V.-NATURE AND RESULTS OF THE ALLIANCE BETWEEN CHURCH AND STATE.
Under the first Christian emperors, the Church was not distinctly assigned the place and character of a State Church. There was no definite acknowledgment of ecclesiastical headship in the sovereign, such, for example, as was declared by the "Act of Supremacy" to belong to Henry VIII. over the Church of England. It was rather an informal alliance, that, in the first instance, was contracted. Church and State felt the uniting bond of common interests. The emperor saw that a measure of influence and agency in the affairs of the State might profitably be conceded to the Church. The Church felt that so useful an ally as the emperor ought to be allowed considerable prerogatives in her domain, that he might the more perfectly forward her interests. The extent to which imperial interference might properly go was not stated or understood; but in an age of despotic rule the concession to the temporal prince to interfere at all, in a sovereign capacity, would naturally enable him in a short time to become a most powerful factor in the affairs of the Church. The tendency of such a concession is amply illustrated by the very first Christian reign.
Though it was not a case of the most positive union of Church and State, it was much more than a simple moral alliance between two independent factors which occurred under Constantine. He acknowledged, indeed, that it was no prerogative of his to determine the doctrinal standards of the Church; but he soon made it evident that he was not minded to assume a passive attitude toward the management of ecclesiastical interests. "He assumed," writes Eusebius, "as it were, the functions of a general bishop, constituted by God and convened synods of His ministers." [Vita Cons., i. 44.] The same author reports him as having said to a company of bishops: "You are bishops whose jurisdiction is within the Church; I, also, am a bishop, ordained by God to overlook whatever is external to the Church." [Ibid., iv. 24.] If by things external he meant simply the temporalities of the Church, he much transcended the bounds here stated. He published decrees confirming the decisions of the bishops on questions of doctrine and worship, banished ecclesiastics who refused to subscribe the standard creed, ordered the restoration of excommunicated persons in the face of episcopal opposition,
[According to Socrates (Hist. Eccl., i. 27), he sent to Athanasius the following peremptory demand for the restoration of Arius and his partisans: "Since you have been apprised of my will, afford unhindered access into the Church to all who are desirous of entering it. For if it shall be intimated to me that you have prohibited any of those claiming to be re-united to the Church, or have hindered their admission, I will forthwith send some one, who, at my command, shall depose you, and drive you into exile." Evidently a power which assumed to meddle with a prerogative so vitally related to ecclesiastical supremacy as this of managing the keys did not feel any strong obligation to keep off from any part of the ecclesiastical domain.]
and prohibited the assemblies of various heretical and schismatic parties. [Euseb., Vita Cons., iii. 64; Sozomen, Hist. Eccl., ii. 32; Codex Theodos., Lib. XVI., Tit. v.]
How far the Church was drawn into the circle of the State is also seen in some of the privileges and functions that were assigned to ecclesiastics. The clergy were made, if not as respects their appointment, as respects their support, officers of the State; at least, a part of their support was ordered by Constantine to be paid out of the public treasury. "He wrote," says Theodoret, "to the governors of the provinces, directing that money should be given in every city to widows, orphans, and to those who were consecrated to the divine service; and he fixed the amount of their annual allowance more according to the impulse of his own generosity, than to the exigencies of their condition. The third part of the same is distributed to this day. Julian impiously withheld the whole; his successor distributed the sum which is now dispensed, the famine which then prevailed compelling him to do little." [Hist. Eccl., i. 11.]
A legal standing, within certain limits, was awarded the bishops as judges or arbitrators. In the previous centuries it had been a principle in the Church to prohibit brethren from carrying their disputes before the heathen tribunals. Hence the bishops had frequent occasion to act as arbitrators. Constantine recognized this function in them, and provided by law that parties agreeing to submit their case to a bishop should abide by his decision. [Sozomen, Hist. Eccl., i. 9.]
