THE ANCIENT CHURCH:
Its History, Doctrine, Worship, and Constitution, Traced for the First Three Hundred Years.
W.D. KILLEN, D.D.
Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Pastoral Theology to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.
"Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God." PSALM lxxxvii. 3.
NEW YORK: MDCCC.LIX.
I cannot permit this Edition of "The Ancient Church" to appear before the citizens of the United States without acknowledging my obligations to Mr Charles Scribner of New York. Mr Scribner was the first gentleman connected with the noble profession to which he belongs, either in the Old or in the New World, from whom I received encouragement in this undertaking; and his prompt and generous offers aided me materially in making arrangements for the publication of the work in Great Britain. Every line of the present impression has been corrected by myself, and should my life be spared, any future Edition which Mr Scribner may publish is to appear under the same supervision. I trust that the Trade throughout the Union will recognize the debt of gratitude which I owe to my American friend. There is a higher law than the law of international copyright, and I feel confident that no Publisher of honour and integrity in the Great Republic will repudiate its claims.
17 University Square, Belfast, Ireland, July 1859.
The appearance of another history of the early Church requires some explanation. As the progress of the Christian commonwealth for the first three hundred years has been recently described by British, German, and American writers of eminent ability, it may, perhaps, be thought that the subject is now exhausted. No competent judge will pronounce such an opinion. During the last quarter of a century, various questions relating to the ancient Church, which are almost, if not altogether, ignored in existing histories, have been earnestly discussed; whilst several documents, lately discovered, have thrown fresh light on its transactions. There are, besides, points of view, disclosing unexplored fields for thought, from which the ecclesiastical landscape has never yet been contemplated. The following work is an attempt to exhibit some of its features as seen from a new position.
The importance of this portion of the history of the Church can scarcely be over-estimated. Our attention is here directed to the life of Christ, to the labours of the apostles and evangelists, to the doctrines which they taught, to the form of worship which they sanctioned, to the organization of the community which they founded, and to the indomitable constancy with which its members suffered persecution. The practical bearing of the topics thus brought under review must be sufficiently obvious.
In the interval between the days of the apostles and the conversion of Constantine, the Christian commonwealth changed its aspect. The Bishop of Rome—a personage unknown to the writers of the New Testament— meanwhile rose into prominence, and at length took precedence of all other churchmen. Rites and ceremonies, of which neither Paul nor Peter ever heard, crept silently into use, and then claimed the rank of divine institutions. Officers, for whom the primitive disciples could have found no place, and titles, which to them would have been altogether unintelligible, began to challenge attention, and to be named apostolic. It is the duty of the historian to endeavour to point out the origin, and to trace the progress of these innovations. A satisfactory account of them must go far to settle more than one of our present controversies. An attempt is here made to lay bare the causes which produced these changes, and to mark the stages of the ecclesiastical revolution. When treating of the rise and growth of the hierarchy, several remarkable facts and testimonies which have escaped the notice of preceding historians are particularly noticed.
Some may, perhaps, consider that, in a work such as this, undue prominence has been given to the discussion of the question of the Ignatian epistles. Those who have carefully examined the subject will scarcely think so. If we accredit these documents, the history of the early Church is thrown into a state of hopeless confusion; and men, taught and honoured by the apostles themselves, must have inculcated the most dangerous errors. But if their claims vanish, when touched by the wand of truthful criticism, many clouds which have hitherto darkened the ecclesiastical atmosphere disappear; and the progress of corruption can be traced on scientific principles. The special attention of all interested in the Ignatian controversy is invited to the two chapters of this work in which the subject is investigated. Evidence is there produced to prove that these Ignatian letters, even as edited by the very learned and laborious Doctor Cureton, are utterly spurious, and that they should be swept away from among the genuine remains of early Church literature with the besom of scorn.
Throughout the work very decided views are expressed on a variety of topics; but it must surely be unnecessary to tender an apology for the free utterance of these sentiments; for, when recording the progress of a revolution affecting the highest interests of man, the narrator cannot be expected to divest himself of his cherished convictions; and very few will venture to maintain that a writer, who feels no personal interest in the great principles brought to light by the gospel, is, on that account, more competent to describe the faith, the struggles, and the triumphs of the primitive Christians. I am not aware that mere prejudice has ever been permitted to influence my narrative, or that any statement has been made which does not rest upon solid evidence. Some of the views here presented may not have been suggested by any previous investigator, and they may be exceedingly damaging to certain popular theories; but they should not, therefore, be summarily condemned. Surely every honest effort to explain and reconcile the memorials of antiquity is entitled to a candid criticism. Nor, from those whose opinion is really worthy of respect, do I despair of a kindly reception for this volume. One of the most hopeful signs of the times is the increasing charity of evangelical Christians. There is a growing disposition to discountenance the spirit of religious partisanship, and to bow to the supremacy of TRUTH. I trust that those who are in quest of the old paths trodden by the apostles and the martyrs will find some light to guide them in the following pages.
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FROM THE BIRTH OF CHRIST TO THE DEATH OF THE APOSTLE JOHN, A.D. 100.
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HISTORY OF THE PLANTING AND GROWTH OF THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH.
THE ROMAN EMPIRE AT THE TIME OF THE BIRTH OF CHRIST. PAGE The boundaries of the Empire, 3 Its population, strength, and grandeur, ib. Its orators, poets, and philosophers, 5 The influence of Rome upon the provinces, ib. The languages most extensively spoken, 6 The moral condition of the Empire, ib. The influence of the philosophical sects—the Epicureans, the Stoics, the Academics, and Plato, 7 The influence of the current Polytheism, 9 The state of the Jews—the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes, ib. Preparations for a great Deliverer, and expectation of His appearance, 11
THE LIFE OF CHRIST.
The date of the Birth of Christ, 14 The place of His Birth, ib. The visit of the angel to the shepherds, 15 The visit of the Magi—the flight into Egypt—and the murder of the infants at Bethlehem, ib. The presentation in the Temple, 16 The infancy and boyhood of Jesus, 17 His baptism and entrance upon His public ministry, 18 His mysterious movements, 19 The remarkable blanks in the accounts given of Him in the Gospels, 20 His moral purity, 21 His doctrine and His mode of teaching, 22 His miracles, 23 The independence of His proceedings as a reformer, 25 The length of His ministry, 26 The Sanhedrim and Pontius Pilate, 27 The Death of Christ, and its significance, 28 His Resurrection, and His appearance afterwards only to His own followers, 29 His Ascension, 30 His extraordinary character, 31 SUPPLEMENTARY NOTE on the year of the Birth of Christ, 32
THE TWELVE AND THE SEVENTY.
Our Lord during His short ministry trained eighty-two preachers—the Twelve and the Seventy, 36 Various names of some of the Twelve, 37 Relationship of some of the parties, 39 Original condition of the Twelve, ib. Various characteristics of the Twelve, 40 Twelve, why called Apostles, 42 Typical meaning of the appointment of the Twelve and the Seventy, 43 In what sense the Apostles founded the Church, 45 Why so little notice of the Seventy in the New Testament, 46 No account of ordinations of pastors or elders by the Twelve or the Seventy, 47 No succession from the Twelve or Seventy can be traced, 48 In what sense the Twelve and Seventy have no successors, and in what sense they have, 50
THE PROGRESS OF THE GOSPEL FROM THE DEATH OF CHRIST TO THE DEATH OF THE APOSTLE JAMES, THE BROTHER OF JOHN.—A.D. 31 TO A.D. 44.
The successful preaching of the Apostles in Jerusalem, 52 The disciples have all things common, ib. The appointment of the deacons, 54 The Apostles refuse to obey the rulers of the Jews, 55 The date of the martyrdom of Stephen, ib. The gospel preached in Samaria, 56 The baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch, and of Cornelius the centurion, 57 The conversion of Saul, his character, position, and sufferings, 59 His visit to Jerusalem, and vision, 62 His ministry in Syria and Cilicia, 63 His appearance at Antioch, ib. Why the disciples were called Christians, 64 Paul and Barnabas sent from Antioch with relief to the poor saints in Judea, 65 The Apostles leave Jerusalem—why no successor appointed on the death of James the brother of John, 66 Why Paul taken up to Paradise, 68
THE ORDINATION OF PAUL AND BARNABAS; THEIR MISSIONARY TOUR IN ASIA MINOR; AND THE COUNCIL OF JERUSALEM.—A.D. 44 TO A.D. 51.
Previous position of Paul and Barnabas, 70 Why now ordained, 71 Import of ordination, 73 By whom Paul and Barnabas were ordained, 74 They visit Cyprus, Perga, Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, and other places, 75 Ordain elders in every Church, 76 Opposition of the Jews, and dangers of the missionaries, 77 Some insist on the circumcision of the Gentile converts, and are resisted by Paul, 79 Why he objected to the proposal, ib. Deputation to Jerusalem about this question, 81 Constituent members of the Council of Jerusalem, ib. Date of the meeting, 82 Not a popular assembly, 83 In what capacity the Apostles here acted, 85 Why the Council said "It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us," 86 The decision, 87 Why the converts were required to abstain from blood and things strangled, 88 Importance of the decision, 89
THE INTRODUCTION OF THE GOSPEL INTO EUROPE, AND THE MINISTRY OF PAUL AT PHILIPPI.-A.D. 52.
