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Title: The Ancient Church - Its History, Doctrine, Worship, and Constitution
Author: Killen, W. D. (William Dool), 1806-1902
Language: English
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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 before
the citizens of the United States without acknowledging my obligations
to Mr Charles Scribner of New York. Mr Scribner was the first gentleman
connected with the noble profession to which he belongs, either in the
Old or in the New World, from whom I received encouragement in this
undertaking; and his prompt and generous offers aided me materially in
making arrangements for the publication of the work in Great Britain.
Every line of the present impression has been corrected by myself, and
should my life be spared, any future Edition which Mr Scribner may
publish is to appear under the same supervision. I trust that the Trade
throughout the Union will recognize the debt of gratitude which I owe to
my American friend. There is a higher law than the law of international
copyright, and I feel confident that no Publisher of honour and
integrity in the Great Republic will repudiate its claims.


17 University Square, Belfast, Ireland,
_July_ 1859.


The appearance of another history of the early Church requires some
explanation. As the progress of the Christian commonwealth for the first
three hundred years has been recently described by British, German, and
American writers of eminent ability, it may, perhaps, be thought that
the subject is now exhausted. No competent judge will pronounce such an
opinion. During the last quarter of a century, various questions
relating to the ancient Church, which are almost, if not altogether,
ignored in existing histories, have been earnestly discussed; whilst
several documents, lately discovered, have thrown fresh light on its
transactions. There are, besides, points of view, disclosing unexplored
fields for thought, from which the ecclesiastical landscape has never
yet been contemplated. The following work is an attempt to exhibit some
of its features as seen from a new position.

The importance of this portion of the history of the Church can scarcely
be over-estimated. Our attention is here directed to the life of Christ,
to the labours of the apostles and evangelists, to the doctrines which
they taught, to the form of worship which they sanctioned, to the
organization of the community which they founded, and to the indomitable
constancy with which its members suffered persecution. The practical
bearing of the topics thus brought under review must be sufficiently

In the interval between the days of the apostles and the conversion of
Constantine, the Christian commonwealth changed its aspect. The Bishop
of Rome--a personage unknown to the writers of the New Testament--
meanwhile rose into prominence, and at length took precedence of
all other churchmen. Rites and ceremonies, of which neither Paul nor
Peter ever heard, crept silently into use, and then claimed the rank of
divine institutions. Officers, for whom the primitive disciples could
have found no place, and titles, which to them would have been
altogether unintelligible, began to challenge attention, and to be named
apostolic. It is the duty of the historian to endeavour to point out the
origin, and to trace the progress of these innovations. A satisfactory
account of them must go far to settle more than one of our present
controversies. An attempt is here made to lay bare the causes which
produced these changes, and to mark the stages of the ecclesiastical
revolution. When treating of the rise and growth of the hierarchy,
several remarkable facts and testimonies which have escaped the notice
of preceding historians are particularly noticed.

Some may, perhaps, consider that, in a work such as this, undue
prominence has been given to the discussion of the question of the
Ignatian epistles. Those who have carefully examined the subject will
scarcely think so. If we accredit these documents, the history of the
early Church is thrown into a state of hopeless confusion; and men,
taught and honoured by the apostles themselves, must have inculcated the
most dangerous errors. But if their claims vanish, when touched by the
wand of truthful criticism, many clouds which have hitherto darkened the
ecclesiastical atmosphere disappear; and the progress of corruption can
be traced on scientific principles. The special attention of all
interested in the Ignatian controversy is invited to the two chapters of
this work in which the subject is investigated. Evidence is there
produced to prove that these Ignatian letters, even as edited by the
very learned and laborious Doctor Cureton, are utterly spurious, and
that they should be swept away from among the genuine remains of early
Church literature with the besom of scorn.

Throughout the work very decided views are expressed on a variety of
topics; but it must surely be unnecessary to tender an apology for the
free utterance of these sentiments; for, when recording the progress of
a revolution affecting the highest interests of man, the narrator cannot
be expected to divest himself of his cherished convictions; and very few
will venture to maintain that a writer, who feels no personal interest
in the great principles brought to light by the gospel, is, on that
account, more competent to describe the faith, the struggles, and the
triumphs of the primitive Christians. I am not aware that mere prejudice
has ever been permitted to influence my narrative, or that any statement
has been made which does not rest upon solid evidence. Some of the views
here presented may not have been suggested by any previous investigator,
and they may be exceedingly damaging to certain popular theories; but
they should not, therefore, be summarily condemned. Surely every honest
effort to explain and reconcile the memorials of antiquity is entitled
to a candid criticism. Nor, from those whose opinion is really worthy of
respect, do I despair of a kindly reception for this volume. One of the
most hopeful signs of the times is the increasing charity of evangelical
Christians. There is a growing disposition to discountenance the spirit
of religious partisanship, and to bow to the supremacy of TRUTH. I trust
that those who are in quest of the old paths trodden by the apostles and
the martyrs will find some light to guide them in the following pages.


         *       *       *       *       *

         PERIOD I


         *       *       *       *       *




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


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

Thessalonica and its rulers,                                           100
The more noble Bereans,                                                101
Athens and its ancient glory,                                          ib.
Paul's appearance among the philosophers,                              102
His speech on Mars' Hill                                               104
Altar to the unknown God,                                              ib.
The Epicureans and Stoics,                                             105
The resurrection of the body, a strange doctrine,                      106
Conversion of Dionysius the Areopagite,                                107
Corinth in the first century,                                          ib.
Paul's success here,                                                   109
Works at the trade of a tent-maker,                                    110
Corinth a centre of missionary operation,                              111
The Corinthian Church, and its character,                              112
Opposition of Jews, and conduct of the Proconsul Gallio,               ib.
Paul writes the First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians,        113



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



The 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

          *       *       *       *       *

          PERIOD II.

          A.D. 100 TO AD. 312.

          *       *       *       *       *





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 circumstances given,                                        338
Victor's excommunication of the Asiatic Christians,                    339
Extent of Victor's jurisdiction,                                       340
Explanation of his arrogance,                                          341
First-fruits of the Catholic system,                                   342



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


The 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.
Circumstances which led to the writing of Clement's Epistle,           501
Churches of Corinth and Borne then governed by presbyters,             503
Churches of Smyrna and Philippi governed by presbyters,                504
The presbyters had a chairman or president,                            ib.
Traces of this in the apostolic age,                                   505
Early catalogues of bishops--their origin and contradictions,          ib.
The senior presbyter the ancient president,                            506
Testimony of Hilary confirmed by various proofs,                       507
Ancient names of the president of the presbytery,                      508
Great age of ancient bishops,                                          509
Great number of ancient bishops in a given period,                     ib.
Remarkable case of the Church of Jerusalem,                            510
No parallel to it in more recent times,                                511
Argument against heretics from the episcopal succession illustrated,   513
The claims of seniority long respected in various ways,                515
The power of the presiding presbyter limited, for the Church was
    still governed by the common council of the presbyters,            516
Change of the law of seniority,                                        518
Change made about the end of the second century,                       ib.
Singular that many episcopal lists stop at the end of the second
    century,                                                           519
Before that date only one bishop in Egypt,                             520
In some places another system set up earlier,                          521



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
Circumstances in which the system originated,                          ib.
The bishop the centre of unity for his district,                       562
Principal or apostolic Churches--their position,                       564
The Church of Rome more potentially principal,                         566
How communion maintained among the Churches,                           567
Early jealousy towards the bishop of Rome,                             568
The Catholic system identified with Rome,                              569
Why the Apostle Peter everywhere so highly exalted,                    570
Roman bishops sought to work out the idea of unity,                    571
Theory of the Catholic system fallacious,                              572
How Rome the antitype of Babylon,                                      573



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
Circumstances which added to the power of the city bishops,            ib.
One bishop in each province at the head of the rest,                   601
Jealousies and contentions of city bishops,                            602
Great change in the Church, in two centuries,                          603
Reasons why the establishment of metropolitans so much opposed,        604



Apostles sought, first, the conversion of sinners, and then the
    edification of their converts,                                     605
No general union of Churches originally,                               606
But intercourse in various ways maintained,                            ib.
Synods did not commence about the middle of the second century,        607
A part of the original constitution of the Church,                     ib.
At first held on a limited scale,                                      609
Reason why we have no account of early Synods,                         ib.
First notice of Synods,                                                610
Synods held respecting the Paschal controversy,                        611
Found in operation everywhere before the end of the second century,    ib.
Tertullian does not say that Synods commenced in Greece,               612
Why he notices the Greek Synods,                                       613
Amphictyonic Council did not suggest the establishment of Synods,      615
Synods originally met only once a-year,                                ib.
Began to meet in fixed places in Greece and Asia Minor,                616
Met twice a-year in the beginning of the fourth century,               ib.
Synods in third century respecting re-baptism,                         617
Synods at Antioch respecting Paul of Samosata,                         618
Early Synods composed of bishops and elders,                           619
Deacons and laymen had no right of voting,                             ib.
Churches not originally independent,                                   620
Utility of Synods,                                                     621
Circumstances which led to a change in their constitution,             ib.
Decline of primitive polity,                                           622



The 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

          *       *       *       *       *

          PERIOD I.

          OF THE APOSTLE JOHN, A.D. 100.

          *       *       *       *       *





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

We do not adequately estimate the rank of Augustus among contemporary
sovereigns, when we consider merely the superficial extent of the
countries placed within the range of his jurisdiction. His subjects
probably formed more than one-third of the entire population of the
globe, and amounted to about one hundred millions of souls.[Endnote 3:1]
His empire embraced within its immense circumference the best cultivated
and the most civilised portions of the earth. The remains of its
populous cities, its great fortresses, its extensive aqueducts, and its
stately temples, may still be pointed out as the memorials of its
grandeur. The capital was connected with the most distant provinces by
carefully constructed roads, along which the legions could march with
ease and promptitude, either to quell an internal insurrection, or to
encounter an invading enemy. And the military resources at the command
of Augustus were abundantly sufficient to maintain obedience among the
myriads whom he governed. After the victory of Actium he was at the head
of upwards of forty veteran legions; and though some of these had been
decimated by war, yet, when recruited, and furnished with their full
complement of auxiliaries, they constituted a force of little less than
half a million of soldiers.

The arts of peace now nourished under the sunshine of imperial
patronage. Augustus could boast, towards the end of his reign, that he
had converted Rome from a city of brick huts into a city of marble
palaces. The wealth of the nobility was enormous; and, excited by the
example of the Emperor and his friend Agrippa, they erected and
decorated mansions in a style of regal magnificence. The taste cherished
in the capital was soon widely diffused; and, in a comparatively short
period, many new and gorgeous temples and cities appeared throughout the
empire. Herod the Great expended vast sums on architectural
improvements. The Temple of Jerusalem, rebuilt under his administration,
was one of the wonders of the world.

The century terminating with the death of Augustus claims an undisputed
pre-eminence in the history of Roman eloquence and literature. Cicero,
the prince of Latin orators, now delivered those addresses which
perpetuate his fame; Sallust and Livy produced works which are still
regarded as models of historic composition; Horace, Virgil, and others,
acquired celebrity as gifted and accomplished poets. Among the subjects
fitted to exercise and expand the intellect, religion was not
overlooked. In the great cities of the empire many were to be found who
devoted themselves to metaphysical and ethical studies; and questions,
bearing upon the highest interests of man, were discussed in the schools
of the philosophers.

The barbarous nations under the dominion of Augustus derived many
advantages from their connexion with the Roman empire. They had, no
doubt, often reason to complain of the injustice and rapacity of
provincial governors; but, on the whole, they had a larger share of
social comfort than they could have enjoyed had they preserved their
independence; for their domestic feuds were repressed by the presence of
their powerful rulers, and the imperial armies were at hand to protect
them against foreign aggression. By means of the constant intercourse
kept up with all its dependencies, the skill and information of the
metropolis of Italy were gradually imparted to the rude tribes under its
sway, and thus the conquest of a savage country by the Romans was an
important step towards its civilisation. The union of so many nations in
a great state was otherwise beneficial to society. A Roman citizen might
travel without hindrance from Armenia to the British Channel; and as all
the countries washed by the Mediterranean were subject to the empire,
their inhabitants could carry on a regular and prosperous traffic by
availing themselves of the facilities of navigation.

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

The Roman Empire in the time of Augustus presents to the eye of
contemplation a most interesting spectacle, whether we survey its
territorial magnitude, its political power, or its intellectual
activity. But when we look more minutely at its condition, we may
discover many other strongly marked and less inviting features. That
stern patriotism, which imparted so much dignity to the old Roman
character, had now disappeared, and its place was occupied by ambition
or covetousness. Venality reigned throughout every department of the
public administration. Those domestic virtues, which are at once the
ornaments and the strength of the community, were comparatively rare;
and the prevalence of luxury and licentiousness proclaimed the unsafe
state of the social fabric. There was a growing disposition to evade the
responsibilities of marriage, and a large portion of the citizens of
Rome deliberately preferred the system of concubinage to the state of
wedlock. The civil wars, which had created such confusion and involved
such bloodshed, had passed away; but the peace which followed was,
rather the quietude of exhaustion, than the repose of contentment.

The state of the Roman Empire about the time of the birth of Christ
abundantly proves that there is no necessary connexion between
intellectual refinement and social regeneration. The cultivation of the
arts and sciences in the reign of Augustus may have been beneficial to a
few, by diverting them from the pursuit of vulgar pleasures, and opening
up to them sources of more rational enjoyment; but it is a most
humiliating fact that, during the brightest period in the history of
Roman literature, vice in every form was fast gaining ground among
almost all classes of the population. The Greeks, though occupying a
higher position as to mental accomplishments, were still more dissolute
than the Latins. Among them literature and sensuality appeared in
revolting combination, for their courtesans were their only females who
attended to the culture of the intellect. [7:1]

Nor is it strange that the Roman Empire at this period exhibited such a
scene of moral pollution. There was nothing in either the philosophy or
the religion of heathenism sufficient to counteract the influence of
man's native depravity. In many instances the speculations of the pagan
sages had a tendency, rather to weaken, than to sustain, the authority
of conscience. After unsettling the foundations of the ancient
superstition, the mind was left in doubt and bewilderment; for the
votaries of what was called wisdom entertained widely different views
even of its elementary principles. The Epicureans, who formed a large
section of the intellectual aristocracy, denied the doctrine of
Providence, and pronounced pleasure to be the ultimate end of man. The
Academics encouraged a spirit of disputatious scepticism; and the
Stoics, who taught that the practice of, what they rather vaguely
designated, virtue, involves its own reward, discarded the idea of a
future retribution. Plato had still a goodly number of disciples; and
though his doctrines, containing not a few elements of sublimity and
beauty, exercised a better influence, it must be admitted, after all,
that they constituted a most unsatisfactory system of cold and barren
mysticism. The ancient philosophers delivered many excellent moral
precepts; but, as they wanted the light of revelation, their arguments
in support of duty were essentially defective, and the lessons which
they taught had often very little influence either on themselves or
others. [8:1] Their own conduct seldom marked them out as greatly
superior to those around them, so that neither their instructions nor
their example contributed efficiently to elevate the character of their

Though the philosophers fostered a spirit of inquiry, yet, as they made
little progress in the discovery of truth, they were not qualified to
act with the skill and energy of enlightened reformers; and, whatever
may have been the amount of their convictions, they made no open and
resolute attack on the popular mythology. A very superficial examination
was, indeed, enough to shake the credit of the heathen worship. The
reflecting subjects of the Roman Empire might have remarked the very
awkward contrast between the multiplicity of their deities, and the
unity of their political government. It was the common belief that every
nation had its own divine guardians, and that the religious rites of one
country might be fully acknowledged without impugning the claims of
those of another; but still a thinking pagan might have been staggered
by the consideration that a human being had apparently more extensive
authority than some of his celestial overseers, and that the
jurisdiction of the Roman emperor was established over a more ample
territory than that which was assigned to many of the immortal gods.

But the multitude of its divinities was by no means the most offensive
feature of heathenism. The gods of antiquity, more particularly those of
Greece, were of an infamous character. Whilst they were represented by
their votaries as excelling in beauty and activity, strength and
intelligence, they were at the same time described as envious and
gluttonous, base, lustful, and revengeful. Jupiter, the king of the
gods, was deceitful and licentious; Juno, the queen of heaven, was cruel
and tyrannical. What could be expected from those who honoured such
deities? Some of the wiser heathens, such as Plato, [9:1] condemned
their mythology as immoral, for the conduct of one or other of the gods
might have been quoted in vindication of every species of transgression;
and had the Gentiles but followed the example of their own heavenly
hierarchy, they might have felt themselves warranted in pursuing a
course either of the most diabolical oppression, or of the most
abominable profligacy. [9:2]

At the time of the birth of our Lord even the Jews had sunk into a state
of the grossest degeneracy. They were now divided into sects, two of
which, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, are frequently mentioned in the
New Testament. The Pharisees were the leading denomination, being by far
the most numerous and powerful. By adding to the written law a mass of
absurd or frivolous traditions, which, as they foolishly alleged, were
handed down from Moses, they completely subverted the authority of the
sacred record, and changed the religion of the patriarchs and prophets
into a wearisome parade of superstitious observances. The Sadducees were
comparatively few, but as a large proportion of them were persons of
rank and wealth, they possessed a much greater amount of influence than
their mere numbers would have enabled them to command. It has been said
that they admitted the divine authority only of the Pentateuch, [10:1]
and though it may be doubted whether they openly ventured to deny the
claims of all the other books of the Old Testament, it is certain that
they discarded the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, [10:2] and
that they were disposed to self-indulgence and to scepticism. There was
another still smaller Jewish sect, that of the Essenes, of which there
is no direct mention in the New Testament. The members of this community
resided chiefly in the neighbourhood of the Dead Sea, and as our Lord
seldom visited that quarter of the country, it would appear that, during
the course of His public ministry, He rarely or never came in contact
with these religionists. Some of them were married, but the greater
number lived in celibacy, and spent much of their time in contemplation.
They are said to have had a common-stock purse, and their course of life
closely resembled that of the monks of after-times.

Though the Jews, as a nation, were now sunk in sensuality or
superstition, there were still some among them, such as Simeon and Anna,
noticed in the Gospel of Luke, [10:3] who were taught of God, and who
exhibited a spirit of vital piety. "The law of the Lord is perfect
converting the soul," and as the books of the Old Testament were
committed to the keeping of the posterity of Abraham, there were "hidden
ones" here and there who discovered the way to heaven by the perusal of
these "lively oracles." We have reason to believe that the Jews were
faithful conservators of the inspired volume, as Christ uniformly takes
for granted the accuracy of their "Scriptures." [11:1] It is an
important fact that they did not admit into their canon the writings now
known under the designation of the _Apocrypha_. [11:2] Nearly three
hundred years before the appearance of our Lord, the Old Testament had
been translated into the Greek language, and thus, at this period, the
educated portion of the population of the Roman Empire had all an
opportunity of becoming acquainted with the religion of the chosen
people. The Jews were now scattered over the earth, and as they erected
synagogues in the cities where they settled, the Gentile world had ample
means of information in reference to their faith and worship.

Whilst the dispersion of the Jews disseminated a knowledge of their
religion, it likewise suggested the approaching dissolution of the
Mosaic economy, as it was apparent that their present circumstances
absolutely required another ritual. It could not be expected that
individuals dwelling in distant countries could meet three times in the
year at Jerusalem to celebrate the great festivals. The Israelites
themselves had a presentiment of coming changes, and anxiously awaited
the appearance of a Messiah. They were actuated by an extraordinary zeal
for proselytism, [11:3] and though their scrupulous adherence to a stern
code of ceremonies often exposed them to much obloquy, they succeeded,
notwithstanding, in making many converts in most of the places where they
resided. [12:1] A prominent article of their creed was adopted in a
quarter where their theology otherwise found no favour, for the Unity of
the Great First Cause was now distinctly acknowledged in the schools of
the philosophers. [12:2]

From the preceding statements we may sec the peculiar significance of
the announcement that God sent forth His Son into the world "_when the
fulness of the time was come_." [12:3] Various predictions [12:4]
pointed out this age as the period of the Messiah's Advent, and
Gentiles, as well as Jews, seem by some means to have caught up the
expectation that an extraordinary personage was now about to appear on
the theatre of human existence. [12:5] Providence had obviously prepared
the way for the labours of a religious reformer. The civil wars which
had convulsed the state were now almost forgotten, and though the
hostile movements of the Germans, and other barbarous tribes on the
confines of the empire, occasionally created uneasiness or alarm, the
public mind was generally unoccupied by any great topic of absorbing
interest. In the populous cities the multitude languished for
excitement, and sought to dissipate the time in the forum, the circus,
or the amphitheatre. At such a crisis the heralds of the most gracious
message that ever greeted the ears of men might hope for a patient
hearing. Even the consolidation of so many nations under one government
tended to "the furtherance of the gospel," for the gigantic roads, which
radiated from Rome to the distant regions of the east and of the west,
facilitated intercourse; and the messengers of the Prince of Peace could
travel from country to country without suspicion and without passports.
And well might the Son of God be called "The desire of all nations."
[13:1] Though the wisest of the pagan sages could not have described the
renovation which the human family required, and though, when the
Redeemer actually appeared, He was despised and rejected of men, there
was, withal, a wide spread conviction that a Saviour was required, and
there was a longing for deliverance from the evils which oppressed
society. The ancient superstitions were rapidly losing their hold on the
affection and confidence of the people, and whilst the light of
philosophy was sufficient to discover the absurdities of the prevailing
polytheism, it failed to reveal any more excellent way of purity and
comfort. The ordinances of Judaism, which were "waxing old" and "ready
to vanish away," were types which were still unfulfilled; and though
they pointed out the path to glory, they required an interpreter to
expound their import. This Great Teacher now appeared. He was born in
very humble circumstances, and yet He was the heir of an empire beyond
comparison more illustrious than that of the Caesars. "There was given
him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and
languages, should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be
destroyed." [13:2]



Nearly three years before the commencement of our era, [14:1] Jesus
Christ was born. The Holy Child was introduced into the world under
circumstances extremely humiliating. A decree had gone forth from Caesar
Augustus that all the Roman Empire should be taxed, and the Jews, as a
conquered people, were obliged to submit to an arrangement which
proclaimed their national degradation. The reputed parents of Jesus
resided at Nazareth, a town of Galilee; but, as they were "of the house
and lineage of David," they were obliged to repair to Bethlehem, a
village about six miles south of Jerusalem, to be entered in their
proper place in the imperial registry. "And so it was, that, while they
were there, the days were accomplished that Mary should be delivered,
and she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling
clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in
the inn." [14:2]

This child of poverty and of a despised race, born in the stable of the
lodging-house of an insignificant town belonging to a conquered
province, did not enter upon life surrounded by associations which
betokened a career of earthly prosperity. But intimations were not
wanting that the Son of Mary was regarded with the deepest interest by
the inhabitants of heaven. An angel had appeared to announce the
conception of the individual who was to be the herald of his ministry;
[15:1] and another angel had been sent to give notice of the incarnation
of this Great Deliverer. [15:2] When He was born, the angel of the Lord
communicated the tidings to shepherds in the plains of Bethlehem; "and
suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host
praising God and saying--Glory to God in the highest, and on earth
peace, good will toward men." [15:3] Inanimate nature called attention
to the advent of the illustrious babe, for a wonderful star made known
to wise men from the east the incarnation of the King of Israel; and
when they came to Jerusalem "the star, which they saw in the east, went
before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was."
[15:4] The history of these eastern sages cannot now be explored, and we
know not on what grounds they regarded the star as the sign of the
Messiah; but they rightly interpreted the appearance, and the narrative
warrants us to infer that they acted under the guidance of divine
illumination. As they were "warned of God in a dream" [15:5] to return
to their own country another way, we may presume that they were
originally directed by some similar communication to undertake the
journey. It is probable that they did not belong to the stock of
Abraham; and if so, their visit to the babe at Bethlehem may be
recognised as the harbinger of the union of Jews and Gentiles under the
new economy. The presence of these Orientals in Jerusalem attracted the
notice of the watchful and jealous tyrant who then occupied the throne
of Judea. Their story filled him with alarm; and his subjects
anticipated some tremendous outbreak of his suspicions and savage
temper. "When the king had heard these things he was troubled, and all
Jerusalem with him." [15:6] His rage soon vented itself in a terrible
explosion. Having ascertained from the chief priests and scribes of the
people where Christ was to be born, he "sent forth and slew all the
children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two
years old and under." [16:1]

Joseph and Mary, in accordance with a message from heaven, had meanwhile
fled towards the border of Egypt, and thus the holy infant escaped this
carnage. The wise men, on the occasion of their visit, had "opened their
treasures," and had "presented unto him gifts, _gold_, and frankincense,
and myrrh," [16:2] so that the poor travellers had providentially
obtained means for defraying the expenses of their journey. The
slaughter of the babes of Bethlehem was one of the last acts of the
bloody reign of Herod; and, on his demise, the exiles were divinely
instructed to return, and the child was presented in the temple. This
ceremony evoked new testimonies to His high mission. On His appearance
in His Father's house, the aged Simeon, moved by the Spirit from on
high, embraced Him as the promised Shiloh; and Anna, the prophetess,
likewise gave thanks to God, and "spake of him to all them that looked
for redemption in Jerusalem." [16:3] Thus, whilst the Old Testament
predictions pointed to Jesus as the Christ, living prophets appeared to
interpret these sacred oracles, and to bear witness to the claims of the
new-born Saviour.

Though the Son of Mary was beyond all comparison the most extraordinary
personage that ever appeared on earth, it is remarkable that the sacred
writers enter into scarcely any details respecting the history of His
infancy, His youth, or His early manhood. They tell us that "the child
grew and waxed strong in spirit," [17:1] and that He "increased in
wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man;" [17:2] but they do
not minutely trace the progress of His mental development, neither do
they gratify any feeling of mere curiosity by giving us His infantile
biography. In what is omitted by the penmen of the New Testament, as
well as in what is written we must acknowledge the guidance of
inspiration; and though we might have perused with avidity a description
of the pursuits of Jesus when a child, such a record has not been deemed
necessary for the illustration of the work of redemption. It would
appear that He spent about thirty years on earth almost unnoticed and
unknown; and He seems to have been meanwhile trained to the occupation
of a carpenter. [17:3] The obscurity of His early career must doubtless
be regarded as one part of His humiliation. But the circumstances in
which He was placed enabled Him to exhibit more clearly the divinity of
His origin. He did not receive a liberal education, so that when He came
forward as a public teacher "the Jews marvelled, saying--How knoweth
this man letters _having never learned?_" [17:4] When He was only twelve
years old, He was "found in the temple sitting in the midst of the
doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions; and all that
heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers." [18:1] As
He grew up, He was distinguished by His diligent attendance in the house
of God; and it seems not improbable that He was in the habit of
officiating at public worship by assisting in the reading of the law and
the prophets; for we are told that, shortly after the commencement of
His ministry, "He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and,
as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath-day, and
_stood up for to read_." [18:2]

When He was about thirty years of age, and immediately before His public
appearance as a prophet, our Lord was baptized of John in Jordan. [18:3]
The Baptist did not, perhaps, preach longer than six months, [18:4] but
it is probable that during his imprisonment of considerably upwards of a
year, he still contributed to prepare the way of Christ; for, in the
fortress of Machaerus in which he was incarcerated, [18:5] he was not
kept in utter ignorance of passing occurrences, and when permitted to
hold intercourse with his friends, he would doubtless direct their
special attention to the proceedings of the Great Prophet. The claims of
John, as a teacher sent from God, were extensively acknowledged; and
therefore his recognition of our Lord as the promised Messiah, must have
made a deep impression upon the minds of the Israelites. The miracles of
our Saviour corroborated the testimony of His forerunner, and created a
deep sensation. He healed "all manner of sickness, and all manner of
disease." [19:1] It was, consequently, not strange that "His fame went
throughout all Syria," and that "there followed him great multitudes of
people, from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from
Judea, and from beyond Jordan." [19:2]

Even when the Most High reveals himself there is something mysterious in
the manifestation, so that, whilst we acknowledge the tokens of His
presence, we may well exclaim--"Verily thou art a God that hidest
thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour." [19:3] When He displayed His
glory in the temple of old, He filled it with thick darkness; [19:4]
when He delivered the sure word of prophecy, He employed strange and
misty language; when He announced the Gospel itself, He uttered some
things hard to be understood. It might have been said, too, of the Son
of God, when He appeared on earth, that His "footsteps were not known."
In early life He does not seem to have arrested the attention of His own
townsmen; and when He came forward to assert His claims as the Messiah,
He did not overawe or dazzle his countrymen by any sustained
demonstration of tremendous power or of overwhelming splendour. To-day
the multitude beheld His miracles with wonder, but to-morrow they could
not tell where to meet with Him; [19:5] ever and anon He appeared and
disappeared; and occasionally His own disciples found it difficult to
discover the place of His retirement. When He arrived in a district,
thousands often hastily gathered around Him; [19:6] but He never
encouraged the attendance of vast assemblages by giving general notice
that, in a specified place and on an appointed day, He would deliver a
public address, or perform a new and unprecedented miracle. We may here
see the wisdom of Him who "doeth all things well." Whilst the secresy
with which He conducted His movements baffled any premature attempts on
the part of His enemies, to effect His capture or condemnation, it also
checked that intense popular excitement which a ministry so
extraordinary might have been expected to awaken.

Four inspired writers have given separate accounts of the life of
Christ--all repeat many of His wonderful sayings--all dwell with marked
minuteness on the circumstances of His death--and all attest the fact of
His resurrection. Each mentions some things which the others have
omitted; and each apparently observes the order of time in the details
of his narrative. But when we combine and arrange their various
statements, so as to form the whole into one regular and comprehensive
testimony, we discover that there are not a few periods of His life
still left utterly blank in point of incidents; and that there is no
reference whatever to topics which we might have expected to find
particularly noticed in the biography of so eminent a personage. After
His appearance as a public teacher, He seems, not only to have made
sudden transitions from place to place, but otherwise to have often
courted the shade; and, instead of unfolding the circumstances of His
private history, the evangelists dwell chiefly on His Discourses and His
Miracles. During His ministry, Capernaum was His headquarters; [20:1]
but we cannot positively tell with whom He lodged in that place; nor
whether the twelve sojourned there under the same roof with Him; nor how
much time He spent in it at any particular period. We cannot point out
the precise route which He pursued on any occasion when itinerating
throughout Galilee or Judea; neither are we sure that He always
journeyed on foot, or that He adhered to a uniform mode of travelling.
It is most singular that the inspired writers throw out no hint on which
an artist might seize as the groundwork of a painting of Jesus. As if to
teach us more emphatically that we should beware of a sensuous
superstition, and that we should direct our thoughts to the spiritual
features of His character, the New Testament never mentions either the
colour of His hair, or the height of His stature, or the cast of His
countenance. How wonderful that even "the beloved disciple," who was
permitted to lean on the bosom of the Son of man, and who had seen him
in the most trying circumstances of His earthly history, never speaks of
the tones of His voice, or of the expression of His eye, or of any
striking peculiarity pertaining to His personal appearance! The silence
of all the evangelists respecting matters of which at least some of them
must have retained a very vivid remembrance, and of which ordinary
biographers would not have failed to preserve a record, supplies an
indirect and yet a most powerful proof of the Divine origin of the

But whilst the sacred writers enter so sparingly into personal details,
they leave no doubt as to the perfect integrity which marked every part
of our Lord's proceedings. He was born in a degenerate age, and brought
up in a city of Galilee which had a character so infamous that no good
thing was expected to proceed from it; [21:1] and yet, like a ray of
purest light shining into some den of uncleanness, He contracted no
defilement from the scenes of pollution which He was obliged to witness.
Even in boyhood, He must have uniformly acted with supreme discretion;
for though His enemies from time to time gave vent to their malignity in
various accusations, we do not read that they ever sought to cast so
much as a solitary stain upon His youthful reputation. The most
malicious of the Jews failed to fasten upon Him in after life any charge
of immorality. Among those constantly admitted to His familiar
intercourse, a traitor was to be found; and had Judas been able to
detect anything in His private deportment inconsistent with His public
profession, he would doubtless have proclaimed it as an apology for his
perfidy; but the keen eye of that close observer could not discover a
single blemish in the character of his Master; and, when prompted by
covetousness, he betrayed Him to the chief priests, the thought of
having been accessory to the death of one so kind and so holy, continued
to torment him, until it drove him to despair and to self-destruction.

The doctrine inculcated by our Lord commended itself by the light of its
own evidence. It was nothing more than a lucid and comprehensive
exposition of the theology of the Old Testament; and yet it, presented
such a new view of the faith of patriarchs and of prophets, that it had
all the freshness and interest of an original revelation. It discovered
a most intimate acquaintance with the mental constitution of man--it
appealed with mighty power to the conscience--and it was felt to be
exactly adapted to the moral state and to the spiritual wants of the
human family. The disciples of Jesus did not require to be told that He
had "the key of knowledge," for they were delighted and edified as "He
opened" to them the Scriptures. [22:1] He taught the multitude "as one
having authority;" [22:2] and they were "astonished at His doctrine."
The discourses of the Scribes, their most learned instructors, were
meagre and vapid--they were not calculated to enlarge the mind or to
move the affections--they consisted frequently of doubtful disputations
relating to the ceremonials of their worship--and the very air with
which they were delivered betrayed the insignificance of the topics of
discussion. But Jesus spake with a dignity which commanded respect, and
with the deep seriousness of a great Teacher delivering to perishing
sinners tidings of unutterable consequence.

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

The claims of Jesus as the Christ were decisively established by the
Divine power which He manifested. It had been foretold that certain
extraordinary recoveries from disease and infirmity would be witnessed
in the days of the Messiah; and these predictions were now literally
fulfilled. The eyes of the blind were opened, and the ears of the deaf
were unstopped; the lame man leaped as an hart, and the tongue of the
dumb sang. [23:2] Not a few of the cures of our Saviour were wrought on
individuals to whom He was personally unknown; [23:3] and many of His
works of wonder were performed in the presence of friends and foes.
[23:4] Whilst His miracles exceeded in number all those recorded in the
Old Testament, they were still more remarkable for their variety and
their excellence. By His touch, or His word, he healed the most
inveterate maladies; He fed the multitude by thousands out of a store of
provisions which a little boy could carry; [24:1] He walked upon the
waves of the sea, when it was agitated by a tempest; [24:2] He made the
storm a calm, so that the wind at once ceased to blow, and the surface
of the deep reposed, at the same moment, in glassy smoothness; [24:3] He
cast out devils; and He restored life to the dead. Well might the
Pharisees be perplexed by the inquiry--"How can a man that is a sinner
do such miracles?" [23:4] It is quite possible that false prophets, by
the help of Satan, may accomplish feats fitted to excite astonishment;
and yet, in such cases, the agents of the Wicked One may be expected to
exhibit some symptoms of his spirit and character. But nothing
diabolical, or of an evil tendency, appeared in the miracles of our
Lord. With the one exception of the cursing of the barren fig-tree
[24:5]--a malediction which created no pain, and involved no substantial
loss--all his displays of power were indicative of His goodness and His
mercy. No other than a true prophet would have been enabled so often to
control the course of nature, in the production of results of such
utility, such benignity, and such grandeur.

The miracles of Christ illustrated, as well as confirmed, His doctrines.
When, for instance, He converted the water into wine at the marriage in
Cana of Galilee. [24:6] He taught, not only that he approved of wedlock,
but also that, within proper limits, He was disposed to patronise the
exercise of a generous hospitality, in some cases He required faith in
the individuals whom He vouchsafed to cure, [24:7] thus distinctly
suggesting the way of a sinner's salvation. Many of His miracles were
obviously of a typical character. When He acted as the physician of the
body, He indirectly gave evidence of His efficiency as the physician of
the soul; when He restored sight to the blind, He indicated that He
could turn men from darkness to light; when He raised the dead, He
virtually demonstrated His ability to quicken such as are dead in
trespasses and sins. Those who witnessed the visible exhibitions of His
power were prepared to listen with the deepest interest to His words
when He declared--"I am the light of the world; he that followeth me
shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the _light of life_." [25:1]

Though our Lord's conduct, as a public teacher, fully sustained His
claims as the Messiah, it must have been a complete enigma to all
classes of politicians. He did not seek to obtain power by courting the
favour of the great, neither did He attempt to gain popularity by
flattering the prejudices of the multitude. He wounded the national
pride by hinting at the destruction of the temple; He gave much offence
by holding intercourse with the odious publicans; and with many, He
forfeited all credit, as a patriot, by refusing to affirm the
unlawfulness of paying tribute to the Roman emperor. The greatest human
characters have been occasionally swayed by personal predilections or
antipathies, but, in the life of Christ, we can discover no memorial of
any such infirmity. Like a sage among children, He did not permit
Himself to be influenced by the petty partialities, whims, or
superstitions of His countrymen. He inculcated a theological system for
which He could not expect the support of any of the existing classes of
religionists. He differed from the Essenes, as He did not adopt their
ascetic habits; He displeased the Sadducees, by asserting the doctrine
of the resurrection; He provoked the Pharisees, by declaring that they
worshipped God in vain, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men;
and He incurred the hostility of the whole tribe of Jewish zealots, by
maintaining His right to supersede the arrangements of the Mosaic
economy. By pursuing this independent course He vindicated His title to
the character of a Divine lawgiver, but at the same time He forfeited a
vast amount of sympathy and aid upon which He might otherwise have

There has been considerable diversity of opinion regarding the length of
our Saviour's ministry. [26:1] We could approximate very closely to a
correct estimate could we tell the number of passovers from its
commencement to its close, but this point cannot be determined with
absolute certainty. Four are apparently mentioned [26:2] by the
evangelist John; and if, as is probable, they amounted to no more, it
would seem that our Lord's career, as a public teacher, was of about
three years' duration. [26:3] The greater part of this period was spent
in Galilee; and the sacred writers intimate that He made several
circuits, as a missionary, among the cities and villages of that
populous district. [26:4] Matthew, Mark, and Luke dwell chiefly upon
this portion of His history. Towards the termination of His course,
Judea was the principal scene of His ministrations. Jerusalem was the
centre of Jewish power and prejudice, and He had hitherto chiefly
laboured in remote districts of the land, that He might escape the
malignity of the scribes and Pharisees; but, as His end approached, He
acted with greater publicity, and often taught openly in the very courts
of the temple. John supplements the narratives of the other evangelists
by recording our Lord's proceedings in Judea.

A few members of the Sanhedrim, such as Nicodemus, [27:1] believed Jesus
to be "a teacher come from God," but by far the majority regarded Him
with extreme aversion. They could not imagine that the son of a
carpenter was to be the Saviour of their country, for they expected the
Messiah to appear surrounded with all the splendour of secular
magnificence. They were hypocritical and selfish; they had been
repeatedly rebuked by Christ for their impiety; and, as they marked His
increasing favour with the multitude, their envy and indignation became
ungovernable. They accordingly seized Him at the time of the Passover,
and, on the charge that He said He was the Son of God, He was condemned
as a blasphemer. [27:2] He suffered crucifixion--an ignominious form of
capital punishment from which the laws of the empire exempted every
Roman citizen--and, to add to His disgrace, He was put to death between
two thieves. [27:3] But even Pontius Pilate, who was then Procurator of
Judea, and who, in that capacity, endorsed the sentence, was constrained
to acknowledge that He was a "just person" in whom He could find "no
fault." [27:4] Pilate was a truckling time-server, and he acquiesced in
the decision, simply because he was afraid to exasperate the Jews by
rescuing from their grasp an innocent man whom they persecuted with
unrelenting hatred. [27:5]

The death of Christ, of which all the evangelists treat so particularly,
is the most awful and the most momentous event in the history of the
world. He, no doubt, fell a victim to the malice of the rulers of the
Jews; but He was delivered into their hands "by the determinate counsel
and foreknowledge of God;" [28:1] and if we discard the idea that He was
offered up as a vicarious sacrifice, we must find it impossible to give
anything like a satisfactory account of what occurred in Gethsemane and
at Calvary. The amount of physical suffering He sustained from man did
not exceed that endured by either of the malefactors with whom He was
associated; and such was His magnanimity and fortitude, that, had He
been an ordinary martyr, the prospect of crucifixion would not have been
sufficient to make Him "exceeding sorrowful" and "sore amazed." [28:2]
His holy soul must have been wrung with no common agony, when "His sweat
was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground," [28:3]
and when He was forced to cry out--"My God, my God, why hast thou
forsaken me?" [28:4] In that hour of "the power of darkness" He was
"smitten of God and afflicted," and there was never sorrow like unto His
sorrow, for upon Him were laid "the iniquities of us all."

The incidents which accompanied the death of Jesus were even more
impressive than those which signalised His birth. When He was in the
garden of Gethsemane there appeared unto Him an angel from Heaven
strengthening Him. [28:5] During the three concluding hours of His
intense anguish on the cross, there was darkness overall the land,
[28:6] as if nature mourned along with the illustrious sufferer. When He
bowed His head on Calvary and gave up the ghost, the event was marked by
notifications such as never announced the demise of any of this world's
great potentates, for "the veil of the temple was rent in twain," and
the rocks were cleft asunder, and the graves were opened, and the earth
trembled. [29:1] "The centurion and they that were with him," in
attendance at the execution, seem to have been Gentiles; and though,
doubtless, they had heard that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah of the
Jews, they perhaps very imperfectly comprehended the import of the
designation; but they were forthwith overwhelmed with the conviction,
that He, whose death they had just witnessed, must have given a true
account of His mission and His dignity, for "when they saw the
earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly,
saying--Truly this was _the Son of God_" [29:2]

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

There is no fact connected with the life of Christ better attested than
that of His resurrection. He was put to death by His enemies; and His
body was not removed from the cross until they were fully satisfied that
the vital spark had fled. [29:8] His tomb was scooped out of a solid
rock; [29:9] the stone which blocked up the entrance was sealed with all
care; and a military guard kept constant watch to prevent its violation.
[30:1] But in due time an earthquake shook the cemetery--"The angel of
the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from
the 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 the
grave, and the sentinels, in consternation, hastened to the chief
priests and communicated the astounding intelligence. [30:3] But these
infatuated men, instead of yielding to the force of this overwhelming
evidence, endeavoured to conceal their infamy by the base arts of
bribery and falsehood. "They gave large money unto the soldiers,
saying--Say ye--His disciples came by night and stole him away while we
slept...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 days
after His birth; and, as "the first-begotten of the dead," [30:5] He
presented Himself before His Father, in the temple above, forty days
after He had opened the womb of the grave. During the interval he
appeared only to His own followers. [30:6] Those who had so long and so
wilfully rejected the testimony of His teaching and His miracles, had
certainly no reason to expect any additional proofs of His Divine
mission. But the Lord manifests Himself to His Church, "and not unto the
world," [30:7] and to such as fear His name He is continually supplying
new and interesting illustrations of His presence, His power, His
wisdom, and His mercy. Whilst He is a pillar of darkness to His foes, He
is a pillar of light to His people. Though Jesus was now invisible to
the Scribes and Pharisees, He admitted His disciples to high and holy
fellowship. Now their hearts burned within them as He spake to them "of
the things pertaining to the kingdom of God," [31:1] and as "He
expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning
Himself." [31:2] Now He doubtless pointed out to them how He was
symbolised in the types, how He was exhibited in the promises, and how
He was described in the prophecies. Now He explained to them more fully
the arrangements of His Church, and now He commanded His apostles to go
and "teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of
the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." [31:3] Having assured the twelve of His
presence with His true servants even unto the end of the world, and
having led them out as far as Bethany, a village a few furlongs from
Jerusalem, "he lifted up his hands and blessed them. And it came to
pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up
into heaven." [31:4]

Thus closed the earthly career of Him who is both the Son of man and the
Son of God. Though He was sorely tried by the privations of poverty,
though He was exposed to the most brutal and degrading insults, and
though at last He was forsaken by His friends and consigned to a death
of lingering agony, He never performed a single act or uttered a single
word unworthy of His exalted and blessed mission. The narratives of the
evangelists supply clear internal evidence that, when they described the
history of Jesus, they must have copied from a living original; for
otherwise, no four individuals, certainly no four Jews, could have each
furnished such a portrait of so great and so singular a personage.
Combining the highest respect for the institutions of Moses with a
spirit eminently catholic, He was at once a devout Israelite and a
large-hearted citizen of the world. Rising far superior to the
prejudices of His countrymen, He visited Samaria, and conversed freely
with its population; and, whilst declaring that He was sent specially to
the seed of Abraham, He was ready to extend His sympathy to their
bitterest enemies. Though He took upon Him the form of a servant, there
was nothing mean or servile in His behaviour; for, when He humbled
Himself, there was ever about Him an air of condescending majesty.
Whether He administers comfort to the mourner, or walks upon the waves
of the sea, or replies to the cavils of the Pharisees, He is still the
same calm, holy, and gracious Saviour. When His passion was immediately
in view, He was as kind and as considerate as ever, for, on the very
night in which He was betrayed, He was employed in the institution of an
ordinance which was to serve as a sign and a seal of His grace
throughout all generations. His character is as sublime as it is
original. It has no parallel in the history of the human family. The
impostor is cunning, the demagogue is turbulent, and the fanatic is
absurd; but the conduct of Jesus Christ is uniformly gentle and serene,
candid, courteous, and consistent. Well, indeed, may His name be called
Wonderful. "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the
world 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 of
God, even to them that believe on his name." [32:1]



The Christian era commences on the 1st of January of the year 754 of the
city of Rome. That our Lord was born about the time stated in the text
may appear from the following considerations--

_The visit of the wise men to Bethlehem must have taken place a very few
days after the birth of Jesus, and before His presentation in the
temple._ 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 the
taxing, and immediately after the presentation in the temple, they
returned to Nazareth and dwelt there (Luke ii. 39). Had the visit of the
wise men occurred, as some think, six, or twelve, or eighteen months
after the birth, the question of Herod to "the chief priests and scribes
of the people" where "Christ _should be born_"--would have been quite
vain, as the infant might have been removed long before to another part
of the country. The wise men manifestly expected to see a _newly born_
infant, and hence they asked--"where is he that _is born_ King of the
Jews?" (Matt. ii. 2.) The evangelist also states expressly that they came
to Jerusalem "_when Jesus was born_" (Matt. ii. 1). At a subsequent
period they would have found the Holy Child, not at Bethlehem, but at

The only plausible objection to this view of the matter is derived from
the statement that Herod "sent forth and slew all the children that were
in Bethlehem and in all the coasts thereof, _from two years old and
under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the
wise men"_ (Matt. ii. 16). The king had ascertained from these sages
"what time the star appeared" (Matt. ii. 7), and they seem to have
informed him that it had been visible a year before. A Jewish child was
said to be two years old _when it had entered on its second year_ (see
Greswell's "Dissertations," vol. ii. 136); and, to make sure of his
prey, Herod murdered all the infants in Bethlehem and the neighbourhood
under the age of thirteen months. The wise men had not told him that the
child was a year old--it was obvious that they thought very
differently--but the tyrant butchered all who came, within the range of
suspicion. It is highly probable that the star announced the appearance
of the Messiah twelve months before he was born. Such an intimation was
given 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 death
of Herod_. This follows as a corollary from what has been already
advanced, for if the wise men visited Bethlehem immediately after the
birth, and if the child was then hurried away to Egypt, the presentation
could not have taken place earlier. The ceremony was performed _forty
days after the birth_ (Luke ii. 22, and Lev. xii. 2, 3, 4), and as the
flight and the return might both have been accomplished in eight or ten
days, there was ample time for a sojourn of at least two or three weeks
in that part of Egypt which was nearest to Palestine. Herod died during
this brief exile, and yet his demise happened so soon before the
departure of the holy family on their way home, that the intelligence
had not meanwhile reached Joseph by the voice of ordinary fame; and
until his arrival in the land of Israel, he did not even know that
Archelaus reigned in Judea (Matt. ii. 22). He seems to have inferred
from the dream that the dynasty of the Herodian family had been
completely subverted, so that when he heard of the succession of
Archelaus "he was afraid" to enter his territory; but, at this juncture,
being "counselled of God" in another dream, he took courage, proceeded
on his journey, and, after the presentation in the temple, "returned
into the parts of Galilee."

That the presentation in the temple took place after the death of Herod
is 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 in
Jerusalem" (Luke ii. 38). Herod had his spies in all quarters, and had
he been yet living, the intelligence of the presentation and of its
extraordinary accompaniments, would have soon reached his ears, and he
would have made some fresh attempt upon the life of the infant. But when
the babe was actually brought to the temple, the tyrant was no more.
Jerusalem was in a state of great political excitement, and Archelaus
had, perhaps, already set sail for Rome to secure from the emperor the
confirmation 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 did
not attract any notice on the part of the existing rulers.

Assuming, then, that Christ was born a very short time before the death
of Herod, we have now to ascertain the date of the demise of that
monarch. Josephus states (Antiq. xiv. 14, § 5) that Herod was made king
by the Roman Senate in the 184th Olympiad, when Calvinus and Pollio were
consuls, that is, in the year of Rome 714; and that he reigned
thirty-seven years (Antiq. xvii. 8, § 1). We may infer, therefore, that
his reign terminated in the year 751 of the city of Rome. He died
shortly before the passover; his disease seems to have been of a very
lingering character; and he appears to have languished under it upwards
of a year (Josephus' Antiq. xvii. 6, § 4, 5, and xvii. 9, § 2, 3). The
passover of 751 fell on the 31st of March (see Greswell's
"Dissertations," vol. i. p. 331), and as our Lord was in all likelihood
born early in the month, the Jewish king probably ended his days a week
or two afterwards, or about the time of the vernal equinox. According to
this computation the _conception_ took place exactly at the feast of
Pentecost, which fell, in 750, on the 31st of May.

This view is corroborated by Luke iii. 1, where it is said that the word
of God came to John the Baptist "in the _fifteenth year_ of the reign of
Tiberius Caesar." John's ministry had continued only a short time when
he was imprisoned, and then Jesus "began to be _about thirty_ years of
age" (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 successor
Tiberius. The _fifteenth year_ of Tiberius, according to the same mode
of 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 born
about the 1st of March 751 of Rome, and if the Baptist was imprisoned
early in 781, it could be said with perfect propriety that Jesus then
"began to be about thirty years of age." This view is further confirmed
by the fact that Quirinius, or Cyrenius, mentioned Luke ii. 2, was
_first_ governor of Syria from the _close_ of the year 750 of Rome to
753. (See Merivale, iv. p. 457, note.) Our Lord was born under his
administration, and according to the date we have assigned to the
nativity, the "taxing" at Bethlehem must have taken place a few months
after Cyrenius entered into office.

This view of the date of the birth of Christ, which differs somewhat
from that of any writer with whom I am acquainted, appears to meet all
the difficulties connected with this much-disputed question. It is based
partly upon the principle, so ingeniously advocated by Whiston in his
"Chronology," that the flight into Egypt took place before the
presentation in the temple. I have never yet met with any antagonist of
that hypothesis who was able to give a satisfactory explanation of the
text on which it rests. Some other dates assigned for the birth of
Christ are quite inadmissible. In Judea shepherds could not have been
found "abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night"
(Luke ii. 8) in November, December, January, or, perhaps, February; but
in March, and especially in a mild season, such a thing appears to have
been quite common. (See Greswell's "Dissertations," vol. i. p. 391, and
Robinson's "Biblical Researches," vol ii. p. 97, 98.) Hippolytus, one of
the earliest Christian writers who touches on the subject, indicates
that 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 was
comparatively barren. There can be no doubt that the effects produced
did not at all correspond to what might have been expected from so
wonderful a ministry; but it had been predicted that the Messiah would
be "despised and _rejected_ of men," [36:1] and the unbelief of the Jews
was one of the humiliating trials He was ordained to suffer during His
abode on earth. "The Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus
was not yet glorified." [36:2] We have, certainly, no evidence that any
of His discourses made such an impression as that which accompanied the
address of Peter on the day of Pentecost. Immediately after the
outpouring of the Spirit at that period an abundant blessing followed
the proclamation of the gospel. But though Jesus often mourned over the
obduracy of His countrymen, and though the truth, preached by His
disciples, was often more effective than when uttered by Himself, it
cannot with propriety be said that His own evangelical labours were
unfruitful. The one hundred and twenty, who met in an upper room during
the interval between His Ascension and the day of Pentecost [36:3] were
but a portion of His followers. The fierce and watchful opposition of
the Sanhedrim had kept Him generally at a distance from Jerusalem; it
was there specially dangerous to profess an attachment to His cause; and
we may thus, perhaps, partially account for the paucity of His adherents
in the Jewish metropolis. His converts were more numerous in Galilee;
and it was, probably, in that district He appeared to the company of
upwards of five hundred brethren who saw Him after His resurrection.
[37:1] He had itinerated extensively as a missionary; and, from some
statements incidentally occurring in the gospels, we may infer, that
there were individuals who had imbibed His doctrines in the cities and
villages of almost all parts of Palestine. [37:2] But the most signal
and decisive proof of the power of His ministry is presented in the fact
that, during the three years of its duration, He enlisted and sent forth
no less than eighty-two preachers. Part of these have since been known
as "The Twelve," and the rest as "The Seventy."

The Twelve are frequently mentioned in the New Testament, and yet the
information we possess respecting them is exceedingly scanty. Of some we
know little more than their names. It has been supposed that a town
called Kerioth, [37:3] or Karioth, belonging to the tribe of Judah, was
the birthplace of Judas, the traitor; [37:4] but it is probable that all
his colleagues were natives of Galilee. [37:5] Some of them had various
names; and the consequent diversity which the sacred catalogues present
has frequently perplexed the reader of the evangelical narratives.
Matthew was also called Levi; [37:6] Nathanael was designated
Bartholomew; [36:7] and Jude had the two other names of Lebbaeus and
Thaddaeus. [38:1] Thomas was called Didymus, [38:2] or the twin, in
reference, we may presume, to the circumstances of his birth; James the
son of Alphaeus was styled, perhaps by way of distinction, James "the
Less" [38:3]--in allusion, it would seem, to the inferiority of his
stature; the other James and John were surnamed Boanerges, [38:4] or the
sons of thunder--a title probably indicative of the peculiar solemnity
and power of their ministrations; and Simon stands at the head of all
the lists, and is expressly said to be "first" of the Twelve, [38:5]
because, as we have reason to believe, whilst his advanced age might
have warranted him to claim precedence, his superior energy and
promptitude enabled him to occupy the most prominent position. The same
individual was called Cephas, or Peter, or _Stone_, [38:6] apparently on
account of the firmness of his character. His namesake, the other Simon,
was termed the Canaanite, and also Zelotes, [38:7] or the zealot--a
title expressive, in all likelihood, of the zeal and earnestness with
which he was wont to carry out his principles. We are informed that our
Lord sent forth the Twelve "by two and two," [38:8] but we cannot tell
whether He observed any general rule in the arrangement of those who
were to travel in company. The relationship of the parties to each other
might, at least in three instances, have suggested a classification; as
Peter and Andrew, James and John, James the Less and Jude, were,
respectively, brothers. James the Less is described as "the Lord's
brother," [39:1] and Jude is called "the brother of James," [39:2] so
that these two disciples must have been in some way related to our
Saviour; but the exact degree of affinity or consanguinity cannot now,
perhaps, be positively ascertained. [39:3] Some of the disciples, such
as Andrew, [39:4] and probably John, [39:5] had previously been
disciples of the Baptist, but their separation from their former master
and adherence to Jesus did not lead to any estrangement between our Lord
and His pious forerunner. As the Baptist contemplated the more permanent
and important character of the Messiah's mission, he could cheerfully
say--"He must increase, but I must decrease." [39:6]

All the Twelve, when enlisted as disciples of Christ, appear to have
moved in the humbler walks of life; and yet we are scarcely warranted in
asserting that they were extremely indigent. Peter, the fisherman,
pretty plainly indicates that, in regard to worldly circumstances, he
had 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 least
one little vessel of their own, and they could afford to pay "hired
servants" to assist them in their business. [40:1] Matthew acted, in a
subordinate capacity, as a collector of imperial tribute; but though the
Jews cordially hated a functionary who brought so painfully to their
recollection their condition as a conquered people, it is pretty clear
that the publican was engaged in a lucrative employment. Zacchaeus, said
to have been a "chief among the publicans," [40:2] is represented as a
rich man; [40:3] and Matthew, though probably in an inferior station,
was able to give an entertainment in his own house to a numerous
company. [40:4] Still, however, the Twelve, as a body, were qualified,
neither by their education nor their habits, for acting as popular
instructors; and had the gospel been a device of human wisdom, it could
not have been promoted by their advocacy. Individuals who had hitherto
been occupied in tilling the land, in fishing, and in mending nets, or
in sitting at the receipt of custom, could not have been expected to
make any great impression as ecclesiastical reformers. Their position in
society gave them no influence; their natural talents were not
particularly brilliant; and even their dialect betokened their connexion
with a district from which nothing good or great was anticipated. [40:5]
But God exalted these men of low degree, and made them the spiritual
illuminators of the world.

Though the New Testament enters very sparingly into the details of their
personal history, it is plain that the Twelve presented a considerable
variety of character. Thomas, though obstinate, was warm-hearted and
manly. Once when, as he imagined, his Master was going forward to
certain death, he chivalrously proposed to his brethren that they should
all perish along with Him; [40:6] and though at first he doggedly
refused to credit the account of the resurrection, [41:6] yet, when his
doubts were removed, he gave vent to his feelings in one of the most
impressive testimonies [41:2] to the power and godhead of the Messiah to
be found in the whole book of revelation. James, the son of Alphaeus,
was noted for his prudence and practical wisdom; [41:3] and Nathanael
was frank and candid--"an Israelite indeed, in whom was no guile."
[41:4] Our Lord bestowed on Peter and the two sons of Zebedee peculiar
proofs of confidence and favour, for they alone were permitted to
witness some of the most remarkable scenes in the history of the Man of
Sorrows. [41:5] Though these three brethren displayed such a
congeniality of disposition, it does not appear that they possessed
minds of the same mould, but each had excellencies of his own which
threw a charm around his character. Peter yielded to the impulse of the
moment and acted with promptitude and vigour; James became the first of
the apostolic martyrs, probably because by his ability and boldness, as
a preacher, he had provoked the special enmity of Herod and the Jews;
[41:6] whilst the benevolent John delighted to meditate on the "deep
things of God," and listened with profound emotion to his Master as He
discoursed of the mystery of His Person, and of the peace of believers
abiding in His love. It has been conjectured that there was some family
relationship between the sons of Zebedee and Jesus; but of this there is
no satisfactory evidence. [41:7] It was simply, perhaps, the marked
attention of our Saviour to James and John which awakened the ambition
of their mother, and induced her to bespeak their promotion in the
kingdom of the Son of Man. [42:1]

Though none of the Twelve had received a liberal education, [42:2] it
cannot be said that they were literally "novices" when invested with the
ministerial commission. It is probable that, before they were invited to
follow Jesus, they had all seriously turned their attention to the
subject of religion; some of them had been previously instructed by the
Baptist; and all, prior to their selection, appear to have been about a
year under the tuition of our Lord himself. From that time until the end
of His ministry they lived with Him on terms of the most intimate
familiarity. From earlier acquaintance, as well as from closer and more
confidential companionship, they had a better opportunity of knowing His
character and doctrines than any of the rest of His disciples. When,
perhaps about six or eight months [42:3] after their appointment, they
were sent forth as missionaries, they were commanded neither to walk in
"the way of the Gentiles," nor to enter "into any city of the
Samaritans," but rather to go "to the lost sheep of the house of
Israel." [42:4] Their number _Twelve_ corresponded to the number of the
tribes, and they were called _apostles_ probably in allusion to a class
of Jewish functionaries who were so designated. It is said that the High
Priest was wont to send forth from Jerusalem into foreign countries
certain accredited agents, or messengers, styled apostles, on
ecclesiastical errands. [42:5]

During the personal ministry of our Lord the Twelve seem to have been
employed by Him on only one missionary excursion. About twelve months
after that event [43:1] He "appointed other seventy also" to preach His
Gospel. Luke is the only evangelist who mentions the designation of
these additional missionaries; and though we have no reason to believe
that their duties terminated with the first tour in which they were
engaged, [43:2] they are never subsequently noticed in the New
Testament. Many of the actions of our Lord had a typical meaning, and it
is highly probable that He designed to inculcate an important truth by
the appointment of these Seventy new apostles. According to the ideas of
the Jews of that age there were _seventy_ heathen nations; [43:3] and it
is rather singular that, omitting Peleg the progenitor of the
Israelites, 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 the
nations divided_ in the earth after the flood." [43:4] Every one who
looks into the narrative will perceive that the sacred writer does not
propose to furnish a complete catalogue of the descendants of Noah, for
he passes over in entire silence the posterity of the greater number of
the patriarch's grandchildren; he apparently intends to name only those
who were _the founders of nations_; and thus it happens that whilst, in
a variety of instances, he does not trace the line of succession, he
takes 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 the
existence of seventy heathen nations, seems, therefore, to have rested
on a sound historical basis, inasmuch as, according to the Mosaic
statement, there were, beside Peleg, precisely seventy individuals by
whom "the nations were divided in the earth after the flood." We may
thus infer that our Lord meant to convey a great moral lesson by the
appointment alike of the Twelve and of the Seventy. In the ordination of
the Twelve He evinced His regard for all the tribes of Israel; in the
ordination of the Seventy He intimated that His Gospel was designed for
all the nations of the earth. When the Twelve were about to enter on
their first mission He required them to go only to the Jews, but He sent
forth the Seventy "two and two before His face _into every city and
place whither He himself would come_." [45:1] Towards the commencement
of His public career, He had induced many of the Samaritans to believe
on Him, [45:2] whilst at a subsequent period His ministry had been
blessed to Gentiles in the coasts of Tyre and Sidon; [45:3] and there is
no evidence that in the missionary journey which He contemplated when He
appointed the Seventy as His pioneers, He intended to confine His
labours to His kinsmen of the seed of Abraham. It is highly probable
that the Seventy were actually sent forth _from Samaria_, [45:4] and the
instructions given them apparently suggest that, in the circuit now
assigned to them, they were to visit certain districts lying north of
Galilee of the Gentiles. [45:5] The personal ministry of our Lord had
respect primarily and specially to the lost sheep of the house of
Israel, [45:6] but His conduct in this case symbolically indicated the
catholic character of His religion. He evinced His regard for the Jews
by sending no less than twelve apostles to that one nation, but He did
not Himself refuse to minister either to Samaritans or Gentiles; and to
shew that He was disposed to make provision for the general diffusion of
His word, He "appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two
before His face into every city and place whither He himself would

It is very clear that our Lord committed, in the first instance, to the
Twelve the organisation of the ecclesiastical commonwealth. The most
ancient Christian Church, that of the metropolis of Palestine, was
modelled under their superintendence; and the earliest converts gathered
into 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 the
Lamb." [46:1] But it does not follow that others had no share in
founding the spiritual structure. The Seventy also received a commission
from Christ, and we have every reason to believe that, after the death
of their Master, they pursued their missionary labours with renovated
ardour. 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 is
scarcely probable that they are overlooked in the description of the
sacred writer when He represents the New Testament Church as "built upon
the foundation of the _apostles and prophets_, Jesus Christ himself
being the chief corner stone." [46:4]

The appointment of the Seventy, like that of the Twelve, was a typical
act; and it is not, therefore, extraordinary that they are only once
noticed in the sacred volume. Our Lord never intended to constitute two
permanent corporations, limited, respectively, to twelve and seventy
members, and empowered to transmit their authority to successors from
generation to generation. In a short time after His death the symbolical
meaning of the mission of the Seventy was explained, as it very soon
appeared that the gospel was to be transmitted to all the ends of the
earth; and thus it was no longer necessary to refer to these
representatives of the ministry of the universal Church. When the Twelve
turned to the Gentiles, their number lost its significance, and from
that date they accordingly ceased to fill up vacancies occurring in
their society; and, as the Church assumed a settled form, the apostles
were disposed to insist less and less on any special powers with which
they had been originally furnished, and rather to place themselves on a
level with the ordinary rulers of the ecclesiastical community. Hence we
find them sitting in church courts with these brethren, [47:1] and
desirous to be known not as apostles, but as elders. [47:2] We possess
little information respecting either their official or their personal
history. A very equivocal, and sometimes contradictory, tradition [47:3]
is the only guide which even professes to point out to us where the
greater number of them laboured; and the same witness is the only
voucher for the statements which describe how most of them finished
their career. It is an instructive fact that no proof can be given, from
the sacred record, of the ordination either by the Twelve or by the
Seventy, of even one presbyter or pastor. With the exception of the
laying on of hands upon the seven deacons, [47:4] no inspired writer
mentions any act of the kind in which the Twelve ever engaged. The
deacons were not _rulers_ in the Church, and therefore could not by
ordination confer ecclesiastical power on others.

There is much meaning in the silence of the sacred writers respecting
the official proceedings and the personal career of the Twelve and the
Seventy. It thus becomes impossible for any one to make out a title to
the ministry by tracing his ecclesiastical descent; for no contemporary
records enable us to prove a connexion between the inspired founders of
our religion, and those who were subsequently entrusted with the
government of the Church. At the critical point where, had it been
deemed necessary, we might have had the light of inspiration, we are
left to wander in total darkness. We are thus shut up to the conclusion
that the claims of those who profess to be heralds of the gospel are to
be tested by some other criterion than their ecclesiastical lineage. It
is written--"_By their fruits_ ye shall know them." [48:1] God alone can
make a true minister; [48:2] and he who attempts to establish his right
to feed the flock of Christ by appealing to his official genealogy
miserably mistakes the source of the pastoral commission. It would,
indeed, avail nothing though a minister could prove his relationship to
the Twelve or the Seventy by an unbroken line of ordinations, for some
who at the time may have been able to deduce their descent from the
apostles were amongst the most dangerous of the early heretics. [48:3]
True religion is sustained, not by any human agency, but by that Eternal
Spirit who quickens all the children of God, and who has preserved for
them a pure gospel in the writings of the apostles and evangelists. The
perpetuity of the Church no more depends on the uninterrupted succession
of its ministers than does the perpetuity of a nation depend on the
continuance of the dynasty which may happen at a particular date to
occupy the throne. As plants possess powers of reproduction enabling
them, when a part decays, to throw it off, and to supply its place by a
new and vigorous vegetation, so it is with the Church--the spiritual
vine which the Lord has planted. Its government may degenerate into a
corrupt tyranny by which its most precious liberties may be invaded or
destroyed, but the freemen of the Lord are not bound to submit to any
such domination. Were even all the ecclesiastical rulers to become
traitors to the King of Zion, the Church would not therefore perish. The
living members of the body of Christ would be then required to repudiate
the authority of overseers by whom they were betrayed, and to choose
amongst themselves such faithful men as were found most competent to
teach and to guide the spiritual community. The Divine Statute-book
clearly warrants the adoption of such an alternative. "Beloved," says
the Apostle John, "believe not every spirit, but _try the spirits_
whether they are of God. .... We are of God, _he that knoweth God
heareth us_, he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the
spirit of truth and the spirit of error." [49:1] "If there come _any_
unto you, and _bring not this doctrine_, receive him not into your
house, neither bid him God-speed; for he that biddeth him God-speed is
partaker of his evil deeds." [49:2] Paul declares, still more
emphatically--"Though WE, or AN ANGEL FROM HEAVEN, preach any other
gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, _let him be
accursed_. As we said before, so say I now again, If _any man_ preach
any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, _let him be
accursed_." [49:3]

In one sense neither the Twelve nor the Seventy had successors. All of
them were called to preach the gospel by the living voice of Christ
himself; all had "companied" with Him during the period of His ministry;
all had listened to His sermons; all had been spectators of His works of
wonder; all were empowered to perform miracles; all seem to have
conversed with Him after His resurrection; and all appear to have
possessed the gift of inspired utterance. [50:1] But in another sense
every "good minister of Jesus Christ" is a successor of these primitive
preachers; for every true pastor is taught of God, and is moved by the
Spirit to undertake the service in which he is engaged, and is warranted
to expect a blessing on the truth which he disseminates. As of old the
descent from heaven of fire upon the altar testified the Divine
acceptance of the sacrifices, so now the descent of the Spirit, as
manifested in the conversion of souls to God, is a sure token that the
labours of the minister have the seal of the Divine approbation. The
great Apostle of the Gentiles did not hesitate to rely on such a proof
of 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 Christ
ministered by us, written, not with ink, but with the Spirit of the
living God, not in tables of stone, but in the fleshy tables of the
heart." [50:2] No true pastor will be left entirely destitute of such
encouragement, and neither the Twelve nor the Seventy could produce
credentials 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," the
work of atonement was completed. The ceremonial law virtually expired
when He explained, by His death, its awful significance; and the crisis
of His passion was the birthday of the Christian economy. At this date
the 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 His
disciples the meaning of His wonderful career. He is represented as
saying to them--"Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to
suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and
remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations,
_beginning at Jerusalem_." [51:2] The inspired narratives of the
teaching and miracles of our Lord are emphatically corroborated by the
fact, that a large Christian Church was established, almost immediately
after His decease, in the metropolis of Palestine. The Sanhedrim and the
Roman governor had concurred in His condemnation; and, on the night of
His trial, even the intrepid Peter had been so intimidated that he had
been tempted to curse and to swear as he averred that he knew not "The
Man." It might have been expected that the death of Jesus would have
been followed by a reign of terror, and that no attempt would have been
made, at least in the place where the civil and ecclesiastical
authorities resided, to assert the Divine mission of Him whom they had
crucified as a malefactor. But perfect love casteth out fear. In the
very city where He had suffered, and a few days after His passion, His
disciples ventured in the most public manner to declare His innocence
and to proclaim Him as the Messiah. The result of their appeal is as
wonderful as its boldness. Though the imminent peril of confessing
Christ was well known, such was the strength of their convictions that
multitudes resolved, at all hazards, to enrol themselves among His
followers. The success which accompanied the preaching of the apostolic
missionaries at the feast of Pentecost was a sign and a pledge of their
future triumphs, for "the same day there were added unto them about
three thousand souls." [52:1]

The disinterested behaviour of the converts betokened their intense
earnestness. "All that believed were together and had all things common,
and sold their possessions and goods and parted them to all men, as
every man had need." [52:2] These early disciples were not, indeed,
required, as a term of communion, to deposit their property in a common
stock-purse; but, in the overflowings of their first love, they
spontaneously adopted the arrangement. On the part of the more opulent
members of the community residing in a place which was the stronghold of
Jewish prejudice and influence, this course was, perhaps, as prudent as
it was generous. By joining a proscribed sect they put their lives, as
well as their wealth, into jeopardy; but, by the sale of their effects,
they displayed a spirit of self-sacrifice which must have astonished and
confounded their adversaries. They thus anticipated all attempts at
spoliation, and gave a proof of their readiness to submit to any
suffering for the cause which they had espoused. An inheritance, when
turned into money, could not be easily sequestered; and those who were
in want could obtain assistance out of the secreted treasure. Still,
even at this period, the principle of a community of goods was not
carried out into universal operation; for the foreign Jews who were now
converted to the faith, and who were "possessors of lands or houses"
[53:1] in distant countries, could neither have found purchasers, nor
negotiated transfers, in the holy city. The first sales must obviously
have been confined to those members of the Church who were owners of
property in Jerusalem and its neighbourhood.

The system of having all things common was suggested in a crisis of
apparently extreme peril, so that it was only a temporary expedient; and
it is evident that it was soon given up altogether, as unsuited to the
ordinary circumstances of the Christian Church. But though, in a short
time, the disciples in general were left to depend on their own
resources, the community continued to provide a fund for the help of the
infirm and the destitute. At an early period complaints were made
respecting the distribution of this charity, and we are told that "there
arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews because their
widows were neglected in the daily ministration." [53:2] The _Grecians_,
or those converts from Judaism who used the Greek language, were
generally of foreign birth; and as the _Hebrews_, or the brethren who
spoke the vernacular tongue of Palestine, were natives of the country,
there were, perhaps, suspicions that local influence secured for their
poor an undue share of the public bounty. The expedient employed for the
removal of this "root of bitterness" seems to have been completely
successful. "The twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them
and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God and
serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of
honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint
over this business." [54:1]

Had the apostles been anxious for power they would themselves have
nominated the deacons. They might have urged, too, a very plausible
apology for here venturing upon an exercise of patronage. They might
have pleaded that the disciples were dissatisfied with each other--that
the excitement of a popular election was fitted to increase this feeling
of alienation--and that, under such circumstances, prudence required
them to take upon themselves the responsibility of the appointment. But
they were guided by a higher wisdom; and their conduct is a model for
the imitation of ecclesiastical rulers in all succeeding generations. It
was the will of the Great Lawgiver that His Church should possess a free
constitution; and accordingly, at the very outset, its members were
intrusted with the privilege of self-government. The community had
already 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 of
their money transactions. But, whilst the Twelve, on this occasion,
appealed to the suffrages of the Brotherhood, they reserved to
themselves the right of confirming the election; and they might, by
withholding ordination, have refused to fiat an improper appointment.
Happily no such difficulty occurred. In compliance with the instructions
addressed to them, the multitude chose seven of their number "whom they
set before the apostles, and, when they had prayed, they laid their
hands on them." [54:3]

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

The martyrdom of Stephen appears to have occurred about three years and
a half after the death of our Lord. [55:3] Daniel had foretold that the
Messiah would "confirm the covenant with many _for one week_" [55:4]--an
announcement which has been understood to indicate that, at the time of
his manifestation, the gospel would be preached with much success among
his countrymen _for seven years_--and if the prophetic week commenced
with the ministry of John the Baptist, it probably terminated with this
bloody tragedy. [56:1] The Christian cause had hitherto prospered in
Jerusalem, and there are good grounds for believing that, mean while, it
had also made considerable progress throughout all Palestine; but, at
this date, it is suddenly arrested in its career of advancement. The
Jewish multitude begin to regard it with aversion; and the Roman
governor discovers that he may, at any time, obtain the tribute of their
applause by oppressing its ablest and most fearless advocates.

