committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

 

SECTION IX.

THE ORTHODOXY OF THE GREEK AND ROMAN CHURCHES RATHER THEOLOGICAL
THAN PRACTICAL.—FALL OF THE BULGARIAN EMPIRE.

IT was a period when infinitely more stress was laid upon the doctrines which a man believed than upon the life which he led. The questions were not, "Is a man chaste? Is he truthful? Is he honest and upright? Does he love his neighbor as himself? Do his good deeds proceed from right and pure motives?" but, "Does he believe that the Virgin Mary is divine and should be worshipped? Does he worship and pray to the saints ? Is he willing to have icons and pictures of the Virgin and the saints in his house and in his church ? Does he believe that Christ had one will or two, and one nature or two ? If he holds that Christ was divine, does he think that his divine nature was similar to, or identical with, that of the Father? Is there a purgatory? And if so, can the priest by his masses bring the faithful out of it?''

Since the Bogomils did not, or could not, answer these questions of dogma to the satisfaction of the bishops and emperors, they were denounced as "worse and more horrible than demons," and he who killed them thought he did God service. Yet now and then one of their bitterest persecutors was compelled to acknowledge that their lives were pure and chaste, that they were honest and truthful, kind to their neighbors, and observant of all the ethics of the moral law.

"Would that our orthodox believers were half as exemplary on these points!" says one of their enemies bluntly. But all this was regarded as of no importance so long as they were such heretics in regard to the doctrines of the church. And so the strong arm of persecution was stretched out against them whenever kings, princes, or emperors could be found to permit it. While under the rule of their native princes the Bogomils of Bulgaria suffered comparatively little from persecution. The czars of Bulgaria were humane and merciful; and, though the Bulgarian Church, founded by Cyrillus and Methodius, was in most respects a copy of the Byzantine, yet there is reason to believe that others of the czars besides Samuel turned with a feeling of relief from the florid and tasteless display of the Greek ritual to the simple and fervent worship of the "Christian " churches.

But, alas! after an independent existence of more than one hundred and fifty years, luring most of which time it had maintained constant warfare with the Byzantine Empire and carried terror and dismay more than once to the very gates of Constantinople, the Bulgarian kingdom fell, in the beginning of the eleventh century, before the prowess of Basilius II., one of the emperors of the Macedonian dynasty, and was annexed to the Byzantine Empire as a province. From the time of this annexation the edicts of persecution seem to have been issued against the harmless Bogomils, but the revolutions and counter-revolutions of the next seventy years in the Eastern Empire, during which time fifteen emperors ascended the throne, left little opportunity for active efforts to put them down.

 
 
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