Date of Paul's first appearance in Europe, 90 History of Philippi, ib. Jewish Oratory there, 91 Conversion of Lydia, ib. The damsel with the spirit of divination, 92 Paul and Silas before the magistrates, 93 Causes of early persecutions, ib. Paul and Silas in prison, 94 Earthquake and alarm of the jailer, 95 Remarkable conversion of the jailer, 96 Alarm of the magistrates, 98 Liberality of the Philippians, 99
THE MINISTRY OF PAUL IN THESSALONICA, BEREA, ATHENS, AND CORINTH. —A.D. 52 TO A.D. 54.
Thessalonica and its rulers, 100 The more noble Bereans, 101 Athens and its ancient glory, ib. Paul's appearance among the philosophers, 102 His speech on Mars' Hill 104 Altar to the unknown God, ib. The Epicureans and Stoics, 105 The resurrection of the body, a strange doctrine, 106 Conversion of Dionysius the Areopagite, 107 Corinth in the first century, ib. Paul's success here, 109 Works at the trade of a tent-maker, 110 Corinth a centre of missionary operation, 111 The Corinthian Church, and its character, 112 Opposition of Jews, and conduct of the Proconsul Gallio, ib. Paul writes the First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians, 113
THE CONVERSION OF APOLLOS; HIS CHARACTER; AND THE MINISTRY OF PAUL IN EPHESUS.—A.D. 54 TO A.D. 57.
Paul's first visit to Ephesus; 115 Aquila and Priscilla instruct Apollos, 116 Position of the Jews in Alexandria, ib. Gifts of Apollos, 117 Ministry of Apollos in Corinth, ib. Paul returns to Ephesus, and disputes in the school of Tyrannus, 118 The Epistle to the Galatians, 119 Paul's visit to Crete, and perils in the sea, 120 Churches founded at Colosse and elsewhere, 121 Temple of Diana at Ephesus, and the Ephesian letters, ib. Apollonius of Tyana, and Paul's miracles, 122 First Epistle to the Corinthians, 123 Demetrius and the craftsmen, 124 The Asiarchs and the town-clerk, 125 Progress of the gospel in Ephesus, 127
PAUL'S EPISTLES; HIS COLLECTION FOR THE POOR SAINTS AT JERUSALEM; HIS IMPRISONMENT THERE, AND AT CAESAREA AND ROME.—A.D. 57 TO A.D. 63.
Paul preaches in Macedonia and Illyricum, 128 Writes the First Epistle to Timothy, and the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 129 Arrives in Corinth, and writes the Epistle to the Romans, 130 Sets out on his return to Jerusalem; and, when at Miletus, sends to Ephesus for the elders of the Church, 131 The collection for the poor saints of Jerusalem carried by seven commissioners, 132 Riot when Paul appeared in the Temple at Jerusalem, 134 Paul rescued by the chief captain and made a prisoner, ib. Paul before the Sanhedrim, 136 Removed to Caesarea, ib. Paul before Felix and Festus, 137 Appeals to Caesar, 138 His defence before Agrippa, 139 His voyage to Rome, and shipwreck, 142 His arrival in Italy, 145 Greatness and luxury of Rome, ib. Paul preaches in his own hired house, 148 His zeal, labours, and success, 149 Writes to Philemon, to the Colossians, the Ephesians, and the Philippians, 150
PAUL'S SECOND IMPRISONMENT, AND MARTYRDOM; PETER, HIS EPISTLES, HIS MARTYRDOM, AND THE ROMAN CHURCH.
Evidences of Paul's release from his first Roman imprisonment, 152 His visit to Spain, 153 Writes the Epistle to the Hebrews, 154 Revisits Jerusalem, and returns to Rome, 155 His second Roman imprisonment, ib. Writes Second Epistle to Timothy, ib. Date of his martyrdom, 156 Peter's arrival in Rome, ib. His First Epistle written from Rome, 157 Why Rome called Babylon, 158 Peter writes his Second Epistle, ib. His testimony to the inspiration of Paul, 159 His martyrdom, 160 Circumstances which, at an early period, gave prominence to the Church of Rome, ib. Its remarkable history, 162
THE PERSECUTIONS OF THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH, AND ITS CONDITION AT THE TERMINATION OF THE FIRST CENTURY.
The Jews at first the chief persecutors of the Church, 163 Their banishment from Rome by Claudius, 164 Martyrdom of James the Just, 165 Why Christians so much persecuted, 166 Persecution of Nero, ib. A general persecution, 167 Effect of the fall of Jerusalem, 168 Persecution of Domitian, 169 The grandchildren of Jude, ib. Flavius Clemens and Flavia Domitilla, 170 John banished to Patmos, 171 His last days, and death, 172 State of the Christian interest towards the close of the first century, ib. Spread of the gospel, 173 Practical power of Christianity, 174
THE LITERATURE AND THEOLOGY OF THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH.
THE NEW TESTAMENT, ITS HISTORY, AND THE AUTHORITY OF ITS VARIOUS PARTS.— THE EPISTLE OF CLEMENT OF ROME.
Why our Lord wrote nothing Himself, 176 The order in which the Gospels appeared, 177 Internal marks of truthfulness and originality in the writings of the Evangelists, 178 The Acts of the Apostles treat chiefly of the acts of Peter and Paul, 179 On what principle the Epistles of Paul arranged in the New Testament, 180 The titles of the sacred books not appended by the Apostles or Evangelists, and the postscripts of the Epistles of Paul not added by himself, and often not trustworthy, 181 The dates of the Catholic Epistles, 182 The authenticity of the various parts of the New Testament, ib. Doubts respecting the Epistle to the Hebrews, and some of the smaller Epistles, and the Apocalypse, 183 Division of the New Testament into chapters and verses, 184 All, in primitive times, were invited and required to study the Scriptures, ib. The autographs of the sacred penmen not necessary to prove the inspiration of their writings, 185 The Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, 186 The truth of the New Testament established by all the proper tests which can be applied, 187
THE DOCTRINE OF THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH.
Same system of doctrine in Old and New Testaments, 188 The New Testament the complement of the Old, ib. The views of the Apostles at first obscure, 189 New light received after the resurrection, 190 In the New Testament a full statement of apostolic doctrine, ib. Sufficiency and plenary inspiration of Scripture, 191 State of man by nature, 192 Faith and the Word, ib. All the doctrines of the Bible form one system, 193 The Deity of Christ 194 The Incarnation and Atonement, 195 Predestination, 197 The Trinity, ib. Creeds, 198 Practical tendency of apostolic doctrine, ib.
THE HERESIES OF THE APOSTOLIC AGE.
Original meaning of the word Heresy, 200 How the word came to signify something wrong, 201 The Judaizers the earliest errorists, ib. Views of the Gnostics respecting the present world, the body of Christ, and the resurrection of the body, 202 Simon Magus and other heretics mentioned in the New Testament, 205 Carpocrates, Cerinthus, and Ebion, 206 The Nicolaitanes, ib. Peculiarities of Jewish, sectarianism, 207 Unity of apostolic Church not much affected by the heretics, 208 Heresy convicted by its practical results, ib.
THE WORSHIP AND CONSTITUTION OF THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH.
THE LORD'S DAY; THE WORSHIP OF THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH; ITS SYMBOLIC ORDINANCES, AND ITS DISCIPLINE.
Christians assembled for worship on the first day of the week, 210 Our Lord recognized the permanent obligation of the Fourth Commandment, 211 Worship of the Church resembled, not that of the Temple, but that of the Synagogue, 214 No Liturgies in the apostolic Church, 215 No instrumental music, 216 Scriptures read publicly, 217 Worship in the vulgar tongue, ib. Ministers had no official dress, 218 Baptism administered to infants, 219 Mode of Baptism, 220 The Lord's Supper frequently administered, 221 The elements not believed to be transubstantiated, 222 Profane excluded from the Eucharist, ib. Cases of discipline decided by Church rulers, 223 Case of the Corinthian fornicator, ib. Share of the people in Church discipline, 226 Significance of excommunication in the apostolic Church, 228 Perversion of excommunication by the Church of Rome, 229
THE EXTRAORDINARY TEACHERS OF THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH; AND ITS ORDINARY OFFICE-BEARERS, THEIR APPOINTMENT, AND ORDINATION.
Enumeration of ecclesiastical functionaries in Ephesians iv. 11, 12, and 1 Corinthians xii. 28, 230 Ordinary Church officers, teachers, rulers, and deacons, 232 Elders, or bishops, the same as pastors and teachers, ib. Different duties of elders and deacons, 233 All the primitive elders did not preach, 234 The office of the teaching elder most honourable, 236 Even the Apostles considered preaching their highest function, 237 Timothy and Titus not diocesan bishops of Ephesus and Crete, 238 The Pastoral Epistles inculcate all the duties of ministers of the Word, 241 Ministers of the Word should exercise no lordship over each other, 243 The members of the apostolic Churches elected all their own office-bearers, 244 Church officers ordained by the presbytery, 245 The office of deaconess, ib. All the members of the apostolic Churches taught to contribute to each other's edification, 246
THE ORGANIZATION OF THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH.