After His resurrection our Lord commanded the apostles to go and "teach
_all nations_" [56:2] and yet years rolled away before they turned their
thoughts towards the evangelisation of the Gentiles. The Jewish mind was
slow to apprehend such an idea, for the posterity of Abraham had been
long accustomed to regard themselves as the exclusive heirs of divine
privileges; but the remarkable development of the kingdom of God
gradually led them to entertain more enlarged and more liberal
sentiments. The progress of the gospel in Samaria, immediately after the
death of Stephen, demonstrated that the blessings of the new
dispensation were not to be confined to God's ancient people. Though
many of the Samaritans acknowledged the divine authority of the writings
of Moses, they did not belong to the Church of Israel; and between them
and the Jews a bitter antipathy had hitherto existed. When Philip
appeared among them, and preached Jesus as the promised Messiah, they
listened most attentively to his appeals, and not a few of them gladly
received Christian baptism. [57:1] It could now no longer be said that
the Jews had "no dealings with the Samaritans," [57:2] for the gospel
gathered 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 arose
after the martyrdom of Stephen, the apostles still kept their post in
the Jewish capital; [57:3] for Christ had instructed them to begin their
ministry in that place: [57:4] and they perhaps conceived that, until
authorised by some further intimation, they were bound to remain at
Jerusalem. But the conversion of the Samaritans must have reminded them
that the sphere of their labours was more extensive. Our Lord had said
to them--"Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all
Judea, and in Samaria, and _unto the uttermost part of the earth,_"
[57:5] and events, which were now passing before their view, were
continually throwing additional light upon the meaning of this
announcement. The baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch, [57:6] about this
period, was calculated to enlarge their ideas; and the baptism of
Cornelius pointed out, still more distinctly, the wide range of their
evangelical commission. The minuteness with which the case of the devout
centurion is described is a proof of its importance as connected with
this transition-stage in the history of the Church. He had before known
nothing of Peter; and, when they met at Caesarea, each could testify
that he had been prepared for the interview by a special revelation from
heaven. [57:7] Cornelius was "a centurion of the band called the Italian
band" [57:8]--he was a representative of that military power which then
ruled the world--and, in his baptism, we see the Roman Empire
presenting, on the altar of Christianity, the first-fruits of the

It was not, however, very obvious, from any of the cases already
enumerated, that the salvation of Christ was designed for all classes
and conditions of the human family. The Samaritans did not, indeed,
worship at Jerusalem, but they claimed some interest in "the promises
made unto the fathers;" and they conformed to many of the rites of
Judaism. It does not appear that the Ethiopian eunuch was of the seed of
Abraham; but he acknowledged the inspiration of the Old Testament, and
he was disposed, at least to a certain extent, to observe its
institutions. Even the Roman centurion was what has been called a
_proselyte of the gate_, that is, he professed the Jewish theology--"he
feared God with all his house" [58:1]--though he had not received
circumcision, and had not been admitted into the congregation of Israel.
But the time was approaching when the Church was to burst forth beyond
the barriers within which it had been hitherto inclosed, and an
individual now appeared upon the scene who was to be the leader of this
new movement. He is "a citizen of no mean city" [58:2]--a native of
Tarsus in Cilicia, a place famous for its educational institutes
[58:3]--and he is known, by way of distinction, as "an apostle of _the
nations_." [58:4]

The apostles were at first sent only to their own countrymen; [58:5] and
we have seen that, for some time after our Lord's death, they do not
appear to have contemplated any more comprehensive mission. When Peter
called on the disciples to appoint a successor to Judas, he seems to
have acted under the conviction that the company of the Twelve must
still be maintained in its integrity, and that its numbers must still
exactly correspond to the number of the tribes of Israel. But the Jews,
after the death of Stephen, evinced an increasing aversion to the
gospel; and as the apostles were eventually induced to direct their
views elsewhere, they were, of course, also led to abandon an
arrangement which had a special reference to the sectional divisions of
the chosen people. Meanwhile, too, the management of ecclesiastical
affairs had partially fallen into other hands; new missions, in which
the Twelve had no share, had been undertaken; and Paul henceforth
becomes most conspicuous and successful in extending and organising the

Paul describes himself as "one born out of due time." [59:1] He was
converted to Christianity when his countrymen seemed about to be
consigned 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 his
native city Tarsus he had probably received a good elementary education,
and afterwards, "at the feet of Gamaliel," [59:3] in Jerusalem, he
enjoyed the tuition of a Rabbi of unrivalled celebrity. The apostle of
the Gentiles had much the same religious experience as the father of the
German Reformation; for as Luther, before he understood the doctrine of
a free salvation, attempted to earn a title to heaven by the austerities
of monastic discipline, so Paul in early life was "taught according to
the perfect manner of the law of the fathers," [59:4] and "after the
strictest sect of his religion lived a Pharisee." [59:5] His zeal led
him to become a persecutor; and when Stephen was stoned, the witnesses,
who were required to take part in the execution, prepared themselves for
the work of death, by laying down their upper garments at the feet of
the "young man" Saul. [59:6] He had established himself in the
confidence of the Sanhedrim, and he appears to have been a member of
that influential judicatory, for he tells us that he "shut up many of
the saints in prison," and that, when they were put to death, "he gave
his voice, or his _vote_, [60:1] against them"--a statement implying
that he belonged to the court which pronounced the sentence of
condemnation. As he was travelling to Damascus armed with authority to
seize any of the disciples whom he discovered in that city, and to
convey them bound to Jerusalem, [60:2] the Lord appeared to him in the
way, and he was suddenly converted. [60:3] After reaching the end of his
journey, and boldly proclaiming his attachment to the party he had been
so recently endeavouring to exterminate, he retired into Arabia, [60:4]
where he appears to have spent three years in the devout study of the
Christian theology. He then returned to Damascus, and entered, about
A.D. 37, [60:5] on those missionary labours which he prosecuted with so
much efficiency and perseverance for upwards of a quarter of a century.

Paul declares that he derived a knowledge of the gospel immediately from
Christ; [60:6] and though, for many years, he had very little
intercourse with the Twelve, he avers that he was "not a whit behind the
very chiefest apostles." [60:7] Throughout life he was associated, not
with them, but with others as his fellow-labourers; and he obviously
occupied a distinct and independent position. When he was baptized, the
ordinance was administered by an individual who is not previously
mentioned in the New Testament, [61:1] and when he was separated to the
work to which the Lord had called him, [61:2] the ordainers were
"prophets and teachers," respecting whose own call to the ministry the
inspired historian supplies us with no information. But it may fairly be
presumed that they were regularly introduced into the places which they
are represented as occupying; they are all described by the evangelist
as receiving the same special instructions from heaven; and the
tradition that, at least some of them, were of the number of the
Seventy, [61:3] is exceedingly probable. And if, as has already been
suggested, the mission of the Seventy indicated the design of our
Saviour to diffuse the gospel all over the world, we can see a peculiar
propriety in the arrangement that Paul was ushered into the Church under
the auspices of these ministers. [61:4] It was most fitting that he who
was to be, by way of eminence, the apostle of the Gentiles, was baptized
and ordained by men whose own appointment was intended to symbolise the
catholic spirit of Christianity.

In the treatment of Paul by his unbelieving countrymen we have a most
melancholy illustration of the recklessness of religious bigotry. These
Jews must have known that, in as far as secular considerations were
concerned, he had everything to lose by turning into "the way which they
called heresy;" they were bound to acknowledge that, by connecting
himself with an odious sect, he at least demonstrated his sincerity and
self-denial; but they were so exasperated by his zeal that they "took
counsel to kill him." [62:1] When, after his sojourn in Arabia, he
returned to Damascus that city was in the hands of Aretas, the king of
Arabia Petraea; [62:2] who seems to have contrived to gain possession of
it during the confusion which immediately followed the death of the
Emperor Tiberius. This petty sovereign courted the favour of the Jewish
portion of the population by permitting them to persecute the disciples;
[62:3] and the apostle, at this crisis, would have fallen a victim to
their malignity had not his friends let him down "through a window, in a
basket, by the wall," [62:4] and thus enabled him to escape a premature
martyrdom. He now repaired to Jerusalem, where the brethren do not
appear to have heard of his conversion, and where they at first refused
to acknowledge him as a member of their society; [62:5] for he had been
obliged to leave Damascus with so much precipitation that he had brought
with him no commendatory letters; but Barnabas, who is said to have been
his school-fellow, [62:6] and who had in some way obtained information
respecting his subsequent career, made the leaders of the Mother Church
acquainted with the wonderful change which had taken place in his
sentiments and character, and induced them to admit him to fellowship.
During this visit to the holy city, while he prayed in the temple, he
was more fully instructed respecting his future destination. In a
trance, he saw Jesus, who said to him--"Depart, for I will send thee
_far hence unto the Gentiles_." [62:7] Even had he not received this
intimation, the murderous hostility of the Jews would have obliged him
to retire. "When he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and
disputed against the Grecians, they went about to slay him--which, when
the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth
to Tarsus." [63:1]

The apostle now laboured for some years as a missionary in "the regions
of Syria and Cilicia." [63:2] His native city and its neighbourhood
probably enjoyed a large share of his ministrations, and his exertions
seem to have been attended with much success, for, soon afterwards, the
converts in these districts attract particular notice. [63:3] Meanwhile
the gospel was making rapid progress in the Syrian capital, and as Saul
was considered eminently qualified for conducting the mission in that
place, he was induced to proceed thither. "Then," says the sacred
historian, "Barnabas departed to Tarsus to seek Saul, and when he had
found him he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass that a whole
year 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 the
development of Christianity. Antioch was a great commercial mart with a
large Jewish, as well as Gentile, population; it was virtually the
capital of the Roman Empire in the East--being the residence of the
president, or governor, of Syria; its climate was delightful; and its
citizens, enriched by trade, were noted for their gaiety and
voluptuousness. In this flourishing metropolis many proselytes from
heathenism were to be found in the synagogues of the Greek-speaking
Jews, and the gospel soon made rapid progress among these Hellenists.
"Some of them (which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that
arose about Stephen) were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which when they were
come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, [64:1] preaching the Lord
Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number
believed and turned unto the Lord." [64:2] The followers of Jesus at
this time received a new designation. They had hitherto called
themselves "brethren" or "disciples" or "believers," but now they "were
called Christians" by some of the inhabitants of the Syrian capital. As
the unconverted Jews did not admit that Jesus was the Christ they were
obviously not the authors of this appellation, and, in contempt, they
probably styled the party Nazarenes or Galileans; but it is easy to
understand how the name was suggested to the Pagans as most descriptive
and appropriate. No one could be long in company with the new
religionists without perceiving that Christ was "the end of their
conversation." They delighted to tell of His mighty miracles, of His
holy life, of the extraordinary circumstances which accompanied His
death, of His resurrection and ascension. Out of the fulness of their
hearts they discoursed of His condescension and His meekness, of His
wonderful wisdom, of His sublime theology, and of His unutterable love
to a world lying in wickedness. When they prayed, they prayed to Christ;
when they sang, they sang praise to Christ; when they preached, they
preached Christ. Well then might the heathen multitude agree with one
voice to call them _Christians_. The inventor of the title may have
meant it as a nickname, but if so, He who overruled the waywardness of
Pilate so that he wrote on the cross a faithful inscription, [65:1] also
caused this mocker of His servants to stumble on a most truthful and
complimentary designation.

From his first appearance in Antioch Paul seems to have occupied a very
influential position among his brethren. In that refined and opulent
city his learning, his dialectic skill, his prudence, and his pious
ardour were all calculated to make his ministry most effective. About a
year after his arrival there, he was deputed, in company with a friend,
to visit Palestine on an errand of love. "In those days came prophets
from Jerusalem unto Antioch. And there stood up one of them, named
Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth
throughout all the world; which came to pass in the days of Claudius
Caesar. Then the disciples, every man according to his ability,
determined to send relief to the brethren which dwelt in Judea. Which
also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and
Saul." [65:2]

This narrative attests that the principle of a community of goods was
not recognised in the Church of Antioch, for the aid administered was
supplied, not out of a general fund, but by "every man according to his
ability." There was here no "murmuring of the Grecians against the
Hebrews," as, in the spirit of true brotherhood, the wealthy Hellenists
of Antioch cheerfully contributed to the relief of the poor Hebrews of
their fatherland. It does not appear that "the elders" in whose hands
the money was deposited, were all office-bearers connected with the
Church of Jerusalem. These would, of course, receive no small share of
the donations, but as the assistance was designed for the "brethren
which dwelt _in Judea_," and not merely for the disciples in the holy
city, we may infer that it was distributed among the elders of all the
Churches now scattered over the southern part of Palestine. [66:1]
Neither would Barnabas and Paul require to make a tour throughout the
district to visit these various communities. All the elders of Judea
still continued to observe the Mosaic law, and as the deputies from
Antioch were in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover, [66:2] they would
find their brethren in attendance upon the festival.

It is reported by several ancient writers that the apostles were
instructed to remain at Jerusalem for twelve years after the crucifixion
of our Lord, [66:3] and if the tradition is correct, the holy city
continued to be their stated residence until shortly before the period
of the arrival of these deputies from the Syrian capital. The time of
this visit can be pretty accurately ascertained, and there is perhaps no
point connected with the history of the book of the Acts respecting
which there is such a close approximation to unanimity amongst
chronologists; for, as Josephus notices [66:4] both the sudden death of
Herod 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 and
Saul must have reached Jerusalem about A.D. 44. [66:6] At this juncture
at least two of the apostles, James the brother of John, and Peter, were
in the Jewish capital; and it is probable that all the rest had not yet
finally taken their departure. The Twelve, it would seem, did not set
out on distant missions until they were thoroughly convinced that they
had ceased to make progress in the conversion of their countrymen in the
land of their fathers. And it is no trivial evidence, at once of the
strength of their convictions, and of the truth of the evangelical
history, that they continued so long and so efficiently to proclaim the
gospel in the chief city of Palestine. Had they not acted under an
overwhelming sense of duty, they would not have remained in a place
where their lives were in perpetual jeopardy; and had they not been
faithful witnesses, they could not have induced so many, of all classes
of society, to believe statements which, if unfounded, could have been
easily contradicted on the spot. The apostles must have been known to
many in Jerusalem as the companions of our Lord; for, during His public
ministry, they had often been seen with Him in the city and the temple;
and it was to be, therefore, expected, that peculiar importance would be
attached to their testimony respecting His doctrines and His miracles.
Their preaching in the head-quarters of Judaism was fitted to exert an
immense influence, as that metropolis itself contained a vast
population, and as it was, besides, the resort of strangers from all
parts of the world. And so long as the apostles ministered in Jerusalem
or in Palestine only to the house of Israel, it was expedient that their
number, which was an index of the Divine regard for the whole of the
twelve tribes, should be maintained in its integrity. But when, after
preaching twelve years among their countrymen at home, they found their
labours becoming comparatively barren; and when, driven by persecution
from Judea, they proceeded on distant missions, their position was quite
altered. Their number had now at least partially [67:1] lost its
original significance; and hence, when an apostle died, the survivors no
longer deemed it necessary to take steps for the appointment of a
successor. We find accordingly that when Herod "killed James, the
brother of John, with the sword," [68:1] no other individual was
selected to occupy the vacant apostleship.

It has been already stated that when Paul appeared in Jerusalem for the
first time after his conversion, he received, when praying in the
temple, a divine communication informing him of his mission to the
heathen. [68:2] It would seem that, during his present visit, as the
bearer of the contributions from Antioch, he was favoured with another
revelation. In his Second Epistle to the Corinthians he apparently
refers to this most comfortable, yet mysterious, manifestation. "I
know," [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, I
cannot tell; God knoweth) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And
I know such a man (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot
tell; God knoweth) that he was caught up into paradise, and heard
unspeakable words which it is not lawful for man to utter." [68:5] The
present position of the apostle explains the design of this sublime and
delightful vision. As Moses was encouraged to undertake the deliverance
of 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 Lord
of hosts, when he saw Jehovah sitting upon His throne attended by the
seraphim, [68:7] so Paul was stirred up by an equally impressive
revelation to gird himself for the labours of a new appointment. He was
about to commence a more extensive missionary career, and before
entering upon so great and so perilous an undertaking, the King of kings
condescended to encourage him by admitting him to a gracious audience,
and by permitting him to enjoy some glimpses of the glory of those
realms of light where "they that be wise shall shine as the brightness
of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars
for ever and ever."



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

Soon after returning from Jerusalem to Antioch, Paul was formally
invested with his new commission. His fellow-deputy, Barnabas, was
appointed, as his coadjutor, in this important service. "Now," says the
evangelist, "there were in the church that was at Antioch certain
prophets and teachers, as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger,
and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod
the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the
Holy Ghost said--Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I
have called them. And when they had fasted, and prayed, and laid their
hands on them, they sent them away." [70:1]

Ten years had now elapsed since the conversion of Paul; and during the
greater part of this period, he had been busily engaged in the
dissemination of the gospel. In the days of his Judaism the learned
Pharisee had, no doubt, been accustomed to act as a teacher in the
synagogues, and, when he became obedient to the faith, he was permitted,
as a matter of course, to expound his new theology in the Christian
assemblies. Barnabas, his companion, was a Levite; [70:2] and as his
tribe was specially charged with the duty of public instruction, [71:1]
he too had probably been a preacher before his conversion. Both these
men had been called of God to labour as evangelists, and the Head of the
Church had already abundantly honoured their ministrations; but hitherto
neither of them seems to have been clothed with pastoral authority by
any regular ordination. Their constant presence in Antioch was now no
longer necessary, so that they were thus left at liberty to prosecute
their missionary operations in the great field of heathendom; and at
this juncture it was deemed necessary to designate them, in due form, to
their "ministry and apostleship." "The Holy Ghost said--Separate me
Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them." When we
consider the present circumstances of these two brethren, we may see,
not only why these instructions were given, but also why their
observance has been so distinctly registered.

It is apparent that Barnabas and Saul were now called to a position of
higher responsibility than that which they had previously occupied. They
had heretofore acted simply as preachers of the Christian doctrine.
Prompted by love to their common Master, and by a sense of individual
obligation, they had endeavoured to diffuse all around them a knowledge
of the Redeemer. They taught in the name of Jesus, just because they
possessed the gifts and the graces required for such a service; and, as
their labours were acknowledged of God, they were encouraged to
persevere. But they were now to go forth as a solemn deputation, under
the sanction of the Church, and not only to proclaim the truth, but also
to baptize converts, to organise Christian congregations, and to ordain
Christian 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 Paul
should be thus inaugurated. Though the apostles had been lately driven
from Jerusalem, and though the Jews were exhibiting increasing aversion
to the gospel, the Church was, notwithstanding, about to expand with
extraordinary vigour by the ingathering of the Gentiles. In reference to
these new members Paul and Barnabas pursued a bold and independent
course, advocating views which many regarded as dangerous,
latitudinarian, and profane; for they maintained that the ceremonial law
was not binding on the converts from heathenism. Their adoption of this
principle exposed them to much suspicion and obloquy; and because of the
tenacity with which they persisted in its vindication, not a few were
disposed to question their credentials as expositors of the Christian
faith. It was, therefore, expedient that their right to perform all the
apostolic functions should be placed above challenge. In some way, which
is not particularly described, their appointment by the Spirit of God
was accordingly made known to the Church at Antioch, and thus all the
remaining prophets and teachers, who officiated there, were warranted to
testify that these two brethren had received a call from heaven to
engage in the work to which they were now designated. Their ordination,
in obedience to this divine communication, was a decisive recognition of
their spiritual authority. The Holy Ghost had attested their commission,
and the ministers of Antioch, by the laying on of hands, set their seal
to the truth of the oracle. Their title to act as founders of the Church
was thus authenticated by evidence which could not be legitimately
disputed. Paul himself obviously attached considerable importance to
this transaction, and he afterwards refers to it in language of marked
emphasis, when, in the beginning of the Epistle to the Romans, he
introduces himself as "a servant of Jesus Christ, _called_ to be an
apostle, _separated unto the gospel of God_." [71:1]

In the circumstantial record of this proceeding, to be found in the Acts
of the Apostles, we have a proof of the wisdom of the Author of
Revelation. He foresaw that the rite of "the laying on of hands" would
be sadly abused; that it would be represented as possessing something
like a magic potency; and that it would be at length converted, by a
small class of ministers, into an ecclesiastical monopoly. He has,
therefore, supplied us with an antidote against delusion by permitting
us, in this simple narrative, to scan its exact import. And what was the
virtue of the ordination here described? Did it furnish Paul and
Barnabas with a title to the ministry? Not at all. God himself had
already called them to the work, and they could receive no higher
authorisation. Did it necessarily add anything to the eloquence, or the
prudence, or the knowledge, or the piety, of the missionaries? No
results of the kind could be produced by any such ceremony. What then
was its meaning? The evangelist himself furnishes an answer. The Holy
Ghost required that Barnabas and Saul should be _separated_ to the work
to which the Lord had called them, and the laying on of hands was the
_mode_, or _form_, in which they were set apart, or designated, to the
office. This rite, to an Israelite, suggested grave and hallowed
associations. When a Jewish father invoked a benediction on any of his
family, he laid his hand upon the head of the child; [73:1] when a
Jewish priest devoted an animal in sacrifice, he laid his hand upon the
head of the victim; [73:2] and when a Jewish ruler invested another with
office, he laid his hand upon the head of the new functionary. [73:3]
The ordination of these brethren possessed all this significance. By the
laying on of hands the ministers of Antioch implored a blessing on
Barnabas and Saul, and announced their separation, or dedication, to the
work of the gospel, and intimated their investiture with ecclesiastical

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

If the narrative of Luke was designed to illustrate the question of
ministerial ordination, it plainly suggests that the power of Church
rulers is very circumscribed. They have no right to refuse the laying on
of hands to those whom God has called to the work of the gospel, and
who, by their gifts and graces, give credible evidences of their holy
vocation; and they are not at liberty to admit the irreligious or
incompetent to ecclesiastical offices. In the sight of the Most High the
ordination to the pastorate of an individual morally and mentally
disqualified is invalid and impious.

Immediately after their ordination Paul and Barnabas entered on their
apostolic mission. Leaving Antioch they quickly reached Seleucia
[75:1]--a city distant about twelve miles--and from thence passed on to
Cyprus, [75:2] the native country of Barnabas. [75:3] They probably
spent a considerable time in that large island. It contained several
towns of note; it was the residence of great numbers of Jews; and the
degraded state of its heathen inhabitants may be inferred from the fact
that Venus was their tutelary goddess. The preaching of the apostles in
this place appears to have created an immense sensation; their fame at
length attracted the attention of persons of the highest distinction;
and the heart of Paul was cheered by the accession of no less
illustrious 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 of
Barnabas, by whom they had been hitherto accompanied, refused to proceed
further. He seems to have been intimidated by the prospect of
accumulating difficulties. From many, on religious grounds, they had
reason to anticipate a most discouraging reception; and the land journey
now 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 the
highlands of Asia Minor were infested with banditti, and the mountain
streams often rose with frightful rapidity, and swept away the unwary
stranger. John Mark now returned to Jerusalem, and, at a subsequent
period, we find Paul refusing, in consequence, to receive him as a
travelling companion. [76:1] But though Barnabas was then dissatisfied
because the apostle continued to be distrustful of his relative, and
though "the contention was so sharp" between these two eminent heralds
of the cross that "they departed asunder one from the other," [76:2] the
return of this young minister from Perga appears to have led to no
change in their present arrangements. Continuing their journey into the
interior of the country, they now preached in Antioch of Pisidia, in
Iconium, in "Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia," and in "the region
that lieth round about." [76:3] When they had proceeded thus far, they
began to retrace their steps, and again visited the places where they
had previously succeeded in collecting congregations. They now supplied
their converts with a settled ministry. When they had presided in every
church at an appointment of elders, [76:4] in which the choice was
determined by popular suffrage, [76:5] and when they had prayed with
fasting, they laid their hands on the elected office-bearers, and in
this form "commended them to the Lord on whom they believed." Having
thus planted the gospel in many districts which had never before been
trodden by the feet of a Christian missionary, they returned to Antioch
in Syria to rehearse "all that God had done with them, and how he had
opened 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 and
permanent influence, remained long in particular localities. The account
of their designation, and of their labours in Cyprus, Pamphylia,
Lycaonia, and the surrounding regions, occupies two whole chapters of
the Acts of the Apostles. The importance of their mission may be
estimated from this lengthened notice. Christianity now greatly extended
its base of operations, and shook paganism in some of its strongholds.
In every place which they visited, the apostles observed a uniform plan
of procedure. In the first instance, they made their appeal to the seed
of Abraham; as they were themselves learned Israelites, they were
generally permitted, on their arrival in a town, to set forth the claims
of Jesus of Nazareth in the synagogue; and it was not until the Jews had
exhibited a spirit of unbelief, that they turned to the heathen
population. In the end, by far the majority of their converts were
reclaimed idolaters. "The Gentiles were glad, and glorified the word of
the Lord, and as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed."
[77:1] Astonished at the mighty miracles exhibited by the two
missionaries, the pagans imagined that "the gods" had come down to them
"in the likeness of men;" and at Lystra the priest of Jupiter "brought
oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the
people;" [77:2] but the Jews looked on in sullen incredulity, and kept
alive an active and implacable opposition. At Cyprus, the apostles had
to contend against the craft of a Jewish conjuror; [77:3] at Antioch,
"the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men
of the city, and raised persecution" against them, "and expelled them
out of their coasts;" [77:4] at Iconium, the Jews again "stirred up the
Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren;"
[77:5] and at Lystra, the same parties "persuaded the people, and having
stoned 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 an
indelible impression on the mind of the great apostle, and in the last
of his epistles, written many years afterwards, he refers to them as
among the most formidable he encountered in his perilous career.
Timothy, who at this time must have been a mere boy, appears to have
witnessed some of these ebullitions of Jewish malignity, and to have
marked 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 not
quailed before the terrors of martyrdom. "Thou," says he, "hast fully
known my long-suffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions,
which came unto me at _Antioch_, at _Iconium_, at _Lystra_, what
persecutions I endured, but, out of them all, the Lord delivered me."

The hostile efforts of the Jews did not arrest the gospel in its
triumphant career. The truth prevailed mightily among the Gentiles, and
the great influx of converts began to impart an entirely new aspect to
the Christian community. At first the Church consisted exclusively of
Israelites by birth, and all who entered it still continued to observe
the institutions of Moses. But it was now evident that the number of its
Gentile adherents would soon very much preponderate, and that, ere long,
the keeping of the typical law would become the peculiarity of a small
minority of its members. Many of the converted Jews were by no means
prepared for such an alternative. They prided themselves upon their
divinely-instituted worship; and, misled by the fallacy that whatever is
appointed by God can never become obsolete, they conceived that the
spread of Christianity must be connected with the extension of their
national ceremonies. They accordingly asserted that the commandment
relative to the initiatory ordinance of Judaism was binding upon all
admitted to Christian fellowship. "Certain men which came down from
Judea" to Antioch, "taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be
circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved." [79:1]

Paul was eminently qualified to deal with such errorists. There was a
time when he had valued himself upon his Pharisaic strictness, but when
God revealed to him His glory in the face of Jesus Christ, he was taught
to distinguish between a living faith, and a dead formalism. He still
maintained his social status, as one of the "chosen people," by the
keeping of the law; but he knew that it merely prefigured the great
redemption, and that its types and shadows must quickly disappear before
the light of the gospel. He saw, too, that the arguments urged for
circumcision could also be employed in behalf of all the Levitical
arrangements, [79:2] and that the tendency of the teaching of these "men
which came down from Judea" was to encumber the disciples with the
weight of a superannuated ritual. Nor was this all. The apostle was well
aware that the spirit which animated those Judaising zealots was a
spirit of self-righteousness. When they "taught the brethren and said,
Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, _ye cannot be
saved_" they subverted the doctrine of justification by faith alone.
[79:3] A sinner is saved as soon as he believes on the Lord Jesus
Christ, [79:4] and he requires neither circumcision, nor any other
ordinance, to complete his pardon. Baptism is, indeed, the sign by which
believers solemnly declare their acceptance of the gospel, and the seal
by which God is graciously pleased to recognise them as heirs of the
righteousness of faith; and yet even baptism is not essential to
salvation, for the penitent thief, though unbaptized, was admitted into
paradise. [80:1] But circumcision is no part of Christianity at all; it
does not so much as indicate that the individual who submits to it is a
believer in Jesus. Faith in the Saviour is the only and the perfect way
of justification. "Blessed are all they that put their trust in him,"
[80:2] for Christ will, without fail, conduct to glory all who commit
themselves to His guidance and protection. Those who trust in Him cannot
but 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 the
fountain of sin and misery. But though the way of salvation by faith can
only be spiritually discerned, many seek to make it palpable by
connecting it with certain visible institutions. Faith looks to Jesus as
the only way to heaven; superstition looks to some outward observance,
such as baptism or circumcision, (which is only a finger-post on the
way,) and confounds it with the way itself. Faith is satisfied with a
very simple ritual; superstition wearies itself with the multiplicity of
its minute observances. Faith holds communion with the Saviour in all
His appointments, and rejoices in Him with joy unspeakable; superstition
leans on forms and ceremonies, and is in bondage to these beggarly
elements. No wonder then that the attempt to impose on the converted
Gentiles the rites of both Christianity and Judaism encountered such
resolute opposition. Paul and Barnabas at once withstood its abettors,
and had "no small dissension and disputation with them." [80:3] It was
felt, however, that a matter of such grave importance merited the
consideration of the collective wisdom of the Church, and it was
accordingly agreed to send these two brethren, "and certain other of
them" "to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question."

It is not stated that the Judaising teachers confined their interference
to Antioch, and the subsequent narrative apparently indicates that the
deputation to Jerusalem acted on behalf of all the Churches in Syria and
Cilicia. [81:2] The Christian societies scattered throughout Pamphylia,
Lycaonia, and some other districts of Asia Minor, do not seem to have
been directly concerned in sending forward the commissioners; but as
these 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 in
the Jewish metropolis. [81:3] That assembly approached, perhaps, more
closely than any ecclesiastical convention that has ever since been
held, to the character of a general council. It is pretty clear that its
deliberations must have taken place at the time of one of the great
annual festivals, for, seven or eight years before, the apostles had
commenced their travels as missionaries, and except about the season of
the Passover or of Pentecost, the Syrian deputation could have scarcely
reckoned on finding them in the holy city. It is not said that the
officials who were to be consulted belonged exclusively to Jerusalem.
[81:4] They, not improbably, included the elders throughout Palestine
who usually repaired to the capital to celebrate the national
solemnities. This meeting, therefore, seems to have been constructed on
a broader basis than what a superficial reading of the narrative might
suggest. Amongst its members were the older apostles, as well as
Barnabas and Paul, so that it contained the principal founders of the
Jewish and Gentile Churches: there were also present the elders of
Jerusalem, and deputies from Antioch, that is, the representatives of
the two most extensive and influential Christian societies in existence:
whilst commissioners from the Churches of Syria and Cilicia, and elders
from various districts of the holy land, were, perhaps, likewise in
attendance. The Universal Church was thus fairly represented in this
memorable 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 the
chief city of Judea, that when he "assayed to join himself to the
disciples, they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a
disciple;" [82:3] but now his position was completely changed, and he
was felt to be one of the most influential personages who took part in
the proceedings of this important convention. Some have maintained that
the whole multitude of believers in the Jewish capital deliberated and
voted on the question in dispute, but there is certainly nothing in the
statement of the evangelist to warrant such an inference. It is very
evident that the disciples in the holy city were not prepared to approve
_unanimously_ of the decision which was actually adopted, for we are
told that, long afterwards, they were "all zealous of the law," [83:1]
and that they looked with extreme suspicion on Paul himself, because of
the lax principles, in reference to its obligation, which he was
understood to patronise. [83:2] When he arrived in Jerusalem on this
mission he found there a party determined to insist on the circumcision
of the converts from heathenism; [83:3] he complains of the opposition
he now encountered from these "false brethren unawares brought in;"
[83:4] and, when he returned to Antioch, he was followed by emissaries
from the same bigoted and persevering faction. [83:5] It is quite clear,
then, that the finding of the meeting, mentioned in the fifteenth
chapter of the Acts, _did not please_ all the members of the church of
the 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 of
Judaism, Paul would have recoiled from the discussion of a question of
such delicacy before a promiscuous congregation. The resolution now
agreed upon, when subsequently mentioned, is set forth as the act, not
of 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, they
were obviously the only parties competent to pronounce a deliverance.

Two or three expressions of doubtful import, which occur in connexion
with the history of the meeting, have induced some to infer that all the
members of the Church of Jerusalem were consulted on this occasion. It
is said that "all the _multitude_ kept silence and gave audience to
Barnabas and Paul"; [84:1] that it "pleased the apostles and elders with
the _whole church_ to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch:"
[84:2] and, according to our current text, that the epistle, intrusted
to the care of these commissioners, proceeded from "the apostles and
elders _and brethren_." [84:3] But "the whole church," and "all the
multitude," merely signify _the whole assembly present_, and do not
necessarily imply even a very numerous congregation. [84:4] Some, at
least, of the "certain other" deputies [84:5] sent with Paul and
Barnabas to Jerusalem, were, in all likelihood, disposed to doubt or
dispute their views; as it is not probable that a distracted
constituency 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 thus
designs to intimate that it met the universal approval of the meeting,
including the deputies on both sides. There were prophets, and others
possessed of extraordinary endowments, in the early Church, [84:6] and,
as some of these were, no doubt, at this time in Jerusalem, [84:7] we
can scarcely suppose that they were not permitted to be present in this
deliberative assembly. If we adopt the received reading of the
superscription of the circular letter, [84:8] the "brethren," who are
there distinguished from "the apostles and elders," were, in all
likelihood, these gifted members. [84:9] But, according to the testimony
of the best and most ancient manuscripts, the true reading of the
commencement of this encyclical epistle is, "The apostles _and elders
brethren_." [85:1] As the Syrian deputies were commissioned to consult,
not the general body of Christians at Jerusalem, but the apostles and
elders, this reading, now recognised as genuine by the highest critical
authorities, is sustained by the whole tenor of the narrative. The same
parties who "came together to consider of this matter" also framed the
decree. The apostles and elders brethren were the only individuals
officially concerned in this important transaction. [85:2]

In this council the apostles acted, not as men oracularly pronouncing
the will of the Eternal, but, as ordinary church rulers, proceeding,
after careful inquiry, to adopt the suggestions of an enlightened
judgment. One passage of the Synodical epistle has been supposed to
countenance a different conclusion, for those assembled "to consider of
this matter" are represented as saying to the Syrian and Cilician
Churches--"_It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us_ to lay upon you
no greater burden" [85:3] than the restrictions which are presently
enumerated. But it is to be observed that this is the language of "the
elders brethren," as well as of the apostles, so that it must have been
used by many who made no pretensions to inspiration; and it is apparent
from the context that the council here merely reproduces an argument
against the Judaizers which had been always felt to be irresistible. The
Gentiles had received the Spirit "by the hearing of faith," [86:1] and
not by the ordinance of circumcision; and hence it was contended that
the Holy Ghost himself had decided the question. Peter, therefore, says
to the meeting held at Jerusalem--"God, which knoweth the hearts, bare
them witness, _giving them the Holy Ghost_, even as he did unto us; and
put 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 the
disciples, which neither our fathers, nor we, were able to bear?" [86:2]
He had employed the same reasoning long before, in defence of the
baptism of Cornelius and his friends. "The Holy Ghost," said he, "fell
on them.... Forasmuch, then, as God gave them the like gift as he did
unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ,--_what was I that I
could withstand God?_" [86:3] When, then, the members of the council
here declared, "It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us," [86:4] they
thus simply intimated that they were shut up to the arrangement which
they now announced--that God himself, by imparting His Spirit to those
who had not received the rite of circumcision, had already settled the
controversy--and that, as it had seemed good to the Holy Ghost not to
impose 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 Gentiles
demonstrated that they could be sanctified and saved without
circumcision, and whilst the Most High had thus proclaimed their freedom
from the yoke of the Jewish ritual, it is plain that, in regard to this
point, as well as other matters noticed in the letter, the writers speak
as the accredited _interpreters_ of the will of Jehovah. They state that
it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to them to require the converts
from 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 themselves
warranted to give such instructions in such language, for surely they
were 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 equal
confidence as to the duty of the disciples under present circumstances
to abstain from blood, and from things strangled, and from meats offered
to idols. If they possessed "the full assurance of understanding" as to
the course to be pursued, they doubtless deemed it right to signify to
their correspondents that the decision which they now promulgated was,
not any arbitrary or hasty deliverance, but the very "mind of the
Spirit" either expressly communicated in the Word, or deduced from it by
good and necessary inference. In this way they aimed to reach the
conscience, and they knew that they thus furnished the most potential
argument for submission.

It may at first sight appear strange that whilst the apostles, and those
who acted with them at this meeting, condemned the doctrine of the
Judaizers, and affirmed that circumcision was not obligatory on the
Gentiles, they, at the same time, required the converts from paganism to
observe a part of the Hebrew ritual; and it may seem quite as
extraordinary that, in a letter which was the fruit of so much
deliberation, they placed an immoral act, and a number of merely
ceremonial usages, in the same catalogue. But, on mature reflection, we
may recognise their tact and Christian prudence in these features of
their communication. Fornication was one of the crying sins of
Gentilism, and, except when it interfered with social arrangements, the
heathen did not even acknowledge its criminality. When, therefore, the
new converts were furnished with the welcome intelligence that they were
not 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 flesh
which they were bound to mortify; and it was expedient that, whilst a
vice so prevalent as fornication should be specified, they should be
distinctly warned to beware of its pollutions. For another reason they
were directed to abstain from "meats offered to idols." It often
happened that what had been presented at the shrine of a false god was
afterwards exposed for sale, and the council cautioned the disciples
against partaking of such food, as they might thus appear to give a
species of sanction to idolatry, as well as tempt weak brethren to go a
step further, and directly countenance the superstitions of the heathen
worship. [88:1] The meeting also instructed the faithful in Syria and
Cilicia to abstain from "blood and from things strangled," because the
Jewish converts had been accustomed from infancy to regard aliment of
this description with abhorrence, and they could scarcely be expected to
sit at meat with parties who partook of such dishes. Though the use of
them was lawful, it was, at least for the present, not expedient; and on
the same principle that, whether we eat, or drink, or whatever we do, we
should do all to the glory of God, the Gentile converts were admonished
to remove them from their tables, that no barrier might be raised up in
the way of social or ecclesiastical communion with their brethren of the
seed of Abraham.

It was high time for the authoritative settlement of a question at once
so perplexing and so delicate. It already threatened to create a schism
in the Church; and the agitation, which had commenced before the meeting
of the council, was not immediately quieted. When Peter visited Antioch
shortly afterwards, he at first triumphed so far over his prejudices as
to sit at meat with the converts from paganism; but when certain
sticklers for the law arrived from Jerusalem, "he withdrew, and
separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision." [89:1]
The "decree" of the apostles and elders undoubtedly implied the
lawfulness of eating with the Gentiles, but it contained no express
injunction on the subject, and Peter, who was now about to "go unto the
circumcision," [89:2] and who was, therefore, most anxious to conciliate
the Jews, may have pleaded this technical objection in defence of his
inconsistency. It is said that others, from whom better things might
have been expected, followed his example, "insomuch that Barnabas also
was carried away with their dissimulation." [89:3] But, on this critical
occasion, Paul stood firm; and his bold and energetic remonstrances
appear to have had the effect of preventing a division which must have
been most detrimental to the interests of infant Christianity.



A.D. 52.

After the Council of Jerusalem, the gospel continued its prosperous
career. When Paul had remained for some time at Antioch, where he
returned with the deputation, he set out to visit the Churches of Syria
and Cilicia; and then travelled through Lycaonia, Galatia, and some
other 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-one
years after the crucifixion, Europe was entered, for the first time, by
the Apostle of the Gentiles. Paul commenced his ministry in this new
sphere of labour by announcing the great salvation to the inhabitants of
Philippi, a city of Macedonia, and a Roman colony. [90:2]

Nearly a century before, two powerful factions, contending for the
government of the Roman world, had converted the district now visited
into a theatre of war; immense armies had been here drawn out in hostile
array; and two famous battles, which issued in the overthrow of the
Republic, had been fought in this very neighbourhood. The victor had
rewarded some of his veterans by giving them possessions at Philippi.
The Christian missionary entered, as it were, the suburbs of the great
metropolis of the West, when he made his appearance in this military
colony; for, it had the same privileges as the towns of Italy, [91:1]
and its inhabitants enjoyed the status of Roman citizens. Here he now
originated a spiritual revolution which eventually changed the face of
Europe. The Jews had no synagogue in Philippi; but, in places such as
this, where their numbers were few, they were wont, on the Sabbath, to
meet for worship by the side of some river in which they could
conveniently perform their ablutions; and Paul accordingly repaired to
the banks of the Gangitas, [91:2] where he expected to find them
assembled for devotional exercises. A small oratory, or house of prayer,
seems to have been erected on the spot; but the little society connected
with it must have been particularly apathetic, as the apostle found only
a few females in attendance. One of these was, however, the first-fruits
of his mission to the Western continent. Lydia, a native of Thyatira,
and a seller of purple,--a species of dye for which her birthplace had
acquired celebrity,--was the name of the convert; and though the gospel
may already have made some progress in Rome, it must be admitted that,
in as far as direct historical testimony is concerned, this woman has
the 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 her
conversion is given by the evangelist with remarkable clearness and
simplicity. "The Lord _opened her heart_ that she attended unto the
things that were spoken of Paul." [91:4] When she and her family were
baptized, she entreated the missionaries to "come into her house and
abide there" during their sojourn in the place; and, after some
hesitation, they accepted the proffered hospitality.

Another female acts a conspicuous part in connexion with this apostolic
visit. "It came to pass," says Luke, "as we went to prayer, a certain
damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her
masters much gain by soothsaying: the same followed Paul and us, and
cried, saying, These men are the servants of the Most High God, which
shew 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 discerning
certain classes of future events with the quickness of intuition; [92:2]
and if, as the Scriptures testify, they have sometimes entered into
human bodies, we can well understand how the individuals thus possessed
have obtained credit for divination. In this way the damsel mentioned by
the evangelist may have acquired her celebrity. We cannot explain how
disembodied spirits maintain intercourse; but it is certain that they
possess means of mutual recognition, and that they can be impressed by
the presence of higher and holier intelligences. And as the approach of
a mighty conqueror spreads dismay throughout the territory he invades,
so when the Son of God appeared on earth, the devils were troubled at
His presence, and, in the agony of their terror, proclaimed His dignity.
[92:3] It would appear that some influence of an analogous character
operated on this Pythoness. The arrival of the missionaries in Philippi
alarmed the powers of darkness, and the damsel, under the pressure of an
impulse which she found it impossible to resist, told their commission.
But neither the apostles, nor our Lord, cared for credentials of such
equivocal value. As this female followed the strangers through the
streets, and in a loud voice announced their errand to the city, "Paul,
being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee, in the
name of Jesus Christ, to come out of her, and he came out the same
hour." [93:1]

The unbelieving Jews had hitherto been the great persecutors of the
Church; but now, for the first time, the apostles encountered opposition
from another quarter; and the expulsion of the spirit from the damsel
evoked the hostility of this new adversary. When the masters of the
Pythoness "saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul
and 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 the
pagan emperors. The Jews were prompted by mere bigotry to display hatred
to the gospel--but the Gentiles were generally guided by the still more
ignoble principle of selfishness. Many of the heathen multitude cared
little for their idolatrous worship; but all who depended for
subsistence on the prevalence of superstition, such as the image-makers,
the jugglers, the fortune-tellers, and a considerable number of the
priests, [93:3] were dismayed and driven to desperation by the progress
of Christianity. They saw that, with its success, "the hope of their
gains was gone;" and, under pretence of zeal for the public interest,
and for the maintenance of the "lawful" ceremonies, they laboured to
intimidate and oppress the adherents of the new doctrine.

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

If the proceedings of the missionaries, before their committal to
prison, produced such a ferment, it is clear that the circumstances
attending their incarceration were not calculated to abate the
excitement. It soon appeared that they had sources of enjoyment which no
human authority could either destroy or disturb; for as they lay in the
pitchy darkness of their dungeon with their feet compressed in the
stocks, their hearts overflowed with divine comfort. "At midnight Paul
and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard
them." [94:2] What must have been the wonder of the other inmates of the
jail, as these sounds fell upon their ears! Instead of a cry of distress
issuing from "the inner prison," there was the cheerful voice of
thanksgiving! The apostles rejoiced that they were counted worthy to
suffer in the service of Christ. The King of the Church sympathised with
His oppressed saints, and speedily vouchsafed to them most wonderful
tokens of encouragement. Scarcely had they finished their song of praise
when it was answered by a very significant response, proclaiming that
they were supported by a power which could crush the might of Rome.
"Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the
prison were shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened, and every
one's bands were loosed." [95:1]

It is not improbable that the mind of the jailer had already been ill at
ease. He must have heard of the extraordinary history of the damsel with
the spirit of divination who announced that his prisoners were the
servants of the Most High God, and that they shewed unto men the way of
salvation. Rumour had, perhaps, supplied him with some information in
reference to their doctrines; and during even his short intercourse with
Paul and Silas in the jail, he may have been impressed by much that he
noticed in their spirit and deportment. But he had meanwhile gone to
rest, and he remained asleep until roused by the noise and tremor of the
earthquake. When he awoke and saw "the prison doors open," he was in a
paroxysm of alarm; and concluding that the prisoners had escaped, and
that he might expect to be punished, perhaps capitally, for neglect of
duty, he resolved to anticipate such a fate, and snatched his sword to
commit suicide. At this moment, a voice issuing from the dungeon where
the missionaries were confined, at once dispelled his fears as to the
prisoners, and arrested him almost in the very act of self-murder. "Paul
cried with a loud voice, saying--Do thyself no harm, for we are all
here." [95:2] These words operated on the unhappy man like a shock of
electricity. They instantaneously directed his thoughts into another
channel, and imparted intensity to feelings which, had hitherto been
comparatively dormant. The conviction flashed upon his conscience that
the men whom he had so recently thrust into the inner prison were no
impostors; that they had, as they alleged, authority to treat of matters
infinitely more important than any of the passing interests of time;
that they had, verily, a commission from heaven to teach the way of
eternal salvation; and that he and others, who had taken part in their
imprisonment, had acted most iniquitously. For what now could be more
evident than that the apostles were the servants of the Most High God?
When everything around them was enveloped in the gloom of midnight, they
seemed able to tell what was passing all over the prison. How strange
that, when the jailer was about to kill himself, a voice should issue
from a different apartment saying--Do thyself no harm! How strange that
the very man whose feet, a few hours before, had boon made fast in the
stocks, should now be the giver of this friendly counsel! How remarkable
that, when all the doors were opened, no one attempted to escape! And
how extraordinary that, during the very night on which the apostles were
imprisoned, the bands of all the inmates were loosed, and that the
building was made to rock to its foundations! Did not the earthquake
indicate that He, whom the apostles served, was able to save and to
destroy? Did it not proclaim, trumpet-tongued, that He would surely
punish their persecutors? When the jailer thought on these things, well
might he be paralysed with fear, and believing that the apostles alone
could tell him how he was Lo obtain relief from the anxiety which
oppressed his spirit, it is not strange that "he called for a light, and
sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, and
brought them out, and said--Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" [96:1]

The missionaries were prepared with a decisive reply to this earnest
inquiry, and it is probable that their answer took the jailer by
surprise. He expected, perhaps, to be called upon to do something,
either to propitiate the apostles themselves, or to turn away the wrath
of the God of the apostles. It is obvious, from the spirit which he
manifested, that, to obtain peace of conscience, he was ready to go very
far in the way of self-sacrifice. He may have been willing to part with
his property, or to imperil his life, or to give "the fruit of his body
for the sin of his soul." What, then, must have been his astonishment
when he found that the divine mercy so far transcended anything he could
have possibly anticipated! With what satisfaction must he have listened
to the assurance that an atonement had already been made, and that the
sinner is safe as soon as he lays the hand of faith on the head of the
great Sacrifice! What delight must he have experienced when informed
that unbelief alone could shut him out from heaven; that the Son of God
had died the just for the unjust; and that this almighty Saviour now
waited to be gracious to-himself! How must the words of the apostles
have thrilled through his soul, as he heard them repeating the
invitation-"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 aware
that, by openly embracing the gospel, he exposed himself to considerable
danger, he did not shrink from the position of a confessor. The love of
Christ had obtained full possession of his soul, and he was quite
prepared to suffer in the service of his Divine Master. He took Paul and
Silas "the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes, and was
baptized, he and all his, straightway; and when he had brought them into
his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with
all his house." [98:1]

It is highly probable that the shock of the earthquake was felt beyond
the precincts of the jail, and that the events which had occurred there
had soon been communicated to the city authorities. We can thus best
account for the fact that "when it was day, the magistrates sent the
serjeants saying, Let those men go." [98:2] As it is not stated that the
apostles had previously entered into any vindication of their
conduct, it has been thought singular that they now declined to leave
the prison without receiving an apology for the violation of their
privileges as Roman citizens. But this matter presents no real
difficulty. The magistrates had yielded to the clamour of an infuriated
mob; and, instead of giving Paul and Silas a fair opportunity of defence
or explanation, had summarily consigned them to the custody of the
jailer. These functionaries now seemed prepared to listen to
remonstrance; and Paid deemed it due to himself, and to the interests of
the Christian Church, to complain of the illegal character of the
proceedings from which he had suffered. He had been punished, without a
trial, and scourged, though a Roman citizen. [98:3] Hence, when informed
that the duumviri had given orders for the liberation of himself and his
companion, the apostle exclaimed--"They have beaten us openly
uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison, and now do they
thrust us out privily? Nay, verily, but let them come themselves, and
fetch us out." [98:4] These words, which were immediately reported by the
serjeants, or lictors, inspired the magistrates with apprehension, and
suggested to them the expediency of conciliation. "And they came" to the
prison to the apostles, "and _besought them_, and brought them out, and
desired them to depart out of the city." [99:1] The missionaries did
not, however, leave Philippi until they had another opportunity of
meeting with their converts. "They went out of the prison, and entered
into the house of Lydia, and when they had seen the brethren, they
comforted 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 they
visited. Though they had met with much opposition, their ministry had
been greatly blessed; and, in the end, the magistrates, who had treated
them with much severity, had felt it necessary to apologise. The
extraordinary circumstances accompanying their imprisonment must have
made their case known to the whole body of the citizens, and thus
secured a degree of attention to their preaching which could not have
been otherwise expected. The Church, now established at Philippi,
contained a number of most generous members, and Paul afterwards
gratefully acknowledged the assistance he received from them. "Ye have
well done," said he, "that ye did communicate with my affliction. Now,
ye Philippians, know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I
departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me, as concerning
giving and receiving, but ye only. For, even in Thessalonica, ye sent
once 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 Jewish
synagogue where he was permitted, for three successive Sabbaths, to
address the congregation. His discourses produced a powerful impression;
as some of the seed of Abraham believed, "and, of the devout Greeks, a
great multitude, and of the chief women, not a few." [100:1] The
unbelieving Jews attempted to create annoyance by representing the
missionaries as acting "contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying--that
there is another king, one Jesus;" [100:2] but though they contrived to
trouble "the rulers" [100:3] and to "set all the city in an uproar,"
they could not succeed in preventing the formation of a flourishing
Christian community. Paul appeared next in Berea, and, when reporting
his success here, the sacred historian bears a remarkable testimony to
the right of the laity to judge for themselves as to the meaning of the
Book of Inspiration; for he states that the Jews of this place "were
_more noble_ than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word
with all readiness of mind, and _searched the scriptures daily"_ [101:1]
to ascertain the truth of the apostolic doctrine. Paul now proceeded "to
go as it were to the sea," and soon afterwards arrived at Athens.

The ancient capital of Attica had long been the literary metropolis of
heathendom. Its citizens could boast that they were sprung from a race
of heroes, as their forefathers had nobly struggled for freedom on many
a bloody battlefield, and, by prodigies of valour, had maintained their
independence against all the might of Persia. Minerva, the goddess of
wisdom, was their tutelary deity. The Athenians, from time immemorial,
had been noted for their intellectual elevation; and a brilliant array
of poets, legislators, historians, philosophers, and orators, had
crowned their community with immortal fame. Every spot connected with
their city was classic ground. Here it was that Socrates had discoursed
so sagely; and that Plato had illustrated, with so much felicity and
genius, the precepts of his great master; and that Demosthenes, by
addresses of unrivalled eloquence, had roused and agitated the
assemblies of his countrymen. As the stranger passed through Athens,
artistic productions of superior excellence everywhere met his eye. Its
statues, its public monuments, and its temples, were models alike of
tasteful design and of beautiful workmanship. But there may be much
intellectual culture where there is no spiritual enlightenment, and
Athens, though so far advanced in civilisation and refinement, was one
of the high places of pagan superstition. Amidst the splendour of its
architectural decorations, as well as surrounded with proofs of its
scientific and literary eminence, the apostle mourned over its religious
destitution, and "his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city
wholly given to idolatry." [102:1]

On this new scene Paul exhibited his usual activity and earnestness. "He
disputed in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons,
and in the market daily with them that met with him." [102:2] The
Christian preacher, doubtless, soon became an object of no little
curiosity. He was of diminutive stature; [102:3] he seems to have
laboured under the disadvantages of imperfect vision; [102:4] and his
Palestinian Greek must have sounded harshly in the ears of those who
were accustomed to speak their mother tongue in its Attic purity. But,
though his "bodily presence was weak," [102:5] he speedily convinced
those who came in contact with him, that the frail earthly tabernacle
was the habitation of a master mind; and though mere connoisseurs in
idioms and pronunciation might designate "his speech contemptible,"
[102:6] he riveted the attention of his hearers by the force and
impressiveness of his oratory. The presence of this extraordinary
stranger could not remain long unknown to the Athenian literati; but,
when they entered into conversation with him, some of them were disposed
to ridicule him as an idle talker, whilst others seemed inclined to
denounce him as a dangerous innovator. "Certain philosophers of the
Epicureans and of the Stoics encountered him; and some said--What will
this babbler say? other some--He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange
gods, because he preached unto them Jesus and the resurrection." [102:7]
Upwards of four hundred years before, Socrates had been condemned to
death by the Athenians as "a setter forth of strange gods," [103:1] and
it may be that some of these philosophers hoped to intimidate the
apostle by hinting that he was now open to the same indictment. But it
is very improbable that they seriously contemplated a prosecution; as
they had themselves no faith in the pagan mythology. They were quite
ready to employ their wit to turn the heathen worship into scorn; and
yet they could point out no "more excellent way" of religious service.
In Athens, philosophy had demonstrated its utter impotence to do
anything effective for the reformation of the popular theology; and its
professors had settled down into the conviction that, as the current
superstition exercised an immense influence over the minds of the
multitude it was inexpedient for wise men to withhold from it the
tribute of outward reverence. The discourses of Paul were very far from
complimentary to parties who valued themselves so highly on their
intellectual advancement; for he quietly ignored all their speculations
as so much folly; and, whilst he propounded his own system with the
utmost confidence, he, at the same time, supported it by arguments which
they were determined to reject, but unable to overturn. It is pretty
clear that they were to some extent under the influence of pique and
irritation when they noticed his deviations from the established faith,
and applied to him the epithet of "babbler;" but Paul was not the man to
be put down either by irony or insult; and at length it was found
necessary to allow him a fair opportunity of explaining his principles.
It is accordingly stated that "they took him and brought him unto Mars
Hill 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 often
admired for its tact, vigour, depth, and fidelity. Whilst giving the
Athenians full credit for their devotional feeling, and avoiding any
pointed and sarcastic attack on the absurdities of their religious
ritual, he contrives to present such an outline of the prominent
features of the Christian revelation, as might have convinced any candid
and intelligent auditor of its incomparable superiority, as well to the
doctrines of the philosophers, as to the fables of heathenism. In the
very commencement of his observations he displays no little address. "Ye
men of Athens," said he, "I perceive that, in every point of view, ye
are carrying your religious reverence very far; for, as I passed by, and
observed the objects of your worship, I found an altar with this
inscription--To the unknown God--whom, therefore, ye worship, though ye
know him not, him declare I unto you." [104:1] The existence in this
city of inscriptions, such as that here given, is attested by several
other ancient witnesses [104:2] as well as Paul, and the altars thus
distinguished appear to have been erected when the place was afflicted
by certain strange and unprecedented calamities which the deities,
already recognised, were supposed to be unable to remove. The auditors
of the apostle could not well be dissatisfied with the statement that
they carried their "religious reverence very far;" and yet, perhaps,
they were scarcely prepared for the reference to this altar by which the
observation was illustrated; for the inscription which he quoted
contained a most humiliating confession of their ignorance, and
furnished him with an excellent apology for proposing to act as their
theological instructor.

His discourse, which treats of the Being and Attributes of God, must
have been heard with no ordinary interest by the polite and intelligent
Athenians. Its reasoning is plain, pertinent, and powerful; and whilst
adopting a didactic tone, and avoiding the language and spirit of
controversy, the apostle, in every sentence, comes into direct
collision, either with the errors of polytheism, or the dogmas of the
Grecian philosophy. The Stoics were Pantheists, and held the doctrine of
the eternity of matter; [105:1] whilst the Epicureans maintained that
the universe arose out of a fortuitous concurrence of atoms; [105:2] and
therefore Paul announced his opposition to both these sects when he
declared that "God made the world and all things therein." [105:3] The
Athenians boasted that they were of nobler descent than the rest of
their countrymen; [105:4] and the heathen generally believed that each
nation belonged to a distinct stock and was under the guardianship of
its own peculiar deities; but the apostle affirmed that "God hath made
_of one blood_ all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the
earth." [105:5] The Epicureans asserted that the gods did not interfere
in the concerns of the human family, and that they were destitute of
foreknowledge; but Paul here assured them that the great Creator "giveth
to all life and breath and all things," and "hath determined the times
before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation." [105:6] The
heathen imagined that the gods inhabited their images; but whilst Paul
was ready to acknowledge the excellence, as works of art, of the statues
which he saw all around him, he at the same time distinctly intimated
that these dead pieces of material mechanism could never even faintly
represent the glory of the invisible First Cause, and that they were
unworthy the homage of living and intellectual beings. "As we are the
offspring of God," said he, "we ought not to think that the Godhead is
like 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 I
am that I am, and asserted His authority as the Maker and Preserver of
the world, Paul proceeded to point out his claims as its righteous
Governor. "He hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world
in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath
given assurance unto all men in that he hath raised him from the dead."
[106:2] The pleasure-loving Epicureans refused to believe in a future
state of rewards and punishments; and concurred with the Stoics in
denying the immortality of the soul. [106:3] Both these parties were, of
course, prepared to reject the doctrine of a general judgment. The idea
of the resurrection of the body was quite novel to almost all classes of
the Gentiles; and, when at first propounded to the Athenians, was
received, by many, with doubt, and by some, with ridicule. "When they
heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, and others said, We
will hear thee again of this matter. So Paul departed from among them."

The frivolous spirit cherished by the citizens of the ancient capital of
Attica was exceedingly unfavourable to the progress of the earnest faith
of Christianity. "All the Athenians, and strangers which were there,
spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new
thing." [106:5] Though they had acquired a world-wide reputation for
literary culture, it is an instructive fact that their city continued
for several centuries afterwards to be one of the strongholds of Gentile
superstition. But the labours of Paul at this time were not entirely
unproductive. "Certain men clave unto him and believed, among the which
was Dionysius, the Areopagite, and a woman, named Damaris, and others
with them." [107:1] The court of Areopagus, long the highest judicial
tribunal in the place, had not even yet entirely lost its celebrity; and
the circumstance that Dionysius was connected with it, is a proof that
this Christian convert must have been a respectable and influential
citizen. He appears to have occupied a very high place among the
primitive disciples; and the number of spurious writings ascribed to him
[107:2] shew that his name was deemed a tower of strength to the cause
with which it was associated. He seems to have been long at the head of
the Athenian presbytery; and to have survived his conversion about forty
years, or until the time of the Domitian persecution. [107:3]

From Athens Paul directed his steps to Corinth, where he appears to have
arrived in the autumn of A.D. 52. Nearly two hundred years before, this
city had been completely destroyed; but, after a century of desolation,
it had been rebuilt; and having since rapidly increased, it was now
flourishing and populous. As a place of trade, its position, near an
isthmus of the same name, gave it immense advantages; for it had a
harbour on each side, so that it was the central depôt of the commerce
of the East and West. Its inhabitants valued themselves much upon their
attainments in philosophy and general literature; but, whilst, by
traffic, they had succeeded in acquiring wealth, they had given way to
the temptations of luxury and licentiousness. Corinth was, in fact, at
this time one of the most dissolute cities of the Empire. It was the
capital of the large province of Achaia, and the residence of the Roman

When Paul was at Athens he was led to adapt his style of instruction to
the character of his auditors, and he was thus obliged to occupy much of
his time in discussing the principles of natural religion. He
endeavoured to gain over the citizens by shewing them that their views
of the Godhead could not stand the test of a vigorous and discriminating
logic, and that Christianity alone rested on a sound philosophical
foundation. But the exposition of a pure system of theism had
comparatively little influence on the hearts and consciences of these
system-builders. Considering the time and skill devoted to its culture,
Athens had yielded perhaps less spiritual fruit than any field of labour
on which he had yet operated. When he arrived in Corinth he resolved,
therefore, to avoid, as much as possible, mere metaphysical
argumentation, and he sought rather to stir up sinners to flee from the
wrath to come by pressing home upon them earnestly the peculiar
doctrines of revelation. In the first epistle, addressed subsequently to
the Church now established in this place, he thus describes the spirit
in which he conducted his apostolical ministrations. "And I, brethren,"
says he, "when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of
wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God--for I determined not to
know anything among you save _Jesus Christ and Him crucified_; and my
speech and my preaching was, not with enticing words of man's wisdom,
but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power--that your faith should
not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." [108:1]

The result demonstrated that the apostle thus pursued the most effective
mode of advancing the Christian cause. It might, indeed, have been
thought that Corinth was a very ungenial soil for the gospel, as Venus
was the favourite deity of the place; and a thousand priestesses, or, in
other words, a thousand prostitutes, were employed in the celebration of
her orgies. [109:1] The inhabitants generally were sunk in the very
depths of moral pollution. But the preaching of the Cross produced a
powerful impression even in this hotbed of iniquity. Notwithstanding the
enmity 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 circumstances, and hence the
apostle 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 of
distinction united themselves to the despised community. Thus, it
appears [109:5] that Erastus, the chamberlain, or treasurer, of the
city, was among the disciples. It may be that this civic functionary
joined the Church at a somewhat later date; but, even now, Paul was
encouraged by the accession of some remarkable converts. Of these,
perhaps, the most conspicuous was Crispus, "the chief ruler of the
synagogue," 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 Christian
hospitality, [109:7] openly embraced the gospel. Two other converts, who
are often honourably mentioned in the New Testament, were now likewise
added 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 his
position had he been previously a believer--and we must therefore infer
that the conversion of himself and his excellent partner occurred at
this period.

In this city, as well as in many other places, the apostle supported
himself by the labour of his own hands. It was now customary, even for
Israelites in easy circumstances, to train up their children to some
mechanical employment, so that should they sink into penury, they could
still, by manual industry, procure a livelihood. [110:2] Paul had been
taught the trade of a tent-maker, or manufacturer of awnings of
hair-cloth--articles much used in the East as a protection against the
rays of the sun, by travellers and mariners; It was in connexion with
this 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 thus
they could furnish the apostle with remunerative employment. Whilst
under their roof, he did not neglect the opportunities he enjoyed of
presenting the gospel to their attention, and both soon became his
ardent and energetic coadjutors in missionary service.

The conduct of Paul in working with his own hands, whilst engaged in the
dissemination of the gospel, is a noble example of Christian
self-denial. He could, it appears, expect little assistance from the
mother church of Antioch; and had he, in the first instance, demanded
support from those to whom he now ministered, he would have exposed
himself and his cause to the utmost suspicion. In a commercial city,
such as Corinth, he would have been regarded by many as a mere
adventurer who had resorted to a new species of speculation in the hope
of obtaining a maintenance. His disinterested behaviour placed him at
once beyond the reach of this imputation; and his intense love to Christ
prepared him to make the sacrifice, which the course he thus adopted,
required. And what a proof of the humility of Paul that he cheerfully
laboured for his daily bread at the trade of a tent-maker! The Rabbi who
was once admired for his genius and his learning by the most
distinguished of his countrymen--who had once sat among the members of
the great Sanhedrim--and who might have legitimately aspired to be the
son-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 of
Aquila and Priscilla! How like to Him, who, though He was rich, yet, for
our sakes, became poor, that we, through His poverty, might be rich!

Paul was well aware of the importance of Corinth as a centre of
missionary influence. Strangers from the East passed through it on their
way to Rome, and travellers from the Western metropolis stopped here on
their way to Asia Minor, Palestine, or Syria, so that it was one of the
greatest thoroughfares in the Empire; and, as a commercial mart, it was
second to very few cities in the world. The apostle therefore saw that
if a Church could be firmly planted in this busy capital, it could
scatter the seeds of truth to all the ends of the earth. We may thus
understand why he remained in Corinth so much longer than in any other
place he had yet visited since his departure from Antioch. "He continued
there a year and six months teaching the Word of God among them."
[111:2] He was, too, encouraged by a special communication from Heaven
to prosecute his labours with zeal and diligence. "The Lord spake to
Paul in the night by a vision--Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not
thy peace--for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt
thee, for I have much people in this city." [112:1] Though the ministry
of the apostle was now attended with such remarkable success, his
converts did not all continue to walk worthy of their profession. But if
in the Church of this flourishing mercantile metropolis there were
greater disorders than in perhaps any other of the early Christian
communities, [112:2] the explanation is obvious. Even in a degenerate
age Corinth was notorious for its profligacy; and it would have been
indeed marvellous if excesses had not been occasionally committed by
some of the members of a religious society composed, to a considerable
extent, of reclaimed libertines. [112:3]

The success of the gospel in Corinth roused the unbelieving Jews to
opposition; and here, as elsewhere, they endeavoured to avail themselves
of the aid of the civil power; but, in this instance, their appeal to
the Roman magistrate was signally unsuccessful. Gallio, brother of the
celebrated Seneca the philosopher, was now "the deputy of Achaia;"
[112:4] and when the bigoted and incensed Israelites "made insurrection
with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment-seat,
saying--This fellow persuaded men to worship God _contrary to the
law,_" [112:5] the proconsul turned a deaf ear to the accusation. When
the apostle was about to enter on his defence, Gallio intimated that
such a proceeding was quite unnecessary, as the affair did not come
within the range of his jurisdiction. "If," said he, "it were a matter
of wrong, or wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear
with 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 them
from the judgment-seat." [113:1] On this occasion, for the first time
since the arrival of Paul and his brethren in Europe, the mob was on the
side of the missionaries, and under the very eye of the proconsul, and
without any effort on his part to interfere and arrest their violence,
the most prominent of the plaintiffs was somewhat roughly handled. "Then
all the Greeks took Smoothens, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and
beat him before the judgment-seat. And Gallio cared for none of these
things." [113:2]

When Paul was at Corinth, and probably in A.D. 53, he wrote his two
earliest letters, that is, the First and Second Epistles to the
Thessalonians. These communications must, therefore, have been drawn up
about twelve months after the original formation of the religious
community to which they are addressed. The Thessalonian Church was
already fully organised, as the apostle here points out to the disciples
their duties to those who laboured among them and who were over them in
the Lord. [113:3] In the meantime several errors had gained currency;
and a letter, announcing that the day of Christ was at hand, and
purporting to have been penned by Paul himself, had thrown the brethren
into great consternation. [113:4] The apostle accordingly deemed it
necessary to interpose, and to point out the dangerous character of the
doctrines which had been so industriously promulgated. He now, too,
delivered his famous prophecy announcing the revelation of the "Man of
Sin" before the second coming of the Redeemer. [113:5] Almost all the
members of the Thessalonian Church were probably converted Gentiles,
[113:6] who must still have been but little acquainted with the Jewish
Scriptures; and this is perhaps the reason why there is no quotation
from the Old Testament in either of these letters. Even the Gospels do
not seem to have been yet written, and hence Paul exhorts the brethren
"to hold fast the traditions," or rather "ordinances," [114:1] which
they 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 the
spring of A.D. 54, and embarking at the port of Cenchrea, about eight or
nine miles distant, set sail for Ephesus. The navigation among the
islands of the Greek Archipelago was somewhat intricate; and the voyage
appears to have not unfrequently occupied from ten to fifteen days.
[115:2] At Ephesus Paul "entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with
the Jews." [115:3] His statements produced a favourable impression, and
he was solicited to prolong his visit; but as he was on his way to
Jerusalem, where he was anxious to be present at the approaching feast
of Pentecost, he could only assure them of his intention to return, and
then bid them farewell. He left behind him, however, in this great city
his two Corinthian converts, Aquila and Priscilla, who carried on with
industry and success the work which he had commenced so auspiciously.
Among the first fruits of their pious care for the spread of
Christianity was the famous Apollos, an Alexandrian Jew, who now arrived
in the metropolis of the Proconsular Asia.

The seed of Abraham in the birthplace of Apollos spoke the Greek
language, and were in somewhat peculiar circumstances. They were free
from some of the prejudices of the Jews in Palestine; and, though living
in the midst of a heathen population, had advantages which were enjoyed
by very few of their brethren scattered elsewhere among the Gentiles. At
Alexandria their sumptuous synagogues were unequivocal evidences of
their wealth; they constituted a large and influential section of the
inhabitants; they had much political power; and, whilst their study of
the Greek philosophy had modified their habits of thought, they had
acquired a taste for the cultivation of eloquence and literature.
Apollos, the Jew "born at Alexandria," [116:1] who now became acquainted
with Aquila and Priscilla, was an educated and accomplished man. It is
said that "he was instructed in the way of the Lord, and being fervent
in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord,
knowing only the baptism of John." [116:2] The influence of the
preaching of the Baptist may be estimated from this incidental notice;
for though the forerunner of our Saviour had now finished his career
about a quarter of a century, the Alexandrian Jew was only one of many
still living witnesses to testify that he had not ministered in vain. In
this case John had indeed "prepared the way" of his Master, as, under
the tuition of Aquila and Priscilla, Apollos was led without difficulty
to 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 more
perfectly." [116:3] Priscilla was no less distinguished than her husband
[116:4] for intelligence and zeal; and though she was prevented, as
much, perhaps, by her native modesty, as by the constitution of the
Church, [116:5] from officiating as a public instructor, she was, no
doubt, "apt to teach;" and there must have been something most
interesting and impressive in her private conversation. It is a
remarkable fact that one of the ablest preachers of the apostolic age
was largely indebted to a female for his acquaintance with Christian

The accession, at this juncture, of such a convert as Apollos was of
great importance to the evangelical cause. The Church of Corinth, in the
absence of Paul, much required the services of a minister of superior
ability; and the learned Alexandrian was eminently qualified to promote
its edification. He was "an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures."
[117:1] After sojourning some time at Ephesus, it seems to have occurred
to him that he would have a more extensive sphere of usefulness at
Corinth; and "when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren
wrote exhorting the disciples to receive him." [117:2] It soon appeared
that his friends in Asia had formed no exaggerated idea of his gifts and
acquirements. When he reached the Greek capital, he "helped them much
which 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 of
the hypercritical Corinthians, and tempted them to institute invidious
comparisons between him and their great apostle. Hence in the first
epistle addressed to them, the writer finds it necessary to rebuke them
for their folly and fastidiousness. "While one saith, I am of Paul, and
another, I am of Apollos, are ye," says he, "not carnal? Who then is
Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the
Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave
the increase." [117:4]

When Aquila and Priscilla were at Ephesus expounding "the way of God
more perfectly" to the Jew of Alexandria, Paul was travelling to
Jerusalem. Three years before, he had been there to confer with the
apostles and elders concerning the circumcision of the Gentiles; and he
had not since visited the holy city. His present stay seems to have been
short--apparently not extending beyond a few days at the time of the
feast of Pentecost,--and giving him a very brief opportunity of
intercourse with his brethren of the Jewish capital. He then "went down
to Antioch" [118:1]--a place with which from the commencement of his
missionary career he had been more intimately associated. "After he had
spent some time there, he departed and went over all the country of
Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples." [118:2]
On a former occasion, after he had passed through the same districts, he
had been "forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in (the
Proconsular) Asia;" [118:3] but, at this time, the restriction was
removed, and in accordance with the promise made to the Jews at Ephesus
in the preceding spring, he now resumed his evangelical labours in that
far-famed metropolis. There must have been a strong disposition on the
part of many of the seed of Abraham in the place to attend to his
instructions, as he was permitted "for the space of _three months_" to
occupy the synagogue, "disputing and persuading the things concerning
the kingdom of God." [118:4] At length, however, he began to meet with
so much opposition that he found it expedient to discontinue his
addresses in the Jewish meeting-house. "When divers were hardened and
believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he
departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the
school of one Tyrannus." [118:5] This Tyrannus was, in all probability,
a Gentile convert, and a teacher of rhetoric--a department of education
very much cultivated at that period by all youths anxious to attain
social distinction. What is here called his "school," appears to have
been a spacious lecture-room sufficient to accommodate a numerous

About this time the Epistle to the Galatians was, in all likelihood,
written. The Galatians, as their name indicated, were the descendants of
a colony of Gaols settled in Asia Minor several centuries before; and,
like the French of the present day, seem to have been distinguished by
their lively and mercurial temperament. Paul had recently visited their
country for the second time, [119:1] and had been received by them with
the warmest demonstrations of regard; but meanwhile Humanizing zealots
had appeared among them, and had been only too successful in their
efforts to induce them to observe the Mosaic ceremonies. The apostle, at
Antioch, and at the synod of Jerusalem, had already protested against
these attempts; and subsequent reflection had only more thoroughly
convinced him of their danger. Hence he here addresses the Galatians in
terms of unusual severity. "I marvel," he exclaims, "that ye are so soon
removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another
gospel"--"O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you that ye should not
obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set
forth, crucified among you!" [119:2] At the same time he proves that the
sinner is saved by faith alone; that the Mosaic institutions were
designed merely for the childhood of the Church; and that the disciples
of Jesus should refuse to be "entangled" with any such "yoke of
bondage." [120:1] His epistle throughout is a most emphatic testimony to
the doctrine of a free justification.

