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It is remarkable that no particular compliment is paid her in the gospel, except what was said by the angel; henceforth all generations shall call thee blessed. She is spoken of as a pious woman, was present amongst others at the crucifixion, and was committed to the care of John by our Lord. But though he thus manifested a filial respect and love, his remarks on various occasions show that he considered her, in his capacity of Messiah, only as any other person or disciple. John ii. 4. Matt. xii. 48, 49. After the ascension of Jesus, her name is mentioned only once, as one of those who were assembled with the Apostles.--Acts i. 14. Where or how she lived and died we have no knowledge afterwards. Upon how narrow a foundation then does the divine honor and worship that has been paid her, rest?
The first sign of a superstitious respect for her appeared in the time of Epiphanius, when some women offered to her cakes, called collyrides, and were hence called themselves Collyridians. This, he terms a heresy of the women. It would seem that prayers then began to be offered her, a custom which he rejects with indignation. Athanasius has among his writings a long address to the virgin Mary, but it partakes more of the nature of an apostrophe, than a prayer.
Peter Gnapheus, bishop of Antioch, in the fifth century, was the first who introduced the worship of Mary, appointing her name to be called upon in the prayers of the church. Already in the fourth century there was a controversy in Arabia in respect to her, whether, after Jesus was born, she lived with her husband Joseph as his wife, or not.
Some then worshipped her as a goddess, made libations, sacrifices, and oblations, to appease her anger and seek her favor. For the times were ripe for the most absurd superstitions, Elsewhere the above question was discussed, and it was deemed of such moment, that in 389 the council of Capua condemned Bonosus, a bishop of Macedonia, for maintaining that Mary was not always a virgin. The doctrine of original sin having been broached, it was doubted whether she, as well as her son, might not have been exempt from it,
After the deification and worship of Christ were established, her honors advanced proportionably, and she was called the mother of God—a favorite title with Apollinaris and his sect, but violently opposed by Nestorius. But in the third
council of Ephesus, he was condemned, and it was decreed that she should be called by that epithet. From this time she was more honored than ever.
THE VIRGIN MARY WORSHIPPED. As the veneration for saints and martyrs, and their images and relics increased, respect for the virgin Mary kept even pace with it. Such particular attention was paid her that both the Son and Father were with many entirely overlooked. Prayers of this sort were offered her : "Mary, the mother of grace, the mother of mercy, do thou defend us from our enemies, and receive us in the hour of death : pardon the guilty, give light to the blind, by the right of a mother command our Redeemer.” One of the greatest doctors declared, that all things that are God's are the vir. gin Mary's; because she is both the spouse and the mother of God. The steps by which this height of idolatry were gained, were bowever gradual.
Peter Fullo, a monk of Constantinople, introduced the name of the virgin Mary into the public prayers about the year 480. Justinian, giving thanks for his victories, pray: ed thus- ask this also by the prayers of the holy and glorified Mary, mother of God, and always a virgin.” The feast of the heathen goddess Proserpine, celebrated with burning tapers, in the beginning of February, was transferred by pope Vigilius about 536 to the virgin Mary, and kept in her honor. It was called the feast of Purification, and also Candlemas, from the lights used on the occasion. Also before this time festivals had been instituted in commem. oration of the meeting of Simeon and Mary in the temple, and his taking Jesus in his arms; and of the immaculate conception. About the ninth century, the festival of the assumption was established in commemoration of Mary being received, as was supposed, directly into heaven after her death. In the tenth century, these superstitions gained new accessions. What was called the lesser office, and the rosary and crown then came into favor and use. Masses were celebrated and flesh was abstained from on Saturdays in her honor. The festival of the immaculate conception was grounded on the doctrine that she was born without original sin-a doctrine debated warmly for three hundred years, and not regularly decided upon to this day amongst different sects of the Catholics. The Dominicans held the
doctrine, the Franciscans or Jacobins rejected it. At one period, Spain was perfectly in a flame about it, of which the very sign posts of this day bear witness. For travellers say, that, in going from Barcelona to Granada, to the name of the virgin Mary is always added these word, sin peccado concebida (conceived without sin).
The devotion paid to the Virgin has very little, if at all, diminished in catholic countries since the Reformation, as is evident from the accounts of travellers and the services of the churches.
THE HISTORY OF OPINIONS CONCERNING THE STATE OF THB
The Jews held that there was a place below the earth, which they called Paradise, where the souls of good men remained; and they distinguished this from the upper Paradise, where they were to be after the resurrection. The Christians borrowed their opinion from the Jews, and supposed that Hades, or the place of souls, was divided into two mansions, in one of which the wicked were in grief and torment, and in the other the godly were in joy and happiness, both of them expecting the general resurrection.
