The Ancient Church: Its History, Doctrine, Worship, and Constitution (2024)

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Title: The Ancient Church: Its History, Doctrine, Worship, and Constitution

Author: W. D. Killen

Release date: September 15, 2005 [eBook #16700]
Most recently updated: December 12, 2020

Language: English

Credits: Produced by PG Distributed Proofreaders


Produced by PG Distributed Proofreaders

Its History, Doctrine, Worship, and Constitution,
Traced for the First Three Hundred Years.



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.


I cannot permit this Edition of "The Ancient Church" to appear beforethe citizens of the United States without acknowledging my obligationsto Mr Charles Scribner of New York. Mr Scribner was the first gentlemanconnected with the noble profession to which he belongs, either in theOld or in the New World, from whom I received encouragement in thisundertaking; and his prompt and generous offers aided me materially inmaking arrangements for the publication of the work in Great Britain.Every line of the present impression has been corrected by myself, andshould my life be spared, any future Edition which Mr Scribner maypublish is to appear under the same supervision. I trust that the Tradethroughout the Union will recognize the debt of gratitude which I owe tomy American friend. There is a higher law than the law of internationalcopyright, and I feel confident that no Publisher of honour andintegrity 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 someexplanation. As the progress of the Christian commonwealth for the firstthree hundred years has been recently described by British, German, andAmerican writers of eminent ability, it may, perhaps, be thought thatthe subject is now exhausted. No competent judge will pronounce such anopinion. During the last quarter of a century, various questionsrelating to the ancient Church, which are almost, if not altogether,ignored in existing histories, have been earnestly discussed; whilstseveral documents, lately discovered, have thrown fresh light on itstransactions. There are, besides, points of view, disclosing unexploredfields for thought, from which the ecclesiastical landscape has neveryet been contemplated. The following work is an attempt to exhibit someof its features as seen from a new position.

The importance of this portion of the history of the Church can scarcelybe over-estimated. Our attention is here directed to the life of Christ,to the labours of the apostles and evangelists, to the doctrines whichthey taught, to the form of worship which they sanctioned, to theorganization of the community which they founded, and to the indomitableconstancy with which its members suffered persecution. The practicalbearing of the topics thus brought under review must be sufficientlyobvious.

In the interval between the days of the apostles and the conversion ofConstantine, the Christian commonwealth changed its aspect. The Bishopof Rome—a personage unknown to the writers of the New Testament—meanwhile rose into prominence, and at length took precedence ofall other churchmen. Rites and ceremonies, of which neither Paul norPeter ever heard, crept silently into use, and then claimed the rank ofdivine institutions. Officers, for whom the primitive disciples couldhave found no place, and titles, which to them would have beenaltogether unintelligible, began to challenge attention, and to be namedapostolic. It is the duty of the historian to endeavour to point out theorigin, and to trace the progress of these innovations. A satisfactoryaccount of them must go far to settle more than one of our presentcontroversies. An attempt is here made to lay bare the causes whichproduced these changes, and to mark the stages of the ecclesiasticalrevolution. When treating of the rise and growth of the hierarchy,several remarkable facts and testimonies which have escaped the noticeof preceding historians are particularly noticed.

Some may, perhaps, consider that, in a work such as this, undueprominence has been given to the discussion of the question of theIgnatian epistles. Those who have carefully examined the subject willscarcely think so. If we accredit these documents, the history of theearly Church is thrown into a state of hopeless confusion; and men,taught and honoured by the apostles themselves, must have inculcated themost dangerous errors. But if their claims vanish, when touched by thewand of truthful criticism, many clouds which have hitherto darkened theecclesiastical atmosphere disappear; and the progress of corruption canbe traced on scientific principles. The special attention of allinterested in the Ignatian controversy is invited to the two chapters ofthis work in which the subject is investigated. Evidence is thereproduced to prove that these Ignatian letters, even as edited by thevery learned and laborious Doctor Cureton, are utterly spurious, andthat they should be swept away from among the genuine remains of earlyChurch literature with the besom of scorn.

Throughout the work very decided views are expressed on a variety oftopics; but it must surely be unnecessary to tender an apology for thefree utterance of these sentiments; for, when recording the progress ofa revolution affecting the highest interests of man, the narrator cannotbe expected to divest himself of his cherished convictions; and very fewwill venture to maintain that a writer, who feels no personal interestin the great principles brought to light by the gospel, is, on thataccount, more competent to describe the faith, the struggles, and thetriumphs of the primitive Christians. I am not aware that mere prejudicehas ever been permitted to influence my narrative, or that any statementhas been made which does not rest upon solid evidence. Some of the viewshere presented may not have been suggested by any previous investigator,and they may be exceedingly damaging to certain popular theories; butthey should not, therefore, be summarily condemned. Surely every honesteffort to explain and reconcile the memorials of antiquity is entitledto a candid criticism. Nor, from those whose opinion is really worthy ofrespect, do I despair of a kindly reception for this volume. One of themost hopeful signs of the times is the increasing charity of evangelicalChristians. There is a growing disposition to discountenance the spiritof religious partisanship, and to bow to the supremacy of TRUTH. I trustthat those who are in quest of the old paths trodden by the apostles andthe martyrs will find some light to guide them in the following pages.

* * * * *


* * * * *




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 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



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 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



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



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



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



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 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



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
Circ*mstances which, at an early period, gave prominence to the
Church of Rome, ib.
Its remarkable history, 162



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





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



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.



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.





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



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



Unity of the Church of Israel, 248Christian Church also made up of associated congregations, 249The Apostles act upon the principle of ecclesiastical confederation, 250Polity of the Christian Church borrowed from the institutions of the Israelites, 251Account of the Sanhedrim and inferior Jewish courts, ib.Evidences of similar arrangements in the Christian Church, 253How the meeting mentioned in the 15th chapter of the Acts differed in its construction from the Sanhedrim, 254Why we have not a more particular account of the government of the Christian Church in the New Testament, 255No higher and lower houses of convocation in the apostolic Church, ib.James not bishop of Jerusalem, 256Origin of the story, ib.Jerusalem for some time the stated place of meeting of the highest court of the Christian Church, 257Traces of provincial organization in Proconsular Asia, Galatia, and other districts, among the apostolic Churches, 258Intercourse between apostolic Churches, by letters and deputations, 260How there were preachers in the apostolic Church of whom the Apostles disapproved, 261The unity of the apostolic Church—in what it consisted, to what it may be compared, 262



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

* * * * *


* * * * *





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



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



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



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 circ*mstances 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



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 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 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 history of these Epistles like the story of the Sibylline books, 413The three Curetonian Letters as objectionable as those formerly published, 414The style suspicious, challenged by Ussher, 415The Word of God strangely ignored in these letters, ib.Their chronological blunders betray their forgery, 417Various words in them have a meaning which they did not acquire until after the time of Ignatius, 419Their puerilities, vapouring, and mysticism betray their spuriousness, 422The anxiety for martyrdom displayed in them attests their forgery, 423The internal evidence confirms the view already taken of the date of their fabrication, 425Strange attachment of Episcopalians to these letters, 426The sagacity of Calvin, 427


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



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





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.



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 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.



Statement of Justin Martyr, 499
Great obscurity resting on the subject, 500
Illustrated by the Epistles of Clement and Polycarp, ib.
Circ*mstances 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



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.



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



History of the word Catholic, 561
Circ*mstances 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



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



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
Circ*mstances 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



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
Circ*mstances which led to a change in their constitution, ib.
Decline of primitive polity, 622



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 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

* * * * *


* * * * *




Upwards of a quarter of a century before the Birth of Christ, thegrandnephew of Julius Caesar had become sole master of the Roman world.Never, perhaps, at any former period, had so many human beingsacknowledged the authority of a single potentate. Some of the mostpowerful monarchies at present in Europe extend over only a fraction ofthe territory which Augustus governed: the Atlantic on the west, theEuphrates on the east, the Danube and the Rhine on the north, and thedeserts of Africa on the south, were the boundaries of his empire.

We do not adequately estimate the rank of Augustus among contemporarysovereigns, when we consider merely the superficial extent of thecountries placed within the range of his jurisdiction. His subjectsprobably formed more than one-third of the entire population of theglobe, and amounted to about one hundred millions of souls.[Endnote 3:1]His empire embraced within its immense circumference the best cultivatedand the most civilised portions of the earth. The remains of itspopulous cities, its great fortresses, its extensive aqueducts, and itsstately temples, may still be pointed out as the memorials of itsgrandeur. The capital was connected with the most distant provinces bycarefully constructed roads, along which the legions could march withease and promptitude, either to quell an internal insurrection, or toencounter an invading enemy. And the military resources at the commandof Augustus were abundantly sufficient to maintain obedience among themyriads whom he governed. After the victory of Actium he was at the headof upwards of forty veteran legions; and though some of these had beendecimated by war, yet, when recruited, and furnished with their fullcomplement of auxiliaries, they constituted a force of little less thanhalf a million of soldiers.

The arts of peace now nourished under the sunshine of imperialpatronage. Augustus could boast, towards the end of his reign, that hehad converted Rome from a city of brick huts into a city of marblepalaces. The wealth of the nobility was enormous; and, excited by theexample of the Emperor and his friend Agrippa, they erected anddecorated mansions in a style of regal magnificence. The taste cherishedin the capital was soon widely diffused; and, in a comparatively shortperiod, many new and gorgeous temples and cities appeared throughout theempire. Herod the Great expended vast sums on architecturalimprovements. 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 undisputedpre-eminence in the history of Roman eloquence and literature. Cicero,the prince of Latin orators, now delivered those addresses whichperpetuate his fame; Sallust and Livy produced works which are stillregarded as models of historic composition; Horace, Virgil, and others,acquired celebrity as gifted and accomplished poets. Among the subjectsfitted to exercise and expand the intellect, religion was notoverlooked. In the great cities of the empire many were to be found whodevoted themselves to metaphysical and ethical studies; and questions,bearing upon the highest interests of man, were discussed in the schoolsof the philosophers.

The barbarous nations under the dominion of Augustus derived manyadvantages from their connexion with the Roman empire. They had, nodoubt, often reason to complain of the injustice and rapacity ofprovincial governors; but, on the whole, they had a larger share ofsocial comfort than they could have enjoyed had they preserved theirindependence; for their domestic feuds were repressed by the presence oftheir powerful rulers, and the imperial armies were at hand to protectthem against foreign aggression. By means of the constant intercoursekept up with all its dependencies, the skill and information of themetropolis of Italy were gradually imparted to the rude tribes under itssway, and thus the conquest of a savage country by the Romans was animportant step towards its civilisation. The union of so many nations ina great state was otherwise beneficial to society. A Roman citizen mighttravel without hindrance from Armenia to the British Channel; and as allthe countries washed by the Mediterranean were subject to the empire,their inhabitants could carry on a regular and prosperous traffic byavailing themselves of the facilities of navigation.

The conquests of Rome modified the vernacular dialects of not a few ofits subjugated provinces, and greatly promoted the diffusion of Latin.That language, which had gradually spread throughout Italy and the westof Europe, was at length understood by persons of rank and education inmost parts of the empire. But in the time of Augustus, Greek was spokenstill more extensively. Several centuries before, it had been planted inall the countries conquered by Alexander the Great, and it was now, notonly the most general, but also the most fashionable medium ofcommunication. Even Rome swarmed with learned Greeks, who employed theirnative tongue when giving instruction in the higher branches ofeducation. Greece itself, however, was considered the head-quarters ofintellectual cultivation, and the wealthier Romans were wont to sendtheir sons to its celebrated seats of learning, to improve theiracquaintance with philosophy and literature.

The Roman Empire in the time of Augustus presents to the eye ofcontemplation a most interesting spectacle, whether we survey itsterritorial magnitude, its political power, or its intellectualactivity. But when we look more minutely at its condition, we maydiscover many other strongly marked and less inviting features. Thatstern patriotism, which imparted so much dignity to the old Romancharacter, had now disappeared, and its place was occupied by ambitionor covetousness. Venality reigned throughout every department of thepublic administration. Those domestic virtues, which are at once theornaments and the strength of the community, were comparatively rare;and the prevalence of luxury and licentiousness proclaimed the unsafestate of the social fabric. There was a growing disposition to evade theresponsibilities of marriage, and a large portion of the citizens ofRome deliberately preferred the system of concubinage to the state ofwedlock. The civil wars, which had created such confusion and involvedsuch 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 Christabundantly proves that there is no necessary connexion betweenintellectual refinement and social regeneration. The cultivation of thearts and sciences in the reign of Augustus may have been beneficial to afew, by diverting them from the pursuit of vulgar pleasures, and openingup to them sources of more rational enjoyment; but it is a mosthumiliating fact that, during the brightest period in the history ofRoman literature, vice in every form was fast gaining ground amongalmost all classes of the population. The Greeks, though occupying ahigher position as to mental accomplishments, were still more dissolutethan the Latins. Among them literature and sensuality appeared inrevolting combination, for their courtesans were their only females whoattended to the culture of the intellect. [7:1]

Nor is it strange that the Roman Empire at this period exhibited such ascene of moral pollution. There was nothing in either the philosophy orthe religion of heathenism sufficient to counteract the influence ofman's native depravity. In many instances the speculations of the pagansages had a tendency, rather to weaken, than to sustain, the authorityof conscience. After unsettling the foundations of the ancientsuperstition, the mind was left in doubt and bewilderment; for thevotaries of what was called wisdom entertained widely different viewseven of its elementary principles. The Epicureans, who formed a largesection of the intellectual aristocracy, denied the doctrine ofProvidence, and pronounced pleasure to be the ultimate end of man. TheAcademics encouraged a spirit of disputatious scepticism; and theStoics, who taught that the practice of, what they rather vaguelydesignated, virtue, involves its own reward, discarded the idea of afuture retribution. Plato had still a goodly number of disciples; andthough his doctrines, containing not a few elements of sublimity andbeauty, exercised a better influence, it must be admitted, after all,that they constituted a most unsatisfactory system of cold and barrenmysticism. The ancient philosophers delivered many excellent moralprecepts; but, as they wanted the light of revelation, their argumentsin support of duty were essentially defective, and the lessons whichthey taught had often very little influence either on themselves orothers. [8:1] Their own conduct seldom marked them out as greatlysuperior to those around them, so that neither their instructions northeir example contributed efficiently to elevate the character of theirgeneration.

Though the philosophers fostered a spirit of inquiry, yet, as they madelittle progress in the discovery of truth, they were not qualified toact with the skill and energy of enlightened reformers; and, whatevermay have been the amount of their convictions, they made no open andresolute attack on the popular mythology. A very superficial examinationwas, indeed, enough to shake the credit of the heathen worship. Thereflecting subjects of the Roman Empire might have remarked the veryawkward contrast between the multiplicity of their deities, and theunity of their political government. It was the common belief that everynation had its own divine guardians, and that the religious rites of onecountry might be fully acknowledged without impugning the claims ofthose of another; but still a thinking pagan might have been staggeredby the consideration that a human being had apparently more extensiveauthority than some of his celestial overseers, and that thejurisdiction of the Roman emperor was established over a more ampleterritory than that which was assigned to many of the immortal gods.

But the multitude of its divinities was by no means the most offensivefeature of heathenism. The gods of antiquity, more particularly those ofGreece, were of an infamous character. Whilst they were represented bytheir votaries as excelling in beauty and activity, strength andintelligence, they were at the same time described as envious andgluttonous, base, lustful, and revengeful. Jupiter, the king of thegods, was deceitful and licentious; Juno, the queen of heaven, was crueland tyrannical. What could be expected from those who honoured suchdeities? Some of the wiser heathens, such as Plato, [9:1] condemnedtheir mythology as immoral, for the conduct of one or other of the godsmight have been quoted in vindication of every species of transgression;and had the Gentiles but followed the example of their own heavenlyhierarchy, they might have felt themselves warranted in pursuing acourse either of the most diabolical oppression, or of the mostabominable profligacy. [9:2]

At the time of the birth of our Lord even the Jews had sunk into a stateof the grossest degeneracy. They were now divided into sects, two ofwhich, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, are frequently mentioned in theNew Testament. The Pharisees were the leading denomination, being by farthe most numerous and powerful. By adding to the written law a mass ofabsurd or frivolous traditions, which, as they foolishly alleged, werehanded down from Moses, they completely subverted the authority of thesacred record, and changed the religion of the patriarchs and prophetsinto a wearisome parade of superstitious observances. The Sadducees werecomparatively few, but as a large proportion of them were persons ofrank and wealth, they possessed a much greater amount of influence thantheir mere numbers would have enabled them to command. It has been saidthat they admitted the divine authority only of the Pentateuch, [10:1]and though it may be doubted whether they openly ventured to deny theclaims of all the other books of the Old Testament, it is certain thatthey discarded the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, [10:2] andthat they were disposed to self-indulgence and to scepticism. There wasanother still smaller Jewish sect, that of the Essenes, of which thereis no direct mention in the New Testament. The members of this communityresided chiefly in the neighbourhood of the Dead Sea, and as our Lordseldom visited that quarter of the country, it would appear that, duringthe course of His public ministry, He rarely or never came in contactwith these religionists. Some of them were married, but the greaternumber 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 lifeclosely resembled that of the monks of after-times.

Though the Jews, as a nation, were now sunk in sensuality orsuperstition, 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 whoexhibited a spirit of vital piety. "The law of the Lord is perfectconverting the soul," and as the books of the Old Testament werecommitted to the keeping of the posterity of Abraham, there were "hiddenones" here and there who discovered the way to heaven by the perusal ofthese "lively oracles." We have reason to believe that the Jews werefaithful conservators of the inspired volume, as Christ uniformly takesfor granted the accuracy of their "Scriptures." [11:1] It is animportant fact that they did not admit into their canon the writings nowknown under the designation of the Apocrypha. [11:2] Nearly threehundred years before the appearance of our Lord, the Old Testament hadbeen translated into the Greek language, and thus, at this period, theeducated portion of the population of the Roman Empire had all anopportunity of becoming acquainted with the religion of the chosenpeople. The Jews were now scattered over the earth, and as they erectedsynagogues in the cities where they settled, the Gentile world had amplemeans of information in reference to their faith and worship.

Whilst the dispersion of the Jews disseminated a knowledge of theirreligion, it likewise suggested the approaching dissolution of theMosaic economy, as it was apparent that their present circ*mstancesabsolutely required another ritual. It could not be expected thatindividuals dwelling in distant countries could meet three times in theyear at Jerusalem to celebrate the great festivals. The Israelitesthemselves had a presentiment of coming changes, and anxiously awaitedthe appearance of a Messiah. They were actuated by an extraordinary zealfor proselytism, [11:3] and though their scrupulous adherence to a sterncode of ceremonies often exposed them to much obloquy, they succeeded,notwithstanding, in making many converts in most of the places where theyresided. [12:1] A prominent article of their creed was adopted in aquarter where their theology otherwise found no favour, for the Unity ofthe Great First Cause was now distinctly acknowledged in the schools ofthe philosophers. [12:2]

From the preceding statements we may sec the peculiar significance ofthe announcement that God sent forth His Son into the world "when thefulness of the time was come." [12:3] Various predictions [12:4]pointed out this age as the period of the Messiah's Advent, andGentiles, as well as Jews, seem by some means to have caught up theexpectation that an extraordinary personage was now about to appear onthe theatre of human existence. [12:5] Providence had obviously preparedthe way for the labours of a religious reformer. The civil wars whichhad convulsed the state were now almost forgotten, and though thehostile movements of the Germans, and other barbarous tribes on theconfines of the empire, occasionally created uneasiness or alarm, thepublic mind was generally unoccupied by any great topic of absorbinginterest. In the populous cities the multitude languished forexcitement, and sought to dissipate the time in the forum, the circus,or the amphitheatre. At such a crisis the heralds of the most graciousmessage that ever greeted the ears of men might hope for a patienthearing. Even the consolidation of so many nations under one governmenttended to "the furtherance of the gospel," for the gigantic roads, whichradiated from Rome to the distant regions of the east and of the west,facilitated intercourse; and the messengers of the Prince of Peace couldtravel 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 therenovation which the human family required, and though, when theRedeemer actually appeared, He was despised and rejected of men, therewas, withal, a wide spread conviction that a Saviour was required, andthere was a longing for deliverance from the evils which oppressedsociety. The ancient superstitions were rapidly losing their hold on theaffection and confidence of the people, and whilst the light ofphilosophy was sufficient to discover the absurdities of the prevailingpolytheism, it failed to reveal any more excellent way of purity andcomfort. The ordinances of Judaism, which were "waxing old" and "readyto vanish away," were types which were still unfulfilled; and thoughthey pointed out the path to glory, they required an interpreter toexpound their import. This Great Teacher now appeared. He was born invery humble circ*mstances, and yet He was the heir of an empire beyondcomparison more illustrious than that of the Caesars. "There was givenhim dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, andlanguages, should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion,which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not bedestroyed." [13:2]


Nearly three years before the commencement of our era, [14:1] JesusChrist was born. The Holy Child was introduced into the world undercirc*mstances extremely humiliating. A decree had gone forth from CaesarAugustus that all the Roman Empire should be taxed, and the Jews, as aconquered people, were obliged to submit to an arrangement whichproclaimed their national degradation. The reputed parents of Jesusresided at Nazareth, a town of Galilee; but, as they were "of the houseand lineage of David," they were obliged to repair to Bethlehem, avillage about six miles south of Jerusalem, to be entered in theirproper place in the imperial registry. "And so it was, that, while theywere there, the days were accomplished that Mary should be delivered,and she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddlingclothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them inthe inn." [14:2]

This child of poverty and of a despised race, born in the stable of thelodging-house of an insignificant town belonging to a conqueredprovince, did not enter upon life surrounded by associations whichbetokened a career of earthly prosperity. But intimations were notwanting that the Son of Mary was regarded with the deepest interest bythe inhabitants of heaven. An angel had appeared to announce theconception 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 incarnationof this Great Deliverer. [15:2] When He was born, the angel of the Lordcommunicated the tidings to shepherds in the plains of Bethlehem; "andsuddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly hostpraising God and saying—Glory to God in the highest, and on earthpeace, good will toward men." [15:3] Inanimate nature called attentionto the advent of the illustrious babe, for a wonderful star made knownto wise men from the east the incarnation of the King of Israel; andwhen they came to Jerusalem "the star, which they saw in the east, wentbefore 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 weknow not on what grounds they regarded the star as the sign of theMessiah; but they rightly interpreted the appearance, and the narrativewarrants us to infer that they acted under the guidance of divineillumination. As they were "warned of God in a dream" [15:5] to returnto their own country another way, we may presume that they wereoriginally directed by some similar communication to undertake thejourney. It is probable that they did not belong to the stock ofAbraham; and if so, their visit to the babe at Bethlehem may berecognised as the harbinger of the union of Jews and Gentiles under thenew economy. The presence of these Orientals in Jerusalem attracted thenotice of the watchful and jealous tyrant who then occupied the throneof Judea. Their story filled him with alarm; and his subjectsanticipated some tremendous outbreak of his suspicions and savagetemper. "When the king had heard these things he was troubled, and allJerusalem with him." [15:6] His rage soon vented itself in a terribleexplosion. Having ascertained from the chief priests and scribes of thepeople where Christ was to be born, he "sent forth and slew all thechildren that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from twoyears old and under." [16:1]

Joseph and Mary, in accordance with a message from heaven, had meanwhilefled towards the border of Egypt, and thus the holy infant escaped thiscarnage. The wise men, on the occasion of their visit, had "opened theirtreasures," and had "presented unto him gifts, gold, and frankincense,and myrrh," [16:2] so that the poor travellers had providentiallyobtained means for defraying the expenses of their journey. Theslaughter of the babes of Bethlehem was one of the last acts of thebloody reign of Herod; and, on his demise, the exiles were divinelyinstructed to return, and the child was presented in the temple. Thisceremony evoked new testimonies to His high mission. On His appearancein His Father's house, the aged Simeon, moved by the Spirit from onhigh, embraced Him as the promised Shiloh; and Anna, the prophetess,likewise gave thanks to God, and "spake of him to all them that lookedfor redemption in Jerusalem." [16:3] Thus, whilst the Old Testamentpredictions pointed to Jesus as the Christ, living prophets appeared tointerpret these sacred oracles, and to bear witness to the claims of thenew-born Saviour.

Though the Son of Mary was beyond all comparison the most extraordinarypersonage that ever appeared on earth, it is remarkable that the sacredwriters enter into scarcely any details respecting the history of Hisinfancy, His youth, or His early manhood. They tell us that "the childgrew and waxed strong in spirit," [17:1] and that He "increased inwisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man;" [17:2] but they donot minutely trace the progress of His mental development, neither dothey gratify any feeling of mere curiosity by giving us His infantilebiography. In what is omitted by the penmen of the New Testament, aswell as in what is written we must acknowledge the guidance ofinspiration; and though we might have perused with avidity a descriptionof the pursuits of Jesus when a child, such a record has not been deemednecessary for the illustration of the work of redemption. It wouldappear that He spent about thirty years on earth almost unnoticed andunknown; and He seems to have been meanwhile trained to the occupationof a carpenter. [17:3] The obscurity of His early career must doubtlessbe regarded as one part of His humiliation. But the circ*mstances inwhich He was placed enabled Him to exhibit more clearly the divinity ofHis origin. He did not receive a liberal education, so that when He cameforward as a public teacher "the Jews marvelled, saying—How knoweththis man letters having never learned?" [17:4] When He was only twelveyears old, He was "found in the temple sitting in the midst of thedoctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions; and all thatheard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers." [18:1] AsHe grew up, He was distinguished by His diligent attendance in the houseof God; and it seems not improbable that He was in the habit ofofficiating at public worship by assisting in the reading of the law andthe prophets; for we are told that, shortly after the commencement ofHis 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, andstood up for to read." [18:2]

When He was about thirty years of age, and immediately before His publicappearance 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] butit is probable that during his imprisonment of considerably upwards of ayear, he still contributed to prepare the way of Christ; for, in thefortress of Machaerus in which he was incarcerated, [18:5] he was notkept in utter ignorance of passing occurrences, and when permitted tohold intercourse with his friends, he would doubtless direct theirspecial attention to the proceedings of the Great Prophet. The claims ofJohn, as a teacher sent from God, were extensively acknowledged; andtherefore his recognition of our Lord as the promised Messiah, must havemade a deep impression upon the minds of the Israelites. The miracles ofour Saviour corroborated the testimony of His forerunner, and created adeep sensation. He healed "all manner of sickness, and all manner ofdisease." [19:1] It was, consequently, not strange that "His fame wentthroughout all Syria," and that "there followed him great multitudes ofpeople, from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and fromJudea, and from beyond Jordan." [19:2]

Even when the Most High reveals himself there is something mysterious inthe manifestation, so that, whilst we acknowledge the tokens of Hispresence, we may well exclaim—"Verily thou art a God that hidestthyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour." [19:3] When He displayed Hisglory in the temple of old, He filled it with thick darkness; [19:4]when He delivered the sure word of prophecy, He employed strange andmisty language; when He announced the Gospel itself, He uttered somethings hard to be understood. It might have been said, too, of the Sonof 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 owntownsmen; and when He came forward to assert His claims as the Messiah,He did not overawe or dazzle his countrymen by any sustaineddemonstration of tremendous power or of overwhelming splendour. To-daythe multitude beheld His miracles with wonder, but to-morrow they couldnot tell where to meet with Him; [19:5] ever and anon He appeared anddisappeared; and occasionally His own disciples found it difficult todiscover the place of His retirement. When He arrived in a district,thousands often hastily gathered around Him; [19:6] but He neverencouraged the attendance of vast assemblages by giving general noticethat, in a specified place and on an appointed day, He would deliver apublic address, or perform a new and unprecedented miracle. We may heresee the wisdom of Him who "doeth all things well." Whilst the secresywith which He conducted His movements baffled any premature attempts onthe part of His enemies, to effect His capture or condemnation, it alsochecked that intense popular excitement which a ministry soextraordinary might have been expected to awaken.

Four inspired writers have given separate accounts of the life ofChrist—all repeat many of His wonderful sayings—all dwell with markedminuteness on the circ*mstances of His death—and all attest the fact ofHis resurrection. Each mentions some things which the others haveomitted; and each apparently observes the order of time in the detailsof his narrative. But when we combine and arrange their variousstatements, so as to form the whole into one regular and comprehensivetestimony, we discover that there are not a few periods of His lifestill left utterly blank in point of incidents; and that there is noreference whatever to topics which we might have expected to findparticularly noticed in the biography of so eminent a personage. AfterHis appearance as a public teacher, He seems, not only to have madesudden transitions from place to place, but otherwise to have oftencourted the shade; and, instead of unfolding the circ*mstances of Hisprivate history, the evangelists dwell chiefly on His Discourses and HisMiracles. During His ministry, Capernaum was His headquarters; [20:1]but we cannot positively tell with whom He lodged in that place; norwhether the twelve sojourned there under the same roof with Him; nor howmuch time He spent in it at any particular period. We cannot point outthe precise route which He pursued on any occasion when itineratingthroughout Galilee or Judea; neither are we sure that He alwaysjourneyed 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 whichan artist might seize as the groundwork of a painting of Jesus. As if toteach us more emphatically that we should beware of a sensuoussuperstition, and that we should direct our thoughts to the spiritualfeatures of His character, the New Testament never mentions either thecolour of His hair, or the height of His stature, or the cast of Hiscountenance. How wonderful that even "the beloved disciple," who waspermitted to lean on the bosom of the Son of man, and who had seen himin the most trying circ*mstances of His earthly history, never speaks ofthe tones of His voice, or of the expression of His eye, or of anystriking peculiarity pertaining to His personal appearance! The silenceof all the evangelists respecting matters of which at least some of themmust have retained a very vivid remembrance, and of which ordinarybiographers would not have failed to preserve a record, supplies anindirect and yet a most powerful proof of the Divine origin of theGospels.

But whilst the sacred writers enter so sparingly into personal details,they leave no doubt as to the perfect integrity which marked every partof our Lord's proceedings. He was born in a degenerate age, and broughtup in a city of Galilee which had a character so infamous that no goodthing was expected to proceed from it; [21:1] and yet, like a ray ofpurest light shining into some den of uncleanness, He contracted nodefilement 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 invarious accusations, we do not read that they ever sought to cast somuch as a solitary stain upon His youthful reputation. The mostmalicious of the Jews failed to fasten upon Him in after life any chargeof immorality. Among those constantly admitted to His familiarintercourse, a traitor was to be found; and had Judas been able todetect anything in His private deportment inconsistent with His publicprofession, he would doubtless have proclaimed it as an apology for hisperfidy; but the keen eye of that close observer could not discover asingle blemish in the character of his Master; and, when prompted bycovetousness, he betrayed Him to the chief priests, the thought ofhaving been accessory to the death of one so kind and so holy, continuedto torment him, until it drove him to despair and to self-destruction.

The doctrine inculcated by our Lord commended itself by the light of itsown evidence. It was nothing more than a lucid and comprehensiveexposition of the theology of the Old Testament; and yet it, presentedsuch a new view of the faith of patriarchs and of prophets, that it hadall the freshness and interest of an original revelation. It discovereda most intimate acquaintance with the mental constitution of man—itappealed with mighty power to the conscience—and it was felt to beexactly adapted to the moral state and to the spiritual wants of thehuman family. The disciples of Jesus did not require to be told that Hehad "the key of knowledge," for they were delighted and edified as "Heopened" to them the Scriptures. [22:1] He taught the multitude "as onehaving authority;" [22:2] and they were "astonished at His doctrine."The discourses of the Scribes, their most learned instructors, weremeagre and vapid—they were not calculated to enlarge the mind or tomove the affections—they consisted frequently of doubtful disputationsrelating to the ceremonials of their worship—and the very air withwhich they were delivered betrayed the insignificance of the topics ofdiscussion. But Jesus spake with a dignity which commanded respect, andwith the deep seriousness of a great Teacher delivering to perishingsinners tidings of unutterable consequence.

There was something singularly beautiful and attractive, as well asmajestic and impressive, in the teaching of our Lord. The Sermon on theMount is a most pleasing specimen of His method of conveyinginstruction. Whilst He gives utterance to sentiments of exalted wisdom,He employs language so simple, and imagery so chaste and natural, thateven a child takes a pleasure in perusing His address. There is reasonto think that He did not begin to speak in parables until a considerabletime after He had entered upon His ministry. [23:1] By these symbolicaldiscourses He at once blinded the eyes of His enemies, and furnishedmaterials for profitable meditation to His genuine disciples. Theparables, like the light of prophecy, are, to this very day, a beacon tothe Church, and a stumbling-block to unbelievers.

The claims of Jesus as the Christ were decisively established by theDivine power which He manifested. It had been foretold that certainextraordinary recoveries from disease and infirmity would be witnessedin the days of the Messiah; and these predictions were now literallyfulfilled. The eyes of the blind were opened, and the ears of the deafwere unstopped; the lame man leaped as an hart, and the tongue of thedumb sang. [23:2] Not a few of the cures of our Saviour were wrought onindividuals to whom He was personally unknown; [23:3] and many of Hisworks of wonder were performed in the presence of friends and foes.[23:4] Whilst His miracles exceeded in number all those recorded in theOld Testament, they were still more remarkable for their variety andtheir excellence. By His touch, or His word, he healed the mostinveterate maladies; He fed the multitude by thousands out of a store ofprovisions which a little boy could carry; [24:1] He walked upon thewaves of the sea, when it was agitated by a tempest; [24:2] He made thestorm a calm, so that the wind at once ceased to blow, and the surfaceof the deep reposed, at the same moment, in glassy smoothness; [24:3] Hecast out devils; and He restored life to the dead. Well might thePharisees be perplexed by the inquiry—"How can a man that is a sinnerdo such miracles?" [23:4] It is quite possible that false prophets, bythe help of Satan, may accomplish feats fitted to excite astonishment;and yet, in such cases, the agents of the Wicked One may be expected toexhibit some symptoms of his spirit and character. But nothingdiabolical, or of an evil tendency, appeared in the miracles of ourLord. With the one exception of the cursing of the barren fig-tree[24:5]—a malediction which created no pain, and involved no substantialloss—all his displays of power were indicative of His goodness and Hismercy. No other than a true prophet would have been enabled so often tocontrol the course of nature, in the production of results of suchutility, 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 inCana of Galilee. [24:6] He taught, not only that he approved of wedlock,but also that, within proper limits, He was disposed to patronise theexercise of a generous hospitality, in some cases He required faith inthe individuals whom He vouchsafed to cure, [24:7] thus distinctlysuggesting the way of a sinner's salvation. Many of His miracles wereobviously of a typical character. When He acted as the physician of thebody, He indirectly gave evidence of His efficiency as the physician ofthe soul; when He restored sight to the blind, He indicated that Hecould turn men from darkness to light; when He raised the dead, Hevirtually demonstrated His ability to quicken such as are dead intrespasses and sins. Those who witnessed the visible exhibitions of Hispower were prepared to listen with the deepest interest to His wordswhen He declared—"I am the light of the world; he that followeth meshall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." [25:1]

Though our Lord's conduct, as a public teacher, fully sustained Hisclaims as the Messiah, it must have been a complete enigma to allclasses of politicians. He did not seek to obtain power by courting thefavour of the great, neither did He attempt to gain popularity byflattering the prejudices of the multitude. He wounded the nationalpride by hinting at the destruction of the temple; He gave much offenceby holding intercourse with the odious publicans; and with many, Heforfeited all credit, as a patriot, by refusing to affirm theunlawfulness of paying tribute to the Roman emperor. The greatest humancharacters have been occasionally swayed by personal predilections orantipathies, but, in the life of Christ, we can discover no memorial ofany such infirmity. Like a sage among children, He did not permitHimself to be influenced by the petty partialities, whims, orsuperstitions of His countrymen. He inculcated a theological system forwhich He could not expect the support of any of the existing classes ofreligionists. He differed from the Essenes, as He did not adopt theirascetic habits; He displeased the Sadducees, by asserting the doctrineof the resurrection; He provoked the Pharisees, by declaring that theyworshipped God in vain, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men;and He incurred the hostility of the whole tribe of Jewish zealots, bymaintaining His right to supersede the arrangements of the Mosaiceconomy. By pursuing this independent course He vindicated His title tothe character of a Divine lawgiver, but at the same time He forfeited avast amount of sympathy and aid upon which He might otherwise havecalculated.

There has been considerable diversity of opinion regarding the length ofour Saviour's ministry. [26:1] We could approximate very closely to acorrect estimate could we tell the number of passovers from itscommencement to its close, but this point cannot be determined withabsolute certainty. Four are apparently mentioned [26:2] by theevangelist John; and if, as is probable, they amounted to no more, itwould seem that our Lord's career, as a public teacher, was of aboutthree years' duration. [26:3] The greater part of this period was spentin Galilee; and the sacred writers intimate that He made severalcircuits, as a missionary, among the cities and villages of thatpopulous district. [26:4] Matthew, Mark, and Luke dwell chiefly uponthis portion of His history. Towards the termination of His course,Judea was the principal scene of His ministrations. Jerusalem was thecentre of Jewish power and prejudice, and He had hitherto chieflylaboured in remote districts of the land, that He might escape themalignity of the scribes and Pharisees; but, as His end approached, Heacted with greater publicity, and often taught openly in the very courtsof the temple. John supplements the narratives of the other evangelistsby recording our Lord's proceedings in Judea.

A few members of the Sanhedrim, such as Nicodemus, [27:1] believed Jesusto be "a teacher come from God," but by far the majority regarded Himwith extreme aversion. They could not imagine that the son of acarpenter was to be the Saviour of their country, for they expected theMessiah to appear surrounded with all the splendour of secularmagnificence. They were hypocritical and selfish; they had beenrepeatedly rebuked by Christ for their impiety; and, as they marked Hisincreasing favour with the multitude, their envy and indignation becameungovernable. 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 condemnedas a blasphemer. [27:2] He suffered crucifixion—an ignominious form ofcapital punishment from which the laws of the empire exempted everyRoman citizen—and, to add to His disgrace, He was put to death betweentwo thieves. [27:3] But even Pontius Pilate, who was then Procurator ofJudea, and who, in that capacity, endorsed the sentence, was constrainedto acknowledge that He was a "just person" in whom He could find "nofault." [27:4] Pilate was a truckling time-server, and he acquiesced inthe decision, simply because he was afraid to exasperate the Jews byrescuing from their grasp an innocent man whom they persecuted withunrelenting 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 theworld. He, no doubt, fell a victim to the malice of the rulers of theJews; but He was delivered into their hands "by the determinate counseland foreknowledge of God;" [28:1] and if we discard the idea that He wasoffered up as a vicarious sacrifice, we must find it impossible to giveanything like a satisfactory account of what occurred in Gethsemane andat Calvary. The amount of physical suffering He sustained from man didnot exceed that endured by either of the malefactors with whom He wasassociated; and such was His magnanimity and fortitude, that, had Hebeen an ordinary martyr, the prospect of crucifixion would not have beensufficient to make Him "exceeding sorrowful" and "sore amazed." [28:2]His holy soul must have been wrung with no common agony, when "His sweatwas 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 thouforsaken 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 Hissorrow, for upon Him were laid "the iniquities of us all."

The incidents which accompanied the death of Jesus were even moreimpressive than those which signalised His birth. When He was in thegarden of Gethsemane there appeared unto Him an angel from Heavenstrengthening Him. [28:5] During the three concluding hours of Hisintense anguish on the cross, there was darkness overall the land,[28:6] as if nature mourned along with the illustrious sufferer. When Hebowed His head on Calvary and gave up the ghost, the event was marked bynotifications such as never announced the demise of any of this world'sgreat potentates, for "the veil of the temple was rent in twain," andthe rocks were cleft asunder, and the graves were opened, and the earthtrembled. [29:1] "The centurion and they that were with him," inattendance at the execution, seem to have been Gentiles; and though,doubtless, they had heard that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah of theJews, they perhaps very imperfectly comprehended the import of thedesignation; but they were forthwith overwhelmed with the conviction,that He, whose death they had just witnessed, must have given a trueaccount of His mission and His dignity, for "when they saw theearthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly,saying—Truly this was the Son of God" [29:2]

The body of our Lord was committed to the grave on the evening ofFriday, and, early on the morning of the following Sunday, He issuedfrom the tomb. An ordinary individual has no control over the durationof his existence, but Jesus demonstrated that He had power to lay downHis life, and that He had power to take it again. [29:3] Had He been adeceiver His delusions must have terminated with His death, so that Hisresurrection must be regarded as His crowning miracle, or rather, as theaffixing of the broad seal of heaven to the truth of His mission as theMessiah. It was, besides, the fulfilment of an ancient prophecy; [29:4]a proof of His fore-knowledge; [29:5] and a pledge of the resurrectionof His disciples. [29:6] Hence, in the New Testament, [29:7] it is sooften mentioned with marked emphasis.

There is no fact connected with the life of Christ better attested thanthat of His resurrection. He was put to death by His enemies; and Hisbody was not removed from the cross until they were fully satisfied thatthe vital spark had fled. [29:8] His tomb was scooped out of a solidrock; [29:9] the stone which blocked up the entrance was sealed with allcare; and a military guard kept constant watch to prevent its violation.[30:1] But in due time an earthquake shook the cemetery—"The angel ofthe Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone fromthe door and sat upon it … and for fear of him the keepers did shake,and became as dead men." [30:2] Our Lord meanwhile came forth from thegrave, and the sentinels, in consternation, hastened to the chiefpriests and communicated the astounding intelligence. [30:3] But theseinfatuated men, instead of yielding to the force of this overwhelmingevidence, endeavoured to conceal their infamy by the base arts ofbribery and falsehood. "They gave large money unto the soldiers,saying—Say ye—His disciples came by night and stole him away while weslept…so they took the money, and did as they were taught." [30:4]

Jesus, as the first-born of Mary, was presented in the temple forty daysafter His birth; and, as "the first-begotten of the dead," [30:5] Hepresented Himself before His Father, in the temple above, forty daysafter He had opened the womb of the grave. During the interval heappeared only to His own followers. [30:6] Those who had so long and sowilfully rejected the testimony of His teaching and His miracles, hadcertainly no reason to expect any additional proofs of His Divinemission. But the Lord manifests Himself to His Church, "and not unto theworld," [30:7] and to such as fear His name He is continually supplyingnew and interesting illustrations of His presence, His power, Hiswisdom, and His mercy. Whilst He is a pillar of darkness to His foes, Heis a pillar of light to His people. Though Jesus was now invisible tothe Scribes and Pharisees, He admitted His disciples to high and holyfellowship. Now their hearts burned within them as He spake to them "ofthe things pertaining to the kingdom of God," [31:1] and as "Heexpounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerningHimself." [31:2] Now He doubtless pointed out to them how He wassymbolised in the types, how He was exhibited in the promises, and howHe was described in the prophecies. Now He explained to them more fullythe arrangements of His Church, and now He commanded His apostles to goand "teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and ofthe Son, and of the Holy Ghost." [31:3] Having assured the twelve of Hispresence with His true servants even unto the end of the world, andhaving led them out as far as Bethany, a village a few furlongs fromJerusalem, "he lifted up his hands and blessed them. And it came topass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried upinto heaven." [31:4]

Thus closed the earthly career of Him who is both the Son of man and theSon of God. Though He was sorely tried by the privations of poverty,though He was exposed to the most brutal and degrading insults, andthough at last He was forsaken by His friends and consigned to a deathof lingering agony, He never performed a single act or uttered a singleword unworthy of His exalted and blessed mission. The narratives of theevangelists supply clear internal evidence that, when they described thehistory of Jesus, they must have copied from a living original; forotherwise, no four individuals, certainly no four Jews, could have eachfurnished such a portrait of so great and so singular a personage.Combining the highest respect for the institutions of Moses with aspirit eminently catholic, He was at once a devout Israelite and alarge-hearted citizen of the world. Rising far superior to theprejudices of His countrymen, He visited Samaria, and conversed freelywith its population; and, whilst declaring that He was sent specially tothe seed of Abraham, He was ready to extend His sympathy to theirbitterest enemies. Though He took upon Him the form of a servant, therewas nothing mean or servile in His behaviour; for, when He humbledHimself, there was ever about Him an air of condescending majesty.Whether He administers comfort to the mourner, or walks upon the wavesof the sea, or replies to the cavils of the Pharisees, He is still thesame calm, holy, and gracious Saviour. When His passion was immediatelyin view, He was as kind and as considerate as ever, for, on the verynight in which He was betrayed, He was employed in the institution of anordinance which was to serve as a sign and a seal of His gracethroughout all generations. His character is as sublime as it isoriginal. It has no parallel in the history of the human family. Theimpostor is cunning, the demagogue is turbulent, and the fanatic isabsurd; but the conduct of Jesus Christ is uniformly gentle and serene,candid, courteous, and consistent. Well, indeed, may His name be calledWonderful. "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and theworld know him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.But an many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons ofGod, even to them that believe on his name." [32:1]



The Christian era commences on the 1st of January of the year 754 of thecity of Rome. That our Lord was born about the time stated in the textmay appear from the following considerations—

The visit of the wise men to Bethlehem must have taken place a very fewdays after the birth of Jesus, and before His presentation in thetemple. Bethlehem was not the stated residence of Joseph and Mary,either before or after the birth of the child (Luke i. 26, ii. 4, 39;Matt. ii. 2). They were obliged to repair to the place on account of thetaxing, and immediately after the presentation in the temple, theyreturned to Nazareth and dwelt there (Luke ii. 39). Had the visit of thewise men occurred, as some think, six, or twelve, or eighteen monthsafter the birth, the question of Herod to "the chief priests and scribesof the people" where "Christ should be born"—would have been quitevain, as the infant might have been removed long before to another partof the country. The wise men manifestly expected to see a newly borninfant, and hence they asked—"where is he that is born King of theJews?" (Matt. ii. 2.) The evangelist also states expressly that they cameto Jerusalem "when Jesus was born" (Matt. ii. 1). At a subsequentperiod they would have found the Holy Child, not at Bethlehem, but atNazareth.

The only plausible objection to this view of the matter is derived fromthe statement that Herod "sent forth and slew all the children that werein Bethlehem and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old andunder, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of thewise men" (Matt. ii. 16). The king had ascertained from these sages"what time the star appeared" (Matt. ii. 7), and they seem to haveinformed him that it had been visible a year before. A Jewish child wassaid to be two years old when it had entered on its second year (seeGreswell's "Dissertations," vol. ii. 136); and, to make sure of hisprey, Herod murdered all the infants in Bethlehem and the neighbourhoodunder the age of thirteen months. The wise men had not told him that thechild was a year old—it was obvious that they thought verydifferently—but the tyrant butchered all who came, within the range ofsuspicion. It is highly probable that the star announced the appearanceof the Messiah twelve months before he was born. Such an intimation wasgiven of the birth of Isaac, who was a remarkable type of Christ (Gen.xvii. 21). See also 2 Kings iv. 16, and Dan. iv. 29, 33.

The presentation of the infant in the temple occurred after the deathof Herod. This follows as a corollary from what has been alreadyadvanced, for if the wise men visited Bethlehem immediately after thebirth, and if the child was then hurried away to Egypt, the presentationcould not have taken place earlier. The ceremony was performed fortydays after the birth (Luke ii. 22, and Lev. xii. 2, 3, 4), and as theflight and the return might both have been accomplished in eight or tendays, there was ample time for a sojourn of at least two or three weeksin that part of Egypt which was nearest to Palestine. Herod died duringthis brief exile, and yet his demise happened so soon before thedeparture of the holy family on their way home, that the intelligencehad not meanwhile reached Joseph by the voice of ordinary fame; anduntil his arrival in the land of Israel, he did not even know thatArchelaus reigned in Judea (Matt. ii. 22). He seems to have inferredfrom the dream that the dynasty of the Herodian family had beencompletely subverted, so that when he heard of the succession ofArchelaus "he was afraid" to enter his territory; but, at this juncture,being "counselled of God" in another dream, he took courage, proceededon his journey, and, after the presentation in the temple, "returnedinto the parts of Galilee."

That the presentation in the temple took place after the death of Herodis further manifest from the fact that the babe remained uninjured,though his appearance in the sacred courts awakened uncommon interest,and though Anna "spake of him to all them that looked for redemption inJerusalem" (Luke ii. 38). Herod had his spies in all quarters, and hadhe been yet living, the intelligence of the presentation and of itsextraordinary accompaniments, would have soon reached his ears, and hewould have made some fresh attempt upon the life of the infant. But whenthe babe was actually brought to the temple, the tyrant was no more.Jerusalem was in a state of great political excitement, and Archelaushad, perhaps, already set sail for Rome to secure from the emperor theconfirmation of his title to the kingdom (see Josephus' Antiq. xvii. c.9), so that it is not strange if the declarations of Simeon and Anna didnot attract any notice on the part of the existing rulers.

Assuming, then, that Christ was born a very short time before the deathof Herod, we have now to ascertain the date of the demise of thatmonarch. Josephus states (Antiq. xiv. 14, § 5) that Herod was made kingby the Roman Senate in the 184th Olympiad, when Calvinus and Pollio wereconsuls, that is, in the year of Rome 714; and that he reignedthirty-seven years (Antiq. xvii. 8, § 1). We may infer, therefore, thathis reign terminated in the year 751 of the city of Rome. He diedshortly before the passover; his disease seems to have been of a verylingering character; and he appears to have languished under it upwardsof a year (Josephus' Antiq. xvii. 6, § 4, 5, and xvii. 9, § 2, 3). Thepassover of 751 fell on the 31st of March (see Greswell's"Dissertations," vol. i. p. 331), and as our Lord was in all likelihoodborn early in the month, the Jewish king probably ended his days a weekor two afterwards, or about the time of the vernal equinox. According tothis computation the conception took place exactly at the feast ofPentecost, which fell, in 750, on the 31st of May.

This view is corroborated by Luke iii. 1, where it is said that the wordof God came to John the Baptist "in the fifteenth year of the reign ofTiberius Caesar." John's ministry had continued only a short time whenhe was imprisoned, and then Jesus "began to be about thirty years ofa*ge" (Luke iii. 23). Augustus died in August 767, and this year 767,according to a mode of reckoning then in use (see Hales' "Chronology,"i. 49, 171, and Luke xxiv. 21), was the first year of his successorTiberius. The fifteenth year of Tiberius, according to the same modeof calculation, commenced on the 1st of January 781 of the city of Rome,and terminated on the 1st of January 782. If then our Lord was bornabout the 1st of March 751 of Rome, and if the Baptist was imprisonedearly in 781, it could be said with perfect propriety that Jesus then"began to be about thirty years of age." This view is further confirmedby the fact that Quirinius, or Cyrenius, mentioned Luke ii. 2, wasfirst governor of Syria from the close of the year 750 of Rome to753. (See Merivale, iv. p. 457, note.) Our Lord was born under hisadministration, and according to the date we have assigned to thenativity, the "taxing" at Bethlehem must have taken place a few monthsafter Cyrenius entered into office.

This view of the date of the birth of Christ, which differs somewhatfrom that of any writer with whom I am acquainted, appears to meet allthe difficulties connected with this much-disputed question. It is basedpartly upon the principle, so ingeniously advocated by Whiston in his"Chronology," that the flight into Egypt took place before thepresentation in the temple. I have never yet met with any antagonist ofthat hypothesis who was able to give a satisfactory explanation of thetext on which it rests. Some other dates assigned for the birth ofChrist are quite inadmissible. In Judea shepherds could not have beenfound "abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night"(Luke ii. 8) in November, December, January, or, perhaps, February; butin March, and especially in a mild season, such a thing appears to havebeen quite common. (See Greswell's "Dissertations," vol. i. p. 391, andRobinson's "Biblical Researches," vol ii. p. 97, 98.) Hippolytus, one ofthe earliest Christian writers who touches on the subject, indicatesthat our Lord was born about the time of the passover. (See Greswell, i.461, 462.)


It has often been remarked that the personal preaching of our Lord wascomparatively barren. There can be no doubt that the effects produceddid not at all correspond to what might have been expected from sowonderful a ministry; but it had been predicted that the Messiah wouldbe "despised and rejected of men," [36:1] and the unbelief of the Jewswas one of the humiliating trials He was ordained to suffer during Hisabode on earth. "The Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesuswas not yet glorified." [36:2] We have, certainly, no evidence that anyof His discourses made such an impression as that which accompanied theaddress of Peter on the day of Pentecost. Immediately after theoutpouring of the Spirit at that period an abundant blessing followedthe proclamation of the gospel. But though Jesus often mourned over theobduracy of His countrymen, and though the truth, preached by Hisdisciples, was often more effective than when uttered by Himself, itcannot with propriety be said that His own evangelical labours wereunfruitful. The one hundred and twenty, who met in an upper room duringthe interval between His Ascension and the day of Pentecost [36:3] werebut a portion of His followers. The fierce and watchful opposition ofthe Sanhedrim had kept Him generally at a distance from Jerusalem; itwas there specially dangerous to profess an attachment to His cause; andwe may thus, perhaps, partially account for the paucity of His adherentsin the Jewish metropolis. His converts were more numerous in Galilee;and it was, probably, in that district He appeared to the company ofupwards of five hundred brethren who saw Him after His resurrection.[37:1] He had itinerated extensively as a missionary; and, from somestatements incidentally occurring in the gospels, we may infer, thatthere were individuals who had imbibed His doctrines in the cities andvillages of almost all parts of Palestine. [37:2] But the most signaland decisive proof of the power of His ministry is presented in the factthat, during the three years of its duration, He enlisted and sent forthno less than eighty-two preachers. Part of these have since been knownas "The Twelve," and the rest as "The Seventy."

The Twelve are frequently mentioned in the New Testament, and yet theinformation we possess respecting them is exceedingly scanty. Of some weknow little more than their names. It has been supposed that a towncalled Kerioth, [37:3] or Karioth, belonging to the tribe of Judah, wasthe birthplace of Judas, the traitor; [37:4] but it is probable that allhis colleagues were natives of Galilee. [37:5] Some of them had variousnames; and the consequent diversity which the sacred catalogues presenthas frequently perplexed the reader of the evangelical narratives.Matthew was also called Levi; [37:6] Nathanael was designatedBartholomew; [36:7] and Jude had the two other names of Lebbaeus andThaddaeus. [38:1] Thomas was called Didymus, [38:2] or the twin, inreference, we may presume, to the circ*mstances of his birth; James theson of Alphaeus was styled, perhaps by way of distinction, James "theLess" [38:3]—in allusion, it would seem, to the inferiority of hisstature; the other James and John were surnamed Boanerges, [38:4] or thesons of thunder—a title probably indicative of the peculiar solemnityand power of their ministrations; and Simon stands at the head of allthe lists, and is expressly said to be "first" of the Twelve, [38:5]because, as we have reason to believe, whilst his advanced age mighthave warranted him to claim precedence, his superior energy andpromptitude enabled him to occupy the most prominent position. The sameindividual was called Cephas, or Peter, or Stone, [38:6] apparently onaccount of the firmness of his character. His namesake, the other Simon,was termed the Canaanite, and also Zelotes, [38:7] or the zealot—atitle expressive, in all likelihood, of the zeal and earnestness withwhich he was wont to carry out his principles. We are informed that ourLord sent forth the Twelve "by two and two," [38:8] but we cannot tellwhether He observed any general rule in the arrangement of those whowere to travel in company. The relationship of the parties to each othermight, at least in three instances, have suggested a classification; asPeter and Andrew, James and John, James the Less and Jude, were,respectively, brothers. James the Less is described as "the Lord'sbrother," [39:1] and Jude is called "the brother of James," [39:2] sothat these two disciples must have been in some way related to ourSaviour; but the exact degree of affinity or consanguinity cannot now,perhaps, be positively ascertained. [39:3] Some of the disciples, suchas Andrew, [39:4] and probably John, [39:5] had previously beendisciples of the Baptist, but their separation from their former masterand adherence to Jesus did not lead to any estrangement between our Lordand His pious forerunner. As the Baptist contemplated the more permanentand important character of the Messiah's mission, he could cheerfullysay—"He must increase, but I must decrease." [39:6]

All the Twelve, when enlisted as disciples of Christ, appear to havemoved in the humbler walks of life; and yet we are scarcely warranted inasserting that they were extremely indigent. Peter, the fisherman,pretty plainly indicates that, in regard to worldly circ*mstances, hehad been, to some extent, a loser by obeying the call of Jesus. [39:7]Though James and John were likewise fishermen, the family had at leastone little vessel of their own, and they could afford to pay "hiredservants" to assist them in their business. [40:1] Matthew acted, in asubordinate capacity, as a collector of imperial tribute; but though theJews cordially hated a functionary who brought so painfully to theirrecollection their condition as a conquered people, it is pretty clearthat the publican was engaged in a lucrative employment. Zacchaeus, saidto have been a "chief among the publicans," [40:2] is represented as arich man; [40:3] and Matthew, though probably in an inferior station,was able to give an entertainment in his own house to a numerouscompany. [40:4] Still, however, the Twelve, as a body, were qualified,neither by their education nor their habits, for acting as popularinstructors; and had the gospel been a device of human wisdom, it couldnot have been promoted by their advocacy. Individuals who had hithertobeen occupied in tilling the land, in fishing, and in mending nets, orin sitting at the receipt of custom, could not have been expected tomake any great impression as ecclesiastical reformers. Their position insociety gave them no influence; their natural talents were notparticularly brilliant; and even their dialect betokened their connexionwith a district from which nothing good or great was anticipated. [40:5]But God exalted these men of low degree, and made them the spiritualilluminators of the world.

Though the New Testament enters very sparingly into the details of theirpersonal history, it is plain that the Twelve presented a considerablevariety of character. Thomas, though obstinate, was warm-hearted andmanly. Once when, as he imagined, his Master was going forward tocertain death, he chivalrously proposed to his brethren that they shouldall perish along with Him; [40:6] and though at first he doggedlyrefused to credit the account of the resurrection, [41:6] yet, when hisdoubts were removed, he gave vent to his feelings in one of the mostimpressive testimonies [41:2] to the power and godhead of the Messiah tobe found in the whole book of revelation. James, the son of Alphaeus,was noted for his prudence and practical wisdom; [41:3] and Nathanaelwas frank and candid—"an Israelite indeed, in whom was no guile."[41:4] Our Lord bestowed on Peter and the two sons of Zebedee peculiarproofs of confidence and favour, for they alone were permitted towitness some of the most remarkable scenes in the history of the Man ofSorrows. [41:5] Though these three brethren displayed such acongeniality of disposition, it does not appear that they possessedminds of the same mould, but each had excellencies of his own whichthrew a charm around his character. Peter yielded to the impulse of themoment and acted with promptitude and vigour; James became the first ofthe apostolic martyrs, probably because by his ability and boldness, asa preacher, he had provoked the special enmity of Herod and the Jews;[41:6] whilst the benevolent John delighted to meditate on the "deepthings of God," and listened with profound emotion to his Master as Hediscoursed of the mystery of His Person, and of the peace of believersabiding in His love. It has been conjectured that there was some familyrelationship between the sons of Zebedee and Jesus; but of this there isno satisfactory evidence. [41:7] It was simply, perhaps, the markedattention of our Saviour to James and John which awakened the ambitionof their mother, and induced her to bespeak their promotion in thekingdom of the Son of Man. [42:1]

Though none of the Twelve had received a liberal education, [42:2] itcannot be said that they were literally "novices" when invested with theministerial commission. It is probable that, before they were invited tofollow Jesus, they had all seriously turned their attention to thesubject of religion; some of them had been previously instructed by theBaptist; and all, prior to their selection, appear to have been about ayear under the tuition of our Lord himself. From that time until the endof His ministry they lived with Him on terms of the most intimatefamiliarity. From earlier acquaintance, as well as from closer and moreconfidential companionship, they had a better opportunity of knowing Hischaracter and doctrines than any of the rest of His disciples. When,perhaps about six or eight months [42:3] after their appointment, theywere sent forth as missionaries, they were commanded neither to walk in"the way of the Gentiles," nor to enter "into any city of theSamaritans," but rather to go "to the lost sheep of the house ofIsrael." [42:4] Their number Twelve corresponded to the number of thetribes, and they were called apostles probably in allusion to a classof Jewish functionaries who were so designated. It is said that the HighPriest was wont to send forth from Jerusalem into foreign countriescertain accredited agents, or messengers, styled apostles, onecclesiastical errands. [42:5]

During the personal ministry of our Lord the Twelve seem to have beenemployed by Him on only one missionary excursion. About twelve monthsafter that event [43:1] He "appointed other seventy also" to preach HisGospel. Luke is the only evangelist who mentions the designation ofthese additional missionaries; and though we have no reason to believethat their duties terminated with the first tour in which they wereengaged, [43:2] they are never subsequently noticed in the NewTestament. Many of the actions of our Lord had a typical meaning, and itis highly probable that He designed to inculcate an important truth bythe appointment of these Seventy new apostles. According to the ideas ofthe Jews of that age there were seventy heathen nations; [43:3] and itis rather singular that, omitting Peleg the progenitor of theIsraelites, the names of the posterity of Shem, Ham, and Japheth,recorded in the 10th chapter of Genesis, amount exactly to seventy."These," says the historian, "are the families of the sons of Noah,after their generations, in their nations; and by these were thenations divided in the earth after the flood." [43:4] Every one wholooks into the narrative will perceive that the sacred writer does notpropose to furnish a complete catalogue of the descendants of Noah, forhe passes over in entire silence the posterity of the greater number ofthe patriarch's grandchildren; he apparently intends to name only thosewho were the founders of nations; and thus it happens that whilst, ina variety of instances, he does not trace the line of succession, hetakes care, in others, to mention the father and many of his sons.[44:1] The Jewish notion current in the time of our Lord as to theexistence of seventy heathen nations, seems, therefore, to have restedon a sound historical basis, inasmuch as, according to the Mosaicstatement, there were, beside Peleg, precisely seventy individuals bywhom "the nations were divided in the earth after the flood." We maythus infer that our Lord meant to convey a great moral lesson by theappointment alike of the Twelve and of the Seventy. In the ordination ofthe Twelve He evinced His regard for all the tribes of Israel; in theordination of the Seventy He intimated that His Gospel was designed forall the nations of the earth. When the Twelve were about to enter ontheir first mission He required them to go only to the Jews, but He sentforth the Seventy "two and two before His face into every city andplace whither He himself would come." [45:1] Towards the commencementof His public career, He had induced many of the Samaritans to believeon Him, [45:2] whilst at a subsequent period His ministry had beenblessed to Gentiles in the coasts of Tyre and Sidon; [45:3] and there isno evidence that in the missionary journey which He contemplated when Heappointed the Seventy as His pioneers, He intended to confine Hislabours to His kinsmen of the seed of Abraham. It is highly probablethat the Seventy were actually sent forth from Samaria, [45:4] and theinstructions given them apparently suggest that, in the circuit nowassigned to them, they were to visit certain districts lying north ofGalilee of the Gentiles. [45:5] The personal ministry of our Lord hadrespect primarily and specially to the lost sheep of the house ofIsrael, [45:6] but His conduct in this case symbolically indicated thecatholic character of His religion. He evinced His regard for the Jewsby sending no less than twelve apostles to that one nation, but He didnot Himself refuse to minister either to Samaritans or Gentiles; and toshew that He was disposed to make provision for the general diffusion ofHis word, He "appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and twobefore His face into every city and place whither He himself wouldcome."

It is very clear that our Lord committed, in the first instance, to theTwelve the organisation of the ecclesiastical commonwealth. The mostancient Christian Church, that of the metropolis of Palestine, wasmodelled under their superintendence; and the earliest converts gatheredinto it, after His ascension, were the fruits of their ministry. Hence,in the Apocalypse, the wall of the "holy Jerusalem" is said to have"twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of theLamb." [46:1] But it does not follow that others had no share infounding the spiritual structure. The Seventy also received a commissionfrom Christ, and we have every reason to believe that, after the deathof their Master, they pursued their missionary labours with renovatedardour. That they were called apostles as well as the Twelve, cannot,perhaps, be established by distinct testimony; [46:2] but it is certain,that they were furnished with supernatural endowments; [46:3] and it isscarcely probable that they are overlooked in the description of thesacred writer when He represents the New Testament Church as "built uponthe foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himselfbeing the chief corner stone." [46:4]

The appointment of the Seventy, like that of the Twelve, was a typicalact; and it is not, therefore, extraordinary that they are only oncenoticed in the sacred volume. Our Lord never intended to constitute twopermanent corporations, limited, respectively, to twelve and seventymembers, and empowered to transmit their authority to successors fromgeneration to generation. In a short time after His death the symbolicalmeaning of the mission of the Seventy was explained, as it very soonappeared that the gospel was to be transmitted to all the ends of theearth; and thus it was no longer necessary to refer to theserepresentatives of the ministry of the universal Church. When the Twelveturned to the Gentiles, their number lost its significance, and fromthat date they accordingly ceased to fill up vacancies occurring intheir society; and, as the Church assumed a settled form, the apostleswere disposed to insist less and less on any special powers with whichthey had been originally furnished, and rather to place themselves on alevel with the ordinary rulers of the ecclesiastical community. Hence wefind them sitting in church courts with these brethren, [47:1] anddesirous to be known not as apostles, but as elders. [47:2] We possesslittle information respecting either their official or their personalhistory. A very equivocal, and sometimes contradictory, tradition [47:3]is the only guide which even professes to point out to us where thegreater number of them laboured; and the same witness is the onlyvoucher for the statements which describe how most of them finishedtheir career. It is an instructive fact that no proof can be given, fromthe sacred record, of the ordination either by the Twelve or by theSeventy, of even one presbyter or pastor. With the exception of thelaying on of hands upon the seven deacons, [47:4] no inspired writermentions any act of the kind in which the Twelve ever engaged. Thedeacons were not rulers in the Church, and therefore could not byordination confer ecclesiastical power on others.

There is much meaning in the silence of the sacred writers respectingthe official proceedings and the personal career of the Twelve and theSeventy. It thus becomes impossible for any one to make out a title tothe ministry by tracing his ecclesiastical descent; for no contemporaryrecords enable us to prove a connexion between the inspired founders ofour religion, and those who were subsequently entrusted with thegovernment of the Church. At the critical point where, had it beendeemed necessary, we might have had the light of inspiration, we areleft to wander in total darkness. We are thus shut up to the conclusionthat the claims of those who profess to be heralds of the gospel are tobe tested by some other criterion than their ecclesiastical lineage. Itis written—"By their fruits ye shall know them." [48:1] God alone canmake a true minister; [48:2] and he who attempts to establish his rightto feed the flock of Christ by appealing to his official genealogymiserably mistakes the source of the pastoral commission. It would,indeed, avail nothing though a minister could prove his relationship tothe Twelve or the Seventy by an unbroken line of ordinations, for somewho at the time may have been able to deduce their descent from theapostles were amongst the most dangerous of the early heretics. [48:3]True religion is sustained, not by any human agency, but by that EternalSpirit who quickens all the children of God, and who has preserved forthem a pure gospel in the writings of the apostles and evangelists. Theperpetuity of the Church no more depends on the uninterrupted successionof its ministers than does the perpetuity of a nation depend on thecontinuance of the dynasty which may happen at a particular date tooccupy the throne. As plants possess powers of reproduction enablingthem, when a part decays, to throw it off, and to supply its place by anew and vigorous vegetation, so it is with the Church—the spiritualvine which the Lord has planted. Its government may degenerate into acorrupt tyranny by which its most precious liberties may be invaded ordestroyed, but the freemen of the Lord are not bound to submit to anysuch domination. Were even all the ecclesiastical rulers to becometraitors to the King of Zion, the Church would not therefore perish. Theliving members of the body of Christ would be then required to repudiatethe authority of overseers by whom they were betrayed, and to chooseamongst themselves such faithful men as were found most competent toteach and to guide the spiritual community. The Divine Statute-bookclearly warrants the adoption of such an alternative. "Beloved," saysthe Apostle John, "believe not every spirit, but try the spiritswhether they are of God. …. We are of God, he that knoweth Godheareth us, he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we thespirit of truth and the spirit of error." [49:1] "If there come anyunto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into yourhouse, neither bid him God-speed; for he that biddeth him God-speed ispartaker of his evil deeds." [49:2] Paul declares, still moreemphatically—"Though WE, or AN ANGEL FROM HEAVEN, preach any othergospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him beaccursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preachany other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him beaccursed." [49:3]

In one sense neither the Twelve nor the Seventy had successors. All ofthem were called to preach the gospel by the living voice of Christhimself; all had "companied" with Him during the period of His ministry;all had listened to His sermons; all had been spectators of His works ofwonder; all were empowered to perform miracles; all seem to haveconversed with Him after His resurrection; and all appear to havepossessed the gift of inspired utterance. [50:1] But in another senseevery "good minister of Jesus Christ" is a successor of these primitivepreachers; for every true pastor is taught of God, and is moved by theSpirit to undertake the service in which he is engaged, and is warrantedto expect a blessing on the truth which he disseminates. As of old thedescent from heaven of fire upon the altar testified the Divineacceptance of the sacrifices, so now the descent of the Spirit, asmanifested in the conversion of souls to God, is a sure token that thelabours of the minister have the seal of the Divine approbation. Thegreat Apostle of the Gentiles did not hesitate to rely on such a proofof his commission from heaven. "Need we," says he to the Corinthians,"epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men;forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christministered by us, written, not with ink, but with the Spirit of theliving God, not in tables of stone, but in the fleshy tables of theheart." [50:2] No true pastor will be left entirely destitute of suchencouragement, and neither the Twelve nor the Seventy could producecredentials more trustworthy or more intelligible.

A.D. 31 TO A.D. 44.

When our Lord bowed His head on the cross and "gave up the ghost," thework of atonement was completed. The ceremonial law virtually expiredwhen He explained, by His death, its awful significance; and the crisisof His passion was the birthday of the Christian economy. At this datethe history of the New Testament Church properly commences.

After His resurrection Jesus remained forty days on earth, [51:1] and,during this interval, He often took occasion to point out to Hisdisciples the meaning of His wonderful career. He is represented assaying to them—"Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ tosuffer, and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance andremission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations,beginning at Jerusalem." [51:2] The inspired narratives of theteaching and miracles of our Lord are emphatically corroborated by thefact, that a large Christian Church was established, almost immediatelyafter His decease, in the metropolis of Palestine. The Sanhedrim and theRoman governor had concurred in His condemnation; and, on the night ofHis trial, even the intrepid Peter had been so intimidated that he hadbeen tempted to curse and to swear as he averred that he knew not "TheMan." It might have been expected that the death of Jesus would havebeen followed by a reign of terror, and that no attempt would have beenmade, at least in the place where the civil and ecclesiasticalauthorities resided, to assert the Divine mission of Him whom they hadcrucified as a malefactor. But perfect love casteth out fear. In thevery city where He had suffered, and a few days after His passion, Hisdisciples ventured in the most public manner to declare His innocenceand to proclaim Him as the Messiah. The result of their appeal is aswonderful as its boldness. Though the imminent peril of confessingChrist was well known, such was the strength of their convictions thatmultitudes resolved, at all hazards, to enrol themselves among Hisfollowers. The success which accompanied the preaching of the apostolicmissionaries at the feast of Pentecost was a sign and a pledge of theirfuture triumphs, for "the same day there were added unto them aboutthree thousand souls." [52:1]

The disinterested behaviour of the converts betokened their intenseearnestness. "All that believed were together and had all things common,and sold their possessions and goods and parted them to all men, asevery man had need." [52:2] These early disciples were not, indeed,required, as a term of communion, to deposit their property in a commonstock-purse; but, in the overflowings of their first love, theyspontaneously adopted the arrangement. On the part of the more opulentmembers of the community residing in a place which was the stronghold ofJewish prejudice and influence, this course was, perhaps, as prudent asit was generous. By joining a proscribed sect they put their lives, aswell as their wealth, into jeopardy; but, by the sale of their effects,they displayed a spirit of self-sacrifice which must have astonished andconfounded their adversaries. They thus anticipated all attempts atspoliation, and gave a proof of their readiness to submit to anysuffering for the cause which they had espoused. An inheritance, whenturned into money, could not be easily sequestered; and those who werein want could obtain assistance out of the secreted treasure. Still,even at this period, the principle of a community of goods was notcarried out into universal operation; for the foreign Jews who were nowconverted to the faith, and who were "possessors of lands or houses"[53:1] in distant countries, could neither have found purchasers, nornegotiated transfers, in the holy city. The first sales must obviouslyhave been confined to those members of the Church who were owners ofproperty in Jerusalem and its neighbourhood.

The system of having all things common was suggested in a crisis ofapparently extreme peril, so that it was only a temporary expedient; andit is evident that it was soon given up altogether, as unsuited to theordinary circ*mstances of the Christian Church. But though, in a shorttime, the disciples in general were left to depend on their ownresources, the community continued to provide a fund for the help of theinfirm and the destitute. At an early period complaints were maderespecting the distribution of this charity, and we are told that "therearose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews because theirwidows were neglected in the daily ministration." [53:2] The Grecians,or those converts from Judaism who used the Greek language, weregenerally of foreign birth; and as the Hebrews, or the brethren whospoke the vernacular tongue of Palestine, were natives of the country,there were, perhaps, suspicions that local influence secured for theirpoor an undue share of the public bounty. The expedient employed for theremoval of this "root of bitterness" seems to have been completelysuccessful. "The twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto themand said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God andserve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men ofhonest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appointover this business." [54:1]

Had the apostles been anxious for power they would themselves havenominated the deacons. They might have urged, too, a very plausibleapology for here venturing upon an exercise of patronage. They mighthave pleaded that the disciples were dissatisfied with each other—thatthe excitement of a popular election was fitted to increase this feelingof alienation—and that, under such circ*mstances, prudence requiredthem to take upon themselves the responsibility of the appointment. Butthey were guided by a higher wisdom; and their conduct is a model forthe imitation of ecclesiastical rulers in all succeeding generations. Itwas the will of the Great Lawgiver that His Church should possess a freeconstitution; and accordingly, at the very outset, its members wereintrusted with the privilege of self-government. The community hadalready been invited to choose an apostle in the room of Judas, [54:2]and they were now required to name office-bearers for the management oftheir money transactions. But, whilst the Twelve, on this occasion,appealed to the suffrages of the Brotherhood, they reserved tothemselves the right of confirming the election; and they might, bywithholding ordination, have refused to fiat an improper appointment.Happily no such difficulty occurred. In compliance with the instructionsaddressed to them, the multitude chose seven of their number "whom theyset before the apostles, and, when they had prayed, they laid theirhands on them." [54:3]

Prior to the election of the deacons, Peter and John had beenincarcerated. The Sanhedrim wished to extort from them a pledge thatthey would "not speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus," [55:1] butthe prisoners nobly refused to consent to any such compromise. They"answered and said unto them—Whether it be right in the sight of God tohearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye." [55:2] The apostles heredisclaimed the doctrine of passive obedience, and asserted principleswhich lie at the foundation of the true theory of religious freedom.They maintained that "God alone is Lord of the conscience"—that Hiscommand overrides all human regulations—and that, no matter what may bethe penalties which earthly rulers may annex to the breach of theenactments of their statute-book, the Christian is not bound to obey,when the civil law would compel him to violate his enlightenedconvictions. But the Sanhedrim obviously despised such considerations.For a time they were obliged to remain quiescent, as public feeling ranstrongly in favour of the new preachers; but, soon after the election ofthe deacons, they resumed the work of persecution. The tide ofpopularity now began to turn; and Stephen, one of the Seven,particularly distinguished by his zeal, fell a victim to theirintolerance.

The martyrdom of Stephen appears to have occurred about three years anda half after the death of our Lord. [55:3] Daniel had foretold that theMessiah would "confirm the covenant with many for one week" [55:4]—anannouncement which has been understood to indicate that, at the time ofhis manifestation, the gospel would be preached with much success amonghis countrymen for seven years—and if the prophetic week commencedwith the ministry of John the Baptist, it probably terminated with thisbloody tragedy. [56:1] The Christian cause had hitherto prospered inJerusalem, and there are good grounds for believing that, mean while, ithad also made considerable progress throughout all Palestine; but, atthis date, it is suddenly arrested in its career of advancement. TheJewish multitude begin to regard it with aversion; and the Romangovernor discovers that he may, at any time, obtain the tribute of theirapplause by oppressing its ablest and most fearless advocates.

After His resurrection our Lord commanded the apostles to go and "teachall nations" [56:2] and yet years rolled away before they turned theirthoughts towards the evangelisation of the Gentiles. The Jewish mind wasslow to apprehend such an idea, for the posterity of Abraham had beenlong accustomed to regard themselves as the exclusive heirs of divineprivileges; but the remarkable development of the kingdom of Godgradually led them to entertain more enlarged and more liberalsentiments. The progress of the gospel in Samaria, immediately after thedeath of Stephen, demonstrated that the blessings of the newdispensation were not to be confined to God's ancient people. Thoughmany of the Samaritans acknowledged the divine authority of the writingsof Moses, they did not belong to the Church of Israel; and between themand the Jews a bitter antipathy had hitherto existed. When Philipappeared among them, and preached Jesus as the promised Messiah, theylistened most attentively to his appeals, and not a few of them gladlyreceived Christian baptism. [57:1] It could now no longer be said thatthe Jews had "no dealings with the Samaritans," [57:2] for the gospelgathered both into the fold of a common Saviour, and taught them to keep"the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

When the disciples were scattered abroad by the persecution which aroseafter the martyrdom of Stephen, the apostles still kept their post inthe Jewish capital; [57:3] for Christ had instructed them to begin theirministry in that place: [57:4] and they perhaps conceived that, untilauthorised by some further intimation, they were bound to remain atJerusalem. But the conversion of the Samaritans must have reminded themthat the sphere of their labours was more extensive. Our Lord had saidto them—"Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in allJudea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth,"[57:5] and events, which were now passing before their view, werecontinually throwing additional light upon the meaning of thisannouncement. The baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch, [57:6] about thisperiod, was calculated to enlarge their ideas; and the baptism ofCornelius pointed out, still more distinctly, the wide range of theirevangelical commission. The minuteness with which the case of the devoutcenturion is described is a proof of its importance as connected withthis transition-stage in the history of the Church. He had before knownnothing of Peter; and, when they met at Caesarea, each could testifythat he had been prepared for the interview by a special revelation fromheaven. [57:7] Cornelius was "a centurion of the band called the Italianband" [57:8]—he was a representative of that military power which thenruled the world—and, in his baptism, we see the Roman Empirepresenting, on the altar of Christianity, the first-fruits of theGentiles.

It was not, however, very obvious, from any of the cases alreadyenumerated, that the salvation of Christ was designed for all classesand conditions of the human family. The Samaritans did not, indeed,worship at Jerusalem, but they claimed some interest in "the promisesmade unto the fathers;" and they conformed to many of the rites ofJudaism. It does not appear that the Ethiopian eunuch was of the seed ofAbraham; but he acknowledged the inspiration of the Old Testament, andhe was disposed, at least to a certain extent, to observe itsinstitutions. Even the Roman centurion was what has been called aproselyte of the gate, that is, he professed the Jewish theology—"hefeared God with all his house" [58:1]—though he had not receivedcircumcision, and had not been admitted into the congregation of Israel.But the time was approaching when the Church was to burst forth beyondthe barriers within which it had been hitherto inclosed, and anindividual now appeared upon the scene who was to be the leader of thisnew movement. He is "a citizen of no mean city" [58:2]—a native ofTarsus in Cilicia, a place famous for its educational institutes[58:3]—and he is known, by way of distinction, as "an apostle of thenations." [58:4]

The apostles were at first sent only to their own countrymen; [58:5] andwe have seen that, for some time after our Lord's death, they do notappear to have contemplated any more comprehensive mission. When Petercalled on the disciples to appoint a successor to Judas, he seems tohave acted under the conviction that the company of the Twelve muststill be maintained in its integrity, and that its numbers must stillexactly correspond to the number of the tribes of Israel. But the Jews,after the death of Stephen, evinced an increasing aversion to thegospel; and as the apostles were eventually induced to direct theirviews elsewhere, they were, of course, also led to abandon anarrangement which had a special reference to the sectional divisions ofthe chosen people. Meanwhile, too, the management of ecclesiasticalaffairs had partially fallen into other hands; new missions, in whichthe Twelve had no share, had been undertaken; and Paul henceforthbecomes most conspicuous and successful in extending and organising theChurch.

Paul describes himself as "one born out of due time." [59:1] He wasconverted to Christianity when his countrymen seemed about to beconsigned to judicial blindness; and he was "called to be an apostle"[59:2] when others had been labouring for years in the same vocation.But he possessed peculiar qualifications for the office. He was ardent,energetic, and conscientious, as well as acute and eloquent. In hisnative city Tarsus he had probably received a good elementary education,and afterwards, "at the feet of Gamaliel," [59:3] in Jerusalem, heenjoyed the tuition of a Rabbi of unrivalled celebrity. The apostle ofthe Gentiles had much the same religious experience as the father of theGerman Reformation; for as Luther, before he understood the doctrine ofa free salvation, attempted to earn a title to heaven by the austeritiesof monastic discipline, so Paul in early life was "taught according tothe perfect manner of the law of the fathers," [59:4] and "after thestrictest sect of his religion lived a Pharisee." [59:5] His zeal ledhim to become a persecutor; and when Stephen was stoned, the witnesses,who were required to take part in the execution, prepared themselves forthe work of death, by laying down their upper garments at the feet ofthe "young man" Saul. [59:6] He had established himself in theconfidence of the Sanhedrim, and he appears to have been a member ofthat influential judicatory, for he tells us that he "shut up many ofthe saints in prison," and that, when they were put to death, "he gavehis voice, or his vote, [60:1] against them"—a statement implyingthat he belonged to the court which pronounced the sentence ofcondemnation. As he was travelling to Damascus armed with authority toseize any of the disciples whom he discovered in that city, and toconvey them bound to Jerusalem, [60:2] the Lord appeared to him in theway, and he was suddenly converted. [60:3] After reaching the end of hisjourney, and boldly proclaiming his attachment to the party he had beenso recently endeavouring to exterminate, he retired into Arabia, [60:4]where he appears to have spent three years in the devout study of theChristian theology. He then returned to Damascus, and entered, aboutA.D. 37, [60:5] on those missionary labours which he prosecuted with somuch efficiency and perseverance for upwards of a quarter of a century.

Paul declares that he derived a knowledge of the gospel immediately fromChrist; [60:6] and though, for many years, he had very littleintercourse with the Twelve, he avers that he was "not a whit behind thevery chiefest apostles." [60:7] Throughout life he was associated, notwith them, but with others as his fellow-labourers; and he obviouslyoccupied a distinct and independent position. When he was baptized, theordinance was administered by an individual who is not previouslymentioned in the New Testament, [61:1] and when he was separated to thework to which the Lord had called him, [61:2] the ordainers were"prophets and teachers," respecting whose own call to the ministry theinspired historian supplies us with no information. But it may fairly bepresumed that they were regularly introduced into the places which theyare represented as occupying; they are all described by the evangelistas receiving the same special instructions from heaven; and thetradition that, at least some of them, were of the number of theSeventy, [61:3] is exceedingly probable. And if, as has already beensuggested, the mission of the Seventy indicated the design of ourSaviour to diffuse the gospel all over the world, we can see a peculiarpropriety in the arrangement that Paul was ushered into the Church underthe auspices of these ministers. [61:4] It was most fitting that he whowas to be, by way of eminence, the apostle of the Gentiles, was baptizedand ordained by men whose own appointment was intended to symbolise thecatholic spirit of Christianity.

In the treatment of Paul by his unbelieving countrymen we have a mostmelancholy illustration of the recklessness of religious bigotry. TheseJews must have known that, in as far as secular considerations wereconcerned, he had everything to lose by turning into "the way which theycalled heresy;" they were bound to acknowledge that, by connectinghimself with an odious sect, he at least demonstrated his sincerity andself-denial; but they were so exasperated by his zeal that they "tookcounsel to kill him." [62:1] When, after his sojourn in Arabia, hereturned to Damascus that city was in the hands of Aretas, the king ofArabia Petraea; [62:2] who seems to have contrived to gain possession ofit during the confusion which immediately followed the death of theEmperor Tiberius. This petty sovereign courted the favour of the Jewishportion of the population by permitting them to persecute the disciples;[62:3] and the apostle, at this crisis, would have fallen a victim totheir malignity had not his friends let him down "through a window, in abasket, by the wall," [62:4] and thus enabled him to escape a prematuremartyrdom. He now repaired to Jerusalem, where the brethren do notappear to have heard of his conversion, and where they at first refusedto acknowledge him as a member of their society; [62:5] for he had beenobliged to leave Damascus with so much precipitation that he had broughtwith him no commendatory letters; but Barnabas, who is said to have beenhis school-fellow, [62:6] and who had in some way obtained informationrespecting his subsequent career, made the leaders of the Mother Churchacquainted with the wonderful change which had taken place in hissentiments and character, and induced them to admit him to fellowship.During this visit to the holy city, while he prayed in the temple, hewas more fully instructed respecting his future destination. In atrance, he saw Jesus, who said to him—"Depart, for I will send theefar hence unto the Gentiles." [62:7] Even had he not received thisintimation, the murderous hostility of the Jews would have obliged himto retire. "When he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, anddisputed against the Grecians, they went about to slay him—which, whenthe brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forthto Tarsus." [63:1]

The apostle now laboured for some years as a missionary in "the regionsof Syria and Cilicia." [63:2] His native city and its neighbourhoodprobably enjoyed a large share of his ministrations, and his exertionsseem to have been attended with much success, for, soon afterwards, theconverts in these districts attract particular notice. [63:3] Meanwhilethe gospel was making rapid progress in the Syrian capital, and as Saulwas considered eminently qualified for conducting the mission in thatplace, he was induced to proceed thither. "Then," says the sacredhistorian, "Barnabas departed to Tarsus to seek Saul, and when he hadfound him he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass that a wholeyear they assembled themselves with the Church, and taught much people;and the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." [63:4]

The establishment of a Church in this city formed a new era in thedevelopment of Christianity. Antioch was a great commercial mart with alarge Jewish, as well as Gentile, population; it was virtually thecapital of the Roman Empire in the East—being the residence of thepresident, or governor, of Syria; its climate was delightful; and itscitizens, enriched by trade, were noted for their gaiety andvoluptuousness. In this flourishing metropolis many proselytes fromheathenism were to be found in the synagogues of the Greek-speakingJews, and the gospel soon made rapid progress among these Hellenists."Some of them (which were scattered abroad upon the persecution thatarose about Stephen) were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which when they werecome to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, [64:1] preaching the LordJesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great numberbelieved and turned unto the Lord." [64:2] The followers of Jesus atthis time received a new designation. They had hitherto calledthemselves "brethren" or "disciples" or "believers," but now they "werecalled Christians" by some of the inhabitants of the Syrian capital. Asthe unconverted Jews did not admit that Jesus was the Christ they wereobviously not the authors of this appellation, and, in contempt, theyprobably styled the party Nazarenes or Galileans; but it is easy tounderstand how the name was suggested to the Pagans as most descriptiveand appropriate. No one could be long in company with the newreligionists without perceiving that Christ was "the end of theirconversation." They delighted to tell of His mighty miracles, of Hisholy life, of the extraordinary circ*mstances which accompanied Hisdeath, of His resurrection and ascension. Out of the fulness of theirhearts they discoursed of His condescension and His meekness, of Hiswonderful wisdom, of His sublime theology, and of His unutterable loveto a world lying in wickedness. When they prayed, they prayed to Christ;when they sang, they sang praise to Christ; when they preached, theypreached Christ. Well then might the heathen multitude agree with onevoice to call them Christians. The inventor of the title may havemeant it as a nickname, but if so, He who overruled the waywardness ofPilate so that he wrote on the cross a faithful inscription, [65:1] alsocaused this mocker of His servants to stumble on a most truthful andcomplimentary designation.

From his first appearance in Antioch Paul seems to have occupied a veryinfluential position among his brethren. In that refined and opulentcity his learning, his dialectic skill, his prudence, and his piousardour were all calculated to make his ministry most effective. About ayear after his arrival there, he was deputed, in company with a friend,to visit Palestine on an errand of love. "In those days came prophetsfrom Jerusalem unto Antioch. And there stood up one of them, namedAgabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearththroughout all the world; which came to pass in the days of ClaudiusCaesar. Then the disciples, every man according to his ability,determined to send relief to the brethren which dwelt in Judea. Whichalso they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas andSaul." [65:2]

This narrative attests that the principle of a community of goods wasnot recognised in the Church of Antioch, for the aid administered wassupplied, not out of a general fund, but by "every man according to hisability." There was here no "murmuring of the Grecians against theHebrews," as, in the spirit of true brotherhood, the wealthy Hellenistsof Antioch cheerfully contributed to the relief of the poor Hebrews oftheir fatherland. It does not appear that "the elders" in whose handsthe money was deposited, were all office-bearers connected with theChurch of Jerusalem. These would, of course, receive no small share ofthe donations, but as the assistance was designed for the "brethrenwhich dwelt in Judea," and not merely for the disciples in the holycity, we may infer that it was distributed among the elders of all theChurches now scattered over the southern part of Palestine. [66:1]Neither would Barnabas and Paul require to make a tour throughout thedistrict to visit these various communities. All the elders of Judeastill continued to observe the Mosaic law, and as the deputies fromAntioch were in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover, [66:2] they wouldfind their brethren in attendance upon the festival.

It is reported by several ancient writers that the apostles wereinstructed to remain at Jerusalem for twelve years after the crucifixionof our Lord, [66:3] and if the tradition is correct, the holy citycontinued to be their stated residence until shortly before the periodof the arrival of these deputies from the Syrian capital. The time ofthis visit can be pretty accurately ascertained, and there is perhaps nopoint connected with the history of the book of the Acts respectingwhich there is such a close approximation to unanimity amongstchronologists; for, as Josephus notices [66:4] both the sudden death ofHerod Agrippa, grandson of Herod the Great, which now occurred, [66:5]and the famine against which this contribution was intended to provide,it is apparent from the date which he assigns to them, that Barnabas andSaul must have reached Jerusalem about A.D. 44. [66:6] At this junctureat least two of the apostles, James the brother of John, and Peter, werein the Jewish capital; and it is probable that all the rest had not yetfinally taken their departure. The Twelve, it would seem, did not setout on distant missions until they were thoroughly convinced that theyhad ceased to make progress in the conversion of their countrymen in theland of their fathers. And it is no trivial evidence, at once of thestrength of their convictions, and of the truth of the evangelicalhistory, that they continued so long and so efficiently to proclaim thegospel in the chief city of Palestine. Had they not acted under anoverwhelming sense of duty, they would not have remained in a placewhere their lives were in perpetual jeopardy; and had they not beenfaithful witnesses, they could not have induced so many, of all classesof society, to believe statements which, if unfounded, could have beeneasily contradicted on the spot. The apostles must have been known tomany in Jerusalem as the companions of our Lord; for, during His publicministry, they had often been seen with Him in the city and the temple;and it was to be, therefore, expected, that peculiar importance would beattached to their testimony respecting His doctrines and His miracles.Their preaching in the head-quarters of Judaism was fitted to exert animmense influence, as that metropolis itself contained a vastpopulation, and as it was, besides, the resort of strangers from allparts of the world. And so long as the apostles ministered in Jerusalemor in Palestine only to the house of Israel, it was expedient that theirnumber, which was an index of the Divine regard for the whole of thetwelve tribes, should be maintained in its integrity. But when, afterpreaching twelve years among their countrymen at home, they found theirlabours becoming comparatively barren; and when, driven by persecutionfrom Judea, they proceeded on distant missions, their position was quitealtered. Their number had now at least partially [67:1] lost itsoriginal significance; and hence, when an apostle died, the survivors nolonger deemed it necessary to take steps for the appointment of asuccessor. We find accordingly that when Herod "killed James, thebrother of John, with the sword," [68:1] no other individual wasselected to occupy the vacant apostleship.

It has been already stated that when Paul appeared in Jerusalem for thefirst time after his conversion, he received, when praying in thetemple, a divine communication informing him of his mission to theheathen. [68:2] It would seem that, during his present visit, as thebearer of the contributions from Antioch, he was favoured with anotherrevelation. In his Second Epistle to the Corinthians he apparentlyrefers to this most comfortable, yet mysterious, manifestation. "Iknow," [68:3] says he, "a man in Christ fourteen years ago [68:4](whether in the body, I cannot tell, or whether out of the body, Icannot tell; God knoweth) such an one caught up to the third heaven. AndI know such a man (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannottell; God knoweth) that he was caught up into paradise, and heardunspeakable words which it is not lawful for man to utter." [68:5] Thepresent position of the apostle explains the design of this sublime anddelightful vision. As Moses was encouraged to undertake the deliveranceof his countrymen when God appeared to him in the burning bush, [68:6]and as Isaiah was emboldened to go forth, as the messenger of the Lordof hosts, when he saw Jehovah sitting upon His throne attended by theseraphim, [68:7] so Paul was stirred up by an equally impressiverevelation to gird himself for the labours of a new appointment. He wasabout to commence a more extensive missionary career, and beforeentering upon so great and so perilous an undertaking, the King of kingscondescended to encourage him by admitting him to a gracious audience,and by permitting him to enjoy some glimpses of the glory of thoserealms of light where "they that be wise shall shine as the brightnessof the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the starsfor ever and ever."

A.D. 44 TO A.D. 51.

Soon after returning from Jerusalem to Antioch, Paul was formallyinvested with his new commission. His fellow-deputy, Barnabas, wasappointed, as his coadjutor, in this important service. "Now," says theevangelist, "there were in the church that was at Antioch certainprophets and teachers, as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger,and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herodthe tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, theHoly Ghost said—Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto Ihave called them. And when they had fasted, and prayed, and laid theirhands on them, they sent them away." [70:1]

Ten years had now elapsed since the conversion of Paul; and during thegreater part of this period, he had been busily engaged in thedissemination of the gospel. In the days of his Judaism the learnedPharisee had, no doubt, been accustomed to act as a teacher in thesynagogues, and, when he became obedient to the faith, he was permitted,as a matter of course, to expound his new theology in the Christianassemblies. Barnabas, his companion, was a Levite; [70:2] and as histribe was specially charged with the duty of public instruction, [71:1]he too had probably been a preacher before his conversion. Both thesem*n had been called of God to labour as evangelists, and the Head of theChurch had already abundantly honoured their ministrations; but hithertoneither of them seems to have been clothed with pastoral authority byany regular ordination. Their constant presence in Antioch was now nolonger necessary, so that they were thus left at liberty to prosecutetheir missionary operations in the great field of heathendom; and atthis juncture it was deemed necessary to designate them, in due form, totheir "ministry and apostleship." "The Holy Ghost said—Separate meBarnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them." When weconsider the present circ*mstances of these two brethren, we may see,not only why these instructions were given, but also why theirobservance has been so distinctly registered.

It is apparent that Barnabas and Saul were now called to a position ofhigher responsibility than that which they had previously occupied. Theyhad heretofore acted simply as preachers of the Christian doctrine.Prompted by love to their common Master, and by a sense of individualobligation, they had endeavoured to diffuse all around them a knowledgeof the Redeemer. They taught in the name of Jesus, just because theypossessed the gifts and the graces required for such a service; and, astheir labours were acknowledged of God, they were encouraged topersevere. But they were now to go forth as a solemn deputation, underthe sanction of the Church, and not only to proclaim the truth, but alsoto baptize converts, to organise Christian congregations, and to ordainChristian ministers. It was, therefore, proper, that, on this occasion,they should be regularly invested with the ecclesiastical commission.