Some time after Paul reached Ephesus, on his return from Jerusalem, he
appears to have made a short visit to Corinth. [120:2] There is no doubt
that he encountered a variety of dangers of which no record is to be
found in the Acts of the Apostles; [120:3] and it is most probable that
many of these disasters were experienced about this period. Thus, not
long after this date, he says--"Thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and
a day I have been in the deep." [120:4] There are good grounds for
believing that he now visited Crete, as well as Corinth; and it would
seem that these voyages exposed him to the "perils in the sea" which he
enumerates among his trials. [120:5] On his departure from Crete he left
Titus behind him to "set in order the things that were wanting, and to
ordain elders in every city;" [120:6] and in the spring of A.D. 57 he
wrote to the evangelist that brief epistle in which he points out, with
so much fidelity and wisdom, the duties of the pastoral office. [120:7]
The silence of Luke respecting this visit to Crete is the less
remarkable, as the name of Titus does not once occur in the book of the
Acts, though there is distinct evidence that he was deeply interested in
some of the most important transactions which are there narrated.

Paul, about two years before, had been prevented, as has been stated, by
a divine intimation, from preaching in the district called Asia; but
when he now commenced his ministrations in Ephesus, its capital, he
continued in that city and its neighbourhood longer than in any other
place he had yet visited. After withdrawing from the synagogue and
resuming his labours in the school of Tyrannus, he remained there "by
the space of _two years_; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the
word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks." [121:1] Meanwhile the
churches of Laodicea, Colosse, and Hierapolis appear to have been
founded. [121:2] The importance of Ephesus gave it a special claim to
the attention which it now received. It was the metropolis of the
district, and the greatest commercial city in the whole of Asia Minor.
Whilst it was connected by convenient roads with all parts of the
interior, it was visited by trading vessels from the various harbours of
the Mediterranean. But, in another point of view, it was a peculiarly
interesting field of missionary labour; for it was, perhaps, the most
celebrated of all the high places of Eastern superstition. Its temple of
Artemis, or Diana, was one of the wonders of the world. This gorgeous
structure, covering an area of upwards of two acres, [121:3] was
ornamented with columns one hundred and twenty-seven in number, each
sixty feet high, and each the gift of a king. [121:4] It was nearly all
open to the sky, but that part of it which was covered, was roofed with
cedar. The image of the goddess occupied a comparatively small apartment
within the magnificent enclosure. This image, which was said to have
fallen down from Jupiter, [121:5] was not like one of those pieces of
beautiful sculpture which adorned the Acropolis of Athens, but rather
resembled an Indian idol, being an unsightly female form with many
breasts, 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_, were
believed to operate as charms, and, when _written_, were carried about
as amulets. To those who sought an acquaintance with the Ephesian magic,
they constituted an elaborate study, and many books were composed to
expound their significance, and point out their application.

About this time the famous Apollonius of Tyana [122:3] was attracting
uncommon attention by his tricks as a conjuror; and it has been thought
not improbable that he now met Paul in Ephesus. If so, we can assign at
least one reason why the apostle was prevented from making his
appearance at an earlier date in the Asiatic metropolis. Men had thus an
opportunity of comparing the wonders of the greatest of magicians with
the miracles of the gospel; and of marking the contrast between the
vainglory of an impostor, and the humility of a servant of Jesus. The
attentive reader of Scripture may observe that some of the most
extraordinary of the mighty works recorded in the New Testament were
performed at this period; and it is not unreasonable to conclude that,
in a city so much given to jugglery and superstition, these genuine
displays of the power of Omnipotence were exhibited for the express
purpose of demonstrating the incomparable superiority of the Author of
Christianity. It is said that "God wrought _special miracles_ by the
hands of Paul, so that from his body were brought unto the sick
handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the
evil spirits went out of them." [123:1] The disastrous consequences of
an attempt, on the part of the sons of a Jewish priest, to heal the
afflicted by using the name of the Lord Jesus as a charm, alarmed the
entire tribe of exorcists and magicians. "The man, in whom the evil
spirit was, leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against
them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this
was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus, and _fear
fell on them all_, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified."
[123:2] The visit of Paul told upon the whole population, and tended
greatly to discourage the study of the "Ephesian letters". "Many of them
also which used curious arts brought their books together and burned
them before all men; and they counted the price of them, and found it
fifty thousand pieces of silver. [123:3] So mightily grew the word of
God and prevailed." [123:4]

Some time before the departure of Paul from Ephesus, he wrote the First
Epistle to the Corinthians. The letter contains internal evidence that
it was dictated in the spring of A.D. 57. [123:5] The circumstances of
the Corinthian disciples at this juncture imperatively required the
interference of the apostle. Divisions had sprung up in their community;
[123:6] the flagrant conduct of one member had brought dishonour on the
whole Christian name; [123:7] and various forms of error had been making
their appearance. [123:8] Paul therefore felt it right to address to
them a lengthened and energetic remonstrance. This letter is more
diversified in its contents than any of his other epistles; and presents
us with a most interesting view of the daily life of the primitive
Christians in a great commercial city. It furnishes conclusive evidence
that the Apostolic Church of Corinth was not the paragon of excellence
which the ardent and unreflecting have often pictured in their
imaginations, but a community compassed with infirmities, and certainly
not elevated, in point of spiritual worth, above some of the more
healthy Christian congregations of the nineteenth century.

Shortly after this letter was transmitted to its destination, Ephesus
was thrown into a ferment by the riotous proceedings of certain parties
who had an interest in the maintenance of the pagan superstition. Among
those who derived a subsistence from the idolatry of its celebrated
temple were a class of workmen who "made silver shrines for Diana,"
[124:1] that is, who manufactured little models of the sanctuary and of
the image which it contained. These models were carried about by the
devotees of the goddess in processions, and set up, in private
dwellings, as household deities. [124:2] The impression produced by the
Christian missionaries in the Asiatic metropolis had affected the
traffic in such articles, and those who were engaged in it began to
apprehend that their trade would be ultimately ruined. An individual,
named Demetrius, who appears to have been a master-manufacturer, did not
find it difficult, under these circumstances, to collect a mob, and to
disturb the peace of the city. Calling together the operatives of his
own establishment, "with the workmen of like occupation," [124:3] he
said to them--"Sirs, ye know, that by this craft we have our wealth.
Moreover, ye see and know, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost
throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much
people, saying that they be no gods which are made with hands--so that
not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought, but also that
the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her
magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world
worshipped." [125:1] This address did not fail to produce the effect
contemplated. A strong current of indignation was turned against the
missionaries; and the craftsmen were convinced that they were bound to
support the credit of their tutelary guardian. They were "full of wrath,
and cried out saying--Great is Diana of the Ephesians." [125:2] This
proceeding seems to have taken place in the month of May, and at a time
when public games were celebrated in honour of the Ephesian goddess,
[125:3] so that a large concourse of strangers now thronged the
metropolis. An immense crowd rapidly collected; the whole city was
filled with confusion; and it soon appeared that the lives of the
Christian preachers were in danger; for the mob caught "Gaius and
Aristech's, men of Macedonia, Paul's companions in travel," and "rushed
with one accord into the theatre." [125:4] This edifice, the largest of
the kind in Asia Minor, is said to have been capable of containing
thirty thousand persons. [125:5] As it was sufficiently capacious to
accommodate the multitudinous assemblage, and as it was also the
building in which public meetings of the citizens were usually convened,
it was now quickly occupied. Paul was at first prompted to enter it, and
to plead his cause before the excited throng; but some of the
magistrates, or, as they are called by the evangelist, "certain of the
_chief of Asia_, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him
that he would not adventure himself" into so perilous a position.
[125:6] These _Asiarchs_ were persons of exalted rank who presided at
the celebration of the public spectacles. The apostle was now in very
humble circumstances, for even in Ephesus he continued to work at the
occupation of a tent-maker; [126:1] and it is no mean testimony to his
worth that he had secured the esteem of such high functionaries. It was
quickly manifest that any attempt to appease the crowd would have been
utterly in vain. A Jew, named Alexander, who seems to have been one of
the craftsmen, and who was, perhaps, the same who is elsewhere
distinguished as "the coppersmith," [126:2] made an effort to address
them, probably with the view of shewing that his co-religionists were
not identified with Paul; but when the mob perceived that he was one of
the seed of Abraham, they took it for granted that he was no friend to
the manufacture of their silver shrines; and his appearance was the
signal for increased uproar. "When they knew that he was a Jew, all with
one voice, _about the space of two hours_, cried out--Great is Diana of
the Ephesians." [126:3] At length the town-clerk, or recorder, of
Ephesus, contrived to obtain a hearing; and, by his prudence and
address, succeeded in putting an end to this scene of confusion. He told
his fellow-townsmen that, if Paul and his companions had transgressed
the law, they could be made amenable to punishment; but that, as their
own attachment to the worship of Diana could not be disputed, their
present tumultuary proceedings could only injure their reputation as
orderly and loyal citizens. "We are in danger," said he, "to be called
in question for this day's uproar, there being no cause whereby we may
give an account of this concourse." [127:1] The authority of the speaker
imparted additional weight to his suggestions, the multitude quietly
dispersed, and the missionaries escaped unscathed.

Even this tumult supplies evidence that the Christian preachers had
already produced an immense impression in this great metropolis. No more
decisive test of their success could be adduced than that here furnished
by Demetrius and his craftsmen; for a lucrative trade connected with the
established superstition was beginning to languish. The silversmiths,
and the other operatives whose interests were concerned, were obviously
the instigators of all the uproar; and it does not appear that they
could reckon upon the undivided sympathy even of the crowd they had
congregated. "Some cried one thing, and some another, for the assembly
was confused, and the _more part_ knew not wherefore they were come
together." [127:2] A number of the Asiarchs were decidedly favourable to
the apostle and his brethren; and when the town-clerk referred to their
proceedings 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 real
cause of much of that bitter persecution which the Christians endured
for the greater part of three centuries. The craft of the imagemakers
was in danger; the income of the pagan priests was at stake; the secular
interests of many other parties were more or less affected; and hence
the 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] and
as the secular games, at which the Asiarchs presided, took place during
the month of May, the disorderly proceedings of Demetrius and the
craftsmen, which occurred at the same period, do not seem to have
greatly accelerated his removal. Soon afterwards, however, he "called
unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed to go into
Macedonia." [128:2] When he reached that district, he was induced to
enter on new scenes of missionary enterprise; and now, "round about unto
Illyricum," he "fully preached the gospel of Christ." [128:3] Shortly
before, Timothy had returned from Greece to Ephesus, [128:4] and when
the apostle took leave of his friends in that metropolis, he left the
evangelist behind him to protect the infant Church against the
seductions of false teachers. [128:5] He now addressed the first epistle
to his "own son in the faith," [128:6] and thus also supplied to the
ministers of all succeeding generations the most precious instructions
on the subject of pastoral theology. [129:1] Soon afterwards he wrote
the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. This letter throws much light on
the private character of Paul, and enables us to understand how he
contrived to maintain such a firm hold on the affections of those among
whom he ministered. Though he uniformly acted with great decision, he
was singularly amiable and gentle, as well as generous and warm-hearted.
No one could doubt his sincerity; no one could question his
disinterestedness; no one could fairly complain that he was harsh or
unkind. In his First Epistle to the Corinthians he had been obliged to
employ strong language when rebuking them for their irregularities; but
now they exhibited evidences of repentance, and he is obviously most
willing to forget and forgive. In his Second Epistle to them he enters
into many details of his personal history unnoticed elsewhere in the New
Testament, [130:1] and throughout displays a most loving and
conciliatory spirit. He states that, when he dictated his former letter,
it was far from his intention to wound their feelings, and that it was
with the utmost pain he had sent them such a communication. "Out of much
affliction, and anguish of heart," said he, "I wrote unto you with many
tears, not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love
which I have more abundantly unto you." [130:2] The Corinthians could
not have well resented an advice from such a correspondent.

When Paul had itinerated throughout Macedonia and Illyricum "he came
into Greece, [130:3] and there abode three months." [130:4] He now
visited 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 the
great metropolis; some of its members were the relatives of the apostle;
[130:7] and others, such as Priscilla and Aquila, [130:8] had been
converted under his ministry. As he himself contemplated an early visit
to the far-famed city, [130:9] he sent this letter before him, to
announce his intentions, and to supply the place of his personal
instructions. The Epistle to the Romans is a precious epitome of
Christian theology. It is more systematic in its structure than,
perhaps, any other of the writings of Paul; and being a very lucid
exposition of the leading truths taught by the inspired heralds of the
gospel, it remains an emphatic testimony to the doctrinal defections of
the religious community now bearing the name of the Church to which it
was originally addressed.

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

Paul was well aware that there were not a few, even among the Christians
of Palestine, by whom he was regarded with jealousy or dislike; and he
had reason to believe that the agitation for the observance of the
ceremonial law, which had disturbed the Churches of Galatia, had been
promoted by the zealots of the Hebrew metropolis. But he had a strong
attachment to the land of his fathers; and he felt deeply interested in
the well-being of his brethren in Judea. They were generally in indigent
circumstances; for, after the crucifixion, when the Spirit was poured
out on the day of Pentecost, those of them who had property "sold their
possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had
need;" [132:1] and, ever since, they had been harassed and persecuted by
their unbelieving countrymen. "The poor saints" that were in Jerusalem
[132:2] had, therefore, peculiar claims on the kind consideration of the
disciples in other lands; and Paul had been making collections for their
benefit among their richer co-religionists in Greece and Asia Minor. A
considerable sum had been thus provided; and that there might be no
misgivings as to its right appropriation, individuals chosen by the
contributors had been appointed to travel with the apostle, and to
convey it to Jerusalem. [132:3] The number of the deputies appears to
have been seven, namely, "Sopater of Berea; and of the Thessalonians,
Aristech's and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus; and of
Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus." [132:4] The apostle knew that he had
enemies waiting for his halting; and as they would willingly have seized
upon any apology for accusing him of tampering with this collection, he,
no doubt, deemed it prudent to put it into other hands, and thus place
himself above challenge. But he appears to have had a farther reason for
suggesting the appointment of these commissioners. He was, in all
likelihood, desirous that his brethren in Judea should have a favourable
specimen of the men who constituted "the first fruits of the Gentiles;"
and as all the deputies selected to accompany him to Jerusalem seem to
have been persons of an excellent spirit, he probably reckoned that
their wise and winning behaviour would do much to disarm the hostility
of those who had hitherto contended so strenuously for the observance of
the Mosaic ceremonies. Solomon has said that "a man's gift maketh room
for him;" [133:1] and if Gentile converts could ever expect a welcome
reception from those who were zealous for the law, it was surely when
they appeared as the bearers of the liberality of the Gentile Churches.

When the apostle and his companions reached the Jewish capital, "the
brethren received them gladly." [133:2] Paul was, however, given to
understand that, as he was charged with encouraging the neglect of the
Mosaic ceremonies, he must be prepared to meet a large amount of
prejudice; and he was accordingly recommended to endeavour to pacify the
multitude by giving some public proof that he himself "walked orderly
and kept the law." [133:3] Acting on this advice, he joined with four
men who had on them a Nazaritic vow; [133:4] and, "purifying himself
with them, entered into the temple." [133:5] When there, he was observed
by certain Jews from Asia Minor, who had probably become acquainted with
his personal appearance during his residence in Ephesus; and as they had
before seen him in the city with Trophimus, one of the seven deputies
and a convert from paganism, whom they seem also to have known, [134:1]
they immediately concluded that he had now some Gentile companions along
with him, and that he was encouraging the uncircumcised to pollute with
their presence the sacred court of the Israelites. A tumult forthwith
ensued; the report of the defilement of the holy place quickly
circulated through the crowd; "all the city was moved;" [134:2] the
people 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 it
not been for the prompt interference of the officer who had the command
of the Roman garrison in the tower of Antonia. This stronghold
overlooked the courts of the sanctuary; and, no doubt, some of the
sentinels on duty immediately gave notice of the commotion. The chief
captain, whose name was Claudius Lysias, [134:4] at once "took soldiers
and centurions," and running down to the rioters, arrived in time to
prevent a fatal termination of the affray; for, as soon as the military
made their appearance, the assailants "left beating of Paul." [134:5]
"Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be
bound 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 he
could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be
carried into the castle." [134:6] In proceeding thus, the commanding
officer acted illegally; for, as Paul was a Roman citizen, he should
not, without a trial, have been deprived of his liberty, and put in
irons. But Lysias, in the hurry and confusion of the moment, had been
deceived by false information; as he had been led to believe that his
prisoner was an Egyptian, a notorious outlaw, who, "before these days,"
had created much alarm by leading "out into the wilderness four thousand
men that were murderers." [135:1] He was quite astonished to find that
the individual whom he had rescued from such imminent danger was a
citizen of Tarsus in Cilicia who could speak Greek; and as it was now
evident that there existed much misapprehension, the apostle was
permitted to stand on the stairs of the fortress, and address the
multitude. When they saw him preparing to make some statement, the noise
subsided; and, "when they heard that he spake to them in the Hebrew
tongue," that is, in the Aramaic, the current language of the country,
"they kept the more silence." [135:2] Paul accordingly proceeded to give
an account of his early life, of the remarkable circumstances of his
conversion, and of his subsequent career; but, when he mentioned his
mission to the Gentiles, it was at once apparent that the topic was most
unpopular, for his auditors lost all patience. "They gave him audience
unto this word, and then lifted up their voices and said, Away with such
a fellow from the earth, for it is not fit that he should live. And as
they 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 Pentecost
in A.D. 58, continued about five years. It may be enough to notice the
mere outline of his history during this tedious bondage. In the first
place, for the purpose of ascertaining the exact nature of the charge
against him, he was confronted with the Sanhedrim; but when he informed
them that "of the hope and resurrection of the dead" he was called in
question, [136:1] there "arose a dissension between the Pharisees and
the 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 among
them, 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 they
had killed Paul;" [136:4] and it was arranged that the bloody vow should
be executed when, under pretence of a new examination, he should be
brought again before the Sanhedrim; but their proceedings meanwhile
became known to the apostle's nephew; the chief captain received timely
information; and the scheme thus miscarried. [136:5] Paul, protected by
a strong military escort, was now sent away by night to Caesarea; and,
when there, was repeatedly examined before Felix, the Roman magistrate
who at this time, under the title of Procurator, had the government of
Judea. The historian Tacitus says of this imperial functionary that "in
the practice of all kinds of cruelty and lust, he exercised the power of
a 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 the
apostle, that he succeeded in arresting the attention, and in alarming
the fears of this worthless profligate. Drusilla, his wife, a woman who
had deserted her former husband, [136:7] was a Jewess; and, as she
appears to have been desirous to see and hear the great Christian
preacher who had been labouring with so much zeal to propagate his
principles throughout the Empire, Paul, to satisfy her curiosity, was
brought into her presence. But an interview, which seems to have been
designed merely for the amusement of the Procurator and his partner,
soon assumed an appearance of the deepest solemnity. As the grave and
earnest orator went on to expound the faith of the gospel, and "as he
reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix
trembled." [137:1] His apprehensions, however, soon passed away, and
though he was fully convinced that Paul had not incurred any legal
penalty, he continued to keep him in confinement, basely expecting to
obtain a bribe for his liberation. When disappointed in this hope, he
still perversely refused to set him at liberty. Thus, "after two years,"
when "Porcius Festus came into Felix' room," the ex-Procurator, "willing
to shew the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound." [137:2]

The apostle was soon required to appear before the new Governor. Festus
has left behind him the reputation of an equitable judge; [137:3] and
though he was obviously most desirous to secure the good opinion of the
Jews, he could not be induced by them to act with palpable injustice.
After he had brought them down to Caesarea, and listened to their
complaints against the prisoner, he perceived that they could convict
him of no violation of the law; but he proposed to gratify them so far
as to have the case reheard in the holy city. Paul, however, well knew
that they only sought such an opportunity to compass his assassination,
and therefore peremptorily refused to consent to the arrangement. "I
stand," 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 be
an offender, or have committed anything worthy of death, I refuse not to
die; but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no
man may deliver me unto them. _I appeal unto Caesar._" [138:1]

The right of appeal from the decision of an inferior tribunal to the
Emperor himself was one of the great privileges of a Roman citizen; and
no magistrate could refuse to recognise it without exposing himself to
condign punishment. There were, indeed, a few exceptional cases of a
flagrant character in which such an appeal could not be received; and
Festus here consulted with his assessors to ascertain in what light the
law contemplated that of the apostle. It appeared, however, that he was
at perfect liberty to demand a hearing before the tribunal of Nero.
"Then," says the evangelist, "when Festus had conferred with the
council, he answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? Unto Caesar shalt
thou go." [138:2]

The Procurator was now placed in a somewhat awkward position; for, when
sending Paul to Rome, he was required at the same time to report the
crimes imputed to the prisoner; but the charges were so novel, and
apparently so frivolous, that he did not well know how to embody them in
an intelligible document. Meanwhile King Agrippa and his sister Bernice
came to Caesarea "to salute Festus," [138:3] that is, to congratulate
the new Governor on his arrival in the country; and the royal party
expressed a desire to hear what the apostle had to say in his
vindication. Agrippa was great-grandson of that Herod who reigned in
Judea when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and the son of the monarch of
the same name whose sudden and awful death is recorded in the twelfth
chapter of the Acts. On the demise of his father in A.D. 44, he was only
seventeen years of age; and Judea, which was then reduced into the form
a Roman province with Caesarea for its capital, had remained ever since
under the government of Procurators. But though Agrippa had not been
permitted to succeed to the dominions of his father, he had received
various proofs of imperial favour; for he had obtained the government,
first of the principality of Chalcis, and then of several other
districts; and he had been honoured with the title of King. [139:1] The
Gentile Procurators could not be expected to be very minutely acquainted
with the ritual and polity of Israel; but as Agrippa was a Jew, and
consequently familiar with the customs and sentiments of the native
population, he had been entrusted with the care of the temple and its
treasures, 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 this
visitor should be solicited; and hoped that Agrippa would be able to
supply some suggestion to relieve him out of his present perplexity. It
was accordingly arranged that the apostle should be permitted to plead
his cause in the hearing of the Jewish monarch. The affair seems to have
created unusual interest; the public appear to have been partially
admitted on the occasion; and seldom, or, perhaps, never before, had
Paul enjoyed an opportunity of addressing such an influential and
brilliant auditory. "Agrippa came, and Bernice, _with great pomp_, and
entered into the place of hearing, with the chief captains, and
principal men of the city." [139:2] Paul, still in bonds, made his
appearance before this courtly throng; and though it might have been
expected that a two years' confinement would have broken the spirit of
the prisoner, he displayed powers of argument and eloquence which
astonished and confounded his judges. The Procurator was quite
bewildered by his reasoning, for he appealed to "the promise made unto
the fathers," [139:3] and to things which "Moses and the prophets did
say should come;" [140:1] and as Festus could not appreciate the lofty
enthusiasm of the Christian orator (for he had never, when at Rome, been
accustomed to hear the advocates of heathenism plead so earnestly in its
defence), he "said with a loud voice--Paul, thou art beside thyself;
much learning doth make thee mad." [140:2] But the apostle's
self-possession was in nowise shaken by this blunt charge. "I am not
mad, most noble Festus," he replied, "but speak forth the words of truth
and soberness;" and then, turning to the royal stranger, vigorously
pressed home his argument. "King Agrippa," he exclaimed, "believest thou
the prophets? I know that thou believest." [140:3] The King, thus
challenged, was a libertine; and at this very time was believed to be
living in incestuous intercourse with his sister Bernice; and yet he
seems to have been staggered by Paul's solemn and pointed interrogatory.
"Almost," said he, "thou persuadest me to be a Christian." [140:4] It
has been thought by some that these words were uttered with a sneer; but
whatever may have been the frivolity of the Jewish King, they elicited
from the apostle one of the noblest rejoinders that ever issued from
human lips, "And Paul said, I would to God that not only thou, but also
all 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 judges
of the futility of the charges preferred against him by the Sanhedrim.
But at this stage of the proceedings it was no longer practicable to
quash the prosecution. When Paul concluded his address "the king rose
up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them. And when
they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying--This man
doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds. Then said Agrippa unto
Festus--This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed
unto Caesar." [141:1]

At first sight it may appear extraordinary that so eminent a missionary
in the meridian of his usefulness was subjected to so long an
imprisonment. But "God's ways are not as our ways, nor His thoughts as
our thoughts." When thus, to a great extent, laid aside from official
duty, 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 the
work of redemption. Having himself partaken largely of affliction, and
experienced the sustaining power of the gospel so abundantly, he was the
better prepared to comfort the distressed; and hence his letters,
written at this period, are so full of consolation. [141:2] And apart
from other considerations, we may here recognise the fulfilment of a
prophetic announcement. When Paul was converted, the Lord said to
Ananias--"He is a chosen vessel unto me to bear my name before the
Gentiles, and _kings_, and the children of Israel, for I will shew him
_how great things he must suffer_ for my name's sake." [141:3] During
his protracted confinement he exhibited alike to Jew and Gentile an
illustrious specimen of faith and constancy; and called attention to the
truth in many quarters where otherwise it might have remained unknown.
Though he was chained to a soldier, he was not kept in very rigorous
custody, so that he had frequent opportunities of proclaiming the great
salvation. He was peculiarly fitted by his education and his genius for
expounding Christianity to persons moving in the upper circles of
society; and had he remained at liberty he could have expected to gain
access very rarely to such auditors. But already, as a prisoner, he had
pleaded the claims of the gospel before no inconsiderable portion of the
aristocracy of Palestine. He had been heard by the chief captain in
command of the garrison in the castle of Antonia, by the Sanhedrim, by
Felix and Drusilla, by Festus, by King Agrippa and his sister Bernice,
and probably by "the principal men" of both Caesarea and Jerusalem. In
criminal cases the appeals of Roman citizens were heard by the Emperor
himself, so that the apostle was about to appear as an ambassador for
Christ in the presence of the greatest of earth's potentates. Who can
tell but that some of that splendid assembly of senators and nobles who
surrounded Nero, when Paul was brought before his judgment-seat, will
have reason throughout all eternity to remember the occasion as the
birth-day of their blessedness!

The apostle and "certain other prisoners" embarked for Rome in the
autumn of A.D. 60. The compass was then unknown; in weather, "when
neither sun nor stars in many days appeared," [142:1] the mariner was
without a guide; and, late in the season, navigation was peculiarly
dangerous. The voyage proved disastrous; after passing into a second
vessel at Myra, [142:2] a city of Lycia, Paul and his companions were
wrecked on the coast of the island of Malta; [142:3] when they had
remained there three months, they set sail once more in a corn ship of
Alexandria, the Castor and Pollux; [142:4] and at length in the early
part of A.D. 61, reached the harbour of Puteoli, [143:1] then the great
shipping port of Italy.

The account of the voyage from Caesarea to Puteoli, as given in the Acts
of the Apostles, is one of the most curious passages to be found in the
whole of the sacred volume. Some may think it strange that the inspired
historian enters so much into details, and the nautical terms which he
employs may puzzle not a few readers; but these features of his
narrative attest its authenticity and genuineness. No one, who had not
himself shared the perils of the scene, could have been expected to
describe with so much accuracy the circumstances of the shipwreck. It
has been remarked that, after the lapse of eighteen hundred years, the
references of the evangelist to prevailing winds and currents, to the
indentations of the coast, to islands, bays, and harbours, may still be
exactly verified. Recent investigators have demonstrated that the
sailors, in the midst of danger, displayed no little ability, and that
their conduct in "undergirding the ship," [143:2] and in casting "four
anchors out of the stern," [143:3] evidenced their skilful seamanship.
Luke states that, after a long period of anxiety and abstinence, "about
midnight the shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country."
[143:4] The headland they were approaching is very low, and in a stormy
night is said to be invisible even at the distance of a quarter of a
mile; [143:5] but the sailors could detect the shore by other
indications. Even in a storm _the roar of breakers_ can be distinguished
from other sounds by the practised ear of a mariner; [144:1] and it can
be shewn that, with such a gale as was then blowing, the sea still
dashes with amazing violence against the very same point of land off
which Paul and his companions were that night labouring. In the depth of
the water at the place there is another most remarkable coincidence. We
are told that the sailors "sounded and found it _twenty fathoms_, and
when they had gone a little farther, they sounded, and found it _fifteen
fathoms_." [144:2] "But what," observes a modern writer, "are the
soundings at this point? They are now _twenty fathoms_. If we proceed a
little farther we find _fifteen fathoms_. It may be said that this, in
itself is nothing remarkable. But if we add that the fifteen-fathom
depth is _in the direction of the vessel's drift_ (W. by N.) from the
twenty-fathom depth, the coincidence is startling." [144:3] It may be
stated also that the "creek with a shore" [144:4] or sandy beach, and
the "place where two seas met," [144:5] and where "they ran the ship
aground" may still be recognised in what is now called St Paul's Bay at
Malta. [144:6] Even in the nature of the submarine strata we have a most
striking confirmation of the truth of the inspired history. It appears
that the four anchors cast out of the stern retained their hold, and it
is well known that the ground in St Paul's Bay is remarkably firm; for
in our English sailing directions it is mentioned that "while the cables
hold, there is no danger, as the anchors will never start." [144:7] Luke
reports that when the ship ran aground, "the fore-part stuck fast and
remained unmoveable" [144:8]--a statement which is corroborated by the
fact that "the bottom is mud graduating into tenacious clay"
[145:1]--exactly the species of deposit from which such a result might
be anticipated.

When Paul landed at Puteoli, he must have contemplated with deep emotion
the prospect of his arrival in Rome. The city to which he now approached
contained, perhaps, upwards of a million of human beings. [145:2] But
the amount of its inhabitants was one of the least remarkable of its
extraordinary distinctions. It was the capital of the mightiest empire
that had ever yet existed; one hundred races speaking one hundred
languages were under its dominion; [145:3] and the sceptre which ruled
so many subject provinces was wielded by an absolute potentate. This
great autocrat was the high priest of heathenism--thus combining the
grandeur of temporal majesty with the sacredness of religious elevation.
Senators and generals, petty kings and provincial governors, were all
obliged to bow obsequiously to his mandates. In this vast metropolis
might be found natives of almost every clime; some engaged in its trade;
some who had travelled to it from distant countries to solicit the
imperial favour; some, like Paul, conveyed to it as prisoners; some
stimulated to visit it by curiosity; and some attracted to it by the
vague hope of bettering their condition. The city of the Caesars might
well be described as "sitting upon many waters;" [145:4] for, though
fourteen or fifteen miles from the mouth of the Tiber, the mistress of
the world was placed on a peninsula stretching out into the middle of a
great inland sea over which she reigned without a rival. In the summer
months almost every port of every country along the shores of the
Mediterranean sent forth vessels freighted with cargoes for the
merchants of Rome. [146:1] The fleet from Alexandria laden with wheat
for the supply of the city was treated with peculiar honour; for its
ships alone were permitted to hoist their topsails as they approached
the shore; a deputation of senators awaited its arrival; and, as soon as
it appeared, the whole surrounding population streamed to the pier, and
observed the day as a season of general jubilee. But an endless supply
of other articles in which the poor were less interested found their way
to Rome. The mines of Spain furnished the great capital with gold and
silver, whilst its sheep yielded wool of superior excellence; and, in
those times of Roman conquest, slaves were often transported from the
shores of Britain. The horses and chariots and fine linen of Egypt, the
gums and spices and silk and ivory and pearls of India, the Chian and
the Lesbian wines, and the beautiful marble of Greece and Asia Minor,
all met with purchasers in the mighty metropolis. [146:2] As John
surveyed in vision the fall of Rome, and as he thought of the almost
countless commodities which ministered to her insatiable luxury, well
might he represent the world's traffic as destroyed by the catastrophe;
and well might he speak of the merchants of the earth as weeping and
mourning over her, because "no man buyeth their merchandise any more."

Paul had often desired to prosecute his ministry in the imperial city;
for he knew that if Christianity could obtain a firm footing in that
great centre of civilisation and of power, its influence would soon be
transmitted to the ends of the earth: but he now appeared there under
circumstances equally painful and discouraging. And yet even in this
embarrassing position he was not overwhelmed with despondency. At
Puteoli he "found brethren," [146:4] and through the indulgence of
Julius, the centurion to whose care he was committed, he was courteously
allowed to spend a week [147:1] with the little Church of which they
were members. He now set out on his way to the metropolis; but the
intelligence of his arrival had travelled before him, and after crossing
the Pomptine marshes, he was, no doubt, delighted to find a number of
Christian friends from Rome assembled at Appii Forum to tender to him
the assurances of their sympathy and affection. The place was
twenty-seven miles from the capital; and yet, at a time when travelling
was so tedious and so irksome, they had undertaken this lengthened
journey to visit the poor, weather-beaten, and tempest-tossed prisoner.
At the Three Taverns, ten miles nearer to the city, he met another party
of disciples [147:2] anxious to testify their attachment to so
distinguished a servant of their Divine Master. These tokens of respect
and love made a deep impression upon the susceptible mind of the
apostle; 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 him
a claim to particular indulgence; and accordingly, when he reached Rome,
and when the centurion delivered the prisoners to the Praetorian
Prefect, 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 chained
to his military care-taker, so that his position must still have been
very far from comfortable. And yet even thus he continued his ministry
with as much ardour as if he had been without restraint, and as if he
had been cheered on by the applause of his generation. Three days after
his arrival in the city he "called the chief of the Jews together,"
[148:1] and gave them an account of the circumstances of his committal,
and of his appeal to the imperial tribunal. They informed him that his
case had not been reported to them by their brethren in Judea; and then
expressed a desire to hear from him a statement of the claims of
Christianity. "And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to
him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of
God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses and
out of the prophets from morning till evening." [148:2] His appeals
produced a favourable impression upon only a part of his audience. "Some
believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not." [148:3]

Several years prior to this date a Christian Church existed in the
Western metropolis, and at this time there were probably several
ministers in the city; but the apostle, in all likelihood, now entered
upon some field of labour which had not hitherto been occupied. He
"dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that
came in unto him--preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those
things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no man
forbidding him." [148:4] All this time Paul's right hand was chained to
the left hand of a soldier, who was responsible for the safe keeping of
his prisoner. The soldiers relieved each other in this duty. [148:5] It
would appear that Paul's chain might be relaxed at meal-times, and
perhaps he was occasionally granted some little additional indulgence;
but day and night he and his care-taker must have remained in close
proximity, as the life of the soldier was forfeited should his ward
escape. We can well conceive that the very appearance of the preacher at
this period invited special attention to his ministrations. He was now
"Paul the aged;" [149:1] he had perhaps passed the verge of threescore
years; and though his detractors had formerly objected that "his bodily
presence was weak," [149:2] all would at this time have, probably,
admitted, that his aspect was venerable. His life had been a career of
unabated exertion; and now, though worn down by toils, and hardships,
and imprisonments, his zeal burned with unquenched ardour. As the
soldier who kept him belonged to the Praetorian guards, it has been
thought that the apostle spent much of his time in the neighbourhood of
their quarters on the Palatine hill, [149:3] and that as he was now so
much conversant with military sights and sounds, we may in this way
account for some of the allusions to be found in his epistles written
during his present confinement. Thus, he speaks of Archippus and
Epaphroditus as his "fellow-soldiers;" [149:4] and he exhorts his
brethren to "put on the whole armour of God," including "the breastplate
of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the
sword of the Spirit." [149:5] As the indefatigable old man, with the
soldier who had charge of him, passed from house to house inviting
attendance on his services, the very appearance of such "yoke-fellows"
[149:6] must have created some interest; and, when the congregation
assembled, who could remain unmoved as the apostle stretched forth his
chained hand, [149:7] and proceeded to expound his message! He seems
himself to have thought that the very position which he occupied, as
"the prisoner of the Lord," [149:8] imparted somewhat to the power of
his testimony. Hence we find him saying--"I would ye should understand,
brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather
unto _the furtherance of the gospel_, so that my bonds in Christ are
manifest in all the Praetorium, [150:1] and in all other places; and
many of the brethren in the Lord waxing confident by my bonds are much
more bold to speak the word without fear." [150:2]

During this imprisonment at Rome, Paul dictated a number of his
epistles. Of these, the letter to Philemon, a Christian of Colosse,
seems to have been first written. The bearer of this communication was
Onesimus, who had at one time been a slave in the service of the
individual to whom it is addressed; and who, as it appears, after
robbing his master, had left the country. The thief made his way to
Rome, where he was converted under the ministry of the apostle; and
where he had since greatly recommended himself as a zealous and
trustworthy disciple. He was now sent back to Colosse with this Epistle
to Philemon, in which the writer undertakes to be accountable for the
property that had been pilfered, [150:3] and entreats his correspondent
to give a kindly reception to the penitent fugitive. Onesimus, when
conveying the letter to his old master, was accompanied by Tychicus,
whom the apostle describes as "a beloved brother and a faithful minister
and fellow-servant in the Lord" [150:4] who was entrusted with the
Epistle to the Colossians. Error, in the form of false philosophy and
Judaizing superstition, had been creeping into the Colossian Church,
[150:5] and the apostle in this letter exhorts his brethren to beware of
its encroachments. About the same time Paul wrote the Epistle to the
Ephesians; and Tychicus was also the bearer of this communication.
[150:6] Unlike most of the other epistles, it has no salutations at the
close; it is addressed, not only "to the saints which are at Ephesus" in
particular, but also "to the faithful in Christ Jesus" [151:1] in
general; and as its very superscription thus bears evidence that it was
originally intended to be a circular letter, it is probably "the epistle
from Laodicea" mentioned in the Epistle to the Colossians. [151:2] The
first division of it is eminently distinguished by the profound and
comprehensive views of the Christian system it exhibits; whilst the
latter portion is no less remarkable for the variety, pertinency, and
wisdom, of its practical admonitions. The Epistle to the Philippians was
likewise written about this period. Paul always took a deep interest in
the well-being of his earliest European converts, and here he speaks in
most hopeful terms of their spiritual condition. [151:3] They were less
disturbed by divisions and heresies than perhaps any other of the
Apostolic Churches.



The Book of the Acts terminates abruptly; and the subsequent history of
Paul is involved in much obscurity. Some have contended that the apostle
was never released from his first imprisonment at Rome, and accordingly
consider that he was one of the earliest Christian martyrs who suffered
under the Emperor Nero. But this theory is encumbered with insuperable
difficulties. In his letters written after his first appearance in Rome,
Paul evidently anticipates his liberation; [152:1] and in some of them
he apparently speaks prophetically. Thus, he says to the Philippians--"I
am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and to be with
Christ, which is far better--nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more
needful for you--and having this confidence _I know that I shall abide
and 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 that
country; for Clemens Romanus, who was his contemporary and
fellow-labourer, positively affirms that he travelled "to the extremity
of the west." [153:1] Clemens appears to have been himself a native of
the great metropolis; [153:2] and as he makes the statement just quoted
in a letter written from Rome, it cannot be supposed that, under such
circumstances, he would have described Italy as the boundary of the
earth. The Second Epistle to Timothy, which is generally admitted to
have been written immediately before Paul's death, contains several
passages which obviously indicate that the author had been very recently
at 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 comest
bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments." [153:5]
These words suggest that the apostle had lately visited Troas on the
coast of Asia Minor. Again, he remarks--"Erastus abode at Corinth, but
Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick." [153:6] Any ordinary reader
would at once infer from this observation that the writer had just
arrived from Miletum. [153:7] The language of the concluding verses of
the Acts warrants the impression that Paul's confinement had ended some
time before the book was completed; for had the apostle been still in
bondage, it would scarcely have been said that, when a prisoner, he
dwelt for two whole years in his own hired house--thereby implying that
the period of his residence, at least in that abode, had terminated. And
if Paul was released at the expiration of these two years, we can well
understand why the sacred historian may have deemed it inexpedient to
give an account of his liberation. The subjects of Rome at that time
were literally living under a reign of terror; and it would perhaps have
been most unwise to have proceeded farther with the narrative. Paul, as
Peter once before, [154:1] may have been miraculously delivered; and
prudence may have required the concealment of his subsequent movements.
Or, the history of his release may have been so mixed up with the freaks
of the tyrant who then oppressed the Roman world, that its publication
might have brought down the imperial vengeance on the head of the

We have seen that Paul arrived in Rome as a prisoner in the beginning of
A.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 not
then commenced his memorable persecution of the Church; for the burning
of 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 special
objects of his cruelty. It is probable that Paul, after his release,
accomplished his intention of visiting the Spanish Peninsula; and, on
his return to Italy, he appears to have written the Epistle to the
Hebrews. [154:2] The destruction of Jerusalem was at this time
approaching; and, as the apostle demonstrates in this letter that the
law was fulfilled in Christ, he thus prepares the Jewish Christians for
the extinction of the Mosaic ritual. In all likelihood he now once more
visited Jerusalem, travelling by Corinth, [155:1] Philippi, [155:2] and
Troas, [155:3] where he left for the use of Carpus the case with the
books and parchments which he mentions in his Second Epistle to Timothy.
Passing on then to Colosse, [155:4] he may have visited Antioch in
Pisidia and other cities of Asia Minor, the scenes of his early
ministrations; and reached Jerusalem [155:5] by way of Antioch in Syria.
He perhaps returned from Palestine to Rome by sea, leaving Trophimus
sick [155:6] at Miletum in Crete. The journey did not probably occupy
much time; and, on his return to Italy, he seems to have been
immediately incarcerated. His condition was now very different from what
it had been during his former confinement; for he was deserted by his
friends, and treated as a malefactor. [155:7] When he wrote to Timothy
he had already been brought before the judgment-seat, and had narrowly
escaped 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 their
charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, that
by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles
might 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 no
hope of ultimate escape. In the anticipation of his condemnation, he
wrote those words so full of Christian faith and heroism, "I am now
ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have
fought 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 the
Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me in that day, and not to me
only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." [156:1]

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

But still there is a very ancient and apparently a well authenticated
tradition that Peter suffered martyrdom at Rome; [156:5] and if, as is
not improbable, Paul met him in Jerusalem, during his visit to that city
after his release from his first imprisonment, it may be that he was
then encouraged to undertake a journey to the West. [156:6] It is not
improbable that he was recommended, at the same time, to visit the
Churches of Asia Minor for the purpose of using his influence to defeat
the efforts of the Judaizing zealots; and if, after passing through
Galatia, Bithynia, and other districts, he continued his course to Home,
we can well understand why, on reaching the seat of Empire, he addressed
his first epistle to the Christians with whom he had so recently held
intercourse. The tradition that the "Babylon" from which this letter was
written, [157:1] is no other than Rome, or the mystical Babylon of the
Apocalypse, [157:2] is unquestionably of great antiquity; [157:3] and
some of the announcements it contains are certainly quite in unison with
such an interpretation. Thus, Peter tells his brethren of "the fiery
trial" which was "to try" them, [157:4] alluding, in all likelihood, to
the extension of the Neronian persecution to the provinces; and it may
be presumed that, in the capital, and in communication with some of
"Caesar's household," he had means of information in reference to such
matters, to which elsewhere he could have had no access, Mark, who
probably 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 thus
additional evidence that the apostle of the circumcision was now in the
Western capital. It is also worthy of remark that this epistle was
transmitted to its destination by Silas, or Silvanus, [157:7] apparently
the same individual who had so frequently accompanied the Apostle Paul
on his missionary journeys. [157:8] Silvanus had been for many years
acquainted with the brethren to whom the letter is addressed, and
therefore was well suited to be its bearer. But though he had long
occupied a prominent position in the Church, he seems to have been very
little known to Peter; and hence the somewhat singular manner in which
he is noticed towards the close of this epistle--"By Silvanus, a
faithful brother unto you, as I suppose, I have written briefly,
exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye
stand." [158:1]

If this letter was written from Rome about the time of the death of
Paul, it is not strange that Peter deemed it prudent to conceal his
place of residence under the designation of Babylon. Nero was then
seeking the extermination of the Christians in the capital; and they had
enemies in all quarters who would have rejoiced to point out to him such
a distinguished victim as the aged apostle. And how could Peter more
appropriately 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 Western
metropolis, was seeking to ruin the Church of God. Nebuchadnezzar had
led the Jews into captivity; but Rome now enthralled both Jews and
Gentiles. If Nebuchadnezzar had an antitype in Nero, assuredly Babylon
had an antitype in Rome. [158:2]

The Second Epistle of Peter was written soon after the first, and was
addressed to the same Churches. [158:3] The author now contemplated the
near approach of death, so that the advices he here gives may be
regarded as his dying instructions. "I think it meet," says he, "_as
long as I am in this tabernacle_, [158:4] to stir you up by putting you
in remembrance--knowing that _shortly_ I must put off this my
tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me." [159:1] If
then Peter was martyred at Rome, we may infer that this letter must have
been written somewhere in the same neighbourhood, and probably in the
same city. We have thus a corroborative proof that the Babylon of the
first letter is no other than the great metropolis.

It deserves notice that in this second epistle, Peter bears emphatic
testimony to the character and inspiration of Paul. The Judaizing party,
as there is reason to think, were in the habit of pleading that they
were supported by the authority of the apostle of the circumcision; and
as 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 Gentiles
was calculated to exert a most salutary influence. "The strangers
scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,"
[159:3] were thus given to understand that all the true heralds of the
gospel had but "one faith;" and that any attempt to create divisions in
the Church, by representing the doctrine of one inspired teacher as
opposed to the doctrine of another, was most unwarrantable. The
reference to Paul, to be found in the Second Epistle of Peter, is
favourable to the supposition that the Apostle of the Gentiles was now
dead; 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 Peter
here alludes particularly to the Epistle to the Hebrews--a letter, as we
have seen, addressed to Jewish Christians, and written after Paul's
liberation from his first Roman imprisonment. It must be admitted that
this letter contains passages [159:5] which have often proved perplexing
to interpreters; but, notwithstanding, it bears the impress of a divine
original; and Peter, who maintains that all the writings of Paul were
dictated by unerring wisdom, places them upon a level with "the _other
Scriptures_" [160:1] either of the evangelists or of the Old Testament.

According to a current tradition, Peter suffered death at Rome by
crucifixion. [160:2] He was not a Roman citizen; and was, therefore,
like our Lord himself, consigned to a mode of punishment inflicted on
slaves and the lowest class of malefactors. The story that, at his own
request, he was crucified with his head downwards as more painful and
ignominious than the doom of his Master, [160:3] is apparently the
invention of an age when the pure light of evangelical religion was
greatly obscured; for the apostle was too well acquainted with the truth
to believe that he was at liberty to inflict upon himself any
unnecessary suffering. The tradition that he died on the same day of the
same month as Paul, but exactly a year afterwards, [160:4] is not
destitute 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 the
primacy of Peter or the supremacy of the Pope; but the facts already
stated throw some light on the history of that great spiritual despotism
whose seat of government has been so long established in the city of the
Caesars. It is obvious that at a very early period various circumstances
contributed to give prominence to the Church of Rome. The epistle
addressed to it contains a more complete exhibition of Christian
doctrine than any other of the apostolical letters; and, in that
remarkable communication, Paul expresses an earnest desire to visit a
community already celebrated all over the world. Five or six of his
letters, now forming part of the inspired canon, were dictated in the
capital of the Empire. The two epistles of the apostle of the
circumcision appear to have emanated from the same metropolis. There is
every 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 of
the Gospels of Mark and Luke. Thus, a large portion of the New Testament
issued from the seat of Empire. Rome could also boast that it was for
some time the residence of two of the most eminent of the apostles. Paul
was there for at least two years as a prisoner; and Peter may have
resided for twelve months within its walls. Some of the most illustrious
of the early converts were members of the Church of Rome; for in the
days of the Apostle of the Gentiles there were disciples in "Caesar's
household." [161:1] And when Nero signalised himself as the first
Imperial persecutor of the Christians, the Church of Rome suffered
terribly from his insane and savage cruelty. Even the historian Tacitus
acknowledges that the tortures to which its adherents were exposed
excited the commiseration of the heathen multitude. Paul and Peter were
cut off in his reign; and the soil of Rome absorbed the blood of these
apostolic martyrs. [161:2] It was not strange, therefore, that the Roman
Church was soon regarded with peculiar respect by all the disciples
throughout the Empire. As time passed on, it increased rapidly in
numbers and in affluence; and circumstances, which properly possessed
nothing more than an historic interest, began to be urged as arguments
in favour of its claims to pre-eminence. At first these claims assumed
no very definite form; and, at the termination of a century after the
days of Paul and Peter, they amounted simply to the recognition of
something 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 was
distributing its bounty all around, and was itself nobly sustaining the
brunt of almost every persecution. In the course of time, the Church of
Rome proceeded to challenge a substantial supremacy; and then the facts
of its early history were mis-stated and exaggerated in accommodation to
the demands of its growing ambition. It was said at first that "its
faith was spoken of throughout the whole world;" it was at length
alleged that its creed should be universally adopted. It was admitted at
an early period that, as it had enjoyed the ministrations of Peter and
Paul, it should be considered an apostolic church; it was at length
asserted that, as an apostle was entitled to deference from ordinary
pastors, a church instructed by two of the most eminent apostles had a
claim to the obedience of other churches. In process of time it was
discovered that Paul was rather an inconvenient companion for the
apostle of the circumcision; and Peter alone then began to be spoken of
as the founder and first bishop of the Church of Rome. Strange to say, a
system founded on a fiction has since sustained the shocks of so many
centuries. One of the greatest marvels of this "mystery of iniquity" is
its tenacity of life; and did not the sure word of prophecy announce
that the time would come when it would be able to boast of its
antiquity, and did we not know that paganism can plead a more remote
original, we might be perplexed by its longevity. But "the vision is yet
for an appointed time--at the end it shall speak and not lie. Though it
tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come, it will not tarry."



Jesus Christ was a Jew, and it might have been expected that the advent
of the most illustrious of His race, in the character of the Prophet
announced by Moses, would have been hailed with enthusiasm by His
countrymen. But the result was far otherwise. "He came unto his own, and
his own received him not." [163:1] The Jews cried "Away with him, away
with him, crucify him;" [163:2] and He suffered the fate of the vilest
criminal. The enmity of the posterity of Abraham to our Lord did not
terminate with His death; they long maintained the bad pre-eminence of
being the most inveterate of the persecutors of His early followers.
Whilst the awful portents of the Passion, and the marvels of the day of
Pentecost were still fresh in public recollection, their chief priests
and elders threw the apostles into prison; [163:3] and soon afterwards
the pious and intrepid Stephen fell a victim to their malignity. Their
infatuation was extreme; and yet it was not unaccountable. They looked,
not for a crucified, but for a conquering Messiah. They imagined that
the Saviour would release them from the thraldom of the Roman yoke; that
He would make Jerusalem the capital of a prosperous and powerful empire;
and that all the ends of the earth would celebrate the glory of the
chosen people. Their vexation, therefore, was intense when they
discovered that so many of the seed of Jacob acknowledged the son of a
carpenter as the Christ, and made light of the distinction between Jew
and Gentile. In their case the natural aversion of the heart to a pure
and spiritual religion was inflamed by national pride combined with
mortified bigotry; and the fiendish spirit which they so frequently
exhibited in their attempts to exterminate the infant Church may thus
admit of the most satisfactory explanation.

Many instances of their antipathy to the new sect have already been
noticed. In almost every town where the missionaries of the cross
appeared, the Jews "opposed themselves and blasphemed;" and magistrates
speedily discovered that in no way could they more easily gain the
favour of the populace than by inflicting sufferings on the Christians.
Hence, as we have seen, about the time of Paul's second visit to
Jerusalem after his conversion, Herod, the grandson of Herod the Great,
"killed James, the brother of John, with the sword; and because he saw
_it pleased the Jews,_ he proceeded further to take Peter also." [164:1]
The apostle of the circumcision was delivered by a miracle from his
grasp; but it is probable that other individuals of less note felt the
effects of his severity. Even in countries far remote from their native
land, the posterity of Abraham were the most bitter opponents of
Christianity. [164:2] As there was much intercourse between Palestine
and Italy, the gospel soon found its way to the seat of government; and
it has been conjectured that some civic disturbance created in the great
metropolis by the adherents of the synagogue, and intended to annoy and
intimidate the new sect, prompted the Emperor Claudius, about A.D. 53,
to interfere in the manner described by Luke, and to command "all Jews
to depart from Rome." [165:1] But the hostility of the Israelites was
most formidable in their own country; and for this, as well as other
reasons, "the brethren which dwelt in Judea" specially required the
sympathy of their fellow-believers throughout the Empire. When Paul
appeared 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 apostle
was rescued by the Roman soldiers, a conspiracy was formed for his
assassination. Four years afterwards, or about A.D. 62, [165:2] another
apostle, James surnamed the Just, who seems to have resided chiefly in
Jerusalem, finished his career by martyrdom. Having proclaimed Jesus to
be the true Messiah on a great public occasion, his fellow-citizens were
so indignant that they threw him from a pinnacle of the temple. As he
was still alive when he reached the ground, he was forthwith assailed
with a shower of stones, and beaten to pieces with the club of a fuller.

As the Christians were at first confounded with the Jews, the
administrators of the Roman law, for upwards of thirty years after our
Lord's death, conceded to them the religious toleration enjoyed by the
seed of Abraham. But, from the beginning, "the sect of the Nazarenes"
enjoyed very little of the favour of the heathen multitude. Paganism had
set its mark upon all the relations of life, and had erected an idol
wherever the eye could turn. It had a god of War, and a god of Peace; a
god of the Sea, and a god of the Wind; a god of the River, and a god of
the Fountain; a god of the Field, and a god of the Barn Floor; a god of
the Hearth, a god of the Threshold, a god of the Door, and a god of the
Hinges. [166:1] When we consider its power and prevalence in the
apostolic age, we need not wonder at the declaration of Paul--"All that
will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." [166:2]
Whether the believer entered into any social circle, or made his
appearance in any place of public concourse, he was constrained in some
way to protest against dominant errors; and almost exactly in proportion
to his consistency and conscientiousness, he was sure to incur the
dislike of the more zealous votaries of idolatry. Hence it was that the
members of the Church were so soon regarded by the pagans as a morose
generation instinct with hatred to the human race. In A.D. 64, when
Nero, in a fit of recklessness, set fire to his capital, he soon
discovered that he had, to a dangerous extent, provoked the wrath of the
Roman citizens; and he attempted, in consequence, to divert the torrent
of public indignation from himself, by imputing the mischief to the
Christians. They were already odious as the propagators of what was
considered "a pernicious superstition," and the tyrant, no doubt,
reckoned that the mob of the metropolis were prepared to believe any
report to the discredit of these sectaries. But even the pagan historian
who records the commencement of this first imperial persecution, and who
was deeply prejudiced against the disciples of our Lord, bears testimony
to the falsehood of the accusation. Nero, says Tacitus, "found wretches
who were induced to confess themselves guilty; and, on their evidence, a
great multitude of Christians were convicted, not indeed on clear proof
of their having set the city on fire, but rather on account of their
hatred of the human race. [167:1] They were put to death amidst insults
and derision. Some were covered with the skins of wild beasts, and left
to be torn to pieces by dogs; others were nailed to the cross; and some,
covered over with inflammable matter, were lighted up, when the day
declined, to serve as torches during the night. The Emperor lent his own
gardens for the exhibition. He added the sports of the circus, and
assisted in person, sometimes driving a curricle, and occasionally
mixing with the rubble in his coachman's dress. At length these
proceedings excited a feeling of compassion, as it was evident that the
Christians were destroyed, not for the public good, but as a sacrifice
to the cruelty of a single individual." [167:2] Some writers have
maintained that the persecution under Nero was confined to Rome; but
various testimonies concur to prove that it extended to the provinces.
Paul seems to contemplate its spread throughout the Empire when he tells
the Hebrews that they had "_not yet_ resisted _unto blood_ striving
against sin," [167:3] and when he exhorts them not to forsake the
assembling 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 circumstance 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] and
when he tells them of "judgment" beginning "at the house of God."
[168:2] If Nero enacted that the profession of Christianity was a
capital offence, his law must have been in force throughout the Roman
world; and an early ecclesiastical writer positively affirms that he was
the author of such sanguinary legislation. [168:3] The horror with which
his name was so long regarded by members of the Church in all parts of
the Empire [168:4] strongly corroborates the statement that the attack
on the disciples in the capital was only the signal for the commencement
of a general persecution.

Nero died A.D. 68, and the war which involved the destruction of
Jerusalem and of upwards of a million of the Jews, was already in
progress. The holy city fell A.D. 70; and the Mosaic economy, which had
been virtually abolished by the death of Christ, now reached its
practical termination. At the same period the prophecy of Daniel was
literally fulfilled; for "the sacrifice and the oblation" were made to
cease, [168:5] as the demolition of the temple and the dispersion of the
priests put an end to the celebration of the Levitical worship. The
overthrow of the metropolis of Palestine contributed in various ways to
the advancement of the Christian cause. Judaism, no longer able to
provide for the maintenance of its ritual, was exhibited to the world as
a defunct system; its institutions, now more narrowly examined by the
spiritual eye, were discovered to be but types of the blessings of a
more glorious dispensation; and many believers, who had hitherto adhered
to the ceremonial law, discontinued its observances. Christ, forty years
before, had predicted the siege and desolation of Jerusalem; [169:1] and
the remarkable verification of a prophecy, delivered at a time when the
catastrophe was exceedingly improbable, appears to have induced not a
few to think more favourably of the credentials of the gospel. In
another point of view the ruin of the ancient capital of Judea proved
advantageous to the Church. In the subversion of their chief city the
power of the Jews sustained a shock from which it has never since
recovered; and the disciples were partially delivered from the attacks
of their most restless and implacable persecutors.

Much obscurity rests upon the history of the period which immediately
follows the destruction of Jerusalem. Though Philip and John, [169:2]
and perhaps one or two more of the apostles, still survived, we know
almost nothing of their proceedings. After the death of Nero the Church
enjoyed a season of repose, but when Domitian, in A.D. 81, succeeded to
the government, the work of persecution recommenced. The new sovereign,
who was of a gloomy and suspicious temper, encouraged a system of
espionage; and as he seems to have imagined that the Christians fostered
dangerous political designs, he treated them with the greater harshness.
The Jewish calumny, that they aimed at temporal dominion, and that they
sought to set up "another king one Jesus," [169:3] had obviously
produced an impression upon his mind; and he accordingly sought out the
nearest kinsmen of the Messiah, that he might remove these heirs of the
rival dynasty. But when the two grandchildren of Jude, [169:4] called
the brother of our Lord, [169:5] were conducted to Rome, and brought to
his tribunal, he discovered the groundlessness of his apprehensions. The
individuals who had inspired the Emperor with such anxiety, were the
joint-proprietors of a small farm in Palestine which they cultivated
with their own hands; and the jealous monarch at once saw that, when his
fears had been excited by reports of the treasonable designs of such
simple and illiterate husbandmen, he had been miserably befooled. After
a single interview, these poor peasants met with no farther molestation
from Domitian.

Had all the disciples been in such circumstances as the grandchildren of
Jude, the gospel might have been identified with poverty and ignorance;
and it might have been said that it was fitted to make way only among
the dregs of the population. But it was never fairly open to this
objection. From the very first it reckoned amongst its adherents at
least a sprinkling of the wealthy, the influential, and the educated.
Joseph of Arimathea, one of the primitive followers of our Lord, was "a
rich man" and an "honourable counsellor;" [170:1] Paul himself, as a
scholar, stood high among his countrymen, for he had been brought up at
the feet of Gamaliel; and Sergius Paulus, one of the first fruits of the
mission to the Gentiles, was a Roman Proconsul. [170:2] In the reign of
Nero the Church could boast of some illustrious converts; and the saints
of "Caesar's household" are found addressing their Christian salutations
to their brethren at Philippi. [170:3] In the reign of Domitian the
gospel still continued to have friends among the Roman nobility. Flavius
Clemens, 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, was
banished with many others to Pontia, [170:5] a small island off the
coast of Italy used for the confinement of state prisoners.

Domitian governed the Empire fifteen years, but his persecution of the
Christians 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 the
testimony of Jesus Christ," [171:1] was sent as an exile into Patmos, a
small rocky island in the Aegaean Sea not far from the coast of Asia
Minor. It is said that he had previously issued unhurt from a cauldron
of boiling oil into which he had been plunged in Rome by order of the
Emperor; but this story, for which a writer who flourished about a
century afterwards is the earliest voucher, [171:2] has been challenged
as of doubtful authority. [171:3] We have no means of ascertaining the
length of time during which he remained in banishment; [171:4] and all
we know of this portion of his life is, that he had now those sublime
and mysterious visions to be found in the Apocalypse. After the fall of
Jerusalem, as well as after he was permitted to leave Patmos, he appears
to have resided chiefly in the metropolis of the Proconsular Asia; and
hence some ancient writers, who flourished after the establishment of
the episcopal system, have designated him the "Bishop of Ephesus."
[172:1] But the apostle, when advanced in life, chose to be known simply
by the title of "the elder;" [172:2] and though he was certainly by far
the most influential minister of the district where he sojourned, there
is every reason to believe that he admitted his brethren to a share in
the government of the Christian community. Like Peter and Paul before
him, he acknowledged the other elders as his "fellow-presbyters,"
[172:3] and, as became his age and apostolic character, he doubtless
exhorted them to take heed unto themselves and to all the flock over the
which the Holy Ghost had made them overseers. [172:4]

John seems to have been the last survivor of the apostles. He is said to
have reached the advanced age of one hundred years, and to have died
about 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 and
impressive preacher; but when his strength began to give way beneath the
pressure of increasing infirmities, he ceased to deliver lengthened
addresses. When he appeared before the congregation in extreme old age,
he is reported to have simply repeated the exhortation "Children, love
one another;" and when asked, why he always confined himself to the same
brief admonition, he replied that "no more was necessary." [172:6] Such
a narrative is certainly quite in harmony with the character of the
beloved 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, the
Christian interest was in a somewhat languishing condition; [172:7] and
the tone of the letters addressed to the Seven Churches in Asia is
calculated to confirm this impression. The Church of Laodicea is said to
be "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] and
the Church of Ephesus is exhorted to "remember from whence she has
fallen, and repent, and do the first works." [173:3] When it was known
that Christianity was under the ban of a legal proscription, it was not
strange that "the love of many" waxed cold; and the persecutions of Nero
and Domitian must have had a most discouraging influence. But though the
Church had to encounter the withering blasts of popular odium and
imperial intolerance, it struggled through an ungenial spring; and, in
almost every part of the Roman Empire, it had taken root and was
beginning to exhibit tokens of a steady and vigorous growth as early as
the close of the first century. The Acts and the apostolical epistles
speak of the preaching of the gospel in Palestine, Syria, Cyprus, Asia
Minor, Greece, Illyricum, and Italy; and, according to traditions which
we have no reason to discredit, the way of salvation was proclaimed,
before the death of John, in various other countries. It is highly
probable that Paul himself assisted in laying the foundations of the
Church in Spain; at an early date there were disciples in Gaul; and
there is good evidence that, before the close of the first century, the
new faith had been planted even on the distant shores of Britain.
[173:4] It is generally admitted that Mark laboured successfully as an
evangelist in Alexandria, the metropolis of Egypt; [173:5] and it has
been conjectured that Christians were soon to be found in "the parts of
Libya about Cyrene," [173:6] for if Jews from that district were
converted at Jerusalem by Peter's famous sermon on the day of Pentecost,
they would not fail, on their return home, to disseminate the precious
truths by which they had been quickened and comforted. On the same
grounds it may be inferred that the gospel soon found its way into
Parthia, Media, Persia, Arabia, and Mesopotamia. [174:1] Various
traditions [174:2] attest that several of the apostles travelled
eastwards, after their departure from the capital of Palestine.

Whilst Christianity, in the face of much obloquy, was gradually
attracting more and more attention, it was at the same time nobly
demonstrating its power as the great regenerator of society. The
religion of pagan Rome could not satisfy the wants of the soul; it could
neither improve the heart nor invigorate the intellect; and it was now
rapidly losing its hold on the consciences of the multitude. The high
places of idolatrous worship often exercised a most demoralising
influence, as their rites were not unfrequently a wretched mixture of
brutality, levity, imposture, and prostitution. Philosophy had
completely failed to ameliorate the condition of man. The vices of some
of its most distinguished professors were notorious; its votaries were
pretty generally regarded as a class of scheming speculators; and they
enjoyed neither the confidence nor the respect of the mass of the
people. But, even under the most unpromising circumstances, it soon
appeared that Christianity could accomplish social and spiritual changes
of a very extraordinary character. The Church of Corinth was perhaps one
of the least exemplary of the early Christian communities, and yet it
stood upon a moral eminence far above the surrounding population; and,
from the roll of its own membership, it could produce cases of
conversion to which nothing parallel could, be found in the whole
history of heathendom. Paul could say to it--"Neither fornicators, nor
idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves
with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers,
nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God, _and such were some
of you_ but ye are washed, but ye _are sanctified_, but ye are justified
in 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 the
highest aspirations of man. It revealed to him a Friend in heaven who
"sticketh closer than a brother;" [175:2] and, as it assured him of
eternal happiness in the enjoyment of fellowship with God, it imparted
to him a "peace that passeth all understanding." The Roman people
witnessed a new spectacle when they saw the primitive followers of
Christ expiring in the fires of martyrdom. The pagans did not so value
their superstitions; but here was a religion which was accounted "better
than life." Well then might the flames which illuminated the gardens of
Nero supply some spiritual light to the crowds who were present at the
sad scene; and, in the indomitable spirit of the first sufferers, well
might the thoughtful citizen have recognised a system which was destined
yet to subdue the world.





The conduct of our Lord, as a religious teacher, betokened that He was
something more than man. Mohammed dictated the Koran, and left it behind
him as a sacred book for the guidance of his followers; many others, who
have established sects, have also founded a literature for their
disciples; but Jesus Christ wrote nothing. The Son of God was not
obliged to condescend to become His own biographer, and thus to testify
of 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 to
the latest generations. During His personal ministry, even His apostles
were only imperfectly acquainted with His theology; but, shortly before
His death, He gave them an assurance that, in due time, He would
disclose to them more fully the nature and extent of the great
salvation. 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, and
bring 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 the
truth in all its purity and power; but, perhaps, no part of the
evangelical history was written until upwards of twenty years after the
death of our Saviour. [177:3] According to tradition, the Gospels of
Matthew, Mark, and Luke, then appeared in the order in which they are
now presented in our authorised version. [177:4] It is certain that all
these narratives were published several years before the tall of
Jerusalem in A.D. 70; and as each contains our Lord's announcement of
its speedy catastrophe, there is much probability in the report, that
the exact fulfilment of so remarkable a prophecy, led many to
acknowledge the divine origin of the Christian religion. The Gospel of
John is of a much later date, and seems to have been written towards the
conclusion of the century.

Two of the evangelists, Matthew and John, were apostles; and the other
two, Mark and Luke, appear to have been of the number of the Seventy.
[177:5] All were, therefore, fully competent to bear testimony to the
facts 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 the
word." [178:2] These writers mention many miracles performed by Christ,
and at least three of the Gospels were in general circulation whilst
multitudes were still alive who are described in them as either the
spectators or the subjects of His works of wonder; and yet, though the
evangelists often enter most minutely into details, so that their
statements, if capable of contradiction, might have been at once
challenged and exposed, we do not find that any attempt was meanwhile
made to impeach their accuracy. Their manner of recording the acts of
the Great Teacher is characterised by remarkable simplicity, and the
most acute reader in vain seeks to detect in it the slightest trace of
concealment or exaggeration. Matthew artlessly confesses that he
belonged to the odious class of publicans; [178:3] Mark tells how Peter,
his friend and companion, "began to curse and to swear," and to declare
that he knew not the Man; [178:4] Luke, who was probably one of the two
brethren who journeyed to Emmaus, informs us how Jesus drew near to them
on the way and upbraided them as "fools and slow of heart to believe all
that the prophets had spoken;" [178:5] and John honestly repudiates the
pretended prediction setting forth that he himself was not to die.
[178:6] Each evangelist mentions incidents unnoticed by the others, and
thus supplies proof that he is entitled to the credit of an original and
independent witness. Matthew alone gives the formula of baptism "in the
name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost;" [178:7] Mark
alone speaks of the great amazement of the people as they beheld the
face of Christ on His descent from the Mount of Transfiguration; [179:1]
Luke alone announces the appointment of the Seventy; [179:2] and John
alone records some of those sublime discourses in which our Lord treats
of the doctrine of His Sonship, of the mission of the Comforter, and of
the mysterious union between Himself and His people. [179:3] All the
evangelists direct our special attention to the scene of the
crucifixion. As they proceed to describe it, they obviously feel that
they are dealing with a transaction of awful import; and they
accordingly become more impressive and circumstantial. Their statements,
when combined, furnish a complete and consistent narrative of the sore
travail, the deep humiliation, and the dying utterances of the
illustrious sufferer.

If the appointment of the Seventy indicated our Lord's intention of
sending the glad tidings of salvation to the ends of the earth, there
was a peculiar propriety in the selection of an individual of their
number as the historian of the earliest missionary triumphs. Whilst Luke
records the wonderful success of Christianity amongst the Gentiles, he
takes care to point out the peculiar features of the new economy; and
thus it is that his narrative abounds with passages in which the
doctrine, polity, and worship of the primitive disciples are illustrated
or explained. It is well known that the titles of the several parts of
the New Testament were prefixed to them, not by their authors, but at a
subsequent period by parties who had no claim to inspiration; [179:4]
and it is obvious that the book called--"The Acts of the Apostles" has
not been very correctly designated. It is confined almost exclusively to
the acts of Peter and Paul, and it sketches only a portion of their
proceedings. As its narrative terminates at the end of Paul's second
year's imprisonment at Rome, it was probably written about that period.
Superficial readers may object to its information as curt and
fragmentary; but the careful investigator will discover that it marks
with great distinctness the most important stages in the early
development of the Church. [180:1] It shews how Christianity spread
rapidly among the Jews from the day of Pentecost to the martyrdom of
Stephen; it points out how it then took root among the Gentiles; and it
continues to trace its dissemination from Judea westwards, until it was
firmly planted by the apostle of the uncircumcision in the metropolis of
the Empire.

It is highly probable that some of the fourteen epistles of Paul were
written before any other portion of the New Testament, for we have
already seen [180:2] that the greater number of them were transmitted to
the parties to whom they are addressed during the time over which the
Acts of the Apostles extend; but though Luke makes no mention of these
letters, his account of the travels of their author throws considerable
light on the question of their chronology. Guided by statements which he
supplies, and by evidence contained in the documents themselves, we have
endeavoured to point out the order of their composition. It thus appears
that they are not placed chronologically in the New Testament. The
present arrangement is, however, of great antiquity, as it can be traced
up to the beginning of the fourth century; [180:3] and it is made upon
the principle that the Churches addressed should be classed according to
their relative importance. The Church of Rome at an early period was
recognised as the most influential in existence, and hence the Epistle
to the Romans stands at the head of the collection. The Church of
Corinth seems to have ranked next, and accordingly the Epistles to the
Corinthians occupy the second place. The letters to the Churches are
followed by those to individuals, that is, to Timothy, Titus, and
Philemon; and it has been conjectured that the Epistle to the Hebrews is
put last, because it is anonymous. Some have contended that this letter
was composed by Barnabas; others have ascribed it to Clement, or Luke,
or Silas, or Apollos; but, though Paul has not announced his name, the
external and internal evidences concur to prove that he was its author.

"Every word of God is pure," [181:2] but the word of man is often
deceitful; and nowhere do his fallibility and ignorance appear more
conspicuously than in his appendages to Scripture. Even the titles
prefixed to the writings of the apostles and evangelists are redolent of
superstition, for no satisfactory reason can be given why the
designation 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. The
postscripts to the epistles of Paul have been added by transcribers, and
are also calculated to mislead. Thus, the Epistle to the Galatians is
said to have been "written from Rome," though it is now generally
acknowledged that Paul was not in the capital of the Empire until long
after that letter was dictated. The first Epistle to Timothy is dated
"from Laodicea, which is the chiefest city of Phrygia Pacatiana;" but it
is well known that Phrygia was not divided into Phrygia Prima, or
Pacatiana, and Phrygia Secunda until the fourth century. [181:4] It is
stated at the end of another epistle that it was "written to Titus
ordained the first Bishop of the Church of the Cretians;" but, as the
letter itself demonstrates, Paul did not intend that Titus should remain
permanently in Crete, [182:1] and it can be shewn that, for centuries
afterwards, such a dignitary as "the Bishop of the Church of the
Cretians" was utterly unknown.