Unity of the Church of Israel, 248 Christian Church also made up of associated congregations, 249 The Apostles act upon the principle of ecclesiastical confederation, 250 Polity of the Christian Church borrowed from the institutions of the Israelites, 251 Account of the Sanhedrim and inferior Jewish courts, ib. Evidences of similar arrangements in the Christian Church, 253 How the meeting mentioned in the 15th chapter of the Acts differed in its construction from the Sanhedrim, 254 Why we have not a more particular account of the government of the Christian Church in the New Testament, 255 No higher and lower houses of convocation in the apostolic Church, ib. James not bishop of Jerusalem, 256 Origin of the story, ib. Jerusalem for some time the stated place of meeting of the highest court of the Christian Church, 257 Traces of provincial organization in Proconsular Asia, Galatia, and other districts, among the apostolic Churches, 258 Intercourse between apostolic Churches, by letters and deputations, 260 How there were preachers in the apostolic Church of whom the Apostles disapproved, 261 The unity of the apostolic Church—in what it consisted, to what it may be compared, 262
THE ANGELS OF THE SEVEN CHURCHES.
The mysterious symbols of the Apocalypse, 263 The seven stars seven angels, 264 These angels not angelic beings, and not corporate bodies, but individuals, 265 The name angel probably not taken from that of an officer of the synagogue, ib. The angel of the synagogue a congregational officer, 266 The angels of the Churches not diocesan bishops, 267 The stars, not attached to the candlesticks, but in the hand of Christ, 268 The angels of the Churches were their messengers sent to visit John in Patmos, ib. Why only seven angels named, 271
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FROM THE DEATH OF THE APOSTLE JOHN TO THE CONVERSION OF CONSTANTINE.— A.D. 100 TO AD. 312.
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THE HISTORY OF THE CHURCH.
THE GROWTH OF THE CHURCH.
Prospects of the Church in the beginning of the second century, 275 Christianity recommended by its good fruits, 276 Diffusion of Scriptures and preparation of versions in other languages, 277 Doubtful character of the miracles attributed to this period, 278 Remarkable progress of the gospel, 280 Christianity propagated in Africa, France, Thrace, and Scotland, ib. Testimonies to its success, 281 Gains ground rapidly towards the close of the third century, 282 Its progress, how to be tested, 283
THE PERSECUTIONS OF THE CHURCH.
Spectators impressed by the sufferings of the Christians, 284 The blood of the martyrs the seed of the Church, 285 Persecution promoted the purity of the Church, ib. Christian graces gloriously displayed in times of persecution, ib. Private sufferings of the Christians, 286 How far the Romans acted on a principle of toleration, 288 Christianity opposed as a "new religion," 288 Correspondence between Pliny and Trajan, 289 Law of Trajan, ib. Martyrdom of Simeon of Jerusalem, 290 Sufferings of Christians under Hadrian, 291 Hadrian's rescript, ib. Marcus Aurelius a persecutor, 292 Justin and Polycarp martyred, 293 Persecution at Lyons and Vienne, 294 Absurd passion for martyrdom, 296 Treatment of the Christians by Septimius Severus, 297 The Libellatici and Thurificati, 298 Perpetua and Felicitas martyred, ib. Alexander Severus and Philip the Arabian favourable to the Christians, 299 Persecution under Decius, 300 Persecution under Valerian, 302 Gallienus issues an edict of toleration, 303 State of the Church during the last forty years of the third century, ib. Diocletian persecution, 304 The Traditors, 305 Cruelties now practised, 306 Not ten general persecutions, 307 Deaths of the persecutors, 308 Causes of the persecutions, 309 The sufferings of the Christians did not teach them toleration, 310
FALSE BRETHREN AND FALSE PRINCIPLES IN THE CHURCH; SPIRIT AND CHARACTER OF THE CHRISTIANS.
Piety of the early Christians not superior to that of all succeeding ages, 312 Covetous and immoral pastors in the ancient Church, 313 Asceticism and its pagan origin, 314 The unmarried clergy and the virgins, 315 Paul and Antony the first hermits, ib. Origin of the use of the sign of the cross, 316 Opposition of the Christians to image-worship, 319 Image-makers condemned, 320 Objections of the Christians to the theatre, the gladiatorial shows, and other public spectacles, 321 Superior morality of the mass of the early Christians, 322 How they treated the question of polygamy, ib. Condemned intermarriages with heathens, 323 How they dealt with the question of slavery, 324 Influence of Christianity on the condition of the slave, 325 Brotherly love of the Christians, 326 Their kindness to distressed heathens, 327 Christianity fitted for all mankind, 328
THE CHURCH OF ROME IN THE SECOND CENTURY.
Weak historical foundation of Romanism, 329 Church of Rome not founded by either Paul or Peter, ib. Its probable origin, 330 Little known of its primitive condition, ib. Its early episcopal succession a riddle, 331 Martyrdom of Telesphorus, 332 Heresiarchs in Rome, ib. Its presiding presbyter called bishop, and invested with additional power, ib. Beginning of the Catholic system, ib. Changes in the ecclesiastical constitution not accomplished without opposition, 333 Visit of Polycarp to Rome, 334 Why so much deference so soon paid to the Roman Church, ib. Wealth and influence of its members, 335 Remarkable testimony of Irenaeus respecting it, 337 Under what circumstances given, 338 Victor's excommunication of the Asiatic Christians, 339 Extent of Victor's jurisdiction, 340 Explanation of his arrogance, 341 First-fruits of the Catholic system, 342
THE CHURCH OF ROME IN THE THIRD CENTURY.
Genuine letters of the early bishops of Rome and false Decretal epistles, 343 Discovery of the statue of Hippolytus and of his "Philosophumena," 344 The Roman bishops Zephyrinus and Callistus, 345 Heresy of Zephyrinus, 346 Extraordinary career and heresy of Callistus, ib. The bishop of Rome not a metropolitan in the time of Hippolytus, 348 Bishops of Rome chosen by the votes of clergy and people, 349 Remarkable election of Fabian, ib. Discovery of the catacombs, 350 Origin of the catacombs, and how used by the Christians of Rome, ib. The testimony of their inscriptions, 351 The ancient Roman clergy married, 353 Severity of persecution at Rome about the middle of the third century, 354 Four Roman bishops martyred, 355 Statistics of the Roman Church about this period, ib. Schism of Novatian, 356 Controversy respecting rebaptism of heretics, and rashness of Stephen, bishop of Rome, ib. Misinterpretation of Matt. xvi. 18, 357 Increasing power of Roman bishop, 359 The bishop of Rome becomes a metropolitan, and is recognized by the Emperor Aurelian, 360 Early Roman bishops spoke and wrote in Greek, ib. Obscurity of their early annals, ib. Advancement of their power during the second and third centuries, 361 Causes of their remarkable progress, ib.
THE LITERATURE AND THEOLOGY OF THE CHURCH.
THE ECCLESIASTICAL WRITERS.
The amount of their extant writings, 364 The Epistle of Polycarp, 365 Justin Martyr, his history and his works, ib. The Epistle to Diognetus, 367 Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Hermas, ib. The Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas, ib. Papias and Hegesippus, ib. Irenaeus and his Works, 368 Tertullian, his character and writings, 370 Clement of Alexandria, 373 Hippolytus, 374 Minucius Felix, 375 Origen—his early history and remarkable career—his great learning— his speculative spirit—his treatise against Celsus and his "Hexapla"—his theological peculiarities, ib. Cyprian—his training, character, and writings, 381 Gregory Thaumaturgus, 383 The value of the Fathers as ecclesiastical authorities, 384 Their erroneous and absurd expositions, 385 The excellency of Scripture, 387
THE IGNATIAN EPISTLES AND THEIR CLAIMS—THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCE.
The journeys undertaken in search of the Ignatian Epistles, and the amount of literature to which they have given birth, 389 Why these letters have awakened such interest, 390 The story of Ignatius and its difficulties, ib. The Seven Epistles known to Eusebius and those which appeared afterwards, 394 The different recensions of the Seven Letters known to Eusebius, 395 The discovery of the Syriac version, ib. Diminished size of the Curetonian Letters, 397 The testimony of Eusebius considered, 398 The testimony of Origen, 399 The Ignatian Epistles not recognised by Irenaeus or Polycarp, 400 These letters not known to Tertullian, Hippolytus, and other early writers, 408 The date of their fabrication. Their multiplication accounted for, 409 Remarkable that spurious works are often found in more than one edition, 411
THE IGNATIAN EPISTLES AND THEIR CLAIMS—THE INTERNAL EVIDENCE.