On other grounds it was desirable that the mission of Barnabas and Paulshould be thus inaugurated. Though the apostles had been lately drivenfrom Jerusalem, and though the Jews were exhibiting increasing aversionto the gospel, the Church was, notwithstanding, about to expand withextraordinary vigour by the ingathering of the Gentiles. In reference tothese new members Paul and Barnabas pursued a bold and independentcourse, advocating views which many regarded as dangerous,latitudinarian, and profane; for they maintained that the ceremonial lawwas not binding on the converts from heathenism. Their adoption of thisprinciple exposed them to much suspicion and obloquy; and because of thetenacity with which they persisted in its vindication, not a few weredisposed to question their credentials as expositors of the Christianfaith. It was, therefore, expedient that their right to perform all theapostolic functions should be placed above challenge. In some way, whichis not particularly described, their appointment by the Spirit of Godwas accordingly made known to the Church at Antioch, and thus all theremaining prophets and teachers, who officiated there, were warranted totestify that these two brethren had received a call from heaven toengage in the work to which they were now designated. Their ordination,in obedience to this divine communication, was a decisive recognition oftheir spiritual authority. The Holy Ghost had attested their commission,and the ministers of Antioch, by the laying on of hands, set their sealto the truth of the oracle. Their title to act as founders of the Churchwas thus authenticated by evidence which could not be legitimatelydisputed. Paul himself obviously attached considerable importance tothis transaction, and he afterwards refers to it in language of markedemphasis, when, in the beginning of the Epistle to the Romans, heintroduces himself as "a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be anapostle, separated unto the gospel of God." [71:1]

In the circ*mstantial record of this proceeding, to be found in the Actsof the Apostles, we have a proof of the wisdom of the Author ofRevelation. He foresaw that the rite of "the laying on of hands" wouldbe sadly abused; that it would be represented as possessing somethinglike a magic potency; and that it would be at length converted, by asmall class of ministers, into an ecclesiastical monopoly. He has,therefore, supplied us with an antidote against delusion by permittingus, in this simple narrative, to scan its exact import. And what was thevirtue of the ordination here described? Did it furnish Paul andBarnabas with a title to the ministry? Not at all. God himself hadalready called them to the work, and they could receive no higherauthorisation. Did it necessarily add anything to the eloquence, or theprudence, or the knowledge, or the piety, of the missionaries? Noresults of the kind could be produced by any such ceremony. What thenwas its meaning? The evangelist himself furnishes an answer. The HolyGhost required that Barnabas and Saul should be separated to the workto which the Lord had called them, and the laying on of hands was themode, or form, in which they were set apart, or designated, to theoffice. This rite, to an Israelite, suggested grave and hallowedassociations. When a Jewish father invoked a benediction on any of hisfamily, he laid his hand upon the head of the child; [73:1] when aJewish priest devoted an animal in sacrifice, he laid his hand upon thehead of the victim; [73:2] and when a Jewish ruler invested another withoffice, he laid his hand upon the head of the new functionary. [73:3]The ordination of these brethren possessed all this significance. By thelaying on of hands the ministers of Antioch implored a blessing onBarnabas and Saul, and announced their separation, or dedication, to thework of the gospel, and intimated their investiture with ecclesiasticalauthority.

It is worthy of note that the parties who acted as ordainers were notdignitaries, planted here and there throughout the Church, and selectedfor this service on account of their official pre-eminence. They wereall, at the time, connected with the Christian community assembling inthe city which was the scene of the inauguration. It does not appearthat any individual amongst them claimed the precedence; all engaged onequal terms in the performance of this interesting ceremony. We cannotmistake the official standing of these brethren if we only mark thenature of the duties in which they were ordinarily occupied. They were"prophets and teachers;" they were sound scriptural expositors; some ofthem, perhaps, were endowed with the gift of prophetic interpretation;and they were all employed in imparting theological instruction. Thoughthe name is not here expressly given to them, they were, at leastvirtually, "the elders who laboured in the word and doctrine." [74:1]Paul, therefore, was ordained by the laying on of the hands of thePresbytery of Antioch. [74:2]

If the narrative of Luke was designed to illustrate the question ofministerial ordination, it plainly suggests that the power of Churchrulers is very circ*mscribed. They have no right to refuse the laying onof hands to those whom God has called to the work of the gospel, andwho, by their gifts and graces, give credible evidences of their holyvocation; and they are not at liberty to admit the irreligious orincompetent to ecclesiastical offices. In the sight of the Most High theordination to the pastorate of an individual morally and mentallydisqualified is invalid and impious.

Immediately after their ordination Paul and Barnabas entered on theirapostolic mission. Leaving Antioch they quickly reached Seleucia[75:1]—a city distant about twelve miles—and from thence passed on toCyprus, [75:2] the native country of Barnabas. [75:3] They probablyspent a considerable time in that large island. It contained severaltowns of note; it was the residence of great numbers of Jews; and thedegraded state of its heathen inhabitants may be inferred from the factthat Venus was their tutelary goddess. The preaching of the apostles inthis place appears to have created an immense sensation; their fame atlength attracted the attention of persons of the highest distinction;and the heart of Paul was cheered by the accession of no lessillustrious a convert than Sergius Paulus, [75:4] the Roman proconsul.Departing from Cyprus, Paul and Barnabas now set sail for Asia Minor,where they landed at Perga in Pamphylia. Here John Mark, the nephew ofBarnabas, by whom they had been hitherto accompanied, refused to proceedfurther. He seems to have been intimidated by the prospect ofaccumulating difficulties. From many, on religious grounds, they hadreason to anticipate a most discouraging reception; and the land journeynow before them was otherwise beset with dangers. Whilst engaged in it,Paul seems to have experienced those "perils of waters," or of "rivers,"[75:5] and "perils of robbers," which he afterwards mentions; for thehighlands of Asia Minor were infested with banditti, and the mountainstreams often rose with frightful rapidity, and swept away the unwarystranger. John Mark now returned to Jerusalem, and, at a subsequentperiod, we find Paul refusing, in consequence, to receive him as atravelling companion. [76:1] But though Barnabas was then dissatisfiedbecause the apostle continued to be distrustful of his relative, andthough "the contention was so sharp" between these two eminent heraldsof the cross that "they departed asunder one from the other," [76:2] thereturn of this young minister from Perga appears to have led to nochange in their present arrangements. Continuing their journey into theinterior of the country, they now preached in Antioch of Pisidia, inIconium, in "Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia," and in "the regionthat lieth round about." [76:3] When they had proceeded thus far, theybegan to retrace their steps, and again visited the places where theyhad previously succeeded in collecting congregations. They now suppliedtheir converts with a settled ministry. When they had presided in everychurch at an appointment of elders, [76:4] in which the choice wasdetermined by popular suffrage, [76:5] and when they had prayed withfasting, they laid their hands on the elected office-bearers, and inthis form "commended them to the Lord on whom they believed." Havingthus planted the gospel in many districts which had never before beentrodden by the feet of a Christian missionary, they returned to Antiochin Syria to rehearse "all that God had done with them, and how he hadopened the door of faith unto the Gentiles." [76:6]

Paul and Barnabas spent about six years in this first tour; [76:7] and,occasionally, when their ministrations were likely to exert a wide andpermanent influence, remained long in particular localities. The accountof their designation, and of their labours in Cyprus, Pamphylia,Lycaonia, and the surrounding regions, occupies two whole chapters ofthe Acts of the Apostles. The importance of their mission may beestimated from this lengthened notice. Christianity now greatly extendedits base of operations, and shook paganism in some of its strongholds.In every place which they visited, the apostles observed a uniform planof procedure. In the first instance, they made their appeal to the seedof Abraham; as they were themselves learned Israelites, they weregenerally permitted, on their arrival in a town, to set forth the claimsof Jesus of Nazareth in the synagogue; and it was not until the Jews hadexhibited a spirit of unbelief, that they turned to the heathenpopulation. In the end, by far the majority of their converts werereclaimed idolaters. "The Gentiles were glad, and glorified the word ofthe Lord, and as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed."[77:1] Astonished at the mighty miracles exhibited by the twomissionaries, the pagans imagined that "the gods" had come down to them"in the likeness of men;" and at Lystra the priest of Jupiter "broughtoxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with thepeople;" [77:2] but the Jews looked on in sullen incredulity, and keptalive an active and implacable opposition. At Cyprus, the apostles hadto contend against the craft of a Jewish conjuror; [77:3] at Antioch,"the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief menof the city, and raised persecution" against them, "and expelled themout of their coasts;" [77:4] at Iconium, the Jews again "stirred up theGentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren;"[77:5] and at Lystra, the same parties "persuaded the people, and havingstoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead"[78:1] The trials through which he now passed seem to have made anindelible impression on the mind of the great apostle, and in the lastof his epistles, written many years afterwards, he refers to them asamong the most formidable he encountered in his perilous career.Timothy, who at this time must have been a mere boy, appears to havewitnessed some of these ebullitions of Jewish malignity, and to havemarked with admiration the heroic spirit of the heralds of the Cross.Paul, when about to be decapitated by the sword of Nero, could,therefore, appeal to the evangelist, and could fearlessly declare that,twenty years before, when his life was often at stake, he had notquailed before the terrors of martyrdom. "Thou," says he, "hast fullyknown my long-suffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions,which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra, whatpersecutions I endured, but, out of them all, the Lord delivered me."[78:2]

The hostile efforts of the Jews did not arrest the gospel in itstriumphant career. The truth prevailed mightily among the Gentiles, andthe great influx of converts began to impart an entirely new aspect tothe Christian community. At first the Church consisted exclusively ofIsraelites by birth, and all who entered it still continued to observethe institutions of Moses. But it was now evident that the number of itsGentile adherents would soon very much preponderate, and that, ere long,the keeping of the typical law would become the peculiarity of a smallminority of its members. Many of the converted Jews were by no meansprepared for such an alternative. They prided themselves upon theirdivinely-instituted worship; and, misled by the fallacy that whatever isappointed by God can never become obsolete, they conceived that thespread of Christianity must be connected with the extension of theirnational ceremonies. They accordingly asserted that the commandmentrelative to the initiatory ordinance of Judaism was binding upon alladmitted to Christian fellowship. "Certain men which came down fromJudea" to Antioch, "taught the brethren, and said, Except ye becircumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved." [79:1]

Paul was eminently qualified to deal with such errorists. There was atime when he had valued himself upon his Pharisaic strictness, but whenGod revealed to him His glory in the face of Jesus Christ, he was taughtto distinguish between a living faith, and a dead formalism. He stillmaintained his social status, as one of the "chosen people," by thekeeping of the law; but he knew that it merely prefigured the greatredemption, and that its types and shadows must quickly disappear beforethe light of the gospel. He saw, too, that the arguments urged forcircumcision could also be employed in behalf of all the Leviticalarrangements, [79:2] and that the tendency of the teaching of these "menwhich came down from Judea" was to encumber the disciples with theweight of a superannuated ritual. Nor was this all. The apostle was wellaware that the spirit which animated those Judaising zealots was aspirit of self-righteousness. When they "taught the brethren and said,Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot besaved" they subverted the doctrine of justification by faith alone.[79:3] A sinner is saved as soon as he believes on the Lord JesusChrist, [79:4] and he requires neither circumcision, nor any otherordinance, to complete his pardon. Baptism is, indeed, the sign by whichbelievers solemnly declare their acceptance of the gospel, and the sealby which God is graciously pleased to recognise them as heirs of therighteousness of faith; and yet even baptism is not essential tosalvation, for the penitent thief, though unbaptized, was admitted intoparadise. [80:1] But circumcision is no part of Christianity at all; itdoes not so much as indicate that the individual who submits to it is abeliever in Jesus. Faith in the Saviour is the only and the perfect wayof justification. "Blessed are all they that put their trust in him,"[80:2] for Christ will, without fail, conduct to glory all who committhemselves to His guidance and protection. Those who trust in Him cannotbut love Him, and those who love Him cannot but delight to do His will;and as faith is the root of holiness and happiness, so unbelief is thefountain of sin and misery. But though the way of salvation by faith canonly be spiritually discerned, many seek to make it palpable byconnecting it with certain visible institutions. Faith looks to Jesus asthe only way to heaven; superstition looks to some outward observance,such as baptism or circumcision, (which is only a finger-post on theway,) and confounds it with the way itself. Faith is satisfied with avery simple ritual; superstition wearies itself with the multiplicity ofits minute observances. Faith holds communion with the Saviour in allHis appointments, and rejoices in Him with joy unspeakable; superstitionleans on forms and ceremonies, and is in bondage to these beggarlyelements. No wonder then that the attempt to impose on the convertedGentiles the rites of both Christianity and Judaism encountered suchresolute opposition. Paul and Barnabas at once withstood its abettors,and had "no small dissension and disputation with them." [80:3] It wasfelt, however, that a matter of such grave importance merited theconsideration of the collective wisdom of the Church, and it wasaccordingly agreed to send these two brethren, "and certain other ofthem" "to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question."[81:1]

It is not stated that the Judaising teachers confined their interferenceto Antioch, and the subsequent narrative apparently indicates that thedeputation to Jerusalem acted on behalf of all the Churches in Syria andCilicia. [81:2] The Christian societies scattered throughout Pamphylia,Lycaonia, and some other districts of Asia Minor, do not seem to havebeen directly concerned in sending forward the commissioners; but asthese communities had been collected and organised by Paul and Barnabas,they doubtless considered that they were represented by their founders,and they at once acceded to the decision of the assembly which met inthe Jewish metropolis. [81:3] That assembly approached, perhaps, moreclosely than any ecclesiastical convention that has ever since beenheld, to the character of a general council. It is pretty clear that itsdeliberations must have taken place at the time of one of the greatannual festivals, for, seven or eight years before, the apostles hadcommenced their travels as missionaries, and except about the season ofthe Passover or of Pentecost, the Syrian deputation could have scarcelyreckoned on finding them in the holy city. It is not said that theofficials who were to be consulted belonged exclusively to Jerusalem.[81:4] They, not improbably, included the elders throughout Palestinewho usually repaired to the capital to celebrate the nationalsolemnities. This meeting, therefore, seems to have been constructed ona broader basis than what a superficial reading of the narrative mightsuggest. Amongst its members were the older apostles, as well asBarnabas and Paul, so that it contained the principal founders of theJewish and Gentile Churches: there were also present the elders ofJerusalem, and deputies from Antioch, that is, the representatives ofthe two most extensive and influential Christian societies in existence:whilst commissioners from the Churches of Syria and Cilicia, and eldersfrom various districts of the holy land, were, perhaps, likewise inattendance. The Universal Church was thus fairly represented in thismemorable Synod.

The meeting was held A.D. 51, and Paul, exactly fourteen years before,[82:1] had visited Jerusalem for the first time after his conversion.[82:2] So little was then known of his remarkable history, even in thechief city of Judea, that when he "assayed to join himself to thedisciples, they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was adisciple;" [82:3] but now his position was completely changed, and hewas felt to be one of the most influential personages who took part inthe proceedings of this important convention. Some have maintained thatthe whole multitude of believers in the Jewish capital deliberated andvoted on the question in dispute, but there is certainly nothing in thestatement of the evangelist to warrant such an inference. It is veryevident that the disciples in the holy city were not prepared to approveunanimously of the decision which was actually adopted, for we aretold that, long afterwards, they were "all zealous of the law," [83:1]and that they looked with extreme suspicion on Paul himself, because ofthe lax principles, in reference to its obligation, which he wasunderstood to patronise. [83:2] When he arrived in Jerusalem on thismission he found there a party determined to insist on the circumcisionof the converts from heathenism; [83:3] he complains of the oppositionhe now encountered from these "false brethren unawares brought in;"[83:4] and, when he returned to Antioch, he was followed by emissariesfrom the same bigoted and persevering faction. [83:5] It is quite clear,then, that the finding of the meeting, mentioned in the fifteenthchapter of the Acts, did not please all the members of the church ofthe metropolis. The apostle says expressly that he communicated"privately" on the subject with "them which were of reputation," [83:6]and in the present state of feeling, especially in the head-quarters ofJudaism, Paul would have recoiled from the discussion of a question ofsuch delicacy before a promiscuous congregation. The resolution nowagreed upon, when subsequently mentioned, is set forth as the act, notof the whole body of the disciples, but of "the apostles and elders,"[83:7] and as they were the arbiters to whom the appeal was made, theywere obviously the only parties competent to pronounce a deliverance.

Two or three expressions of doubtful import, which occur in connexionwith the history of the meeting, have induced some to infer that all themembers of the Church of Jerusalem were consulted on this occasion. Itis said that "all the multitude kept silence and gave audience toBarnabas and Paul"; [84:1] that it "pleased the apostles and elders withthe whole church to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch:"[84:2] and, according to our current text, that the epistle, intrustedto the care of these commissioners, proceeded from "the apostles andelders and brethren." [84:3] But "the whole church," and "all themultitude," merely signify the whole assembly present, and do notnecessarily imply even a very numerous congregation. [84:4] Some, atleast, of the "certain other" deputies [84:5] sent with Paul andBarnabas to Jerusalem, were, in all likelihood, disposed to doubt ordispute their views; as it is not probable that a distractedconstituency would have consented to the appointment of commissioners,all of whom were already committed to the same sentiments. When,therefore, the evangelist reports that the proposal made by James"pleased the apostles and elders with the whole Church," he thusdesigns to intimate that it met the universal approval of the meeting,including the deputies on both sides. There were prophets, and otherspossessed of extraordinary endowments, in the early Church, [84:6] and,as some of these were, no doubt, at this time in Jerusalem, [84:7] wecan scarcely suppose that they were not permitted to be present in thisdeliberative assembly. If we adopt the received reading of thesuperscription of the circular letter, [84:8] the "brethren," who arethere distinguished from "the apostles and elders," were, in alllikelihood, these gifted members. [84:9] But, according to the testimonyof the best and most ancient manuscripts, the true reading of thecommencement of this encyclical epistle is, "The apostles and eldersbrethren." [85:1] As the Syrian deputies were commissioned to consult,not the general body of Christians at Jerusalem, but the apostles andelders, this reading, now recognised as genuine by the highest criticalauthorities, is sustained by the whole tenor of the narrative. The sameparties who "came together to consider of this matter" also framed thedecree. The apostles and elders brethren were the only individualsofficially concerned in this important transaction. [85:2]

In this council the apostles acted, not as men oracularly pronouncingthe will of the Eternal, but, as ordinary church rulers, proceeding,after careful inquiry, to adopt the suggestions of an enlightenedjudgment. One passage of the Synodical epistle has been supposed tocountenance a different conclusion, for those assembled "to consider ofthis matter" are represented as saying to the Syrian and CilicianChurches—"It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us to lay upon youno greater burden" [85:3] than the restrictions which are presentlyenumerated. But it is to be observed that this is the language of "theelders brethren," as well as of the apostles, so that it must have beenused by many who made no pretensions to inspiration; and it is apparentfrom the context that the council here merely reproduces an argumentagainst the Judaizers which had been always felt to be irresistible. TheGentiles had received the Spirit "by the hearing of faith," [86:1] andnot by the ordinance of circumcision; and hence it was contended thatthe Holy Ghost himself had decided the question. Peter, therefore, saysto the meeting held at Jerusalem—"God, which knoweth the hearts, barethem witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; andput no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.Now, therefore, why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of thedisciples, which neither our fathers, nor we, were able to bear?" [86:2]He had employed the same reasoning long before, in defence of thebaptism of Cornelius and his friends. "The Holy Ghost," said he, "fellon them…. Forasmuch, then, as God gave them the like gift as he didunto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ,—what was I that Icould withstand God?" [86:3] When, then, the members of the councilhere declared, "It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us," [86:4] theythus simply intimated that they were shut up to the arrangement whichthey now announced—that God himself, by imparting His Spirit to thosewho had not received the rite of circumcision, had already settled thecontroversy—and that, as it had seemed good to the Holy Ghost not toimpose the ceremonial law upon the Gentiles, so it also seemed good to"the apostles and elders brethren."

But whilst the abundant outpouring of the Spirit on the Gentilesdemonstrated that they could be sanctified and saved withoutcircumcision, and whilst the Most High had thus proclaimed their freedomfrom the yoke of the Jewish ritual, it is plain that, in regard to thispoint, as well as other matters noticed in the letter, the writers speakas the accredited interpreters of the will of Jehovah. They state thatit seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to them to require the convertsfrom paganism "to abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood,and from things strangled, and from fornication." [87:1] And yet,without any special revelation, they might have felt themselveswarranted to give such instructions in such language, for surely theywere at liberty to say that the Holy Ghost had interdicted fornication;and, as the expounders of the doctrine of Christian expediency, [87:2]their views may have been so clear that they could speak with equalconfidence as to the duty of the disciples under present circ*mstancesto abstain from blood, and from things strangled, and from meats offeredto idols. If they possessed "the full assurance of understanding" as tothe course to be pursued, they doubtless deemed it right to signify totheir correspondents that the decision which they now promulgated was,not any arbitrary or hasty deliverance, but the very "mind of theSpirit" either expressly communicated in the Word, or deduced from it bygood and necessary inference. In this way they aimed to reach theconscience, and they knew that they thus furnished the most potentialargument for submission.

It may at first sight appear strange that whilst the apostles, and thosewho acted with them at this meeting, condemned the doctrine of theJudaizers, and affirmed that circumcision was not obligatory on theGentiles, they, at the same time, required the converts from paganism toobserve a part of the Hebrew ritual; and it may seem quite asextraordinary that, in a letter which was the fruit of so muchdeliberation, they placed an immoral act, and a number of merelyceremonial usages, in the same catalogue. But, on mature reflection, wemay recognise their tact and Christian prudence in these features oftheir communication. Fornication was one of the crying sins ofGentilism, and, except when it interfered with social arrangements, theheathen did not even acknowledge its criminality. When, therefore, thenew converts were furnished with the welcome intelligence that they werenot obliged to submit to the painful rite of circumcision, it was well,at the same time, to remind them that there were lusts of the fleshwhich they were bound to mortify; and it was expedient that, whilst avice so prevalent as fornication should be specified, they should bedistinctly warned to beware of its pollutions. For another reason theywere directed to abstain from "meats offered to idols." It oftenhappened that what had been presented at the shrine of a false god wasafterwards exposed for sale, and the council cautioned the disciplesagainst partaking of such food, as they might thus appear to give aspecies of sanction to idolatry, as well as tempt weak brethren to go astep further, and directly countenance the superstitions of the heathenworship. [88:1] The meeting also instructed the faithful in Syria andCilicia to abstain from "blood and from things strangled," because theJewish converts had been accustomed from infancy to regard aliment ofthis description with abhorrence, and they could scarcely be expected tosit at meat with parties who partook of such dishes. Though the use ofthem was lawful, it was, at least for the present, not expedient; and onthe same principle that, whether we eat, or drink, or whatever we do, weshould do all to the glory of God, the Gentile converts were admonishedto remove them from their tables, that no barrier might be raised up inthe way of social or ecclesiastical communion with their brethren of theseed of Abraham.

It was high time for the authoritative settlement of a question at onceso perplexing and so delicate. It already threatened to create a schismin the Church; and the agitation, which had commenced before the meetingof the council, was not immediately quieted. When Peter visited Antiochshortly afterwards, he at first triumphed so far over his prejudices asto sit at meat with the converts from paganism; but when certainsticklers for the law arrived from Jerusalem, "he withdrew, andseparated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision." [89:1]The "decree" of the apostles and elders undoubtedly implied thelawfulness of eating with the Gentiles, but it contained no expressinjunction on the subject, and Peter, who was now about to "go unto thecircumcision," [89:2] and who was, therefore, most anxious to conciliatethe Jews, may have pleaded this technical objection in defence of hisinconsistency. It is said that others, from whom better things mighthave been expected, followed his example, "insomuch that Barnabas alsowas carried away with their dissimulation." [89:3] But, on this criticaloccasion, Paul stood firm; and his bold and energetic remonstrancesappear to have had the effect of preventing a division which must havebeen most detrimental to the interests of infant Christianity.

A.D. 52.

After the Council of Jerusalem, the gospel continued its prosperouscareer. When Paul had remained for some time at Antioch, where hereturned with the deputation, he set out to visit the Churches of Syriaand Cilicia; and then travelled through Lycaonia, Galatia, and someother portions of Asia Minor. He was now directed, by a vision, [90:1]to pass over into Greece; and about the spring of A.D. 52, or twenty-oneyears after the crucifixion, Europe was entered, for the first time, bythe Apostle of the Gentiles. Paul commenced his ministry in this newsphere of labour by announcing the great salvation to the inhabitants ofPhilippi, a city of Macedonia, and a Roman colony. [90:2]

Nearly a century before, two powerful factions, contending for thegovernment of the Roman world, had converted the district now visitedinto a theatre of war; immense armies had been here drawn out in hostilearray; and two famous battles, which issued in the overthrow of theRepublic, had been fought in this very neighbourhood. The victor hadrewarded some of his veterans by giving them possessions at Philippi.The Christian missionary entered, as it were, the suburbs of the greatmetropolis of the West, when he made his appearance in this militarycolony; for, it had the same privileges as the towns of Italy, [91:1]and its inhabitants enjoyed the status of Roman citizens. Here he noworiginated a spiritual revolution which eventually changed the face ofEurope. The Jews had no synagogue in Philippi; but, in places such asthis, where their numbers were few, they were wont, on the Sabbath, tomeet for worship by the side of some river in which they couldconveniently perform their ablutions; and Paul accordingly repaired tothe banks of the Gangitas, [91:2] where he expected to find themassembled for devotional exercises. A small oratory, or house of prayer,seems to have been erected on the spot; but the little society connectedwith it must have been particularly apathetic, as the apostle found onlya few females in attendance. One of these was, however, the first-fruitsof his mission to the Western continent. Lydia, a native of Thyatira,and a seller of purple,—a species of dye for which her birthplace hadacquired celebrity,—was the name of the convert; and though the gospelmay already have made some progress in Rome, it must be admitted that,in as far as direct historical testimony is concerned, this woman hasthe best claim to be recognised as the mother of European Christianity.It is said that she "worshipped God," [91:3] that is, though a Gentile,she had been proselyted to the Jewish faith; and the history of herconversion is given by the evangelist with remarkable clearness andsimplicity. "The Lord opened her heart that she attended unto thethings that were spoken of Paul." [91:4] When she and her family werebaptized, she entreated the missionaries to "come into her house andabide there" during their sojourn in the place; and, after somehesitation, they accepted the proffered hospitality.

Another female acts a conspicuous part in connexion with this apostolicvisit. "It came to pass," says Luke, "as we went to prayer, a certaindamsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought hermasters much gain by soothsaying: the same followed Paul and us, andcried, saying, These men are the servants of the Most High God, whichshew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days." [92:1]It is quite possible that even daemons have the power of discerningcertain classes of future events with the quickness of intuition; [92:2]and if, as the Scriptures testify, they have sometimes entered intohuman bodies, we can well understand how the individuals thus possessedhave obtained credit for divination. In this way the damsel mentioned bythe evangelist may have acquired her celebrity. We cannot explain howdisembodied spirits maintain intercourse; but it is certain that theypossess means of mutual recognition, and that they can be impressed bythe presence of higher and holier intelligences. And as the approach ofa mighty conqueror spreads dismay throughout the territory he invades,so when the Son of God appeared on earth, the devils were troubled atHis presence, and, in the agony of their terror, proclaimed His dignity.[92:3] It would appear that some influence of an analogous characteroperated on this Pythoness. The arrival of the missionaries in Philippialarmed the powers of darkness, and the damsel, under the pressure of animpulse which she found it impossible to resist, told their commission.But neither the apostles, nor our Lord, cared for credentials of suchequivocal value. As this female followed the strangers through thestreets, and in a loud voice announced their errand to the city, "Paul,being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee, in thename of Jesus Christ, to come out of her, and he came out the samehour." [93:1]

The unbelieving Jews had hitherto been the great persecutors of theChurch; but now, for the first time, the apostles encountered oppositionfrom another quarter; and the expulsion of the spirit from the damselevoked the hostility of this new adversary. When the masters of thePythoness "saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Pauland Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers." [93:2]We here discover one great cause of our Lord under the government of thepagan emperors. The Jews were prompted by mere bigotry to display hatredto the gospel—but the Gentiles were generally guided by the still moreignoble principle of selfishness. Many of the heathen multitude caredlittle for their idolatrous worship; but all who depended forsubsistence on the prevalence of superstition, such as the image-makers,the jugglers, the fortune-tellers, and a considerable number of thepriests, [93:3] were dismayed and driven to desperation by the progressof Christianity. They saw that, with its success, "the hope of theirgains was gone;" and, under pretence of zeal for the public interest,and for the maintenance of the "lawful" ceremonies, they laboured tointimidate and oppress the adherents of the new doctrine.

The appearance of the missionaries at Philippi must have created aprofound sensation, as otherwise it is impossible to account for thetumult which now occurred. The "masters" of the damsel possessed of the"spirit of divination," no doubt, took the initiatory step in themovement; but had not the public mind been in some degree prepared fortheir appeals, they could not have induced all classes of theirfellow-citizens so soon to join in the persecution. "The multitude roseup together" at their call; the duumviri, or magistrates, rent off theclothes of the apostles with their own hands, and commanded them to bescourged; the lictors "laid many stripes upon them;" they wore orderedto be kept in close confinement; and the jailer exceeded the exactletter of his instructions by thrusting them "into the inner prison,"and by making "their feet fast in the stocks." [94:1] The power ofImperial Rome arrayed itself against the preachers of the gospel, andnow distinctly gave note of warning of the approach of that long nightof affliction throughout which the church was yet to struggle.

If the proceedings of the missionaries, before their committal toprison, produced such a ferment, it is clear that the circ*mstancesattending their incarceration were not calculated to abate theexcitement. It soon appeared that they had sources of enjoyment which nohuman authority could either destroy or disturb; for as they lay in thepitchy darkness of their dungeon with their feet compressed in thestocks, their hearts overflowed with divine comfort. "At midnight Pauland Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heardthem." [94:2] What must have been the wonder of the other inmates of thejail, as these sounds fell upon their ears! Instead of a cry of distressissuing from "the inner prison," there was the cheerful voice ofthanksgiving! The apostles rejoiced that they were counted worthy tosuffer in the service of Christ. The King of the Church sympathised withHis oppressed saints, and speedily vouchsafed to them most wonderfultokens of encouragement. Scarcely had they finished their song of praisewhen it was answered by a very significant response, proclaiming thatthey were supported by a power which could crush the might of Rome."Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of theprison were shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bands were loosed." [95:1]

It is not improbable that the mind of the jailer had already been ill atease. He must have heard of the extraordinary history of the damsel withthe spirit of divination who announced that his prisoners were theservants of the Most High God, and that they shewed unto men the way ofsalvation. Rumour had, perhaps, supplied him with some information inreference to their doctrines; and during even his short intercourse withPaul and Silas in the jail, he may have been impressed by much that henoticed in their spirit and deportment. But he had meanwhile gone torest, and he remained asleep until roused by the noise and tremor of theearthquake. When he awoke and saw "the prison doors open," he was in aparoxysm of alarm; and concluding that the prisoners had escaped, andthat he might expect to be punished, perhaps capitally, for neglect ofduty, he resolved to anticipate such a fate, and snatched his sword tocommit suicide. At this moment, a voice issuing from the dungeon wherethe missionaries were confined, at once dispelled his fears as to theprisoners, and arrested him almost in the very act of self-murder. "Paulcried with a loud voice, saying—Do thyself no harm, for we are allhere." [95:2] These words operated on the unhappy man like a shock ofelectricity. They instantaneously directed his thoughts into anotherchannel, and imparted intensity to feelings which, had hitherto beencomparatively dormant. The conviction flashed upon his conscience thatthe men whom he had so recently thrust into the inner prison were noimpostors; that they had, as they alleged, authority to treat of mattersinfinitely more important than any of the passing interests of time;that they had, verily, a commission from heaven to teach the way ofeternal salvation; and that he and others, who had taken part in theirimprisonment, had acted most iniquitously. For what now could be moreevident than that the apostles were the servants of the Most High God?When everything around them was enveloped in the gloom of midnight, theyseemed able to tell what was passing all over the prison. How strangethat, when the jailer was about to kill himself, a voice should issuefrom a different apartment saying—Do thyself no harm! How strange thatthe very man whose feet, a few hours before, had boon made fast in thestocks, should now be the giver of this friendly counsel! How remarkablethat, when all the doors were opened, no one attempted to escape! Andhow extraordinary that, during the very night on which the apostles wereimprisoned, the bands of all the inmates were loosed, and that thebuilding was made to rock to its foundations! Did not the earthquakeindicate that He, whom the apostles served, was able to save and todestroy? Did it not proclaim, trumpet-tongued, that He would surelypunish their persecutors? When the jailer thought on these things, wellmight he be paralysed with fear, and believing that the apostles alonecould tell him how he was Lo obtain relief from the anxiety whichoppressed his spirit, it is not strange that "he called for a light, andsprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, andbrought them out, and said—Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" [96:1]

The missionaries were prepared with a decisive reply to this earnestinquiry, and it is probable that their answer took the jailer bysurprise. He expected, perhaps, to be called upon to do something,either to propitiate the apostles themselves, or to turn away the wrathof the God of the apostles. It is obvious, from the spirit which hemanifested, that, to obtain peace of conscience, he was ready to go veryfar in the way of self-sacrifice. He may have been willing to part withhis property, or to imperil his life, or to give "the fruit of his bodyfor the sin of his soul." What, then, must have been his astonishmentwhen he found that the divine mercy so far transcended anything he couldhave possibly anticipated! With what satisfaction must he have listenedto the assurance that an atonement had already been made, and that thesinner is safe as soon as he lays the hand of faith on the head of thegreat Sacrifice! What delight must he have experienced when informedthat unbelief alone could shut him out from heaven; that the Son of Godhad died the just for the unjust; and that this almighty Saviour nowwaited to be gracious to-himself! How must the words of the apostleshave thrilled through his soul, as he heard them repeating theinvitation-"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,and thy house." [97:1]

The jailer joyfully accepted the proffered Deliverer; and felt that,resting on this Rock of Salvation, he was at peace. Though well awarethat, by openly embracing the gospel, he exposed himself to considerabledanger, he did not shrink from the position of a confessor. The love ofChrist had obtained full possession of his soul, and he was quiteprepared to suffer in the service of his Divine Master. He took Paul andSilas "the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes, and wasbaptized, he and all his, straightway; and when he had brought them intohis house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God withall his house." [98:1]

It is highly probable that the shock of the earthquake was felt beyondthe precincts of the jail, and that the events which had occurred therehad soon been communicated to the city authorities. We can thus bestaccount for the fact that "when it was day, the magistrates sent theserjeants saying, Let those men go." [98:2] As it is not stated that theapostles had previously entered into any vindication of theirconduct, it has been thought singular that they now declined to leavethe prison without receiving an apology for the violation of theirprivileges as Roman citizens. But this matter presents no realdifficulty. The magistrates had yielded to the clamour of an infuriatedmob; and, instead of giving Paul and Silas a fair opportunity of defenceor explanation, had summarily consigned them to the custody of thejailer. These functionaries now seemed prepared to listen toremonstrance; and Paid deemed it due to himself, and to the interests ofthe Christian Church, to complain of the illegal character of theproceedings from which he had suffered. He had been punished, without atrial, and scourged, though a Roman citizen. [98:3] Hence, when informedthat the duumviri had given orders for the liberation of himself and hiscompanion, the apostle exclaimed—"They have beaten us openlyuncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison, and now do theythrust us out privily? Nay, verily, but let them come themselves, andfetch us out." [98:4] These words, which were immediately reported by theserjeants, or lictors, inspired the magistrates with apprehension, andsuggested to them the expediency of conciliation. "And they came" to theprison to the apostles, "and besought them, and brought them out, anddesired them to depart out of the city." [99:1] The missionaries didnot, however, leave Philippi until they had another opportunity ofmeeting with their converts. "They went out of the prison, and enteredinto the house of Lydia, and when they had seen the brethren, theycomforted them and departed." [99:2]

On the whole Paul and Silas had reason to thank God and take courage,when they reviewed their progress in the first European city which theyvisited. Though they had met with much opposition, their ministry hadbeen greatly blessed; and, in the end, the magistrates, who had treatedthem with much severity, had felt it necessary to apologise. Theextraordinary circ*mstances accompanying their imprisonment must havemade their case known to the whole body of the citizens, and thussecured a degree of attention to their preaching which could not havebeen otherwise expected. The Church, now established at Philippi,contained a number of most generous members, and Paul afterwardsgratefully acknowledged the assistance he received from them. "Ye havewell done," said he, "that ye did communicate with my affliction. Now,ye Philippians, know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when Ideparted from Macedonia, no church communicated with me, as concerninggiving and receiving, but ye only. For, even in Thessalonica, ye sentonce and again unto my necessity." [99:3]

A.D. 52 TO A.D. 54.

After leaving Philippi, and passing through Amphipolis and Apollonia,Paul made his way to Thessalonica. In this city there was a Jewishsynagogue where he was permitted, for three successive Sabbaths, toaddress the congregation. His discourses produced a powerful impression;as some of the seed of Abraham believed, "and, of the devout Greeks, agreat multitude, and of the chief women, not a few." [100:1] Theunbelieving Jews attempted to create annoyance by representing themissionaries as acting "contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying—thatthere is another king, one Jesus;" [100:2] but though they contrived totrouble "the rulers" [100:3] and to "set all the city in an uproar,"they could not succeed in preventing the formation of a flourishingChristian community. Paul appeared next in Berea, and, when reportinghis success here, the sacred historian bears a remarkable testimony tothe right of the laity to judge for themselves as to the meaning of theBook of Inspiration; for he states that the Jews of this place "weremore noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the wordwith all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily" [101:1]to ascertain the truth of the apostolic doctrine. Paul now proceeded "togo as it were to the sea," and soon afterwards arrived at Athens.

The ancient capital of Attica had long been the literary metropolis ofheathendom. Its citizens could boast that they were sprung from a raceof heroes, as their forefathers had nobly struggled for freedom on manya bloody battlefield, and, by prodigies of valour, had maintained theirindependence against all the might of Persia. Minerva, the goddess ofwisdom, was their tutelary deity. The Athenians, from time immemorial,had been noted for their intellectual elevation; and a brilliant arrayof poets, legislators, historians, philosophers, and orators, hadcrowned their community with immortal fame. Every spot connected withtheir city was classic ground. Here it was that Socrates had discoursedso sagely; and that Plato had illustrated, with so much felicity andgenius, the precepts of his great master; and that Demosthenes, byaddresses of unrivalled eloquence, had roused and agitated theassemblies of his countrymen. As the stranger passed through Athens,artistic productions of superior excellence everywhere met his eye. Itsstatues, its public monuments, and its temples, were models alike oftasteful design and of beautiful workmanship. But there may be muchintellectual culture where there is no spiritual enlightenment, andAthens, though so far advanced in civilisation and refinement, was oneof the high places of pagan superstition. Amidst the splendour of itsarchitectural decorations, as well as surrounded with proofs of itsscientific and literary eminence, the apostle mourned over its religiousdestitution, and "his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the citywholly given to idolatry." [102:1]

On this new scene Paul exhibited his usual activity and earnestness. "Hedisputed in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons,and in the market daily with them that met with him." [102:2] TheChristian preacher, doubtless, soon became an object of no littlecuriosity. He was of diminutive stature; [102:3] he seems to havelaboured under the disadvantages of imperfect vision; [102:4] and hisPalestinian Greek must have sounded harshly in the ears of those whowere accustomed to speak their mother tongue in its Attic purity. But,though his "bodily presence was weak," [102:5] he speedily convincedthose who came in contact with him, that the frail earthly tabernaclewas the habitation of a master mind; and though mere connoisseurs inidioms and pronunciation might designate "his speech contemptible,"[102:6] he riveted the attention of his hearers by the force andimpressiveness of his oratory. The presence of this extraordinarystranger could not remain long unknown to the Athenian literati; but,when they entered into conversation with him, some of them were disposedto ridicule him as an idle talker, whilst others seemed inclined todenounce him as a dangerous innovator. "Certain philosophers of theEpicureans and of the Stoics encountered him; and some said—What willthis babbler say? other some—He seemeth to be a setter forth of strangegods, because he preached unto them Jesus and the resurrection." [102:7]Upwards of four hundred years before, Socrates had been condemned todeath by the Athenians as "a setter forth of strange gods," [103:1] andit may be that some of these philosophers hoped to intimidate theapostle by hinting that he was now open to the same indictment. But itis very improbable that they seriously contemplated a prosecution; asthey had themselves no faith in the pagan mythology. They were quiteready to employ their wit to turn the heathen worship into scorn; andyet they could point out no "more excellent way" of religious service.In Athens, philosophy had demonstrated its utter impotence to doanything effective for the reformation of the popular theology; and itsprofessors had settled down into the conviction that, as the currentsuperstition exercised an immense influence over the minds of themultitude it was inexpedient for wise men to withhold from it thetribute of outward reverence. The discourses of Paul were very far fromcomplimentary to parties who valued themselves so highly on theirintellectual advancement; for he quietly ignored all their speculationsas so much folly; and, whilst he propounded his own system with theutmost confidence, he, at the same time, supported it by arguments whichthey were determined to reject, but unable to overturn. It is prettyclear that they were to some extent under the influence of pique andirritation when they noticed his deviations from the established faith,and applied to him the epithet of "babbler;" but Paul was not the man tobe put down either by irony or insult; and at length it was foundnecessary to allow him a fair opportunity of explaining his principles.It is accordingly stated that "they took him and brought him unto MarsHill saying—May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest,is, for thou bringest certain strange things to our ears—we would know,therefore, what these things mean." [103:2]

The speech delivered by Paul on this memorable occasion has been oftenadmired for its tact, vigour, depth, and fidelity. Whilst giving theAthenians full credit for their devotional feeling, and avoiding anypointed and sarcastic attack on the absurdities of their religiousritual, he contrives to present such an outline of the prominentfeatures of the Christian revelation, as might have convinced any candidand intelligent auditor of its incomparable superiority, as well to thedoctrines of the philosophers, as to the fables of heathenism. In thevery commencement of his observations he displays no little address. "Yemen of Athens," said he, "I perceive that, in every point of view, yeare carrying your religious reverence very far; for, as I passed by, andobserved the objects of your worship, I found an altar with thisinscription—To the unknown God—whom, therefore, ye worship, though yeknow him not, him declare I unto you." [104:1] The existence in thiscity of inscriptions, such as that here given, is attested by severalother ancient witnesses [104:2] as well as Paul, and the altars thusdistinguished appear to have been erected when the place was afflictedby certain strange and unprecedented calamities which the deities,already recognised, were supposed to be unable to remove. The auditorsof the apostle could not well be dissatisfied with the statement thatthey carried their "religious reverence very far;" and yet, perhaps,they were scarcely prepared for the reference to this altar by which theobservation was illustrated; for the inscription which he quotedcontained a most humiliating confession of their ignorance, andfurnished him with an excellent apology for proposing to act as theirtheological instructor.

His discourse, which treats of the Being and Attributes of God, musthave been heard with no ordinary interest by the polite and intelligentAthenians. Its reasoning is plain, pertinent, and powerful; and whilstadopting a didactic tone, and avoiding the language and spirit ofcontroversy, the apostle, in every sentence, comes into directcollision, either with the errors of polytheism, or the dogmas of theGrecian philosophy. The Stoics were Pantheists, and held the doctrine ofthe eternity of matter; [105:1] whilst the Epicureans maintained thatthe universe arose out of a fortuitous concurrence of atoms; [105:2] andtherefore Paul announced his opposition to both these sects when hedeclared that "God made the world and all things therein." [105:3] TheAthenians boasted that they were of nobler descent than the rest oftheir countrymen; [105:4] and the heathen generally believed that eachnation belonged to a distinct stock and was under the guardianship ofits own peculiar deities; but the apostle affirmed that "God hath madeof one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of theearth." [105:5] The Epicureans asserted that the gods did not interferein the concerns of the human family, and that they were destitute offoreknowledge; but Paul here assured them that the great Creator "givethto all life and breath and all things," and "hath determined the timesbefore appointed, and the bounds of their habitation." [105:6] Theheathen imagined that the gods inhabited their images; but whilst Paulwas ready to acknowledge the excellence, as works of art, of the statueswhich he saw all around him, he at the same time distinctly intimatedthat these dead pieces of material mechanism could never even faintlyrepresent the glory of the invisible First Cause, and that they wereunworthy the homage of living and intellectual beings. "As we are theoffspring of God," said he, "we ought not to think that the Godhead islike unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device."[106:1] After having thus borne testimony to the spirituality of the Iam that I am, and asserted His authority as the Maker and Preserver ofthe world, Paul proceeded to point out his claims as its righteousGovernor. "He hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the worldin righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hathgiven assurance unto all men in that he hath raised him from the dead."[106:2] The pleasure-loving Epicureans refused to believe in a futurestate of rewards and punishments; and concurred with the Stoics indenying the immortality of the soul. [106:3] Both these parties were, ofcourse, prepared to reject the doctrine of a general judgment. The ideaof the resurrection of the body was quite novel to almost all classes ofthe Gentiles; and, when at first propounded to the Athenians, wasreceived, by many, with doubt, and by some, with ridicule. "When theyheard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, and others said, Wewill hear thee again of this matter. So Paul departed from among them."[106:4]

The frivolous spirit cherished by the citizens of the ancient capital ofAttica was exceedingly unfavourable to the progress of the earnest faithof Christianity. "All the Athenians, and strangers which were there,spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some newthing." [106:5] Though they had acquired a world-wide reputation forliterary culture, it is an instructive fact that their city continuedfor several centuries afterwards to be one of the strongholds of Gentilesuperstition. But the labours of Paul at this time were not entirelyunproductive. "Certain men clave unto him and believed, among the whichwas Dionysius, the Areopagite, and a woman, named Damaris, and otherswith them." [107:1] The court of Areopagus, long the highest judicialtribunal in the place, had not even yet entirely lost its celebrity; andthe circ*mstance that Dionysius was connected with it, is a proof thatthis Christian convert must have been a respectable and influentialcitizen. He appears to have occupied a very high place among theprimitive disciples; and the number of spurious writings ascribed to him[107:2] shew that his name was deemed a tower of strength to the causewith which it was associated. He seems to have been long at the head ofthe Athenian presbytery; and to have survived his conversion about fortyyears, or until the time of the Domitian persecution. [107:3]

From Athens Paul directed his steps to Corinth, where he appears to havearrived in the autumn of A.D. 52. Nearly two hundred years before, thiscity had been completely destroyed; but, after a century of desolation,it had been rebuilt; and having since rapidly increased, it was nowflourishing and populous. As a place of trade, its position, near anisthmus of the same name, gave it immense advantages; for it had aharbour on each side, so that it was the central depôt of the commerceof the East and West. Its inhabitants valued themselves much upon theirattainments in philosophy and general literature; but, whilst, bytraffic, they had succeeded in acquiring wealth, they had given way tothe temptations of luxury and licentiousness. Corinth was, in fact, atthis time one of the most dissolute cities of the Empire. It was thecapital of the large province of Achaia, and the residence of the Romanproconsul.

When Paul was at Athens he was led to adapt his style of instruction tothe character of his auditors, and he was thus obliged to occupy much ofhis time in discussing the principles of natural religion. Heendeavoured to gain over the citizens by shewing them that their viewsof the Godhead could not stand the test of a vigorous and discriminatinglogic, and that Christianity alone rested on a sound philosophicalfoundation. But the exposition of a pure system of theism hadcomparatively little influence on the hearts and consciences of thesesystem-builders. Considering the time and skill devoted to its culture,Athens had yielded perhaps less spiritual fruit than any field of labouron which he had yet operated. When he arrived in Corinth he resolved,therefore, to avoid, as much as possible, mere metaphysicalargumentation, and he sought rather to stir up sinners to flee from thewrath to come by pressing home upon them earnestly the peculiardoctrines of revelation. In the first epistle, addressed subsequently tothe Church now established in this place, he thus describes the spiritin which he conducted his apostolical ministrations. "And I, brethren,"says he, "when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or ofwisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God—for I determined not toknow anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified; and myspeech and my preaching was, not with enticing words of man's wisdom,but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power—that your faith shouldnot stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." [108:1]

The result demonstrated that the apostle thus pursued the most effectivemode of advancing the Christian cause. It might, indeed, have beenthought that Corinth was a very ungenial soil for the gospel, as Venuswas the favourite deity of the place; and a thousand priestesses, or, inother words, a thousand prostitutes, were employed in the celebration ofher orgies. [109:1] The inhabitants generally were sunk in the verydepths of moral pollution. But the preaching of the Cross produced apowerful impression even in this hotbed of iniquity. Notwithstanding theenmity of the Jews, who "opposed themselves and blasphemed," [109:2]Paul succeeded in collecting here a large and prosperous congregation."Many of the Corinthians hearing, believed, and were baptized." [109:3]Most of the converts were in very humble circ*mstances, and hence theapostle says to them in his first epistle—"Ye see your calling,brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty,not many noble are called;" [109:4] but still a few persons ofdistinction united themselves to the despised community. Thus, itappears [109:5] that Erastus, the chamberlain, or treasurer, of thecity, was among the disciples. It may be that this civic functionaryjoined the Church at a somewhat later date; but, even now, Paul wasencouraged by the accession of some remarkable converts. Of these,perhaps, the most conspicuous was Crispus, "the chief ruler of thesynagogue," who, "with all his house," submitted to baptism. [109:6]About the same time Gaius, who seems to have been an opulent citizen,and who rendered good service to the common cause by his Christianhospitality, [109:7] openly embraced the gospel. Two other converts, whoare often honourably mentioned in the New Testament, were now likewiseadded to the infant Church. These were Aquila and Priscilla. [109:8]Some have, indeed, supposed that this couple had been already baptized;but, on the arrival of Paul in Corinth, Aquila is represented as a Jew[110:1]—a designation which would not have been descriptive of hisposition had he been previously a believer—and we must therefore inferthat the conversion of himself and his excellent partner occurred atthis period.

In this city, as well as in many other places, the apostle supportedhimself by the labour of his own hands. It was now customary, even forIsraelites in easy circ*mstances, to train up their children to somemechanical employment, so that should they sink into penury, they couldstill, by manual industry, procure a livelihood. [110:2] Paul had beentaught the trade of a tent-maker, or manufacturer of awnings ofhair-cloth—articles much used in the East as a protection against therays of the sun, by travellers and mariners; It was in connexion withthis occupation that lie became acquainted with Aquila and Priscilla."Because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought."[110:3] The Jew and his wife had probably a large manufactory, and thusthey could furnish the apostle with remunerative employment. Whilstunder their roof, he did not neglect the opportunities he enjoyed ofpresenting the gospel to their attention, and both soon became hisardent and energetic coadjutors in missionary service.

The conduct of Paul in working with his own hands, whilst engaged in thedissemination of the gospel, is a noble example of Christianself-denial. He could, it appears, expect little assistance from themother church of Antioch; and had he, in the first instance, demandedsupport from those to whom he now ministered, he would have exposedhimself and his cause to the utmost suspicion. In a commercial city,such as Corinth, he would have been regarded by many as a mereadventurer who had resorted to a new species of speculation in the hopeof obtaining a maintenance. His disinterested behaviour placed him atonce beyond the reach of this imputation; and his intense love to Christprepared him to make the sacrifice, which the course he thus adopted,required. And what a proof of the humility of Paul that he cheerfullylaboured for his daily bread at the trade of a tent-maker! The Rabbi whowas once admired for his genius and his learning by the mostdistinguished of his countrymen—who had once sat among the members ofthe great Sanhedrim—and who might have legitimately aspired to be theson-in-law of the High Priest of Israel [111:1]—was now content to toil"night and day" at a menial occupation sitting among the workmen ofAquila and Priscilla! How like to Him, who, though He was rich, yet, forour sakes, became poor, that we, through His poverty, might be rich!

Paul was well aware of the importance of Corinth as a centre ofmissionary influence. Strangers from the East passed through it on theirway to Rome, and travellers from the Western metropolis stopped here ontheir way to Asia Minor, Palestine, or Syria, so that it was one of thegreatest thoroughfares in the Empire; and, as a commercial mart, it wassecond to very few cities in the world. The apostle therefore saw thatif a Church could be firmly planted in this busy capital, it couldscatter the seeds of truth to all the ends of the earth. We may thusunderstand why he remained in Corinth so much longer than in any otherplace he had yet visited since his departure from Antioch. "He continuedthere a year and six months teaching the Word of God among them."[111:2] He was, too, encouraged by a special communication from Heavento prosecute his labours with zeal and diligence. "The Lord spake toPaul in the night by a vision—Be not afraid, but speak, and hold notthy peace—for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurtthee, for I have much people in this city." [112:1] Though the ministryof the apostle was now attended with such remarkable success, hisconverts did not all continue to walk worthy of their profession. But ifin the Church of this flourishing mercantile metropolis there weregreater disorders than in perhaps any other of the early Christiancommunities, [112:2] the explanation is obvious. Even in a degenerateage Corinth was notorious for its profligacy; and it would have beenindeed marvellous if excesses had not been occasionally committed bysome of the members of a religious society composed, to a considerableextent, of reclaimed libertines. [112:3]

The success of the gospel in Corinth roused the unbelieving Jews toopposition; and here, as elsewhere, they endeavoured to avail themselvesof the aid of the civil power; but, in this instance, their appeal tothe Roman magistrate was signally unsuccessful. Gallio, brother of thecelebrated Seneca the philosopher, was now "the deputy of Achaia;"[112:4] and when the bigoted and incensed Israelites "made insurrectionwith one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment-seat,saying—This fellow persuaded men to worship God contrary to thelaw," [112:5] the proconsul turned a deaf ear to the accusation. Whenthe apostle was about to enter on his defence, Gallio intimated thatsuch a proceeding was quite unnecessary, as the affair did not comewithin the range of his jurisdiction. "If," said he, "it were a matterof wrong, or wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason would that I should bearwith you; but if it be a question of words and names and of your law,look ye to it, for I will be no judge of such matters. And he drive themfrom the judgment-seat." [113:1] On this occasion, for the first timesince the arrival of Paul and his brethren in Europe, the mob was on theside of the missionaries, and under the very eye of the proconsul, andwithout any effort on his part to interfere and arrest their violence,the most prominent of the plaintiffs was somewhat roughly handled. "Thenall the Greeks took Smoothens, the chief ruler of the synagogue, andbeat him before the judgment-seat. And Gallio cared for none of thesethings." [113:2]

When Paul was at Corinth, and probably in A.D. 53, he wrote his twoearliest letters, that is, the First and Second Epistles to theThessalonians. These communications must, therefore, have been drawn upabout twelve months after the original formation of the religiouscommunity to which they are addressed. The Thessalonian Church wasalready fully organised, as the apostle here points out to the disciplestheir duties to those who laboured among them and who were over them inthe Lord. [113:3] In the meantime several errors had gained currency;and a letter, announcing that the day of Christ was at hand, andpurporting to have been penned by Paul himself, had thrown the brethreninto great consternation. [113:4] The apostle accordingly deemed itnecessary to interpose, and to point out the dangerous character of thedoctrines which had been so industriously promulgated. He now, too,delivered his famous prophecy announcing the revelation of the "Man ofSin" before the second coming of the Redeemer. [113:5] Almost all themembers of the Thessalonian Church were probably converted Gentiles,[113:6] who must still have been but little acquainted with the JewishScriptures; and this is perhaps the reason why there is no quotationfrom the Old Testament in either of these letters. Even the Gospels donot seem to have been yet written, and hence Paul exhorts the brethren"to hold fast the traditions," or rather "ordinances," [114:1] whichthey had been taught, "whether by word or his epistle." [114:2]

A.D. 54 TO A.D. 57.

The Apostle "took his leave" [115:1] of the Corinthian brethren in thespring of A.D. 54, and embarking at the port of Cenchrea, about eight ornine miles distant, set sail for Ephesus. The navigation among theislands of the Greek Archipelago was somewhat intricate; and the voyageappears to have not unfrequently occupied from ten to fifteen days.[115:2] At Ephesus Paul "entered into the synagogue, and reasoned withthe Jews." [115:3] His statements produced a favourable impression, andhe was solicited to prolong his visit; but as he was on his way toJerusalem, where he was anxious to be present at the approaching feastof Pentecost, he could only assure them of his intention to return, andthen bid them farewell. He left behind him, however, in this great cityhis two Corinthian converts, Aquila and Priscilla, who carried on withindustry and success the work which he had commenced so auspiciously.Among the first fruits of their pious care for the spread ofChristianity was the famous Apollos, an Alexandrian Jew, who now arrivedin the metropolis of the Proconsular Asia.

The seed of Abraham in the birthplace of Apollos spoke the Greeklanguage, and were in somewhat peculiar circ*mstances. They were freefrom some of the prejudices of the Jews in Palestine; and, though livingin the midst of a heathen population, had advantages which were enjoyedby very few of their brethren scattered elsewhere among the Gentiles. AtAlexandria their sumptuous synagogues were unequivocal evidences oftheir wealth; they constituted a large and influential section of theinhabitants; they had much political power; and, whilst their study ofthe Greek philosophy had modified their habits of thought, they hadacquired a taste for the cultivation of eloquence and literature.Apollos, the Jew "born at Alexandria," [116:1] who now became acquaintedwith Aquila and Priscilla, was an educated and accomplished man. It issaid that "he was instructed in the way of the Lord, and being ferventin the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord,knowing only the baptism of John." [116:2] The influence of thepreaching of the Baptist may be estimated from this incidental notice;for though the forerunner of our Saviour had now finished his careerabout a quarter of a century, the Alexandrian Jew was only one of manystill living witnesses to testify that he had not ministered in vain. Inthis case John had indeed "prepared the way" of his Master, as, underthe tuition of Aquila and Priscilla, Apollos was led without difficultyto embrace the Christian doctrine. It is said of this pious couple that"they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God moreperfectly." [116:3] Priscilla was no less distinguished than her husband[116:4] for intelligence and zeal; and though she was prevented, asmuch, perhaps, by her native modesty, as by the constitution of theChurch, [116:5] from officiating as a public instructor, she was, nodoubt, "apt to teach;" and there must have been something mostinteresting and impressive in her private conversation. It is aremarkable fact that one of the ablest preachers of the apostolic agewas largely indebted to a female for his acquaintance with Christiantheology.

The accession, at this juncture, of such a convert as Apollos was ofgreat importance to the evangelical cause. The Church of Corinth, in theabsence of Paul, much required the services of a minister of superiorability; and the learned Alexandrian was eminently qualified to promoteits edification. He was "an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures."[117:1] After sojourning some time at Ephesus, it seems to have occurredto him that he would have a more extensive sphere of usefulness atCorinth; and "when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethrenwrote exhorting the disciples to receive him." [117:2] It soon appearedthat his friends in Asia had formed no exaggerated idea of his gifts andacquirements. When he reached the Greek capital, he "helped them muchwhich had believed through grace; for he mightily convinced the Jews,and that publicly, shewing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ."[117:3] His surpassing rhetorical ability soon proved a snare to some ofthe hypercritical Corinthians, and tempted them to institute invidiouscomparisons between him and their great apostle. Hence in the firstepistle addressed to them, the writer finds it necessary to rebuke themfor their folly and fastidiousness. "While one saith, I am of Paul, andanother, I am of Apollos, are ye," says he, "not carnal? Who then isPaul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as theLord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gavethe increase." [117:4]

When Aquila and Priscilla were at Ephesus expounding "the way of Godmore perfectly" to the Jew of Alexandria, Paul was travelling toJerusalem. Three years before, he had been there to confer with theapostles and elders concerning the circumcision of the Gentiles; and hehad not since visited the holy city. His present stay seems to have beenshort—apparently not extending beyond a few days at the time of thefeast of Pentecost,—and giving him a very brief opportunity ofintercourse with his brethren of the Jewish capital. He then "went downto Antioch" [118:1]—a place with which from the commencement of hismissionary career he had been more intimately associated. "After he hadspent some time there, he departed and went over all the country ofGalatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples." [118:2]On a former occasion, after he had passed through the same districts, hehad been "forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in (theProconsular) Asia;" [118:3] but, at this time, the restriction wasremoved, and in accordance with the promise made to the Jews at Ephesusin the preceding spring, he now resumed his evangelical labours in thatfar-famed metropolis. There must have been a strong disposition on thepart of many of the seed of Abraham in the place to attend to hisinstructions, as he was permitted "for the space of three months" tooccupy the synagogue, "disputing and persuading the things concerningthe kingdom of God." [118:4] At length, however, he began to meet withso much opposition that he found it expedient to discontinue hisaddresses in the Jewish meeting-house. "When divers were hardened andbelieved not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, hedeparted from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in theschool of one Tyrannus." [118:5] This Tyrannus was, in all probability,a Gentile convert, and a teacher of rhetoric—a department of educationvery much cultivated at that period by all youths anxious to attainsocial distinction. What is here called his "school," appears to havebeen a spacious lecture-room sufficient to accommodate a numerousauditory.

About this time the Epistle to the Galatians was, in all likelihood,written. The Galatians, as their name indicated, were the descendants ofa colony of Gaols settled in Asia Minor several centuries before; and,like the French of the present day, seem to have been distinguished bytheir lively and mercurial temperament. Paul had recently visited theircountry for the second time, [119:1] and had been received by them withthe warmest demonstrations of regard; but meanwhile Humanizing zealotshad appeared among them, and had been only too successful in theirefforts to induce them to observe the Mosaic ceremonies. The apostle, atAntioch, and at the synod of Jerusalem, had already protested againstthese attempts; and subsequent reflection had only more thoroughlyconvinced him of their danger. Hence he here addresses the Galatians interms of unusual severity. "I marvel," he exclaims, "that ye are so soonremoved from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto anothergospel"—"O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you that ye should notobey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently setforth, crucified among you!" [119:2] At the same time he proves that thesinner is saved by faith alone; that the Mosaic institutions weredesigned merely for the childhood of the Church; and that the disciplesof Jesus should refuse to be "entangled" with any such "yoke ofbondage." [120:1] His epistle throughout is a most emphatic testimony tothe doctrine of a free justification.

Some time after Paul reached Ephesus, on his return from Jerusalem, heappears to have made a short visit to Corinth. [120:2] There is no doubtthat he encountered a variety of dangers of which no record is to befound in the Acts of the Apostles; [120:3] and it is most probable thatmany of these disasters were experienced about this period. Thus, notlong after this date, he says—"Thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night anda day I have been in the deep." [120:4] There are good grounds forbelieving that he now visited Crete, as well as Corinth; and it wouldseem that these voyages exposed him to the "perils in the sea" which heenumerates among his trials. [120:5] On his departure from Crete he leftTitus behind him to "set in order the things that were wanting, and toordain elders in every city;" [120:6] and in the spring of A.D. 57 hewrote to the evangelist that brief epistle in which he points out, withso much fidelity and wisdom, the duties of the pastoral office. [120:7]The silence of Luke respecting this visit to Crete is the lessremarkable, as the name of Titus does not once occur in the book of theActs, though there is distinct evidence that he was deeply interested insome of the most important transactions which are there narrated.[120:8]

Paul, about two years before, had been prevented, as has been stated, bya divine intimation, from preaching in the district called Asia; butwhen he now commenced his ministrations in Ephesus, its capital, hecontinued in that city and its neighbourhood longer than in any otherplace he had yet visited. After withdrawing from the synagogue andresuming his labours in the school of Tyrannus, he remained there "bythe space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard theword of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks." [121:1] Meanwhile thechurches of Laodicea, Colosse, and Hierapolis appear to have beenfounded. [121:2] The importance of Ephesus gave it a special claim tothe attention which it now received. It was the metropolis of thedistrict, and the greatest commercial city in the whole of Asia Minor.Whilst it was connected by convenient roads with all parts of theinterior, it was visited by trading vessels from the various harbours ofthe Mediterranean. But, in another point of view, it was a peculiarlyinteresting field of missionary labour; for it was, perhaps, the mostcelebrated of all the high places of Eastern superstition. Its temple ofArtemis, or Diana, was one of the wonders of the world. This gorgeousstructure, covering an area of upwards of two acres, [121:3] wasornamented with columns one hundred and twenty-seven in number, eachsixty feet high, and each the gift of a king. [121:4] It was nearly allopen to the sky, but that part of it which was covered, was roofed withcedar. The image of the goddess occupied a comparatively small apartmentwithin the magnificent enclosure. This image, which was said to havefallen down from Jupiter, [121:5] was not like one of those pieces ofbeautiful sculpture which adorned the Acropolis of Athens, but ratherresembled an Indian idol, being an unsightly female form with manybreasts, made of wood, and terminating below in a shapeless block.[122:1] On several parts of it were engraved mysterious symbols, called"Ephesian letters." [122:2] These letters, when pronounced, werebelieved to operate as charms, and, when written, were carried aboutas amulets. To those who sought an acquaintance with the Ephesian magic,they constituted an elaborate study, and many books were composed toexpound their significance, and point out their application.

About this time the famous Apollonius of Tyana [122:3] was attractinguncommon attention by his tricks as a conjuror; and it has been thoughtnot improbable that he now met Paul in Ephesus. If so, we can assign atleast one reason why the apostle was prevented from making hisappearance at an earlier date in the Asiatic metropolis. Men had thus anopportunity of comparing the wonders of the greatest of magicians withthe miracles of the gospel; and of marking the contrast between thevainglory of an impostor, and the humility of a servant of Jesus. Theattentive reader of Scripture may observe that some of the mostextraordinary of the mighty works recorded in the New Testament wereperformed at this period; and it is not unreasonable to conclude that,in a city so much given to jugglery and superstition, these genuinedisplays of the power of Omnipotence were exhibited for the expresspurpose of demonstrating the incomparable superiority of the Author ofChristianity. It is said that "God wrought special miracles by thehands of Paul, so that from his body were brought unto the sickhandkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and theevil spirits went out of them." [123:1] The disastrous consequences ofan attempt, on the part of the sons of a Jewish priest, to heal theafflicted by using the name of the Lord Jesus as a charm, alarmed theentire tribe of exorcists and magicians. "The man, in whom the evilspirit was, leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed againstthem, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And thiswas known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus, and fearfell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified."[123:2] The visit of Paul told upon the whole population, and tendedgreatly to discourage the study of the "Ephesian letters". "Many of themalso which used curious arts brought their books together and burnedthem before all men; and they counted the price of them, and found itfifty thousand pieces of silver. [123:3] So mightily grew the word ofGod and prevailed." [123:4]

Some time before the departure of Paul from Ephesus, he wrote the FirstEpistle to the Corinthians. The letter contains internal evidence thatit was dictated in the spring of A.D. 57. [123:5] The circ*mstances ofthe Corinthian disciples at this juncture imperatively required theinterference of the apostle. Divisions had sprung up in their community;[123:6] the flagrant conduct of one member had brought dishonour on thewhole Christian name; [123:7] and various forms of error had been makingtheir appearance. [123:8] Paul therefore felt it right to address tothem a lengthened and energetic remonstrance. This letter is morediversified in its contents than any of his other epistles; and presentsus with a most interesting view of the daily life of the primitiveChristians in a great commercial city. It furnishes conclusive evidencethat the Apostolic Church of Corinth was not the paragon of excellencewhich the ardent and unreflecting have often pictured in theirimaginations, but a community compassed with infirmities, and certainlynot elevated, in point of spiritual worth, above some of the morehealthy Christian congregations of the nineteenth century.

Shortly after this letter was transmitted to its destination, Ephesuswas thrown into a ferment by the riotous proceedings of certain partieswho had an interest in the maintenance of the pagan superstition. Amongthose who derived a subsistence from the idolatry of its celebratedtemple were a class of workmen who "made silver shrines for Diana,"[124:1] that is, who manufactured little models of the sanctuary and ofthe image which it contained. These models were carried about by thedevotees of the goddess in processions, and set up, in privatedwellings, as household deities. [124:2] The impression produced by theChristian missionaries in the Asiatic metropolis had affected thetraffic in such articles, and those who were engaged in it began toapprehend that their trade would be ultimately ruined. An individual,named Demetrius, who appears to have been a master-manufacturer, did notfind it difficult, under these circ*mstances, to collect a mob, and todisturb the peace of the city. Calling together the operatives of hisown establishment, "with the workmen of like occupation," [124:3] hesaid to them—"Sirs, ye know, that by this craft we have our wealth.Moreover, ye see and know, that not alone at Ephesus, but almostthroughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away muchpeople, saying that they be no gods which are made with hands—so thatnot only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought, but also thatthe temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and hermagnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the worldworshipped." [125:1] This address did not fail to produce the effectcontemplated. A strong current of indignation was turned against themissionaries; and the craftsmen were convinced that they were bound tosupport the credit of their tutelary guardian. They were "full of wrath,and cried out saying—Great is Diana of the Ephesians." [125:2] Thisproceeding seems to have taken place in the month of May, and at a timewhen public games were celebrated in honour of the Ephesian goddess,[125:3] so that a large concourse of strangers now thronged themetropolis. An immense crowd rapidly collected; the whole city wasfilled with confusion; and it soon appeared that the lives of theChristian preachers were in danger; for the mob caught "Gaius andAristech's, men of Macedonia, Paul's companions in travel," and "rushedwith one accord into the theatre." [125:4] This edifice, the largest ofthe kind in Asia Minor, is said to have been capable of containingthirty thousand persons. [125:5] As it was sufficiently capacious toaccommodate the multitudinous assemblage, and as it was also thebuilding in which public meetings of the citizens were usually convened,it was now quickly occupied. Paul was at first prompted to enter it, andto plead his cause before the excited throng; but some of themagistrates, or, as they are called by the evangelist, "certain of thechief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring himthat he would not adventure himself" into so perilous a position.[125:6] These Asiarchs were persons of exalted rank who presided atthe celebration of the public spectacles. The apostle was now in veryhumble circ*mstances, for even in Ephesus he continued to work at theoccupation of a tent-maker; [126:1] and it is no mean testimony to hisworth that he had secured the esteem of such high functionaries. It wasquickly manifest that any attempt to appease the crowd would have beenutterly in vain. A Jew, named Alexander, who seems to have been one ofthe craftsmen, and who was, perhaps, the same who is elsewheredistinguished as "the coppersmith," [126:2] made an effort to addressthem, probably with the view of shewing that his co-religionists werenot identified with Paul; but when the mob perceived that he was one ofthe seed of Abraham, they took it for granted that he was no friend tothe manufacture of their silver shrines; and his appearance was thesignal for increased uproar. "When they knew that he was a Jew, all withone voice, about the space of two hours, cried out—Great is Diana ofthe Ephesians." [126:3] At length the town-clerk, or recorder, ofEphesus, contrived to obtain a hearing; and, by his prudence andaddress, succeeded in putting an end to this scene of confusion. He toldhis fellow-townsmen that, if Paul and his companions had transgressedthe law, they could be made amenable to punishment; but that, as theirown attachment to the worship of Diana could not be disputed, theirpresent tumultuary proceedings could only injure their reputation asorderly and loyal citizens. "We are in danger," said he, "to be calledin question for this day's uproar, there being no cause whereby we maygive an account of this concourse." [127:1] The authority of the speakerimparted additional weight to his suggestions, the multitude quietlydispersed, and the missionaries escaped unscathed.

Even this tumult supplies evidence that the Christian preachers hadalready produced an immense impression in this great metropolis. No moredecisive test of their success could be adduced than that here furnishedby Demetrius and his craftsmen; for a lucrative trade connected with theestablished superstition was beginning to languish. The silversmiths,and the other operatives whose interests were concerned, were obviouslythe instigators of all the uproar; and it does not appear that theycould reckon upon the undivided sympathy even of the crowd they hadcongregated. "Some cried one thing, and some another, for the assemblywas confused, and the more part knew not wherefore they were cometogether." [127:2] A number of the Asiarchs were decidedly favourable tothe apostle and his brethren; and when the town-clerk referred to theirproceedings his tone was apologetic and exculpatory. "Ye have," said he,"brought hither these men who are neither profaners of temples, [127:3]nor yet blasphemers of your goddess." [127:4] But here we see the realcause of much of that bitter persecution which the Christians enduredfor the greater part of three centuries. The craft of the imagemakerswas in danger; the income of the pagan priests was at stake; the secularinterests of many other parties were more or less affected; and hencethe new religion encountered such a cruel and obstinate opposition.

A.D. 57 TO A.D. 63.

Paul had already determined to leave Ephesus at Pentecost, [128:1] andas the secular games, at which the Asiarchs presided, took place duringthe month of May, the disorderly proceedings of Demetrius and thecraftsmen, which occurred at the same period, do not seem to havegreatly accelerated his removal. Soon afterwards, however, he "calledunto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed to go intoMacedonia." [128:2] When he reached that district, he was induced toenter on new scenes of missionary enterprise; and now, "round about untoIllyricum," he "fully preached the gospel of Christ." [128:3] Shortlybefore, Timothy had returned from Greece to Ephesus, [128:4] and whenthe apostle took leave of his friends in that metropolis, he left theevangelist behind him to protect the infant Church against theseductions of false teachers. [128:5] He now addressed the first epistleto his "own son in the faith," [128:6] and thus also supplied to theministers of all succeeding generations the most precious instructionson the subject of pastoral theology. [129:1] Soon afterwards he wrotethe Second Epistle to the Corinthians. This letter throws much light onthe private character of Paul, and enables us to understand how hecontrived to maintain such a firm hold on the affections of those amongwhom he ministered. Though he uniformly acted with great decision, hewas singularly amiable and gentle, as well as generous and warm-hearted.No one could doubt his sincerity; no one could question hisdisinterestedness; no one could fairly complain that he was harsh orunkind. In his First Epistle to the Corinthians he had been obliged toemploy strong language when rebuking them for their irregularities; butnow they exhibited evidences of repentance, and he is obviously mostwilling to forget and forgive. In his Second Epistle to them he entersinto many details of his personal history unnoticed elsewhere in the NewTestament, [130:1] and throughout displays a most loving andconciliatory spirit. He states that, when he dictated his former letter,it was far from his intention to wound their feelings, and that it waswith the utmost pain he had sent them such a communication. "Out of muchaffliction, and anguish of heart," said he, "I wrote unto you with manytears, not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the lovewhich I have more abundantly unto you." [130:2] The Corinthians couldnot have well resented an advice from such a correspondent.

When Paul had itinerated throughout Macedonia and Illyricum "he cameinto Greece, [130:3] and there abode three months." [130:4] He nowvisited Corinth for the third time; and, during his stay in that city,dictated the Epistle to the Romans. [130:5] At this date, a Church"spoken of throughout the whole world" [130:6] had been formed in thegreat metropolis; some of its members were the relatives of the apostle;[130:7] and others, such as Priscilla and Aquila, [130:8] had beenconverted under his ministry. As he himself contemplated an early visitto the far-famed city, [130:9] he sent this letter before him, toannounce his intentions, and to supply the place of his personalinstructions. The Epistle to the Romans is a precious epitome ofChristian theology. It is more systematic in its structure than,perhaps, any other of the writings of Paul; and being a very lucidexposition of the leading truths taught by the inspired heralds of thegospel, it remains an emphatic testimony to the doctrinal defections ofthe religious community now bearing the name of the Church to which itwas originally addressed.

The apostle had been recently making arrangements for another visit toJerusalem; and he accordingly left Greece in the spring of A.D. 58; butthe malignity of his enemies appears to have obliged him to change hisplan of travelling. "When the Jews laid wait for him as he was about tosail" from Cenchrea, the port of Corinth, "into Syria," he found itexpedient "to return through Macedonia." [131:1] Proceeding, therefore,to Philippi, [131:2] the city in which he had commenced his Europeanministry, he passed over to Troas; [131:3] and then continued hisjourney along the coast of Asia Minor. On his arrival at Miletus "hesent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the Church; and, when theywere come to him," he delivered to them a very pathetic pastoraladdress, and bade them farewell. [131:4] At the conclusion, "he kneeleddown and prayed with them all, and they all wept sore, and fell onPaul's neck, and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words whichhe spake that they should see his face no more: and they accompanied himunto the ship." [131:5] He now pursued his course to Jerusalem, andafter various delays, arrived at Caesarea. There, says Luke, "we enteredinto the house of Philip, the evangelist, which was one of the seven,and abode with him." [131:6] In Caesarea, as in other cities throughwhich he had already passed, he was told that bonds and afflictionsawaited him in the place of his destination; [131:7] but he was not thusdeterred from pursuing his journey. "When he would not be persuaded,"says the sacred historian, "we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord bedone, and after those days, having packed up, [131:8] we went up toJerusalem." [131:9] The apostle and his companions reached the holy cityabout the time of the feast of Pentecost.

Paul was well aware that there were not a few, even among the Christiansof Palestine, by whom he was regarded with jealousy or dislike; and hehad reason to believe that the agitation for the observance of theceremonial law, which had disturbed the Churches of Galatia, had beenpromoted by the zealots of the Hebrew metropolis. But he had a strongattachment to the land of his fathers; and he felt deeply interested inthe well-being of his brethren in Judea. They were generally in indigentcirc*mstances; for, after the crucifixion, when the Spirit was pouredout on the day of Pentecost, those of them who had property "sold theirpossessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man hadneed;" [132:1] and, ever since, they had been harassed and persecuted bytheir unbelieving countrymen. "The poor saints" that were in Jerusalem[132:2] had, therefore, peculiar claims on the kind consideration of thedisciples in other lands; and Paul had been making collections for theirbenefit among their richer co-religionists in Greece and Asia Minor. Aconsiderable sum had been thus provided; and that there might be nomisgivings as to its right appropriation, individuals chosen by thecontributors had been appointed to travel with the apostle, and toconvey it to Jerusalem. [132:3] The number of the deputies appears tohave been seven, namely, "Sopater of Berea; and of the Thessalonians,Aristech's and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus; and ofAsia, Tychicus and Trophimus." [132:4] The apostle knew that he hadenemies waiting for his halting; and as they would willingly have seizedupon any apology for accusing him of tampering with this collection, he,no doubt, deemed it prudent to put it into other hands, and thus placehimself above challenge. But he appears to have had a farther reason forsuggesting the appointment of these commissioners. He was, in alllikelihood, desirous that his brethren in Judea should have a favourablespecimen of the men who constituted "the first fruits of the Gentiles;"and as all the deputies selected to accompany him to Jerusalem seem tohave been persons of an excellent spirit, he probably reckoned thattheir wise and winning behaviour would do much to disarm the hostilityof those who had hitherto contended so strenuously for the observance ofthe Mosaic ceremonies. Solomon has said that "a man's gift maketh roomfor him;" [133:1] and if Gentile converts could ever expect a welcomereception from those who were zealous for the law, it was surely whenthey appeared as the bearers of the liberality of the Gentile Churches.

When the apostle and his companions reached the Jewish capital, "thebrethren received them gladly." [133:2] Paul was, however, given tounderstand that, as he was charged with encouraging the neglect of theMosaic ceremonies, he must be prepared to meet a large amount ofprejudice; and he was accordingly recommended to endeavour to pacify themultitude by giving some public proof that he himself "walked orderlyand kept the law." [133:3] Acting on this advice, he joined with fourmen who had on them a Nazaritic vow; [133:4] and, "purifying himselfwith them, entered into the temple." [133:5] When there, he was observedby certain Jews from Asia Minor, who had probably become acquainted withhis personal appearance during his residence in Ephesus; and as they hadbefore seen him in the city with Trophimus, one of the seven deputiesand a convert from paganism, whom they seem also to have known, [134:1]they immediately concluded that he had now some Gentile companions alongwith him, and that he was encouraging the uncircumcised to pollute withtheir presence the sacred court of the Israelites. A tumult forthwithensued; the report of the defilement of the holy place quicklycirculated through the crowd; "all the city was moved;" [134:2] thepeople ran together; and Paul was seized and dragged out of the temple.[134:3] The apostle would have fallen a victim to popular fury had itnot been for the prompt interference of the officer who had the commandof the Roman garrison in the tower of Antonia. This strongholdoverlooked the courts of the sanctuary; and, no doubt, some of thesentinels on duty immediately gave notice of the commotion. The chiefcaptain, whose name was Claudius Lysias, [134:4] at once "took soldiersand centurions," and running down to the rioters, arrived in time toprevent a fatal termination of the affray; for, as soon as the militarymade their appearance, the assailants "left beating of Paul." [134:5]"Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to bebound with two chains, and demanded who he was, and what he had done.And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude, and when hecould not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to becarried into the castle." [134:6] In proceeding thus, the commandingofficer acted illegally; for, as Paul was a Roman citizen, he shouldnot, without a trial, have been deprived of his liberty, and put inirons. But Lysias, in the hurry and confusion of the moment, had beendeceived by false information; as he had been led to believe that hisprisoner was an Egyptian, a notorious outlaw, who, "before these days,"had created much alarm by leading "out into the wilderness four thousandmen that were murderers." [135:1] He was quite astonished to find thatthe individual whom he had rescued from such imminent danger was acitizen of Tarsus in Cilicia who could speak Greek; and as it was nowevident that there existed much misapprehension, the apostle waspermitted to stand on the stairs of the fortress, and address themultitude. When they saw him preparing to make some statement, the noisesubsided; and, "when they heard that he spake to them in the Hebrewtongue," that is, in the Aramaic, the current language of the country,"they kept the more silence." [135:2] Paul accordingly proceeded to givean account of his early life, of the remarkable circ*mstances of hisconversion, and of his subsequent career; but, when he mentioned hismission to the Gentiles, it was at once apparent that the topic was mostunpopular, for his auditors lost all patience. "They gave him audienceunto this word, and then lifted up their voices and said, Away with sucha fellow from the earth, for it is not fit that he should live. And asthey cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air,the chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle." [135:3]

The confinement of Paul, which now commenced at the feast of Pentecostin A.D. 58, continued about five years. It may be enough to notice themere outline of his history during this tedious bondage. In the firstplace, for the purpose of ascertaining the exact nature of the chargeagainst him, he was confronted with the Sanhedrim; but when he informedthem that "of the hope and resurrection of the dead" he was called inquestion, [136:1] there "arose a dissension between the Pharisees andthe Sadducees" [136:2] constituting the council; and the chief captain,fearing lest his prisoner "should have been pulled in pieces of them,commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from amongthem, and to bring him into the castle." [136:3] Certain of the Jews,about forty in number, now entered into a conspiracy binding themselves"under a curse, saying, that they would neither eat nor drink till theyhad killed Paul;" [136:4] and it was arranged that the bloody vow shouldbe executed when, under pretence of a new examination, he should bebrought again before the Sanhedrim; but their proceedings meanwhilebecame known to the apostle's nephew; the chief captain received timelyinformation; and the scheme thus miscarried. [136:5] Paul, protected bya strong military escort, was now sent away by night to Caesarea; and,when there, was repeatedly examined before Felix, the Roman magistratewho at this time, under the title of Procurator, had the government ofJudea. The historian Tacitus says of this imperial functionary that "inthe practice of all kinds of cruelty and lust, he exercised the power ofa king with the mind of a slave;" [136:6] and it is a remarkable proof,as well of the intrepid faithfulness, as of the eloquence of theapostle, that he succeeded in arresting the attention, and in alarmingthe fears of this worthless profligate. Drusilla, his wife, a woman whohad deserted her former husband, [136:7] was a Jewess; and, as sheappears to have been desirous to see and hear the great Christianpreacher who had been labouring with so much zeal to propagate hisprinciples throughout the Empire, Paul, to satisfy her curiosity, wasbrought into her presence. But an interview, which seems to have beendesigned merely for the amusem*nt of the Procurator and his partner,soon assumed an appearance of the deepest solemnity. As the grave andearnest orator went on to expound the faith of the gospel, and "as hereasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felixtrembled." [137:1] His apprehensions, however, soon passed away, andthough he was fully convinced that Paul had not incurred any legalpenalty, he continued to keep him in confinement, basely expecting toobtain a bribe for his liberation. When disappointed in this hope, hestill perversely refused to set him at liberty. Thus, "after two years,"when "Porcius Festus came into Felix' room," the ex-Procurator, "willingto shew the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound." [137:2]

The apostle was soon required to appear before the new Governor. Festushas left behind him the reputation of an equitable judge; [137:3] andthough he was obviously most desirous to secure the good opinion of theJews, he could not be induced by them to act with palpable injustice.After he had brought them down to Caesarea, and listened to theircomplaints against the prisoner, he perceived that they could convicthim of no violation of the law; but he proposed to gratify them so faras to have the case reheard in the holy city. Paul, however, well knewthat they only sought such an opportunity to compass his assassination,and therefore peremptorily refused to consent to the arrangement. "Istand," said he, "at Caesar's judgment-seat, where I ought to be judged.To the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest. For if I bean offender, or have committed anything worthy of death, I refuse not todie; but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, noman may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar." [138:1]

The right of appeal from the decision of an inferior tribunal to theEmperor himself was one of the great privileges of a Roman citizen; andno magistrate could refuse to recognise it without exposing himself tocondign punishment. There were, indeed, a few exceptional cases of aflagrant character in which such an appeal could not be received; andFestus here consulted with his assessors to ascertain in what light thelaw contemplated that of the apostle. It appeared, however, that he wasat perfect liberty to demand a hearing before the tribunal of Nero."Then," says the evangelist, "when Festus had conferred with thecouncil, he answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? Unto Caesar shaltthou go." [138:2]

The Procurator was now placed in a somewhat awkward position; for, whensending Paul to Rome, he was required at the same time to report thecrimes imputed to the prisoner; but the charges were so novel, andapparently so frivolous, that he did not well know how to embody them inan intelligible document. Meanwhile King Agrippa and his sister Bernicecame to Caesarea "to salute Festus," [138:3] that is, to congratulatethe new Governor on his arrival in the country; and the royal partyexpressed a desire to hear what the apostle had to say in hisvindication. Agrippa was great-grandson of that Herod who reigned inJudea when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and the son of the monarch ofthe same name whose sudden and awful death is recorded in the twelfthchapter of the Acts. On the demise of his father in A.D. 44, he was onlyseventeen years of age; and Judea, which was then reduced into the forma Roman province with Caesarea for its capital, had remained ever sinceunder the government of Procurators. But though Agrippa had not beenpermitted to succeed to the dominions of his father, he had receivedvarious proofs of imperial favour; for he had obtained the government,first of the principality of Chalcis, and then of several otherdistricts; and he had been honoured with the title of King. [139:1] TheGentile Procurators could not be expected to be very minutely acquaintedwith the ritual and polity of Israel; but as Agrippa was a Jew, andconsequently familiar with the customs and sentiments of the nativepopulation, he had been entrusted with the care of the temple and itstreasures, as well as with the appointment of the high priest. Festus,no doubt, felt that in a case such as that of Paul, the advice of thisvisitor should be solicited; and hoped that Agrippa would be able tosupply some suggestion to relieve him out of his present perplexity. Itwas accordingly arranged that the apostle should be permitted to pleadhis cause in the hearing of the Jewish monarch. The affair seems to havecreated unusual interest; the public appear to have been partiallyadmitted on the occasion; and seldom, or, perhaps, never before, hadPaul enjoyed an opportunity of addressing such an influential andbrilliant auditory. "Agrippa came, and Bernice, with great pomp, andentered into the place of hearing, with the chief captains, andprincipal men of the city." [139:2] Paul, still in bonds, made hisappearance before this courtly throng; and though it might have beenexpected that a two years' confinement would have broken the spirit ofthe prisoner, he displayed powers of argument and eloquence whichastonished and confounded his judges. The Procurator was quitebewildered by his reasoning, for he appealed to "the promise made untothe fathers," [139:3] and to things which "Moses and the prophets didsay should come;" [140:1] and as Festus could not appreciate the loftyenthusiasm of the Christian orator (for he had never, when at Rome, beenaccustomed to hear the advocates of heathenism plead so earnestly in itsdefence), he "said with a loud voice—Paul, thou art beside thyself;much learning doth make thee mad." [140:2] But the apostle'sself-possession was in nowise shaken by this blunt charge. "I am notmad, most noble Festus," he replied, "but speak forth the words of truthand soberness;" and then, turning to the royal stranger, vigorouslypressed home his argument. "King Agrippa," he exclaimed, "believest thouthe prophets? I know that thou believest." [140:3] The King, thuschallenged, was a libertine; and at this very time was believed to beliving in incestuous intercourse with his sister Bernice; and yet heseems to have been staggered by Paul's solemn and pointed interrogatory."Almost," said he, "thou persuadest me to be a Christian." [140:4] Ithas been thought by some that these words were uttered with a sneer; butwhatever may have been the frivolity of the Jewish King, they elicitedfrom the apostle one of the noblest rejoinders that ever issued fromhuman lips, "And Paul said, I would to God that not only thou, but alsoall that hear me this day, were both almost and altogether such as I am,except these bonds." [140:5]

The singularly able defence now made by the apostle convinced his judgesof the futility of the charges preferred against him by the Sanhedrim.But at this stage of the proceedings it was no longer practicable toquash the prosecution. When Paul concluded his address "the king roseup, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them. And whenthey were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying—This mandoeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds. Then said Agrippa untoFestus—This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealedunto Caesar." [141:1]

At first sight it may appear extraordinary that so eminent a missionaryin the meridian of his usefulness was subjected to so long animprisonment. But "God's ways are not as our ways, nor His thoughts asour thoughts." When thus, to a great extent, laid aside from officialduty, he had ample time to commune with his own heart, and to trace out,with adoring wonder, the glorious grace and the manifold wisdom of thework of redemption. Having himself partaken largely of affliction, andexperienced the sustaining power of the gospel so abundantly, he was thebetter prepared to comfort the distressed; and hence his letters,written at this period, are so full of consolation. [141:2] And apartfrom other considerations, we may here recognise the fulfilment of aprophetic announcement. When Paul was converted, the Lord said toAnanias—"He is a chosen vessel unto me to bear my name before theGentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel, for I will shew himhow great things he must suffer for my name's sake." [141:3] Duringhis protracted confinement he exhibited alike to Jew and Gentile anillustrious specimen of faith and constancy; and called attention to thetruth in many quarters where otherwise it might have remained unknown.Though he was chained to a soldier, he was not kept in very rigorouscustody, so that he had frequent opportunities of proclaiming the greatsalvation. He was peculiarly fitted by his education and his genius forexpounding Christianity to persons moving in the upper circles ofsociety; and had he remained at liberty he could have expected to gainaccess very rarely to such auditors. But already, as a prisoner, he hadpleaded the claims of the gospel before no inconsiderable portion of thearistocracy of Palestine. He had been heard by the chief captain incommand of the garrison in the castle of Antonia, by the Sanhedrim, byFelix and Drusilla, by Festus, by King Agrippa and his sister Bernice,and probably by "the principal men" of both Caesarea and Jerusalem. Incriminal cases the appeals of Roman citizens were heard by the Emperorhimself, so that the apostle was about to appear as an ambassador forChrist in the presence of the greatest of earth's potentates. Who cantell but that some of that splendid assembly of senators and nobles whosurrounded Nero, when Paul was brought before his judgment-seat, willhave reason throughout all eternity to remember the occasion as thebirth-day of their blessedness!

The apostle and "certain other prisoners" embarked for Rome in theautumn of A.D. 60. The compass was then unknown; in weather, "whenneither sun nor stars in many days appeared," [142:1] the mariner waswithout a guide; and, late in the season, navigation was peculiarlydangerous. The voyage proved disastrous; after passing into a secondvessel at Myra, [142:2] a city of Lycia, Paul and his companions werewrecked on the coast of the island of Malta; [142:3] when they hadremained there three months, they set sail once more in a corn ship ofAlexandria, the Castor and Pollux; [142:4] and at length in the earlypart of A.D. 61, reached the harbour of Puteoli, [143:1] then the greatshipping port of Italy.

The account of the voyage from Caesarea to Puteoli, as given in the Actsof the Apostles, is one of the most curious passages to be found in thewhole of the sacred volume. Some may think it strange that the inspiredhistorian enters so much into details, and the nautical terms which heemploys may puzzle not a few readers; but these features of hisnarrative attest its authenticity and genuineness. No one, who had nothimself shared the perils of the scene, could have been expected todescribe with so much accuracy the circ*mstances of the shipwreck. Ithas been remarked that, after the lapse of eighteen hundred years, thereferences of the evangelist to prevailing winds and currents, to theindentations of the coast, to islands, bays, and harbours, may still beexactly verified. Recent investigators have demonstrated that thesailors, in the midst of danger, displayed no little ability, and thattheir conduct in "undergirding the ship," [143:2] and in casting "fouranchors out of the stern," [143:3] evidenced their skilful seamanship.Luke states that, after a long period of anxiety and abstinence, "aboutmidnight the shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country."[143:4] The headland they were approaching is very low, and in a stormynight is said to be invisible even at the distance of a quarter of amile; [143:5] but the sailors could detect the shore by otherindications. Even in a storm the roar of breakers can be distinguishedfrom other sounds by the practised ear of a mariner; [144:1] and it canbe shewn that, with such a gale as was then blowing, the sea stilldashes with amazing violence against the very same point of land offwhich Paul and his companions were that night labouring. In the depth ofthe water at the place there is another most remarkable coincidence. Weare told that the sailors "sounded and found it twenty fathoms, andwhen they had gone a little farther, they sounded, and found it fifteenfathoms." [144:2] "But what," observes a modern writer, "are thesoundings at this point? They are now twenty fathoms. If we proceed alittle farther we find fifteen fathoms. It may be said that this, initself is nothing remarkable. But if we add that the fifteen-fathomdepth is in the direction of the vessel's drift (W. by N.) from thetwenty-fathom depth, the coincidence is startling." [144:3] It may bestated also that the "creek with a shore" [144:4] or sandy beach, andthe "place where two seas met," [144:5] and where "they ran the shipaground" may still be recognised in what is now called St Paul's Bay atMalta. [144:6] Even in the nature of the submarine strata we have a moststriking confirmation of the truth of the inspired history. It appearsthat the four anchors cast out of the stern retained their hold, and itis well known that the ground in St Paul's Bay is remarkably firm; forin our English sailing directions it is mentioned that "while the cableshold, there is no danger, as the anchors will never start." [144:7] Lukereports that when the ship ran aground, "the fore-part stuck fast andremained unmoveable" [144:8]—a statement which is corroborated by thefact that "the bottom is mud graduating into tenacious clay"[145:1]—exactly the species of deposit from which such a result mightbe anticipated.