The seven letters written by James, Peter, Jude, and John, are called
General or Catholic epistles. The Epistle of James was addressed "to the
twelve tribes scattered abroad" probably in A.D. 61, and its author
survived its publication perhaps little more than twelve months. [182:2]
Peter, as we have seen, appears to have written his two epistles only a
short time before his martyrdom. [182:3] The Epistle of Jude is the
production of a later period, as it contains quotations from the Second
Epistle of Peter. [182:4] The exact dates of the Epistles of John cannot
now be discovered, but they supply internal proof that they must have
been written towards the close of the first century. [182:5]

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

The divine authority of the four Gospels and of the Acts of the Apostles
was, from their first appearance, universally acknowledged in the
ancient Church. [182:7] These books were publicly read in the religious
assemblies of the primitive Christians, and were placed on a level with
the Old Testament Scriptures. [182:8] The epistles of Paul occupied an
equally honourable position. [182:9] In the second and third centuries
the Epistle to the Hebrews was not, indeed, received among the sacred
books by the Church of Rome; [183:1] but at an earlier period its
inspiration was acknowledged by the Christians of the great city, for it
is quoted as the genuine work of the Apostle Paul by an eminent Roman
pastor who flourished in the first century. [183:2] The authority of two
of the most considerable of the Catholic epistles--the First Epistle of
Peter and the First Epistle of John--was never questioned; [183:3] but,
for a time, there were churches which doubted the claims of the five
others to be ranked amongst "the Scriptures." [183:4] The multitude of
spurious writings which were then abroad suggested to the disciples the
necessity of caution, and hence suspicions arose in certain cases where
they were destitute of foundation. But these suspicions, which never
seem to have been entertained by more than a minority of the churches,
gradually passed away; and at length, towards the close of the fourth
century, the whole of what are now called the Catholic epistles were
received, by unanimous consent, as inspired documents. [183:5] The
Apocalypse was acknowledged to be a divine revelation as soon as it
appeared; and its credit remained unimpeached until the question of the
Millennium began to create discussion. Its authenticity was then
challenged by some of the parties who took an interest in the
controversy; but it still continued to be regarded as a part of Holy
Scripture by the majority of Christians, and there is no book of the New
Testament in behalf of which a title to a divine original can be
established by more conclusive and ample evidence. [184:1]

It thus appears that, with the exception of a few short epistles which
some hesitated to accredit, the New Testament, in the first century, was
acknowledged as the Word of God by all the Apostolical Churches. Its
various parts were not then included in a single volume; and as a
considerable time must have elapsed before copies of every one of them
were universally disseminated, it is not to be thought extraordinary if
the appearance of a letter, several years after it was written, and in
quarters where it had been previously unknown, awakened suspicion or
scepticism. But the slender objections, advanced under such
circumstances, gradually vanished before the light of additional
evidence; and it may safely be asserted that the whole of the documents,
now known as the Scriptures of the New Testament, were received, as
parts of a divine revelation, by an overwhelming majority of the early
Christians. The present division into chapters and verses was introduced
at a period comparatively recent; [184:2] but there is reason to believe
that stated portions of the writings of the apostles and evangelists
were read by the primitive disciples at their religious meetings, and
that, for the direction of the reader, as well as for the facility of
reference, the arrangement was soon notified in the manuscripts by
certain marks of distinction. [184:3] It is well known that in the
ancient Churches persons of all classes and conditions were encouraged
and required to apply themselves to the study of the sacred records;
that even children were made acquainted with the Scriptures; [185:1] and
that the private perusal of the inspired testimonies was considered an
important means of individual edification. All were invited and
stimulated by special promises to meditate upon the mysterious, as well
as the plain, passages of the book of Revelation. "Blessed," says the
Apostle John, "is he that readeth, and _they that hear the words of this
prophecy_, and keep those things which are written therein." [185:2]

The original manuscripts of the New Testament, which must from the first
have been accessible to comparatively few, have all long since
disappeared; and it is now impossible to tell whether they were worn
away by the corroding tooth of time, or destroyed in seasons of
persecution. Copies of them were rapidly multiplied; and though heathen
adversaries displayed no small amount of malice and activity, it was
soon found impossible to effect their annihilation. It was not necessary
that the apostolic autographs [185:3] should be preserved for ever, as
the records, when transcribed, still retained the best and clearest
proofs of their inspiration. They did not require even the imprimatur of
the Church, for they exhibited in every page the stamp of divinity; and
as soon as they were published, they commended themselves by the
internal tokens of their heavenly lineage to the acceptance of the
faithful. "The Word of God is quick and powerful," and every one who
peruses the New Testament in a right spirit must feel that it has
emanated from the Searcher of hearts. It speaks to the conscience; it
has all the simplicity and majesty of a divine communication; it
enlightens the understanding; and it converts the soul. No mere man
could have invented such a character as the Saviour it reveals; no mere
man could have contrived such a system of mercy as that which it
announces. The New Testament is always on the side of whatsoever is
just, and honest, and lovely, and of good report; it glorifies God; it
alarms the sinner; it comforts the saint. "The words of the Lord are
pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of earth purified seven
times." [186:1]

The excellence of the New Testament is displayed to singular advantage
when contrasted with those uninspired productions of nearly the same
date which emanated from the companions of the apostles. The only
genuine document of this nature which has come down to us, and which
appeared in the first century,[186:2] is an epistle to the Corinthians.
It was prepared immediately after the Domitian persecution, or about
A.D. 96,[186:3] with a view to heal certain divisions which had sprung
up in the religious community to which it is addressed; and, though
written in the name of the Church of Rome, there is no reason to doubt
that it is the composition of Clement, who was then at the head of the
Roman presbytery. The advice which it administers is most judicious; and
the whole letter breathes the peaceful spirit of a devoted Christian
pastor. But it contains passages which furnish conclusive evidence that
it has no claims whatever to inspiration; and its illustration of the
doctrine of the resurrection is in itself more than sufficient to
demonstrate that it could not have been dictated under any supernatural
guidance. "There is," says Clement,[186:4] "a certain bird called the
phoenix. Of this there is never but one at a time, and that lives five
hundred years: and when the time of its dissolution draws near that it
must die, it makes itself a nest of frankincense, and myrrh, and other
spices, into which, when its time is fulfilled, it enters and dies. But
its flesh putrefying breeds a certain worm which, being nourished with
the juice of the dead bird, brings forth feathers; and when it is grown
to a perfect state, it takes up the nest in which the bones of its
parent are, and carries it from Arabia into Egypt to a city called
Heliopolis; and flying in open day, in the sight of all men, lays it
upon the altar of the Sun, and so returns from whence it came. The
priests then search into the records of the time, and find that it
returned precisely at the end of five hundred years." [187:1]

In point of education the authors of the New Testament did not generally
enjoy higher advantages than Clement; and yet, writing "as they were
moved by the Holy Ghost," they were prevented from giving currency, even
in a single instance, to such a story as this fable of the phoenix. All
their statements will be found to be true, whether tried by the standard
of mental or of moral science, of geography, or of natural history. The
theology which they teach is at once sound and genial; and those by whom
it is appreciated can testify that whilst it invigorates and elevates
the intellect, it also pacifies the conscience and purifies the heart.



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

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

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

During the interval between the resurrection and ascension, the apostles
profited greatly by the teaching of our Lord. "Then opened He their
understanding that they might understand the Scriptures," [190:2]
shewing that all things were "fulfilled which were written in the law of
Moses, 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 ancient
predictions; and thus their ideas were brought into harmony with the
revelations of the Old Testament. On the day of Pentecost they,
doubtless, received additional illumination; and thus, maturely
qualified for the duties of their apostleship, they began to publish the
great salvation. Even afterwards, their knowledge continued to expand;
for they had yet to be taught that the Gentiles also were heirs of the
Kingdom of Heaven; [190:4] that uncircumcised believers were to be
admitted to all the privileges of ecclesiastical fellowship; [190:5] and
that the ceremonial law had ceased to be obligatory. [190:6]

We do not require, however, to trace the progress of enlightenment in
the minds of the original heralds of the gospel, that we may ascertain
the doctrine of the Apostolic Church; for in the New Testament we have a
complete and unerring exposition of the faith delivered to the saints.
We have seen that, with a few comparatively trivial exceptions, all the
documents dictated by the apostles and evangelists were at once
recognised as inspired, [190:7] so that in them, combined with the
Jewish Scriptures, we have a perfect ecclesiastical statute-book. The
doctrine set forth in the New Testament was cordially embraced in the
first century by all genuine believers. And it cannot be too
emphatically inculcated that _the written Word_ was of paramount
authority among the primitive Christians. The Israelites had traditions
which they professed to have received from Moses; but our Lord
repudiated these fables, and asserted the supremacy of the book of
inspiration. [191:1] In His own discourses He honoured the Scriptures by
continually quoting from them; [191:2] and He commanded the Jews to
refer to them as the only sure arbiters of his pretensions. [191:3] The
apostles followed His example. More than one-half of the sermon preached
by Peter on the day of Pentecost consisted of passages selected from the
Old Testament. [191:4] The Scriptures, too, inculcate, not only their
claims as standards of ultimate appeal, but also their sufficiency to
meet all the wants of the faithful; for they are said to be "able to
make wise unto salvation," [191:5] and to be "profitable for doctrine,
for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the
man of God may be _perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works_."
[191:6] The sacred records teach, with equal clearness, their own
plenary inspiration. Each writer has his peculiarities of style, and yet
each uses language which the Holy Spirit dictates. In the New Testament
a single word is more than once made the basis of an argument; [191:7]
and doctrines are repeatedly established by a critical examination of
particular forms of expression, [191:8] When statements advanced by
Moses, or David, or Isaiah, are adduced, they are often prefaced with
the intimation that thus "the Holy Ghost saith," [191:9] or thus "it is
spoken of the Lord." [191:10] The apostles plainly aver that they employ
language of infallible authority. "We speak," says Paul, "_in the
words_ which the Holy Ghost teacheth," [192:1] "All Scripture is given
by inspiration of God." [192:2]

It is of unutterable importance that the Scriptures are the very word of
the Lord, for they relate to our highest interests, and were they of
less authority, they could not command our entire confidence. The
momentous truths which they reveal are in every way worthy to be
recorded in memorials given by inspiration of God. Under the ancient
economy the sinner was assured of a Redeemer; [192:3] and intimations
were not wanting that his deliverance would be wrought out in a way
which would excite the wonder of the whole intelligent creation; [192:4]
but the New Testament uplifts the veil, and sheds a glorious radiance
over the revelation of mercy. According to the doctrine of the Apostolic
Church the human race are at once "guilty before God," [192:5] and "dead
in trespasses and sins;" [192:6] and as Christ in the days of His flesh
called forth Lazarus from the tomb, and made him a monument of His
wonder-working power, so by His word He still awakens dead sinners and
calls them with an holy calling, that they may be trophies of His grace
throughout all eternity. And as the restoration of hearing is an
evidence of the restoration of life, so the reception of the word by
faith is a sure token of spiritual vitality. "_He that heareth my
word_," said Christ, "and believeth on Him that sent me, hath
everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but _is passed
from death unto life_." [192:7]

Faith is to the soul of the believer what the living organs are to his
body. It is the ear, the eye, the hand, and the palate of the spiritual
man. By faith he hears the voice of the Son of God; [192:8] by faith he
sees 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 faith
he tastes that the Lord is gracious. [193:3] All the promises are
addressed to faith; and by faith they are appropriated and enjoyed. By
faith the believer is pardoned, [193:4] sanctified, [193:5] sustained,
[193:6] and comforted. [193:7] Faith is the substance of things hoped
for, the evidence of things not seen; [193:8] for it enables us to
anticipate 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 material
world is to his bodily senses. As the eye gazes with delight on the
magnificent scenery of creation, the eye of faith contemplates with joy
unspeakable the exceedingly great and precious promises. And as the eye
can look with pleasure only on those objects which it sees, faith can
rest with satisfaction only on those things which are written in the
book of God's testimony. It has been "written that we might believe that
Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing we might have
life 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 in
which may be found a collection of glorious truths, all forming one
great and well-balanced system. Every part of revelation refers to the
Redeemer; and His earthly history is the key by means of which its
various announcements may be illustrated and harmonized. In the theology
of the New Testament Christ is indeed the "All in all." In addition to
many other illustrious titles which He bears, He is represented as "the
Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world," [193:10] "the End
of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth," [193:11] "the
Head of the Church," [194:1] the "King of kings," [194:2] and "the Hope
of glory." [194:3] During His public ministry He performed miracles such
as had been previously understood to mark the peculiar energy of
Omnipotence; for He opened the eyes of the blind; [194:4] He walked upon
the waves of the sea; [194:5] He made the storm a calm; [194:6] and He
declared to man what was his thought. [194:7] In His capacity of Saviour
He exercises attributes which are essentially divine; as He redeems from
all iniquity, [194:8] and pardons sin, [194:9] and sanctifies the
Church, [194:10] and opens the heart, [194:11] and searches the reins.
[194:12] Had Jesus of Nazareth failed to assert His divine dignity, the
credentials of His mission would have been incomplete, for the Messiah
of the Old Testament is no other than the Monarch of the universe.
Nothing can be more obvious than that the ancient prophets invest Him
with the various titles and attributes of Deity. He is called "the
Lord," [194:13] "Jehovah," [194:14] and "God;" [194:15] He is
represented as the object of worship; [194:16] He is set forth as the
King's Son who shall daily be praised; [194:17] and He is exhibited as
an Almighty and Eternal Friend in whom all that put their trust are
blessed. [194:18]

During the public ministry of our Lord the Twelve do not seem to have
been altogether ignorant of His exalted dignity; [194:19] and yet the
most decisive attestations to His Godhead do not occur until after His
resurrection. [194:20] When the apostles surveyed the humble individual
with whom they were in daily intercourse, it is not extraordinary that
their faith faltered, and that their powers of apprehension failed, as
they pondered the prophecies relating to His advent. When they attempted
closely to grapple with the amazing truths there presented to their
contemplation, and thought of "the Word made flesh," well might they be
overwhelmed with a feeling of giddy and dubious wonder. Even after the
resurrection had illustrated so marvellously the announcements of the
Old Testament, the disciples still continued to regard them with a
species of bewilderment; and our Saviour himself found it necessary to
point out in detail their meaning and their fulfilment. "Beginning at
Moses and all the prophets he expounded to them in all the Scriptures
the things concerning himself." [195:1] The whole truth as to the glory
of His person now flashed upon their minds, and henceforth they do not
scruple to apply to Him all the lofty titles bestowed of old on the
Messiah. The writers of the New Testament say expressly that "Jesus is
the Lord," [195:2] and "God blessed for ever;" [195:3] they describe
believers as trusting in Him, [195:4] as serving Him, [195:5] and as
calling upon His name; [195:6] and they tell of saints and angels,
uniting in the celebration of His praise. [195:7] Such testimonies leave
no doubt as to their ideas of His dignity. Divine incarnations were
recognised in the heathen mythology, so that the Gentiles could not well
object to the doctrine of the assumption of our nature by the Son of
God; but Christianity asserts its immense superiority to paganism in its
account of the design of the union of humanity and Deity in the person
of the Redeemer. According to the poets of Greece and Rome, the gods
often adopted material forms for the vilest of purposes; but the Lord of
glory was made partaker of our flesh and blood, [196:1] that He might
satisfy the claims of eternal justice, and purchase for us a happy and
immortal inheritance. In the cross of Christ sin appears "exceedingly
sinful," and the divine law has been more signally honoured by His
sufferings than if all men of all generations had for ever groaned under
its chastisements. The Jewish ritual must have made the apostles
perfectly familiar with the doctrine of atonement; but they were "slow
of heart to believe" that their Master was Himself the Mighty Sacrifice
represented in the types of the Mosaic ceremonial [196:2] The evangelist
informs us that He expounded this subject after His resurrection,
shewing them that "thus it behoved Christ to suffer." [196:3] Still, the
crucifixion of the Saviour was to multitudes a "rock of offence." The
ambitious Israelite, who expected that the Messiah would go forth
conquering and to conquer, and that He would make Palestine the seat of
universal empire, could not brook the thought that the Great Deliverer
was to die; and the learned Greek, who looked upon all religion with no
little scepticism, was prepared to ridicule the idea of the burial of
the Son of God; but the very circumstance which awakened such
prejudices, suggested to those possessed of spiritual discernment
discoveries of stupendous grandeur. Justice demands the punishment of
transgressors; mercy pleads for their forgiveness: holiness requires the
execution of God's threatenings; goodness insists on the fulfilment of
His promises: and all these attributes are harmonized in the doctrine of
a Saviour sacrificed. God is "just, and the justifier of him which,
believeth in Jesus." [196:4] The Son of Man "by his own blood obtained
eternal redemption" [197:1] for His Church; "mercy and truth meet
together" in His expiation; and His death is thus the central point to
which the eye of faith is now directed. Hence Paul says--"We preach
Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks
foolishness; 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 well
as spiritual and sublime. The way of redemption it discloses is not an
extempore provision of Supreme benevolence called forth by an unforeseen
contingency, but a plan devised from eternity, and fitted to display all
the divine perfections in most impressive combination. Whilst it
recognises the voluntary agency of man, it upholds the sovereignty of
God. Jehovah graciously secures the salvation of every heir of the
promises by both contriving and carrying out all the arrangements of the
"well ordered covenant." His Spirit quickens the dead soul, and works in
us "to will and to do of His good pleasure." [197:3] "The Father hath
chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should
be holy and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us
unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to
the 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 then
unknown; for the New Testament clearly indicates that the Father, the
Son, 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 of
doctrine that the early followers of our Lord did not all profess the
same sentiments, for they had "one Lord, one faith, one baptism."
[198:1] The document commonly called "the Apostles' Creed" is certainly
of very great antiquity, but no part of it proceeded from those to whom
it is attributed by its title; [198:2] and its rather bald and dry
detail of facts and principles obviously betokens a decline from the
simple and earnest spirit of primitive Christianity. Though the early
converts, 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 the
New Testament was dictated; as heresy is ever changing its features, and
a test of orthodoxy, suited to the wants of one age, would not exclude
the errorists of another. It has been left to the existing rulers of the
Church to frame such ecclesiastical symbols as circumstances require;
and it is a striking evidence of the perfection of the Bible that it has
been found capable of furnishing an antidote to every form of heterodoxy
which has ever appeared.

It may be added that the doctrine of the Apostolic Church is eminently
practical. The great object of the mission of Jesus was to "save His
people from their sins;" [198:4] and the tendency of all the teachings
of the New Testament is to promote sanctification. But the holiness of
the gospel is not a shy asceticism which sits in a cloister in moody
melancholy, so that its light never shines before men; but a generous
consecration of the heart to God, which leads us to confess Christ in
the presence of gainsayers, and which prompts us to delight in works of
benevolence. The true Christian should be happy as well as holy; for the
knowledge of the highest truth is connected with the purest enjoyment.
This "wisdom is better than rubies, and all the things that may be
desired are not to be compared to it." [199:1] The Apostle Paul, when a
prisoner at Rome, had comforts to which Nero was an utter stranger. Even
then he could say--"I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to
be 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 be
hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through
Christ which strengtheneth me." [199:2] When all around the believer may
be dark and discouraging, there may be sunshine in his soul. There are
no joys comparable to the joys of a Christian. They are the gifts of the
Spirit of God, and the first-fruits of eternal blessedness; they are
serene and heavenly, solid and satisfying.



The Greek word translated _heresy_ [200:1] in our authorised version of
the New Testament, did not primarily convey an unfavourable idea. It
simply denoted a _choice_ or _preference_. It was often employed to
indicate the adoption of a particular class of philosophical sentiments;
and thus it came to signify a _sect_ or _denomination_. Hence we find
ancient writers speaking of the _heresy_ of the Stoics, the _heresy_
the Epicureans, and the _heresy_ of the Academics. The Jews who used the
Greek language did not consider that the word necessarily reflected on
the party it was intended to describe; and Josephus, who was himself a
Pharisee, accordingly discourses of the three heresies of the Pharisees,
the Sadducees, and the Essenes. [200:2] The Apostle Paul, when speaking
of his own history prior to his conversion, says, that "after the
strictest 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 to
be employed to denote something which the gospel could not sanction; and
accordingly, in the Epistle to the Galatians, heresies are enumerated
among the works of the flesh. [200:5] It is not difficult to explain why
Christian writers at an early date were led to attach such a meaning to
a term which had hitherto been understood to imply nothing
reprehensible. The New Testament teaches us to regard an erroneous
theology as sinful, and traces every deviation from "the one faith" of
the gospel to the corruption of a darkened intellect. [201:1] It
declares--"He that believeth not is _condemned already_, because he hath
not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God; and this is
the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved
darkness rather than light, _because their deeds were evil_." [201:2]
Thus it was that the most ancient ecclesiastical authors described all
classes of unbelievers, sceptics, and innovators, under the general name
of 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 every
deviation from the Christian faith. Pagans and Jews, as well as
professors of apocryphal forms of the gospel, were called heretics.
[201:3] But in the New Testament our attention is directed chiefly to
errorists who in some way disturbed the Church, and adulterated the
doctrine taught by our Lord and His apostles. Paul refers to such
characters when he says--"A man that is an heretic, after the first and
second admonition, reject;" [201:4] and Peter also alludes to them when
he speaks of false teachers who were to appear and "privily bring in
damnable heresies." [201:5]

The earliest corrupters of the gospel were unquestionably those who
endeavoured to impose the observance of the Mosaic law on the converted
Gentiles. Their proceedings were condemned in the Council of Jerusalem,
mentioned in the fifteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles; and
Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, subsequently exposed their
infatuation. But evangelical truth had, perhaps, more to fear from
dilution 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 vain
deceit, after the tradition of men, after the _rudiments of the world_,
and not after Christ." [202:2] He likewise emphatically attested the
danger to be apprehended from it when he addressed to his own son in the
faith the impassioned admonition--"O Timothy, keep that which is
committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and
_oppositions of science_ falsely so called." [202:3]

There is no reason to doubt that the "science" or "philosophy" of which
Paul was so anxious that the disciples should beware, was the same which
was afterwards so well known by the designation of _Gnosticism_. The
second century was the period of its most vigorous development, and it
then, for a time, almost engrossed the attention of the Church; but it
was already beginning to exert a pernicious influence, and it is
therefore noticed by the vigilant apostle. Whilst it acknowledged, to a
certain extent, the authority of the Christian revelation, it also
borrowed largely from Platonism; and, in a spirit of accommodation to
the system of the Athenian sage, it rejected some of the leading
doctrines of the gospel. Plato never seems to have entertained the
sublime conception of the creation of all things out of nothing by the
word of the Most High. He held that matter is essentially evil, and that
it existed from eternity. [202:4] The false teachers who disturbed the
Church in the apostolic age adopted both these views; and the errors
which they propagated and of which the New Testament takes notice,
flowed from their unsound philosophy by direct and necessary
consequence. As a right understanding of certain passages of Scripture
depends on an acquaintance with their system, it may here be expedient
to advert somewhat more particularly to a few of its peculiar features.

The Gnostics alleged that the present world owes neither its origin nor
its arrangement to the Supreme God. They maintained that its constituent
parts have been always in existence; and that, as the great Father of
Lights would have been contaminated by contact with corrupt matter, the
visible frame of things was fashioned, without His knowledge, by an
inferior Intelligence. These principles obviously derogated from the
glory of Jehovah. By ascribing to matter an independent and eternal
existence, they impugned the doctrine of God's Omnipotent Sovereignty;
and by representing it as regulated without His sanction by a spiritual
agent of a lower rank, they denied His Universal Providence. The
apostle, therefore, felt it necessary to enter his protest against all
such cosmogonies. He declared that Jehovah alone, as Father, Son, and
Holy Ghost, existed from eternity; and that all things spiritual and
material arose out of nothing in obedience to the word of the second
person 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; all
things 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 false
views 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 an
earthly tabernacle. They refused to admit that our Lord was born of a
human parent; and, as they asserted that He had a body only in
appearance, 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 Apostle
John 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 the
flesh_ 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 have
_looked upon_, and _our hands have handled_ of the Word of Life ...
declare we unto you. [204:4] ... _Many deceivers_ are entered into the
world who confess not that _Jesus Christ is come in the flesh_." [204:5]

Reasoning from the principle that evil is inherent in matter, the
Gnostics believed the union of the soul and the body to be a calamity.
According to their views the spiritual being can never attain the
perfection of which he is susceptible so long as he remains connected
with his present corporeal organization. Hence they rejected the
doctrine of the resurrection of the body. When Paul asks the
Corinthians--"How say some among you that there is no resurrection of
the dead?" [204:6]--he alludes to the Gnostic denial of this article of
the Christian theology. He also refers to the same circumstance when he
denounces the "profane and vain babblings" of those who "concerning the
truth" had erred, "saying that the resurrection is past already."
[204:7] These heretics, it would appear, maintained that an introduction
to their _Gnosis_, or knowledge, was the only genuine deliverance from
the dominion of death; and argued accordingly that, in the case of those
who had been initiated into the mysteries of their system, the
resurrection was "past already."

The ancient Christian writers concur in stating that Simon, mentioned in
the Acts of the Apostles, [205:1] and commonly called Simon Magus, was
the father of the sects of the Gnostics. [205:2] He was a Samaritan by
birth, and after the rebuke he received from Peter, [205:3] he is
reported to have withdrawn from the Church, and to have concocted a
theology of his own, into which he imported some elements borrowed from
Christianity. At a subsequent period he travelled to Rome, where he
attracted attention by the novelty of his creed, and the boldness of his
pretensions. We are told that, prior to his baptism by Philip, he "had
used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that
himself was some great one;" [205:4] and subsequently he seems to have
pursued a similar career. According to a very early authority, nearly
all the inhabitants of his native country, and a few persons in other
districts, worshipped him as the first or supreme God. [205:5] There is,
probably, some exaggeration in this statement; but there seems no reason
to doubt that he laid claim to extraordinary powers, maintaining that
the same spirit which had been imparted to Jesus, had descended on
himself. He is also said to have denied that our Lord had a real body.
Some, who did not enrol themselves under his standard, soon partially
adopted his principles; and there is cause to think that Hymenaeus,
Philetus, Alexander, Phygellus, and Hermogenes, mentioned in the New
Testament, [205:6] were all more or less tinctured with the spirit of
Gnosticism. Other heresiarchs, not named in the sacred record, are known
to have flourished towards the close of the first century. Of these the
most famous were Carpocrates, Cerinthus, and Ebion. [206:1] There is a
tradition that John, "the beloved disciple," came in contact with
Cerinthus, when going into a bath at Ephesus, and retired abruptly from
the place, that he might not compromise himself by remaining in the same
building with such an enemy of the Christian revelation. [206:2] It is
also stated that the same apostle's testimony to the dignity of the
Word, in the beginning of his Gospel, was designed as an antidote to the
errors of this heresiarch. [206:3]

When the gospel exerts its proper influence on the character it produces
an enlightened, genial, and consistent piety; but a false faith is apt
to lead, in practice, to one of two extremes, either the asceticism of
the Essene, or the sensualism of the Sadducee. Gnosticism developed
itself in both these directions. Some of its advocates maintained that,
as matter is essentially evil, the corrupt propensities of the body
should be kept in constant subjection by a life of rigorous
mortification; others held that, as the principle of evil is inherent in
the corporeal frame, the malady is beyond the reach of cure, and that,
therefore, the animal nature should be permitted freely to indulge its
peculiar appetites. To the latter party, as some think, belonged the
Nicolaitanes noticed by John in the Apocalypse. [206:4] They are said to
have derived their name from Nicolas, one of the seven deacons ordained
by the apostles; [206:5] and to have been a class of Gnostics noted for
their licentiousness. The origin of the designation may, perhaps, admit
of some dispute; but it is certain that those to whom it was applied
were alike lax in principle and dissolute in practice, for the Spirit of
God has declared His abhorrence as well of the "_doctrine_," as of "the
_deeds_ of the Nicolaitanes." [207:1]

Though the Jews, at the time of the appearance of our Lord, were so much
divided in sentiment, and though the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the
Essenes, had each their theological peculiarities, their sectarianism
did not involve any complete severance or separation. Notwithstanding
their differences of creed, the Pharisees and Sadducees sat together in
the Sanhedrim, [207:2] and worshipped together in the temple. All the
seed of Abraham constituted one Church, and congregated in the same
sacred courts to celebrate the great festivals. In the Christian Church,
in the days of the apostles, there was something approaching to the same
outward unity. Though, for instance, there were so many parties among
the Corinthians--though one said, I am of Paul, and another I am of
Apollos, and another I am of Cephas, and another I am of Christ--all
assembled in the same place to join in the same worship, and to partake
of the same Eucharist. Those who withdrew from the disciples with whom
they had been previously associated, appear generally to have
relinquished altogether the profession of Christianity. [207:3] Some, at
least, of the Gnostics acted very differently. When danger appeared they
were inclined to temporize, and to discontinue their attendance on the
worship of the Church; but they were desirous to remain still nominally
connected with the great body of believers. [207:4] Any form of alliance
with such dangerous errorists was, however, considered a cause of
scandal; and the inspired teachers of the gospel insisted on their
exclusion from ecclesiastical fellowship. Hence Paul declares that he
had delivered Hymenaeus and Alexander "unto Satan" that they might learn
"not to blaspheme;" [208:1] and John upbraids the Church in Pergamos
because it retained in its communion "them that held the doctrine of the
Nicolaitanes." [208:2] During the first century the Gnostics seem to
have been unable to create anything like a schism among those who had
embraced Christianity. Whilst the apostles lived the "science falsely so
called" could not pretend to a divine sanction; and though here and
there they displayed considerable activity in the dissemination of their
principles, they were sternly and effectually discountenanced. It is
accordingly stated by one of the earliest ecclesiastical writers that,
in the time of Simeon of Jerusalem, who finished his career in the
beginning of the second century, "they called the Church as yet a
virgin, 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 the
unity" of the Christian commonwealth, "by the introduction of corrupt
doctrines." [208:4]

The gospel affords scope for the healthful and vigorous exercise of the
human 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 on
its wonderful discoveries; but those who are unrenewed in the spirit of
their minds will render to it only a doubtful submission, and will
pervert its plainest announcements. The apostle therefore says--"There
must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be
made manifest among you." [208:5] The heretic is made manifest alike by
his deviations from the doctrines and the precepts of revelation. His
creed does not exhibit the consistency of truth, and his life fails to
display the beauty of holiness. Bible Christianity is neither
superstitious nor sceptical, neither austere nor sensual. "The wisdom
that is from above is _first pure,_ then peaceable, gentle, and easy to
be intreated, _full of mercy and good fruits_, without partiality and
without hypocrisy." [209:1]





To the primitive disciples the day on which our Lord rose from the grave
was a crisis of intense excitement. The crucifixion had cast a dismal
cloud over their prospects; for, immediately before, when He entered
Jerusalem amidst the hosannahs of the multitude, they had probably
anticipated 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 sink
into despair; and, though filled with anxiety, they ventured to indulge
a hope that the third day after His demise would be signalised by some
new revelation. [210:1] The report of those who were early at the
sepulchre at first inspired the residue of the disciples with wonder and
perplexity; [210:2] but, as the proofs of His resurrection multiplied,
they became confident and joyful. Ever afterwards the first day of the
week 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, what
was called "The Lord's Day," [211:2] was regarded by all as sacred to

It has often been asserted that, during His own ministry, our Saviour
encouraged His disciples to violate the Sabbath, and thus prepared the
way for its abolition. But this theory is as destitute of foundation as
it is dangerous to morality. Even the ceremonial law continued to be
binding until Jesus expired upon the cross; and meanwhile He no doubt
felt it to be His duty to attend to every jot and tittle of its
appointments. [211:3] Thus, it became Him "to fulfil all righteousness."
[211:4] He is at pains to shew that the acts of which the Pharisees
complained as breaches of the Sabbath could be vindicated by Old
Testament authority; [211:5] and that these formalists "condemned _the
guiltless,"_ [211:6] when they denounced the disciples as doing that
which was unlawful. Jesus never transgressed either the letter or the
spirit of any commandment pertaining to the holy rest; but superstition
had added to the written law a multitude of minute observances; and
every Israelite was at perfect liberty to neglect any or all of these
frivolous regulations.

The Great Teacher never intimated that the Sabbath was a ceremonial
ordinance which was to cease with the Mosaic ritual. It was instituted
when our first parents were in Paradise; [211:7] and the precept
enjoining its remembrance, being a portion of the Decalogue, [212:1] is
of perpetual obligation. Hence, instead of regarding it as a merely
Jewish institution, Christ declares that it "was made for MAN," [212:2]
or, in other words, that it was designed for the benefit of the whole
human family. Instead of anticipating its extinction along with the
ceremonial law, He speaks of its existence after the downfal of
Jerusalem. When He announces the calamities connected with the ruin of
the holy city, He instructs His followers to pray that the urgency of
the catastrophe may not deprive them of the comfort of the ordinances of
the sacred rest. "Pray ye," said he, "that your flight be not in the
winter, _neither on the Sabbath-day_." [212:3] And the prophet Isaiah,
when describing the ingathering of the Gentiles and the glory of the
Church in the times of the gospel, mentions the keeping of the Sabbath
as 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 the
name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one _that keepeth the
Sabbath from polluting it,_ and taketh hold of my covenant--even them I
will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of
prayer; their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted
upon mine altar: [212:4] for mine house shall be called an house of
prayer _for all people._" [212:5]

But when Jesus declared that "the Son of Man is Lord also of the
Sabbath," [212:6] He unquestionably asserted His right to alter the
circumstantials of its observance. He accordingly abolished its
ceremonial worship, gave it a new name, and changed the day of its
celebration. He signalised the first day of the week by then appearing
once and again to His disciples after His resurrection, [212:7] and by
that Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit [213:1] which marks the
commencement of a new era in the history of redemption. As the Lord's
day was consecrated to the Lord's service, [213:2] the disciples did not
now neglect the assembling of themselves together; [213:3] and the
apostle commanded them at this holy season to set apart a portion of
their gains for religious purposes. [213:4] It was most fitting that the
first day of the week should be thus distinguished under the new
economy; for the deliverance of the Church is a more illustrious
achievement than the formation of the world; [213:5] and as the primeval
Sabbath commemorated the rest of the Creator, the Christian Sabbath
reminds us of the completion of the work of the Redeemer. "There
remaineth, therefore, the keeping of a Sabbath [213:6] to the people of
God, for he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his
own works, as God did from his." [213:7]

As many of the converts from Judaism urged the circumcision of their
Gentile brethren, they were likewise disposed to insist on their
observance of the Hebrew festivals. The apostles, at least for a
considerable time, did not deem it expedient positively to forbid the
keeping 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. Let
every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." [213:8] It is obvious
that the Lord's day is not included in this compromise; for from the
morning of the resurrection there appears to have been no dispute as to
its claims, and its very title attests the general recognition of its
authority. The apostle can refer only to days which were typical and
ceremonial. Hence he says elsewhere--"Let no man judge you in meat, or
in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the
Sabbath days--_which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of
Christ_." [214:1]

Though the New Testament furnishes no full and circumstantial
description of the worship of the Christian Church, it makes such
incidental allusions to its various parts, as enable us to form a pretty
accurate idea of its general character. Like the worship of the
synagogue [214:2] it consisted of prayer, singing, reading the
Scriptures, and expounding or preaching. Those who joined the Church,
for several years after it was first organized, were almost exclusively
converts from Judaism, and when they embraced the Christian faith, they
retained the order of religious service to which they had been hitherto
accustomed; but by the recognition of Jesus Christ as the Messiah of
whom the law and the prophets testified, their old forms were inspired
with new life and significance. At first the heathen did not challenge
the distinction between the worship of the synagogue and the Church; and
thus it was, as has already been intimated, that for a considerable
portion of the first century, the Christians and the Jews were
frequently confounded.

It has often been asserted, that the Jews had a liturgy when our Lord
ministered in their synagogues; but the proof adduced in support of this
statement is far from satisfactory; and their prayers which are still
extant, and which are said to have been then in use, must obviously have
been written after the destruction of Jerusalem. [215:1] It is, however,
certain that the Christians in the apostolic age were not restricted to
any 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 of
common prayer, it would, of course, have been received into the canon of
the New Testament. Our Lord taught His disciples to pray, and supplied
them with a model to guide them in their devotional exercises; [215:3]
but there is no evidence whatever that, in their stated services, they
constantly employed the language of that beautiful and comprehensive
formulary. The very idea of a liturgy was altogether alien to the spirit
of the primitive believers. They were commanded to give thanks "in
everything," [215:4] to pray "always _with all prayer and supplication_
in the spirit," [215:5] and to watch thereunto "with all perseverance
and supplication _for all saints_;" [215:6] and had they been limited to
a form, they would have found it impossible to comply with these
admonitions. Their prayers were dictated by the occasion, and varied
according to passing circumstances. Some of them which have been
recorded, [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, the
gift, as well as the grace, of prayer was imparted abundantly, so that a
liturgy would have been deemed superfluous, if not directly calculated
to freeze the genial current of devotion.

Singing, in which none but Levites were permitted to unite, [216:1] and
which was accompanied by instrumental music, constituted a prominent
part of the temple service. The singers occupied an elevated platform
adjoining the court of the priests; [216:2] and it is somewhat doubtful
whether, in that position, they were distinctly heard by the majority of
the 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 of
various instruments of sound, was also typical and ceremonial. It seems
to have indicated that the tongue of man cannot sufficiently express the
praise of the King Eternal, and that all things, animate and inanimate,
owe Him a revenue of glory. The worship of the synagogue was more
simple. Its officers had, indeed, trumpets and cornets, with which they
published their sentences of excommunication, and announced the new
year, the fasts, and the Sabbath; [216:5] but they did not introduce
instrumental music into their congregational services. The early
Christians followed the example of the synagogue; and when they
celebrated the praises of God "in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual
songs," [216:6] their melody was "the fruit of the lips." [216:7] For
many centuries after this period, the use of instrumental music was
unknown in the Church. [217:1]

The Jews divided the Pentateuch and the writings of the Prophets into
sections, 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 equal
honour on the holy oracles; for in their solemn assemblies, the reading
of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament formed a part of their
stated worship. [217:3] At the close of this exercise, one or more of
the elders edified the congregation, either by giving a general
exposition of the passage read, or by insisting particularly on some
point of doctrine or duty which it obviously inculcated. If a prophet
was present, he, too, had now an opportunity of addressing the auditory.

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 accordingly
enabled some to speak in tongues in which they had never been
instructed; but it permitted such individuals to exercise their gifts in
the church only when interpreters were present to translate their
communications. [217:5] Whilst the gift of tongues, possessed by so many
of the primitive disciples, must have attracted the attention of the
Gentile as well as of the Jewish literati, it must also have made a
powerful impression on the popular mind, more especially in large
cities; for in such places there were always foreigners to whom these
strange utterances would be perfectly intelligible, and for whom a
discourse delivered in the speech of their native country would have
peculiar charms. But in the worship of the primitive Christians there
was no attempt, in the way of embellishment or decoration, to captivate
the senses. The Church had no gorgeous temples, no fragrant incense,
[218:1] no splendid vestments. For probably the whole of the first
century, 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 a
leathern girdle about his loins;" [218:3] but perhaps few of the early
Christian preachers were arrayed in such coarse canonicals.

The Founder of the Christian religion instituted only two symbolic
ordinances--Baptism and the Lord's Supper. [218:4] It is universally
admitted that, in the apostolic age, baptism was dispensed to all who
embraced the gospel; but it has been much disputed whether it was also
administered to the infant children of the converts. The testimony of
Scripture on the subject is not very explicit; for, as the ordinance was
in common use amongst the Jews, [218:5] a minute description of its mode
and subjects was, perhaps, deemed unnecessary by the apostles and
evangelists. When an adult heathen was received into the Church of
Israel, it is well known that the little children of the proselyte were
admitted along with him; [219:1] and as the Christian Scriptures _no
where forbid_ the dispensation of the rite to infants, it may be
presumed that the same practice was observed by the primitive ministers
of the gospel. This inference is emphatically corroborated by the fact
that, of the comparatively small number of passages in the New Testament
which treat of its administration, no less than _five_ refer to the
baptism of whole households. [219:2] It is also worthy of remark that
these five cases are not mentioned as rare or peculiar, but as ordinary
specimens of the method of apostolic procedure. It is not, indeed,
absolutely certain that there was an infant in any of these five
households; but it is, unquestionably, much more probable that they
contained a fair proportion of little children, than that every
individual in each of them had arrived at years of maturity, and that
all these adults, without exception, at once participated in the faith
of the head of the family, and became candidates for baptism.

In the New Testament faith is represented as the grand qualification for
baptism; [219:3] but this principle obviously applies only to all who
are capable of believing; for in the Word of God faith is also
represented as necessary to salvation, [219:4] and yet it is generally
conceded that little children may be saved. Under the Jewish
dispensation infants were circumcised, and were thus recognised as
interested in the divine favour, so that, if they be excluded from the
rite of baptism, it follows that they occupy a worse position under a
milder and more glorious economy. But the New Testament forbids us to
adopt such an inference. It declares that infants should be "suffered to
come" to the Saviour; [219:5] it indicates that baptism supplies the
place of circumcision, for it connects the gospel institution with "the
circumcision of Christ;" [220:1] it speaks of children as "saints" and
as "in the Lord," [220:2] and, of course, as having received some
visible token of Church membership; and it assures them that their sins
are forgiven them "for His name's sake." [220:3] The New Testament does
not record a single case in which the offspring of Christian parents
were admitted to baptism on arriving at years of intelligence; but it
tells of the apostles exhorting the men of Judea to repent and to submit
to the ordinance, inasmuch as it was a privilege proffered to them and
_to their children_. [220:4] Nay more, Paul plainly teaches that the
seed of the righteous are entitled to the recognition of saintship; and
that, even when only one of the parents is a Christian, the offspring do
not on that account forfeit their ecclesiastical inheritance. "The
unbelieving husband," says he, "is sanctified by the wife, and the
unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband, else were your _children_
unclean, but _now are they holy_." [220:5] This passage demonstrates
that the Apostolic Church recognised the holiness of infants, or in
other words, that it admitted them to baptism.

The Scriptures furnish no very specific instructions as to the mode of
baptism; and it is probable that, in its administration, the primitive
heralds 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 it
has been clearly shewn [221:1] that this statement is inaccurate, and
that baptism does not necessarily imply _dipping_. In ancient times, and
in the lands where the apostles laboured, bathing was perhaps as
frequently performed by _affusion_ as immersion; [221:2] and it may be
that the apostles varied their method of baptizing according to
circumstances. [221:3] The ordinance was intended to convey the idea of
_washing_ or purifying; and it is obvious that water may be applied, in
many ways, as the means of ablution. In the sacred volume _sprinkling_
is often spoken of as equivalent to washing. [221:4]

As baptism was designed to supersede the Jewish circumcision, the Lord's
Supper was intended to occupy the place of the Jewish Passover. [221:5]
The Paschal lamb could be sacrificed nowhere except in the temple of
Jerusalem, and the Passover was kept only once a year; but the Eucharist
could be dispensed wherever a Christian congregation was collected; and
at this period it seems to have been observed every first day of the
week, at least by the more zealous and devout worshippers. [221:6] The
wine, as well as the other element, was given to all who joined in its
celebration; and the title of the "Breaking of _Bread_," [221:7] one of
the names by which the ordinance was originally distinguished, supplies
evidence that the doctrine of transubstantiation was then utterly
unknown. The word _Sacrament_, as applied to Baptism and the Holy
Supper, was not in use in the days of the apostles, and the subsequent
introduction of this nomenclature, [222:1] probably contributed to throw
an air of mystery around these institutions. The primitive disciples
considered the elements employed in them simply as signs and seals of
spiritual blessings; and they had no more idea of regarding the bread in
the Eucharist as the real body of our Saviour, than they had of
believing that the water of baptism is the very blood in which He washed
His people from their sins. They knew that they enjoyed the light of His
countenance 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 all
partakers of that one bread." [222:2] Those who joined together in the
observance of this holy institution were thereby pledged to mutual love;
but every one who acted in such a way as to bring reproach upon the
Christian name, was no longer admitted to the sacred table. Paul,
doubtless, refers to exclusion from this ordinance, as well as from
intimate civil intercourse, when he says to the Corinthians--"I have
written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a
brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a
drunkard, 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 of
elders; [222:4] and it is plain, from the New Testament, that those who
occupied a corresponding position in the Christian Church, also
exercised similar authority. They are described as having the oversight
of 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 are
instructed how to deal with offenders, [223:4] and they are said to be
entitled to obedience. [223:5] Such representations obviously imply that
they were intrusted with the administration of ecclesiastical

This account of the functions of the spiritual rulers has been supposed
by some to be inconsistent with several statements in the apostolic
epistles. It has been alleged that, according to these letters, the
administration of discipline was vested in the whole body of the people;
and that originally the members of the Church, in their collective
capacity, exercised the right of excommunication. The language of Paul,
in reference to a case of scandal which had occurred among the
Christians of Corinth, has been often quoted in proof of the democratic
character of their ecclesiastical constitution. "It is reported
commonly," says the apostle, "that there is fornication, among you, and
such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one
should have his father's wife..... Therefore _put away from among
yourselves that wicked person_." [223:6] The admonition was obeyed, and
the application of discipline seems to have produced a most salutary
impression upon the mind of the offender. In his next letter the apostle
accordingly alludes to this circumstance, and observes--"Sufficient to
such a man is this punishment, which was _inflicted of many_." [223:7]
These words have been frequently adduced to shew that the government of
the Corinthian Church was administered by the whole body of the

The various statements of Scripture, if rightly understood, must exactly
harmonize, and a closer investigation of the case of this transgressor
is all that is required to prove that he was not tried and condemned by
a tribunal composed of the whole mass of the members of the Church of
Corinth. His true history reveals facts of a very different character.
For reasons which it would, perhaps, be now in vain to hope fully to
explore, 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 flesh
with an eye of comparative indulgence. [224:1] Some of them probably
considered the conduct of this offender as only a legitimate exercise of
his Christian liberty; and they appear to have manifested a strong
inclination to shield him from ecclesiastical censure. Paul, therefore,
felt it necessary to address them in the language of indignant
expostulation. "_Ye are puffed up_," says he, "and have not rather
mourned that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among
you....._Your glorying is not good_. Know ye not that a little leaven
leaveneth the whole lump." [224:2] At the same time, as an apostle bound
to vindicate the reputation of the Church, and to enforce the rules of
ecclesiastical discipline, he solemnly announces his determination to
have the offender excommunicated. "I verily," says he, "as absent in
body, but present in spirit, _have judged_ already as though I were
present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, in the name of our
Lord Jesus Christ, _when ye are gathered together_, and my spirit, with
the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, _to deliver such an one unto Satan_
for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the
day of the Lord Jesus." [224:3] To deliver any one to Satan is to expel
him 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 discipline
was designed to teach the fornicator to mortify his lusts, and it thus
aimed at the promotion of his highest interests; or, as the apostle
expresses it, he was to be excommunicated "for the destruction of the
flesh, [225:1] that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord
Jesus." It is obvious that the Church of Corinth was now in a state of
great disorder. A partisan spirit had crept in amongst its members;
[225:2] and it seems probable that those elders [225:3] who were anxious
to maintain wholesome discipline were opposed and overborne. The
fornicator had in some way contrived to make himself so popular that an
attempt at his expulsion would, it was feared, throw the whole society
into hopeless confusion. Under these circumstances Paul felt it
necessary to interpose, to assert his apostolic authority, and to insist
upon the maintenance of ecclesiastical order. Instead, however, of
consulting the people as to the course to be pursued, he peremptorily
delivers his _judgment_, and requires them to hold a solemn
assembly that they may listen to the public announcement [225:4] of a
sentence of excommunication. He, of course, expected that their rulers
would concur with him in this decision, and that one of them would
officially publish it when they were "gathered together."

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

The Corinthians were awakened to a sense of duty by this apostolic
letter, and acted up to its instructions. The result was most
satisfactory. When the offender, saw that he was cut off from the
Church, and that its members avoided his society, he was completely
humbled. The sentence of the apostle, or the eldership, if opposed or
neglected by the people, might have produced little impression; but "the
punishment which was inflicted of many"--the immediate and entire
abandonment of all connexion with him by the disciples at
Corinth--overwhelmed him with shame and terror. He felt as a man smitten
by the judgment of God; he renounced his sin; and he exhibited the most
unequivocal tokens of genuine contrition. In due time he was restored to
Church fellowship; and the apostle then exhorted his brethren to readmit
him to intercourse, and to treat him with kindness and confidence. "Ye
ought," says he, "rather to forgive him and comfort him, lest perhaps
such an one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I
beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him." [227:1]

This case of the Corinthian fornicator has been recorded for the
admonition and guidance of believers in all generations. It teaches that
every member of a Christian Church is bound to use his best endeavours
to promote a pure communion; and that he is not guiltless if, prompted
by mistaken charity or considerations of selfishness, he is not prepared
to co-operate in the exclusion of false brethren. Many an immoral
minister has maintained his position, and has thus continued to bring
discredit on the gospel, simply because those who had witnessed his
misconduct were induced to suppress their testimony; and many a church
court has been prevented from enforcing discipline by the clamours or
intimidation of an ignorant and excited congregation. The command--"Put
away from among yourselves that wicked person," is addressed to the
people, as well as to the ministry; and all Christ's disciples should
feel that, in vindicating the honour of His name, they have a common
interest, and share a common responsibility. Every one cannot be a
member of a church court; but every one can aid in the preservation of
church discipline. He may supply information, or give evidence, or
encourage a healthy tone of public sentiment, or assist, by petition or
remonstrance, in quickening the zeal of lukewarm judicatories. And
discipline is never so influential as when it is known to be sustained
by the approving verdict of a pious and intelligent community. The
punishment "inflicted of many"--the withdrawal of the confidence and
countenance of a whole church--is a most impressive admonition to a
proud sinner.

In the apostolic age the sentence of excommunication had a very
different significance from that which was attached to it at a
subsequent period. Our Lord pointed out its import with equal precision
and 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 the
worshippers of false gods; and they could have no personal respect for
publicans, or Roman tax-gatherers, who were regarded as odious
representatives of the oppressors of their country. To be "unto them as
an heathen" was to be excluded from the privileges of their church; and
to be "unto them as a publican" was to be shut out from their society in
the way of domestic intercourse. When the apostle says--"Now we command
you, brethren, that _ye withdraw yourselves_ from every brother that
walketh disorderly and not after the ordinance [228:3] which he received
of us," [228:4] he doubtless designed to intimate that those who were
excommunicated should be admitted neither to the intimacy of private
friendship nor to the sealing ordinances of the gospel. But it did not
follow that the disciples were to treat such persons with insolence or
inhumanity. They were not at liberty to act thus towards heathens and
publicans; for they were to love even their enemies, and they were to
imitate the example of their Father in heaven who "maketh his sun to
rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on
the unjust." [228:5] It is obvious from the address of the apostle to
the Thessalonians that the members of the Church were not forbidden to
speak to those who were separated from communion; and that they were not
required to refuse them the ordinary charities of life. They were simply
to avoid such an intercourse as implied a community of faith, of
feeling, and of interest. "If any man," says he, "obey not our word by
this epistle, note that man, and _have no company with him_, that he may
be ashamed. Yet _count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a
brother_." [229:1]

How different was this discipline from that which was established,
several centuries afterwards, in the Latin Church! The spirit and usages
of paganism then supplanted the regulations of the New Testament, and
the excommunication of Christianity was converted into the
excommunication of Druidism. [229:2] Our Lord taught that "whoever would
not 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 the
Christian commonwealth was denounced as a monster or a fiend. Paul
declared that the person excommunicated, instead of being counted as an
enemy, should be admonished as a brother; but the Latin Church, in a
long list of horrid imprecations, [229:3] invoked a curse upon every
member of the body of the offender, and commanded every one to refuse to
him the civility of the coldest salutation! The early Church acted as a
faithful monitor, anxious to reclaim the sinner from the error of his
ways: the Latin Church, like a tyrant, refuses to the transgressor even
that which is his due, and seeks either to reduce him to slavery, or to
drive him to despair.



Paul declares that Christ "gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and
some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of
the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body
of Christ." [230:1] In another place the same writer, when speaking of
those occupying positions of prominence in the ecclesiastical community,
makes a somewhat similar enumeration. "God," says he, "hath set some in
the 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 most
prominent characters connected with the Apostolic Church, throw light
upon each other. They mention the ordinary, as well as the
extraordinary, ecclesiastical functionaries. Under the class of ordinary
office-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 to
assist in organizing the infant Church; [230:5] and, as they were
furnished with supernatural endowments, [231:1] they may be considered
extraordinary functionaries. The apostles themselves clearly belong to
the 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 personal
ministry; and, as they all saw Him after He rose from the dead, they
could all attest His resurrection. [231:4] It is plain, too, that the
ministrations of "the prophets," as well as of those who wrought
"miracles," who possessed "gifts of healings," and who had "diversities
of tongues," must also be designated extraordinary.

It is probable that by the "helps," of whom Paul here speaks, he
understands _the deacons_, [231:5] who were originally appointed to
relieve the apostles of a portion of labour which they felt to be
inconvenient and burdensome. [231:6] The duties of the deacons were not
strictly of a spiritual character; these ministers held only a
subordinate station among the office-bearers of the Church; and, even in
dealing with its temporalities, they acted under the advice and
direction 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 the
apostolic catalogues, it is rather singular that, in the passage
addressed to the Ephesians, we have nothing remaining but "PASTORS AND
TEACHERS;" and, in that to the Corinthians, nothing but "TEACHERS" AND
"GOVERNMENTS." There are good grounds for believing that these two
residuary elements are identical,--the "pastors," mentioned
before[232:1] the teachers in one text, being equivalent to the
"governments" mentioned after them in the other.[232:2] Nor is it
strange that those entrusted with the ecclesiastical government should
be styled pastors or shepherds; for they are the guardians and rulers of
"the flock of God." [232:3] Thus, it appears that the ordinary
office-bearers of the Apostolic Church were pastors, teachers, and
helps; or, teachers, rulers, and deacons.

In the apostolic age we read likewise of elders and bishops; and in the
New Testament these names are often used interchangeably.[232:4] The
elders or bishops, were the same as the pastors and teachers; for they
had the charge of the instruction and government of the Church.[232:5]
Hence elders are required to act as faithful pastors under Christ, the
Chief Shepherd.[232:6] It appears, too, that whilst some of the elders
were only pastors, or rulers, others were also teachers. The apostle
says accordingly--"Let the elders that _rule_ well, be counted worthy of
double honour, especially those that _labour in the word and
doctrine_".[232:7] We may thus see that the teachers, governments, and
helps, mentioned by Paul when writing to the Corinthians, are the same
as the "bishops and deacons" of whom he speaks elsewhere. [233:1]

In primitive times there were, generally, a plurality of elders, as well
as a plurality of deacons, in every church or congregation; [233:2] and
each functionary was expected to apply himself to that particular
department of his office which he could manage most efficiently. Some
elders possessed a peculiar talent for expounding the gospel in the way
of preaching, or, as it was occasionally called, prophesying; [233:3]
others excelled in delivering hortatory addresses to the people; others
displayed great tact and sagacity in conducting ecclesiastical business,
or in dealing personally with offenders, or with penitents; whilst
others again were singularly successful in imparting private instruction
to catechumens. Some deacons were frequently commissioned to administer
to the wants of the sick; and others, who were remarkable for their
shrewdness and discrimination, were employed to distribute alms to the
indigent. In one of his epistles Paul pointedly refers to the multiform
duties of these ecclesiastical office-bearers-"Having then," says he,"
gifts, differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether
prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or
ministry (of the deacon), let us wait on our ministering; or he that
teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation; he that
giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence;
he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness." [233:4] It has been supposed
by some that all the primitive elders, or bishops, were preachers; but
the records of apostolic times warrant no such conclusion. These elders
were appointed simply to "take care of the Church of God;" [233:5] and
it was not necessary that each individual should perform all the
functions of the pastoral office. Even at the present day a single
preacher 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 double
honour, [234:1] is language distinctly indicates that there were then
persons designated elders who did not preach, and who, notwithstanding,
were entitled to respect as exemplary and efficient functionaries. It is
remarkable that when the apostle enumerates the qualifications of a
bishop, 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, he
employs only one word--rendered in our version "apt to teach." [234:3]
This does not imply that he must be qualified to _preach_, for
_teaching_ and _preaching_ are repeatedly distinguished in the New
Testament; [234:4] neither does it signify that he must become a
professional tutor, for, as has already been intimated, all elders are
not expected to labour in the word and doctrine; it merely denotes that
he should be able and willing, as often as an opportunity occurred, to
communicate a knowledge of divine truth. All believers are required to
"exhort one another daily," [235:1] "_teaching_ and admonishing one
another," [235:2] being "ready always to give an answer to every man
that asketh them a reason of the hope that is in them;" [235:3] and
those who "watch for souls" should be specially zealous in performing
these duties of their Christian vocation. The word which has been
supposed to indicate that every elder should be a public instructor
occurs in only one other instance in the New Testament; and in that case
it is used in a connexion which serves to illustrate its meaning. Paul
there states that whilst such as minister to the Lord should avoid a
controversial spirit, they should at the same time be willing to supply
explanations to objectors, and to furnish them with information. "The
servant of the Lord," says he, "must not strive, but be gentle unto all
men, _apt to teach_, patient, in meekness _instructing_ those that
oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them repentance to the
acknowledging of the truth." [235:4] Here the _aptness to teach_ refers
apparently to a talent for winning over gainsayers by means of
instruction communicated in private conversation. [235:5]

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

It thus appears that the preaching elder held the most honourable
position amongst the ordinary functionaries of the Apostolic Church.
Whilst his office required the highest order of gifts and
accomplishments, and exacted the largest amount of mental and even
physical exertion, the prosperity of the whole ecclesiastical community
depended mainly on his acceptance and efficiency. The people are
accordingly frequently reminded that they are bound to respect and
sustain their spiritual instructors. "Let him that is taught in the
word," says Paul, "communicate unto him that teacheth in all good
things." [236:3] "The Scripture saith--Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that
treadeth out the corn; and, The labourer is worthy of his reward."
[236:4] "So hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel
should 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. As
they were to carry out instructions which they had received from His own
lips, and as they were armed with the power of working miracles, [236:6]
they possessed an extraordinary share of personal authority. Aware that
their circumstances were peculiar, and that their services would be
available until the end of time, [236:7] they left the ecclesiastical
government, as they passed away one after another, to the care of the
elders who had meanwhile shared in its administration. [237:1] As soon
as the Church began to assume a settled form, they mingled with these
elders on terms of equality; and, as at the Council of Jerusalem,
[237:2] sat with them in the same deliberative assemblies. When Paul
addressed the elders of Ephesus for the last time, and took his solemn
farewell of them, [237:3] he commended the Church to their charge, and
emphatically pressed upon them the importance of fidelity and vigilance.
[237:4] In his Second Epistle to Timothy, written in the prospect of his
martyrdom, he makes no allusion to the expediency of selecting another
individual to fill his place. The apostles had fully executed their
commission when, as wise master-builders, they laid the foundation of
the Church and fairly exhibited the divine model of the glorious
structure; and as no other parties could produce the same credentials,
no others could pretend to the same authority. But even the apostles
repeatedly testified that they regarded the preaching of the Word as the
highest department of their office. It was, not as church rulers, but as
church teachers, that they were specially distinguished. "We will give
ourselves," said they, "continually to prayer, and _to the ministry of
the Word_." [237:5] "Christ sent me," said Paul, "not to baptize, but to
preach the gospel." [238:1] "Unto me, who am less than the least of all
saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the
unsearchable riches of Christ." [238:2]

But though, according to the New Testament, the business of ruling
originally formed only a subordinate part of the duty of the church
teacher, some have maintained that ecclesiastical government pertains to
a higher function than ecclesiastical instruction; and that the apostles
instituted a class of spiritual overseers to whose jurisdiction all
other preachers are amenable. They imagine that, in the Pastoral
Epistles, 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 they
endeavour to sustain these views are quite inconclusive. Paul says to
Timothy--"I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into
Macedonia, that _thou mightest charge_ some that _they teach no other
doctrine_;" [239:1] and it has hence been inferred that the evangelist
was the only minister in the capital of the Proconsular Asia who was
sufficiently authorized to oppose heresiarchs. It happens, however, that
in this epistle the writer says also to his correspondent--"_Charge them
that are rich_ in this world that they be not high-minded, nor trust in
uncertain riches;" [239:2] so that, according to the same method of
interpretation, it would follow that Timothy was the only preacher in
the place who was at liberty to admonish the opulent. When Paul
subsequently stood face to face with the elders of Ephesus [239:3] he
told them that it was their common duty to discountenance and resist
false teachers; [239:4] and he had therefore now no idea of entrusting
that responsibility to any solitary individual. The reason why the
service was pressed specially on Timothy is sufficiently apparent. He
had been trained up by Paul himself; he was a young minister remarkable
for intelligence, ability, and circumspection; and he was accordingly
deemed eminently qualified to deal with the errorists. Hence at this
juncture his presence at Ephesus was considered of importance; and the
apostle besought him to remain there whilst he himself was absent on
another mission.

The argument founded on the instructions addressed to Titus is equally
unsatisfactory. 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 from
these words the inference has been drawn that to Titus alone was
committed the ecclesiastical oversight of all the churches of the
island. But the words of the apostle warrant no such sweeping
conclusion. Apollos, [240:3] and probably other ministers equal in
authority 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 the
people; for, in all cases, even when the apostles were officiating, the
church members were consulted in ecclesiastical appointments. [240:4] It
is probable that the evangelist had much administrative ability, and
this seems to have been the great reason why he was left behind Paul in
Crete. The apostle expected that, with his peculiar energy and tact, he
would stimulate the zeal of the people, as well as of the other
preachers; and thus complete, as speedily as possible, the needful
ecclesiastical arrangements.

When Paul once said to the high priest of Israel--"_Sittest thou to
judge me_ after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the
law" [240:5]--he had no intention of declaring that the dignitary he
addressed was the only member of the Jewish council who had the right of
adjudication. [240:6] The court consisted of at least seventy
individuals, every one of whom had a vote as effective as that of the
personage with whom he thus remonstrated. It is said that the high
priest at this period was not even the president of the Sanhedrim.
[241:1] Paul was perfectly aware of the constitution of the tribunal to
which Ananias belonged; and he merely meant to remind his oppressor that
the circumstances in which he was placed added greatly to the iniquity
of his present procedure. Though only one of the members of a large
judicatory he was not the less accountable. Thus too, when Jesus said to
Paul himself--"I send _thee_" to the Gentiles, "to open their eyes, and
to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto
God" [241:2]--it was certainly not understood that the apostle was to be
the only labourer in the wide field of heathendom. The address simply
intimated that he was individually commissioned to undertake the
service. And though there were other ministers at Ephesus and Crete,
Paul reminds Timothy and Titus that he had left them there to perform
specific duties, and thus urges upon them the consideration of their
personal responsibility. Though surrounded by so many apostles and
evangelists, he tells us that there rested on himself daily "the care of
all the churches;" [241:3] for he believed that the whole commonwealth
of the saints had a claim on his prayers, his sympathy, and his
services; and he desired to cherish in the hearts of his young brethren
the same feeling of individual obligation. Hence, in these Pastoral
Epistles, he gives his correspondents minute instructions respecting all
the departments of the ministerial office, and reminds them how much
depends on their personal faithfulness. Hence he here points out to them
how they are to deport themselves in public and in private; [241:4] as
preachers 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 Titus
in any of these three epistles which may not be appropriately given to
any ordinary minister of the gospel, or which necessarily implies that
either of these evangelists exercised exclusive ecclesiastical authority
in Ephesus or Crete. [242:2]

The legend that Timothy and Titus were the bishops respectively of
Ephesus and Crete appears to have been invented about the beginning of
the fourth century, and at a time when the original constitution of the
Church had been completely, though silently, revolutionized. [242:3] It
is obvious that, when the Pastoral Epistles were written, these
ministers were not permanently located in the places with which their
names have been thus associated. [242:4] The apostle John resided
principally at Ephesus during the last thirty years of the first
century; [242:5] so that, according to this tale, the beloved disciple
must have been nearly all this time under the ecclesiastical supervision
of Timothy! The story otherwise exhibits internal marks of absurdity and
fabrication. It would lead us to infer that Paul must have distributed
most unequally the burden of official labour; for whilst Timothy is said
to have presided over the Christians of a single city, Titus is
represented as invested with the care of a whole island celebrated in
ancient times for its _hundred cities_. [243:1] It is well known that
long after this period, and when the distinction between the president
of the presbytery and his elders was fully established, a bishop had the
charge of only one church, so that the account of the episcopate of
Titus over all Crete must be rejected as a monstrous fiction.

On the occasion of an ambitious request from James and John, our Lord
expounded to His apostles one of the great principles of His
ecclesiastical polity. "Jesus called them to him, and saith unto
them--Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles
exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority
upon them. _But so shall it not be among you_, but whosoever will be
great among you, shall be your minister, and whosoever of you will be
chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to
be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for
many." [243:2] The teaching elder holds the most honourable position in
the Church, simply because his office is the most laborious, the most
responsible, and the most useful. And no minister of the Word is
warranted to exercise lordship over his brethren, for all are equally
the servants of the same Divine Master. He is the greatest who is most
willing to humble himself, to spend, and to be spent, that Christ may be
exalted. Even the Son of man came, not to be ministered unto, but to
minister; it was His meat and His drink to do the will of His Father in
heaven; He was ready to give instruction to many or to few; at the sea
or by the wayside; in the house, the synagogue, or the corn-field; on
the 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 the
spirit and character of the Great Teacher is the most illustrious of
Christ's ministers.

The primitive Church was pre-eminently a free society; and, with a view
to united action, its members were taught to consult together respecting
all matters of common interest. Whilst the elders were required to
beware of attempting to domineer over each other, they were also warned
against deporting themselves as "lords over God's heritage." [244:1] All
were instructed to be courteous, forbearing, and conciliatory; and each
individual 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 in
concerns comparatively trivial, as well as in affairs of the greatest
consequence, they were guided by the wishes of the people. When an
apostle was to be chosen in the place of Judas, the multitude were
consulted. [244:2] When deputies were required to accompany Paul in a
journey to be undertaken for the public service, the apostle did not
himself select his fellow-travellers, but the churches concerned,
proceeded, by a regular vote, to make the appointment. [244:3] When
deacons A or elders were to be nominated, the choice rested with the
congregation. [244:4] The records of the apostolic age do not mention
any ordinary church functionary who was not called to his office by
popular suffrage. [244:5]

But though, in apostolic times, the communicants were thus freely
entrusted with the elective franchise, the constitution of the primitive
Church was not purely democratic; for while its office-bearers were
elected for life, and whilst its elders or bishops formed a species of
spiritual aristocracy, the powers of the people and the rulers were so
balanced as to check each other's aberrations, and to promote the
healthful action of all parts of the ecclesiastical body. When a deacon
or a bishop was elected, he was not permitted, without farther ceremony,
to enter upon the duties of his vocation. He was bound to submit himself
to the presbytery, that they might ratify the choice by ordination; and
this court, by refusing the imposition of hands, could protect the
Church against the intrusion of incompetent or unworthy candidates.

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

Towards the conclusion of the Epistle to the Romans, [245:7] Paul
mentions Phoebe, "a servant [245:8] of the Church which is at Cenchrea;"
and from this passage some have inferred that the apostles instituted an
order of _deaconesses_. It is scarcely safe to build such an hypothesis
on the foundation of a solitary text of doubtful significance. It may be
that 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 little
services of a confidential or benevolent character. It is probable that,
at one period, she had been in more comfortable circumstances, and that
she had then distinguished herself by her humane and obliging
disposition; for Paul refers apparently to this portion of her history
when he says, "she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also."

In the primitive age all the members of the same Church were closely
associated. As brethren and sisters in the faith, they took a deep
interest in each other's prosperity; and they regarded the afflictions
of any single disciple as a calamity which had befallen the whole
society. Each individual was expected in some way to contribute to the
well-being of all. Even humble Phoebe could be the bearer of an
apostolic letter to the Romans; and, on her return to Cenchrea, could
exert a healthful influence among the younger portion of the female
disciples, by her advice, her example, and her prayers. The industrious
scribe could benefit the brotherhood by writing out copies of the
gospels or epistles; and the pleasant singer, as he joined in the holy
psalm, could thrill the hearts of the faithful by his notes of grave
sweet melody. By establishing a plurality of both elders and deacons in
every worshipping society, the apostles provided more efficiently, as
well for its temporal, as for its spiritual interests; and the most
useful members of the congregation were thus put into positions in which
their various graces and endowments were better exhibited and exercised.
One deacon attested his fitness for his office by his delicate
attentions to the sick; another, by his considerate kindness to the
poor; and another, by his judicious treatment of the indolent, the
insincere, and the improvident. One elder excelled as an awakening
preacher; another, as a sound expositor; and another, as a sagacious
counsellor: whilst another still, who never ventured to address the
congregation, and whose voice was seldom heard at the meetings of the
eldership, could go to the house of mourning, or the chamber of disease,
and there pour forth the fulness of his heart in most appropriate and
impressive supplications. Every one was taught to appreciate the talents
of his neighbour, and to feel that he was, to some extent, dependent on
others for his own edification. The preaching elder could not say to the
ruling elders, "I have no need of you;" neither could the elders say to
the 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 soon
began to complain of a scarcity of copies of the sacred manuscripts; and
even 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 and
deplored. "As the body is one, and hath many members, and all the
members 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 again
the head to the feet, I have no need of you. And whether one member
suffer, all the members suffer with it, or one member be honoured, all
the 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 were
all the lineal descendants of Abraham; and though two thousand years had
passed away since the time of their great progenitor; they had not
meanwhile intermingled, to any considerable extent, with the rest of the
human family. The bulk of the nation still occupied the land which had
been granted by promise to the "father of the faithful;" the same farms
had been held by the same families from age to age; and probably some of
the proprietors could boast that their ancestors, fifteen hundred years
before, had taken possession of the very fields which they now
cultivated. They had all one form of worship, one high priest, and one
place of sacrifice. At stated seasons every year all the males of a
certain age were required to meet together at Jerusalem; and thus a full
representation of the whole race was frequently collected in one great

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

Some, however, have contended that the Christian community was
originally constructed upon very different principles. According to them
the word _church_ [249:2] in the New Testament is always used in one of
two senses--either as denoting a single worshipping society, or the
whole commonwealth of the faithful; and from this they infer that, in
primitive times, every Christian congregation was independent of every
other. But such allegations, which are exceedingly improbable in
themselves, are found, when carefully investigated, to be totally
destitute of foundation. The Church of Jerusalem, [249:3] with the tens
of thousands of individuals belonging to it, [249:4] must have consisted
of several congregations; [249:5] the Church of Antioch, to which so
many prophets and teachers ministered, [249:6] was probably in a similar
position; and the Church of Palestine [249:7] obviously comprehended a
large number of associated churches. When our Saviour prayed that all
His people "may be one," [250:1] He evidently indicated that the unity
of the Church, so strikingly exhibited in the nation of Israel, should
still be studied and maintained; and when Paul describes the household
of faith, he speaks of it, not as a loose mass of independent
congregations, but as a "body fitly _joined together and compacted_ by
that which every _joint_ supplieth." [250:2] The apostle here refers to
the vital union of believers by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost; but he
apparently alludes also to those "bands" of outward ordinances, and
"joints" [250:3] of visible confederation, by which their communion is
upheld; for, were the Church split up into an indefinite number of
insulated congregations, even the unity of the spirit could neither be
distinctly ascertained nor properly cultivated. When oiled by the spirit
of Divine love, the machinery of the Church moves with admirable
harmony, and accomplishes the most astonishing results; but, when
pervaded by another spirit, it is strained and dislocated, and in danger
of dashing itself to pieces.

Those who hold that every congregation, however small, is a complete
church in itself, are quite unable to explain why the system of
ecclesiastical organization should be thus circumscribed. The New
Testament inculcates the unity of all the faithful, as well as the unity
of particular societies; and the same principle of Christian brotherhood
which prompts a number of individuals to meet together for religious
fellowship, should also lead a number of congregations in the same
locality to fraternize. The twelve may be regarded as the
representatives of the doctrine of ecclesiastical confederation; for
though they were commanded to go into all the world and to preach the
gospel to every creature, yet, as long as circumstances permitted, they
continued to co-operate. "When the apostles which were at Jerusalem
heard that Samaria had received the word of God, _they sent_ unto them
Peter and John;" [251:1] and, at a subsequent period, they concurred in
_sending "forth_ Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch." [251:2]
These facts distinctly prove that they had a common interest in
everything pertaining to the well-being of the whole Christian
commonwealth; and that, like Paul, they were entrusted with "the care of
all the churches." Nor did the early Christian congregations act
independently. They believed that union is strength, and they were "knit
together" in ecclesiastical relationship. Hence, we read of the brother
who was "chosen of the churches" [251:3] to travel with the Apostle
Paul. It is now impossible to determine in what way this choice was
made--whether at a general meeting of deputies from different
congregations, or by a separate vote in each particular society--but, in
whatever way the election was accomplished, the appointment of one
representative for several churches was itself a recognition of their
ecclesiastical unity.

We have seen that the worship of the Church was much the same as the
worship of the synagogue, [251:4] and it would seem that its polity also
was borrowed from the institutions of the chosen people. [251:5] Every
Jewish congregation was governed by a bench of elders; and in every city
there was a smaller sanhedrim, or presbytery, consisting of twenty-three
members, [251:6] to which the neighbouring synagogues were subject.
Jerusalem is said to have had two of these smaller sanhedrims, as it was
found that the multitudes of cases arising among so vast a population
were 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] This
court consisted of seventy or seventy-two members, made up, perhaps, in
equal portions, of chief priests, scribes, and elders of the people,
[252:2] The chief priests were probably twenty-four in number--each of
the twenty-four courses, into which the sacerdotal order was divided,
[252:3] thus furnishing one representative. The scribes were the men of
learning, like Gamaliel, [252:4] who had devoted themselves to the study
of the Jewish law, and who possessed recondite, as well as extensive
information. 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 for
their Great Sanhedrim. In the days of our Lord and His apostles it had,
indeed, miserably degenerated; but, at an earlier period, its members
must have been eminently entitled to respect, as in point of
intelligence, prudence, piety, and patriotism, they held the very
highest place among their countrymen.

The details of the ecclesiastical polity of the ancient Israelites are
now involved in much obscurity; but the preceding statements may be
received as a pretty accurate description of its chief outlines. Our
Lord himself, in the sermon on the mount, is understood to refer to the
great council and its subordinate judicatories; [252:6] and in the Old
Testament appeals from inferior tribunals to the authorities in the holy
city are explicitly enjoined. [253:1] All the synagogues, not only in
Palestine but in foreign countries, obeyed the orders of the Sanhedrim
at Jerusalem; [253:2] and it constituted a court of review to which all
other ecclesiastical arbiters yielded submission.

