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THE HERESIES OF THE SEVENTH CENTURY.
1. Birth of Mahomet, and Beginning of his False Religion. 2. The Alcoran filled with
Blasphemy aud Nonsense.
1. The impious sect of Mahometanism sprung up in this century. I have already written the history of Mahomet in my work on the “ Truth of the Faith" (1), but I consider it necessary to give a short sketch of it here. Mahomet, the founder of this destroying sect, which has spread over the greater-perhaps, the greatest part of the Christian world, was born in Arabia, in 568, according to Fleury (2), and his family was amongst the most illustrious of that peninsula. His uncle put him to trade on the death of his father, and when twenty-eight years of age, he became, at first the factor, and, soon after, the husband of a rich and noble widow, called Cadijah (3). He was brought up an idolater; but, as he grew old, he determined, not alone to change his own religion, but that of his countrymen, who, for the greater part, were idolaters also, and to teach them, as he said, the ancient religion of Adam, of Abraham, of Noah, and of the Prophets, among whom he reckoned Jesus Christ. He pretended to have long conversations with the Archangel Gabriel, in the cave of Hera, three miles from Mecca, where he frequently retired. In the year 608, being then forty years of age (4), he began to give out that he was a Prophet, inspired by God, and he persuaded his relatives and domestics of this first, and then began publicly to preach in Mecca, and attack idolatry. At first, the people did not very willingly listen to him, and asked him to prove his mission by a miracle; but he told them that God sent him to preach the truth, and not to work miracles. The impostor, however, boasts of having wrought one, though ridiculous in the extreme: a piece, he says, fell off from the moon once into his sleeve, and he fixed it on again; and it is said that this is the reason for the Mahometans adopting the half moon as the device of their Empire. He gave out, in the commencement of his career, that God commanded him not to force any one to embrace his religion, but the people of Mecca having risen up against him, and driven him from their city, he then declared that God commanded him to pursue the
(1) Ver, del Fede, part 3, c. 4, nota a. (2) Fleury, t. 7, l. 38, n. 1. Alex. t. 12, c. 12, a. 2. (4) Fleury, loco cit.
infidels with arms, and thus propagate the Faith; and from that till his death he was always at war.
Now Lord of Mecca, he made it the Metropolis of the Faithful, and before his death he saw almost all the tribes of the Arabian peninsula subject to his spiritual and temporal sway.
2. He composed the Koran (Al Koran-the book), assisted, as some think, by Sergius, a monk. It is a collection of precepts, taken from the Mosaic and Christian Law, together with many of his own, and interspersed with fables and ridiculous revelations. · He recognizes the Divine mission of Moses and Jesus Christ, and admits many parts of the Scriptures; but his law, he says, is the perfection of the Jewish and Christian law, and he is the reformer of these codes, though, in truth, it is totally different from both one and the other. He professes that there is but one God; but in his Alcoran he relates many trivialities unworthy of the Supreme Being, and the whole work is, in fact, filled with contradictions, as I have shown in my book on the “ Truth of the Faith.” Jews or Christians, he says, may be saved by the observance of their respective laws, and it is indifferent if they exchange one for the other; but hell will be for ever the portion of the infidels; those who believe in one God alone will be sent there for a period not exceeding, at most, a thousand years, and then all will be received into the House of Peace, or Paradise. The Mahometan Paradise, however, is only fit for beasts; for filthy sensual pleasure is all the believer has to expect there. I pass over all the other extravagances of the Koran, having already, in the “Truth of the Faith," treated the subject more fully.
3. The Mahometans shave the head, and leave only a lock of hair on the crown, by which they hope Mahomet will take them up to heaven, even out of hell itself. They are permitted to have four wives by their law, and they ought, at least, to have one; they may divorce each wife twice. It is prohibited to dispute on the Alcoran and the Scriptures; and the devil appears to have dictated this precept himself, for, by keeping those poor people in ignorance, he keeps them in darkness. Mahomet died in 631, in the sixty-third year of his age, and nine years after he was recog. nized as sovereign of Arabia. He saw almost the whole peninsula subject to his sway, and for four hundred leagues to the North and South of Medina no other sovereign was known. He was succeeded by Aboubeker, one of his earliest disciples, and a great conqueror likewise. A long line of caliphs united in their own persons the spiritual and royal power of the Arabian Empire. They destroyed the Empire of Persia; and Egypt, and Syria, and the rich provinces and kingdoms of the East yielded to their arms (5).
