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Early history and government of the Greek Church—The reforming Kral of Servia—Peter of Russia—Venality of the Greek clergy—Their revenues—How derived—Abuses of the Church—Education—Character of the Turks—Greeks and Slavonians—General observations.
THE clergy of the Greek Church may be divided into two classes—the Hieromonachi, who take the vow of celibacy, comprehending the high dignitaries of the church, and the monastic orders. The secular clergy, Kosmoipapades, or papas, who are allowed to marry previous to their ordination.
In the earliest ages of Christianity, the Eastern Church recognized the authority of four patriarchs, those of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Constantinople, who, according to the institutions of the church, were to be equal in rank and power. Constantinople, however, was so long the seat of a powerful empire, that its Patriarch, supported by the Emperors,
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gradually acquired supreme power, dispensing laws, and ruling kings, with a power equal to that exercised by the Roman Pontiff, and which extended over the greatest part of Asia, the east of Europe, and the vast countries now included in the empire of Russia. When the Byzantine empire declined in power, the dominion of the Patriarch declined also, and he met with his first defeat from the monk, Sava, brother to the Kral of Servia, Stephan Nemanowich, at the commencement of the cleventh century; that powerful prince compelled the haughty primate at a synod, held at Nicée, to recognize his brother as metropolitan of Servia. A century later, Stephan Douschan, the greatest of all the Servian Krals, having added Bulgaria, Albania and part of Macedonia to his dominions, publicly declared the Patriarch of Servia to be independent in spiritual matters of the Primate of Constantinople. In consequence of this impious step, the Kral, his Patriarch, and all the clergy who adhered to him were excommunicated, and the people absolved of their allegiance to their Prince. Kral Stephan appears to have been a man of mettle, a species of Harry of England; for he instantly flew to arms, and marched on Constantinople, threatening to dethrone Emperor and Primate unless the ban was immediately removed. The Patriarch of Constantinople, having granted all the demands of the warlike Kral, continued to maintain his power, such as it was, undisturbed till the advent of Peter the First of Russia, who destroyed for ever his political and temporal power; for though he is still an object of the deepest veneration to every pious member of the Greek Church, who obey his mandate as emanating from on high, his influence is merely of a spiritual character, and secondary to that of the Emperors of Russia, who, having added the dignity of Pontiff to that of Czar, appropriate to themselves a power the most irresistible, perhaps, that ever was wielded by one man over so many millions of human beings. This power, however, like every other based on ignorance, cannot be enduring; the Greek Church has yet to sustain the attack which increased civilization and enlightenment will make against many of its usages and much of its discipline, and which will sooner or later divest it of those superstitious observances that assimilate towards Paganism, and restore it to the simple purity required by Christianity. If we trace the history of the Oriental Church, commencing at the assumption of all spiritual power by the Greek primates, we shall find from that period may be dated the lamentable error of wedding Christianity to the popular superstitions and sensual practices of the various nations successively converted to Christianity; the heads of the Church having, it would appear, but one object in view, the increase of their own political and temporal power. The Greeks even in their best days, however much they might have excelled other nations in refinement, were never famous for morality, to which they added a great deal of bigotry and superstition; and wherever they extended their conversions, we find traces of their rule in the character, manners and customs of the people, whom they imbued with their own spirit. The fall of nations, as well as individuals, is always accelerated by their own misconduct; and so utterly debased had this people become, and besotted in superstition— so devoid of public virtue, and all manhood, that at the siege of Constantinople, they exhibited the mournful spectacle of a people imploring the aid of saints and angels in their temples of worship, instead of boldly meeting the foe man to man, and, until the last moment, expected the arrival of a host of heavenly warriors who were to annihilate the infidels. Happily, for the future welfare of the Oriental Church, now that its Greek Patriarchs have, as it were, resigned their spiritual rule into the hands of a line of princes, of a different race, who undoubtedly have shown great tact in the art of governing, there is a hope, that since the Oriental Church does not profess to be a cult, stationary and infallible, like the Church of Rome, that the axe will be laid to the root of these superstitious observances, which are incompatible with an advanced state of intelligence and civilization; and truly, with so many examples of the futility of attempting to chain down the intellect of man, either by persecution or the inquisition, we may fain hope that the rulers of the Church will acquiesce in the necessity of reforming its abuses. It is not by miracle-working shrines, the canonization and intercession of saints, and all the mummery of the dark ages, that men can be trained to the practice of religion and virtue, but by a well-grounded, well-conducted system of education, which will gradually prepare them to relinquish the unmeaning forms, the superstitious ceremonies, engrafted on the simple truths of Christianity. Let those who would maintain the Greek Church in its present state, without reform, look at the Latin Church, and then turn to England, and the most prejudiced man, whatever may be his creed or country, must come to the conclusion, that she owes her position to the circumstance, that she has modelled the institutions of her church in obedience to the demand made by the intellectual progress of her people; and what a proof is it of the divine origin of Christianity, that we see the most civilized and enlightened people in the universe, at the same time, the most moral and religious. While we condemn the tendency to bigotry and superstition in this or that creed or people, we must, however, feel gratified at observing, that, notwithstanding the errors we deplore, it is owing to their institutions being based upon Christianity, that the Rayahs of these provinces have been preserved from barbarism, and