In the government of the Apostolic Church we may trace a resemblance to
these arrangements. Every Christian congregation, like every synagogue,
had its elders; and every city had its presbytery, consisting of the
spiritual rulers of the district. In the introductory chapters of the
book of the Acts we discover the germ of this ecclesiastical
constitution; for we there find the apostles ministering to thousands of
converts, and, as the presbytery of Jerusalem, ordaining deacons,
exercising discipline, and sending out missionaries. [253:3] The
prophets and teachers of Antioch obviously performed the same functions;
[253:4] Titus was instructed to have elders established, or a presbytery
constituted, in every city of Crete; [253:5] and Timothy was ordained by
such a judicatory. [253:6] For the first thirty years after the death of
our Lord a large proportion of the ministers of the gospel were Jews by
birth, and as they were in the habit of going up to Jerusalem to
celebrate the great festivals, they appear to have taken advantage of
the opportunity, and to have held meetings in the holy city for
consultation respecting the affairs of the Christian commonwealth.
Prudence and convenience conspired to dictate this course, as they could
then reckon upon finding there a considerable number of able and
experienced elders, and as their presence in the Jewish metropolis on
such occasions was fitted to awaken no suspicion. [253:7]

We may thus see that the transaction mentioned in the 15th chapter of
the Acts admits of a simple and satisfactory explanation. When the
question respecting the circumcision of the Gentile converts began to be
discussed at Antioch, there were individuals in that city quite as well
qualified as any in Jerusalem to pronounce upon its merits; for the
Church there enjoyed the ministry of prophets; and Paul, its most
distinguished teacher, was "not a whit behind the very chiefest
apostles." But the parties proceeded in the matter in much the same way
as Israelites were accustomed to act under similar circumstances. Had a
controversy relative to any Mosaic ceremony divided the Jewish
population of Antioch, they would have appealed for a decision to their
Great Sanhedrim; and now, when this dispute distracted the Christians of
the capital of Syria, they had recourse to another tribunal at Jerusalem
which they considered competent to pronounce a deliverance. [254:1] This
tribunal consisted virtually of the rulers of the universal Church; for
the apostles, who had a commission to all the world, and elders from
almost every place where a Christian congregation existed, were in the
habit of repairing to the capital of Palestine. In one respect this
judicatory differed from the Jewish council, for it was not limited to
seventy members. In accordance with the free spirit of the gospel
dispensation, it appears to have consisted of as many ecclesiastical
rulers as could conveniently attend its meetings. But the times were
somewhat perilous; and it is probable that the ministers of the early
Christian Church did not deem it expedient to congregate in very large

A single Scripture precedent for the regulation of the Church is as
decisive as a multitude; and though the New Testament distinctly records
only one instance in which a question of difficulty was referred by a
lower to a higher ecclesiastical tribunal, this case sufficiently
illustrates the character of the primitive polity. A very substantial
reason can be given why Scripture takes so little notice of the meetings
of Christian judicatories. The different portions of the New Testament
were put into circulation as soon as written; and though it was most
important that the heathen should be made acquainted with the doctrines
of the Church, it was not by any means expedient that their attention
should be particularly directed to the machinery by which it was
regulated. An accurate knowledge of its constitution would only have
exposed it more fearfully to the attacks of persecuting Emperors. Every
effort would have been made to discover the times and places of the
meetings of pastors and teachers, and to inflict a deadly wound on the
Church by the destruction of its office-bearers. Hence, in general, its
courts appear to have assembled in profound secrecy; and thus it is
that, for the first three centuries, so little is known of the
proceedings of these conventions.

It is to be observed that, in the first century, when the rulers of the
Church met for consultation, they all sat in the same assembly. When the
ecclesiastical constitution was fairly settled, even the Twelve were
disposed to waive their personal claims to precedence, and to assume the
status of ordinary ministers. We find accordingly that there were then
no higher and lower houses of convocation; for "the apostles and elders
came together." [255:1] Some, who suppose that James was the first
bishop of the holy city, imagine that in his manner of giving the advice
adopted at the Synod of Jerusalem, they can detect marks of his prelatic
influence. [255:2] But the sacred narrative, when candidly interpreted,
merely shews that he acted on the occasion as a judicious counsellor. He
was, assuredly, not entitled to dictate to Paul or Peter. The reasoning
of those who maintain that, as a matter of right, he expected the
meeting to yield to the weight of his official authority, would go to
prove, not that he was bishop of the Jewish capital, but that he was the
prince of the apostles.

The New Testament history speaks frequently of James, and extends over
the whole period of his public career; but it never once hints that he
was bishop of Jerusalem, he himself has left behind him an epistle
addressed "to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad," in which he
makes no allusion to his possession of any such office. Paul, who was
well acquainted with him, and who often visited the mother Church during
the time of his alleged episcopate, is equally silent upon the subject.
But it is easy to understand how the story originated. The command of
our Lord to the apostles, "Go ye unto all the world and preach the
gospel to every creature," [256:1] did not imply that their countrymen
at home were not to enjoy a portion of their ministrations; and it was
probably considered expedient that one of their number should reside in
the Jewish capital. This field of exertion seems to have been assigned
to James. His colleagues meanwhile travelled to distant countries to
disseminate the truth; and as he was the only individual of the
apostolic company who could ordinarily be consulted in the holy city, he
soon became the ruling spirit among the Christians of that crowded
metropolis. In all cases of importance and of difficulty his advice
would be sought and appreciated; and his age, experience, and rank as
one of the Twelve, would suggest the propriety of his appointment as
president of any ecclesiastical meeting he would attend. The precedence
thus so generally conceded to him would be remembered in after-times
when the hierarchical spirit began to dominate; and would afford a basis
for the legend that he was the first bishop of Jerusalem. And as he,
perhaps, commonly occupied the chair when the rulers of the Church
assembled there at the annual festivals, we can see too why he is also
called "bishop of bishops" in documents of high antiquity. [257:1]

During a considerable part of the first century Jerusalem probably
contained a much greater number of disciples than any other city in the
Roman Empire; and until shortly before its destruction by Titus in A.D.
70, it continued to be the centre of Christian influence. There is every
reason to believe that, for some time, all matters in dispute throughout
the Church, which could not be settled by inferior judicatories, were
decided by the apostles and elders there convened. But the rapid
propagation of Christianity, the rise of persecution, and the progress
of political events, soon rendered such procedure inconvenient, if not
impracticable. Persons of Gentile extraction who lived in distant lands,
and who were in humble circumstances, could not be expected to travel
for redress of their ecclesiastical grievances to the ancient capital of
Palestine; and, when the temple was destroyed, the myriads who had
formerly repaired to it to celebrate the sacred feasts, of course
discontinued their attendance. The Christian communities throughout the
Empire about this period began to assume that form which they present in
the following century, the congregations of each province associating
together for their better government and discipline. There are not
wanting evidences, as we shall now endeavour to show, that the apostles
themselves suggested the arrangement.

It has been taken for granted by many that when Paul, on his arrival at
Miletus, "sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the Church," [258:1]
he convoked a meeting only of the ecclesiastical rulers of the chief
city of the Proconsular Asia. But a more attentive examination, of the
passage in which the transaction is described may lead us to doubt the
correctness of such an interpretation. It is probable that, when the
apostle sent to Ephesus, the Christian elders of the surrounding
district, as well as of the capital, were requested to meet him at
Miletus. Such a conclusion is sustained by the reason assigned for his
mode of proceeding at this juncture. Ephesus was a seaport about thirty
miles 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 it
were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost." [258:2]
But, had he merely wished to see the elders of this provincial
metropolis, his visit to it need have created no delay, for he might
have gone to it as quickly as the messenger who was the bearer of his
communication. He seems, however, to have felt that, had he appeared
there, he would have given offence had he not also favoured the
Christian communities in its neighbourhood with his presence; and as he
could not afford to spend so much time in Asia as would thus have been
required, he adopted the expedient of inviting all the elders of the
district to repair to him in the place where he now sojourned. [258:3]
From Ephesus, the capital, his invitation could be readily transmitted
to other provincial cities. The address which he delivered to the
assembled elders certainly conveys the impression that they did not all
belong to the metropolis, and its very first sentence suggests such an
inference. "When they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know from
the first day that I came _into Asia_ after what manner I have been
_with you_ at all seasons." [259:1] The evangelist informs us that he
had spent only two years and three months at Ephesus, [259:2] and yet he
here tells his audience that "by the space of _three years_" he had not
ceased 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 of
God, shall see my face no more," [259:4]--thereby intimating that his
auditors were not resident in one locality. We have also distinct
evidence that when Paul formerly ministered at Ephesus, there were
Christian societies throughout the province, for in his First Epistle to
the Corinthians written from that city, [259:5] he sends his
correspondents the salutations of "the Churches of Asia." [259:6] These
Churches must obviously have been united by the ties of Christian
fellowship; and the apostle must have been in close communication with
them when he was thus employed as the medium of conveyance for the
expression of their evangelical attachment.

In other parts of the New Testament we may discern traces of
consociation among the primitive Churches. Thus, Paul, their founder,
sends to "the Churches of Galatia" [259:7] a common letter in which he
requires them to "serve one another," [259:8] and to "bear one another's
burdens." [259:9] Without some species of united action, the Galatians
could not well have obeyed such admonitions. Peter also, when writing to
the disciples "scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia,
and Bithynia," [259:10] represents them as an associated body. "The
elders," says he, "which are among you I exhort, who am also an
elder....feed _the flock of God_ which is among you taking the oversight
thereof." [260:1] This "flock of God," which was evidently equivalent to
the "Church of God," [260:2] was spread over a large territory; and yet
the apostle suggests that the elders were conjointly charged with its
supervision. Had the Churches scattered throughout so many provinces
been a multitude of independent congregations, Peter would not have
described them as one "flock" of which these rulers had the oversight.

But, though the elders of congregations in adjoining provinces could
maintain ecclesiastical intercourse, and meet together at least
occasionally or by delegates, it was otherwise with Churches in
different countries. Even these, however, cultivated the communion of
saints; for there are evidences that they corresponded with each other
by letters or deputations. The attentive reader of the inspired epistles
must have observed how the apostles contrived to keep open a door of
access to their converts by means of itinerating preachers; [260:3] and
the same agency seems to have been continued in succeeding generations.
Disciples travelling into strange lands were furnished with "epistles of
commendation" [260:4] to the foreign Churches; and Christian teachers,
who had these credentials, were permitted freely to officiate in the
congregations which they visited. It is an extraordinary fact that,
during the lives of the apostles, there were preachers, in whom they had
no confidence, who were yet in full standing, and who went from place to
place addressing apostolic Churches. Having found their way into the
ministry in a particular locality, they set out to other regions
provided with their "letters of commendation;" and, on the strength of
these testimonials, they were readily recognised as heralds of the
cross. The apostles deemed it prudent to advise their correspondents not
to rest satisfied with the certificates of these itinerant evangelists,
but to try them by a more certain standard. "If there come any unto
you," says John, "and _bring not this doctrine_, receive him not into
your house, neither bid him God speed." [261:1]--"Beloved, believe not
every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God, because many
false prophets are gone out into the world." [261:2] Strange as it may
now appear, even some of the apostles had personal enemies among the
primitive preachers, and yet when these proclaimed the truth, they were
suffered to proceed without interruption. "Some indeed," says Paul,
"preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will. The
one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, _supposing to add
affliction to my bonds_; but the other of love, knowing that I am set
for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way,
whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do
rejoice, yea, and will rejoice." [261:3]

The preceding statements may enable us to appreciate the unity of the
Apostolic Church. This unity was not perfect; for there were false
brethren who stirred up strife, and false teachers who fomented
divisions. But these elements of discord no more disturbed the general
unity of the Church than the presence of a few empty or blasted ears of
corn affects the productiveness of an abundant harvest. As a body, the
disciples of Christ were never so united as in the first century. Heresy
had yet made little impression; schism was scarcely known; and charity,
exerting her gentle influence with the brotherhood, found it
comparatively 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." But
their unity was very different from uniformity. They had no canonical
hours, no clerical costume, no liturgies. The prayers of ministers and
people varied according to circumstances, and were dictated by their
hopes and fears, their wants and sympathies. When they met for worship,
the devotional exercises were conducted in a language intelligible to
all; when the Scriptures were read in their assemblies, every one heard
in his own tongue the wonderful works of God. The unity of the Apostolic
Church did not consist in its subordination to any one visible head or
supreme pontiff; for neither Peter nor Paul, James nor John pretended to
be the governor of the household of faith. Its unity was not like the
unity of a jail where all the prisoners must wear the same dress, and
receive 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 a
cluster of stalks of corn, all springing from one prolific grain, and
all rich with a golden produce. Or it may be likened to the unity of the
ocean, where all the parts are not of the same depth, or the same
colour, or the same temperature; but where all, pervaded by the same
saline preservative, ebb and flow according to the same heavenly laws,
and concur in bearing to the ends of the earth the blessings of
civilisation and of happiness.



The Apocalypse is a book of symbols. The light which we obtain from it
may well remind us of the instruction communicated to the Israelites by
the ceremonies of the law. The Mosaic institutions imparted to a Jew the
knowledge of an atonement and a Saviour; but he could scarcely have
undertaken to explain, with accuracy and precision, their individual
significance, as their meaning was not fully developed until the times
of the Messiah. So is it with "the Revelation of Jesus Christ which God
gave unto him to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come
to pass," and which "he sent and signified by his angel unto his servant
John." [263:1] The Church here sees, as "through a glass darkly," the
transactions of her future history; and she can here distinctly discern
the ultimate triumph of her principles, so that, in days of adversity,
she is encouraged and sustained; but she cannot speak with confidence of
the import of much of this mysterious record; and it would seem as if
the actual occurrence of the events foretold were to supply the only
safe key for the interpretation of some of its strange imagery.

In the beginning of this book we have an account of a glorious vision
presented to the beloved disciple. He was instructed to write down what
he saw, and to send it to the Seven Churches in Asia, "unto Ephesus, and
unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and
unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea." [264:1] A vision so extraordinary
as that which he describes, must have left upon his mind a permanent and
most vivid impression. "I saw," says he, "_seven golden candlesticks_,
and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of Man
clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a
golden girdle. His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as
snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine
brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of
many waters--and _he had in his rigid hand seven stars_, and out of his
mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and his countenance was as the sun
shineth in his strength." [264:2]

In the foreground of this picture the Son of God stands conspicuous. His
dress corresponds to that of the Jewish high priest, and the whole
description of His person has obviously a reference, either to His own
divine perfections, or to His offices as the Saviour of sinners. He
himself is the expositor of two of the most remarkable of the symbols.
"The seven stars," says He, "are the angels of the Seven Churches, and
the seven candlesticks which thou sawest, are the Seven Churches."

But though the symbol of the stars has been thus interpreted by Christ,
the interpretation itself has been the subject of considerable
discussion. Much difficulty has been experienced in identifying the
angels of the Seven Churches; and there have been various conjectures as
to the station which they occupied, and the duties which they performed.
According to some they were literally angelic beings who had the special
charge of the Seven Churches. [264:4] According to others, the angel of
a Church betokens the collective body of ministers connected with the
society. But such explanations are very far from satisfactory. The
Scriptures nowhere teach that each Christian community is under the care
of its own angelic guardian; neither is it to be supposed that an angel
represents the ministry of a Church, for one symbol would not be
interpreted by another symbol of dubious signification. It seems clear
that the angel of the Church is a single individual, and that he must
have been a personage well known to the body with which he was connected
at the time when the Apocalypse was written.

It has often been asserted that the title "The angel of the Church" is
borrowed from the designation of one of the ministers of the synagogue.
[265:1] This point, however, has never been fairly demonstrated. In
later times there was, no doubt, in the synagogue an individual known by
the name of the _legate_, or the _angel_; but there is no decisive
evidence that an official with such a designation existed in the first
century. In the New Testament we have repeated references to the
office-bearers of the synagogue; we are told of the rulers [265:2] or
elders, the reader, [265:3] and the minister [265:4] or deacon; but the
angel is never mentioned. Philo and Josephus are equally silent upon the
subject. It is, therefore, extremely doubtful whether a minister with
this title was known among the Jews in the days of the apostles. Even
granting, what is so very problematical, that there were in the
synagogues in the first century individuals distinguished by the
designation of angels, it is still exceedingly doubtful whether the
angels of the Seven Churches borrowed their names from these
functionaries. If so, the angel of the Church must have occupied the
same position as the angel of the synagogue, for the adoption of the
same title indicated the possession of the same office. But it was the
duty of the angel of the synagogue to offer up the prayers of the
assembly; [266:1] and as, in all the synagogues, there was worship at
the same hour, [266:2] he could, of course, be the minister of only one
congregation. If then the angel of the Church discharged the same
functions as the angel of the synagogue, it would follow that, towards
the termination of the first century, there was only one Christian
congregation in each of the seven cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos,
Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. It may, however, be fairly
questioned whether the number of disciples in every one of these places
was then so limited as such an inference would suggest. In Laodicea, and
perhaps in one or two of the other cities, [266:3] there may have been
only a single congregation; but it is scarcely probable that all the
brethren in Ephesus still met together in one assembly. About forty
years before, the Word of God "grew mightily and prevailed" [266:4] in
that great metropolis; and, among its inhabitants, Paul had persuaded
"much people" [266:5] to become disciples of Christ. But if the angel of
the Church derived his title from the angel of the synagogue, and if the
position of these two functionaries was the same, we are shut up to the
conclusion that there was now only one congregation in the capital of
the Proconsular Asia. The angel could not be in two places at the same
time; and, as it was his duty to offer up the prayers of the assembled
worshippers, it was impossible for him to minister to two congregations.

These considerations abundantly attest the futility of the imagination
that the angel of the Church was a diocesan bishop. The office of the
angel of the synagogue had, in fact, no resemblance whatever to that of
a prelate. The rank of the ancient Jewish functionary seems to have been
similar to that of a precentor in some of our Protestant churches; and
when set forms of prayer were introduced among the Israelites, it was
his duty to read them aloud in the congregation. The angel was not the
chief ruler of the synagogue; he occupied a subordinate position; and
was amenable to the authority of the bench of elders. [267:1] It is in
vain then to attempt to recognise the predecessors of our modern
diocesans in the angels of the Seven Churches. Had bishops been
originally called angels, they never would have parted with so
complimentary a designation. Had the Spirit of God in the Apocalypse
bestowed upon them such a title, it never would have been laid aside.
When, about a century after this period, we begin to discover distinct
traces of a hierarchy, an extreme anxiety is discernible to find for it
something like a footing in the days of the apostles; but, strange to
say, the earliest prelates of whom we read are not known by the name of
angels. [267:2] If such a nomenclature existed in the time of the
Apostle John, it must have passed away at once and for ever! No trace of
it can be detected even in the second century. It is thus apparent that,
whatever the angels of the Seven Churches may have been, they certainly
were _not_ diocesan bishops.

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

An angel literally signifies a _messenger_, and these angels were simply
the 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 God
and for the testimony of Jesus Christ," it would appear that the
Christian communities among which he had ministered so many years, sent
trusty deputies to visit him, to assure him of their sympathy, and to
tender to him their friendly offices. In primitive times such angels
were often sent to the brethren in confinement or in exile. Thus, Paul,
when in imprisonment at Rome, says to the Philippians--"Ye have well
done that ye did communicate with my affliction ... I am full, having
received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you." [268:1]
Here, Epaphroditus is presented to us as the angel of the Church of
Philippi. This minister seems, indeed, to have now spent no small
portion of his time in travelling between Rome and Macedonia. Hence Paul
observes--"I supposed it necessary _to send to you_ Epaphroditus, my
brother and companion in labour and fellow-soldier, but _your messenger_
and _he that ministered_ _to my wants_." [269:1] In like manner, the
individuals selected to convey, to the poor saints in Jerusalem, the
contributions of the Gentile converts in Greece and Asia Minor, are
called "the _messengers_ of the Churches." [269:2] The practice of
sending messengers to visit and comfort the saints in poverty, in
confinement, or in exile, may be traced for centuries in the history of
the Church. It also deserves notice that, in other parts of the New
Testament as well as in the Apocalypse, an individual sent on a special
errand is repeatedly called an angel. Thus, John the Baptist, who was
commissioned to announce the approach of the Messiah, is styled God's
angel, [269:3] or messenger, and the spies, sent to view the land of
Canaan, are distinguished by the same designation. [269:4]

Towards the close of the first century the Apostle John must have been
regarded with extraordinary veneration by his Christian brethren. He was
the last survivor of a band of men who had laid the foundations of the
New Testament Church; and he was himself one of the most honoured
members of the little fraternity, for he had enjoyed peculiarly intimate
fellowship 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 by
the pen of inspiration as "_the_ disciple whom Jesus loved." [269:5] All
accounts concur in representing him as most amiable and warm-hearted;
and as he had now far outlived the ordinary term of human existence, the
snows of age must have imparted additional interest to a personage
otherwise exceedingly attractive. It is not to be supposed that such a
man was permitted in apostolic times to pine away unheeded in solitary
exile. The small island which was the place of his banishment was not
far from the Asiatic metropolis, and the other six cities named in the
Apocalypse were all in the same district as Ephesus. It was, therefore,
by no means extraordinary that seven messengers from seven neighbouring
Churches, to all of which he was well known, are found together in
Patmos on a visit to the venerable confessor.

This explanation satisfies all the conditions required by the laws of
interpretation. Whilst it reveals a concern for the welfare of John
quite in keeping with the benevolent spirit of apostolic times, it is
also simple and sufficient. In prophetic language a _star_ usually
signifies a _ruler_, and it is probable that the angels sent to Patmos
were selected from among the elders, or rulers, of the Churches with
which they were respectively connected; for, it is well known that, at
an early period, elders, or presbyters, were frequently appointed to act
as messengers or commissioners. [270:1] We may thus perceive, too, why
the letters are addressed to the angels, for in this case they were the
official organs of communication between the apostle and the religious
societies which they had been deputed to represent. It is obvious that
the instructions contained in the epistles were designed, not merely for
the angels individually, but for the communities of which they were
members; and hence the exhortation with which each of them
concludes--"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto
_the 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 "_send
it_ unto the Seven Churches which are in Asia;" [270:3] and this
interpretation explains how he transmitted the communication; for, as
Christ is said to have "_sent_ and signified" His Revelation "by his
angel unto his servant John," [271:1] so John, in his turn, conveyed it
by the _seven angels_ to the Seven Churches. It was, no doubt, thought
that the messengers undertook a most perilous errand when they engaged
to visit a distinguished Christian minister who had been driven into
banishment by a jealous tyrant; but they are taught by the vision that
they are under the special care of Him who is "the Prince of the kings
of the earth;" for the Saviour appears holding them in His right hand as
He walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. When bearing
consolation to the aged minister, each one of them could enjoy the
comfort of the promise--"Can a woman forget her sucking child that she
should 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 palms
of my hands_." [271:2]

It has often been thought singular that only _seven_ Churches of the
Proconsular Asia are here addressed, as it is well known that, at this
period, there were several other Christian societies in the same
province. Thus, in the immediate neighbourhood of Laodicea were the
Churches of Colosse and Hierapolis; [271:3] and in the vicinity of
Ephesus, perhaps the Churches of Tralles and Magnesia. But the seven
angels mentioned by John may have been the only ecclesiastical
messengers in Patmos at the time of the vision; and they may have been
the organs of communication with a greater number of Churches than those
which they directly represented. Seven was regarded by the Jews as the
symbol of perfection; and it is somewhat remarkable that, on another
occasion noticed in the New Testament, [271:4] we find exactly seven
messengers deputed by the Churches of Greece and Asia Minor to convey
their contributions to the indigent disciples in Jerusalem. There are,
too, grounds for believing that these seven religious societies, in
their varied character and prospects, are emblems of the Church
universal. The instructions addressed to the disciples in these seven
cities of Asia were designed for the benefit of "THE CHURCHES" of all
countries as well as of all succeeding generations; and the whole
imagery indicates that the vision is to be thus interpreted. The Son of
Man does not confine His care to the Seven Churches of Asia, for He who
appears walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks is the
same who said of old to the nation of Israel--"I will set up my
tabernacle among you, and my soul shall not abhor you, and _I will walk
among you_, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people." [272:1] In
the vision, the "countenance" of the Saviour is said to have been "as
the sun shineth in his strength;" [272:2] and the prayer of the Church
catholic is--"God be merciful unto us, and bless us, and _cause his face
to shine upon us_, that that thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving
health among all nations." [272:3]

The preceding statements demonstrate the folly of attempting to
construct a system of ecclesiastical polity from such a
highly-figurative portion of Scripture as the Apocalypse. In the angel
of the Church some have believed they have discovered the moderator of a
presbytery; others, the bishop of a diocese; and others, the minister of
an Irvingite congregation. But the basis on which all such theories are
founded is a mere blunder as to the significance of an ecclesiastical
title. The angels of the Seven Churches were neither moderators, nor
diocesans, nor precentors, but messengers sent on an errand of love to
an apostle in tribulation.

         *       *       *       *       *

         PERIOD II.

         A.D. 100 TO A.D. 312.

         *       *       *       *       *





The dawn of the second century was full of promise to the Church. On the
death 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 prince
repealed the sanguinary laws of his predecessor, and the disciples had a
respite from persecution. Trajan, who succeeded him, [275:2] and who now
occupied the throne, seemed not unwilling to imitate his policy, so
that, in the beginning of his reign, the Christians had no reason to
complain of imperial oppression. All accounts concur in stating that
their affairs, at this period, presented a most hopeful aspect. They yet
displayed a united front, for they had hitherto been almost entirely
free from the evils of sectarianism; and now, that they were relieved
from the terrible incubus of a ruthless tyranny, their spirits were as
buoyant as ever; for though intolerance had thinned their ranks, it had
also exhibited their constancy and stimulated their enthusiasm. Their
intense attachment to the evangelical cause stood out in strange and
impressive contrast with the apathy of polytheism. A heathen repeated,
not without scepticism, the tales of his mythology, and readily passed
over from one form of superstition to another; but the Christian felt
himself strong in the truth, and was prepared to peril all that was dear
to him on earth rather than abandon his cherished principles. Well might
serious pagans be led to think favourably of a creed which fostered such
decision and magnanimity.

The wonderful improvement produced by the gospel on the lives of
multitudes by whom it was embraced, was, however, its most striking and
cogent recommendation. The Christian authors who now published works in
its defence, to many of which they gave the designation of _apologies_,
and who sought, by means of these productions, either to correct the
misrepresentations of its enemies, or to check the violence of
persecution, always appeal with special confidence to this weighty
testimonial. A veteran profligate converted into a sober and exemplary
citizen was a witness for the truth whose evidence it was difficult
either to discard or to depreciate. Nor were such vouchers rare either
in the second or third century. A learned minister of the Church could
now venture to affirm that Christian communities were to be found
composed of men "_reclaimed from ten thousand vices,_" [276:1] and that
these societies, compared with others around them, were "as lights in
the world." [276:2] The practical excellence of the new faith is
attested, still more circumstantially, by another of its advocates who
wrote about half a century after the age of the apostles. "We," says he,
"who formerly delighted in vicious excesses are now temperate and
chaste; we, who once practised magical arts, have consecrated ourselves
to the good and unbegotten God; we, who once prized gain above all
things, give even what we have to the common use, and share it with such
as are in need; we, who once hated and murdered one another, who, on
account of difference of customs, would have no common hearth with
strangers, now, since the appearance of Christ, live together with them;
we pray for our enemies; we seek to persuade those who hate us without
cause to live conformably to the goodly precepts of Christ, that they
may become partakers with us, of the joyful hope of blessings from God,
the Lord of all." [277:1] When we consider that all the old
superstitions had now become nearly effete, we cannot be surprised at
the signal triumphs of a system which could furnish such noble

Whilst Christianity demonstrated its divine virtue by the good fruits
which it produced, it, at the same time, invited all men to study its
doctrines and to judge for themselves. Those who were disposed to
examine its internal evidences were supplied with facilities for
pursuing the investigation, as the Scriptures of the New Testament were
publicly read in the assemblies of the faithful, and copies of them were
diligently multiplied, so that these divine guides could be readily
consulted by every one who really wished for information. The importance
of the writings of the apostles and evangelists suggested the propriety
of making them available for the instruction of those who were ignorant
of Greek; and versions in the Latin, the Syriac, and other languages
[277:2] soon made their appearance. Some compositions are stripped of
their charms when exhibited in translations, as they owe their
attractiveness to the mere embellishments of style or expression; but
the Word of God, like all the works of the High and the Holy One, speaks
with equal power to every kindred and tongue and people. When correctly
rendered into another language, it is still full of grace and truth, of
majesty and beauty. In whatever dialect it may be clothed, it continues
to awaken the conscience and to convert the soul. Its dissemination at
this period either in the original or in translations, contributed
greatly to the extension of the Church; and the gospel, issuing from
this pure fountain, at once revealed its superiority to all the
miserable dilutions of superstition and absurdity presented in the
systems of heathenism.

When accounting for the rapid diffusion of the new faith in the second
and third centuries, many have laid much stress on the miraculous powers
of the disciples; but the aid derived from this quarter seems to have
been greatly over-estimated. The days of Christ and His apostles were
properly the times of "wonders and mighty deeds;" and though the lives
of some, on whom extraordinary endowments were conferred, probably
extended far into the second century, it is remarkable that the earliest
ecclesiastical writers are almost, if not altogether, silent upon the
subject of contemporary miracles. [278:1] Supernatural gifts perhaps
ceased with those on whom they were bestowed by the inspired founders of
the Church; [278:2] but many imagined that their continuance was
necessary to the credit of the Christian cause, and were, therefore,
slow to admit that these tokens of the divine recognition had completely
disappeared. It must be acknowledged that the prodigies attributed to
this period are very indifferently authenticated as compared with those
reported by the pen of inspiration. [278:3] In some cases they are
described in ambiguous or general terms, such as the narrators might
have been expected to employ when detailing vague and uncertain rumours;
and not a few of the cures now dignified with the title of miracles are
of a commonplace character, such as could have been accomplished without
any supernatural interference, and which Jewish and heathen quacks
frequently performed. [279:1] No writer of this period asserts that he
himself possessed the power either of speaking with tongues, [279:2] or
of healing the sick, or of raising the dead. [279:3] Legend now began to
supply food for popular credulity; and it is a suspicious circumstance
that the greater number of the miracles which are said to have happened
in the second and third centuries are recorded for the first time about
a hundred years after the alleged date of their occurrence. [279:4] But
Christianity derived no substantial advantage from these fictitious
wonders. Some of them were so frivolous as to excite contempt, and
others so ridiculous as to afford matter for merriment to the more
intelligent 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 a
triumphant career. In some districts it produced such an impression that
it threatened the speedy extinction of the established worship. In
Bithynia, early in the second century, the temples of the gods were
well-nigh deserted, and the sacrificial victims found very few
purchasers. [280:1] The pagan priests now took the alarm; the power of
the magistrate interposed to prevent the spread of the new doctrine; and
spies were found willing to dog the steps and to discover the
meeting-places of the converts. Many quailed before the prospect of
death, and purchased immunity from persecution by again repairing to the
altars of idolatry. But, notwithstanding all the arts of intimidation
and chicanery, the good cause continued to prosper. In Rome, in Antioch,
in Alexandria, and in other great cities, the truth steadily gained
ground; and, towards the end of the second century, it had acquired such
strength even in Carthage--a place far removed from the scene of its
original proclamation--that, according to the statement of one of its
advocates, its adherents amounted to a _tenth_ of the inhabitants.
[280:2] About the same period Churches were to be found in various parts
of the north of Africa between Egypt and Carthage; and, in the East,
Christianity soon acquired a permanent footing in the little state of
Edessa, [280:3] in Arabia, in Parthia, and in India. In the West, it
continued to extend itself throughout Greece and Italy, as well as in
Spain and France. In the latter country the Churches of Lyons and Vienne
attract attention in the second century; and in the third, seven eminent
missionaries are said to have formed congregations in Paris, Tours,
Arles, Narbonne, Toulouse, Limoges, and Clermont. [281:1] Meanwhile the
light of divine truth penetrated into Germany; and, as the third century
advanced, even the rude Goths inhabiting Moesia and Thrace were
partially brought under its influence. The circumstances which led to
the conversion of these barbarians are somewhat remarkable. On the
occasion of one of their predatory incursions into the Empire, they
carried away captive some Christian presbyters; but the parties thus
unexpectedly reduced to bondage did not neglect the duties of their
spiritual calling, and commended their cause so successfully to those by
whom they had been enslaved, that the whole nation eventually embraced
the gospel. [281:2] Even the barriers of the ocean did not arrest the
progress of the victorious faith. Before the end of the second century
the religion of the cross seems to have reached Scotland; for though
Tertullian certainly speaks rhetorically when he says that "the places
of Britain inaccessible to the Romans were subject to Christ," [281:3]
his language at least implies that the message of salvation had already
been proclaimed with some measure of encouragement in Caledonia.

Though no contemporary writer has furnished us with anything like an
ecclesiastical history of this period, it is very clear, from occasional
hints thrown out by the early apologists and controversialists, that the
progress of the Church must have been both extensive and rapid. A
Christian author, who flourished about the middle of the second century,
asserts that there was then "no race of men, whether of barbarians or of
Greeks, or bearing any other name, either because they lived in waggons
without fixed habitations, or in tents leading a pastoral life, among
whom prayers and thanksgivings were not offered up to the Father and
Maker of all things through the name of the crucified Jesus." [282:1]
Another father, who wrote shortly afterwards, observes that, "as in the
sea there are certain habitable and fertile islands, with wholesome
springs, provided with roadsteads and harbours, in which those who are
overtaken by tempests may find refuge--in like manner has God placed in
a world tossed by the billows and storms of sin, congregations or holy
churches, in which, as in insular harbours, the doctrines of truth are
sheltered, and to which those who desire to be saved, who love the
truth, and who wish to escape the judgment of God, may repair." [282:2]
These statements indicate that the gospel must soon have been very
widely disseminated. Within less than a hundred years after the
apostolic age places of Christian worship were to be seen in the chief
cities of the Empire; and early in the third century a decision of the
imperial tribunal awarded to the faithful in the great Western
metropolis a plot of ground for the erection of one of their religious
edifices. [282:3] At length about A.D. 260 the Emperor Gallienus issued
an edict of toleration in their favour; and, during the forty years
which followed, their numbers so increased that the ecclesiastical
buildings in which they had hitherto assembled were no longer sufficient
for their accommodation. New and spacious churches now supplanted the
old meeting-houses, and these more fashionable structures were soon
filled to overflowing. [282:4] But the spirit of the world now began to
be largely infused into the Christian communities; the Church was
distracted by its ministers struggling with each other for pre-eminence;
and even the terrible persecution of Diocletian which succeeded, could
neither quench the ambition, nor arrest the violence of contending

If we stand, only for a moment, on the beach, we may find it impossible
to decide whether the tide is ebbing or flowing. But if we remain there
for a few hours, the question will not remain unsettled. The sea will
meanwhile either retire into its depths, or compel us to retreat before
its advancing waters. So it is with the Church. At a given date we may
be unable to determine whether it is aggressive, stationary, or
retrograde. But when we compare its circumstances 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, its
advance, during any one year, was not very perceptible. When, however,
we contrast its weakness at the death of the Apostle John with its
strength immediately before the commencement of the last imperial
persecution, we cannot but acknowledge its amazing progress. At the
termination of the first century, its adherents were a little flock,
thinly scattered over the empire. In the reign of Diocletian, such was
even their numerical importance that no prudent statesman would have
thought it safe to overlook them in the business of legislation. They
held military appointments of high responsibility; they were to be found
in some of the most honourable civil offices; they were admitted to the
court of the sovereign; and in not a few cities they constituted a most
influential section of the population. The wife of Diocletian, and his
daughter Valeria, are said to have been Christians. The gospel had now
passed over the boundaries of the empire, and had made conquests among
savages, some of whom had, perhaps, scarcely ever heard of the majesty
of Rome. But it did not establish its dominion unopposed, and, in
tracing its annals, we must not neglect to notice the history of its



The persecutions of the early Church form an important and deeply
interesting portion of its history. When its Great Author died on the
accursed tree, Christianity was baptized in blood; and for several
centuries its annals consist largely of details of proscription and of
suffering. God might have introduced the gospel amongst men amidst the
shouts of applauding nations, but "He doeth all things well;" and He
doubtless 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 prompted
its professors to encounter such tremendous sacrifices. As the heathen
bystanders gazed on the martyrdom of a husband and a master, and as they
observed the unflinching fortitude with which he endured his anguish,
they often became deeply pensive. They would exclaim--"The man has
children, we believe--a wife he has, unquestionably--and yet he is not
unnerved by these ties of kindred: he is not turned from his purpose by
these claims of affection. We must look into the affair--we must get at
the bottom of it. Be it what it may, it can be no trifle which makes one
ready to suffer and willing to die for it." [284:1] The effects produced
on spectators by the heroism of the Christians cannot have escaped the
notice of the heathen magistrates. The Church herself was well aware of
the credit she derived from these displays of the constancy of her
children; and hence, in an address to the persecutors which appeared
about the beginning of the third century, the ardent writer boldly
invites them to proceed with the work of butchery. "Go on," says he
tauntingly, "ye good governors, so much better in the eyes of the people
if ye sacrifice the Christians to them--rack, torture, condemn, grind us
to powder--our numbers increase in proportion as you mow us down. The
blood of Christians is their harvest seed--that very obstinacy with
which you upbraid us, is a teacher. For who is not incited by the
contemplation 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 the
gospel exercised a wholesome influence. Comparatively few undecided
characters joined the communion of the Church; and thus its members, as
a body, displayed much consistency and steadfastness. The purity of the
Christian morality was never seen to more advantage than in those days
of persecution, as every one who joined the hated sect was understood to
possess the spirit of a martyr. And never did the graces of the religion
of the cross appear in more attractive lustre than when its disciples
were groaning under the inflictions of imperial tyranny. As some plants
yield their choicest odours only under the influence of pressure, it
would seem as if the gospel reserved its richest supplies of patience,
strength, and consolation, for times of trouble and alarm. Piety never
more decisively asserts its celestial birth than when it stands
unblenched under the frown of the persecutor, or calmly awaits the shock
of death. In the second and third centuries an unbelieving world often
looked on with wonder as the Christians submitted to torment rather than
renounce their faith. Nor were spectators more impressed by the _amount_
of suffering sustained by the confessors and the martyrs, than by the
_spirit_ with which they endured their trials. They approached their
tortures in no temper of dogged obstinacy or sullen defiance. They
rejoiced 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 these
proofs of Christian magnanimity confined to any one class of the
sufferers. Children and delicate females, illiterate artisans and poor
slaves, sometimes evinced as much intrepidity and decision as
hoary-headed pastors. It thus appeared that the victims of intolerance
were upheld by a power which was divine, and of which philosophy could
give no explanation.

We form a most inadequate estimate of the trials of the early
Christians, if we take into account only those sufferings they endured
from the hands of the pagan magistrates. Circumstances which seldom came
under the eye of public observation not unfrequently kept them for life
in a state of disquietude. Idolatry was so interwoven with the very
texture of society that the adoption of the new faith sometimes abruptly
deprived an individual of the means of subsistence. If he was a
statuary, he could no longer employ himself in carving images of the
gods; if he was a painter, he could no more expend his skill in
decorating the high places of superstition. To earn a livelihood, he
must either seek out a new sphere for the exercise of his art, or betake
himself to some new occupation. If the Christian was a merchant, he was,
to a great extent, at the mercy of those with whom he transacted
business. When his property was in the hands of dishonest heathens, he
was often unable to recover it, as the pagan oaths administered in the
courts of justice prevented him from appealing for redress to the laws
of the empire. [287:1] Were he placed in circumstances which enabled him
to surmount this difficulty, he could not afford to exasperate his
debtors; as they could have so easily retaliated by accusing him of
Christianity. The wealthy disciple could not accept the office of a
magistrate, for he would have thus only betrayed his creed; neither
could he venture to aspire to any of the honours of the state, as his
promotion would most certainly have aggravated the perils of his
position. Our Saviour had said--"I am come to set a man at variance
against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the
daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's foes shall be
they of his own household." [287:2] These words were now verified with
such woeful accuracy that the distrust pervading the domestic circle
often imbittered the whole life of the believer. The slave informed
against his Christian master; the husband divorced his Christian wife;
and children who embraced the gospel were sometimes disinherited by
their enraged parents. [287:3] As the followers of the cross
contemplated the hardships which beset them on every side, well might
they have exclaimed in the words of the apostle--"If in this life only
we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." [287:4]

In the first century the very helplessness of the Church served
partially to protect it from persecution. Its adherents were then almost
all in very humble circumstances; and their numbers were not such as to
inspire the sovereign with any political anxiety. When they were
harassed by the unbelieving Jews, the civil magistrate sometimes
interposed, and spread over them the shield of toleration; and though
Nero and Domitian were their persecutors, the treatment they experienced
from two princes so generally abhorred for cruelty elicited a measure of
public sympathy. [288:1] At length, however, the Roman government, even
when administered by sovereigns noted for their political virtues, began
to assume an attitude of decided opposition; and, for many generations,
the disciples were constantly exposed to the hostility of their pagan

The Romans acted so far upon the principle of toleration as to permit
the various nations reduced under their dominion to adhere to whatever
religion they had previously professed. They were, no doubt, led to
pursue this policy by the combined dictates of expediency and
superstition; for whilst they were aware that they could more easily
preserve their conquests by granting indulgence to the vanquished, they
believed that each country had its own tutelary guardians. But they
looked with the utmost suspicion upon all new systems of religion. Such
novelties, they conceived, might be connected with designs against the
state; and should, therefore, be sternly discountenanced. Hence it was
that Christianity so soon met with opposition from the imperial
government. For a time it was confounded with Judaism, and, as such, was
regarded as entitled to the protection of the laws; but when its true
character was ascertained, the disciples were involved in all the
penalties attached to the adherents of an unlicensed worship.

Very early in the second century the power of the State was turned
against the gospel. About A.D. 107, the far-famed Ignatius, the pastor
of Antioch, is said to have suffered martyrdom. Soon afterwards our
attention is directed to the unhappy condition of the Church by a
correspondence between the celebrated Pliny, and the Emperor Trajan. It
would seem that in Bithynia, of which Pliny was governor, the new faith
was rapidly spreading; and that those who derived their subsistence from
the maintenance of superstition, had taken the alarm. The proconsul had,
therefore, been importuned to commence a persecution; and as existing
statutes supplied him with no very definite instructions respecting the
method of procedure, he deemed it necessary to seek directions from his
Imperial master. He stated, at the same time, the course which he had
hitherto pursued. If individuals arraigned before his judgment-seat, and
accused of Christianity, refused to repudiate the obnoxious creed, they
were condemned to death; but if they abjured the gospel, they were
permitted to escape unscathed. Trajan approved of this policy, and it
now became the law of the Empire.

In his letter to his sovereign [289:1] Pliny has given a very favourable
account of the Christian morality, and has virtually admitted that the
new religion was admirably fitted to promote the good of the community,
he mentions that the members of the Church were bound by solemn
obligations to abstain from theft, robbery, and adultery; to keep their
promises, and to avoid every form of wickedness. When such was their
acknowledged character, it may appear extraordinary that a sagacious
prince and a magistrate of highly cultivated mind concurred in thinking
that they should be treated with extreme rigour. We have here, however,
a striking example of the military spirit of Roman legislation. The laws
of the Empire made no proper provision for the rights of conscience; and
they were based throughout upon the principle that implicit obedience is
the first duty of a subject. Neither Pliny nor Trajan could understand
why a Christian should not renounce his creed at the bidding of the
civil governor. In their estimation, "inflexible obstinacy" in
confessing the Saviour was a crime which deserved no less a penalty than

Though the rescript of Trajan awarded capital punishment to the man who
persisted in acknowledging himself a Christian, it also required that
the disciples should not be inquisitively sought after. The zeal of many
of the enemies of the Church was, no doubt, checked by this provision;
as those who attempted to hunt down the faithful expressly violated the
spirit of the imperial enactment. But still, some Christians now
suffered the penalty of a good confession. Pliny himself admits that
individuals who were brought before his own tribunal, and who could not
be induced to recant, were capitally punished; and elsewhere the law was
not permitted to remain in abeyance. About the close of the reign of
Trajan, Simeon, the senior minister of Jerusalem, now in the hundred and
twentieth year of his age, fell a victim to its severity. This martyr
was, 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 the
brethren of Christ; and the chronology accords with the supposition that
he was a year younger than our Saviour. [290:2] His relationship to
Jesus, his great age, and his personal excellence secured for him a most
influential position in the mother Church of Christendom; and hence, by
writers who flourished afterwards, and who expressed themselves in the
language of their generation, he has been called the second bishop of

Though the rescript of Trajan served for a time to restrain the violence
of persecution, it pronounced the profession of Christianity illegal; so
that doubts, which had hitherto existed as to the interpretation of the
law, could no longer be entertained. The heathen priests, and others
interested in the support of idolatry, did not neglect to proclaim a
fact so discouraging to the friends of the gospel. The law, indeed,
still presented difficulties, for an accuser who failed to substantiate
his charge was liable to punishment; but the wily adversaries of the
Church soon contrived to evade this obstacle. When the people met
together on great public occasions, as at the celebration of their
games, or festivals, and when the interest in the sports began to flag,
attempts were often made to provide them with a new and more exciting
pastime by raising the cry of "The Christians to the Lions;" and as, at
such times, the magistrates had been long accustomed to yield to the
wishes of the multitude, many of the faithful were sacrificed to their
clamours. Here, no one was obliged to step forward and hold himself
responsible for the truth of an indictment; and thus, without incurring
any danger, personal malice and blind bigotry had free scope for their
indulgence. In the reign of Hadrian, the successor of Trajan, the
Christians were sadly harassed by these popular ebullitions; and at
length Quadratus and Aristides, two eminent members of the Church at
Athens, presented apologies to the Emperor in which they vividly
depicted the hardships of their position. Serenius Granianus, the
Proconsul of Asia, also complained to Hadrian of the proceedings of the
mob; and, in consequence, that Prince issued a rescript requiring that
the magistrates should in future refuse to give way to the extempore
clamours of public meetings.

Antoninus Pius, who inherited the throne on the demise of Hadrian, was a
mild Sovereign; and under him the faithful enjoyed comparative
tranquillity; but his successor Marcus Aurelius, surnamed the
Philosopher, pursued a very different policy. Marcus is commonly reputed
one of the best of the Roman Emperors; at a very early period of life he
gave promise of uncommon excellence; and throughout his reign he
distinguished himself as an able and accomplished monarch. But he was
proud, pedantic, and self-sufficient; and, like every other individual
destitute of spiritual enlightenment, his character presented the most
glaring inconsistencies; for he was at once a professed Stoic, and a
devout Pagan. This Prince could not brook the contempt with which the
Christians treated his philosophy; neither could he tolerate the idea
that they should be permitted to think for themselves. He could conceive
how an individual, yielding to the stern law of fate, could meet death
with unconcern; but he did not understand how the Christians could glory
in tribulation, and hail even martyrdom with a song of triumph. Had he
calmly reflected on the spirit displayed by the witnesses for the truth,
he might have seen that they were partakers of a higher wisdom than his
own; but the tenacity with which they adhered to their principles, only
mortified his self-conceit, and roused his indignation. It is remarkable
that this philosophic Emperor was the most systematic and heartless of
all the persecutors who had ever yet oppressed the Church. When Nero
lighted up his gardens with the flames which issued from the bodies of
the dying Christians, he wished to transfer to them the odium of the
burning of Rome, and he acted only with the caprice and cunning of a
tyrant; and when Domitian promulgated his cruel edicts, he was haunted
with the dread that the proscribed sect would raise up a rival
Sovereign; but Marcus Aurelius could not plead even such miserable
apologies. He hated the Christians with the cool acerbity of a Stoic;
and he took measures for their extirpation which betrayed at once his
folly and his malevolence. Disregarding the law of Trajan which required
that they should not be officiously sought after, he encouraged spies
and informers to harass them with accusations. He caused them to be
dragged before the tribunals of the magistrates; and, under pain of
death, to be compelled to conform to the rites of idolatry. With a
refinement of cruelty unknown to his predecessors, he employed torture
for the purpose of forcing them to recant. If, in their agony, they gave
way, and consented to sacrifice to the gods, they were released; if they
remained firm, they were permitted to die in torment. In his reign we
read of new and hideous forms of punishment--evidently instituted for
the purpose of aggravating pain and terror. The Christians were
stretched upon the rack, and their joints were dislocated; their bodies,
when lacerated with scourges, were laid on rough sea-shells, or on other
most uncomfortable supports; they were torn to pieces by wild beasts; or
they were roasted alive on heated iron chairs. Ingenuity was called to
the ignoble office of inventing new modes and new instruments of

One of the most distinguished sufferers of this reign was Justin,
surnamed the Martyr. [293:1] He was a native of Samaria; but he had
travelled into various countries, and had studied various systems of
philosophy, with a view, if possible, to discover the truth. His
attention had at length been directed to the Scriptures, and in them he
had found that satisfaction which he could not obtain elsewhere. When in
Rome about A.D. 165, he came into collision with Crescens, a Cynic
philosopher, whom he foiled in a theological discussion. His
unscrupulous antagonist, annoyed by this discomfiture, turned informer;
and Justin, with some others, was put to death. Shortly afterwards
Polycarp, the aged pastor of Smyrna, was committed to the flames.
[293:2] This venerable man, who had been acquainted in his youth with
the 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 to
elude his pursuers; but when he saw that escape was impossible, he
surrendered himself a prisoner. After all, he would have been permitted
to remain unharmed had he consented to renounce the gospel. In the sight
of an immense throng who gloated over the prospect of his execution, the
good old man remained unmoved. When called on to curse Christ he
returned 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 Lord
and 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 I
will not." "Despise you the wild beasts?" exclaimed the magistrate--"I
will subdue your spirit by the flames." "The flames which you menace
endure but for a time and are soon extinguished," calmly rejoined the
prisoner, "but there is a fire reserved for the wicked, whereof you know
not; the fire of a judgment to come and of punishment everlasting."
These answers put an end to all hope of pardon; a pile of faggots was
speedily collected; and Polycarp was burned alive.

Towards the end of the reign of Marcus Aurelius, or about A.D. 177, the
Churches of Lyons and Vienne [294:1] in France endured one of the most
horrible persecutions recorded in the annals of Christian martyrdom. A
dreadful pestilence, some years before, had desolated the Empire; and
the pagans seem to have been impressed with the conviction that the new
religion had provoked the visitation. The mob in various cities became,
in consequence, exasperated; and demanded, with loud cries, the
extirpation of the hated sectaries. In the south of France a
considerable time appears to have elapsed before the ill-will of the
multitude broke out into open violence. At first the disciples in Lyons
and Vienne were insulted in places of public concourse; they were then
pelted with stones and forced to shut themselves up in their own houses;
they were subsequently seized and thrown into prison; and afterwards
their slaves were put to the torture, and compelled to accuse them of
crimes of which they were innocent. Pothinus, the pastor of Lyons, now
upwards of ninety years of age, was brought before the governor, and so
roughly handled by the populace that he died two days after he was
thrown into confinement. The other prisoners were plied with hunger and
thirst, and then put to death with wanton and studied cruelty. Two of
the sufferers, Blandina, a female, and Ponticus, a lad of fifteen,
displayed singular calmness and intrepidity. For several days they were
obliged 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 to
themselves. Ponticus soon sunk under his sufferings; but Blandina still
survived. When she had sustained the agony of the heated iron chair, she
was put into a net and thrown to a wild bull that she might be trampled
and torn by him; and she continued to breathe long after she had been
sadly mangled by the infuriated animal. While subjected to these
terrible inflictions, she exhibited the utmost patience; no boasts
escaped her lips; no murmurs were uttered by her; and even in the
paroxysms of her anguish she was seen to be full of faith and courage.
But such touching exhibitions of the spirit of the gospel failed to
repress the fury of the excited populace. Their hatred of the gospel was
so intense that they resolved to deprive the disciples who survived this
reign of terror of the melancholy satisfaction of paying the last
tribute of respect to the remains of their martyred brethren. They,
accordingly, burned the dead bodies, and then cast the ashes into the
Rhone. "Now," said they, "we will see whether they will rise again, and
whether God can help them, and deliver them out of our hands." [296:1]

Under the brutal and bloody Commodus, the son and heir of Marcus
Aurelius, the Christians had some repose. Marcia, his favourite
concubine, was a member of the Church; [296:2] and her influence was
successfully exerted in protecting her co-religionists. But the penal
statutes were still in force, and they were not everywhere permitted to
remain a dead letter. In this reign [296:3] we meet with some of the
earliest indications of that zeal for martyrdom which was properly the
spawn of the fanaticism of the Montanists. In a certain district of
Asia, a multitude of persons, actuated by this absurd passion, presented
themselves in a body before the proconsul Arrius Antoninus; and
proclaimed themselves Christians. The sight of such a crowd of victims
appalled the magistrate; and, after passing judgment on a few, he is
said to have driven the remainder from his tribunal, exclaiming--
"Miserable men, if you wish to kill yourselves, you have ropes or

The reigns of Pertinax and Julian, the Emperors next in succession after
Commodus, amounted together only to a few months; and the faithful had
meanwhile to struggle with many discouragements; [296:4] but these
short-lived sovereigns were so much occupied with other matters, that
they could not afford time for legislation on the subject of religion.
Septimius Severus, who now obtained the Imperial dignity, was at first
not unfriendly to the Church; and a cure performed on him by Proculus, a
Christian slave, [297:1] has been assigned as the cause of his
forbearance; but, as his reign advanced, he assumed an offensive
attitude; and it cannot be denied that the disciples suffered
considerably under his administration. As the Christians were still
obliged to meet at night to celebrate their worship, they were accused
of committing unnatural crimes in their nocturnal assemblies; and though
these heartless calumnies had been triumphantly refuted fifty or sixty
years 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, the
Emperor interdicted conversions to Christianity; and at a time when the
Church was making vigorous encroachments on heathenism, this enactment
created much embarrassment and anxiety. Some of the governors of
provinces, as soon as they ascertained the disposition of the Imperial
court, commenced forthwith a persecution; and there were magistrates who
proceeded to enforce the laws for the base purpose of extorting money
from the parties obnoxious to their severity. Sometimes individuals, and
sometimes whole congregations purchased immunity from suffering by
entering into pecuniary contracts with corrupt and avaricious rulers;
and by the payment of a certain sum obtained certificates [297:3] which
protected them from all farther inquisition. [297:4] The purport of
these documents has been the subject of much discussion. According to
some they contained a distinct statement to the effect that those named
in them had sacrificed to the gods, and had thus satisfied the law;
whilst others allege that, though they guaranteed protection, they
neither directly stated an untruth, nor compromised the religious
consistency of their possessors. But it is beyond all controversy that
the more scrupulous and zealous Christians uniformly condemned the use
of such certificates. Their owners were known by the suspicious
designation of "Libellatici," or "the Certified;" and were considered
only less criminal than the "Thurificati," or those who had actually
apostatised by offering incense on the altars of paganism. [298:1]

About this time the enforcement of the penal laws in a part of North
Africa, probably in Carthage, led to a most impressive display of some
of the noblest features of the Christian character. Five catechumens, or
candidates for baptism, among whom were Perpetua and Felicitas, [298:2]
had been put under arrest. Perpetua, who was only two and twenty years
of age, was a lady of rank and of singularly prepossessing appearance.
Accustomed to all the comforts which wealth could procure, she was ill
fitted, with a child at the breast, to sustain the rigours of
confinement--more especially as she was thrown into a crowded dungeon
during the oppressive heat of an African summer. But, with her infant in
her arms, she cheerfully submitted to her privations; and the thought
that she was persecuted for Christ's sake, converted her prison into a
palace. Her aged father, who was a pagan, was overwhelmed with distress
because, as he conceived, she was bringing deep and lasting disgrace
upon her family by her attachment to a proscribed sect; and as she was
his favourite child, he employed every expedient which paternal
tenderness and anxiety could dictate to lead her to a recantation. When
she was conducted to the judgment-seat with the other prisoners, the old
gentleman appeared there, to try the effect of another appeal to her;
and the presiding magistrate, touched with pity, entreated her to listen
to his arguments, and to change her resolution. But, though deeply moved
by the anguish of her aged parent, all these attempts to shake her
constancy were in vain. At the place of execution she sung a psalm of
victory, and, before she expired, she exhorted her brother and another
catechumen, named Rusticus, to continue in the faith, to love each
other, and to be neither affrighted nor offended by her sufferings. Her
companion Felicitas exhibited quite as illustrious a specimen of
Christian heroism. When arrested, she was far advanced in pregnancy, and
during her imprisonment, the pains of labour came upon her. Her cries
arrested the attention of the jailer, who said to her--"If your present
sufferings are so great, what will you do when you are thrown to the
wild 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 be
torn by wild beasts on the occasion of an approaching festival; and when
they had passed through this terrible ordeal, they were despatched with
the sword.

After the death of Septimius Severus, the Christians experienced some
abatement of their sufferings. Caracalla and Elagabalus permitted them
to remain almost undisturbed; and Alexander Severus has been supposed by
some to have been himself a believer. Among the images in his private
chapel was a representation of Christ, and he was obviously convinced
that Jesus possessed divine endowments; but there is no proof that he
ever accepted unreservedly the New Testament revelation. He was simply
an eclectic philosopher who held that a portion of truth was to be found
in each of the current systems of religion; and who undertook to analyse
them, and extract the spiritual treasure. The Emperor Maximin was less
friendly to the Church; and yet his enmity was confined chiefly to those
Christian ministers who had been favourites with his predecessor; so
that he cannot be said to have promoted any general persecution. Under
Gordian the disciples were free from molestation; and his successor,
Philip the Arabian, was so well affected to their cause that he has been
sometimes, though erroneously, represented as the first Christian
Emperor. [300:1] The death of this monarch in A.D. 249 was, however,
soon followed by the fiercest and the most extensive persecution under
which the faithful had yet groaned. The more zealous of the pagans, who
had been long witnessing with impatience the growth of Christianity, had
become convinced that, if the old religion were to be upheld, a mighty
effort must very soon be made to strangle its rival. Various expedients
were meanwhile employed to prejudice the multitude against the gospel.
Every disaster which occurred throughout the Empire was attributed to
its evil influence; the defeat of a general, the failure of a harvest,
the overflowing of the Tiber, the desolations of a hurricane, and the
appearance of a pestilence, were all ascribed to its most inauspicious
advancement. The public mind was thus gradually prepared for measures of
extreme severity; and Decius, who now became emperor, aimed at the utter
extirpation of Christianity. All persons suspected of attachment to the
gospel were summoned before the civil authorities; and if, regardless of
intimidation, they refused to sacrifice, attempts were made to overcome
their constancy by torture, by imprisonment, and by starvation. When all
such expedients failed, the punishment of death was inflicted. Those who
fled before the day appointed for their appearance in presence of the
magistrates, forfeited their property; and were forbidden, under the
penalty of death, to return to the district. The Church in many places
had now enjoyed peace for thirty years, and meanwhile the tone of
Christian principle had been considerably lowered. It was not strange,
therefore, that, in these perilous days, many apostatised. [301:1] The
conduct of not a few of the more opulent Christians of Alexandria has
been graphically described by a contemporary. "As they were severally
called by name, they approached the unholy offering; some, pale and
trembling, as if they were going, not to sacrifice, but to be sacrificed
to the gods; so that they were jeered by the mob who thronged around
them, as it was plain to all that they were equally afraid to sacrifice
and to die. Others advanced more briskly, carrying their effrontery so
far as to avow that they never had been Christians." [301:2] Multitudes
now withdrew into deserts or mountains, and there perished with cold and
hunger. The prisons were everywhere crowded with Christians; and the
magistrates were occupied with the odious task of oppressing and
destroying the most meritorious of their fellow-citizens. The disciples
were sent to labour in the mines, branded on the forehead, subjected to
mutilation, and reduced to the lowest depth of misery. In this
persecution the pastors were treated with marked severity, and during
its continuance many of them suffered martyrdom. Among the most
distinguished victims were Fabian bishop of Rome, Babylas bishop of
Antioch, and Alexander bishop of Jerusalem. [302:1]

The reign of Decius was short; [302:2] but the hardships of the Church
did not cease with its termination, as Gallus adopted the policy of his
predecessor. Though Valerian, the successor of Gallus, for a time
displayed much moderation, he eventually relinquished this pacific
course; and, instigated by his favourite Macrianus, an Egyptian
soothsayer, began about A.D. 257 to repeat the bloody tragedy which, in
the days of Decius, had filled the Empire with such terror and distress.
At first the pastors were driven into banishment, and the disciples
forbidden to meet for worship. But more stringent measures were soon
adopted. An edict appeared announcing that bishops, presbyters, and
deacons were to be put to death; that senators and knights, who were
Christians, were to forfeit their rank and property; and that, if they
still refused to repudiate their principles, they were to be capitally
punished; whilst those members of the Church who were in the service of
the palace, were to be put in chains, and sent to labour on the imperial
estates. [302:3] In this persecution, Sixtus bishop of Rome, and Cyprian
bishop of Carthage, [302:4] were martyred.

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

But, notwithstanding the advantages secured by this imperial law, the
Church still suffered occasionally in particular districts. Hostile
magistrates might plead that certain edicts had not been definitely
repealed; and, calculating on the connivance of the higher
functionaries, might perpetrate acts of cruelty and oppression. The
Emperor Aurelian had even resolved to resume the barbarous policy of
Decius and Valerian; and, in A.D. 275, had actually prepared a
sanguinary edict; but, before it could be executed, death stepped in to
arrest his violence, and to prevent the persecution. Thus, as has
already been intimated, for the last forty years of the third century
the Christians enjoyed, almost uninterruptedly, the blessings of
toleration. Spacious edifices, frequented by crowds of worshippers, and
some 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. The
pagan party beheld with dismay the rapid extension of the Church, and
resolved to make a tremendous effort for its destruction. This faction,
pledged to the maintenance of idolatry, now caused its influence to be
felt in all political transactions; and the treatment of the Christians
once more became a question on which statesmen were divided. Diocletian,
who was made Emperor in A.D. 285, continued for many years afterwards to
act 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 enter
upon another course. The persecution commenced in the army, where all
soldiers refusing to sacrifice forfeited their rank, and were dismissed
the service. [304:1] But other hostile demonstrations soon followed. In
the month of February A.D. 303, the great church of Nicomedia, the city
in which the Emperor then resided, was broken open; the copies of the
Scriptures to be found in it were committed to the flames; and the
edifice itself was demolished. The next day an edict appeared
interdicting the religious assemblies of the faithful; commanding the
destruction of their places of worship; ordering all their sacred books
to be burned; requiring those who held offices of honour and emolument
to renounce their principles on pain of the forfeiture of their
appointments; declaring that disciples in the humbler walks of life, who
remained steadfast, should be divested of their rights as citizens and
free-men; and providing that even slaves, so long as they continued
Christians, should be incapable of manumission. [304:2] Some time
afterwards another edict was promulgated directing that all
ecclesiastics should be seized and put in chains. When the jails were
thus filled with Christian ministers, another edict made its appearance,
commanding that the prisoners should by all means be compelled to
sacrifice. At length a fourth edict, of a still more sweeping character
and extending to the whole body of Christians, was published. In
accordance with this decree proclamation was made throughout the streets
of the cities, and men, women, and children, were enjoined to repair to
the heathen temples. The city gates were guarded that none might escape;
and, from lists previously prepared, every individual was summoned by
name to present himself, and join in the performance of the rites of
paganism. [305:1] At a subsequent period all provisions sold in the
markets, in some parts of the empire, were sprinkled with the water or
the wine employed in idolatrous worship, that the Christians might
either be compelled to abstinence, or led to defile themselves by the
use of polluted viands. [305:2]

Throughout almost the whole Church the latter part of the third century
was a period of spiritual decay; and many returned to heathenism during
the sifting time which now followed. Not a few incurred the reproach of
their more consistent and courageous brethren by surrendering the
Scriptures in their possession; and those who thus purchased their
safety were stigmatised with the odious name of _traditors_. Had the
persecutors succeeded in burning all the copies of the Word of God, they
would, without the intervention of a miracle, have effectually secured
the ruin of the Church; but their efforts to destroy the sacred volume
proved abortive; for the faithful seized the earliest opportunity of
replacing the consumed manuscripts. The holy book was prized by them
more highly than ever, and Bible burning only gave a stimulus to Bible
transcription. Still, however, sacred literature sustained a loss of no
ordinary magnitude in this wholesale destruction of the inspired
writings, and there is not at present in existence a single codex of the
New Testament of higher antiquity than the Diocletian persecution.

It has been computed that a greater number of Christians perished under
Decius than in all the attacks which had previously been made upon them;
but their sufferings under Diocletian were still more formidable and
disastrous. Paganism felt that it was now engaged in a death struggle;
and this, its last effort to maintain its ascendency, was its most
protracted and desperate conflict. It has been frequently stated that
the Diocletian persecution was of ten years' duration; and, reckoning
from the first indications of hostility to the promulgation of an edict
of toleration, it may certainly be thus estimated; but all this time the
whole Church was not groaning under the pressure of the infliction. The
Christians of the west of Europe suffered comparatively little; as there
the Emperor Constantius Chlorus, and afterwards his son Constantine, to
a great extent, preserved them from molestation. In the East they passed
through terrific scenes of suffering; for Galerius and Maximin, the two
stern tyrants who governed that part of the empire on the abdication of
Diocletian, endeavoured to overcome their steadfastness by all the
expedients which despotic cruelty could suggest. A contemporary, who had
access to the best sources of information, has given a faithful account
of the torments they endured. Vinegar mixed with salt was poured on the
lacerated bodies of the dying; some were roasted on huge gridirons;
some, suspended aloft by one hand, were then left to perish in
excruciating agony; and some, bound to parts of different trees which
had been brought together by machinery, were torn limb from limb by the
sudden revulsion of the liberated branches. [306:1] But, even in the
East, this attempt to overwhelm Christianity was not prosecuted from its
commencement to its close with unabated severity. Sometimes the
sufferers obtained a respite; and again, the work of blood was resumed
with fresh vigour. Though many were tempted for a season to make a
hollow profession of paganism, multitudes met every effort to seduce
them in a spirit of indomitable resolution. At length tyranny became
weary of its barren office, and the Church obtained peace. In A.D. 311,
Galerius, languishing under a loathsome disease, and perhaps hoping that
he might be relieved by the God of the Christians, granted them
toleration. Maximin subsequently renewed the attacks upon them; but at
his death, which occurred in A.D. 313, the edict in favour of the
Church, which Constantine and his colleague Licinius had already
published, became law throughout the empire.

It is often alleged that the Church, before the conversion of
Constantine, passed through ten persecutions; but the statement gives a
very incorrect idea of its actual suffering. It would be more accurate
to say that, for between two and three hundred years, the faithful were
under the ban of imperial proscription. During all this period they were
liable to be pounced upon at any moment by bigoted, domineering, or
greedy magistrates. There were not, indeed, ten persecutions conducted
with the systematic and sanguinary violence exhibited in the times of
Diocletian or of Decius; but there were perhaps provinces of the empire
where almost every year for upwards of two centuries some Christians
suffered for the faith. [307:1] The friends of the confessors and the
martyrs were not slow to acknowledge the hand of Providence, as they
traced the history of the emperors by whom the Church was favoured or
oppressed. It was remarked that the disciples were not worn out by the
barbarities of a continuous line of persecutors; for an unscrupulous
tyrant was often succeeded on the throne by an equitable or an indulgent
sovereign. Thus, the Christians had every now and then a breathing-time
during which their hopes were revived and their numbers recruited. It
was observed, too, that the princes, of whose cruelty they had reason to
complain, generally ended their career under very distressing
circumstances. An ecclesiastical writer who is supposed to have
flourished towards the commencement of the fourth century has discussed
this subject in a special treatise, in which he has left behind him a
very striking account of "The Deaths of the Persecutors." [308:1] Their
history certainly furnishes a most significant commentary on the Divine
announcement that "the Lord is known by the judgment which he
executeth." [308:2] Nero, the first hostile emperor, perished
ignominiously by his own hand. Domitian, the next persecutor, was
assassinated. Marcus Aurelius died a natural death; but, during his
reign, the Empire suffered dreadfully from pestilence and famine; and
war raged, almost incessantly, from its commencement to its close. The
people of Lyons, who now signalised themselves by their cruelty to the
Christians, did not escape a righteous retribution; for about twenty
years after the martyrdom of Pothinus and his brethren, the city was
pillaged and burned. [308:3] Septimius Severus narrowly escaped murder
by the hand of one of his own children. Decius, whose name is associated
with an age of martyrdom, perished in the Gothic war. Valerian, another
oppressor, ended his days in Persia in degrading captivity. The Emperor
Aurelian was assassinated. Diocletian languished for years the victim of
various maladies, and is said to have abruptly terminated his life by
suicide. Galerius, his son-in-law, died of a most horrible distemper;
and Maximin took away his own life by poison. [308:4] The interpretation
of providences is not to be rashly undertaken; but the record of the
fate of persecutors forms a most extraordinary chapter in the history of
man; and the melancholy circumstances under which so many of the enemies
of religion have finished their career, have sometimes impressed those
who have been otherwise slow to acknowledge the finger of the Almighty.

The persecutions of the early Church originated partly in selfishness
and superstition. Idolatry afforded employment to tens of thousands of
artists and artisans--all of whom had thus a direct pecuniary interest
in its conservation; whilst the ignorant rabble, taught to associate
Christianity with misfortune, were prompted to clamour for its
overthrow. Mistaken policy had also some share in the sufferings of the
Christians; for statesmen, fearing that the disciples in their secret
meetings might be hatching treason, viewed them with suspicion and
treated them with severity. But another element of at least equal
strength contributed to promote persecution. The pure and spiritual
religion of the New Testament was distasteful to the human heart, and
its denunciations of wickedness in every form stirred up the malignity
of the licentious and unprincipled. The faithful complained that they
suffered for neglecting the worship of the gods, whilst philosophers,
who derided the services of the established ritual, escaped with
impunity. [309:1] But the sophists were not likely ever to wage an
effective warfare against immorality and superstition. Many of
themselves were persons of worthless character, and their speculations
were of no practical value. It was otherwise with the gospel. Its
advocates were felt to be in earnest; and it was quickly perceived that,
if permitted to make way, it would revolutionize society. Hence the
bitter opposition which it so soon awakened.

It might have been expected that the sore oppression which the Church
endured for so many generations would have indelibly imprinted on the
hearts of her children the doctrine of liberty of conscience. As the
early Christians expostulated with their pagan rulers, they often
described most eloquently the folly of persecution. "How unjust is it,"
said they, "that freemen should be driven to sacrifice to the gods, when
in all other instances a willing mind is required as an indispensable
qualification for any office of religion?" [310:1] "It appertains to
man's proper right and natural privilege that each should worship that
which he thinks to be God....Neither is it the part of religion to
compel men to religion, which ought to be adopted voluntarily, not of
compulsion, seeing that sacrifices are required of a willing mind. Thus,
even if you compel us to sacrifice, you shall render no sacrifice
thereby to your gods, for they will not desire sacrifices from unwilling
givers, unless they are contentious; but God is not contentious."
[310:2] When, however, the Church obtained possession of the throne of
the empire, she soon ignored these lessons of toleration; and, snatching
the weapons of her tormentors, she attempted, in her turn, to subjugate
the soul by the dungeon, the sword, and the faggot. For at least
thirteen centuries after the establishment of Christianity by
Constantine, it was taken for granted almost everywhere that those
branded with the odious name of heretics were unworthy the protection of
the laws; and that, though good and loyal citizens, they ought to be
punished by the civil magistrate. This doctrine, so alien to the spirit
of the New Testament, has often spread desolation and terror throughout
whole provinces; and has led to the deliberate murder of a hundredfold
more Christians than were destroyed by pagan Rome. Even the fathers of
the Reformation did not escape from the influence of an intolerant
training; but that Bible which they brought forth from obscurity has
been gradually imparting a milder tone to earthly legislation; and
various providences have been illustrating the true meaning of the
proposition that Christ's kingdom is "not of this world." [311:1] In all
free countries it is now generally admitted that the weapons of the
Church are not carnal, and that the jurisdiction of the magistrate is
not spiritual. "God alone is Lord of the conscience;" and it is only by
the illumination of His Word that the monitor within can be led to
recognise His will, and submit to His authority.



Some have an idea that the saintship of the early Christians was of a
type altogether unique and transcendental. In primitive times the Spirit
was, no doubt, poured out in rich effusion, and the subjects of His
grace, when contrasted with the heathen around them, often exhibited
most attractively the beauty of holiness; but the same Spirit still
dwells in the hearts of the faithful, and He is now as able, as He ever
was, to enlighten and to save. As man, wherever he exists, possesses
substantially the same organic conformation, so the true children of
God, to whatever generation they belong, have the same divine
lineaments. The age of miracles has passed away, but the reign of grace
continues, and, at the present day, there may, perhaps, be found amongst
the members of the Church as noble examples of vital godliness as in the
first or second century.

There was a traitor among the Twelve, and it is apparent from the New
Testament that, in the Apostolic Church, there were not a few unworthy
members. "_Many_ walk," says Paul, "of whom I have told you often, and
now tell you, even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of
Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose
glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things." [312:1] In the second
and third centuries the number of such false brethren did not diminish.
To those who are ignorant of its saving power, Christianity may commend
itself, by its external evidences, as a revelation from God; and many,
who are not prepared to submit to its authority, may seek admission to
its privileges. The superficial character of much of the evangelism now
current appeared in times of persecution; for, on the first appearance
of danger, multitudes abjured the gospel, and returned to the heathen
superstitions. It is, besides, a fact which cannot be disputed that, in
the third century, the more zealous champions of the faith felt it
necessary to denounce the secularity of many of the ministers of the
Church. Before the Decian persecution not a few of the bishops were mere
worldlings, and such was their zeal for money-making, that they left
their parishes neglected, and travelled to remote districts where, at
certain seasons of the year, they might carry on a profitable traffic
[313:1]. If we are to believe the testimony of the most distinguished
ecclesiastics of the period, crimes were then perpetrated to which it
would be difficult to find anything like parallels in the darkest pages
of the history of modern Christianity. The chief pastor of the largest
Church in the Proconsular Africa tells, for instance, of one of his own
presbyters who robbed orphans and defrauded widows, who permitted his
father to die of hunger and treated his pregnant wife with horrid
brutality. [313:2] Another ecclesiastic, of still higher position,
speaks of three bishops in his neighbourhood who engaged, when
intoxicated, in the solemn rite of ordination. [313:3] Such excesses
were 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 people
nor the Christian ministry, even in the third century, possessed an
unsullied reputation.