When Paul landed at Puteoli, he must have contemplated with deep emotionthe prospect of his arrival in Rome. The city to which he now approachedcontained, perhaps, upwards of a million of human beings. [145:2] Butthe amount of its inhabitants was one of the least remarkable of itsextraordinary distinctions. It was the capital of the mightiest empirethat had ever yet existed; one hundred races speaking one hundredlanguages were under its dominion; [145:3] and the sceptre which ruledso many subject provinces was wielded by an absolute potentate. Thisgreat autocrat was the high priest of heathenism—thus combining thegrandeur of temporal majesty with the sacredness of religious elevation.Senators and generals, petty kings and provincial governors, were allobliged to bow obsequiously to his mandates. In this vast metropolismight be found natives of almost every clime; some engaged in its trade;some who had travelled to it from distant countries to solicit theimperial favour; some, like Paul, conveyed to it as prisoners; somestimulated to visit it by curiosity; and some attracted to it by thevague hope of bettering their condition. The city of the Caesars mightwell be described as "sitting upon many waters;" [145:4] for, thoughfourteen or fifteen miles from the mouth of the Tiber, the mistress ofthe world was placed on a peninsula stretching out into the middle of agreat inland sea over which she reigned without a rival. In the summermonths almost every port of every country along the shores of theMediterranean sent forth vessels freighted with cargoes for themerchants of Rome. [146:1] The fleet from Alexandria laden with wheatfor the supply of the city was treated with peculiar honour; for itsships alone were permitted to hoist their topsails as they approachedthe shore; a deputation of senators awaited its arrival; and, as soon asit appeared, the whole surrounding population streamed to the pier, andobserved the day as a season of general jubilee. But an endless supplyof other articles in which the poor were less interested found their wayto Rome. The mines of Spain furnished the great capital with gold andsilver, whilst its sheep yielded wool of superior excellence; and, inthose times of Roman conquest, slaves were often transported from theshores of Britain. The horses and chariots and fine linen of Egypt, thegums and spices and silk and ivory and pearls of India, the Chian andthe Lesbian wines, and the beautiful marble of Greece and Asia Minor,all met with purchasers in the mighty metropolis. [146:2] As Johnsurveyed in vision the fall of Rome, and as he thought of the almostcountless commodities which ministered to her insatiable luxury, wellmight he represent the world's traffic as destroyed by the catastrophe;and well might he speak of the merchants of the earth as weeping andmourning over her, because "no man buyeth their merchandise any more."[146:3]

Paul had often desired to prosecute his ministry in the imperial city;for he knew that if Christianity could obtain a firm footing in thatgreat centre of civilisation and of power, its influence would soon betransmitted to the ends of the earth: but he now appeared there undercirc*mstances equally painful and discouraging. And yet even in thisembarrassing position he was not overwhelmed with despondency. AtPuteoli he "found brethren," [146:4] and through the indulgence ofJulius, the centurion to whose care he was committed, he was courteouslyallowed to spend a week [147:1] with the little Church of which theywere members. He now set out on his way to the metropolis; but theintelligence of his arrival had travelled before him, and after crossingthe Pomptine marshes, he was, no doubt, delighted to find a number ofChristian friends from Rome assembled at Appii Forum to tender to himthe assurances of their sympathy and affection. The place wastwenty-seven miles from the capital; and yet, at a time when travellingwas so tedious and so irksome, they had undertaken this lengthenedjourney to visit the poor, weather-beaten, and tempest-tossed prisoner.At the Three Taverns, ten miles nearer to the city, he met another partyof disciples [147:2] anxious to testify their attachment to sodistinguished a servant of their Divine Master. These tokens of respectand love made a deep impression upon the susceptible mind of theapostle; and it is accordingly stated that, when he saw the brethren,"he thanked God and took courage." [147:3]

The important services he had been able to render on the voyage gave hima claim to particular indulgence; and accordingly, when he reached Rome,and when the centurion delivered the prisoners to the PraetorianPrefect, or the commander-in-chief of the Praetorian guards, [147:4]"Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him."[147:5] But though he enjoyed this comparative liberty, he was chainedto his military care-taker, so that his position must still have beenvery far from comfortable. And yet even thus he continued his ministrywith as much ardour as if he had been without restraint, and as if hehad been cheered on by the applause of his generation. Three days afterhis arrival in the city he "called the chief of the Jews together,"[148:1] and gave them an account of the circ*mstances of his committal,and of his appeal to the imperial tribunal. They informed him that hiscase had not been reported to them by their brethren in Judea; and thenexpressed a desire to hear from him a statement of the claims ofChristianity. "And when they had appointed him a day, there came many tohim into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom ofGod, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses andout of the prophets from morning till evening." [148:2] His appealsproduced a favourable impression upon only a part of his audience. "Somebelieved the things which were spoken, and some believed not." [148:3]

Several years prior to this date a Christian Church existed in theWestern metropolis, and at this time there were probably severalministers in the city; but the apostle, in all likelihood, now enteredupon some field of labour which had not hitherto been occupied. He"dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all thatcame in unto him—preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching thosethings which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no manforbidding him." [148:4] All this time Paul's right hand was chained tothe left hand of a soldier, who was responsible for the safe keeping ofhis prisoner. The soldiers relieved each other in this duty. [148:5] Itwould appear that Paul's chain might be relaxed at meal-times, andperhaps he was occasionally granted some little additional indulgence;but day and night he and his care-taker must have remained in closeproximity, as the life of the soldier was forfeited should his wardescape. We can well conceive that the very appearance of the preacher atthis period invited special attention to his ministrations. He was now"Paul the aged;" [149:1] he had perhaps passed the verge of threescoreyears; and though his detractors had formerly objected that "his bodilypresence was weak," [149:2] all would at this time have, probably,admitted, that his aspect was venerable. His life had been a career ofunabated exertion; and now, though worn down by toils, and hardships,and imprisonments, his zeal burned with unquenched ardour. As thesoldier who kept him belonged to the Praetorian guards, it has beenthought that the apostle spent much of his time in the neighbourhood oftheir quarters on the Palatine hill, [149:3] and that as he was now somuch conversant with military sights and sounds, we may in this wayaccount for some of the allusions to be found in his epistles writtenduring his present confinement. Thus, he speaks of Archippus andEpaphroditus as his "fellow-soldiers;" [149:4] and he exhorts hisbrethren to "put on the whole armour of God," including "the breastplateof righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and thesword of the Spirit." [149:5] As the indefatigable old man, with thesoldier who had charge of him, passed from house to house invitingattendance on his services, the very appearance of such "yoke-fellows"[149:6] must have created some interest; and, when the congregationassembled, who could remain unmoved as the apostle stretched forth hischained hand, [149:7] and proceeded to expound his message! He seemshimself to have thought that the very position which he occupied, as"the prisoner of the Lord," [149:8] imparted somewhat to the power ofhis testimony. Hence we find him saying—"I would ye should understand,brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out ratherunto the furtherance of the gospel, so that my bonds in Christ aremanifest in all the Praetorium, [150:1] and in all other places; andmany of the brethren in the Lord waxing confident by my bonds are muchmore bold to speak the word without fear." [150:2]

During this imprisonment at Rome, Paul dictated a number of hisepistles. Of these, the letter to Philemon, a Christian of Colosse,seems to have been first written. The bearer of this communication wasOnesimus, who had at one time been a slave in the service of theindividual to whom it is addressed; and who, as it appears, afterrobbing his master, had left the country. The thief made his way toRome, where he was converted under the ministry of the apostle; andwhere he had since greatly recommended himself as a zealous andtrustworthy disciple. He was now sent back to Colosse with this Epistleto Philemon, in which the writer undertakes to be accountable for theproperty that had been pilfered, [150:3] and entreats his correspondentto give a kindly reception to the penitent fugitive. Onesimus, whenconveying the letter to his old master, was accompanied by Tychicus,whom the apostle describes as "a beloved brother and a faithful ministerand fellow-servant in the Lord" [150:4] who was entrusted with theEpistle to the Colossians. Error, in the form of false philosophy andJudaizing superstition, had been creeping into the Colossian Church,[150:5] and the apostle in this letter exhorts his brethren to beware ofits encroachments. About the same time Paul wrote the Epistle to theEphesians; and Tychicus was also the bearer of this communication.[150:6] Unlike most of the other epistles, it has no salutations at theclose; it is addressed, not only "to the saints which are at Ephesus" inparticular, but also "to the faithful in Christ Jesus" [151:1] ingeneral; and as its very superscription thus bears evidence that it wasoriginally intended to be a circular letter, it is probably "the epistlefrom Laodicea" mentioned in the Epistle to the Colossians. [151:2] Thefirst division of it is eminently distinguished by the profound andcomprehensive views of the Christian system it exhibits; whilst thelatter portion is no less remarkable for the variety, pertinency, andwisdom, of its practical admonitions. The Epistle to the Philippians waslikewise written about this period. Paul always took a deep interest inthe well-being of his earliest European converts, and here he speaks inmost hopeful terms of their spiritual condition. [151:3] They were lessdisturbed by divisions and heresies than perhaps any other of theApostolic Churches.


The Book of the Acts terminates abruptly; and the subsequent history ofPaul is involved in much obscurity. Some have contended that the apostlewas never released from his first imprisonment at Rome, and accordinglyconsider that he was one of the earliest Christian martyrs who sufferedunder the Emperor Nero. But this theory is encumbered with insuperabledifficulties. In his letters written after his first appearance in Rome,Paul evidently anticipates his liberation; [152:1] and in some of themhe apparently speaks prophetically. Thus, he says to the Philippians—"Iam in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and to be withChrist, which is far better—nevertheless to abide in the flesh is moreneedful for you—and having this confidence I know that I shall abideand continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith."[152:2] The apostle had long cherished a desire to visit Spain; [152:3]and there is evidence that he actually preached the gospel in thatcountry; for Clemens Romanus, who was his contemporary andfellow-labourer, positively affirms that he travelled "to the extremityof the west." [153:1] Clemens appears to have been himself a native ofthe great metropolis; [153:2] and as he makes the statement just quotedin a letter written from Rome, it cannot be supposed that, under suchcirc*mstances, he would have described Italy as the boundary of theearth. The Second Epistle to Timothy, which is generally admitted tohave been written immediately before Paul's death, contains severalpassages which obviously indicate that the author had been very recentlyat liberty. Thus, he says-"The cloak [153:3] (or, as some render it,the case) [153:4] that I left at Troas, with Carpus, when thou comestbring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments." [153:5]These words suggest that the apostle had lately visited Troas on thecoast of Asia Minor. Again, he remarks—"Erastus abode at Corinth, butTrophimus have I left at Miletum sick." [153:6] Any ordinary readerwould at once infer from this observation that the writer had justarrived from Miletum. [153:7] The language of the concluding verses ofthe Acts warrants the impression that Paul's confinement had ended sometime before the book was completed; for had the apostle been still inbondage, it would scarcely have been said that, when a prisoner, hedwelt for two whole years in his own hired house—thereby implying thatthe period of his residence, at least in that abode, had terminated. Andif Paul was released at the expiration of these two years, we can wellunderstand why the sacred historian may have deemed it inexpedient togive an account of his liberation. The subjects of Rome at that timewere literally living under a reign of terror; and it would perhaps havebeen most unwise to have proceeded farther with the narrative. Paul, asPeter once before, [154:1] may have been miraculously delivered; andprudence may have required the concealment of his subsequent movements.Or, the history of his release may have been so mixed up with the freaksof the tyrant who then oppressed the Roman world, that its publicationmight have brought down the imperial vengeance on the head of theevangelist.

We have seen that Paul arrived in Rome as a prisoner in the beginning ofA.D. 61; and if at this time his confinement continued only two years,he must have been liberated in the early part of A.D. 63. Nero had notthen commenced his memorable persecution of the Church; for the burningof the city took place in the summer of A.D. 64; and, until that date,the disciples do not appear to have been singled out as the specialobjects of his cruelty. It is probable that Paul, after his release,accomplished his intention of visiting the Spanish Peninsula; and, onhis return to Italy, he appears to have written the Epistle to theHebrews. [154:2] The destruction of Jerusalem was at this timeapproaching; and, as the apostle demonstrates in this letter that thelaw was fulfilled in Christ, he thus prepares the Jewish Christians forthe extinction of the Mosaic ritual. In all likelihood he now once morevisited Jerusalem, travelling by Corinth, [155:1] Philippi, [155:2] andTroas, [155:3] where he left for the use of Carpus the case with thebooks and parchments which he mentions in his Second Epistle to Timothy.Passing on then to Colosse, [155:4] he may have visited Antioch inPisidia and other cities of Asia Minor, the scenes of his earlyministrations; and reached Jerusalem [155:5] by way of Antioch in Syria.He perhaps returned from Palestine to Rome by sea, leaving Trophimussick [155:6] at Miletum in Crete. The journey did not probably occupymuch time; and, on his return to Italy, he seems to have beenimmediately incarcerated. His condition was now very different from whatit had been during his former confinement; for he was deserted by hisfriends, and treated as a malefactor. [155:7] When he wrote to Timothyhe had already been brought before the judgment-seat, and had narrowlyescaped martyrdom. "At my first answer," says he, "no man stood with me,but all men forsook me. I pray God that it may not be laid to theircharge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, thatby me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentilesmight hear; [155:8] and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion."[155:9] The prospect, however, still continued gloomy; and he had nohope of ultimate escape. In the anticipation of his condemnation, hewrote those words so full of Christian faith and heroism, "I am nowready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I havefought a good fight—I have finished my course—I have kept the faith.Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which theLord, the righteous Judge, shall give me in that day, and not to meonly, but unto all them also that love his appearing." [156:1]

Paul was martyred perhaps about A.D. 66. Tradition reports that he wasbeheaded; [156:2] and as he was a Roman citizen, it is not probable thathe suffered any more ignominious fate. About the third or fourthcentury, a statement appeared to the effect that he and Peter were putto death at Rome on the same day; [156:3] but all the early documentaryevidence we possess is quite opposed to such a representation. If Peterreally finished his career in the Western metropolis, it would seem thathe did not arrive there until very shortly before the decapitation ofthe Apostle of the Gentiles; for Paul makes no reference, in any of hiswritings, to the presence of such a fellow-labourer in the capital ofthe Empire. In the Epistle to the Romans, containing so many salutationsto the brethren in the great city, the name of Peter is not found; andin none of the letters written from Rome is he ever mentioned. In thelast of his Epistles—the Second to Timothy—the writer says—"onlyLuke is with me" [156:4]—and had Peter then been in the place, Paulwould not have thus ignored the existence of the apostle of thecircumcision.

But still there is a very ancient and apparently a well authenticatedtradition that Peter suffered martyrdom at Rome; [156:5] and if, as isnot improbable, Paul met him in Jerusalem, during his visit to that cityafter his release from his first imprisonment, it may be that he wasthen encouraged to undertake a journey to the West. [156:6] It is notimprobable that he was recommended, at the same time, to visit theChurches of Asia Minor for the purpose of using his influence to defeatthe efforts of the Judaizing zealots; and if, after passing throughGalatia, Bithynia, and other districts, he continued his course to Home,we can well understand why, on reaching the seat of Empire, he addressedhis first epistle to the Christians with whom he had so recently heldintercourse. The tradition that the "Babylon" from which this letter waswritten, [157:1] is no other than Rome, or the mystical Babylon of theApocalypse, [157:2] is unquestionably of great antiquity; [157:3] andsome of the announcements it contains are certainly quite in unison withsuch an interpretation. Thus, Peter tells his brethren of "the fierytrial" which was "to try" them, [157:4] alluding, in all likelihood, tothe extension of the Neronian persecution to the provinces; and it maybe presumed that, in the capital, and in communication with some of"Caesar's household," he had means of information in reference to suchmatters, to which elsewhere he could have had no access, Mark, whoprobably arrived in Rome about the time of the death of Paul, [157:5]was with Peter when this letter was written; [157:6] and we have thusadditional evidence that the apostle of the circumcision was now in theWestern capital. It is also worthy of remark that this epistle wastransmitted to its destination by Silas, or Silvanus, [157:7] apparentlythe same individual who had so frequently accompanied the Apostle Paulon his missionary journeys. [157:8] Silvanus had been for many yearsacquainted with the brethren to whom the letter is addressed, andtherefore was well suited to be its bearer. But though he had longoccupied a prominent position in the Church, he seems to have been verylittle known to Peter; and hence the somewhat singular manner in whichhe is noticed towards the close of this epistle—"By Silvanus, afaithful brother unto you, as I suppose, I have written briefly,exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein yestand." [158:1]

If this letter was written from Rome about the time of the death ofPaul, it is not strange that Peter deemed it prudent to conceal hisplace of residence under the designation of Babylon. Nero was thenseeking the extermination of the Christians in the capital; and they hadenemies in all quarters who would have rejoiced to point out to him sucha distinguished victim as the aged apostle. And how could Peter moreappropriately describe the seat of Empire than by naming it Babylon?Nebuchadnezzar, who reigned so gloriously in the great Eastern capital,had destroyed the temple of God; and now Nero, who ruled in the Westernmetropolis, was seeking to ruin the Church of God. Nebuchadnezzar hadled the Jews into captivity; but Rome now enthralled both Jews andGentiles. If Nebuchadnezzar had an antitype in Nero, assuredly Babylonhad an antitype in Rome. [158:2]

The Second Epistle of Peter was written soon after the first, and wasaddressed to the same Churches. [158:3] The author now contemplated thenear approach of death, so that the advices he here gives may beregarded as his dying instructions. "I think it meet," says he, "aslong as I am in this tabernacle, [158:4] to stir you up by putting youin remembrance—knowing that shortly I must put off this mytabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me." [159:1] Ifthen Peter was martyred at Rome, we may infer that this letter must havebeen written somewhere in the same neighbourhood, and probably in thesame city. We have thus a corroborative proof that the Babylon of thefirst letter is no other than the great metropolis.

It deserves notice that in this second epistle, Peter bears emphatictestimony to the character and inspiration of Paul. The Judaizing party,as there is reason to think, were in the habit of pleading that theywere supported by the authority of the apostle of the circumcision; andas many of these zealots were to be found in the Churches of Asia Minor,[159:2] such a recognition of the claims of the Apostle of the Gentileswas calculated to exert a most salutary influence. "The strangersscattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,"[159:3] were thus given to understand that all the true heralds of thegospel had but "one faith;" and that any attempt to create divisions inthe Church, by representing the doctrine of one inspired teacher asopposed to the doctrine of another, was most unwarrantable. Thereference to Paul, to be found in the Second Epistle of Peter, isfavourable to the supposition that the Apostle of the Gentiles was nowdead; as, had he been still living to correct such misinterpretations,it would scarcely have been said that in all his epistles were things"hard to be understood" which "the unlearned and unstable" wrested"unto their own destruction." [159:4] It would seem, too, that Peterhere alludes particularly to the Epistle to the Hebrews—a letter, as wehave seen, addressed to Jewish Christians, and written after Paul'sliberation from his first Roman imprisonment. It must be admitted thatthis letter contains passages [159:5] which have often proved perplexingto interpreters; but, notwithstanding, it bears the impress of a divineoriginal; and Peter, who maintains that all the writings of Paul weredictated by unerring wisdom, places them upon a level with "the otherScriptures" [160:1] either of the evangelists or of the Old Testament.

According to a current tradition, Peter suffered death at Rome bycrucifixion. [160:2] He was not a Roman citizen; and was, therefore,like our Lord himself, consigned to a mode of punishment inflicted onslaves and the lowest class of malefactors. The story that, at his ownrequest, he was crucified with his head downwards as more painful andignominious than the doom of his Master, [160:3] is apparently theinvention of an age when the pure light of evangelical religion wasgreatly obscured; for the apostle was too well acquainted with the truthto believe that he was at liberty to inflict upon himself anyunnecessary suffering. The tradition that he died on the same day of thesame month as Paul, but exactly a year afterwards, [160:4] is notdestitute of probability. According to this statement he suffered A.D.67; and he may have been about a year in Rome before his martyrdom.

In the New Testament it is impossible to find a trace of either theprimacy of Peter or the supremacy of the Pope; but the facts alreadystated throw some light on the history of that great spiritual despotismwhose seat of government has been so long established in the city of theCaesars. It is obvious that at a very early period various circ*mstancescontributed to give prominence to the Church of Rome. The epistleaddressed to it contains a more complete exhibition of Christiandoctrine than any other of the apostolical letters; and, in thatremarkable communication, Paul expresses an earnest desire to visit acommunity already celebrated all over the world. Five or six of hisletters, now forming part of the inspired canon, were dictated in thecapital of the Empire. The two epistles of the apostle of thecircumcision appear to have emanated from the same metropolis. There isevery reason to believe that the book of the Acts was written at Rome;and it is highly probable that the great city was also the birthplace ofthe Gospels of Mark and Luke. Thus, a large portion of the New Testamentissued from the seat of Empire. Rome could also boast that it was forsome time the residence of two of the most eminent of the apostles. Paulwas there for at least two years as a prisoner; and Peter may haveresided for twelve months within its walls. Some of the most illustriousof the early converts were members of the Church of Rome; for in thedays of the Apostle of the Gentiles there were disciples in "Caesar'shousehold." [161:1] And when Nero signalised himself as the firstImperial persecutor of the Christians, the Church of Rome sufferedterribly from his insane and savage cruelty. Even the historian Tacitusacknowledges that the tortures to which its adherents were exposedexcited the commiseration of the heathen multitude. Paul and Peter werecut off in his reign; and the soil of Rome absorbed the blood of theseapostolic martyrs. [161:2] It was not strange, therefore, that the RomanChurch was soon regarded with peculiar respect by all the disciplesthroughout the Empire. As time passed on, it increased rapidly innumbers and in affluence; and circ*mstances, which properly possessednothing more than an historic interest, began to be urged as argumentsin favour of its claims to pre-eminence. At first these claims assumedno very definite form; and, at the termination of a century after thedays of Paul and Peter, they amounted simply to the recognition ofsomething like an honorary precedence. At that period it was, perhaps,deemed equally imprudent and ungracious to quarrel with its pretensions,more especially as the community by which they were advanced wasdistributing its bounty all around, and was itself nobly sustaining thebrunt of almost every persecution. In the course of time, the Church ofRome proceeded to challenge a substantial supremacy; and then the factsof its early history were mis-stated and exaggerated in accommodation tothe demands of its growing ambition. It was said at first that "itsfaith was spoken of throughout the whole world;" it was at lengthalleged that its creed should be universally adopted. It was admitted atan early period that, as it had enjoyed the ministrations of Peter andPaul, it should be considered an apostolic church; it was at lengthasserted that, as an apostle was entitled to deference from ordinarypastors, a church instructed by two of the most eminent apostles had aclaim to the obedience of other churches. In process of time it wasdiscovered that Paul was rather an inconvenient companion for theapostle of the circumcision; and Peter alone then began to be spoken ofas the founder and first bishop of the Church of Rome. Strange to say, asystem founded on a fiction has since sustained the shocks of so manycenturies. One of the greatest marvels of this "mystery of iniquity" isits tenacity of life; and did not the sure word of prophecy announcethat the time would come when it would be able to boast of itsantiquity, and did we not know that paganism can plead a more remoteoriginal, we might be perplexed by its longevity. But "the vision is yetfor an appointed time—at the end it shall speak and not lie. Though ittarry, wait for it, because it will surely come, it will not tarry."[162:1]


Jesus Christ was a Jew, and it might have been expected that the adventof the most illustrious of His race, in the character of the Prophetannounced by Moses, would have been hailed with enthusiasm by Hiscountrymen. But the result was far otherwise. "He came unto his own, andhis own received him not." [163:1] The Jews cried "Away with him, awaywith him, crucify him;" [163:2] and He suffered the fate of the vilestcriminal. The enmity of the posterity of Abraham to our Lord did notterminate with His death; they long maintained the bad pre-eminence ofbeing the most inveterate of the persecutors of His early followers.Whilst the awful portents of the Passion, and the marvels of the day ofPentecost were still fresh in public recollection, their chief priestsand elders threw the apostles into prison; [163:3] and soon afterwardsthe pious and intrepid Stephen fell a victim to their malignity. Theirinfatuation was extreme; and yet it was not unaccountable. They looked,not for a crucified, but for a conquering Messiah. They imagined thatthe Saviour would release them from the thraldom of the Roman yoke; thatHe would make Jerusalem the capital of a prosperous and powerful empire;and that all the ends of the earth would celebrate the glory of thechosen people. Their vexation, therefore, was intense when theydiscovered that so many of the seed of Jacob acknowledged the son of acarpenter as the Christ, and made light of the distinction between Jewand Gentile. In their case the natural aversion of the heart to a pureand spiritual religion was inflamed by national pride combined withmortified bigotry; and the fiendish spirit which they so frequentlyexhibited in their attempts to exterminate the infant Church may thusadmit of the most satisfactory explanation.

Many instances of their antipathy to the new sect have already beennoticed. In almost every town where the missionaries of the crossappeared, the Jews "opposed themselves and blasphemed;" and magistratesspeedily discovered that in no way could they more easily gain thefavour of the populace than by inflicting sufferings on the Christians.Hence, as we have seen, about the time of Paul's second visit toJerusalem after his conversion, Herod, the grandson of Herod the Great,"killed James, the brother of John, with the sword; and because he sawit pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also." [164:1]The apostle of the circumcision was delivered by a miracle from hisgrasp; but it is probable that other individuals of less note felt theeffects of his severity. Even in countries far remote from their nativeland, the posterity of Abraham were the most bitter opponents ofChristianity. [164:2] As there was much intercourse between Palestineand Italy, the gospel soon found its way to the seat of government; andit has been conjectured that some civic disturbance created in the greatmetropolis by the adherents of the synagogue, and intended to annoy andintimidate the new sect, prompted the Emperor Claudius, about A.D. 53,to interfere in the manner described by Luke, and to command "all Jewsto depart from Rome." [165:1] But the hostility of the Israelites wasmost formidable in their own country; and for this, as well as otherreasons, "the brethren which dwelt in Judea" specially required thesympathy of their fellow-believers throughout the Empire. When Paulappeared in the temple at the feast of Pentecost in A.D. 58, the Jews,as already related, made an attempt upon his life; and when the apostlewas rescued by the Roman soldiers, a conspiracy was formed for hisassassination. Four years afterwards, or about A.D. 62, [165:2] anotherapostle, James surnamed the Just, who seems to have resided chiefly inJerusalem, finished his career by martyrdom. Having proclaimed Jesus tobe the true Messiah on a great public occasion, his fellow-citizens wereso indignant that they threw him from a pinnacle of the temple. As hewas still alive when he reached the ground, he was forthwith assailedwith a shower of stones, and beaten to pieces with the club of a fuller.[165:3]

As the Christians were at first confounded with the Jews, theadministrators of the Roman law, for upwards of thirty years after ourLord's death, conceded to them the religious toleration enjoyed by theseed of Abraham. But, from the beginning, "the sect of the Nazarenes"enjoyed very little of the favour of the heathen multitude. Paganism hadset its mark upon all the relations of life, and had erected an idolwherever the eye could turn. It had a god of War, and a god of Peace; agod of the Sea, and a god of the Wind; a god of the River, and a god ofthe Fountain; a god of the Field, and a god of the Barn Floor; a god ofthe Hearth, a god of the Threshold, a god of the Door, and a god of theHinges. [166:1] When we consider its power and prevalence in theapostolic age, we need not wonder at the declaration of Paul—"All thatwill live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." [166:2]Whether the believer entered into any social circle, or made hisappearance in any place of public concourse, he was constrained in someway to protest against dominant errors; and almost exactly in proportionto his consistency and conscientiousness, he was sure to incur thedislike of the more zealous votaries of idolatry. Hence it was that themembers of the Church were so soon regarded by the pagans as a morosegeneration instinct with hatred to the human race. In A.D. 64, whenNero, in a fit of recklessness, set fire to his capital, he soondiscovered that he had, to a dangerous extent, provoked the wrath of theRoman citizens; and he attempted, in consequence, to divert the torrentof public indignation from himself, by imputing the mischief to theChristians. They were already odious as the propagators of what wasconsidered "a pernicious superstition," and the tyrant, no doubt,reckoned that the mob of the metropolis were prepared to believe anyreport to the discredit of these sectaries. But even the pagan historianwho records the commencement of this first imperial persecution, and whowas deeply prejudiced against the disciples of our Lord, bears testimonyto the falsehood of the accusation. Nero, says Tacitus, "found wretcheswho were induced to confess themselves guilty; and, on their evidence, agreat multitude of Christians were convicted, not indeed on clear proofof their having set the city on fire, but rather on account of theirhatred of the human race. [167:1] They were put to death amidst insultsand derision. Some were covered with the skins of wild beasts, and leftto be torn to pieces by dogs; others were nailed to the cross; and some,covered over with inflammable matter, were lighted up, when the daydeclined, to serve as torches during the night. The Emperor lent his owngardens for the exhibition. He added the sports of the circus, andassisted in person, sometimes driving a curricle, and occasionallymixing with the rubble in his coachman's dress. At length theseproceedings excited a feeling of compassion, as it was evident that theChristians were destroyed, not for the public good, but as a sacrificeto the cruelty of a single individual." [167:2] Some writers havemaintained that the persecution under Nero was confined to Rome; butvarious testimonies concur to prove that it extended to the provinces.Paul seems to contemplate its spread throughout the Empire when he tellsthe Hebrews that they had "not yet resisted unto blood strivingagainst sin," [167:3] and when he exhorts them not to forsake theassembling of themselves together as they "see the day approaching."[167:4] Peter also, as has been stated in a preceding chapter,apparently refers to the same circ*mstance in his letter to the brethren"scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,"when he announces "the fiery trial" which was "to try" them, [168:1] andwhen he tells them of "judgment" beginning "at the house of God."[168:2] If Nero enacted that the profession of Christianity was acapital offence, his law must have been in force throughout the Romanworld; and an early ecclesiastical writer positively affirms that he wasthe author of such sanguinary legislation. [168:3] The horror with whichhis name was so long regarded by members of the Church in all parts ofthe Empire [168:4] strongly corroborates the statement that the attackon the disciples in the capital was only the signal for the commencementof a general persecution.

Nero died A.D. 68, and the war which involved the destruction ofJerusalem and of upwards of a million of the Jews, was already inprogress. The holy city fell A.D. 70; and the Mosaic economy, which hadbeen virtually abolished by the death of Christ, now reached itspractical termination. At the same period the prophecy of Daniel wasliterally fulfilled; for "the sacrifice and the oblation" were made tocease, [168:5] as the demolition of the temple and the dispersion of thepriests put an end to the celebration of the Levitical worship. Theoverthrow of the metropolis of Palestine contributed in various ways tothe advancement of the Christian cause. Judaism, no longer able toprovide for the maintenance of its ritual, was exhibited to the world asa defunct system; its institutions, now more narrowly examined by thespiritual eye, were discovered to be but types of the blessings of amore glorious dispensation; and many believers, who had hitherto adheredto the ceremonial law, discontinued its observances. Christ, forty yearsbefore, had predicted the siege and desolation of Jerusalem; [169:1] andthe remarkable verification of a prophecy, delivered at a time when thecatastrophe was exceedingly improbable, appears to have induced not afew to think more favourably of the credentials of the gospel. Inanother point of view the ruin of the ancient capital of Judea provedadvantageous to the Church. In the subversion of their chief city thepower of the Jews sustained a shock from which it has never sincerecovered; and the disciples were partially delivered from the attacksof their most restless and implacable persecutors.

Much obscurity rests upon the history of the period which immediatelyfollows the destruction of Jerusalem. Though Philip and John, [169:2]and perhaps one or two more of the apostles, still survived, we knowalmost nothing of their proceedings. After the death of Nero the Churchenjoyed a season of repose, but when Domitian, in A.D. 81, succeeded tothe government, the work of persecution recommenced. The new sovereign,who was of a gloomy and suspicious temper, encouraged a system ofespionage; and as he seems to have imagined that the Christians fostereddangerous political designs, he treated them with the greater harshness.The Jewish calumny, that they aimed at temporal dominion, and that theysought to set up "another king one Jesus," [169:3] had obviouslyproduced an impression upon his mind; and he accordingly sought out thenearest kinsmen of the Messiah, that he might remove these heirs of therival dynasty. But when the two grandchildren of Jude, [169:4] calledthe brother of our Lord, [169:5] were conducted to Rome, and brought tohis tribunal, he discovered the groundlessness of his apprehensions. Theindividuals who had inspired the Emperor with such anxiety, were thejoint-proprietors of a small farm in Palestine which they cultivatedwith their own hands; and the jealous monarch at once saw that, when hisfears had been excited by reports of the treasonable designs of suchsimple and illiterate husbandmen, he had been miserably befooled. Aftera single interview, these poor peasants met with no farther molestationfrom Domitian.

Had all the disciples been in such circ*mstances as the grandchildren ofJude, the gospel might have been identified with poverty and ignorance;and it might have been said that it was fitted to make way only amongthe dregs of the population. But it was never fairly open to thisobjection. From the very first it reckoned amongst its adherents atleast a sprinkling of the wealthy, the influential, and the educated.Joseph of Arimathea, one of the primitive followers of our Lord, was "arich man" and an "honourable counsellor;" [170:1] Paul himself, as ascholar, stood high among his countrymen, for he had been brought up atthe feet of Gamaliel; and Sergius Paulus, one of the first fruits of themission to the Gentiles, was a Roman Proconsul. [170:2] In the reign ofNero the Church could boast of some illustrious converts; and the saintsof "Caesar's household" are found addressing their Christian salutationsto their brethren at Philippi. [170:3] In the reign of Domitian thegospel still continued to have friends among the Roman nobility. FlaviusClemens, a person of consular dignity, and the cousin of the Emperor,was now put to death for his attachment to the cause of Christ; [170:4]and his near relative Flavia Domitilla, for the same reason, wasbanished with many others to Pontia, [170:5] a small island off thecoast of Italy used for the confinement of state prisoners.

Domitian governed the Empire fifteen years, but his persecution of theChristians appears to have been limited to the latter part of his reign.About this time the Apostle John, "for the word of God and for thetestimony of Jesus Christ," [171:1] was sent as an exile into Patmos, asmall rocky island in the Aegaean Sea not far from the coast of AsiaMinor. It is said that he had previously issued unhurt from a cauldronof boiling oil into which he had been plunged in Rome by order of theEmperor; but this story, for which a writer who flourished about acentury afterwards is the earliest voucher, [171:2] has been challengedas of doubtful authority. [171:3] We have no means of ascertaining thelength of time during which he remained in banishment; [171:4] and allwe know of this portion of his life is, that he had now those sublimeand mysterious visions to be found in the Apocalypse. After the fall ofJerusalem, as well as after he was permitted to leave Patmos, he appearsto have resided chiefly in the metropolis of the Proconsular Asia; andhence some ancient writers, who flourished after the establishment ofthe episcopal system, have designated him the "Bishop of Ephesus."[172:1] But the apostle, when advanced in life, chose to be known simplyby the title of "the elder;" [172:2] and though he was certainly by farthe most influential minister of the district where he sojourned, thereis every reason to believe that he admitted his brethren to a share inthe government of the Christian community. Like Peter and Paul beforehim, he acknowledged the other elders as his "fellow-presbyters,"[172:3] and, as became his age and apostolic character, he doubtlessexhorted them to take heed unto themselves and to all the flock over thewhich the Holy Ghost had made them overseers. [172:4]

John seems to have been the last survivor of the apostles. He is said tohave reached the advanced age of one hundred years, and to have diedabout the close of the first century. He was a "Son of Thunder," [172:5]and he appears to have long maintained the reputation of a powerful andimpressive preacher; but when his strength began to give way beneath thepressure of increasing infirmities, he ceased to deliver lengthenedaddresses. When he appeared before the congregation in extreme old age,he is reported to have simply repeated the exhortation "Children, loveone another;" and when asked, why he always confined himself to the samebrief admonition, he replied that "no more was necessary." [172:6] Sucha narrative is certainly quite in harmony with the character of thebeloved disciple, for he knew that love is the "bond of perfectness" and"the fulfilling of the law."

It has been thought that, towards the close of the first century, theChristian interest was in a somewhat languishing condition; [172:7] andthe tone of the letters addressed to the Seven Churches in Asia iscalculated to confirm this impression. The Church of Laodicea is said tobe "neither cold nor hot;" [173:1] the Church of Sardis is admonished to"strengthen the things which remain that are ready to die;" [173:2] andthe Church of Ephesus is exhorted to "remember from whence she hasfallen, and repent, and do the first works." [173:3] When it was knownthat Christianity was under the ban of a legal proscription, it was notstrange that "the love of many" waxed cold; and the persecutions of Neroand Domitian must have had a most discouraging influence. But though theChurch had to encounter the withering blasts of popular odium andimperial intolerance, it struggled through an ungenial spring; and, inalmost every part of the Roman Empire, it had taken root and wasbeginning to exhibit tokens of a steady and vigorous growth as early asthe close of the first century. The Acts and the apostolical epistlesspeak of the preaching of the gospel in Palestine, Syria, Cyprus, AsiaMinor, Greece, Illyricum, and Italy; and, according to traditions whichwe have no reason to discredit, the way of salvation was proclaimed,before the death of John, in various other countries. It is highlyprobable that Paul himself assisted in laying the foundations of theChurch in Spain; at an early date there were disciples in Gaul; andthere is good evidence that, before the close of the first century, thenew faith had been planted even on the distant shores of Britain.[173:4] It is generally admitted that Mark laboured successfully as anevangelist in Alexandria, the metropolis of Egypt; [173:5] and it hasbeen conjectured that Christians were soon to be found in "the parts ofLibya about Cyrene," [173:6] for if Jews from that district wereconverted at Jerusalem by Peter's famous sermon on the day of Pentecost,they would not fail, on their return home, to disseminate the precioustruths by which they had been quickened and comforted. On the samegrounds it may be inferred that the gospel soon found its way intoParthia, Media, Persia, Arabia, and Mesopotamia. [174:1] Varioustraditions [174:2] attest that several of the apostles travelledeastwards, after their departure from the capital of Palestine.

Whilst Christianity, in the face of much obloquy, was graduallyattracting more and more attention, it was at the same time noblydemonstrating its power as the great regenerator of society. Thereligion of pagan Rome could not satisfy the wants of the soul; it couldneither improve the heart nor invigorate the intellect; and it was nowrapidly losing its hold on the consciences of the multitude. The highplaces of idolatrous worship often exercised a most demoralisinginfluence, as their rites were not unfrequently a wretched mixture ofbrutality, levity, imposture, and prostitution. Philosophy hadcompletely failed to ameliorate the condition of man. The vices of someof its most distinguished professors were notorious; its votaries werepretty generally regarded as a class of scheming speculators; and theyenjoyed neither the confidence nor the respect of the mass of thepeople. But, even under the most unpromising circ*mstances, it soonappeared that Christianity could accomplish social and spiritual changesof a very extraordinary character. The Church of Corinth was perhaps oneof the least exemplary of the early Christian communities, and yet itstood upon a moral eminence far above the surrounding population; and,from the roll of its own membership, it could produce cases ofconversion to which nothing parallel could, be found in the wholehistory of heathendom. Paul could say to it—"Neither fornicators, noridolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselveswith mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers,nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God, and such were someof you but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justifiedin the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." [175:1]Nor was this all. The gospel proved itself sufficient to meet thehighest aspirations of man. It revealed to him a Friend in heaven who"sticketh closer than a brother;" [175:2] and, as it assured him ofeternal happiness in the enjoyment of fellowship with God, it impartedto him a "peace that passeth all understanding." The Roman peoplewitnessed a new spectacle when they saw the primitive followers ofChrist expiring in the fires of martyrdom. The pagans did not so valuetheir superstitions; but here was a religion which was accounted "betterthan life." Well then might the flames which illuminated the gardens ofNero supply some spiritual light to the crowds who were present at thesad scene; and, in the indomitable spirit of the first sufferers, wellmight the thoughtful citizen have recognised a system which was destinedyet to subdue the world.




The conduct of our Lord, as a religious teacher, betokened that He wassomething more than man. Mohammed dictated the Koran, and left it behindhim as a sacred book for the guidance of his followers; many others, whohave established sects, have also founded a literature for theirdisciples; but Jesus Christ wrote nothing. The Son of God was notobliged to condescend to become His own biographer, and thus to testifyof Himself. He had at His disposal the hearts and the pens of others;and He knew that His words and actions would be accurately reported tothe latest generations. During His personal ministry, even His apostleswere only imperfectly acquainted with His theology; but, shortly beforeHis death, He gave them an assurance that, in due time, He woulddisclose to them more fully the nature and extent of the greatsalvation. He said to them—"The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost,whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, andbring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.[177:1]…. He will guide you into all truth." [177:2]

The resurrection poured a flood of light into the minds of the apostles,and they forthwith commenced with unwonted boldness to proclaim thetruth in all its purity and power; but, perhaps, no part of theevangelical history was written until upwards of twenty years after thedeath of our Saviour. [177:3] According to tradition, the Gospels ofMatthew, Mark, and Luke, then appeared in the order in which they arenow presented in our authorised version. [177:4] It is certain that allthese narratives were published several years before the tall ofJerusalem in A.D. 70; and as each contains our Lord's announcement ofits speedy catastrophe, there is much probability in the report, thatthe exact fulfilment of so remarkable a prophecy, led many toacknowledge the divine origin of the Christian religion. The Gospel ofJohn is of a much later date, and seems to have been written towards theconclusion of the century.

Two of the evangelists, Matthew and John, were apostles; and the othertwo, Mark and Luke, appear to have been of the number of the Seventy.[177:5] All were, therefore, fully competent to bear testimony to thefacts which they record, for the Seventy had "companied" with the Twelve"all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among" them, [178:1]and all "were from the beginning eye-witnesses and ministers of theword." [178:2] These writers mention many miracles performed by Christ,and at least three of the Gospels were in general circulation whilstmultitudes were still alive who are described in them as either thespectators or the subjects of His works of wonder; and yet, though theevangelists often enter most minutely into details, so that theirstatements, if capable of contradiction, might have been at oncechallenged and exposed, we do not find that any attempt was meanwhilemade to impeach their accuracy. Their manner of recording the acts ofthe Great Teacher is characterised by remarkable simplicity, and themost acute reader in vain seeks to detect in it the slightest trace ofconcealment or exaggeration. Matthew artlessly confesses that hebelonged to the odious class of publicans; [178:3] Mark tells how Peter,his friend and companion, "began to curse and to swear," and to declarethat he knew not the Man; [178:4] Luke, who was probably one of the twobrethren who journeyed to Emmaus, informs us how Jesus drew near to themon the way and upbraided them as "fools and slow of heart to believe allthat the prophets had spoken;" [178:5] and John honestly repudiates thepretended prediction setting forth that he himself was not to die.[178:6] Each evangelist mentions incidents unnoticed by the others, andthus supplies proof that he is entitled to the credit of an original andindependent witness. Matthew alone gives the formula of baptism "in thename of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost;" [178:7] Markalone speaks of the great amazement of the people as they beheld theface of Christ on His descent from the Mount of Transfiguration; [179:1]Luke alone announces the appointment of the Seventy; [179:2] and Johnalone records some of those sublime discourses in which our Lord treatsof the doctrine of His Sonship, of the mission of the Comforter, and ofthe mysterious union between Himself and His people. [179:3] All theevangelists direct our special attention to the scene of thecrucifixion. As they proceed to describe it, they obviously feel thatthey are dealing with a transaction of awful import; and theyaccordingly become more impressive and circ*mstantial. Their statements,when combined, furnish a complete and consistent narrative of the soretravail, the deep humiliation, and the dying utterances of theillustrious sufferer.

If the appointment of the Seventy indicated our Lord's intention ofsending the glad tidings of salvation to the ends of the earth, therewas a peculiar propriety in the selection of an individual of theirnumber as the historian of the earliest missionary triumphs. Whilst Lukerecords the wonderful success of Christianity amongst the Gentiles, hetakes care to point out the peculiar features of the new economy; andthus it is that his narrative abounds with passages in which thedoctrine, polity, and worship of the primitive disciples are illustratedor explained. It is well known that the titles of the several parts ofthe New Testament were prefixed to them, not by their authors, but at asubsequent period by parties who had no claim to inspiration; [179:4]and it is obvious that the book called—"The Acts of the Apostles" hasnot been very correctly designated. It is confined almost exclusively tothe acts of Peter and Paul, and it sketches only a portion of theirproceedings. As its narrative terminates at the end of Paul's secondyear's imprisonment at Rome, it was probably written about that period.Superficial readers may object to its information as curt andfragmentary; but the careful investigator will discover that it markswith great distinctness the most important stages in the earlydevelopment of the Church. [180:1] It shews how Christianity spreadrapidly among the Jews from the day of Pentecost to the martyrdom ofStephen; it points out how it then took root among the Gentiles; and itcontinues to trace its dissemination from Judea westwards, until it wasfirmly planted by the apostle of the uncircumcision in the metropolis ofthe Empire.

It is highly probable that some of the fourteen epistles of Paul werewritten before any other portion of the New Testament, for we havealready seen [180:2] that the greater number of them were transmitted tothe parties to whom they are addressed during the time over which theActs of the Apostles extend; but though Luke makes no mention of theseletters, his account of the travels of their author throws considerablelight on the question of their chronology. Guided by statements which hesupplies, and by evidence contained in the documents themselves, we haveendeavoured to point out the order of their composition. It thus appearsthat they are not placed chronologically in the New Testament. Thepresent arrangement is, however, of great antiquity, as it can be tracedup to the beginning of the fourth century; [180:3] and it is made uponthe principle that the Churches addressed should be classed according totheir relative importance. The Church of Rome at an early period wasrecognised as the most influential in existence, and hence the Epistleto the Romans stands at the head of the collection. The Church ofCorinth seems to have ranked next, and accordingly the Epistles to theCorinthians occupy the second place. The letters to the Churches arefollowed by those to individuals, that is, to Timothy, Titus, andPhilemon; and it has been conjectured that the Epistle to the Hebrews isput last, because it is anonymous. Some have contended that this letterwas composed by Barnabas; others have ascribed it to Clement, or Luke,or Silas, or Apollos; but, though Paul has not announced his name, theexternal and internal evidences concur to prove that he was its author.[181:1]

"Every word of God is pure," [181:2] but the word of man is oftendeceitful; and nowhere do his fallibility and ignorance appear moreconspicuously than in his appendages to Scripture. Even the titlesprefixed to the writings of the apostles and evangelists are redolent ofsuperstition, for no satisfactory reason can be given why thedesignation of saint, [181:3] has been bestowed on Matthew, Mark,Luke, and John, whilst it is withheld, not only from Moses and Isaiah,but also from such eminently holy ministers as Timothy and Titus. Thepostscripts to the epistles of Paul have been added by transcribers, andare also calculated to mislead. Thus, the Epistle to the Galatians issaid to have been "written from Rome," though it is now generallyacknowledged that Paul was not in the capital of the Empire until longafter that letter was dictated. The first Epistle to Timothy is dated"from Laodicea, which is the chiefest city of Phrygia Pacatiana;" but itis well known that Phrygia was not divided into Phrygia Prima, orPacatiana, and Phrygia Secunda until the fourth century. [181:4] It isstated at the end of another epistle that it was "written to Titusordained the first Bishop of the Church of the Cretians;" but, as theletter itself demonstrates, Paul did not intend that Titus should remainpermanently in Crete, [182:1] and it can be shewn that, for centuriesafterwards, such a dignitary as "the Bishop of the Church of theCretians" was utterly unknown.

The seven letters written by James, Peter, Jude, and John, are calledGeneral or Catholic epistles. The Epistle of James was addressed "to thetwelve tribes scattered abroad" probably in A.D. 61, and its authorsurvived its publication perhaps little more than twelve months. [182:2]Peter, as we have seen, appears to have written his two epistles only ashort time before his martyrdom. [182:3] The Epistle of Jude is theproduction of a later period, as it contains quotations from the SecondEpistle of Peter. [182:4] The exact dates of the Epistles of John cannotnow be discovered, but they supply internal proof that they must havebeen written towards the close of the first century. [182:5]

According to some, the Apocalypse, or Revelation of John, was drawn upbefore the destruction of Jerusalem, and in the time of the EmperorNero; but the arguments in support of so early an origin are veryunsatisfactory. Ancient writers [182:6] attest that it was written inthe reign of Domitian towards the close of the first century, and thetruth of this statement is established by various collateral evidences.

The divine authority of the four Gospels and of the Acts of the Apostleswas, from their first appearance, universally acknowledged in theancient Church. [182:7] These books were publicly read in the religiousassemblies of the primitive Christians, and were placed on a level withthe Old Testament Scriptures. [182:8] The epistles of Paul occupied anequally honourable position. [182:9] In the second and third centuriesthe Epistle to the Hebrews was not, indeed, received among the sacredbooks by the Church of Rome; [183:1] but at an earlier period itsinspiration was acknowledged by the Christians of the great city, for itis quoted as the genuine work of the Apostle Paul by an eminent Romanpastor who flourished in the first century. [183:2] The authority of twoof the most considerable of the Catholic epistles—the First Epistle ofPeter and the First Epistle of John—was never questioned; [183:3] but,for a time, there were churches which doubted the claims of the fiveothers to be ranked amongst "the Scriptures." [183:4] The multitude ofspurious writings which were then abroad suggested to the disciples thenecessity of caution, and hence suspicions arose in certain cases wherethey were destitute of foundation. But these suspicions, which neverseem to have been entertained by more than a minority of the churches,gradually passed away; and at length, towards the close of the fourthcentury, the whole of what are now called the Catholic epistles werereceived, by unanimous consent, as inspired documents. [183:5] TheApocalypse was acknowledged to be a divine revelation as soon as itappeared; and its credit remained unimpeached until the question of theMillennium began to create discussion. Its authenticity was thenchallenged by some of the parties who took an interest in thecontroversy; but it still continued to be regarded as a part of HolyScripture by the majority of Christians, and there is no book of the NewTestament in behalf of which a title to a divine original can beestablished by more conclusive and ample evidence. [184:1]

It thus appears that, with the exception of a few short epistles whichsome hesitated to accredit, the New Testament, in the first century, wasacknowledged as the Word of God by all the Apostolical Churches. Itsvarious parts were not then included in a single volume; and as aconsiderable time must have elapsed before copies of every one of themwere universally disseminated, it is not to be thought extraordinary ifthe appearance of a letter, several years after it was written, and inquarters where it had been previously unknown, awakened suspicion orscepticism. But the slender objections, advanced under suchcirc*mstances, gradually vanished before the light of additionalevidence; and it may safely be asserted that the whole of the documents,now known as the Scriptures of the New Testament, were received, asparts of a divine revelation, by an overwhelming majority of the earlyChristians. The present division into chapters and verses was introducedat a period comparatively recent; [184:2] but there is reason to believethat stated portions of the writings of the apostles and evangelistswere read by the primitive disciples at their religious meetings, andthat, for the direction of the reader, as well as for the facility ofreference, the arrangement was soon notified in the manuscripts bycertain marks of distinction. [184:3] It is well known that in theancient Churches persons of all classes and conditions were encouragedand required to apply themselves to the study of the sacred records;that even children were made acquainted with the Scriptures; [185:1] andthat the private perusal of the inspired testimonies was considered animportant means of individual edification. All were invited andstimulated by special promises to meditate upon the mysterious, as wellas the plain, passages of the book of Revelation. "Blessed," says theApostle John, "is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of thisprophecy, and keep those things which are written therein." [185:2]

The original manuscripts of the New Testament, which must from the firsthave been accessible to comparatively few, have all long sincedisappeared; and it is now impossible to tell whether they were wornaway by the corroding tooth of time, or destroyed in seasons ofpersecution. Copies of them were rapidly multiplied; and though heathenadversaries displayed no small amount of malice and activity, it wassoon found impossible to effect their annihilation. It was not necessarythat the apostolic autographs [185:3] should be preserved for ever, asthe records, when transcribed, still retained the best and clearestproofs of their inspiration. They did not require even the imprimatur ofthe Church, for they exhibited in every page the stamp of divinity; andas soon as they were published, they commended themselves by theinternal tokens of their heavenly lineage to the acceptance of thefaithful. "The Word of God is quick and powerful," and every one whoperuses the New Testament in a right spirit must feel that it hasemanated from the Searcher of hearts. It speaks to the conscience; ithas all the simplicity and majesty of a divine communication; itenlightens the understanding; and it converts the soul. No mere mancould have invented such a character as the Saviour it reveals; no mereman could have contrived such a system of mercy as that which itannounces. The New Testament is always on the side of whatsoever isjust, and honest, and lovely, and of good report; it glorifies God; italarms the sinner; it comforts the saint. "The words of the Lord arepure words, as silver tried in a furnace of earth purified seventimes." [186:1]

The excellence of the New Testament is displayed to singular advantagewhen contrasted with those uninspired productions of nearly the samedate which emanated from the companions of the apostles. The onlygenuine document of this nature which has come down to us, and whichappeared in the first century,[186:2] is an epistle to the Corinthians.It was prepared immediately after the Domitian persecution, or aboutA.D. 96,[186:3] with a view to heal certain divisions which had sprungup in the religious community to which it is addressed; and, thoughwritten in the name of the Church of Rome, there is no reason to doubtthat it is the composition of Clement, who was then at the head of theRoman presbytery. The advice which it administers is most judicious; andthe whole letter breathes the peaceful spirit of a devoted Christianpastor. But it contains passages which furnish conclusive evidence thatit has no claims whatever to inspiration; and its illustration of thedoctrine of the resurrection is in itself more than sufficient todemonstrate that it could not have been dictated under any supernaturalguidance. "There is," says Clement,[186:4] "a certain bird called thephoenix. Of this there is never but one at a time, and that lives fivehundred years: and when the time of its dissolution draws near that itmust die, it makes itself a nest of frankincense, and myrrh, and otherspices, into which, when its time is fulfilled, it enters and dies. Butit* flesh putrefying breeds a certain worm which, being nourished withthe juice of the dead bird, brings forth feathers; and when it is grownto a perfect state, it takes up the nest in which the bones of itsparent are, and carries it from Arabia into Egypt to a city calledHeliopolis; and flying in open day, in the sight of all men, lays itupon the altar of the Sun, and so returns from whence it came. Thepriests then search into the records of the time, and find that itreturned precisely at the end of five hundred years." [187:1]

In point of education the authors of the New Testament did not generallyenjoy higher advantages than Clement; and yet, writing "as they weremoved by the Holy Ghost," they were prevented from giving currency, evenin a single instance, to such a story as this fable of the phoenix. Alltheir statements will be found to be true, whether tried by the standardof mental or of moral science, of geography, or of natural history. Thetheology which they teach is at once sound and genial; and those by whomit is appreciated can testify that whilst it invigorates and elevatesthe intellect, it also pacifies the conscience and purifies the heart.


The same system of doctrine is inculcated throughout the whole of thesacred volume. Though upwards of fifteen hundred years elapsed betweenthe commencement and the completion of the canon of Scripture; thoughits authors were variously educated; though they were distinguished, aswell by their tastes, as by their temperaments; and though they lived indifferent countries and in different ages; all the parts of the volumecalled the Bible exhibit the clearest indications of unity of design.Each writer testifies to the "one faith," and each contributes somethingto its illustration. Thus it is that, even at the present day, everybook in the canon is "good to the use of edifying." The announcementsmade to our first parents will continue to impart spiritual refreshmentto their posterity of the latest generations; and the believer can nowgive utterance to his devotional feelings in the language of the Psalms,as appropriately as could the worshipper of old, when surrounded by allthe types and shadows of the Levitical ceremonial.

The Old Testament is related to the New as the dawn to the day, or theprophecy to its accomplishment. Jesus appeared merely to consummate theRedemption which "the promises made to the fathers" had announced."Think not," said he, "that I am come to destroy the law or theprophets, I am not come to destroy but to fulfil." [189:1] The missionof our Lord explained many things which had long remained mysterious;and, in allusion to the great amount of fresh information thuscommunicated, He is said to have "brought life and immortality to lightthrough the gospel." [189:2]

When the apostles first became disciples of the Son of Mary, their viewswere certainly very indefinite and circ*mscribed. Acting under theinfluence of strong attachment to the Wonderful Personage who exhibitedsuch wisdom and performed so many mighty works, they promptly obeyed theinvitation to come and follow Him; and yet when required to tell who wasthis Great Teacher to whom they were attached by the charm of such aholy yet mysterious fascination, they could do little more than declaretheir conviction that Jesus was THE CHRIST. [189:3] They knew, indeed,that the Messiah, or the Great Prophet, was to be a redeemer, and aKing; [189:4] but they did not understand how their lowly Master was toestablish His title to such high offices. [189:5] Though they "lookedfor redemption," and "waited for the kingdom of God," [189:6] there wasmuch that was vague, as well as much that was visionary, in theirnotions of the Redemption and the Kingdom. We may well suppose that theviews of the multitude were still less correct and perspicuous. Some,perhaps, expected that Christ, as a prophet, would decide theecclesiastical controversies of the age; [189:7] others, probably,anticipated that, as a Redeemer, he would deliver His countrymen fromRoman domination; [189:8] whilst others again cherished the hope that,as a King, he would erect in Judea a mighty monarchy. [189:9] Theexpectation that he would assert the possession of temporal dominion waslong entertained even by those who had been taught to regard Him as aspiritual Saviour. [190:1]

During the interval between the resurrection and ascension, the apostlesprofited greatly by the teaching of our Lord. "Then opened He theirunderstanding that they might understand the Scriptures," [190:2]shewing that all things were "fulfilled which were written in the law ofMoses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms" [190:3] concerning Him.The true nature of Christ's Kingdom was now fully disclosed to them;they saw that the history of Jesus was embodied in the ancientpredictions; and thus their ideas were brought into harmony with therevelations of the Old Testament. On the day of Pentecost they,doubtless, received additional illumination; and thus, maturelyqualified for the duties of their apostleship, they began to publish thegreat salvation. Even afterwards, their knowledge continued to expand;for they had yet to be taught that the Gentiles also were heirs of theKingdom of Heaven; [190:4] that uncircumcised believers were to beadmitted to all the privileges of ecclesiastical fellowship; [190:5] andthat the ceremonial law had ceased to be obligatory. [190:6]

We do not require, however, to trace the progress of enlightenment inthe minds of the original heralds of the gospel, that we may ascertainthe doctrine of the Apostolic Church; for in the New Testament we have acomplete and unerring exposition of the faith delivered to the saints.We have seen that, with a few comparatively trivial exceptions, all thedocuments dictated by the apostles and evangelists were at oncerecognised as inspired, [190:7] so that in them, combined with theJewish Scriptures, we have a perfect ecclesiastical statute-book. Thedoctrine set forth in the New Testament was cordially embraced in thefirst century by all genuine believers. And it cannot be tooemphatically inculcated that the written Word was of paramountauthority among the primitive Christians. The Israelites had traditionswhich they professed to have received from Moses; but our Lordrepudiated these fables, and asserted the supremacy of the book ofinspiration. [191:1] In His own discourses He honoured the Scriptures bycontinually quoting from them; [191:2] and He commanded the Jews torefer to them as the only sure arbiters of his pretensions. [191:3] Theapostles followed His example. More than one-half of the sermon preachedby Peter on the day of Pentecost consisted of passages selected from theOld Testament. [191:4] The Scriptures, too, inculcate, not only theirclaims as standards of ultimate appeal, but also their sufficiency tomeet all the wants of the faithful; for they are said to be "able tomake wise unto salvation," [191:5] and to be "profitable for doctrine,for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that theman of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."[191:6] The sacred records teach, with equal clearness, their ownplenary inspiration. Each writer has his peculiarities of style, and yeteach uses language which the Holy Spirit dictates. In the New Testamenta single word is more than once made the basis of an argument; [191:7]and doctrines are repeatedly established by a critical examination ofparticular forms of expression, [191:8] When statements advanced byMoses, or David, or Isaiah, are adduced, they are often prefaced withthe intimation that thus "the Holy Ghost saith," [191:9] or thus "it isspoken of the Lord." [191:10] The apostles plainly aver that they employlanguage of infallible authority. "We speak," says Paul, "in thewords which the Holy Ghost teacheth," [192:1] "All Scripture is givenby inspiration of God." [192:2]

It is of unutterable importance that the Scriptures are the very word ofthe Lord, for they relate to our highest interests, and were they ofless authority, they could not command our entire confidence. Themomentous truths which they reveal are in every way worthy to berecorded in memorials given by inspiration of God. Under the ancienteconomy the sinner was assured of a Redeemer; [192:3] and intimationswere not wanting that his deliverance would be wrought out in a waywhich would excite the wonder of the whole intelligent creation; [192:4]but the New Testament uplifts the veil, and sheds a glorious radianceover the revelation of mercy. According to the doctrine of the ApostolicChurch the human race are at once "guilty before God," [192:5] and "deadin trespasses and sins;" [192:6] and as Christ in the days of His fleshcalled forth Lazarus from the tomb, and made him a monument of Hiswonder-working power, so by His word He still awakens dead sinners andcalls them with an holy calling, that they may be trophies of His gracethroughout all eternity. And as the restoration of hearing is anevidence of the restoration of life, so the reception of the word byfaith is a sure token of spiritual vitality. "He that heareth myword," said Christ, "and believeth on Him that sent me, hatheverlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passedfrom death unto life." [192:7]

Faith is to the soul of the believer what the living organs are to hisbody. It is the ear, the eye, the hand, and the palate of the spiritualman. By faith he hears the voice of the Son of God; [192:8] by faith hesees Him who is invisible; [192:9] by faith he looks unto Jesus; [193:1]by faith he lays hold upon the Hope set before him; [193:2] and by faithhe tastes that the Lord is gracious. [193:3] All the promises areaddressed to faith; and by faith they are appropriated and enjoyed. Byfaith the believer is pardoned, [193:4] sanctified, [193:5] sustained,[193:6] and comforted. [193:7] Faith is the substance of things hopedfor, the evidence of things not seen; [193:8] for it enables us toanticipate the happiness of heaven, and to realize the truth of God.

The word of the Lord is to the faith of the Christian what the materialworld is to his bodily senses. As the eye gazes with delight on themagnificent scenery of creation, the eye of faith contemplates with joyunspeakable the exceedingly great and precious promises. And as the eyecan look with pleasure only on those objects which it sees, faith canrest with satisfaction only on those things which are written in thebook of God's testimony. It has been "written that we might believe thatJesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing we might havelife through his name." [193:9]

The Scriptures are not to be regarded as a storehouse of facts,promises, and precepts, without relation or dependency; but a volume inwhich may be found a collection of glorious truths, all forming onegreat and well-balanced system. Every part of revelation refers to theRedeemer; and His earthly history is the key by means of which itsvarious announcements may be illustrated and harmonized. In the theologyof the New Testament Christ is indeed the "All in all." In addition tomany other illustrious titles which He bears, He is represented as "theLamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world," [193:10] "the Endof the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth," [193:11] "theHead of the Church," [194:1] the "King of kings," [194:2] and "the Hopeof glory." [194:3] During His public ministry He performed miracles suchas had been previously understood to mark the peculiar energy ofOmnipotence; for He opened the eyes of the blind; [194:4] He walked uponthe waves of the sea; [194:5] He made the storm a calm; [194:6] and Hedeclared to man what was his thought. [194:7] In His capacity of SaviourHe exercises attributes which are essentially divine; as He redeems fromall iniquity, [194:8] and pardons sin, [194:9] and sanctifies theChurch, [194:10] and opens the heart, [194:11] and searches the reins.[194:12] Had Jesus of Nazareth failed to assert His divine dignity, thecredentials of His mission would have been incomplete, for the Messiahof the Old Testament is no other than the Monarch of the universe.Nothing can be more obvious than that the ancient prophets invest Himwith the various titles and attributes of Deity. He is called "theLord," [194:13] "Jehovah," [194:14] and "God;" [194:15] He isrepresented as the object of worship; [194:16] He is set forth as theKing's Son who shall daily be praised; [194:17] and He is exhibited asan Almighty and Eternal Friend in whom all that put their trust areblessed. [194:18]

During the public ministry of our Lord the Twelve do not seem to havebeen altogether ignorant of His exalted dignity; [194:19] and yet themost decisive attestations to His Godhead do not occur until after Hisresurrection. [194:20] When the apostles surveyed the humble individualwith whom they were in daily intercourse, it is not extraordinary thattheir faith faltered, and that their powers of apprehension failed, asthey pondered the prophecies relating to His advent. When they attemptedclosely to grapple with the amazing truths there presented to theircontemplation, and thought of "the Word made flesh," well might they beoverwhelmed with a feeling of giddy and dubious wonder. Even after theresurrection had illustrated so marvellously the announcements of theOld Testament, the disciples still continued to regard them with aspecies of bewilderment; and our Saviour himself found it necessary topoint out in detail their meaning and their fulfilment. "Beginning atMoses and all the prophets he expounded to them in all the Scripturesthe things concerning himself." [195:1] The whole truth as to the gloryof His person now flashed upon their minds, and henceforth they do notscruple to apply to Him all the lofty titles bestowed of old on theMessiah. The writers of the New Testament say expressly that "Jesus isthe Lord," [195:2] and "God blessed for ever;" [195:3] they describebelievers as trusting in Him, [195:4] as serving Him, [195:5] and ascalling upon His name; [195:6] and they tell of saints and angels,uniting in the celebration of His praise. [195:7] Such testimonies leaveno doubt as to their ideas of His dignity. Divine incarnations wererecognised in the heathen mythology, so that the Gentiles could not wellobject to the doctrine of the assumption of our nature by the Son ofGod; but Christianity asserts its immense superiority to paganism in itsaccount of the design of the union of humanity and Deity in the personof the Redeemer. According to the poets of Greece and Rome, the godsoften adopted material forms for the vilest of purposes; but the Lord ofglory was made partaker of our flesh and blood, [196:1] that He mightsatisfy the claims of eternal justice, and purchase for us a happy andimmortal inheritance. In the cross of Christ sin appears "exceedinglysinful," and the divine law has been more signally honoured by Hissufferings than if all men of all generations had for ever groaned underits chastisem*nts. The Jewish ritual must have made the apostlesperfectly familiar with the doctrine of atonement; but they were "slowof heart to believe" that their Master was Himself the Mighty Sacrificerepresented in the types of the Mosaic ceremonial [196:2] The evangelistinforms us that He expounded this subject after His resurrection,shewing them that "thus it behoved Christ to suffer." [196:3] Still, thecrucifixion of the Saviour was to multitudes a "rock of offence." Theambitious Israelite, who expected that the Messiah would go forthconquering and to conquer, and that He would make Palestine the seat ofuniversal empire, could not brook the thought that the Great Delivererwas to die; and the learned Greek, who looked upon all religion with nolittle scepticism, was prepared to ridicule the idea of the burial ofthe Son of God; but the very circ*mstance which awakened suchprejudices, suggested to those possessed of spiritual discernmentdiscoveries of stupendous grandeur. Justice demands the punishment oftransgressors; mercy pleads for their forgiveness: holiness requires theexecution of God's threatenings; goodness insists on the fulfilment ofHis promises: and all these attributes are harmonized in the doctrine ofa Saviour sacrificed. God is "just, and the justifier of him which,believeth in Jesus." [196:4] The Son of Man "by his own blood obtainedeternal redemption" [197:1] for His Church; "mercy and truth meettogether" in His expiation; and His death is thus the central point towhich the eye of faith is now directed. Hence Paul says—"We preachChrist crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeksfoolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks,Christ, the power of God, and the wisdom of God." [197:2]

The doctrine of the Apostolic Church is simple and consistent, as wellas spiritual and sublime. The way of redemption it discloses is not anextempore provision of Supreme benevolence called forth by an unforeseencontingency, but a plan devised from eternity, and fitted to display allthe divine perfections in most impressive combination. Whilst itrecognises the voluntary agency of man, it upholds the sovereignty ofGod. Jehovah graciously secures the salvation of every heir of thepromises by both contriving and carrying out all the arrangements of the"well ordered covenant." His Spirit quickens the dead soul, and works inus "to will and to do of His good pleasure." [197:3] "The Father hathchosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we shouldbe holy and without blame before him in love; having predestinated usunto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according tothe good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace,wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved." [197:4]

The theological term Trinity was not in use in the days of the apostles,but it does not follow that the doctrine now so designated was thenunknown; for the New Testament clearly indicates that the Father, theSon, and the Holy Ghost exist in the unity of the Godhead. [197:5]Neither can it be inferred from the absence of any fixed formula ofdoctrine that the early followers of our Lord did not all profess thesame sentiments, for they had "one Lord, one faith, one baptism."[198:1] The document commonly called "the Apostles' Creed" is certainlyof very great antiquity, but no part of it proceeded from those to whomit is attributed by its title; [198:2] and its rather bald and drydetail of facts and principles obviously betokens a decline from thesimple and earnest spirit of primitive Christianity. Though the earlyconverts, before baptism, made a declaration of their faith, [198:3]there is in the sacred volume no authorised summary of doctrinal belief;and in this fact we have a proof of the far-seeing wisdom by which theNew Testament was dictated; as heresy is ever changing its features, anda test of orthodoxy, suited to the wants of one age, would not excludethe errorists of another. It has been left to the existing rulers of theChurch to frame such ecclesiastical symbols as circ*mstances require;and it is a striking evidence of the perfection of the Bible that it hasbeen found capable of furnishing an antidote to every form of heterodoxywhich has ever appeared.

It may be added that the doctrine of the Apostolic Church is eminentlypractical. The great object of the mission of Jesus was to "save Hispeople from their sins;" [198:4] and the tendency of all the teachingsof the New Testament is to promote sanctification. But the holiness ofthe gospel is not a shy asceticism which sits in a cloister in moodymelancholy, so that its light never shines before men; but a generousconsecration of the heart to God, which leads us to confess Christ inthe presence of gainsayers, and which prompts us to delight in works ofbenevolence. The true Christian should be happy as well as holy; for theknowledge of the highest truth is connected with the purest enjoyment.This "wisdom is better than rubies, and all the things that may bedesired are not to be compared to it." [199:1] The Apostle Paul, when aprisoner at Rome, had comforts to which Nero was an utter stranger. Eventhen he could say—"I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith tobe content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound;everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to behungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things throughChrist which strengtheneth me." [199:2] When all around the believer maybe dark and discouraging, there may be sunshine in his soul. There areno joys comparable to the joys of a Christian. They are the gifts of theSpirit of God, and the first-fruits of eternal blessedness; they areserene and heavenly, solid and satisfying.


The Greek word translated heresy [200:1] in our authorised version ofthe New Testament, did not primarily convey an unfavourable idea. Itsimply denoted a choice or preference. It was often employed toindicate the adoption of a particular class of philosophical sentiments;and thus it came to signify a sect or denomination. Hence we findancient writers speaking of the heresy of the Stoics, the heresyofthe Epicureans, and the heresy of the Academics. The Jews who used theGreek language did not consider that the word necessarily reflected onthe party it was intended to describe; and Josephus, who was himself aPharisee, accordingly discourses of the three heresies of the Pharisees,the Sadducees, and the Essenes. [200:2] The Apostle Paul, when speakingof his own history prior to his conversion, says, that "after thestrictest heresy" of his religion he lived a Pharisee. [200:3] We learn,too, from the book of the Acts, that the early Christians were known as"the heresy of the Nazarenes." [200:4] But very soon the word began tobe employed to denote something which the gospel could not sanction; andaccordingly, in the Epistle to the Galatians, heresies are enumeratedamong the works of the flesh. [200:5] It is not difficult to explain whyChristian writers at an early date were led to attach such a meaning toa term which had hitherto been understood to imply nothingreprehensible. The New Testament teaches us to regard an erroneoustheology as sinful, and traces every deviation from "the one faith" ofthe gospel to the corruption of a darkened intellect. [201:1] Itdeclares—"He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hathnot believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God; and this isthe condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loveddarkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." [201:2]Thus it was that the most ancient ecclesiastical authors described allclasses of unbelievers, sceptics, and innovators, under the general nameof heretics. Persons who in matters of religion made a false choice,of whatever kind, were viewed as "vainly puffed up by a fleshly mind,"or as under the influence of some species of mental depravity.

It thus appears that heresy, in the first century, denoted everydeviation from the Christian faith. Pagans and Jews, as well asprofessors of apocryphal forms of the gospel, were called heretics.[201:3] But in the New Testament our attention is directed chiefly toerrorists who in some way disturbed the Church, and adulterated thedoctrine taught by our Lord and His apostles. Paul refers to suchcharacters when he says—"A man that is an heretic, after the first andsecond admonition, reject;" [201:4] and Peter also alludes to them whenhe speaks of false teachers who were to appear and "privily bring indamnable heresies." [201:5]

The earliest corrupters of the gospel were unquestionably those whoendeavoured to impose the observance of the Mosaic law on the convertedGentiles. Their proceedings were condemned in the Council of Jerusalem,mentioned in the fifteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles; andPaul, in his letter to the Galatians, subsequently exposed theirinfatuation. But evangelical truth had, perhaps, more to fear fromdilution with the speculations of the Jewish and pagan literati. [202:1]The apostle had this evil in view when he said to the Colossians—"Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vaindeceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world,and not after Christ." [202:2] He likewise emphatically attested thedanger to be apprehended from it when he addressed to his own son in thefaith the impassioned admonition—"O Timothy, keep that which iscommitted to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, andoppositions of science falsely so called." [202:3]

There is no reason to doubt that the "science" or "philosophy" of whichPaul was so anxious that the disciples should beware, was the same whichwas afterwards so well known by the designation of Gnosticism. Thesecond century was the period of its most vigorous development, and itthen, for a time, almost engrossed the attention of the Church; but itwas already beginning to exert a pernicious influence, and it istherefore noticed by the vigilant apostle. Whilst it acknowledged, to acertain extent, the authority of the Christian revelation, it alsoborrowed largely from Platonism; and, in a spirit of accommodation tothe system of the Athenian sage, it rejected some of the leadingdoctrines of the gospel. Plato never seems to have entertained thesublime conception of the creation of all things out of nothing by theword of the Most High. He held that matter is essentially evil, and thatit existed from eternity. [202:4] The false teachers who disturbed theChurch in the apostolic age adopted both these views; and the errorswhich they propagated and of which the New Testament takes notice,flowed from their unsound philosophy by direct and necessaryconsequence. As a right understanding of certain passages of Scripturedepends on an acquaintance with their system, it may here be expedientto advert somewhat more particularly to a few of its peculiar features.

The Gnostics alleged that the present world owes neither its origin norits arrangement to the Supreme God. They maintained that its constituentparts have been always in existence; and that, as the great Father ofLights would have been contaminated by contact with corrupt matter, thevisible frame of things was fashioned, without His knowledge, by aninferior Intelligence. These principles obviously derogated from theglory of Jehovah. By ascribing to matter an independent and eternalexistence, they impugned the doctrine of God's Omnipotent Sovereignty;and by representing it as regulated without His sanction by a spiritualagent of a lower rank, they denied His Universal Providence. Theapostle, therefore, felt it necessary to enter his protest against allsuch cosmogonies. He declared that Jehovah alone, as Father, Son, andHoly Ghost, existed from eternity; and that all things spiritual andmaterial arose out of nothing in obedience to the word of the secondperson of the Godhead. "By Him," says he, "were all things created,that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible,whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; allthings were created by Him and for Him, and He is before all things,and by Him all things consist." [203:1]

The philosophical system of the Gnostics also led them to adopt falseviews respecting the body of Christ. As, according to their theory,the Messiah appeared to deliver men from the bondage of evil matter,they could not consistently acknowledge that He himself inhabited anearthly tabernacle. They refused to admit that our Lord was born of ahuman parent; and, as they asserted that He had a body only inappearance, or that His visible form as man was in reality a phantom,they were at length known by the title of Docetae. [204:1] The ApostleJohn repeatedly attests the folly and the danger of such speculations."The Word," says he, "was made flesh and dwelt among us. [204:2] …Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in theflesh is not of God. [204:3] … That which was from the beginning,which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we havelooked upon, and our hands have handled of the Word of Life …declare we unto you. [204:4] … Many deceivers are entered into theworld who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh." [204:5]

Reasoning from the principle that evil is inherent in matter, theGnostics believed the union of the soul and the body to be a calamity.According to their views the spiritual being can never attain theperfection of which he is susceptible so long as he remains connectedwith his present corporeal organization. Hence they rejected thedoctrine of the resurrection of the body. When Paul asks theCorinthians—"How say some among you that there is no resurrection ofthe dead?" [204:6]—he alludes to the Gnostic denial of this article ofthe Christian theology. He also refers to the same circ*mstance when hedenounces the "profane and vain babblings" of those who "concerning thetruth" had erred, "saying that the resurrection is past already."[204:7] These heretics, it would appear, maintained that an introductionto their Gnosis, or knowledge, was the only genuine deliverance fromthe dominion of death; and argued accordingly that, in the case of thosewho had been initiated into the mysteries of their system, theresurrection was "past already."

The ancient Christian writers concur in stating that Simon, mentioned inthe Acts of the Apostles, [205:1] and commonly called Simon Magus, wasthe father of the sects of the Gnostics. [205:2] He was a Samaritan bybirth, and after the rebuke he received from Peter, [205:3] he isreported to have withdrawn from the Church, and to have concocted atheology of his own, into which he imported some elements borrowed fromChristianity. At a subsequent period he travelled to Rome, where heattracted attention by the novelty of his creed, and the boldness of hispretensions. We are told that, prior to his baptism by Philip, he "hadused sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out thathimself was some great one;" [205:4] and subsequently he seems to havepursued a similar career. According to a very early authority, nearlyall the inhabitants of his native country, and a few persons in otherdistricts, worshipped him as the first or supreme God. [205:5] There is,probably, some exaggeration in this statement; but there seems no reasonto doubt that he laid claim to extraordinary powers, maintaining thatthe same spirit which had been imparted to Jesus, had descended onhimself. He is also said to have denied that our Lord had a real body.Some, who did not enrol themselves under his standard, soon partiallyadopted his principles; and there is cause to think that Hymenaeus,Philetus, Alexander, Phygellus, and Hermogenes, mentioned in the NewTestament, [205:6] were all more or less tinctured with the spirit ofGnosticism. Other heresiarchs, not named in the sacred record, are knownto have flourished towards the close of the first century. Of these themost famous were Carpocrates, Cerinthus, and Ebion. [206:1] There is atradition that John, "the beloved disciple," came in contact withCerinthus, when going into a bath at Ephesus, and retired abruptly fromthe place, that he might not compromise himself by remaining in the samebuilding with such an enemy of the Christian revelation. [206:2] It isalso stated that the same apostle's testimony to the dignity of theWord, in the beginning of his Gospel, was designed as an antidote to theerrors of this heresiarch. [206:3]

When the gospel exerts its proper influence on the character it producesan enlightened, genial, and consistent piety; but a false faith is aptto lead, in practice, to one of two extremes, either the asceticism ofthe Essene, or the sensualism of the Sadducee. Gnosticism developeditself in both these directions. Some of its advocates maintained that,as matter is essentially evil, the corrupt propensities of the bodyshould be kept in constant subjection by a life of rigorousmortification; others held that, as the principle of evil is inherent inthe corporeal frame, the malady is beyond the reach of cure, and that,therefore, the animal nature should be permitted freely to indulge itspeculiar appetites. To the latter party, as some think, belonged theNicolaitanes noticed by John in the Apocalypse. [206:4] They are said tohave derived their name from Nicolas, one of the seven deacons ordainedby the apostles; [206:5] and to have been a class of Gnostics noted fortheir licentiousness. The origin of the designation may, perhaps, admitof some dispute; but it is certain that those to whom it was appliedwere alike lax in principle and dissolute in practice, for the Spirit ofGod has declared His abhorrence as well of the "doctrine," as of "thedeeds of the Nicolaitanes." [207:1]

Though the Jews, at the time of the appearance of our Lord, were so muchdivided in sentiment, and though the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and theEssenes, had each their theological peculiarities, their sectarianismdid not involve any complete severance or separation. Notwithstandingtheir differences of creed, the Pharisees and Sadducees sat together inthe Sanhedrim, [207:2] and worshipped together in the temple. All theseed of Abraham constituted one Church, and congregated in the samesacred courts to celebrate the great festivals. In the Christian Church,in the days of the apostles, there was something approaching to the sameoutward unity. Though, for instance, there were so many parties amongthe Corinthians—though one said, I am of Paul, and another I am ofApollos, and another I am of Cephas, and another I am of Christ—allassembled in the same place to join in the same worship, and to partakeof the same Eucharist. Those who withdrew from the disciples with whomthey had been previously associated, appear generally to haverelinquished altogether the profession of Christianity. [207:3] Some, atleast, of the Gnostics acted very differently. When danger appeared theywere inclined to temporize, and to discontinue their attendance on theworship of the Church; but they were desirous to remain still nominallyconnected with the great body of believers. [207:4] Any form of alliancewith such dangerous errorists was, however, considered a cause ofscandal; and the inspired teachers of the gospel insisted on theirexclusion from ecclesiastical fellowship. Hence Paul declares that hehad delivered Hymenaeus and Alexander "unto Satan" that they might learn"not to blaspheme;" [208:1] and John upbraids the Church in Pergamosbecause it retained in its communion "them that held the doctrine of theNicolaitanes." [208:2] During the first century the Gnostics seem tohave been unable to create anything like a schism among those who hadembraced Christianity. Whilst the apostles lived the "science falsely socalled" could not pretend to a divine sanction; and though here andthere they displayed considerable activity in the dissemination of theirprinciples, they were sternly and effectually discountenanced. It isaccordingly stated by one of the earliest ecclesiastical writers that,in the time of Simeon of Jerusalem, who finished his career in thebeginning of the second century, "they called the Church as yet avirgin, inasmuch as it was not yet corrupted by vain discourses."[208:3] Other writers concur in bearing testimony to the fact that,whilst the apostles were on earth, false teachers failed "to divide theunity" of the Christian commonwealth, "by the introduction of corruptdoctrines." [208:4]

The gospel affords scope for the healthful and vigorous exercise of thehuman understanding, and it is itself the highest and the purest wisdom.It likewise supplies a test for ascertaining the state of the heart.Those who receive it with faith unfeigned will delight to meditate onits wonderful discoveries; but those who are unrenewed in the spirit oftheir minds will render to it only a doubtful submission, and willpervert its plainest announcements. The apostle therefore says—"Theremust be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may bemade manifest among you." [208:5] The heretic is made manifest alike byhis deviations from the doctrines and the precepts of revelation. Hiscreed does not exhibit the consistency of truth, and his life fails todisplay the beauty of holiness. Bible Christianity is neithersuperstitious nor sceptical, neither austere nor sensual. "The wisdomthat is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy tobe intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality andwithout hypocrisy." [209:1]




To the primitive disciples the day on which our Lord rose from the gravewas a crisis of intense excitement. The crucifixion had cast a dismalcloud over their prospects; for, immediately before, when He enteredJerusalem amidst the hosannahs of the multitude, they had probablyanticipated that He was about to assert His sovereignty as the Messiah:yet, when His body was committed to the tomb, they did not at once sinkinto despair; and, though filled with anxiety, they ventured to indulgea hope that the third day after His demise would be signalised by somenew revelation. [210:1] The report of those who were early at thesepulchre at first inspired the residue of the disciples with wonder andperplexity; [210:2] but, as the proofs of His resurrection multiplied,they became confident and joyful. Ever afterwards the first day of theweek was observed by them as the season of holy convocation. [211:1]Those members of the Apostolic Church who had been originally Jews,continued for some time to meet together also on the Saturday; but, whatwas called "The Lord's Day," [211:2] was regarded by all as sacred toChrist.

It has often been asserted that, during His own ministry, our Saviourencouraged His disciples to violate the Sabbath, and thus prepared theway for its abolition. But this theory is as destitute of foundation asit is dangerous to morality. Even the ceremonial law continued to bebinding until Jesus expired upon the cross; and meanwhile He no doubtfelt it to be His duty to attend to every jot and tittle of itsappointments. [211:3] Thus, it became Him "to fulfil all righteousness."[211:4] He is at pains to shew that the acts of which the Phariseescomplained as breaches of the Sabbath could be vindicated by OldTestament authority; [211:5] and that these formalists "condemned theguiltless," [211:6] when they denounced the disciples as doing thatwhich was unlawful. Jesus never transgressed either the letter or thespirit of any commandment pertaining to the holy rest; but superstitionhad added to the written law a multitude of minute observances; andevery Israelite was at perfect liberty to neglect any or all of thesefrivolous regulations.

The Great Teacher never intimated that the Sabbath was a ceremonialordinance which was to cease with the Mosaic ritual. It was institutedwhen our first parents were in Paradise; [211:7] and the preceptenjoining its remembrance, being a portion of the Decalogue, [212:1] isof perpetual obligation. Hence, instead of regarding it as a merelyJewish institution, Christ declares that it "was made for MAN," [212:2]or, in other words, that it was designed for the benefit of the wholehuman family. Instead of anticipating its extinction along with theceremonial law, He speaks of its existence after the downfal ofJerusalem. When He announces the calamities connected with the ruin ofthe holy city, He instructs His followers to pray that the urgency ofthe catastrophe may not deprive them of the comfort of the ordinances ofthe sacred rest. "Pray ye," said he, "that your flight be not in thewinter, neither on the Sabbath-day." [212:3] And the prophet Isaiah,when describing the ingathering of the Gentiles and the glory of theChurch in the times of the gospel, mentions the keeping of the Sabbathas characteristic of the children of God. "The sons of the stranger,"says he, "that join themselves to the Lord to serve him, and to love thename of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepeth theSabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant—even them Iwill I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house ofprayer; their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be acceptedupon mine altar: [212:4] for mine house shall be called an house ofprayer for all people." [212:5]

But when Jesus declared that "the Son of Man is Lord also of theSabbath," [212:6] He unquestionably asserted His right to alter thecirc*mstantials of its observance. He accordingly abolished itsceremonial worship, gave it a new name, and changed the day of itscelebration. He signalised the first day of the week by then appearingonce and again to His disciples after His resurrection, [212:7] and bythat Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit [213:1] which marks thecommencement of a new era in the history of redemption. As the Lord'sday was consecrated to the Lord's service, [213:2] the disciples did notnow neglect the assembling of themselves together; [213:3] and theapostle commanded them at this holy season to set apart a portion oftheir gains for religious purposes. [213:4] It was most fitting that thefirst day of the week should be thus distinguished under the neweconomy; for the deliverance of the Church is a more illustriousachievement than the formation of the world; [213:5] and as the primevalSabbath commemorated the rest of the Creator, the Christian Sabbathreminds us of the completion of the work of the Redeemer. "Thereremaineth, therefore, the keeping of a Sabbath [213:6] to the people ofGod, for he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from hisown works, as God did from his." [213:7]

As many of the converts from Judaism urged the circumcision of theirGentile brethren, they were likewise disposed to insist on theirobservance of the Hebrew festivals. The apostles, at least for aconsiderable time, did not deem it expedient positively to forbid thekeeping of such days; but they required that, in matters of this nature,every one should be left to his own discretion. "One man," says Paul,"esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike. Letevery man be fully persuaded in his own mind." [213:8] It is obviousthat the Lord's day is not included in this compromise; for from themorning of the resurrection there appears to have been no dispute as toits claims, and its very title attests the general recognition of itsauthority. The apostle can refer only to days which were typical andceremonial. Hence he says elsewhere—"Let no man judge you in meat, orin drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of theSabbath days—which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is ofChrist." [214:1]

Though the New Testament furnishes no full and circ*mstantialdescription of the worship of the Christian Church, it makes suchincidental allusions to its various parts, as enable us to form a prettyaccurate idea of its general character. Like the worship of thesynagogue [214:2] it consisted of prayer, singing, reading theScriptures, and expounding or preaching. Those who joined the Church,for several years after it was first organized, were almost exclusivelyconverts from Judaism, and when they embraced the Christian faith, theyretained the order of religious service to which they had been hithertoaccustomed; but by the recognition of Jesus Christ as the Messiah ofwhom the law and the prophets testified, their old forms were inspiredwith new life and significance. At first the heathen did not challengethe distinction between the worship of the synagogue and the Church; andthus it was, as has already been intimated, that for a considerableportion of the first century, the Christians and the Jews werefrequently confounded.

It has often been asserted, that the Jews had a liturgy when our Lordministered in their synagogues; but the proof adduced in support of thisstatement is far from satisfactory; and their prayers which are stillextant, and which are said to have been then in use, must obviously havebeen written after the destruction of Jerusalem. [215:1] It is, however,certain that the Christians in the apostolic age were not restricted toany particular forms of devotion. The liturgies ascribed to Mark, James,and others, are unquestionably the fabrications of later times; [215:2]and had any of the inspired teachers of the gospel composed a book ofcommon prayer, it would, of course, have been received into the canon ofthe New Testament. Our Lord taught His disciples to pray, and suppliedthem with a model to guide them in their devotional exercises; [215:3]but there is no evidence whatever that, in their stated services, theyconstantly employed the language of that beautiful and comprehensiveformulary. The very idea of a liturgy was altogether alien to the spiritof the primitive believers. They were commanded to give thanks "ineverything," [215:4] to pray "always with all prayer and supplicationin the spirit," [215:5] and to watch thereunto "with all perseveranceand supplication for all saints;" [215:6] and had they been limited toa form, they would have found it impossible to comply with theseadmonitions. Their prayers were dictated by the occasion, and variedaccording to passing circ*mstances. Some of them which have beenrecorded, [215:7] had a special reference to the occurrences of the day,and could not have well admitted of repetition. In the apostolic age,when the Spirit was poured out in such rich effusion on the Church, thegift, as well as the grace, of prayer was imparted abundantly, so that aliturgy would have been deemed superfluous, if not directly calculatedto freeze the genial current of devotion.

Singing, in which none but Levites were permitted to unite, [216:1] andwhich was accompanied by instrumental music, constituted a prominentpart of the temple service. The singers occupied an elevated platformadjoining the court of the priests; [216:2] and it is somewhat doubtfulwhether, in that position, they were distinctly heard by the majority ofthe worshippers within the sacred precincts. [216:3] As the sacrifices,offerings, and other observances of the temple, as well as the priests,the vestments, and even the building itself, had an emblematic meaning,[216:4] it would appear that the singing, intermingled with the music ofvarious instruments of sound, was also typical and ceremonial. It seemsto have indicated that the tongue of man cannot sufficiently express thepraise of the King Eternal, and that all things, animate and inanimate,owe Him a revenue of glory. The worship of the synagogue was moresimple. Its officers had, indeed, trumpets and cornets, with which theypublished their sentences of excommunication, and announced the newyear, the fasts, and the Sabbath; [216:5] but they did not introduceinstrumental music into their congregational services. The earlyChristians followed the example of the synagogue; and when theycelebrated the praises of God "in psalms, and hymns, and spiritualsongs," [216:6] their melody was "the fruit of the lips." [216:7] Formany centuries after this period, the use of instrumental music wasunknown in the Church. [217:1]

The Jews divided the Pentateuch and the writings of the Prophets intosections, one of which was read every Sabbath in the synagogue; [217:2]and thus, in the place set apart to the service of the God of Israel,His own will was constantly proclaimed. The Christians bestowed equalhonour on the holy oracles; for in their solemn assemblies, the readingof the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament formed a part of theirstated worship. [217:3] At the close of this exercise, one or more ofthe elders edified the congregation, either by giving a generalexposition of the passage read, or by insisting particularly on somepoint of doctrine or duty which it obviously inculcated. If a prophetwas present, he, too, had now an opportunity of addressing the auditory.[217:4]

As apostolic Christianity aimed to impart light to the understanding,its worship was uniformly conducted in the language of the people. It,indeed, attested its divine origin by miracles, and it accordinglyenabled some to speak in tongues in which they had never beeninstructed; but it permitted such individuals to exercise their gifts inthe church only when interpreters were present to translate theircommunications. [217:5] Whilst the gift of tongues, possessed by so manyof the primitive disciples, must have attracted the attention of theGentile as well as of the Jewish literati, it must also have made apowerful impression on the popular mind, more especially in largecities; for in such places there were always foreigners to whom thesestrange utterances would be perfectly intelligible, and for whom adiscourse delivered in the speech of their native country would havepeculiar charms. But in the worship of the primitive Christians therewas no attempt, in the way of embellishment or decoration, to captivatethe senses. The Church had no gorgeous temples, no fragrant incense,[218:1] no splendid vestments. For probably the whole of the firstcentury, she celebrated her religious ordinances in private houses,[218:2] and her ministers officiated in their ordinary costume. John,the forerunner of our Saviour, "had his raiment of camel's hair, and aleathern girdle about his loins;" [218:3] but perhaps few of the earlyChristian preachers were arrayed in such coarse canonicals.

The Founder of the Christian religion instituted only two symbolicordinances—Baptism and the Lord's Supper. [218:4] It is universallyadmitted that, in the apostolic age, baptism was dispensed to all whoembraced the gospel; but it has been much disputed whether it was alsoadministered to the infant children of the converts. The testimony ofScripture on the subject is not very explicit; for, as the ordinance wasin common use amongst the Jews, [218:5] a minute description of its modeand subjects was, perhaps, deemed unnecessary by the apostles andevangelists. When an adult heathen was received into the Church ofIsrael, it is well known that the little children of the proselyte wereadmitted along with him; [219:1] and as the Christian Scriptures nowhere forbid the dispensation of the rite to infants, it may bepresumed that the same practice was observed by the primitive ministersof the gospel. This inference is emphatically corroborated by the factthat, of the comparatively small number of passages in the New Testamentwhich treat of its administration, no less than five refer to thebaptism of whole households. [219:2] It is also worthy of remark thatthese five cases are not mentioned as rare or peculiar, but as ordinaryspecimens of the method of apostolic procedure. It is not, indeed,absolutely certain that there was an infant in any of these fivehouseholds; but it is, unquestionably, much more probable that theycontained a fair proportion of little children, than that everyindividual in each of them had arrived at years of maturity, and thatall these adults, without exception, at once participated in the faithof the head of the family, and became candidates for baptism.

In the New Testament faith is represented as the grand qualification forbaptism; [219:3] but this principle obviously applies only to all whoare capable of believing; for in the Word of God faith is alsorepresented as necessary to salvation, [219:4] and yet it is generallyconceded that little children may be saved. Under the Jewishdispensation infants were circumcised, and were thus recognised asinterested in the divine favour, so that, if they be excluded from therite of baptism, it follows that they occupy a worse position under amilder and more glorious economy. But the New Testament forbids us toadopt such an inference. It declares that infants should be "suffered tocome" to the Saviour; [219:5] it indicates that baptism supplies theplace of circumcision, for it connects the gospel institution with "thecircumcision of Christ;" [220:1] it speaks of children as "saints" andas "in the Lord," [220:2] and, of course, as having received somevisible token of Church membership; and it assures them that their sinsare forgiven them "for His name's sake." [220:3] The New Testament doesnot record a single case in which the offspring of Christian parentswere admitted to baptism on arriving at years of intelligence; but ittells of the apostles exhorting the men of Judea to repent and to submitto the ordinance, inasmuch as it was a privilege proffered to them andto their children. [220:4] Nay more, Paul plainly teaches that theseed of the righteous are entitled to the recognition of saintship; andthat, even when only one of the parents is a Christian, the offspring donot on that account forfeit their ecclesiastical inheritance. "Theunbelieving husband," says he, "is sanctified by the wife, and theunbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband, else were your childrenunclean, but now are they holy." [220:5] This passage demonstratesthat the Apostolic Church recognised the holiness of infants, or inother words, that it admitted them to baptism.

The Scriptures furnish no very specific instructions as to the mode ofbaptism; and it is probable that, in its administration, the primitiveheralds of the gospel did not adhere to a system of rigid uniformity.[220:6] Some have asserted that the Greek word translated baptize,[220:7] in our authorised version, always signifies immerse, but ithas been clearly shewn [221:1] that this statement is inaccurate, andthat baptism does not necessarily imply dipping. In ancient times, andin the lands where the apostles laboured, bathing was perhaps asfrequently performed by affusion as immersion; [221:2] and it may bethat the apostles varied their method of baptizing according tocirc*mstances. [221:3] The ordinance was intended to convey the idea ofwashing or purifying; and it is obvious that water may be applied, inmany ways, as the means of ablution. In the sacred volume sprinklingis often spoken of as equivalent to washing. [221:4]

As baptism was designed to supersede the Jewish circumcision, the Lord'sSupper was intended to occupy the place of the Jewish Passover. [221:5]The Paschal lamb could be sacrificed nowhere except in the temple ofJerusalem, and the Passover was kept only once a year; but the Eucharistcould be dispensed wherever a Christian congregation was collected; andat this period it seems to have been observed every first day of theweek, at least by the more zealous and devout worshippers. [221:6] Thewine, as well as the other element, was given to all who joined in itscelebration; and the title of the "Breaking of Bread," [221:7] one ofthe names by which the ordinance was originally distinguished, suppliesevidence that the doctrine of transubstantiation was then utterlyunknown. The word Sacrament, as applied to Baptism and the HolySupper, was not in use in the days of the apostles, and the subsequentintroduction of this nomenclature, [222:1] probably contributed to throwan air of mystery around these institutions. The primitive disciplesconsidered the elements employed in them simply as signs and seals ofspiritual blessings; and they had no more idea of regarding the bread inthe Eucharist as the real body of our Saviour, than they had ofbelieving that the water of baptism is the very blood in which He washedHis people from their sins. They knew that they enjoyed the light of Hiscountenance in prayer, in meditation, and in the hearing of His Word;and that He was not otherwise present in these symbolic ordinances.

Whilst, in the Lord's Supper, believers hold fellowship with Christ,they also maintain and exhibit their communion with each other. "We,being many," says Paul, "are one bread and one body, for we are allpartakers of that one bread." [222:2] Those who joined together in theobservance of this holy institution were thereby pledged to mutual love;but every one who acted in such a way as to bring reproach upon theChristian name, was no longer admitted to the sacred table. Paul,doubtless, refers to exclusion from this ordinance, as well as fromintimate civil intercourse, when he says to the Corinthians—"I havewritten unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called abrother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or adrunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat." [222:3]

In the synagogue all cases of discipline were decided by the bench ofelders; [222:4] and it is plain, from the New Testament, that those whooccupied a corresponding position in the Christian Church, alsoexercised similar authority. They are described as having the oversightof the flock, [222:5] as bearing rule, [223:1] as watching for souls,[223:2] and as taking care of the Church of God. [223:3] They areinstructed how to deal with offenders, [223:4] and they are said to beentitled to obedience. [223:5] Such representations obviously imply thatthey were intrusted with the administration of ecclesiasticaldiscipline.