(5) Fleury, t. 6, l. 38, n. 4, 5.
HERESY OF THE MONOTHELITES.
4. Commencement of the Monothelites; their Chiefs, Sergius and Cyrus. 6. Opposed
by Sophronius. 6. Letter of Sorgius to Pope Honorius, and his Answer. 7. Defence of Honorius. 8, Honorius erred, but did not fall into any Error against Faith. 9. The Ecthesis of Heraclius, afterwards condemned by Pope John IV. 10. The Type of the Emperor Constans. 11. Condemnation of Paul and Pyrrhus. 12. Dispute of St. Maximus with Pyrrhus. 13. Cruelty of Constans; his violent Death. 14. Condemnation of the Monothelites in the Sixth Council. 15. Honorius condemned in that Council, not for Heresy, but for his Negligence in repressing Heresy. 4. In the year 622, according to Noel Alexander (1), or 630, according to Fleury (2), the Monothelite heresy, sprang up; and this was its origin :-some bishops who had received the Council of Chalcedon, recognizing two natures in Christ, still asserted that as both natures were but one person, we should only recognize in him one operation (3). N. Alexander (loco cit.) says, that the founder of this error was Sergius, Patriarch of Constantinople; he communicated his opinions to Theodore, Bishop of Pharan, in Arabia, and he answered him that his sentiments were the same. It happened also about this time that the Emperor Heraclius was in Gerapolis in Upper Syria, when he was visited by Athanasius, Patriarch of the Jacobites, a crafty and wicked man; he gained the Emperor's confidence, who promised to make him Patriarch of Antioch, if he would receive the Council of Chalcedon. Athanasius pretended to receive it, and confessed the two natures; he then asked the Emperor, if, having received the two natures, it was necessary to recognize in the person of Christ two wills and two operations, or one alone. This question posed him, and he wrote to Sergius, Patriarch of Constantinople, and asked also the opinion of Cyrus, Bishop of Phasis, and both persuaded him that he should confess in Christ one will alone, and only one operation, as he was only one person. The Eutychian Athanasius was quite satisfied with this false doctrine, because if we recognize in Christ only one operation, we should, according to the Eutychian system, only recognize one nature also. Thus, Sergius, Theodore, Bishop of Pharan, Athanasius, and Cyrus, joined together, and as, on the death of George, Patriarch of Alexandria, Cyrus was raised to that dignity, and Athanasius was immediately appointed Patriarch of Antioch, three of the Eastern Patriarchs embraced the heretical doctrine, that there was but one will in Jesus Christ; and on that account, this sect was called the Monothelites, from the two Greek terms composing the word, and signifying one will(4). Sophronius,
(1) Baron. Ann. 163, n. 4; Nat. Alex. t. 12, c. 2, Q. 1, sec. 2. (2) Fleury, t. 6, 1. 37, n. 41. (3) Fleury, al luogo cit. (4) Fleury, loc. cit. ; Van Ranst. sec. 6, p. 125; Herm. Hist. t. 1, c. 235.
Patriarch of Jerusalem, remained faithful to the Church, and never could be induced to embrace the heresy.
5. Cyrus, being now Patriarch of Alexandria, formed a union there of all the Theodosians, a very numerous Eutychian sect. This act of union was concluded in 633, and contains nine articles; but the seventh is the one that contains all the poison of heresy. This asserts that Christ is the Son himself, who produces the divine and human operations by means of one theandric operation alone; that is, we may say, a human-divine operation, both divine and human at the same time—so that the distinction exists not in reality, but is only drawn by our understandings (5). Cyrus gave these articles to be examined by the monk Sophronius; but when he read them, he threw himself at the bishop's feet, and, with tears, implored of him not to promulgate them, as they were contrary to Faith, and conformable to the doctrine of Apollinares. Cyrus, however, would not listen to him, but published the act of union, and Sophronius, seeing he could make no impression in Alexandria, betook himself to Constantinople, to lay the affair before Sergius; but he being one of the firmest supporters of the error, refused to see him, and, under pretext of re-uniting all the heretics of Egypt, approved the doctrine of Cyrus (6).