Meanwhile the introduction of a false standard of piety created much
mischief. It had long been received as a maxim, among certain classes of
philosophers, that bodily abstinence is necessary to those who would
attain more exalted wisdom; and the Gentile theology, especially in
Egypt and the East, had endorsed the principle. It was not without
advocates among the Jews, as is apparent from the discipline of the
Essenes and the Therapeutae. At an early period its influence was felt
within the pale of the Church, and before the termination of the second
century, individual members here and there were to be found who eschewed
certain kinds of food and abstained from marriage. [314:1] The pagan
literati, who now joined the disciples in considerable numbers, did much
to promote the credit of this adulterated Christianity. Its votaries,
who were designated _ascetics_ and _philosophers_ [314:2] did not
withdraw themselves from the world, but, whilst adhering to their own
regimen, still remained mindful of their social obligations. Their
self-imposed mortification soon found admirers, and an opinion gradually
gained ground that these abstinent disciples cultivated a higher form of
piety. The adherents of the new discipline silently increased, and by
the middle of the third century, a class of females who led a single
life, and who, by way of distinction, were called virgins, were in some
places regarded by the other Church members with special veneration.
[314:3] Among the clergy also celibacy was now considered a mark of
superior holiness. [314:4] But, in various places, pietism about this
time assumed a form which disgusted all persons of sober judgment and
ordinary discretion. The unmarried clergy and the virgins deemed it
right to cultivate the communion of saints after a new fashion, alleging
that, in each other's society, they enjoyed peculiar advantages for
spiritual improvement. It was not, therefore, uncommon to find a single
ecclesiastic and one of the sisterhood of virgins dwelling in the same
house and sharing the same bed! [315:1] All the while the parties
repudiated the imputation of any improper intercourse, but in some cases
the proofs of profligacy were too plain to be concealed, and common
sense refused to credit the pretensions of such an absurd and suspicious
spiritualism. The ecclesiastical authorities felt it necessary to
interfere, and compel the professed virgins and the single clergy to
abstain from a degree of intimacy which was unquestionably not free from
the appearance of evil.

About the time that the advocates of "whatsoever things are of good
report" were protesting against the improprieties of these spiritual
brethren and sisters, Paul and Antony, the fathers and founders of
Monachism, commenced to live as hermits. Paul was a native of Egypt, and
the heir of a considerable fortune; but, driven at first by persecution
from the abodes of men, he ultimately adopted the desert as the place of
his chosen residence. Antony, in another part of the same country,
guided by a mistaken spirit of self-renunciation, divested himself of
all his property; and also retired into a wilderness. The biographies of
these two well-meaning but weak-minded visionaries, which have been
written by two of the most eminent divines of the fourth century,
[316:1] are very humiliating memorials of folly and fanaticism. These
solitaries spent each a long life in a cave, macerating the body with
fasting, and occupying the mind with the reveries of a morbid
imagination. In an age of growing superstition their dreamy pietism was
mistaken by many for sanctity of uncommon excellence; and the admiration
bestowed on them, tempted others, in the beginning of the following
century, to imitate their example. Soon afterwards, societies of these
sons 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 whole

It is a curious fact that the figure of the instrument of torture on
which our Lord was put to death, occupied a prominent place among the
symbols of the ancient heathen worship. From the most remote antiquity
the cross was venerated in Egypt and Syria; it was held in equal honour
by the Buddhists of the East, [316:2] and, what is still more
extraordinary, when the Spaniards first visited America, the well-known
sign was found among the objects of worship in the idol temples of
Anahuac. [316:3] It is also remarkable that, about the commencement of
our era, the pagans were wont to make the sign of a cross upon the
forehead in the celebration of some of their sacred mysteries. [317:1] A
satisfactory explanation of the origin of such peculiarities in the
ritual of idolatry can now scarcely be expected; but it certainly need
not excite surprise if the early Christians were impressed by them, and
if they viewed them as so many unintentional testimonies to the truth of
their religion. The disciples displayed, indeed, no little ingenuity in
their attempts to discover the figure of a cross in almost every object
around them. They could recognise it in the trees and the flowers, in
the fishes and the fowls, in the sails of a ship and the structure of
the human body; [317:2] and if they borrowed from their heathen
neighbours the custom of making a cross upon the forehead, they would of
course be ready to maintain that they thus only redeemed the holy sign
from profanation. Some of them were, perhaps, prepared, on prudential
grounds, to plead for its introduction. Heathenism was, to a
considerable extent, a religion of bowings and genuflexions; its
votaries were, ever and anon, attending to some little rite or form;
and, because of the multitude of these diminutive acts of outward
devotion, its ceremonial was at once frivolous and burdensome. When the
pagan passed into the Church, he, no doubt, often felt, for a time, the
awkwardness 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 objectionable
forms by something of a Christian complexion; and the use of the sign of
the cross here probably presented itself as an observance equally
familiar and convenient. [318:1] But the disciples would have acted more
wisely had they boldly discarded all the puerilities of paganism; for
credulity soon began to ascribe supernatural virtue to this vestige of
the repudiated worship. As early as the beginning of the third century,
it was believed to operate like a charm; and it was accordingly employed
on almost all occasions by many of the Christians. "In all our travels
and movements," says a writer of this period, "as often as we come in or
go out, when we put on our clothes or our shoes, when we enter the bath
or sit down at table, when we light our candles, when we go to bed, or
recline upon a couch, or whatever may be our employment, we mark our
forehead with the sign of the cross." [318:2]

But whilst not a few of the Christians were beginning to adopt some of
the trivial rites of paganism, they continued firmly to protest against
its more flagrant corruptions. They did not hesitate to assail its gross
idolatry with bold and biting sarcasms. "Stone, or wood, or silver,"
said they, "becomes a god when man chooses that it should, and dedicates
it 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 feel
nothing; they gnaw them, they trample and sit on them; and if you did
not drive them away, they would make their nests in the very mouth of
your deity." [319:1] The Church of the first three centuries rejected
the use of images in worship, and no pictorial representations of the
Saviour were to be found even in the dwellings of the Christians. They
conceived that such visible memorials could convey no idea whatever of
the ineffable glory of the Son of God; and they held that it is the duty
of His servants to foster a spirit of devotion, not by the contemplation
of His material form, but by meditating on His holy and divine
attributes as they are exhibited in creation, providence, and
redemption. So anxious were they to avoid even the appearance of
anything like image-worship, that when they wished to mark articles of
dress or furniture with an index of their religious profession, they
employed the likeness of an anchor, or a dove, or a lamb, or a cross, or
some other object of an emblematical character. [319:2] "We must not,"
said they, "cling to the sensuous but rise to the spiritual. The
familiarity of daily sight lowers the dignity of the divine, and to
pretend to worship a spiritual essence through earthly matter, is to
degrade that essence to the world of sense." [319:3] Even so late as the
beginning of the fourth century the practice of displaying paintings in
places of worship was prohibited by ecclesiastical authority. A canon
which bears upon this subject, and which was enacted by the Council of
Elvira held about A.D. 305, is more creditable to the pious zeal than to
the literary ability of the assembled fathers. "We must not," said they,
"have pictures in the church, lest that which is worshipped and adored
be painted on the walls." [320:1]

It has been objected to the Great Reformation of the sixteenth century
that it exercised a prejudicial influence on the arts of painting and
statuary. The same argument might have been urged against the gospel
itself in the days of its original promulgation. Whilst the early Church
entirely discarded the use of images in worship, its more zealous
members looked with suspicion upon all who assisted in the fabrication
of these objects of the heathen idolatry. [320:2] The excuse that the
artists were labouring for subsistence, and that they had themselves no
idea of bowing down to the works of their own hands, did not by any
means satisfy the scruples of their more consistent and conscientious
brethren. "Assuredly," they exclaimed, "you are a worshipper of idols
when you help to promote their worship. It is true you bring to them no
outward victim, but you sacrifice to them, your mind. Your sweat is
their drink-offering. You kindle for them the light of your skill."
[320:3] By denouncing image-worship the early Church, no doubt, to some
extent interfered with the profits of the painter and the sculptor; but,
in another way, it did much to purify and elevate the taste of the
public. In the second and third centuries the playhouse in every large
town was a centre of attraction; and whilst the actors were generally
persons of very loose morals, their dramatic performances were
perpetually pandering to the depraved appetites of the age. It is not,
therefore, wonderful that all true Christians viewed the theatre with
disgust. Its frivolity was offensive to their grave temperament; they
recoiled from its obscenity; and its constant appeals to the gods and
goddesses of heathenism outraged their religious convictions. [321:1] In
their estimation, the talent devoted to its maintenance was miserably
prostituted; and whilst every actor was deemed unworthy of
ecclesiastical fellowship, every church member was prohibited, by
attendance or otherwise, from giving any encouragement to the stage. The
early Christians were also forbidden to frequent the public shows, as
they were considered scenes of temptation and pollution. Every one at
his baptism was required to renounce "the devil, his pomp, and his
angels" [321:2]--a declaration which implied that he was henceforth to
absent himself from the heathen spectacles. At this time, statesmen,
poets, and philosophers were not ashamed to appear among the crowds who
assembled to witness the combats of the gladiators, though, on such
occasions, human life was recklessly sacrificed. But here the Church,
composed chiefly of the poor of this world, was continually giving
lessons in humanity to heathen legislators and literati. It protested
against cruelty, as well to the brute creation as to man; and condemned
the taste which could derive gratification from the shedding of the
blood either of lions or of gladiators. All who sanctioned by their
presence the sanguinary sports of the amphitheatre incurred a sentence
of excommunication. [322:1]

At this time, though an increasing taste for inactivity and solitude
betokened the growth of a bastard Christianity, and though various other
circumstances were indicative of tendencies to adulterate religion,
either by reducing it to a system of formalism, or by sublimating it
into a life of empty contemplation, there were still abundant proofs of
the existence of a large amount of healthy and vigorous piety. The
members of the Church, as a body, were distinguished by their exemplary
morals; and about the beginning of the third century, one of their
advocates, when pleading for their toleration, could venture to assert
that, among the numberless culprits brought under the notice of the
magistrates, none were Christians. [322:2] Wherever the gospel spread,
its social influence was most salutary. Its first teachers applied
themselves discreetly to the redress of prevalent abuses; and time
gradually demonstrated the effectiveness of their plans of reformation.
When they appeared, polygamy was common; [322:3] and had they assailed
it in terms of unmeasured severity, they would have defeated their own
object by rousing up a most formidable and exasperated opposition. It
would have been argued by the Jews that they were reflecting on the
patriarchs; and it would have been said by the Roman governors that they
were interfering with matters which belonged to the province of the
civil magistrate. They were obliged, therefore, to proceed with extreme
caution. In the first place, they laid it down as a principle that every
bishop and deacon must be "the husband of one wife," [323:1] or, in
other words, that no polygamist could hold office in their society. They
thus, in the most pointed way, inculcated sound views respecting the
institution of marriage; for they intimated that whoever was the husband
of more than one wife was not, in every respect, "a pattern of good
works," and was consequently unfit for ecclesiastical promotion. In the
second place, in all their discourses they proceeded on the assumption
that the union of one man and one woman is the divine arrangement.
[323:2] Throughout the whole of the New Testament, wherever marriage is
mentioned, no other idea is entertained. It is easy to see what must
have been the effect of this method of procedure. It soon came to be
understood that no good Christian could have at one time more than one
wife; and at length the polygamist was excluded from communion by a
positive 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 still
continued to be spoken of in terms of the strongest reprobation.
Nothing, it was said, but discomfort and danger could be anticipated
from the union; as parties related so closely, and yet differing so
widely on the all-important subject of religion, could not permanently
hold cordial intercourse. A writer of this period has given a vivid
description of the trials of the female who made such an ill-assorted
match. Whilst she is about to be engaged in spiritual exercises, her
husband will probably contrive some scheme for her annoyance; and her
zeal may be expected to awaken his jealousy, and provoke his opposition.
"If there be a prayer-meeting, the husband will devote this day to the
use of the bath; if a fast is to be observed, the husband has a feast at
which he entertains his friends; if a religious ceremony is to be
attended, never does household business fall more upon her hands. And
who would allow his wife, for the sake of visiting the brethren, to go
from street to street the round of strange and especially of the poorer
class of cottages? ... If a stranger brother come to her, what lodging
in an alien's house? If a present is to be made to any, the barn, the
storehouse are closed against her." [324:1]

The primitive heralds of the gospel acted with remarkable prudence in
reference to the question of slavery. According to some high
authorities, bondsmen constituted one-half [324:2] of the entire
population of the Roman Empire; and as the new religion was designed to
promote the spiritual good of man, rather than the improvement of his
civil or political condition, the apostles did not deem it expedient, in
the first instance, to attempt to break up established relations. They
did not refuse to receive any one as a member of the Church because he
happened to be a slave-owner; neither did they reject any applicant for
admission because he was a slave. The social position of the individual
did 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 the
servant were upon a footing of equality; they joined in the same
prayers; they sat down, side by side, at the same communion table; and
they saluted each other with the kiss of Christian recognition. A
slave-owner might belong to a congregation of which his slave was the
teacher; and thus, whilst in the household, the servant was bound to
obey his master according to the flesh, in the Church the master was
required to remember that his minister was "worthy of double honour."

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

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

Whilst Christianity, in the spirit of its Great Founder, was labouring
to improve the tone of public sentiment, and to undo heavy burdens, it
exhibited other most attractive characteristics. Wherever a disciple
travelled, if a church existed in the district, he felt himself at home.
The ecclesiastical certificate which he carried along with him, at once
introduced him to the meetings of his co-religionists, and secured for
him all the advantage of membership. The heathen were astonished at the
cordiality with which the believers among whom they resided greeted a
Christian stranger. He was saluted with the kiss of peace; ushered into
their assembly; and invited to share the hospitality of the domestic
board. If he was sick, they visited him; if he was in want, they made
provision for his necessities. The poor widows were supported at the
expense of the Church; and if any of the brethren were carried captive
by predatory bands of the barbarians who hovered upon the borders of the
Empire, contributions were made to purchase their liberation from
servitude. [326:2] To those who were without the Church, its members
appeared as one large and affectionate family. The pagan could not
comprehend what it was that so closely cemented their brotherhood; for
he did not understand how they could be attracted to each other by love
to a common Saviour. He was almost induced to believe that they held
intercourse by certain mysterious signs, and that they were affiliated
by something like the bond of freemasonry. Even statesmen observed with
uneasiness the spirit of fraternity which reigned among the Christians;
and, though the disciples could never be convicted of any political
designs, suspicions were often entertained that, after all, they might
form a secret association, on an extensive scale, which might one day
prove dangerous to the established government.

But Christianity, like the sun, shines on the evil and the good; and
opportunities occurred for shewing that its charities were not confined
within the limits of its own denomination. There were occasions on which
its very enemies could not well refuse to admit its excellence; for in
seasons of public distress, its adherents often signalised themselves as
by far the most energetic, benevolent, and useful citizens. At such
times its genial philanthropy appeared to singular advantage when
contrasted with the cold and selfish spirit of polytheism. Thus, in the
reign of the Emperor Gallus, when a pestilence spread dismay throughout
North Africa, [327:1] and when the pagans shamefully deserted their
nearest relatives in the hour of their extremity, the Christians stepped
forward, and ministered to the wants of the sick and dying without
distinction. [327:2] Some years afterwards, when the plague appeared in
Alexandria, and when the Gentile inhabitants left the dead unburied and
cast out the dying into the streets, the disciples vied with each other
in their efforts to alleviate the general suffering. [327:3] The most
worthless men can scarcely forget acts of kindness performed under such
circumstances. Forty years afterwards, when the Church in the capital of
Egypt was overtaken by the Diocletian persecution, their pagan
neighbours concealed the Christians in their houses, and submitted to
fines and imprisonment rather than betray the refugees. [328:1]

The fact that the heathen were now ready to shelter the persecuted
members 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 were
assembled in thousands at the national spectacles, no cry was more
vociferously repeated than that of "The Christians to the lions." But
this bigoted and intolerant spirit was fast passing away; and when the
state now set on foot a persecution, it could not reckon so extensively
on the support of popular antipathy. The Church had attained such a
position that the calumnies once repeated to its prejudice could no
longer obtain credence; the superior excellence of its system of morals
was visible to all; and it could point on every side to proofs of the
blessings it communicated. It could demonstrate, by a reference to its
history, that it produced kind masters and dutiful servants,
affectionate parents and obedient children, faithful friends and
benevolent citizens. On all classes, whether rich or poor, learned or
unlearned, its effects were beneficial. It elevated the character of the
working classes, it vastly improved the position of the wife, it
comforted the afflicted, and it taught even senators wisdom. Its
doctrines, whether preached to the half-naked Picts or the polished
Athenians, to the fierce tribes of Germany or the literary coteries of
Alexandria, exerted the same holy and happy influence. It promulgated a
religion obviously fitted for all mankind. There had long since been a
prediction that its dominion should extend "from sea to sea and from the
river unto the ends of the earth;" and its progress already indicated
that the promise would receive a glorious accomplishment.



The great doctrines of Christianity are built upon _the facts_ of the
life of our Lord. These facts are related by the four evangelists with
singular precision, and yet with a variety of statement, as to details,
which proves that each writer delivered an independent testimony. The
witnesses all agree when describing the wonderful history of the Captain
of our Salvation; and they dwell upon the narrative with a minuteness
apparently corresponding to the importance of the _doctrine_ which the
facts establish or illustrate. Hence it is that, whilst they scarcely
notice, or altogether omit, several items of our Saviour's biography,
they speak particularly of His birth and of His miracles, of His death
and of His resurrection. Thus, all the great facts of the gospel are
most amply authenticated.

It is not so with the system of Romanism; as nothing can be weaker than
the historical basis on which it rests. The New Testament demonstrates
that Peter was _not_ the Prince of the Apostles; for it records the
rebuke which our Lord delivered to the Twelve when they strove among
themselves "which of them should be accounted the greatest." [329:1] It
also supplies evidence that neither Peter nor Paul founded the Church of
Rome; as, before that Church had been visited by the Apostle of the
Gentiles, its faith was "spoken of throughout the whole world;" [329:2]
and the apostle of the circumcision was meanwhile labouring in another
part of the Empire. [330:1] When writing to the Romans in A.D. 57, Paul
greets many members of the Church, and mentions the names of a great
variety of individuals; [330:2] but, throughout his long epistle, Peter
is not once noticed. Had he been connected with that Christian
community, he would, beyond doubt, have been prominently recognised.

There is, indeed, a sense in which Peter may, perhaps, be said to have
founded the great Church of the West; for it is possible that some of
the "strangers of Rome," [330:3] who heard his celebrated sermon on the
day of Pentecost, were then converted by his ministry; and it may be
that these converts, on their return home, proceeded to disseminate the
truth, and to organize a Christian society, in the chief city of the
Empire. This, however, is mere matter of conjecture; and it is now
useless to speculate upon the subject; as, in the absence of historical
materials to furnish us with information, the question must remain
involved in impenetrable mystery. It is certain that the Roman Church
was established long before it was visited by an apostle; and it is
equally clear that its members were distinguished, at an early period,
by their Christian excellence. When Paul was prisoner for the first time
in 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 a
year afterwards; but the legend describing it contains very improbable
details, and the facts have obviously been distorted and exaggerated.

For at least seventy years after the death of the apostle of the
circumcision, nothing whatever is known of the history of the Roman
Church, except the names of some of its leading ministers. It was
originally governed, like other Christian communities, by the common
council of the presbyters, who, as a matter of order, must have had a
chairman; but though, about a hundred years after the martyrdom of
Peter, when the presidents began to be designated _bishops_, an attempt
was made to settle their order of succession, [331:1] the result was by
no means satisfactory. Some of the earliest writers who touch
incidentally 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 is
an historical riddle. At first no one individual seems to have acted for
life as the president, or moderator, of the presbytery; but as it was
well known that, at an early date, several eminent pastors had belonged
to it, the most distinguished names found their way into the catalogues,
and each writer appears to have consulted his own taste or judgment in
regulating the order of succession. Thus, it has probably occurred that
their lists are utterly irreconcileable. All such genealogies are,
indeed, of exceedingly dubious credit, and those who deem them of
importance must always be perplexed by the candid acknowledgment of the
father of ecclesiastical history. "How many," says he, "and who,
prompted by a kindred spirit, were judged fit to feed the churches
established by the apostles, it _is not easy to say, any farther than
may be gathered from the statements of Paul_." [331:4]

About A.D. 139, Telesphorus, who was then at the head of the Roman
presbytery, is said to have been put to death for his profession of the
gospel; but the earliest authority for this fact is a Christian
controversialist who wrote upwards of forty years afterwards; [332:1]
and we are totally ignorant of all the circumstances connected with the
martyrdom. The Church of the capital, which had hitherto enjoyed
internal tranquillity, began in the time of Hyginus, who succeeded
Telesphorus, to be disturbed by false teachers. Valentine, Cerdo, and
other famous heresiarchs, now appeared in Rome; [332:2] and laboured
with great assiduity to disseminate their principles. The distractions
created by these errorists seem to have suggested the propriety of
placing additional power in the hands of the _presiding presbyter_.
[332:3] Until this period every teaching elder had been accustomed to
baptize and administer the Eucharist on his own responsibility; but it
appears to have been now arranged that henceforth none should act
without the sanction of the president, who was thus constituted the
centre of ecclesiastical unity. According to the previous system, some
of the presbyters, who were themselves, perhaps, secretly tainted with
unsound doctrine, might have continued to hold communion with the
heretics; and it might have been exceedingly difficult to convict them
of any direct breach of ecclesiastical law; but now their power was
curtailed; and a broad line of demarcation was established between true
and false churchmen. Thus, Rome was the city in which what has been
called the Catholic system was first organized. Every one who was in
communion with the president, or bishop, was a catholic; [332:4] every
one who allied himself to any other professed teacher of the Christian
faith was a sectary, a schismatic, or a heretic. [333:1]

The study of the best forms of government was peculiarly congenial to
the Roman mind; and the peace enjoyed under the Empire, as contrasted
with the miseries of the civil wars in the last days of the Republic,
pleaded, no doubt, strongly in favour of a change in the ecclesiastical
constitution. But though this portion of the history of the Church is
involved in much obscurity, there are indications that the transference
of power from the presbyters to their president was not accomplished
without a struggle. Until this period the Roman elders appear to have
generally succeeded each other as moderators of presbytery in the order
of their seniority; [333:2] but it was now deemed necessary to adopt
another method of appointment; and it is not improbable that, at this
time, a division of sentiment as to the best mode of filling up the
presidential chair, was the cause of an unusually long vacancy.
According to some, no less than four years [333:3] passed away between
the death of Hyginus and the choice of his successor Pius; and even
those who object to this view of the chronology admit that there was an
interval of a twelvemonth. [333:4] The plan now adopted seems to have
been 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 the
second century, the new chief pastor "obtained _the lot_ of the
episcopacy." [334:1]

The changes introduced at Rome were probably far from agreeable to many
of the other Churches throughout the Empire; and Polycarp, the venerable
pastor of Smyrna, who was afterwards martyred, and who was now nearly
eighty years of age, appears to have been sent to the imperial city on a
mission of remonstrance. The design of this remarkable visit is still
enveloped in much mystery, for with the exception of an allusion to a
question confessedly of secondary consequence, [334:2] ecclesiastical
writers have passed over the whole subject in suspicious silence; but
there is every reason to believe that Polycarp was deputed to complain
of the incipient assumptions of Roman prelacy. [334:3] Anicetus, who
then presided over the Church of the capital, prudently bestowed very
flattering attentions on the good old Asiatic pastor; and, though there
is no evidence that his scruples were removed, he felt it to be his duty
to assist in opposing the corrupt teachers who were seeking to propagate
their errors among the Roman disciples. The testimony to primitive truth
delivered by so aged and eminent a minister produced a deep impression,
and gave a decided check to the progress of heresy in the metropolis of
the Empire. [334:4]

But though the modified prelacy now established encountered opposition,
the innovation thus inaugurated in the great city was sure to exert a
most extensive influence. Rome was then, not only the capital, but the
mistress of a large portion of the world. She kept up a constant
communication with every part of her dominions in Asia, Africa, and
Europe; strangers from almost every clime were to be found among her
teeming population; and intelligence of whatever occurred within her
walls soon found its way to distant cities and provinces. The Christians
in other countries would be slow to believe that their brethren at
head-quarters had consented to any unwarrantable distribution of Church
power, for they had hitherto displayed their zeal for the faith by most
decisive and illustrious testimonies. Since the days of Nero they had
sustained the first shock of every persecution, and nobly led the van of
the army of martyrs. Telesphorus, the chairman of the presbytery, had
recently paid for his position with his life; their presiding pastor was
always specially obnoxious to the spirit of intolerance; and if they
were anxious to strengthen his hands, who could complain? The Roman
Church had the credit of having enjoyed the tuition of Peter and Paul;
its members had long been distinguished for intelligence and piety; and
it was not to be supposed that its ministers would sanction any step
which they did not consider perfectly capable of vindication. There were
other weighty reasons why Christian societies in Italy, as well as
elsewhere, should regard the acts of the Church of the imperial city
with peculiar indulgence. It was the sentinel at the seat of government
to give them notice of the approach of danger, [335:1] and the kind
friend to aid them in times of difficulty. The wealth of Rome was
prodigious; and though as yet "not many mighty" and "not many noble" had
joined the proscribed sect, it had been making way among the middle
classes; and there is cause to think that at this time a considerable
number 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 even
the Church of Corinth was then indebted to its munificence. "It has ever
been your habit," says the writer, "to confer benefits in various ways,
and to send assistance to the Churches in every city. You have relieved
the wants of the poor, and afforded help to the brethren condemned to
the mines. By a succession of these gifts, Romans, you preserve the
customs of your Roman ancestors." [336:1]

The influence of the Roman Church throughout the West soon became
conspicuous. Here, as in many other instances, commerce was the pioneer
of religion; and as the merchants of the capital traded with all the
ports of their great inland sea, it is not improbable that their sailors
had 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 to
have been indebted for Christianity to Rome; [336:2] and by means of the
constant intercourse kept up between these two commercial marts, the
mother Church contrived to maintain an ascendancy over her African
daughter. Thus it was that certain Romish practices and pretensions so
soon found advocates among the Carthaginian clergy. [336:3] In other
quarters we discover early indications of the extraordinary deference
paid to the Church of the city "sitting upon many waters." Towards the
close of the second century, Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp, was
pastor of Lyons; and from this some have rather abruptly drawn the
inference that the Christian congregations then existing in the south of
France were established by missionaries from the East; but it is at
least equally probable that the young minister from Asia Minor was in
Rome before he passed to the more distant Gaul; and it is certain that
he is the first father who speaks of the superior importance of the
Church of the Italian metropolis. His testimony to the position which it
occupied about eighty years after the death of the Apostle John shews
clearly that it stood already at the head of the Western Churches. The
Church of Rome, says he, is "very great and very ancient, and known to
all, founded and established by the two most glorious Apostles Peter and
Paul." [337:1] "To this Church in which Catholics [337:2] have always
preserved apostolic tradition, every Catholic Church should, because it
is more potentially apostolical, [337:3] repair." [337:4]

The term _Catholic_, which occurs for the first time in a document
written about this period, [337:5] was probably coined at Rome, and
implied, as already intimated, that the individual so designated was in
communion with the bishop. The presiding pastors in the great city began
now, in token of fraternity and recognition, to send the Eucharist to
their brethren elsewhere by trusty messengers, [337:6] and thus the name
was soon extended to all who maintained ecclesiastical relations with
these leading ministers. Sectaries were almost always the minority; and
in many places, where Christianity was planted, they were utterly
unknown. The orthodox might, therefore, not inappropriately be styled
members of the _Catholic_ or _general_ Church, inasmuch as they formed
the bulk of the Christian population, and were to be found wherever the
new religion had made converts. And though the heretics pleaded
tradition in support of their peculiar dogmas, it was clear that their
statements could not stand the test of examination. Irenaeus, in the
work from which the words just quoted are extracted, very fairly argues
that no such traditions as those propagated by the sectaries were to be
found in the most ancient and respectable Churches. No Christian
community in Western Europe could claim higher antiquity than that of
Rome; and as it had been taught by Paul and Peter, none could be
supposed to be better acquainted with the original gospel. Because of
its extent it already required a larger staff of ministers than perhaps
any other Church; and thus there were a greater number of individuals to
quicken and correct each other's recollections. It might be accordingly
inferred that the traditions of surrounding Christian societies, if
true, should correspond to those of Rome; as the great metropolitan
Church might, for various reasons, be said to be more potentially
primitive or apostolical, and as its traditions might be expected to be
particularly accurate. The doctrines of the heretics, which were
completely opposed to the testimony of this important witness, should be
discarded as entirely destitute of authority.

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

It has been mentioned in a former chapter [339:2] that the celebrated
Marcia who, until shortly before his death, possessed almost absolute
control over the Emperor Commodus, made a profession of the faith. Her
example, no doubt, encouraged other personages of distinction to connect
themselves with the Roman Church; and, through the medium of these
members of his flock, the bishop Eleutherius must have had an influence
such as none of his predecessors possessed. It is beyond doubt that
Marcia, after consulting with Victor, the successor of Eleutherius,
induced the Emperor to perform acts of kindness to some of her
co-religionists. [339:3] The favour of the court seems to have puffed up
the spirit of this naturally haughty churchman; and though, as we have
seen, there is cause to suspect that certain ecclesiastical movements in
the chief city had long before excited much ill-suppressed
dissatisfaction, the Christian commonwealth was now startled for the
first time by a very flagrant exhibition of the arrogance of a Roman
prelate. [340:1] Because the Churches of Asia Minor celebrated the
Paschal feast in a way different from that observed in the metropolis,
[340:2] Victor cut them off from his communion. But this attempt of the
bishop of the great city to act as lord over God's heritage was
premature. Other churches condemned the rashness of his procedure; his
refusal to hold fellowship with the Asiatic Christians threatened only
to isolate himself; and he seems to have soon found it expedient to
cultivate more pacific councils.

At this time the jurisdiction of Victor did not properly extend beyond
the few ministers and congregations to be found in the imperial city. A
quarter of a century afterwards even the bishop of Portus, a seaport
town at the mouth of the Tiber about fifteen miles distant from the
capital, acknowledged no allegiance to the Roman prelate. [340:3] The
boldness of Victor in pronouncing so many foreign brethren unworthy of
Catholic communion may at first, therefore, appear unaccountable. But it
is probable that he acted, in this instance, in conjunction with many
other pastors. Among the Churches of Gentile origin there was a deep
prejudice against what was considered the judaizing of the Asiatic
Christians in relation to the Paschal festival, and a strong impression
that the character of the Church was compromised by any very marked
diversity in its religious observances. There is, however, little reason
to doubt that Victor was to some extent prompted by motives of a
different complexion. Fifty years before, the remarkable words addressed
to the apostle of the circumcision--"Thou art Peter, and upon this Rock
I will build my Church" [341:1]--were interpreted at Rome in the way in
which they are now understood commonly by Protestants; for the brother
of the Roman bishop Pius, [341:2] writing about A.D. 150, teaches that
the Rock on which the Church is built is the Son of God; [341:3] but
ingenuity was already beginning to discover another exposition, and the
growing importance of the Roman bishopric suggested the startling
thought that the Church was built on Peter! [341:4] The name of the
Galilean fisherman was already connected with the see of Victor; and it
was thus easy for ambition or flattery to draw the inference that Victor
himself was in some way the heir and representative of the great
apostle. The doctrine that the bishop was necessary as the centre of
Catholic unity had already gained currency; and if a centre of unity for
the whole Church was also indispensable, who had a better claim to the
pre-eminence than the successor of Peter? When Victor fulminated his
sentence of excommunication against the Asiatic Christians he probably
acted under the partial inspiration of this novel theory. He made an
abortive attempt to speak in the name of the whole Church--to assert a
position as the representative or president of all the bishops of the
Catholic world [342:1]--and to carry out a new system of ecclesiastical
unity. The experiment was a failure, simply because the idea looming in
the imagination of the Roman bishop had not yet obtained full possession
of the mind of Christendom.

Prelacy had been employed as the cure for Church divisions, but the
remedy had proved worse than the disease. Sects meanwhile continued to
multiply; and they were, perhaps, nowhere so abundant as in the very
city where the new machinery had been first set up for their
suppression. Towards the close of the second century their multitude was
one of the standing reproaches of Christianity. What was called the
Catholic Church was now on the brink of a great schism; and the very
man, who aspired to be the centre of Catholic unity, threatened to be
the cause of the disruption. It was becoming more and more apparent
that, when the presbyters consented to surrender any portion of their
privileges to the bishop, they betrayed the cause of ecclesiastical
freedom; and even now indications were not wanting that the Catholic
system was likely to degenerate into a spiritual despotism.



Though very few of the genuine productions of the ministers of the
ancient Church of Rome are still extant, [343:1] multitudes of spurious
epistles attributed to its early bishops have been carefully preserved.
It is easy to account for this apparent anomaly. The documents now known
as the false Decretals, [343:2] and ascribed to the Popes of the first
and immediately succeeding centuries, were suited to the taste of times
of ignorance, and were then peculiarly grateful to the occupants of the
Roman see. As evidences of its original superiority they were
accordingly transmitted to posterity, and ostentatiously exhibited among
the papal title-deeds. But the real compositions of the primitive
pastors of the great city supplied little food for superstition; and
must have contained startling and humiliating revelations which laid
bare the absurdity of claims subsequently advanced. These unwelcome
witnesses were, therefore, quietly permitted to pass into oblivion.

It has been said, however, that Truth is the daughter of Time, and the
discovery of monuments long since forgotten, or of writings supposed to
have been lost, has often wonderfully verified and illustrated the
apologue. The reappearance, within the last three hundred years, of
various ancient records and memorials, has shed a new light upon the
history 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 employed
in clearing away the ruins of a dilapidated chapel, they found a broken
mass of sculptured marble among the rubbish. The fragments, when put
together, proved to be a statue representing a person of venerable
aspect sitting in a chair, on the back of which were the names of
various 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--a
learned writer and able controversialist, who bad been bishop of Portus
in the early part of the third century, and who had finished his career
by martyrdom, about A.D. 236, during the persecution under the Emperor
Maximin. Hippolytus is commemorated as a saint in the Romish Breviary;
[344:2] and the resurrection of his statue, after it had been buried for
perhaps a thousand years, created quite a sensation among his papal
admirers. Experienced sculptors, under the auspices of the Pontiff, Pius
IV., restored the fragments to nearly their previous condition; and the
renovated statue was then duly honoured with a place in the Library of
the Vatican.

Nearly three hundred years afterwards, or in 1842, a manuscript which
had been found in a Greek monastery at Mount Athos, was deposited in the
Royal Library at Paris. This work, which has been since published,
[345:1] and which is entitled "Philosophumena, or a Refutation of all
Heresies," has been identified as the production of Hippolytus. It does
not appear in the list of his writings mentioned on the back of the
marble chair; but any one who inspects its contents can satisfactorily
account for its exclusion from that catalogue. It reflects strongly on
the character and principles of some of the early Roman bishops; and as
the Papal see was fast rising into power when the statue was erected, it
was obviously deemed prudent to omit an invidious publication. The
writer of the "Philosophumena" declares that he is the author of one of
the books named on that piece of ancient sculpture, and various other
facts amply corroborate his testimony. There is, therefore, no good
reason to doubt that a Christian bishop who lived about fifteen miles
from Rome, and who flourished little more than one hundred years after
the death of the Apostle John, composed the newly discovered Treatise.

In accordance with the title of his work, Hippolytus here reviews all
the heresies which had been broached up till the date of its
publication. Long prior to the reappearance of this production, it was
known that one of the early Roman bishops had been induced to
countenance the errors of the Montanists; [345:3] and it would seem that
Victor was the individual who was thus deceived; [345:4] but it had not
been before suspected that Zephyrinus and Callistus, the two bishops
next to him in succession, [345:5] held unsound views respecting the
doctrine of the Trinity. Such, however, is the testimony of their
neighbour and contemporary, the bishop of Portus. The witness may,
indeed, be somewhat fastidious, as he was himself both erudite and
eloquent; but had there not been some glaring deficiency in both the
creed and the character of the chief pastor of Rome, Hippolytus would
scarcely have described Zephyrinus as "an illiterate and covetous man,"
[346:1] "unskilled in ecclesiastical science," [346:2] and a
disseminator of heretical doctrine. According to the statement of his
accuser, 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 have
possessed a far more vigorous intellect than his predecessor. Though
regarded by the orthodox Hippolytus with no friendly eye, it is plain
that he was endowed with an extraordinary share of energy and
perseverance. He had been originally a slave, and he must have won the
confidence of his wealthy Christian master Carpophores, for he had been
intrusted by him with the care of a savings bank. The establishment
became insolvent, in consequence, as Hippolytus alleges, of the
mismanagement of its conductor; and many widows and others who had
committed their money to his keeping, lost their deposits. When
Carpophorus, by whom he was now suspected of embezzlement, determined to
call him to account, Callistus fled to Portus--in the hope of escaping
by sea to some other country. He was, however, overtaken, and, after an
ineffectual attempt to drown himself, was arrested, and thrown into
prison. His master, who was placable and kind-hearted, speedily
consented to release him from confinement; but he was no sooner at
large, than, under pretence of collecting debts due to the savings bank,
he went into a Jewish synagogue during the time of public worship, and
caused such disturbance that he was seized and dragged before the city
prefect. The magistrate ordered him first to be scourged, and then to be
transported to the mines of Sardinia. He does not appear to have
remained long in exile; for, about this time, Marcia procured from the
Emperor Commodus an order for the release of the Christians who had been
banished to that unhealthy island; and Callistus, though not included in
the act of grace, contrived to prevail upon the governor to set him at
liberty along with the other prisoners. He now returned to Rome, where
he appears to have acquired the reputation of a changed character. In
due time he procured an appointment to one of the lower ecclesiastical
offices; and as he possessed much talent, he did not find it difficult
to obtain promotion. When Zephyrinus was advanced to the episcopate,
Callistus, who was his special favourite, became one of the leading
ministers of the Roman Church; and exercised an almost unbounded sway
over the mind of the superficial and time-serving bishop. The Christians
of the chief city were now split up into parties, some advocating the
orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, and others abetting a different
theory. Callistus appears to have dexterously availed himself of their
divisions; and, by inducing each faction to believe that he espoused its
cause, managed, on the death of Zephyrinus, to secure his election to
the vacant dignity.

When Callistus had attained the object of his ambition, he tried to
restore peace to the Church by endeavouring to persuade the advocates of
the antagonistic principles to make mutual concessions. Laying aside the
reserve which he had hitherto maintained, he now took up an intermediate
position, in the hope that both parties would accept his own theory of
the 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 by
different names, but being one indivisible spirit; and that the Father
is not one and the Son another (person), but that they both are one and
the same.... The Father, having taken human flesh, deified it by uniting
it to Himself,... and so he said that the Father had suffered with the
Son." [348:1]

Though Callistus, as well as Hippolytus, is recognised as a saint in the
Romish Breviary, [348:2] it is thus certain that the bishop of Portus
regarded the bishop of Rome as a schemer and a heretic. It is equally
clear that, at this period, all bishops were on a level of equality, for
Hippolytus, though the pastor of a town in the neighbourhood of the
chief city, did not acknowledge Callistus as his metropolitan. The
bishop of Portus describes himself as one of those who are "successors
of the apostles, partakers with them of the same grace both of principal
priesthood and doctorship, and reckoned among the guardians of the
Church." [348:3] Hippolytus testifies that Callistus was afraid of him,
[348:4] and if both were members of the same synod, [348:5] well might
the heterodox prelate stand in awe of a minister who possessed
co-ordinate authority, with greater honesty and superior erudition. But
still, it is abundantly plain, from the admissions of the
"Philosophumena," that the bishop of Rome, in the time of the author of
this treatise, was beginning to presume upon his position. Hippolytus
complains of his irregularity in receiving into his communion some who
had 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 bishop
of the capital, he would neither have expressed himself in such a style,
nor preferred such an accusation.

Various circumstances indicate, as has already been suggested, that the
bishop of Rome, in the time of the Antonines, was chosen by lot; but we
may infer from the "Philosophumena" that, early in the third century,
another mode of appointment had been adopted. [349:1] It is obvious that
he now owed his advancement to the suffrages of the Church members, for
Hippolytus hints very broadly that Callistus pursued a particular course
with a view to promote his popularity and secure his election. It is
beyond doubt that, about A.D. 236, Fabian was chosen bishop of Rome by
the votes of the whole brotherhood, and there is on record a minute
account of certain extraordinary circumstances which signalised the
occasion. "When all the brethren had assembled in the church for the
purpose of choosing their future bishop, and when the names of many
worthy and distinguished men had suggested themselves to the
consideration of the multitude, no one so much as thought of Fabian who
was then present. They relate, however, that a dove gliding down from
the roof, straightway settled on his head, as when the Holy Spirit, like
a 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 the
utmost 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, another
revelation was made in the neighbourhood of Rome which has thrown much
light upon its early ecclesiastical history. In the latter part of the
sixteenth century, the unusual appearance of some apertures in the
ground, not far from the Papal capital, awakened curiosity, and led to
the discovery of dark subterranean passages of immense extent filled
with monuments and inscriptions. These dismal regions, after having been
shut up for about eight hundred years, were then again re-opened and

The soil for miles around Rome is undermined, and the long labyrinths
thus created are called catacombs. [350:1] The galleries are often found
in stories two or three deep, communicating with each other by stairs;
and it has been thought that formerly some of them were partially
lighted from above. They were originally gravel-pits or stone-quarries,
and were commenced long before the reign of Augustus. [350:2] The
enlargement of the city, and the growing demand for building materials,
led then to new and most extensive excavations. In the preparation of
these vast caverns, we may trace the presiding care of Providence. As
America, discovered a few years before the Reformation, furnished a
place of refuge to the Protestants who fled from ecclesiastical
intolerance, so the catacombs, re-opened shortly before the birth of our
Lord, supplied shelter to the Christians in Rome during the frequent
proscriptions of the second and third centuries. When the gospel was
first propagated in the imperial city, its adherents belonged chiefly to
the lower classes; and, for reasons of which it is now impossible to
speak with certainty, [350:3] it seems to have been soon very generally
embraced by the quarrymen and sand-diggers. [350:4] Thus it was that
when persecution raged in the capital, the Christian felt himself
comparatively safe in the catacombs. The parties in charge of them were
his friends; they could give him seasonable intimation of the approach
of danger; and among these "dens and caves of the earth," with countless
places of ingress and egress, the officers of government must have
attempted in vain to overtake a fugitive.

At present their appearance is most uncomfortable; they contain no
chamber sufficient for the accommodation of any large number of
worshippers; and it has even been questioned whether human life could be
long supported in such gloomy habitations. But we have the best
authority for believing that some of the early Christians remained for a
considerable time in these asylums. [351:1] Wells of water have been
found in their obscure recesses; fonts for baptism have also been
discovered; and it is beyond doubt that the disciples met here for
religious exercises. As early as the second century these vaults became
the great cemetery of the Church. Many of the memorials of the dead
which they contained have long since been transferred to the Lapidarian
Gallery in the Vatican; and there, in the palace of the Pope, the
venerable tombstones testify, to all who will consult them, how much
modern Romanism differs from ancient Christianity.

Though many of these sepulchral monuments were erected in the fourth and
fifth centuries, they indicate a remarkable freedom from superstitions
with which the religion of the New Testament has been since defiled.
These witnesses to the faith of the early Church of Rome altogether
repudiate the worship of the Virgin Mary, for the inscriptions of the
Lapidarian Gallery, all arranged under the papal supervision, contain no
addresses to the mother of our Lord. [352:1] They point only to Jesus as
the great Mediator, Redeemer, and Friend. It is also worthy of note that
the tone of these voices from the grave is eminently cheerful. Instead
of speaking of masses for the repose of souls, or representing departed
believers as still doomed to pass through purgatory, they describe the
deceased 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 in
peace." "Aselus," says a fourth, "sleeps in Christ." [352:2]

We learn from the testimony of Hippolytus that, during the episcopate of
Zephyrinus, Callistus was "set over the cemetery." [352:3] This was
probably considered a highly important trust, as, in those perilous
times, the safety of the Christians very much depended on the prudence,
activity, and courage of the individual who had the charge of their
subterranean refuge. [352:4] The new curator seems to have signalised
himself by the ability with which he discharged the duties of his
appointment; he probably embellished and enlarged some of these dreary
caves; and hence a portion of the catacombs was designated "The Cemetery
of Callistus." Hippolytus, led astray by the ascetic spirit beginning so
strongly to prevail in the commencement of the third century, was
opposed to all second marriages, so that he was sadly scandalized by the
exceedingly liberal views of his Roman brother on the subject of
matrimony; and he was so ill-informed as to pronounce them novel. "In
his time," says he indignantly, "bishops, presbyters, and deacons,
though they had been twice or three times married, began to be
recognised as God's ministers; and if any one of the clergy married, it
was determined that such a person should remain among the clergy, as not
having sinned." [353:1] We cannot tell how many of the ancient bishops
of the great city were husbands; [353:2] we have certainly no distinct
evidence that even Callistus took to himself a wife; but we have the
clearest proof that the primitive Church of Rome did not impose celibacy
on her ministers; and, in support of this fact, we can produce the
unimpeachable testimony of her own catacombs. There is, for instance, a
monument "To Basilus the Presbyter, and Felicitas his wife;" and, on
another tombstone, erected about A.D. 472, or only four years before the
fall of the Western Empire, there is the following singular
record--"Petronia, a deacon's wife, the type of modesty. In this place I
lay my bones: spare your tears, dear husband and daughters, and believe
that it is forbidden to weep for one who lives in God." [353:3] "Here,"
says another epitaph, "Susanna, the happy daughter of the late Presbyter
Gabinus, lies in peace along with her father." [353:4] In the Lapidarian
Gallery of the papal palace, the curious visitor may still read other
epitaphs 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, from
the very first, such steady and powerful opposition. The Sovereign,
being himself the Supreme Pontiff of Paganism, might be expected to
resent, as a personal indignity, any attempt to weaken its influence;
and the other great functionaries of idolatry, who all resided in the
capital, were of course bound by the ties of office to resist the
advancement of Christianity. The old aristocracy disliked everything in
the shape of religious innovation, for they believed that the glory of
their country was inseparably connected with an adherence to the worship
of the gods of their ancestors. Thus it was that the intolerance of the
state was always felt with peculiar severity at the seat of government.
Exactly in the middle of the third century a persecution of unusual
violence burst upon the Roman Church. Fabian, whose appointment to the
bishopric took place, as already related, under such extraordinary
circumstances, soon fell a victim to the storm. After his martyrdom, the
whole community over which he presided seems to have been paralysed with
terror; 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 a
bishop for his chief city. [354:1] A veritable rival was quickly
forthcoming to prove the falsehood of his gasconade; for when Julius
Valens appeared to dispute his title to the Empire, Decius was obliged,
by the pressure of weightier cares, to withdraw his attention from the
concerns of the Roman Christians. During the lull in the storm of
persecution, Cornelius was chosen bishop; but after an official life of
little more than a year, he was thrown into confinement. His death in
prison was, no doubt, occasioned by harsh treatment. The episcopate of
his successor Lucius was even shorter than his own, for he was martyred
about six months after his election. [355:1] Stephen, who was now
promoted to the vacant chair, did not long retain possession of it; for
though we have no reliable information as to the manner of his death, it
is certain that he occupied the bishopric only between four and five
years. His successor Xystus in less than twelve months finished his
course by martyrdom. [355:2] Thus, in a period of eight years, Rome lost
no less than five bishops, at least four of whom were cut down by
persecution: of these Cornelius and Stephen, by far the most
distinguished, were interred in the cemetery of Callistus.

There is still extant the fragment of a letter written by Cornelius
furnishing a curious statistical account of the strength of the Roman
Church at this period. [355:3] According to this excellent authority it
contained 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 in
indigent circumstances, and of whom widows constituted a large
proportion. All these poor persons were maintained by the liberality of
their fellow-worshippers. Rome, as we have seen, was the birthplace of
prelacy; and other ecclesiastical organisms unknown to the New Testament
may also be traced to the same locality, for here we read for the first
time of such officials as the acolyths. [355:4] We may infer from the
details supplied by the letter of Cornelius, that there were now
fourteen congregations [355:5] of the faithful in the great city; and
its Christian population has been estimated at about fifty thousand. No
wonder that the chief pastor of such a multitude of zealous disciples
all residing in his capital, awakened the jealousy of a suspicious

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 persecution
many had been terrified into temporary conformity to paganism; and this
austere ecclesiastic maintained, that persons who had so sadly
compromised themselves, should, on no account whatever, be re-admitted
to communion. When he found that he could not prevail upon his brethren
to adopt this unrelenting discipline, he permitted himself to be
ordained bishop in opposition to Cornelius; and became the founder of a
separate society, known as the sect of the Novatians. As he denied the
validity of the ordinance previously administered, he rebaptized his
converts, and exhibited otherwise a miserably contracted spirit; but
many sympathised with him in his views, and Novatian bishops were soon
established in various parts of the Empire.

Immediately after the rise of this sect, a controversy relative to the
propriety of rebaptizing heretics brought the Church of Rome into
collision with many Christian communities in Africa and Asia Minor. The
discussion, which did not eventuate in any fresh schism, is chiefly
remarkable for the firm stand now made against the assumptions of the
great Bishop of the West. When Stephen, who was opposed to rebaptism,
discovered that he could not induce the Asiatics and Africans to come
over to his sentiments, he rashly tried to overbear them by declaring
that he would shut them out from his communion; but his antagonists
treated the threat merely as an empty display of insolence. "What strife
and contention hast thou awakened in the Churches of the whole world, O
Stephen," said one of his opponents, "and how great sin hast thou
accumulated when thou didst cut thyself off from so many flocks! Deceive
not thyself, for he is truly the schismatic who has made himself an
apostate from the communion of the unity of the Church. For whilst thou
thinkest that all may be excommunicated by thee, thou hast
excommunicated thyself alone from all." [357:1]

When the apostle of the circumcision said to his Master--"Thou art the
Christ, the Son of the living God," Jesus replied--"_Blessed_ art thou,
Simon Bar-jona, _for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but
my Father which is in heaven_." To this emphatic acknowledgment of the
faith of His disciple, our Lord added the memorable words--"And I say
also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my
church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." [357:2] As
the word Peter signifies a _stone_, [357:3] this address admits of a
very obvious and satisfactory exposition. "Thou art," said Christ to the
apostle, "a lively stone [357:4] of the spiritual structure I erect; and
upon this rock on which thy faith is established, as witnessed by thy
good confession, I will build my Church; and though the rains of
affliction may descend, and the floods of danger may come, and the winds
of temptation may blow, and beat upon this house, it shall remain
immoveable, [358:1] because it rests upon an impregnable foundation."
But a different interpretation was already gaining wide currency; for
though Peter had been led to deny Christ with oaths and imprecations,
the rapid growth and preponderating wealth of the Roman bishopric, of
which the apostle was supposed to be the founder, had now induced many
to believe that he was the Rock of Salvation, the enduring basis on
which 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 were
lamentably deficient in critical sagacity, men of inferior standing were
slow to impugn the verdict of such champions of the faith. Thus it was
that a false gloss of Scripture was already enthralling the mind of
Christendom; and Stephen boldly renewed the attempt at domination
commenced by his predecessor Victor. His opponents deserved far greater
credit for the sturdy independence with which they upheld their
individual rights than for the scriptural skill with which they unmasked
the sophistry of a delusive theory; for all their reasonings were
enervated and vitiated by their stupid admission of the claims of the
chair 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 it
was encouraged, was not effectively corrected and exposed; and thus the
great Western prelate was left at liberty, at another more favourable
opportunity, to wrest the Scriptures for the destruction of the Church.

From the middle of the third century, the authority of the Roman bishops
advanced apace. The magnanimity with which so many of them then
encountered martyrdom elicited general admiration; and the divisions
caused by the schism of Novatian supplied them with a specious apology
for enlarging their jurisdiction. The argument from the necessity of
unity, which was urged so successfully for the creation of a bishop
upwards of a hundred years before, could now be adduced with equal
plausibility for the erection of a metropolitan; and, from this date,
these prelates undoubtedly exercised archiepiscopal power. Seventy years
afterwards, or at the Council of Nice, [359:1] the ecclesiastical rule
of the Primate of Rome was recognised by the bishops of the ten
suburbicarian provinces, including no small portion of Italy. [359:2]

For the last forty years of the third century the Church was free from
persecution, and, during this long period of repose, the great Western
see enjoyed an unwonted measure of outward prosperity. Its religious
services were now conducted with increasing splendour, and distressed
brethren in very distant countries shared the fruits of its munificence.
In the reign of Gallienus, when the Goths burst into the Empire and
devastated Asia Minor, the bishop of Rome transmitted a large sum of
money for the release of the Christians who had fallen into the hands of
the barbarians. [359:3] A few years afterwards, when Paul of Samosata
was deposed for heresy, and when, on his refusal to surrender the
property of the Church of Antioch, an application was made to the
Emperor Aurelian for his interference, that prince submitted the matter
in dispute to the decision of Dionysius of Rome and the other bishops of
Italy. [360:1] This reference, in which the position of the Roman
prelate was publicly recognised, perhaps for the first time, by a Roman
Emperor, was calculated to add vastly to the importance of the
metropolitan see in public estimation. When Christianity was established
about fifty years afterwards by Constantine, the bishop of the chief
city was thus, to a great extent, prepared for the high position to
which he was suddenly promoted.

None of the early bishops of Rome were distinguished for their mental
accomplishments; and though they are commonly reputed the founders of
the Latin Church, it would appear that, for nearly two hundred years,
they all wrote and spoke the Greek language. The name _Pope_, which they
have since appropriated, was now common to all pastors. [360:2] For the
first three centuries almost every question relating to them is involved
in much mystery; and, as we approach the close of this period, the
difficulty of unravelling their perplexed traditions rather increases
than diminishes. Even the existence of some who are said to have now
flourished has been considered doubtful. [360:3] It is alleged that the
see was vacant for upwards of three years and a half during the
Diocletian persecution in the beginning of the fourth century; [360:4]
but even this point has not been very clearly ascertained. The Roman
bishopric was by far the most important in the Church; and the obscurity
which overhangs its early history, cannot but be embarrassing to those
who seek to establish a title to the ministry by attempting to trace it
up through such dark annals.

On looking back over the first three centuries, we may remark how much
the chairman of the Roman eldership, about the time of the death of the
Apostle John, differed from the prelate who filled his place two hundred
years afterwards. The former was the servant of the presbyters, and
appointed to carry out their decisions; the latter was their master, and
entitled to require their submission. The former presided over the
ministers of, perhaps, three or four comparatively poor congregations
dispirited by recent persecution; the latter had the charge of at least
five-and-twenty flourishing city churches, [361:1] together with all the
bishops in all the surrounding territory. In eventful times an
individual of transcendent talent, such as Pepin or Napoleon, has
adroitly bolted into a throne; but the bishop of Rome was indebted for
his gradual elevation and his ultimate ascendancy neither to
extraordinary genius nor superior erudition, but to a combination of
circumstances of unprecedented rarity. His position furnished him with
peculiar facilities for acquiring influence. Whilst the city in which he
was located was the largest in the world, it was also the most opulent
and the most powerful. He was continually coming in contact with men of
note in the Church from all parts of the Empire; and he had frequent
opportunities of obliging these strangers by various offices of
kindness. He thus, too, possessed means of ascertaining the state of the
Christian interest in every land, and of diffusing his own sentiments
under singularly propitious circumstances. When he was fast rising into
power, it was alleged that he was constituted chief pastor of the Church
by Christ himself; and a text of Scripture was quoted which was supposed
to endorse his title. For a time no one cared to challenge its
application; for meanwhile his precedence was but nominal, and those,
who might have been competent to point out the delusion, had no wish to
give offence, by attacking the fond conceit of a friendly and prosperous
prelate. But when the scene changed, and when the Empire found another
capital, the acumen of the bishop of the rival metropolis soon
discovered a sounder exposition; and Chrysostom of Constantinople, at
once the greatest preacher and the best commentator of antiquity,
ignored the folly of Tertullian and of Cyprian. "Upon the rock," says
he, "that is, upon the faith of the apostle's confession," [362:1] the
Church is built. "Christ said that he would build His Church on Peter's
confession." [362:2] Soon afterwards, the greatest divine connected with
the 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 my
Church, because Peter had said: Thou art the Christ, the Son of the
living God. On _this rock, which thou hast confessed_, He declares I
will build my Church, for Christ was the rock on whose foundation Peter
himself was built; for other foundation hath no man laid than that which
is laid, which is Christ Jesus." [362:3] In the Italian capital, the
words on which the power of the Papacy is understood to rest are
exhibited in gigantic letters within the dome of St Peter's; but their
exhibition only proves that the Church of Rome has lost the key of
knowledge; for, though she would fain appeal to Scripture, she shews
that she does not understand the meaning of its testimony; and, closing
her eyes against the light supplied by the best and wisest of the
fathers, she persists in adhering to a false interpretation.





By "the Fathers" we understand the writers of the ancient Christian
Church. The name is, however, of rather vague application, for though
generally employed to designate only the ecclesiastical authors of the
first six centuries, it is extended, occasionally, to distinguished
theologians who flourished in the middle ages.

The fathers of the second and third centuries have a strong claim on our
attention. Living on the verge of apostolic times, they were acquainted
with the state of the Church when it had recently passed from under the
care of its inspired founders; and, as witnesses to its early
traditions, their testimony is of peculiar value. But the period before
us produced comparatively few authors, and a considerable portion of its
literature has perished. There have been modern divines, such as Calvin
and Baxter, who have each left behind a more voluminous array of
publications than now survives from all the fathers of these two hundred
years. Origen was by far the most prolific of the writers who flourished
during this interval, but the greater number of his productions have
been lost; and yet those which remain, if translated into English, would
amount to nearly triple the bulk of our authorised version of the Bible.
His extant works are, however, more extensive than all the other
memorials of this most interesting section of the history of the Church.

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

_Justin Martyr_ was contemporary with Polycarp. He was a native of
Samaria, and a Gentile by birth; he had travelled much; he possessed a
well-cultivated mind; and he had made himself acquainted with the
various systems of philosophy which were then current. He could derive
no satisfaction from the wisdom of the pagan theorists; but, one day, as
he walked, somewhat sad and pensive, near the sea shore, a casual
meeting with an aged stranger led him to turn his thoughts to the
Christian revelation. The individual, with whom he had this solitary and
important interview, was a member and, perhaps, a minister of the
Church. After pointing out to Justin the folly of mere theorising, and
recommending him to study the Old Testament Scriptures, as well on
account of their great antiquity as their intrinsic worth, he proceeded
to expatiate on the nature and excellence of the gospel. [366:1] The
impression now made upon the mind of the young student was never
afterwards effaced; he became a decided Christian; and, about A.D. 165,
finished his career by martyrdom.

Justin is the first writer whose contributions to ecclesiastical
literature are of considerable extent. Some of the works ascribed to him
are unquestionably the productions of others; but there is no reason to
doubt the genuineness of his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, and of the
two Apologies addressed to the Emperors, [366:2] Though the meeting with
Trypho is said to have occurred at Ephesus, it is now perhaps impossible
to determine whether it ever actually took place, or whether the
Dialogue is only the report of an imaginary discussion. It serves,
however, to illustrate the mode of argument then adopted in the
controversy between the Jews and the disciples, and throws much light
upon the state of Christian theology. Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius
appear to have been the Emperors to whom the Apologies are addressed. In
these appeals to Imperial justice the calumnies against the Christians
are refuted, whilst the simplicity of their worship and the purity of
their 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 pagan
sages. His mind never was completely emancipated from the influence of a
system of false metaphysics; and thus it was that, whilst his views of
various doctrines of the gospel remained confused, his allusions to them
are equivocal, if not contradictory. But it has been well remarked that
_conscience_, rather than _science_, guided many of the fathers; and the
case of Justin demonstrates the truth of the observation. He possessed
an extensive knowledge of the Scriptures; and though his theological
views were not so exact or so perspicuous as they might have been, had
he been trained up from infancy in the Christian faith, or had he
studied the controversies which subsequently arose, it is beyond doubt
that 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 of
his Divine Master.

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

The tract known as the _Epistle of Barnabas_ was probably composed in
A.D.135. [367:2] It is the production apparently of a convert from
Judaism who took special pleasure in allegorical interpretations of
Scripture. Hermas, the author of the little work called _Pastor_, or The
Shepherd, is a writer of much the same character. He was, in all
likelihood, the brother of Pius, [368:1] who flourished about the middle
of the second century, and who was, perhaps, the first or second
individual who was officially designated Bishop of Rome. The writings of
Papias, said to have been pastor of Hierapolis in the time of Polycarp,
are no longer extant. [368:2] The works of Hegesippus, of a somewhat
later date, and treating of the subject of ecclesiastical history, have
also disappeared. [368:3]

_Irenaeus_ of Lyons is the next writer who claims our special notice. He
was originally connected with Asia Minor; and in his youth he is said to
have enjoyed the tuition of Polycarp of Smyrna. We cannot tell when he
left his native country, or what circumstances led him to settle on the
banks of the Rhone; but we know that, towards the termination of the
reign of Marcus Aurelius, he was appointed by the Gallic Christians to
visit 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 the
duties of a preacher among the heathen by studying the barbarous
dialect. His zeal, energy, and talent were duly appreciated; soon after
the death of the aged Pothinus he became the chief pastor of Lyons; and
for many years he exercised considerable influence throughout the whole
of the Western Church. When the Paschal controversy created such
excitement, and when Victor of Rome threatened to rend the Christian
commonwealth by his impetuous and haughty bearing, Irenaeus interposed,
and to some extent succeeded in moderating the violence of the Italian
prelate. He was the author of several works, [369:1] but his only extant
production is a treatise "Against Heresies." It is divided into five
books, four of which exist only in a Latin version; [369:2] and it
contains a lengthened refutation of the Valentinians and other Gnostics.

Irenaeus is commonly called the disciple of Polycarp; but it is reported
that he was also under the tuition of a less intelligent preceptor,
Papias of Hierapolis. [369:3] This teacher, who has been already
mentioned, and who was the author of a work now lost, entitled, "The
Explanations of the Discourses of the Lord," is noted as the earliest
ecclesiastical writer who held the doctrine of the personal reign of
Christ at Jerusalem during the millennium. "These views," says Eusebius,
"he appears to have adopted in consequence of having misunderstood the
apostolic narratives.... For he was a man of very slender intellect, as
is evident from his discourses." [369:4] His pupil Irenaeus possessed a
much superior capacity; but even his writings are not destitute of
puerilities; and it is not improbable that he derived some of the errors
to 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 writer
who had yet appeared among the fathers, began to attract attention. This
was the celebrated TERTULLIAN. He was originally a heathen, [370:1] and
he appears in early life to have been engaged in the profession of a
lawyer. At that time, as afterwards, there was constant intercourse
between Rome and Carthage; [370:2] Tertullian seems to have been well
acquainted with both these great cities; and he had probably resided for
several years in the capital of the Empire. [370:3] But most of his
public life was, perhaps, spent in Carthage, the place of his birth. In
the beginning of the third century clerical celibacy was beginning to be
fashionable; and yet Tertullian, though a presbyter, [370:4] was
married; for two of his tracts are addressed _To his Wife_; and it is
apparent from his works that then no law of the Church prohibited
ecclesiastics from entering into wedlock.

The extant productions of this writer are numerous; and, if rendered
into our language, would form a very portly volume. But though several
parts of them have found translators, the whole have never yet appeared
in English; and, of some pieces, the most accomplished scholar would
scarcely undertake to furnish at once a literal and an intelligible
version. [370:5] His style is harsh, his transitions are abrupt, and his
inuendos and allusions most perplexing. He must have been a man of very
bilious temperament, who could scarcely distinguish a theological
opponent from a personal enemy; for he pours forth upon those who differ
from him whole torrents of sarcasm and invective. [371:1] His strong
passion, acting upon a fervid imagination, completely overpowered his
judgment; and hence he deals so largely in exaggeration, that, as to
many matters of fact, we cannot safely depend upon his testimony. His
tone is dictatorial and dogmatic; and, though we cannot doubt his piety,
we must feel that his spirit is somewhat repulsive and ungenial. Whilst
he was sadly deficient in sagacity, he was very much the creature of
impulse; and thus it was that he was so superstitious, so bigoted, and
so choleric. But he was, beyond question, possessed of erudition and of
genius; 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 world
with a Christian literature in their own tongue encountered a task of
much difficulty. It was no easy matter to conduct theological
controversies in a language which was not remarkable for flexibility,
and which had never before been employed in such discussions; and
Tertullian seems to have often found it necessary to coin unwonted forms
of expression, or rather to invent an ecclesiastical nomenclature. The
ponderous Latin, hitherto accustomed to speak only of Jupiter and the
gods, engages somewhat awkwardly in its new vocation; and yet contrives
to proclaim, with wonderful power, the great thoughts for which it must
now find utterance. Several years after his appearance as an author,
Tertullian lapsed into Montanism--a species of heresy peculiarly
attractive to a man of his rugged and austere character. Some of his
works bear clear traces of this change of sentiment; but others furnish
no internal evidences warranting us to pronounce decisively respecting
the date of their composition. It is remarkable that though he
identified himself with a party under the ban of ecclesiastical
proscription, his works still continued to be held in high repute, and
to be perused with avidity by those who valued themselves on their zeal
for orthodoxy. It is recorded of one of the most influential of the
Catholic bishops of the third century that he read a portion of them
daily; and, when calling for his favourite author, he is reported to
have said--"Give me _the Master_." [372:1]

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

_Clement of Alexandria_ was contemporary with Tertullian. Like him, he
was a Gentile by birth; but we know nothing of the circumstances
connected with his conversion. In early times Alexandria was one of the
great marts of literature and science; its citizens were noted for their
intellectual culture; and, when a Church was formed there, learned men
began to pass over to the new religion in considerable numbers. It was,
in consequence, deemed expedient to establish an institute where
catechumens of this class, before admission to baptism, could be
instructed in the faith by some well qualified teacher. The plan of the
seminary seems to have been gradually enlarged; and it soon supplied
education to candidates for the ministry. Towards the close of the
second century, Pantaenus, a distinguished scholar, had the charge of
it; and Clement, who had been his pupil, became his successor as its
president. Some of the works of this writer have perished, and his only
extant productions are a discourse entitled "What rich man shall be
saved?" his Address to the Greeks or Gentiles, his Paedagogue, and his
Stromata. The hortatory Address is designed to win over the pagans from
idolatry; the Paedagogue directs to Jesus, or the Word, as the great
Teacher, and supplies converts with practical precepts for their
guidance; whilst in the Stromata, or Miscellanies, we have a description
of what he calls the Gnostic or perfect Christian. He here takes
occasion to attack those who, in his estimation, were improperly
designated Gnostics, such as Basilides, Valentine, Marcion, and others.

Clement, as is apparent from his writings, was extensively acquainted
with profane literature. But he formed quite too high an estimate of the
value of the heathen philosophy, whilst he allegorized Scripture in a
way as dangerous as it was absurd. By the serpent which deceived Eve,
according to Clement, "_pleasure_, an earthly vice which creeps upon the
belly, is allegorically represented." [374:1] Moses, speaking
allegorically, if we may believe this writer, called the Divine Wisdom
_the tree of life_ planted in paradise; by which paradise we may
understand the world, in which all the works of creation were called
into being. [374:2] He even interprets the ten commandments
allegorically. Thus, by _adultery_, he understands a departure from the
true knowledge of the Most High, and by _murder_, a violation of the
truth respecting God and His eternal existence. [374:3] It is easy to
see how Scripture, by such a system of interpretation, might be tortured
into a witness for any extravagance.

In the early part of the third century _Hippolytus_ of Portus exerted
much influence by his writings. It was long believed that, with the
exception of some fragments and a few tracts of little consequence, the
works of this father had ceased to exist; but, as stated in a preceding
chapter, [374:4] one of his most important publications, the
"Philosophumena, or Refutation of all Heresies," has been recently
recovered. The re-appearance of this production after so many centuries
of oblivion is an extraordinary fact; and its testimony relative to
historical transactions of deep interest connected with the early Church
of Rome, has created quite a sensation among the students of
ecclesiastical literature.

Hippolytus was the disciple of Irenaeus, and one of the soundest
theologians of his generation. His works, which are written in Greek,
illustrate his learning, his acuteness, and his eloquence. His views on
some matters of ecclesiastical discipline were, indeed, too rigid; and,
by a writer of the fifth century, [375:1] he has been described as an
abettor of Novatianism; but his zeal and piety are universally admitted.
He is said to have lost his life in the cause of Christianity; and
though 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 Roman
lawyer, and a convert from paganism. In his Dialogue, entitled
"Octavius," the respective merits of Christianity and heathenism are
discussed with much vivacity. In point of style this little work is
surpassed by none of the ecclesiastical writings of the period.

Another and a still more distinguished author, contemporary with
Hippolytus, was ORIGEN. He was born at Alexandria about A.D. 185; his
father Leonides, who was a teacher of rhetoric, was a member of the
Church; and his son enjoyed the advantages of an excellent elementary
education. Origen, when very young, was required daily to commit
prescribed portions of the Word of God to memory; and the child soon
became intensely interested in the study of the sacred oracles. The
questions which he proposed to his father, as he repeated his appointed
tasks, displayed singular precocity of intellect; and Leonides rejoiced
exceedingly as he observed from time to time the growing indications of
his extraordinary genius. But, before Origen reached maturity, his good
parent fell a victim to the intolerance of the imperial laws. In the
persecution under Septimius Severus, when the young scholar was about
seventeen years of age, Leonides was put into confinement, and then
beheaded. He had a wife and seven children who were likely to be left
destitute by his death; but Origen, who was his first born, afraid lest
his constancy should be overcome by the prospect of a beggared family,
wrote a letter to him when he was in prison to encourage him to
martyrdom. "Stand steadfast, father," said the ardent youth, "and take
care not to desert your principles on our account." At this crisis he
would have exposed himself to martyrdom, had not his mother hid his
clothes, and thus prevented him from appearing in public.

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

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

This great man throughout life practised extraordinary self-denial. His
clothing was scarcely sufficient to protect him from the cold; he slept
on the ground; he confined himself to the simplest fare; and for years
he persisted in going barefoot. [377:2] But his austerities did not
prevent him from acquiring a world-wide reputation. Pagan philosophers
attended his lectures, and persons of the highest distinction sought his
society. When Julia Mammaea, the mother of Alexander Severus, invited
him to visit her, and when, in compliance with this summons, he
proceeded to Antioch [377:3] escorted by a military guard, he must have
been an object of no little curiosity to the Imperial courtiers. It
could now no longer be said that the Christians were an illiterate
generation; as, in all that brilliant throng surrounding the throne of
the Master of the Roman world, there was not, perhaps, one to be
compared, with the poor catechist of Alexandria for varied and profound
scholarship. But his theological taste was sadly vitiated by his study
of the pagan philosophy. Clement, his early instructor, led him to
entertain far too high an opinion of its excellence; and a subsequent
teacher, Ammonius Saccas, the father of New Platonism, thoroughly imbued
his mind with many of his own dangerous principles. According to
Ammonius all systems of religion and philosophy contain the elements of
truth; and it is the duty of the wise man to trace out and exhibit their
harmony. The doctrines of Plato formed the basis of his creed, and it
required no little ingenuity, to shew how all other theories quadrated
with the speculations of the Athenian sage. To establish his views, he
was obliged to draw much on his imagination, and to adopt modes of
exegesis the most extravagant and unwarrantable. The philosophy of
Ammonius exerted a very pernicious influence upon Origen, and seduced
him into not a few of those errors which have contributed so greatly to
lower his repute as a theologian.

Origen was a most prolific author; and, if all his works were still
extant, they would be far more voluminous than those of any other of the
fathers. But most of his writings have been lost; and, in not a few
instances, those which remain have reached us either in a very mutilated
form, or in a garbled Latin version. His treatise "Against Celsus,"
which was composed when he was advanced in life, and which is by far the
most valuable of his existing works, has come down to us in a more
perfect state than, perhaps, any of his other productions. It is a
defence of Christianity in reply to the publication of a witty heathen
philosopher 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 of
his time for eight and twenty years, only some fragments have been
preserved. This great work appears to have been undertaken to meet the
cavils of the Jews against the Septuagint--the Greek translation of the
Old Testament in current use in the days of the apostles, and still most
appreciated by the Christians. The unbelieving Israelites now pronounced
it a corrupt version; and, that all might have an opportunity of judging
for themselves, Origen exhibited the text in six consecutive
columns--the first, containing the original Hebrew--the second, the same
in Greek letters--and the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth, four of the
most famous of the Greek translations, including the Septuagint. [379:1]
The labour employed in the collation of manuscripts, when preparing this
work, was truly prodigious. The expense, which must also have been
great, is said to have been defrayed by Ambrosius, a wealthy Christian
friend, who placed at the disposal of the editor the constant services
of seven amanuenses. By his "Hexapla" Origen did much to preserve the
purity of the sacred text, and he may be said to have thus laid the
foundations of the science of Scripture criticism.