This account of the functions of the spiritual rulers has been supposedby some to be inconsistent with several statements in the apostolicepistles. It has been alleged that, according to these letters, theadministration of discipline was vested in the whole body of the people;and that originally the members of the Church, in their collectivecapacity, exercised the right of excommunication. The language of Paul,in reference to a case of scandal which had occurred among theChristians of Corinth, has been often quoted in proof of the democraticcharacter of their ecclesiastical constitution. "It is reportedcommonly," says the apostle, "that there is fornication, among you, andsuch fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that oneshould have his father's wife….. Therefore put away from amongyourselves that wicked person." [223:6] The admonition was obeyed, andthe application of discipline seems to have produced a most salutaryimpression upon the mind of the offender. In his next letter the apostleaccordingly alludes to this circ*mstance, and observes—"Sufficient tosuch a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many." [223:7]These words have been frequently adduced to shew that the government ofthe Corinthian Church was administered by the whole body of thecommunicants.

The various statements of Scripture, if rightly understood, must exactlyharmonize, and a closer investigation of the case of this transgressoris all that is required to prove that he was not tried and condemned bya tribunal composed of the whole mass of the members of the Church ofCorinth. His true history reveals facts of a very different character.For reasons which it would, perhaps, be now in vain to hope fully toexplore, he seems to have been a favourite among his fellow-disciples;many of them, prior to their conversion, had been grossly licentious;and, it may be, that they continued to regard certain lusts of the fleshwith an eye of comparative indulgence. [224:1] Some of them probablyconsidered the conduct of this offender as only a legitimate exercise ofhis Christian liberty; and they appear to have manifested a stronginclination to shield him from ecclesiastical censure. Paul, therefore,felt it necessary to address them in the language of indignantexpostulation. "Ye are puffed up," says he, "and have not rathermourned that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from amongyou…..Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leavenleaveneth the whole lump." [224:2] At the same time, as an apostle boundto vindicate the reputation of the Church, and to enforce the rules ofecclesiastical discipline, he solemnly announces his determination tohave the offender excommunicated. "I verily," says he, "as absent inbody, but present in spirit, have judged already as though I werepresent, concerning him that hath so done this deed, in the name of ourLord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, withthe power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satanfor the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in theday of the Lord Jesus." [224:3] To deliver any one to Satan is to expelhim from the Church, for whoever is not in the Church is in the world,and "the whole world lieth in the wicked one." [224:4] This disciplinewas designed to teach the fornicator to mortify his lusts, and it thusaimed at the promotion of his highest interests; or, as the apostleexpresses it, he was to be excommunicated "for the destruction of theflesh, [225:1] that the spirit might be saved in the day of the LordJesus." It is obvious that the Church of Corinth was now in a state ofgreat disorder. A partisan spirit had crept in amongst its members;[225:2] and it seems probable that those elders [225:3] who were anxiousto maintain wholesome discipline were opposed and overborne. Thefornicator had in some way contrived to make himself so popular that anattempt at his expulsion would, it was feared, throw the whole societyinto hopeless confusion. Under these circ*mstances Paul felt itnecessary to interpose, to assert his apostolic authority, and to insistupon the maintenance of ecclesiastical order. Instead, however, ofconsulting the people as to the course to be pursued, he peremptorilydelivers his judgment, and requires them to hold a solemnassembly that they may listen to the public announcement [225:4] of asentence of excommunication. He, of course, expected that their rulerswould concur with him in this decision, and that one of them wouldofficially publish it when they were "gathered together."

When the case is thus stated, it is easy to understand why the apostlerequired all the disciples to "put away" from among themselves "thatwicked person." Had they continued to cherish the spirit which they hadrecently displayed, they might either have encouraged the fornicator torefuse submission to the sentence, or they might have rendered itcomparatively powerless. He therefore reminds them that they too shouldseek to promote the purity of ecclesiastical fellowship; and that theywere bound to cooperate in carrying out a righteous discipline. Theywere to cease to recognize this fallen disciple as a servant of Christ;they were to withdraw themselves from his society; they were to declineto meet him on the same terms, as heretofore, in social intercourse; andthey were not even to eat in his company. Thus would the reputation ofthe Church be vindicated; for in this way it would be immediately knownto all who were without that he was no longer considered a member of thebrotherhood.

The Corinthians were awakened to a sense of duty by this apostolicletter, and acted up to its instructions. The result was mostsatisfactory. When the offender, saw that he was cut off from theChurch, and that its members avoided his society, he was completelyhumbled. The sentence of the apostle, or the eldership, if opposed orneglected by the people, might have produced little impression; but "thepunishment which was inflicted of many"—the immediate and entireabandonment of all connexion with him by the disciples atCorinth—overwhelmed him with shame and terror. He felt as a man smittenby the judgment of God; he renounced his sin; and he exhibited the mostunequivocal tokens of genuine contrition. In due time he was restored toChurch fellowship; and the apostle then exhorted his brethren to readmithim to intercourse, and to treat him with kindness and confidence. "Yeought," says he, "rather to forgive him and comfort him, lest perhapssuch an one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore Ibeseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him." [227:1]

This case of the Corinthian fornicator has been recorded for theadmonition and guidance of believers in all generations. It teaches thatevery member of a Christian Church is bound to use his best endeavoursto promote a pure communion; and that he is not guiltless if, promptedby mistaken charity or considerations of selfishness, he is not preparedto co-operate in the exclusion of false brethren. Many an immoralminister has maintained his position, and has thus continued to bringdiscredit on the gospel, simply because those who had witnessed hismisconduct were induced to suppress their testimony; and many a churchcourt has been prevented from enforcing discipline by the clamours orintimidation of an ignorant and excited congregation. The command—"Putaway from among yourselves that wicked person," is addressed to thepeople, as well as to the ministry; and all Christ's disciples shouldfeel that, in vindicating the honour of His name, they have a commoninterest, and share a common responsibility. Every one cannot be amember of a church court; but every one can aid in the preservation ofchurch discipline. He may supply information, or give evidence, orencourage a healthy tone of public sentiment, or assist, by petition orremonstrance, in quickening the zeal of lukewarm judicatories. Anddiscipline is never so influential as when it is known to be sustainedby the approving verdict of a pious and intelligent community. Thepunishment "inflicted of many"—the withdrawal of the confidence andcountenance of a whole church—is a most impressive admonition to aproud sinner.

In the apostolic age the sentence of excommunication had a verydifferent significance from that which was attached to it at asubsequent period. Our Lord pointed out its import with equal precisionand brevity when he said—"If thy brother….neglect to hear the church,[228:1] let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican." [228:2]The Israelites could have no religious fellowship with heathens, or theworshippers of false gods; and they could have no personal respect forpublicans, or Roman tax-gatherers, who were regarded as odiousrepresentatives of the oppressors of their country. To be "unto them asan heathen" was to be excluded from the privileges of their church; andto be "unto them as a publican" was to be shut out from their society inthe way of domestic intercourse. When the apostle says—"Now we commandyou, brethren, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother thatwalketh disorderly and not after the ordinance [228:3] which he receivedof us," [228:4] he doubtless designed to intimate that those who wereexcommunicated should be admitted neither to the intimacy of privatefriendship nor to the sealing ordinances of the gospel. But it did notfollow that the disciples were to treat such persons with insolence orinhumanity. They were not at liberty to act thus towards heathens andpublicans; for they were to love even their enemies, and they were toimitate the example of their Father in heaven who "maketh his sun torise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and onthe unjust." [228:5] It is obvious from the address of the apostle tothe Thessalonians that the members of the Church were not forbidden tospeak to those who were separated from communion; and that they were notrequired to refuse them the ordinary charities of life. They were simplyto avoid such an intercourse as implied a community of faith, offeeling, and of interest. "If any man," says he, "obey not our word bythis epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he maybe ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as abrother." [229:1]

How different was this discipline from that which was established,several centuries afterwards, in the Latin Church! The spirit and usagesof paganism then supplanted the regulations of the New Testament, andthe excommunication of Christianity was converted into theexcommunication of Druidism. [229:2] Our Lord taught that "whoever wouldnot hear the church" should be treated as a heathen man and a publican;but the time came when he who forfeited his status as a member of theChristian commonwealth was denounced as a monster or a fiend. Pauldeclared that the person excommunicated, instead of being counted as anenemy, should be admonished as a brother; but the Latin Church, in along list of horrid imprecations, [229:3] invoked a curse upon everymember of the body of the offender, and commanded every one to refuse tohim the civility of the coldest salutation! The early Church acted as afaithful monitor, anxious to reclaim the sinner from the error of hisways: the Latin Church, like a tyrant, refuses to the transgressor eventhat which is his due, and seeks either to reduce him to slavery, or todrive him to despair.


Paul declares that Christ "gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; andsome, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting ofthe saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the bodyof Christ." [230:1] In another place the same writer, when speaking ofthose occupying positions of prominence in the ecclesiastical community,makes a somewhat similar enumeration. "God," says he, "hath set some inthe church, first, apostles; secondarily, prophets; thirdly, teachers;after that, miracles; then, gifts of healings, helps, governments,diversities of tongues." [230:2]

These two passages, presenting something like catalogues of the mostprominent characters connected with the Apostolic Church, throw lightupon each other. They mention the ordinary, as well as theextraordinary, ecclesiastical functionaries. Under the class of ordinaryoffice-bearers must be placed those described as "pastors and teachers,""helps," and "governments." The evangelists, such as Timothy, [230:3]Titus, and Philip, [230:4] seem to have had a special commission toassist in organizing the infant Church; [230:5] and, as they werefurnished with supernatural endowments, [231:1] they may be consideredextraordinary functionaries. The apostles themselves clearly belong tothe same denomination. They all possessed the gift of inspiration[231:2] they all received their authority immediately from Christ;[231:3] they all "went in and out with Him" during His personalministry; and, as they all saw Him after He rose from the dead, theycould all attest His resurrection. [231:4] It is plain, too, that theministrations of "the prophets," as well as of those who wrought"miracles," who possessed "gifts of healings," and who had "diversitiesof tongues," must also be designated extraordinary.

It is probable that by the "helps," of whom Paul here speaks, heunderstands the deacons, [231:5] who were originally appointed torelieve the apostles of a portion of labour which they felt to beinconvenient and burdensome. [231:6] The duties of the deacons were notstrictly of a spiritual character; these ministers held only asubordinate station among the office-bearers of the Church; and, even indealing with its temporalities, they acted under the advice anddirection of those who were properly entrusted with its government.Hence, perhaps, they were called "helps" or attendants. [231:7]

When these helps and the extraordinary functionaries are left out of theapostolic catalogues, it is rather singular that, in the passageaddressed to the Ephesians, we have nothing remaining but "PASTORS ANDTEACHERS;" and, in that to the Corinthians, nothing but "TEACHERS" AND"GOVERNMENTS." There are good grounds for believing that these tworesiduary elements are identical,—the "pastors," mentionedbefore[232:1] the teachers in one text, being equivalent to the"governments" mentioned after them in the other.[232:2] Nor is itstrange that those entrusted with the ecclesiastical government shouldbe styled pastors or shepherds; for they are the guardians and rulers of"the flock of God." [232:3] Thus, it appears that the ordinaryoffice-bearers of the Apostolic Church were pastors, teachers, andhelps; or, teachers, rulers, and deacons.

In the apostolic age we read likewise of elders and bishops; and in theNew Testament these names are often used interchangeably.[232:4] Theelders or bishops, were the same as the pastors and teachers; for theyhad the charge of the instruction and government of the Church.[232:5]Hence elders are required to act as faithful pastors under Christ, theChief Shepherd.[232:6] It appears, too, that whilst some of the elderswere only pastors, or rulers, others were also teachers. The apostlesays accordingly—"Let the elders that rule well, be counted worthy ofdouble honour, especially those that labour in the word anddoctrine".[232:7] We may thus see that the teachers, governments, andhelps, mentioned by Paul when writing to the Corinthians, are the sameas the "bishops and deacons" of whom he speaks elsewhere. [233:1]

In primitive times there were, generally, a plurality of elders, as wellas a plurality of deacons, in every church or congregation; [233:2] andeach functionary was expected to apply himself to that particulardepartment of his office which he could manage most efficiently. Someelders possessed a peculiar talent for expounding the gospel in the wayof preaching, or, as it was occasionally called, prophesying; [233:3]others excelled in delivering hortatory addresses to the people; othersdisplayed great tact and sagacity in conducting ecclesiastical business,or in dealing personally with offenders, or with penitents; whilstothers again were singularly successful in imparting private instructionto catechumens. Some deacons were frequently commissioned to administerto the wants of the sick; and others, who were remarkable for theirshrewdness and discrimination, were employed to distribute alms to theindigent. In one of his epistles Paul pointedly refers to the multiformduties of these ecclesiastical office-bearers-"Having then," says he,"gifts, differing according to the grace that is given to us, whetherprophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; orministry (of the deacon), let us wait on our ministering; or he thatteacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation; he thatgiveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence;he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness." [233:4] It has been supposedby some that all the primitive elders, or bishops, were preachers; butthe records of apostolic times warrant no such conclusion. These elderswere appointed simply to "take care of the Church of God;" [233:5] andit was not necessary that each individual should perform all thefunctions of the pastoral office. Even at the present day a singlepreacher is generally sufficient to minister to a single congregation.When Paul requires that the elders who rule well, though they may not"labour in the word and doctrine," shall be counted worthy of doublehonour, [234:1] is language distinctly indicates that there were thenpersons designated elders who did not preach, and who, notwithstanding,were entitled to respect as exemplary and efficient functionaries. It isremarkable that when the apostle enumerates the qualifications of abishop, or elder, [234:2] he scarcely refers to oratorical endowments.He states that the ruler of the Church should be grave, sober, prudent,and benevolent; but, as to his ability to propagate his principles, heemploys only one word—rendered in our version "apt to teach." [234:3]This does not imply that he must be qualified to preach, forteaching and preaching are repeatedly distinguished in the NewTestament; [234:4] neither does it signify that he must become aprofessional tutor, for, as has already been intimated, all elders arenot expected to labour in the word and doctrine; it merely denotes thathe should be able and willing, as often as an opportunity occurred, tocommunicate a knowledge of divine truth. All believers are required to"exhort one another daily," [235:1] "teaching and admonishing oneanother," [235:2] being "ready always to give an answer to every manthat asketh them a reason of the hope that is in them;" [235:3] andthose who "watch for souls" should be specially zealous in performingthese duties of their Christian vocation. The word which has beensupposed to indicate that every elder should be a public instructoroccurs in only one other instance in the New Testament; and in that caseit is used in a connexion which serves to illustrate its meaning. Paulthere states that whilst such as minister to the Lord should avoid acontroversial spirit, they should at the same time be willing to supplyexplanations to objectors, and to furnish them with information. "Theservant of the Lord," says he, "must not strive, but be gentle unto allmen, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those thatoppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them repentance to theacknowledging of the truth." [235:4] Here the aptness to teach refersapparently to a talent for winning over gainsayers by means ofinstruction communicated in private conversation. [235:5]

But still preaching is the grand ordinance of God, as well for theedification of saints as for the conversion of sinners; and it was,therefore, necessary that at least some of the session or eldershipconnected with each flock should be competent to conduct thecongregational worship. As spiritual gifts were more abundant in theapostolic times than afterwards, it is probable that at first several ofthe elders [236:1] were found ready to take part in its celebration. Bydegrees, however, nearly the whole service devolved on one individual;and this preaching elder was very properly treated with peculiardeference. [236:2] He was accordingly soon recognized as the statedpresident of the presbytery, or eldership.

It thus appears that the preaching elder held the most honourableposition amongst the ordinary functionaries of the Apostolic Church.Whilst his office required the highest order of gifts andaccomplishments, and exacted the largest amount of mental and evenphysical exertion, the prosperity of the whole ecclesiastical communitydepended mainly on his acceptance and efficiency. The people areaccordingly frequently reminded that they are bound to respect andsustain their spiritual instructors. "Let him that is taught in theword," says Paul, "communicate unto him that teacheth in all goodthings." [236:3] "The Scripture saith—Thou shalt not muzzle the ox thattreadeth out the corn; and, The labourer is worthy of his reward."[236:4] "So hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospelshould live of the gospel." [236:5]

The apostles held a position which no ministers after them could occupy,for they were sip pointed by our Lord himself to organize the Church. Asthey were to carry out instructions which they had received from His ownlips, and as they were armed with the power of working miracles, [236:6]they possessed an extraordinary share of personal authority. Aware thattheir circ*mstances were peculiar, and that their services would beavailable until the end of time, [236:7] they left the ecclesiasticalgovernment, as they passed away one after another, to the care of theelders who had meanwhile shared in its administration. [237:1] As soonas the Church began to assume a settled form, they mingled with theseelders on terms of equality; and, as at the Council of Jerusalem,[237:2] sat with them in the same deliberative assemblies. When Pauladdressed the elders of Ephesus for the last time, and took his solemnfarewell of them, [237:3] he commended the Church to their charge, andemphatically pressed upon them the importance of fidelity and vigilance.[237:4] In his Second Epistle to Timothy, written in the prospect of hismartyrdom, he makes no allusion to the expediency of selecting anotherindividual to fill his place. The apostles had fully executed theircommission when, as wise master-builders, they laid the foundation ofthe Church and fairly exhibited the divine model of the gloriousstructure; and as no other parties could produce the same credentials,no others could pretend to the same authority. But even the apostlesrepeatedly testified that they regarded the preaching of the Word as thehighest department of their office. It was, not as church rulers, but aschurch teachers, that they were specially distinguished. "We will giveourselves," said they, "continually to prayer, and to the ministry ofthe Word." [237:5] "Christ sent me," said Paul, "not to baptize, but topreach the gospel." [238:1] "Unto me, who am less than the least of allsaints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles theunsearchable riches of Christ." [238:2]

But though, according to the New Testament, the business of rulingoriginally formed only a subordinate part of the duty of the churchteacher, some have maintained that ecclesiastical government pertains toa higher function than ecclesiastical instruction; and that the apostlesinstituted a class of spiritual overseers to whose jurisdiction allother preachers are amenable. They imagine that, in the PastoralEpistles, they find proofs of the existence of such functionaries;[238:3] and they contend that Timothy and Titus were diocesan bishops,respectively of Ephesus and Crete. But the arguments by which theyendeavour to sustain these views are quite inconclusive. Paul says toTimothy—"I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went intoMacedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no otherdoctrine;" [239:1] and it has hence been inferred that the evangelistwas the only minister in the capital of the Proconsular Asia who wassufficiently authorized to oppose heresiarchs. It happens, however, thatin this epistle the writer says also to his correspondent—"Charge themthat are rich in this world that they be not high-minded, nor trust inuncertain riches;" [239:2] so that, according to the same method ofinterpretation, it would follow that Timothy was the only preacher inthe place who was at liberty to admonish the opulent. When Paulsubsequently stood face to face with the elders of Ephesus [239:3] hetold them that it was their common duty to discountenance and resistfalse teachers; [239:4] and he had therefore now no idea of entrustingthat responsibility to any solitary individual. The reason why theservice was pressed specially on Timothy is sufficiently apparent. Hehad been trained up by Paul himself; he was a young minister remarkablefor intelligence, ability, and circ*mspection; and he was accordinglydeemed eminently qualified to deal with the errorists. Hence at thisjuncture his presence at Ephesus was considered of importance; and theapostle besought him to remain there whilst he himself was absent onanother mission.

The argument founded on the instructions addressed to Titus is equallyunsatisfactory. Paul says to him—"For this cause left I thee in Crete,that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain[240:1] elders in every city as I had appointed thee;" [240:2] and fromthese words the inference has been drawn that to Titus alone wascommitted the ecclesiastical oversight of all the churches of theisland. But the words of the apostle warrant no such sweepingconclusion. Apollos, [240:3] and probably other ministers equal inauthority to the evangelist, were now in Crete, and were, no doubt,ready to co-operate with him in the business of church organization.Titus, besides, had no right to act without the concurrence of thepeople; for, in all cases, even when the apostles were officiating, thechurch members were consulted in ecclesiastical appointments. [240:4] Itis probable that the evangelist had much administrative ability, andthis seems to have been the great reason why he was left behind Paul inCrete. The apostle expected that, with his peculiar energy and tact, hewould stimulate the zeal of the people, as well as of the otherpreachers; and thus complete, as speedily as possible, the needfulecclesiastical arrangements.

When Paul once said to the high priest of Israel—"Sittest thou tojudge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to thelaw" [240:5]—he had no intention of declaring that the dignitary headdressed was the only member of the Jewish council who had the right ofadjudication. [240:6] The court consisted of at least seventyindividuals, every one of whom had a vote as effective as that of thepersonage with whom he thus remonstrated. It is said that the highpriest at this period was not even the president of the Sanhedrim.[241:1] Paul was perfectly aware of the constitution of the tribunal towhich Ananias belonged; and he merely meant to remind his oppressor thatthe circ*mstances in which he was placed added greatly to the iniquityof his present procedure. Though only one of the members of a largejudicatory he was not the less accountable. Thus too, when Jesus said toPaul himself—"I send thee" to the Gentiles, "to open their eyes, andto turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan untoGod" [241:2]—it was certainly not understood that the apostle was to bethe only labourer in the wide field of heathendom. The address simplyintimated that he was individually commissioned to undertake theservice. And though there were other ministers at Ephesus and Crete,Paul reminds Timothy and Titus that he had left them there to performspecific duties, and thus urges upon them the consideration of theirpersonal responsibility. Though surrounded by so many apostles andevangelists, he tells us that there rested on himself daily "the care ofall the churches;" [241:3] for he believed that the whole commonwealthof the saints had a claim on his prayers, his sympathy, and hisservices; and he desired to cherish in the hearts of his young brethrenthe same feeling of individual obligation. Hence, in these PastoralEpistles, he gives his correspondents minute instructions respecting allthe departments of the ministerial office, and reminds them how muchdepends on their personal faithfulness. Hence he here points out to themhow they are to deport themselves in public and in private; [241:4] aspreachers of the Word, and as members of church judicatories; [241:5]towards the rich and the poor, masters and slaves, young men and widows.[242:1] But there is not a single advice addressed to Timothy and Titusin any of these three epistles which may not be appropriately given toany ordinary minister of the gospel, or which necessarily implies thateither of these evangelists exercised exclusive ecclesiastical authorityin Ephesus or Crete. [242:2]

The legend that Timothy and Titus were the bishops respectively ofEphesus and Crete appears to have been invented about the beginning ofthe fourth century, and at a time when the original constitution of theChurch had been completely, though silently, revolutionized. [242:3] Itis obvious that, when the Pastoral Epistles were written, theseministers were not permanently located in the places with which theirnames have been thus associated. [242:4] The apostle John residedprincipally at Ephesus during the last thirty years of the firstcentury; [242:5] so that, according to this tale, the beloved disciplemust have been nearly all this time under the ecclesiastical supervisionof Timothy! The story otherwise exhibits internal marks of absurdity andfabrication. It would lead us to infer that Paul must have distributedmost unequally the burden of official labour; for whilst Timothy is saidto have presided over the Christians of a single city, Titus isrepresented as invested with the care of a whole island celebrated inancient times for its hundred cities. [243:1] It is well known thatlong after this period, and when the distinction between the presidentof the presbytery and his elders was fully established, a bishop had thecharge of only one church, so that the account of the episcopate ofTitus over all Crete must be rejected as a monstrous fiction.

On the occasion of an ambitious request from James and John, our Lordexpounded to His apostles one of the great principles of Hisecclesiastical polity. "Jesus called them to him, and saith untothem—Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentilesexercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authorityupon them. But so shall it not be among you, but whosoever will begreat among you, shall be your minister, and whosoever of you will bechiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not tobe ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom formany." [243:2] The teaching elder holds the most honourable position inthe Church, simply because his office is the most laborious, the mostresponsible, and the most useful. And no minister of the Word iswarranted to exercise lordship over his brethren, for all are equallythe servants of the same Divine Master. He is the greatest who is mostwilling to humble himself, to spend, and to be spent, that Christ may beexalted. Even the Son of man came, not to be ministered unto, but tominister; it was His meat and His drink to do the will of His Father inheaven; He was ready to give instruction to many or to few; at the seaor by the wayside; in the house, the synagogue, or the corn-field; onthe mountain or in the desert; when sitting in the company of publicans,or when He had not where to lay His head. He who exhibits most of thespirit and character of the Great Teacher is the most illustrious ofChrist's ministers.

The primitive Church was pre-eminently a free society; and, with a viewto united action, its members were taught to consult together respectingall matters of common interest. Whilst the elders were required tobeware of attempting to domineer over each other, they were also warnedagainst deporting themselves as "lords over God's heritage." [244:1] Allwere instructed to be courteous, forbearing, and conciliatory; and eachindividual was made to understand that he possessed some importance.Though the apostles, as inspired rulers of the Christian commonwealth,might have done many things on their own authority, yet, even inconcerns comparatively trivial, as well as in affairs of the greatestconsequence, they were guided by the wishes of the people. When anapostle was to be chosen in the place of Judas, the multitude wereconsulted. [244:2] When deputies were required to accompany Paul in ajourney to be undertaken for the public service, the apostle did nothimself select his fellow-travellers, but the churches concerned,proceeded, by a regular vote, to make the appointment. [244:3] Whendeacons A or elders were to be nominated, the choice rested with thecongregation. [244:4] The records of the apostolic age do not mentionany ordinary church functionary who was not called to his office bypopular suffrage. [244:5]

But though, in apostolic times, the communicants were thus freelyentrusted with the elective franchise, the constitution of the primitiveChurch was not purely democratic; for while its office-bearers wereelected for life, and whilst its elders or bishops formed a species ofspiritual aristocracy, the powers of the people and the rulers were sobalanced as to check each other's aberrations, and to promote thehealthful action of all parts of the ecclesiastical body. When a deaconor a bishop was elected, he was not permitted, without farther ceremony,to enter upon the duties of his vocation. He was bound to submit himselfto the presbytery, that they might ratify the choice by ordination; andthis court, by refusing the imposition of hands, could protect theChurch against the intrusion of incompetent or unworthy candidates.[245:1]

Among the Jews every ordained elder was considered qualified to join inthe ordination of others. [245:2] The same principle was acknowledged inthe early Christian Church; and when any functionary was elected, he wasintroduced to his office by the presbytery of the city or district withwhich he was connected. There is no instance in the apostolic age inwhich ordination was conferred by a single individual, Paul and Barnabaswere separated to the work to which the Lord had called them by theministers of Antioch; [245:3] the first elders of the Christian Churchesof Asia Minor were set apart by Paul and Barnabas; [245:4] Timothy wasinvested with ecclesiastical authority by "the laying on of the hands ofthe presbytery;" [245:5] and even the seven deacons were ordained by thetwelve apostles acting, for the time, as the presbytery of Jerusalem.[245:6]

Towards the conclusion of the Epistle to the Romans, [245:7] Paulmentions Phoebe, "a servant [245:8] of the Church which is at Cenchrea;"and from this passage some have inferred that the apostles instituted anorder of deaconesses. It is scarcely safe to build such an hypothesison the foundation of a solitary text of doubtful significance. It may bethat Phoebe was one of the poor widows supported by the Church; [246:1]and that, as such, she was employed by the elders in various littleservices of a confidential or benevolent character. It is probable that,at one period, she had been in more comfortable circ*mstances, and thatshe had then distinguished herself by her humane and obligingdisposition; for Paul refers apparently to this portion of her historywhen he says, "she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also."[246:2]

In the primitive age all the members of the same Church were closelyassociated. As brethren and sisters in the faith, they took a deepinterest in each other's prosperity; and they regarded the afflictionsof any single disciple as a calamity which had befallen the wholesociety. Each individual was expected in some way to contribute to thewell-being of all. Even humble Phoebe could be the bearer of anapostolic letter to the Romans; and, on her return to Cenchrea, couldexert a healthful influence among the younger portion of the femaledisciples, by her advice, her example, and her prayers. The industriousscribe could benefit the brotherhood by writing out copies of thegospels or epistles; and the pleasant singer, as he joined in the holypsalm, could thrill the hearts of the faithful by his notes of gravesweet melody. By establishing a plurality of both elders and deacons inevery worshipping society, the apostles provided more efficiently, aswell for its temporal, as for its spiritual interests; and the mostuseful members of the congregation were thus put into positions in whichtheir various graces and endowments were better exhibited and exercised.One deacon attested his fitness for his office by his delicateattentions to the sick; another, by his considerate kindness to thepoor; and another, by his judicious treatment of the indolent, theinsincere, and the improvident. One elder excelled as an awakeningpreacher; another, as a sound expositor; and another, as a sagaciouscounsellor: whilst another still, who never ventured to address thecongregation, and whose voice was seldom heard at the meetings of theeldership, could go to the house of mourning, or the chamber of disease,and there pour forth the fulness of his heart in most appropriate andimpressive supplications. Every one was taught to appreciate the talentsof his neighbour, and to feel that he was, to some extent, dependent onothers for his own edification. The preaching elder could not say to theruling elders, "I have no need of you;" neither could the elders say tothe deacons, "We have no need of you." When the sweet singer was absent,every one admitted that the congregational music was less interesting;when the skilful penman removed to another district, the Church soonbegan to complain of a scarcity of copies of the sacred manuscripts; andeven when the pious widow died in a good old age, the blank was visible,and the loss of a faithful servant of the Church was acknowledged anddeplored. "As the body is one, and hath many members, and all themembers of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ.And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor againthe head to the feet, I have no need of you. And whether one membersuffer, all the members suffer with it, or one member be honoured, allthe members rejoice with it." [247:1]


The Israelites were emphatically "a peculiar people." Though amounting,in the days of our Lord, to several millions of individuals, they wereall the lineal descendants of Abraham; and though two thousand years hadpassed away since the time of their great progenitor; they had notmeanwhile intermingled, to any considerable extent, with the rest of thehuman family. The bulk of the nation still occupied the land which hadbeen granted by promise to the "father of the faithful;" the same farmshad been held by the same families from age to age; and probably some ofthe proprietors could boast that their ancestors, fifteen hundred yearsbefore, had taken possession of the very fields which they nowcultivated. They had all one form of worship, one high priest, and oneplace of sacrifice. At stated seasons every year all the males of acertain age were required to meet together at Jerusalem; and thus a fullrepresentation of the whole race was frequently collected in one greatcongregation.

The written law of Moses was the sacred bond which united so closely theChurch of Israel. The ritual observances of the Hebrews, which had all atypical meaning, are described by the inspired lawgiver with singularminuteness; and any deviation from them was forbidden, not only becauseit involved an impeachment either of the authority or the wisdom ofJehovah, but also because it was calculated to mar their significance.Under the Mosaic economy the posterity of Abraham were taught to regardeach other as members of the same family, interested, as joint heirs, inthe blessings promised to their distinguished ancestor. The Israeliteswere knit together by innumerable ties, as well secular as religious;and when they appeared in one multitudinous assemblage on occasions ofpeculiar solemnity, [249:1] they presented a specimen of ecclesiasticalunity such as the world has never since contemplated.

Some, however, have contended that the Christian community wasoriginally constructed upon very different principles. According to themthe word church [249:2] in the New Testament is always used in one oftwo senses—either as denoting a single worshipping society, or thewhole commonwealth of the faithful; and from this they infer that, inprimitive times, every Christian congregation was independent of everyother. But such allegations, which are exceedingly improbable inthemselves, are found, when carefully investigated, to be totallydestitute of foundation. The Church of Jerusalem, [249:3] with the tensof thousands of individuals belonging to it, [249:4] must have consistedof several congregations; [249:5] the Church of Antioch, to which somany prophets and teachers ministered, [249:6] was probably in a similarposition; and the Church of Palestine [249:7] obviously comprehended alarge number of associated churches. When our Saviour prayed that allHis people "may be one," [250:1] He evidently indicated that the unityof the Church, so strikingly exhibited in the nation of Israel, shouldstill be studied and maintained; and when Paul describes the householdof faith, he speaks of it, not as a loose mass of independentcongregations, but as a "body fitly joined together and compacted bythat which every joint supplieth." [250:2] The apostle here refers tothe vital union of believers by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost; but heapparently alludes also to those "bands" of outward ordinances, and"joints" [250:3] of visible confederation, by which their communion isupheld; for, were the Church split up into an indefinite number ofinsulated congregations, even the unity of the spirit could neither bedistinctly ascertained nor properly cultivated. When oiled by the spiritof Divine love, the machinery of the Church moves with admirableharmony, and accomplishes the most astonishing results; but, whenpervaded by another spirit, it is strained and dislocated, and in dangerof dashing itself to pieces.

Those who hold that every congregation, however small, is a completechurch in itself, are quite unable to explain why the system ofecclesiastical organization should be thus circ*mscribed. The NewTestament inculcates the unity of all the faithful, as well as the unityof particular societies; and the same principle of Christian brotherhoodwhich prompts a number of individuals to meet together for religiousfellowship, should also lead a number of congregations in the samelocality to fraternize. The twelve may be regarded as therepresentatives of the doctrine of ecclesiastical confederation; forthough they were commanded to go into all the world and to preach thegospel to every creature, yet, as long as circ*mstances permitted, theycontinued to co-operate. "When the apostles which were at Jerusalemheard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto themPeter and John;" [251:1] and, at a subsequent period, they concurred insending "forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch." [251:2]These facts distinctly prove that they had a common interest ineverything pertaining to the well-being of the whole Christiancommonwealth; and that, like Paul, they were entrusted with "the care ofall the churches." Nor did the early Christian congregations actindependently. They believed that union is strength, and they were "knittogether" in ecclesiastical relationship. Hence, we read of the brotherwho was "chosen of the churches" [251:3] to travel with the ApostlePaul. It is now impossible to determine in what way this choice wasmade—whether at a general meeting of deputies from differentcongregations, or by a separate vote in each particular society—but, inwhatever way the election was accomplished, the appointment of onerepresentative for several churches was itself a recognition of theirecclesiastical unity.

We have seen that the worship of the Church was much the same as theworship of the synagogue, [251:4] and it would seem that its polity alsowas borrowed from the institutions of the chosen people. [251:5] EveryJewish congregation was governed by a bench of elders; and in every citythere was a smaller sanhedrim, or presbytery, consisting of twenty-threemembers, [251:6] to which the neighbouring synagogues were subject.Jerusalem is said to have had two of these smaller sanhedrims, as it wasfound that the multitudes of cases arising among so vast a populationwere more than sufficient to occupy the time of any one judicatory.Appeals lay from all these tribunals to the Great Sanhedrim, or"Council," so frequently mentioned in the New Testament. [252:1] Thiscourt consisted of seventy or seventy-two members, made up, perhaps, inequal portions, of chief priests, scribes, and elders of the people,[252:2] The chief priests were probably twenty-four in number—each ofthe twenty-four courses, into which the sacerdotal order was divided,[252:3] thus furnishing one representative. The scribes were the men oflearning, like Gamaliel, [252:4] who had devoted themselves to the studyof the Jewish law, and who possessed recondite, as well as extensiveinformation. The elders were laymen of reputed wisdom and experience,who, in practical matters, might be expected to give sound advice.[252:5] It was not strange that the Jews had so profound a regard fortheir Great Sanhedrim. In the days of our Lord and His apostles it had,indeed, miserably degenerated; but, at an earlier period, its membersmust have been eminently entitled to respect, as in point ofintelligence, prudence, piety, and patriotism, they held the veryhighest place among their countrymen.

The details of the ecclesiastical polity of the ancient Israelites arenow involved in much obscurity; but the preceding statements may bereceived as a pretty accurate description of its chief outlines. OurLord himself, in the sermon on the mount, is understood to refer to thegreat council and its subordinate judicatories; [252:6] and in the OldTestament appeals from inferior tribunals to the authorities in the holycity are explicitly enjoined. [253:1] All the synagogues, not only inPalestine but in foreign countries, obeyed the orders of the Sanhedrimat Jerusalem; [253:2] and it constituted a court of review to which allother ecclesiastical arbiters yielded submission.

In the government of the Apostolic Church we may trace a resemblance tothese arrangements. Every Christian congregation, like every synagogue,had its elders; and every city had its presbytery, consisting of thespiritual rulers of the district. In the introductory chapters of thebook of the Acts we discover the germ of this ecclesiasticalconstitution; for we there find the apostles ministering to thousands ofconverts, and, as the presbytery of Jerusalem, ordaining deacons,exercising discipline, and sending out missionaries. [253:3] Theprophets and teachers of Antioch obviously performed the same functions;[253:4] Titus was instructed to have elders established, or a presbyteryconstituted, in every city of Crete; [253:5] and Timothy was ordained bysuch a judicatory. [253:6] For the first thirty years after the death ofour Lord a large proportion of the ministers of the gospel were Jews bybirth, and as they were in the habit of going up to Jerusalem tocelebrate the great festivals, they appear to have taken advantage ofthe opportunity, and to have held meetings in the holy city forconsultation respecting the affairs of the Christian commonwealth.Prudence and convenience conspired to dictate this course, as they couldthen reckon upon finding there a considerable number of able andexperienced elders, and as their presence in the Jewish metropolis onsuch occasions was fitted to awaken no suspicion. [253:7]

We may thus see that the transaction mentioned in the 15th chapter ofthe Acts admits of a simple and satisfactory explanation. When thequestion respecting the circumcision of the Gentile converts began to bediscussed at Antioch, there were individuals in that city quite as wellqualified as any in Jerusalem to pronounce upon its merits; for theChurch there enjoyed the ministry of prophets; and Paul, its mostdistinguished teacher, was "not a whit behind the very chiefestapostles." But the parties proceeded in the matter in much the same wayas Israelites were accustomed to act under similar circ*mstances. Had acontroversy relative to any Mosaic ceremony divided the Jewishpopulation of Antioch, they would have appealed for a decision to theirGreat Sanhedrim; and now, when this dispute distracted the Christians ofthe capital of Syria, they had recourse to another tribunal at Jerusalemwhich they considered competent to pronounce a deliverance. [254:1] Thistribunal consisted virtually of the rulers of the universal Church; forthe apostles, who had a commission to all the world, and elders fromalmost every place where a Christian congregation existed, were in thehabit of repairing to the capital of Palestine. In one respect thisjudicatory differed from the Jewish council, for it was not limited toseventy members. In accordance with the free spirit of the gospeldispensation, it appears to have consisted of as many ecclesiasticalrulers as could conveniently attend its meetings. But the times weresomewhat perilous; and it is probable that the ministers of the earlyChristian Church did not deem it expedient to congregate in very largenumbers.

A single Scripture precedent for the regulation of the Church is asdecisive as a multitude; and though the New Testament distinctly recordsonly one instance in which a question of difficulty was referred by alower to a higher ecclesiastical tribunal, this case sufficientlyillustrates the character of the primitive polity. A very substantialreason can be given why Scripture takes so little notice of the meetingsof Christian judicatories. The different portions of the New Testamentwere put into circulation as soon as written; and though it was mostimportant that the heathen should be made acquainted with the doctrinesof the Church, it was not by any means expedient that their attentionshould be particularly directed to the machinery by which it wasregulated. An accurate knowledge of its constitution would only haveexposed it more fearfully to the attacks of persecuting Emperors. Everyeffort would have been made to discover the times and places of themeetings of pastors and teachers, and to inflict a deadly wound on theChurch by the destruction of its office-bearers. Hence, in general, itscourts appear to have assembled in profound secrecy; and thus it isthat, for the first three centuries, so little is known of theproceedings of these conventions.

It is to be observed that, in the first century, when the rulers of theChurch met for consultation, they all sat in the same assembly. When theecclesiastical constitution was fairly settled, even the Twelve weredisposed to waive their personal claims to precedence, and to assume thestatus of ordinary ministers. We find accordingly that there were thenno higher and lower houses of convocation; for "the apostles and elderscame together." [255:1] Some, who suppose that James was the firstbishop of the holy city, imagine that in his manner of giving the adviceadopted at the Synod of Jerusalem, they can detect marks of his prelaticinfluence. [255:2] But the sacred narrative, when candidly interpreted,merely shews that he acted on the occasion as a judicious counsellor. Hewas, assuredly, not entitled to dictate to Paul or Peter. The reasoningof those who maintain that, as a matter of right, he expected themeeting to yield to the weight of his official authority, would go toprove, not that he was bishop of the Jewish capital, but that he was theprince of the apostles.

The New Testament history speaks frequently of James, and extends overthe whole period of his public career; but it never once hints that hewas bishop of Jerusalem, he himself has left behind him an epistleaddressed "to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad," in which hemakes no allusion to his possession of any such office. Paul, who waswell acquainted with him, and who often visited the mother Church duringthe time of his alleged episcopate, is equally silent upon the subject.But it is easy to understand how the story originated. The command ofour Lord to the apostles, "Go ye unto all the world and preach thegospel to every creature," [256:1] did not imply that their countrymenat home were not to enjoy a portion of their ministrations; and it wasprobably considered expedient that one of their number should reside inthe Jewish capital. This field of exertion seems to have been assignedto James. His colleagues meanwhile travelled to distant countries todisseminate the truth; and as he was the only individual of theapostolic company who could ordinarily be consulted in the holy city, hesoon became the ruling spirit among the Christians of that crowdedmetropolis. In all cases of importance and of difficulty his advicewould be sought and appreciated; and his age, experience, and rank asone of the Twelve, would suggest the propriety of his appointment aspresident of any ecclesiastical meeting he would attend. The precedencethus so generally conceded to him would be remembered in after-timeswhen the hierarchical spirit began to dominate; and would afford a basisfor the legend that he was the first bishop of Jerusalem. And as he,perhaps, commonly occupied the chair when the rulers of the Churchassembled there at the annual festivals, we can see too why he is alsocalled "bishop of bishops" in documents of high antiquity. [257:1]

During a considerable part of the first century Jerusalem probablycontained a much greater number of disciples than any other city in theRoman Empire; and until shortly before its destruction by Titus in A.D.70, it continued to be the centre of Christian influence. There is everyreason to believe that, for some time, all matters in dispute throughoutthe Church, which could not be settled by inferior judicatories, weredecided by the apostles and elders there convened. But the rapidpropagation of Christianity, the rise of persecution, and the progressof political events, soon rendered such procedure inconvenient, if notimpracticable. Persons of Gentile extraction who lived in distant lands,and who were in humble circ*mstances, could not be expected to travelfor redress of their ecclesiastical grievances to the ancient capital ofPalestine; and, when the temple was destroyed, the myriads who hadformerly repaired to it to celebrate the sacred feasts, of coursediscontinued their attendance. The Christian communities throughout theEmpire about this period began to assume that form which they present inthe following century, the congregations of each province associatingtogether for their better government and discipline. There are notwanting evidences, as we shall now endeavour to show, that the apostlesthemselves suggested the arrangement.

It has been taken for granted by many that when Paul, on his arrival atMiletus, "sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the Church," [258:1]he convoked a meeting only of the ecclesiastical rulers of the chiefcity of the Proconsular Asia. But a more attentive examination, of thepassage in which the transaction is described may lead us to doubt thecorrectness of such an interpretation. It is probable that, when theapostle sent to Ephesus, the Christian elders of the surroundingdistrict, as well as of the capital, were requested to meet him atMiletus. Such a conclusion is sustained by the reason assigned for hismode of proceeding at this juncture. Ephesus was a seaport about thirtymiles from Miletus, and it is said he did not touch at it on his voyage"because he would not spend the time in Asia, for he hasted, if itwere possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost." [258:2]But, had he merely wished to see the elders of this provincialmetropolis, his visit to it need have created no delay, for he mighthave gone to it as quickly as the messenger who was the bearer of hiscommunication. He seems, however, to have felt that, had he appearedthere, he would have given offence had he not also favoured theChristian communities in its neighbourhood with his presence; and as hecould not afford to spend so much time in Asia as would thus have beenrequired, he adopted the expedient of inviting all the elders of thedistrict to repair to him in the place where he now sojourned. [258:3]From Ephesus, the capital, his invitation could be readily transmittedto other provincial cities. The address which he delivered to theassembled elders certainly conveys the impression that they did not allbelong to the metropolis, and its very first sentence suggests such aninference. "When they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know fromthe first day that I came into Asia after what manner I have beenwith you at all seasons." [259:1] The evangelist informs us that hehad spent only two years and three months at Ephesus, [259:2] and yet hehere tells his audience that "by the space of three years" he had notceased to warn every one night and day with tears. [259:3] He says also"I know that ye all among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom ofGod, shall see my face no more," [259:4]—thereby intimating that hisauditors were not resident in one locality. We have also distinctevidence that when Paul formerly ministered at Ephesus, there wereChristian societies throughout the province, for in his First Epistle tothe Corinthians written from that city, [259:5] he sends hiscorrespondents the salutations of "the Churches of Asia." [259:6] TheseChurches must obviously have been united by the ties of Christianfellowship; and the apostle must have been in close communication withthem when he was thus employed as the medium of conveyance for theexpression of their evangelical attachment.

In other parts of the New Testament we may discern traces ofconsociation among the primitive Churches. Thus, Paul, their founder,sends to "the Churches of Galatia" [259:7] a common letter in which herequires them to "serve one another," [259:8] and to "bear one another'sburdens." [259:9] Without some species of united action, the Galatianscould not well have obeyed such admonitions. Peter also, when writing tothe disciples "scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia,and Bithynia," [259:10] represents them as an associated body. "Theelders," says he, "which are among you I exhort, who am also anelder….feed the flock of God which is among you taking the oversightthereof." [260:1] This "flock of God," which was evidently equivalent tothe "Church of God," [260:2] was spread over a large territory; and yetthe apostle suggests that the elders were conjointly charged with itssupervision. Had the Churches scattered throughout so many provincesbeen a multitude of independent congregations, Peter would not havedescribed them as one "flock" of which these rulers had the oversight.

But, though the elders of congregations in adjoining provinces couldmaintain ecclesiastical intercourse, and meet together at leastoccasionally or by delegates, it was otherwise with Churches indifferent countries. Even these, however, cultivated the communion ofsaints; for there are evidences that they corresponded with each otherby letters or deputations. The attentive reader of the inspired epistlesmust have observed how the apostles contrived to keep open a door ofaccess to their converts by means of itinerating preachers; [260:3] andthe same agency seems to have been continued in succeeding generations.Disciples travelling into strange lands were furnished with "epistles ofcommendation" [260:4] to the foreign Churches; and Christian teachers,who had these credentials, were permitted freely to officiate in thecongregations which they visited. It is an extraordinary fact that,during the lives of the apostles, there were preachers, in whom they hadno confidence, who were yet in full standing, and who went from place toplace addressing apostolic Churches. Having found their way into theministry in a particular locality, they set out to other regionsprovided with their "letters of commendation;" and, on the strength ofthese testimonials, they were readily recognised as heralds of thecross. The apostles deemed it prudent to advise their correspondents notto rest satisfied with the certificates of these itinerant evangelists,but to try them by a more certain standard. "If there come any untoyou," says John, "and bring not this doctrine, receive him not intoyour house, neither bid him God speed." [261:1]—"Beloved, believe notevery spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God, because manyfalse prophets are gone out into the world." [261:2] Strange as it maynow appear, even some of the apostles had personal enemies among theprimitive preachers, and yet when these proclaimed the truth, they weresuffered to proceed without interruption. "Some indeed," says Paul,"preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will. Theone preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to addaffliction to my bonds; but the other of love, knowing that I am setfor the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way,whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein dorejoice, yea, and will rejoice." [261:3]

The preceding statements may enable us to appreciate the unity of theApostolic Church. This unity was not perfect; for there were falsebrethren who stirred up strife, and false teachers who fomenteddivisions. But these elements of discord no more disturbed the generalunity of the Church than the presence of a few empty or blasted ears ofcorn affects the productiveness of an abundant harvest. As a body, thedisciples of Christ were never so united as in the first century. Heresyhad yet made little impression; schism was scarcely known; and charity,exerting her gentle influence with the brotherhood, found itcomparatively easy to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.The members of the Church had "one Lord, one faith, one baptism." Buttheir unity was very different from uniformity. They had no canonicalhours, no clerical costume, no liturgies. The prayers of ministers andpeople varied according to circ*mstances, and were dictated by theirhopes and fears, their wants and sympathies. When they met for worship,the devotional exercises were conducted in a language intelligible toall; when the Scriptures were read in their assemblies, every one heardin his own tongue the wonderful works of God. The unity of the ApostolicChurch did not consist in its subordination to any one visible head orsupreme pontiff; for neither Peter nor Paul, James nor John pretended tobe the governor of the household of faith. Its unity was not like theunity of a jail where all the prisoners must wear the same dress, andreceive the same rations, and dwell in cells of the same construction,and submit to the orders of the same keeper; but like the unity of acluster of stalks of corn, all springing from one prolific grain, andall rich with a golden produce. Or it may be likened to the unity of theocean, where all the parts are not of the same depth, or the samecolour, or the same temperature; but where all, pervaded by the samesaline preservative, ebb and flow according to the same heavenly laws,and concur in bearing to the ends of the earth the blessings ofcivilisation and of happiness.


The Apocalypse is a book of symbols. The light which we obtain from itmay well remind us of the instruction communicated to the Israelites bythe ceremonies of the law. The Mosaic institutions imparted to a Jew theknowledge of an atonement and a Saviour; but he could scarcely haveundertaken to explain, with accuracy and precision, their individualsignificance, as their meaning was not fully developed until the timesof the Messiah. So is it with "the Revelation of Jesus Christ which Godgave unto him to shew unto his servants things which must shortly cometo pass," and which "he sent and signified by his angel unto his servantJohn." [263:1] The Church here sees, as "through a glass darkly," thetransactions of her future history; and she can here distinctly discernthe ultimate triumph of her principles, so that, in days of adversity,she is encouraged and sustained; but she cannot speak with confidence ofthe import of much of this mysterious record; and it would seem as ifthe actual occurrence of the events foretold were to supply the onlysafe key for the interpretation of some of its strange imagery.

In the beginning of this book we have an account of a glorious visionpresented to the beloved disciple. He was instructed to write down whathe saw, and to send it to the Seven Churches in Asia, "unto Ephesus, andunto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, andunto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea." [264:1] A vision so extraordinaryas that which he describes, must have left upon his mind a permanent andmost vivid impression. "I saw," says he, "seven golden candlesticks,and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of Manclothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with agolden girdle. His head and his hair were white like wool, as white assnow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto finebrass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound ofmany waters—and he had in his rigid hand seven stars, and out of hismouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and his countenance was as the sunshineth in his strength." [264:2]

In the foreground of this picture the Son of God stands conspicuous. Hisdress corresponds to that of the Jewish high priest, and the wholedescription of His person has obviously a reference, either to His owndivine perfections, or to His offices as the Saviour of sinners. Hehimself is the expositor of two of the most remarkable of the symbols."The seven stars," says He, "are the angels of the Seven Churches, andthe seven candlesticks which thou sawest, are the Seven Churches."[264:3]

But though the symbol of the stars has been thus interpreted by Christ,the interpretation itself has been the subject of considerablediscussion. Much difficulty has been experienced in identifying theangels of the Seven Churches; and there have been various conjectures asto the station which they occupied, and the duties which they performed.According to some they were literally angelic beings who had the specialcharge of the Seven Churches. [264:4] According to others, the angel ofa Church betokens the collective body of ministers connected with thesociety. But such explanations are very far from satisfactory. TheScriptures nowhere teach that each Christian community is under the careof its own angelic guardian; neither is it to be supposed that an angelrepresents the ministry of a Church, for one symbol would not beinterpreted by another symbol of dubious signification. It seems clearthat the angel of the Church is a single individual, and that he musthave been a personage well known to the body with which he was connectedat the time when the Apocalypse was written.

It has often been asserted that the title "The angel of the Church" isborrowed from the designation of one of the ministers of the synagogue.[265:1] This point, however, has never been fairly demonstrated. Inlater times there was, no doubt, in the synagogue an individual known bythe name of the legate, or the angel; but there is no decisiveevidence that an official with such a designation existed in the firstcentury. In the New Testament we have repeated references to theoffice-bearers of the synagogue; we are told of the rulers [265:2] orelders, the reader, [265:3] and the minister [265:4] or deacon; but theangel is never mentioned. Philo and Josephus are equally silent upon thesubject. It is, therefore, extremely doubtful whether a minister withthis title was known among the Jews in the days of the apostles. Evengranting, what is so very problematical, that there were in thesynagogues in the first century individuals distinguished by thedesignation of angels, it is still exceedingly doubtful whether theangels of the Seven Churches borrowed their names from thesefunctionaries. If so, the angel of the Church must have occupied thesame position as the angel of the synagogue, for the adoption of thesame title indicated the possession of the same office. But it was theduty of the angel of the synagogue to offer up the prayers of theassembly; [266:1] and as, in all the synagogues, there was worship atthe same hour, [266:2] he could, of course, be the minister of only onecongregation. If then the angel of the Church discharged the samefunctions as the angel of the synagogue, it would follow that, towardsthe termination of the first century, there was only one Christiancongregation in each of the seven cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos,Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. It may, however, be fairlyquestioned whether the number of disciples in every one of these placeswas then so limited as such an inference would suggest. In Laodicea, andperhaps in one or two of the other cities, [266:3] there may have beenonly a single congregation; but it is scarcely probable that all thebrethren in Ephesus still met together in one assembly. About fortyyears before, the Word of God "grew mightily and prevailed" [266:4] inthat great metropolis; and, among its inhabitants, Paul had persuaded"much people" [266:5] to become disciples of Christ. But if the angel ofthe Church derived his title from the angel of the synagogue, and if theposition of these two functionaries was the same, we are shut up to theconclusion that there was now only one congregation in the capital ofthe Proconsular Asia. The angel could not be in two places at the sametime; and, as it was his duty to offer up the prayers of the assembledworshippers, it was impossible for him to minister to two congregations.

These considerations abundantly attest the futility of the imaginationthat the angel of the Church was a diocesan bishop. The office of theangel of the synagogue had, in fact, no resemblance whatever to that ofa prelate. The rank of the ancient Jewish functionary seems to have beensimilar to that of a precentor in some of our Protestant churches; andwhen set forms of prayer were introduced among the Israelites, it washis duty to read them aloud in the congregation. The angel was not thechief ruler of the synagogue; he occupied a subordinate position; andwas amenable to the authority of the bench of elders. [267:1] It is invain then to attempt to recognise the predecessors of our moderndiocesans in the angels of the Seven Churches. Had bishops beenoriginally called angels, they never would have parted with socomplimentary a designation. Had the Spirit of God in the Apocalypsebestowed upon them such a title, it never would have been laid aside.When, about a century after this period, we begin to discover distincttraces of a hierarchy, an extreme anxiety is discernible to find for itsomething like a footing in the days of the apostles; but, strange tosay, the earliest prelates of whom we read are not known by the name ofangels. [267:2] If such a nomenclature existed in the time of theApostle John, it must have passed away at once and for ever! No trace ofit can be detected even in the second century. It is thus apparent that,whatever the angels of the Seven Churches may have been, they certainlywere not diocesan bishops.

The place where these angels are to be found in the apocalyptic scenealso suggests the fallacy of the interpretation that they are the chiefpastors of the Seven Churches. The stars are seen, not distributed overthe seven candlesticks, but collected together in the hand of Christ.Though the angels seem to be in someway related to the Churches, therelation is such that they may be separated without inconvenience. What,then, can these angels be? How do they happen to possess the name theybear? Why are they gathered into the right hand of the Son of Man? Allthese questions admit of a very plain and satisfactory solution.

An angel literally signifies a messenger, and these angels were simplythe messengers of the Seven Churches. John had long resided at Ephesus;and now that he was banished to the Isle of Patmos "for the word of Godand for the testimony of Jesus Christ," it would appear that theChristian communities among which he had ministered so many years, senttrusty deputies to visit him, to assure him of their sympathy, and totender to him their friendly offices. In primitive times such angelswere often sent to the brethren in confinement or in exile. Thus, Paul,when in imprisonment at Rome, says to the Philippians—"Ye have welldone that ye did communicate with my affliction … I am full, havingreceived of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you." [268:1]Here, Epaphroditus is presented to us as the angel of the Church ofPhilippi. This minister seems, indeed, to have now spent no smallportion of his time in travelling between Rome and Macedonia. Hence Paulobserves—"I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, mybrother and companion in labour and fellow-soldier, but your messengerand he that ministered to my wants." [269:1] In like manner, theindividuals selected to convey, to the poor saints in Jerusalem, thecontributions of the Gentile converts in Greece and Asia Minor, arecalled "the messengers of the Churches." [269:2] The practice ofsending messengers to visit and comfort the saints in poverty, inconfinement, or in exile, may be traced for centuries in the history ofthe Church. It also deserves notice that, in other parts of the NewTestament as well as in the Apocalypse, an individual sent on a specialerrand is repeatedly called an angel. Thus, John the Baptist, who wascommissioned to announce the approach of the Messiah, is styled God'sangel, [269:3] or messenger, and the spies, sent to view the land ofCanaan, are distinguished by the same designation. [269:4]

Towards the close of the first century the Apostle John must have beenregarded with extraordinary veneration by his Christian brethren. He wasthe last survivor of a band of men who had laid the foundations of theNew Testament Church; and he was himself one of the most honouredmembers of the little fraternity, for he had enjoyed peculiarly intimatefellowship with his Divine Master. Our Lord, "in the days of His flesh,"had permitted him to lean upon His bosom; and he has been described bythe pen of inspiration as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." [269:5] Allaccounts concur in representing him as most amiable and warm-hearted;and as he had now far outlived the ordinary term of human existence, thesnows of age must have imparted additional interest to a personageotherwise exceedingly attractive. It is not to be supposed that such aman was permitted in apostolic times to pine away unheeded in solitaryexile. The small island which was the place of his banishment was notfar from the Asiatic metropolis, and the other six cities named in theApocalypse were all in the same district as Ephesus. It was, therefore,by no means extraordinary that seven messengers from seven neighbouringChurches, to all of which he was well known, are found together inPatmos on a visit to the venerable confessor.

This explanation satisfies all the conditions required by the laws ofinterpretation. Whilst it reveals a concern for the welfare of Johnquite in keeping with the benevolent spirit of apostolic times, it isalso simple and sufficient. In prophetic language a star usuallysignifies a ruler, and it is probable that the angels sent to Patmoswere selected from among the elders, or rulers, of the Churches withwhich they were respectively connected; for, it is well known that, atan early period, elders, or presbyters, were frequently appointed to actas messengers or commissioners. [270:1] We may thus perceive, too, whythe letters are addressed to the angels, for in this case they were theofficial organs of communication between the apostle and the religioussocieties which they had been deputed to represent. It is obvious thatthe instructions contained in the epistles were designed, not merely forthe angels individually, but for the communities of which they weremembers; and hence the exhortation with which each of themconcludes—"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith untothe Churches." [270:2] When the apostle was honoured with the vision,he was directed to write out an account of what he saw, and to "sendit unto the Seven Churches which are in Asia;" [270:3] and thisinterpretation explains how he transmitted the communication; for, asChrist is said to have "sent and signified" His Revelation "by hisangel unto his servant John," [271:1] so John, in his turn, conveyed itby the seven angels to the Seven Churches. It was, no doubt, thoughtthat the messengers undertook a most perilous errand when they engagedto visit a distinguished Christian minister who had been driven intobanishment by a jealous tyrant; but they are taught by the vision thatthey are under the special care of Him who is "the Prince of the kingsof the earth;" for the Saviour appears holding them in His right hand asHe walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. When bearingconsolation to the aged minister, each one of them could enjoy thecomfort of the promise—"Can a woman forget her sucking child that sheshould not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget,yet will not I forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palmsof my hands." [271:2]

It has often been thought singular that only seven Churches of theProconsular Asia are here addressed, as it is well known that, at thisperiod, there were several other Christian societies in the sameprovince. Thus, in the immediate neighbourhood of Laodicea were theChurches of Colosse and Hierapolis; [271:3] and in the vicinity ofEphesus, perhaps the Churches of Tralles and Magnesia. But the sevenangels mentioned by John may have been the only ecclesiasticalmessengers in Patmos at the time of the vision; and they may have beenthe organs of communication with a greater number of Churches than thosewhich they directly represented. Seven was regarded by the Jews as thesymbol of perfection; and it is somewhat remarkable that, on anotheroccasion noticed in the New Testament, [271:4] we find exactly sevenmessengers deputed by the Churches of Greece and Asia Minor to conveytheir contributions to the indigent disciples in Jerusalem. There are,too, grounds for believing that these seven religious societies, intheir varied character and prospects, are emblems of the Churchuniversal. The instructions addressed to the disciples in these sevencities of Asia were designed for the benefit of "THE CHURCHES" of allcountries as well as of all succeeding generations; and the wholeimagery indicates that the vision is to be thus interpreted. The Son ofMan does not confine His care to the Seven Churches of Asia, for He whoappears walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks is thesame who said of old to the nation of Israel—"I will set up mytabernacle among you, and my soul shall not abhor you, and I will walkamong you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people." [272:1] Inthe vision, the "countenance" of the Saviour is said to have been "asthe sun shineth in his strength;" [272:2] and the prayer of the Churchcatholic is—"God be merciful unto us, and bless us, and cause his faceto shine upon us, that that thy way may be known upon earth, thy savinghealth among all nations." [272:3]

The preceding statements demonstrate the folly of attempting toconstruct a system of ecclesiastical polity from such ahighly-figurative portion of Scripture as the Apocalypse. In the angelof the Church some have believed they have discovered the moderator of apresbytery; others, the bishop of a diocese; and others, the minister ofan Irvingite congregation. But the basis on which all such theories arefounded is a mere blunder as to the significance of an ecclesiasticaltitle. The angels of the Seven Churches were neither moderators, nordiocesans, nor precentors, but messengers sent on an errand of love toan apostle in tribulation.

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The dawn of the second century was full of promise to the Church. On thedeath of Domitian in A.D. 96, the Roman Empire enjoyed for a short time[275:1] the administration of the mild and equitable Nerva. This princerepealed the sanguinary laws of his predecessor, and the disciples had arespite from persecution. Trajan, who succeeded him, [275:2] and who nowoccupied the throne, seemed not unwilling to imitate his policy, sothat, in the beginning of his reign, the Christians had no reason tocomplain of imperial oppression. All accounts concur in stating thattheir affairs, at this period, presented a most hopeful aspect. They yetdisplayed a united front, for they had hitherto been almost entirelyfree from the evils of sectarianism; and now, that they were relievedfrom the terrible incubus of a ruthless tyranny, their spirits were asbuoyant as ever; for though intolerance had thinned their ranks, it hadalso exhibited their constancy and stimulated their enthusiasm. Theirintense attachment to the evangelical cause stood out in strange andimpressive contrast with the apathy of polytheism. A heathen repeated,not without scepticism, the tales of his mythology, and readily passedover from one form of superstition to another; but the Christian felthimself strong in the truth, and was prepared to peril all that was dearto him on earth rather than abandon his cherished principles. Well mightserious pagans be led to think favourably of a creed which fostered suchdecision and magnanimity.

The wonderful improvement produced by the gospel on the lives ofmultitudes by whom it was embraced, was, however, its most striking andcogent recommendation. The Christian authors who now published works inits defence, to many of which they gave the designation of apologies,and who sought, by means of these productions, either to correct themisrepresentations of its enemies, or to check the violence ofpersecution, always appeal with special confidence to this weightytestimonial. A veteran profligate converted into a sober and exemplarycitizen was a witness for the truth whose evidence it was difficulteither to discard or to depreciate. Nor were such vouchers rare eitherin the second or third century. A learned minister of the Church couldnow venture to affirm that Christian communities were to be foundcomposed of men "reclaimed from ten thousand vices," [276:1] and thatthese societies, compared with others around them, were "as lights inthe world." [276:2] The practical excellence of the new faith isattested, still more circ*mstantially, by another of its advocates whowrote about half a century after the age of the apostles. "We," says he,"who formerly delighted in vicious excesses are now temperate andchaste; we, who once practised magical arts, have consecrated ourselvesto the good and unbegotten God; we, who once prized gain above allthings, give even what we have to the common use, and share it with suchas are in need; we, who once hated and murdered one another, who, onaccount of difference of customs, would have no common hearth withstrangers, now, since the appearance of Christ, live together with them;we pray for our enemies; we seek to persuade those who hate us withoutcause to live conformably to the goodly precepts of Christ, that theymay become partakers with us, of the joyful hope of blessings from God,the Lord of all." [277:1] When we consider that all the oldsuperstitions had now become nearly effete, we cannot be surprised atthe signal triumphs of a system which could furnish such noblecredentials.

Whilst Christianity demonstrated its divine virtue by the good fruitswhich it produced, it, at the same time, invited all men to study itsdoctrines and to judge for themselves. Those who were disposed toexamine its internal evidences were supplied with facilities forpursuing the investigation, as the Scriptures of the New Testament werepublicly read in the assemblies of the faithful, and copies of them werediligently multiplied, so that these divine guides could be readilyconsulted by every one who really wished for information. The importanceof the writings of the apostles and evangelists suggested the proprietyof making them available for the instruction of those who were ignorantof Greek; and versions in the Latin, the Syriac, and other languages[277:2] soon made their appearance. Some compositions are stripped oftheir charms when exhibited in translations, as they owe theirattractiveness to the mere embellishments of style or expression; butthe Word of God, like all the works of the High and the Holy One, speakswith equal power to every kindred and tongue and people. When correctlyrendered into another language, it is still full of grace and truth, ofmajesty and beauty. In whatever dialect it may be clothed, it continuesto awaken the conscience and to convert the soul. Its dissemination atthis period either in the original or in translations, contributedgreatly to the extension of the Church; and the gospel, issuing fromthis pure fountain, at once revealed its superiority to all themiserable dilutions of superstition and absurdity presented in thesystems of heathenism.

When accounting for the rapid diffusion of the new faith in the secondand third centuries, many have laid much stress on the miraculous powersof the disciples; but the aid derived from this quarter seems to havebeen greatly over-estimated. The days of Christ and His apostles wereproperly the times of "wonders and mighty deeds;" and though the livesof some, on whom extraordinary endowments were conferred, probablyextended far into the second century, it is remarkable that the earliestecclesiastical writers are almost, if not altogether, silent upon thesubject of contemporary miracles. [278:1] Supernatural gifts perhapsceased with those on whom they were bestowed by the inspired founders ofthe Church; [278:2] but many imagined that their continuance wasnecessary to the credit of the Christian cause, and were, therefore,slow to admit that these tokens of the divine recognition had completelydisappeared. It must be acknowledged that the prodigies attributed tothis period are very indifferently authenticated as compared with thosereported by the pen of inspiration. [278:3] In some cases they aredescribed in ambiguous or general terms, such as the narrators mighthave been expected to employ when detailing vague and uncertain rumours;and not a few of the cures now dignified with the title of miracles areof a commonplace character, such as could have been accomplished withoutany supernatural interference, and which Jewish and heathen quacksfrequently performed. [279:1] No writer of this period asserts that hehimself possessed the power either of speaking with tongues, [279:2] orof healing the sick, or of raising the dead. [279:3] Legend now began tosupply food for popular credulity; and it is a suspicious circ*mstancethat the greater number of the miracles which are said to have happenedin the second and third centuries are recorded for the first time abouta hundred years after the alleged date of their occurrence. [279:4] ButChristianity derived no substantial advantage from these fictitiouswonders. Some of them were so frivolous as to excite contempt, andothers so ridiculous as to afford matter for merriment to the moreintelligent pagans. [279:5]

The gospel had better claims than any furnished by equivocal miracles;and, though it still encountered opposition, it now moved forward in atriumphant career. In some districts it produced such an impression thatit threatened the speedy extinction of the established worship. InBithynia, early in the second century, the temples of the gods werewell-nigh deserted, and the sacrificial victims found very fewpurchasers. [280:1] The pagan priests now took the alarm; the power ofthe magistrate interposed to prevent the spread of the new doctrine; andspies were found willing to dog the steps and to discover themeeting-places of the converts. Many quailed before the prospect ofdeath, and purchased immunity from persecution by again repairing to thealtars of idolatry. But, notwithstanding all the arts of intimidationand chicanery, the good cause continued to prosper. In Rome, in Antioch,in Alexandria, and in other great cities, the truth steadily gainedground; and, towards the end of the second century, it had acquired suchstrength even in Carthage—a place far removed from the scene of itsoriginal proclamation—that, according to the statement of one of itsadvocates, its adherents amounted to a tenth of the inhabitants.[280:2] About the same period Churches were to be found in various partsof the north of Africa between Egypt and Carthage; and, in the East,Christianity soon acquired a permanent footing in the little state ofEdessa, [280:3] in Arabia, in Parthia, and in India. In the West, itcontinued to extend itself throughout Greece and Italy, as well as inSpain and France. In the latter country the Churches of Lyons and Vienneattract attention in the second century; and in the third, seven eminentmissionaries are said to have formed congregations in Paris, Tours,Arles, Narbonne, Toulouse, Limoges, and Clermont. [281:1] Meanwhile thelight of divine truth penetrated into Germany; and, as the third centuryadvanced, even the rude Goths inhabiting Moesia and Thrace werepartially brought under its influence. The circ*mstances which led tothe conversion of these barbarians are somewhat remarkable. On theoccasion of one of their predatory incursions into the Empire, theycarried away captive some Christian presbyters; but the parties thusunexpectedly reduced to bondage did not neglect the duties of theirspiritual calling, and commended their cause so successfully to those bywhom they had been enslaved, that the whole nation eventually embracedthe gospel. [281:2] Even the barriers of the ocean did not arrest theprogress of the victorious faith. Before the end of the second centurythe religion of the cross seems to have reached Scotland; for thoughTertullian certainly speaks rhetorically when he says that "the placesof Britain inaccessible to the Romans were subject to Christ," [281:3]his language at least implies that the message of salvation had alreadybeen proclaimed with some measure of encouragement in Caledonia.

Though no contemporary writer has furnished us with anything like anecclesiastical history of this period, it is very clear, from occasionalhints thrown out by the early apologists and controversialists, that theprogress of the Church must have been both extensive and rapid. AChristian author, who flourished about the middle of the second century,asserts that there was then "no race of men, whether of barbarians or ofGreeks, or bearing any other name, either because they lived in waggonswithout fixed habitations, or in tents leading a pastoral life, amongwhom prayers and thanksgivings were not offered up to the Father andMaker of all things through the name of the crucified Jesus." [282:1]Another father, who wrote shortly afterwards, observes that, "as in thesea there are certain habitable and fertile islands, with wholesomesprings, provided with roadsteads and harbours, in which those who areovertaken by tempests may find refuge—in like manner has God placed ina world tossed by the billows and storms of sin, congregations or holychurches, in which, as in insular harbours, the doctrines of truth aresheltered, and to which those who desire to be saved, who love thetruth, and who wish to escape the judgment of God, may repair." [282:2]These statements indicate that the gospel must soon have been verywidely disseminated. Within less than a hundred years after theapostolic age places of Christian worship were to be seen in the chiefcities of the Empire; and early in the third century a decision of theimperial tribunal awarded to the faithful in the great Westernmetropolis a plot of ground for the erection of one of their religiousedifices. [282:3] At length about A.D. 260 the Emperor Gallienus issuedan edict of toleration in their favour; and, during the forty yearswhich followed, their numbers so increased that the ecclesiasticalbuildings in which they had hitherto assembled were no longer sufficientfor their accommodation. New and spacious churches now supplanted theold meeting-houses, and these more fashionable structures were soonfilled to overflowing. [282:4] But the spirit of the world now began tobe largely infused into the Christian communities; the Church wasdistracted by its ministers struggling with each other for pre-eminence;and even the terrible persecution of Diocletian which succeeded, couldneither quench the ambition, nor arrest the violence of contendingpastors.

If we stand, only for a moment, on the beach, we may find it impossibleto decide whether the tide is ebbing or flowing. But if we remain therefor a few hours, the question will not remain unsettled. The sea willmeanwhile either retire into its depths, or compel us to retreat beforeits advancing waters. So it is with the Church. At a given date we maybe unable to determine whether it is aggressive, stationary, orretrograde. But when we compare its circ*mstances at distant intervals,we may easily form a judgment. From the first to the fourth century,Christianity moved forward like the flowing tide; and yet, perhaps, itsadvance, during any one year, was not very perceptible. When, however,we contrast its weakness at the death of the Apostle John with itsstrength immediately before the commencement of the last imperialpersecution, we cannot but acknowledge its amazing progress. At thetermination of the first century, its adherents were a little flock,thinly scattered over the empire. In the reign of Diocletian, such waseven their numerical importance that no prudent statesman would havethought it safe to overlook them in the business of legislation. Theyheld military appointments of high responsibility; they were to be foundin some of the most honourable civil offices; they were admitted to thecourt of the sovereign; and in not a few cities they constituted a mostinfluential section of the population. The wife of Diocletian, and hisdaughter Valeria, are said to have been Christians. The gospel had nowpassed over the boundaries of the empire, and had made conquests amongsavages, some of whom had, perhaps, scarcely ever heard of the majestyof Rome. But it did not establish its dominion unopposed, and, intracing its annals, we must not neglect to notice the history of itspersecutions.


The persecutions of the early Church form an important and deeplyinteresting portion of its history. When its Great Author died on theaccursed tree, Christianity was baptized in blood; and for severalcenturies its annals consist largely of details of proscription and ofsuffering. God might have introduced the gospel amongst men amidst theshouts of applauding nations, but "He doeth all things well;" and Hedoubtless saw that the way in which its reign was actually inaugurated,was better fitted to exhibit His glory, and to attest its excellence.Multitudes, who might otherwise have trifled with the great salvation,were led to think of it more seriously, when they saw that it promptedits professors to encounter such tremendous sacrifices. As the heathenbystanders gazed on the martyrdom of a husband and a master, and as theyobserved the unflinching fortitude with which he endured his anguish,they often became deeply pensive. They would exclaim—"The man haschildren, we believe—a wife he has, unquestionably—and yet he is notunnerved by these ties of kindred: he is not turned from his purpose bythese claims of affection. We must look into the affair—we must get atthe bottom of it. Be it what it may, it can be no trifle which makes oneready to suffer and willing to die for it." [284:1] The effects producedon spectators by the heroism of the Christians cannot have escaped thenotice of the heathen magistrates. The Church herself was well aware ofthe credit she derived from these displays of the constancy of herchildren; and hence, in an address to the persecutors which appearedabout the beginning of the third century, the ardent writer boldlyinvites them to proceed with the work of butchery. "Go on," says hetauntingly, "ye good governors, so much better in the eyes of the peopleif ye sacrifice the Christians to them—rack, torture, condemn, grind usto powder—our numbers increase in proportion as you mow us down. Theblood of Christians is their harvest seed—that very obstinacy withwhich you upbraid us, is a teacher. For who is not incited by thecontemplation of it to inquire what there is in the core of the matter?and who, that has inquired, does not join us? and who, that joins us,does not long to suffer?" [285:1]

In another point of view the perils connected with a profession of thegospel exercised a wholesome influence. Comparatively few undecidedcharacters joined the communion of the Church; and thus its members, asa body, displayed much consistency and steadfastness. The purity of theChristian morality was never seen to more advantage than in those daysof persecution, as every one who joined the hated sect was understood topossess the spirit of a martyr. And never did the graces of the religionof the cross appear in more attractive lustre than when its discipleswere groaning under the inflictions of imperial tyranny. As some plantsyield their choicest odours only under the influence of pressure, itwould seem as if the gospel reserved its richest supplies of patience,strength, and consolation, for times of trouble and alarm. Piety nevermore decisively asserts its celestial birth than when it standsunblenched under the frown of the persecutor, or calmly awaits the shockof death. In the second and third centuries an unbelieving world oftenlooked on with wonder as the Christians submitted to torment rather thanrenounce their faith. Nor were spectators more impressed by the amountof suffering sustained by the confessors and the martyrs, than by thespirit with which they endured their trials. They approached theirtortures in no temper of dogged obstinacy or sullen defiance. Theyrejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer in so good a cause.They manifested a self-possession, a meekness of wisdom, a gentleness,and a cheerfulness, at which the multitude were amazed. Nor were theseproofs of Christian magnanimity confined to any one class of thesufferers. Children and delicate females, illiterate artisans and poorslaves, sometimes evinced as much intrepidity and decision ashoary-headed pastors. It thus appeared that the victims of intolerancewere upheld by a power which was divine, and of which philosophy couldgive no explanation.

We form a most inadequate estimate of the trials of the earlyChristians, if we take into account only those sufferings they enduredfrom the hands of the pagan magistrates. Circ*mstances which seldom cameunder the eye of public observation not unfrequently kept them for lifein a state of disquietude. Idolatry was so interwoven with the verytexture of society that the adoption of the new faith sometimes abruptlydeprived an individual of the means of subsistence. If he was astatuary, he could no longer employ himself in carving images of thegods; if he was a painter, he could no more expend his skill indecorating the high places of superstition. To earn a livelihood, hemust either seek out a new sphere for the exercise of his art, or betakehimself to some new occupation. If the Christian was a merchant, he was,to a great extent, at the mercy of those with whom he transactedbusiness. When his property was in the hands of dishonest heathens, hewas often unable to recover it, as the pagan oaths administered in thecourts of justice prevented him from appealing for redress to the lawsof the empire. [287:1] Were he placed in circ*mstances which enabled himto surmount this difficulty, he could not afford to exasperate hisdebtors; as they could have so easily retaliated by accusing him ofChristianity. The wealthy disciple could not accept the office of amagistrate, for he would have thus only betrayed his creed; neithercould he venture to aspire to any of the honours of the state, as hispromotion would most certainly have aggravated the perils of hisposition. Our Saviour had said—"I am come to set a man at varianceagainst his father, and the daughter against her mother, and thedaughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's foes shall bethey of his own household." [287:2] These words were now verified withsuch woeful accuracy that the distrust pervading the domestic circleoften imbittered the whole life of the believer. The slave informedagainst his Christian master; the husband divorced his Christian wife;and children who embraced the gospel were sometimes disinherited bytheir enraged parents. [287:3] As the followers of the crosscontemplated the hardships which beset them on every side, well mightthey have exclaimed in the words of the apostle—"If in this life onlywe have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." [287:4]

In the first century the very helplessness of the Church servedpartially to protect it from persecution. Its adherents were then almostall in very humble circ*mstances; and their numbers were not such as toinspire the sovereign with any political anxiety. When they wereharassed by the unbelieving Jews, the civil magistrate sometimesinterposed, and spread over them the shield of toleration; and thoughNero and Domitian were their persecutors, the treatment they experiencedfrom two princes so generally abhorred for cruelty elicited a measure ofpublic sympathy. [288:1] At length, however, the Roman government, evenwhen administered by sovereigns noted for their political virtues, beganto assume an attitude of decided opposition; and, for many generations,the disciples were constantly exposed to the hostility of their paganrulers.

The Romans acted so far upon the principle of toleration as to permitthe various nations reduced under their dominion to adhere to whateverreligion they had previously professed. They were, no doubt, led topursue this policy by the combined dictates of expediency andsuperstition; for whilst they were aware that they could more easilypreserve their conquests by granting indulgence to the vanquished, theybelieved that each country had its own tutelary guardians. But theylooked with the utmost suspicion upon all new systems of religion. Suchnovelties, they conceived, might be connected with designs against thestate; and should, therefore, be sternly discountenanced. Hence it wasthat Christianity so soon met with opposition from the imperialgovernment. For a time it was confounded with Judaism, and, as such, wasregarded as entitled to the protection of the laws; but when its truecharacter was ascertained, the disciples were involved in all thepenalties attached to the adherents of an unlicensed worship.

Very early in the second century the power of the State was turnedagainst the gospel. About A.D. 107, the far-famed Ignatius, the pastorof Antioch, is said to have suffered martyrdom. Soon afterwards ourattention is directed to the unhappy condition of the Church by acorrespondence between the celebrated Pliny, and the Emperor Trajan. Itwould seem that in Bithynia, of which Pliny was governor, the new faithwas rapidly spreading; and that those who derived their subsistence fromthe maintenance of superstition, had taken the alarm. The proconsul had,therefore, been importuned to commence a persecution; and as existingstatutes supplied him with no very definite instructions respecting themethod of procedure, he deemed it necessary to seek directions from hisImperial master. He stated, at the same time, the course which he hadhitherto pursued. If individuals arraigned before his judgment-seat, andaccused of Christianity, refused to repudiate the obnoxious creed, theywere condemned to death; but if they abjured the gospel, they werepermitted to escape unscathed. Trajan approved of this policy, and itnow became the law of the Empire.

In his letter to his sovereign [289:1] Pliny has given a very favourableaccount of the Christian morality, and has virtually admitted that thenew religion was admirably fitted to promote the good of the community,he mentions that the members of the Church were bound by solemnobligations to abstain from theft, robbery, and adultery; to keep theirpromises, and to avoid every form of wickedness. When such was theiracknowledged character, it may appear extraordinary that a sagaciousprince and a magistrate of highly cultivated mind concurred in thinkingthat they should be treated with extreme rigour. We have here, however,a striking example of the military spirit of Roman legislation. The lawsof the Empire made no proper provision for the rights of conscience; andthey were based throughout upon the principle that implicit obedience isthe first duty of a subject. Neither Pliny nor Trajan could understandwhy a Christian should not renounce his creed at the bidding of thecivil governor. In their estimation, "inflexible obstinacy" inconfessing the Saviour was a crime which deserved no less a penalty thandeath.

Though the rescript of Trajan awarded capital punishment to the man whopersisted in acknowledging himself a Christian, it also required thatthe disciples should not be inquisitively sought after. The zeal of manyof the enemies of the Church was, no doubt, checked by this provision;as those who attempted to hunt down the faithful expressly violated thespirit of the imperial enactment. But still, some Christians nowsuffered the penalty of a good confession. Pliny himself admits thatindividuals who were brought before his own tribunal, and who could notbe induced to recant, were capitally punished; and elsewhere the law wasnot permitted to remain in abeyance. About the close of the reign ofTrajan, Simeon, the senior minister of Jerusalem, now in the hundred andtwentieth year of his age, fell a victim to its severity. This martyrwas, probably, the second son of Mary, the mother of our Lord. He is,perhaps, the same who is enumerated in the Gospels [290:1] among thebrethren of Christ; and the chronology accords with the supposition thathe was a year younger than our Saviour. [290:2] His relationship toJesus, his great age, and his personal excellence secured for him a mostinfluential position in the mother Church of Christendom; and hence, bywriters who flourished afterwards, and who expressed themselves in thelanguage of their generation, he has been called the second bishop ofJerusalem.

Though the rescript of Trajan served for a time to restrain the violenceof persecution, it pronounced the profession of Christianity illegal; sothat doubts, which had hitherto existed as to the interpretation of thelaw, could no longer be entertained. The heathen priests, and othersinterested in the support of idolatry, did not neglect to proclaim afact so discouraging to the friends of the gospel. The law, indeed,still presented difficulties, for an accuser who failed to substantiatehis charge was liable to punishment; but the wily adversaries of theChurch soon contrived to evade this obstacle. When the people mettogether on great public occasions, as at the celebration of theirgames, or festivals, and when the interest in the sports began to flag,attempts were often made to provide them with a new and more excitingpastime by raising the cry of "The Christians to the Lions;" and as, atsuch times, the magistrates had been long accustomed to yield to thewishes of the multitude, many of the faithful were sacrificed to theirclamours. Here, no one was obliged to step forward and hold himselfresponsible for the truth of an indictment; and thus, without incurringany danger, personal malice and blind bigotry had free scope for theirindulgence. In the reign of Hadrian, the successor of Trajan, theChristians were sadly harassed by these popular ebullitions; and atlength Quadratus and Aristides, two eminent members of the Church atAthens, presented apologies to the Emperor in which they vividlydepicted the hardships of their position. Serenius Granianus, theProconsul of Asia, also complained to Hadrian of the proceedings of themob; and, in consequence, that Prince issued a rescript requiring thatthe magistrates should in future refuse to give way to the extemporeclamours of public meetings.

Antoninus Pius, who inherited the throne on the demise of Hadrian, was amild Sovereign; and under him the faithful enjoyed comparativetranquillity; but his successor Marcus Aurelius, surnamed thePhilosopher, pursued a very different policy. Marcus is commonly reputedone of the best of the Roman Emperors; at a very early period of life hegave promise of uncommon excellence; and throughout his reign hedistinguished himself as an able and accomplished monarch. But he wasproud, pedantic, and self-sufficient; and, like every other individualdestitute of spiritual enlightenment, his character presented the mostglaring inconsistencies; for he was at once a professed Stoic, and adevout Pagan. This Prince could not brook the contempt with which theChristians treated his philosophy; neither could he tolerate the ideathat they should be permitted to think for themselves. He could conceivehow an individual, yielding to the stern law of fate, could meet deathwith unconcern; but he did not understand how the Christians could gloryin tribulation, and hail even martyrdom with a song of triumph. Had hecalmly reflected on the spirit displayed by the witnesses for the truth,he might have seen that they were partakers of a higher wisdom than hisown; but the tenacity with which they adhered to their principles, onlymortified his self-conceit, and roused his indignation. It is remarkablethat this philosophic Emperor was the most systematic and heartless ofall the persecutors who had ever yet oppressed the Church. When Nerolighted up his gardens with the flames which issued from the bodies ofthe dying Christians, he wished to transfer to them the odium of theburning of Rome, and he acted only with the caprice and cunning of atyrant; and when Domitian promulgated his cruel edicts, he was hauntedwith the dread that the proscribed sect would raise up a rivalSovereign; but Marcus Aurelius could not plead even such miserableapologies. He hated the Christians with the cool acerbity of a Stoic;and he took measures for their extirpation which betrayed at once hisfolly and his malevolence. Disregarding the law of Trajan which requiredthat they should not be officiously sought after, he encouraged spiesand informers to harass them with accusations. He caused them to bedragged before the tribunals of the magistrates; and, under pain ofdeath, to be compelled to conform to the rites of idolatry. With arefinement of cruelty unknown to his predecessors, he employed torturefor the purpose of forcing them to recant. If, in their agony, they gaveway, and consented to sacrifice to the gods, they were released; if theyremained firm, they were permitted to die in torment. In his reign weread of new and hideous forms of punishment—evidently instituted forthe purpose of aggravating pain and terror. The Christians werestretched upon the rack, and their joints were dislocated; their bodies,when lacerated with scourges, were laid on rough sea-shells, or on othermost uncomfortable supports; they were torn to pieces by wild beasts; orthey were roasted alive on heated iron chairs. Ingenuity was called tothe ignoble office of inventing new modes and new instruments oftorture.

One of the most distinguished sufferers of this reign was Justin,surnamed the Martyr. [293:1] He was a native of Samaria; but he hadtravelled into various countries, and had studied various systems ofphilosophy, with a view, if possible, to discover the truth. Hisattention had at length been directed to the Scriptures, and in them hehad found that satisfaction which he could not obtain elsewhere. When inRome about A.D. 165, he came into collision with Crescens, a Cynicphilosopher, whom he foiled in a theological discussion. Hisunscrupulous antagonist, annoyed by this discomfiture, turned informer;and Justin, with some others, was put to death. Shortly afterwardsPolycarp, the aged pastor of Smyrna, was committed to the flames.[293:2] This venerable man, who had been acquainted in his youth withthe Apostle John, had long occupied a high position as a prudent,exemplary, and devoted minister. Informations were now laid against him,and orders were given for his apprehension. At first he endeavoured toelude his pursuers; but when he saw that escape was impossible, hesurrendered himself a prisoner. After all, he would have been permittedto remain unharmed had he consented to renounce the gospel. In the sightof an immense throng who gloated over the prospect of his execution, thegood old man remained unmoved. When called on to curse Christ hereturned the memorable answer—"Eighty and six years have I served Him,and He has done me nothing but good; and how could I curse Him my Lordand Saviour?" "I will cast you to the wild beasts," said the Proconsul,"if you do not change your mind." "Bring the wild beasts hither,"replied Polycarp, "for change my mind from the better to the worse Iwill not." "Despise you the wild beasts?" exclaimed the magistrate—"Iwill subdue your spirit by the flames." "The flames which you menaceendure but for a time and are soon extinguished," calmly rejoined theprisoner, "but there is a fire reserved for the wicked, whereof you knownot; the fire of a judgment to come and of punishment everlasting."These answers put an end to all hope of pardon; a pile of fa*ggots wasspeedily collected; and Polycarp was burned alive.

Towards the end of the reign of Marcus Aurelius, or about A.D. 177, theChurches of Lyons and Vienne [294:1] in France endured one of the mosthorrible persecutions recorded in the annals of Christian martyrdom. Adreadful pestilence, some years before, had desolated the Empire; andthe pagans seem to have been impressed with the conviction that the newreligion had provoked the visitation. The mob in various cities became,in consequence, exasperated; and demanded, with loud cries, theextirpation of the hated sectaries. In the south of France aconsiderable time appears to have elapsed before the ill-will of themultitude broke out into open violence. At first the disciples in Lyonsand Vienne were insulted in places of public concourse; they were thenpelted with stones and forced to shut themselves up in their own houses;they were subsequently seized and thrown into prison; and afterwardstheir slaves were put to the torture, and compelled to accuse them ofcrimes of which they were innocent. Pothinus, the pastor of Lyons, nowupwards of ninety years of age, was brought before the governor, and soroughly handled by the populace that he died two days after he wasthrown into confinement. The other prisoners were plied with hunger andthirst, and then put to death with wanton and studied cruelty. Two ofthe sufferers, Blandina, a female, and Ponticus, a lad of fifteen,displayed singular calmness and intrepidity. For several days they wereobliged to witness the tortures inflicted on their fellow-disciples,that they might, if possible, be intimidated by the appalling spectacle.After passing through this ordeal, the torture was applied tothemselves. Ponticus soon sunk under his sufferings; but Blandina stillsurvived. When she had sustained the agony of the heated iron chair, shewas put into a net and thrown to a wild bull that she might be trampledand torn by him; and she continued to breathe long after she had beensadly mangled by the infuriated animal. While subjected to theseterrible inflictions, she exhibited the utmost patience; no boastsescaped her lips; no murmurs were uttered by her; and even in theparoxysms of her anguish she was seen to be full of faith and courage.But such touching exhibitions of the spirit of the gospel failed torepress the fury of the excited populace. Their hatred of the gospel wasso intense that they resolved to deprive the disciples who survived thisreign of terror of the melancholy satisfaction of paying the lasttribute of respect to the remains of their martyred brethren. They,accordingly, burned the dead bodies, and then cast the ashes into theRhone. "Now," said they, "we will see whether they will rise again, andwhether God can help them, and deliver them out of our hands." [296:1]

Under the brutal and bloody Commodus, the son and heir of MarcusAurelius, the Christians had some repose. Marcia, his favouriteconcubine, was a member of the Church; [296:2] and her influence wassuccessfully exerted in protecting her co-religionists. But the penalstatutes were still in force, and they were not everywhere permitted toremain a dead letter. In this reign [296:3] we meet with some of theearliest indications of that zeal for martyrdom which was properly thespawn of the fanaticism of the Montanists. In a certain district ofAsia, a multitude of persons, actuated by this absurd passion, presentedthemselves in a body before the proconsul Arrius Antoninus; andproclaimed themselves Christians. The sight of such a crowd of victimsappalled the magistrate; and, after passing judgment on a few, he issaid to have driven the remainder from his tribunal, exclaiming—"Miserable men, if you wish to kill yourselves, you have ropes orprecipices."

The reigns of Pertinax and Julian, the Emperors next in succession afterCommodus, amounted together only to a few months; and the faithful hadmeanwhile to struggle with many discouragements; [296:4] but theseshort-lived sovereigns were so much occupied with other matters, thatthey could not afford time for legislation on the subject of religion.Septimius Severus, who now obtained the Imperial dignity, was at firstnot unfriendly to the Church; and a cure performed on him by Proculus, aChristian slave, [297:1] has been assigned as the cause of hisforbearance; but, as his reign advanced, he assumed an offensiveattitude; and it cannot be denied that the disciples sufferedconsiderably under his administration. As the Christians were stillobliged to meet at night to celebrate their worship, they were accusedof committing unnatural crimes in their nocturnal assemblies; and thoughthese heartless calumnies had been triumphantly refuted fifty or sixtyyears before, they were now revived and circulated with fresh industry.[297:2] About this period, Leonides, the father of the learned Origen,was put to death. By a law, promulgated probably in A.D. 202, theEmperor interdicted conversions to Christianity; and at a time when theChurch was making vigorous encroachments on heathenism, this enactmentcreated much embarrassment and anxiety. Some of the governors ofprovinces, as soon as they ascertained the disposition of the Imperialcourt, commenced forthwith a persecution; and there were magistrates whoproceeded to enforce the laws for the base purpose of extorting moneyfrom the parties obnoxious to their severity. Sometimes individuals, andsometimes whole congregations purchased immunity from suffering byentering into pecuniary contracts with corrupt and avaricious rulers;and by the payment of a certain sum obtained certificates [297:3] whichprotected them from all farther inquisition. [297:4] The purport ofthese documents has been the subject of much discussion. According tosome they contained a distinct statement to the effect that those namedin them had sacrificed to the gods, and had thus satisfied the law;whilst others allege that, though they guaranteed protection, theyneither directly stated an untruth, nor compromised the religiousconsistency of their possessors. But it is beyond all controversy thatthe more scrupulous and zealous Christians uniformly condemned the useof such certificates. Their owners were known by the suspiciousdesignation of "Libellatici," or "the Certified;" and were consideredonly less criminal than the "Thurificati," or those who had actuallyapostatised by offering incense on the altars of paganism. [298:1]

About this time the enforcement of the penal laws in a part of NorthAfrica, probably in Carthage, led to a most impressive display of someof the noblest features of the Christian character. Five catechumens, orcandidates for baptism, among whom were Perpetua and Felicitas, [298:2]had been put under arrest. Perpetua, who was only two and twenty yearsof age, was a lady of rank and of singularly prepossessing appearance.Accustomed to all the comforts which wealth could procure, she was illfitted, with a child at the breast, to sustain the rigours ofconfinement—more especially as she was thrown into a crowded dungeonduring the oppressive heat of an African summer. But, with her infant inher arms, she cheerfully submitted to her privations; and the thoughtthat she was persecuted for Christ's sake, converted her prison into apalace. Her aged father, who was a pagan, was overwhelmed with distressbecause, as he conceived, she was bringing deep and lasting disgraceupon her family by her attachment to a proscribed sect; and as she washis favourite child, he employed every expedient which paternaltenderness and anxiety could dictate to lead her to a recantation. Whenshe was conducted to the judgment-seat with the other prisoners, the oldgentleman appeared there, to try the effect of another appeal to her;and the presiding magistrate, touched with pity, entreated her to listento his arguments, and to change her resolution. But, though deeply movedby the anguish of her aged parent, all these attempts to shake herconstancy were in vain. At the place of execution she sung a psalm ofvictory, and, before she expired, she exhorted her brother and anothercatechumen, named Rusticus, to continue in the faith, to love eachother, and to be neither affrighted nor offended by her sufferings. Hercompanion Felicitas exhibited quite as illustrious a specimen ofChristian heroism. When arrested, she was far advanced in pregnancy, andduring her imprisonment, the pains of labour came upon her. Her criesarrested the attention of the jailer, who said to her—"If your presentsufferings are so great, what will you do when you are thrown to thewild beasts? You did not consider this when you refused to sacrifice."With undaunted spirit Felicitas replied—"It is I that suffer now,but then there will be Another with me, who will suffer for me,because I shall suffer for His sake." The prisoners were condemned to betorn by wild beasts on the occasion of an approaching festival; and whenthey had passed through this terrible ordeal, they were despatched withthe sword.