The successors of Constantine were not inclined to claim a less share in the management of the Church than was arrogated by him. Not content merely to follow up the action of the bishops, and to raise their decisions on doctrine and discipline to the character of imperial laws, they often, in addition to this, asserted their own will in ecclesiastical matters. Constantius, even more freely than his father, exercised a lordship over episcopal thrones, driving out one incumbent, setting up another, and bringing cogent means to bear for the overawing of bishops assembled in council. Others who followed claimed an equal license. Some even went so far as to issue authoritative decrees, in their own name, upon questions of dogma. This was notably the case, in the present period, with Basiliscus, Zeno, and Justinian. [Evagrius, Hist. Eccl., iii. 4, iii. 14, iv. 39.] In this assumption, however, these lay popes were none too successful. The current of thought and feeling in the Church had too much force and momentum to be easily diverted by any individual, with whatever official majesty he might be armed. More than one emperor found himself powerless to carry through a favorite scheme in relation to ecclesiastical affairs.
Evidently these new relations involved serious dangers. But they embraced, also, grand opportunities. The danger was that the Church should become pervaded with too much of a secular and political spirit, and also suffer, at the hands of its ally, an abridgment of its liberty. The opportunity was the chance to sanctify worldly dominion, the open door through which the Church was invited to carry the influence of the gospel into all the departments of the State and of society. The radical isolation from the State, which Christianity had been compelled to assume in the previous centuries, was an unnatural position. Perilous as are riches and power, its office is not so much to renounce, as to sanctify them. Christianity was only coming to its rightful position when it came where it could lay its hand upon the throne, the sceptre, and the resources of empire. Church and State are never in proper relations, save as an intimate moral alliance subsists between them; that is, an attitude of mutual respect, sympathy, and well-wishing as respects the prosperity of each in its own sphere, an alliance which promotes the good of both without unduly sacrificing the independence of either. If, then, the new relations were detrimental to the Church, it was because the alliance was not a normal one, and because the Church failed in the task of sanctifying its added resources. As a matter of fact, both good and evil resulted, inasmuch as the alliance was in part abnormal, and inasmuch as the Church in part fulfilled, and in part failed to fulfil, its appointed task of sanctifying the worldly estate upon which it entered. Among the chief results to the Church, the following may be enumerated:--
1. A mass of half-converted heathen. The mere force of imperial example was enough to draw multitudes into the Church. The prospect of imperial favor and worldly promotion caused many more to assume the Christian name. Even Eusebius testifies to the broad scope which Constantine's administration allowed to the operation of this corrupt motive, and denounces "the scandalous hypocrisy of those who crept into the Church, and assumed the name and character of Christians." [Vita Cons., iv. 54.] Augustine testifies to the force which similar considerations had in his day. "How many," he says, "seek Jesus for no other object but that he may bestow on them a temporal benefit! One has a business on hand: he seeks the intercession of the clergy. Another is oppressed by a more powerful than himself: he dies to the Church. Another desires intervention in his behalf with one with whom he has little influence. One in this way, one in that, the Church is daily filled with such people. Jesus is scarcely sought after for Jesus' sake." [Tract. in Joan., xxv. 10.] Chrysostom uses this strong language: "The Lord commanded not to give that which is holy to the dogs, or to cast pearls before swine. We, however, moved by senseless vanity and ambition, have violated this command, in that we have admitted to a participation of the sacraments corrupt and unbelieving men, who are full of evil, before they have given us a definate proof of their disposition." [Quoted by Neander from the treatise addressed to Demetrius.] As the extracts may serve to intimate, the nobler and more earnest bishops sought to make the best possible use of the influx, and spared no pains to lead applicants for church-membership into a true understanding and inner acceptance of Christianity. But those of more worldly temper were content to swell numbers irrespective of moral consequences. The inevitable result of such a policy was a mass of unassimilated material. Men came into the Church without any previous discipline in Christian morals, or training in the monotheistic faith. A lowered tone of Christian life, and an acceleration of tendencies toward polytheism, followed, as natural consequences. Those who had been accustomed to a long list of gods could easily be inclined to an idolatrous veneration of the Virgin and the saints.
