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WILLIAM STUBBS Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects

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WILLIAM STUBBS
Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects
page 344



must here recollect that I am trying to look at the subject rather as a philosopher than as a divine, Christianity, as a growing religion, was certain to require an expansion, in expanding circumstances, of the principles which were clearly enough stated in the Gospel, but the application of which had to be regulated by some other process than the will of the individual. The moral teaching had to be expanded authoritatively, the dogmatic teaching had to be fenced by definitions, the administrative machinery had to be framed with some attempt at uniformity, so that, whilst the Christian society remained a simple voluntary society with no power of enforcing its own precepts by material sanctions, it should have a common jurisprudence recognised by the conscience of its members and by their general consent. Hence from the days of the apostles there were councils, and canons, and constitutions, and books of discipline ; at first the canons, councils, and books of discipline covered all the ground of which I have spoken—doctrine, discipline, and administration, although some councils may be more famous for their decisions on one point than on another. Not perhaps to speak of the Apostolic Constitutions, take the council of Nicea for an example, and remember that we owe to it not only a formulated creed, but directions about consecration of bishops and ordination of priests, and likewise rules for the treatment of the lapsed and apostates, and the prohibition of usury. The legislation of Constantine added a new element which worked itself into all these three; giving a coercive and material force to rules which had been hitherto matters of conscience and consensus; the church was empowered to enforce her doctrinal decisions, her rules of discipline, and her frame of administration; and that so completely that from this date the ecclesiastical administration in Christian countries under the empire became so wedded to the secular administration as to be at times almost indistinguishable


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