After the death of Septimius Severus, the Christians experienced someabatement of their sufferings. Caracalla and Elagabalus permitted themto remain almost undisturbed; and Alexander Severus has been supposed bysome to have been himself a believer. Among the images in his privatechapel was a representation of Christ, and he was obviously convincedthat Jesus possessed divine endowments; but there is no proof that heever accepted unreservedly the New Testament revelation. He was simplyan eclectic philosopher who held that a portion of truth was to be foundin each of the current systems of religion; and who undertook to analysethem, and extract the spiritual treasure. The Emperor Maximin was lessfriendly to the Church; and yet his enmity was confined chiefly to thoseChristian ministers who had been favourites with his predecessor; sothat he cannot be said to have promoted any general persecution. UnderGordian the disciples were free from molestation; and his successor,Philip the Arabian, was so well affected to their cause that he has beensometimes, though erroneously, represented as the first ChristianEmperor. [300:1] The death of this monarch in A.D. 249 was, however,soon followed by the fiercest and the most extensive persecution underwhich the faithful had yet groaned. The more zealous of the pagans, whohad been long witnessing with impatience the growth of Christianity, hadbecome convinced that, if the old religion were to be upheld, a mightyeffort must very soon be made to strangle its rival. Various expedientswere meanwhile employed to prejudice the multitude against the gospel.Every disaster which occurred throughout the Empire was attributed toits evil influence; the defeat of a general, the failure of a harvest,the overflowing of the Tiber, the desolations of a hurricane, and theappearance of a pestilence, were all ascribed to its most inauspiciousadvancement. The public mind was thus gradually prepared for measures ofextreme severity; and Decius, who now became emperor, aimed at the utterextirpation of Christianity. All persons suspected of attachment to thegospel were summoned before the civil authorities; and if, regardless ofintimidation, they refused to sacrifice, attempts were made to overcometheir constancy by torture, by imprisonment, and by starvation. When allsuch expedients failed, the punishment of death was inflicted. Those whofled before the day appointed for their appearance in presence of themagistrates, forfeited their property; and were forbidden, under thepenalty of death, to return to the district. The Church in many placeshad now enjoyed peace for thirty years, and meanwhile the tone ofChristian principle had been considerably lowered. It was not strange,therefore, that, in these perilous days, many apostatised. [301:1] Theconduct of not a few of the more opulent Christians of Alexandria hasbeen graphically described by a contemporary. "As they were severallycalled by name, they approached the unholy offering; some, pale andtrembling, as if they were going, not to sacrifice, but to be sacrificedto the gods; so that they were jeered by the mob who thronged aroundthem, as it was plain to all that they were equally afraid to sacrificeand to die. Others advanced more briskly, carrying their effrontery sofar as to avow that they never had been Christians." [301:2] Multitudesnow withdrew into deserts or mountains, and there perished with cold andhunger. The prisons were everywhere crowded with Christians; and themagistrates were occupied with the odious task of oppressing anddestroying the most meritorious of their fellow-citizens. The discipleswere sent to labour in the mines, branded on the forehead, subjected tomutilation, and reduced to the lowest depth of misery. In thispersecution the pastors were treated with marked severity, and duringits continuance many of them suffered martyrdom. Among the mostdistinguished victims were Fabian bishop of Rome, Babylas bishop ofAntioch, and Alexander bishop of Jerusalem. [302:1]

The reign of Decius was short; [302:2] but the hardships of the Churchdid not cease with its termination, as Gallus adopted the policy of hispredecessor. Though Valerian, the successor of Gallus, for a timedisplayed much moderation, he eventually relinquished this pacificcourse; and, instigated by his favourite Macrianus, an Egyptiansoothsayer, began about A.D. 257 to repeat the bloody tragedy which, inthe days of Decius, had filled the Empire with such terror and distress.At first the pastors were driven into banishment, and the disciplesforbidden to meet for worship. But more stringent measures were soonadopted. An edict appeared announcing that bishops, presbyters, anddeacons were to be put to death; that senators and knights, who wereChristians, were to forfeit their rank and property; and that, if theystill refused to repudiate their principles, they were to be capitallypunished; whilst those members of the Church who were in the service ofthe palace, were to be put in chains, and sent to labour on the imperialestates. [302:3] In this persecution, Sixtus bishop of Rome, and Cyprianbishop of Carthage, [302:4] were martyred.

On the accession of Gallienus in A.D. 260, the Church was once morerestored to peace. Gallienus, though a person of worthless character,was the first Emperor who protected the Christians by a formal edict oftoleration. He commanded that they should not only be permitted toprofess their religion unmolested, but that they should again be put inpossession of their cemeteries [303:1] and of all other property, eitherin houses or lands, of which they had been deprived during the reign ofhis predecessor. This decree was nearly as ample in its provisions asthat which was issued in their favour by the great Constantine upwardsof half a century afterwards.

But, notwithstanding the advantages secured by this imperial law, theChurch still suffered occasionally in particular districts. Hostilemagistrates might plead that certain edicts had not been definitelyrepealed; and, calculating on the connivance of the higherfunctionaries, might perpetrate acts of cruelty and oppression. TheEmperor Aurelian had even resolved to resume the barbarous policy ofDecius and Valerian; and, in A.D. 275, had actually prepared asanguinary edict; but, before it could be executed, death stepped in toarrest his violence, and to prevent the persecution. Thus, as hasalready been intimated, for the last forty years of the third centurythe Christians enjoyed, almost uninterruptedly, the blessings oftoleration. Spacious edifices, frequented by crowds of worshippers, andsome of them furnished with sacramental vessels of silver or gold,[303:2] were to be seen in all the great cities of the Empire. But,about the beginning of the fourth century, the prospect changed. Thepagan party beheld with dismay the rapid extension of the Church, andresolved to make a tremendous effort for its destruction. This faction,pledged to the maintenance of idolatry, now caused its influence to befelt in all political transactions; and the treatment of the Christiansonce more became a question on which statesmen were divided. Diocletian,who was made Emperor in A.D. 285, continued for many years afterwards toact upon the principle of toleration; but at length he was induced,partly by the suggestions of his own superstitious and jealous temper,and partly by the importunities of his son-in-law Galerius, to enterupon another course. The persecution commenced in the army, where allsoldiers refusing to sacrifice forfeited their rank, and were dismissedthe service. [304:1] But other hostile demonstrations soon followed. Inthe month of February A.D. 303, the great church of Nicomedia, the cityin which the Emperor then resided, was broken open; the copies of theScriptures to be found in it were committed to the flames; and theedifice itself was demolished. The next day an edict appearedinterdicting the religious assemblies of the faithful; commanding thedestruction of their places of worship; ordering all their sacred booksto be burned; requiring those who held offices of honour and emolumentto renounce their principles on pain of the forfeiture of theirappointments; declaring that disciples in the humbler walks of life, whor*mained steadfast, should be divested of their rights as citizens andfree-men; and providing that even slaves, so long as they continuedChristians, should be incapable of manumission. [304:2] Some timeafterwards another edict was promulgated directing that allecclesiastics should be seized and put in chains. When the jails werethus filled with Christian ministers, another edict made its appearance,commanding that the prisoners should by all means be compelled tosacrifice. At length a fourth edict, of a still more sweeping characterand extending to the whole body of Christians, was published. Inaccordance with this decree proclamation was made throughout the streetsof the cities, and men, women, and children, were enjoined to repair tothe heathen temples. The city gates were guarded that none might escape;and, from lists previously prepared, every individual was summoned byname to present himself, and join in the performance of the rites ofpaganism. [305:1] At a subsequent period all provisions sold in themarkets, in some parts of the empire, were sprinkled with the water orthe wine employed in idolatrous worship, that the Christians mighteither be compelled to abstinence, or led to defile themselves by theuse of polluted viands. [305:2]

Throughout almost the whole Church the latter part of the third centurywas a period of spiritual decay; and many returned to heathenism duringthe sifting time which now followed. Not a few incurred the reproach oftheir more consistent and courageous brethren by surrendering theScriptures in their possession; and those who thus purchased theirsafety were stigmatised with the odious name of traditors. Had thepersecutors succeeded in burning all the copies of the Word of God, theywould, without the intervention of a miracle, have effectually securedthe ruin of the Church; but their efforts to destroy the sacred volumeproved abortive; for the faithful seized the earliest opportunity ofreplacing the consumed manuscripts. The holy book was prized by themmore highly than ever, and Bible burning only gave a stimulus to Bibletranscription. Still, however, sacred literature sustained a loss of noordinary magnitude in this wholesale destruction of the inspiredwritings, and there is not at present in existence a single codex of theNew Testament of higher antiquity than the Diocletian persecution.[305:3]

It has been computed that a greater number of Christians perished underDecius than in all the attacks which had previously been made upon them;but their sufferings under Diocletian were still more formidable anddisastrous. Paganism felt that it was now engaged in a death struggle;and this, its last effort to maintain its ascendency, was its mostprotracted and desperate conflict. It has been frequently stated thatthe Diocletian persecution was of ten years' duration; and, reckoningfrom the first indications of hostility to the promulgation of an edictof toleration, it may certainly be thus estimated; but all this time thewhole Church was not groaning under the pressure of the infliction. TheChristians of the west of Europe suffered comparatively little; as therethe Emperor Constantius Chlorus, and afterwards his son Constantine, toa great extent, preserved them from molestation. In the East they passedthrough terrific scenes of suffering; for Galerius and Maximin, the twostern tyrants who governed that part of the empire on the abdication ofDiocletian, endeavoured to overcome their steadfastness by all theexpedients which despotic cruelty could suggest. A contemporary, who hadaccess to the best sources of information, has given a faithful accountof the torments they endured. Vinegar mixed with salt was poured on thelacerated bodies of the dying; some were roasted on huge gridirons;some, suspended aloft by one hand, were then left to perish inexcruciating agony; and some, bound to parts of different trees whichhad been brought together by machinery, were torn limb from limb by thesudden revulsion of the liberated branches. [306:1] But, even in theEast, this attempt to overwhelm Christianity was not prosecuted from itscommencement to its close with unabated severity. Sometimes thesufferers obtained a respite; and again, the work of blood was resumedwith fresh vigour. Though many were tempted for a season to make ahollow profession of paganism, multitudes met every effort to seducethem in a spirit of indomitable resolution. At length tyranny becameweary of its barren office, and the Church obtained peace. In A.D. 311,Galerius, languishing under a loathsome disease, and perhaps hoping thathe might be relieved by the God of the Christians, granted themtoleration. Maximin subsequently renewed the attacks upon them; but athis death, which occurred in A.D. 313, the edict in favour of theChurch, which Constantine and his colleague Licinius had alreadypublished, became law throughout the empire.

It is often alleged that the Church, before the conversion ofConstantine, passed through ten persecutions; but the statement gives avery incorrect idea of its actual suffering. It would be more accurateto say that, for between two and three hundred years, the faithful wereunder the ban of imperial proscription. During all this period they wereliable to be pounced upon at any moment by bigoted, domineering, orgreedy magistrates. There were not, indeed, ten persecutions conductedwith the systematic and sanguinary violence exhibited in the times ofDiocletian or of Decius; but there were perhaps provinces of the empirewhere almost every year for upwards of two centuries some Christianssuffered for the faith. [307:1] The friends of the confessors and themartyrs were not slow to acknowledge the hand of Providence, as theytraced the history of the emperors by whom the Church was favoured oroppressed. It was remarked that the disciples were not worn out by thebarbarities of a continuous line of persecutors; for an unscrupuloustyrant was often succeeded on the throne by an equitable or an indulgentsovereign. Thus, the Christians had every now and then a breathing-timeduring which their hopes were revived and their numbers recruited. Itwas observed, too, that the princes, of whose cruelty they had reason tocomplain, generally ended their career under very distressingcirc*mstances. An ecclesiastical writer who is supposed to haveflourished towards the commencement of the fourth century has discussedthis subject in a special treatise, in which he has left behind him avery striking account of "The Deaths of the Persecutors." [308:1] Theirhistory certainly furnishes a most significant commentary on the Divineannouncement that "the Lord is known by the judgment which heexecuteth." [308:2] Nero, the first hostile emperor, perishedignominiously by his own hand. Domitian, the next persecutor, wasassassinated. Marcus Aurelius died a natural death; but, during hisreign, the Empire suffered dreadfully from pestilence and famine; andwar raged, almost incessantly, from its commencement to its close. Thepeople of Lyons, who now signalised themselves by their cruelty to theChristians, did not escape a righteous retribution; for about twentyyears after the martyrdom of Pothinus and his brethren, the city waspillaged and burned. [308:3] Septimius Severus narrowly escaped murderby the hand of one of his own children. Decius, whose name is associatedwith an age of martyrdom, perished in the Gothic war. Valerian, anotheroppressor, ended his days in Persia in degrading captivity. The EmperorAurelian was assassinated. Diocletian languished for years the victim ofvarious maladies, and is said to have abruptly terminated his life bysuicide. Galerius, his son-in-law, died of a most horrible distemper;and Maximin took away his own life by poison. [308:4] The interpretationof providences is not to be rashly undertaken; but the record of thefate of persecutors forms a most extraordinary chapter in the history ofman; and the melancholy circ*mstances under which so many of the enemiesof religion have finished their career, have sometimes impressed thosewho have been otherwise slow to acknowledge the finger of the Almighty.

The persecutions of the early Church originated partly in selfishnessand superstition. Idolatry afforded employment to tens of thousands ofartists and artisans—all of whom had thus a direct pecuniary interestin its conservation; whilst the ignorant rabble, taught to associateChristianity with misfortune, were prompted to clamour for itsoverthrow. Mistaken policy had also some share in the sufferings of theChristians; for statesmen, fearing that the disciples in their secretmeetings might be hatching treason, viewed them with suspicion andtreated them with severity. But another element of at least equalstrength contributed to promote persecution. The pure and spiritualreligion of the New Testament was distasteful to the human heart, andits denunciations of wickedness in every form stirred up the malignityof the licentious and unprincipled. The faithful complained that theysuffered for neglecting the worship of the gods, whilst philosophers,who derided the services of the established ritual, escaped withimpunity. [309:1] But the sophists were not likely ever to wage aneffective warfare against immorality and superstition. Many ofthemselves were persons of worthless character, and their speculationswere of no practical value. It was otherwise with the gospel. Itsadvocates were felt to be in earnest; and it was quickly perceived that,if permitted to make way, it would revolutionize society. Hence thebitter opposition which it so soon awakened.

It might have been expected that the sore oppression which the Churchendured for so many generations would have indelibly imprinted on thehearts of her children the doctrine of liberty of conscience. As theearly Christians expostulated with their pagan rulers, they oftendescribed most eloquently the folly of persecution. "How unjust is it,"said they, "that freemen should be driven to sacrifice to the gods, whenin all other instances a willing mind is required as an indispensablequalification for any office of religion?" [310:1] "It appertains toman's proper right and natural privilege that each should worship thatwhich he thinks to be God….Neither is it the part of religion tocompel men to religion, which ought to be adopted voluntarily, not ofcompulsion, seeing that sacrifices are required of a willing mind. Thus,even if you compel us to sacrifice, you shall render no sacrificethereby to your gods, for they will not desire sacrifices from unwillinggivers, unless they are contentious; but God is not contentious."[310:2] When, however, the Church obtained possession of the throne ofthe empire, she soon ignored these lessons of toleration; and, snatchingthe weapons of her tormentors, she attempted, in her turn, to subjugatethe soul by the dungeon, the sword, and the fa*ggot. For at leastthirteen centuries after the establishment of Christianity byConstantine, it was taken for granted almost everywhere that thosebranded with the odious name of heretics were unworthy the protection ofthe laws; and that, though good and loyal citizens, they ought to bepunished by the civil magistrate. This doctrine, so alien to the spiritof the New Testament, has often spread desolation and terror throughoutwhole provinces; and has led to the deliberate murder of a hundredfoldmore Christians than were destroyed by pagan Rome. Even the fathers ofthe Reformation did not escape from the influence of an intoleranttraining; but that Bible which they brought forth from obscurity hasbeen gradually imparting a milder tone to earthly legislation; andvarious providences have been illustrating the true meaning of theproposition that Christ's kingdom is "not of this world." [311:1] In allfree countries it is now generally admitted that the weapons of theChurch are not carnal, and that the jurisdiction of the magistrate isnot spiritual. "God alone is Lord of the conscience;" and it is only bythe illumination of His Word that the monitor within can be led torecognise His will, and submit to His authority.


Some have an idea that the saintship of the early Christians was of atype altogether unique and transcendental. In primitive times the Spiritwas, no doubt, poured out in rich effusion, and the subjects of Hisgrace, when contrasted with the heathen around them, often exhibitedmost attractively the beauty of holiness; but the same Spirit stilldwells in the hearts of the faithful, and He is now as able, as He everwas, to enlighten and to save. As man, wherever he exists, possessessubstantially the same organic conformation, so the true children ofGod, to whatever generation they belong, have the same divinelineaments. The age of miracles has passed away, but the reign of gracecontinues, and, at the present day, there may, perhaps, be found amongstthe members of the Church as noble examples of vital godliness as in thefirst or second century.

There was a traitor among the Twelve, and it is apparent from the NewTestament that, in the Apostolic Church, there were not a few unworthymembers. "Many walk," says Paul, "of whom I have told you often, andnow tell you, even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross ofChrist, whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whoseglory is in their shame, who mind earthly things." [312:1] In the secondand third centuries the number of such false brethren did not diminish.To those who are ignorant of its saving power, Christianity may commenditself, by its external evidences, as a revelation from God; and many,who are not prepared to submit to its authority, may seek admission toits privileges. The superficial character of much of the evangelism nowcurrent appeared in times of persecution; for, on the first appearanceof danger, multitudes abjured the gospel, and returned to the heathensuperstitions. It is, besides, a fact which cannot be disputed that, inthe third century, the more zealous champions of the faith felt itnecessary to denounce the secularity of many of the ministers of theChurch. Before the Decian persecution not a few of the bishops were mereworldlings, and such was their zeal for money-making, that they lefttheir parishes neglected, and travelled to remote districts where, atcertain seasons of the year, they might carry on a profitable traffic[313:1]. If we are to believe the testimony of the most distinguishedecclesiastics of the period, crimes were then perpetrated to which itwould be difficult to find anything like parallels in the darkest pagesof the history of modern Christianity. The chief pastor of the largestChurch in the Proconsular Africa tells, for instance, of one of his ownpresbyters who robbed orphans and defrauded widows, who permitted hisfather to die of hunger and treated his pregnant wife with horridbrutality. [313:2] Another ecclesiastic, of still higher position,speaks of three bishops in his neighbourhood who engaged, whenintoxicated, in the solemn rite of ordination. [313:3] Such excesseswere indignantly condemned by all right-hearted disciples, but the fact,that those to whom they were imputed were not destitute of partisans,supplies clear yet melancholy proof that neither the Christian peoplenor the Christian ministry, even in the third century, possessed anunsullied reputation.

Meanwhile the introduction of a false standard of piety created muchmischief. It had long been received as a maxim, among certain classes ofphilosophers, that bodily abstinence is necessary to those who wouldattain more exalted wisdom; and the Gentile theology, especially inEgypt and the East, had endorsed the principle. It was not withoutadvocates among the Jews, as is apparent from the discipline of theEssenes and the Therapeutae. At an early period its influence was feltwithin the pale of the Church, and before the termination of the secondcentury, individual members here and there were to be found who eschewedcertain kinds of food and abstained from marriage. [314:1] The paganliterati, who now joined the disciples in considerable numbers, did muchto promote the credit of this adulterated Christianity. Its votaries,who were designated ascetics and philosophers [314:2] did notwithdraw themselves from the world, but, whilst adhering to their ownregimen, still remained mindful of their social obligations. Theirself-imposed mortification soon found admirers, and an opinion graduallygained ground that these abstinent disciples cultivated a higher form ofpiety. The adherents of the new discipline silently increased, and bythe middle of the third century, a class of females who led a singlelife, and who, by way of distinction, were called virgins, were in someplaces regarded by the other Church members with special veneration.[314:3] Among the clergy also celibacy was now considered a mark ofsuperior holiness. [314:4] But, in various places, pietism about thistime assumed a form which disgusted all persons of sober judgment andordinary discretion. The unmarried clergy and the virgins deemed itright to cultivate the communion of saints after a new fashion, allegingthat, in each other's society, they enjoyed peculiar advantages forspiritual improvement. It was not, therefore, uncommon to find a singleecclesiastic and one of the sisterhood of virgins dwelling in the samehouse and sharing the same bed! [315:1] All the while the partiesrepudiated the imputation of any improper intercourse, but in some casesthe proofs of profligacy were too plain to be concealed, and commonsense refused to credit the pretensions of such an absurd and suspiciousspiritualism. The ecclesiastical authorities felt it necessary tointerfere, and compel the professed virgins and the single clergy toabstain from a degree of intimacy which was unquestionably not free fromthe appearance of evil.

About the time that the advocates of "whatsoever things are of goodreport" were protesting against the improprieties of these spiritualbrethren and sisters, Paul and Antony, the fathers and founders ofMonachism, commenced to live as hermits. Paul was a native of Egypt, andthe heir of a considerable fortune; but, driven at first by persecutionfrom the abodes of men, he ultimately adopted the desert as the place ofhis chosen residence. Antony, in another part of the same country,guided by a mistaken spirit of self-renunciation, divested himself ofall his property; and also retired into a wilderness. The biographies ofthese two well-meaning but weak-minded visionaries, which have beenwritten by two of the most eminent divines of the fourth century,[316:1] are very humiliating memorials of folly and fanaticism. Thesesolitaries spent each a long life in a cave, macerating the body withfasting, and occupying the mind with the reveries of a morbidimagination. In an age of growing superstition their dreamy pietism wasmistaken by many for sanctity of uncommon excellence; and the admirationbestowed on them, tempted others, in the beginning of the followingcentury, to imitate their example. Soon afterwards, societies of thesesons of the desert were established; and, in the course of a few years,a taste for the monastic life spread, like wild-fire, over the wholeChurch.

It is a curious fact that the figure of the instrument of torture onwhich our Lord was put to death, occupied a prominent place among thesymbols of the ancient heathen worship. From the most remote antiquitythe cross was venerated in Egypt and Syria; it was held in equal honourby the Buddhists of the East, [316:2] and, what is still moreextraordinary, when the Spaniards first visited America, the well-knownsign was found among the objects of worship in the idol temples ofAnahuac. [316:3] It is also remarkable that, about the commencement ofour era, the pagans were wont to make the sign of a cross upon theforehead in the celebration of some of their sacred mysteries. [317:1] Asatisfactory explanation of the origin of such peculiarities in theritual of idolatry can now scarcely be expected; but it certainly neednot excite surprise if the early Christians were impressed by them, andif they viewed them as so many unintentional testimonies to the truth oftheir religion. The disciples displayed, indeed, no little ingenuity intheir attempts to discover the figure of a cross in almost every objectaround them. They could recognise it in the trees and the flowers, inthe fishes and the fowls, in the sails of a ship and the structure ofthe human body; [317:2] and if they borrowed from their heathenneighbours the custom of making a cross upon the forehead, they would ofcourse be ready to maintain that they thus only redeemed the holy signfrom profanation. Some of them were, perhaps, prepared, on prudentialgrounds, to plead for its introduction. Heathenism was, to aconsiderable extent, a religion of bowings and genuflexions; itsvotaries were, ever and anon, attending to some little rite or form;and, because of the multitude of these diminutive acts of outwarddevotion, its ceremonial was at once frivolous and burdensome. When thepagan passed into the Church, he, no doubt, often felt, for a time, theawkwardness of the change; and was frequently on the point of repeating,as it were automatically, the gestures of his old superstition. It may,therefore, have been deemed expedient to supersede more objectionableforms by something of a Christian complexion; and the use of the sign ofthe cross here probably presented itself as an observance equallyfamiliar and convenient. [318:1] But the disciples would have acted morewisely had they boldly discarded all the puerilities of paganism; forcredulity soon began to ascribe supernatural virtue to this vestige ofthe repudiated worship. As early as the beginning of the third century,it was believed to operate like a charm; and it was accordingly employedon almost all occasions by many of the Christians. "In all our travelsand movements," says a writer of this period, "as often as we come in orgo out, when we put on our clothes or our shoes, when we enter the bathor sit down at table, when we light our candles, when we go to bed, orrecline upon a couch, or whatever may be our employment, we mark ourforehead with the sign of the cross." [318:2]

But whilst not a few of the Christians were beginning to adopt some ofthe trivial rites of paganism, they continued firmly to protest againstit* more flagrant corruptions. They did not hesitate to assail its grossidolatry with bold and biting sarcasms. "Stone, or wood, or silver,"said they, "becomes a god when man chooses that it should, and dedicatesit to that end. With how much more truth do dumb animals, such as mice,swallows, and kites, judge of your gods? They know that your gods feelnothing; they gnaw them, they trample and sit on them; and if you didnot drive them away, they would make their nests in the very mouth ofyour deity." [319:1] The Church of the first three centuries rejectedthe use of images in worship, and no pictorial representations of theSaviour were to be found even in the dwellings of the Christians. Theyconceived that such visible memorials could convey no idea whatever ofthe ineffable glory of the Son of God; and they held that it is the dutyof His servants to foster a spirit of devotion, not by the contemplationof His material form, but by meditating on His holy and divineattributes as they are exhibited in creation, providence, andredemption. So anxious were they to avoid even the appearance ofanything like image-worship, that when they wished to mark articles ofdress or furniture with an index of their religious profession, theyemployed the likeness of an anchor, or a dove, or a lamb, or a cross, orsome other object of an emblematical character. [319:2] "We must not,"said they, "cling to the sensuous but rise to the spiritual. Thefamiliarity of daily sight lowers the dignity of the divine, and topretend to worship a spiritual essence through earthly matter, is todegrade that essence to the world of sense." [319:3] Even so late as thebeginning of the fourth century the practice of displaying paintings inplaces of worship was prohibited by ecclesiastical authority. A canonwhich bears upon this subject, and which was enacted by the Council ofElvira held about A.D. 305, is more creditable to the pious zeal than tothe literary ability of the assembled fathers. "We must not," said they,"have pictures in the church, lest that which is worshipped and adoredbe painted on the walls." [320:1]

It has been objected to the Great Reformation of the sixteenth centurythat it exercised a prejudicial influence on the arts of painting andstatuary. The same argument might have been urged against the gospelitself in the days of its original promulgation. Whilst the early Churchentirely discarded the use of images in worship, its more zealousmembers looked with suspicion upon all who assisted in the fabricationof these objects of the heathen idolatry. [320:2] The excuse that theartists were labouring for subsistence, and that they had themselves noidea of bowing down to the works of their own hands, did not by anymeans satisfy the scruples of their more consistent and conscientiousbrethren. "Assuredly," they exclaimed, "you are a worshipper of idolswhen you help to promote their worship. It is true you bring to them nooutward victim, but you sacrifice to them, your mind. Your sweat istheir drink-offering. You kindle for them the light of your skill."[320:3] By denouncing image-worship the early Church, no doubt, to someextent interfered with the profits of the painter and the sculptor; but,in another way, it did much to purify and elevate the taste of thepublic. In the second and third centuries the playhouse in every largetown was a centre of attraction; and whilst the actors were generallypersons of very loose morals, their dramatic performances wereperpetually pandering to the depraved appetites of the age. It is not,therefore, wonderful that all true Christians viewed the theatre withdisgust. Its frivolity was offensive to their grave temperament; theyrecoiled from its obscenity; and its constant appeals to the gods andgoddesses of heathenism outraged their religious convictions. [321:1] Intheir estimation, the talent devoted to its maintenance was miserablyprostituted; and whilst every actor was deemed unworthy ofecclesiastical fellowship, every church member was prohibited, byattendance or otherwise, from giving any encouragement to the stage. Theearly Christians were also forbidden to frequent the public shows, asthey were considered scenes of temptation and pollution. Every one athis baptism was required to renounce "the devil, his pomp, and hisangels" [321:2]—a declaration which implied that he was henceforth toabsent himself from the heathen spectacles. At this time, statesmen,poets, and philosophers were not ashamed to appear among the crowds whoassembled to witness the combats of the gladiators, though, on suchoccasions, human life was recklessly sacrificed. But here the Church,composed chiefly of the poor of this world, was continually givinglessons in humanity to heathen legislators and literati. It protestedagainst cruelty, as well to the brute creation as to man; and condemnedthe taste which could derive gratification from the shedding of theblood either of lions or of gladiators. All who sanctioned by theirpresence the sanguinary sports of the amphitheatre incurred a sentenceof excommunication. [322:1]

At this time, though an increasing taste for inactivity and solitudebetokened the growth of a bastard Christianity, and though various othercirc*mstances were indicative of tendencies to adulterate religion,either by reducing it to a system of formalism, or by sublimating itinto a life of empty contemplation, there were still abundant proofs ofthe existence of a large amount of healthy and vigorous piety. Themembers of the Church, as a body, were distinguished by their exemplarymorals; and about the beginning of the third century, one of theiradvocates, when pleading for their toleration, could venture to assertthat, among the numberless culprits brought under the notice of themagistrates, none were Christians. [322:2] Wherever the gospel spread,its social influence was most salutary. Its first teachers appliedthemselves discreetly to the redress of prevalent abuses; and timegradually demonstrated the effectiveness of their plans of reformation.When they appeared, polygamy was common; [322:3] and had they assailedit in terms of unmeasured severity, they would have defeated their ownobject by rousing up a most formidable and exasperated opposition. Itwould have been argued by the Jews that they were reflecting on thepatriarchs; and it would have been said by the Roman governors that theywere interfering with matters which belonged to the province of thecivil magistrate. They were obliged, therefore, to proceed with extremecaution. In the first place, they laid it down as a principle that everybishop and deacon must be "the husband of one wife," [323:1] or, inother words, that no polygamist could hold office in their society. Theythus, in the most pointed way, inculcated sound views respecting theinstitution of marriage; for they intimated that whoever was the husbandof more than one wife was not, in every respect, "a pattern of goodworks," and was consequently unfit for ecclesiastical promotion. In thesecond place, in all their discourses they proceeded on the assumptionthat the union of one man and one woman is the divine arrangement.[323:2] Throughout the whole of the New Testament, wherever marriage ismentioned, no other idea is entertained. It is easy to see what musthave been the effect of this method of procedure. It soon came to beunderstood that no good Christian could have at one time more than onewife; and at length the polygamist was excluded from communion by apositive enactment. [323:3]

Every disciple who married a heathen was cut off from Church privileges.The apostles had condemned such an alliance, [323:4] and it stillcontinued to be spoken of in terms of the strongest reprobation.Nothing, it was said, but discomfort and danger could be anticipatedfrom the union; as parties related so closely, and yet differing sowidely on the all-important subject of religion, could not permanentlyhold cordial intercourse. A writer of this period has given a vividdescription of the trials of the female who made such an ill-assortedmatch. Whilst she is about to be engaged in spiritual exercises, herhusband will probably contrive some scheme for her annoyance; and herzeal may be expected to awaken his jealousy, and provoke his opposition."If there be a prayer-meeting, the husband will devote this day to theuse of the bath; if a fast is to be observed, the husband has a feast atwhich he entertains his friends; if a religious ceremony is to beattended, never does household business fall more upon her hands. Andwho would allow his wife, for the sake of visiting the brethren, to gofrom street to street the round of strange and especially of the poorerclass of cottages? … If a stranger brother come to her, what lodgingin an alien's house? If a present is to be made to any, the barn, thestorehouse are closed against her." [324:1]

The primitive heralds of the gospel acted with remarkable prudence inreference to the question of slavery. According to some highauthorities, bondsmen constituted one-half [324:2] of the entirepopulation of the Roman Empire; and as the new religion was designed topromote the spiritual good of man, rather than the improvement of hiscivil or political condition, the apostles did not deem it expedient, inthe first instance, to attempt to break up established relations. Theydid not refuse to receive any one as a member of the Church because hehappened to be a slave-owner; neither did they reject any applicant foradmission because he was a slave. The social position of the individualdid not at all affect his ecclesiastical standing; for bond and free are"all one in Christ Jesus." [324:3] In the Church the master and theservant were upon a footing of equality; they joined in the sameprayers; they sat down, side by side, at the same communion table; andthey saluted each other with the kiss of Christian recognition. Aslave-owner might belong to a congregation of which his slave was theteacher; and thus, whilst in the household, the servant was bound toobey his master according to the flesh, in the Church the master wasrequired to remember that his minister was "worthy of double honour."[325:1]

The spirit of the gospel is pre-eminently a spirit of freedom; but theinspired founders of our religion did not fail to remember that we maybe partakers of the glorious liberty of the children of God, whilst weare under the yoke of temporal bondage. Whilst, therefore, they did nothesitate to speak of emancipation as a blessing, and whilst they said tothe slave—"If thou mayest be made free, use it rather;" [325:2] they atthe same time declared it to be his duty to submit cheerfully to therestraints of his present condition. "Let every man," said they, "abidein the same calling wherein he was called; for he that is called in theLord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman." [325:3] They were mostcareful to teach converted slaves that they were not to presume upontheir church membership; and that they were not to be less respectfuland obedient when those to whom they were in bondage were their brethrenin the Lord. "Let as many servants as are under the yoke," says theapostle, "count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name ofGod and his doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believingmasters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren, butrather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakersof the benefit." [325:4]

The influence of Christianity on the condition of the slave was soonfelt. The believing master was more humane than his pagan neighbour;[325:5] his bearing was more gentle, conciliatory, and considerate; andthe domestics under his care were more comfortable. [325:6] There was adisposition among pious slave-owners to let the oppressed go free, andwhen they performed such an act of mercy, and both parties were incommunion with the Church, the congregation was assembled to witness theconsummation of the happy deliverance. [326:1] Thus, multitudes ofbondsmen in all parts of the Roman Empire were soon taught to regard thegospel as their best benefactor.

Whilst Christianity, in the spirit of its Great Founder, was labouringto improve the tone of public sentiment, and to undo heavy burdens, itexhibited other most attractive characteristics. Wherever a discipletravelled, if a church existed in the district, he felt himself at home.The ecclesiastical certificate which he carried along with him, at onceintroduced him to the meetings of his co-religionists, and secured forhim all the advantage of membership. The heathen were astonished at thecordiality with which the believers among whom they resided greeted aChristian stranger. He was saluted with the kiss of peace; ushered intotheir assembly; and invited to share the hospitality of the domesticboard. If he was sick, they visited him; if he was in want, they madeprovision for his necessities. The poor widows were supported at theexpense of the Church; and if any of the brethren were carried captiveby predatory bands of the barbarians who hovered upon the borders of theEmpire, contributions were made to purchase their liberation fromservitude. [326:2] To those who were without the Church, its membersappeared as one large and affectionate family. The pagan could notcomprehend what it was that so closely cemented their brotherhood; forhe did not understand how they could be attracted to each other by loveto a common Saviour. He was almost induced to believe that they heldintercourse by certain mysterious signs, and that they were affiliatedby something like the bond of freemasonry. Even statesmen observed withuneasiness the spirit of fraternity which reigned among the Christians;and, though the disciples could never be convicted of any politicaldesigns, suspicions were often entertained that, after all, they mightform a secret association, on an extensive scale, which might one dayprove dangerous to the established government.

But Christianity, like the sun, shines on the evil and the good; andopportunities occurred for shewing that its charities were not confinedwithin the limits of its own denomination. There were occasions on whichits very enemies could not well refuse to admit its excellence; for inseasons of public distress, its adherents often signalised themselves asby far the most energetic, benevolent, and useful citizens. At suchtimes its genial philanthropy appeared to singular advantage whencontrasted with the cold and selfish spirit of polytheism. Thus, in thereign of the Emperor Gallus, when a pestilence spread dismay throughoutNorth Africa, [327:1] and when the pagans shamefully deserted theirnearest relatives in the hour of their extremity, the Christians steppedforward, and ministered to the wants of the sick and dying withoutdistinction. [327:2] Some years afterwards, when the plague appeared inAlexandria, and when the Gentile inhabitants left the dead unburied andcast out the dying into the streets, the disciples vied with each otherin their efforts to alleviate the general suffering. [327:3] The mostworthless men can scarcely forget acts of kindness performed under suchcirc*mstances. Forty years afterwards, when the Church in the capital ofEgypt was overtaken by the Diocletian persecution, their paganneighbours concealed the Christians in their houses, and submitted tofines and imprisonment rather than betray the refugees. [328:1]

The fact that the heathen were now ready to shelter the persecutedmembers of the Church is itself of importance as a sign of the times.When the disciples first began to rise into notice in the great towns,they were commonly regarded with aversion; and, when the citizens wereassembled in thousands at the national spectacles, no cry was morevociferously repeated than that of "The Christians to the lions." Butthis bigoted and intolerant spirit was fast passing away; and when thestate now set on foot a persecution, it could not reckon so extensivelyon the support of popular antipathy. The Church had attained such aposition that the calumnies once repeated to its prejudice could nolonger obtain credence; the superior excellence of its system of moralswas visible to all; and it could point on every side to proofs of theblessings it communicated. It could demonstrate, by a reference to itshistory, that it produced kind masters and dutiful servants,affectionate parents and obedient children, faithful friends andbenevolent citizens. On all classes, whether rich or poor, learned orunlearned, its effects were beneficial. It elevated the character of theworking classes, it vastly improved the position of the wife, itcomforted the afflicted, and it taught even senators wisdom. Itsdoctrines, whether preached to the half-naked Picts or the polishedAthenians, to the fierce tribes of Germany or the literary coteries ofAlexandria, exerted the same holy and happy influence. It promulgated areligion obviously fitted for all mankind. There had long since been aprediction that its dominion should extend "from sea to sea and from theriver unto the ends of the earth;" and its progress already indicatedthat the promise would receive a glorious accomplishment.


The great doctrines of Christianity are built upon the facts of thelife of our Lord. These facts are related by the four evangelists withsingular precision, and yet with a variety of statement, as to details,which proves that each writer delivered an independent testimony. Thewitnesses all agree when describing the wonderful history of the Captainof our Salvation; and they dwell upon the narrative with a minutenessapparently corresponding to the importance of the doctrine which thefacts establish or illustrate. Hence it is that, whilst they scarcelynotice, or altogether omit, several items of our Saviour's biography,they speak particularly of His birth and of His miracles, of His deathand of His resurrection. Thus, all the great facts of the gospel aremost amply authenticated.

It is not so with the system of Romanism; as nothing can be weaker thanthe historical basis on which it rests. The New Testament demonstratesthat Peter was not the Prince of the Apostles; for it records therebuke which our Lord delivered to the Twelve when they strove amongthemselves "which of them should be accounted the greatest." [329:1] Italso supplies evidence that neither Peter nor Paul founded the Church ofRome; as, before that Church had been visited by the Apostle of theGentiles, its faith was "spoken of throughout the whole world;" [329:2]and the apostle of the circumcision was meanwhile labouring in anotherpart of the Empire. [330:1] When writing to the Romans in A.D. 57, Paulgreets many members of the Church, and mentions the names of a greatvariety of individuals; [330:2] but, throughout his long epistle, Peteris not once noticed. Had he been connected with that Christiancommunity, he would, beyond doubt, have been prominently recognised.

There is, indeed, a sense in which Peter may, perhaps, be said to havefounded the great Church of the West; for it is possible that some ofthe "strangers of Rome," [330:3] who heard his celebrated sermon on theday of Pentecost, were then converted by his ministry; and it may bethat these converts, on their return home, proceeded to disseminate thetruth, and to organize a Christian society, in the chief city of theEmpire. This, however, is mere matter of conjecture; and it is nowuseless to speculate upon the subject; as, in the absence of historicalmaterials to furnish us with information, the question must remaininvolved in impenetrable mystery. It is certain that the Roman Churchwas established long before it was visited by an apostle; and it isequally clear that its members were distinguished, at an early period,by their Christian excellence. When Paul was prisoner for the first timein the great city, he was freely permitted to exercise his ministry;but, subsequently, when there during the Neronian persecution, he was,according to the current tradition, seized and put to death. [330:4]Peter's martyrdom took place, as we have seen, [330:5] perhaps about ayear afterwards; but the legend describing it contains very improbabledetails, and the facts have obviously been distorted and exaggerated.

For at least seventy years after the death of the apostle of thecircumcision, nothing whatever is known of the history of the RomanChurch, except the names of some of its leading ministers. It wasoriginally governed, like other Christian communities, by the commoncouncil of the presbyters, who, as a matter of order, must have had achairman; but though, about a hundred years after the martyrdom ofPeter, when the presidents began to be designated bishops, an attemptwas made to settle their order of succession, [331:1] the result was byno means satisfactory. Some of the earliest writers who touchincidentally upon the question are inconsistent with themselves; [331:2]whilst they flatly contradict each other. [331:3] In fact, to this day,what is called the episcopal succession in the ancient Church of Rome isan historical riddle. At first no one individual seems to have acted forlife as the president, or moderator, of the presbytery; but as it waswell known that, at an early date, several eminent pastors had belongedto it, the most distinguished names found their way into the catalogues,and each writer appears to have consulted his own taste or judgment inregulating the order of succession. Thus, it has probably occurred thattheir lists are utterly irreconcileable. All such genealogies are,indeed, of exceedingly dubious credit, and those who deem them ofimportance must always be perplexed by the candid acknowledgment of thefather of ecclesiastical history. "How many," says he, "and who,prompted by a kindred spirit, were judged fit to feed the churchesestablished by the apostles, it is not easy to say, any farther thanmay be gathered from the statements of Paul." [331:4]

About A.D. 139, Telesphorus, who was then at the head of the Romanpresbytery, is said to have been put to death for his profession of thegospel; but the earliest authority for this fact is a Christiancontroversialist who wrote upwards of forty years afterwards; [332:1]and we are totally ignorant of all the circ*mstances connected with themartyrdom. The Church of the capital, which had hitherto enjoyedinternal tranquillity, began in the time of Hyginus, who succeededTelesphorus, to be disturbed by false teachers. Valentine, Cerdo, andother famous heresiarchs, now appeared in Rome; [332:2] and labouredwith great assiduity to disseminate their principles. The distractionscreated by these errorists seem to have suggested the propriety ofplacing additional power in the hands of the presiding presbyter.[332:3] Until this period every teaching elder had been accustomed tobaptize and administer the Eucharist on his own responsibility; but itappears to have been now arranged that henceforth none should actwithout the sanction of the president, who was thus constituted thecentre of ecclesiastical unity. According to the previous system, someof the presbyters, who were themselves, perhaps, secretly tainted withunsound doctrine, might have continued to hold communion with theheretics; and it might have been exceedingly difficult to convict themof any direct breach of ecclesiastical law; but now their power wascurtailed; and a broad line of demarcation was established between trueand false churchmen. Thus, Rome was the city in which what has beencalled the Catholic system was first organized. Every one who was incommunion with the president, or bishop, was a catholic; [332:4] everyone who allied himself to any other professed teacher of the Christianfaith was a sectary, a schismatic, or a heretic. [333:1]

The study of the best forms of government was peculiarly congenial tothe Roman mind; and the peace enjoyed under the Empire, as contrastedwith the miseries of the civil wars in the last days of the Republic,pleaded, no doubt, strongly in favour of a change in the ecclesiasticalconstitution. But though this portion of the history of the Church isinvolved in much obscurity, there are indications that the transferenceof power from the presbyters to their president was not accomplishedwithout a struggle. Until this period the Roman elders appear to havegenerally succeeded each other as moderators of presbytery in the orderof their seniority; [333:2] but it was now deemed necessary to adoptanother method of appointment; and it is not improbable that, at thistime, a division of sentiment as to the best mode of filling up thepresidential chair, was the cause of an unusually long vacancy.According to some, no less than four years [333:3] passed away betweenthe death of Hyginus and the choice of his successor Pius; and eventhose who object to this view of the chronology admit that there was aninterval of a twelvemonth. [333:4] The plan now adopted seems to havebeen to choose the bishop by lot out of a leet of selected candidates.[333:5] Thus, to use the phraseology current towards the end of thesecond century, the new chief pastor "obtained the lot of theepiscopacy." [334:1]

The changes introduced at Rome were probably far from agreeable to manyof the other Churches throughout the Empire; and Polycarp, the venerablepastor of Smyrna, who was afterwards martyred, and who was now nearlyeighty years of age, appears to have been sent to the imperial city on amission of remonstrance. The design of this remarkable visit is stillenveloped in much mystery, for with the exception of an allusion to aquestion confessedly of secondary consequence, [334:2] ecclesiasticalwriters have passed over the whole subject in suspicious silence; butthere is every reason to believe that Polycarp was deputed to complainof the incipient assumptions of Roman prelacy. [334:3] Anicetus, whothen presided over the Church of the capital, prudently bestowed veryflattering attentions on the good old Asiatic pastor; and, though thereis no evidence that his scruples were removed, he felt it to be his dutyto assist in opposing the corrupt teachers who were seeking to propagatetheir errors among the Roman disciples. The testimony to primitive truthdelivered by so aged and eminent a minister produced a deep impression,and gave a decided check to the progress of heresy in the metropolis ofthe Empire. [334:4]

But though the modified prelacy now established encountered opposition,the innovation thus inaugurated in the great city was sure to exert amost extensive influence. Rome was then, not only the capital, but themistress of a large portion of the world. She kept up a constantcommunication with every part of her dominions in Asia, Africa, andEurope; strangers from almost every clime were to be found among herteeming population; and intelligence of whatever occurred within herwalls soon found its way to distant cities and provinces. The Christiansin other countries would be slow to believe that their brethren athead-quarters had consented to any unwarrantable distribution of Churchpower, for they had hitherto displayed their zeal for the faith by mostdecisive and illustrious testimonies. Since the days of Nero they hadsustained the first shock of every persecution, and nobly led the van ofthe army of martyrs. Telesphorus, the chairman of the presbytery, hadrecently paid for his position with his life; their presiding pastor wasalways specially obnoxious to the spirit of intolerance; and if theywere anxious to strengthen his hands, who could complain? The RomanChurch had the credit of having enjoyed the tuition of Peter and Paul;its members had long been distinguished for intelligence and piety; andit was not to be supposed that its ministers would sanction any stepwhich they did not consider perfectly capable of vindication. There wereother weighty reasons why Christian societies in Italy, as well aselsewhere, should regard the acts of the Church of the imperial citywith peculiar indulgence. It was the sentinel at the seat of governmentto give them notice of the approach of danger, [335:1] and the kindfriend to aid them in times of difficulty. The wealth of Rome wasprodigious; and though as yet "not many mighty" and "not many noble" hadjoined the proscribed sect, it had been making way among the middleclasses; and there is cause to think that at this time a considerablenumber of the rich merchants of the capital belonged to its communion.It was known early in the second century as a liberal benefactor; and,from a letter addressed to it about A.D. 170, it would appear that eventhe Church of Corinth was then indebted to its munificence. "It has everbeen your habit," says the writer, "to confer benefits in various ways,and to send assistance to the Churches in every city. You have relievedthe wants of the poor, and afforded help to the brethren condemned tothe mines. By a succession of these gifts, Romans, you preserve thecustoms of your Roman ancestors." [336:1]

The influence of the Roman Church throughout the West soon becameconspicuous. Here, as in many other instances, commerce was the pioneerof religion; and as the merchants of the capital traded with all theports of their great inland sea, it is not improbable that their sailorshad a share in achieving some of the early triumphs of the gospel.Carthage, now one of the most populous cities in the Empire, is said tohave been indebted for Christianity to Rome; [336:2] and by means of theconstant intercourse kept up between these two commercial marts, themother Church contrived to maintain an ascendancy over her Africandaughter. Thus it was that certain Romish practices and pretensions sosoon found advocates among the Carthaginian clergy. [336:3] In otherquarters we discover early indications of the extraordinary deferencepaid to the Church of the city "sitting upon many waters." Towards theclose of the second century, Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp, waspastor of Lyons; and from this some have rather abruptly drawn theinference that the Christian congregations then existing in the south ofFrance were established by missionaries from the East; but it is atleast equally probable that the young minister from Asia Minor was inRome before he passed to the more distant Gaul; and it is certain thathe is the first father who speaks of the superior importance of theChurch of the Italian metropolis. His testimony to the position which itoccupied about eighty years after the death of the Apostle John shewsclearly that it stood already at the head of the Western Churches. TheChurch of Rome, says he, is "very great and very ancient, and known toall, founded and established by the two most glorious Apostles Peter andPaul." [337:1] "To this Church in which Catholics [337:2] have alwayspreserved apostolic tradition, every Catholic Church should, because itis more potentially apostolical, [337:3] repair." [337:4]

The term Catholic, which occurs for the first time in a documentwritten about this period, [337:5] was probably coined at Rome, andimplied, as already intimated, that the individual so designated was incommunion with the bishop. The presiding pastors in the great city begannow, in token of fraternity and recognition, to send the Eucharist totheir brethren elsewhere by trusty messengers, [337:6] and thus the namewas soon extended to all who maintained ecclesiastical relations withthese leading ministers. Sectaries were almost always the minority; andin many places, where Christianity was planted, they were utterlyunknown. The orthodox might, therefore, not inappropriately be styledmembers of the Catholic or general Church, inasmuch as they formedthe bulk of the Christian population, and were to be found wherever thenew religion had made converts. And though the heretics pleadedtradition in support of their peculiar dogmas, it was clear that theirstatements could not stand the test of examination. Irenaeus, in thework from which the words just quoted are extracted, very fairly arguesthat no such traditions as those propagated by the sectaries were to befound in the most ancient and respectable Churches. No Christiancommunity in Western Europe could claim higher antiquity than that ofRome; and as it had been taught by Paul and Peter, none could besupposed to be better acquainted with the original gospel. Because ofits extent it already required a larger staff of ministers than perhapsany other Church; and thus there were a greater number of individuals toquicken and correct each other's recollections. It might be accordinglyinferred that the traditions of surrounding Christian societies, iftrue, should correspond to those of Rome; as the great metropolitanChurch might, for various reasons, be said to be more potentiallyprimitive or apostolical, and as its traditions might be expected to beparticularly accurate. The doctrines of the heretics, which werecompletely opposed to the testimony of this important witness, should bediscarded as entirely destitute of authority.

We can only conjecture the route by which Irenaeus travelled to thesouth of France when he first set out from Asia Minor; but we havedirect evidence that he had paid a visit to the capital shortly beforehe wrote this memorable eulogium on the Roman Church. About the close ofthe dreadful persecution endured in A.D. 177 by the Christians of Lyonsand Vienne, he had been commissioned to repair to Italy with a view to asettlement of the disputes created by the appearance of the Montanists.As he was furnished with very complimentary credentials, [339:1] we maypresume that he was handsomely treated by his friends in the metropolis;and if he returned home laden with presents to disciples whosesufferings had recently so deeply moved the sympathy of their brethren,it is not strange that he gracefully seized an opportunity of extollingthe Church to which he owed such obligations. His account of itsgreatness is obviously the inflated language of a panegyrist; but in duetime its hyperbolic statements received a still more extravagantinterpretation; and, on the authority of this ancient father, the Churchof Rome was pompously announced as the mistress and the mother of allChurches.

It has been mentioned in a former chapter [339:2] that the celebratedMarcia who, until shortly before his death, possessed almost absolutecontrol over the Emperor Commodus, made a profession of the faith. Herexample, no doubt, encouraged other personages of distinction to connectthemselves with the Roman Church; and, through the medium of thesemembers of his flock, the bishop Eleutherius must have had an influencesuch as none of his predecessors possessed. It is beyond doubt thatMarcia, after consulting with Victor, the successor of Eleutherius,induced the Emperor to perform acts of kindness to some of herco-religionists. [339:3] The favour of the court seems to have puffed upthe spirit of this naturally haughty churchman; and though, as we haveseen, there is cause to suspect that certain ecclesiastical movements inthe chief city had long before excited much ill-suppresseddissatisfaction, the Christian commonwealth was now startled for thefirst time by a very flagrant exhibition of the arrogance of a Romanprelate. [340:1] Because the Churches of Asia Minor celebrated thePaschal feast in a way different from that observed in the metropolis,[340:2] Victor cut them off from his communion. But this attempt of thebishop of the great city to act as lord over God's heritage waspremature. Other churches condemned the rashness of his procedure; hisrefusal to hold fellowship with the Asiatic Christians threatened onlyto isolate himself; and he seems to have soon found it expedient tocultivate more pacific councils.

At this time the jurisdiction of Victor did not properly extend beyondthe few ministers and congregations to be found in the imperial city. Aquarter of a century afterwards even the bishop of Portus, a seaporttown at the mouth of the Tiber about fifteen miles distant from thecapital, acknowledged no allegiance to the Roman prelate. [340:3] Theboldness of Victor in pronouncing so many foreign brethren unworthy ofCatholic communion may at first, therefore, appear unaccountable. But itis probable that he acted, in this instance, in conjunction with manyother pastors. Among the Churches of Gentile origin there was a deepprejudice against what was considered the judaizing of the AsiaticChristians in relation to the Paschal festival, and a strong impressionthat the character of the Church was compromised by any very markeddiversity in its religious observances. There is, however, little reasonto doubt that Victor was to some extent prompted by motives of adifferent complexion. Fifty years before, the remarkable words addressedto the apostle of the circumcision—"Thou art Peter, and upon this RockI will build my Church" [341:1]—were interpreted at Rome in the way inwhich they are now understood commonly by Protestants; for the brotherof the Roman bishop Pius, [341:2] writing about A.D. 150, teaches thatthe Rock on which the Church is built is the Son of God; [341:3] butingenuity was already beginning to discover another exposition, and thegrowing importance of the Roman bishopric suggested the startlingthought that the Church was built on Peter! [341:4] The name of theGalilean fisherman was already connected with the see of Victor; and itwas thus easy for ambition or flattery to draw the inference that Victorhimself was in some way the heir and representative of the greatapostle. The doctrine that the bishop was necessary as the centre ofCatholic unity had already gained currency; and if a centre of unity forthe whole Church was also indispensable, who had a better claim to thepre-eminence than the successor of Peter? When Victor fulminated hissentence of excommunication against the Asiatic Christians he probablyacted under the partial inspiration of this novel theory. He made anabortive attempt to speak in the name of the whole Church—to assert aposition as the representative or president of all the bishops of theCatholic world [342:1]—and to carry out a new system of ecclesiasticalunity. The experiment was a failure, simply because the idea looming inthe imagination of the Roman bishop had not yet obtained full possessionof the mind of Christendom.

Prelacy had been employed as the cure for Church divisions, but theremedy had proved worse than the disease. Sects meanwhile continued tomultiply; and they were, perhaps, nowhere so abundant as in the verycity where the new machinery had been first set up for theirsuppression. Towards the close of the second century their multitude wasone of the standing reproaches of Christianity. What was called theCatholic Church was now on the brink of a great schism; and the veryman, who aspired to be the centre of Catholic unity, threatened to bethe cause of the disruption. It was becoming more and more apparentthat, when the presbyters consented to surrender any portion of theirprivileges to the bishop, they betrayed the cause of ecclesiasticalfreedom; and even now indications were not wanting that the Catholicsystem was likely to degenerate into a spiritual despotism.


Though very few of the genuine productions of the ministers of theancient Church of Rome are still extant, [343:1] multitudes of spuriousepistles attributed to its early bishops have been carefully preserved.It is easy to account for this apparent anomaly. The documents now knownas the false Decretals, [343:2] and ascribed to the Popes of the firstand immediately succeeding centuries, were suited to the taste of timesof ignorance, and were then peculiarly grateful to the occupants of theRoman see. As evidences of its original superiority they wereaccordingly transmitted to posterity, and ostentatiously exhibited amongthe papal title-deeds. But the real compositions of the primitivepastors of the great city supplied little food for superstition; andmust have contained startling and humiliating revelations which laidbare the absurdity of claims subsequently advanced. These unwelcomewitnesses were, therefore, quietly permitted to pass into oblivion.

It has been said, however, that Truth is the daughter of Time, and thediscovery of monuments long since forgotten, or of writings supposed tohave been lost, has often wonderfully verified and illustrated theapologue. The reappearance, within the last three hundred years, ofvarious ancient records and memorials, has shed a new light upon thehistory of antiquity. Other testimonies equally valuable will, no doubt,yet be forthcoming for the settlement of existing controversies.

In A.D. 1551, as some workmen in the neighbourhood of Rome were employedin clearing away the ruins of a dilapidated chapel, they found a brokenmass of sculptured marble among the rubbish. The fragments, when puttogether, proved to be a statue representing a person of venerableaspect sitting in a chair, on the back of which were the names ofvarious publications. It was ascertained, on more minute examination,that, some time after the establishment of Christianity by Constantine,[344:1] this monument had been erected in honour of Hippolytus—alearned writer and able controversialist, who bad been bishop of Portusin the early part of the third century, and who had finished his careerby martyrdom, about A.D. 236, during the persecution under the EmperorMaximin. Hippolytus is commemorated as a saint in the Romish Breviary;[344:2] and the resurrection of his statue, after it had been buried forperhaps a thousand years, created quite a sensation among his papaladmirers. Experienced sculptors, under the auspices of the Pontiff, PiusIV., restored the fragments to nearly their previous condition; and therenovated statue was then duly honoured with a place in the Library ofthe Vatican.

Nearly three hundred years afterwards, or in 1842, a manuscript whichhad been found in a Greek monastery at Mount Athos, was deposited in theRoyal Library at Paris. This work, which has been since published,[345:1] and which is entitled "Philosophumena, or a Refutation of allHeresies," has been identified as the production of Hippolytus. It doesnot appear in the list of his writings mentioned on the back of themarble chair; but any one who inspects its contents can satisfactorilyaccount for its exclusion from that catalogue. It reflects strongly onthe character and principles of some of the early Roman bishops; and asthe Papal see was fast rising into power when the statue was erected, itwas obviously deemed prudent to omit an invidious publication. Thewriter of the "Philosophumena" declares that he is the author of one ofthe books named on that piece of ancient sculpture, and various otherfacts amply corroborate his testimony. There is, therefore, no goodreason to doubt that a Christian bishop who lived about fifteen milesfrom Rome, and who flourished little more than one hundred years afterthe death of the Apostle John, composed the newly discovered Treatise.[345:2]

In accordance with the title of his work, Hippolytus here reviews allthe heresies which had been broached up till the date of itspublication. Long prior to the reappearance of this production, it wasknown that one of the early Roman bishops had been induced tocountenance the errors of the Montanists; [345:3] and it would seem thatVictor was the individual who was thus deceived; [345:4] but it had notbeen before suspected that Zephyrinus and Callistus, the two bishopsnext to him in succession, [345:5] held unsound views respecting thedoctrine of the Trinity. Such, however, is the testimony of theirneighbour and contemporary, the bishop of Portus. The witness may,indeed, be somewhat fastidious, as he was himself both erudite andeloquent; but had there not been some glaring deficiency in both thecreed and the character of the chief pastor of Rome, Hippolytus wouldscarcely have described Zephyrinus as "an illiterate and covetous man,"[346:1] "unskilled in ecclesiastical science," [346:2] and adisseminator of heretical doctrine. According to the statement of hisaccuser, he confounded the First and Second Persons of the Godhead,maintaining the identity of the Father and the Son. [346:3]

Callistus, who was made bishop on the death of Zephyrinus, must havepossessed a far more vigorous intellect than his predecessor. Thoughregarded by the orthodox Hippolytus with no friendly eye, it is plainthat he was endowed with an extraordinary share of energy andperseverance. He had been originally a slave, and he must have won theconfidence of his wealthy Christian master Carpophores, for he had beenintrusted by him with the care of a savings bank. The establishmentbecame insolvent, in consequence, as Hippolytus alleges, of themismanagement of its conductor; and many widows and others who hadcommitted their money to his keeping, lost their deposits. WhenCarpophorus, by whom he was now suspected of embezzlement, determined tocall him to account, Callistus fled to Portus—in the hope of escapingby sea to some other country. He was, however, overtaken, and, after anineffectual attempt to drown himself, was arrested, and thrown intoprison. His master, who was placable and kind-hearted, speedilyconsented to release him from confinement; but he was no sooner atlarge, than, under pretence of collecting debts due to the savings bank,he went into a Jewish synagogue during the time of public worship, andcaused such disturbance that he was seized and dragged before the cityprefect. The magistrate ordered him first to be scourged, and then to betransported to the mines of Sardinia. He does not appear to haveremained long in exile; for, about this time, Marcia procured from theEmperor Commodus an order for the release of the Christians who had beenbanished to that unhealthy island; and Callistus, though not included inthe act of grace, contrived to prevail upon the governor to set him atliberty along with the other prisoners. He now returned to Rome, wherehe appears to have acquired the reputation of a changed character. Indue time he procured an appointment to one of the lower ecclesiasticaloffices; and as he possessed much talent, he did not find it difficultto obtain promotion. When Zephyrinus was advanced to the episcopate,Callistus, who was his special favourite, became one of the leadingministers of the Roman Church; and exercised an almost unbounded swayover the mind of the superficial and time-serving bishop. The Christiansof the chief city were now split up into parties, some advocating theorthodox doctrine of the Trinity, and others abetting a differenttheory. Callistus appears to have dexterously availed himself of theirdivisions; and, by inducing each faction to believe that he espoused itscause, managed, on the death of Zephyrinus, to secure his election tothe vacant dignity.

When Callistus had attained the object of his ambition, he tried torestore peace to the Church by endeavouring to persuade the advocates ofthe antagonistic principles to make mutual concessions. Laying aside thereserve which he had hitherto maintained, he now took up an intermediateposition, in the hope that both parties would accept his own theory ofthe Godhead. "He invented," says Hippolytus, "such a heresy as follows.He said that the Word is the Son and is also the Father, being called bydifferent names, but being one indivisible spirit; and that the Fatheris not one and the Son another (person), but that they both are one andthe same…. The Father, having taken human flesh, deified it by unitingit to Himself,… and so he said that the Father had suffered with theSon." [348:1]

Though Callistus, as well as Hippolytus, is recognised as a saint in theRomish Breviary, [348:2] it is thus certain that the bishop of Portusregarded the bishop of Rome as a schemer and a heretic. It is equallyclear that, at this period, all bishops were on a level of equality, forHippolytus, though the pastor of a town in the neighbourhood of thechief city, did not acknowledge Callistus as his metropolitan. Thebishop of Portus describes himself as one of those who are "successorsof the apostles, partakers with them of the same grace both of principalpriesthood and doctorship, and reckoned among the guardians of theChurch." [348:3] Hippolytus testifies that Callistus was afraid of him,[348:4] and if both were members of the same synod, [348:5] well mightthe heterodox prelate stand in awe of a minister who possessedco-ordinate authority, with greater honesty and superior erudition. Butstill, it is abundantly plain, from the admissions of the"Philosophumena," that the bishop of Rome, in the time of the author ofthis treatise, was beginning to presume upon his position. Hippolytuscomplains of his irregularity in receiving into his communion some whohad been "cast out of the Church" of Portus "after judicial sentence."[348:6] Had the bishop of the harbour of Rome been subject to the bishopof the capital, he would neither have expressed himself in such a style,nor preferred such an accusation.

Various circ*mstances indicate, as has already been suggested, that thebishop of Rome, in the time of the Antonines, was chosen by lot; but wemay infer from the "Philosophumena" that, early in the third century,another mode of appointment had been adopted. [349:1] It is obvious thathe now owed his advancement to the suffrages of the Church members, forHippolytus hints very broadly that Callistus pursued a particular coursewith a view to promote his popularity and secure his election. It isbeyond doubt that, about A.D. 236, Fabian was chosen bishop of Rome bythe votes of the whole brotherhood, and there is on record a minuteaccount of certain extraordinary circ*mstances which signalised theoccasion. "When all the brethren had assembled in the church for thepurpose of choosing their future bishop, and when the names of manyworthy and distinguished men had suggested themselves to theconsideration of the multitude, no one so much as thought of Fabian whowas then present. They relate, however, that a dove gliding down fromthe roof, straightway settled on his head, as when the Holy Spirit, likea dove, rested upon the head of our Saviour. On this, the whole people,as if animated by one divine impulse, with great eagerness, and with theutmost unanimity, exclaimed that he was worthy; and, taking hold of him,placed him forthwith on the bishop's chair." [349:2]

Some time after the resurrection of the statue of Hippolytus, anotherrevelation was made in the neighbourhood of Rome which has thrown muchlight upon its early ecclesiastical history. In the latter part of thesixteenth century, the unusual appearance of some apertures in theground, not far from the Papal capital, awakened curiosity, and led tothe discovery of dark subterranean passages of immense extent filledwith monuments and inscriptions. These dismal regions, after having beenshut up for about eight hundred years, were then again re-opened andre-explored.

The soil for miles around Rome is undermined, and the long labyrinthsthus created are called catacombs. [350:1] The galleries are often foundin stories two or three deep, communicating with each other by stairs;and it has been thought that formerly some of them were partiallylighted from above. They were originally gravel-pits or stone-quarries,and were commenced long before the reign of Augustus. [350:2] Theenlargement of the city, and the growing demand for building materials,led then to new and most extensive excavations. In the preparation ofthese vast caverns, we may trace the presiding care of Providence. AsAmerica, discovered a few years before the Reformation, furnished aplace of refuge to the Protestants who fled from ecclesiasticalintolerance, so the catacombs, re-opened shortly before the birth of ourLord, supplied shelter to the Christians in Rome during the frequentproscriptions of the second and third centuries. When the gospel wasfirst propagated in the imperial city, its adherents belonged chiefly tothe lower classes; and, for reasons of which it is now impossible tospeak with certainty, [350:3] it seems to have been soon very generallyembraced by the quarrymen and sand-diggers. [350:4] Thus it was thatwhen persecution raged in the capital, the Christian felt himselfcomparatively safe in the catacombs. The parties in charge of them werehis friends; they could give him seasonable intimation of the approachof danger; and among these "dens and caves of the earth," with countlessplaces of ingress and egress, the officers of government must haveattempted in vain to overtake a fugitive.

At present their appearance is most uncomfortable; they contain nochamber sufficient for the accommodation of any large number ofworshippers; and it has even been questioned whether human life could belong supported in such gloomy habitations. But we have the bestauthority for believing that some of the early Christians remained for aconsiderable time in these asylums. [351:1] Wells of water have beenfound in their obscure recesses; fonts for baptism have also beendiscovered; and it is beyond doubt that the disciples met here forreligious exercises. As early as the second century these vaults becamethe great cemetery of the Church. Many of the memorials of the deadwhich they contained have long since been transferred to the LapidarianGallery in the Vatican; and there, in the palace of the Pope, thevenerable tombstones testify, to all who will consult them, how muchmodern Romanism differs from ancient Christianity.

Though many of these sepulchral monuments were erected in the fourth andfifth centuries, they indicate a remarkable freedom from superstitionswith which the religion of the New Testament has been since defiled.These witnesses to the faith of the early Church of Rome altogetherrepudiate the worship of the Virgin Mary, for the inscriptions of theLapidarian Gallery, all arranged under the papal supervision, contain noaddresses to the mother of our Lord. [352:1] They point only to Jesus asthe great Mediator, Redeemer, and Friend. It is also worthy of note thatthe tone of these voices from the grave is eminently cheerful. Insteadof speaking of masses for the repose of souls, or representing departedbelievers as still doomed to pass through purgatory, they describe thedeceased as having entered immediately into the abodes of eternal rest."Alexander," says one of them, "is not dead, but lives beyond the stars,and his body rests in this tomb." "Here," says another, "lies Paulina,in the place of the blessed." "Gemella," says a third, "sleeps inpeace." "Aselus," says a fourth, "sleeps in Christ." [352:2]

We learn from the testimony of Hippolytus that, during the episcopate ofZephyrinus, Callistus was "set over the cemetery." [352:3] This wasprobably considered a highly important trust, as, in those periloustimes, the safety of the Christians very much depended on the prudence,activity, and courage of the individual who had the charge of theirsubterranean refuge. [352:4] The new curator seems to have signalisedhimself by the ability with which he discharged the duties of hisappointment; he probably embellished and enlarged some of these drearycaves; and hence a portion of the catacombs was designated "The Cemeteryof Callistus." Hippolytus, led astray by the ascetic spirit beginning sostrongly to prevail in the commencement of the third century, wasopposed to all second marriages, so that he was sadly scandalized by theexceedingly liberal views of his Roman brother on the subject ofmatrimony; and he was so ill-informed as to pronounce them novel. "Inhis time," says he indignantly, "bishops, presbyters, and deacons,though they had been twice or three times married, began to berecognised as God's ministers; and if any one of the clergy married, itwas determined that such a person should remain among the clergy, as nothaving sinned." [353:1] We cannot tell how many of the ancient bishopsof the great city were husbands; [353:2] we have certainly no distinctevidence that even Callistus took to himself a wife; but we have theclearest proof that the primitive Church of Rome did not impose celibacyon her ministers; and, in support of this fact, we can produce theunimpeachable testimony of her own catacombs. There is, for instance, amonument "To Basilus the Presbyter, and Felicitas his wife;" and, onanother tombstone, erected about A.D. 472, or only four years before thefall of the Western Empire, there is the following singularrecord—"Petronia, a deacon's wife, the type of modesty. In this place Ilay my bones: spare your tears, dear husband and daughters, and believethat it is forbidden to weep for one who lives in God." [353:3] "Here,"says another epitaph, "Susanna, the happy daughter of the late PresbyterGabinus, lies in peace along with her father." [353:4] In the LapidarianGallery of the papal palace, the curious visitor may still read otherepitaphs of the married ministers of Rome.

Though the gospel continued to make great progress in the metropolis,there was perhaps no city of the Empire in which it encountered, fromthe very first, such steady and powerful opposition. The Sovereign,being himself the Supreme Pontiff of Paganism, might be expected toresent, as a personal indignity, any attempt to weaken its influence;and the other great functionaries of idolatry, who all resided in thecapital, were of course bound by the ties of office to resist theadvancement of Christianity. The old aristocracy disliked everything inthe shape of religious innovation, for they believed that the glory oftheir country was inseparably connected with an adherence to the worshipof the gods of their ancestors. Thus it was that the intolerance of thestate was always felt with peculiar severity at the seat of government.Exactly in the middle of the third century a persecution of unusualviolence burst upon the Roman Church. Fabian, whose appointment to thebishopric took place, as already related, under such extraordinarycirc*mstances, soon fell a victim to the storm. After his martyrdom, thewhole community over which he presided seems to have been paralysed withterror; and sixteen months passed away before any successor was elected;for Decius, the tyrant who now ruled the Roman world, had proclaimed,his determination rather to suffer a competitor for his throne than abishop for his chief city. [354:1] A veritable rival was quicklyforthcoming to prove the falsehood of his gasconade; for when JuliusValens appeared to dispute his title to the Empire, Decius was obliged,by the pressure of weightier cares, to withdraw his attention from theconcerns of the Roman Christians. During the lull in the storm ofpersecution, Cornelius was chosen bishop; but after an official life oflittle more than a year, he was thrown into confinement. His death inprison was, no doubt, occasioned by harsh treatment. The episcopate ofhis successor Lucius was even shorter than his own, for he was martyredabout six months after his election. [355:1] Stephen, who was nowpromoted to the vacant chair, did not long retain possession of it; forthough we have no reliable information as to the manner of his death, itis certain that he occupied the bishopric only between four and fiveyears. His successor Xystus in less than twelve months finished hiscourse by martyrdom. [355:2] Thus, in a period of eight years, Rome lostno less than five bishops, at least four of whom were cut down bypersecution: of these Cornelius and Stephen, by far the mostdistinguished, were interred in the cemetery of Callistus.

There is still extant the fragment of a letter written by Corneliusfurnishing a curious statistical account of the strength of the RomanChurch at this period. [355:3] According to this excellent authority itcontained forty-six presbyters, seven deacons, seven sub-deacons,forty-two acolyths, fifty-two others who were either exorcists, readers,or door-keepers, and upwards of fifteen hundred besides, who were inindigent circ*mstances, and of whom widows constituted a largeproportion. All these poor persons were maintained by the liberality oftheir fellow-worshippers. Rome, as we have seen, was the birthplace ofprelacy; and other ecclesiastical organisms unknown to the New Testamentmay also be traced to the same locality, for here we read for the firsttime of such officials as the acolyths. [355:4] We may infer from thedetails supplied by the letter of Cornelius, that there were nowfourteen congregations [355:5] of the faithful in the great city; andits Christian population has been estimated at about fifty thousand. Nowonder that the chief pastor of such a multitude of zealous disciplesall residing in his capital, awakened the jealousy of a suspiciousEmperor.

A schism, which continued for generations to exert an unhappy influence,commenced in the metropolis during the short episcopate of Cornelius.The leader of this secession was Novatian, a man of blameless character,[356:1] and a presbyter of the Roman Church. In the Decian persecutionmany had been terrified into temporary conformity to paganism; and thisaustere ecclesiastic maintained, that persons who had so sadlycompromised themselves, should, on no account whatever, be re-admittedto communion. When he found that he could not prevail upon his brethrento adopt this unrelenting discipline, he permitted himself to beordained bishop in opposition to Cornelius; and became the founder of aseparate society, known as the sect of the Novatians. As he denied thevalidity of the ordinance previously administered, he rebaptized hisconverts, and exhibited otherwise a miserably contracted spirit; butmany sympathised with him in his views, and Novatian bishops were soonestablished in various parts of the Empire.

Immediately after the rise of this sect, a controversy relative to thepropriety of rebaptizing heretics brought the Church of Rome intocollision with many Christian communities in Africa and Asia Minor. Thediscussion, which did not eventuate in any fresh schism, is chieflyremarkable for the firm stand now made against the assumptions of thegreat Bishop of the West. When Stephen, who was opposed to rebaptism,discovered that he could not induce the Asiatics and Africans to comeover to his sentiments, he rashly tried to overbear them by declaringthat he would shut them out from his communion; but his antagoniststreated the threat merely as an empty display of insolence. "What strifeand contention hast thou awakened in the Churches of the whole world, OStephen," said one of his opponents, "and how great sin hast thouaccumulated when thou didst cut thyself off from so many flocks! Deceivenot thyself, for he is truly the schismatic who has made himself anapostate from the communion of the unity of the Church. For whilst thouthinkest that all may be excommunicated by thee, thou hastexcommunicated thyself alone from all." [357:1]

When the apostle of the circumcision said to his Master—"Thou art theChrist, the Son of the living God," Jesus replied—"Blessed art thou,Simon Bar-jona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, butmy Father which is in heaven." To this emphatic acknowledgment of thefaith of His disciple, our Lord added the memorable words—"And I sayalso unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build mychurch, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." [357:2] Asthe word Peter signifies a stone, [357:3] this address admits of avery obvious and satisfactory exposition. "Thou art," said Christ to theapostle, "a lively stone [357:4] of the spiritual structure I erect; andupon this rock on which thy faith is established, as witnessed by thygood confession, I will build my Church; and though the rains ofaffliction may descend, and the floods of danger may come, and the windsof temptation may blow, and beat upon this house, it shall remainimmoveable, [358:1] because it rests upon an impregnable foundation."But a different interpretation was already gaining wide currency; forthough Peter had been led to deny Christ with oaths and imprecations,the rapid growth and preponderating wealth of the Roman bishopric, ofwhich the apostle was supposed to be the founder, had now induced manyto believe that he was the Rock of Salvation, the enduring basis onwhich the living temple of God was to be reared! Tertullian and Cyprian,in the third century the two most eminent fathers of the West,countenanced the exposition; [358:2] and though both these writers werelamentably deficient in critical sagacity, men of inferior standing wereslow to impugn the verdict of such champions of the faith. Thus it wasthat a false gloss of Scripture was already enthralling the mind ofChristendom; and Stephen boldly renewed the attempt at dominationcommenced by his predecessor Victor. His opponents deserved far greatercredit for the sturdy independence with which they upheld theirindividual rights than for the scriptural skill with which they unmaskedthe sophistry of a delusive theory; for all their reasonings wereenervated and vitiated by their stupid admission of the claims of thechair of Peter as the rock on which the Church was supposed to rest.[358:3] This second effort of Rome to establish her ascendancy was,indeed, a failure; but the misinterpretation of Holy Writ, by which itwas encouraged, was not effectively corrected and exposed; and thus thegreat Western prelate was left at liberty, at another more favourableopportunity, to wrest the Scriptures for the destruction of the Church.

From the middle of the third century, the authority of the Roman bishopsadvanced apace. The magnanimity with which so many of them thenencountered martyrdom elicited general admiration; and the divisionscaused by the schism of Novatian supplied them with a specious apologyfor enlarging their jurisdiction. The argument from the necessity ofunity, which was urged so successfully for the creation of a bishopupwards of a hundred years before, could now be adduced with equalplausibility for the erection of a metropolitan; and, from this date,these prelates undoubtedly exercised archiepiscopal power. Seventy yearsafterwards, or at the Council of Nice, [359:1] the ecclesiastical ruleof the Primate of Rome was recognised by the bishops of the tensuburbicarian provinces, including no small portion of Italy. [359:2]

For the last forty years of the third century the Church was free frompersecution, and, during this long period of repose, the great Westernsee enjoyed an unwonted measure of outward prosperity. Its religiousservices were now conducted with increasing splendour, and distressedbrethren in very distant countries shared the fruits of its munificence.In the reign of Gallienus, when the Goths burst into the Empire anddevastated Asia Minor, the bishop of Rome transmitted a large sum ofmoney for the release of the Christians who had fallen into the hands ofthe barbarians. [359:3] A few years afterwards, when Paul of Samosatawas deposed for heresy, and when, on his refusal to surrender theproperty of the Church of Antioch, an application was made to theEmperor Aurelian for his interference, that prince submitted the matterin dispute to the decision of Dionysius of Rome and the other bishops ofItaly. [360:1] This reference, in which the position of the Romanprelate was publicly recognised, perhaps for the first time, by a RomanEmperor, was calculated to add vastly to the importance of themetropolitan see in public estimation. When Christianity was establishedabout fifty years afterwards by Constantine, the bishop of the chiefcity was thus, to a great extent, prepared for the high position towhich he was suddenly promoted.

None of the early bishops of Rome were distinguished for their mentalaccomplishments; and though they are commonly reputed the founders ofthe Latin Church, it would appear that, for nearly two hundred years,they all wrote and spoke the Greek language. The name Pope, which theyhave since appropriated, was now common to all pastors. [360:2] For thefirst three centuries almost every question relating to them is involvedin much mystery; and, as we approach the close of this period, thedifficulty of unravelling their perplexed traditions rather increasesthan diminishes. Even the existence of some who are said to have nowflourished has been considered doubtful. [360:3] It is alleged that thesee was vacant for upwards of three years and a half during theDiocletian persecution in the beginning of the fourth century; [360:4]but even this point has not been very clearly ascertained. The Romanbishopric was by far the most important in the Church; and the obscuritywhich overhangs its early history, cannot but be embarrassing to thosewho seek to establish a title to the ministry by attempting to trace itup through such dark annals.

On looking back over the first three centuries, we may remark how muchthe chairman of the Roman eldership, about the time of the death of theApostle John, differed from the prelate who filled his place two hundredyears afterwards. The former was the servant of the presbyters, andappointed to carry out their decisions; the latter was their master, andentitled to require their submission. The former presided over theministers of, perhaps, three or four comparatively poor congregationsdispirited by recent persecution; the latter had the charge of at leastfive-and-twenty flourishing city churches, [361:1] together with all thebishops in all the surrounding territory. In eventful times anindividual of transcendent talent, such as Pepin or Napoleon, hasadroitly bolted into a throne; but the bishop of Rome was indebted forhis gradual elevation and his ultimate ascendancy neither toextraordinary genius nor superior erudition, but to a combination ofcirc*mstances of unprecedented rarity. His position furnished him withpeculiar facilities for acquiring influence. Whilst the city in which hewas located was the largest in the world, it was also the most opulentand the most powerful. He was continually coming in contact with men ofnote in the Church from all parts of the Empire; and he had frequentopportunities of obliging these strangers by various offices ofkindness. He thus, too, possessed means of ascertaining the state of theChristian interest in every land, and of diffusing his own sentimentsunder singularly propitious circ*mstances. When he was fast rising intopower, it was alleged that he was constituted chief pastor of the Churchby Christ himself; and a text of Scripture was quoted which was supposedto endorse his title. For a time no one cared to challenge itsapplication; for meanwhile his precedence was but nominal, and those,who might have been competent to point out the delusion, had no wish togive offence, by attacking the fond conceit of a friendly and prosperousprelate. But when the scene changed, and when the Empire found anothercapital, the acumen of the bishop of the rival metropolis soondiscovered a sounder exposition; and Chrysostom of Constantinople, atonce the greatest preacher and the best commentator of antiquity,ignored the folly of Tertullian and of Cyprian. "Upon the rock," sayshe, "that is, upon the faith of the apostle's confession," [362:1] theChurch is built. "Christ said that he would build His Church on Peter'sconfession." [362:2] Soon afterwards, the greatest divine connected withthe Western Church, and the most profound theologian among the fathers,pointed out, still more distinctly, the true meaning of the passage."Our Lord declares," says Augustine, "On this rock I will found myChurch, because Peter had said: Thou art the Christ, the Son of theliving God. On this rock, which thou hast confessed, He declares Iwill build my Church, for Christ was the rock on whose foundation Peterhimself was built; for other foundation hath no man laid than that whichis laid, which is Christ Jesus." [362:3] In the Italian capital, thewords on which the power of the Papacy is understood to rest areexhibited in gigantic letters within the dome of St Peter's; but theirexhibition only proves that the Church of Rome has lost the key ofknowledge; for, though she would fain appeal to Scripture, she shewsthat she does not understand the meaning of its testimony; and, closingher eyes against the light supplied by the best and wisest of thefathers, she persists in adhering to a false interpretation.




By "the Fathers" we understand the writers of the ancient ChristianChurch. The name is, however, of rather vague application, for thoughgenerally employed to designate only the ecclesiastical authors of thefirst six centuries, it is extended, occasionally, to distinguishedtheologians who flourished in the middle ages.

The fathers of the second and third centuries have a strong claim on ourattention. Living on the verge of apostolic times, they were acquaintedwith the state of the Church when it had recently passed from under thecare of its inspired founders; and, as witnesses to its earlytraditions, their testimony is of peculiar value. But the period beforeus produced comparatively few authors, and a considerable portion of itsliterature has perished. There have been modern divines, such as Calvinand Baxter, who have each left behind a more voluminous array ofpublications than now survives from all the fathers of these two hundredyears. Origen was by far the most prolific of the writers who flourishedduring this interval, but the greater number of his productions havebeen lost; and yet those which remain, if translated into English, wouldamount to nearly triple the bulk of our authorised version of the Bible.His extant works are, however, more extensive than all the othermemorials of this most interesting section of the history of the Church.

Among the earliest ecclesiastical writers after the close of the firstcentury is Polycarp of Smyrna. He is said to have been a disciple of theApostle John, and hence he is known as one of the Apostolic Fathers.[365:1] An epistle of his addressed to the Philippians, and designed tocorrect certain vices and errors which had been making their appearance,is still preserved. It seems to have been written towards the middle ofthe second century; [365:2] its style is simple; and its general toneworthy of a man who had enjoyed apostolic tuition. Its venerable authorsuffered martyrdom about A.D. 167, [365:3] at the advanced age ofeighty-six. [365:4]

Justin Martyr was contemporary with Polycarp. He was a native ofSamaria, and a Gentile by birth; he had travelled much; he possessed awell-cultivated mind; and he had made himself acquainted with thevarious systems of philosophy which were then current. He could deriveno satisfaction from the wisdom of the pagan theorists; but, one day, ashe walked, somewhat sad and pensive, near the sea shore, a casualmeeting with an aged stranger led him to turn his thoughts to theChristian revelation. The individual, with whom he had this solitary andimportant interview, was a member and, perhaps, a minister of theChurch. After pointing out to Justin the folly of mere theorising, andrecommending him to study the Old Testament Scriptures, as well onaccount of their great antiquity as their intrinsic worth, he proceededto expatiate on the nature and excellence of the gospel. [366:1] Theimpression now made upon the mind of the young student was neverafterwards effaced; he became a decided Christian; and, about A.D. 165,finished his career by martyrdom.

Justin is the first writer whose contributions to ecclesiasticalliterature are of considerable extent. Some of the works ascribed to himare unquestionably the productions of others; but there is no reason todoubt the genuineness of his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, and of thetwo Apologies addressed to the Emperors, [366:2] Though the meeting withTrypho is said to have occurred at Ephesus, it is now perhaps impossibleto determine whether it ever actually took place, or whether theDialogue is only the report of an imaginary discussion. It serves,however, to illustrate the mode of argument then adopted in thecontroversy between the Jews and the disciples, and throws much lightupon the state of Christian theology. Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aureliusappear to have been the Emperors to whom the Apologies are addressed. Inthese appeals to Imperial justice the calumnies against the Christiansare refuted, whilst the simplicity of their worship and the purity oftheir morality are impressively described.

Justin, even after his conversion, still wore the philosopher's cloak,and continued to cherish an undue regard for the wisdom of the pagansages. His mind never was completely emancipated from the influence of asystem of false metaphysics; and thus it was that, whilst his views ofvarious doctrines of the gospel remained confused, his allusions to themare equivocal, if not contradictory. But it has been well remarked thatconscience, rather than science, guided many of the fathers; and thecase of Justin demonstrates the truth of the observation. He possessedan extensive knowledge of the Scriptures; and though his theologicalviews were not so exact or so perspicuous as they might have been, hadhe been trained up from infancy in the Christian faith, or had hestudied the controversies which subsequently arose, it is beyond doubtthat his creed was substantially evangelical. He had received the truth"in the love of it," and he counted not his life dear in the service ofhis Divine Master.

The Epistle to Diognetus, frequently included amongst the works ofJustin, is apparently the production of an earlier writer. Its author,who styles himself "a disciple of apostles," designed by it to promotethe conversion of a friend; his own views of divine truth arecomparatively correct and clear; and in no uninspired memorial ofantiquity are the peculiar doctrines of the gospel exhibited withgreater propriety and beauty. Appended also to the common editions ofthe works of Justin are the remains of a few somewhat later writers,namely, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Hernias. Tatian was adisciple of Justin; [367:1] Athenagoras was a learned man of Athens;Theophilus is said to have been one of the pastors of Antioch; and ofHermas nothing whatever is known. The tracts of these authors relatealmost entirely to the controversy between Christianity and Paganism.Whilst they point out the folly and falsehood of the accusations sofrequently preferred against the brethren, they press the gospel uponthe acceptance of the Gentiles with much earnestness, and support itsclaims by a great variety of arguments.

The tract known as the Epistle of Barnabas was probably composed inA.D.135. [367:2] It is the production apparently of a convert fromJudaism who took special pleasure in allegorical interpretations ofScripture. Hermas, the author of the little work called Pastor, or TheShepherd, is a writer of much the same character. He was, in alllikelihood, the brother of Pius, [368:1] who flourished about the middleof the second century, and who was, perhaps, the first or secondindividual who was officially designated Bishop of Rome. The writings ofPapias, said to have been pastor of Hierapolis in the time of Polycarp,are no longer extant. [368:2] The works of Hegesippus, of a somewhatlater date, and treating of the subject of ecclesiastical history, havealso disappeared. [368:3]

Irenaeus of Lyons is the next writer who claims our special notice. Hewas originally connected with Asia Minor; and in his youth he is said tohave enjoyed the tuition of Polycarp of Smyrna. We cannot tell when heleft his native country, or what circ*mstances led him to settle on thebanks of the Rhone; but we know that, towards the termination of thereign of Marcus Aurelius, he was appointed by the Gallic Christians tovisit the Roman Church on a mission of importance. The Celtic language,still preserved in the Gaelic or Irish, was then spoken in France,[368:4] and Irenaeus found it necessary to qualify himself for theduties of a preacher among the heathen by studying the barbarousdialect. His zeal, energy, and talent were duly appreciated; soon afterthe death of the aged Pothinus he became the chief pastor of Lyons; andfor many years he exercised considerable influence throughout the wholeof the Western Church. When the Paschal controversy created suchexcitement, and when Victor of Rome threatened to rend the Christiancommonwealth by his impetuous and haughty bearing, Irenaeus interposed,and to some extent succeeded in moderating the violence of the Italianprelate. He was the author of several works, [369:1] but his only extantproduction is a treatise "Against Heresies." It is divided into fivebooks, four of which exist only in a Latin version; [369:2] and itcontains a lengthened refutation of the Valentinians and other Gnostics.

Irenaeus is commonly called the disciple of Polycarp; but it is reportedthat he was also under the tuition of a less intelligent preceptor,Papias of Hierapolis. [369:3] This teacher, who has been alreadymentioned, and who was the author of a work now lost, entitled, "TheExplanations of the Discourses of the Lord," is noted as the earliestecclesiastical writer who held the doctrine of the personal reign ofChrist at Jerusalem during the millennium. "These views," says Eusebius,"he appears to have adopted in consequence of having misunderstood theapostolic narratives…. For he was a man of very slender intellect, asis evident from his discourses." [369:4] His pupil Irenaeus possessed amuch superior capacity; but even his writings are not destitute ofpuerilities; and it is not improbable that he derived some of the errorsto be found in them from his weak-minded teacher. [369:5]

Irenaeus is supposed to have died in the beginning of the third century;and, shortly before that date, by far the most vigorous and acute writerwho had yet appeared among the fathers, began to attract attention. Thiswas the celebrated TERTULLIAN. He was originally a heathen, [370:1] andhe appears in early life to have been engaged in the profession of alawyer. At that time, as afterwards, there was constant intercoursebetween Rome and Carthage; [370:2] Tertullian seems to have been wellacquainted with both these great cities; and he had probably resided forseveral years in the capital of the Empire. [370:3] But most of hispublic life was, perhaps, spent in Carthage, the place of his birth. Inthe beginning of the third century clerical celibacy was beginning to befashionable; and yet Tertullian, though a presbyter, [370:4] wasmarried; for two of his tracts are addressed To his Wife; and it isapparent from his works that then no law of the Church prohibitedecclesiastics from entering into wedlock.

The extant productions of this writer are numerous; and, if renderedinto our language, would form a very portly volume. But though severalparts of them have found translators, the whole have never yet appearedin English; and, of some pieces, the most accomplished scholar wouldscarcely undertake to furnish at once a literal and an intelligibleversion. [370:5] His style is harsh, his transitions are abrupt, and hisinuendos and allusions most perplexing. He must have been a man of verybilious temperament, who could scarcely distinguish a theologicalopponent from a personal enemy; for he pours forth upon those who differfrom him whole torrents of sarcasm and invective. [371:1] His strongpassion, acting upon a fervid imagination, completely overpowered hisjudgment; and hence he deals so largely in exaggeration, that, as tomany matters of fact, we cannot safely depend upon his testimony. Histone is dictatorial and dogmatic; and, though we cannot doubt his piety,we must feel that his spirit is somewhat repulsive and ungenial. Whilsthe was sadly deficient in sagacity, he was very much the creature ofimpulse; and thus it was that he was so superstitious, so bigoted, andso choleric. But he was, beyond question, possessed of erudition and ofgenius; and when he advocates a right principle, he can expound, defend,and illustrate it with great ability and eloquence.

Tertullian is commonly known as the earliest of the Latin fathers.[371:2] The writer who first attempted to supply the rulers of the worldwith a Christian literature in their own tongue encountered a task ofmuch difficulty. It was no easy matter to conduct theologicalcontroversies in a language which was not remarkable for flexibility,and which had never before been employed in such discussions; andTertullian seems to have often found it necessary to coin unwonted formsof expression, or rather to invent an ecclesiastical nomenclature. Theponderous Latin, hitherto accustomed to speak only of Jupiter and thegods, engages somewhat awkwardly in its new vocation; and yet contrivesto proclaim, with wonderful power, the great thoughts for which it mustnow find utterance. Several years after his appearance as an author,Tertullian lapsed into Montanism—a species of heresy peculiarlyattractive to a man of his rugged and austere character. Some of hisworks bear clear traces of this change of sentiment; but others furnishno internal evidences warranting us to pronounce decisively respectingthe date of their composition. It is remarkable that though heidentified himself with a party under the ban of ecclesiasticalproscription, his works still continued to be held in high repute, andto be perused with avidity by those who valued themselves on their zealfor orthodoxy. It is recorded of one of the most influential of theCatholic bishops of the third century that he read a portion of themdaily; and, when calling for his favourite author, he is reported tohave said—"Give me the Master." [372:1]

Tertullian flourished at a period when ecclesiastical usurpation wasbeginning to produce some of its bitter fruits, and when religion wasrapidly degenerating from its primitive purity. [372:2] His works, whichtreat of a great variety of topics interesting to the Christian student,throw immense light on the state of the Church in his generation. Hisbest known production is his Apology, in which he pleads the cause ofthe persecuted disciples with consummate talent, and urges upon thestate the equity and the wisdom of toleration. He expounds the doctrineof the Trinity more lucidly than any preceding writer; he treats ofPrayer, of Repentance, and of Baptism; he takes up the controversy withthe Jews; [372:3] and he assails the Valentinians and other heretics.But the way of salvation by faith seems to have been very indistinctlyapprehended by him, so that he cannot be safely trusted as a theologian.He had evidently no clear conception of the place which works ought tooccupy according to the scheme of the gospel; and hence he sometimesspeaks as if pardon could be purchased by penance, by fasting, or bymartyrdom.

Clement of Alexandria was contemporary with Tertullian. Like him, hewas a Gentile by birth; but we know nothing of the circ*mstancesconnected with his conversion. In early times Alexandria was one of thegreat marts of literature and science; its citizens were noted for theirintellectual culture; and, when a Church was formed there, learned menbegan to pass over to the new religion in considerable numbers. It was,in consequence, deemed expedient to establish an institute wherecatechumens of this class, before admission to baptism, could beinstructed in the faith by some well qualified teacher. The plan of theseminary seems to have been gradually enlarged; and it soon suppliededucation to candidates for the ministry. Towards the close of thesecond century, Pantaenus, a distinguished scholar, had the charge ofit; and Clement, who had been his pupil, became his successor as itspresident. Some of the works of this writer have perished, and his onlyextant productions are a discourse entitled "What rich man shall besaved?" his Address to the Greeks or Gentiles, his Paedagogue, and hisStromata. The hortatory Address is designed to win over the pagans fromidolatry; the Paedagogue directs to Jesus, or the Word, as the greatTeacher, and supplies converts with practical precepts for theirguidance; whilst in the Stromata, or Miscellanies, we have a descriptionof what he calls the Gnostic or perfect Christian. He here takesoccasion to attack those who, in his estimation, were improperlydesignated Gnostics, such as Basilides, Valentine, Marcion, and others.

Clement, as is apparent from his writings, was extensively acquaintedwith profane literature. But he formed quite too high an estimate of thevalue of the heathen philosophy, whilst he allegorized Scripture in away as dangerous as it was absurd. By the serpent which deceived Eve,according to Clement, "pleasure, an earthly vice which creeps upon thebelly, is allegorically represented." [374:1] Moses, speakingallegorically, if we may believe this writer, called the Divine Wisdomthe tree of life planted in paradise; by which paradise we mayunderstand the world, in which all the works of creation were calledinto being. [374:2] He even interprets the ten commandmentsallegorically. Thus, by adultery, he understands a departure from thetrue knowledge of the Most High, and by murder, a violation of thetruth respecting God and His eternal existence. [374:3] It is easy tosee how Scripture, by such a system of interpretation, might be torturedinto a witness for any extravagance.

In the early part of the third century Hippolytus of Portus exertedmuch influence by his writings. It was long believed that, with theexception of some fragments and a few tracts of little consequence, theworks of this father had ceased to exist; but, as stated in a precedingchapter, [374:4] one of his most important publications, the"Philosophumena, or Refutation of all Heresies," has been recentlyrecovered. The re-appearance of this production after so many centuriesof oblivion is an extraordinary fact; and its testimony relative tohistorical transactions of deep interest connected with the early Churchof Rome, has created quite a sensation among the students ofecclesiastical literature.

Hippolytus was the disciple of Irenaeus, and one of the soundesttheologians of his generation. His works, which are written in Greek,illustrate his learning, his acuteness, and his eloquence. His views onsome matters of ecclesiastical discipline were, indeed, too rigid; and,by a writer of the fifth century, [375:1] he has been described as anabettor of Novatianism; but his zeal and piety are universally admitted.He is said to have lost his life in the cause of Christianity; andthough he attests the heretical teaching of two of her chief pastors,the Church of Rome still honours him as a saint and a martyr.

Minucius Felix was the contemporary of Hippolytus. He was a Romanlawyer, and a convert from paganism. In his Dialogue, entitled"Octavius," the respective merits of Christianity and heathenism arediscussed with much vivacity. In point of style this little work issurpassed by none of the ecclesiastical writings of the period.