2. Encroachments of worldliness. The transformation of the imperial court from the headquarters of heathen opposition into a principal asylum and defence of Christianity was a fact that gave by itself quite a new aspect to secular glory. Earthly splendor was made by this change to appear less foreign, less exclusively an attribute of the wicked Babylon. The personal customs of the early Christian emperors tended to re-enforce the impression thus initiated. Constantine did not hesitate to adopt the usual standard of Oriental magnificence, and he was quite outstripped in this respect by some of his successors. Arcadius, one of the sons of the great Theodosius, and his successor in the East, cultivated a pomp scarcely exceeded by any representative of heathen dominion. "When, on rare occasions," writes Milman, "Arcadius condescended to reveal to the public the majesty of the sovereign, he was preceded by a vast multitude of attendants, dukes, tribunes, civil and military officers, their horses glittering with golden ornaments, with shields of gold set with precious stones, and golden lances. They proclaimed the coming of the Emperor, and commanded the ignoble crowd to clear the streets before him. The Emperor stood or reclined in a gorgeous chariot, surrounded by his immediate attendants, distinguished by shields with golden bosses, set round with golden eyes, and drawn by white mules with gilded trappings. The chariot was set with precious stones; and golden fans vibrated with the movement, and cooled the air. The multitude contemplated at a distance the snow-white cushions, the silken carpets with dragons inwoven upon them in rich colors. Those who were fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of the Emperor beheld his ears loaded with golden rings, his arms with golden chains, his diadem set with gems of all hues, his purple robes in all their sutures embroidered with precious stones. The wondering people, on their return to their homes, could talk of nothing but the splendor of the spectacle, --the robes, the mules, the carpets, the size and splendor of the jewels." [Hist. of Christianity, Book IV., chap. i]
But it speedily became unnecessary to turn the eyes toward the imperial court to see a spectacle of wealth and magnificence within the bounds of a professed Christianity. The Church itself became possessed of great riches. The increasing of its revenues by gifts and legacies was regarded as a decided indication of religious zeal. Many also thought to purchase special grace to their souls by such means. So far was legacy-hunting and legacy-giving carried, in behalf of church purposes, that Valentinian I. thought it necessary to impose certain restrictions. [Codex Theod., Lib. XVI., Tit. ii. 20.] Jerome allowed that there was adequate occasion for the restrictive legislation. [Epist., lii.] The bishops of the principal cities, were they so disposed, easily found the means of living in princely estate. The historian Ammianus speaks, for example, of the costly equipage of the Roman bishops, and of their feasts surpassing kings' tables. [Lib. XXVII.] Not unfrequently the attractions of the chief ecclesiastical positions excited the desires of men of a thoroughly worldly temper, and many were more than content to receive such as their spiritual overseers. "The people," said Gregory Nazianzen in his farewell address to the council at Constantinople, "seek now not priests, but rhetoricians; not pastors of souls, but managers of money; not those who offer with pure hearts, but powerful champions." [Orat., xlii. 24.]
It is not to be inferred, however, that the whole Church was swamped in this worldliness. There was a host of Christians in these centuries who stood nobly above the plane of avarice and ostentation. The same Ammianus who condemns the episcopal pomp of Rome praises the example afforded by some of the provincial bishops, "whose slender diet, humble apparel, and downcast eyes commend them, as pure and modest persons, to the eternal God and his true servants." [Lib. XXVII.] There were men in the foremost positions, like Athanasius, Basil, Augustine, and Chrysostom, who lived after a very abstinent mode, and gave their income to charitable purposes. Augustine even protested against hasty and imprudent donations to the Church. Being complained of for not enriching the Church more, he replied: "He who will disinherit his son to make the Church his heir may seek another, not Augustine, to receive the inheritance: nay, God grant rather that he may find no one." The whole phenomenon of monasticism, also, though a one-sided protest against worldliness, shows that it was only a part of the Church that became enthralled with secular ambitions.