The history of these Epistles like the story of the Sibylline books, 413 The three Curetonian Letters as objectionable as those formerly published, 414 The style suspicious, challenged by Ussher, 415 The Word of God strangely ignored in these letters, ib. Their chronological blunders betray their forgery, 417 Various words in them have a meaning which they did not acquire until after the time of Ignatius, 419 Their puerilities, vapouring, and mysticism betray their spuriousness, 422 The anxiety for martyrdom displayed in them attests their forgery, 423 The internal evidence confirms the view already taken of the date of their fabrication, 425 Strange attachment of Episcopalians to these letters, 426 The sagacity of Calvin, 427
THE GNOSTICS, THE MONTANISTS, AND THE MANICHAEANS. The early heresies numerous, 429 The systems with which Christianity had to struggle, 430 The leading peculiarities of Gnosticism, ib. The Aeons, the Demiurge, and the Saviour, 431 Saturninus, Basilides, and Valentine, 433 Marcion and Carpocrates, ib. Causes of the popularity of Gnosticism, and its defects, 434 Montanus and his system, 436 His success and condemnation, 437 Mani and his doctrine of the Two Principles, 438 The Elect and Hearers of the Manichaeans, 439 Martyrdom of Mani, 440 Peculiarities of the heretics gradually adopted by the Catholic Church, 441 Doctrine of Venial and Mortal Sins, ib. Doctrine of Purgatory, 442 Celibacy and Asceticism, 443
THE DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH
Leading doctrines of the gospel still acknowledged, 445 Meaning of theological terms not yet exactly defined, ib. Scripture venerated and studied, 446 Extraordinary scriptural acquirements of some of the early Christians, 447 Doctrine of Plenary Inspiration of Scripture taught, 448 The canon of the New Testament, ib. Spurious scriptures and tradition, 449 Human Depravity and Regeneration, 450 Christ worshipped by the early Christians, 451 Christ God and man, 452 The Ebionites, Theodotus, Artemon, and Paul of Samosata, 453 Doctrine of the Trinity, 454 Praxeas, Noetus, and Sabellius, 455 Doctrine of the Trinity not borrowed from Platonism, 457 The Atonement and Justification by Faith, 458 Grace and Predestination, ib. Theological errors, 459 Our knowledge of the gospel does not depend on our proximity to the days of the Apostles, 461
THE WORSHIP AND CONSTITUTION OF THE CHURCH.
THE WORSHIP OF THE CHURCH.
Splendour of the Pagan and Jewish worship—simplicity of Christian worship, 462 The places of worship of the early Christians, 463 Psalmody of the Church, 464 No instrumental music, 465 No forms of prayer used by the early pastors, 466 Congregation stood at prayer, 466 Worship, how conducted, 467 Scriptures read in public worship, 468 The manner of preaching, 469 Deportment of the congregation, 469 Dress of ministers, 470 Great change between this and the sixteenth century, 470
Polycarp probably baptized in infancy, 472 Testimony of Justin Martyr and Irenaeus for Infant Baptism, 473 Testimony of Origen, 474 Objections of Tertullian examined, 475 Sponsors in Baptism, who they were, ib. The Baptism of Blood, 477 Infant Baptism universal in Africa in the days of Cyprian, 478 The mode of Baptism not considered essential, 479 Errors respecting Baptism, and new rites added to the original institution, 480 The Baptismal Service the germ of a Church Liturgy, 481 Evils connected with the corruption of the baptismal institute, ib.
THE LORD'S SUPPER.
Danger of changing any part of a typical ordinance, 483 How the Holy Supper was administered in Rome in the second century, 484 The posture of the communicants—sitting and standing, 485 The bread not unleavened, ib. Wine mixed with water, ib. Bread not put into the mouth by the minister, 486 Infant communion, ib. How often the Lord's Supper celebrated, ib. The words Sacrament and Transubstantiation, 487 Bread and wine types or symbols, ib. How Christ is present in the Eucharist, 488 Growth of superstition in regard to the Eucharist, 489 Danger of using language not warranted by Scripture, ib.
CONFESSION AND PENANCE.
Confession often made at Baptism by disciples of John the Baptist, and of Christ, 491 The early converts forthwith baptized, 492 In the second century fasting preceded Baptism, 492 The exomologesis of penitents, 493 Influence of the mind on the body, and of the body on the mind, ib. Fasting not an ordinary duty, 494 Fasts of the ancient Church, ib. Fasting soon made a test of repentance, 495 The ancient penitential discipline, ib. Establishment of a Penitentiary, 496 Different classes of penitents, ib. Auricular confession now unknown, 497 Increasing spiritual darkness leads to confusion of terms, ib.
THE CONSTITUTION OF THE CHURCH IN THE SECOND CENTURY.
Statement of Justin Martyr, 499 Great obscurity resting on the subject, 500 Illustrated by the Epistles of Clement and Polycarp, ib. Circumstances which led to the writing of Clement's Epistle, 501 Churches of Corinth and Borne then governed by presbyters, 503 Churches of Smyrna and Philippi governed by presbyters, 504 The presbyters had a chairman or president, ib. Traces of this in the apostolic age, 505 Early catalogues of bishops—their origin and contradictions, ib. The senior presbyter the ancient president, 506 Testimony of Hilary confirmed by various proofs, 507 Ancient names of the president of the presbytery, 508 Great age of ancient bishops, 509 Great number of ancient bishops in a given period, ib. Remarkable case of the Church of Jerusalem, 510 No parallel to it in more recent times, 511 Argument against heretics from the episcopal succession illustrated, 513 The claims of seniority long respected in various ways, 515 The power of the presiding presbyter limited, for the Church was still governed by the common council of the presbyters, 516 Change of the law of seniority, 518 Change made about the end of the second century, ib. Singular that many episcopal lists stop at the end of the second century, 519 Before that date only one bishop in Egypt, 520 In some places another system set up earlier, 521
THE RISE OF THE HIERARCHY CONNECTED WITH THE SPREAD OF HERESIES.
Eusebius. The defects of his Ecclesiastical History, 522 Superior erudition of Jerome, 523 His account of the origin of Prelacy, 524 Prelacy originated after the apostolic age, 527 Suggested by the distractions of the Church, 529 Formidable and vexatious character of the early heresies, 530 Mode of appointing the president of the eldership changed. Popular election of bishops, how introduced, 532 The various statements of Jerome consistent, 533 The primitive moderator and the bishop contrasted, 535 How the decree relative to a change in the ecclesiastical constitution adopted throughout the whole world, ib.
PRELACY BEGINS IN ROME.
Comparative length of the lives of the early bishops of Rome, 537 Observations relative to a change in the organization of the Roman Church in the time of Hyginus, 538 1. The statement of Hilary will account for the increased average in the length of episcopal life, 539 2. The testimony of Jerome cannot otherwise be explained, 540 3. Hilary indicates that the constitution of the Church was changed about this period, 541 4. At this time such an arrangement must naturally have suggested itself to the Roman Christians, 542 5. The violent death of Telesphorus fitted to prepare the way for it, 543 6. The influence of Rome would recommend its adoption, 544 7. A vacancy which occurred after the death of Hyginus accords with this view. Valentine a candidate for the Roman bishopric, 545 8. The letters of Pius to Justus corroborate this view, 547 9. It is sustained by the fact that the word bishop now began to be applied to the presiding elder, 550 10. The Pontifical Book remarkably confirms it—Not strange that history speaks so little of this change, 552 Little alteration at first apparent in the general aspect of the Church in consequence of the adoption of the new principle, 554 Facility with which the change could be accomplished, 565 Polycarp probably dissatisfied with the new arrangements, 556 Change, in all likelihood, not much opposed, 558 Many presbyters, as well as the people, would be favourable to it, ib. The new system gradually spread, 559
THE CATHOLIC SYSTEM.
History of the word Catholic, 561 Circumstances in which the system originated, ib. The bishop the centre of unity for his district, 562 Principal or apostolic Churches—their position, 564 The Church of Rome more potentially principal, 566 How communion maintained among the Churches, 567 Early jealousy towards the bishop of Rome, 568 The Catholic system identified with Rome, 569 Why the Apostle Peter everywhere so highly exalted, 570 Roman bishops sought to work out the idea of unity, 571 Theory of the Catholic system fallacious, 572 How Rome the antitype of Babylon, 573
PRIMITIVE EPISCOPACY AND PRESBYTERIAN ORDINATION.
Where Christians formed only a single congregation Episcopacy made little change, 575 The bishop the parish minister, ib. Every one who could might preach if the bishops permitted, 576 Bishops thickly planted—all of equal rank—the greatest had very limited jurisdiction, 577 Ecclesiastics often engaged in secular pursuits, 578 The Alexandrian presbyters made their bishops, 580 When this practice ceased, 581 Alexandrian bishops not originally ordained by imposition of hands, 582 Roman presbyters and others made their bishops, 583 The bishop the presiding elder—early Roman bishops so called, 584 Bishops of the order of the presbytery, 585 All Christian ministers originally ordained by presbyters, ib. A bishop ordained by a bishop and a presbyter, 586 Difference between ancient and modern bishops, 587
THE PROGRESS OF PRELACY.
