western world turned for support consolation to the source whence they had been customed to receive advice upon all Church matters, and this institution grew from its first feeble beginnings up to the power and grandeur which were displayed at the time of Charlemagne.
The Conversion of England
Between Leo the Great and Charlemagne only one name among the popes calls for our attention. Gregory the Great fills in the outline of the papal policy drawn by Leo so completely that with him we may regard the ideal of the medieval papacy as pretty nearly established. In Gregory we see the bishop of Rome attending with painful minuteness to all the details of his office, as head of that great congregation, but we see still more the leader of western Christianity. His numerous letters show him to us on the one hand directing the work of the papal farms, now scattered through all Italy, regulating expenses or enforcing justice; and on the other hand actively concerned in whatever tended to advance and elevate the cause of the Church everywhere. On the whole, the administration of Gregory shows the papacy in perhaps its fairest light. He was personally free from ambition, even of the sort which had caused Leo to press to the utmost the supremacy of Rome over other churches. He refused to be called by any high-sounding titles, and more than once reminds his fellow-bishops of the "Apostolic" churches that he was only their equal, not their superior. If this fair ideal of a papacy could have been maintained, its history would have been far more worthy of its high calling. Gregory himself was a monk, and his plan of a renewed and active Christianity rested largely upon a monastic basis. To understand this we have only to remember that those were times when a man could hardly hope to keep himself clean from the violence and tumult of the world, except by getting out of the world, and shutting himself up where he could work and live as he would, and not as other men about him were doing. So that we must not hastily condemn Gregory and many others after him who took that way of reaching an end which we should try to reach by other means.
One event of Gregory's papacy is especially
important for us, - the conversion of England. The earliest inhabitants of Great Britain about whom we know anything
were Celts, these Celts had been partially conquered
about fifty years before Christ by the Romans under Julius Cæsar, and a Roman government had been set up
over a great part of England. But Romans had never gone to England in any great numbers, and the great body of
the population had remained Keltic or British, living under a Roman military government but not very much changed
in any way by it. This Roman occupation went on until the year after Alaric had sacked the city of Rome, when the
legions had been called away from England to defend Italy, and the British Celts had been left to themselves.
Long, before this time, no one knows exactly when or exactly how, Christianity had taken hold in Britain. It may have come through Roman soldiers or Roman traders, but the one thing that is fairly clear about it is, that it did not come from the city of Rome itself. It grew especially in the western part of England, in Ireland, and in Scotland. The greatest progress was made here during the fifth century. The famous Patrick (St.) is supposed to have made his missionary journeys in Ireland between 430 and 493. But now, in 449, came new people to conquer the Celts of Britain and change their whole condition as the Romans had never done. In 449 the first swarms of German invaders landed on the shores of Kent, near the mouth of the river Thames. They were a mixture of Jutes, Angles and Saxons from the North of Germany many, near the mouth of the Elbe, and their united forces began soon to be known as the Anglo-Saxon people. They were a far wilder race than the other German peoples because they had always lived so much farther from civilizing contact with the Romans. They were heathens, who had never heard the name of Christ. Their conquest of England was slow but steady. In a little more than a century Christianity had almost disappeared from England proper, and was to be found only in Wales, Ireland and Scotland.
That was the state of things when the monk Gregory not as yet chosen pope, while passing one day through the slave-market in Rome, saw a group of beautiful, fair-haired boys put up for sale, and inquired who they were. "Angles," was the answer. "Well named," said Gregory, "for they are beautiful as angels; where are they from?" "Deira " Their land shall be freed from time ire of God (de ira) What is their king's name?" "Ælla." "He shall be taught to sing 'Allelujah" (allelouia) And Gregory determined that he would do what he could to recover England to the cause of Christ. When he became pope, he remembered his purpose and sent the monk Augustine with forty companions to preach the Gospel to the Anglo-Saxons. His work was favored 596. by the king of Kent, whose wife was already a Christian, and in the course of two generations the great body of the southern Anglo-Saxons, following the example of their kings, had become converted.
The conversion, unlike that of the British, had come directly from Rome. There must come a time when these two churches would come into conflict. The differences seem slight to us. The British church celebrated Easter on a different day, and its monks shaved their heads after a different fashion. But underneath these trifling differences was the bitter hatred of the conquered against the conqueror, a feeling so violent that it was long before the Celtic Christians would help the Roman missionaries to convert the northern Anglo-Saxons. At last they began this work, and it was then, when a part of the Anglo-Saxons had been converted to the Roman, and a part to the British, forms of Christianity, that the trouble came. Many meetings were held, and the discussions were hot enough; but as might have been expected, the Roman speakers, with all their great history and the splendid system of Rome behind them, prevailed. The Council of Whitby c. 664 settled the question of the allegiance of the Anglo Saxon church. "If it be indeed true," said King Oswy of Northumbria, " that St. Peter holds the keys of heaven, then I will not oppose him, lest when I come to heaven, there be no one to open the gates to me." As flimsy a reason, you may think, as had been that of Clovis, but no less important in binding close to the Roman papacy another of the great German nations, out of which the New Europe was built.
The distinctive character of the Roman Church is the supremacy of the papacy, Catholic's are Christians who acknowledges the Bishop of Rome as its visible head.
The doctrines are to be found in the Apostles' creed, the Nicene creed, the Athanasian, and that of Pius IV. The latter added the articles on transubstantiation, invocation of saints, and others which chiefly distinguish the Roman Catholic's from other Christian communities.
The dogmas of the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary and papal infallibility are recent additions. Roman Catholics believe that the mass represents the sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ, that the body and blood are really present in the eucharist, and that under either kind Christ is received whole and entire. They also believe in purgatory, that the Virgin Mary and the saints are to be honoured and invoked, and that honour and veneration are to ho given to their images. Seven sacraments are recognized, viz: Baptism, confirmation, the holy eucharist, penance, extreme unction, holy order, and matrimony.
A hard-and-fast line in matters relating to the faith is drawn between what is of doctrine and what of discipline. Doctrine is what was taught by Christ and his disciples; discipline, different rules, laid down by the councils, for the government of the church, the administration of sacraments, and the observances and practices of religion. Fasting and confession form part of the discipline. The clergy of the church in the west are bound by a vow of celibacy implied in their ordination as sub-deacons. The clergy of those Greek and Armenian Churches that are united in communion with the see of Rome, may receive order. if married, but may not marry alter ordination.
Under the generic name of Roman Catholics comprise all churches, which recognize the supremacy of the Pope of Rome, including the United Greeks, Slavonians, Ruthenians, Syrians, Copts, and Armenians. The supreme council or senate of the Roman Church is the college of cardinals, 70 in number, who are the advisers of the sovereign, and, on the death of the pontiff, elect his successor.
The total number of members or those associated with the Roman Catholic Church is innumerable throughout the world.