3. A mixture of hierarchical pride and subserviency. Apart from any connection between Church and State, the leading prelates would have experienced temptations to pride and ambition, incentives to magnify their office, and to pursue with vigor the race for episcopal pre-eminence. The new relations increased the tendencies in this direction only as increased resources and lessened spirituality were adapted to intensify an unsanctified thirst after distinction and power. The very same temper, however, which inclined ambitious prelates to strive after a pre-eminence over their associates in the Church, could move them to assume a very subservient attitude toward the sovereign. Few bishops had, as yet, the boldness to rebuke an emperor, and to discipline him ecclesiastically, -- to say nothing about an endeavor to domineer over him in his own sphere. There were, indeed, many instances in which they refused, for conscience' sake, to obey his mandates. But, even while disobeying, they recognized their inability to cope with so powerful a rival, and contented themselves, for the most part, with a passive resistance to obnoxious decrees. The tendency, on the whole, was not so much to strive after superiority to the secular power, as to seek for support and advancement through imperial favor and patronage. This was especially the case in the East; the development here was toward an emphatic subordination of Church to State. In the West, a higher degree of executive ability in Church officials, the early dissolution of the State, the remoteness of Rome from the Byzantine court, and the final abolition of all connection between the two, favored ecclesiastical independence, and prepared the way for a successful rivalry of the civil power. The more positive developments, however, in this direction, were subsequent to the present period.
4. Limitation of religious freedom, both in theory and in practice. Excommunication is the extreme penalty which the Church, by itself and as a purely religious organization, is competent to inflict. The co-operation or connivance of the State is needed for the visiting of any severer penalty. The presence of a Christian emperor upon the throne gave to the Church, for the
first time, the opportunity to have force employed as a motive power in religion. Unhappily there was not enough of deep and enlightened conviction on the subject of tolerance thoroughly to discard the opportunity.
We find, it is true, very positive maxims concerning liberty of conscience. The strong utterances of eminent Fathers of the preceding period have their parallels in this. "It belongs to true piety," says Athanasius, "not to compel, but to convince, since the Lord Himself compelled no one, but left the decision to the free will of each, in that He said to all, 'If any man will come after me;' to His disciples, however, "Will ye also go away?" [Hist. Arian., § 67.] "It is not permitted Christians," urged Chrysostom, "to overthrow error by constraint and violence: they are to work the salvation of men by persuasion, by reasoning, by gentleness." [In Sanct. Babylam.] From Hilary we have this earnest plea for religious liberty, addressed to the persecuting Constantius: "Watch," therefore, " and be intent that all your subjects may enjoy sweet freedom. In no way can disturbances be composed, and divisions healed, unless every one, free from all servile constraint, has full liberty to follow his own convictions. God is Lord of the universe, and does not need an enforced obedience, does not require an enforced confession." [Ad Constant., Lib. I., §§ 2, 6.] Augustine, likewise, in his earlier utterances, advocated very distinctly the principles of tolerance. He urged that, in respect of the heathen, the great concern of Christians should be to destroy the idols in their hearts, since then of their own accord they would banish the outward abominations. We have also from him this compact statement of the sole efficiency of moral means in concerns of the soul: "Non vincit nisi veritas; victoria veritatis est caritas" [Quoted by Schaff, Church Hist., vol. iii., § 27.] ("Nothing conquers but truth; the victory of truth is love").
It may, perhaps, be suggested, as a qualifying fact, that some of these statements came from a persecuted party. This is true. But some of them, on the other hand, came from men who had at the time no interest in tolerance, on personal grounds; and, as respects Athanasius and Hilary, it would be contrary to charity, perhaps also to reason, not to credit them with a genuine and unselfish regard for religious liberty, at least to the extent of discountenancing force. Still, it is plain that the principle of religious tolerance had no such settled basis in the consciousness of the Church of that age as it finds to-day in the consciousness of Protestant Christendom. The same Chrysostom who so clearly urged the duty of loving heathen and heretics thought it allowable and incumbent upon himself to confiscate the churches of the Novatians and Quartodecimans. [Socrates, Hist. Eccl., vi. 11. ] Augustine in his later years, instigated by his failure to convert the Donatists by logic, as well as by the violent and miserable excesses of a fanatical wing of that party, virtually recalled his theory of freedom of conscience. His change of view is thus recorded by himself: "Originally my opinion was, that no one should be coerced into the unity of Christ, that we must act only by words, fight only by arguments, and prevail by force of reason, lest we should have those whom we knew as avowed heretics feigning themselves to be Catholics. But this opinion of mine was overcome, not by the words of those who controverted it, but by the conclusive instances to which they could point." [Epist., xciii., § 17.] The "conclusive instances" referred to were instances of the practical efficiency of the imperial edicts in making Catholics of those who were