Into this general receptacle of souls, it was the opinion of the early Fathers, that Christ descended to preach: as it was supposed that these were the spirits in prison, 1 Peter iii. 19. What effect his preaching had was a matter of controversy, some saying that he went only to the mansion of the wicked, but wrought such a change upon them as to introduce them into the other mansion among the godly ; others contending that he emptied the whole of this subterranean region, or limbus patrum, and carried all the souls with him to heaven. The article concerning the descent of Christ into hell, in what we call the Apostles' creed, was not mentioned by any writer before Ruffinus. At first, also, the expression was katakthonia, subterranean, but in the creed of Athanasius, made in the sixth or seventh century, it was changed into Hades, which seems to have been put for burial, there being no other word expressing the burial of Christ in that creed. But in process of time, the word Hades began to be applied to the mansion of wicked souls; some of the Fathers supposing it to be in the centre of the earth, others under the earth, and some being uncertain about its situation.
The high opinion that soon began to be entertained of the heroism and merits of the martyrs, led christians to suppose that a preference would be given to their souls after death. For while the souls of ordinary christians were to wait their doom in some intermediate state, or to pass to their final bliss through a purgation of fire, it came to be the general belief that martyrs were admitted to the immediate presence of God, and of Christ, the fire of martyrdom having purged away all their sins at once.
It was the opinion of most of the early Fathers that the world was to be destroyed by fire, and also that all men were to pass through this fire, that the good would be purified by it, and the wicked consumed. The former part of this doctrine they might learn froin the apostle Peter ; but it does not clearly appear whence they derived the latter part of it. It is evident, however, that they had no proper idea of the eternity of hell torments. And it was the opinion of Origen, and after him of Gregory Nazianzen, and probably of others of the Fathers, that the wicked, after being thus punished according to their deserts, would come out
purified, and obtain mercy. Ambrose thought that the wicked would remain in this fire, which was to consume the world, but how long does not appear. Hilary maintained, that after the day of judgment all must pass through the fire, even the virgin Mary herself, in order to purify them from from their sins. This opinion was the first idea of a doctrine of Purgatory, which was so great a source of gain to the monks and priests in after ages.
Augustine speaks very doubtfully with respect to the dead. He sometimes seems very positive for two states only; but as he asserted the last probatory fire, so he seems to have thought that good souls might suffer from grief in their sequestered state before the last day, on account of some of their past sins, and that they might rise to their proper consummation by degrees. See his sentiments on this subject pretty much at large in his first question to Dulcidius; where he inclines to think that they who have faith in Christ, but love the world too much, will be saved but so as by fire; whereas they who, though they profess faith in Christ, yet neglect good works, will suffer eternally. In his treatise De Civitate Dei, he does not seem disposed to controvert the opinion of those who say that all would be saved at last, through the intercession of the saints.
The Gnostics are said to have maintained that the greatest part of mankind would be annihilated at the day of judgment, which was probably the same thing that was meant by those who said that they would be consumed in the fire that was to destroy the world.
We have now seen something like the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory started, but it is so unlike that doctrine in its present form, that we can hardly imagine that it could ever serve as a foundation for it. The ancient Fathers only thought that when this world would be destroyed by fire, that fire would purify the good, and destroy the wicked. Whereas, this purgatory is something that is supposed to take place immediately after death, to affect the soul only, and to terminate sooner or later, according to circumstances, especially the pains that are taken in favor of the dead, by the masses and other good offices of the living, as well as by their own benefactions and bequests for religious uses before their death.
On the whole, therefore, it looks as if this doctrine of purgatory had been built upon some other ground; and nothing is so likely to furnish a groundwork for it, as the notions of the heathens concerning the state of souls in the regions below, which were always supposed capable of being brought back again. Also the popular opinions of the northern nations concerning the state of souls after death were, in many cases, similar to those of the Greeks and Romans; and such opinions as these would not easily quit their hold of the common people on their conversion to christianity; and being held together with the opinion of the Fathers above mentioned, the present doctrine of purgatory might, in time, be the produce of both.
It is generally said that the foundation of the present doctrine was laid by Gregory the Great, who lived in the sixth century, about 160 years after Augustine.
Narrow as the foundation was, the monks were very industrious in building upon it, and about the tenth century the present system seems to have been pretty well completa