Power of the president of a court, 589 Power of the ecclesiastical president increased when elected by the people, 590 The superior wealth of the bishop added to his influence, ib. Appointment of lectors, sub-deacons, acolyths, exorcists, and janitors, 592 These new offices first appeared in Rome, ib. Bishops began to appoint church officers without consulting the people, 593 New canons relative to ordination, 594 Presbyters ceased to inaugurate bishops, 595 Presbyters continued to ordain presbyters and deacons, 596 Country bishops deprived of the right to ordain, 597 Account of their degradation, 598 Rise of metropolitans, 599 Circumstances which added to the power of the city bishops, ib. One bishop in each province at the head of the rest, 601 Jealousies and contentions of city bishops, 602 Great change in the Church, in two centuries, 603 Reasons why the establishment of metropolitans so much opposed, 604
SYNODS—THEIR HISTORY AND CONSTITUTION.
Apostles sought, first, the conversion of sinners, and then the edification of their converts, 605 No general union of Churches originally, 606 But intercourse in various ways maintained, ib. Synods did not commence about the middle of the second century, 607 A part of the original constitution of the Church, ib. At first held on a limited scale, 609 Reason why we have no account of early Synods, ib. First notice of Synods, 610 Synods held respecting the Paschal controversy, 611 Found in operation everywhere before the end of the second century, ib. Tertullian does not say that Synods commenced in Greece, 612 Why he notices the Greek Synods, 613 Amphictyonic Council did not suggest the establishment of Synods, 615 Synods originally met only once a-year, ib. Began to meet in fixed places in Greece and Asia Minor, 616 Met twice a-year in the beginning of the fourth century, ib. Synods in third century respecting re-baptism, 617 Synods at Antioch respecting Paul of Samosata, 618 Early Synods composed of bishops and elders, 619 Deacons and laymen had no right of voting, ib. Churches not originally independent, 620 Utility of Synods, 621 Circumstances which led to a change in their constitution, ib. Decline of primitive polity, 622
THE CEREMONIES AND DISCIPLINE OF THE CHURCH, AS ILLUSTRATED BY CURRENT CONTROVERSIES AND DIVISIONS.
The rise of the Nazarenes, 623 Lessons taught by their history, 624 The Paschal controversy and Victor's excommunication, 625 Danger of depending on tradition, 628 Institution of Easter unnecessary, 629 The tickets of peace and the schism of Felicissimus, ib. Schism of Novatian, 631 Controversy respecting the baptism of heretics, and Stephen's excommunication, 632 Uniformity in discipline and ceremonies not to be found in the ancient Church, 633 Increasing intolerance of the dominant party in this Church, 634
THE THEORY OF THE CHURCH, AND THE HISTORY OF ITS PERVERSION— CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS.
The Church invisible and its attributes, 636 The visible Church and its defects, 637 The holy Catholic Church—what it meant, 639 Church visible and Church invisible confounded, 640 Evils of the Catholic system, 642 Establishment of an odious ecclesiastical monopoly, ib. Pastors began to be called priests, 644 Arrogant assumptions of bishops, 646 The Catholic system encouraged bigotry, 647 Its ungenerous spirit, ib. The claims of the Word of God not properly recognized, 648 Many corruptions already in the Church, 650 The establishment of the hierarchy a grand mistake, 652 Only promoted outward, not real unity, 653 Sad state of the Church when Catholicism was fully developed, 655 Evangelical unity—in what it consists, 656
* * * * *
FROM THE BIRTH OF CHRIST TO THE DEATH OF THE APOSTLE JOHN, A.D. 100.
* * * * *
HISTORY OF THE PLANTING AND GROWTH OF THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH.
THE ROMAN EMPIRE AT THE TIME OF THE BIRTH OF CHRIST.
Upwards of a quarter of a century before the Birth of Christ, the grandnephew of Julius Caesar had become sole master of the Roman world. Never, perhaps, at any former period, had so many human beings acknowledged the authority of a single potentate. Some of the most powerful monarchies at present in Europe extend over only a fraction of the territory which Augustus governed: the Atlantic on the west, the Euphrates on the east, the Danube and the Rhine on the north, and the deserts of Africa on the south, were the boundaries of his empire.
We do not adequately estimate the rank of Augustus among contemporary sovereigns, when we consider merely the superficial extent of the countries placed within the range of his jurisdiction. His subjects probably formed more than one-third of the entire population of the globe, and amounted to about one hundred millions of souls.[Endnote 3:1] His empire embraced within its immense circumference the best cultivated and the most civilised portions of the earth. The remains of its populous cities, its great fortresses, its extensive aqueducts, and its stately temples, may still be pointed out as the memorials of its grandeur. The capital was connected with the most distant provinces by carefully constructed roads, along which the legions could march with ease and promptitude, either to quell an internal insurrection, or to encounter an invading enemy. And the military resources at the command of Augustus were abundantly sufficient to maintain obedience among the myriads whom he governed. After the victory of Actium he was at the head of upwards of forty veteran legions; and though some of these had been decimated by war, yet, when recruited, and furnished with their full complement of auxiliaries, they constituted a force of little less than half a million of soldiers.
The arts of peace now nourished under the sunshine of imperial patronage. Augustus could boast, towards the end of his reign, that he had converted Rome from a city of brick huts into a city of marble palaces. The wealth of the nobility was enormous; and, excited by the example of the Emperor and his friend Agrippa, they erected and decorated mansions in a style of regal magnificence. The taste cherished in the capital was soon widely diffused; and, in a comparatively short period, many new and gorgeous temples and cities appeared throughout the empire. Herod the Great expended vast sums on architectural improvements. The Temple of Jerusalem, rebuilt under his administration, was one of the wonders of the world.
The century terminating with the death of Augustus claims an undisputed pre-eminence in the history of Roman eloquence and literature. Cicero, the prince of Latin orators, now delivered those addresses which perpetuate his fame; Sallust and Livy produced works which are still regarded as models of historic composition; Horace, Virgil, and others, acquired celebrity as gifted and accomplished poets. Among the subjects fitted to exercise and expand the intellect, religion was not overlooked. In the great cities of the empire many were to be found who devoted themselves to metaphysical and ethical studies; and questions, bearing upon the highest interests of man, were discussed in the schools of the philosophers.
The barbarous nations under the dominion of Augustus derived many advantages from their connexion with the Roman empire. They had, no doubt, often reason to complain of the injustice and rapacity of provincial governors; but, on the whole, they had a larger share of social comfort than they could have enjoyed had they preserved their independence; for their domestic feuds were repressed by the presence of their powerful rulers, and the imperial armies were at hand to protect them against foreign aggression. By means of the constant intercourse kept up with all its dependencies, the skill and information of the metropolis of Italy were gradually imparted to the rude tribes under its sway, and thus the conquest of a savage country by the Romans was an important step towards its civilisation. The union of so many nations in a great state was otherwise beneficial to society. A Roman citizen might travel without hindrance from Armenia to the British Channel; and as all the countries washed by the Mediterranean were subject to the empire, their inhabitants could carry on a regular and prosperous traffic by availing themselves of the facilities of navigation.
The conquests of Rome modified the vernacular dialects of not a few of its subjugated provinces, and greatly promoted the diffusion of Latin. That language, which had gradually spread throughout Italy and the west of Europe, was at length understood by persons of rank and education in most parts of the empire. But in the time of Augustus, Greek was spoken still more extensively. Several centuries before, it had been planted in all the countries conquered by Alexander the Great, and it was now, not only the most general, but also the most fashionable medium of communication. Even Rome swarmed with learned Greeks, who employed their native tongue when giving instruction in the higher branches of education. Greece itself, however, was considered the head-quarters of intellectual cultivation, and the wealthier Romans were wont to send their sons to its celebrated seats of learning, to improve their acquaintance with philosophy and literature.
The Roman Empire in the time of Augustus presents to the eye of contemplation a most interesting spectacle, whether we survey its territorial magnitude, its political power, or its intellectual activity. But when we look more minutely at its condition, we may discover many other strongly marked and less inviting features. That stern patriotism, which imparted so much dignity to the old Roman character, had now disappeared, and its place was occupied by ambition or covetousness. Venality reigned throughout every department of the public administration. Those domestic virtues, which are at once the ornaments and the strength of the community, were comparatively rare; and the prevalence of luxury and licentiousness proclaimed the unsafe state of the social fabric. There was a growing disposition to evade the responsibilities of marriage, and a large portion of the citizens of Rome deliberately preferred the system of concubinage to the state of wedlock. The civil wars, which had created such confusion and involved such bloodshed, had passed away; but the peace which followed was, rather the quietude of exhaustion, than the repose of contentment.