Another and a still more distinguished author, contemporary withHippolytus, was ORIGEN. He was born at Alexandria about A.D. 185; hisfather Leonides, who was a teacher of rhetoric, was a member of theChurch; and his son enjoyed the advantages of an excellent elementaryeducation. Origen, when very young, was required daily to commitprescribed portions of the Word of God to memory; and the child soonbecame intensely interested in the study of the sacred oracles. Thequestions which he proposed to his father, as he repeated his appointedtasks, displayed singular precocity of intellect; and Leonides rejoicedexceedingly as he observed from time to time the growing indications ofhis extraordinary genius. But, before Origen reached maturity, his goodparent fell a victim to the intolerance of the imperial laws. In thepersecution under Septimius Severus, when the young scholar was aboutseventeen years of age, Leonides was put into confinement, and thenbeheaded. He had a wife and seven children who were likely to be leftdestitute by his death; but Origen, who was his first born, afraid lesthis constancy should be overcome by the prospect of a beggared family,wrote a letter to him when he was in prison to encourage him tomartyrdom. "Stand steadfast, father," said the ardent youth, "and takecare not to desert your principles on our account." At this crisis hewould have exposed himself to martyrdom, had not his mother hid hisclothes, and thus prevented him from appearing in public.

When Leonides was put to death his property was confiscated, and hisfamily reduced to poverty. But Origen now attracted the notice of a richand noble lady of Alexandria, who received him into her house, andbecame his patron. He did not, however, remain long under her roof; ashe was soon able to earn a maintenance by teaching. He continued,meanwhile, to apply himself with amazing industry to the acquisition ofknowledge; and at length he began to be regarded as one of the mostlearned of the Christians. So great was his celebrity as a divine that,more than once during his life, whole synods of foreign bishopssolicited his advice and interference in the settlement of theologicalcontroversies.

Whilst Origen, by intense study, was constantly adding to hisintellectual treasures, he also improved his mind by travelling. Whenabout twenty-six years of age he made a journey to Rome; and hesubsequently visited Arabia, Palestine, Syria, Asia Minor, and Greece.As he passed through Palestine in A.D. 228, when he was in theforty-third year of his age, he was ordained a presbyter by some of thebishops of that country. He was now teacher of the catechetical schoolof Alexandria—an office in which he had succeeded Clement—and hisordination by the foreign pastors gave great offence to Demetrius, hisown bishop. It has been said that this haughty churchman was galled bythe superior reputation of the great scholar; and Origen, on his returnto Egypt, was exposed to an ecclesiastical persecution. An indiscreetact of his youth was now converted into a formidable accusation, [377:1]whilst some incautious speculations in which he had indulged were urgedas evidences of his unsoundness in the faith. His ordination waspronounced invalid; he was deprived of his appointment as president ofthe catechetical school; and he was excommunicated as a heretic. He nowretired to Caesarea, where he appears to have spent the greater portionof the remainder of his life. The sentence of excommunication wasannounced by Demetrius to the Churches abroad; but though it wasapproved at Rome and elsewhere, it was not recognised in Palestine,Phoenice, Arabia, and Achaia. At Caesarea, Origen established atheological seminary such as that over which he had so long presided atAlexandria; and, in this institute, some of the most eminent pastors ofthe third century received their education.

This great man throughout life practised extraordinary self-denial. Hisclothing was scarcely sufficient to protect him from the cold; he slepton the ground; he confined himself to the simplest fare; and for yearshe persisted in going barefoot. [377:2] But his austerities did notprevent him from acquiring a world-wide reputation. Pagan philosophersattended his lectures, and persons of the highest distinction sought hissociety. When Julia Mammaea, the mother of Alexander Severus, invitedhim to visit her, and when, in compliance with this summons, heproceeded to Antioch [377:3] escorted by a military guard, he must havebeen an object of no little curiosity to the Imperial courtiers. Itcould now no longer be said that the Christians were an illiterategeneration; as, in all that brilliant throng surrounding the throne ofthe Master of the Roman world, there was not, perhaps, one to becompared, with the poor catechist of Alexandria for varied and profoundscholarship. But his theological taste was sadly vitiated by his studyof the pagan philosophy. Clement, his early instructor, led him toentertain far too high an opinion of its excellence; and a subsequentteacher, Ammonius Saccas, the father of New Platonism, thoroughly imbuedhis mind with many of his own dangerous principles. According toAmmonius all systems of religion and philosophy contain the elements oftruth; and it is the duty of the wise man to trace out and exhibit theirharmony. The doctrines of Plato formed the basis of his creed, and itrequired no little ingenuity, to shew how all other theories quadratedwith the speculations of the Athenian sage. To establish his views, hewas obliged to draw much on his imagination, and to adopt modes ofexegesis the most extravagant and unwarrantable. The philosophy ofAmmonius exerted a very pernicious influence upon Origen, and seducedhim into not a few of those errors which have contributed so greatly tolower his repute as a theologian.

Origen was a most prolific author; and, if all his works were stillextant, they would be far more voluminous than those of any other of thefathers. But most of his writings have been lost; and, in not a fewinstances, those which remain have reached us either in a very mutilatedform, or in a garbled Latin version. His treatise "Against Celsus,"which was composed when he was advanced in life, and which is by far themost valuable of his existing works, has come down to us in a moreperfect state than, perhaps, any of his other productions. It is adefence of Christianity in reply to the publication of a witty heathenphilosopher who wrote against it in the time of the Antonines. [378:1]Of his celebrated "Hexapla," to which he is said to have devoted much ofhis time for eight and twenty years, only some fragments have beenpreserved. This great work appears to have been undertaken to meet thecavils of the Jews against the Septuagint—the Greek translation of theOld Testament in current use in the days of the apostles, and still mostappreciated by the Christians. The unbelieving Israelites now pronouncedit a corrupt version; and, that all might have an opportunity of judgingfor themselves, Origen exhibited the text in six consecutivecolumns—the first, containing the original Hebrew—the second, the samein Greek letters—and the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth, four of themost famous of the Greek translations, including the Septuagint. [379:1]The labour employed in the collation of manuscripts, when preparing thiswork, was truly prodigious. The expense, which must also have beengreat, is said to have been defrayed by Ambrosius, a wealthy Christianfriend, who placed at the disposal of the editor the constant servicesof seven amanuenses. By his "Hexapla" Origen did much to preserve thepurity of the sacred text, and he may be said to have thus laid thefoundations of the science of Scripture criticism.

This learned writer cannot be trusted as an interpreter of the inspiredoracles. Like the Jewish Cabbalists, of whom Philo, whose works he haddiligently studied, [379:2] is a remarkable specimen, he neglects theliteral sense of the Word, and betakes himself to mystical expositions.[379:3] In this way the divine record may be made to support anycrotchet which happens to please the fancy of the commentator. Origenmay, in fact, be regarded as the father of Christian mysticism; and, inafter-ages, to a certain class of visionaries, especially amongst themonks, his writings long continued to present peculiar attractions.

On doctrinal points his statements are not always consistent, so that itis extremely difficult to form anything like a correct idea of histheological sentiments. Thus, on the subject of the Trinity, hesometimes speaks most distinctly in the language of orthodoxy, whilstagain he employs phraseology which rather savours of the creed ofSabellius or of Arius. In his attempts to reconcile the gospel and hisphilosophy, he miserably compromised some of the most important truthsof Scripture. The fall of man seems to be not unfrequently repudiated inhis religious system; and yet, occasionally, it is distinctlyrecognized. [380:1] He maintained the pre-existence of human souls; heheld that the stars are animated beings; he taught that all men shallultimately attain happiness; and he believed that the devils themselvesshall eventually be saved. [380:2] It is abundantly clear that Origenwas a man of true piety. His whole life illustrates his self-denial, hissingle-mindedness, his delight in the Word of God, and his zeal for theadvancement of the kingdom of Christ. In the Decian persecution hesuffered nobly as a confessor; and the torture which he then enduredseems to have hastened his demise. But with all his learning he wasobviously deficient in practical sagacity; and though both his geniusand his eloquence were of a high order, he possessed scarcely even anaverage share of prudence and common sense. His writings diffused, notthe genial light of the Sun of Righteousness, but the mist and darknessof a Platonized Christianity. Though he induced many philosophers tobecome members of the Church, the value of these accessions was greatlydeteriorated by the daring spirit of speculation which they were stillencouraged to cultivate. Of his Christian courage, his industry, and hisinvincible perseverance, there can be no doubt. He closed a mostlaborious career at Tyre, A.D. 254, in the seventieth year of his age.

About the time of the death of Origen, a Latin author, whose writingsare still perused with interest, was beginning to attract much notice.CYPRIAN of Carthage, before his conversion to Christianity, was aprofessor of rhetoric and a gentleman of property. When he renouncedheathenism, he is supposed to have reached the mature age of forty-fiveor forty-six; and as he possessed rank, talent, and popular eloquence,he was deemed no ordinary acquisition to the Church. About two yearsafter his baptism, the chief pastor of the metropolis of the ProconsularAfrica was removed by death; and Cyprian, by the acclamations of theChristian people, was called to the vacant office. At that time thereseem to have been only eight presbyters, [381:1] or elders, connectedwith the bishopric of Carthage; but the city contained probably somehundreds of thousands of a population; and, though the episcopal dignitywas not without its perils, it did not want the attractions of wealthand influence. The advancement of Cyprian gave great offence to theother elders, who appear to have conceived that one of themselves, onthe ground of greater experience and more lengthened services, had abetter title to promotion. Though the new bishop was sustained by theenthusiastic support of the multitude, the presbytery contrived,notwithstanding, to give him considerable annoyance. Five of them,constituting a majority, formed themselves into a regular opposition;and for several years the Carthaginian Church was distracted by thestruggles between the bishop and his eldership.

The pastorate of Cyprian extended over a period of about ten years; butmeanwhile persecution raged, and the bishop was obliged to spend nearlythe one-third of his episcopal life in retirement and in exile. From hisretreat he kept up a communication by letters with his flock. [382:1]The worship and constitution of the Church about the middle of the thirdcentury may be ascertained pretty clearly from the Cyprianiccorrespondence. Some of the letters addressed to the Carthaginianbishop, as well as those dictated by him, are still extant; and as hemaintained an epistolary intercourse with Rome, Cappadocia, and otherplaces, the documents known as the Cyprianic writings, [382:2] areamongst the most important of the ancient ecclesiastical memorials. Thiseminent pastor has also left behind him several short treatises ontopics which were then attracting public attention. Among these may bementioned his tracts on "The Unity of the Church," "The Lord's Prayer,""The Vanity of Idols," "The Grace of God," "The Dress of Virgins," and"The Benefit of Patience."

The writings of Cyprian have long been noted for their orthodoxy; andyet it must be admitted that his hierarchical prejudices stunted hischarity and obscured his intellectual vision. Tertullian was hisfavourite author; and it is evident that he possessed much of thecontracted spirit and of the stiff formalism of the great Carthaginianpresbyter. He speaks in more exalted terms of the authority of bishopsthan any preceding writer. It is not improbable that the attempts of hisdiscontented elders to curb his power inflamed his old aristocratichauteur, and thus led to a reaction; and that, supported by the popularvoice, he was tempted absurdly to magnify his office, and to stretch hisprerogative beyond the bounds of its legitimate exercise. His namecarried with it great influence, and from his time episcopal pretensionsadvanced apace.

Cyprian was martyred about A.D. 258 in the Valerian persecution. As hewas a man of rank, and perhaps personally related to some of theimperial officers at Carthage, he seems to have been treated, when aprisoner, with unusual respect and indulgence. On the evening before hisdeath an elegant supper was provided for him, and he was permitted toenjoy the society of a numerous party of his friends. When he reachedthe spot where he was to suffer, he was subjected to no lingeringtorments; for his head was severed from his body by a single stroke ofthe executioner. [383:1]

The only other writer of note who flourished after Cyprian, in the thirdcentury, [383:2] was Gregory, surnamed Thaumaturgus, or TheWonder-Worker. He belonged to a pagan family of distinction; and, whena youth, was intended for the profession of the law; but, becomingacquainted with Origen at Caesarea in Palestine, he was induced toembrace the Christian faith, and relinquish flattering prospects ofsecular promotion. He became subsequently the bishop of Neo-Caesarea inPontus. When he entered on his charge he is said to have had acongregation of only seventeen individuals; but his ministry must havebeen singularly successful; for, according to tradition, all theinhabitants of the city, with seventeen exceptions, were, at the time ofhis death, members of the Church. The reports respecting him areobviously exaggerated, and no credit can be attached to the narrative ofhis miracles. [384:1] He wrote several works, of which his "Panegyric onOrigen," and his "Paraphrase on Ecclesiastes," are still extant. Thegenuineness of some other tracts ascribed to him may be fairlychallenged.

The preceding account of the fathers of the second and third centuriesmay enable us to form some idea of the value of these writers asecclesiastical authorities. Most of them had reached maturity beforethey embraced the faith of the gospel, so that, with a few exceptions,they wanted the advantages of an early Christian education. Some ofthem, before their conversion, had bestowed much time and attention onthe barren speculations of the pagan philosophers; and, after theirreception into the bosom of the Church, they still continued to pursuethe same unprofitable studies. Cyprian, one of the most eloquent ofthese fathers, had been baptized only about two years before he waselected bishop of Carthage; and, during his comparatively shortepiscopate, he was generally in a turmoil of excitement, and had,consequently, little leisure for reading or mental cultivation. Such awriter is not entitled to command confidence as an expositor of thefaith once delivered to the saints. Even in our own day, with all thefacilities supplied by printing for the rapid accumulation of knowledge,no one would expect much spiritual instruction from an author who wouldundertake the office of an interpreter of Scripture two years after hisconversion from heathenism. The fathers of the second and thirdcenturies were not regarded as safe guides even by their Christiancontemporaries. Tatian was the founder of a sect of extremeTeetotallers. [383:1] Tertullian, who, in point of learning, vigour, andgenius, stands at the head of the Latin writers of this period, wasconnected with a party of gloomy fanatics. Origen, the most voluminousand erudite of the Greek fathers, was excommunicated as a heretic. If weestimate these authors, as they were appreciated by the early Church ofRome, we must pronounce their writings of little value. Tertullian, as aMontanist, was under the ban of the Roman bishop. Hippolytus could nothave been a favourite with either Zephyrinus or Callistus, for hedenounced both as heretics. Origen was treated by the Roman Church as aman under sentence of excommunication. Stephen deemed even Cyprianunworthy of his ecclesiastical fellowship, because the Carthaginianprelate maintained the propriety of rebaptizing heretics.

Nothing can be more unsatisfactory, or rather childish, than theexplanations of Holy Writ sometimes given by these ancient expositors.According to Tertullian, the two sparrows mentioned in the New Testament[383:2] signify the soul and the body; [383:3] and Clemens Alexandrinusgravely pleads for marriage [383:4] from the promise-"Where two or threeare gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."[383:5] Cyprian produces, as an argument in support of the doctrine ofthe Trinity, that the Jews observed "the third, sixth, and ninth hours"as their "fixed and lawful seasons for prayer." [383:6] Origenrepresents the heavenly bodies as literally engaged in acts of devotion.[386:1] If these authorities are to be credited, the Gihon, one of therivers of Paradise, was no other than the Nile. [386:2] Very few of thefathers of this period were acquainted with Hebrew, so that, as a class,they were miserably qualified for the interpretation of the Scriptures.Even Origen himself must have had a very imperfect knowledge of thelanguage of the Old Testament. [386:3] In consequence of their literarydeficiencies, the fathers of the second and third centuries occasionallycommit the most ridiculous blunders. Thus, Irenaeus tells us that thename Jesus in Hebrew consists of two letters and a half, and describesit as signifying "that Lord who contains heaven and earth!" [386:4] Thisfather asserts also that the Hebrew word Adonai, or the Lord, denotes"utterable and wonderful." [386:5] Clemens Alexandrinus is not moresuccessful as an interpreter of the sacred tongue of the chosen people;for he asserts that Jacob was called Israel "because he had seen theLord God," [386:6] and he avers that Abraham means "the elect fatherof a sound!" [386:7] Justin Martyr errs egregiously in his references tothe Old Testament; as he cites Isaiah for Jeremiah, [386:8] Zechariahfor Malachi, [386:9] Zephaniah for Zechariah, [386:10] and Jeremiah forDaniel. [386:11] Irenaeus repeats, as an apostolic tradition, that whenour Lord acted as a public teacher He was between forty and fifty yearsof age; [387:1] and Tertullian affirms that He was about thirty years ofa*ge at the time of His crucifixion. [387:2] The opinion of this samewriter in reference to angels is still more extraordinary. He maintainsthat some of these beings, captivated by the beauty of the daughters ofmen, came down from heaven and married them; and that, out ofcomplaisance to their brides, they communicated to them the arts ofpolishing and setting precious stones, of preparing cosmetics, and ofusing other appliances which minister to female vanity. [387:3] Hisideas upon topics of a different character are equally singular. Thus,he affirms that the soul is corporeal, having length, breadth, height,and figure. [387:4] He even goes so far as to say that there is nosubstance which is not corporeal, and that God himself is a body.[387:5]

It would seem as if the Great Head of the Church permitted these earlywriters to commit the grossest mistakes, and to propound the mostfoolish theories, for the express purpose of teaching us that we are notimplicitly to follow their guidance. It might have been thought thatauthors, who flourished on the borders of apostolic times, knew more ofthe mind of the Spirit than others who appeared in succeeding ages; butthe truths of Scripture, like the phenomena of the visible creation, areequally intelligible to all generations. If we possess spiritualdiscernment, the trees and the flowers will display the wisdom and thegoodness of God as distinctly to us as they did to our first parents;and, if we have the "unction from the Holy One," we may enter into themeaning of the Scriptures as fully as did Justin Martyr or Irenaeus. Toassist us in the interpretation of the New Testament, we have at commanda critical apparatus of which they were unable to avail themselves.Jehovah is jealous of the honour of His Word, and He has inscribed inletters of light over the labours of its most ancient interpreters—"CEASE YE FROM MAN." The "opening of the Scriptures," so as to exhibittheir beauty, their consistency, their purity, their wisdom, and theirpower, is the clearest proof that the commentator is possessed of "thekey of knowledge." When tried by this test, Thomas Scott or MatthewHenry is better entitled to confidence than either Origen or GregoryThaumaturgus. The Bible is its own safest expositor. "The law of theLord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure,making wise the simple."


The Epistles attributed to Ignatius have attracted greater notice, andhave created more discussion, than any other uninspired writings of thesame extent in existence. The productions ascribed to this author, andnow reputed genuine by the most learned of their recent editors, mightall be printed on the one-fourth of a page of an ordinary newspaper; andyet, the fatigue of travelling thousands of miles has been encountered,[389:1] for the special purpose of searching after correct copies ofthese highly-prized memorials. Large volumes have been written, eitherto establish their authority, or to prove that they are forgeries; and,if collected together, the books in various languages to which they havegiven birth, would themselves form a considerable library. Recentdiscoveries have thrown new light on their pretensions, but though thecontroversy has now continued upwards of three hundred years, it has nothitherto reached a satisfactory termination. [390:1]

The Ignatian letters owe almost all their importance to the circ*mstancethat they are alleged to have been written on the confines of theapostolic age. As very few records remain to illustrate theecclesiastical history of that period, it is not strange that epistles,purporting to have emanated from one of the most distinguished ministerswho then flourished, should have excited uncommon attention. But doubtsregarding their genuineness have always been entertained by candid andcompetent scholars. The spirit of sectarianism has entered largely intothe discussion of their claims; and, whilst certain distinct referencesto the subject of Church polity, which they contain, have greatlyenhanced their value in the estimation of one party, the same passageshave been quoted, by those who repudiate their authority, as so manydecisive proofs of their fabrication. The annals of literature furnish,perhaps, scarcely any other case in which ecclesiastical prejudices havebeen so much mixed up with a question of mere criticism.

The history of the individual to whom these letters have been ascribed,has been so metamorphosed by fables, that it is now, perhaps, impossibleto ascertain its true outlines. There is a tradition that he was thechild whom our Saviour set in the midst of His disciples as a pattern ofhumility; [390:2] and as our Lord, on the occasion, took up the littlepersonage in His arms, it has been asserted that Ignatius was thereforesurnamed Theophorus, that is, borne or carried by God. [390:3]Whatever may be thought as to the truth of this story, it probably givesa not very inaccurate view of the date of his birth; for he was, in alllikelihood, far advanced in life [391:1] at the period when he issupposed to have written these celebrated letters. According to thecurrent accounts, he was the second bishop of Antioch at the time of hismartyrdom; and as his age would lead us to infer that he was then thesenior member of the presbytery, [391:2] the tradition may have thusoriginated. It is alleged that when Trajan visited the capital of Syriain the ninth year of his reign, or A.D. 107, Ignatius voluntarilypresented himself before the imperial tribunal, and avowed hisChristianity. It is added, that he was in consequence condemned to becarried a prisoner to Rome, there to be consigned to the wild beasts forthe entertainment of the populace. On his way to the Western metropolis,he is said to have stopped at Smyrna. The legend represents Polycarp asthen the chief pastor of that city; and, when there, Ignatius isdescribed as having received deputations from the neighbouring churches,and as having addressed to them several letters. From Smyrna he isreported to have proceeded to Troas; where he dictated some additionalepistles, including one to Polycarp. The claims of these letters to beconsidered his genuine productions have led to the controversy which weare now to notice.

The story of Ignatius exhibits many marks of error and exaggeration; andyet it is no easy matter to determine how much of it should bepronounced fictitious. Few, perhaps, will venture to assert that theaccount of his martyrdom is to be rejected as altogether apocryphal; andstill fewer will go so far as to maintain that he is a purely imaginarycharacter. There is every reason to believe that, very early in thesecond century, he was connected with the Church of Antioch; and that,about the same period, he suffered unto death in the cause ofChristianity. Pliny, who was then Proconsul of Bithynia, mentions that,as he did not well know, in the beginning of his administration, how todeal with the accused Christians, he sent those of them who were Romancitizens to the Emperor, that he might himself pronounce judgment.[392:1] It is possible that the chief magistrate of Syria pursued thesame course; and that thus Ignatius was transmitted as a prisoner intoItaly. But, upon some such substratum of facts, a mass of incongruousfictions has been erected. The "Acts of his Martyrdom," still extant,and written probably upwards of a hundred years after his demise, cannotstand the test of chronological investigation; and have evidently beencompiled by some very superstitious and credulous author. According tothese Acts, Ignatius was condemned by Trajan at Antioch in the ninth[392:2] year of his reign; but it has been contended that, not untillong afterwards, was the Emperor in the Syrian capital. [392:3] In the"Acts," Ignatius is described as presenting himself before his sovereignof his own accord, to proclaim his Christianity—a piece offoolhardiness for which it is difficult to discover any reasonableapology. The report of the interview between Ignatius and Trajan, asgiven in this document, would, if believed, abundantly warrant theconclusion that the martyr must have entirely lost the humility forwhich he is said to have obtained credit when a child; as his conduct,in the presence of the Emperor, betrays no small amount of boastfulnessand presumption. The account of his transmission to Rome, that he mightbe thrown to wild beasts, presents difficulties with which even the mostzealous defenders of his legendary history have found it impossible tograpple. He was sent away, say they, to the Italian metropolis that thesight of so distinguished a victim passing through so many cities on hisway to a cruel death might strike terror into the hearts of theChristian inhabitants. But we are told that he was conveyed from Syriato Smyrna by water, [393:1] so that the explanation is quiteunsatisfactory; and, had the journey been accomplished by land, it wouldstill be insufficient, as the disciples of that age were unhappily onlytoo familiar with spectacles of Christian martyrdom. Our perplexityincreases as we proceed more minutely to investigate the circ*mstancesunder which the epistles are reported to have been composed. WhilstIgnatius is said to have been hurried with great violence and barbarityfrom the East to the West, he is at the same time represented, withstrange inconsistency, as remaining for many days together in the sameplace, [393:2] as receiving visitors from the churches all around, andas writing magniloquent epistles. What is still more remarkable, thoughhe was pressed by the soldiers to hasten forward, and though aprosperous gale speedily carried his vessel into Italy, [394:1] one ofthese letters is supposed to outstrip the rapidity of his own progress,and to reach Rome before himself and his impatient escort!

Early in the fourth century at least seven epistles attributed toIgnatius were in circulation, for Eusebius of Caesarea, who thenflourished, distinctly mentions so many, and states to whom they wereaddressed. From Smyrna the martyr is said to have written fourletters—one to the Ephesians, another to the Magnesians, a third to theTrallians, and a fourth to the Romans. From Troas he is reported to havewritten three additional letters—one to Polycarp, a second to theSmyrnaeans, and a third to the Philadelphians. [394:2] At a subsequentperiod eight more epistles made their appearance, including two to theApostle John, one to the Virgin Mary, one to Maria Cassobolita, one tothe Tarsians, one to the Philippians, one to the Antiochians, and one toHero the deacon. Thus, no less than fifteen epistles claim Ignatius ofAntioch as their author.

It is unnecessary to discuss the merits of the eight letters unknown toEusebius. They were probably all fabricated after the time of thathistorian; and critics have long since concurred in rejecting them asspurious. Until recently, those engaged in the Ignatian controversy wereoccupied chiefly with the examination of the claims of the documentsmentioned by the bishop of Caesarea. Here, however, the strangevariations in the copies tended greatly to complicate the discussion.The letters of different manuscripts, when compared together, disclosedextraordinary discrepancies; for, whilst all the codices contained muchof the same matter, a letter in one edition was, in some cases, aboutdouble the length of the corresponding letter in another. Some writerscontended for the genuineness of the shorter epistles, and representedthe larger as made up of the true text extended by interpolations;whilst others pronounced the larger letters the originals, and condemnedthe shorter as unsatisfactory abridgments. [395:1] But, though botheditions found most erudite and zealous advocates, many critics ofeminent ability continued to look with distrust upon the text, as wellof the shorter, as of the larger letters; whilst not a few were disposedto suspect that Ignatius had no share whatever in the composition of anyof these documents.

In the year 1845 a new turn was given to this controversy by thepublication of a Syriac version of three of the Ignatian letters. Theywere printed from a manuscript deposited in 1843 in the British Museum,and obtained, shortly before, from a monastery in the desert of Nitriain Egypt. The work was dedicated by permission to the Archbishop ofCanterbury, and the views propounded in it were understood to have thesanction of the English metropolitan. [395:2] Dr Cureton, the editor,has since entered more fully into the discussion of the subject in his"Corpus Ignatianum" [395:3]—a volume dedicated to His Royal Highnessthe Prince Albert, in which the various texts of all the epistles areexhibited, and in which the claims of the three recently discoveredletters, as the only genuine productions of Ignatius, are ingeniouslymaintained. In the Syriac copies, [396:1] these letters are styled "TheThree Epistles of Ignatius, Bishop, and Martyr," and thus the inferenceis suggested that, at one time, they were the only three epistles inexistence. Dr Cureton's statements have obviously made a greatimpression upon the mind of the literary public, and there seems atpresent to be a pretty general disposition in certain quarters [396:2]to discard all the other epistles as forgeries, and to accept thosepreserved in the Syriac version as the veritable compositions of thepastor of Antioch.

It must be obvious from the foregoing explanations that increasing lighthas wonderfully diminished the amount of literature which once obtainedcredit under the name of the venerable Ignatius. In the sixteenthcentury he was reputed by many as the author of fifteen letters: it wassubsequently discovered that eight of them must be set aside asapocryphal: farther investigation convinced critics that considerableportions of the remaining seven must be rejected: and when the shorttext of these epistles was published, [396:3] about the middle of theseventeenth century, candid scholars confessed that it still betrayedunequivocal indications of corruption. [396:4] But even some Protestantwriters of the highest rank stoutly upheld their claims, and the learnedPearson devoted years to the preparation of a defence of theirauthority. [397:1] His "Vindiciae Ignatianae" has long been consideredby a certain party as unanswerable; and, though the publication has beenread by very few, [397:2] the advocates of what are called "High-Churchprinciples" have been reposing for nearly two centuries under the shadowof its reputation. The critical labours of Dr Cureton have somewhatdisturbed their dream of security, as that distinguished scholar hasadduced very good evidence to shew that about three-fourths of thematter [397:3] which the Bishop of Chester spent a considerable portionof his mature age in attempting to prove genuine, is the work of animpostor. It is now admitted by the highest authorities that four ofthe seven short letters must be given up as spurious; and the remainingthree, which are addressed respectively to Polycarp, to the Ephesians,and to the Romans, and which are found in the Syriac version, are muchshorter even than the short epistles which had already appeared underthe same designations. The Epistle to Polycarp, the shortest of theseven letters in preceding editions, is here presented in a still moreabbreviated form; the Epistle to the Romans wants fully the one-third ofits previous matter; and the Epistle to the Ephesians has lost nearlythree-fourths of its contents. Nor is this all. In the Syriac version alarge fragment of one of the four recently rejected letters reappears;as the new edition of the Epistle to the Romans contains two entireparagraphs to be found in the discarded letter to the Trallians.

It is only due to Dr Cureton to acknowledge that his publications havethrown immense light on this tedious and keenly agitated controversy.But, unquestionably, he has not exhausted the discussion. Instead ofabruptly adopting the conclusion that the three letters of the Syriacversion are to be received as genuine, we conceive he would have arguedmore logically had he inferred that they reveal one of the earliestforms of a gross imposture. We are persuaded that the epistles he hasedited, as well as all the others previously published, are fictitious;and we shall endeavour to demonstrate, in the sequel of this chapter,that the external evidence in their favour is most unsatisfactory.

When discussing the testimonies from the writers of antiquity in theirsupport, it is not necessary to examine any later witness than Eusebius.The weight of his literary character influenced all succeeding fathers,some of whom, who appear never to have seen these documents, refer tothem on the strength of his authority. [398:1] In his "EcclesiasticalHistory," which was published as some think about A.D. 325, he assertsthat Ignatius wrote seven letters, and from these he makes a fewquotations. [398:2] But his admission of the genuineness of acorrespondence, bearing date upwards of two hundred years before his ownappearance as an author, is an attestation of very doubtful value. Heoften makes mistakes respecting the character of ecclesiasticalmemorials; and in one memorable case, of far more consequence than thatnow under consideration, he has blundered most egregiously; for he haspublished, as genuine, the spurious correspondence between Abgarus andour Saviour. [399:1] He was under strong temptations to form an undulyfavourable judgment of the letters attributed to Ignatius, inasmuch as,to use the words of Dr Cureton, "they seemed to afford evidence to theapostolic succession in several churches, an account of which heprofesses to be one of the chief objects of his history." [399:2] Hisreference to them is decisive as to the fact of their existence in theearly part of the fourth century; but those who adopt the viewspropounded in the "Corpus Ignatianum," are not prepared to bow to hiscritical decision; for, on this very occasion, he has given his sanctionto four letters which they pronounce apocryphal.

The only father who notices these letters before the fourth century, isOrigen. He quotes from them twice; [399:3] the citations which he givesare to be found in the Syriac version of the three epistles; [399:4] andit would appear from his writings that he was not acquainted with theseven letters current in the days of Eusebius. [399:5] Those to which herefers were, perhaps, brought under his notice when he went to Antiochon the invitation of Julia Mammaea, the mother of the Emperor; as, forreasons subsequently to be stated, it is probable that they weremanufactured in that neighbourhood not long before his visit. Ifpresented to him at that time by parties interested in the recognitionof their claims, they were, under the circ*mstances, exactly suchdocuments as were likely to impose upon him; for the student of Philo,and the author of the "Exhortation to Martyrdom," could not but admirethe spirit of mysticism by which they are pervaded, and the anxiety todie under persecution which they proclaim. Whilst, therefore, hisquotation of these letters attests their existence in his time, it is ofvery little additional value. Again and again in his writings we meetwith notices of apocryphal works unaccompanied by any intimations oftheir spuriousness. [400:1] He asserts that Barnabas, the author of theepistle still extant under his name, [400:2] was the individualmentioned in the Acts of the Apostles as the companion of Paul; and hefrequently quotes the "Pastor" of Hermas [400:3] as a book given byinspiration of God. [400:4] Such facts abundantly prove that hisrecognition of the Ignatian epistles is a very equivocal criterion oftheir genuineness.

Attempts have been made to shew that two other writers, earlier thanOrigen, have noticed the Ignatian correspondence; and Eusebius himselfhas quoted Polycarp and Irenaeus as if bearing witness in its favour.Polycarp in early life was contemporary with the pastor of Antioch; andIrenaeus is said to have been the disciple of Polycarp; and, could it bedemonstrated that either of these fathers vouched for its genuineness,the testimony would be of peculiar importance. But, when their evidenceis examined, it is found to be nothing to the purpose. In the Treatiseagainst Heresies, Irenaeus speaks, in the following terms, of theheroism of a Christian martyr—"One of our people said, when condemnedto the beasts on account of his testimony towards God—As I am the wheatof God, I am also ground by the teeth of beasts, that I may be found thepure bread of God." [400:5] These words of the martyr are found in theSyriac Epistle to the Romans, and hence it has been inferred that theyare a quotation from that letter. But it is far more probable that thewords of the letter were copied out of Irenaeus, and quietlyappropriated, by a forger, to the use of his Ignatius, with a view toobtain credit for a false document. The individual who uttered them isnot named by the pastor of Lyons; and, after the death of that writer, afabricator might put them into the mouth of whomsoever he pleasedwithout any special danger of detection. The Treatise against Heresiesobtained extensive circulation; and as it animadverted on errors whichhad been promulgated in Antioch, [401:1] it, no doubt, soon found itsway into the Syrian capital. [401:2] But who can believe that Irenaeusdescribes Ignatius, when he speaks of "one of our people?" The martyrwas not such an insignificant personage that he could be thus ignored.He was one of the most eminent Christians of his age—the companion ofapostles—and the presiding minister of one of the most influentialChurches in the world. Irenaeus is obviously alluding to some disciplewho occupied a very different position. He is speaking, not of what themartyr wrote, but of what he said—not of his letters, but of hiswords. Any reader who considers the situation of Irenaeus a few yearsbefore he published this treatise, can have no difficulty inunderstanding the reference. He had witnessed at Lyons one of the mostterrible persecutions the disciples ever had endured; and, in the letterto the Churches of Asia and Phrygia, he had graphically described itshorrors. [401:3] He there tells how his brethren had been condemned tobe thrown to wild beasts, and he records with simplicity and pathos theconstancy with which they suffered. But in such an epistle he could notnotice every case which had come under his observation, and he herementions a new instance of the Christian courage of some believerunknown to fame, when he states—"one of our people when condemned tothe beasts, said, 'As I am the wheat of God, I am also ground by theteeth of beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of God.'"

The Treatise against Heresies supplies the clearest evidence thatIrenaeus was quite ignorant of the existence of the Ignatian epistles.These letters contain pointed references to the errorists of the earlyChurch, and had they been known to the pastor of Lyons, he could havebrought them to bear with most damaging effect against the heretics heassailed. Ignatius was no ordinary witness, for he had heard the truthfrom the lips of the apostles; he had spent a long life in the societyof the primitive disciples; and he filled one of the most responsiblestations that a Christian minister could occupy. The heretics boldlyaffirmed that they had tradition on their side, [402:1] and thereforethe testimony of Ignatius, as of an individual who had receivedtradition at the fountain-head, would have been regarded by Irenaeus asall-important. And the author of the Treatise against Heresies was notslow to employ such evidence when it was in any way available. He plieshis antagonists with the testimony of Clement of Rome, [402:2] ofPolycarp [402:3] of Papias, [402:4] and of Justin Martyr. [402:5] Butthroughout the five books of his discussion he never adduces any of thewords of the pastor of Antioch. He never throws out any hint from whichwe can infer that he was aware of the existence of his Epistles. [402:6]He never even mentions his name. Could we desire more convincing proofthat he had never heard of the Ignatian correspondence?

The only other witness now remaining to be examined is Polycarp. It hasoften been affirmed that he distinctly acknowledges the authority ofthese letters; and yet, when honestly interrogated, he will be found todeliver quite a different deposition. But, before proceeding to considerhis testimony, let us inquire his age when his epistle was written. Itbears the following superscription:—"Polycarp, and the elders who arewith him, to the Church of God which is at Philippi." At this time,therefore, though the early Christians paid respect to hoary hairs, andwere not willing to permit persons without experience to take precedenceof their seniors, Polycarp must have been at the head of the presbytery.But, at the death of Ignatius, when according to the current theory hedictated this letter, he was a young man of six and twenty. [403:1] Sucha supposition is very much out of keeping with the tone of the document.In it he admonishes the widows to be sober; [403:2] he gives advice tothe elders and deacons; [403:3] he expresses his great concern forValens, an erring brother, who had once been a presbyter among them;[403:4] and he intimates that the epistle was written at the urgentrequest of the Philippians themselves. [403:5] Is it at all probablethat Polycarp, at the age of six and twenty, was in a position towarrant him to use such a style of address? Are we to believe he wasalready so well known and so highly venerated that a Christian communityon the other side of the Aegean Sea, and the oldest Church in allGreece, would apply to him for advice and direction? We must be preparedto admit all this, before we can acknowledge that his epistle refers toIgnatius of Antioch.

Let us attend now to that passage in the letter to the Philippians wherehe is supposed to speak of the Syrian pastor. "I exhort all of you thatye obey the word of righteousness, and exercise all patience, which yehave seen set forth before your eyes, not only in the blessed Ignatius,and Zosimus, and Rufus, but also in others of you." [404:1] These wordswould suggest to an ordinary reader that Polycarp is here speaking, notof Ignatius of Antioch, but of an Ignatius of Philippi. If this Ignatiusdid not belong to the Philippian Church, why, when addressing itsmembers, does he speak of Ignatius, Zosimus, Rufus, and "others of you?"Ignatius of Antioch could not have been thus described. But who, it maybe asked, were Zosimus and Rufus here mentioned as fellow-sufferers withIgnatius? They were exactly in the position which the words of Polycarpliterally indicate; they were men of Philippi; and, as such, they arecommemorated in the "Martyrologies." [404:2] It is impossible,therefore, to avoid the conclusion that the Ignatius of Polycarp wasalso a Philippian.

It appears, then, that this testimony of the pastor of Smyrna has beenstrangely misunderstood. Ignatius, as is well known, was not a veryuncommon name; and it would seem that several martyrs of the ancientChurch bore this designation. Cyprian, for example, tells us of anIgnatius in Africa who was put to death for the profession ofChristianity in the former part of the third century. [405:1] It isapparent from the words of Polycarp that there was also an Ignatius ofPhilippi, as well as an Ignatius of Antioch.

It may, however, be objected that the conclusion of this letter clearlypoints to Ignatius of Antioch, inasmuch as Polycarp there speaksapparently of Syria, and of some one interested about Ignatius whomight shortly visit that country. [405:2] Some critics of high name havemaintained that this portion of the epistle is destitute of authority,and that it has been added by a later hand to countenance the Ignatianforgery. [405:3] But every candid and discriminating reader may see thatthe charge is destitute of foundation. An Ignatian interpolator wouldnot have so mismanaged his business. He would not have framed anappendix which, as we shall presently shew, testifies against himself.The passage to which such exception has been taken is unquestionably thetrue postscript of the letter, for it bears internal marks ofgenuineness.

In this postscript Polycarp says—"What you know certainly both ofIgnatius himself, and of those who are with him, communicate." [405:4]Here is another proof that the Ignatius of Polycarp is not Ignatius ofAntioch. The Syrian pastor is said to have been hurried with the utmostexpedition to Rome that he might be thrown to the beasts before theapproaching termination of the public spectacles; and it is reportedthat when he reached the great city, he was forthwith consigned tomartyrdom. [406:1] But, though letters had been meanwhile passingbetween Philippi and Smyrna, this Ignatius is understood to be stillalive. It would appear, too, that Zosimus and Rufus, previously named ashis partners in tribulation, continued to be his companions. Polycarp,therefore, must be speaking of the "patience" of confessors who were yet"in bonds," [406:2] and not of a man who had already been devoured bythe lions.

Other parts of this postscript are equally embarrassing to those whocontend for the authority of the Ignatian Epistles. Thus, Polycarpsays—"The Epistles of Ignatius which were sent to you by him, andwhatever others we have by us, we have sent to you." [406:3] If thesewords apply to Ignatius of Antioch, it follows that he must have writtenseveral letters to the Philippians; and yet it in now almostuniversally admitted that even the one extant epistle addressed to themin his name is an impudent fabrication. Again, Polycarp states—"Ye havewritten to me, both ye and Ignatius, that when any one goes to Syria, hecan carry my letters to you." [406:4] But no such suggestion is to befound, either in the Syriac version of the Three Epistles, or in thelarger edition known to Eusebius. Could we desire clearer proof thatPolycarp must here be speaking of another Ignatius, and anothercorrespondence?

The words which we have last quoted deserve an attentive consideration.Were a citizen of New York, in the postscript of a letter to a citizenof London, to suggest that his correspondent should take an opportunityof writing to him, when any common friend went to Jerusalem, theEnglishman might well feel perplexed by such a communication. Why shoulda letter from London to New York travel round by Palestine? Such anarrangement would not, however, be a whit more absurd than thatseemingly pointed out in this postscript. Philippi and Smyrna were notfar distant, and there was considerable intercourse between them; butSyria was in another quarter of the Empire, and Polycarp could haverarely found an individual passing to Antioch from "the chief city" of a"part of Macedonia," and travelling to and fro by Smyrna. Thisdifficulty admits, however, of a very simple and satisfactory solution.We have no entire copy of the epistle in the original Greek, [407:1] andthe text of the old Latin version in this place is so corrupt that it ispartially unintelligible; [407:2] but as the context often guides us inthe interpretation of a manuscript where it is blotted or torn, so hereit may enable us to spell out the meaning. The insertion of one letterand the change of another in a single word [407:3] will render thepassage intelligible. If we read Smyrna for Syria, the obscurityvanishes. Polycarp then says to the Philippians—"Ye have written to me,both ye and Ignatius, that, when any one goes to Smyrna, he can carry myletters to you." The postscript, thus understood, refers to the desireof his correspondents, that he should write frequently, and that, when afriend went from Philippi to Smyrna, he should not be permitted toreturn without letters.

As it can be thus shewn that the letter of Polycarp, when tested byimpartial criticism, refuses to accredit the Epistles ascribed toIgnatius of Antioch, it follows that, with the single exception ofOrigen, no father of the first three centuries has noticed thiscorrespondence. Had these letters, at the alleged date of theirappearance, attracted such attention as they would themselves lead us tobelieve, is it possible that no writer for upwards of a century afterthe demise of their reputed author, would have bestowed upon them even apassing recognition? They convey the impression that, when Ignatius wason his way to Rome, all Asia Minor was moved at his presence—thatGreece caught the infection of excitement—and that the Western capitalitself awaited, with something like breathless anxiety, the arrival ofthe illustrious martyr. Strange, indeed, then that even his letter tothe Romans is mentioned by no Western father until between two and threehundred years after the time of its assumed publication! Nor wereWestern writers wanting who would have sympathised with its spirit. Itwould have been quite to the taste of Tertullian, and he could havequoted it to shew that some of the peculiar principles of Montanism hadbeen held by a man of the apostolic era. Nor can it be said that had theletter then been in existence, it was likely to have escaped hisobservation. He had lived for years in Rome, and we have good reason tobelieve that he was a presbyter of the Church of the Imperial city. Aman of his inquiring spirit, and literary habits, must have been wellacquainted with the Epistle had it obtained currency in Italy. But innot one of his numerous treatises does he ever speak of it, or even nameits alleged author. [409:1] Hippolytus of Portus is another writer whomight have been expected to know something of this production. He livedwithin a few miles of Rome, and he was conversant with the history ofits Church and with its ecclesiastical memorials. He, as well asTertullian, could have sympathised with the rugged and ascetic spiritpervading the Ignatian correspondence. But, even in his treatise againstall heresies, he has not fortified his arguments by any testimony fromthese letters. He had evidently never heard, of the now far fameddocuments. [409:2]

The conclusion to be drawn from these facts must be sufficientlyobvious. The Ignatian Epistles began to be fabricated in the time ofOrigen; and the first edition of them appeared, not at Troas or Smyrna,but in Syria or Palestine. At an early period festivals were kept inhonour of the martyrs; and on his natal day, [409:3] why should not theChurch of Antioch have something to tell of her great Ignatius? The Actsof his Martyrdom were probably written in the former part of the thirdcentury—a time when the work of ecclesiastical forgery was rife[409:4]—and the Epistle to the Romans, which is inserted in these Acts,is in all likelihood of earlier date than any of the other letters. TheEpistle to the Ephesians, perhaps, next made its appearance, and thenfollowed the Epistle to Polycarp. These letters gradually crept intocirculation as "The Three Epistles of Ignatius, Bishop, and Martyr."There is every reason to believe that, as edited by Dr Cureton, they arenow presented to the public in their original language, as well as intheir original form. Copies of these short letters are not known to beextant in any manuscript either Greek or Latin. Dr Cureton has notattempted any explanation of this emphatic fact. If the Epistle to theRomans, in its newly discovered form, is genuine, how does it happenthat there are no previous traces of its existence in the WesternChurch? How are we to account for the extraordinary circ*mstance thatthe Church of Rome can produce no copy of it in either Greek or Latin?She had every reason to preserve such a document had it ever come intoher possession; for, even considered as a pious fraud of the thirdcentury, the address "to her who sitteth at the head in the place ofthe country of the Romans," [410:1] is one of the most ancienttestimonies to her early pre-eminence to be found in the whole range ofecclesiastical literature. Why should she have permitted it to besupplanted by an interpolated document? Can any man, who adopts theviews of Dr Cureton, fairly answer such an inquiry?

It is plain that the mistake or corruption of a word in the postscriptof the Epistle of Polycarp has had much to do with this Ignatianimposture. In some worn or badly written manuscript, Syria was perhapsread instead of Smyrna, and the false reading probably led to theincubation of the whole brood of Ignatian letters. The error, whether ofaccident or design, was adopted by Eusebius, [411:1] and from him passedinto general currency. We may thus best account for the strangemultiplication of these Ignatian epistles. It was clear that theIgnatius spoken of by Polycarp had written more letters than what firstappeared, [411:2] and thus the epistles to the Smyrnaeans, theMagnesians, the Trallians, and the Philadelphians, in due time emergedinto notice. At a subsequent date the letters to the Philippians, theAntiochians, the Virgin Mary, and others, were forthcoming.

The variety of forms assumed by this Ignatian fraud is not the leastremarkable circ*mstance connected with its mysterious history. All theseven Epistles mentioned by Eusebius exist in a Longer and a ShorterRecension; whilst the Syriac version exhibits three of them in a reducedsize, and a third edition. It is a curious fact that other spuriousproductions display similar transformations. "A great number ofspurious or interpolated works of the early ages of Christianity," saysDr Cureton, "are found in two Recensions, a Shorter and a Longer, as inthe instance of the Ignatian Epistles. Thus, we find the two Recensionsof the Clementines, the two Recensions of the Acts of St Andrew, …..the Acts of St Thomas, the Journeying of St John, the Letter of Pilateto Tiberius." [411:3] It is still more suspicious that some of thesespurious writings present a striking similarity in point of style tothe Ignatian Epistles. [412:1] The standard coin of the realm is seldomput into the crucible, but articles of pewter or of lead are freelymelted down and recast according to the will of the modeller. We cannotadd a single leaf to a genuine flower, but an artificial rose may beexhibited in quite another form by a fresh process of manipulation.Such, too, has been the history of ancient ecclesiastical records. Thegenuine works of the fathers have come down to us in a state ofwonderful preservation; and comparatively few attempts have been made,by interpolation or otherwise, to interfere with their integrity;[412:2] but spurious productions seem to have been considered legitimatesubjects for the exercise of the art of the fabricator; and hence thestrange discrepancies in their text which have so often puzzled theireditors.


The history of the Ignatian Epistles may well remind us of the story ofthe Sibylline Books. A female in strange attire is said to have appearedbefore Tarquin of Rome, offering to sell nine manuscripts which she hadin her possession; but the king, discouraged by the price, declined theapplication. The woman withdrew; destroyed the one-third of her literarytreasures; and, returning again into the royal presence, demanded thesame price for what were left. The monarch once more refused to come upto her terms; and the mysterious visitor retired again, and burnt theone-half of her remaining store. Her extraordinary conduct excited muchastonishment; and, on consulting with his augurs, Tarquin was informedthat the documents which she had at her disposal were most valuable, andthat he should by all means endeavour to secure such a prize. The kingnow willingly paid for the three books, not yet committed to the flames,the full price originally demanded for all the manuscripts. The IgnatianEpistles have experienced something like the fate of those Sibyllineoracles. In the sixteenth century, fifteen letters were brought out frombeneath the mantle of a hoary antiquity, and offered to the world as theproductions of the pastor of Antioch. Scholars refused to receive themon the terms required, and forthwith eight of them were admitted to beforgeries. In the seventeenth century, the seven remaining letters, in asomewhat altered form, again came forth from obscurity, and claimed tobe the works of Ignatius. Again, discerning critics refused toacknowledge their pretensions; but curiosity was roused by this secondapparition, and many expressed an earnest desire to obtain a sight ofthe real epistles. Greece, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt were ransacked insearch of them, and at length three letters are found. The discoverycreates general gratulation; it is confessed that four of the Epistles,so lately asserted to be genuine, are apocryphal; and it is boldly saidthat the three now forthcoming are above challenge. [414:1] But Truthstill refuses to be compromised, and sternly disowns these claimants forher approbation. The internal evidence of these three epistlesabundantly attests that, like the last three books of the Sibyl, theyare only the last shifts of a grave imposture. [414:2]

The candid investigator, who compares the Curetonian version of theletters with that previously in circulation, must acknowledge thatIgnatius, in his new dress, has lost nothing of his absurdity andextravagance. The passages of the Epistles, which were formerly felt tobe so objectionable, are yet to be found here in all their unmitigatedfolly. Ignatius is still the same anti-evangelical formalist, the samepuerile boaster, the same dreaming mystic, and the same crazy fanatic.These are weighty charges, and yet they can be substantiated. But wemust enter into details, that we may fairly exhibit the spirit, andexpose the falsehood of these letters.

I. The style of the Epistles is certainly not above suspicion. On theground of style alone, it is, unquestionably, somewhat hazardous topronounce a decisive judgment upon any document; but, if such an elementis ever to be taken into consideration, it cannot, in this case, beoverlooked. It is well known that, of the seven epistles mentioned byEusebius, there was one which scholars of the highest reputation alwaysregarded with extreme dubiety. In style it appeared to them so differentfrom the rest of the letters, and so unlike what might have beenexpected from an apostolic minister, that some who were prepared toadmit the genuineness of the other documents, did not hesitate todeclare it a forgery. We allude to the Epistle to Polycarp. EvenArchbishop Ussher and Cardinal Bona [415:1] concurred in itscondemnation. It so happens, however, that it is one of the threeletters recently re-edited; and it appears that, of the three, it hasbeen the least altered. If then such a man as Ussher be considered asafe and sufficient judge of the value of an ancient ecclesiasticalmemorial, the Epistle to Polycarp, published by Dr Cureton, must bepronounced spurious. Their editor urges that the letters to theEphesians and Romans, as expurgated in the Syriac version, now closelyresemble the Epistle to Polycarp in style; and if so, may we not fairlyinfer that, had they been presented, in their new form, to the learnedPrimate of Armagh, consistency would have bound him to denounce them asalso forgeries?

II. The way in which the Word of God is ignored in these Epistles arguesstrongly for their spuriousness. Every one acquainted with the earlyfathers must have observed their frequent use of the sacred records. Aconsiderable portion of a chapter is sometimes introduced in aquotation. [416:1] Hence it has been remarked that were all the copiesof the Bible lost and the writings of these fathers preserved, a largeshare of the Holy Volume might thus be recovered. But Ignatius wouldcontribute nothing to the work of restoration; as, in the whole of thethree letters, not a single verse of Scripture is given at length. They,no doubt, occasionally use Bible phraseology, as without it anecclesiastical document could not well be written; but not one promiseis quoted, and not one testimony from the Word is repeated for theedification of the faithful. [416:2] An apostolical pastor on his way tomartyrdom would have written very differently. He would have remindedhis brethren of the "lively oracles," and he would have mentioned someof those precious assurances which now contributed to his own spiritualrefreshment. He would have told them to have "no confidence in theflesh;" [416:3] to take unto themselves "the sword of the Spirit whichis the Word of God;" [416:4] and to lay aside every weight and the sinwhich did so easily beset them, "looking unto Jesus." [416:5] But,instead of adopting such a course, this Ignatius addresses them in thestyle of a starched and straitlaced churchman. "Let your treasures,"says he, "be your good works. Let your baptism be to you as armory.""Look to the bishop that God also may look upon you. I will be insteadof the souls of those who are subject to the bishop, and the presbytersand the deacons." [416:6] What intelligent Christian can believe that aminister, instructed by Paul or Peter, and filling one of the mostimportant stations in the apostolic Church, was verily such an ignorantdriveller?

III. The chronological blunders in these Epistles betray their forgery.In the "Acts of the Martyrdom of Ignatius," he and Polycarp arerepresented as "fellow-scholars" of the Apostle John, [417:1] and thepastor of Smyrna is supposed to be, in point of age, at least asvenerable a personage as the pastor of Antioch. The letter to Polycarpis evidently written under the same impression. Ignatius there says tohim—"I praise God that I have been deemed worthy of thy countenance,which in God I long after." When these words are supposed to have beenpenned, Polycarp was only about six and twenty years of age; [417:2] andthe Church of Smyrna, with which he was connected, did not occupy a veryprominent place in the Christian commonwealth. Is it probable that a manof the mature faith and large experience of Ignatius would have thusaddressed so youthful a minister? It also seems passing strange that theaged martyr should commit all the widows of the community to his specialguardianship, and should think it necessary to add—"It is becoming tomen and women who marry, that they marry by the counsel of thebishop." Was an individual, who was himself not much advanced beyondboyhood, the most fitting person to give advice as to these matrimonialengagements? A similar mistake as to age is made in the case ofOnesimus, who is supposed to be bishop of Ephesus. This minister, who isunderstood to be mentioned in the New Testament. [417:3] is said at anearly date to have been pastor of the Church of the metropolis of theProconsular Asia; and the Ignatian forger obviously imagined that he wasstill alive when his hero passed through Smyrna on his way to theWestern capital. But Onesimus perished in the Domitian persecution,[418:1] so that Ignatius is made to write to a Christian brother who hadbeen long in his grave. [418:2] The fabricator proceeds more cautiouslyin his letter to the Romans. How marvellous that this old gentleman, whois willing to pledge his soul for every one who would submit to thebishop, does not find it convenient to name the bishop of Rome! Theexperiment might have been somewhat hazardous. The early history of theRoman Church was better known than that of any other in the world, and,had he here made a mistake, the whole cheat might have been at oncedetected. Though his erudition was so great that he could tell "theplaces of angels," [418:3] he evidently did not dare to commit himselfby giving us a piece of earthly information, and by telling us who wasat the head of the Church of the Great City in the ninth year of thereign of Trajan. But the same prudence does not prevail throughout theEpistle. He here obviously speaks of the Church of Rome, not as sheexisted a few years after the death of Clement, but of the same Churchas she was known after the death of Victor. In the beginning of thesecond century the Church of the Syrian capital would not haveacknowledged the precedence of her Western sister. On the fall ofJerusalem, the Church of Antioch was herself the first Christiancommunity in the Empire. She had a higher antiquity, a moredistinguished prestige, and perhaps a more numerous membership than anyother Church in existence. In the Syrian metropolis the disciples hadfirst been called Christians; there, Barnabas and Paul had beenseparated to the work to which the Lord had called them; there, Peterhad preached; and there, prophets had laboured. But a century hadbrought about a wonderful change. The Church of Rome had meanwhileobtained the first place among Christian societies; and, before themiddle of the third century, "the See of Peter" was honoured as thecentre of catholic unity. Towards the close of the second century, manypersons of rank and power joined her communion, [419:1] and herpolitical influence was soon felt to be so formidable that even theRoman Emperor began to be jealous of the Roman bishop. [419:2] But theIgnatian forger did not take into account this ecclesiasticalrevolution. Hence he here incautiously speaks in the language of his ownage, and writing "to her who sitteth at the head in the place of thecountry of the Romans," he says to her with all due humility—"I am notcommanding you like Peter and Paul" [419:3]—"Ye have taughtothers"—"It is easy for you to do whatsoever you please."

IV. Various words in these Epistles have a meaning which they did notacquire until long after the time of Ignatius. Thus, the term employedin the days of the Apostles to denote purity, or chastity, heresignifies celibacy. [419:4] Even in the commencement of the thirdcentury those who led a single life were beginning to be consideredChristians of a superior type, as contrasted with those who weremarried; and clerical celibacy was becoming very fashionable. [420:1]The Ignatian fabricator writes under the influence of the popularsentiment. "The house of the Church" at Antioch, of which Paul ofSamosata kept possession after his deposition about A.D. 269, [420:2]seems to have been a dwelling appropriated to the use of theecclesiastical functionaries, [420:3] and the schemer who wrote thefirst draft of these letters evidently believed that the ministers ofChrist should be a brotherhood of bachelors. Hence Ignatius is made thusto address Polycarp and his clergy—"Labour together one with another;make the struggle together one with another; run together one withanother; suffer together one with another; sleep together one withanother; rise together one with another." Polycarp and others of theelders of Smyrna were probably married; [420:4] so that someinconvenience might have attended this arrangement.

The word bishop is another term found in these Epistles, and employedin a sense which it did not possess at the alleged date of theirpublication. Every one knows that, in the New Testament, it does notsignify the chief pastor of a Church; but, about the middle of thesecond century, as will subsequently appear, [421:1] it began to havethis acceptation. Clement of Rome, writing a few years before the timeof the martyrdom of Ignatius, uses the words bishop and presbyterinterchangeably. [421:2] Polycarp, in his own Epistle, dictated,perhaps, forty years after the death of the Syrian pastor, still adheresto the same phraseology. In the Pesh*to version of the New Testament,executed probably in the former half of the second century, [421:3] thesame terminology prevails. [421:4] Ignatius, however, is far in advanceof his generation. When new terms are introduced, or when new meaningsare attached to designations already current, it seldom happens that anold man changes his style of speaking. He is apt to persevere, in spiteof fashion, in the use of the phraseology to which he has beenaccustomed from his childhood. But Ignatius is an exception to all suchexperience, for he repeats the new nomenclature with as much flippancyas if he had never heard any other. [421:5] Surely this minister ofAntioch must be worthy of all the celebrity he has attained, for he cannot only carry on a written correspondence with the dead, but alsoanticipate by half a century even the progress of language!

V. The puerilities, vapouring, and mysticism of these letters proclaimtheir forgery. We would expect an aged apostolic minister, on his way tomartyrdom, to speak as a man in earnest, to express himself with somedegree of dignity, and to eschew trivial and ridiculous comparisons.But, when treating of a grave subject, what can be more silly orindecorous than such language as the following—"Ye are raised on highby the engine of Jesus Christ, which is the cross, and ye are drawn bythe rope, which is the Holy Ghost, and your pulley is your faith."[422:1] Well may the Christian reader exclaim, with indignation, as heperuses these words, Is the Holy Ghost then a mere rope? Is thatglorious Being who worketh in us to will and to do according to His owngood pleasure, a mere piece of tackling pertaining to the ecclesiasticalmachinery, to be moved and managed according to the dictation of BishopIgnatius? [422:2] But the frivolity of this impostor is equalled by hisgasconade. He thus tantalises the Romans with an account of hisattainments—"I am able to write to you heavenly things, but I fearlest I should do you an injury." …..

"I am able to know heavenly things, and the places of angels, and thestation of powers that are visible and invisible." Where did he gatherall this recondite lore? Certainly not from the Old or New Testament.May we not safely pronounce this man to be one who seeks to be wiseabove what is written, "intruding into those things which he hath notseen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind?" [422:3] He seems, indeed,to have himself had some suspicion that such was his character, for hesays, again, to his brethren of the Western metropolis—"I know manythings in God, but I moderate myself that I may not perish throughboasting; for now it is becoming to me that I should fear the moreabundantly, and should not look to those that puff me up." Let us nowhear a specimen of the mysticism of this dotard. "There was hidden fromthe Ruler of this world the virginity of Mary, and the birth of ourLord, and the three mysteries of the shout, which were done in thequietness of God by means of the star, and here by the manifestation ofthe Son magic began to be dissolved." [423:1] Who can undertake toexpound such jargon? What are we to understand by "the quietness ofGod?" Who can tell how "the three mysteries of the shout" were "done bymeans of the star?"

VI. The unhallowed and insane anxiety for martyrdom which appearsthroughout these letters is another decisive proof of their fabrication.He who was, in the highest sense, the Faithful Witness betrayed nofanatic impatience for the horrid tragedy of crucifixion; and, true tothe promptings of his human nature, he prayed, in the very crisis of Hisagony—"O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me."[423:2] The Scriptures represent the most exalted saints as shrinkinginstinctively from suffering. In the prophecy announcing the violentdeath of Peter, it is intimated that even the intrepid apostle of thecircumcision would feel disposed to recoil from the bloody ordeal. "Whenthou shalt be old," said our Lord to him, "thou shalt stretch forth thyhands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thouwouldest not." [423:3] Paul mentions with thankfulness how, on acritical occasion, the Lord stood with him, and "delivered" him "outof the mouth of the lion." [423:4] Long after the apostolic age, thesame spirit continued to be cherished, and hence we are told of Polycarpthat, even when bowed down by the weight of years, he felt it right toretire out of the way of those who sought his destruction. Thedisciples, whom he had so long taught, took the same view of Christianduty; and accordingly, in the Epistle of the Church of Smyrna, whichrecords his martyrdom, the conduct of those who "present themselves oftheir own accord to the trial" is emphatically condemned. [424:1] "Wedo not," say the believers of Smyrna, "commend those who offerthemselves to persecution, seeing the gospel teaches no such thing."[424:2] But a man who is supposed to have enjoyed far higher advantagesthan Polycarp—a minister who is said to have been contemporary with allthe apostles—a ruler of the Church who is understood to have occupied afar more prominent and influential position than the pastor ofSmyrna—is exhibited in the legend of his martyrdom as appearing "of hisown free will" [424:3] at the judgment-seat of the Emperor, and asmanifesting the utmost anxiety to be delivered into the mouth of thelion. In the commencement of the second century the Churches of Rome andEphesus doubtless possessed as much spiritual enlightenment as any otherChurches in the world, and it is a libel upon their Christianity tosuppose that they could have listened with any measure of complacency tothe senseless ravings to be found even in the recent edition of theIgnatian Letters. [424:4] The writer is made to assure the believers inthese great cities that he has an unquenchable desire to be eaten alive,and he beseeches them to pray that he may enjoy this singulargratification. "I hope," says he, "through your prayers that I shallbe devoured by the beasts in Rome." [425:1] … "I beg of you, be notwith me in the love that is not in its season. Leave me, that I may befor the beasts, that by means of them I may be worthy of God…. Withprovoking provoke ye the beasts that they may be a grave for me, andmay leave nothing of my body, that not even when I am fallen asleep mayI be a burden upon any man…. I rejoice in the beasts which areprepared for me, and I pray that they may be quickly found for me, andI will provoke them that they may quickly devour me." [425:2] Every manjealous for the honour of primitive Christianity should be slow tobelieve that an apostolic preacher addressed such outrageous folly toapostolic Churches.

When reviewing the external evidence in support of these Epistles, wehave had occasion to shew that they were probably fabricated in theformer part of the third century. The internal evidence corroborates thesame conclusion. Ecclesiastical history attests that during the fiftyyears preceding the death of Cyprian, [425:3] the principles here putforward were fast gaining the ascendency. As early as the days ofTertullian, ritualism was rapidly supplanting the freedom of evangelicalworship; baptism was beginning to be viewed as an "armour" of marvellouspotency; [425:4] the tradition that the great Church of the West hadbeen founded by Peter and Paul was now extensively propagated; and therewas an increasing disposition throughout the Empire to recognise theprecedence of "her who sitteth at the head in the place of the countryof the Romans." It is apparent from the writings of Cyprian that in somequarters the "church system" was already matured. The language ascribedto Ignatius—"Be careful for unanimity, than which there is nothingmore excellent" [426:1]—then expressed a prevailing sentiment. Tomaintain unity was considered a higher duty than to uphold truth, and tobe subject to the bishop was deemed one of the greatest of evangelicalvirtues. Celibacy was then confounded with chastity, and mysticism wasextensively occupying the place of scriptural knowledge and intelligentconviction. And the admiration of martyrdom which presents itself insuch a startling form in these Epistles was one of the characteristicsof the period. Paul taught that a man may give his body to be burned andyet want the spirit of the gospel; [426:2] but Origen does not scrupleto describe martyrdom as "the cup of salvation," the baptism whichcleanses the sufferer, the act which makes his blood precious in God'ssight to the redemption of others. [426:3] Do not all thesecirc*mstances combined supply abundant proof that these Epistles werewritten in the time of this Alexandrian father? [426:4]

It is truly wonderful that men, such as Dr Cureton, have permittedthemselves to be befooled by these Syriac manuscripts. It is still moreextraordinary that writers, such as the pious and amiable Milner,[426:5] have published, with all gravity, the rhapsodies of Ignatius forthe edification of their readers. It would almost appear as if the nameBishop has such a magic influence on some honest and enlightenedEpiscopalians, that when the interests of their denomination aresupposed to be concerned, they can be induced to close their eyesagainst the plainest dictates of common sense and the clearest light ofhistorical demonstration. In deciding upon matters of fact the spirit ofparty should never be permitted to interfere. Truth is the commonproperty of the catholic Church; and no good and holy cause can requirethe support of an apocryphal correspondence.

It is no mean proof of the sagacity of the great Calvin, that, upwardsof three hundred years ago, he passed a sweeping sentence ofcondemnation on these Ignatian Epistles. At the time, many were startledby the boldness of his language, and it was thought that he was somewhatprecipitate in pronouncing such a decisive judgment. But he sawdistinctly, and he therefore spoke fearlessly. There is a far moreintimate connexion than many are disposed to believe between soundtheology and sound criticism, for a right knowledge of the Word of Godstrengthens the intellectual vision, and assists in the detection oferror wherever it may reveal itself. Had Pearson enjoyed the same clearviews of gospel truth as the Reformer of Geneva, he would not havewasted so many precious years in writing a learned vindication of thenonsense attributed to Ignatius. Calvin knew that an apostolic man musthave been acquainted with apostolic doctrine, and he saw that theseletters must have been the productions of an age when the pure light ofChristianity was greatly obscured. Hence he denounced them soemphatically: and time has verified his deliverance. His languagerespecting them has been often quoted, but we feel we cannot moreappropriately close our observations on this subject than by anotherrepetition of it. "There is nothing more abominable than that trashwhich is in circulation under the name of Ignatius." [428:1]


When Christianity made its appearance in the world, it produced aprofound sensation. It spread on all sides with great rapidity; it wasat once felt to be a religion for the common people; and someindividuals of highly cultivated minds soon acknowledged its authority.For a time its progress was impeded by the persecutions of Nero andDomitian; but, about the beginning of the second century, it startedupon a new career of prosperous advancement, and quickly acquired such aposition that the most distinguished scholars and philosophers could nolonger overlook its pretensions. In the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian, aconsiderable number of men of learning were already in its ranks; but itwould appear that, on the whole, it derived very equivocal aid from thepresence of these new adherents. Not a few of the literati who joinedits standard attempted to corrupt it; and one hundred and twenty yearsafter the death of the Apostle John, the champions of orthodoxy had tocontend against no less than thirty-two heresies. [429:1]

Of those who now adulterated the gospel, the Gnostics were by far themost subtle, the most active, and the most formidable. The leaders ofthe party were all men of education; and as they were to be foundchiefly in the large cities, the Church in these centres of influencewas in no small degree embarrassed and endangered by their speculations.Some of the peculiarities of Gnosticism have been already noticed;[430:1] but as the second century was the period when it made mostprogress and awakened most anxiety, we must here advert more distinctlyto its outlines. The three great antagonists of the gospel were theGrecian philosophy, the heathen mythology, and a degenerate Judaism; andGnosticism may be described as an attempt to effect a compromise betweenChristianity and these rivals. As might have been expected, the attemptmet with much encouragement; for many, who hesitated to accept the newreligion unconditionally, were constrained to acknowledge that itexhibited many indications of truth and divinity; and they were,therefore, prepared to look on it with favour when presented to them inan altered shape and furnished with certain favourite appendages. TheGnostics called themselves believers; and their most celebrated teacherswould willingly have remained in the bosom of the Church; but it soonappeared that their principles were subversive of the New Testamentrevelation; and they were accordingly excluded from ecclesiasticalfellowship.

Gnosticism assumed a variety of forms, and almost every one of itsteachers had his own distinctive creed; but, as a system, it was alwaysknown by certain remarkable features. It uniformly ignored the doctrinethat God made all things out of nothing; [430:2] and, taking for grantedthe eternity of matter, it tried to account, on philosophicalprinciples, for the moral and spiritual phenomena of the world which weinhabit. The Gnosis, [430:3] or knowledge, which it supplied, and fromwhich it derived its designation, was a strange congeries of wildspeculations. The Scriptures describe the Most High as humbling Himselfto behold the things that are on earth, [431:1] as exercising a constantprovidence over all His creatures, as decking the lilies of the valley,and as numbering the very hairs of our heads; but Gnosticism exhibitedthe Supreme God as separated by an immeasurable interval from matter,and as having no direct communication with anything thus contaminated.The theory by means of which many of its adherents endeavoured to solvethe problem of the origin of evil, [431:2] and to trace the connexionbetween the finite and the infinite, was not without ingenuity. Theymaintained that a series of Aeons, or divine beings, emanated from thePrimal Essence; but, as sound issuing from a given point graduallybecomes fainter until it is finally lost in silence, each generation ofAeons, as it receded from the great Fountain of Spiritual Existence,lost somewhat of the vigour of divinity; and at length an Aeon wasproduced without power sufficient to maintain its place in the Pleroma,or habitation of the Godhead. This scheme of a series of Aeons ofgradually decreasing excellence was apparently designed to shew how,from an Almighty and Perfect Intelligence, a weak and erring being mightbe generated. There were Gnostics who carried the principle ofattenuation so far as to teach that the inhabitants of the celestialworld were distributed into no less than three hundred and sixty-fiveheavens, [431:3] each somewhat inferior to the other. According to someof these systems, an Aeon removed by many emanations from the source ofDeity, and, in consequence, possessed of comparatively little strength,passed over the bounds of the Pleroma, and imparted life to matter.Another Power, called the Demiurge, was now produced, who, out of thematerials already in existence, fashioned the present world. The humanrace, ushered, under such circ*mstances, upon the stage of time, areignorant of the true God, and in bondage to corrupt matter. But all menare not in a state of equal degradation. Some possess a spiritualnature; some, a physical or animal nature; and some, only a corporeal orcarnal nature. Jesus now appeared, and, at His baptism in the Jordan,Christ, a powerful Aeon, joined Him, that He might be fitted forredeeming souls from the ignorance and slavery in which they areentangled. This Saviour taught the human family the knowledge of thetrue God. Jesus was seized and led to crucifixion, and the Aeon Christnow departed from Him; but, as His body was composed of the finestethereal elements, and was, in fact, a phantom, He did not really sufferon the accursed tree. Many of the Gnostics taught that there are twospheres of future enjoyment. They held that, whilst the spiritualnatures shall be restored to the Pleroma, the physical or animal naturesshall be admitted to an inferior state of happiness; and that such soulsas are found to be incapable of purification shall be consigned toperdition or annihilation.

Whilst, according to all the Gnostics, the Demiurge, or maker of thisworld, is far inferior to the Supreme Deity, these system-builders wereby no means agreed as to his position and his functions. Some of themregarded him as an Aeon of inferior intelligence who acted in obedienceto the will of the Great God; others conceived that he was no other thanthe God of the Jews, who, in their estimation, was a Being of somewhatrugged and intractable character; whilst others contended that he was anEvil Power at open war with the righteous Sovereign of the universe. TheGnostics also differed in their views respecting matter. Those of themwho were Egyptians, and who had been addicted to the study of thePlatonic philosophy, held matter to be inert until impregnated withlife; but the Syrians, who borrowed much from the Oriental theology,taught that it was eternally subject to a Lord, or Ruler, who had beenperpetually at variance with the Great God of the Pleroma.

Two of the most distinguished Gnostic teachers who flourished in theearly part of the second century were Saturninus of Antioch andBasilides of Alexandria. [433:1] Valentine, who appeared somewhat later,and who is supposed to have first excited attention at Rome about A.D.140, was still more celebrated. He taught that in the Pleroma there arefifteen male and fifteen female Aeons, whom he professed to distinguishby their names; and he even proceeded to point out how they aredistributed into married pairs. Some have supposed that certain deepphilosophical truths were here concealed by him under the veil ofallegory. As he, like others of the same class, conveyed parts of hisGnosis only into the ears of the initiated, it may be that theexplanation of its symbols was reserved for those who were thus madeacquainted with its secret wisdom. It has been alleged that hepersonified the attributes of God, and that the Aeons, whom he names andjoins together, are simply those divine perfections which, whencombined, are fitted to produce the most remarkable results. Thus, heassociated Profundity and Thought, Intelligence and Truth,Reason and Life. [433:2] His system seems to have had manyattractions for his age, as his disciples, in considerable numbers, weresoon to be found both in the East and in the West.

When Valentine was at Rome, Marcion, another heresiarch of the sameclass, was also in the great metropolis. [433:3] This man is said tohave been born in Pontus, and though some of the fathers have attemptedto fix a stain upon his early reputation, his subsequent character seemsto have been irreproachable. [434:1] There is reason to think that hewas one of the most upright and amiable of the Gnostics. These erroristswere charged by their orthodox antagonists with gross immorality; andthere was often, perhaps, too much ground for the accusation; for someof them, such as Carpocrates, [434:2] avowed and encouraged the mostshameless licentiousness; but others, such as Marcion, were noted fortheir ascetic strictness. All the more respectable Gnostics appear tohave recommended themselves to public confidence by the austerity oftheir discipline. They enjoined rigorous fasting, and inculcatedabstinence from wine, flesh-meat, and marriage. The Oriental theology,as well as the Platonic philosophy, sanctioned such a mode of living;and, therefore, those by whom it was practised were in a favourableposition for gaining the public ear when they came forward astheological instructors.

Gnosticism may appear to us a most fantastic system; but, in the secondcentury, it was dreaded as a very formidable adversary by the Church;and the extent to which it spread attests that it possessed not a few ofthe elements of popularity. Its doctrine of Aeons, or Divine Emanations,was quite in accordance with theories which had then gained extensivecurrency; and its account of the formation of the present world wascountenanced by established modes of thinking. Many who cherished ahereditary prejudice against Judaism were gratified by the announcementthat the Demiurge was no other than the God of the Israelites; and manymore were flattered by the statement that some souls are essentiallypurer and better than others. [435:1] The age was sunk in sensuality;and, as it was the great boast of the heresiarchs that their Gnosissecured freedom from the dominion of the flesh, multitudes, who secretlysighed for deliverance, were thus induced to test its efficacy. ButGnosticism, in whatever form it presented itself, was a miserableperversion of the gospel. Some of its teachers entirely rejected the OldTestament; others reduced its history to a myth; whilst all mutilatedand misinterpreted the writings of the apostles and evangelists. Likethe Jewish Cabbalists, who made void the law of God by expositions whichfancy suggested and tradition embalmed, the Gnostics by theirfar-fetched and unnatural comments, threw an air of obscurity over theplainest passages of the New Testament. Some of them, aware that theycould derive no support from the inspired records, actually fabricatedGospels, and affixed to them the names of apostles or evangelists, inthe hope of thus obtaining credit for the spurious documents. [435:2]Whilst Gnosticism in this way set aside the authority of the Word ofGod, it also lowered the dignity of the Saviour; and even when Christwas most favourably represented by it, He was but an Aeon removed at thedistance of several intermediate generations from the Supreme Ruler ofthe universe. The propagators of this system altogether misconceived thescope of the gospel dispensation. They substituted salvation by carnalordinances for salvation by faith; they represented man in his naturalstate rather as an ignoramus than a sinner; and, whilst they absurdlymagnified their own Gnosis, they entirely discarded the doctrine of avicarious atonement.

Shortly after the middle of the second century the Church began to betroubled by a heresy in some respects very different from Gnosticism. Atthat time the persecuting spirit displayed by Marcus Aurelius filled theChristians throughout the Empire with alarm, and those of them who weregiven to despondency began to entertain the most gloomy anticipations.An individual, named Montanus, who laid claim to prophetic endowments,now appeared in a village on the borders of Phrygia; and though he seemsto have possessed a rather mean capacity, his discipline was so suitedto the taste of many, and the predictions which he uttered so accordedwith prevailing apprehensions, that he soon created a deep impression.When he first came forward in the character of a Divine Instructor hehad been recently converted to Christianity; and he seems to havestrangely misapprehended the nature of the gospel. When he delivered hispretended communications from heaven, he is said to have wrought himselfup into a state of frenzied excitement. His countrymen, who had beenaccustomed to witness the ecstasies of the priests of Bacchus andCybele, saw proofs of a divine impulse in his bodily contortions; andsome of them at once acknowledged his extraordinary mission. By means oftwo wealthy female associates, named Priscilla and Maximilla, who alsoprofessed to utter prophecies, Montanus was enabled rapidly to extendhis influence. His fame spread abroad on all sides; and, in a few years,he had followers in Europe and in Africa, as well as in Asia.

It cannot be said that this heresiarch attempted to overturn the creedof the Church. He was neither a profound thinker nor a logical reasoner;and he certainly had not maturely studied the science of theology. Buthe possessed an ardent temperament, and he seems to have mistaken thesuggestions of his own fanaticism for the dictates of inspiration. Thedoctrine of the personal reign of Christ during the millennium appearsto have formed a prominent topic in his ministrations. [437:1] Hemaintained that the discipline of the Church had been left incomplete bythe apostles, and that he was empowered to supply a better code ofregulations. According to some he proclaimed himself the Paraclete;but, if so, he most grievously belied his assumed name, for his systemwas far better fitted to induce despondency than to inspire comfort. Allhis precepts were conceived in the sour and contracted spirit of mereritualism. He insisted upon long fasts; he condemned second marriages;[437:2] he inveighed against all who endeavoured to save themselves byflight in times of persecution; and he asserted that such as had oncebeen guilty of any heinous transgression should never again be admittedto ecclesiastical fellowship. Whilst he promulgated this sterndiscipline, he at the same time delivered the most dismal predictions,announcing, among other things, the speedy catastrophe of the RomanEmpire. He also gave out that the Phrygian village where he ministeredwas to become the New Jerusalem of renovated Christianity.

But the Church was still too strongly impregnated with the free spiritof the gospel to submit to such a prophet as Montanus. He had, however,powerful advocates, and even a Roman bishop at one time gave himcountenance. [437:3] Though his discipline commended itself to themorose and pharisaical, it was rejected by those who rightly understoodthe mystery of godliness. Several councils were held to discuss itsmerits, and it was emphatically condemned. [438:1] The signal failure ofsome of the Montanist predictions had greatly lowered the credit of theparty; Montanus was pronounced a false prophet; and though the sect wassupported by Tertullian, the most vigorous writer of the age, itgradually ceased to attract notice. [438:2]

About a century after the appearance of Montanus, another individual, ina more remote part of Asia, acquired great notoriety as a heresiarch.The doctrine of two First Principles, a good deity and an evil deity,had been long current in the East. Even in the days of Isaiah we maytrace its existence, for there is a most significant allusion to it inone of his prophecies, in which Jehovah is represented as saying—"I amthe Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me…. Iform the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil: Ithe Lord do all these things." [438:3] About the fifth century beforeChrist, the Persian theology had been reformed by Zoroaster, and thesubordination of the two Principles to one God, the author of both, hadbeen acknowledged as an article of the established creed. In the earlypart of the third century of the Christian era, there was a strugglebetween the adherents of the old and the new faith of Parsism; and thesupporters of the views of Zoroaster had been again successful. But aconsiderable party still refused to relinquish the doctrine of theindependence of the two Principles; and some of these probably joinedthemselves to Mani, a Persian by birth, who, in the latter half of thethird century, became distinguished as the propagator of a species ofmongrel Christianity. This man, who was born about A.D. 240, possessedgenius of a high order. Though he finished his career when he was onlythirty-seven years of age, he had already risen to eminence among hiscountrymen, and attracted the notice of several successive sovereigns.He is said to have been a skilful physician, an accomplished painter,and an excellent astronomer, as well as an acute metaphysician. LikeMontanus, he laid claim to a divine commission, and alleged that he wasthe Paraclete who was promised to guide into all truth. He maintainedthat there are two First Principles of all things, light and darkness:God, in the kingdom of light, and the devil, in the kingdom of darkness,have existed from eternity. Mani thus accounted for the phenomena of theworld around us—"Over the kingdom of light," said this heresiarch,"ruled God the Father, eternal in His sacred race, glorious in Hismight, the truth by His very essence…. But the Father himself,glorious in His majesty; incomprehensible in His greatness, has unitedwith Himself blessed and glorious Aeons, in number and greatnesssurpassing estimation." [439:1] He taught that Christ appeared toliberate the light from the darkness, and that he himself was nowdeputed to reveal the mysteries of the universe, and to assist men inrecovering their freedom. He rejected a great portion of the canon ofScripture, and substituted certain writings of his own, which hisfollowers were to receive as of divine authority. His disciples, calledManichees or Manichaeans, assumed the name of a Church, and weredivided into two classes, the Elect and the Hearers. The Elect,who were comparatively few, were the sacred order. They alone were madeacquainted with the mysteries, or more recondite doctrines, of the sect;they practised extreme abstinence; they subsisted chiefly upon olives;[439:2] and they lived in celibacy. They were not to kill, or evenwound, an animal; neither were they to pull up a vegetable, or pluck aflower. The Hearers were permitted to share in the business andpleasures of the world, but they were taught only the elements of thesystem. After death, according to Mani, souls do not pass immediatelyinto the world of light. They must first undergo a two-foldpurification; one, by water in the moon; another, by firein the sun.

Mani had provoked the enmity of the Magians; and, at their instigation,he was consigned, about A.D. 277, by order of the Persian monarch, to acruel and ignominious death. But the sect which he had organized did notdie along with him. His system was well fitted to please the Orientalfancy; its promise of a higher wisdom to those who obtained admissioninto the class of the Elect encouraged the credulity of the auditors;and, to such as had not carefully studied the Christian revelation, itshypothesis of a Good and of an Evil Deity accounted rather plausibly forthe mingled good and evil of our present existence. The Manichaeans wereexposed to much suffering in the country where they first appeared; and,as a sect of Persian origin, they were oppressed by the Romangovernment; but they were not extinguished by persecution, and, far downin the middle ages, they still occasionally figure in the drama ofhistory.

Synods and councils may pass resolutions condemnatory of false doctrine,but it is somewhat more difficult to counteract the seduction of theprinciples from which heresies derive their influence. The Gnostics, theMontanists, and the Manichaeans, owed much of their strength tofallacies and superstitions with which the Christian teachers of the agewere not fully prepared to grapple; and hence it was that, whilst theerrorists themselves were denounced by ecclesiastical authority, a largeportion of their peculiar leaven found its way into the Church, andgradually produced an immense change in its doctrine and discipline. Anotice of the more important of the false sentiments and dangerouspractices which the heretics propagated and the catholics adopted, mayenable us to estimate the amount of the damage which the cause of truthnow sustained.

The Montanists recognised the distinction of venial and mortal sins.They held that a professed disciple, who was guilty of what they calledmortal sin, should never again be admitted to sealing ordinances.[441:1] It is apparent from the writings of Hippolytus, the famousbishop of Portus, that, in the early part of the third century, some ofthe most influential of the catholics cordially supported thisprinciple. Soon afterwards it was openly advocated by a powerful partyin the Church of Borne, and its rejection by Cornelius, then at the headof that community, led to the schism of Novatian. But the distinction ofvenial and mortal sins, upon which it proceeded, was even now generallyacknowledged. This distinction, which lies at the basis of the ancientpenitential discipline, was already beginning to vitiate the wholecatholic theology. Some sins, it is true, are more heinous than others,but the comparative turpitude of transgressions depends much on thecirc*mstances in which they are committed. The wages of every sin isdeath, [441:2] and it is absurd to attempt to give a stereotypedcharacter to any one violation of God's law by classing it, in regard tothe extent of its guilt, in a particular category. Christianity regardssin, in whatever form, as a spiritual poison; and instead of seeking tosolve the curious problem—how much of it may exist in the soul withoutthe destruction of spiritual life?—it wisely instructs us to guardagainst it in our very thoughts, and to abstain from even the"appearance of evil." [442:1] "When lust," or indwelling depravity ofany description, "has conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when itis finished, bringeth forth death." [442:2] Experience has demonstratedthat the admission of the distinction of venial and mortal sins is mostperilous to the best interests of the Christian community; for, whilstit is without foundation in the inspired statutebook, it must inevitablylead to the neglect or careless performance of many duties which theMost High has solemnly enjoined.

The Platonic philosophy taught the necessity of a state of purificationafter death; [442:3] and a modification of this doctrine formed part ofat least some of the systems of Gnosticism. [442:4] It is inculcated byTertullian, the great champion of Montanism; [442:5] and we have seenhow, according to Mani, departed souls must pass, first to the moon, andthen to the sun, that they may thus undergo a twofold purgation. Here,again, a tenet originally promulgated by the heretics, became at lengtha portion of the creed of the Church. The Manichaeans, as well as theGnostics, rejected the doctrine of the atonement, and as faith in theperfection of the cleansing virtue of the blood of Christ declined, abelief in Purgatory became popular. [442:6]

The Gnostics, with some exceptions, insisted greatly on themortification of the body; and the same species of discipline wasstrenuously recommended by the Montanists and the Manichaeans. All theseheretics believed that the largest measure of future happiness was to berealised by those who practised the most rigid asceticism. Mani admittedthat an individual without any extraordinary amount of self-denial,might reach the world of Light, for he held out the hope of heaven tohis Hearers; but he taught that its highest distinctions were reservedfor the Elect, who scrupulously refrained from bodily indulgence. TheChurch silently adopted the same principle; and the distinction betweenprecepts and counsels, which was soon introduced into its theology,rests upon this foundation. By precepts are understood those dutieswhich are obligatory upon all; by counsels, those acts, whether ofcharity or abstinence, which are expected from such only as aim atsuperior sanctity. [443:1] The Elect of the Manichaeans, as well as manyof the Gnostics, [443:2] declined to enter into wedlock, and theMontanists were disposed to confer double honour on the single clergy.[443:3] The Church did not long stand out against the fascinations ofthis popular delusion. Her members almost universally caught up theimpression that marriage stands in the way of the cultivation of piety;and bishops and presbyters, who lived in celibacy, began to be regardedas more holy than their brethren. This feeling continued to gainstrength; and from it sprung that vast system of monasticism whichspread throughout Christendom, with such amazing rapidity, in the fourthcentury.

It thus appears that asceticism and clerical celibacy have been graftedon Christianity by Paganism. Hundreds of years before the New Testamentwas written, Buddhism could boast of multitudes of monks and eremites.[443:4] The Gnostics, in the early part of the second century,celebrated the praises of a single life; and the Elect of theManichaeans were all celibates. Meanwhile marriage was permitted to theclergy of the catholic Church. Well might the apostle exhort thedisciples to beware of those ordinances which have "a shew of wisdomin will-worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body," [444:1] asthe austerities of the cloister are miserable preparatives for theenjoyments of a world of purity and love. Christianity exhibitedstartling tokens of degeneracy when it attempted to nourish piety uponthe spawn of the heathen superstitions. The gospel is designed forsocial and for active beings; as it hallows all the relations of life,it also teaches us how to use all the good gifts of God; and whilstcelibacy and protracted fasting may only generate misanthropy andmelancholy, faith, walking in the ways of obedience, can purify theheart, and induce the peace that passeth all understanding.


For some time after the apostolic age, the doctrine of the Churchremained unchanged. Those who had been taught the gospel by the lips ofits inspired heralds could not have been readily induced to relinquishany of its distinctive principles. It must, indeed, be admitted that thepurity of the evangelical creed was soon deteriorated by the admixtureof dogmas suggested by bigotry and superstition; but, it may safely beasserted that, throughout the whole of the period now before us, itselementary articles were substantially maintained by almost all theChurches of the Empire.

Though there was still a pretty general agreement respecting thecardinal points of Christianity, it is not to be thought strange thatthe early writers occasionally expressed themselves in a way which wouldnow be considered loose or inaccurate. Errorists, by the controversiesthey awakened, not unfrequently created much perplexity and confusion;but, in general, the truth eventually issued from discussion withrenovated credit; for, in due time, acute and able advocates cameforward to prove that the articles assailed rested on an impregnablefoundation. During these debates it was found necessary to distinguishthe different shades of doctrine by the establishment of a fixedterminology. The disputants were obliged to define with precision theexpressions they employed; and thus various forms of speech ceased tohave an equivocal meaning. But, in the second or third century, theologyhad not assumed a scientific form; and the language of orthodoxy was, asyet, unsettled. Hence, when treating of doctrinal questions, those whoseviews were substantially correct sometimes gave their sanction to theuse of phrases which were afterwards condemned as the symbols ofheterodoxy. [446:1]

About the beginning of the third century all adults who were admitted tobaptism were required to make a declaration of their faith by assentingto some such formula as that now called "The Apostles' Creed;" [446:2]and though no general council had yet been held, the chief pastors ofthe largest and most influential Churches maintained, by letters, anofficial correspondence, and were in this way well acquainted with eachother's sentiments. A considerable number of these epistles, or at leastof extracts from them, are still extant; [446:3] and there is thusabundant proof of the unity of the faith of the ecclesiastical rulers.But, in treating of this subject, it is necessary to be more specific,and to notice particularly the leading doctrines which were now commonlyreceived.

Before entering directly on this review, it is proper to mention thatthe Holy Scriptures were held in the highest estimation. The reading ofthem aloud formed part of the stated service of the congregations, andone or other of the passages brought, at the time, under the notice ofthe auditory, usually constituted the groundwork of the preacher'sdiscourse. Their perusal was recommended to the laity; [447:1] thehusband and wife talked of them familiarly as they sat by the domestichearth; [447:2] and children were accustomed to commit them to memory.[447:3] As many of the disciples could not read, and as the expense ofmanuscripts was considerable, copies of the sacred books were not in thehands of all; but their frequent rehearsal in the public assemblies madethe multitude familiar with their contents, and some of the brethrenpossessed an amount of acquaintance with these records which, even atthe present day, would be deemed most extraordinary. Eusebius speaks ofseveral individuals who could repeat, at will, any required passage fromeither the Old or New Testament. On a certain occasion the historianhappened to be present when one of these walking concordances pouredforth the stores of his prodigious memory. "I was struck withadmiration," says he, "when I first beheld him standing amidst a largecrowd, and reciting certain portions of Holy Writ. As long as I couldonly hear his voice, I supposed that he was reading, as is usual in thecongregations; but, when I came close up to him, I discovered that,employing only the eyes of his mind, he uttered the divine oracles likesome prophet." [447:4]

It was not extraordinary that the early Christians were anxious totreasure up Scripture in the memory, for in all matters of faith andpractice the Written Word was regarded as the standard of ultimateappeal. No human authority whatever was deemed equal to the award ofthis divine arbiter. "They who are labouring after excellency," says afather of this period, "will not stop in their search after truth,until they have obtained proof of that which they believe from theScriptures themselves." [448:1] Nor was there any dispute as to theamount of confidence to be placed in the language of the Bible. Thedoctrine of its plenary inspiration—a doctrine which many in moderntimes either openly or virtually deny—was now received withoutabatement or hesitation. Even Origen, who takes such liberties wheninterpreting the sacred text, admits most fully that it is all of divinedictation. "I believe," says he, "that, for those who know how to drawvirtue from the Scriptures, every letter in the oracles of God has itsend and its work, even to an iota and particle of a letter. And, asamong plants, there is not one but has its peculiar virtue, and as theyonly who have a knowledge of botanical science can tell how each shouldbe prepared and applied to a useful purpose; so it is that he who is aholy and spiritual botanist of the Word of God, by gathering up eachatom and element will find the virtue of that Word, and acknowledge thatthere is nothing in all that is written that is superfluous." [448:3]

It has been already stated [448:3] that little difference of sentimentexisted in the early Church respecting the books to be included in thecanon of the New Testament. All, with the exception of the Gnostics andsome other heretics, recognized the claims of the four Gospels, [448:4]of the Acts of the Apostles, of the Epistles of Paul, of the FirstEpistle of Peter, and of the First Epistle of John. Though, for a time,some Churches hesitated to acknowledge the remaining epistles, theirdoubts seem to have been gradually dissipated. At first the genuinenessof the Apocalypse was undisputed; but, after the rise of the Montanists,who were continually quoting it in proof of their theory of amillennium, some of their antagonists foolishly questioned itsauthority. At an early period two or three tracts [449:1] written byuninspired men were received as Scripture by a number of Churches. Theywere never, however, generally acknowledged; and at length, by commonconsent, they were excluded from the canon. [449:2]

The code of heathen morality supplied a ready apology for falsehood,[449:3] and its accommodating principles soon found too muchencouragement within the pale of the Church. Hence the pious fraudswhich were now perpetrated. Various works made their appearance with thename of some apostolic man appended to them, [449:4] their fabricatorsthus hoping to give currency to opinions or to practices which mightotherwise have encountered much opposition. At the same time manyevinced a disposition to supplement the silence of the Written Word bythe aid of tradition. But though the writers of the period sometimes layundue stress upon the evidence of this vague witness, they often resortto it merely as an offset against statements professedly derived fromthe same source which were brought forward by the heretics; and theyinvariably admit that the authority of Scripture is entitled to overridethe authority of tradition. "The Lord in the Gospel, reproving andrebuking, declares," says Cyprian, "ye reject the commandment of Godthat ye may keep your own tradition. [450:1] …. Custom should, not bean obstacle that the truth prevail not and overcome, for a customwithout truth is error inveterate." [450:2] "What obstinacy is that, orwhat presumption, to prefer human tradition to divine ordinances, andnot to perceive that God is displeased and provoked, as often as humantradition relaxes and sets aside the divine command." [450:3] Duringthis period—the uncertainty of any other guide than the inspired recordwas repeatedly demonstrated; for, though Christians were removed at soshort a distance from apostolic times, the traditions of one Churchsometimes diametrically contradicted those of another. [450:4]

There is certainly nothing like uniformity in the language employed bythe Christian writers of this era when treating of doctrinal subjects;and yet their theology seems to have been essentially the same. Allapparently admit the corruption of human nature. Justin Martyr speaks ofa "concupiscence in every man, evil in all its tendencies, and variousin its nature," [450:5] whilst Tertullian mentions original sin underthe designation of "the vice of our origin." [450:6] Our first parent,says he, "having been seduced into disobedience by Satan was deliveredover to death, and transmitted his condemnation to the whole human racewhich was infected from his seed." [450:7] Though the ancient fathersoccasionally describe free will in terms which apparently ignore theexistence of indwelling depravity, [451:1] their language should not betoo strictly interpreted, as it only implies a strong protest againstthe heathen doctrine of fate, and a recognition of the principle thatman is a voluntary agent. Thus it is that Clemens Alexandrinus, one ofthe writers who asserts most decidedly the freedom of the will, admitsthe necessity of a new birth unto righteousness. "The Father," says he,"regenerates by the Spirit unto adoption all who flee to Him." [451:2]"Since the soul is moved of itself, the grace of God demands from it thatwhich it has, namely, a ready temper as its contribution to salvation.For the Lord wishes that the good which He confers on the soul shouldbe its own, since it is not without sensation, so that it should beimpelled like a body." [451:3]

No fact is more satisfactorily attested than that the early disciplesrendered divine honours to our Saviour. In the very beginning of thesecond century, a heathen magistrate, who deemed it his duty to makeminute inquiries respecting them, reported to the Roman Emperor that, intheir religious assemblies, they sang "hymns to Christ as to a God."[451:4] They were reproached by the Gentiles, as well as by the Jews,for worshipping a man who had been crucified. [451:5] When theaccusation was brought against them, they at once admitted its truth,and they undertook to shew that the procedure for which they werecondemned was perfectly capable of vindication. [452:1] In the days ofJustin Martyr there were certain professing Christians, probably theEbionites, [452:2] who held the simple humanity of our Lord, but thatwriter represents the great body of the disciples as entertaining verydifferent sentiments. "There are some of our race," says he, "whoconfess that He was the Christ, but affirm that He was a man born ofhuman parents, with whom I do not agree, neither should I, even if verymany, who entertain the same opinion as myself, were to say so; since weare commanded by Christ to attend, not to the doctrines of men, but tothat which was proclaimed by the blessed prophets, and taught byHimself." [452:3]

When Justin here expresses his dissent from those who described our Lordas "a man born of human parents," he obviously means no more than thathe is not a Humanitarian, for, in common with the early Church, he heldthe doctrine of the two natures in Christ. The fathers who nowflourished, when touching upon the question of the union of humanity anddeity in the person of the Redeemer, do not, it is true, expressthemselves always with as much precision as writers who appeared afterthe Eutychian controversy in the fifth century; but they undoubtedlybelieved that our Lord was both God and man. [453:1] Even already thesubject was pressed on their attention by various classes of erroristswho were labouring with much assiduity to disseminate their principles.The Gnostics, who affirmed that the body of Jesus was a phantom, shutthem up to the necessity of shewing that He really possessed all theattributes of a human being; whilst, in meeting objectors from adifferent quarter, they were compelled to demonstrate that He was alsothe Jehovah of the Old Testament. The Ebionites were not the onlysectaries who taught that Jesus was a mere man. The same doctrine wasinculcated by Theodotus, a native of Byzantium, who settled at Romeabout the end of the second century. This individual, though by trade atanner, possessed no small amount of learning, and created somedisturbance in the Church of the Western capital by the novelty andboldness of his speculations. In the end he is said to have beenexcommunicated by Victor, the Roman bishop. Some time afterwards, hissentiments were adopted by Artemon, whose disciples, named Artemonites,elected a bishop of their own, [453:2] and existed for some time at Romeas a distinct community.