previously Donatists. This revised theory was supported by Augustine with unhesitating zeal. Persecution, he argued, gains its character from its source and aim. For the good to persecute the wicked in order to make them good, serves a beneficent end. In the former age, Christianity suffered persecution from the ungodly; now it is her prerogative and duty to chastise the ungodly. Nebuchadnezzar casting those into the furnace who refused to worship the image which he had set up is the type of the unrighteous power which formerly held the throne of the Roman Empire; this same Nebuchadnezzar commanding the extermination of those who should speak slightingly of the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is the type of righteous power in the hands of Christian emperors. [Epist., xciii., § 9.] Augustine also appealed to the New Testament, claiming that the words in Luke xiv. 23, about compelling the invited guests to come in, authorizes the use of external pressure upon the refractory. [De Correctione Donat., § 24; Epist., xciii., § 5; Epist., clxxiii., § 10.] The conversion of Paul, he maintained, was an illustration of the policy inculcated in this passage, since the stubborn Pharisee was first struck down and blinded, before he received the comforting message of grace. [Epist., xciii., clxxiii. It is strange that Augustine did not see that prerogatives of discipline which are safe in the hands of infinite wisdom and love cannot safely be put into the hands of fallible, selfish, passionate mortals.] Augustine, indeed, had too much sense to imagine that genuine faith can be evolved by mere force. His idea was, that the rod of temporal severity may bring men to that subdued and considerate state of mind which tends to make them receptive of the rational evidences of truth. It was understood by him, moreover, that coercive measures must be dictated by the principle of love; and he seems to have advised that they should stop short of capital inflictions. [Epist., c.] His theory, nevertheless, was an open door to the abuse of power. The most remorseless bigot could not wish for a more ample dogmatic basis of spiritual despotism than that supplied by the great theologian. "Augustine founded," says Neander, "the theory of the coge or compelle intrare in ecclesiam. It is true, that Augustine always explains that every thing must proceed solely from the feeling of love; but what availed this principle in connection with a theory which gave free play to all manner of caprice? How often has the holy name of love been misused by fanaticism and thirst for dominion! A theory was asserted and founded by Augustine, which, although ameliorated in practice by his pious and benevolent disposition, contained, nevertheless, the germ of the whole system of spiritual despotism, intolerance, and persecution, even to the tribunal of the Inquisition." [Kirchengeschichte, iii. 314.]
The statute-book of the Empire early corresponded with the final theory of Augustine. The Theodosian and Justinian codes record successive acts by which religious privileges were denied to heretics, and civil disabilities were imposed upon them. [See Codex Theod., Lib. XVI., Tit. v., and Codex Justin., Lib. I., Tit. v. Justinian even thought it necessary to make a special discrimination against female heretics, and ordained that they should have no part in the enlarged privileges which his laws secured to women. (Novella cix.)] Legislation was especially severe against the Manichæans: the teaching and practice of their religion was made a capital offence.
The extent to which these intolerant principles were carried out in practice depended largely upon the temper of the emperor. Constantine was personally inclined to a liberal policy; but even he set the example of banishing heretical and refractory ecclesiastics, and gave schismatic parties to understand that they were to expect no countenance from the government. Constantius and others carried out proscriptive measures on a wider scale. Still there was a shrinking from the execution of heretics. The main endeavor was to constrain them to submission by threats and hardships. Instances in which the death penalty was formally and judicially visited for the simple crime of heresy were not numerous in the present period. According to Sozomen, Valens ordered a deputation of eighty ecclesiastics, who came to him to complain of grievances, to be executed, and their death was actually compassed; though the prefect had the prudence to disguise the atrocity by putting them on board a ship which might appear to perish by an accidental ignition. [Hist. Eccl., vi. 14.] Gibbon suspects that this account has been colored by the strong abhorrence which many entertained for Valens, and that it was really an accident by which the unfortunate ecclesiastics perished. [Chap. xxv.] Be this as it may, we can hardly point to this as a case of the judicial infliction of capital punishment for religious beliefs, though the victims may have been obnoxious to Valens largely on the score of their theological affiliations. The capital sentence, if indeed he issued such in the case, was but the offspring of a sudden and passionate freak of a tyrant. Perhaps the first deliberate execution on the mere ground of heresy was that of the Spanish bishop Priscillian, and six adherents of his, at Treves in 385. These were charged with holding Manichæan tenets; and Maximus, who was then ruling in the West, at the instigation of the bishop Ithacius, caused them to be put to death. The bloody deed found for the time being little applause in the Church. Ambrose of Milan and Martin of Tours entered against it their emphatic protest. [Ambrose, Epist., xxiv., xxvi.; Sulpicius Severus, Hist. Sacra, ii. 50.] Less than a century after their day, however, Leo the Great referred with seeming approbation to this crude and detestable method of guarding the faith. [Epist., xv.]