The state of the Roman Empire about the time of the birth of Christ abundantly proves that there is no necessary connexion between intellectual refinement and social regeneration. The cultivation of the arts and sciences in the reign of Augustus may have been beneficial to a few, by diverting them from the pursuit of vulgar pleasures, and opening up to them sources of more rational enjoyment; but it is a most humiliating fact that, during the brightest period in the history of Roman literature, vice in every form was fast gaining ground among almost all classes of the population. The Greeks, though occupying a higher position as to mental accomplishments, were still more dissolute than the Latins. Among them literature and sensuality appeared in revolting combination, for their courtesans were their only females who attended to the culture of the intellect. [7:1]
Nor is it strange that the Roman Empire at this period exhibited such a scene of moral pollution. There was nothing in either the philosophy or the religion of heathenism sufficient to counteract the influence of man's native depravity. In many instances the speculations of the pagan sages had a tendency, rather to weaken, than to sustain, the authority of conscience. After unsettling the foundations of the ancient superstition, the mind was left in doubt and bewilderment; for the votaries of what was called wisdom entertained widely different views even of its elementary principles. The Epicureans, who formed a large section of the intellectual aristocracy, denied the doctrine of Providence, and pronounced pleasure to be the ultimate end of man. The Academics encouraged a spirit of disputatious scepticism; and the Stoics, who taught that the practice of, what they rather vaguely designated, virtue, involves its own reward, discarded the idea of a future retribution. Plato had still a goodly number of disciples; and though his doctrines, containing not a few elements of sublimity and beauty, exercised a better influence, it must be admitted, after all, that they constituted a most unsatisfactory system of cold and barren mysticism. The ancient philosophers delivered many excellent moral precepts; but, as they wanted the light of revelation, their arguments in support of duty were essentially defective, and the lessons which they taught had often very little influence either on themselves or others. [8:1] Their own conduct seldom marked them out as greatly superior to those around them, so that neither their instructions nor their example contributed efficiently to elevate the character of their generation.
Though the philosophers fostered a spirit of inquiry, yet, as they made little progress in the discovery of truth, they were not qualified to act with the skill and energy of enlightened reformers; and, whatever may have been the amount of their convictions, they made no open and resolute attack on the popular mythology. A very superficial examination was, indeed, enough to shake the credit of the heathen worship. The reflecting subjects of the Roman Empire might have remarked the very awkward contrast between the multiplicity of their deities, and the unity of their political government. It was the common belief that every nation had its own divine guardians, and that the religious rites of one country might be fully acknowledged without impugning the claims of those of another; but still a thinking pagan might have been staggered by the consideration that a human being had apparently more extensive authority than some of his celestial overseers, and that the jurisdiction of the Roman emperor was established over a more ample territory than that which was assigned to many of the immortal gods.
But the multitude of its divinities was by no means the most offensive feature of heathenism. The gods of antiquity, more particularly those of Greece, were of an infamous character. Whilst they were represented by their votaries as excelling in beauty and activity, strength and intelligence, they were at the same time described as envious and gluttonous, base, lustful, and revengeful. Jupiter, the king of the gods, was deceitful and licentious; Juno, the queen of heaven, was cruel and tyrannical. What could be expected from those who honoured such deities? Some of the wiser heathens, such as Plato, [9:1] condemned their mythology as immoral, for the conduct of one or other of the gods might have been quoted in vindication of every species of transgression; and had the Gentiles but followed the example of their own heavenly hierarchy, they might have felt themselves warranted in pursuing a course either of the most diabolical oppression, or of the most abominable profligacy. [9:2]
At the time of the birth of our Lord even the Jews had sunk into a state of the grossest degeneracy. They were now divided into sects, two of which, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, are frequently mentioned in the New Testament. The Pharisees were the leading denomination, being by far the most numerous and powerful. By adding to the written law a mass of absurd or frivolous traditions, which, as they foolishly alleged, were handed down from Moses, they completely subverted the authority of the sacred record, and changed the religion of the patriarchs and prophets into a wearisome parade of superstitious observances. The Sadducees were comparatively few, but as a large proportion of them were persons of rank and wealth, they possessed a much greater amount of influence than their mere numbers would have enabled them to command. It has been said that they admitted the divine authority only of the Pentateuch, [10:1] and though it may be doubted whether they openly ventured to deny the claims of all the other books of the Old Testament, it is certain that they discarded the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, [10:2] and that they were disposed to self-indulgence and to scepticism. There was another still smaller Jewish sect, that of the Essenes, of which there is no direct mention in the New Testament. The members of this community resided chiefly in the neighbourhood of the Dead Sea, and as our Lord seldom visited that quarter of the country, it would appear that, during the course of His public ministry, He rarely or never came in contact with these religionists. Some of them were married, but the greater number lived in celibacy, and spent much of their time in contemplation. They are said to have had a common-stock purse, and their course of life closely resembled that of the monks of after-times.
Though the Jews, as a nation, were now sunk in sensuality or superstition, there were still some among them, such as Simeon and Anna, noticed in the Gospel of Luke, [10:3] who were taught of God, and who exhibited a spirit of vital piety. "The law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul," and as the books of the Old Testament were committed to the keeping of the posterity of Abraham, there were "hidden ones" here and there who discovered the way to heaven by the perusal of these "lively oracles." We have reason to believe that the Jews were faithful conservators of the inspired volume, as Christ uniformly takes for granted the accuracy of their "Scriptures." [11:1] It is an important fact that they did not admit into their canon the writings now known under the designation of the Apocrypha. [11:2] Nearly three hundred years before the appearance of our Lord, the Old Testament had been translated into the Greek language, and thus, at this period, the educated portion of the population of the Roman Empire had all an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the religion of the chosen people. The Jews were now scattered over the earth, and as they erected synagogues in the cities where they settled, the Gentile world had ample means of information in reference to their faith and worship.
Whilst the dispersion of the Jews disseminated a knowledge of their religion, it likewise suggested the approaching dissolution of the Mosaic economy, as it was apparent that their present circumstances absolutely required another ritual. It could not be expected that individuals dwelling in distant countries could meet three times in the year at Jerusalem to celebrate the great festivals. The Israelites themselves had a presentiment of coming changes, and anxiously awaited the appearance of a Messiah. They were actuated by an extraordinary zeal for proselytism, [11:3] and though their scrupulous adherence to a stern code of ceremonies often exposed them to much obloquy, they succeeded, notwithstanding, in making many converts in most of the places where they resided. [12:1] A prominent article of their creed was adopted in a quarter where their theology otherwise found no favour, for the Unity of the Great First Cause was now distinctly acknowledged in the schools of the philosophers. [12:2]
From the preceding statements we may sec the peculiar significance of the announcement that God sent forth His Son into the world "when the fulness of the time was come." [12:3] Various predictions [12:4] pointed out this age as the period of the Messiah's Advent, and Gentiles, as well as Jews, seem by some means to have caught up the expectation that an extraordinary personage was now about to appear on the theatre of human existence. [12:5] Providence had obviously prepared the way for the labours of a religious reformer. The civil wars which had convulsed the state were now almost forgotten, and though the hostile movements of the Germans, and other barbarous tribes on the confines of the empire, occasionally created uneasiness or alarm, the public mind was generally unoccupied by any great topic of absorbing interest. In the populous cities the multitude languished for excitement, and sought to dissipate the time in the forum, the circus, or the amphitheatre. At such a crisis the heralds of the most gracious message that ever greeted the ears of men might hope for a patient hearing. Even the consolidation of so many nations under one government tended to "the furtherance of the gospel," for the gigantic roads, which radiated from Rome to the distant regions of the east and of the west, facilitated intercourse; and the messengers of the Prince of Peace could travel from country to country without suspicion and without passports. And well might the Son of God be called "The desire of all nations." [13:1] Though the wisest of the pagan sages could not have described the renovation which the human family required, and though, when the Redeemer actually appeared, He was despised and rejected of men, there was, withal, a wide spread conviction that a Saviour was required, and there was a longing for deliverance from the evils which oppressed society. The ancient superstitions were rapidly losing their hold on the affection and confidence of the people, and whilst the light of philosophy was sufficient to discover the absurdities of the prevailing polytheism, it failed to reveal any more excellent way of purity and comfort. The ordinances of Judaism, which were "waxing old" and "ready to vanish away," were types which were still unfulfilled; and though they pointed out the path to glory, they required an interpreter to expound their import. This Great Teacher now appeared. He was born in very humble circumstances, and yet He was the heir of an empire beyond comparison more illustrious than that of the Caesars. "There was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed." [13:2]
THE LIFE OF CHRIST.