6. Sophronius returned again to the East, and was elected this same year, 633, Patriarch of Jerusalem, much to the displeasure of Sergius, who endeavoured to blacken him in the estimation of Pope Honorius, to whom he wrote a long letter filled with deceit and lies. He pretends to have been ignorant altogether of the question of two wills, until Cyrus of Phasis wrote to him, and laid great stress on a pretended work of Menas, formerly Bishop of Constantinople, written to support Monothelism. Some of the Fathers, he
says, teach one operation in Christ, but not one of them ever speaks of two, and he then falsely reports that St. Sophronius, when he was made Patriarch of Jerusalem, entered into an agreement with him not to say anything about the controversy at all. The Pope, ignorant of the artifices of Sergius, answered him, and commended him for putting a stop to this novel doctrine (the two operations in Christ, maintained by Sophronius), as only calculated to scandalize the simple, and he then adds: “ We confess one will alone in Jesus Christ, for the Divinity did not assume our sin, but our nature, as it was created before it was corrupted by sin. We do not see that either the Sacred Scriptures or the Councils teach one or two operations. That Jesus Christ is one alone, operating by the Divinity and humanity, the Scriptures prove in many places; but it is of no consequence to know whether by the operation of the Divinity or of the humanity we should admit one or two operations. We should leave this dispute to the grammarians. We ought to reject these
(5) Epist. Cyri, p. 952, ap. Fleury, loc. cit. n. 42.
(6) Fleury, cit. n. 42.
new expressions, lest the simple, hearing of two operations, might consider us Nestorians, or perhaps might count us Eutychians, if we recognize one operation alone in Christ" (7).
7. Not alone the heretical, but even some Catholic writers, have judged, from these expressions of Pope Honorius, that he fell into the Monothelite heresy; but they are certainly deceived; because when he says that there is only one will in Christ, he intends to speak of Christ as man alone, and in that sense, as a Catholic, he properly denies that there are two wills in Christ opposed to each other, as in us the flesh is opposed to the spirit; and if we consider the very words of his letter, we will see that such is his meaning. “We confess one will alone in Jesus Christ, for the Divinity did not assume our sin, but our nature, as it was created before it was corrupted by sin.” This is what Pope John IV. writes to the Emperor Constantine II., in his apology for Honorius: “Some,” said he, " admitted two contrary wills in Jesus Christ, and Honorius answers that by saying that Christ-perfect God and perfect man-having come to heal human nature, was conceived and born without sin, and therefore, never had two opposite wills, nor in him the will of the flesh ever combated the will of the spirit, as it does in us, on account of the sin contracted from Adam.” He therefore concludes that those who imagine that Honorius taught that there was in Christ but one will alone of the Divinity and of the humanity, are at fault (8). St. Maximus, in his dialogue with Pyrrhus (9), and St. Anastasius Bibliothecarius (10), make a similar defence for Honorius. Graveson, in confirmation of this (11), very properly remarks, that as St. Cyril, in his dispute with Nestorius, said, in a Catholic sense, that the nature of the Incarnate Word was one, and the Eutychians seized on the expression as favourable to them, in the same manner, Honorius saying that Christ had one will (that is, that he had not, like us, two opposite wills—one defective, the will of the flesh, and one correct, the will of the Spirit), the Monothelites availed themselves of it to defend their errors.
8. We do not, by any means, deny that Honorius was in error, when he imposed silence on those who discussed the question of one or two wills in Christ, because when the matter in dispute is erroneous, it is only favouring error to impose silence. Wherever there is error it ought to be exposed and combated, and it was here that Honorius was wrong; but it is a fact beyond contradiction, that Honorius never fell into the Monothelite heresy, notwithstanding what heretical writers assert, and especially William Cave (12), who says it is labour in vain to try and defend him from his charge. The learned Noel Alexander clearly proves that it cannot be laid
() Fleury, t. 6, 1. 37, n. 43, 44. (8) Fleury, loc. cit. l. 28, n. 23. (9) Nat. Alex. 1. 12, dis. p. 3. (10) Anasta. Præf. ad Joan. Diacon. (11) Graveson, Hist. Ecclesi, 1. 3, p. 48, c. 3. (12) Cave, Hist. St. Leo, Monoth.