The State, on its part, was not a little modified by its alliance with the Church. Among the principal results were the following:--
(1) An associate power capable of restraining, though sometimes encouraging, despotism. Custom early awarded to the bishops a kind of tribune function. They were expected to serve as patrons of the suffering and defenceless, thus supplementing the office of the churches as asylums for those threatened with sudden violence. Sometimes a resolute prelate was able to interpose successfully against the violence of the sovereign himself. The aged Flavian, for example, saved Antioch from the intemperate vengeance which it was expected a recent uproar would call down upon the city from the hand of Theodosius. Still more noteworthy was the tribute to spiritual authority which Ambrose obtained from the same emperor. Theodosius, with all his magnanimity, entertained a slumbering element of savage ferocity, which was liable, under great provocation, to break forth with volcanic energy. Such a provocation was offered when the populace of Thessalonica engaged in an utterly causeless sedition, and murdered officers highly esteemed by the Emperor. In the fury of his vengeance, Theodosius allowed his soldiers to fall upon the defenceless people; and several thousands, irrespective of guilt or innocence, were cut down. It was an occasion for the voice of a Nathan to be heard. In Ambrose the Church had its Nathan. He directed the Emperor to the crime of David, and exhorted him, as he had rivalled the sin of Israel's king, to imitate also his deep penitence. [Epist., li.] For eight months the intrepid bishop kept the door of the Church closed against the imperial transgressor. Theodosius, on his part, humbly accepted the required penance for his cruel deed, and, moreover, passed a law which should stand as a safeguard against the sacrifice of the innocent by requiring the death-sentence to be delayed a certain interval. The fearless prelate had his reward even in the estimate of the humbled Emperor. "It is not easy to find," remarked Theodosius on a subsequent occasion, "a man capable of teaching me the truth. Ambrose alone deserves the title of bishop." [Theodoret, Hist. Eccl., v. 18] Chrysostom in Constantinople was another example of moral fearlessness in the face of imperial misdeeds. His daring, perhaps to a degree inconsiderate, arraignment of court practices, was one cause of the misfortunes which clouded the end of his life. Other instances might be noted; such as the excommunication by Synesius, Bishop of Ptolemais in Upper Libya, of an arbitrary and obdurate governor. Indeed, while the hierarchy may be charged with having provoked many excesses, it must be allowed the praise, to some extent, of having put a beneficent curb upon the temporal power.
(2) Improved laws. During the first three centuries, some noteworthy reforms occurred in the Roman laws. These, though largely such as heathen statesmanship by its own interior development might gradually have wrought, were likely due in some degree to the indirect influence of Christianity. Moral forces are exceedingly subtle; and it is not at all incredible that the influence
of the gospel should have penetrated, in some measure, even to the legislation of a hostile empire.
Under the Christian emperors, though reform stopped short of the proper goal, there was from the outset an impulse toward a higher justice and a more thorough respect for human rights. Greater privileges were accorded to women. An edict of Constantine granted them the same right in respect to the control of property as was enjoyed by males, with the exception that they could not sell landed estates without a special permission. Theodosius ordained that the mother should have the prerogative of guardianship in certain cases; namely, when there was no legal guardian at hand, and she, being of age, was willing to bind herself not to marry. [Codex Justin., Lib. V., Tit. xxxv. 2.]