Nearly three years before the commencement of our era, [14:1] Jesus Christ was born. The Holy Child was introduced into the world under circumstances extremely humiliating. A decree had gone forth from Caesar Augustus that all the Roman Empire should be taxed, and the Jews, as a conquered people, were obliged to submit to an arrangement which proclaimed their national degradation. The reputed parents of Jesus resided at Nazareth, a town of Galilee; but, as they were "of the house and lineage of David," they were obliged to repair to Bethlehem, a village about six miles south of Jerusalem, to be entered in their proper place in the imperial registry. "And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that Mary should be delivered, and she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." [14:2]
This child of poverty and of a despised race, born in the stable of the lodging-house of an insignificant town belonging to a conquered province, did not enter upon life surrounded by associations which betokened a career of earthly prosperity. But intimations were not wanting that the Son of Mary was regarded with the deepest interest by the inhabitants of heaven. An angel had appeared to announce the conception of the individual who was to be the herald of his ministry; [15:1] and another angel had been sent to give notice of the incarnation of this Great Deliverer. [15:2] When He was born, the angel of the Lord communicated the tidings to shepherds in the plains of Bethlehem; "and suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying—Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." [15:3] Inanimate nature called attention to the advent of the illustrious babe, for a wonderful star made known to wise men from the east the incarnation of the King of Israel; and when they came to Jerusalem "the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was." [15:4] The history of these eastern sages cannot now be explored, and we know not on what grounds they regarded the star as the sign of the Messiah; but they rightly interpreted the appearance, and the narrative warrants us to infer that they acted under the guidance of divine illumination. As they were "warned of God in a dream" [15:5] to return to their own country another way, we may presume that they were originally directed by some similar communication to undertake the journey. It is probable that they did not belong to the stock of Abraham; and if so, their visit to the babe at Bethlehem may be recognised as the harbinger of the union of Jews and Gentiles under the new economy. The presence of these Orientals in Jerusalem attracted the notice of the watchful and jealous tyrant who then occupied the throne of Judea. Their story filled him with alarm; and his subjects anticipated some tremendous outbreak of his suspicions and savage temper. "When the king had heard these things he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him." [15:6] His rage soon vented itself in a terrible explosion. Having ascertained from the chief priests and scribes of the people where Christ was to be born, he "sent forth and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under." [16:1]
Joseph and Mary, in accordance with a message from heaven, had meanwhile fled towards the border of Egypt, and thus the holy infant escaped this carnage. The wise men, on the occasion of their visit, had "opened their treasures," and had "presented unto him gifts, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh," [16:2] so that the poor travellers had providentially obtained means for defraying the expenses of their journey. The slaughter of the babes of Bethlehem was one of the last acts of the bloody reign of Herod; and, on his demise, the exiles were divinely instructed to return, and the child was presented in the temple. This ceremony evoked new testimonies to His high mission. On His appearance in His Father's house, the aged Simeon, moved by the Spirit from on high, embraced Him as the promised Shiloh; and Anna, the prophetess, likewise gave thanks to God, and "spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem." [16:3] Thus, whilst the Old Testament predictions pointed to Jesus as the Christ, living prophets appeared to interpret these sacred oracles, and to bear witness to the claims of the new-born Saviour.
Though the Son of Mary was beyond all comparison the most extraordinary personage that ever appeared on earth, it is remarkable that the sacred writers enter into scarcely any details respecting the history of His infancy, His youth, or His early manhood. They tell us that "the child grew and waxed strong in spirit," [17:1] and that He "increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man;" [17:2] but they do not minutely trace the progress of His mental development, neither do they gratify any feeling of mere curiosity by giving us His infantile biography. In what is omitted by the penmen of the New Testament, as well as in what is written we must acknowledge the guidance of inspiration; and though we might have perused with avidity a description of the pursuits of Jesus when a child, such a record has not been deemed necessary for the illustration of the work of redemption. It would appear that He spent about thirty years on earth almost unnoticed and unknown; and He seems to have been meanwhile trained to the occupation of a carpenter. [17:3] The obscurity of His early career must doubtless be regarded as one part of His humiliation. But the circumstances in which He was placed enabled Him to exhibit more clearly the divinity of His origin. He did not receive a liberal education, so that when He came forward as a public teacher "the Jews marvelled, saying—How knoweth this man letters having never learned?" [17:4] When He was only twelve years old, He was "found in the temple sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions; and all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers." [18:1] As He grew up, He was distinguished by His diligent attendance in the house of God; and it seems not improbable that He was in the habit of officiating at public worship by assisting in the reading of the law and the prophets; for we are told that, shortly after the commencement of His ministry, "He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath-day, and stood up for to read." [18:2]
When He was about thirty years of age, and immediately before His public appearance as a prophet, our Lord was baptized of John in Jordan. [18:3] The Baptist did not, perhaps, preach longer than six months, [18:4] but it is probable that during his imprisonment of considerably upwards of a year, he still contributed to prepare the way of Christ; for, in the fortress of Machaerus in which he was incarcerated, [18:5] he was not kept in utter ignorance of passing occurrences, and when permitted to hold intercourse with his friends, he would doubtless direct their special attention to the proceedings of the Great Prophet. The claims of John, as a teacher sent from God, were extensively acknowledged; and therefore his recognition of our Lord as the promised Messiah, must have made a deep impression upon the minds of the Israelites. The miracles of our Saviour corroborated the testimony of His forerunner, and created a deep sensation. He healed "all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease." [19:1] It was, consequently, not strange that "His fame went throughout all Syria," and that "there followed him great multitudes of people, from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan." [19:2]
Even when the Most High reveals himself there is something mysterious in the manifestation, so that, whilst we acknowledge the tokens of His presence, we may well exclaim—"Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour." [19:3] When He displayed His glory in the temple of old, He filled it with thick darkness; [19:4] when He delivered the sure word of prophecy, He employed strange and misty language; when He announced the Gospel itself, He uttered some things hard to be understood. It might have been said, too, of the Son of God, when He appeared on earth, that His "footsteps were not known." In early life He does not seem to have arrested the attention of His own townsmen; and when He came forward to assert His claims as the Messiah, He did not overawe or dazzle his countrymen by any sustained demonstration of tremendous power or of overwhelming splendour. To-day the multitude beheld His miracles with wonder, but to-morrow they could not tell where to meet with Him; [19:5] ever and anon He appeared and disappeared; and occasionally His own disciples found it difficult to discover the place of His retirement. When He arrived in a district, thousands often hastily gathered around Him; [19:6] but He never encouraged the attendance of vast assemblages by giving general notice that, in a specified place and on an appointed day, He would deliver a public address, or perform a new and unprecedented miracle. We may here see the wisdom of Him who "doeth all things well." Whilst the secresy with which He conducted His movements baffled any premature attempts on the part of His enemies, to effect His capture or condemnation, it also checked that intense popular excitement which a ministry so extraordinary might have been expected to awaken.
Four inspired writers have given separate accounts of the life of Christ—all repeat many of His wonderful sayings—all dwell with marked minuteness on the circumstances of His death—and all attest the fact of His resurrection. Each mentions some things which the others have omitted; and each apparently observes the order of time in the details of his narrative. But when we combine and arrange their various statements, so as to form the whole into one regular and comprehensive testimony, we discover that there are not a few periods of His life still left utterly blank in point of incidents; and that there is no reference whatever to topics which we might have expected to find particularly noticed in the biography of so eminent a personage. After His appearance as a public teacher, He seems, not only to have made sudden transitions from place to place, but otherwise to have often courted the shade; and, instead of unfolding the circumstances of His private history, the evangelists dwell chiefly on His Discourses and His Miracles. During His ministry, Capernaum was His headquarters; [20:1] but we cannot positively tell with whom He lodged in that place; nor whether the twelve sojourned there under the same roof with Him; nor how much time He spent in it at any particular period. We cannot point out the precise route which He pursued on any occasion when itinerating throughout Galilee or Judea; neither are we sure that He always journeyed on foot, or that He adhered to a uniform mode of travelling. It is most singular that the inspired writers throw out no hint on which an artist might seize as the groundwork of a painting of Jesus. As if to teach us more emphatically that we should beware of a sensuous superstition, and that we should direct our thoughts to the spiritual features of His character, the New Testament never mentions either the colour of His hair, or the height of His stature, or the cast of His countenance. How wonderful that even "the beloved disciple," who was permitted to lean on the bosom of the Son of man, and who had seen him in the most trying circumstances of His earthly history, never speaks of the tones of His voice, or of the expression of His eye, or of any striking peculiarity pertaining to His personal appearance! The silence of all the evangelists respecting matters of which at least some of them must have retained a very vivid remembrance, and of which ordinary biographers would not have failed to preserve a record, supplies an indirect and yet a most powerful proof of the Divine origin of the Gospels.
But whilst the sacred writers enter so sparingly into personal details, they leave no doubt as to the perfect integrity which marked every part of our Lord's proceedings. He was born in a degenerate age, and brought up in a city of Galilee which had a character so infamous that no good thing was expected to proceed from it; [21:1] and yet, like a ray of purest light shining into some den of uncleanness, He contracted no defilement from the scenes of pollution which He was obliged to witness. Even in boyhood, He must have uniformly acted with supreme discretion; for though His enemies from time to time gave vent to their malignity in various accusations, we do not read that they ever sought to cast so much as a solitary stain upon His youthful reputation. The most malicious of the Jews failed to fasten upon Him in after life any charge of immorality. Among those constantly admitted to His familiar intercourse, a traitor was to be found; and had Judas been able to detect anything in His private deportment inconsistent with His public profession, he would doubtless have proclaimed it as an apology for his perfidy; but the keen eye of that close observer could not discover a single blemish in the character of his Master; and, when prompted by covetousness, he betrayed Him to the chief priests, the thought of having been accessory to the death of one so kind and so holy, continued to torment him, until it drove him to despair and to self-destruction.