But by far the most distinguished of these ancient impugners of theproper deity of the Messiah was the celebrated Paul of Samosata, whoflourished shortly after the middle of the third century. Paul occupiedthe bishopric of Antioch, the second see in Christendom; and wasundoubtedly a man of superior talent. According to his views, the DivineLogos is not a distinct Person, but the Reason of God; and Jesus was thegreatest of the sons of men simply because the Logos dwelt in Him aftera higher manner, or more abundantly, than in any other of the posterityof Adam. [454:1] But though this prelate had great wealth, influence,and eloquence, his heterodoxy soon raised a storm of opposition which hecould not withstand. The Christians of Antioch in the third centurycould not quietly tolerate the ministrations of a preacher whoinsinuated that the Word is not truly God. He appears to have possessedconsummate address, and when first arraigned, his plausibleequivocations and sophistries imposed upon his judges; but, at asubsequent council, held about A.D. 269 in the metropolis of Syria, hewas so closely pressed by Malchion, one of his own presbyters, that hewas obliged reluctantly to acknowledge his real sentiments. He was, inconsequence, deposed from his office by a unanimous vote of the Synod. Acircular letter [454:2] announcing the decision was transmitted to theleading pastors of the Church all over the Empire, and thisecclesiastical deliverance seems to have received their universalsanction. [454:3]

The theological term translated Trinity, [454:4] was in use as earlyas the second century; for, about A.D. 180, it is employed byTheophilus, who is supposed to have been one of the predecessors of Paulof Samosata in the Church of Antioch. [454:5] Speaking of the formationof the heavenly bodies on the fourth day of creation, as described inthe first chapter of Genesis, this writer observes—"The three dayswhich preceded the luminaries are types of the Trinity, [454:6] ofGod, and His Word, and His Wisdom." Here, as elsewhere in the works ofthe fathers of the early Church, the third person of the Godhead isnamed under the designation of Wisdom. [455:1] Though this is the firstmention of the word Trinity to be found in any ecclesiastical documentnow extant, it is plain that the doctrine is of far higher antiquity.Justin Martyr repeatedly refers to it, and Athenagoras, who flourishedin the reign of Marcus Aurelius, treats of it with much clearness. "Wespeak," says he, "of the Father as God, and the Son as God, and the HolyGhost, shewing at the same time their power in unity, and theirdistinction in order." [455:2] "We who look upon this present life asworth little or nothing, and are conducted through it by the soleprinciple of knowing God and the Word proceeding from Him, of knowingwhat is the unity of the Son with the Father, what the Fathercommunicates to the Son, what is the Spirit, what is the union of thisnumber of Persons, the Spirit, the Son, and the Father, and in what waythey who are united are divided—shall we not have credit given us forbeing worshippers of God?" [455:3]

The attempts made in the latter half of the second century to pervertthe doctrine of Scripture relative to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,probably led to the appearance of the word Trinity in the ecclesiasticalnomenclature; for, when controversy commenced, some such symbol wasrequired to prevent the necessity of constant and tediouscircumlocution. One of the most noted of the parties dissatisfied withthe ordinary mode of speaking respecting the Three Divine Persons, anddesirous of changing the current creed, was Praxeas, a native of AsiaMinor. After having acquired much credit by his fortitude and courage ina time of persecution, he had also signalised himself by his zealagainst the Montanists. He now taught that the Son and Holy Ghost arenot distinct Persons, but simply modes or energies of the Father; and asthose who adopted his sentiments imagined that they thus held morestrictly than others the doctrine of the existence of a single Ruler ofthe universe, they styled themselves Monarchians. [456:1] According totheir views the first and second Persons of the Godhead are identical;and, as it apparently followed from this theory, that the Fathersuffered on the cross, they received the name of Patripassians.[456:2] Praxeas travelled from Asia Minor to Rome, and afterwards passedover into Africa, where he was strenuously opposed by the famousTertullian. Another individual, named Noetus, attracted some noticeabout the close of the second century by the peculiarity of hisspeculations in reference to the Godhead. "Noetus," says a contemporary,"calls the same both Son and Father, for he speaks thus—'When theFather had not been born, He was rightly called Father, but when itpleased Him to undergo birth, then by birth He became the Son ofHimself, and not of another.' Thus he professes to establish theprinciple of Monarchianism." [456:3] But, perhaps, the attempts ofSabellius to modify the established doctrine made the deepestimpression. This man, who was an ecclesiastic connected with Ptolemaisin Africa, [456:4] maintained that there is no foundation for theordinary distinction of the Persons of the Trinity, and that the termsFather, Son, and Holy Spirit, merely indicate different manifestationsof the Supreme Being, or different phases under which the one Godreveals Himself. From him the doctrine of those who confound the Personsof the Godhead still bears the name of Sabellianism.

It has been sometimes said that the Church borrowed its idea of aTrinity from Plato, but this assertion rests upon no historical basis.Learned men have found it exceedingly difficult to give anything like anintelligible account of the Trinity of the Athenian philosopher, [457:1]and it seems to have had only a metaphysical existence. It certainly hadnothing more than a fanciful and verbal resemblance to the Trinity ofChristianity. Had the doctrine of the Church been derived from thewritings of the Grecian sage, it would not have been inculcated with somuch zeal and unanimity by the early fathers. Some of them were bitterlyopposed to Platonism, and yet, though none denounced it more vehementlythan Tertullian, [457:2] we cannot point to any one of them who speaksof the Three Divine Persons more clearly or copiously. The hereticthinks, says he, "that we cannot believe in one God in any other waythan if we say that the very same Person is Father, Son, and HolyGhost…. These persons assume the number and arrangement of the Trinityto be a division of the Unity; whereas the Unity, which derives aTrinity from itself, is not destroyed by it, but has its differentoffices performed. They, therefore, boast that two and three Gods arepreached by us, but that they themselves are worshippers of one God; asif the Unity, when improperly contracted, did not create heresy, and aTrinity, when properly considered, did not constitute truth." [457:3]

Every one at all acquainted with the ecclesiastical literature of thisperiod must acknowledge that the disciples now firmly maintained thedoctrine of the Atonement. The Gnostics and the Manichaeans discardedthis article from their systems, as it was entirely foreign to thespirit of their philosophy; but, though the Church teachers enter intoscarcely any explanation of it, by attempting to shew how the violatedlaw required a propitiation, they proclaim it as a glorious truth whichshould inspire all the children of God with joy and confidence. ClemensAlexandrinus gives utterance only to the common faith when hedeclares—"Christians are redeemed from corruption by the blood of theLord." "The Word poured forth His blood for us to save human nature.""The Lord gave Himself a victim for us." [458:1] The early writers alsomention faith as the means by which we are to appropriate the benefitsof the Redeemer's sacrifice. Thus, Justin Martyr represents Christ as"purifying by His blood those who believe on Him." [458:2] ClemensAlexandrinus, in like manner, speaks of "the one mode of salvation byfaith in God," [458:3] and says that "we have believed in God throughthe voice of the Word." [458:4] In the "Letter to Diognetus" thedoctrine of justification by faith through the imputed righteousness ofthe Saviour is beautifully exhibited. "For what else," says the writer,"could cover our sins but His righteousness? In whom was it a possiblethat we, the lawless and the unholy, could be justified, save by the Sonof God alone? Oh sweet exchange! oh unsearchable wisdom! oh unexpectedbenefits! that the sin of many should be hidden by One righteous, andthe righteousness of One justify many sinners." [458:5]

The Church of the second and third centuries was not agitated by anycontroversies relative to grace and predestination. Few, probably, weredisposed to indulge in speculations on these subjects; and some of theecclesiastical writers, in the heat of controversial discussion, areoccasionally tempted to make use of language which it would be difficultto reconcile with the declarations of the New Testament. All of them,however, either explicitly or virtually, admit the necessity of grace;and some distinctly enunciate the doctrine of election. "We stand inespecial need of divine grace, and right instruction, and pureaffection," says Clemens Alexandrinus, "and we require that the Fathershould draw us towards himself." "God, who knows the future as if itwas already present, knows the elect according to His purpose evenbefore the creation." [459:1] "Your power to do," says Cyprian, "will beaccording to the increase of spiritual grace…. What measure we bringthither of faith to hold, so much do we drink in of grace to inundate.Hereby is strength given." [459:2] It is worthy of note that thosewriters, who speak most decidedly of the freedom of the will, also mostdistinctly proclaim their faith in the perfection of the DivineSovereignty. Thus, Justin Martyr urges, as a decisive proof of theimpious character of their theology, that the heathen philosophersrepudiated the doctrine of a particular providence; [459:3] and all theancient fathers are ever ready to recognise the superintendingguardianship of God in the common affairs of life.

But though the creed of the Church was still to some extentsubstantially sound, it must be admitted that it was already beginningto suffer much from adulteration. One hundred years after the death ofthe Apostle John, spiritual darkness was fast settling down upon theChristian community; and the fathers, who flourished towards thecommencement of the third century, frequently employ language for whichthey would have been sternly rebuked, had they lived in the days of theapostles and evangelists. Thus, we find them speaking of "sinscleansed by repentance," [460:1] and of repentance as "the priceat which the Lord has determined to grant forgiveness." [460:2] We readof "sins cleansed by alms and faith," [460:3] and of the martyr, byhis sufferings, "washing away his own iniquities." [460:4] We are toldthat by baptism "we are cleansed from all our sins," and "regain thatSpirit of God which Adam received at his creation and lost by histransgression." [460:5] "The pertinacious wickedness of the Devil," saysCyprian, "has power up to the saving water, but in baptism he losesall the poison of his wickedness." [460:6] The same writer insists uponthe necessity of penance, a species of discipline unknown to theapostolic Church, and denounces, with terrible severity, those whodiscouraged its performance. "By the deceitfulness of their lies," sayshe, they interfere, "that satisfaction be not given to God in Hisanger….. All pains are taken that sins be not expiated by duesatisfactions and lamentations, that wounds be not washed clean bytears." [460:7] It may be said that some of these expressions arerhetorical, and that those by whom they were employed did not mean todeny the all-sufficiency of the Great Sacrifice; but had these fathersclearly apprehended the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ,they would have recoiled from the use of language so exceedinglyobjectionable.

There are many who imagine that, had they lived in the days ofTertullian or of Origen, they would have enjoyed spiritual advantagesfar higher than any to which they have now access. But a more minuteacquaintance with the ecclesiastical history of the third century mightconvince them that they have no reason to complain of their presentprivileges. The amount of material light which surrounds us does notdepend on our proximity to the sun. When our planet is most remote fromits great luminary, we may bask in the splendour of his effulgence; and,when it approaches nearer, we may be involved in thick darkness. So itis with the Church. The amount of our religious knowledge does notdepend on our proximity to the days of primitive Christianity. The Bibleis the sun of the spiritual firmament; and this divine illuminator, likethe glorious orb of day, pours forth its light with equal brilliancyfrom generation to generation. The Church may retire into "chambers ofimagery" erected by her own folly; and there, with the light shut outfrom her, may sink into a slumber disturbed only, now and then, by somedream of superstition; or, with the light still shining on her, her eyemay be dim or disordered, and she may stumble at noonday. But the lightis as pure as in the days of the apostles; and, if we have eyes toprofit by it, we may "understand more than the ancients." The art ofprinting has supplied us with facilities for the study of the Scriptureswhich were denied to the fathers of the second century; and theecclesiastical documents, relative to that age, which have beentransmitted to us from antiquity, contain, perhaps, the greater part ofeven the traditionary information which was preserved in the Church. Ifwe are only "taught of God," we are in as good a position for acquiringa correct acquaintance with the way of salvation as was Polycarp orJustin Martyr. What an encouragement for every one to pray—"Open thoumine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. I am astranger in the earth: hide not thy commandments from me!" [461:11]




The religion of the primitive Christians must have appeared exceedinglystrange to their pagan contemporaries. The heathen worship was littlebetter than a solemn show. Its victims adorned with garlands, itsincense and music and lustral water, its priests arrayed in white robes,and its marble temples with gilded roofs, were fitted, rather tofascinate the senses, than to improve the heart or expand the intellect.Even the Jewish ritual, in the days of its glory, must have had apowerful effect on the imagination. As the Israelites assembled from allquarters at their great festivals—as they poured in thousands and tensof thousands into the courts of their ancient sanctuary—as theysurveyed the various parts of a structure which was one of the wondersof the world—as they beheld the priests in their holy garments—and asthey gazed on the high priest himself, whose forehead glittered withgold whilst his breastplate sparkled with precious stones—they musthave felt that they mingled in a scene of extraordinary splendour. But,when Christianity made its appearance in the world, it presented none ofthese attractions. Its adherents were stigmatized as atheists, [463:1]because they had no altars, no temples, and no sacrifices. They heldtheir meetings in private dwellings; their ministers wore no peculiardress; and, by all who sought merely the gratification of the eye or ofthe ear, the simple service in which they engaged must have beenconsidered very bald and uninteresting. But they rejoiced exceedingly inits spiritual character, as they felt that they could thus draw near toGod, and hold sweet and refreshing communion with their Father inheaven.

It is probable that, during a considerable part of the second century,the Christians had comparatively few buildings set apart for publicworship. At a time when they congregated to celebrate the rites of theirreligion at night or before break of day, it is not to be supposed thatthey were anxious to obtrude their conventicles on the notice of theirpersecutors. But as they increased in numbers, and as the State becamesomewhat more indulgent, they gradually acquired confidence; and, aboutthe beginning of the third century, the form of their ecclesiasticalstructures seems to have been already familiar to the eyes of theheathen. [463:2] Shortly after that period, their meeting-houses in Romewere well known; and, in the reign of Alexander Severus, they venturedto dispute with one of the city trades the possession of a piece ofground on which they were desirous to erect a place of worship. [463:3]When the case came for adjudication before the Imperial tribunal, thesovereign decided in their favour, and thus virtually placed them underthe shield of his protection. When the Emperor Gallienus, about A.D.260, issued an edict of toleration, church architecture advanced apace,and many of the old buildings, which were now falling into decay, weresuperseded by edifices at once more capacious and more tasteful. TheChristians at this time began to emulate the magnificence of the heathentemples, and even to ape their arrangements. Thus it is that some of ourchurches at the present day are nearly fac-similes of the ancientreligious edifices of paganism. [464:1]

In addition to the administration of baptism and the Lord's Supper, theworship of the early Church consisted of singing, prayer, reading theScriptures, and preaching. In the earliest notice of the Christians ofthe second century which occurs in any pagan writer, their psalmody,with which they commenced their religious services, [464:2] isparticularly mentioned; for, in his celebrated letter to the EmperorTrajan, Pliny states that they met together, before the rising of thesun, to "sing hymns to Christ as to a God." It is highly probable thatthe "hymns" here spoken of were the Psalms of the Old Testament. Many ofthese inspired effusions celebrate the glories of Immanuel, and as, forobvious reasons, the Messianic Psalms would be used more frequently thanany others, it is not strange that the disciples are represented asassembling to sing praise to Christ. But it would appear that the Churchat this time was not confined to the ancient Psalter. Hymns of humancomposition were occasionally employed; [464:3] and one of these, to befound in the writings of Clement of Alexandria, [464:4] was, perhaps,sung in the early part of the third century by the Christians of theEgyptian capital. Influential bishops sometimes introduced them by theirown authority, but the practice was regarded with suspicion, and seemsto have been considered irregular. Hence Paul of Samosata, in theCouncil of Antioch held A.D. 269, was blamed for discontinuing thePsalms formerly used, and for establishing a new and very exceptionablehymnology. [465:1]

In the church, as well as in the synagogue, the whole congregationjoined in the singing; [465:2] but instrumental music was never broughtinto requisition. The early Christians believed that the organs of thehuman voice are the most appropriate vehicles for giving utterance tothe feelings of devotion; and viewing the lute and the harp as thecarnal ordinances of a superannuated dispensation, they rejected theiraid in the service of the sanctuary. Long after this period one of themost eminent of the ancient fathers describes the music of the flutes,sackbuts, and psalteries of the temple worship as only befitting thechildhood of the Church. "It was," says he, "permitted to the Jews, assacrifice was, for the heaviness and grossness of their souls. Godcondescended to their weakness, because they were lately drawn off fromidols; but now, instead of instruments, we may use our own bodies topraise Him withal." [465:3]

The account of the worship of the Church, given by a Christian writerwho flourished about the middle of the second century, is exceedinglyinstructive. "On the day which is called Sunday," says Justin Martyr,"there is a meeting together in one place of all who dwell either intowns or in the country; and the memoirs of the apostles, or thewritings of the prophets are read, as long as the time permits. When thereading ceases, the president delivers a discourse, in which he makes anapplication and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. We thenrise all together and pray. Then … when we cease from prayer, bread isbrought, and wine and water; and the president, in like manner, offersup prayers and thanksgivings according to his ability; [466:1] and thepeople express their assent by saying Amen." [466:2] It is abundantlyclear from this statement that the presiding minister was not restrictedto any set form of supplication. As he prayed "according to hisability," his petitions could neither have been dictated by others nortaken from a liturgy. Such a practice as the reading of prayers seems,indeed, to have been totally unknown in the Church during the firstthree centuries. Hence Tertullian represents the Christians of hisgeneration as praying "looking up with hands spread open, … andwithout a prompter because from the heart." [466:3] In his "Treatiseon Prayer" Origen recommends the worshipper to address God withstretched out hands and uplifted eyes. [466:4] The erect body with thearms extended was supposed to represent the cross, [466:5] and thereforethis attitude was deemed peculiarly appropriate for devotion. [466:6] Onthe Lord's day the congregation always stood when addressing God.[466:7] At this period forms of prayer were used in the heathen worship,[467:1] and in some cases the pagans adhered with singular tenacity totheir ancient liturgies; [467:2] but the Church did not yet require theaid of such auxiliaries. It is remarkable that, though in the account ofthe losses sustained during the Diocletian persecution, we readfrequently of the seizure of the Scriptures, and of the ecclesiasticalutensils, we never meet with any allusion to the spoliation ofprayer-books. [467:3] There is, in fact, no evidence whatever that suchhelps to devotion were yet in existence. [467:4]

The worship was now conducted in a dialect which was understood by thecongregation; and though the officiating minister was at perfect libertyto select his phraseology, it is probable that he did not think itnecessary to aim at great variety in the mere language of his devotionalexercises. So long as a petition was deemed suitable, it perhapscontinued to be repeated in nearly the same words, whilst providentialinterpositions, impending persecutions, and the personal condition ofthe flock, would be continually suggesting some fresh topics forthanksgiving, supplication, and confession. The beautiful andcomprehensive prayer taught by our Lord to His disciples was neverconsidered out of place; and, as early as the third century, it was, atleast in some districts, used once at every meeting of the faithful.[468:1] The apostle had taught the brethren that intercessions should bemade "for kings and for all that are in authority," [468:2] and theprimitive disciples did not neglect to commend their earthly rulers tothe care of the Sovereign of the universe. [468:3] But still it is clearthat even such petitions did not run in the channel of any prescribedformulary.

From the very days of the apostles the reading of the Scripturesconstituted an important part of public worship. This portion of theservice was, at first perhaps, conducted by one of the elders, but, insome places, towards the close of the second century, it was committedto a new official, called the Reader. [468:4] The presiding ministerseems to have been permitted originally to choose whatever passages heconsidered most fitting for the occasion, as well as to determine theamount of time which was to be occupied in the exercise; but, at length,an order of lessons was prepared, and then the Reader was expected toconfine himself to the Scriptures pointed out in his calendar. [468:5]This arrangement, which was obviously designed to secure a more uniformattention to the several parts of the inspired canon, came onlygradually into general operation; and it frequently happened that theorder of lessons for one church was very different from that used inanother. [468:6]

Whilst the constant reading, in the vernacular tongue, of considerableportions of Scripture at public worship, promoted the religiousinstruction of the people, the mode of preaching which now prevailedcontributed to make them still more intimately acquainted with thesacred records. The custom of selecting a text as the basis of adiscourse had not yet been introduced; but, when the reading closed, theminister proceeded to expatiate on that section of the Word which hadjust been brought under the notice of the congregation, and pointed out,as well the doctrines which it recognised, as the practical lessonswhich it inculcated. The entire presbytery was usually present in thecongregation every Lord's day, and when one or other of the elders hadmade a few comments, [469:1] the president added some remarks of anexpository and hortatory character; but, frequently, he received noassistance in this part of the service. The method of reading andelucidating Scripture, now pursued, was eminently salutary; for, whilstit stored the memory with a large share of biblical knowledge, the wholeWord of God, in the way of earnest appeal, was brought into closecontact with the heart and conscience of each individual.

So long as pristine piety flourished, the people listened with devoutattention to the observations of the preacher; but, as a more secularspirit prevailed, he began to be treated, rather as an orator, than aherald from the King of kings. Before the end of the third century, thehouse of prayer occasionally resounded with the plaudits of the theatre.Such exhibitions were, indeed, condemned at the time by theecclesiastical authorities, but the very fact that in the principalchurch of one of the chief cities of the Empire, the bishop, as heproceeded with his sermon, was greeted with stamping of feet, clappingof hands, and waving of handkerchiefs, [469:2] supplied melancholyevidence of the progress of spiritual degeneracy. In the days of theApostle Paul such demonstrations would have been universally denouncedas unseemly and unseasonable.

During the first three centuries there was nothing in the ordinarycostume of a Christian minister to distinguish him from any of hisfellow-citizens; [470:1] but, it would appear, that when the pastorofficiated in the congregation, he began, at an early date, to wear somepeculiar piece of apparel. In an old document, purporting to have beenwritten shortly after the middle of the second century, he is described,at the period of his advancement to the episcopal chair, as "clothedwith the dress of the bishops." [470:2] As the third century advanced,there was a growing disposition to increase the pomp of public worship;in some places vessels of silver or of gold were used at thedispensation of the, Lord's Supper; [470:3] and it is highly probablethat, about this time, some few decorations were assumed by those whotook part in its administration. But still the habit used byecclesiastics at divine service was distinguished by its comparativesimplicity, and differed very little from the dress commonly worn by themass of the population.

What a change must have passed over the Church from the period before usto the dawn of the Reformation! Now, the making of images was forbidden,and no picture was permitted to appear even on the walls of the sacrededifice: [470:4] then, a church frequently suggested the idea of astudio, or a picture-gallery. Now, the whole congregation joinedheartily in the psalmody: then, the mute crowd listened to the music ofthe organ accompanied by the shrill voices of a chorus of thoughtlessboys. Now, prayers, in the vernacular tongue and suited to the occasion,were offered with simplicity and earnestness; then, petitions, longsince antiquated, were muttered in a dead language. Now, the Word wasread and expounded in a way intelligible to all: then, a few Latinextracts from it were mumbled over hastily; and, if a sermon followed,it was, perhaps, a eulogy on some wretched fanatic, or an attack on sometrue evangelist. There are writers who believe that the Church wasmeanwhile going on in a career of hopeful development; but facts tooclearly testify that she was moving backwards in a path of cheerlessdeclension. Now, the Church "holding forth the Word of life" wascommending herself to philosophers and statesmen: then, she had sunkinto premature dotage, and her very highest functionaries were lispingthe language of infidelity.


When the venerable Polycarp was on the eve of martyrdom, he is reportedto have said that he had served Christ "eighty and six years." [472:1]By the ancient Church these words seem to have been regarded astantamount to a declaration of the length of his life, and as implyingthat he had been a disciple of the Saviour from his infancy. [472:2] Theaccount of his martyrdom indicates that he was still in the enjoyment ofa green old age, [472:3] and as very few overpass the term of fourscoreyears and six, we are certainly not at liberty to infer, without anyevidence, and in the face of probabilities, that he had now attained agreater longevity. A contemporary father, who wrote about the middle ofthe second century, informs us, that there were then many persons ofboth sexes, some sixty, and some seventy years of age, who had been"disciples of Christ from childhood," [472:4] and the pastor of Smyrnais apparently included in the description. If he was eighty-six at thetime of his death, he must have been about threescore and ten whenJustin Martyr made this announcement.

No one could have been considered a disciple of Jesus who had notreceived baptism, and it thus appears that there were many aged persons,living about A.D. 150, to whom, when children, the ordinance had beenadministered. We may infer, also, that Polycarp, when an infant, hadbeen in this way admitted within the pale of visible Christianity.Infant baptism must, therefore, have been an institution of the age ofthe apostles. This conclusion is corroborated by the fact that JustinMartyr speaks of baptism as supplying the place of circumcision. "We,"says he, "who through Christ have access to God, have not received thatcircumcision which is in the flesh, but that spiritual circumcisionwhich Enoch, and others like him, observed. And this, because we havebeen sinners, we do, through the mercy of God, receive by baptism."[473:1] Justin would scarcely have represented the initiatory ordinanceof the Christian Church as supplying so efficiently the place of theJewish rite, had it not been of equally extensive application. Thetestimony of Irenaeus, the disciple of Polycarp, throws additional lightupon this argument. "Christ," says he, "came to save all persons byHimself; all, I say, who by Him are regenerated unto God—infants, andlittle ones, and children, and youths, and aged persons: therefore Hewent through the several ages, being made an infant for infants, that Hemight sanctify infants; [473:2] and, for little ones, He was made alittle one, to sanctify them of that age also." [473:3] Irenaeuselsewhere speaks of baptism as our regeneration or new birth untoGod, [473:4] so that his meaning in this passage cannot well bedisputed. He was born on the confines of the apostolic age, and when hementions the regeneration unto God of "infants, and little ones, andchildren," he alludes to their admission by baptism to the seal ofsalvation.

The celebrated Origen was born about A.D. 185, and we have as strongcirc*mstantial evidence as we could well desire that he was baptized ininfancy. [474:1] Both his parents were Christians, and as soon as he wascapable of receiving instruction, he began to enjoy the advantages of apious education. He affirms, not only that the practice of infantbaptism prevailed in his own age, but that it had been handed down as anecclesiastical ordinance from the first century. "None," says he, "isfree from pollution, though his life upon the earth be but the length ofone day, and for this reason even infants are baptized, because by thesacrament of baptism the pollution of our birth is put away." [474:2]"The Church has received the custom of baptizing little children fromthe apostles." [474:3]

The only writer of the first three centuries who questions the proprietyof infant baptism is Tertullian. The passage in which he expounds hisviews on this subject is a most transparent specimen of specialpleading, and the extravagant recommendations it contains sufficientlyattest that he had taken up a false position. "Considering," says he,"every one's condition and disposition, and also his age, the delay ofbaptism is more advantageous, but especially in the case of littlechildren. For what necessity is there that the sponsors be brought intodanger? Because they may fail to fulfil their promises by death, or maybe deceived by the child's proving of a wicked disposition. Our Lordsays indeed—'Do not forbid them to come unto me.' Let them come,therefore, whilst they are growing up, let them come whilst they arelearning, whilst they are being taught where it is they are coming, letthem be made Christians when they are capable of knowing Christ. Whyshould their innocent age make haste to the remission of sins? Menproceed more cautiously in worldly things; and he that is not trustedwith earthly goods, why should he be trusted with divine? Let them knowhow to ask salvation, that you may appear to give it to one that asketh.For no less reason unmarried persons ought to be delayed, because theyare exposed to temptations, as well virgins that are come to maturity,as those that are in widowhood and have little occupation, until theyeither marry or be confirmed in continence. They who know the weight ofbaptism will rather dread its attainment than its postponement." [475:1]

In the apostolic age all adults, when admitted to baptism, answered forthemselves. Had additional sponsors been required for the three thousandconverts who joined the Church on the day of Pentecost, [475:2] theycould not have been procured. The Ethiopian eunuch and the Philippianjailor [475:3] were their own sponsors. Until long after the time whenTertullian wrote, there were, in the case of adults, no other sponsorsthan the parties themselves. But when an infant was dedicated to God inbaptism, the parents were required to make a profession of the faith,and to undertake to train up their little one in the way ofrighteousness. [476:1] It is to this arrangement that Tertullian referswhen he says—"What necessity is there that the sponsors be broughtinto danger? Because even they may fail to fulfil their promises bydeath, or may be deceived by the child's proving of a wickeddisposition."

It is plain, from his own statements, that infant baptism was practisedin the days of this father; and it is also obvious that it was then saidto rest on the authority of the New Testament. Its advocates, healleges, quoted in its defence the words of our Saviour—"Suffer thelittle children to come unto me and forbid them not." [476:2] And howdoes Tertullian meet this argument? Does he venture to say that it iscontradicted by any other Scripture testimony? Does he pretend to assertthat the appearance of parents, as sponsors for their children, is anecclesiastical innovation? Had this acute and learned controversialistbeen prepared to encounter infant baptism on such grounds, he would nothave neglected his opportunity. But, instead of pursuing such a line ofreasoning, he merely exhibits his weakness by resorting to a piece ofmiserable sophistry. When our Lord said—"Suffer the little children tocome unto me and forbid them not," He illustrated His meaning as He"took them up in His arms, put His hands upon them, and blessed them;"[476:3] so that the gloss of Tertullian—"Let them come whilst theyare growing up, let them come whilst they are learning"—is a palpablemisinterpretation. Nor is this all. The Carthaginian father must haveknown that there were frequent instances in the days of the apostles ofthe baptism of whole households; and yet he maintains that theunmarried, especially young widows, cannot with safety be admitted tothe ordinance. Had he been with Paul and Silas at Philippi he would thusscarcely have consented to the baptism of Lydia; and he would certainlyhave protested against the administration of the rite to all the membersof her family. [477:1]

Though Tertullian may not have formally separated from the Church whenhe wrote the tract in which this passage occurs, it is evident that hehad already adopted the principles of the Montanists. These erroristsheld that any one who had fallen into heinous sin after baptism couldnever again be admitted to ecclesiastical fellowship; and this littlebook itself supplies proof that its author now supported the samedoctrine. He here declares that the man "who renews his sins afterbaptism" is "destined to fire;" and he intimates that martyrdom, or "thebaptism of blood," can alone "restore" such an offender. [477:2] It wasobviously the policy of the Montanists to discourage infant baptism, andto retain the mass of their adherents, as long as possible, in thecondition of catechumens. Hence Tertullian here asserts that "they whoknow the weight of baptism will rather dread its attainment than itspostponement." [477:3] But neither the apostles, nor the early Church,had any sympathy with such a sentiment. They represent baptism as aprivilege—as a sign and seal of God's favour—which all shouldthankfully embrace. On the very day on which Peter denounced the Jews ashaving with wicked hands crucified his Master, he assisted in thebaptism of three thousand of these transgressors. "Repent," says he,"and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for theremission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, forthe promise is unto you and to your children." [478:1] Tertullian wouldhave given them no such encouragement. But the Montanists believed thattheir Phrygian Paraclete was commissioned to supersede the apostolicdiscipline. When the African father attacked infant baptism he obviouslyacted under this conviction; and whilst seeking to set aside thearrangements of the Church of his own age, he felt no scruple inventuring at the same time to subvert an institute of primitiveChristianity.

We have the clearest evidence that, little more than twenty years afterthe death of Tertullian, the whole Church of Africa recognised thepropriety of this practice. About the middle of the third century abishop of that country, named Fidus, appears to have taken up the ideathat, when administering the ordinance, he was bound to adhere to thevery letter of the law relative to circumcision, [478:2] and thattherefore he was not at liberty to baptize the child before the eighthday after its birth. When the case was submitted to Cyprian and anAfrican Synod, consisting of sixty-six bishops, they unanimouslydecided that these scruples were groundless; and, in an epistleaddressed to the pastor who entertained them, the Assembly thuscommunicated the result of its deliberations—"As regards the case ofinfants who, you say, should not be baptized within the second or thirdday after their birth, and that respect should be had to the law of theancient circumcision, whence you think that one newly born should not bebaptized and sanctified within the eighth day, we all in our councilthought very differently…. If even to the most grievous offenders, …when they afterwards believe, remission of sins is granted, and no oneis debarred from baptism and grace, how much more ought not an infant tobe debarred who, being newly born, has in no way sinned, except thatbeing born after Adam in the flesh, he has by his first birth contractedthe contagion of the old death; who is on this very account more easilyadmitted to receive remission of sins, in that, not his own, butanother's sins are remitted to him." [479:1]

Whilst it is thus apparent that the baptism of infants was theestablished order of the Church, it is equally clear that the particularmode of administration was not considered essential to the validity ofthe ordinance. It was usually dispensed by immersion or affusion,[479:2] but when the health of the candidate might have been injured bysuch an ordeal, sprinkling was deemed sufficient. Aspersion was commonlyemployed in the case of the sick, and was known by the designation ofclinic or bed baptism. Cyprian points out to one of hiscorrespondents the absurdity of the idea that the extent to which thewater is applied can affect the character of the institution. "In thesaving sacrament," says he, "the contagion of sin is not washed awayjust in the same way as is the filth of the skin and body in theordinary ablution of the flesh, so that there should be need ofsaltpetre and other appliances, and a bath and a pool in which the poorbody may be washed and cleansed…. It is apparent that the sprinklingof water has like force with the saving washing, and that when this isdone in the Church, where the faith both of the giver and receiver isentire, [480:1] all holds good and is consummated and perfected by thepower of the Lord, and the truth of faith." [480:2]

Cyprian is here perfectly right in maintaining that the essence ofbaptism does not consist in the way in which the water is administered;but much of the language he employs in speaking of this ordinance cannotbe commended as sober and scriptural. He often confounds it withregeneration, and expresses himself as if the mere rite possessed amystic virtue. "The birth of Christians," says he, "is in baptism."[480:3] "The Church alone has the life-giving water." [480:4] "The watermust first be cleansed and sanctified by the priest, that it may beable, by baptism therein, to wash away the sins of the baptized."[480:5] Tertullian and other writers of the third century make use ofphraseology equally unguarded. [480:6] When the true character of theinstitute was so far misunderstood, it is not extraordinary that itbegan to be tricked out in the trappings of superstition. The candidate,as early as the third century, was exorcised before baptism, with a viewto the expulsion of evil spirits; [480:7] and, in some places, after theapplication of the water, when the kiss of peace was given to him, amixture of milk and honey was administered, [480:8] He was thenanointed, and marked on the forehead with the sign of the cross. [480:9]Finally, the presiding minister, by the laying on of hands, bestowed thebenediction. [480:10] Tertullian endeavours to explain some of theseceremonies. "The flesh," says he, "is washed, that the soul may be freedfrom spots; the flesh is anointed, that the soul may be consecrated; theflesh is marked (with the sign of the cross), that the soul may beguarded; the flesh is overshadowed by the imposition of hands, that thesoul may be enlightened by the Spirit." [481:1]

It is not improbable that the baptismal service constituted the firstgerm of a Church liturgy. As the ordinance was so frequently celebrated,it was found convenient to adhere to the same form, not only in thewords of administration, [481:2] but also in the accompanying prayers;and thus each pastor soon had his own baptismal office. But whenheresies spread, and when, in consequence, measures were taken topreserve the unity of the Catholic faith, a uniform series ofquestions—prepared, perhaps, by councils and adopted by the severalministers—was addressed to all catechumens. Thus, the baptismalservices were gradually assimilated; and, as the power of the hierarchyincreased, one general office, in each district, superseded all thepreviously-existing formularies.

Baptism, as dispensed in apostolic simplicity, is a most significantordinance; but the original rite was soon well-nigh hidden behind therubbish of human inventions. The milk and honey, the unction, thecrossing, the kiss of peace, and the imposition of hands, were alldesigned to render it more imposing; and, still farther to deepen theimpression, it was already administered in the presence of none savethose who had themselves been thus initiated. [481:3] But thefoolishness of God is wiser than man. Nothing is more to be deprecatedthan any attempt to improve upon the institutions of Christ. Baptism, asestablished by the Divine Founder of our religion, is a visibleexhibition of the gospel; but, as known in the third century, it hadmuch of the character of one of the heathen mysteries. It was intendedto confirm faith: but it was now contributing to foster superstition.How soon had the gold become dim, and the most fine gold been changed!


Baptism and the Lord's Supper may be regarded as a typical or pictorialsummary of the great salvation. In Baptism the gospel is exhibitedsubjectively—renewing the heart and cleansing from all iniquity: in theLord's Supper it is exhibited objectively—providing a mighty Mediator,and a perfect atonement. Regeneration and Propitiation are centraltruths towards which all the other doctrines of Christianity converge,and in marking them out by corresponding symbols, the Head of the Churchhas been graciously pleased to signalize their importance.

The Scriptures are able to make us wise unto salvation and thoroughlyfurnished unto all good works; but we are not at liberty to adulteratethese records either by addition or subtraction. If they should bepreserved exactly as they issued from the pen of inspiration, it isclear that the visible ordinances in which they are epitomized shouldalso be maintained in their integrity. He who tampers with adivinely-instituted symbol is obviously to some extent obnoxious to themalediction [483:1] pronounced upon the man who adds to, or takes awayfrom, the words of the book of God's prophecy.

Had the original form of administering the Lord's Supper been rigidlymaintained, the Church might have avoided a multitude of errors; butvery soon the spirit of innovation began to disfigure this institute.The mode in which it was observed, and the views which were entertainedrespecting it by the Christians of Rome, about the middle of the secondcentury, are minutely described by Justin Martyr. "There is brought,"says he, "to that one of the brethren who is president, bread and a cupof wine mixed with water. And he, having received them, gives praise andglory to the Father of all things…. And when he has finished hispraises and thanksgiving, all the people who are present express theirassent saying Amen, which in the Hebrew tongue signifies so be it.The president having given thanks, and the people having expressed theirassent, those whom we call deacons give to each of those who are presenta portion of the bread which has been blessed, and of the wine mixedwith water; and carry away some for those who are absent. And this foodis called by us the Eucharist, of which no one may partake unless hebelieves that which we teach is true, and is baptized, … and lives insuch a manner as Christ commanded. For we receive not these elements ascommon bread or common drink. But even as Jesus Christ our Saviour …had both flesh and blood for our salvation, even so we are taught thatthe food which is blessed … by the digestion of which our blood andflesh are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was madeflesh. For the apostles in the memoirs composed by them, which arecalled gospels, have related that Jesus thus commanded them, that havingtaken bread and given thanks He said—'Do this in remembrance of me,this is my body;' and that, in like manner, having taken the cup andgiven thanks, He said, 'This is my blood;' and that He distributed themto these alone." [484:1]

The writer does not here mention the posture of the disciples whencommunicating, but it is highly probable that they still continued tosit [485:1] in accordance with the primitive pattern. As they receivedthe ordinance in the same attitude as that in which they partook oftheir common meals, the story that their religious assemblies were thescenes of unnatural feasting, may have thus originated. [485:2] For thefirst three centuries, kneeling at the Lord's Supper was unknown; andit is not until about a hundred years after the death of the ApostleJohn, that we read of the communicants standing. [485:3] Throughoutthe whole of the third century, this appears to have been the positionin which they partook of the elements. [485:4]

The bread and wine of the Eucharist were now supplied by theworshippers, who made "oblations" according to their ability, [485:5]as well for the support of the ministers of the Church, as for thecelebration of its ordinances. There is no reason to believe that thebread, used at this period in the holy Supper, was unfermented; for,though our Lord distributed a loaf, or cake, of that quality when therite was instituted, the early Christians seem to have considered thecirc*mstance accidental; as unleavened bread was in ordinary use amongthe Jews at the time of the Passover. The disciples appear to have hadless reason for mixing the wine with water, and they could have producedno good evidence that such was the beverage used by Christ when Heappointed this commemoration. In the third century superstition alreadyrecognized a mystery in the mixture. "We see," says Cyprian, "that inthe water the people are represented, but that in the wine isexhibited the blood of Christ. When, however, in the cup water ismingled with wine, the people are united to Christ, and the multitude ofthe faithful are coupled and conjoined to Him on whom they believe."[486:1] The bread was not put into the mouth of the communicant by theadministrator, but was handed to him by a deacon; and it is said that,the better to shew forth the unity of the Church, all partook of oneloaf made of a size sufficient to supply the whole congregation. [486:2]The wine was administered separately, and was drunk out of a cup orchalice. As early as the third century an idea began to be entertainedthat the Eucharist was necessary to salvation, and it was, inconsequence, given to infants. [486:3] None were now suffered to bepresent at its celebration but those who were communicants; [486:4]for even the catechumens, or candidates for baptism, were obliged towithdraw before the elements were consecrated.

The Passover was kept only once a year, but the Eucharist, which was thecorresponding ordinance of the Christian dispensation, was observed muchmore frequently. Justin intimates that it was administered every Lord'sday, and other fathers of this period bear similar testimony. Cyprianspeaks even of its daily celebration. [486:5] The New Testament haspromulgated no precise law upon the subject, and it is probable thatonly the more zealous disciples communicated weekly. On the Paschal weekit was observed with peculiar solemnity, and by the greatest concourseof worshippers.

The term sacrament was now applied to both Baptism and the Lord'sSupper; but it was not confined to these two symbolic ordinances.[487:1] The word transubstantiation was not introduced until upwardsof a thousand years after the death of our Saviour; [487:2] and thedoctrine which it indicates was not known to any of the fathers of thefirst three centuries. They all concur in describing the elements, afterconsecration, as bread and wine; they all represent them as passingthrough the usual process of digestion; and they all speak of them assymbols of the body and blood of Christ. In this strain Justin Martyrdiscourses of "that bread which our Christ has commanded us to offerin remembrance of His being made flesh, … and of that cup whichHecommanded those that celebrate the Eucharist to offer in remembrance ofHis blood." [487:3] According to Clement of Alexandria the Scripturedesignates wine "a mystic symbol of the holy blood." [487:4] Origen, asif anticipating the darkness which was to overspread the Church,expresses himself very much in the style of a zealous Protestant. Hedenounces as "simpletons" [487:5] those who attributed a supernaturalpower to the Eucharistic elements, and repeatedly affirms that the wordsused at the institution of the Lord's Supper are to be interpretedspiritually. "The meat," says he, "which is sanctified by the Word ofGod and prayer, as it is material, goes into the stomach, … but, byreason of prayer made over it, it is profitable according to theproportion of faith, and is the cause that the understanding isenlightened and attentive to what is profitable; and it is not thesubstance of bread, but the word pronounced upon it, which isprofitable to him who eats it in a way not unworthy of the Lord."[488:1] Cyprian uses language scarcely less equivocal, for he speaks of"that wine whereby the blood of Christ is set forth," [488:2] andasserts that it "was wine which He called His blood." [488:3]

Christ has said—"Where two or three are gathered together in my name,there am I in the midst of them;" [488:4] and, true to His promises, Heis really present with His people in every act of devotion. Even whenthey draw near to Him in secret, or when they read His word, or whenthey meditate on His mercy, as well as when they listen to His gospelpreached in the great congregation, He manifests Himself to them not asHe does unto the world. But in the Eucharist He reveals His charactermore significantly than in any of His other ordinances; for He hereaddresses Himself to all the senses, as well as to the soul. In thewords of institution they "hear His voice;" when the elements arepresented to them, they perceive as it were "the smell of His garments;"with their hands they "handle of the Word of Life;" and they "taste andsee that the Lord is good." But some of the early Christian writers wereby no means satisfied with such representations. They appear to haveentertained an idea that Christ was in the Eucharist, not only in richermanifestations of His grace, but also in a way altogether different fromthat in which He vouchsafes His presence in prayer, or praise, or anyother divine observance. They conceived that, as the soul of man isunited to his body, the Logos, or Divine nature of Christ, pervades theconsecrated bread and wine, so that they may be called His flesh andblood; and they imagined that, in consequence, the sacred elementsimparted to the material frame of the believer the germ of immortality.[489:1] Irenaeus declares that "our bodies, receiving the Eucharist, areno longer corruptible, but possessed of the hope of eternal life."[489:2] This misconception of the ordinance was the fruitful source ofsuperstition. The mere elements began to be regarded with awfulreverence; the loss of a particle of the bread, or of a drop of thewine, was considered a tremendous desecration; and it was probably thegrowth of such feelings which initiated the custom of standing at thetime of participation. But still there were fathers who were not carriedaway with the delusion, and who knew that the disposition of theworshipper was of far more consequence than the care with which hehandled the holy symbols. "You who frequent our sacred mysteries," saysOrigen, "know that when you receive the body of the Lord, you take carewith all due caution and veneration, that not even the smallest particleof the consecrated gift shall fall to the ground and be wasted. [489:3]If, through inattention, any part thus falls, you justly accountyourselves guilty. If then, with good reason, you use so much caution inpreserving His body, how can you esteem it a lighter sin to slight theWord of God than to neglect His body?" [489:4]

"The words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace ofearth purified seven times." [489:5] The history of Baptism and theLord's Supper demonstrates that, when speaking of the ordinances ofreligion, it is exceedingly dangerous to depart, even from thephraseology, which the Holy Spirit has dictated. In the second centuryBaptism was called "regeneration" and the Eucharistic bread was known bythe compendious designation of "the Lord's body." Such language, iftypically understood, could create no perplexity; but all by whom it wasused could scarcely be expected to give it a right interpretation, andthus many misconceptions were speedily generated. In a short time names,for which there is no warrant in the Word of God, were applied to theLord's Supper; and false doctrines were eventually deduced from theseill-chosen and unauthorised designations. Thus, before the close of thesecond century, it was called an offering, and a sacrifice, [490:1]and the table at which it was administered was styled the altar.[490:2] Though these terms were now used rhetorically, in after-agesthey were literally interpreted; and in this way the most astoundingerrors gradually gained currency. Meanwhile other topics led to keendiscussion; but there was a growing disposition to shroud the Eucharistin mystery; and hence, for many centuries, the question as to the mannerof Christ's presence in the ordinance awakened no controversy.


When the Evangelist Matthew is describing the ministry of John theBaptist, he states that there "went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea,and all the region round about Jordan; and were baptized of him inJordan, confessing their sins." [491:1] The ministry of Paul atEphesus produced similar results; for it is said that "fear fell" on allthe Jews and Greeks dwelling in that great capital, "and many thatbelieved came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds," [491:2]

The confession here mentioned obviously flowed spontaneously from deepreligious convictions. It was not a private admission of guilt made toan ecclesiastical functionary; but a public acknowledgment of acts whichweighed heavily on the consciences of individuals, and which they feltconstrained to recapitulate and to condemn. Men awakened to a sense oftheir sins deemed it due to themselves and to society, to state howsincerely they deplored their past career; and, no doubt, their wordsoften produced a profound impression on the multitudes to whom they wereaddressed. These confessions of sin were connected with a confession offaith in Christ, and were generally associated with the ordinance ofbaptism. They were not required from all, but were only tendered incases where there had been notorious and flagrant criminality; and theymust have been of a very partial character, only embracing suchtransgressions as the party had some urgent reason for specializing.

In the time of the apostles those who embraced the gospel wereimmediately baptized. Thus, the three thousand persons who wereconverted on the day of Pentecost, were forthwith received into thebosom of the Church; and the Philippian jailor, "the same hour of thenight" [493:1] when he hearkened to "the word of the Lord," "wasbaptized, he and all his, straightway." But, soon, afterwards, theChristian teachers began to proceed with greater formality; and, aboutthe middle of the second century, candidates were not admitted to theordinance until they had passed through a certain course of probation."As many," says Justin Martyr, "as are persuaded and believe that thethings which we teach and declare are true, and promise that they aredetermined to live accordingly, are taught to pray, and to beseech Godwith fasting to grant them remission of their past sins, while we alsopray and fast with them. We then lead them to a place where there iswater, and there they are regenerated in the same manner as we alsowere; for they are then washed in that water in the name of God theFather and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, andthe Holy Spirit." [493:2]

These confessions and penitential exercises were repeated and enlargedwhen persons who had lapsed into gross sin, and who had, in consequence,forfeited their position as members of the Church, sought readmission toecclesiastical fellowship. It would be difficult, on scriptural grounds,to vindicate the system of discipline enforced on such occasions; andyet it is evident that it was established, at least in some quarters, asearly as the beginning of the third century. Tertullian gives a verystriking account of the course pursued by those called penitents aboutthat period. "Confession of sins," says he, "lightens their burden, asmuch as the dissembling of them increases it; for confession savours ofmaking amends, dissembling, of stubbornness. ….. Wherefore confessionis the discipline of a man's prostrating and humbling himself, enjoiningsuch a conversation as invites mercy. It restrains a man even as to thematter of dress and food, requiring him to lie in sackcloth and ashes,to hide his body in filthy garments, to afflict his soul with sorrow, toexchange for severe treatment the sins in which he indulged; for therest to use simple things for meat and drink, that is, for the sake ofthe soul, and not to please the appetite: for the most part also toquicken prayer by fasts, to groan, to weep, and to moan day and nightbefore the Lord his God; to throw himself on the ground before thepresbyters, and to fall on his knees before the beloved of God; toenjoin all the brethren to bear the message of his prayer for mercy—allthese things does confession that it may commend repentance." [493:1]

When a man is overwhelmed with grief, the state of his mind will oftenbe revealed by the loss of his appetite. He will think little of hisdress and personal accommodation; and though he may give no utterance tohis feelings, his general appearance will betray to the eye of anobserver the depths of his affliction. The mourner not unfrequentlytakes a melancholy satisfaction in surrounding himself with the symbolsof sorrow; and we read, accordingly, in Scripture how, in ancient timesand in Eastern countries, he clothed himself in sackcloth and sat inashes. [493:2] There is a wonderful sympathy between the body and themind; and as grief affects the appetite, so occasional abstinence fromfood may foster a serious and contrite spirit. Hence fasting has been socommonly associated with penitential exercises.

Fasting is not to be regarded as one of the ordinary duties of adisciple of Christ,[494:1] but rather as a kind of discipline in whichhe may feel called on to engage under special circ*mstances.[494:2] Whenoppressed with a consciousness of guilt, or when anxious for divinedirection on a critical occasion, or when trembling under theapprehension of impending judgments, he may thus seek to "afflict hissoul," that he may draw near with deeper humility and reverence into thepresence of the Divine Majesty. But, in such a case, every one shouldact according to the dictates of his own enlightened convictions. As theduty is extraordinary, the self-denial to be practised must be regulatedby various contingencies; and no one can well prescribe to another itsamount or duration.

According to the Mosaic law, only one day in the year—the great day ofatonement—was required to be kept as a national fast.[494:3] There isnow no divine warrant for so observing any corresponding day, and forupwards of a hundred years after the death of our Lord, there is noevidence that any fixed portion of time was thus appropriated under thesanction of ecclesiastical authority. But towards the close of thesecond century the termination of the Paschal week was often soemployed—the interval, between the hour on Friday when our Lord expiredand the morning of the first day of the week, being spent in totalabstinence.[494:4] About the same time some partially abstained fromfood on what were called stationary days, or the Wednesday and Friday ofeach week.[494:5] At this period some began also to observe Xerophagiae,or days on which they used neither flesh nor wine. [495:1] Not a few sawthe danger of this ascetic tendency; but, whilst it betokened zeal, ithad also "a show of wisdom," [495:2] and it silently made greatprogress. Towards the close of the third century the whole Church wasalready pervaded by its influence.

Fasting has been well described as "the outward shell" of penitentialsorrow, and is not to be confounded with its spiritual elements. It isits accidental accompaniment, and not one of its true and essentialfeatures. A man may "bow down his head as a bulrush," or fast, or clothehimself in sackcloth, when he is an utter stranger to that "repentanceto salvation not to be repented of." The hypocrite may put on theoutward badges of mourning merely with a view to regain a position inthe Church, whilst the sincere penitent may "anoint his head and washhis face," and reveal to the eye of the casual spectator no tokens ofcontrition. As repentance is a spiritual exercise, it can only berecognised by spiritual signs; and the rulers of the ancient Churchcommitted a capital error when they proposed to test it by certaindietary indications. Their penitential discipline was directly opposedto the genuine spirit of the gospel; and it was the fountain from whenceproceeded many of the superstitions which, like a river of death, soonoverspread Christendom. Whilst repentance was reduced to a mechanicalround of bodily exercises, the doctrine of a free salvation waspractically repudiated.

In connexion with the appearance of a system of penitential discipline,involving in some cases a penance of several years' continuance, [495:3]the distinction of venial and mortal sins now began to be recognised.Venial sins were transgressions which any sincere believer might commit,whilst mortal sins were such as were considered incompatible with thegenuine profession of Christianity. Penance was prescribed only to thosewho had been guilty of mortal sins. Its severity and duration variedwith the character of the offence, and was soon regulated according toan exact scale arranged by the rulers of the Church in theirecclesiastical conventions.

About the middle of the third century a new arrangement was introduced,with a view to promote the more exact administration of penitentialdiscipline. During the Decian persecution which occurred at this time,many were induced by fear to abandon the profession of the gospel; and,on the return of better days, those who sought restoration to Christianprivileges were so numerous that, in the larger churches, it was deemedexpedient to require the lapsed, in the first instance, to addressthemselves to one of the presbyters appointed for their specialexamination. The business of this functionary, who was known by thedesignation of the Penitentiary [496:1] was to hear the confessions ofthe penitents, to ascertain the extent and circ*mstances of theirapostasy, and to announce the penance required from each by the existingecclesiastical regulations. The disclosures made to the Penitentiary didnot supersede the necessity of public confession; it was simply the dutyof this minister to give to the lapsed such instructions as hisprofessional experience enabled him to supply, including directions asto the fasts they should observe, and the sins they should openlyacknowledge. Under the guidance of the Penitentiaries the system ofdiscipline for transgressors seems to have been still farther matured;and at length, in the beginning of the fourth century, the penitentswere divided into various classes, according to their supposed degreesof unworthiness. The members of each class were obliged to occupy aparticular position in the place of worship when the congregationassembled for religious exercises. [497:1]

It must be obvious from these statements that the institution known asAuricular Confession had, as yet, no existence. In the early Church thedisciples, under ordinary circ*mstances, were neither required norexpected, at stated seasons, to enter into secret conference with anyecclesiastical searcher of consciences. When a professing Christiancommitted a heinous transgression by which religion was scandalized, hewas obliged, before being re-admitted to communion, to express hissorrow in the face of the congregation; and the revelations made to thePenitentiary did not relieve him from this act of humiliation. It mustalso be apparent that the whole system of penance is an unauthorizedaddition to the ordinances of primitive Christianity. Of such a systemwe do not find even a trace in the New Testament; and under itsblighting influence, the religion of the Church gradually became littlebetter than a species of refined heathenism.

The spiritual darkness now settling down upon the Christian commonwealthmight be traced in the growing obscurity of the ecclesiasticalnomenclature. The power and the form of godliness began to beconfounded, and the same term was employed to denote penance andrepentance. [497:2] Bodily mortification was mistaken for holiness, andcelibacy for sanctity. [497:3] Other errors of an equally gravecharacter became current, for the penitent was described as makingsatisfaction for his sins by his fasts and his outward acts of selfabasem*nt, [497:4] and thus the all-sufficiency of the great atonementwas openly ignored. Thus, too, the doctrine of a free salvation totransgressors could no longer be proclaimed, for pardon was clogged withconditions as burdensome to the sinner, as they were alien to the spiritof the New Testament. The doctrine that "a man is justified by faithwithout the deeds of the law," [498:1] reveals the folly of the ancientpenitential discipline. Our Father in heaven demands no useless tributeof mortification from His children; He merely requires us to "bringforth fruits meet for repentance." [498:2] "Is not this the fast that Ihave chosen?" saith the Lord, "to loose the bands of wickedness, to undothe heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye breakevery yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thoubring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest thenaked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thineown flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thinehealth shall spring forth speedily; and thy righteousness shall gobefore thee: the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward." [498:3]


Justin Martyr, who had travelled much, and who was probably as wellacquainted with the state of the Church about the middle of the secondcentury as most of his contemporaries, has left behind him an account ofthe manner in which its worship was then conducted. This account, whichhas already been submitted to the reader, [499:1] represents oneindividual as presiding over each Christian community, whether in thecity or the country. Where the Church consisted of a singlecongregation, and where only one of the elders was competent to preach,it is easy to understand how the society was regulated. In accordancewith apostolic arrangement, the presbyter, who laboured in the Word anddoctrine, was counted worthy of double honour, [499:2] and wasrecognized as the stated chairman of the solemn assembly. His brotherelders contributed in various ways to assist him in the supervision ofthe flock; but its prosperity greatly depended on his own zeal, piety,prudence, and ability. Known at first as the president, and afterwardsdistinguished by the title of the bishop, he occupied very much thesame position as the minister of a modern parish.

Where a congregation had more than one preaching elder, the case wasdifferent. There, several individuals were in the habit of addressingthe auditory, [500:1] and it was the duty of the president to preserveorder; to interpose, perhaps, by occasional suggestions; and to closethe exercise. When several congregations with a plurality of preachingelders existed in the same city, the whole were affiliated; and apresident, acknowledged by them all, superintended their unitedmovements.

It must be admitted that much obscurity hangs over the general conditionof the Christian commonwealth in the first half of the second century;but it so happens that two authentic and valuable documents which stillremain, one of which was written about the beginning and the other aboutthe close of this period, throw much light upon the question of Churchgovernment. These documents are the "Epistle of Clement to theCorinthians," and the "Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians." As tothe matters respecting which they bear testimony, we could not desiremore competent witnesses than the authors of these two letters. The onelived in the West; the other, in the East. Clement, who is mentioned bythe Apostle Paul, [500:2] was a presbyter of the Church of Rome;Polycarp, who, in his youth, had conversed with the Apostle John, was apresbyter of the Church of Smyrna. Clement died about the close of thefirst century, and his letter to the Corinthians was written three orfour years before, that is, immediately after the Domitian persecution;Polycarp survived until a somewhat advanced period of the secondcentury, and his letter to the Philippians was probably written fifty orsixty years after the date of the Epistle of Clement. [500:3]

Towards the termination of the first century a spirit of discorddisturbed the Church of Corinth; and the Church of Rome, anxious torestore peace, addressed a fraternal letter to the distracted community.The Epistle was drawn up by Clement, who was then the leading ministerof the Italian capital; but, as it is written in the name of the wholebrotherhood, and as it had, no doubt, obtained their sanction, itobviously possesses all the authority of a public and officialcorrespondence. From it the constitution of the Church of Corinth, and,by implication, of the Church of Rome, may be easily ascertained: and itfurnishes abundant proof that, at the time of its composition, boththese Christian societies were under presbyterial government. Had aprelate then presided in either Church, a circ*mstance so importantwould not have been entirely overlooked, more especially as the documentis of considerable length, and as it treats expressly upon the subjectof ecclesiastical polity. It appears that some members of the communityto which it is addressed had acted undutifully towards those who wereover them in the Lord, and it accordingly condemns in very emphaticterms a course of proceeding so disreputable. "It is shameful, beloved,"says the Church of Rome in this letter, "it is exceedingly shameful andunworthy of your Christian profession, to hear that the most firm andancient Church of the Corinthians should, by one or two persons, beled into a sedition against its elders." [501:1] "Let the flock ofChrist be in peace with THE ELDERS THAT ARE SET OVER IT." [502:1] Havingstated that the apostles ordained those to whom the charge of theChristian Church was originally committed, it is added, that they gavedirections in what manner, after the decease of these primitive pastors,"other chosen and approved men should succeed to their ministry."[502:2] The Epistle thus continues—"Wherefore we cannot think thatthose may justly be thrown out of their ministry who were eitherordained by them (the apostles), or afterwards by other approved menwith the approbation of the whole Church, and who have, with alllowliness and innocency, ministered to the flock of Christ in peace andwithout self-interest, and have been for a long time commended by all.For it would be no small sin in us, should we cast off those from theministry who holily and without blame fulfil the duties of it. Blessedare those elders who, having finished their course before these times,have obtained a fruitful and perfect dissolution." [502:3] Towards theconclusion of the letter, the parties who had created this confusion inthe Church of Corinth have the following admonition addressed tothem—"Do ye, therefore, who laid the foundation of the sedition, submityourselves unto your elders, and be instructed unto repentance,bending the knees of your hearts." [502:4]

In the preservation of this precious letter we are bound to recognizethe hand of Providence. [502:5] Its instructions were so highlyappreciated by the ancient Christians that it continued to be publiclyread in many of their churches for centuries afterwards. [502:6] It isuniversally acknowledged to be genuine; it breathes the benevolentspirit of a primitive presbyter; and it is distinguished by its sobrietyand earnestness. It was written upon the verge of the apostolic age, andit is the production of a pious, sensible, and aged minister whopreached for years in the capital of the Empire. The Church of Rome hassince advanced the most extravagant pretensions, and has appealed insupport of them to ecclesiastical tradition; but here, an elder of herown—one who had conversed with, the apostles—and one whom she delightsto honour [503:1]—deliberately comes forward and ignores herassumptions! She fondly believes that Clement was an early Pope, but thegood man himself admits that he was only one of the presbyters. Hadthere then been a bishop of Corinth, this letter would unquestionablyhave exhorted the malcontents to submit to his jurisdiction; or hadthere been a bishop of Rome, it would not have failed to dilate upon thebenefits of episcopal government. But, as to the existence of any suchfunctionary in either Church, it preserves throughout a mostintelligible silence. It says that the apostles ordained thefirst-fruits of their conversions, not as bishops and presbyters anddeacons, but as "bishops and deacons over such as should afterwardsbelieve;" [503:2] and it is apparent that, when it was written, theterms bishop and presbyter were still used interchangeably. [503:3]

The Epistle of Polycarp bears equally decisive testimony. It was drawnup perhaps about the middle of the second century, [503:4] and thoughthe last survivor of the apostles was now dead for many years, nogeneral change had meanwhile taken place in the form of churchgovernment. This document purports to be the letter of "Polycarp and theelders who are with him [504:1] to the Church of God which is atPhilippi;" but it does not recognize a bishop as presiding over theChristian community to which it is addressed. The Church was stillapparently in much the same state as when Paul wrote to "the saints inChrist Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons;"[504:2] for Polycarp was certainly not aware of the existence of any newoffice-bearers; and he accordingly exhorts his correspondents to be"subject to the presbyters and deacons." [504:3] "Let thepresbyters," says he, "be compassionate, merciful to all, bringing backsuch as are in error, seeking out all those that are weak, notneglecting the widow or the fatherless, or the poor; but providingalways what is good in the sight of God and men; abstaining from allwrath, respect of persons, and unrighteous judgment; being far fromall covetousness; not ready to believe anything against any; not severein judgment, knowing that we are all debtors in point of sin." [504:4]

It is stated by the most learned of the fathers of the fourth centurythat the Church was at first "governed by the common council of the,presbyters;" [504:5] and these two letters prove most satisfactorily theaccuracy of the representation. They shew that, throughout the whole ofthe apostolic age, this species of polity continued. But the Scripturesordain that "all things be done decently and in order;" [504:6] and, asa common council requires an official head, or mayor, to take the chairat its meetings, and to act on its behalf, so the ancient eldership, orpresbytery, must have had a president or moderator. It would appear thatthe duty and honour of presiding commonly devolved on the senior memberof the judicatory. We may thus account for those catalogues of bishops,reaching back to the days of the apostles, which are furnished by someof the writers of antiquity. From the first, every presbytery had itspresident; and as the transition from the moderator to the bishop wasthe work of time, the distinction at one period was little more thannominal. Hence, writers who lived when the change was taking place, orwhen it had only been recently accomplished, speak of these twofunctionaries as identical. But in their attempts to enumerate thebishops of the apostolic era, they encountered a practical difficulty.The elders who were at first set over the Christian societies were allordained, in each church, on the same occasion, [505:1] and were,perhaps, of nearly the same age, so that neither their date ofappointment, nor their years, could well determine the precedence; andit is probable that, in general, no single individual continuedpermanently to occupy the office of moderator. There may have beeninstances in which a stated president was chosen, and yet it isremarkable that not even one such case can be clearly established by theevidence of contemporary documents. When all the other apostles departedfrom Jerusalem, James appears to have remained in the holy city, so thatwe may reasonably presume he always acted, when present, as chairman ofthe mother presbytery; and accordingly, the writers of succeeding ageshave described him as the first bishop of the Jewish metropolis; but solittle consequence was originally attached to the office of moderator,[505:2] that, in as far as the New Testament is concerned, the situationheld by this distinguished man can be inferred only from some veryobscure and doubtful intimations. [505:3] In Rome, and elsewhere, theprimitive elders at first, perhaps, filled the chair alternately. Hencethe so-called episcopal succession is most uncertain and confused at thevery time when it should be sustained by evidence the most decisive andperspicuous. The lists of bishops, commencing with the ministry of theapostles, and extending over the latter half of the first century, arelittle better than a mass of contradictions. The compilers seem to haveset down, almost at random, the names of some distinguished men whomthey found connected with the different churches, and thus thediscrepancies are nearly as numerous as the catalogues. [506:1]

But when Clement dictated the Epistle to the Corinthians most of theelders, ordained by the apostles or evangelists about the middle of thefirst century, must have finished their career; and there is littlereason to doubt that this eminent minister was then the father of theRoman presbytery. The superscription of the letter to the Philippianssupplies direct proof that, at the time when it was written, Polycarplikewise stood at the head of the presbytery of Smyrna. [506:2] Othercirc*mstances indicate that the senior presbyter now began to beregarded as the stated president of the eldership. Hilary, one of thebest commentators of the ancient Church, [506:3] bears explicittestimony to the existence of such an arrangement. "At first," says he,"presbyters were called bishops, so that when the one (who was calledbishop) passed away, the next in order took his place." [507:1] "Thoughevery bishop is a presbyter, every presbyter is not a bishop, for he isbishop who is first among the presbyters." [507:2] As soon as theregulation, recognizing the claims of seniority was proposed, itsadvocates were, no doubt, prepared to recommend it by arguments whichpossessed at least considerable plausibility. The Scriptures frequentlyinculcate respect for age, and when the apostle says—"Likewise, yeyounger, submit yourselves unto the elder," [507:3] he seems, from theconnexion in which the words occur, to refer specially to the deportmentof junior ministers. [507:4] In the lists of the Twelve to be found inthe New Testament the name of Peter appears first; [507:5] and if, asis believed, he was more advanced in years than any of his brethren,[507:6] it is easy to understand why this precedence has been given tohim; for, in all likelihood, he usually acted as president of theapostolic presbytery. Even the construction of corporate bodies in theRoman Empire might have suggested the arrangement; for it is well knownthat, in the senates of the cities out of Italy, the oldest decurion,under the title principalis, acted as president. [508:1] Did we,therefore, even want the direct evidence already quoted, we might haveinferred, on other grounds, that, at an early date, the senior membergenerally presided wherever an eldership was erected.

As a point of such interest relating to the constitution of the ancientChurch should be carefully elucidated, it may be necessary to fortifythe statement of Hilary by some additional evidence. It is not to besupposed that this candid and judicious commentator ventured, withoutdue authority, to describe the original order of succession in thepresidential chair; and he had, no doubt, access to sources ofinformation which have long ceased to be available; but the credit ofthe fact for which he vouches does not rest upon the unsustained supportof his solitary attestation. Whilst his averment is recommended byinternal marks of probability, and whilst it is countenanced by severalscriptural intimations, it is also corroborated by a large amount ofvaried and independent testimony. We shall now exhibit some of the moststriking portions of the confirmatory proof.

I. The language applied in ancient documents to the primitive presidentsof the Churches illustrates the accuracy of this venerable commentator.In one of the earliest extant notices of these ecclesiasticalfunctionaries, a bishop is designated "the old man." [508:2] The age ofthe individual who is thus distinguished was not a matter of accident;for each of his brethren in the same position, all over the Church, wascalled "father" [508:3] on the ground of his seniority. The officialtitle "Pope," which has the same meaning, had also the same origin. Itwas given at first to every president of the eldership, because he was,in point of fact, the father, or senior member, of the judicatory. Itsoon, no doubt, ceased to convey this meaning, but it still remained asa memorial of the primitive regimen.

II. It is a remarkable fact that, in none of the great sees before theclose of the second century, do we find any trace of the existence of ayoung, or even of a middle-aged bishop. When Ignatius of Antioch wasmartyred, he was verging on fourscore; Polycarp of Smyrna finished hiscareer at the age of eighty-six; Pothinus of Lyons fell a victim topersecution when he was upwards of ninety; [509:1] Narcissus ofJerusalem must have been at least that age when he was first placed inthe presidential chair; [509:2] one of his predecessors, named Justus,appears to have been about one hundred and ten when he reached the samedignity; [509:3] and Simeon of Jerusalem died when he had nearlycompleted the patriarchal age of one hundred and twenty. As anindividual might become a member of the presbytery when comparativelyyoung, [509:4] such extraordinary longevity among the bishops of thesecond century can be best explained by accepting the testimony ofHilary.

III. The number of bishops now found within a short period in the samesee has long presented a difficulty to many students of ecclesiasticalhistory. Thus, at Rome in the first forty years of the second centurythere were five or six bishops, [509:5] and yet only one of themsuffered martyrdom. Within twelve or fifteen years after the death ofPolycarp, there were several bishops in Smyrna. [510:1] But the Churchof Jerusalem furnishes the most wonderful example of this quicksuccession of episcopal dignitaries. Simeon, one of the relatives of ourLord, is reported to have become the presiding pastor after thedestruction of the city by Titus, and to have been martyred about theclose of the reign of Trajan, or in A.D. 116; and yet, according to thetestimony of Eusebius, [510:2] no less than thirteen bishops insuccession occupied his place before the end of the year A.D. 134. Hemust have been set at the head of the Church when he was abovethreescore and ten; [510:3] and dying, as already stated, at the extremeage of one hundred and twenty, he probably left behind him aconsiderable staff of very aged elders. These may have become presidentsin the order of their seniority; and as they would pass rapidly away, wemay thus account for the extraordinary number of the early chief pastorsof the ancient capital of Palestine. [510:4]

At this time, or about A.D. 135, the original Christian Church ofJerusalem was virtually dissolved. The Jews had grievously provokedHadrian by their revolt under the impostor Barchochebas; and theEmperor, in consequence, resolved to exclude the entire race from theprecincts of the holy city. The faithful Hebrews, who had hithertoworshipped there under the ministry of Simeon and his successors, stillobserved the Mosaic law, and were consequently treated as Jews, so thatthey were now obliged to break up their association, and remove to otherdistricts. A Christian Church, composed chiefly of Gentile converts, wassoon afterwards established in the same place; and the new societyelected an individual, named Marcus, as their bishop, or presidingelder. Marcus was, probably, in the decline of life when he was placedat the head of the community; and on his demise, [511:1] as well as longafterwards, the old rule of succession seems to have been observed.During the sixty years immediately after his appointment, there werefifteen bishops at Jerusalem [511:2]—a fact which apparentlyindicates that, on the occurrence of a vacancy, the senior elder stillcontinued to be advanced to the episcopal chair. This conclusion isremarkably corroborated by the circ*mstance that Narcissus, who wasbishop of the ancient capital of Judea at the end of these sixty years,was, as has been already mentioned, upwards of fourscore and ten when heobtained his ecclesiastical promotion.

The episcopal roll of Jerusalem has no recorded parallel in the annalsof the Christian ministry, for there were no less than twenty-eightbishops in the holy city in a period of eighty years. Even the Popeshave never followed each other with such rapidity. The Roman Prelate,when elevated to St. Peter's chair, has almost invariably been faradvanced in years, and the instances are not a few in which Pontiffshave fallen victims to poison or to open violence; and yet theirhistory, even in the worst of times, exhibits nothing equal to thefrequency of the successions indicated by this ancient episcopalregistry. [512:1] It would appear from it that there were more bishopsin Jerusalem in the second century than there have been Archbishops ofCanterbury for the last four hundred years! [512:2] Such factsdemonstrate that those who then stood at the head of the mother Churchof Christendom, must have reached their position by means of some orderof succession very different from that which is now established. Hilaryfurnishes at once a simple and an adequate explanation. The seniorminister was the president, or bishop; and as, when placed in theepiscopal chair, he had already reached old age, it was not to beexpected that he could long retain a situation which required someexertion and involved much anxiety. Hence the startling amount ofepiscopal mortality.

As the Church of Jerusalem may be said to have been founded by our Lordhimself, it could lay claim to a higher antiquity than any otherChristian community in existence; and it long continued to be regardedby the disciples all over the Empire with peculiar interest andveneration. [512:3] When re-established about the close of the reign ofHadrian, it was properly a new society; but it still enjoyed theprestige of ancient associations. Its history has, therefore, beeninvestigated by Eusebius with special care; he tells us that he deriveda portion of his information from its own archives; [512:4] and, thoughhe enters into details respecting very few of the early Churches, henotices it with unusual frequency, and gives an accredited list of thenames of its successive chief pastors. [513:1] About this period it wasobviously considered a model which other Christian societies of lessnote might very safely imitate. It is, therefore, all the more importantif we are able to ascertain its constitution, as we are thus prepared tospeak with a measure of confidence respecting the form of ecclesiasticalgovernment which prevailed throughout the second century. The factsalready stated, when coupled with the positive affirmation of the RomanHilary, place the solution of the question, as nearly as possible, uponthe basis of demonstration; for, if we reject the conclusion that,during a hundred years after the death of the Apostle John, the seniormember of the presbytery of Jerusalem was the president or moderator, wemay in vain attempt to explain, upon any Round statistical principles,how so many bishops passed away in succession within so limited periods,and how, at several points along the line, and exactly where they mighthave been expected, [513:2] we find individuals in occupation of thechair who had attained to extreme longevity.

IV. The statement of Hilary illustrates the peculiar cogency of theargumentation employed by the defenders of the faith who flourishedabout the close of the second century. This century was pre-eminentlythe age of heresies, and the disseminators of error were mostextravagant and unscrupulous in their assertions. The heresiarchs, amongother things, affirmed that the inspired heralds of the gospel had notcommitted their whole system to written records; that they had entrustedcertain higher revelations only to select or perfect disciples; and thatthe doctrine of Aeons, which they so assiduously promulgated, wasderived from this hidden treasure of ecclesiastical tradition. [514:1]To such assertions the champions of orthodoxy were prepared to furnish atriumphant reply, for they could shew that the Gnostic system wasinconsistent with Scripture, and that its credentials, said to bederived from tradition, were utterly apocryphal. They could appeal, inproof of its falsehood, to the tradition which had come down tothemselves from the apostles, and which was still preserved in theChurches "through the successions of the elders." [514:2] They couldfarther refer to those who stood at the head of their respectivepresbyteries as the witnesses most competent to give evidence. "We areable," says Irenaeus, "to enumerate those whom the apostles establishedas bishops in the Churches, [514:3] together with their successors downto our own times, who neither taught any such doctrine as these men raveabout, nor had any knowledge of it. For if the apostles had beenacquainted with recondite mysteries which they were in the habit ofteaching to the perfect disciples apart and without the knowledge of therest, they would by all means have communicated them to those to whomthey entrusted the care of the Church itself, since they wished thatthose whom they left behind them as their successors, and to whom theygave their own place of authority, should be quite perfect andirreproachable in all things." [514:4]

Had the succession to the episcopal chair been regulated by thearrangements of modern times, there would have been little weight in thereasoning of Irenaeus. The declaration of the bishop respecting thetradition of the Church over which he happened to preside would havepossessed no special value. But it was otherwise in the days of thispastor of Lyons. The bishop was generally one of the oldest members ofthe community with which he was connected, and had been longerconversant with its ecclesiastical affairs than any other minister. Histestimony to its traditions was, therefore, of the highest importance.In a few of the great Churches, as we have elsewhere shewn, [515:1] thesenior elder now no longer succeeded, as a matter of course, to theepiscopate; but age continued to be universally regarded as anindispensable qualification for the office, [515:2] and, when Irenaeuswrote, the law of seniority appears to have been still generallymaintained. It was, therefore, with marked propriety that he appealed tothe evidence of the bishops; as they, from their position, were mostcompetent to expose the falsehood of the fables of Gnosticism.

V. It is well known that, in some of the most ancient councils of whichwe have any record, the senior bishop officiated as moderator [515:3]and, long after age had ceased to determine the succession to theepiscopal chair, the recognition of its claims, under various forms, maybe traced in ecclesiastical history. In Spain, so late as the fourthcentury, the senior chief pastor acted as president when the bishops andpresbyters assembled for deliberation [515:4] In Africa the same rulewas observed until the Church of that country was overwhelmed by thenorthern barbarians. In Mauritania and Numidia, even in the fifthcentury, the senior bishop of the province, whoever he might be, wasacknowledged as metropolitan. [516:1] In the usages of a still later agewe may discover vestiges of the ancient regulation, for the bishops sat,in the order of their seniority, in the provincial synods. [516:2] Stillfarther, where the bishop of the chief city of the province was thestated metropolitan, the ecclesiastical law still retained remembrancersof the primitive polity; as, when this dignitary died, the senior bishopof the district performed his functions until a successor was regularlyappointed. [516:3]

Though the senior presbyter presided in the meetings of his brethren,and was soon known by the name of bishop, it does not appear that heoriginally possessed any superior authority. He held his place for life,but as he was sinking under the weight of years when he succeeded to it,he could not venture to anticipate an extended career of officialdistinction. In all matters relating either to discipline, or thegeneral interests of the brotherhood, he was expected to carry out thedecisions of the eldership, so that, under his presidential rule, theChurch was still substantially governed by "the common council of thepresbyters."

The allegation that presbyterial government existed in all its integritytowards the end of the second century does not rest on the foundation ofobscure intimations or doubtful inferences. It can be established bydirect and conclusive testimony. Evidence has already been adduced toshew that the senior presbyter of Smyrna continued to preside until thedays of Irenaeus, and there is also documentary proof that meanwhile hepossessed no autocratical authority. The supreme power was still vestedin the council of the elders. This point is attested by Hippolytus, whowas now just entering on his ecclesiastical career, and who, in one ofhis works, a fragment of which has been preserved, describes the mannerin which the rulers of the Church dealt with the heretic Noetus. Thetransaction probably occurred about A.D. 190. [517:1] "There are certainothers," says Hippolytus, "who introduce clandestinely a strangedoctrine, being disciples of one Noetus, who was by birth a Smyrnean,and lived not long ago. This man, being puffed up, was led to forgethimself, being elated by the vain fancy of a strange spirit. He saidthat Christ is himself the Father, and that the Father himself had beenborn, and had suffered and died….When the blessed presbyters heardthese things, they summoned him and examined him before the Church.He, however, denied, saying at first that such were not his sentiments.But afterwards, when he had intrigued with some, and had found personsto join him in his error, he took courage, and at length resolved tostand by his dogma. The blessed presbyters again summoned him, andadministered a rebuke. But he withstood them, saying—'Why, what evilam I doing in glorifying Christ?' To whom the presbyters replied—'Wealso truly acknowledge one God; we acknowledge Christ; we acknowledgethat the Son suffered as He did suffer, that He died as He did die, andthat He rose again the third day, and that He is at the right hand ofthe Father, and that He is coming to judge the quick and the dead; andwe declare those things which we have been taught.' Then they rebukedhim, and cast him out of the Church." [517:2]

About the time to which these words refer a change was made in theecclesiastical constitution. The senior minister ceased to preside overthe eldership; and the Church was no longer governed, as heretofore, bythe "blessed presbyters." It would appear that the synods which wereheld all over the Church for the suppression of the Montanist agitation,and in connexion with the Paschal controversy, [518:1] adopted amodified episcopacy. As parties already in the presidential chair were,no doubt, permitted to hold office during life, this change could nothave been accomplished instantaneously; but various circ*mstances concurto prove that it took place about the period now indicated. Thefollowing reasons, among others, may be adduced in support of this viewof the history of the ecclesiastical revolution.

I. The Montanists, towards the termination of the second century,created much confusion by their extravagant doctrines and their claimsto inspiration. These fanatics were in the habit of disturbing publicworship by uttering their pretended revelations, and as they were oftencountenanced by individual elders, the best mode of protecting theChurch from their annoyance soon became a question of grave and pressingdifficulty. Episcopacy, as shall afterwards be shewn, [518:2] hadalready been introduced in some great cities, and about this time theChurches generally agreed to follow the influential example. It was, nodoubt, thought that order could be more effectually preserved were asingle individual armed with independent authority. Thus, the system ofgovernment by presbyters was gradually and silently subverted.

II. It is well known that the close of the second century is atransition period in the history of the Church. A new ecclesiasticalnomenclature now appeared; [519:1] the bishops acquired increasedauthority; and, early in the third century, they were chosen in all thechief cities by popular suffrage. The alteration mentioned by Hilarymay, therefore, have been the immediate precursor of other and morevital changes.

III. Though Eusebius passes over in suspicious silence the history ofall ecclesiastical innovations, his account of the bishops of Jerusalemgives good reason for believing that the law abolishing the claim ofseniority came into operation about the close of the second century. Heclasses together the fifteen chief pastors who followed each other inthe holy city immediately after its restoration by Hadrian, [519:2] andthen goes on to give a list of others, their successors, whosepastorates were of the ordinary duration. He mentions likewise that thesixteenth bishop was chosen by election. [519:3] May we not heredistinctly recognize the close of one system, and the commencement ofanother? As the sixteenth bishop was appointed about A.D. 199, the lawhad, probably, been then only recently enacted.

IV. Eusebius professes to trace the episcopal succession from the daysof the apostles in Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem; and it hasoften been shewn that the accuracy of these four lists is extremelyproblematical; but it is remarkable that in other Churches the episcopalregistry cannot be carried up higher than the end of the second century.The roll of the bishops of Carthage is there discontinued, [519:4] andthe episcopal registry of Spain there also abruptly terminates. But thehistory of the Church of Caesarea affords the most extraordinaryspecimen of this defalcation. Caesarea was the civil metropolis ofPalestine, and a Christian Church existed in it from the days of Pauland Peter. [520:1] Its bishop in the early part of the fourth centurywas the friend of the Emperor Constantine and the father ofecclesiastical history. Eusebius enjoyed all needful facilities forinvestigating the annals of his own Church; and yet, strange to say, hecommences its episcopal registry about the close of the second century![520:2] What explanation can be given of this awkward circ*mstance? HadEusebius taken no notice of any of the bishops of his own see, we couldappreciate his modesty; but why should he overlook those who nourishedbefore the time of Victor of Rome, and then refer to their successorswith such marked frequency? [520:3] May we not infer, either that hedeemed it inexpedient to proclaim the inconvenient fact that the bishopsof Caesarea were as numerous as the bishops of Jerusalem; or that hefound it impossible to recover the names of a multitude of old men whohad only a nominal precedence among their brethren, and who had passedoff the stage, one after another, in quick succession?

V. A statement of Eutychius, who was patriarch of Alexandria in thetenth century, and who has left behind him a history of his see from thedays of the apostles, supplies a remarkable confirmation of the factthat, towards the close of the second century, a new policy wasinaugurated. According to this writer there was, with the exception ofthe occupant of the episcopal chair of Alexandria, "no bishop in theprovinces of Egypt" before Demetrius. [520:4] As Demetrius became bishopof Alexandria about A.D. 190, Christianity must have now made extensiveprogress in the country; [520:5] for it had been planted there perhapsone hundred and fifty years before; but it would seem that meanwhile,with the one exception, the Churches still remained under presbyterialgovernment. Demetrius was a prelate of great influence and energy; and,during his long episcopate of forty-three years, [521:1] he succeeded inspreading all over the land the system of which he had been at one timethe only representative.

It is not, indeed, to be supposed that the whole Church, prompted by asudden and simultaneous impulse, agreed, all at once, to change itsecclesiastical arrangements. Another polity, as has already beenintimated, at first made its appearance in places of commandinginfluence; and its advocates now, no doubt, most assiduously endeavouredto recommend its claims by appealing to the fruits of experience. TheChurch of Rome, as will subsequently appear, took the lead in setting upa mitigated form of prelacy; the Churches of Antioch and Alexandriafollowed; and, soon afterwards, other Christian communities of noteadopted the example. That this subject may be fairly understood, a fewchapters must now be employed in tracing the rise and progress of thehierarchy.


Eusebius, already so often quoted, and known so widely as the author ofthe earliest Church history, flourished in the former half of the fourthcentury. This distinguished father was a spectator of the most wonderfulrevolution recorded in the annals of the world. He had seen Christianityproscribed, and its noblest champions cut down by a brutal martyrdom;and he had lived to see a convert to the faith seated on the throne ofthe Caesars, and ministers of the Church basking in the sunshine ofImperial bounty. He was himself a special favourite with Constantine; asbishop of Caesarea, the chief city of Palestine, he had often access tothe presence of his sovereign; and in a work which is still extant,professing to be a Life of the Emperor, he has well-nigh exhausted thelanguage of eulogy in his attempts to magnify the virtues of hisillustrious patron.

Eusebius may have been an accomplished courtier, but certainly he is notentitled to the praise of a great historian. The publication by which heis best known would never have acquired such celebrity, had it not beenthe most ancient treatise of the kind in existence. Though it mentionsmany of the ecclesiastical transactions of the second and thirdcenturies, and supplies a large amount of information which would haveotherwise been lost, it must be admitted to be a very ill-arranged andunsatisfactory performance. Its author does not occupy a high positioneither as a philosophic thinker, a judicious observer, or a soundtheologian. He makes no attempt to point out the germs of error, toillustrate the rise and progress of ecclesiastical changes, or toinvestigate the circ*mstances which led to the formation of thehierarchy. Even the announcement of his Preface, that his purpose is "torecord the successions of the holy apostles," or, in other words, toexhibit some episcopal genealogies, proclaims how much he was mistakenas to the topics which should have been noticed most prominently in hisnarrative. It is somewhat doubtful whether his history was expresslywritten, either for the illumination of his own age, or for theinstruction of posterity; and its appearance, shortly after the publicrecognition of Christianity by the State, [523:1] is fitted to generatea suspicion that it was intended to influence the mind of Constantine,and to recommend the episcopal order to the consideration of the greatproselyte.

About six or seven years after the publication of this treatise a childwas born who was destined to attain higher distinction, both as ascholar and a writer, than the polished Eusebius. This wasJerome—afterwards a presbyter of Rome, and a father whose productionschallenge the foremost rank among the memorials of patristic erudition.Towards the close of the fourth century he shone the brightest literarystar in the Church, and even the proud Pope Damasus condescended tocultivate his favour. At one time he contemplated the composition of aChurch history, [523:2] and we have reason to regret that the design wasnever executed, as his works demonstrate that he was in possession ofmuch rare and important information for which we search in vain in thepages of the bishop of Caesarea.

No ancient writer has thrown more light on the history of the hierarchythan Jerome. His remarks upon the subject frequently drop incidentallyfrom his pen, and must be sought for up and down throughout hiscommentaries and epistles; but he speaks as an individual who was quitefamiliar with the topics which he introduces; and, whilst all hisstatements are consistent, they are confirmed and illustrated by otherwitnesses. As a presbyter, he seems to have been jealous of the honourof his order; and, when in certain moods, he is obviously very welldisposed to remind the bishops that their superiority to himself was amere matter of human arrangement. One of his observations relative tothe original constitution of the Christian commonwealth has been oftenquoted. "Before that, by the prompting of the devil, there were partiesin religion, and it was said among the people, I am of Paul, and I ofApollos, and I of Cephas, the Churches were governed by the commoncouncil of the presbyters. But, after that each, one began to reckonthose whom he baptized as belonging to himself and not to Christ, itwas DECREED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE WORLD that one elected from thepresbyters should be set over the rest, that he should have the careof the whole Church, that the seeds of schisms might be destroyed."[524:1]

Because Jerome in this place happens to use language which occurs in theFirst Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, we are not to understand himas identifying the date of that letter with the origin of prelacy. Sucha conclusion would be quite at variance with the tenor of this passage.The words, "I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas," [525:1]are used by him rhetorically; he was accustomed to repeat them whendescribing schisms or contentions; and he has employed them on onememorable occasion in relation to a controversy of the fourth century.[525:2] The divisions among the Corinthians, noticed by Paul, weretrivial and temporary; the Church at large was not disturbed by them;but Jerome speaks of a time when the whole ecclesiastical community wasso agitated that it was threatened with dismemberment. The wordsimmediately succeeding those which we have quoted clearly shew that hedated the origin of prelacy after the days of the apostles. "Should anyone think that the identification of bishop and presbyter, the one beinga name of age and the other of office, is not a doctrine of Scripture,but our own opinion, let him refer to the words of the apostle saying tothe Philippians-'Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, toall the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishopsand deacons, Grace to you and peace,' [525:3] and so forth. Philippi isone city of Macedonia, and truly in one city, there cannot be, as isthought, more than one bishop; but because, at that time, they calledthe same parties bishops and presbyters, therefore he speaks of bishopsas of presbyters without making distinction. Still this may seemdoubtful to some unless confirmed by another testimony. In the Acts ofthe Apostles it is written [526:1] that when the apostle came to Miletushe 'sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the same Church,' to whomthen, among other things, he said—'Take heed to yourselves and to allthe flock over which the Holy Ghost has made you bishops, [526:2] tofeed the Church of the Lord which He has purchased with His own blood.'And attend specially to this, how, calling the elders of the one cityEphesus, he afterwards addressed the same as bishops. Whoever isprepared to receive that Epistle which is written to the Hebrews underthe name of Paul, [526:3] there also the care of the Church is dividedequally among more than one, since he writes to the people—'Obey themthat have the rule over you and submit yourselves, for they are they whowatch for your souls as those who must give account, that they may notdo it with grief, since this is profitable for you.' [526:4] And Peter,who received his name from the firmness of his faith, in his Epistlespeaks, saying—'The elders, therefore, who are among you, I exhort,who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, andwho am a partaker of his glory which shall be revealed, feed that flockof the Lord which is among you, not by constraint but willingly.'[527:1] We may thus shew that anciently bishops and presbyters were thesame; but, by degrees, THAT THE PLANTS OF DISSENSION MIGHT BE ROOTEDUP, all care was transferred to one. As, therefore, the presbyters knowthat, in accordance with the custom of the Church, they are subject tohim who has been set over them, so the bishops should know that they aregreater than the presbyters, rather by custom, than by the truth of anarrangement of the Lord." [527:2]

Jerome here explains himself in language which admits of no secondinterpretation; for all these proofs, adduced to shew that the Churchwas originally under presbyterial government, are of a later date thanthe First Epistle to the Corinthians. The Epistle to the Philippianscontains internal evidence that it was dictated during Paul's firstimprisonment at Rome; the Epistle to the Hebrews appeared after hisliberation; and the First Epistle of Peter was written in the old age ofthe apostle of the circumcision. [527:3] Nor is this even the fullamount of his testimony to the antiquity of the presbyterian polity. Onanother occasion, after mentioning some of the texts which have beengiven, he goes on to make quotations from the Second and Third Epistlesof John—which are generally dated towards the close of the firstcentury [527:4]—and he declares that prelacy had not made itsappearance when these letters were written. Having produced authoritiesfrom Paul and Peter, he exclaims—"Do the testimonies of such men seemsmall to you? Let the Evangelical Trumpet, the Son of Thunder, whomJesus loved very much, who drank the streams of doctrine from the bosomof the Saviour, sound in your ears—'The elder, unto the elect ladyand her children, whom I love in the truth;' [528:1] and, in anotherepistle—'The elder to the very dear Caius, whom I love in the truth.'[528:2] But what was done afterwards, when one was elected who was setover the rest, was for a cure of schism; lest every one, insistingupon his own will, should rend the Church of God." [528:3]

We have already seen [528:4] that extant documents, written about theclose of the first century and the middle of the second, bear similartestimony as to the original constitution of the Church. The "Epistle ofClement to the Corinthians" cannot be dated earlier than the terminationof the reign of Domitian, for it refers to a recent persecution, [528:5]it describes the community to which it in addressed as "most ancient,"it declares that others now occupied the places of those who had beenordained by the apostles, and it states that this second generation ofministers had been long in possession of their ecclesiastical charges.[528:6] Candid writers, of almost all parties, acknowledge that thisletter distinctly recognizes the existence of government by presbyters.[528:7] The evidence of the letter of Polycarp [528:8] is not lessexplicit. Jerome, therefore, did not speak without authority when heaffirmed that prelacy was established after the days of the apostles,and as an antidote against schism.

The apostolic Church was comparatively free from divisions; and, whilstthe inspired heralds of the gospel lived, it could not be said that"there were parties in religion." The heretics who appeared were neverable to organize any formidable combinations; they were inconsiderablein point of numbers; and, though not wanting in activity, those to whom*our Lord had personally entrusted the publication of His Word, wereready to oppose them, so that all their efforts were effectually checkedor defeated. The most ancient writers acknowledge that, during the earlypart of the second century, the same state of things continued.According to Hegesippus, who outlived Polycarp about fifteen or twentyyears, [529:1] the Church continued until the death of Simeon ofJerusalem, in A.D. 116, [529:2] "as a pure and uncorrupted virgin." "Ifthere were any at all," says he, "who attempted to pervert the rightstandard of saving doctrine, they were yet skulking in dark retreats;but when the sacred company of the apostles had, in various ways,finished their career, AND THE GENERATION OF THOSE WHO HAD BEENPRIVILEGED TO HEAR THEIR INSPIRED WISDOM HAD PASSED AWAY, then at lengththe fraud of false teachers produced a confederacy of impious errors."[529:3] The date of the appearance of these parties is also establishedby the testimony of Celsus, who lived in the time of the Antonines, andwho was one of the most formidable of the early antagonists ofChristianity. This writer informs us that, though in the beginning thedisciples were agreed in sentiment, they became, in his days, when"spread out into a multitude, divided and distracted, each aiming togive stability to his own faction." [530:1]

The statements of Hegesippus and Celsus are substantiated by a host ofadditional witnesses. Justin Martyr, [530:2] Irenaeus, [530:3] ClemensAlexandrinus, [530:4] Cyprian, [530:5] and others, all concur inrepresenting the close of the reign of Hadrian, or the beginning of thereign of Antoninus Pius, as the period when heresies burst forth, like aflood, upon the Church. The extant ecclesiastical writings of thesucceeding century are occupied chiefly with their refutation. No wonderthat the best champions of the faith were embarrassed and alarmed. Theyhad hitherto been accustomed to boast that Christianity was the cementwhich could unite all mankind, and they had pointed triumphantly to itsinfluence in bringing together the Jew and the Gentile, the Greek andthe barbarian, the master and the slave, the learned and the illiterate.They had looked forward with high expectation to the days of itscomplete ascendency, when, under its gentle sway, all nations wouldexhibit the spectacle of one great and happy brotherhood. How, then,must they have been chagrined by the rise and spread of heresies! Theysaw the Church itself converted into a great battle-field, and everyman's hand turned against his fellow. In almost all the populous citiesof the Empire, as if on a concerted signal, the errorists commencedtheir discussions. The Churches of Lyons, [531:1] of Rome, of Corinth,of Athens, of Ephesus, of Antioch, and of Alexandria, resounded with thedin of theological controversy. Nor were the heresiarchs men whom theiropponents could afford to despise. In point of genius and of literaryresources, many of them were fully equal to the most accomplished oftheir adversaries. Their zeal was unwearied, and their tact mostperplexing. Mixing up the popular elements of the current philosophywith a few of the facts and doctrines of the gospel, they produced acompound by which many were deceived. How did the friends of the Churchproceed to grapple with these difficulties? They, no doubt, did theirutmost to meet the errorists in argument, and to shew that theirtheories were miserable perversions of Christianity. But they did notconfine themselves to the use of weapons drawn from their own heavenlyarmoury. Not a few presbyters were themselves tainted with the newopinions; some of them were even ringleaders of the heretics; [531:2]and, in an evil hour, the dominant party resolved to change theconstitution of the Church, and to try to put down disturbance by meansof a new ecclesiastical organization. Believing, with many in moderntimes, that "parity breedeth confusion," and expecting, as Jerome hasexpressed it, "that the seeds of schisms might be destroyed," theysought to invigorate their administration by investing the presidingelder with authority over the rest of his brethren. The seniorpresbyters, the last survivors of a better age, were all sound in thefaith; and, as they were still at the head of the Churches in the greatcities, it was thought that by enlarging their prerogatives, and bygiving them the name of bishops, they would be the better able tostruggle energetically with the dangers of their position. The principlethat, whoever would not submit to the bishop should be cast out of theChurch, was accordingly adopted; and it was hoped that in due time peacewould be restored to the spiritual commonwealth.

