Antiquities of the Christian Church
XXIII. Of the Armenian Church
The chief point of separation between the Armenians on the one side, and the Greeks and the papists on the other, is, that while the latter believe in two natures and one person of Christ, the former believe that the humanity and divinity of Christ were so united as to form but one nature; and hence, they are called Monophysites.
Another point on which they are charged with heresy by the papists, is, that they adhere to the notion that the Spirit proceeds from the Father only; and in this the Greeks join them, though the papists say, that He proceeds from the Father and the Son. In other respects, the Greeks and Armenians have very nearly the same religious opinions; though they differ somewhat in their forms and modes of worship. For instance, the Greeks make the sign of the cross with three fingers, in token of their belief in the doctrine of the Trinity – while the Armenians use two fingers, and the Jacobites one.
The Armenians hold to seven sacraments like the Latins, although baptism, confirmation, and extreme unction, are all performed at the same time – and the forms of prayer for confirmation and extreme unction are perfectly intermingled, which leads one to suppose, that in fact, the latter sacrament does not exist among them, except in name; and that this they have borrowed from the papists.
Infants are baptized both by triple immersion, and pouring water three times upon the head, – the former being done as their books assert, – in reference to Christ's having been three days in the grave, – and probably suggested by the phrase, – buried with him in baptism.
The latter ceremony they derive from the tradition that when Christ was baptized, he stood in the midst of Jordan, and John poured water from his hand three times, upon his head. In all their pictures of this scene, such is the representation of the mode of our Saviour's baptism. Converted Jews, or Mohammedans, though adults are baptized in the same manner.
The Armenians acknowledge sprinkling as a lawful mode of baptism, – for they receive from other churches, those that have merely been sprinkled, without re-baptizing them.
They believe firmly in transubstantiation, – and worship the consecrated elements as God.
Unleavened bread is used in the Sacrament, and the broken pieces of bread are dipped in undiluted wine, and thus given to the people.
The latter however do not handle it, but receive it into their mouths from the hands of the priest. They suppose it has in itself a sanctifying and saving power. The Greeks in this sacrament use leavened bread, and wine mixed with water.
The Armenians discard the popish doctrine of purgatory, but yet most inconsistently they pray for the dead.
They hold to confession of sins to the priests, who impose penances and grant absolution, though without money, and they give no indulgences.
They pray through the mediation of the Virgin Mary, and other saints. The belief that Mary was always a virgin, is a point of very high importance with them; and ihey consider the thought of her having given birth to children after the birth of Christ, as in the highest degree derogatory to her character, and impious.
They regard baptism and regeneration as the same thing, and have no conception of any spiritual change; and they know little of any other terms of salvation than penance, the Lord's supper, fasting, and good works in general.
The Armenians are strictly Trinitarians in their views, holding firmly to the supreme divinity of Christ, and the doctrine of atonement for sin; though their views on the latter subject, as well as in regard to faith and repentance, are somewhat obscure. They say that Christ died to atone for original sin, and that actual sin is to be washed away by penances, – which in their view is repentance. Penances are prescribed by the priests, and sometimes consist in an offering of money to the church, a pilgrimage, or more commonly in repeating certain prayers, or reading the whole book of Psalms, a specified number of times. Faith in Christ seems to mean but little more than believing in the mystery of transubstantiation.