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

On doctrinal points his statements are not always consistent, so that it
is extremely difficult to form anything like a correct idea of his
theological sentiments. Thus, on the subject of the Trinity, he
sometimes speaks most distinctly in the language of orthodoxy, whilst
again he employs phraseology which rather savours of the creed of
Sabellius or of Arius. In his attempts to reconcile the gospel and his
philosophy, he miserably compromised some of the most important truths
of Scripture. The fall of man seems to be not unfrequently repudiated in
his religious system; and yet, occasionally, it is distinctly
recognized. [380:1] He maintained the pre-existence of human souls; he
held that the stars are animated beings; he taught that all men shall
ultimately attain happiness; and he believed that the devils themselves
shall eventually be saved. [380:2] It is abundantly clear that Origen
was a man of true piety. His whole life illustrates his self-denial, his
single-mindedness, his delight in the Word of God, and his zeal for the
advancement of the kingdom of Christ. In the Decian persecution he
suffered nobly as a confessor; and the torture which he then endured
seems to have hastened his demise. But with all his learning he was
obviously deficient in practical sagacity; and though both his genius
and his eloquence were of a high order, he possessed scarcely even an
average share of prudence and common sense. His writings diffused, not
the genial light of the Sun of Righteousness, but the mist and darkness
of a Platonized Christianity. Though he induced many philosophers to
become members of the Church, the value of these accessions was greatly
deteriorated by the daring spirit of speculation which they were still
encouraged to cultivate. Of his Christian courage, his industry, and his
invincible perseverance, there can be no doubt. He closed a most
laborious 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 writings
are still perused with interest, was beginning to attract much notice.
CYPRIAN of Carthage, before his conversion to Christianity, was a
professor of rhetoric and a gentleman of property. When he renounced
heathenism, he is supposed to have reached the mature age of forty-five
or forty-six; and as he possessed rank, talent, and popular eloquence,
he was deemed no ordinary acquisition to the Church. About two years
after his baptism, the chief pastor of the metropolis of the Proconsular
Africa was removed by death; and Cyprian, by the acclamations of the
Christian people, was called to the vacant office. At that time there
seem to have been only eight presbyters, [381:1] or elders, connected
with the bishopric of Carthage; but the city contained probably some
hundreds of thousands of a population; and, though the episcopal dignity
was not without its perils, it did not want the attractions of wealth
and influence. The advancement of Cyprian gave great offence to the
other elders, who appear to have conceived that one of themselves, on
the ground of greater experience and more lengthened services, had a
better title to promotion. Though the new bishop was sustained by the
enthusiastic 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 the
struggles between the bishop and his eldership.

The pastorate of Cyprian extended over a period of about ten years; but
meanwhile persecution raged, and the bishop was obliged to spend nearly
the one-third of his episcopal life in retirement and in exile. From his
retreat he kept up a communication by letters with his flock. [382:1]
The worship and constitution of the Church about the middle of the third
century may be ascertained pretty clearly from the Cyprianic
correspondence. Some of the letters addressed to the Carthaginian
bishop, as well as those dictated by him, are still extant; and as he
maintained an epistolary intercourse with Rome, Cappadocia, and other
places, the documents known as the Cyprianic writings, [382:2] are
amongst the most important of the ancient ecclesiastical memorials. This
eminent pastor has also left behind him several short treatises on
topics which were then attracting public attention. Among these may be
mentioned 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; and
yet it must be admitted that his hierarchical prejudices stunted his
charity and obscured his intellectual vision. Tertullian was his
favourite author; and it is evident that he possessed much of the
contracted spirit and of the stiff formalism of the great Carthaginian
presbyter. He speaks in more exalted terms of the authority of bishops
than any preceding writer. It is not improbable that the attempts of his
discontented elders to curb his power inflamed his old aristocratic
hauteur, and thus led to a reaction; and that, supported by the popular
voice, he was tempted absurdly to magnify his office, and to stretch his
prerogative beyond the bounds of its legitimate exercise. His name
carried with it great influence, and from his time episcopal pretensions
advanced apace.

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

The only other writer of note who flourished after Cyprian, in the third
century, [383:2] was _Gregory_, surnamed _Thaumaturgus_, or _The
Wonder-Worker_. He belonged to a pagan family of distinction; and, when
a youth, was intended for the profession of the law; but, becoming
acquainted with Origen at Caesarea in Palestine, he was induced to
embrace the Christian faith, and relinquish flattering prospects of
secular promotion. He became subsequently the bishop of Neo-Caesarea in
Pontus. When he entered on his charge he is said to have had a
congregation of only seventeen individuals; but his ministry must have
been singularly successful; for, according to tradition, all the
inhabitants of the city, with seventeen exceptions, were, at the time of
his death, members of the Church. The reports respecting him are
obviously exaggerated, and no credit can be attached to the narrative of
his miracles. [384:1] He wrote several works, of which his "Panegyric on
Origen," and his "Paraphrase on Ecclesiastes," are still extant. The
genuineness of some other tracts ascribed to him may be fairly

The preceding account of the fathers of the second and third centuries
may enable us to form some idea of the value of these writers as
ecclesiastical authorities. Most of them had reached maturity before
they embraced the faith of the gospel, so that, with a few exceptions,
they wanted the advantages of an early Christian education. Some of
them, before their conversion, had bestowed much time and attention on
the barren speculations of the pagan philosophers; and, after their
reception into the bosom of the Church, they still continued to pursue
the same unprofitable studies. Cyprian, one of the most eloquent of
these fathers, had been baptized only about two years before he was
elected bishop of Carthage; and, during his comparatively short
episcopate, he was generally in a turmoil of excitement, and had,
consequently, little leisure for reading or mental cultivation. Such a
writer is not entitled to command confidence as an expositor of the
faith once delivered to the saints. Even in our own day, with all the
facilities supplied by printing for the rapid accumulation of knowledge,
no one would expect much spiritual instruction from an author who would
undertake the office of an interpreter of Scripture two years after his
conversion from heathenism. The fathers of the second and third
centuries were not regarded as safe guides even by their Christian
contemporaries. Tatian was the founder of a sect of extreme
Teetotallers. [383:1] Tertullian, who, in point of learning, vigour, and
genius, stands at the head of the Latin writers of this period, was
connected with a party of gloomy fanatics. Origen, the most voluminous
and erudite of the Greek fathers, was excommunicated as a heretic. If we
estimate these authors, as they were appreciated by the early Church of
Rome, we must pronounce their writings of little value. Tertullian, as a
Montanist, was under the ban of the Roman bishop. Hippolytus could not
have been a favourite with either Zephyrinus or Callistus, for he
denounced both as heretics. Origen was treated by the Roman Church as a
man under sentence of excommunication. Stephen deemed even Cyprian
unworthy of his ecclesiastical fellowship, because the Carthaginian
prelate maintained the propriety of rebaptizing heretics.

Nothing can be more unsatisfactory, or rather childish, than the
explanations 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 Alexandrinus
gravely pleads for marriage [383:4] from the promise-"Where two or three
are 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 of
the Trinity, that the Jews observed "the third, sixth, and ninth hours"
as their "fixed and lawful seasons for prayer." [383:6] Origen
represents the heavenly bodies as literally engaged in acts of devotion.
[386:1] If these authorities are to be credited, the Gihon, one of the
rivers of Paradise, was no other than the Nile. [386:2] Very few of the
fathers 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 the
language of the Old Testament. [386:3] In consequence of their literary
deficiencies, the fathers of the second and third centuries occasionally
commit the most ridiculous blunders. Thus, Irenaeus tells us that the
name Jesus in Hebrew consists of two letters and a half, and describes
it as signifying "that Lord who contains heaven and earth!" [386:4] This
father asserts also that the Hebrew word _Adonai_, or the Lord, denotes
"utterable and wonderful." [386:5] Clemens Alexandrinus is not more
successful as an interpreter of the sacred tongue of the chosen people;
for he asserts that Jacob was called _Israel_ "because he had seen the
Lord God," [386:6] and he avers that _Abraham_ means "the elect father
of a sound!" [386:7] Justin Martyr errs egregiously in his references to
the Old Testament; as he cites Isaiah for Jeremiah, [386:8] Zechariah
for Malachi, [386:9] Zephaniah for Zechariah, [386:10] and Jeremiah for
Daniel. [386:11] Irenaeus repeats, as an apostolic tradition, that when
our Lord acted as a public teacher He was between forty and fifty years
of age; [387:1] and Tertullian affirms that He was about thirty years of
age at the time of His crucifixion. [387:2] The opinion of this same
writer in reference to angels is still more extraordinary. He maintains
that some of these beings, captivated by the beauty of the daughters of
men, came down from heaven and married them; and that, out of
complaisance to their brides, they communicated to them the arts of
polishing and setting precious stones, of preparing cosmetics, and of
using other appliances which minister to female vanity. [387:3] His
ideas 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 no
substance which is not corporeal, and that God himself is a body.

It would seem as if the Great Head of the Church permitted these early
writers to commit the grossest mistakes, and to propound the most
foolish theories, for the express purpose of teaching us that we are not
implicitly to follow their guidance. It might have been thought that
authors, who flourished on the borders of apostolic times, knew more of
the mind of the Spirit than others who appeared in succeeding ages; but
the truths of Scripture, like the phenomena of the visible creation, are
equally intelligible to all generations. If we possess spiritual
discernment, the trees and the flowers will display the wisdom and the
goodness 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 the
meaning of the Scriptures as fully as did Justin Martyr or Irenaeus. To
assist us in the interpretation of the New Testament, we have at command
a critical apparatus of which they were unable to avail themselves.
Jehovah is jealous of the honour of His Word, and He has inscribed in
letters of light over the labours of its most ancient interpreters--
"CEASE YE FROM MAN." The "opening of the Scriptures," so as to exhibit
their beauty, their consistency, their purity, their wisdom, and their
power, is the clearest proof that the commentator is possessed of "the
key of knowledge." When tried by this test, Thomas Scott or Matthew
Henry is better entitled to confidence than either Origen or Gregory
Thaumaturgus. The Bible is its own safest expositor. "The law of the
Lord 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, and
have created more discussion, than any other uninspired writings of the
same extent in existence. The productions ascribed to this author, and
now reputed genuine by the most learned of their recent editors, might
all be printed on the one-fourth of a page of an ordinary newspaper; and
yet, the fatigue of travelling thousands of miles has been encountered,
[389:1] for the special purpose of searching after correct copies of
these highly-prized memorials. Large volumes have been written, either
to establish their authority, or to prove that they are forgeries; and,
if collected together, the books in various languages to which they have
given birth, would themselves form a considerable library. Recent
discoveries have thrown new light on their pretensions, but though the
controversy has now continued upwards of three hundred years, it has not
hitherto reached a satisfactory termination. [390:1]

The Ignatian letters owe almost all their importance to the circumstance
that they are alleged to have been written on the confines of the
apostolic age. As very few records remain to illustrate the
ecclesiastical history of that period, it is not strange that epistles,
purporting to have emanated from one of the most distinguished ministers
who then flourished, should have excited uncommon attention. But doubts
regarding their genuineness have always been entertained by candid and
competent scholars. The spirit of sectarianism has entered largely into
the discussion of their claims; and, whilst certain distinct references
to the subject of Church polity, which they contain, have greatly
enhanced their value in the estimation of one party, the same passages
have been quoted, by those who repudiate their authority, as so many
decisive proofs of their fabrication. The annals of literature furnish,
perhaps, scarcely any other case in which ecclesiastical prejudices have
been 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, impossible
to ascertain its true outlines. There is a tradition that he was the
child whom our Saviour set in the midst of His disciples as a pattern of
humility; [390:2] and as our Lord, on the occasion, took up the little
personage in His arms, it has been asserted that Ignatius was therefore
surnamed _Theophorus_, that is, _borne or carried by God_. [390:3]
Whatever may be thought as to the truth of this story, it probably gives
a not very inaccurate view of the date of his birth; for he was, in all
likelihood, far advanced in life [391:1] at the period when he is
supposed to have written these celebrated letters. According to the
current accounts, he was the second bishop of Antioch at the time of his
martyrdom; and as his age would lead us to infer that he was then the
senior member of the presbytery, [391:2] the tradition may have thus
originated. It is alleged that when Trajan visited the capital of Syria
in the ninth year of his reign, or A.D. 107, Ignatius voluntarily
presented himself before the imperial tribunal, and avowed his
Christianity. It is added, that he was in consequence condemned to be
carried a prisoner to Rome, there to be consigned to the wild beasts for
the entertainment of the populace. On his way to the Western metropolis,
he is said to have stopped at Smyrna. The legend represents Polycarp as
then the chief pastor of that city; and, when there, Ignatius is
described as having received deputations from the neighbouring churches,
and as having addressed to them several letters. From Smyrna he is
reported to have proceeded to Troas; where he dictated some additional
epistles, including one to Polycarp. The claims of these letters to be
considered his genuine productions have led to the controversy which we
are now to notice.

The story of Ignatius exhibits many marks of error and exaggeration; and
yet it is no easy matter to determine how much of it should be
pronounced fictitious. Few, perhaps, will venture to assert that the
account of his martyrdom is to be rejected as altogether apocryphal; and
still fewer will go so far as to maintain that he is a purely imaginary
character. There is every reason to believe that, very early in the
second century, he was connected with the Church of Antioch; and that,
about the same period, he suffered unto death in the cause of
Christianity. Pliny, who was then Proconsul of Bithynia, mentions that,
as he did not well know, in the beginning of his administration, how to
deal with the accused Christians, he sent those of them who were Roman
citizens to the Emperor, that he might himself pronounce judgment.
[392:1] It is possible that the chief magistrate of Syria pursued the
same course; and that thus Ignatius was transmitted as a prisoner into
Italy. But, upon some such substratum of facts, a mass of incongruous
fictions has been erected. The "Acts of his Martyrdom," still extant,
and written probably upwards of a hundred years after his demise, cannot
stand the test of chronological investigation; and have evidently been
compiled by some very superstitious and credulous author. According to
these Acts, Ignatius was condemned by Trajan at Antioch in the _ninth_
[392:2] year of his reign; but it has been contended that, not until
long afterwards, was the Emperor in the Syrian capital. [392:3] In the
"Acts," Ignatius is described as presenting himself before his sovereign
_of his own accord_, to proclaim his Christianity--a piece of
foolhardiness for which it is difficult to discover any reasonable
apology. The report of the interview between Ignatius and Trajan, as
given in this document, would, if believed, abundantly warrant the
conclusion that the martyr must have entirely lost the humility for
which he is said to have obtained credit when a child; as his conduct,
in the presence of the Emperor, betrays no small amount of boastfulness
and presumption. The account of his transmission to Rome, that he might
be thrown to wild beasts, presents difficulties with which even the most
zealous defenders of his legendary history have found it impossible to
grapple. He was sent away, say they, to the Italian metropolis that the
sight of so distinguished a victim passing through so many cities on his
way to a cruel death might strike terror into the hearts of the
Christian inhabitants. But we are told that he was conveyed from Syria
to Smyrna _by water_, [393:1] so that the explanation is quite
unsatisfactory; and, had the journey been accomplished by land, it would
still be insufficient, as the disciples of that age were unhappily only
too familiar with spectacles of Christian martyrdom. Our perplexity
increases as we proceed more minutely to investigate the circumstances
under which the epistles are reported to have been composed. Whilst
Ignatius is said to have been hurried with great violence and barbarity
from the East to the West, he is at the same time represented, with
strange inconsistency, as remaining for many days together in the same
place, [393:2] as receiving visitors from the churches all around, and
as writing magniloquent epistles. What is still more remarkable, though
he was pressed by the soldiers to hasten forward, and though a
prosperous gale speedily carried his vessel into Italy, [394:1] one of
these 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 to
Ignatius were in circulation, for Eusebius of Caesarea, who then
flourished, distinctly mentions so many, and states to whom they were
addressed. From Smyrna the martyr is said to have written four
letters--one to the Ephesians, another to the Magnesians, a third to the
Trallians, and a fourth to the Romans. From Troas he is reported to have
written three additional letters--one to Polycarp, a second to the
Smyrnaeans, and a third to the Philadelphians. [394:2] At a subsequent
period eight more epistles made their appearance, including two to the
Apostle John, one to the Virgin Mary, one to Maria Cassobolita, one to
the Tarsians, one to the Philippians, one to the Antiochians, and one to
Hero the deacon. Thus, no less than fifteen epistles claim Ignatius of
Antioch as their author.

It is unnecessary to discuss the merits of the eight letters unknown to
Eusebius. They were probably all fabricated after the time of that
historian; and critics have long since concurred in rejecting them as
spurious. Until recently, those engaged in the Ignatian controversy were
occupied chiefly with the examination of the claims of the documents
mentioned by the bishop of Caesarea. Here, however, the strange
variations in the copies tended greatly to complicate the discussion.
The letters of different manuscripts, when compared together, disclosed
extraordinary discrepancies; for, whilst all the codices contained much
of the same matter, a letter in one edition was, in some cases, about
double the length of the corresponding letter in another. Some writers
contended for the genuineness of the shorter epistles, and represented
the larger as made up of the true text extended by interpolations;
whilst others pronounced the larger letters the originals, and condemned
the shorter as unsatisfactory abridgments. [395:1] But, though both
editions found most erudite and zealous advocates, many critics of
eminent ability continued to look with distrust upon the text, as well
of the shorter, as of the larger letters; whilst not a few were disposed
to suspect that Ignatius had no share whatever in the composition of any
of these documents.

In the year 1845 a new turn was given to this controversy by the
publication of a Syriac version of three of the Ignatian letters. They
were printed from a manuscript deposited in 1843 in the British Museum,
and obtained, shortly before, from a monastery in the desert of Nitria
in Egypt. The work was dedicated by permission to the Archbishop of
Canterbury, and the views propounded in it were understood to have the
sanction 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 Highness
the Prince Albert, in which the various texts of all the epistles are
exhibited, and in which the claims of the three recently discovered
letters, as the only genuine productions of Ignatius, are ingeniously
maintained. In the Syriac copies, [396:1] these letters are styled "_The
Three_ Epistles of Ignatius, Bishop, and Martyr," and thus the inference
is suggested that, at one time, they were _the only three_ epistles in
existence. Dr Cureton's statements have obviously made a great
impression upon the mind of the literary public, and there seems at
present to be a pretty general disposition in certain quarters [396:2]
to discard all the other epistles as forgeries, and to accept those
preserved in the Syriac version as the veritable compositions of the
pastor of Antioch.

It must be obvious from the foregoing explanations that increasing light
has wonderfully diminished the amount of literature which once obtained
credit under the name of the venerable Ignatius. In the sixteenth
century he was reputed by many as the author of fifteen letters: it was
subsequently discovered that eight of them must be set aside as
apocryphal: farther investigation convinced critics that considerable
portions of the remaining seven must be rejected: and when the short
text of these epistles was published, [396:3] about the middle of the
seventeenth century, candid scholars confessed that it still betrayed
unequivocal indications of corruption. [396:4] But even some Protestant
writers of the highest rank stoutly upheld their claims, and the learned
Pearson devoted years to the preparation of a defence of their
authority. [397:1] His "Vindiciae Ignatianae" has long been considered
by a certain party as unanswerable; and, though the publication has been
read by very few, [397:2] the advocates of what are called "High-Church
principles" have been reposing for nearly two centuries under the shadow
of its reputation. The critical labours of Dr Cureton have somewhat
disturbed their dream of security, as that distinguished scholar has
adduced very good evidence to shew that about three-fourths of the
matter [397:3] which the Bishop of Chester spent a considerable portion
of his mature age in attempting to prove genuine, is the work of an
impostor. It is now admitted by the highest authorities that _four_ of
the seven short letters must be given up as spurious; and the remaining
three, which are addressed respectively to Polycarp, to the Ephesians,
and to the Romans, and which are found in the Syriac version, are much
shorter even than the short epistles which had already appeared under
the same designations. The Epistle to Polycarp, the shortest of the
seven letters in preceding editions, is here presented in a still more
abbreviated form; the Epistle to the Romans wants fully the one-third of
its previous matter; and the Epistle to the Ephesians has lost nearly
three-fourths of its contents. Nor is this all. In the Syriac version a
large fragment of one of the four recently rejected letters reappears;
as the new edition of the Epistle to the Romans contains two entire
paragraphs to be found in the discarded letter to the Trallians.

It is only due to Dr Cureton to acknowledge that his publications have
thrown immense light on this tedious and keenly agitated controversy.
But, unquestionably, he has not exhausted the discussion. Instead of
abruptly adopting the conclusion that the three letters of the Syriac
version are to be received as genuine, we conceive he would have argued
more logically had he inferred that they reveal one of the earliest
forms of a gross imposture. We are persuaded that the epistles he has
edited, 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 their
support, 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 to
them on the strength of his authority. [398:1] In his "Ecclesiastical
History," which was published as some think about A.D. 325, he asserts
that Ignatius wrote seven letters, and from these he makes a few
quotations. [398:2] But his admission of the genuineness of a
correspondence, bearing date upwards of two hundred years before his own
appearance as an author, is an attestation of very doubtful value. He
often makes mistakes respecting the character of ecclesiastical
memorials; and in one memorable case, of far more consequence than that
now under consideration, he has blundered most egregiously; for he has
published, as genuine, the spurious correspondence between Abgarus and
our Saviour. [399:1] He was under strong temptations to form an unduly
favourable judgment of the letters attributed to Ignatius, inasmuch as,
to use the words of Dr Cureton, "they seemed to afford evidence to the
apostolic succession in several churches, an account of which he
professes to be one of the chief objects of his history." [399:2] His
reference to them is decisive as to the fact of their _existence_ in the
early part of the fourth century; but those who adopt the views
propounded in the "Corpus Ignatianum," are not prepared to bow to his
critical decision; for, on this very occasion, he has given his sanction
to four letters which they pronounce apocryphal.

The only father who notices these letters before the fourth century, is
Origen. He quotes from them twice; [399:3] the citations which he gives
are to be found in the Syriac version of the three epistles; [399:4] and
it would appear from his writings that he was not acquainted with the
seven letters current in the days of Eusebius. [399:5] Those to which he
refers were, perhaps, brought under his notice when he went to Antioch
on the invitation of Julia Mammaea, the mother of the Emperor; as, for
reasons subsequently to be stated, it is probable that they were
manufactured in that neighbourhood not long before his visit. If
presented to him at that time by parties interested in the recognition
of their claims, they were, under the circumstances, exactly such
documents as were likely to impose upon him; for the student of Philo,
and the author of the "Exhortation to Martyrdom," could not but admire
the spirit of mysticism by which they are pervaded, and the anxiety to
die under persecution which they proclaim. Whilst, therefore, his
quotation of these letters attests their existence in his time, it is of
very little additional value. Again and again in his writings we meet
with notices of apocryphal works unaccompanied by any intimations of
their spuriousness. [400:1] He asserts that Barnabas, the author of the
epistle still extant under his name, [400:2] was the individual
mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles as the companion of Paul; and he
frequently quotes the "Pastor" of Hermas [400:3] as a book given by
inspiration of God. [400:4] Such facts abundantly prove that his
recognition of the Ignatian epistles is a very equivocal criterion of
their genuineness.

Attempts have been made to shew that two other writers, earlier than
Origen, have noticed the Ignatian correspondence; and Eusebius himself
has quoted Polycarp and Irenaeus as if bearing witness in its favour.
Polycarp in early life was contemporary with the pastor of Antioch; and
Irenaeus is said to have been the disciple of Polycarp; and, could it be
demonstrated that either of these fathers vouched for its genuineness,
the testimony would be of peculiar importance. But, when their evidence
is examined, it is found to be nothing to the purpose. In the Treatise
against Heresies, Irenaeus speaks, in the following terms, of the
heroism of a Christian martyr--"One of our people said, when condemned
to the beasts on account of his testimony towards God--As I am the wheat
of God, I am also ground by the teeth of beasts, that I may be found the
pure bread of God." [400:5] These words of the martyr are found in the
Syriac Epistle to the Romans, and hence it has been inferred that they
are a quotation from that letter. But it is far more probable that the
words of the letter were copied out of Irenaeus, and quietly
appropriated, by a forger, to the use of his Ignatius, with a view to
obtain credit for a false document. The individual who uttered them is
not named by the pastor of Lyons; and, after the death of that writer, a
fabricator might put them into the mouth of whomsoever he pleased
without any special danger of detection. The Treatise against Heresies
obtained extensive circulation; and as it animadverted on errors which
had been promulgated in Antioch, [401:1] it, no doubt, soon found its
way into the Syrian capital. [401:2] But who can believe that Irenaeus
describes Ignatius, when he speaks of "_one of our people_?" The martyr
was not such an insignificant personage that he could be thus ignored.
He was one of the most eminent Christians of his age--the companion of
apostles--and the presiding minister of one of the most influential
Churches in the world. Irenaeus is obviously alluding to some disciple
who occupied a very different position. He is speaking, not of what the
martyr _wrote_, but of what he _said_--not of his letters, but of his
words. Any reader who considers the situation of Irenaeus a few years
before he published this treatise, can have no difficulty in
understanding the reference. He had witnessed at Lyons one of the most
terrible persecutions the disciples ever had endured; and, in the letter
to the Churches of Asia and Phrygia, he had graphically described its
horrors. [401:3] He there tells how his brethren had been condemned to
be thrown to wild beasts, and he records with simplicity and pathos the
constancy with which they suffered. But in such an epistle he could not
notice every case which had come under his observation, and he here
mentions a new instance of the Christian courage of some believer
unknown to fame, when he states--"one of our people when condemned to
the beasts, said, 'As I am the wheat of God, I am also ground by the
teeth of beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of God.'"

The Treatise against Heresies supplies the clearest evidence that
Irenaeus was quite ignorant of the existence of the Ignatian epistles.
These letters contain pointed references to the errorists of the early
Church, and had they been known to the pastor of Lyons, he could have
brought them to bear with most damaging effect against the heretics he
assailed. Ignatius was no ordinary witness, for he had heard the truth
from the lips of the apostles; he had spent a long life in the society
of the primitive disciples; and he filled one of the most responsible
stations that a Christian minister could occupy. The heretics boldly
affirmed that they had tradition on their side, [402:1] and therefore
the testimony of Ignatius, as of an individual who had received
tradition at the fountain-head, would have been regarded by Irenaeus as
all-important. And the author of the Treatise against Heresies was not
slow to employ such evidence when it was in any way available. He plies
his antagonists with the testimony of Clement of Rome, [402:2] of
Polycarp [402:3] of Papias, [402:4] and of Justin Martyr. [402:5] But
throughout the five books of his discussion he never adduces any of the
words of the pastor of Antioch. He never throws out any hint from which
we 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 proof
that he had never heard of the Ignatian correspondence?

The only other witness now remaining to be examined is Polycarp. It has
often been affirmed that he distinctly acknowledges the authority of
these letters; and yet, when honestly interrogated, he will be found to
deliver quite a different deposition. But, before proceeding to consider
his testimony, let us inquire his _age_ when his epistle was written. It
bears the following superscription:--"Polycarp, _and the elders who are
with him_, to the Church of God which is at Philippi." At this time,
therefore, though the early Christians paid respect to hoary hairs, and
were not willing to permit persons without experience to take precedence
of their seniors, Polycarp must have been at the head of the presbytery.
But, at the death of Ignatius, when according to the current theory he
dictated this letter, he was a young man of six and twenty. [403:1] Such
a 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 to
the elders and deacons; [403:3] he expresses his great concern for
Valens, an erring brother, who had once been a presbyter among them;
[403:4] and he intimates that the epistle was written at the urgent
request of the Philippians themselves. [403:5] Is it at all probable
that Polycarp, at the age of six and twenty, was in a position to
warrant him to use such a style of address? Are we to believe he was
already so well known and so highly venerated that a Christian community
on the other side of the Aegean Sea, and the oldest Church in all
Greece, would apply to him for advice and direction? We must be prepared
to admit all this, before we can acknowledge that his epistle refers to
Ignatius of Antioch.

Let us attend now to that passage in the letter to the Philippians where
he is supposed to speak of the Syrian pastor. "I exhort all of you that
ye obey the word of righteousness, and exercise all patience, which ye
have 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 words
would suggest to an ordinary reader that Polycarp is here speaking, not
of Ignatius of Antioch, but of an Ignatius of Philippi. If this Ignatius
did not belong to the Philippian Church, why, when addressing its
members, does he speak of Ignatius, Zosimus, Rufus, and "others of you?"
Ignatius of Antioch could not have been thus described. But who, it may
be asked, were Zosimus and Rufus here mentioned as fellow-sufferers with
Ignatius? They were exactly in the position which the words of Polycarp
literally indicate; they were men _of Philippi_; and, as such, they are
commemorated in the "Martyrologies." [404:2] It is impossible,
therefore, to avoid the conclusion that the Ignatius of Polycarp was
also a Philippian.

It appears, then, that this testimony of the pastor of Smyrna has been
strangely misunderstood. Ignatius, as is well known, was not a very
uncommon name; and it would seem that several martyrs of the ancient
Church bore this designation. Cyprian, for example, tells us of an
Ignatius in Africa who was put to death for the profession of
Christianity in the former part of the third century. [405:1] It is
apparent from the words of Polycarp that there was also an Ignatius of
Philippi, as well as an Ignatius of Antioch.

It may, however, be objected that the conclusion of this letter clearly
points to Ignatius of Antioch, inasmuch as Polycarp there speaks
apparently of _Syria_, and of some one interested about Ignatius who
might shortly visit that country. [405:2] Some critics of high name have
maintained that this portion of the epistle is destitute of authority,
and that it has been added by a later hand to countenance the Ignatian
forgery. [405:3] But every candid and discriminating reader may see that
the charge is destitute of foundation. An Ignatian interpolator would
not have so mismanaged his business. He would not have framed an
appendix which, as we shall presently shew, testifies against himself.
The passage to which such exception has been taken is unquestionably the
true postscript of the letter, for it bears internal marks of

In this postscript Polycarp says--"What you know certainly both of
Ignatius himself, and of those _who are with him_, communicate." [405:4]
Here is another proof that the Ignatius of Polycarp is not Ignatius of
Antioch. The Syrian pastor is said to have been hurried with the utmost
expedition to Rome that he might be thrown to the beasts before the
approaching termination of the public spectacles; and it is reported
that when he reached the great city, he was forthwith consigned to
martyrdom. [406:1] But, though letters had been meanwhile passing
between Philippi and Smyrna, this Ignatius is understood to be still
alive. It would appear, too, that Zosimus and Rufus, previously named as
his 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 by
the lions.

Other parts of this postscript are equally embarrassing to those who
contend for the authority of the Ignatian Epistles. Thus, Polycarp
says--"The Epistles of Ignatius _which were sent to you by him_, and
whatever others we have by us, we have sent to you." [406:3] If these
words apply to Ignatius of Antioch, it follows that he must have written
_several_ letters to the _Philippians_; and yet it in now almost
universally admitted that even the one extant epistle addressed to them
in his name is an impudent fabrication. Again, Polycarp states--"Ye have
written to me, both ye and Ignatius, that when any one goes to Syria, he
can carry my letters to you." [406:4] But no such suggestion is to be
found, either in the Syriac version of the Three Epistles, or in the
larger edition known to Eusebius. Could we desire clearer proof that
Polycarp must here be speaking of another Ignatius, and another

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 citizen
of London, to suggest that his correspondent should take an opportunity
of writing to him, when any common friend went to Jerusalem, the
Englishman might well feel perplexed by such a communication. Why should
a letter from London to New York travel round by Palestine? Such an
arrangement would not, however, be a whit more absurd than that
seemingly pointed out in this postscript. Philippi and Smyrna were not
far distant, and there was considerable intercourse between them; but
Syria was in another quarter of the Empire, and Polycarp could have
rarely found an individual passing to Antioch from "the chief city" of a
"part of Macedonia," and travelling to and fro by Smyrna. This
difficulty admits, however, of a very simple and satisfactory solution.
We have no entire copy of the epistle in the original Greek, [407:1] and
the text of the old Latin version in this place is so corrupt that it is
partially unintelligible; [407:2] but as the context often guides us in
the interpretation of a manuscript where it is blotted or torn, so here
it may enable us to spell out the meaning. The insertion of one letter
and the change of another in a single word [407:3] will render the
passage intelligible. If we read _Smyrna_ for Syria, the obscurity
vanishes. 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 my
letters to you." The postscript, thus understood, refers to the desire
of his correspondents, that he should write frequently, and that, when a
friend went from Philippi to Smyrna, he should not be permitted to
return without letters.

As it can be thus shewn that the letter of Polycarp, when tested by
impartial criticism, refuses to accredit the Epistles ascribed to
Ignatius of Antioch, it follows that, with the single exception of
Origen, no father of the first three centuries has noticed this
correspondence. Had these letters, at the alleged date of their
appearance, attracted such attention as they would themselves lead us to
believe, is it possible that no writer for upwards of a century after
the demise of their reputed author, would have bestowed upon them even a
passing recognition? They convey the impression that, when Ignatius was
on his way to Rome, all Asia Minor was moved at his presence--that
Greece caught the infection of excitement--and that the Western capital
itself awaited, with something like breathless anxiety, the arrival of
the illustrious martyr. Strange, indeed, then that even his letter to
the Romans is mentioned by no Western father until between two and three
hundred years after the time of its assumed publication! Nor were
Western writers wanting who would have sympathised with its spirit. It
would have been quite to the taste of Tertullian, and he could have
quoted it to shew that some of the peculiar principles of Montanism had
been held by a man of the apostolic era. Nor can it be said that had the
letter then been in existence, it was likely to have escaped his
observation. He had lived for years in Rome, and we have good reason to
believe that he was a presbyter of the Church of the Imperial city. A
man of his inquiring spirit, and literary habits, must have been well
acquainted with the Epistle had it obtained currency in Italy. But in
not one of his numerous treatises does he ever speak of it, or even name
its alleged author. [409:1] Hippolytus of Portus is another writer who
might have been expected to know something of this production. He lived
within a few miles of Rome, and he was conversant with the history of
its Church and with its ecclesiastical memorials. He, as well as
Tertullian, could have sympathised with the rugged and ascetic spirit
pervading the Ignatian correspondence. But, even in his treatise against
all heresies, he has not fortified his arguments by any testimony from
these letters. He had evidently never heard, of the now far famed
documents. [409:2]

The conclusion to be drawn from these facts must be sufficiently
obvious. The Ignatian Epistles began to be fabricated in the time of
Origen; and the first edition of them appeared, not at Troas or Smyrna,
but in Syria or Palestine. At an early period festivals were kept in
honour of the martyrs; and on his natal day, [409:3] why should not the
Church of Antioch have something to tell of her great Ignatius? The Acts
of his Martyrdom were probably written in the former part of the third
century--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. The
Epistle to the Ephesians, perhaps, next made its appearance, and then
followed the Epistle to Polycarp. These letters gradually crept into
circulation as "The Three Epistles of Ignatius, Bishop, and Martyr."
There is every reason to believe that, as edited by Dr Cureton, they are
now presented to the public in their original _language_, as well as in
their original form. Copies of these short letters are not known to be
extant in any manuscript either Greek or Latin. Dr Cureton has not
attempted any explanation of this emphatic fact. If the Epistle to the
Romans, in its newly discovered form, is genuine, how does it happen
that there are no previous traces of its existence in the Western
Church? How are we to account for the extraordinary circumstance that
the 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 into
her possession; for, even considered as a pious fraud of the third
century, the address "_to her who sitteth at the head_ in the place of
the country of the Romans," [410:1] is one of the most ancient
testimonies to her early pre-eminence to be found in the whole range of
ecclesiastical literature. Why should she have permitted it to be
supplanted by an interpolated document? Can any man, who adopts the
views of Dr Cureton, fairly answer such an inquiry?

It is plain that the mistake or corruption of a word in the postscript
of the Epistle of Polycarp has had much to do with this Ignatian
imposture. In some worn or badly written manuscript, Syria was perhaps
read instead of Smyrna, and the false reading probably led to the
incubation of the whole brood of Ignatian letters. The error, whether of
accident or design, was adopted by Eusebius, [411:1] and from him passed
into general currency. We may thus best account for the strange
multiplication of these Ignatian epistles. It was clear that the
Ignatius spoken of by Polycarp had written more letters than what first
appeared, [411:2] and thus the epistles to the Smyrnaeans, the
Magnesians, the Trallians, and the Philadelphians, in due time emerged
into notice. At a subsequent date the letters to the Philippians, the
Antiochians, the Virgin Mary, and others, were forthcoming.

The variety of forms assumed by this Ignatian fraud is not the least
remarkable circumstance connected with its mysterious history. All the
seven Epistles mentioned by Eusebius exist in a Longer and a Shorter
Recension; whilst the Syriac version exhibits three of them in a reduced
size, and a third edition. It is a curious fact that other spurious
productions display similar transformations. "_A great number_ of
spurious or interpolated works of the early ages of Christianity," says
Dr Cureton, "are found in two Recensions, a Shorter and a Longer, as in
the instance of the Ignatian Epistles. Thus, we find the two Recensions
of the Clementines, the two Recensions of the Acts of St Andrew, .....
the Acts of St Thomas, the Journeying of St John, the Letter of Pilate
to Tiberius." [411:3] It is still more suspicious that some of these
spurious writings present a striking similarity _in point of style_ to
the Ignatian Epistles. [412:1] The standard coin of the realm is seldom
put into the crucible, but articles of pewter or of lead are freely
melted down and recast according to the will of the modeller. We cannot
add a single leaf to a genuine flower, but an artificial rose may be
exhibited in quite another form by a fresh process of manipulation.
Such, too, has been the history of ancient ecclesiastical records. The
genuine works of the fathers have come down to us in a state of
wonderful 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 legitimate
subjects for the exercise of the art of the fabricator; and hence the
strange discrepancies in their text which have so often puzzled their



The history of the Ignatian Epistles may well remind us of the story of
the Sibylline Books. A female in strange attire is said to have appeared
before Tarquin of Rome, offering to sell nine manuscripts which she had
in her possession; but the king, discouraged by the price, declined the
application. The woman withdrew; destroyed the one-third of her literary
treasures; and, returning again into the royal presence, demanded the
same price for what were left. The monarch once more refused to come up
to her terms; and the mysterious visitor retired again, and burnt the
one-half of her remaining store. Her extraordinary conduct excited much
astonishment; and, on consulting with his augurs, Tarquin was informed
that the documents which she had at her disposal were most valuable, and
that he should by all means endeavour to secure such a prize. The king
now willingly paid for the three books, not yet committed to the flames,
the full price originally demanded for all the manuscripts. The Ignatian
Epistles have experienced something like the fate of those Sibylline
oracles. In the sixteenth century, fifteen letters were brought out from
beneath the mantle of a hoary antiquity, and offered to the world as the
productions of the pastor of Antioch. Scholars refused to receive them
on the terms required, and forthwith eight of them were admitted to be
forgeries. In the seventeenth century, the seven remaining letters, in a
somewhat altered form, again came forth from obscurity, and claimed to
be the works of Ignatius. Again, discerning critics refused to
acknowledge their pretensions; but curiosity was roused by this second
apparition, and many expressed an earnest desire to obtain a sight of
the real epistles. Greece, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt were ransacked in
search of them, and at length three letters are found. The discovery
creates general gratulation; it is confessed that four of the Epistles,
so lately asserted to be genuine, are apocryphal; and it is boldly said
that the three now forthcoming are above challenge. [414:1] But Truth
still refuses to be compromised, and sternly disowns these claimants for
her approbation. The internal evidence of these three epistles
abundantly attests that, like the last three books of the Sibyl, they
are only the last shifts of a grave imposture. [414:2]

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

I. The style of the Epistles is certainly not above suspicion. On the
ground of style alone, it is, unquestionably, somewhat hazardous to
pronounce a decisive judgment upon any document; but, if such an element
is ever to be taken into consideration, it cannot, in this case, be
overlooked. It is well known that, of the seven epistles mentioned by
Eusebius, there was one which scholars of the highest reputation always
regarded with extreme dubiety. In style it appeared to them so different
from the rest of the letters, and so unlike what might have been
expected from an apostolic minister, that some who were prepared to
admit the genuineness of the other documents, did not hesitate to
declare it a forgery. We allude to the Epistle to Polycarp. Even
Archbishop Ussher and Cardinal Bona [415:1] concurred in its
condemnation. It so happens, however, that it is one of the three
letters recently re-edited; and it appears that, of the three, _it has
been the least altered_. If then such a man as Ussher be considered a
safe and sufficient judge of the value of an ancient ecclesiastical
memorial, the Epistle to Polycarp, published by Dr Cureton, must be
pronounced spurious. Their editor urges that the letters to the
Ephesians and Romans, as expurgated in the Syriac version, now closely
resemble the Epistle to Polycarp in style; and if so, may we not fairly
infer that, had they been presented, in their new form, to the learned
Primate of Armagh, consistency would have bound him to denounce them as
also forgeries?

II. The way in which the Word of God is ignored in these Epistles argues
strongly for their spuriousness. Every one acquainted with the early
fathers must have observed their frequent use of the sacred records. A
considerable portion of a chapter is sometimes introduced in a
quotation. [416:1] Hence it has been remarked that were all the copies
of the Bible lost and the writings of these fathers preserved, a large
share of the Holy Volume might thus be recovered. But Ignatius would
contribute nothing to the work of restoration; as, in the whole of the
three letters, not a single verse of Scripture is given at length. They,
no doubt, occasionally use Bible phraseology, as without it an
ecclesiastical document could not well be written; but not one promise
is quoted, and not one testimony from the Word is repeated for the
edification of the faithful. [416:2] An apostolical pastor on his way to
martyrdom would have written very differently. He would have reminded
his brethren of the "lively oracles," and he would have mentioned some
of those precious assurances which now contributed to his own spiritual
refreshment. He would have told them to have "no confidence in the
flesh;" [416:3] to take unto themselves "the sword of the Spirit which
is the Word of God;" [416:4] and to lay aside every weight and the sin
which did so easily beset them, "_looking unto Jesus_." [416:5] But,
instead of adopting such a course, this Ignatius addresses them in the
style 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 instead
of the souls of those who are subject to the bishop, and the presbyters
and the deacons." [416:6] What intelligent Christian can believe that a
minister, instructed by Paul or Peter, and filling one of the most
important stations in the apostolic Church, was verily such an ignorant

III. The chronological blunders in these Epistles betray their forgery.
In the "Acts of the Martyrdom of Ignatius," he and Polycarp are
represented as "fellow-scholars" of the Apostle John, [417:1] and the
pastor of Smyrna is supposed to be, in point of age, at least as
venerable a personage as the pastor of Antioch. The letter to Polycarp
is evidently written under the same impression. Ignatius there says to
him--"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 been
penned, Polycarp was only about six and twenty years of age; [417:2] and
the Church of Smyrna, with which he was connected, did not occupy a very
prominent place in the Christian commonwealth. Is it probable that a man
of the mature faith and large experience of Ignatius would have thus
addressed so youthful a minister? It also seems passing strange that the
aged martyr should commit all the widows of the community to his special
guardianship, and should think it necessary to add--"It is becoming to
men and women who marry, that they marry _by the counsel of the
bishop_." Was an individual, who was himself not much advanced beyond
boyhood, the most fitting person to give advice as to these matrimonial
engagements? A similar mistake as to age is made in the case of
Onesimus, who is supposed to be bishop of Ephesus. This minister, who is
understood to be mentioned in the New Testament. [417:3] is said at an
early date to have been pastor of the Church of the metropolis of the
Proconsular Asia; and the Ignatian forger obviously imagined that he was
still alive when his hero passed through Smyrna on his way to the
Western capital. But Onesimus perished in the Domitian persecution,
[418:1] so that Ignatius is made to write to a Christian brother who had
been long in his grave. [418:2] The fabricator proceeds more cautiously
in his letter to the Romans. How marvellous that this old gentleman, who
is willing to pledge his soul for every one who would submit to the
bishop, does not find it convenient to _name_ the bishop of Rome! The
experiment might have been somewhat hazardous. The early history of the
Roman 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 once
detected. Though his erudition was so great that he could tell "the
places of angels," [418:3] he evidently did not dare to commit himself
by giving us a piece of earthly information, and by telling us who was
at the head of the Church of the Great City in the ninth year of the
reign of Trajan. But the same prudence does not prevail throughout the
Epistle. He here obviously speaks of the Church of Rome, not as she
existed a few years after the death of Clement, but of the same Church
as she was known after the death of Victor. In the beginning of the
second century the Church of the Syrian capital would not have
acknowledged the precedence of her Western sister. On the fall of
Jerusalem, the Church of Antioch was herself the first Christian
community in the Empire. She had a higher antiquity, a more
distinguished prestige, and perhaps a more numerous membership than any
other Church in existence. In the Syrian metropolis the disciples had
first been called Christians; there, Barnabas and Paul had been
separated to the work to which the Lord had called them; there, Peter
had preached; and there, prophets had laboured. But a century had
brought about a wonderful change. The Church of Rome had meanwhile
obtained the first place among Christian societies; and, before the
middle of the third century, "the See of Peter" was honoured as the
centre of catholic unity. Towards the close of the second century, many
persons of rank and power joined her communion, [419:1] and her
political influence was soon felt to be so formidable that even the
Roman Emperor began to be jealous of the Roman bishop. [419:2] But the
Ignatian forger did not take into account this ecclesiastical
revolution. Hence he here incautiously speaks in the language of his own
age, and writing "to her _who sitteth at the head_ in the place of the
country of the Romans," he says to her with all due humility--"I am not
commanding you like Peter and Paul" [419:3]--"Ye have taught
others"--"It is easy for you to do whatsoever you please."

IV. Various words in these Epistles have a meaning which they did not
acquire until long after the time of Ignatius. Thus, the term employed
in the days of the Apostles to denote _purity_, or _chastity_, here
signifies _celibacy_. [419:4] Even in the commencement of the third
century those who led a single life were beginning to be considered
Christians of a superior type, as contrasted with those who were
married; and clerical celibacy was becoming very fashionable. [420:1]
The Ignatian fabricator writes under the influence of the popular
sentiment. "The house of the Church" at Antioch, of which Paul of
Samosata kept possession after his deposition about A.D. 269, [420:2]
seems to have been a dwelling appropriated to the use of the
ecclesiastical functionaries, [420:3] and the schemer who wrote the
first draft of these letters evidently believed that the ministers of
Christ should be a brotherhood of bachelors. Hence Ignatius is made thus
to address Polycarp and his clergy--"Labour together one with another;
make the struggle together one with another; run together one with
another; suffer together one with another; _sleep together one with
another; rise together one with another_." Polycarp and others of the
elders of Smyrna were probably married; [420:4] so that some
inconvenience might have attended this arrangement.

The word _bishop_ is another term found in these Epistles, and employed
in a sense which it did not possess at the alleged date of their
publication. Every one knows that, in the New Testament, it does not
signify the chief pastor of a Church; but, about the middle of the
second century, as will subsequently appear, [421:1] it began to have
this acceptation. Clement of Rome, writing a few years before the time
of the martyrdom of Ignatius, uses the words bishop and presbyter
interchangeably. [421:2] Polycarp, in his own Epistle, dictated,
perhaps, forty years after the death of the Syrian pastor, still adheres
to the same phraseology. In the Peshito version of the New Testament,
executed probably in the former half of the second century, [421:3] the
same terminology prevails. [421:4] Ignatius, however, is far in advance
of his generation. When new terms are introduced, or when new meanings
are attached to designations already current, it seldom happens that an
old man changes his style of speaking. He is apt to persevere, in spite
of fashion, in the use of the phraseology to which he has been
accustomed from his childhood. But Ignatius is an exception to all such
experience, for he repeats the new nomenclature with as much flippancy
as if he had never heard any other. [421:5] Surely this minister of
Antioch must be worthy of all the celebrity he has attained, for he can
not only carry on a written correspondence with the dead, but also
anticipate by half a century even the progress of language!

V. The puerilities, vapouring, and mysticism of these letters proclaim
their forgery. We would expect an aged apostolic minister, on his way to
martyrdom, to speak as a man in earnest, to express himself with some
degree of dignity, and to eschew trivial and ridiculous comparisons.
But, when treating of a grave subject, what can be more silly or
indecorous than such language as the following--"Ye are raised on high
by the engine of Jesus Christ, which is the cross, and ye are drawn by
the rope, which is the Holy Ghost, and your pulley is your faith."
[422:1] Well may the Christian reader exclaim, with indignation, as he
peruses these words, Is the Holy Ghost then a mere rope? Is that
glorious Being who worketh in us to will and to do according to His own
good pleasure, a mere piece of tackling pertaining to the ecclesiastical
machinery, to be moved and managed according to the dictation of Bishop
Ignatius? [422:2] But the frivolity of this impostor is equalled by his
gasconade. He thus tantalises the Romans with an account of his
attainments--"I am able to write to you heavenly things, _but I fear
lest I should do you an injury_." .....

"I am able to know heavenly things, and the places of angels, and the
station of powers that are visible and invisible." Where did he gather
all 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 wise
above what is written, "intruding into those things which he hath not
seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind?" [422:3] He seems, indeed,
to have himself had some suspicion that such was his character, for he
says, again, to his brethren of the Western metropolis--"I know many
things in God, but I moderate myself that I may not _perish through
boasting_; for now it is becoming to me that I should fear the more
abundantly, and should not look to _those that puff me up_." Let us now
hear a specimen of the mysticism of this dotard. "There was hidden from
the Ruler of this world the virginity of Mary, and the birth of our
Lord, and the three mysteries of the shout, which were done in the
quietness of God by means of the star, and here by the manifestation of
the Son magic began to be dissolved." [423:1] Who can undertake to
expound such jargon? What are we to understand by "the quietness of
God?" Who can tell how "the three mysteries of the shout" were "done by
means of the star?"

VI. The unhallowed and insane anxiety for martyrdom which appears
throughout these letters is another decisive proof of their fabrication.
He who was, in the highest sense, the Faithful Witness betrayed no
fanatic impatience for the horrid tragedy of crucifixion; and, true to
the promptings of his human nature, he prayed, in the very crisis of His
agony--"O my Father, _if it be possible, let this cup pass from me_."
[423:2] The Scriptures represent the most exalted saints as shrinking
instinctively from suffering. In the prophecy announcing the violent
death of Peter, it is intimated that even the intrepid apostle of the
circumcision would feel disposed to recoil from the bloody ordeal. "When
thou shalt be old," said our Lord to him, "thou shalt stretch forth thy
hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee _whither thou
wouldest not_." [423:3] Paul mentions with thankfulness how, on a
critical occasion, the Lord stood with him, and "_delivered_" him "out
of the mouth of the lion." [423:4] Long after the apostolic age, the
same spirit continued to be cherished, and hence we are told of Polycarp
that, even when bowed down by the weight of years, he felt it right to
retire out of the way of those who sought his destruction. The
disciples, whom he had so long taught, took the same view of Christian
duty; and accordingly, in the Epistle of the Church of Smyrna, which
records his martyrdom, the conduct of those who "present themselves _of
their own accord_ to the trial" is emphatically condemned. [424:1] "We
do not," say the believers of Smyrna, "commend those who offer
themselves to persecution, _seeing the gospel teaches no such thing_."
[424:2] But a man who is supposed to have enjoyed far higher advantages
than Polycarp--a minister who is said to have been contemporary with all
the apostles--a ruler of the Church who is understood to have occupied a
far more prominent and influential position than the pastor of
Smyrna--is exhibited in the legend of his martyrdom as appearing "of his
own free will" [424:3] at the judgment-seat of the Emperor, and as
manifesting the utmost anxiety to be delivered into the mouth of the
lion. In the commencement of the second century the Churches of Rome and
Ephesus doubtless possessed as much spiritual enlightenment as any other
Churches in the world, and it is a libel upon their Christianity to
suppose that they could have listened with any measure of complacency to
the senseless ravings to be found even in the recent edition of the
Ignatian Letters. [424:4] The writer is made to assure the believers in
these great cities that he has an unquenchable desire to be eaten alive,
and he beseeches them to pray that he may enjoy this singular
gratification. "I hope," says he, "_through your prayers_ that I shall
be devoured by the beasts in Rome." [425:1] ... "I beg of you, be not
with me in the love that is not in its season. Leave me, that I may be
for the beasts, that by means of them I may be worthy of God.... With
provoking _provoke ye the beasts_ that they may be a grave for me, and
may leave nothing of my body, that not even when I am fallen asleep may
I be a burden upon any man.... I rejoice in the beasts which are
prepared for me, and _I pray that they may be quickly found for me_, and
I will provoke them that they may quickly devour me." [425:2] Every man
jealous for the honour of primitive Christianity should be slow to
believe that an apostolic preacher addressed such outrageous folly to
apostolic Churches.

When reviewing the external evidence in support of these Epistles, we
have had occasion to shew that they were probably fabricated in the
former part of the third century. The internal evidence corroborates the
same conclusion. Ecclesiastical history attests that during the fifty
years preceding the death of Cyprian, [425:3] the principles here put
forward were fast gaining the ascendency. As early as the days of
Tertullian, ritualism was rapidly supplanting the freedom of evangelical
worship; baptism was beginning to be viewed as an "armour" of marvellous
potency; [425:4] the tradition that the great Church of the West had
been founded by Peter and Paul was now extensively propagated; and there
was an increasing disposition throughout the Empire to recognise the
precedence of "her who sitteth at the head in the place of the country
of the Romans." It is apparent from the writings of Cyprian that in some
quarters the "church system" was already matured. The language ascribed
to Ignatius--"Be careful for unanimity, than _which there is nothing
more_ excellent" [426:1]--then expressed a prevailing sentiment. To
maintain unity was considered a higher duty than to uphold truth, and to
be subject to the bishop was deemed one of the greatest of evangelical
virtues. Celibacy was then confounded with chastity, and mysticism was
extensively occupying the place of scriptural knowledge and intelligent
conviction. And the admiration of martyrdom which presents itself in
such a startling form in these Epistles was one of the characteristics
of the period. Paul taught that a man may give his body to be burned and
yet want the spirit of the gospel; [426:2] but Origen does not scruple
to describe martyrdom as "the cup of salvation," the baptism which
cleanses the sufferer, the act which makes his blood precious in God's
sight to the redemption of others. [426:3] Do not all these
circumstances combined supply abundant proof that these Epistles were
written in the time of this Alexandrian father? [426:4]

It is truly wonderful that men, such as Dr Cureton, have permitted
themselves to be befooled by these Syriac manuscripts. It is still more
extraordinary that writers, such as the pious and amiable Milner,
[426:5] have published, with all gravity, the rhapsodies of Ignatius for
the edification of their readers. It would almost appear as if the name
_Bishop_ has such a magic influence on some honest and enlightened
Episcopalians, that when the interests of their denomination are
supposed to be concerned, they can be induced to close their eyes
against the plainest dictates of common sense and the clearest light of
historical demonstration. In deciding upon matters of fact the spirit of
party should never be permitted to interfere. Truth is the common
property of the catholic Church; and no good and holy cause can require
the support of an apocryphal correspondence.

It is no mean proof of the sagacity of the great Calvin, that, upwards
of three hundred years ago, he passed a sweeping sentence of
condemnation on these Ignatian Epistles. At the time, many were startled
by the boldness of his language, and it was thought that he was somewhat
precipitate in pronouncing such a decisive judgment. But he saw
distinctly, and he therefore spoke fearlessly. There is a far more
intimate connexion than many are disposed to believe between sound
theology and sound criticism, for a right knowledge of the Word of God
strengthens the intellectual vision, and assists in the detection of
error wherever it may reveal itself. Had Pearson enjoyed the same clear
views of gospel truth as the Reformer of Geneva, he would not have
wasted so many precious years in writing a learned vindication of the
nonsense attributed to Ignatius. Calvin knew that an apostolic man must
have been acquainted with apostolic doctrine, and he saw that these
letters must have been the productions of an age when the pure light of
Christianity was greatly obscured. Hence he denounced them so
emphatically: and time has verified his deliverance. His language
respecting them has been often quoted, but we feel we cannot more
appropriately close our observations on this subject than by another
repetition of it. "There is nothing more abominable than that trash
which is in circulation under the name of Ignatius." [428:1]



When Christianity made its appearance in the world, it produced a
profound sensation. It spread on all sides with great rapidity; it was
at once felt to be a religion for the common people; and some
individuals of highly cultivated minds soon acknowledged its authority.
For a time its progress was impeded by the persecutions of Nero and
Domitian; but, about the beginning of the second century, it started
upon a new career of prosperous advancement, and quickly acquired such a
position that the most distinguished scholars and philosophers could no
longer overlook its pretensions. In the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian, a
considerable number of men of learning were already in its ranks; but it
would appear that, on the whole, it derived very equivocal aid from the
presence of these new adherents. Not a few of the literati who joined
its standard attempted to corrupt it; and one hundred and twenty years
after the death of the Apostle John, the champions of orthodoxy had to
contend against no less than thirty-two heresies. [429:1]

Of those who now adulterated the gospel, the Gnostics were by far the
most subtle, the most active, and the most formidable. The leaders of
the party were all men of education; and as they were to be found
chiefly in the large cities, the Church in these centres of influence
was 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 most
progress and awakened most anxiety, we must here advert more distinctly
to its outlines. The three great antagonists of the gospel were the
Grecian philosophy, the heathen mythology, and a degenerate Judaism; and
Gnosticism may be described as an attempt to effect a compromise between
Christianity and these rivals. As might have been expected, the attempt
met with much encouragement; for many, who hesitated to accept the new
religion unconditionally, were constrained to acknowledge that it
exhibited many indications of truth and divinity; and they were,
therefore, prepared to look on it with favour when presented to them in
an altered shape and furnished with certain favourite appendages. The
Gnostics called themselves believers; and their most celebrated teachers
would willingly have remained in the bosom of the Church; but it soon
appeared that their principles were subversive of the New Testament
revelation; and they were accordingly excluded from ecclesiastical

Gnosticism assumed a variety of forms, and almost every one of its
teachers had his own distinctive creed; but, as a system, it was always
known by certain remarkable features. It uniformly ignored the doctrine
that God made all things out of nothing; [430:2] and, taking for granted
the eternity of matter, it tried to account, on philosophical
principles, for the moral and spiritual phenomena of the world which we
inhabit. The _Gnosis_, [430:3] or knowledge, which it supplied, and from
which it derived its designation, was a strange congeries of wild
speculations. The Scriptures describe the Most High as humbling Himself
to behold the things that are on earth, [431:1] as exercising a constant
providence over all His creatures, as decking the lilies of the valley,
and as numbering the very hairs of our heads; but Gnosticism exhibited
the 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 solve
the problem of the origin of evil, [431:2] and to trace the connexion
between the finite and the infinite, was not without ingenuity. They
maintained that a series of Aeons, or divine beings, emanated from the
Primal Essence; but, as sound issuing from a given point gradually
becomes fainter until it is finally lost in silence, each generation of
Aeons, as it receded from the great Fountain of Spiritual Existence,
lost somewhat of the vigour of divinity; and at length an Aeon was
produced without power sufficient to maintain its place in the Pleroma,
or habitation of the Godhead. This scheme of a series of Aeons of
gradually decreasing excellence was apparently designed to shew how,
from an Almighty and Perfect Intelligence, a weak and erring being might
be generated. There were Gnostics who carried the principle of
attenuation so far as to teach that the inhabitants of the celestial
world were distributed into no less than three hundred and sixty-five
heavens, [431:3] each somewhat inferior to the other. According to some
of these systems, an Aeon removed by many emanations from the source of
Deity, 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 the
materials already in existence, fashioned the present world. The human
race, ushered, under such circumstances, upon the stage of time, are
ignorant of the true God, and in bondage to corrupt matter. But all men
are not in a state of equal degradation. Some possess a spiritual
nature; some, a physical or animal nature; and some, only a corporeal or
carnal nature. Jesus now appeared, and, at His baptism in the Jordan,
Christ, a powerful Aeon, joined Him, that He might be fitted for
redeeming souls from the ignorance and slavery in which they are
entangled. This Saviour taught the human family the knowledge of the
true God. Jesus was seized and led to crucifixion, and the Aeon Christ
now departed from Him; but, as His body was composed of the finest
ethereal elements, and was, in fact, a phantom, He did not really suffer
on the accursed tree. Many of the Gnostics taught that there are two
spheres of future enjoyment. They held that, whilst the spiritual
natures shall be restored to the Pleroma, the physical or animal natures
shall be admitted to an inferior state of happiness; and that such souls
as are found to be incapable of purification shall be consigned to
perdition or annihilation.

Whilst, according to all the Gnostics, the Demiurge, or maker of this
world, is far inferior to the Supreme Deity, these system-builders were
by no means agreed as to his position and his functions. Some of them
regarded him as an Aeon of inferior intelligence who acted in obedience
to the will of the Great God; others conceived that he was no other than
the God of the Jews, who, in their estimation, was a Being of somewhat
rugged and intractable character; whilst others contended that he was an
Evil Power at open war with the righteous Sovereign of the universe. The
Gnostics also differed in their views respecting matter. Those of them
who were Egyptians, and who had been addicted to the study of the
Platonic philosophy, held matter to be inert until impregnated with
life; but the Syrians, who borrowed much from the Oriental theology,
taught that it was eternally subject to a Lord, or Ruler, who had been
perpetually at variance with the Great God of the Pleroma.

Two of the most distinguished Gnostic teachers who flourished in the
early part of the second century were Saturninus of Antioch and
Basilides 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 are
fifteen male and fifteen female Aeons, whom he professed to distinguish
by their names; and he even proceeded to point out how they are
distributed into married pairs. Some have supposed that certain deep
philosophical truths were here concealed by him under the veil of
allegory. As he, like others of the same class, conveyed parts of his
Gnosis only into the ears of the initiated, it may be that the
explanation of its symbols was reserved for those who were thus made
acquainted with its secret wisdom. It has been alleged that he
personified the attributes of God, and that the Aeons, whom he names and
joins together, are simply those divine perfections which, when
combined, are fitted to produce the most remarkable results. Thus, he
associated _Profundity_ and _Thought, Intelligence_ and _Truth_,
_Reason_ and _Life_. [433:2] His system seems to have had many
attractions for his age, as his disciples, in considerable numbers, were
soon to be found both in the East and in the West.

When Valentine was at Rome, Marcion, another heresiarch of the same
class, was also in the great metropolis. [433:3] This man is said to
have been born in Pontus, and though some of the fathers have attempted
to fix a stain upon his early reputation, his subsequent character seems
to have been irreproachable. [434:1] There is reason to think that he
was one of the most upright and amiable of the Gnostics. These errorists
were charged by their orthodox antagonists with gross immorality; and
there was often, perhaps, too much ground for the accusation; for some
of them, such as Carpocrates, [434:2] avowed and encouraged the most
shameless licentiousness; but others, such as Marcion, were noted for
their ascetic strictness. All the more respectable Gnostics appear to
have recommended themselves to public confidence by the austerity of
their discipline. They enjoined rigorous fasting, and inculcated
abstinence 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 favourable
position for gaining the public ear when they came forward as
theological instructors.

Gnosticism may appear to us a most fantastic system; but, in the second
century, 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 of
the elements of popularity. Its doctrine of Aeons, or Divine Emanations,
was quite in accordance with theories which had then gained extensive
currency; and its account of the formation of the present world was
countenanced by established modes of thinking. Many who cherished a
hereditary prejudice against Judaism were gratified by the announcement
that the Demiurge was no other than the God of the Israelites; and many
more were flattered by the statement that some souls are essentially
purer and better than others. [435:1] The age was sunk in sensuality;
and, as it was the great boast of the heresiarchs that their _Gnosis_
secured freedom from the dominion of the flesh, multitudes, who secretly
sighed for deliverance, were thus induced to test its efficacy. But
Gnosticism, in whatever form it presented itself, was a miserable
perversion of the gospel. Some of its teachers entirely rejected the Old
Testament; others reduced its history to a myth; whilst all mutilated
and misinterpreted the writings of the apostles and evangelists. Like
the Jewish Cabbalists, who made void the law of God by expositions which
fancy suggested and tradition embalmed, the Gnostics by their
far-fetched and unnatural comments, threw an air of obscurity over the
plainest passages of the New Testament. Some of them, aware that they
could derive no support from the inspired records, actually fabricated
Gospels, and affixed to them the names of apostles or evangelists, in
the hope of thus obtaining credit for the spurious documents. [435:2]
Whilst Gnosticism in this way set aside the authority of the Word of
God, it also lowered the dignity of the Saviour; and even when Christ
was most favourably represented by it, He was but an Aeon removed at the
distance of several intermediate generations from the Supreme Ruler of
the universe. The propagators of this system altogether misconceived the
scope of the gospel dispensation. They substituted salvation by carnal
ordinances for salvation by faith; they represented man in his natural
state rather as an ignoramus than a sinner; and, whilst they absurdly
magnified their own Gnosis, they entirely discarded the doctrine of a
vicarious atonement.

Shortly after the middle of the second century the Church began to be
troubled by a heresy in some respects very different from Gnosticism. At
that time the persecuting spirit displayed by Marcus Aurelius filled the
Christians throughout the Empire with alarm, and those of them who were
given 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 seems
to have possessed a rather mean capacity, his discipline was so suited
to the taste of many, and the predictions which he uttered so accorded
with prevailing apprehensions, that he soon created a deep impression.
When he first came forward in the character of a Divine Instructor he
had been recently converted to Christianity; and he seems to have
strangely misapprehended the nature of the gospel. When he delivered his
pretended communications from heaven, he is said to have wrought himself
up into a state of frenzied excitement. His countrymen, who had been
accustomed to witness the ecstasies of the priests of Bacchus and
Cybele, saw proofs of a divine impulse in his bodily contortions; and
some of them at once acknowledged his extraordinary mission. By means of
two wealthy female associates, named Priscilla and Maximilla, who also
professed to utter prophecies, Montanus was enabled rapidly to extend
his 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 creed
of the Church. He was neither a profound thinker nor a logical reasoner;
and he certainly had not maturely studied the science of theology. But
he possessed an ardent temperament, and he seems to have mistaken the
suggestions of his own fanaticism for the dictates of inspiration. The
doctrine of the personal reign of Christ during the millennium appears
to have formed a prominent topic in his ministrations. [437:1] He
maintained that the discipline of the Church had been left incomplete by
the apostles, and that he was empowered to supply a better code of
regulations. According to some he proclaimed himself the _Paraclete_;
but, if so, he most grievously belied his assumed name, for his system
was far better fitted to induce despondency than to inspire comfort. All
his precepts were conceived in the sour and contracted spirit of mere
ritualism. He insisted upon long fasts; he condemned second marriages;
[437:2] he inveighed against all who endeavoured to save themselves by
flight in times of persecution; and he asserted that such as had once
been guilty of any heinous transgression should never again be admitted
to ecclesiastical fellowship. Whilst he promulgated this stern
discipline, he at the same time delivered the most dismal predictions,
announcing, among other things, the speedy catastrophe of the Roman
Empire. He also gave out that the Phrygian village where he ministered
was to become the New Jerusalem of renovated Christianity.

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

About a century after the appearance of Montanus, another individual, in
a 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 may
trace its existence, for there is a most significant allusion to it in
one of his prophecies, in which Jehovah is represented as saying--"I am
the Lord, and there is _none else_, there is no God beside me.... _I
form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil:_ I
the Lord do all these things." [438:3] About the fifth century before
Christ, the Persian theology had been reformed by Zoroaster, and the
subordination of the two Principles to one God, the author of both, had
been acknowledged as an article of the established creed. In the early
part of the third century of the Christian era, there was a struggle
between the adherents of the old and the new faith of Parsism; and the
supporters of the views of Zoroaster had been again successful. But a
considerable party still refused to relinquish the doctrine of the
independence of the two Principles; and some of these probably joined
themselves to Mani, a Persian by birth, who, in the latter half of the
third century, became distinguished as the propagator of a species of
mongrel Christianity. This man, who was born about A.D. 240, possessed
genius of a high order. Though he finished his career when he was only
thirty-seven years of age, he had already risen to eminence among his
countrymen, 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. Like
Montanus, he laid claim to a divine commission, and alleged that he was
the Paraclete who was promised to guide into all truth. He maintained
that 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 the
world around us--"Over the kingdom of light," said this heresiarch,
"ruled God the Father, eternal in His sacred race, glorious in His
might, the truth by His very essence.... But the Father himself,
glorious in His majesty; incomprehensible in His greatness, has united
with Himself blessed and glorious Aeons, in number and greatness
surpassing estimation." [439:1] He taught that Christ appeared to
liberate the light from the darkness, and that he himself was now
deputed to reveal the mysteries of the universe, and to assist men in
recovering their freedom. He rejected a great portion of the canon of
Scripture, and substituted certain writings of his own, which his
followers were to receive as of divine authority. His disciples, called
Manichees or Manichaeans, assumed the name of a _Church_, and were
divided into two classes, the _Elect_ and the _Hearers_. The Elect,
who were comparatively few, were the sacred order. They alone were made
acquainted 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 even
wound, an animal; neither were they to pull up a vegetable, or pluck a
flower. The Hearers were permitted to share in the business and
pleasures of the world, but they were taught only the elements of the
system. After death, according to Mani, souls do not pass immediately
into the world of light. They must first undergo a two-fold
purification; one, by _water_ in the moon; another, by _fire_
in 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 a
cruel and ignominious death. But the sect which he had organized did not
die along with him. His system was well fitted to please the Oriental
fancy; its promise of a higher wisdom to those who obtained admission
into the class of the Elect encouraged the credulity of the auditors;
and, to such as had not carefully studied the Christian revelation, its
hypothesis of a Good and of an Evil Deity accounted rather plausibly for
the mingled good and evil of our present existence. The Manichaeans were
exposed to much suffering in the country where they first appeared; and,
as a sect of Persian origin, they were oppressed by the Roman
government; but they were not extinguished by persecution, and, far down
in the middle ages, they still occasionally figure in the drama of

Synods and councils may pass resolutions condemnatory of false doctrine,
but it is somewhat more difficult to counteract the seduction of the
principles from which heresies derive their influence. The Gnostics, the
Montanists, and the Manichaeans, owed much of their strength to
fallacies and superstitions with which the Christian teachers of the age
were not fully prepared to grapple; and hence it was that, whilst the
errorists themselves were denounced by ecclesiastical authority, a large
portion of their peculiar leaven found its way into the Church, and
gradually produced an immense change in its doctrine and discipline. A
notice of the more important of the false sentiments and dangerous
practices which the heretics propagated and the catholics adopted, may
enable us to estimate the amount of the damage which the cause of truth
now sustained.

The Montanists recognised the distinction of _venial_ and _mortal_ sins.
They held that a professed disciple, who was guilty of what they called
mortal sin, should never again be admitted to sealing ordinances.
[441:1] It is apparent from the writings of Hippolytus, the famous
bishop of Portus, that, in the early part of the third century, some of
the most influential of the catholics cordially supported this
principle. Soon afterwards it was openly advocated by a powerful party
in the Church of Borne, and its rejection by Cornelius, then at the head
of that community, led to the schism of Novatian. But the distinction of
venial and mortal sins, upon which it proceeded, was even now generally
acknowledged. This distinction, which lies at the basis of the ancient
penitential discipline, was already beginning to vitiate the whole
catholic theology. Some sins, it is true, are more heinous than others,
but the comparative turpitude of transgressions depends much on the
circumstances in which they are committed. The wages of every sin is
death, [441:2] and it is absurd to attempt to give a stereotyped
character to any one violation of God's law by classing it, in regard to
the extent of its guilt, in a particular category. Christianity regards
sin, in whatever form, as a spiritual poison; and instead of seeking to
solve the curious problem--how much of it may exist in the soul without
the destruction of spiritual life?--it wisely instructs us to guard
against it in our very thoughts, and to abstain from even the
"appearance of evil." [442:1] "When lust," or indwelling depravity of
any description, "has conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it
is finished, bringeth forth death." [442:2] Experience has demonstrated
that the admission of the distinction of venial and mortal sins is most
perilous to the best interests of the Christian community; for, whilst
it is without foundation in the inspired statutebook, it must inevitably
lead to the neglect or careless performance of many duties which the
Most High has solemnly enjoined.

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

The Gnostics, with some exceptions, insisted greatly on the
mortification of the body; and the same species of discipline was
strenuously recommended by the Montanists and the Manichaeans. All these
heretics believed that the largest measure of future happiness was to be
realised by those who practised the most rigid asceticism. Mani admitted
that an individual without any extraordinary amount of self-denial,
might reach the world of Light, for he held out the hope of heaven to
his Hearers; but he taught that its highest distinctions were reserved
for the Elect, who scrupulously refrained from bodily indulgence. The
Church silently adopted the same principle; and the distinction between
_precepts_ and _counsels_, which was soon introduced into its theology,
rests upon this foundation. By precepts are understood those duties
which are obligatory upon all; by counsels, those acts, whether of
charity or abstinence, which are expected from such only as aim at
superior sanctity. [443:1] The Elect of the Manichaeans, as well as many
of the Gnostics, [443:2] declined to enter into wedlock, and the
Montanists were disposed to confer double honour on the single clergy.
[443:3] The Church did not long stand out against the fascinations of
this popular delusion. Her members almost universally caught up the
impression that marriage stands in the way of the cultivation of piety;
and bishops and presbyters, who lived in celibacy, began to be regarded
as more holy than their brethren. This feeling continued to gain
strength; and from it sprung that vast system of monasticism which
spread throughout Christendom, with such amazing rapidity, in the fourth

It thus appears that asceticism and clerical celibacy have been grafted
on Christianity by Paganism. Hundreds of years before the New Testament
was 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 the
Manichaeans were all celibates. Meanwhile marriage was permitted to the
clergy of the catholic Church. Well might the apostle exhort the
disciples to beware of those ordinances which have "_a shew of wisdom_
in will-worship, and humility, and _neglecting of the body_," [444:1] as
the austerities of the cloister are miserable preparatives for the
enjoyments of a world of purity and love. Christianity exhibited
startling tokens of degeneracy when it attempted to nourish piety upon
the spawn of the heathen superstitions. The gospel is designed for
social 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 whilst
celibacy and protracted fasting may only generate misanthropy and
melancholy, faith, walking in the ways of obedience, can purify the
heart, and induce the peace that passeth all understanding.



For some time after the apostolic age, the doctrine of the Church
remained unchanged. Those who had been taught the gospel by the lips of
its inspired heralds could not have been readily induced to relinquish
any of its distinctive principles. It must, indeed, be admitted that the
purity of the evangelical creed was soon deteriorated by the admixture
of dogmas suggested by bigotry and superstition; but, it may safely be
asserted that, throughout the whole of the period now before us, its
elementary articles were substantially maintained by almost all the
Churches of the Empire.