The doctrine inculcated by our Lord commended itself by the light of its own evidence. It was nothing more than a lucid and comprehensive exposition of the theology of the Old Testament; and yet it, presented such a new view of the faith of patriarchs and of prophets, that it had all the freshness and interest of an original revelation. It discovered a most intimate acquaintance with the mental constitution of man—it appealed with mighty power to the conscience—and it was felt to be exactly adapted to the moral state and to the spiritual wants of the human family. The disciples of Jesus did not require to be told that He had "the key of knowledge," for they were delighted and edified as "He opened" to them the Scriptures. [22:1] He taught the multitude "as one having authority;" [22:2] and they were "astonished at His doctrine." The discourses of the Scribes, their most learned instructors, were meagre and vapid—they were not calculated to enlarge the mind or to move the affections—they consisted frequently of doubtful disputations relating to the ceremonials of their worship—and the very air with which they were delivered betrayed the insignificance of the topics of discussion. But Jesus spake with a dignity which commanded respect, and with the deep seriousness of a great Teacher delivering to perishing sinners tidings of unutterable consequence.
There was something singularly beautiful and attractive, as well as majestic and impressive, in the teaching of our Lord. The Sermon on the Mount is a most pleasing specimen of His method of conveying instruction. Whilst He gives utterance to sentiments of exalted wisdom, He employs language so simple, and imagery so chaste and natural, that even a child takes a pleasure in perusing His address. There is reason to think that He did not begin to speak in parables until a considerable time after He had entered upon His ministry. [23:1] By these symbolical discourses He at once blinded the eyes of His enemies, and furnished materials for profitable meditation to His genuine disciples. The parables, like the light of prophecy, are, to this very day, a beacon to the Church, and a stumbling-block to unbelievers.
The claims of Jesus as the Christ were decisively established by the Divine power which He manifested. It had been foretold that certain extraordinary recoveries from disease and infirmity would be witnessed in the days of the Messiah; and these predictions were now literally fulfilled. The eyes of the blind were opened, and the ears of the deaf were unstopped; the lame man leaped as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sang. [23:2] Not a few of the cures of our Saviour were wrought on individuals to whom He was personally unknown; [23:3] and many of His works of wonder were performed in the presence of friends and foes. [23:4] Whilst His miracles exceeded in number all those recorded in the Old Testament, they were still more remarkable for their variety and their excellence. By His touch, or His word, he healed the most inveterate maladies; He fed the multitude by thousands out of a store of provisions which a little boy could carry; [24:1] He walked upon the waves of the sea, when it was agitated by a tempest; [24:2] He made the storm a calm, so that the wind at once ceased to blow, and the surface of the deep reposed, at the same moment, in glassy smoothness; [24:3] He cast out devils; and He restored life to the dead. Well might the Pharisees be perplexed by the inquiry—"How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?" [23:4] It is quite possible that false prophets, by the help of Satan, may accomplish feats fitted to excite astonishment; and yet, in such cases, the agents of the Wicked One may be expected to exhibit some symptoms of his spirit and character. But nothing diabolical, or of an evil tendency, appeared in the miracles of our Lord. With the one exception of the cursing of the barren fig-tree [24:5]—a malediction which created no pain, and involved no substantial loss—all his displays of power were indicative of His goodness and His mercy. No other than a true prophet would have been enabled so often to control the course of nature, in the production of results of such utility, such benignity, and such grandeur.
The miracles of Christ illustrated, as well as confirmed, His doctrines. When, for instance, He converted the water into wine at the marriage in Cana of Galilee. [24:6] He taught, not only that he approved of wedlock, but also that, within proper limits, He was disposed to patronise the exercise of a generous hospitality, in some cases He required faith in the individuals whom He vouchsafed to cure, [24:7] thus distinctly suggesting the way of a sinner's salvation. Many of His miracles were obviously of a typical character. When He acted as the physician of the body, He indirectly gave evidence of His efficiency as the physician of the soul; when He restored sight to the blind, He indicated that He could turn men from darkness to light; when He raised the dead, He virtually demonstrated His ability to quicken such as are dead in trespasses and sins. Those who witnessed the visible exhibitions of His power were prepared to listen with the deepest interest to His words when He declared—"I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." [25:1]
Though our Lord's conduct, as a public teacher, fully sustained His claims as the Messiah, it must have been a complete enigma to all classes of politicians. He did not seek to obtain power by courting the favour of the great, neither did He attempt to gain popularity by flattering the prejudices of the multitude. He wounded the national pride by hinting at the destruction of the temple; He gave much offence by holding intercourse with the odious publicans; and with many, He forfeited all credit, as a patriot, by refusing to affirm the unlawfulness of paying tribute to the Roman emperor. The greatest human characters have been occasionally swayed by personal predilections or antipathies, but, in the life of Christ, we can discover no memorial of any such infirmity. Like a sage among children, He did not permit Himself to be influenced by the petty partialities, whims, or superstitions of His countrymen. He inculcated a theological system for which He could not expect the support of any of the existing classes of religionists. He differed from the Essenes, as He did not adopt their ascetic habits; He displeased the Sadducees, by asserting the doctrine of the resurrection; He provoked the Pharisees, by declaring that they worshipped God in vain, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men; and He incurred the hostility of the whole tribe of Jewish zealots, by maintaining His right to supersede the arrangements of the Mosaic economy. By pursuing this independent course He vindicated His title to the character of a Divine lawgiver, but at the same time He forfeited a vast amount of sympathy and aid upon which He might otherwise have calculated.
There has been considerable diversity of opinion regarding the length of our Saviour's ministry. [26:1] We could approximate very closely to a correct estimate could we tell the number of passovers from its commencement to its close, but this point cannot be determined with absolute certainty. Four are apparently mentioned [26:2] by the evangelist John; and if, as is probable, they amounted to no more, it would seem that our Lord's career, as a public teacher, was of about three years' duration. [26:3] The greater part of this period was spent in Galilee; and the sacred writers intimate that He made several circuits, as a missionary, among the cities and villages of that populous district. [26:4] Matthew, Mark, and Luke dwell chiefly upon this portion of His history. Towards the termination of His course, Judea was the principal scene of His ministrations. Jerusalem was the centre of Jewish power and prejudice, and He had hitherto chiefly laboured in remote districts of the land, that He might escape the malignity of the scribes and Pharisees; but, as His end approached, He acted with greater publicity, and often taught openly in the very courts of the temple. John supplements the narratives of the other evangelists by recording our Lord's proceedings in Judea.
A few members of the Sanhedrim, such as Nicodemus, [27:1] believed Jesus to be "a teacher come from God," but by far the majority regarded Him with extreme aversion. They could not imagine that the son of a carpenter was to be the Saviour of their country, for they expected the Messiah to appear surrounded with all the splendour of secular magnificence. They were hypocritical and selfish; they had been repeatedly rebuked by Christ for their impiety; and, as they marked His increasing favour with the multitude, their envy and indignation became ungovernable. They accordingly seized Him at the time of the Passover, and, on the charge that He said He was the Son of God, He was condemned as a blasphemer. [27:2] He suffered crucifixion—an ignominious form of capital punishment from which the laws of the empire exempted every Roman citizen—and, to add to His disgrace, He was put to death between two thieves. [27:3] But even Pontius Pilate, who was then Procurator of Judea, and who, in that capacity, endorsed the sentence, was constrained to acknowledge that He was a "just person" in whom He could find "no fault." [27:4] Pilate was a truckling time-server, and he acquiesced in the decision, simply because he was afraid to exasperate the Jews by rescuing from their grasp an innocent man whom they persecuted with unrelenting hatred. [27:5]
The death of Christ, of which all the evangelists treat so particularly, is the most awful and the most momentous event in the history of the world. He, no doubt, fell a victim to the malice of the rulers of the Jews; but He was delivered into their hands "by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God;" [28:1] and if we discard the idea that He was offered up as a vicarious sacrifice, we must find it impossible to give anything like a satisfactory account of what occurred in Gethsemane and at Calvary. The amount of physical suffering He sustained from man did not exceed that endured by either of the malefactors with whom He was associated; and such was His magnanimity and fortitude, that, had He been an ordinary martyr, the prospect of crucifixion would not have been sufficient to make Him "exceeding sorrowful" and "sore amazed." [28:2] His holy soul must have been wrung with no common agony, when "His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground," [28:3] and when He was forced to cry out—"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" [28:4] In that hour of "the power of darkness" He was "smitten of God and afflicted," and there was never sorrow like unto His sorrow, for upon Him were laid "the iniquities of us all."
The incidents which accompanied the death of Jesus were even more impressive than those which signalised His birth. When He was in the garden of Gethsemane there appeared unto Him an angel from Heaven strengthening Him. [28:5] During the three concluding hours of His intense anguish on the cross, there was darkness overall the land, [28:6] as if nature mourned along with the illustrious sufferer. When He bowed His head on Calvary and gave up the ghost, the event was marked by notifications such as never announced the demise of any of this world's great potentates, for "the veil of the temple was rent in twain," and the rocks were cleft asunder, and the graves were opened, and the earth trembled. [29:1] "The centurion and they that were with him," in attendance at the execution, seem to have been Gentiles; and though, doubtless, they had heard that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah of the Jews, they perhaps very imperfectly comprehended the import of the designation; but they were forthwith overwhelmed with the conviction, that He, whose death they had just witnessed, must have given a true account of His mission and His dignity, for "when they saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying—Truly this was the Son of God" [29:2]