Gnostic Doctrine

Sunday, 12 April 2020

The Donatists

from Eureka: An Exposition of the Apocalypse by Dr john thomas

The Donatists

The Donatists were a very numerous body in the Roman Africa, and, indeed, seem to have been almost as multitudinous there as the catholics themselves, which, considering the strictness of their discipline and their firm adhesion to the laws of Christ’s house, is gratifying to contemplate. There was scarcely a city or town in the Roman Africa in which there was not an ecclesia of these believers. A public conference was held at Carthage, A.D. 411, at which 286 bishops belonging to the catholics were present, and of the Donatists 279; and when we take into account, not only their rigid discipline, but also that they were a proscribed sect, and frequently the subjects of severe and sanguinary persecution from the catholic rulers, there is good reason to conclude that we have before us in the Donatists the very people foreshadowed in the servants to be sealed. They must have been energized by an enlightened faith, which gave them an intellectual and moral superiority over the imbecile and drowsy sacramentalists of the time. Their increasing numbers attracted the attention of the authorities, who were anxious, if possible, to conciliate them, and form a union between them and the catholics. 

The emperor Constans, A.D. 348, ten or a dozen years after the death of his father, Constantine, deputed two persons of rank to try to bring about a reconciliation between the two parties. When it was urged upon them that it was their duty to study the peace of the church and to avoid schism, they urged the unscriptural nature of the alliance which had recently taken place between church and state. "Quid est imperatori cum ecclesia?" said they -- in plain English, "What hath the emperor to do with the church?" A more important and pertinent question could not have been propounded. Had civil rulers known their proper sphere, they would have accorded protection to citizens in all their rights, and have left them to their own convictions in matters of faith and practice. The civil powers would then have restrained all ecclesiastics within the spheres of their own pales; and we should have had no "Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots, and Abominations of the earth." The atrocities of the Roman Church would not have soaked the soil with the blood of the saints and witnesses of Jesus for hundreds of years, until she became drunk with their gore. Little was Constantine aware of the consequences that would follow his conferring wealth, and honour, and power upon the bishops, presbyters, and so forth, of the Laodicean Apostasy, which, in the ignorance of all concerned, was mistaken for the Spouse of Christ. Could he have foreseen the racks, the fires, the massacres, the butcheries, that were to follow his misplaced liberality, he would, doubtless, have thrilled with horror and disgust at the iniquity he had unwittingly evoked.


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