SermonIndex Audio Sermons
Image Map
SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : LESSON XXVI. THEODOSIUS.

The Chosen People by Charlotte Mary Yonge

LESSON XXVI. THEODOSIUS.

|The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee the City of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel| -- Isa. lx.14.

The empire was again divided into two parts, which were held by two brothers. Valentinian, who had the eastern half, was an Arian; and Valens, who ruled at Rome, was a Catholic. Though all the empire was Christian, still there were sad disputes; for many had fallen away into the heresy, and there was so great a love of arguing in a light careless manner in market-places, baths, feasts, and places of common resort, that it was a great distress to the truly devout to hear the most sacred mysteries discoursed of so freely.

The great and learned Saint Jerome hid himself away from this strife of tongues, to pray and study in a hermitage at Bethlehem. By the desire of the Pope, he did the same work for the New Testament as Simon the Great had done for the Old Testament: he examined into the history of all the writings that professed to have come down from the Apostles' time, and proved clearly which had been really written under the inspiration of God, and had been always held as Holy Scriptures by the Church. Then he translated the whole Bible into Latin, and wrote an account of each book, setting apart those old writings of the Jews that are called the Apocrypha, and are read as wise instruction, though they be not certainly known to be the Word of God, in the same manner as the Holy Scriptures themselves. St. Jerome is counted as one of the chief Fathers or doctors of the Church.

Another great Father of the Church who lived at the same time, was Ambrose. He was the Governor of the Italian city of Milan; and though a devout believer, was still unbaptized, when the clergy and the people, as was then the custom, met to choose their Bishop. A little child in the crowd cried out, |Ambrose Bishop!| and everyone took up the cry with one voice, and thought that the choice was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Ambrose was very unwilling to accept the office, but at last he submitted; he was baptized, and a week after was first confirmed, and then ordained priest, and consecrated Bishop. He was one of the most kind and gentle of men, but he had a hard struggle to fight for the truth. The Emperor, Valens, died, and his widow, Justina, who ruled for her little son, was an Arian. She wanted a church for her friends, but Ambrose would allow none to be profaned by a service where the blessed Saviour would be robbed of His honour. He knew his duty as a subject too well to lift a hand against the empress, but he filled up the Church with his faithful flock, and there they prayed, and sang psalms and hymns without ceasing; and when Justina sent soldiers to turn them out, they were so firm, that only one woman ran away. Instead of offering violence, the soldiers joined and prayed with them, and thus Justina was obliged to give up her attempt in despair.

A very good emperor named Theodosius had begun to reign in the east, and assisted Justina's young son to govern the west. He was a thorough Catholic, and loved the Church with all his heart. Some fresh heretics had risen up, who taught falsehoods respecting the Third Person of the most Holy Trinity; and to put them down, Theodosius called another General Council to meet at Constantinople, and there the following addition was made to the Nicene Creed: |I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified -- | and so on to the end. Thus each heresy was made the occasion of giving the faithful a beautiful watchword.

Though good and religious, Theodosius was hasty and violent by nature, and could be very severe. He had laid a tax on the people of Antioch, which made them so angry that they rose up in a rage, knocked down the statues of the emperor and his wife which adorned their public places, and dragged them about the streets; but as soon as they came to their senses, they were dreadfully alarmed, knowing that this was an act of high treason. They, therefore, sent off messengers to entreat the emperor's pardon; and in the meantime they met constantly in the churches, fasting and praying that his wrath might be turned away. John, called Chrysostom, or Golden Mouth, from his beautiful language, was a Deacon of Antioch, and he preached to the people every day during this time of suspense, telling them of the sins that had moved God to give them up to their foolish passion, so as to put them in fear, and lead them to repentance. One of these sins was vanity, and love of finery and pleasure; and another was their irreverent behaviour at church. They did repent heartily; and before the emperor's men had time to do more than begin to try some of the ringleaders, there came other messengers at full speed, bringing his promise of pardon.

Love of the sight of chariot races was a great snare to the Greeks. At Thessalonica, one of the favourite drivers behaved ill, and was imprisoned by the governor, upon which the people flew out in a fury, and actually stoned the magistrate to death. In his passion at their crime, Theodosius sent off soldiers with orders to put them all to death; and when he grew cool, and despatched orders to stop the execution of his terrible command, they came too late -- the city was in flames, and the unhappy people, innocent and guilty alike, all lay slain in the streets. Theodosius was at Milan; and St. Ambrose thought it right to shut him out from the congregation while he was so deeply stained with blood. The emperor came to the church door and begged to be admitted; but the Bishop met him sternly, and turned him back. Theodosius pleaded that David had sinned, and had been forgiven. |If you have been like him in sin, be like him in repentance!| said the Bishop; and this great prince turned humbly away, and went weeping home. Easter was the regular time for reconciling penitents; and at Christmas the emperor stayed praying and weeping in his palace till a courtier advised him to try whether the Bishop would relent. He came to the church, but Ambrose told him that he could not transgress the laws in his behalf. At last, however, when he saw the emperor so truly contrite and broken-hearted, he gave him leave to come in again; and there the first thing Theodosius did was to fall down on his face, weeping bitterly, and crying out in David's words, |My soul cleaveth to the dust, quicken Thou me according to Thy word!| He lay thus humbly through all the service; nor did he once wear his crown and purple robes till after several months of patient penitence he was admitted to the blessed Feast of Pardon. He made a decree that no sentence of death should be executed till thirty days after it was spoken, so that no more deeds of hasty passion might be done.

One great happiness of St. Ambrose's life was the conversion of Augustine. This youth was the son of a good and holy mother, St. Monica; but he had not been baptized, and he grew up wise in his own conceit, and loving idle follies and vicious pleasures. For many years he was led astray by heretical and heathenish fancies; but his faithful mother prayed for him all the time, and at last had the joy of seeing him repent with all his heart. He was baptized at Milan; and it is said that the glorious hymn Te Deum was written by St. Ambrose, and first sung at his baptism. The hymn, |Veni Creator,| which is sung in the Ordination Service, is also said to be by St. Ambrose. Monica and her son spent a short and peaceful space together; and then she died in great thankfulness that he had been given to her prayers. He spent many years as Bishop of Hippo, in Africa, and wrote numerous books, which have come down to our day. One is called the City of God, so as exactly to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah, that the Church should so be called by the descendants of those who had afflicted her. St. Martin, a soldier, who once gave half his cloak to a beggar, and afterwards became a Bishop, completed the conversion of Gaul at this time, and was buried at Tours. St. Chrysostom likewise left many sermons and comments on the Holy Scripture. He was made Patriarch of Constantinople, but he suffered many things there, for the wife of the Emperor Arcadius, son of the good Theodosius, hated him for rebuking her love of finery, and her passion for racing shows, and persuaded her husband to send him into exile in his old age, to a climate so cold, that he died in consequence. The beautiful collect called by his name comes from the Liturgy which was used in his time in his Church at Constantinople; but it is not certain whether he actually was the author thereof.

<<  Contents  >>





©2002-2019 SermonIndex.net
Promoting Genuine Biblical Revival.
Privacy Policy