About the same period arrangements were made in some places for changingthe mode of advancement to the presidential chair, so that, in no case,an elder suspected of error could have a chance of promotion. [532:1] Animmense majority of the presbyters were yet orthodox; and by beingpermitted to depart, as often as they pleased, from the ancient order ofsuccession, and to nominate any of themselves to the episcopate, theycould always secure the appointment of an individual representing theirown sentiments. In some of the larger Churches, where their number wasconsiderable, they appear to have usually selected three or fourcandidates; and then to have permitted the lot to make the ultimatedecision. [532:2] But the ecclesiastical revolution could not stop here.Jealousy quickly appeared among the presbyters; and, during theexcitement of elections, the more popular candidates would not long bewilling to limit the voting to the presbytery. The people chose theirpresbyters and deacons, and now that the office of moderator possessedsubstantial power, and differed so much from what it was originally, whyshould not all the members of the Church be allowed to exercise theirlegitimate influence? Such a claim could not be well resisted. Thus itwas that the bishops were ultimately chosen by popular suffrage. [533:1]

Some have imagined that they have discovered inconsistency in thestatements of Jerome relative to prelacy. They allege, in proof, thatwhilst he describes the Church as governed, until the rise of "partiesin religion," by the common council of the presbyters, he also speaks ofbishops as in existence from the days of the apostles. "At Alexandria,"says he, "from Mark the Evangelist, [by whom the Church there is said tohave been founded] to Heraclas and Dionysius the bishops, [whoflourished in the third century] the presbyters always named as bishopone chosen from among themselves and placed along with them [533:2] in ahigher position." [533:3] It must appear, however, on due consideration,that here there is no inconsistency whatever. In the Epistle where thispassage occurs Jerome is asserting the ancient dignity of presbyters,and shewing that they originally possessed prerogatives of which theyhad more recently been deprived. In proof of this he refers to theChurch of Alexandria, one of the greatest sees in Christendom, where forupwards of a century and a half after the days of the Evangelist Mark,the presbyters appointed their spiritual overseers, and performed allthe ceremonies connected with their official investiture. But it doesnot therefore follow that meanwhile these overseers had always possessedexactly the same amount of authority. The very fact mentioned by Jeromesuggests a quite different inference, as it proves that whilst the powerof the presbyters had been declining, that of the bishops had increased.In the second century the presbyters inaugurated bishops; in the days ofJerome they were not permitted even to ordain presbyters.

Jerome says, indeed, that, in the beginning, the Alexandrian presbytersnominated their bishops, but we are not to conclude that the partieschosen were always known distinctively by the designation which he heregives to them. He evidently could not have intended to convey such animpression, as in the same Epistle he demonstrates, by a whole series oftexts of Scripture, that the titles bishop and presbyter were usedinterchangeably throughout the whole of the first century. By bishops heobviously understands the presidents of the presbyteries, or theofficials who filled the chairs which those termed bishops subsequentlyoccupied. In their own age these primitive functionaries were calledbishops and presbyters indifferently; but they partially represented thebishops of succeeding times, and they always appeared in the episcopalregistries as links of the apostolical succession, so that Jerome didnot deem it necessary to depart from the current nomenclature. Hismeaning cannot be mistaken by any one who attentively marks hislanguage, for he has stated immediately before, that episcopal authorityproperly commenced when the Church began to be distracted by the spiritof sectarianism. [534:1]

In this passage, however, the learned father bears unequivocal testimonyto the fact that, from the earliest times, the presbytery had anofficial head or president. Such an arrangement was known in the days ofthe apostles. But the primitive moderator was very different from thebishop of the fourth century. He was the representative of thepresbytery—not its master. Christ had said to the disciples—"Whosoeverwill be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will bechief among you, let him be your servant." [535:1] Such a chief was atthe head of the ancient presbytery. Without a president no Church courtcould transact business; and it was the duty of the chairman to preserveorder, to bear many official burdens, to ascertain the sentiments of hisbrethren, to speak in their name, and to act in accordance with thedictates of their collective wisdom. [535:2] The bishop of after-timesrather resembled a despotic sovereign in the midst of his counsellors.He might ask the advice of the presbyters, and condescend to defer totheir recommendations; but he could also negative their unitedresolutions, and cause the refractory quickly to feel the gravity of hisdispleasure.

Though Jerome tells us how, for the destruction of the seeds of schisms,"it was decreed throughout the whole WORLD that one elected from thepresbyters should be set over the rest," we are not to suppose that thedecree was carried out, all at once, into universal operation. Generalcouncils were yet unknown, and the decree must have been sanctioned atdifferent times and by distant Church judicatories. Such a measure wasfirst thought of shortly before the middle of the second century, but itwas not very extensively adopted until about fifty years afterwards. Thehistory of its origin must now be more minutely investigated.


Any attentive reader who has marked the chronology of the early bishopsof Rome, as given by Eusebius, [537:1] may have observed that thepastorates of those who flourished during the first forty years of thesecond century were all of comparatively short duration. Clement iscommonly reputed to have died about A.D. 100; [537:2] he was followed byEvaristus, Alexander, Xystus, and Telesphorus; and Hyginus, who wasplaced at the head of the Church in A.D. 139, and who died in A.D. 142,was the fifth in succession. Thus, the five ministers next in orderafter Clement occupied the post of president only forty-two years, and,with the exception of Hyginus, whose official career was very brief,each appears to have held the situation for nearly an equal period.[538:1] But, on the death of Hyginus, a pastorate of unusual lengthcommences, as Pius, by whom he was followed, continued fifteen years inoffice—a term considerably more extended than that of any of his fivepredecessors. Reckoning from the date of the advancement of Pius, wefind also a decided increase in the average length of the life of thepresident for the remainder of the century; as, of the ten individualsin all who were at the head of the Roman Church during its revolution,the five who followed next after Clement lived only forty-two years,whilst their five successors lived fifty-nine years. Thus, there is atleast some ostensible ground for the inquiry whether any arrangement wasmade, about the time of Hyginus, which may account for these statistics.

The origin of the Church of Rome, like the origin of the city, is buriedin obscurity; and a very few facts constitute the whole amount of ourinformation respecting it during the first century of its existence.About the time of Hyginus the twilight of history begins to dawn uponit. Guided by the glimmerings of intelligence thus supplied, we shallendeavour to illustrate tins dark passage in its annals. The followingstatements may contribute somewhat to the explanation of transactionswhich have hitherto been rarely noticed by modern ecclesiasticalwriters.

I. A change in the organization of the Church about the time of Hyginus,will account for the increase in the average length of the lives of theRoman bishops. [539:1] If the alteration, mentioned by Hilary, was nowmade in the mode of succession to the presidential chair, such a resultmust have followed. Under the new regime, the recommendation of largeexperience would still have much weight in the choice of a bishop, buthe would frequently enter on his duties at a somewhat earlier age, andthus the ordinary duration of his official career would be considerablyextended. [539:2]

II. The time of Hyginus exactly answers to the description of the periodwhen, according to the testimony of Jerome, prelacy commenced. Theheretics then exhibited extraordinary zeal, so that "parties inreligion" were springing up all over the Empire. The Church of Rome issaid to have hitherto escaped the contagion of false doctrine, [539:3]but now errorists from all quarters began to violate its purity and todisturb its peace. Valentine, Cerdo, Marcion, and Marcus appeared aboutthis time in the Western capital. [540:1] Some of these men were notedfor their genius and learning; and there is every reason to believe thatthey created no common ferment. They were assiduous in the disseminationof their principles, and several of them resorted to very extraordinaryand unwarrantable expedients for strengthening their respectivefactions. An ancient writer represents them as conducting theiradherents to water, and as baptizing them "in the name of the UnknownFather of the universe; in the Truth, the mother of all; and in Him whodescended on Jesus." "Others again," says the same authority, "repeatedHebrew names to inspire the initiated with the greater awe." [540:2]These attempts at proselytism were not unsuccessful. Valentine, inparticular, made many converts, and after his death, when Irenaeus wrotea refutation of his heresy, his disciples must still have been numerous.[540:3]

The account given by Jerome of the state of the Christian interest whenit was deemed necessary to set up episcopacy, is not so completelysupplemented by the condition of the Church at any other period. Nevercertainly did the brethren at Rome more require the services of askilful and energetic leader, than when the Gnostic chiefs settled inthe great metropolis. Never could it be said with so much truth of theircommunity, in the language of the Latin father, that "every one reckonedthose whom he baptized as belonging to himself and not to Christ;"[541:1] for, as we have just seen, some, when baptizing their disciples,used even new forms of initiation. Never, assuredly, had the advocatesof expediency a better opportunity for pleading in favour of a decreeordaining that "one chosen from among the presbyters should be put overthe rest, and that the whole care of the Church should be committed tohim, that the seeds of schisms should be taken away." [541:2]

III. The testimony of Hilary, who was contemporary with Jerome, exactlyaccords with the views here promulgated as to the date of thisoccurrence. This writer, who was also a minister of the Roman Church,was obviously acquainted with a tradition that a change had taken placeat an early period in the mode of ecclesiastical government. Hisevidence is all the more valuable as it contains internal proofs ofderivation from an independent source; for, whilst it corroborates thestatement of Jerome, it supplies fresh historical details. According tohis account, "after that churches were erected in all places and officesestablished, an arrangement was adopted different from that whichprevailed at the beginning." [541:3] By "the beginning" he understandsthe apostolic age, or the time when the New Testament was written.[541:4] He then goes on to say, in explanation, that it was foundnecessary to change the mode of appointing the chairman of theeldership, and that he was now promoted to the office by election, andnot by seniority. [541:5] Whilst his language indicates distinctly thatthis alteration was made after the days of the apostles, it also impliesa date not later than the second century; for, though it was "after thebeginning," it was at a time when churches had been only recently"erected in all places, and offices established." The period of thespread of heresies at Rome, at the commencement of the reign ofAntoninus Pius, and when Hyginus closed his career, answers theseconditions.

IV. As Rome was the head-quarters of heathenism, it was also the placewhere the divisions of the Church must have proved most disastrous.There, the worship of the State was celebrated in all its magnificence;there, the Emperor, the Pontifex Maximus of the gods, surrounded by asplendid hierarchy of priests and augurs, presided at the greatfestivals; and there, thousands and tens of thousands, prompted byinterest or by prejudice, were prepared to struggle for the maintenanceof the ancient superstition. Already, the Church of Rome had oftensustained the violence of persecution; but, notwithstanding the bloodytrials it had undergone, it had continued steadily to gain strength; anda sagacious student of the signs of the times might even now have lookedforward to the day when Christianity and paganism, on nearly equalterms, would be contending for mastery in the chief city of the Empire.But the proceedings of the heretics were calculated to dissipate all thevisions of ecclesiastical ascendency. If the Roman Christians were splitup into fragments by sectarianism, the Church, in one of its greatcentres of influence, would be incalculably injured. And yet, how couldthe crisis be averted? How could heresy be most effectuallydiscountenanced? How could the unity of the Church be best maintained?In times of peril the Romans had formerly been wont to set up aDictator, and to commit the whole power of the commonwealth to onetrusty and vigorous ruler. During the latter days of the Republic, theState had been almost torn to pieces by contending factions; and now,under the sway of the Emperors, it enjoyed comparative repose. It seemsto have occurred to the brethren at Rome that they should try theeffects of a similar change in the ecclesiastical constitution. Bycommitting the government of the Church, in this emergency, almostentirely into the hands of one able and resolute administrator, they,perhaps, hoped to contend successfully against the dangers by which theywere now encompassed.

V. A recent calamity of a different character was calculated to abatethe jealousy which such a proposition might have otherwise awakened. Itappears that Telesphorus, the immediate predecessor of Hyginus, suffereda violent death. [543:1] Telesphorus is the first bishop of Rome whosetitle to martyrdom can be fairly established; and not one of hissuccessors during the remainder of the second century forfeited his lifefor his religion. The death of the presiding pastor, as a victim to theintolerance of heathenism, must have thrown the whole Church into astate of confusion and perplexity; and when Hyginus was called upon tooccupy the vacant chair, well might he enter upon its duties with deepanxiety. The appearance of heresy multiplied the difficulties of hisoffice. It might now be asked with no small amount of plausibility—Isthe presiding presbyter to have no special privileges? If his mind is tobe harassed continually by errorists, and if his life is to beimperilled in the service of the Church, should he not be distinguishedabove his brethren? Without some such encouragement will not the eldersat length refuse to accept a situation which entails so muchresponsibility, and yet possesses so little influence? Such questions,urged under such circ*mstances, must have been felt to be perplexing.

VI. As there was now constant intercourse between the seat of governmentand all the provinces of the Empire, it would seem that the Church ofthe metropolis soon contrived to avail itself of the facilities of itsposition for keeping up a correspondence with the Churches of othercountries. [544:1] In due time the results became apparent. Every eventof interest which occurred in any quarter of the Christian world wasknown speedily in the capital; no important religious movement could bewell expected to succeed without the concurrence and co-operation of thebrethren at Rome; and its ministers gradually acquired such influencethat they were able, to some extent, to control the public opinion ofthe whole ecclesiastical community. On this occasion they, perhaps, didnot find it difficult to persuade their co-religionists to enter intotheir views. In Antioch, in Alexandria, in Ephesus, and elsewhere, aswell as in Italy, the heretics had been displaying the most mischievousactivity; [544:2] and it is not improbable that the remedy now proposedby the ruling spirits in the great city had already suggested itself toothers. During the summer months vessels were trading to Rome from allthe coasts of the Mediterranean, so that Christian deputies, withoutmuch inconvenience, could repair to head-quarters, and, in concert withthe metropolitan presbyters, make arrangements for united action. If thechampions of orthodoxy were nearly as zealous as the errorists, [544:3]they must have travelled much during these days of excitement. But hadnot the idea of increasing the power of the presiding pastor originatedin Rome, or had it not been supported by the weighty sanction of theChurch of the capital, it is not to be supposed that it would have beenso readily and so extensively adopted by the Churches in other parts ofthe Empire.

VII. Though we know little of the early history of the Roman see, itwould seem that, on the death of Hyginus, there was a vacancy of unusuallength; and circ*mstances, which meanwhile took place, argue strongly infavour of the conclusion that, about this time, the change in theecclesiastical constitution indicated by Jerome actually occurred.According to some, the interval between the death of Hyginus and thecommencement of the episcopate of Pius, his immediate successor, was ofseveral years' duration; [545:1] but it is clear that the chair musthave been vacant for at least about a twelvemonth. [545:2] How are we toaccount for this interregnum? We know that subsequently, in the times ofDecius and of Diocletian, there were vacancies of quite as longcontinuance; but then the Church was in the agonies of martyrdom, andthe Roman Christians were prevented by the strong arm of imperialtyranny from filling up the bishopric. Now no such calamity appears tohave threatened; and the commotions created by the heretics supplyevidence that persecution was asleep. This long vacancy must beotherwise explained. If Hyginus had been invested with additionalauthority, and if he soon afterwards died, it is not to be wondered atthat his removal was the signal for the renewal of agitation. Questionswhich, perhaps, had not hitherto been mooted, now arose. How was thevacant place to be supplied? Was the senior presbyter, no matter how illadapted for the crisis, to be allowed to take quiet possession? If otherinfluential Churches required to be consulted, some time would thus beoccupied; so that delay in the appointment was unavoidable.

During this interval the spirit of faction was busily at work. Theheretic Marcion sought admission into the Roman presbytery; [546:1] andValentine, who appears to have been now recognized as an elder, [546:2]no doubt supported the application. The presbytery itself was probablydivided, and there is good reason to believe that even Valentine hadhopes of obtaining the presidential chair! His pretensions, at thisperiod of his career, were sufficiently imposing. Though he may havebeen suspected of unsoundness in the faith, he had not yet committedhimself by any public avowal of his errors; and as a man of literaryaccomplishment, address, energy, and eloquence, he had few compeers. Nowonder, with so many disturbing elements in operation, that the seeremained so long vacant.

Some would willingly deny that Valentine was a candidate for theepiscopal chair of Rome, but the fact can be established by evidence themost direct and conclusive. Tertullian, who had lived in the imperialcity, and who was well acquainted with its Church history, expresslystates that "Valentine hoped for the bishopric, because he excelled ingenius and eloquence, but indignant that another, who had the superiorclaim of a confessor, obtained the place, he deserted the CatholicChurch" [546:3] The Carthaginian father does not, indeed, here name thesee to which the heresiarch unsuccessfully aspired, but his words shutus up to the conclusion that he alluded to Rome. [546:4] And we can thusdiscover at least one reason why the history of this vacancy has beeninvolved in so much mystery. In a few more generations the whole Churchwould have felt compromised by any reflection cast upon the orthodoxy ofthe great Western bishopric. [547:1] How sadly would many have beenscandalized had it been proclaimed abroad that the arch-hereticValentine had once hoped to occupy the chair of St Peter!

VIII. Two letters which are still extant, and which are supposed to havebeen addressed by Pius, the immediate successor of Hyginus, to Justus,bishop of Vienne in Gaul, supply corroborative evidence that thepresiding pastor had recently obtained additional authority. Though thegenuineness of these documents has been questioned, the objections urgedagainst them have not been sufficient to prevent critics andantiquarians of all parties from appealing to their testimony. [547:2]It is not improbable that they are Latin translations from Greekoriginals, and we may thus account for a few words to be found in themwhich were introduced at a later period. [547:3] Their tone and spirit,which are entirely different from the spurious productions ascribed tothe same age, plead strongly in their favour as trustworthy witnesses.The writer makes no lofty pretensions as a Roman bishop; he speaks ofhimself simply as at the head of an humble presbytery; and it would bedifficult to divine the motive which could have tempted an impostor tofabricate such unpretending compositions. Though given as the veritableEpistles of Pius by the highest literary authorities of Borne, they arecertainly ill calculated to prop up the cause of the Papacy. If theirclaims are admitted, they must be regarded as among the earliestauthentic records in which the distinction between the terms bishop andpresbyter is unequivocally recognized; and it is obvious that ifalterations in the ecclesiastical constitution were made under Hyginus,they must have prepared the way for such a change in the terminology. Inone of these Epistles Pius gives the following piece of advice to hiscorrespondent:—"Let the elders and deacons respect you, not as agreater, but as the servant of Christ." [548:1] This letter purports tohave been written when its author anticipated the approach of death; andthe individual to whom it is directed seems to have been just placed inthe episcopal chair. Had Pius believed that Justus had a divine right torule over the presbyters, would he have tendered such an admonition? Ahundred years afterwards, Cyprian of Carthage, when addressing a youngprelate, would certainly have expressed himself very differently. Hewould, probably, have complained of the presumption of the presbyters,have boasted of the majesty of the episcopate, and have exhorted the newbishop to remember his apostolical dignity. But, in the middle of thesecond century, such language would have been strangely out of place.Pius is writing to an individual, just entering on an office latelyendowed with additional privileges, who could not yet afford to make anarbitrary use of his new authority. He, therefore, counsels him tomoderation, and cautions him against presuming on his power. "Beware,"says he, "in your intercourse with your presbyters and deacons, ofinsisting too much on the duty of obedience. Let them feel that yourprerogative is not exercised capriciously, but for good and necessarypurposes. Let the elders and deacons regard you, not so much in thelight of a superior, as the servant of Christ."

In another portion of this letter a piece of intelligence iscommunicated, which, as coming from Pius, possesses peculiar interest.When the law was enacted altering the mode of succession to thepresidency, it may be supposed that the proceeding was deemed somewhatungracious towards those aged presbyters who might have soon expected,as a matter of right, to obtain possession of the seat of the moderator.The death of Telesphorus, the predecessor of Hyginus, as a martyr, was,indeed, calculated to abate an anxiety to secure the chair; for thewhole Church was thus painfully reminded that it was a post of danger,as well as of dignity; but still, when, on the occurrence of the firstvacancy, Pius was promoted over the heads of older men, he may, on thisground, have felt, to some extent, embarrassed by his elevation. We mayinfer, however, from this letter, that the few senior presbyters, withwhose advancement the late arrangement interfered, did not long survivethis crisis in the history of the Church; for the bishop of Rome hereinforms his Gallic brother of their demise. "Those presbyters," says he,"who were taught by the apostles, [549:1] and who have survived to ourown days, with whom we have united in dispensing the word of faith, havenow, in obedience to the call of the Lord, gone to their eternalrest." [550:1] Such a notice of the decease of these venerable colleaguesis precisely what might have been expected, under the circ*mstances, ina letter from Pius to Justus.

IX. The use of the word bishop, as denoting the president of thepresbytery, marks an era in the history of ecclesiastical polity. Newterms are not coined without necessity; neither, without an adequatecause, is a new meaning annexed to an ancient designation. When the namebishop was first used as descriptive of the chief pastor, there musthave been some special reason for such an application of the title; andthe rise of the hierarchy furnishes the only satisfactoryexplanation.[550:2] If then we can ascertain when this new nomenclaturefirst made its appearance, we can also fix the date of the origin ofprelacy. Though the documentary proof available for the illustration ofthis subject is comparatively scanty, it is sufficient for our purpose;and it clearly shews that the presiding elder did not begin to be knownby the title of bishop until about the middle of the second century.Polycarp, who seems to have written about that time,[550:3] still usesthe terminology employed by the apostles. Justin Martyr, the earliestfather who has left behind him memorials amounting in extent to anythinglike a volume, often speaks of the chief minister of the Church, anddesignates him, not the bishop, but the president. [551:1] Hisphraseology is all the more important as he lived for some time in Rome,and as he undoubtedly adopted the style of expression once current inthe great city. But another writer, who was his contemporary, and whoalso resided in the capital, incidentally supplies evidence that the newtitle was then just coming into use. The author of the book called"Pastor," when referring to those who were at the head of thepresbyteries, describes them as "THE BISHOPS, that is, THE PRESIDENTSOF THE CHURCHES." [551:2] The reason why he here deems it necessary toexplain what he means by bishops cannot well be mistaken. The name, inits new application, was not yet familiar to the public ear; and ittherefore required to be interpreted by the more ancient designation.Could we tell when this work of Hermas was written, we could alsoperhaps name the very year when the president of the eldership was firstcalled bishop. [551:3] It is now pretty generally admitted that theauthor was no other than the brother of Pius of Rome, [551:4] theimmediate successor of Hyginus, so that he wrote exactly at the timewhen, as appears from other evidences, the transition from presbytery toprelacy actually occurred. His words furnish a very strong, but anundesigned, attestation to the novelty of the episcopal regimen.

X. But, perhaps, the most pointed, and certainly the most remarkabletestimony to the fact that a change took place in the constitution ofthe Roman Church in the time of Hyginus is furnished from a quarterwhere such a voucher might have been, least of all, anticipated. Weallude to the Pontifical Book. This work has been ascribed to Damasus,the well-known bishop of the metropolis of the West, who flourished inthe fourth century, but much of it is unquestionably of later origin;and though many of its statements are apocryphal, it is often quoted asa document of weight by the most distinguished writers of the Romishcommunion. [552:1] Its account of the early popes is little better thana mass of fables; but some of its details are evidently exaggerations,or rather caricatures, of an authentic tradition; and a few grains oftruth may be discovered here and there in a heap of fictions andanachronisms. This part of the production contains one brief sentencewhich has greatly puzzled the commentators, [552:2] as it is strangelyout of keeping with the general spirit of the narrative, and as itcontradicts, rather awkwardly, the pretensions of the popedom. Accordingto this testimony, Hyginus "ARRANGED THE CLERGY AND DISTRIBUTED THEGRADATIONS." [552:3] Peter himself is described by Romanists asorganizing the Church; but here, one of his alleged successors, upwardsof seventy years after his death, is set forth as the real framer of thehierarchy. [553:1] The facts already adduced prove that this obscureannouncement rests upon a sound historical foundation, and that itvaguely indicates the alterations now introduced into the ecclesiasticalconstitution. If Hilary and Jerome be employed as its interpreters, thetruth may be easily eliminated. At a synod held in Rome, Hyginus broughtunder the notice of the meeting the confusion and scandal created by themovements of the errorists; and, with a view to correct these disorders,the council agreed to invest the moderator of each presbytery withincreased authority, to give him a discretionary power as the generalsuperintendent of the Church, and to require the other elders, as wellas the deacons, to act under his advice and direction. A new functionarywas thus established, and, under the old name of bishop or overseer,a third order was virtually added to the ecclesiastical brotherhood.Hence Hyginus, who, no doubt, took a prominent part in the deliberationsof the convocation, is said to have "arranged the clergy and distributedthe gradations."

The change in the ecclesiastical polity which now occurred led toresults equally extensive and permanent, and yet it has been butindistinctly noticed by the writers of antiquity. Nor is it so strangethat we have no contemporary account of this ecclesiastical revolution.The history of other occurrences and innovations is buried in profoundobscurity. We can only ascertain by inference what were the reasonswhich led to the general adoption of the sign of the cross, to the useof the chrism in baptism, to standing at the Lord's Supper, to theinstitution of lectors, acolyths, and sub-deacons, and to theestablishment of metropolitans. Though the Paschal controversy agitatedalmost the whole Church towards the close of the second century, andthough Tertullian wrote immediately afterwards, he does not once mentionit in any of his numerous extant publications. [554:1] Owing to peculiarcirc*mstances the rise of prelacy can be more minutely traced than thatof, perhaps, any other of the alterations which were introduced duringthe first three centuries. At the time the change which it involved wasprobably considered not very important; but, as the remaining literarymemorials of the period are few and scanty, the reception which itexperienced can now only be conjectured. The alteration was adopted asan antidote against the growth of heresy, and thus originating incirc*mstances of a humiliating character, there would be littledisposition, on the part of ecclesiastical writers, to dwell upon itsdetails. Soon afterwards the pride of churchmen began to be developed;and it was then found convenient to forget that all things originallydid not accord with existing arrangements, and that the hierarchy itselfwas but a human contrivance. Prelacy soon advanced apace, and everybishop had an interest in exalting "his order." It is only wonderfulthat so much truth has oozed out from witnesses so prejudiced, and thatthe Pontifical Book contains so decisive a deposition. And the momentousconsequences of this apparently slight infringement upon the primitivepolity cannot be overlooked. That very Church which, in its attempts tosuppress heresy, first departed from divine arrangements, was sooninvolved in doctrinal error, and eventually became the greatfoster-mother of superstition and idolatry.

It may at first seem extraordinary that the ecclesiasticaltransformation was so rapidly accomplished; but, when the circ*mstancesare more attentively considered, this view of the subject presents noreal difficulty. At the outset, the principle now sanctioned producedvery little alteration on the general aspect of the spiritualcommonwealth. At this period a Church, in most places, consisted of asingle congregation; and as one elder labouring in the word and doctrinewas generally deemed sufficient to minister to the flock, only a slightmodification took place in the constitution of such a society. Thepreaching elder, who was entitled by authority of Scripture [555:1] totake precedence of elders who only ruled, had always been permitted toact as moderator; but, on the ground of the new arrangement, the pastorprobably began to assume an authority over his session which he hadnever hitherto ventured to exercise. In the beginning of the reign ofAntoninus Pius the number of towns with several Christian congregationsmust have been but small; and if five or six leading cities approved ofthe system now inaugurated at Rome, its general adoption was thussecured. The statements of Jerome and Hilary attest that the matter wassubmitted to a synod; and the remarkable interregnum which followed thedeath of Hyginus can be best accounted for on the hypothesis thatmeanwhile the ministers of the great metropolis found it necessary toconsult the rulers of other influential and distant Churches. If themeasure had the sanction of these foreign brethren, they were of courseprepared to resort to it at home on the demise of their presidingpresbyter. Heretics were now disturbing the Church all over the Empire,so that the same arguments could be everywhere used in favour of the newpolity. We find, too, that there was a vacancy in the presidential chairat Antioch about the time of the death of Hyginus; and that, in thecourse of the next year, a similar vacancy occurred at Alexandria.[555:2] If the three most important Churches then in Christendom, withthe sanction of a very few others of less note, almost simultaneouslyadopted the new arrangement, the question was practically settled. Therewere probably not more than twenty cities to be found with more than oneChristian congregation; and places of inferior consequence wouldspeedily act upon the example of the large capitals. But unquestionablythe system now introduced gradually effected a complete revolution inthe state of the Church. The ablest man in the presbytery was commonlyelevated to the chair, so that the weight of his talents, and of hisgeneral character, was added to his official consequence. The bishopsoon became the grand centre of influence and authority, and arrogatedto himself the principal share in the administration of all divineordinances.

When this change commenced, the venerable Polycarp was still alive, andthere are some grounds for believing that, when far advanced in life, hewas induced to undertake a journey to Rome on a mission of remonstrance.This view is apparently corroborated by the fact that his own Church ofSmyrna did not now adopt the new polity; for we have seen [556:1] that,upwards of a quarter of a century after his demise, it still continuedunder presbyterial government. Irenaeus was obviously well acquaintedwith the circ*mstances which occasioned this extraordinary visit ofPolycarp to Rome; but had he not come into collision with the pastor ofthe great city in the controversy relating to the Paschal Feast, wemight never have heard of its occurrence. Even when he mentions it, heobserves a mysterious silence as to its main design. The Paschalquestion awakened little interest in the days of Polycarp, and among thetopics which he discussed with Anicetus when at Rome, it confessedlyoccupied a subordinate position. [556:2] "When," says Irenaeus, "themost blessed Polycarp came to Rome in the days of Anicetus, and when asto certain other matters they had a little controversy, they wereimmediately agreed on this point (of the Passover) without anydisputation." [557:1] What the "certain other matters" were whichcreated the chief dissatisfaction, we are left obscurely to conjecture;but we may presume that they must have been of no ordinary consequence,when so eminent a minister as Polycarp, now verging on eighty years ofa*ge, felt it necessary to make a lengthened journey by sea and land witha view to their adjustment. He obviously considered that Anicetus was atleast influentially connected with arrangements which he deemedobjectionable; and he plainly felt that he could hope to obtain theirmodification or abandonment only by a personal conference with the Romanpastor. And intimations are not wanting that he was rather doubtfulwhether Anicetus would be disposed to treat with him as hisecclesiastical peer, for he seems to have been in some degree appeasedwhen the bishop of the capital permitted him to preside in the Church atthe celebration of the Eucharist. [557:2] This, certainly, was noextraordinary piece of condescension; as Polycarp, on various grounds,was entitled to take precedence of his Roman brother; [557:3] and thereception given to the "apostolic presbyter" was only what might havefairly been expected in the way of ministerial courtesy. [557:4] Why hasit then been mentioned as an exhibition of the episcopal humility ofAnicetus? Apparently because he had been previously making some arrogantassumptions. He had been, probably, presuming on his position as apastor of the "new order," and his bearing had perhaps been so offensivethat Polycarp had been commissioned to visit him on an errand ofexpostulation. But by prudently paying marked deference to the agedstranger; and, it may be, by giving a plausible account of someproceedings which had awakened anxiety; he appears to have succeeded inquieting his apprehensions. That the presiding minister of the Church ofSmyrna was engaged in some such delicate mission is all but certain, asthe design of the journey would not otherwise have been involved in soprofound secrecy. The very fact of its occurrence is first noticed aboutforty years afterwards, when the haughty behaviour of another bishop ofRome provoked Irenaeus to call up certain unwelcome reminiscences whichit must have suggested.

Though the journey of Polycarp betokens that he must have been deeplydissatisfied with something which was going forward in the greatmetropolis, we can only guess at its design and its results; and it isnow impossible to ascertain whether the alterations introduced thereencountered any very formidable opposition: but it is by no meansimprobable that they were effected without much difficulty. Thedisorders of the Church imperatively called for some strong remedy; andit perhaps occurred to not a few that a distracted presbytery, under thepresidency of a feeble old man, was but ill fitted to meet theemergency. They would accordingly propose to strengthen the executivegovernment by providing for the appointment of a more efficientmoderator, and by arming him with additional authority. The people wouldbe gratified by the change, for, though in Rome and some other greatcities, where its effects would be felt most sensibly, they, no doubt,met before this time in separate congregations, yet they had still muchunited intercourse; and as, on such occasions, their edificationdepended mainly on the gifts of the chairman of the eldership, theywould gladly join in advancing the best preacher in the presbytery tothe office of president. At this particular crisis the alteration maynot have been unacceptable to the elders themselves. To those of themwho were in the decline of life, there was nothing very inviting in theprospect of occupying the most prominent position in a Church threatenedby persecution and torn by divisions, so that they may have been notunwilling to waive any claim to the presidency which their seniorityimplied; whilst the more vigorous, sanguine, and aspiring, would hail anarrangement which promised at no distant day to place one of themselvesin a position of greatly increased dignity and influence. Whilst allwere agreed that the times demanded the appointment of the ablest memberof presbytery as moderator, none, perhaps, foresaw the danger of addingpermanently to the prerogatives of so potent a chairman. It was neveranticipated that the day would come when the new law would be regardedas any other than a human contrivance; and when the bishops and theiradherents would contend that the presbyters, under no circ*mstanceswhatever, had a right to reassume that power which they now surrendered.The result, however, has demonstrated the folly of human wisdom. Theprelates, who were originally set up to save the Church from heresy,became themselves at length the abetters of false doctrine; and whilstthey thus grievously abused the influence with which they wereentrusted, they had the temerity to maintain that they still continuedto be exclusively the fountains of spiritual authority.

It is not to be supposed that prelacy was set up at once in theplenitude of its power. Neither is it to be imagined that the system wassimultaneously adopted by Christians all over the world. Jerome informsus that it was established "by little and little;" [559:1] and he thusapparently refers, as well to its gradual spread, as to the almostimperceptible growth of its pretensions. We have shewn, in a precedingchapter, [560:1] that in various cities, such as Smyrna, Caesarea, andJerusalem, the senior presbyter continued to be the president untilabout the close of the second century; and there the Church seems tohave been meanwhile governed by "the common council of the presbyters."[560:2] Evidence can be adduced to prove that, in many places, even at amuch later period, the episcopal system was still unknown. [560:3] Butit* advocates were active and influential, and they continued to makesteady progress. The consolidation of the Catholic system contributedvastly to its advancement. The leading features of this system must nowbe illustrated.


The word catholic, which signifies universal or general, came into usetowards the end of the second century. Its introduction indicates a newphase in the history of the ecclesiastical community. For upwards of ahundred years after its formation, the Church presented the appearanceof one great and harmonious brotherhood, as false teachers had hithertofailed to create any considerable diversity of sentiment; but when manyof the literati began to embrace the gospel, the influence of elementsof discord soon became obvious. These converts attempted to graft theirphilosophical theories on Christianity; not a few of the more unstableof the brethren, captivated by their ingenuity and eloquence, weretempted to adopt their views; and though the great mass of the disciplesrepudiated their adulterations of the truth, the Christian commonwealthwas distracted and divided. Those who banded themselves together tomaintain the unity of the Church were soon known by the designation ofCatholics. "After the days of the apostles," says one of the fathers,"when heresies had burst forth, and were striving under various names totear piecemeal and divide the Dove and the Queen of God, [561:1] did notthe apostolic people require a name of their own whereby to mark theunity of those that were uncorrupted? …. Therefore our people, whennamed Catholic, are separated by this title from those denominatedheretics." [562:1]

The Catholic system, being an integral portion of the policy whichinvested the presiding elder with additional authority, rosecontemporaneously with Prelacy. When Gnosticism was spreading sorapidly, and creating so much scandal and confusion, schism upon schismappeared unavoidable. How was the Church to be kept from going topieces? How could its unity be best conserved? How could it contend mostsuccessfully against its subtle and restless disturbers? Such were theproblems which now occupied the attention of its leading ministers. Itwas thought that all these difficulties would be solved by the adoptionof the Catholic system. Were the Church, it was said, to place morepower in the hands of individuals, and then to consolidate itsinfluence, it could bear down more effectively upon the errorists. Everychief pastor of the Catholic Church was the symbol of the unity of hisown ecclesiastical district; and the associated bishops represented theunity of the whole body of the faithful. According to the Catholicsystem when strictly carried out, every individual excommunicated by onebishop was excommunicated by all, so that when a heresiarch was excludedfrom fellowship in one city, he could not be received elsewhere. Thevisible unity of the Church was the great principle which the Catholicsystem sought to realise. "The Church," says Cyprian, "which is catholicand one, is not separated or divided, but is in truth connected andjoined together by the cement of bishops mutually cleaving to eachother." [562:2]

The funds of the Church were placed very early in the hands of thepresident of the eldership, [563:1] and though they may not have been athis absolute disposal, he, no doubt, soon found means of sustaining hisauthority by means of his monetary influence. But the power which hepossessed, as the recognized centre of ecclesiastical unity, to preventany of his elders or deacons from performing any official act of whichhe disapproved, constituted one of the essential features of theCatholic system. "The right to administer baptism," says Tertullian,"belongs to the chief priest, that is, the bishop: then to thepresbyters and the deacons, [563:2] yet not without the authority of thebishop, for the honour of the Church, which being preserved, peace ispreserved." [563:3] Here, the origin of Catholicism is pretty distinctlyindicated; for the prerogatives of the bishop are described, not asmatters of divine right, but of ecclesiastical arrangement. [563:4] Theywere given to him "for the honour of the Church," that peace might bepreserved when heretics began to cause divisions.

Though the bishop could give permission to others to celebrate divineordinances, he was himself their chief administrator. He was generallythe only preacher; he usually dispensed baptism; [563:5] and he presidedat the observance of the Eucharist. At Rome, where the Catholic systemwas maintained most scrupulously, his presence seems to have beenconsidered necessary to the due consecration of the elements. Hence, atone time, the sacramental symbols were carried from the cathedral churchto all the places of Christian worship throughout the city. [564:1] Withsuch minute care did the Roman chief pastor endeavour to disseminate thedoctrine that whoever was not in communion with the bishop was out ofthe Church.

The establishment of a close connexion, between certain large Christianassociations and the smaller societies around them, constituted the nextlink in the organization of the Catholic system. These communities,being generally related as mother and daughter churches, were alreadyprepared to adapt themselves to the new type of ecclesiastical polity.The apostles, or their immediate disciples, had founded congregations inmost of the great cities of the Empire; and every society thusinstituted, now distinguished by the designation of the principal[564:2] or apostolic Church, became a centre of ecclesiastical unity.Its presiding minister sent the Eucharist to the teachers of the littleflocks in his vicinity, to signify that he acknowledged them asbrethren; [564:3] and every pastor who thus enjoyed communion with theprincipal Church was recognized as a Catholic bishop. This parentestablishment was considered a bulwark which could protect all theChristian communities surrounding it from heresy, and they wereconsequently expected to be guided by its traditions. "It is manifest,"says Tertullian, "that all doctrine, which agrees with these apostolicChurches, THE WOMBS AND ORIGINALS OF THE FAITH, [564:4] must beaccounted true, as without doubt containing that which the Churches havereceived from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, Christ from God:and that all other doctrine must be judged at once to be false, whichsavours of things contrary to the truth of the Churches, and of theapostles, and of Christ, and of God….Go through the apostolicChurches, in which the very seats of the apostles, at this very day,preside over their own places, [565:1] in which their own authenticwritings are read, speaking with the voice of each, and making the faceof each present to the eye. Is Achaia near to you? You have Corinth. Ifyou are not far from Macedonia, you have Philippi, you have theThessalonians. [565:2] If you can travel into Asia, you have Ephesus.But if you are near to Italy you have Rome, where we also have anauthority close at hand." [565:3]

But the Catholic system was not yet complete. In every congregation thebishop or pastor was the centre of unity, and in every district theprincipal or apostolic Church bound together the smaller Christiansocieties; but how were the apostolic Churches themselves to be united?This question did not long remain without a solution. [565:4] Had theChurch of Jerusalem, when the Catholic system was first organized, stilloccupied its ancient position, it might have established a better titleto precedence than any other ecclesiastical community in existence. Ithad been, beyond all controversy, the mother Church of Christendom. Butit had been recently dissolved, and a new society, composed, to a greatextent, of new members, was now in process of formation in the new cityof Aelia. Meanwhile the Church of Rome had been rapidly acquiringstrength, and its connexion with the seat of government pointed it outas the appropriate head of the Catholic confederation. If the greatestconvenience of the greatest number of Churches were to be taken intoaccount, it had claims of peculiar potency, for it was easily accessibleby sea or land from all parts of the Empire, and it had facilities forkeeping up communication with the provinces to which no other societycould pretend. Nor were these its only recommendations. It had, as wasalleged, been watered by the ministry of two or three [556:1] of theapostles, so that, even as an apostolic Church, it had high pretensions.In addition to all this, it had, more than once, sustained withextraordinary constancy the first and fiercest brunt of persecution; andif its members had so signalized themselves in the army of martyrs, whyshould not its bishop lead the van of the Catholic Church? Suchconsiderations urged in favour of a community already distinguished byits wealth, as well as by its charity, were amply sufficient toestablish its claim as the centre of Catholic unity. If, as is probable,the arrangement was concocted in Rome itself, they must have been feltto be irresistible. Hence Irenaeus, writing about A.D. 180, speaks of iteven then as the recognized head of the Churches of the Empire. "To thisChurch," says he, "because it is more potentially principal, it isnecessary that every Catholic Church should go, as in it the apostolictradition has by the Catholics been always preserved." [567:1]

Many Protestant writers have attempted to explain away the meaning ofthis remarkable passage, but the candid student of history is bound tolisten respectfully to its testimony. When we assign to the words ofIrenaeus all the significance of which they are susceptible, they onlyattest the fact that, in the latter half of the second century, theChurch of Rome was acknowledged as the most potent of all the apostolicChurches. And in the same place the grounds of its pre-eminence areenumerated pretty fully by the pastor of Lyons. It was the most ancientChurch in the West of Europe; it was also the most populous; like a cityset upon a hill, it was known to all; and it was reputed to have had forits founders the most illustrious of the inspired heralds of the cross,the apostle of the Gentiles, and the apostle of the circumcision.[567:2] It was more "potentially principal," because it was itself theprincipal of the apostolic or principal Churches.

It has been already stated that every principal bishop, [567:3] orpresiding minister of an apostolic Church, sent the Eucharist to thepastors around him as a pledge of their ecclesiastical fellowship; andit would appear that the bishop of Rome kept up intercourse with theother bishops of the apostolic Churches by transmitting to them the samesymbol of catholicity. [567:4] The sacred elements were doubtlessconveyed by confidential churchmen, who served, at the same time, aschannels of communication between the great prelate and the moreinfluential of his brethren. By this means the communion of the wholeCatholic Church was constantly maintained.

When the Catholic system was set up, and the bishop of Rome recognizedas its Head, he was not supposed to possess, in his new position, anyarbitrary or despotic authority. He was simply understood to hold amongpastors the place which had previously been occupied by the senior elderin the presbytery—that is, he was the president or moderator. Thetheoretical parity of all bishops, the chief pastor of Rome included,was a principle long jealously asserted. [568:1] But the prelate of thecapital was the individual to whom other bishops addressed themselvesrespecting all matters affecting the general interests of theecclesiastical community; he collected their sentiments; and heannounced the decisions of their united wisdom. It was, however,scarcely possible for an official in his circ*mstances either to satisfyall parties, or to keep within the limits of his legitimate power. Whenhis personal feelings were known to run strongly in a particularchannel, the minority, to whom he was opposed, would at least suspecthim of attempting domination. Hence it was that by those who werediscontented with his policy he was tauntingly designated, as early asthe beginning of the third century, The Supreme Pontiff, and The Bishopof Bishops. [568:2] These titles cannot now be gravely quoted as proofsof the existence of the claims which they indicate; for they wereemployed ironically by malcontents who wished thus either to impeach hispartiality, or to condemn his interference. But they supply clearevidence that his growing influence was beginning to be formidable, andthat he already stood at the head of the ministers of Christendom.

The preceding statements enable us to understand why the interests ofRome and of the Catholic Church have always been identified. Themetropolis of Italy has, in fact, from the beginning been the heart ofthe Catholic system. In ancient times Roman statesmen were noted fortheir skill in fitting up the machinery of political government: Romanchurchmen have laboured no less successfully in the department ofecclesiastical organization. The Catholic system is a wonderful specimenof constructive ability; and there is every reason to believe that thesame city which produced Prelacy, also gave birth, about the same time,to this masterpiece of human contrivance. The fact may be established,as well by other evidences, as by the positive testimony of Cyprian. Thebishop of Carthage, who flourished only about a century after itappeared, was connected with that quarter of the Church in which itoriginated. We cannot, therefore, reasonably reject the depositions ofso competent a witness, more especially when he speaks so frequently andso confidently of its source. When he describes the Roman bishopric as"the root and womb of the Catholic Church," [569:1] his languageadmits of no second interpretation. He was well aware that the Church ofJerusalem was the root and womb of all the apostolic Churches; and whenhe employs such phraseology, he must refer to some new phase ofChristianity which had originated in the capital of the Empire. Inanother place he speaks of "the see of Peter, and the principal Church,whence the unity of the priesthood took its rise." [569:2] Suchstatements shut us up to the conclusion that Rome was the source andcentre from which Catholicism radiated.

This system could have been only gradually developed, and nearly half acentury appears to have elapsed before it acquired such maturity that itattained a distinctive designation. [570:1] But, as it was currentlybelieved to be admirably adapted to the exigencies of the Church, itspread with much rapidity; and, in less than a hundred years after itsrise, its influence may be traced in almost all parts of the Empire. Wemay thus explain a historical phenomenon which might otherwise beunaccountable. Towards the close of the second and throughout the wholeof the third century, ecclesiastical writers connected with various anddistant provinces refer with peculiar respect to the Apostle Peter, andeven appeal to Scripture [570:2] with a view to his exaltation. Theirmisinterpretations of the Word reveal an extreme anxiety to obtainsomething like an inspired warrant for their catholicism. The visibleunity of the Church was deemed by them essential to its very existence,and the Roman see was the actual key-stone of the Catholic structure.Hence every friend of orthodoxy imagined it to be, as well his duty ashis interest, to uphold the claims of the supposed representative ofPeter, and thus to maintain the cause of ecclesiastical unity. It mighthave been anticipated under such circ*mstances that Scripture would bemiserably perverted, and that the see, which was believed to possess asits heritage the prerogatives of the apostle of the circumcision, wouldbe the subject of extravagant laudation.

Ambition has been often represented as the great principle which guidedthe policy of the early Roman bishops, but there is no evidence that, asa class, they were inferior in piety to other churchmen, and thereadiness with which some of them suffered for the faith attests theirChristian sincerity and resolution. Ambition, doubtless, soon began tooperate; but their elevation was not so much the result of any deep-laidscheme for their aggrandizement, as of a series of circ*mstances pushingthem into prominence, and placing them in a most influential position.The efforts of heretics to create division led to a reaction, andtempted the Church to adopt arrangements for preserving union by whichits liberties were eventually compromised. The bishop of Rome foundhimself almost immediately at the head of the Catholic league, and thereis no doubt that, before the close of the second century, he wasacknowledged as the chief pastor of Christendom. About that time we seehim writing letters to some of the most distinguished bishops of theEast [571:1] directing them to call councils; and it does not appearthat his epistles were deemed unwarranted or officious. Unity ofdoctrine was speedily connected with unity of discipline, and an opiniongradually prevailed that the Church Catholic should exhibit universaluniformity. When Victor differed from the Asiatic bishops relative tothe mode of observing the Paschal festival, he was only seeking torealize the idea of unity; and, as the Head of the Catholic Church, hemight have carried out against them his threat of excommunication, hadhe not in this particular case been moving in advance of public opinion.When Stephen, sixty years afterwards, disputed with Cyprian and othersconcerning the rebaptism of heretics, he was still endeavouring to workout the same unity; and the bishop of Carthage found himself involved incontradictions when he proceeded at once to assert his independence, andto concede to the see of Peter the honour which, as he admitted, itcould legitimately challenge. [572:1]

The theory of Catholicism is based on principles thoroughly fallacious.Assuming that visible unity is essential to the Church on earth, itsanctions the startling inference that whoever is not connected with acertain ecclesiastical society must be out of the pale of salvation. Themost grinding spiritual tyranny ever known has been erected on thisfoundation. And yet how hollow is the whole system! It is no morenecessary that all the children of God in this world should belong tothe same visible Church than that all the children of men should beconnected with the same earthly monarchy. All believers are "one inChrist;" they have all "one Lord, one faith, one baptism;" but "thekingdom of God cometh not with observation," and the unity of the saintson earth can be discerned only by the eye of Omniscience. They are allsustained by the same living bread which cometh down from heaven, butthey may receive their spiritual provision as members of ten thousandseparated Churches. All who truly love the Saviour are united to Him bya link which can never be broken; and no ecclesiastical barrier caneither exclude them from His presence here, or shut them out from Hisfellowship hereafter. But a number of men might as well propose toappropriate all the light of the sun or all the winds of heaven, asattempt to form themselves into a privileged society with a monopoly ofthe means of salvation.

The Church of Rome is understood to be the spiritual Babylon of theApocalypse, and yet one point of correspondence between the type and theantitype seems to have been hitherto overlooked. The great city ofBabylon commenced with the erection of Babel, and the builders said—"Goto, let us build us a city, and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven,and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face ofthe whole earth." [573:1] Civil unity was avowedly the end designed bythese architects. Amongst other purposes contemplated by the famoustower, it appears to have been intended to serve as a centre ofcatholicity—a great rallying point or landmark—by which every citizenmight be guided homewards when he lost his way in the plain of Shinar.It is a curious fact that in the "Pastor of Hermas," perhaps the firstwork written in Rome after the establishment of Prelacy, the Church isdescribed under the similitude of a tower! [573:2] When Hyginus"established the gradations," the hierarchy at once assumed thatappearance. And the see of Peter, the centre of Catholic unity, was nowto be the great spiritual landmark to guide the steps of all truechurchmen. The ecclesiastical builders prospered for a time, but whenConstantine had finished a new metropolis in the East, some symptoms ofdisunion revealed themselves. When the Empire was afterwards divided,jealousies increased; the builders could not well understand oneanother's speech; and the Church at length witnessed the great schism ofthe Greeks and the Latins. In due time the Reformation interfered stillmore vexatiously with the building of the ecclesiastical Babel. But thismore recent schism has given a mighty impulse to the cause of freedom,of civilization, and of truth; for the Protestants, scattered abroadover the face of the whole earth, have been spreading far and wide thelight of the gospel. The builders of Babel still continue their work,but their boasted unity is gone for ever; and now, with the exception oftheir political manoeuvring, their highest achievements are literally inthe department of stone and mortar. They may found costly edifices, andthey may erect spires pointing, like the tower of Babel, to the skies,but they can no longer reasonably hope to bind together the liberatednations with the chains of a gigantic despotism, or to induceworshippers of all kindreds and tongues to adopt the one dead languageof Latin superstition. The signs of the times indicate that the remnantof the Catholic workmen must soon "leave off to build the city." Thefinal overthrow of the mystical Babylon will usher in the millennium ofthe Church, and the present success of Protestant missions ispremonitory of the approaching doom of Romish ritualism. It iswritten—"I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having theeverlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and toevery nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loudvoice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment iscome: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and thefountains of waters. And there followed another angel, saying, Babylonis fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nationsdrink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication." [574:1]


It has been already stated that, except in a few great cities wherethere were several Christian congregations, the introduction ofEpiscopacy produced a very slight change in the appearance of theecclesiastical community. In towns and villages, where the disciplesconstituted but a single flock, they had commonly only one teachingelder; and as, in accordance with apostolic rule, [575:1] this labourerin the word and doctrine was deemed worthy of double honour, he wasalready the most prominent and influential member of the brotherhood.The new arrangement merely clothed him with the name of bishop, andsomewhat augmented his authority. Having the funds of the Church at hisdisposal, he had special influence; and though he could not well actwithout the sanction of his elders, he could easily contrive to negativeany of their resolutions which did not meet his approval.

It is abundantly clear that this primitive dignitary was ordinarily thepastor of only a single congregation. "If, before the multitudeincrease, there should be a place having a few faithful men in it, tothe extent of twelve, who shall be able to make a dedication to pioususes for a bishop, let them write to the Churches round about theplace," says an ancient canon, "that three chosen men…. may come toexamine with diligence him who has been thought worthy of thisdegree…. If he has not a wife, it is a good thing; but if he hasmarried a wife, having children, let him abide with her, continuingsteadfast in every doctrine, able to explain the Scriptures well."[576:1] This humble functionary was assisted in the management of hislittle flock by two or three elders. "If the bishop has attended to theknowledge and patience of the love of God," says another regulation,"let him ordain two presbyters, when he has examined them, or ratherthree." [576:2] The bishop, the elders, and the deacons, all assembledin one place every Lord's day for congregational worship. An oldecclesiastical law accordingly prescribes the followingarrangement—"Let the seat of the bishop be placed in the midst, and letthe presbyters sit on each side of him, and let the deacons stand bythem,… and let it be their care that the people sit a with allquietness and order in the other part of the church." [576:3] Thus,except in the case of a few large towns, the primitive bishop was simplythe parochial minister. Towards the close of the second century, thebishop and the teacher were designations of the same import. Speaking ofthose at the head of the Churches, Irenaeus describes them asdistinguished by their superior or inferior ability in sermonizing;[576:4] and a well-informed writer, who flourished as late as the fourthcentury, mentions preaching as the bishop's peculiar function. [576:5]In the apostolic age every one who had popular gifts was permitted toedify the congregation by their exercise; [576:6] and, long afterwards,any elder, who was qualified to speak in the Church, was at liberty toaddress his fellow-worshippers. When Origen, prior to his ordination asa presbyter, ventured to expound the Scriptures publicly at the requestof the bishops of Palestine, Demetrius, his own ecclesiastical superior,denounced his conduct as irregular; but the parties, by whom the learnedAlexandrian had been invited to lecture, boldly vindicated theproceeding. He (Demetrius) has asserted, said they, "that this was neverbefore either heard or done, that laymen should deliver discourses inthe presence of bishops. We know not how it happens that he is hereevidently so far from the truth. For, indeed, wherever there are foundthose qualified to benefit the brethren, they are exhorted by the holybishops to address the people." [577:1] But still the bishop himself wasthe stated and ordinary preacher; and when he was sick or absent, theflock could seldom expect a sermon. When present, he always administeredthe Lord's Supper with his own hands, and dispensed in person the riteof baptism. He also occupied the chair at the meetings of thepresbytery, and presided at the ordination of the elders and deacons ofhis congregation.

Though Christians formed but a fraction, and often but a small fractionof the population, their bishops were thickly planted. Thus, Cenchrea,the port of Corinth, had an episcopal overseer, [577:2] as well asCorinth itself; the bishop of Portus and the bishop of Ostia were onlytwo miles asunder; [577:3] and, of the eighty-seven bishops who met atCarthage, about A.D. 256, to discuss the question of the rebaptism ofheretics, many, such as Mannulus, Polianus, Dativus, and Secundinus,[577:4] were located in small towns or villages. Though, probably, someof these pastors had not the care of more than twenty or thirtyChristian families, each had the same rank and authority as the bishopof Carthage. "It remains," said Cyprian at the opening of the council,"that we severally declare our opinion on this same subject, judging noone, nor depriving any one of the right of communion if he differ fromus. For no one of us sets himself up as a bishop of bishops, or bytyrannical terror forces his colleagues to a necessity of obeying;inasmuch as every bishop in the free use of his liberty and power hasthe right of forming his own judgment." [578:1] In other quarters of theChurch its episcopal guardians were equally numerous. Hence it is saidof the famous Paul of Samosata, bishop of Antioch, that, to sustain hisreputation, he instigated "the bishops of the adjacent rural districtsand towns" to praise him in their addresses to the people. [578:2] Evenso late as the middle of the third century, the jurisdiction of thegreatest bishops was extremely limited. Cyprian of Carthage, in point ofposition the second prelate in the Western Church, presided over onlyeight or nine presbyters; [578:3] and Cornelius of Rome, confessedly themost influential ecclesiastic in Christendom, had the charge of probablynot more than fourteen congregations. [578:4]

There were commonly several elders and deacons connected with everyworshipping society, and though these, as well as the bishops, began,towards the close of the second century, to be called clergymen, [578:5]and were thus taught to cherish the idea that the Lord was theirinheritance, it would be quite a mistake to infer that they allsubsisted on their official income. Not a few of them probably derivedtheir maintenance from secular employments, some of them being tradesmenor artizans, and others in stations of greater prominence. Hyacinthus,an elder of the Church of Rome in the time of bishop Victor, appears tohave held a situation in the Imperial household, [579:1] and Tertulliancomplains that persons engaged in trades directly connected with thesupport of idolatry were promoted to ecclesiastical offices. [579:2]There was a time when even an apostle laboured as a tent-maker, but asthe hierarchical spirit acquired strength, and as the Church increasedin wealth and numbers, there was a growing impression that all itsoffice-bearers were degraded by such services. Cyprian speaks withextreme bitterness of a deceased elder who had appointed a brother elderthe executor of his will, declaring that the clergy "should in no way becalled off from their holy ministrations nor tied down by seculartroubles and business." [579:3] But the common sense of the Churchrevolted against such high-flown spiritualism, as in many districtswhere the disciples were still few and indigent, they could not afford asuitable support for all entrusted with the performance ofecclesiastical duties. Hence, before the recognition of Christianity byConstantine, even bishops in some countries were permitted by trade toeke out a scanty maintenance. "Let not bishops, elders, and deaconsleave their places for the sake of trading," says a council held in thebeginning of the fourth century, "nor travelling about the provinces letthem be found dealing in fairs. However, to provide a living forthemselves, let them send either a son, or a freedman, or a servant, ora friend, or any one else: and if they wish to trade, let them do sowithin their province." [580:1]

It is clear, from the New Testament, that, in the apostolic age,ordination was performed by "the laying on of the hands of thepresbytery," and this mode of designation to the ministry appears tohave continued until some time in the third century. We are informed bythe most learned of the fathers, in a passage to which the attention ofthe reader has already been invited, [580:2] that "even at Alexandria,from Mark the Evangelist until Heraclas and Dionysius the bishops, thepresbyters were always in the habit of naming bishop one chosen fromamong themselves and placed in a higher degree, in the same manner as ifan army should make an emperor, or the deacons choose from amongthemselves one whom they knew to be industrious and call himarchdeacon." [580:3] As Jerome here mentions various important facts ofwhich we might have otherwise remained ignorant, and as this statementthrows much light upon the ecclesiastical history of the early Church,it is entitled to special notice.

In the letter where this passage occurs the writer is extolling thedignity of presbyters, and is endeavouring to shew that they are verylittle inferior to bishops. He admits, indeed, that, in his own days,they had ceased to ordain; but he intimates that they once possessed theright, and that they retained it in all its integrity until the formerpart of the preceding century. Some have thought that Jerome has hereexpressed himself indefinitely, and that he did not know the exact dateat which the arrangement he describes ceased at Alexandria. But histestimony, when fairly analysed, can scarcely be said to want precision;for he obviously speaks of Heraclas and Dionysius as bishops byanticipation, alleging that a custom which anciently existed among theelders of the Egyptian metropolis was maintained until the time whenthese ecclesiastics, who afterwards successively occupied the episcopalchair, sat together in the presbytery. The period, thus pointed out, canbe easily ascertained. Demetrius, bishop of Alexandria, after a longofficial life of forty-three years, died about A.D. 232, [581:1] and itis well known that Heraclas and Dionysius were both members of hispresbytery towards the close of his episcopal administration. It was,therefore, shortly before his demise that the new system was introduced.In certain parts of the Church the arrangement mentioned by Jeromeprobably continued somewhat longer. Cyprian apparently hints at suchcases of exception when he says that in "almost all the provinces,"[581:2] the neighbouring bishops assembled, on the occasion of anepiscopal vacancy, at the new election and ordination. It may have beenthat, in a few of the more considerable towns, the elders stillcontinued to nominate their president.

When the erudite Roman presbyter informs us that "even at Alexandria"[581:3] the elders formerly made their own bishop, his languageobviously implies that such a mode of creating the chief pastor was notconfined to the Church of the metropolis of Egypt. It existed whereverChristianity had gained a footing, and he mentions this particular see,partly, because of its importance—being, in point of rank, the secondin the Empire—and partly, perhaps, because the remarkable circ*mstancesin its history, leading to the alteration which he specifies, were knownto all his well-informed contemporaries. Jerome does not say that theAlexandrian presbyters inducted their bishop by imposition of hands,[582:1] or set him apart to his office by any formal ordination. Hiswords apparently indicate that they did not recognize the necessity ofany special rite of investiture; that they made the bishop by election;and that, when once acknowledged as the object of their choice, he wasat liberty to enter forthwith on the performance of his episcopalduties. When the Roman soldiers made an emperor they appointed him byacclamation, and the cheers which issued from their ranks as he stood upbefore the legions and as he was clothed with the purple by one ofthemselves, constituted the ceremony of his inauguration. The ancientarchdeacon was still one of the deacons; [582:2] as he was the chiefalmoner of the Church, he required to possess tact, discernment, andactivity; and, in the fourth century, he was nominated to his office byhis fellow-deacons. Jerome assures us that, until the time of Heraclasand Dionysius, the elders made a bishop just in the same way as in hisown day the soldiers made an emperor, or as the deacons chose one whomthey knew to be industrious, and made him an archdeacon.

In one of the letters purporting to have been written by Pius, bishop ofRome, to Justus of Vienne, shortly after the middle of the secondcentury, there is a passage which supplies a singularly strikingconfirmation of the testimony of Jerome. Even were we to admit that thegenuineness of this epistle cannot be satisfactorily established, itmust still be acknowledged to be a very ancient document, and were it ofsomewhat later date than its title indicates, it should at least bereceived as representing the traditions which prevailed respecting theecclesiastical arrangements of an early antiquity. In this communicationPius speaks of his episcopal correspondent of Vienne as "constituted bythe brethren and clothed with the dress of the bishops." [583:1] By"the brethren," as is plain from another part of the letter, [583:2] heunderstands the presbytery. And as the soldiers made a sovereign bysaluting him emperor, and arraying him in the purple; so the elders madea president by clothing him with a certain piece of dress, and callinghim bishop. Thus, the statement of Jerome is exactly corroborated by theevidence of this witness.

We may infer from the letter of Pius that in Gaul and Italy, as well asin Egypt, the elders were in the habit of making their own bishop.[583:3] There is not a particle of evidence to shew that any otherarrangement originally existed. The declaration of so competent anauthority as Jerome backed by the attestation of this ancient epistlemay be regarded as perfectly conclusive. [583:4] But other proofsof the same fact are not wanting. For a long period the bishop continuedto be known by the title of "the elder who presides"-a designation whichobviously implies that he was still only one of the presbyters. When thePaschal controversy created such excitement, and when Victor of Romethreatened to renounce the communion of those who held views differentfrom his own, Irenaeus of Lyons wrote a letter of remonstrance to thehaughty churchman in which he broadly reminded him of his ecclesiasticalposition. "Those, presbyters before Soter who governed the Churchover which you now preside, I mean," said he, "Anicetus, and Pius,Hyginus with Telesphorus and Xystus, neither did themselves observe, nordid they permit those after them to observe it…. But those verypresbyters before you who did not observe it, sent the Eucharist tothose of Churches which did." [584:1] Irenaeus here endeavours to teachthe bishop of Rome a lesson of humility by reminding him repeatedly thathe and his predecessors were but presbyters.

The pastor of Lyons speaks even still more distinctly respecting thestatus of the bishops who flourished in his generation. Thus, hesays—"We should obey those presbyters in the Church who have thesuccession from the apostles, and who, with the succession of theepiscopate, have received the certain gift of truth according to thegood pleasure of the Father: but we should hold as suspected or asheretics and of bad sentiments the rest who depart from the principalsuccession, and meet together wherever they please…. From all such wemust keep aloof, but we must adhere to those who both preserve, as wehave already mentioned, the doctrine of the apostles, and exhibit, withthe order of the presbytery, sound teaching and an inoffensiveconversation." [585:1] "The order of the presbytery" obviously signifiesthe official character conveyed by "the laying on of the hands of thepresbytery," and yet such was the ordination of those who, in the timeof Irenaeus, possessed "the succession from the apostles" and "thesuccession of the episcopate."

Some imagine that no one can be properly qualified to administer divineordinances who has not received episcopal ordination, but a moreaccurate acquaintance with the history of the early Church is all thatis required to dissipate the delusion. The preceding statements clearlyshew that, for upwards of one hundred and fifty years after the death ofour Lord, all the Christian ministers throughout the world were ordainedby presbyters. The bishops themselves were of "the order of thepresbytery," and, as they had never received episcopal consecration,they could only ordain as presbyters. The bishop was, in fact, nothingmore than the chief presbyter. [585:2] A father of the third centuryaccordingly observes—"All power and grace are established in the Churchwhere elders preside, who possess the power, as well of baptizing, asof confirming and ordaining." [585:3]

An old ecclesiastical law, recently presented for the first time to theEnglish reader, [586:1] throws much light on a portion of the history ofthe Church long buried in great obscurity. This law may well remind usof those remains of extinct classes of animals which the naturaliststudies with so much interest, as it obviously belongs to an era evenanterior to that of the so-called apostolical canons. [586:2] Though itis part of a series of regulations once current in the Church ofEthiopia, there is every reason to believe that it was framed in Italy,and that its authority was acknowledged by the Church of Rome in thetime of Hippolytus. [586:3] It marks a transition period in the historyof ecclesiastical polity, and whilst it indirectly confirms thetestimony of Jerome relative to the custom of the Church of Alexandria,it shews that the state of things to which the learned presbyter referswas now superseded by another arrangement. This curious specimen ofancient legislation treats of the appointment and ordination ofministers. "The bishop," says this enactment, "is to be elected by allthe people…. And they shall choose ONE OF THE BISHOPS AND ONE OF THEPRESBYTERS, … AND THESE SHALL LAY THEIR HANDS UPON HIS HEAD AND PRAY."[586:4] Here, to avoid the confusion arising from a whole crowd ofindividuals imposing hands in ordination, two were selected to act onbehalf of the assembled office-bearers; and, that the parties entitledto officiate might be fairly represented, the deputies were to be abishop and a presbyter. [587:1] The canon illustrates the jealousy withwhich the presbyters in the early part of the third century stillguarded some of their rights and privileges. In the matter of investingothers with Church authority, they yet maintained their originalposition, and though many bishops might be present when another wasinducted into office, they would permit only one of the number to unitewith one of themselves in the ceremony of ordination. Some at thepresent day do not hesitate to assert that presbyters have no rightwhatever to ordain, but this canon supplies evidence that in the thirdcentury they were employed to ordain bishops.

It thus appears that the bishop of the ancient Church was very differentfrom the dignitary now known by the same designation. The primitivebishop had often but two or three elders, and sometimes a single deacon,[587:2] under his jurisdiction: the modern prelate has frequently theoversight of several hundreds of ministers. The ancient bishop,surrounded by his presbyters, preached ordinarily every Sabbath to hiswhole flock: the modern bishop may spend an entire lifetime withoutaddressing a single sermon, on the Lord's day, to many who are under hisepiscopal supervision. The early bishop had the care of a parish: themodern bishop superintends a diocese. The elders of the primitive bishopwere not unfrequently decent tradesmen who earned their bread by thesweat of their brow: [587:3] the presbyters of a modern prelate havegenerally each the charge of a congregation, and are supposed to beentirely devoted to sacred duties. Even the ancient city bishop had buta faint resemblance to his modern namesake. He was the most laboriouscity minister, and the chief preacher. He commonly baptized all who werereceived into the Church, and dispensed the Eucharist to all thecommunicants. He was, in fact, properly the minister of an overgrownparish who required several assistants to supply his lack of service.

The foregoing testimonies likewise shew that the doctrine of apostolicalsuccession, as now commonly promulgated, is utterly destitute of anysound historical basis. According to some, no one is duly qualified topreach and to dispense the sacraments whose authority has not beentransmitted from the Twelve by an unbroken series of episcopalordinations. But it has been demonstrated that episcopal ordinations,properly so called, originated only in the third century, and that eventhe bishops of Rome, who flourished prior to that date, were "of theorder of the presbytery." All the primitive bishops received nothingmore than presbyterian ordination. It is plain, therefore, that thedoctrine of the transmission of spiritual power from the apostlesthrough an unbroken series of episcopal ordinations flows from sheerignorance of the actual constitution of the early Church.

But the arrangements now described were gradually subverted by episcopalencroachments, and a separate chapter must be devoted to theillustration of the progress of Prelacy.


We cannot tell when the president of the presbytery began to hold officefor life; but it is evident that the change, at whatever period itoccurred, must have added considerably to his power. The chairman of anycourt is the individual through whom it is addressed, and, without whosesignature, its proceedings cannot be properly authenticated. He acts inits name, and he stands forth as its representative. He may,theoretically, possess no more power than any of the other members ofthe judicatory, and he may be bound, by the most stringent laws, simplyto carry out the decisions of their united wisdom; but his very positiongives him influence; and, if he holds office for life, that influencemay soon become formidable. If he is not constantly kept in check by thevigilance and determination of those with whom he is associated, he mayinsensibly trench upon their rights and privileges. In the secondcentury the moderator of the city eldership was invariably a manadvanced in years, who, instead of being watched with jealousy, wasregarded with affectionate veneration; and it is not strange if he wasoften permitted to stretch his authority beyond the exact range of itslegitimate exercise.

Evidence has already been adduced to shew that, on the rise of Prelacy,the presidential chair was no longer inherited by the members of thecity presbytery in the order of seniority. The individuals consideredmost competent for the situation were now nominated by their brethren;and as the Church, especially in great towns, was sadly distracted bythe machinations of the Gnostics, it was deemed expedient to arm themoderator with additional authority. As a matter of necessity, theofficial who was furnished with these new powers required a new name;for the title of president by which he was already known, and whichcontinued long afterwards in current use, [590:1] did not now fullyindicate his importance. It was, therefore, gradually supplanted by thedesignation of bishop, or overseer. Whilst this functionary wasnominated by the presbyters, he might be also set aside by them, so thathe felt it necessary to consult their wishes and to use hisdiscretionary power with modesty and moderation; but, when he began tobe elected by general suffrage, his authority was forthwith establishedon a broader and firmer foundation. He was now emphatically the man ofthe people; and from this date he possessed an influence with which thepresbytery itself was incompetent to grapple.

As early as the middle of the second century the bishop, at least insome places, was entrusted with the chief management of the funds of theChurch; [590:2] and probably, about fifty years afterwards, a largeshare of its revenues was appropriated to his personal maintenance.[590:3] His superior wealth soon added immensely to his influence. Hewas thus enabled to maintain a higher position in society than any ofhis brethren; and he was at length regarded as the great fountain ofpatronage and preferment. Long before Christianity enjoyed the sanctionof the state, the chief pastors of the great cities began to attractattention by their ostentatious display of secular magnificence. Origen,who flourished in the former half of the third century, stronglycondemns their vanity and ambition; and though perhaps his ascetictemperament prompted him to indulge somewhat in the language ofexaggeration, the testimony of so respectable a witness cannot berejected as untrue. "We," says he, "proceed so far in the affectation ofpomp and state, as to outdo even bad rulers among the pagans; and, likethe emperors, surround ourselves with a guard that we may be feared andmade difficult of access, particularly to the poor. And in many of ourso-called Churches, especially in the large towns, may be foundpresiding officers of the Church of God who would refuse to own even thebest among the disciples of Jesus while on earth as their equals."[591:1] In these remarks the writer had doubtless a particular referenceto his own Church of Alexandria; but it is well known that elsewheresome bishops in the third century assumed a very lofty bearing. It isrelated of the celebrated Paul of Samosata, the bishop of Antioch, thathe acted as a secular judge, that he appeared in public surrounded by acrowd of servants, and that he took special pleasure in pomp and parade;and yet, had he not lapsed into heresy, there is no evidence that hisoverweening pride would have brought down upon him the vengeance ofecclesiastical discipline. In the third century the chief pastor of theWestern metropolis must have been known to the great officers ofgovernment, and perhaps to the Emperor himself. Decius must haveregarded the Roman bishop as a somewhat formidable personage when hedeclared that he would sooner tolerate a rival candidate for the throne,and when he proclaimed his determination to annihilate the very office.[591:2]

It was not strange that dignitaries who affected so much state sooncontrived to surround themselves with a whole host of new officials.Within little more than a century after the rise of Prelacy the numberof grades of ecclesiastics was nearly trebled. In addition to thebishop, the presbyters, and the deacons, there were also, in A.D. 251,in the Church of Rome lectors, sub-deacons, acolyths, exorcists, andjanitors. [592:1] The lectors, who read the Scriptures to thecongregation [592:2] and who had charge of the sacred manuscripts,attract our attention as distinct office-bearers about the close of thesecond century. The sub-deacons are said to have had the care of thesacramental cups; the acolyths attended to the lamps of the sacrededifice; the exorcists [592:3] professed by their prayers to expel evilspirits out of the bodies of those about to be baptized; and thejanitors performed the more humble duties of porters or door-keepers. Ata subsequent period each of these functionaries was initiated intooffice by a special form of ordination or investiture. It was laid downas a principle that no one could regularly become a bishop who had notpreviously passed through all these inferior orders; [592:4] but whenthe multitude wished all at once to elevate a layman to the rank of abishop or a presbyter, ecclesiastical routine was compelled to yield tothe pressure of popular enthusiasm. [592:5]

The great city in which Prelacy originated appears to have been theplace where these new offices made their first appearance. Rome, true toher mission as "the mother of the Catholic Church," conceived andbrought forth nearly all the peculiarities of the Catholic system. Thelady seated on the seven hills was already regarded with greatadmiration, and surrounding Churches silently copied the arrangements oftheir Imperial parent. In the East, at least one of the orders nowinstituted by the great Western prelate, that is, the order of acolyths,was not adopted for centuries afterwards. [593:1]

The city bishops were well aware of the vast accession of influence theyacquired in consequence of their election by the people, and did notfail to insist upon the circ*mstance when desirous to illustrate theirecclesiastical title. Any one who peruses the letters of Cyprian mayremark the frequency, as well as the transparent satisfaction, withwhich he refers to the mode of his appointment. Who, he seems to say,could doubt his right to act as bishop of Carthage, seeing that he hadbeen chosen by "the suffrage of the whole fraternity"—by "the vote ofthe people?" [593:2] The members of the Church enthusiasticallyacknowledged such appeals to their sympathy and support, and in cases ofemergency promptly rallied round the individuals whom they hadthemselves elevated to power. But as all the other church officers weremeanwhile likewise chosen by common suffrage, the bishops soon betrayedan anxiety to appropriate the distinction, and began, under variouspretexts, to interfere with the free exercise of the popular franchise.In one of his epistles Cyprian excuses himself to the Christians ofCarthage because he had ventured to ordain a reader without theirapproval. He pleads that the peculiar circ*mstances of the case and theextraordinary merits of the candidate must be accepted as his apology."In clerical ordinations," says he, "my custom is to consult youbeforehand, dearest brethren, and in common deliberation to weigh thecharacter and merits of each. But testimonies of men need not be awaitedwhen anticipated by the sentence of God." [593:3] The sanction of thepeople should have been obtained before the ordination; but, aspersecution now raged, it is suggested that it would have beeninconvenient to lay the matter before them; and Cyprian argues that theinformality was pardonable, inasmuch as the Almighty himself had givenHis suffrage in favour of the new lector; for Aurelius, though only ayouth, had nobly submitted to the torture rather than renounce thegospel.

The ordination of Aurelius under such circ*mstances was not, however, asolitary case; and there is certainly something suspicious in thefrequency with which the bishop of Carthage apologizes to the clergy andpeople for neglecting to consult them on the appointment of churchofficers. In another of his letters he announces to the presbyters anddeacons that, "on an urgent occasion" he had "made Saturus a reader,and Optatus the confessor a sub-deacon." [594:1] Again, he tells thesame parties, and "the whole people," that "Celerinus, renowned alikefor his courage and his character, has been joined to the clergy, notby human suffrage, but by the divine favour;" [594:2] and at anothertime he informs them that he had been "admonished and instructed by adivine vouchsafement to enrol Numidicus in the number of theCarthaginian presbyters." [594:3] These cases were, no doubt, afterwardsquoted as precedents for the non-observance of the law; and from time totime new pretences were discovered for evading its provisions. In thisway the rights of the people were gradually abridged; and in the courseof two or three centuries, the bishops almost entirely ignored theirinterference in the election of presbyters and deacons, as well as ofthe inferior clergy.

New canons relative to ordination were promulgated probably about thetime when the city presbyters ceased to have the exclusive right ofelecting their own bishop. The altered circ*mstances of the Church ledto the establishment of these regulations. The election of the chiefpastor of a great town was often a scene of much excitement, and asseveral of the elders might be regarded as candidates for the office, itwas obviously unseemly that any of them should preside on the occasion.It was accordingly arranged that some of the neighbouring bishops shouldbe present to superintend the proceedings. The successful candidate nowbegan to be formally invested with his new dignity by the imposition ofhands; and at first, perhaps, one of the bishops, assisted by one of thepresbyters of the place, performed this ceremony. [595:1] But the elderssoon ceased to take part in the ordination. At the election, the peopleand the clergy sometimes took opposite sides; and, in the contest, theecclesiastical party was not unfrequently completely overborne. Itoccasionally happened, as in the case of Cyprian, [595:2] that one ofthe elders was chosen in opposition to the wishes of the majority of thepresbytery; or, as in the case of Fabian of Rome, [595:3] that a laymanwas all at once elevated to the episcopal chair; and, at such times, thedisappointed presbyters did not care to join in the inauguration. Thebishops availed themselves of the pretexts thus furnished to dispensewith their services altogether. At length the power of admitting to theministry by the laying on of hands began to be challenged as thepeculiar prerogative of the episcopal order.

In many places, perhaps before the middle of the third century, elderswere no longer permitted to take part in the consecration of bishops;but Prelacy had not yet completely established itself upon the ruins ofthe more ancient polity. Sometimes the presbytery itself stilldischarged the functions of the bishop. After the martyrdom of Fabian inA.D. 250, the Church of Rome remained upwards of a year under its care,[596:1] as the see was meanwhile vacant; and about the same period wefind Cyprian, when in exile, requesting his presbyters and deacons toexecute both his duties and their own. [596:2] It was still admittedthat elders were competent to ordain elders and deacons, as well as toconfirm and to baptize; and the bishop continued to recognise them ashis "colleagues" and his "fellow-presbyters." [596:3] It is clear,however, that the relations between them and their episcopal chief werenow very vaguely defined, and that the ambiguous position of the partiesled to mutual complaints of ambition and usurpation. The Epistles ofCyprian supply evidence that the bishop of Carthage, during a great partof his episcopate, was engaged with his presbyters in a struggle forpower; [596:4] and though he asserted that he was contending for nothingmore than his legitimate authority, he was sometimes obliged to abatehis pretensions. In one case he complains that, "without his permissionor knowledge," his presbyter Novatus "of his own factiousness andambition" had "made Felicissimus his follower a deacon;" [596:5] butstill he does not venture to impeach the validity of the act, or refuseto recognise the standing of the new ecclesiastic. Felicissimus seems tohave been ordained in a small meeting-house in the neighbourhood ofCarthage; and as Novatus, who probably presided on the occasion, appearsto have proceeded in conjunction with the majority of the presbytery,they no doubt considered that, under these circ*mstances, the sanctionof the bishop was by no means indispensable. The manifestation of such aspirit of independence was, however, exceedingly galling to theirimperious prelate.

From the manner in which Cyprian expresses himself we may infer that hewould not have been dissatisfied had Novatus and the elders who actedwith him obtained his permission to ordain the deacon Felicissimus.But about this period the bishops were beginning to look with extremejealousy on all presbyterian ordinations, and were commencing a seriesof encroachments on the rights of their episcopal brethren in ruraldistricts. These country bishops, [597:1] who wore simply ministers ofsingle congregations, and who were generally poor and uninfluential,soon succumbed to the great city dignitaries. By a council held atAncyra in A.D. 314, or very shortly after the close of the Diocletianpersecution, they were forbidden to perform duties which they hadhitherto been accustomed to discharge, for one of its canons declaresthat "country bishops must not ordain presbyters or deacons; neithermust city presbyters in another parish without the written permission ofthe bishop." [597:2]

This canon illustrates the strangely anomalous condition of the Churchat the period of its adoption. It takes no notice of country elders,as the proceedings of such an humble class of functionaries probablyawakened no jealousy; and it degrades country bishops, whounquestionably belonged to the episcopal order, by placing them in aposition inferior to that of city presbyters. About sixty years before,or in the middle of the third century, three of these country bishopswere deemed competent to ordain a bishop of Rome; [598:1] but now theyare deprived of the right of ordaining even elders and deacons. It iseasy to understand why city presbyters were still permitted, undercertain conditions, to exercise this privilege. As they constituted thecouncil of the city chief pastor, their influence was considerable; andas they had, until a recent date, been accustomed even to take part inhis own consecration, it was deemed inexpedient to tempt so formidable aclass of churchmen to make common cause with the country bishops bystripping both at once of their ancient prerogatives. The countrybishops, as the weaker party, were first subjected to a process ofspoliation. But the recognition of Christianity by Constantine gave animmense impulse to the progress of the hierarchy, and the citypresbyters were soon afterwards deprived of the privilege now wrestedfrom the country bishops.

The current of events had placed the Church, about the middle of thethird century, in a position which it could not long maintain. As thegrowth of Christianity in towns was steady and rapid, the bishop thererose quickly into wealth and power; but, among the comparatively poorand thinly-scattered population of the country, his condition remainednearly stationary. When Cyprian, in A.D. 256, addressed the eighty-sevenbishops assembled in the Council of Carthage, and told them that theywere all on an equality, he might have felt that the doctrine ofepiscopal parity, as then understood, must be given up as indefensibleif assailed by the skill of a vigorous logician. Who could believe thatthe bishop of Carthage held exactly the same official rank as every oneof his episcopal auditors? He was the chief pastor of a flourishingmetropolis; he had several congregations under his care, and several ofhis presbyters were preachers; [599:1] but many of the bishops beforehim were ministers of single congregations and without even one eldercompetent to deliver a sermon, [599:2] In point of ministerial gifts andactual influence some of the presbyters of Carthage were, no doubt, farsuperior to many of the bishops of the council. And who could affirmthat Paul of Samosata, the chief pastor of the capital of the EasternEmpire, was quite on a level with every one of the village bishopsaround him whom he bribed to celebrate his praises? No wonder that itwas soon found necessary to remodel the episcopal system. The citybishops had a show of equity in their favour when they asserted theirsuperiority, and their brethren in rural districts were too feeble anddependent effectively to resist their own degradation.

The ecclesiastical title metropolitan came into use about the time ofthe Council of Nice in A.D. 325. [599:3] and there is reason to believethat the territorial jurisdiction it implied was then first distinctlydefined and generally established; but the changes of the precedingthree quarters of a century, had been preparing the way for the newarrangement. Many of the country bishops had meanwhile been reduced to acondition of subserviency, whilst a considerable number of the chiefpastors in the great cities had been recognized as the constantpresidents of the synods which met in their respective capitals. It iseasy to see how these prelates acquired such a position. Talent, ifexerted, must always assert its ascendency; and it is probable that themetropolitan bishops were generally more able and accomplished than themajority of their brethren. They could fairly plead that zeal for thegood of the Church prompted them to take a lead in ecclesiasticalaffairs, and their place of residence supplied them with facilities forcommunicating with other pastors of which they often deemed it prudentto avail themselves. When the synod met in the metropolis, the bishop ofthe city was wont to entertain many of the members as his guests; and,as he was elevated above most, if not all, of those with whom he acted,in point of wealth, social standing, address, and knowledge of theworld, he was usually called on to occupy the chair of the moderator. Inprocess of time that which was originally conceded as a matter ofcourtesy passed into an admitted right. So long as the metropolitanbishop was inducted into office by mere presbyters, the circ*mstances ofhis investiture pointed out to him the duty of humility; but when themost distinguished chief pastors of the province deemed it an honour totake part in his consecration, he immediately increased his pretensions.Thus it is that the change in the mode of episcopal inauguration forms anew era in the history of ecclesiastical assumption.

About the middle of the third century various circ*mstances conspired toaugment the authority of the great bishops. In the Decian and Valerianpersecutions the chief pastors were specially marked out for attack, andthe heroic constancy with which some of the most eminent encountered acruel death vastly enhanced the reputation of their order. In a fewyears several bishops of Rome were martyred; Cyprian of Carthage enduredthe same fate: Alexander of Jerusalem, and Babylas of Antioch, also laiddown their lives for their religion. [600:1] At the same time the schismof Novatian at Rome, and the schism of Felicissimus at Carthagethreatened the Church with new divisions, and the same arguments whichwere used, upwards of a hundred years before, for increasing the powerof the president of the eldership, could now be urged with equalpertinency for adding to the authority of the president of the synod. Inpoint of fact perhaps the earliest occasion on which the bishop of Romeexecuted discipline in his archiepiscopal capacity was immediatelyconnected with the schism of Novatian; for we have no record of anyexercise of such power until Cornelius, at the head of a council held inthe Imperial city, deposed the pastors who had officiated at theconsecration of his rival. [601:1] From this date the Roman metropolitanprobably presided at all the ordinations of the bishops in his vicinity.

To prevent the recurrence of schisms such as had now happened at Romeand Carthage, it was, in all likelihood, arranged about this period, atleast in some quarters of the Church, that the presence or sanction ofthe stated president of the provincial synod should be necessary to thevalidity of all episcopal consecrations. There were still, however, manydistricts in which the provincial synod had no fixed chairman. Hence anancient canon directs that at the ordination of a member of thehierarchy, "one of the principal bishops shall pray to God over theapproved candidate." [601:2] By a "principal bishop" we are tounderstand the chief pastor of a principal or apostolic church; [601:3]but in some provinces several such churches were to be found, and thisregulation attests that there no single ecclesiastic had yet acquired anunchallenged precedence. As the close of the third century approached,the ecclesiastical structure exhibited increasing uniformity; and onedignitary in each region began to be known as the stated president ofthe episcopal body. In one of the so-called apostolical canons, framedprobably before the Council of Nice, this arrangement is embodied. "Thebishops of every nation," says the ordinance, "ought to know who is thefirst among them, and him they ought to esteem as their head, and notdo any great thing without his consent. … But neither let him doanything without the consent of all." [602:1]

This canon is apparently couched in terms of studied ambiguity, for theexpression "the first among the bishops of every nation" admits ofvarious interpretations. In many cases it probably meant the seniorbishop of the district; in others, it perhaps denoted the chief pastorof the chief city of the province; and in others again, it may haveindicated the prelate of a great metropolis who had contrived toestablish his authority over a still more extensive territory. The riseof the city bishops had completely destroyed that balance of power whichoriginally existed in the Church; and much commotion preceded thesettlement of a new ecclesiastical equilibrium. During the last fortyyears of the third century the Christians enjoyed almost uninterruptedpeace; the chief pastors were meanwhile perpetually engaged in contestsfor superiority; and about this time the bishops of Rome, of Alexandria,and of Antioch, rapidly extended their influence. So rampant was theusurping spirit of churchmen that even the violence of the Diocletianpersecution was not sufficient to check them in their career ofambition. A contemporary writer, who was himself a member of theepiscopal order, bears testimony to this melancholy fact. "Some," saidhe, "who were reputed our pastors, contemning the law of piety, were,under the excitement of mutual animosities, fomenting nothing else butdisputes and threatenings and rivalry and reciprocal hostility andhatred, as they contentiously prosecuted their ambitious designs forsovereignty." [601:2]

What a change had passed over the Christian commonwealth in the courseof little more than two hundred years! When the Apostle John died, thecity church was governed by the common council of the elders, and theirpresident simply announced and executed the decisions of his brethren:now, the president was transformed into a prelate who, by gradualencroachments, had stripped the presbytery of a large share of itsauthority. At the close of the first century the Church of Rome was,perhaps, less influential than the Church of Ephesus, and the very nameof its moderator at that period is a matter of disputed and doubtfultradition; but the Diocletian persecution had scarcely terminated whenthe bishop of the great metropolis was found sitting in a council in thepalace of the Lateran, and claiming jurisdiction over eight or tenprovinces of Italy! These revolutions were not effected without muchopposition. The strife between the presbyters and the bishops wassucceeded by a general warfare among the possessors of episcopal power,for the constant moderator of the synod was as anxious to increase hisauthority as the constant moderator of the presbytery. About the closeof the third century the Church appears to have been sadly scandalisedby the quarrels of the bishops, and Eusebius accordingly intimates that,in the reign of terror which so quickly followed, they suffered arighteous retribution for their misconduct.

Discussions respecting questions of Church polity are often exceedinglydistasteful to persons of contracted views but of genuine piety, forthey cannot understand how the progress of vital godliness can beinfluenced by forms of ecclesiastical government. [603:1] About thisperiod such sentiments were probably not uncommon, and much of theapathy with which innovations were contemplated may thus be easilyexplained. Besides, if the early bishop was a man of ability andaddress, his influence in his own church was nearly overwhelming; for ashe was the ordinary, if not the only, preacher, he thus possessed themost effective means of recommending any favourite scheme, and of givinga decided tone to public opinion. When a parochial charge became vacantby the demise of the chief pastor, the election of a successor was oftenvigorously contested; and when an influential presbyter was defeated, hesometimes exhibited his mortification by contending for the rights ofhis order, and by disputing the pretensions of his successful rival. Butas such opposition was obviously dictated by the spirit of faction, itwas commonly brief, ill-sustained, and abortive. The young, talented,and aspiring presbyters must have been strongly tempted to encourage thegrowth of episcopal prerogative, for each might one day hope to occupythe place of dignity, and thus to reap the fruits of presentencroachments. The bishops seem to have resisted more strenuously theestablishment of metropolitan ascendency. An ecclesiastical regulationof great antiquity, [604:1] condemned their translation from one parishto another, so that when the episcopate was gained, all fartherprospects of promotion were extinguished, for the place of first amongthe bishops was either inherited by seniority or claimed by the prelateof the chief city. Hence it was that the pastors withstood so firmly allinfringements on their theoretical parity; and hence those "ambitiousdisputes," [604:2] and those "collisions of bishops with bishops,"[604:3] even amidst the fires of martyrdom, over which the historian ofthe Church professes his anxiety to cast the veil of oblivion.


The apostles, and the other original heralds of the gospel, soughtprimarily the conversion of unbelievers. The commission given to Paulpoints out distinctly the grand design of their ministry. When the greatpersecutor of the saints was himself converted on his way to Damascus,our Lord addressed to him the memorable words—"I have appeared untothee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both ofthese things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which Iwill appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from theGentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turnthem from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, thatthey may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them whichare sanctified by faith that is in me." [605:1]

When a few disciples were collected in a particular locality, it notunfrequently happened that they remained for a time without any properecclesiastical organization. [605:2] But the Christian cause, under suchcirc*mstances, could not be expected to flourish; and therefore, as soonas practicable, the apostles and evangelists did not neglect to makearrangements for the increase and edification of these infantcommunities. To provide, as well for the maintenance of discipline, asfor the preaching of the Word, they accordingly proceeded to ordainelders in every city where the truth had gained converts. These eldersafterwards ordained deacons in their respective congregations; and thus,in due time, the Church was regularly constituted.

In the first century Christian societies were formed only here and therethroughout the Roman Empire; and, at its close, the gospel had scarcelypenetrated into some of the provinces. It is not to be expected that wecan trace any general confederation of the churches established duringthis period, and it would be vain to attempt to demonstrate theirincorporation; as their distance, their depressed condition, and thejealousy with which they were regarded by the civil government, [606:1]rendered any extensive combination utterly impossible. At a time whenthe disciples met together for worship in secret and before break ofday, it is not to be supposed that their pastors deemed it expedient toundertake frequent journeys on the business of the Church, or assembledin multitudinous councils. But though, in the beginning of the secondcentury, there was no formal bond of union connecting the severalChristian communities throughout the world, they meanwhile contrived invarious ways to cultivate an unbroken fraternal intercourse. Recognisingeach other as members of the same holy brotherhood, they maintained anepistolary correspondence, in which they treated of all matterspertaining to the common interest. When the pastor of one church visitedanother, his status was immediately acknowledged; and even when anordinary disciple emigrated to a distant province, the ecclesiasticalcertificate which he carried along with him secured his admission tomembership in the strange congregation. Thus, all the churches treatedeach other as portions of one great family; all adhered to much the samesystem of polity and discipline; and, though there was not unity ofjurisdiction, there was the "keeping of the unity of the Spirit in thebond of peace."

In modern times many ecclesiastical historians [607:1] have assertedthat synods commenced about the middle of the second century. But thestatement is unsupported by a single particle of evidence, and a numberof facts may be adduced to prove that it is altogether untenable. Thereis no reason to doubt that synods, at least on a limited scale, met inthe days of the apostles, and that the Church courts of a later age weresimply the continuation and expansion of those primitive conventions. Weknow very little respecting the history of the Christian commonwealthduring the former half of the second century, for the extant memorialsof the Church of that period are exceedingly few and meagre; and as theproceedings of most of the synods which were then held did not perhapsattract much notice, [607:2] it is not remarkable that they have sharedthe fate of almost all the other ecclesiastical transactions of the samedate, and that they have been buried in oblivion. [607:3] It is nowhereintimated by any ancient authority that synodical meetings commencedfifty years after the death of the beloved disciple, and the earliestwriters who touch upon the subject speak of them as of apostolicoriginal. Irenaeus, the pastor of Lyons, had probably reached manhoodwhen, according to Mosheim and others, synods were at first formed; heenjoyed the instructions of Polycarp, the disciple of the Apostle John;he was beyond question one of the best informed Christian ministers ofhis generation; and yet he obviously considered that theseecclesiastical assemblies were in existence in the first century.Speaking of the visit of Paul to Miletus when he sent to Ephesus andcalled the elders of the Church, [608:1] he says that the apostle thenconvoked "the bishops and presbyters of Ephesus and of the otheradjoining cities" [608:2]—plainly indicating that he summoned asynodical meeting. Had an assembly of this kind been a novelty in thedays of Irenaeus, the pastor of Lyons would not have given such aversion of a passage in the inspired narrative. Cyprian flourishedshortly after the time when, according to the modern theory, councilsbegan to meet in Africa, but the bishop of Carthage himselfunquestionably entertained higher views of their antiquity. He declaredthat conformably to "the practice received from divine tradition andapostolic observance," [608:3] "all the neighbouring bishops of thesame province met together" among the people over whom a pastor was tobe ordained; [608:4] and he did not here merely give utterance to hisown impressions, for a whole African synod concurred in his statement.Subsequent writers of unimpeachable credit refer to the canons ofcouncils of which we otherwise know nothing, and though we cannot nowascertain the exact time when these courts assembled, there is no reasonto doubt that at least some of them were convened before the middle ofthe second century. Thus, when Jerom