Laws were passed at various times designed to limit, and ultimately to abolish, the infamous trade in female virtue. [Codex Theod., XV., viii. 1, 2,] Attempts in this direction, however, were only partially successful. The same may be said of the endeavors to give better security to the sanctity of the marriage relation. Laws were passed against concubinage; [Codex Justin., V., xxvi.] severe penalties were attached to the crime of rape and adultery; [Codex Justin., I., iii. 54; Codex Theod., IX., xxiv., xxv.] and attempts were made at different times to limit the practice of divorce by making it allowable only on occasion of gross crimes. [Codex Theod., III., xvi.] But the current of a corrupt society was too strong for the legislator, and, instead of being held in check by the laws, caused them in more than one instance to be relaxed.
Laws were passed in favor of children, carrying still farther the limitation of the old paternal absolutism which preceding heathen emperors had begun to restrict. The exposing of children was forbidden. The right to sell them on the ground of poverty, or any other plea, was abolished by Theodosius. [Ibid., III., iii.] Children thus sold into slavery were declared free, and the purchaser who had used a free child as a slave could claim no recompense. In this relation, however, he had largely been anticipated by heathen legislation. The stealing of children for the purpose of enslaving them was made by Constantine a capital offence. [Ibid, IX., xvii.]
Slaves failed to receive the same honor before the State as before the Church. Laws unjustly discriminating against them were left upon the statute-book. Still, their condition was ameliorated in various respects. The laws aimed to relieve them from the necessity of taking a degrading part in certain public amusements. The general policy of the government was favorable to their manumission. Even in the time of Constantine, as already indicated, a solemn religious sanction was given to the act of manumission by the provision that it might take place in church and on Sunday. [Codex Theod., II., viii. 1.] Certain services to the State were allowed to establish a title to freedom. Ordination to the ministry, with the consent of a master, was counted a declaration of emancipation. [Justinian, Novella cxxiii.] Jews and pagans were denied legal right to hold a Christian slave. [Codex Justin., I., iii. 56.] As to the number who received their liberty, we have the testimony of Salvianus, in the fifth century, that manumission was of daily occurrence. [Adv. Avaritiam, iii. 7.]
Laws were passed designed to prevent unnecessary suffering on the part of criminals. An edict against gladiatorial combats was issued by Constantine in 325, [Codex Theod., XV., xii. 1.] but no decisive progress was made toward their suppression till the early pare of the fifth century, when a decree was re-enforced and made effective by the blood of the martyr. The circumstances, as given by Theodoret, were these: "A certain man named Telemachus, who had embraced a monastic life, came from the East to Rome at a time when these cruel spectacles were being exhibited. After gazing upon the combat from the amphitheatre, he descended into the arena, and tried to separate the gladiators. The sanguinary spectators, possessed by the demon who delights in the effusion of blood, were irritated at the interruption of their cruel sports, and stoned him who had occasioned the cessation. On being apprised of this circumstance, the admirable Emperor [Honorius] numbered him with the victorious martyrs, and abolished these iniquitous spectacles. " [Hist. Eccl., v. 26.]
As an estimate, by a very careful and well-informed writer, of the laws of the Empire under Christian rule, we may quote the following: "The legislation exhibits not yet the character of a complete whole, of a scientific unity; still, the reformatory action of Christianity is clearly apparent. It left therein indelible traces of the spirit of love and equity which God, through Jesus Christ, has disseminated in the world. At the time of the fall of the Empire of the Occident, the relations of civil society have already become fundamentally changed; the pitiless egoism and the aristocratic asperity of heathen antiquity have been eliminated from most of the laws. If these progressive victories of love allowed traces of the old jurisprudence still to remain, this was due to the fact that the last days of a world in process of downfall were not favorable to the revision of the statute-book. Justinian carried forward the remodelling of the jurisprudence, as far as this was possible in a time of stormy transition. He fixed the code for a series of centuries; and so the Roman jurisprudence survived, not as Roman jurisprudence in the old sense, but as Roman jurisprudence modified by Christianity. The Middle Ages, and later the immortal author of the civil code [the first Napoleon], completed the reform." [C. Schmidt, Essai Historique sur la Société Civile dans le Monde Romain.]