committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

 

SECTION III.

GRADUAL DECLINE OF THE DUALISTIC DOCTRINE.—THE HOLY AND
EXEMPLARY LIVES OF THE PAULICIANS

As the years gathered into decades and the decades into centuries, and the number of copies of the Scriptures was multiplied and carefully studied by these diligent and simpleminded inquirers after truth, their views of the divine revelation became clearer, their doctrines more scriptural, while their lives were as pure as ever. Well might they assume the title of Cathari—"the pure"—from that beatitude of our Lord which they had from the first made their motto and their rule of life: "Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God." Even their bitterest enemies and persecutors could not deny their exemplary character, however strongly they might denounce their want of reverence for images and icons, and their abhorrence of Mariolatry. More than once their foes, even in the act of persecution, were, like St. Paul, converted to their faith and became their leaders and martyrs. But their pure and blameless lives did not in the least degree protect them from cruel persecutions. They had become very numerous among the Armenians and the inhabitants of the Caucasus region, and as early as the begin-ning of the sixth century a considerable number of their leading men had sealed their testimony at the stake, victims of weak or dissolute emperors goaded to persecu-tion by the persuasions or threats of ambi-tious and unscrupulous bishops.

Occasionally, when the emperor happen-ed to be himself an iconoclast, or destroyer of the statues, images, icons, sculptures, and bas-reliefs which abounded in all the churches which had sanctioned the Eastern or Greek ritual, there would be a temporary lull in the persecution, as was the case when Constantine. ("Copronymos," as the monks derisively called him) ascended the throne in 741, and signalized his accep-tance by a general onslaught upon the statues and pictures of the Greek churches; but even he so far sympathized with the general hostility to the "Paulicians"—the name which their enemies then gave them—that he transplanted a large colony of them to Thrace that they might vex and annoy his heathen subjects, the Bulgarians, a mixed race, part Tartar and part Sclavonian.

But this movement, if it was intended as a punishment, failed of effect. The Armenian Paulicians won their way to the hearts of their heathen neighbors and converted great numbers of them to their own faith, and such was the influence of their pure and exemplary lives upon the emperor, that in the later years of his ion,, reign he too was considered a Paulician.[4] But on the accession of his son, Leo IV. (775-78O), and still more under the regency and rule of the ambitious but infamously cruel Irene, his widow, the images and pictures were restored to the churches and the relentless persecution of the Paulicians was renewed. Irene was dethroned and banished in 802, but the persecuting disposition continued amid the frequent changes of rulers till 815, when Leo V. for five years renewed the rule of the image-breakers, and the Paulicians had a brief period of rest. For the next twenty-two years foreign wars attracted the attention of the emperors—Michael II. and Theophilus—from very active persecution.

 
 
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