Though there was still a pretty general agreement respecting the
cardinal points of Christianity, it is not to be thought strange that
the early writers occasionally expressed themselves in a way which would
now be considered loose or inaccurate. Errorists, by the controversies
they awakened, not unfrequently created much perplexity and confusion;
but, in general, the truth eventually issued from discussion with
renovated credit; for, in due time, acute and able advocates came
forward to prove that the articles assailed rested on an impregnable
foundation. During these debates it was found necessary to distinguish
the different shades of doctrine by the establishment of a fixed
terminology. The disputants were obliged to define with precision the
expressions they employed; and thus various forms of speech ceased to
have an equivocal meaning. But, in the second or third century, theology
had not assumed a scientific form; and the language of orthodoxy was, as
yet, unsettled. Hence, when treating of doctrinal questions, those whose
views were substantially correct sometimes gave their sanction to the
use of phrases which were afterwards condemned as the symbols of
heterodoxy. [446:1]

About the beginning of the third century all adults who were admitted to
baptism were required to make a declaration of their faith by assenting
to some such formula as that now called "The Apostles' Creed;" [446:2]
and though no general council had yet been held, the chief pastors of
the largest and most influential Churches maintained, by letters, an
official correspondence, and were in this way well acquainted with each
other's sentiments. A considerable number of these epistles, or at least
of extracts from them, are still extant; [446:3] and there is thus
abundant 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 commonly

Before entering directly on this review, it is proper to mention that
the Holy Scriptures were held in the highest estimation. The reading of
them aloud formed part of the stated service of the congregations, and
one or other of the passages brought, at the time, under the notice of
the auditory, usually constituted the groundwork of the preacher's
discourse. Their perusal was recommended to the laity; [447:1] the
husband and wife talked of them familiarly as they sat by the domestic
hearth; [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 of
manuscripts was considerable, copies of the sacred books were not in the
hands of all; but their frequent rehearsal in the public assemblies made
the multitude familiar with their contents, and some of the brethren
possessed an amount of acquaintance with these records which, even at
the present day, would be deemed most extraordinary. Eusebius speaks of
several individuals who could repeat, at will, any required passage from
either the Old or New Testament. On a certain occasion the historian
happened to be present when one of these walking concordances poured
forth the stores of his prodigious memory. "I was struck with
admiration," says he, "when I first beheld him standing amidst a large
crowd, and reciting certain portions of Holy Writ. As long as I could
only hear his voice, I supposed that he was reading, as is usual in the
congregations; but, when I came close up to him, I discovered that,
employing only the eyes of his mind, he uttered the divine oracles like
some prophet." [447:4]

It was not extraordinary that the early Christians were anxious to
treasure up Scripture in the memory, for in all matters of faith and
practice the Written Word was regarded as the standard of ultimate
appeal. No human authority whatever was deemed equal to the award of
this divine arbiter. "They who are labouring after excellency," says a
father of this period, "will not stop in their search after truth,
_until they have obtained proof of that which they believe from the
Scriptures themselves_." [448:1] Nor was there any dispute as to the
amount of confidence to be placed in the language of the Bible. The
doctrine of its plenary inspiration--a doctrine which many in modern
times either openly or virtually deny--was now received without
abatement or hesitation. Even Origen, who takes such liberties when
interpreting the sacred text, admits most fully that it is all of divine
dictation. "I believe," says he, "that, for those who know how to draw
virtue from the Scriptures, _every letter in the oracles of God has its
end and its work_, even to an iota and particle of a letter. And, as
among plants, there is not one but has its peculiar virtue, and as they
only who have a knowledge of botanical science can tell how each should
be prepared and applied to a useful purpose; so it is that he who is a
holy and spiritual botanist of the Word of God, by gathering up each
atom and element will find the virtue of that Word, and acknowledge that
there is nothing in all that is written that is superfluous." [448:3]

It has been already stated [448:3] that little difference of sentiment
existed in the early Church respecting the books to be included in the
canon of the New Testament. All, with the exception of the Gnostics and
some other heretics, recognized the claims of the four Gospels, [448:4]
of the Acts of the Apostles, of the Epistles of Paul, of the First
Epistle of Peter, and of the First Epistle of John. Though, for a time,
some Churches hesitated to acknowledge the remaining epistles, their
doubts seem to have been gradually dissipated. At first the genuineness
of the Apocalypse was undisputed; but, after the rise of the Montanists,
who were continually quoting it in proof of their theory of a
millennium, some of their antagonists foolishly questioned its
authority. At an early period two or three tracts [449:1] written by
uninspired men were received as Scripture by a number of Churches. They
were never, however, generally acknowledged; and at length, by common
consent, 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 much
encouragement within the pale of the Church. Hence the pious frauds
which were now perpetrated. Various works made their appearance with the
name of some apostolic man appended to them, [449:4] their fabricators
thus hoping to give currency to opinions or to practices which might
otherwise have encountered much opposition. At the same time many
evinced a disposition to supplement the silence of the Written Word by
the aid of tradition. But though the writers of the period sometimes lay
undue stress upon the evidence of this vague witness, they often resort
to it merely as an offset against statements professedly derived from
the same source which were brought forward by the heretics; and they
invariably admit that the authority of Scripture is entitled to override
the authority of tradition. "The Lord in the Gospel, reproving and
rebuking, declares," says Cyprian, "ye reject the commandment of God
that ye may keep your own tradition. [450:1] .... Custom should, not be
an obstacle that the truth prevail not and overcome, for a _custom
without truth is error inveterate_." [450:2] "What obstinacy is that, or
what presumption, to prefer human tradition to divine ordinances, and
not to perceive that God is displeased and provoked, as often as human
tradition relaxes and sets aside the divine command." [450:3] During
this period--the uncertainty of any other guide than the inspired record
was repeatedly demonstrated; for, though Christians were removed at so
short a distance from apostolic times, the traditions of one Church
sometimes diametrically contradicted those of another. [450:4]

There is certainly nothing like uniformity in the language employed by
the Christian writers of this era when treating of doctrinal subjects;
and yet their theology seems to have been essentially the same. All
apparently admit the corruption of human nature. Justin Martyr speaks of
a "concupiscence in every man, evil in all its tendencies, and various
in its nature," [450:5] whilst Tertullian mentions original sin under
the designation of "the vice of our origin." [450:6] Our first parent,
says he, "having been seduced into disobedience by Satan was delivered
over to death, and transmitted his condemnation to the whole human race
which was _infected from his seed_." [450:7] Though the ancient fathers
occasionally describe free will in terms which apparently ignore the
existence of indwelling depravity, [451:1] their language should not be
too strictly interpreted, as it only implies a strong protest against
the heathen doctrine of fate, and a recognition of the principle that
man is a voluntary agent. Thus it is that Clemens Alexandrinus, one of
the writers who asserts most decidedly the freedom of the will, admits
the 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 that
which it has, namely, a ready temper as its contribution to salvation.
For the Lord wishes that _the good which He confers on the soul_ should
be its own, since it is not without sensation, so that it should be
impelled like a body." [451:3]

No fact is more satisfactorily attested than that the early disciples
rendered divine honours to our Saviour. In the very beginning of the
second century, a heathen magistrate, who deemed it his duty to make
minute inquiries respecting them, reported to the Roman Emperor that, in
their 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 the
accusation was brought against them, they at once admitted its truth,
and they undertook to shew that the procedure for which they were
condemned was perfectly capable of vindication. [452:1] In the days of
Justin Martyr there were certain professing Christians, probably the
Ebionites, [452:2] who held the simple humanity of our Lord, but that
writer represents the great body of the disciples as entertaining very
different sentiments. "There are some of our race," says he, "who
confess that He was the Christ, but affirm that He was a man born of
human parents, with whom I do not agree, neither should I, even if very
many, who entertain the same opinion as myself, were to say so; since we
are commanded by Christ to attend, not to the doctrines of men, but to
that which was proclaimed by the blessed prophets, and taught by
Himself." [452:3]

When Justin here expresses his dissent from those who described our Lord
as "a man born of human parents," he obviously means no more than that
he is not a Humanitarian, for, in common with the early Church, he held
the doctrine of the two natures in Christ. The fathers who now
flourished, when touching upon the question of the union of humanity and
deity in the person of the Redeemer, do not, it is true, express
themselves always with as much precision as writers who appeared after
the Eutychian controversy in the fifth century; but they undoubtedly
believed that our Lord was both God and man. [453:1] Even already the
subject was pressed on their attention by various classes of errorists
who were labouring with much assiduity to disseminate their principles.
The Gnostics, who affirmed that the body of Jesus was a phantom, shut
them up to the necessity of shewing that He really possessed all the
attributes of a human being; whilst, in meeting objectors from a
different quarter, they were compelled to demonstrate that He was also
the Jehovah of the Old Testament. The Ebionites were not the only
sectaries who taught that Jesus was a mere man. The same doctrine was
inculcated by Theodotus, a native of Byzantium, who settled at Rome
about the end of the second century. This individual, though by trade a
tanner, possessed no small amount of learning, and created some
disturbance in the Church of the Western capital by the novelty and
boldness of his speculations. In the end he is said to have been
excommunicated by Victor, the Roman bishop. Some time afterwards, his
sentiments were adopted by Artemon, whose disciples, named Artemonites,
elected a bishop of their own, [453:2] and existed for some time at Rome
as a distinct community.

But by far the most distinguished of these ancient impugners of the
proper deity of the Messiah was the celebrated Paul of Samosata, who
flourished shortly after the middle of the third century. Paul occupied
the bishopric of Antioch, the second see in Christendom; and was
undoubtedly a man of superior talent. According to his views, the Divine
Logos is not a distinct Person, but the Reason of God; and Jesus was the
greatest of the sons of men simply because the Logos dwelt in Him after
a higher manner, or more abundantly, than in any other of the posterity
of Adam. [454:1] But though this prelate had great wealth, influence,
and eloquence, his heterodoxy soon raised a storm of opposition which he
could not withstand. The Christians of Antioch in the third century
could not quietly tolerate the ministrations of a preacher who
insinuated that the Word is not truly God. He appears to have possessed
consummate address, and when first arraigned, his plausible
equivocations and sophistries imposed upon his judges; but, at a
subsequent council, held about A.D. 269 in the metropolis of Syria, he
was so closely pressed by Malchion, one of his own presbyters, that he
was obliged reluctantly to acknowledge his real sentiments. He was, in
consequence, deposed from his office by a unanimous vote of the Synod. A
circular letter [454:2] announcing the decision was transmitted to the
leading pastors of the Church all over the Empire, and this
ecclesiastical deliverance seems to have received their universal
sanction. [454:3]

The theological term translated _Trinity_, [454:4] was in use as early
as the second century; for, about A.D. 180, it is employed by
Theophilus, who is supposed to have been one of the predecessors of Paul
of Samosata in the Church of Antioch. [454:5] Speaking of the formation
of the heavenly bodies on the fourth day of creation, as described in
the first chapter of Genesis, this writer observes--"The three days
which preceded the luminaries are _types of the Trinity_, [454:6] of
God, and His Word, and His Wisdom." Here, as elsewhere in the works of
the fathers of the early Church, the third person of the Godhead is
named under the designation of Wisdom. [455:1] Though this is the first
mention of the word Trinity to be found in any ecclesiastical document
now extant, it is plain that the doctrine is of far higher antiquity.
Justin Martyr repeatedly refers to it, and Athenagoras, who flourished
in the reign of Marcus Aurelius, treats of it with much clearness. "We
speak," says he, "of the Father as God, and the Son as God, and the Holy
Ghost, shewing at the same time their power in unity, and their
distinction in order." [455:2] "We who look upon this present life as
worth little or nothing, and are conducted through it by the sole
principle of knowing God and the Word proceeding from Him, of knowing
what is the unity of the Son with the Father, what the Father
communicates to the Son, what is the Spirit, _what is the union of this
number of Persons_, the Spirit, the Son, and the Father, and in what way
they who are united are divided--shall we not have credit given us for
being worshippers of God?" [455:3]

The attempts made in the latter half of the second century to pervert
the doctrine of Scripture relative to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
probably led to the appearance of the word Trinity in the ecclesiastical
nomenclature; for, when controversy commenced, some such symbol was
required to prevent the necessity of constant and tedious
circumlocution. One of the most noted of the parties dissatisfied with
the ordinary mode of speaking respecting the Three Divine Persons, and
desirous of changing the current creed, was Praxeas, a native of Asia
Minor. After having acquired much credit by his fortitude and courage in
a time of persecution, he had also signalised himself by his zeal
against the Montanists. He now taught that the Son and Holy Ghost are
not distinct Persons, but simply modes or energies of the Father; and as
those who adopted his sentiments imagined that they thus held more
strictly than others the doctrine of the existence of a single Ruler of
the universe, they styled themselves _Monarchians_. [456:1] According to
their views the first and second Persons of the Godhead are identical;
and, as it apparently followed from this theory, that the Father
suffered on the cross, they received the name of _Patripassians_.
[456:2] Praxeas travelled from Asia Minor to Rome, and afterwards passed
over into Africa, where he was strenuously opposed by the famous
Tertullian. Another individual, named Noetus, attracted some notice
about the close of the second century by the peculiarity of his
speculations in reference to the Godhead. "Noetus," says a contemporary,
"calls the same both Son and Father, for he speaks thus--'When the
Father had not been born, He was rightly called Father, but when it
pleased Him to undergo birth, then by birth He became the Son of
Himself, and not of another.' Thus he professes to establish the
principle of Monarchianism." [456:3] But, perhaps, the attempts of
Sabellius to modify the established doctrine made the deepest
impression. This man, who was an ecclesiastic connected with Ptolemais
in Africa, [456:4] maintained that there is no foundation for the
ordinary distinction of the Persons of the Trinity, and that the terms
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, merely indicate different manifestations
of the Supreme Being, or different phases under which the one God
reveals Himself. From him the doctrine of those who confound the Persons
of the Godhead still bears the name of Sabellianism.

It has been sometimes said that the Church borrowed its idea of a
Trinity from Plato, but this assertion rests upon no historical basis.
Learned men have found it exceedingly difficult to give anything like an
intelligible account of the Trinity of the Athenian philosopher, [457:1]
and it seems to have had only a metaphysical existence. It certainly had
nothing more than a fanciful and verbal resemblance to the Trinity of
Christianity. Had the doctrine of the Church been derived from the
writings of the Grecian sage, it would not have been inculcated with so
much zeal and unanimity by the early fathers. Some of them were bitterly
opposed to Platonism, and yet, though none denounced it more vehemently
than Tertullian, [457:2] we cannot point to any one of them who speaks
of the Three Divine Persons more clearly or copiously. The heretic
thinks, says he, "that we cannot believe in one God in any other way
than if we say that the very same Person is Father, Son, and Holy
Ghost.... These persons assume the number and arrangement of the Trinity
to be a division of the Unity; whereas the Unity, which derives a
Trinity from itself, is not destroyed by it, but has its different
offices performed. They, therefore, boast that two and three Gods are
preached by us, but that they themselves are worshippers of one God; as
if the Unity, when improperly contracted, did not create heresy, and a
Trinity, when properly considered, did not constitute truth." [457:3]

Every one at all acquainted with the ecclesiastical literature of this
period must acknowledge that the disciples now firmly maintained the
doctrine of the Atonement. The Gnostics and the Manichaeans discarded
this article from their systems, as it was entirely foreign to the
spirit of their philosophy; but, though the Church teachers enter into
scarcely any explanation of it, by attempting to shew how the violated
law required a propitiation, they proclaim it as a glorious truth which
should inspire all the children of God with joy and confidence. Clemens
Alexandrinus gives utterance only to the common faith when he
declares--"Christians are redeemed from corruption by the blood of the
Lord." "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 also
mention faith as the means by which we are to appropriate the benefits
of the Redeemer's sacrifice. Thus, Justin Martyr represents Christ as
"purifying by His blood those who believe on Him." [458:2] Clemens
Alexandrinus, in like manner, speaks of "the one mode of salvation by
faith in God," [458:3] and says that "we have believed in God through
the _voice of the Word_." [458:4] In the "Letter to Diognetus" the
doctrine of justification by faith through the imputed righteousness of
the Saviour is beautifully exhibited. "For what else," says the writer,
"could cover our sins but His righteousness? In whom was it a possible
that we, the lawless and the unholy, could be justified, save by the Son
of God alone? Oh sweet exchange! oh unsearchable wisdom! oh unexpected
benefits! that the sin of many should be hidden by One righteous, and
the righteousness of One justify many sinners." [458:5]

The Church of the second and third centuries was not agitated by any
controversies relative to grace and predestination. Few, probably, were
disposed to indulge in speculations on these subjects; and some of the
ecclesiastical writers, in the heat of controversial discussion, are
occasionally tempted to make use of language which it would be difficult
to 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 in
especial need of divine grace, and right instruction, and pure
affection," says Clemens Alexandrinus, "and _we require that the Father
should draw us towards himself_." "God, who knows the future as if it
was already present, _knows the elect according to His purpose_ even
before the creation." [459:1] "Your power to do," says Cyprian, "will be
according to the increase of spiritual grace.... What measure we bring
thither 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 those
writers, who speak most decidedly of the freedom of the will, also most
distinctly proclaim their faith in the perfection of the Divine
Sovereignty. Thus, Justin Martyr urges, as a decisive proof of the
impious character of their theology, that the heathen philosophers
repudiated the doctrine of a particular providence; [459:3] and all the
ancient fathers are ever ready to recognise the superintending
guardianship of God in the common affairs of life.

But though the creed of the Church was still to some extent
substantially sound, it must be admitted that it was already beginning
to suffer much from adulteration. One hundred years after the death of
the Apostle John, spiritual darkness was fast settling down upon the
Christian community; and the fathers, who flourished towards the
commencement of the third century, frequently employ language for which
they would have been sternly rebuked, had they lived in the days of the
apostles and evangelists. Thus, we find them speaking of "sins
_cleansed_ by repentance," [460:1] and of repentance as "_the price_
at which the Lord has determined to grant forgiveness." [460:2] We read
of "_sins cleansed_ by alms and faith," [460:3] and of the martyr, by
his sufferings, "washing away his own iniquities." [460:4] We are told
that by baptism "we are cleansed from all our sins," and "regain that
Spirit of God which Adam received at his creation and lost by his
transgression." [460:5] "The pertinacious wickedness of the Devil," says
Cyprian, "has power _up to the saving water_, but in baptism he loses
all the poison of his wickedness." [460:6] The same writer insists upon
the necessity of _penance_, a species of discipline unknown to the
apostolic Church, and denounces, with terrible severity, those who
discouraged its performance. "By the deceitfulness of their lies," says
he, they interfere, "that _satisfaction_ be not given to God in His
anger..... All pains are taken that _sins be not expiated by due
satisfactions and lamentations,_ that wounds be not washed clean by
tears." [460:7] It may be said that some of these expressions are
rhetorical, and that those by whom they were employed did not mean to
deny the all-sufficiency of the Great Sacrifice; but had these fathers
clearly apprehended the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ,
they would have recoiled from the use of language so exceedingly

There are many who imagine that, had they lived in the days of
Tertullian or of Origen, they would have enjoyed spiritual advantages
far higher than any to which they have now access. But a more minute
acquaintance with the ecclesiastical history of the third century might
convince them that they have no reason to complain of their present
privileges. The amount of material light which surrounds us does not
depend on our proximity to the sun. When our planet is most remote from
its great luminary, we may bask in the splendour of his effulgence; and,
when it approaches nearer, we may be involved in thick darkness. So it
is with the Church. The amount of our religious knowledge does not
depend on our proximity to the days of primitive Christianity. The Bible
is the sun of the spiritual firmament; and this divine illuminator, like
the glorious orb of day, pours forth its light with equal brilliancy
from generation to generation. The Church may retire into "chambers of
imagery" erected by her own folly; and there, with the light shut out
from her, may sink into a slumber disturbed only, now and then, by some
dream of superstition; or, with the light still shining on her, her eye
may be dim or disordered, and she may stumble at noonday. But the light
is as pure as in the days of the apostles; and, if we have eyes to
profit by it, we may "understand more than the ancients." The art of
printing has supplied us with facilities for the study of the Scriptures
which were denied to the fathers of the second century; and the
ecclesiastical documents, relative to that age, which have been
transmitted to us from antiquity, contain, perhaps, the greater part of
even the traditionary information which was preserved in the Church. If
we are only "taught of God," we are in as good a position for acquiring
a correct acquaintance with the way of salvation as was Polycarp or
Justin Martyr. What an encouragement for every one to pray--"Open thou
mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. I am a
stranger in the earth: hide not thy commandments from me!" [461:11]





The religion of the primitive Christians must have appeared exceedingly
strange to their pagan contemporaries. The heathen worship was little
better than a solemn show. Its victims adorned with garlands, its
incense and music and lustral water, its priests arrayed in white robes,
and its marble temples with gilded roofs, were fitted, rather to
fascinate the senses, than to improve the heart or expand the intellect.
Even the Jewish ritual, in the days of its glory, must have had a
powerful effect on the imagination. As the Israelites assembled from all
quarters at their great festivals--as they poured in thousands and tens
of thousands into the courts of their ancient sanctuary--as they
surveyed the various parts of a structure which was one of the wonders
of the world--as they beheld the priests in their holy garments--and as
they gazed on the high priest himself, whose forehead glittered with
gold whilst his breastplate sparkled with precious stones--they must
have felt that they mingled in a scene of extraordinary splendour. But,
when Christianity made its appearance in the world, it presented none of
these attractions. Its adherents were stigmatized as atheists, [463:1]
because they had no altars, no temples, and no sacrifices. They held
their meetings in private dwellings; their ministers wore no peculiar
dress; and, by all who sought merely the gratification of the eye or of
the ear, the simple service in which they engaged must have been
considered very bald and uninteresting. But they rejoiced exceedingly in
its spiritual character, as they felt that they could thus draw near to
God, and hold sweet and refreshing communion with their Father in

It is probable that, during a considerable part of the second century,
the Christians had comparatively few buildings set apart for public
worship. At a time when they congregated to celebrate the rites of their
religion at night or before break of day, it is not to be supposed that
they were anxious to obtrude their conventicles on the notice of their
persecutors. But as they increased in numbers, and as the State became
somewhat more indulgent, they gradually acquired confidence; and, about
the beginning of the third century, the form of their ecclesiastical
structures seems to have been already familiar to the eyes of the
heathen. [463:2] Shortly after that period, their meeting-houses in Rome
were well known; and, in the reign of Alexander Severus, they ventured
to dispute with one of the city trades the possession of a piece of
ground on which they were desirous to erect a place of worship. [463:3]
When the case came for adjudication before the Imperial tribunal, the
sovereign decided in their favour, and thus virtually placed them under
the 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, were
superseded by edifices at once more capacious and more tasteful. The
Christians at this time began to emulate the magnificence of the heathen
temples, and even to ape their arrangements. Thus it is that some of our
churches at the present day are nearly fac-similes of the ancient
religious edifices of paganism. [464:1]

In addition to the administration of baptism and the Lord's Supper, the
worship of the early Church consisted of singing, prayer, reading the
Scriptures, and preaching. In the earliest notice of the Christians of
the second century which occurs in any pagan writer, their psalmody,
with which they commenced their religious services, [464:2] is
particularly mentioned; for, in his celebrated letter to the Emperor
Trajan, Pliny states that they met together, before the rising of the
sun, to "sing hymns to Christ as to a God." It is highly probable that
the "hymns" here spoken of were the Psalms of the Old Testament. Many of
these inspired effusions celebrate the glories of Immanuel, and as, for
obvious reasons, the Messianic Psalms would be used more frequently than
any others, it is not strange that the disciples are represented as
assembling to sing praise to Christ. But it would appear that the Church
at this time was not confined to the ancient Psalter. Hymns of human
composition were occasionally employed; [464:3] and one of these, to be
found in the writings of Clement of Alexandria, [464:4] was, perhaps,
sung in the early part of the third century by the Christians of the
Egyptian capital. Influential bishops sometimes introduced them by their
own authority, but the practice was regarded with suspicion, and seems
to have been considered irregular. Hence Paul of Samosata, in the
Council of Antioch held A.D. 269, was blamed for discontinuing the
Psalms formerly used, and for establishing a new and very exceptionable
hymnology. [465:1]

In the church, as well as in the synagogue, the whole congregation
joined in the singing; [465:2] but instrumental music was never brought
into requisition. The early Christians believed that the organs of the
human voice are the most appropriate vehicles for giving utterance to
the feelings of devotion; and viewing the lute and the harp as the
carnal ordinances of a superannuated dispensation, they rejected their
aid in the service of the sanctuary. Long after this period one of the
most eminent of the ancient fathers describes the music of the flutes,
sackbuts, and psalteries of the temple worship as only befitting the
childhood of the Church. "It was," says he, "permitted to the Jews, as
sacrifice was, for the heaviness and grossness of their souls. God
condescended to their weakness, because they were lately drawn off from
idols; but now, instead of instruments, we may use our own bodies to
praise Him withal." [465:3]

The account of the worship of the Church, given by a Christian writer
who flourished about the middle of the second century, is exceedingly
instructive. "On the day which is called Sunday," says Justin Martyr,
"there is a meeting together in one place of all who dwell either in
towns or in the country; and the memoirs of the apostles, or the
writings of the prophets are read, as long as the time permits. When the
reading ceases, the president delivers a discourse, in which he makes an
application and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. We then
rise all together and pray. Then ... when we cease from prayer, bread is
brought, and wine and water; and the president, in like manner, offers
up prayers and thanksgivings according to his ability; [466:1] and the
people express their assent by saying Amen." [466:2] It is abundantly
clear from this statement that the presiding minister was not restricted
to any set form of supplication. As he prayed "according to his
ability," his petitions could neither have been dictated by others nor
taken from a liturgy. Such a practice as the _reading_ of prayers seems,
indeed, to have been totally unknown in the Church during the first
three centuries. Hence Tertullian represents the Christians of his
generation as praying "_looking up_ with hands spread open, ... and
_without a prompter_ because from the heart." [466:3] In his "Treatise
on Prayer" Origen recommends the worshipper to address God with
stretched out hands and uplifted eyes. [466:4] The erect body with the
arms extended was supposed to represent the cross, [466:5] and therefore
this attitude was deemed peculiarly appropriate for devotion. [466:6] On
the 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 to
their ancient liturgies; [467:2] but the Church did not yet require the
aid of such auxiliaries. It is remarkable that, though in the account of
the losses sustained during the Diocletian persecution, we read
frequently of the seizure of the Scriptures, and of the ecclesiastical
utensils, we never meet with any allusion to the spoliation of
prayer-books. [467:3] There is, in fact, no evidence whatever that such
helps to devotion were yet in existence. [467:4]

The worship was now conducted in a dialect which was understood by the
congregation; and though the officiating minister was at perfect liberty
to select his phraseology, it is probable that he did not think it
necessary to aim at great variety in the mere language of his devotional
exercises. So long as a petition was deemed suitable, it perhaps
continued to be repeated in nearly the same words, whilst providential
interpositions, impending persecutions, and the personal condition of
the flock, would be continually suggesting some fresh topics for
thanksgiving, supplication, and confession. The beautiful and
comprehensive prayer taught by our Lord to His disciples was never
considered out of place; and, as early as the third century, it was, at
least in some districts, used once at every meeting of the faithful.
[468:1] The apostle had taught the brethren that intercessions should be
made "for kings and for all that are in authority," [468:2] and the
primitive disciples did not neglect to commend their earthly rulers to
the care of the Sovereign of the universe. [468:3] But still it is clear
that even such petitions did not run in the channel of any prescribed

From the very days of the apostles the reading of the Scriptures
constituted an important part of public worship. This portion of the
service was, at first perhaps, conducted by one of the elders, but, in
some places, towards the close of the second century, it was committed
to a new official, called the Reader. [468:4] The presiding minister
seems to have been permitted originally to choose whatever passages he
considered most fitting for the occasion, as well as to determine the
amount 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 to
confine himself to the Scriptures pointed out in his calendar. [468:5]
This arrangement, which was obviously designed to secure a more uniform
attention to the several parts of the inspired canon, came only
gradually into general operation; and it frequently happened that the
order of lessons for one church was very different from that used in
another. [468:6]

Whilst the constant reading, in the vernacular tongue, of considerable
portions of Scripture at public worship, promoted the religious
instruction of the people, the mode of preaching which now prevailed
contributed to make them still more intimately acquainted with the
sacred records. The custom of selecting a text as the basis of a
discourse had not yet been introduced; but, when the reading closed, the
minister proceeded to expatiate on that section of the Word which had
just been brought under the notice of the congregation, and pointed out,
as well the doctrines which it recognised, as the practical lessons
which it inculcated. The entire presbytery was usually present in the
congregation every Lord's day, and when one or other of the elders had
made a few comments, [469:1] the president added some remarks of an
expository and hortatory character; but, frequently, he received no
assistance in this part of the service. The method of reading and
elucidating Scripture, now pursued, was eminently salutary; for, whilst
it stored the memory with a large share of biblical knowledge, the whole
Word of God, in the way of earnest appeal, was brought into close
contact with the heart and conscience of each individual.

So long as pristine piety flourished, the people listened with devout
attention to the observations of the preacher; but, as a more secular
spirit prevailed, he began to be treated, rather as an orator, than a
herald from the King of kings. Before the end of the third century, the
house of prayer occasionally resounded with the plaudits of the theatre.
Such exhibitions were, indeed, condemned at the time by the
ecclesiastical authorities, but the very fact that in the principal
church of one of the chief cities of the Empire, the bishop, as he
proceeded with his sermon, was greeted with stamping of feet, clapping
of hands, and waving of handkerchiefs, [469:2] supplied melancholy
evidence of the progress of spiritual degeneracy. In the days of the
Apostle Paul such demonstrations would have been universally denounced
as unseemly and unseasonable.

During the first three centuries there was nothing in the ordinary
costume of a Christian minister to distinguish him from any of his
fellow-citizens; [470:1] but, it would appear, that when the pastor
officiated in the congregation, he began, at an early date, to wear some
peculiar piece of apparel. In an old document, purporting to have been
written shortly after the middle of the second century, he is described,
at the period of his advancement to the episcopal chair, as "clothed
with 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 the
dispensation of the, Lord's Supper; [470:3] and it is highly probable
that, about this time, some few decorations were assumed by those who
took part in its administration. But still the habit used by
ecclesiastics at divine service was distinguished by its comparative
simplicity, and differed very little from the dress commonly worn by the
mass of the population.

What a change must have passed over the Church from the period before us
to 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 sacred
edifice: [470:4] then, a church frequently suggested the idea of a
studio, or a picture-gallery. Now, the whole congregation joined
heartily in the psalmody: then, the mute crowd listened to the music of
the organ accompanied by the shrill voices of a chorus of thoughtless
boys. Now, prayers, in the vernacular tongue and suited to the occasion,
were offered with simplicity and earnestness; then, petitions, long
since antiquated, were muttered in a dead language. Now, the Word was
read and expounded in a way intelligible to all: then, a few Latin
extracts from it were mumbled over hastily; and, if a sermon followed,
it was, perhaps, a eulogy on some wretched fanatic, or an attack on some
true evangelist. There are writers who believe that the Church was
meanwhile going on in a career of hopeful development; but facts too
clearly testify that she was moving backwards in a path of cheerless
declension. Now, the Church "holding forth the Word of life" was
commending herself to philosophers and statesmen: then, she had sunk
into premature dotage, and her very highest functionaries were lisping
the language of infidelity.



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

No one could have been considered a disciple of Jesus who had not
received baptism, and it thus appears that there were many aged persons,
living about A.D. 150, to whom, when children, the ordinance had been
administered. We may infer, also, that Polycarp, when an infant, had
been in this way admitted within the pale of visible Christianity.
Infant baptism must, therefore, have been an institution of the age of
the apostles. This conclusion is corroborated by the fact that Justin
Martyr speaks of baptism as supplying the place of circumcision. "We,"
says he, "who through Christ have access to God, have not received that
circumcision which is in the flesh, but that spiritual circumcision
which Enoch, and others like him, observed. And this, because we have
been sinners, we do, through the mercy of God, receive _by baptism_."
[473:1] Justin would scarcely have represented the initiatory ordinance
of the Christian Church as supplying so efficiently the place of the
Jewish rite, had it not been of equally extensive application. The
testimony of Irenaeus, the disciple of Polycarp, throws additional light
upon this argument. "Christ," says he, "came to save all persons by
Himself; all, I say, who _by Him are regenerated unto God_--infants, and
little ones, and children, and youths, and aged persons: therefore He
went through the several ages, being made an infant for infants, that He
might _sanctify infants_; [473:2] and, for little ones, He was made a
little one, to sanctify them of that age also." [473:3] Irenaeus
elsewhere speaks of baptism as _our regeneration_ or _new birth unto
God_, [473:4] so that his meaning in this passage cannot well be
disputed. He was born on the confines of the apostolic age, and when he
mentions the _regeneration unto God_ of "infants, and little ones, and
children," he alludes to their admission by baptism to the seal of

The celebrated Origen was born about A.D. 185, and we have as strong
circumstantial evidence as we could well desire that he was baptized in
infancy. [474:1] Both his parents were Christians, and as soon as he was
capable of receiving instruction, he began to enjoy the advantages of a
pious education. He affirms, not only that the practice of infant
baptism prevailed in his own age, but that it had been handed down as an
ecclesiastical ordinance from the first century. "None," says he, "is
free from pollution, though his life upon the earth be but the length of
one day, and for this reason even infants are baptized, because by the
sacrament of baptism the pollution of our birth is put away." [474:2]
"The Church has received the custom of baptizing little children _from
the apostles_." [474:3]

The only writer of the first three centuries who questions the propriety
of infant baptism is Tertullian. The passage in which he expounds his
views on this subject is a most transparent specimen of special
pleading, and the extravagant recommendations it contains sufficiently
attest that he had taken up a false position. "Considering," says he,
"every one's condition and disposition, and also his age, the delay of
baptism is more advantageous, but especially in the case of little
children. For what necessity is there that the sponsors be brought into
danger? Because they may fail to fulfil their promises by death, or may
be deceived by the child's proving of a wicked disposition. Our Lord
says indeed--'Do not forbid them to come unto me.' Let them come,
therefore, whilst they are growing up, let them come whilst they are
learning, whilst they are being taught where it is they are coming, let
them be made Christians when they are capable of knowing Christ. Why
should their innocent age make haste to the remission of sins? Men
proceed more cautiously in worldly things; and he that is not trusted
with earthly goods, why should he be trusted with divine? Let them know
how 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 they
are exposed to temptations, as well virgins that are come to maturity,
as those that are in widowhood and have little occupation, until they
either marry or be confirmed in continence. They who know the weight of
baptism will rather dread its attainment than its postponement." [475:1]

In the apostolic age all adults, when admitted to baptism, answered for
themselves. Had additional sponsors been required for the three thousand
converts who joined the Church on the day of Pentecost, [475:2] they
could not have been procured. The Ethiopian eunuch and the Philippian
jailor [475:3] were their own sponsors. Until long after the time when
Tertullian wrote, there were, in the case of adults, no other sponsors
than the parties themselves. But when an infant was dedicated to God in
baptism, the parents were required to make a profession of the faith,
and to undertake to train up their little one in the way of
righteousness. [476:1] It is to this arrangement that Tertullian refers
when he says--"What necessity is there that _the sponsors_ be brought
into danger? Because even they may fail to fulfil their promises by
death, or may be deceived by the child's proving of a wicked

It is plain, from his own statements, that infant baptism was practised
in the days of this father; and it is also obvious that it was then said
to rest on the authority of the New Testament. Its advocates, he
alleges, quoted in its defence the words of our Saviour--"Suffer the
little children to come unto me and forbid them not." [476:2] And how
does Tertullian meet this argument? Does he venture to say that it is
contradicted by any other Scripture testimony? Does he pretend to assert
that the appearance of parents, as sponsors for their children, is an
ecclesiastical innovation? Had this acute and learned controversialist
been prepared to encounter infant baptism on such grounds, he would not
have neglected his opportunity. But, instead of pursuing such a line of
reasoning, he merely exhibits his weakness by resorting to a piece of
miserable sophistry. When our Lord said--"Suffer the little children to
come 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 they
are growing up_, let them come whilst they are learning"--is a palpable
misinterpretation. Nor is this all. The Carthaginian father must have
known that there were frequent instances in the days of the apostles of
the baptism of whole households; and yet he maintains that the
unmarried, especially young widows, cannot with safety be admitted to
the ordinance. Had he been with Paul and Silas at Philippi he would thus
scarcely have consented to the baptism of Lydia; and he would certainly
have protested against the administration of the rite to all the members
of her family. [477:1]

Though Tertullian may not have formally separated from the Church when
he wrote the tract in which this passage occurs, it is evident that he
had already adopted the principles of the Montanists. These errorists
held that any one who had fallen into heinous sin after baptism could
never again be admitted to ecclesiastical fellowship; and this little
book itself supplies proof that its author now supported the same
doctrine. He here declares that the man "who renews his sins after
baptism" is "destined to fire;" and he intimates that martyrdom, or "the
baptism of blood," can alone "restore" such an offender. [477:2] It was
obviously the policy of the Montanists to discourage infant baptism, and
to retain the mass of their adherents, as long as possible, in the
condition of catechumens. Hence Tertullian here asserts that "they who
know the weight of baptism will rather _dread its attainment_ than its
postponement." [477:3] But neither the apostles, nor the early Church,
had any sympathy with such a sentiment. They represent baptism as a
privilege--as a sign and seal of God's favour--which all should
thankfully embrace. On the very day on which Peter denounced the Jews as
having with wicked hands crucified his Master, he assisted in the
baptism of three thousand of these transgressors. "Repent," says he,
"and _be baptized every one of you_ in the name of Jesus Christ for the
remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, _for
the promise is unto you and to your children_." [478:1] Tertullian would
have given them no such encouragement. But the Montanists believed that
their Phrygian Paraclete was commissioned to supersede the apostolic
discipline. When the African father attacked infant baptism he obviously
acted under this conviction; and whilst seeking to set aside the
arrangements of the Church of his own age, he felt no scruple in
venturing at the same time to subvert an institute of primitive

We have the clearest evidence that, little more than twenty years after
the death of Tertullian, the whole Church of Africa recognised the
propriety of this practice. About the middle of the third century a
bishop of that country, named Fidus, appears to have taken up the idea
that, when administering the ordinance, he was bound to adhere to the
very letter of the law relative to circumcision, [478:2] and that
therefore he was not at liberty to baptize the child before the eighth
day after its birth. When the case was submitted to Cyprian and an
African Synod, consisting of sixty-six bishops, they _unanimously_
decided that these scruples were groundless; and, in an epistle
addressed to the pastor who entertained them, the Assembly thus
communicated the result of its deliberations--"As regards the case of
infants who, you say, should not be baptized within the second or third
day after their birth, and that respect should be had to the law of the
ancient circumcision, whence you think that one newly born should not be
baptized and sanctified within the eighth day, we all in our council
thought very differently.... If even to the most grievous offenders, ...
when they afterwards believe, remission of sins is granted, and no one
is debarred from baptism and grace, how much more ought not an infant to
be debarred who, being newly born, has in no way sinned, except that
being born after Adam in the flesh, he has by his first birth contracted
the contagion of the old death; who is on this very account more easily
admitted to receive remission of sins, in that, not his own, but
another's sins are remitted to him." [479:1]

Whilst it is thus apparent that the baptism of infants was the
established order of the Church, it is equally clear that the particular
mode of administration was not considered essential to the validity of
the ordinance. It was usually dispensed by immersion or affusion,
[479:2] but when the health of the candidate might have been injured by
such an ordeal, sprinkling was deemed sufficient. Aspersion was commonly
employed in the case of the sick, and was known by the designation of
_clinic_ or _bed_ baptism. Cyprian points out to one of his
correspondents the absurdity of the idea that the extent to which the
water is applied can affect the character of the institution. "In the
saving sacrament," says he, "the contagion of sin is not washed away
just in the same way as is the filth of the skin and body in the
ordinary ablution of the flesh, so that there should be need of
saltpetre and other appliances, and a bath and a pool in which the poor
body may be washed and cleansed.... It is apparent that the _sprinkling_
of water has like force with the saving washing, and that when this is
done in the Church, where the faith both of the giver and receiver is
entire, [480:1] all holds good and is consummated and perfected by the
power of the Lord, and the truth of faith." [480:2]

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

It is not improbable that the baptismal service constituted the first
germ of a Church liturgy. As the ordinance was so frequently celebrated,
it was found convenient to adhere to the same form, not only in the
words of administration, [481:2] but also in the accompanying prayers;
and thus each pastor soon had his own baptismal office. But when
heresies spread, and when, in consequence, measures were taken to
preserve the unity of the Catholic faith, a uniform series of
questions--prepared, perhaps, by councils and adopted by the several
ministers--was addressed to all catechumens. Thus, the baptismal
services were gradually assimilated; and, as the power of the hierarchy
increased, one general office, in each district, superseded all the
previously-existing formularies.

Baptism, as dispensed in apostolic simplicity, is a most significant
ordinance; but the original rite was soon well-nigh hidden behind the
rubbish of human inventions. The milk and honey, the unction, the
crossing, the kiss of peace, and the imposition of hands, were all
designed to render it more imposing; and, still farther to deepen the
impression, it was already administered in the presence of none save
those who had themselves been thus initiated. [481:3] But the
foolishness of God is wiser than man. Nothing is more to be deprecated
than any attempt to improve upon the institutions of Christ. Baptism, as
established by the Divine Founder of our religion, is a visible
exhibition of the gospel; but, as known in the third century, it had
much of the character of one of the heathen mysteries. It was intended
to 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 pictorial
summary of the great salvation. In Baptism the gospel is exhibited
subjectively--renewing the heart and cleansing from all iniquity: in the
Lord's Supper it is exhibited objectively--providing a mighty Mediator,
and a perfect atonement. Regeneration and Propitiation are central
truths towards which all the other doctrines of Christianity converge,
and in marking them out by corresponding symbols, the Head of the Church
has been graciously pleased to signalize their importance.

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

Had the original form of administering the Lord's Supper been rigidly
maintained, the Church might have avoided a multitude of errors; but
very soon the spirit of innovation began to disfigure this institute.
The mode in which it was observed, and the views which were entertained
respecting it by the Christians of Rome, about the middle of the second
century, are minutely described by Justin Martyr. "There is brought,"
says he, "to that one of the brethren who is president, bread and a cup
of wine mixed with water. And he, having received them, gives praise and
glory to the Father of all things.... And when he has finished his
praises and thanksgiving, all the people who are present express their
assent saying _Amen_, which in the Hebrew tongue signifies _so be it_.
The president having given thanks, and the people having expressed their
assent, those whom we call deacons give to each of those who are present
a portion of the bread which has been blessed, and of the wine mixed
with water; and carry away some for those who are absent. And this food
is called by us the Eucharist, of which no one may partake unless he
believes that which we teach is true, and is baptized, ... and lives in
such a manner as Christ commanded. For we receive not these elements as
common bread or common drink. But even as Jesus Christ our Saviour ...
had both flesh and blood for our salvation, even so we are taught that
the food which is blessed ... by the digestion of which our blood and
flesh are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made
flesh. For the apostles in the memoirs composed by them, which are
called gospels, have related that Jesus thus commanded them, that having
taken 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 and
given thanks, He said, 'This is my blood;' and that He distributed them
to these alone." [484:1]

The writer does not here mention the posture of the disciples when
communicating, but it is highly probable that they still continued to
_sit_ [485:1] in accordance with the primitive pattern. As they received
the ordinance in the same attitude as that in which they partook of
their common meals, the story that their religious assemblies were the
scenes of unnatural feasting, may have thus originated. [485:2] For the
first three centuries, _kneeling_ at the Lord's Supper was unknown; and
it is not until about a hundred years after the death of the Apostle
John, that we read of the communicants _standing._ [485:3] Throughout
the whole of the third century, this appears to have been the position
in which they partook of the elements. [485:4]

The bread and wine of the Eucharist were now supplied by the
worshippers, who made "oblations" according to their ability, [485:5]
as well for the support of the ministers of the Church, as for the
celebration of its ordinances. There is no reason to believe that the
bread, used at this period in the holy Supper, was unfermented; for,
though our Lord distributed a loaf, or cake, of that quality when the
rite was instituted, the early Christians seem to have considered the
circumstance accidental; as unleavened bread was in ordinary use among
the Jews at the time of the Passover. The disciples appear to have had
less reason for mixing the wine with water, and they could have produced
no good evidence that such was the beverage used by Christ when He
appointed this commemoration. In the third century superstition already
recognized a mystery in the mixture. "We see," says Cyprian, "that in
the water _the people_ are represented, but that in the wine is
exhibited the blood of Christ. When, however, in the cup water is
mingled with wine, the people are united to Christ, and the multitude of
the 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 the
administrator, 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 one
loaf made of a size sufficient to supply the whole congregation. [486:2]
The wine was administered separately, and was drunk out of a cup or
chalice. As early as the third century an idea began to be entertained
that the Eucharist was necessary to salvation, and it was, in
consequence, given to infants. [486:3] None were now suffered to be
present at its celebration but those who were _communicants_; [486:4]
for even the catechumens, or candidates for baptism, were obliged to
withdraw before the elements were consecrated.

The Passover was kept only once a year, but the Eucharist, which was the
corresponding ordinance of the Christian dispensation, was observed much
more frequently. Justin intimates that it was administered every Lord's
day, and other fathers of this period bear similar testimony. Cyprian
speaks even of its daily celebration. [486:5] The New Testament has
promulgated no precise law upon the subject, and it is probable that
only the more zealous disciples communicated weekly. On the Paschal week
it was observed with peculiar solemnity, and by the greatest concourse
of worshippers.

The term _sacrament_ was now applied to both Baptism and the Lord's
Supper; but it was not confined to these two symbolic ordinances.
[487:1] The word _transubstantiation_ was not introduced until upwards
of a thousand years after the death of our Saviour; [487:2] and the
doctrine which it indicates was not known to any of the fathers of the
first three centuries. They all concur in describing the elements, after
consecration, as bread and wine; they all represent them as passing
through the usual process of digestion; and they all speak of them as
symbols of the body and blood of Christ. In this strain Justin Martyr
discourses of "that _bread_ which our Christ has commanded us to offer
_in remembrance of His being made flesh_, ... and of that _cup_ which
commanded those that celebrate the Eucharist to offer _in remembrance of
His blood._" [487:3] According to Clement of Alexandria the Scripture
designates wine "a mystic symbol of the holy blood." [487:4] Origen, as
if anticipating the darkness which was to overspread the Church,
expresses himself very much in the style of a zealous Protestant. He
denounces as "simpletons" [487:5] those who attributed a supernatural
power to the Eucharistic elements, and repeatedly affirms that the words
used at the institution of the Lord's Supper are to be interpreted
spiritually. "The meat," says he, "which is sanctified by the Word of
God and prayer, as it is material, goes into the stomach, ... but, by
reason of prayer made over it, _it is profitable according to the
proportion of faith_, and is the cause that the understanding is
enlightened and attentive to what is profitable; and _it is not the
substance of bread, but the word pronounced upon it_, which is
profitable 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] and
asserts 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, He
is really present with His people in every act of devotion. Even when
they draw near to Him in secret, or when they read His word, or when
they meditate on His mercy, as well as when they listen to His gospel
preached in the great congregation, He manifests Himself to them not as
He does unto the world. But in the Eucharist He reveals His character
more significantly than in any of His other ordinances; for He here
addresses Himself to all the senses, as well as to the soul. In the
words of institution they "hear His voice;" when the elements are
presented 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 and
see that the Lord is good." But some of the early Christian writers were
by no means satisfied with such representations. They appear to have
entertained an idea that Christ was in the Eucharist, not only in richer
manifestations of His grace, but also in a way altogether different from
that in which He vouchsafes His presence in prayer, or praise, or any
other divine observance. They conceived that, as the soul of man is
united to his body, the Logos, or Divine nature of Christ, pervades the
consecrated bread and wine, so that they may be called His flesh and
blood; and they imagined that, in consequence, the sacred elements
imparted to the material frame of the believer the germ of immortality.
[489:1] Irenaeus declares that "our bodies, receiving the Eucharist, are
no longer corruptible, but possessed of the hope of eternal life."
[489:2] This misconception of the ordinance was the fruitful source of
superstition. The mere elements began to be regarded with awful
reverence; the loss of a particle of the bread, or of a drop of the
wine, was considered a tremendous desecration; and it was probably the
growth of such feelings which initiated the custom of _standing_ at the
time of participation. But still there were fathers who were not carried
away with the delusion, and who knew that the disposition of the
worshipper was of far more consequence than the care with which he
handled the holy symbols. "You who frequent our sacred mysteries," says
Origen, "know that when you receive the body of the Lord, you take care
with all due caution and veneration, that not even the smallest particle
of the consecrated gift shall fall to the ground and be wasted. [489:3]
If, through inattention, any part thus falls, you justly account
yourselves guilty. If then, with good reason, you use so much caution in
preserving His body, how can you esteem it a _lighter sin to slight the
Word of God_ than to neglect His body?" [489:4]

"The words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of
earth purified seven times." [489:5] The history of Baptism and the
Lord's Supper demonstrates that, when speaking of the ordinances of
religion, it is exceedingly dangerous to depart, even from the
phraseology, which the Holy Spirit has dictated. In the second century
Baptism was called "regeneration" and the Eucharistic bread was known by
the compendious designation of "the Lord's body." Such language, if
typically understood, could create no perplexity; but all by whom it was
used could scarcely be expected to give it a right interpretation, and
thus many misconceptions were speedily generated. In a short time names,
for which there is no warrant in the Word of God, were applied to the
Lord's Supper; and false doctrines were eventually deduced from these
ill-chosen and unauthorised designations. Thus, before the close of the
second 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-ages
they were literally interpreted; and in this way the most astounding
errors gradually gained currency. Meanwhile other topics led to keen
discussion; but there was a growing disposition to shroud the Eucharist
in mystery; and hence, for many centuries, the question as to the manner
of Christ's presence in the ordinance awakened no controversy.



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

The confession here mentioned obviously flowed spontaneously from deep
religious convictions. It was not a private admission of guilt made to
an ecclesiastical functionary; but a public acknowledgment of acts which
weighed heavily on the consciences of individuals, and which they felt
constrained to recapitulate and to condemn. Men awakened to a sense of
their sins deemed it due to themselves and to society, to state how
sincerely they deplored their past career; and, no doubt, their words
often produced a profound impression on the multitudes to whom they were
addressed. These confessions of sin were connected with a confession of
faith in Christ, and were generally associated with the ordinance of
baptism. They were not required from all, but were only tendered in
cases where there had been notorious and flagrant criminality; and they
must have been of a very partial character, only embracing such
transgressions as the party had some urgent reason for specializing.

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

These confessions and penitential exercises were repeated and enlarged
when persons who had lapsed into gross sin, and who had, in consequence,
forfeited their position as members of the Church, sought readmission to
ecclesiastical fellowship. It would be difficult, on scriptural grounds,
to vindicate the system of discipline enforced on such occasions; and
yet it is evident that it was established, at least in some quarters, as
early as the beginning of the third century. Tertullian gives a very
striking account of the course pursued by those called penitents about
that period. "Confession of sins," says he, "lightens their burden, as
much as the dissembling of them increases it; for confession savours of
making amends, dissembling, of stubbornness. ..... Wherefore confession
is the discipline of a man's prostrating and humbling himself, enjoining
such a conversation as invites mercy. It restrains a man even as to the
matter 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, to
exchange for severe treatment the sins in which he indulged; for the
rest to use simple things for meat and drink, that is, for the sake of
the soul, and not to please the appetite: for the most part also to
quicken prayer by fasts, to groan, to weep, and to moan day and night
before the Lord his God; to throw himself on the ground before the
presbyters, and to fall on his knees before the beloved of God; to
enjoin all the brethren to bear the message of his prayer for mercy--all
these things does confession that it may commend repentance." [493:1]

When a man is overwhelmed with grief, the state of his mind will often
be revealed by the loss of his appetite. He will think little of his
dress and personal accommodation; and though he may give no utterance to
his feelings, his general appearance will betray to the eye of an
observer the depths of his affliction. The mourner not unfrequently
takes a melancholy satisfaction in surrounding himself with the symbols
of sorrow; and we read, accordingly, in Scripture how, in ancient times
and in Eastern countries, he clothed himself in sackcloth and sat in
ashes. [493:2] There is a wonderful sympathy between the body and the
mind; and as grief affects the appetite, so occasional abstinence from
food may foster a serious and contrite spirit. Hence fasting has been so
commonly associated with penitential exercises.

Fasting is not to be regarded as one of the ordinary duties of a
disciple of Christ,[494:1] but rather as a kind of discipline in which
he may feel called on to engage under special circumstances.[494:2] When
oppressed with a consciousness of guilt, or when anxious for divine
direction on a critical occasion, or when trembling under the
apprehension of impending judgments, he may thus seek to "afflict his
soul," that he may draw near with deeper humility and reverence into the
presence of the Divine Majesty. But, in such a case, every one should
act according to the dictates of his own enlightened convictions. As the
duty is extraordinary, the self-denial to be practised must be regulated
by various contingencies; and no one can well prescribe to another its
amount or duration.

According to the Mosaic law, only one day in the year--the great day of
atonement--was required to be kept as a national fast.[494:3] There is
now no divine warrant for so observing any corresponding day, and for
upwards of a hundred years after the death of our Lord, there is no
evidence that any fixed portion of time was thus appropriated under the
sanction of ecclesiastical authority. But towards the close of the
second century the termination of the Paschal week was often so
employed--the interval, between the hour on Friday when our Lord expired
and the morning of the first day of the week, being spent in total
abstinence.[494:4] About the same time some partially abstained from
food on what were called stationary days, or the Wednesday and Friday of
each 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 saw
the danger of this ascetic tendency; but, whilst it betokened zeal, it
had also "a show of wisdom," [495:2] and it silently made great
progress. Towards the close of the third century the whole Church was
already pervaded by its influence.

Fasting has been well described as "the outward shell" of penitential
sorrow, and is not to be confounded with its spiritual elements. It is
its accidental accompaniment, and not one of its true and essential
features. A man may "bow down his head as a bulrush," or fast, or clothe
himself in sackcloth, when he is an utter stranger to that "repentance
to salvation not to be repented of." The hypocrite may put on the
outward badges of mourning merely with a view to regain a position in
the Church, whilst the sincere penitent may "anoint his head and wash
his face," and reveal to the eye of the casual spectator no tokens of
contrition. As repentance is a spiritual exercise, it can only be
recognised by spiritual signs; and the rulers of the ancient Church
committed a capital error when they proposed to test it by certain
dietary indications. Their penitential discipline was directly opposed
to the genuine spirit of the gospel; and it was the fountain from whence
proceeded many of the superstitions which, like a river of death, soon
overspread Christendom. Whilst repentance was reduced to a mechanical
round of bodily exercises, the doctrine of a free salvation was
practically 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 the
genuine profession of Christianity. Penance was prescribed only to those
who had been guilty of mortal sins. Its severity and duration varied
with the character of the offence, and was soon regulated according to
an exact scale arranged by the rulers of the Church in their
ecclesiastical conventions.

About the middle of the third century a new arrangement was introduced,
with a view to promote the more exact administration of penitential
discipline. 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 Christian
privileges were so numerous that, in the larger churches, it was deemed
expedient to require the lapsed, in the first instance, to address
themselves to one of the presbyters appointed for their special
examination. The business of this functionary, who was known by the
designation of the _Penitentiary_ [496:1] was to hear the confessions of
the penitents, to ascertain the extent and circumstances of their
apostasy, and to announce the penance required from each by the existing
ecclesiastical regulations. The disclosures made to the Penitentiary did
not supersede the necessity of public confession; it was simply the duty
of this minister to give to the lapsed such instructions as his
professional experience enabled him to supply, including directions as
to the fasts they should observe, and the sins they should openly
acknowledge. Under the guidance of the Penitentiaries the system of
discipline for transgressors seems to have been still farther matured;
and at length, in the beginning of the fourth century, the penitents
were divided into various classes, according to their supposed degrees
of unworthiness. The members of each class were obliged to occupy a
particular position in the place of worship when the congregation
assembled for religious exercises. [497:1]

It must be obvious from these statements that the institution known as
Auricular Confession had, as yet, no existence. In the early Church the
disciples, under ordinary circumstances, were neither required nor
expected, at stated seasons, to enter into secret conference with any
ecclesiastical searcher of consciences. When a professing Christian
committed a heinous transgression by which religion was scandalized, he
was obliged, before being re-admitted to communion, to express his
sorrow in the face of the congregation; and the revelations made to the
Penitentiary did not relieve him from this act of humiliation. It must
also be apparent that the whole system of penance is an unauthorized
addition to the ordinances of primitive Christianity. Of such a system
we do not find even a trace in the New Testament; and under its
blighting influence, the religion of the Church gradually became little
better than a species of refined heathenism.

The spiritual darkness now settling down upon the Christian commonwealth
might be traced in the growing obscurity of the ecclesiastical
nomenclature. The power and the form of godliness began to be
confounded, and the same term was employed to denote penance and
repentance. [497:2] Bodily mortification was mistaken for holiness, and
celibacy for sanctity. [497:3] Other errors of an equally grave
character became current, for the penitent was described as _making
satisfaction_ for his sins by his fasts and his outward acts of self
abasement, [497:4] and thus the all-sufficiency of the great atonement
was openly ignored. Thus, too, the doctrine of a free salvation to
transgressors could no longer be proclaimed, for pardon was clogged with
conditions as burdensome to the sinner, as they were alien to the spirit
of the New Testament. The doctrine that "a man is justified by faith
without the deeds of the law," [498:1] reveals the folly of the ancient
penitential discipline. Our Father in heaven demands no useless tribute
of mortification from His children; He merely requires us to "bring
forth fruits meet for repentance." [498:2] "Is not this the fast that I
have chosen?" saith the Lord, "to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo
the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break
every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou
bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the
naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine
own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine
health shall spring forth speedily; and thy righteousness shall go
before thee: the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward." [498:3]



Justin Martyr, who had travelled much, and who was probably as well
acquainted with the state of the Church about the middle of the second
century as most of his contemporaries, has left behind him an account of
the manner in which its worship was then conducted. This account, which
has already been submitted to the reader, [499:1] represents one
individual as presiding over each Christian community, whether in the
city or the country. Where the Church consisted of a single
congregation, and where only one of the elders was competent to preach,
it is easy to understand how the society was regulated. In accordance
with apostolic arrangement, the presbyter, who laboured in the Word and
doctrine, was counted worthy of double honour, [499:2] and was
recognized as the stated chairman of the solemn assembly. His brother
elders contributed in various ways to assist him in the supervision of
the flock; but its prosperity greatly depended on his own zeal, piety,
prudence, and ability. Known at first as _the president_, and afterwards
distinguished by the title of _the bishop_, he occupied very much the
same position as the minister of a modern parish.

Where a congregation had more than one preaching elder, the case was
different. There, several individuals were in the habit of addressing
the auditory, [500:1] and it was the duty of the president to preserve
order; to interpose, perhaps, by occasional suggestions; and to close
the exercise. When several congregations with a plurality of preaching
elders existed in the same city, the whole were affiliated; and a
president, acknowledged by them all, superintended their united

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

Towards the termination of the first century a spirit of discord
disturbed the Church of Corinth; and the Church of Rome, anxious to
restore peace, addressed a fraternal letter to the distracted community.
The Epistle was drawn up by Clement, who was then the leading minister
of the Italian capital; but, as it is written in the name of the whole
brotherhood, and as it had, no doubt, obtained their sanction, it
obviously possesses all the authority of a public and official
correspondence. From it the constitution of the Church of Corinth, and,
by implication, of the Church of Rome, may be easily ascertained: and it
furnishes abundant proof that, at the time of its composition, both
these Christian societies were under presbyterial government. Had a
prelate then presided in either Church, a circumstance so important
would not have been entirely overlooked, more especially as the document
is of considerable length, and as it treats expressly upon the subject
of ecclesiastical polity. It appears that some members of the community
to which it is addressed had acted undutifully towards those who were
over them in the Lord, and it accordingly condemns in very emphatic
terms a course of proceeding so disreputable. "It is shameful, beloved,"
says the Church of Rome in this letter, "it is exceedingly shameful and
unworthy of your Christian profession, to hear that the most firm and
_ancient Church_ of the Corinthians should, by one or two persons, be
led into a sedition against _its elders._" [501:1] "Let the flock of
Christ be in peace with THE ELDERS THAT ARE SET OVER IT." [502:1] Having
stated that the apostles ordained those to whom the charge of the
Christian Church was originally committed, it is added, that they gave
directions 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 that
those may justly be thrown out of their ministry who were either
ordained by them (the apostles), or _afterwards by other approved men_
with the approbation of the whole Church, and who have, with all
lowliness and innocency, ministered to the flock of Christ in peace and
without 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 the
ministry who holily and without blame fulfil the duties of it. Blessed
are _those elders who, having finished their course before these times_,
have obtained a fruitful and perfect dissolution." [502:3] Towards the
conclusion of the letter, the parties who had created this confusion in
the Church of Corinth have the following admonition addressed to
them--"Do ye, therefore, who laid the foundation of the sedition, submit
yourselves 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 recognize
the hand of Providence. [502:5] Its instructions were so highly
appreciated by the ancient Christians that it continued to be publicly
read in many of their churches for centuries afterwards. [502:6] It is
universally acknowledged to be genuine; it breathes the benevolent
spirit of a primitive presbyter; and it is distinguished by its sobriety
and earnestness. It was written upon the verge of the apostolic age, and
it is the production of a pious, sensible, and aged minister who
preached for years in the capital of the Empire. The Church of Rome has
since advanced the most extravagant pretensions, and has appealed in
support of them to ecclesiastical tradition; but here, an elder of her
own--one who had conversed with, the apostles--and one whom she delights
to honour [503:1]--deliberately comes forward and ignores her
assumptions! She fondly believes that Clement was an early Pope, but the
good man himself admits that he was only one of the presbyters. Had
there then been a bishop of Corinth, this letter would unquestionably
have exhorted the malcontents to submit to his jurisdiction; or had
there been a bishop of Rome, it would not have failed to dilate upon the
benefits of episcopal government. But, as to the existence of any such
functionary in either Church, it preserves throughout a most
intelligible silence. It says that the apostles ordained the
first-fruits of their conversions, not as bishops _and presbyters_ and
deacons, but as "_bishops and deacons_ over such as should afterwards
believe;" [503:2] and it is apparent that, when it was written, the
terms bishop and presbyter were still used interchangeably. [503:3]

The Epistle of Polycarp bears equally decisive testimony. It was drawn
up perhaps about the middle of the second century, [503:4] and though
the last survivor of the apostles was now dead for many years, no
general change had meanwhile taken place in the form of church
government. This document purports to be the letter of "Polycarp and the
elders who are with him [504:1] to the Church of God which is at
Philippi;" but it does not recognize a bishop as presiding over the
Christian community to which it is addressed. The Church was still
apparently in much the same state as when Paul wrote to "the saints in
Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the _bishops and deacons;_"
[504:2] for Polycarp was certainly not aware of the existence of any new
office-bearers; and he accordingly exhorts his correspondents to be
"_subject to the presbyters and deacons._" [504:3] "Let _the
presbyters_," says he, "be compassionate, merciful to all, bringing back
such as are in error, seeking out all those that are weak, not
neglecting the widow or the fatherless, or the poor; but providing
always what is good in the sight of God and men; abstaining from all
wrath, respect of persons, and _unrighteous judgment_; being far from
all covetousness; not ready to believe anything against any; _not severe
in 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 century
that the Church was at first "governed by the common council of the,
presbyters;" [504:5] and these two letters prove most satisfactorily the
accuracy of the representation. They shew that, throughout the whole of
the apostolic age, this species of polity continued. But the Scriptures
ordain that "all things be done decently and in order;" [504:6] and, as
a common council requires an official head, or mayor, to take the chair
at its meetings, and to act on its behalf, so the ancient eldership, or
presbytery, must have had a president or moderator. It would appear that
the duty and honour of presiding commonly devolved on the senior member
of the judicatory. We may thus account for those catalogues of bishops,
reaching back to the days of the apostles, which are furnished by some
of the writers of antiquity. From the first, every presbytery had its
president; and as the transition from the moderator to the bishop was
the work of time, the distinction at one period was little more than
nominal. Hence, writers who lived when the change was taking place, or
when it had only been recently accomplished, speak of these two
functionaries as identical. But in their attempts to enumerate the
bishops of the apostolic era, they encountered a practical difficulty.
The elders who were at first set over the Christian societies were all
ordained, in each church, on the same occasion, [505:1] and were,
perhaps, of nearly the same age, so that neither their date of
appointment, nor their years, could well determine the precedence; and
it is probable that, in general, no single individual continued
permanently to occupy the office of moderator. There may have been
instances in which a stated president was chosen, and yet it is
remarkable that not even one such case can be clearly established by the
evidence of contemporary documents. When all the other apostles departed
from Jerusalem, James appears to have remained in the holy city, so that
we may reasonably presume he always acted, when present, as chairman of
the mother presbytery; and accordingly, the writers of succeeding ages
have described him as the first bishop of the Jewish metropolis; but so
little consequence was originally attached to the office of moderator,
[505:2] that, in as far as the New Testament is concerned, the situation
held by this distinguished man can be inferred only from some very
obscure and doubtful intimations. [505:3] In Rome, and elsewhere, the
primitive elders at first, perhaps, filled the chair alternately. Hence
the so-called episcopal succession is most uncertain and confused at the
very time when it should be sustained by evidence the most decisive and
perspicuous. The lists of bishops, commencing with the ministry of the
apostles, and extending over the latter half of the first century, are
little better than a mass of contradictions. The compilers seem to have
set down, almost at random, the names of some distinguished men whom
they found connected with the different churches, and thus the
discrepancies are nearly as numerous as the catalogues. [506:1]

But when Clement dictated the Epistle to the Corinthians most of the
elders, ordained by the apostles or evangelists about the middle of the
first century, must have finished their career; and there is little
reason to doubt that this eminent minister was then the father of the
Roman presbytery. The superscription of the letter to the Philippians
supplies direct proof that, at the time when it was written, Polycarp
likewise stood at the head of the presbytery of Smyrna. [506:2] Other
circumstances indicate that the senior presbyter now began to be
regarded as the stated president of the eldership. Hilary, one of the
best commentators of the ancient Church, [506:3] bears explicit
testimony to the existence of such an arrangement. "At first," says he,
"presbyters were called bishops, so that when the one (who was called
bishop) passed away, the next in order took his place." [507:1] "Though
every bishop is a presbyter, every presbyter is not a bishop, for he is
bishop who is first among the presbyters." [507:2] As soon as the
regulation, recognizing the claims of seniority was proposed, its
advocates were, no doubt, prepared to recommend it by arguments which
possessed at least considerable plausibility. The Scriptures frequently
inculcate respect for age, and when the apostle says--"Likewise, ye
younger, submit yourselves unto the elder," [507:3] he seems, from the
connexion in which the words occur, to refer specially to the deportment
of junior ministers. [507:4] In the lists of the Twelve to be found in
the New Testament the name of Peter appears _first_; [507:5] and if, as
is 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 to
him; for, in all likelihood, he usually acted as president of the
apostolic presbytery. Even the construction of corporate bodies in the
Roman Empire might have suggested the arrangement; for it is well known
that, 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 have
inferred, on other grounds, that, at an early date, the senior member
generally presided wherever an eldership was erected.

As a point of such interest relating to the constitution of the ancient
Church should be carefully elucidated, it may be necessary to fortify
the statement of Hilary by some additional evidence. It is not to be
supposed that this candid and judicious commentator ventured, without
due authority, to describe the original order of succession in the
presidential chair; and he had, no doubt, access to sources of
information which have long ceased to be available; but the credit of
the fact for which he vouches does not rest upon the unsustained support
of his solitary attestation. Whilst his averment is recommended by
internal marks of probability, and whilst it is countenanced by several
scriptural intimations, it is also corroborated by a large amount of
varied and independent testimony. We shall now exhibit some of the most
striking portions of the confirmatory proof.

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

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

III. The number of bishops now found within a short period in the same
see has long presented a difficulty to many students of ecclesiastical
history. Thus, at Rome in the first forty years of the second century
there were five or six bishops, [509:5] and yet only one of them
suffered martyrdom. Within twelve or fifteen years after the death of
Polycarp, there were several bishops in Smyrna. [510:1] But the Church
of Jerusalem furnishes the most wonderful example of this quick
succession of episcopal dignitaries. Simeon, one of the relatives of our
Lord, is reported to have become the presiding pastor after the
destruction of the city by Titus, and to have been martyred about the
close of the reign of Trajan, or in A.D. 116; and yet, according to the
testimony of Eusebius, [510:2] no less than _thirteen bishops_ in
succession occupied his place before the end of the year A.D. 134. He
must have been set at the head of the Church when he was above
threescore and ten; [510:3] and dying, as already stated, at the extreme
age of one hundred and twenty, he probably left behind him a
considerable staff of very aged elders. These may have become presidents
in the order of their seniority; and as they would pass rapidly away, we
may thus account for the extraordinary number of the early chief pastors
of the ancient capital of Palestine. [510:4]

At this time, or about A.D. 135, the original Christian Church of
Jerusalem was virtually dissolved. The Jews had grievously provoked
Hadrian by their revolt under the impostor Barchochebas; and the
Emperor, in consequence, resolved to exclude the entire race from the
precincts of the holy city. The faithful Hebrews, who had hitherto
worshipped there under the ministry of Simeon and his successors, still
observed the Mosaic law, and were consequently treated as Jews, so that
they were now obliged to break up their association, and remove to other
districts. A Christian Church, composed chiefly of Gentile converts, was
soon afterwards established in the same place; and the new society
elected an individual, named Marcus, as their bishop, or presiding
elder. Marcus was, probably, in the decline of life when he was placed
at the head of the community; and on his demise, [511:1] as well as long
afterwards, the old rule of succession seems to have been observed.
During the sixty years immediately after his appointment, there were
_fifteen_ bishops at Jerusalem [511:2]--a fact which apparently
indicates that, on the occurrence of a vacancy, the senior elder still
continued to be advanced to the episcopal chair. This conclusion is
remarkably corroborated by the circumstance that Narcissus, who was
bishop 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 he
obtained his ecclesiastical promotion.

The episcopal roll of Jerusalem has no recorded parallel in the annals
of the Christian ministry, for there were no less than _twenty-eight_
bishops in the holy city in a period of eighty years. Even the Popes
have never followed each other with such rapidity. The Roman Prelate,
when elevated to St. Peter's chair, has almost invariably been far
advanced in years, and the instances are not a few in which Pontiffs
have fallen victims to poison or to open violence; and yet their
history, even in the worst of times, exhibits nothing equal to the
frequency of the successions indicated by this ancient episcopal
registry. [512:1] It would appear from it that there were more bishops
in Jerusalem in the second century than there have been Archbishops of
Canterbury for the last four hundred years! [512:2] Such facts
demonstrate that those who then stood at the head of the mother Church
of Christendom, must have reached their position by means of some order
of succession very different from that which is now established. Hilary
furnishes at once a simple and an adequate explanation. The senior
minister was the president, or bishop; and as, when placed in the
episcopal chair, he had already reached old age, it was not to be
expected that he could long retain a situation which required some
exertion and involved much anxiety. Hence the startling amount of
episcopal mortality.

As the Church of Jerusalem may be said to have been founded by our Lord
himself, it could lay claim to a higher antiquity than any other
Christian community in existence; and it long continued to be regarded
by the disciples all over the Empire with peculiar interest and
veneration. [512:3] When re-established about the close of the reign of
Hadrian, it was properly a new society; but it still enjoyed the
prestige of ancient associations. Its history has, therefore, been
investigated by Eusebius with special care; he tells us that he derived
a portion of his information from its own archives; [512:4] and, though
he enters into details respecting very few of the early Churches, he
notices it with unusual frequency, and gives an accredited list of the
names of its successive chief pastors. [513:1] About this period it was
obviously considered a model which other Christian societies of less
note might very safely imitate. It is, therefore, all the more important
if we are able to ascertain its constitution, as we are thus prepared to
speak with a measure of confidence respecting the form of ecclesiastical
government which prevailed throughout the second century. The facts
already stated, when coupled with the positive affirmation of the Roman
Hilary, place the solution of the question, as nearly as possible, upon
the basis of demonstration; for, if we reject the conclusion that,
during a hundred years after the death of the Apostle John, the senior
member of the presbytery of Jerusalem was the president or moderator, we
may 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 might
have been expected, [513:2] we find individuals in occupation of the
chair who had attained to extreme longevity.

IV. The statement of Hilary illustrates the peculiar cogency of the
argumentation employed by the defenders of the faith who flourished
about the close of the second century. This century was pre-eminently
the age of heresies, and the disseminators of error were most
extravagant and unscrupulous in their assertions. The heresiarchs, among
other things, affirmed that the inspired heralds of the gospel had not
committed their whole system to written records; that they had entrusted
certain higher revelations only to select or perfect disciples; and that
the doctrine of Aeons, which they so assiduously promulgated, was
derived from this hidden treasure of ecclesiastical tradition. [514:1]
To such assertions the champions of orthodoxy were prepared to furnish a
triumphant reply, for they could shew that the Gnostic system was
inconsistent with Scripture, and that its credentials, said to be
derived from tradition, were utterly apocryphal. They could appeal, in
proof of its falsehood, to the tradition which had come down to
themselves from the apostles, and which was still preserved in the
Churches "through the successions of the elders." [514:2] They could
farther refer to those who stood at the head of their respective
presbyteries as the witnesses most competent to give evidence. "We are
able," says Irenaeus, "to enumerate those whom the apostles established
as bishops in the Churches, [514:3] together with their successors down
to our own times, who neither taught any such doctrine as these men rave
about, nor had any knowledge of it. For if the apostles had been
acquainted with recondite mysteries which they were in the habit of
teaching to the perfect disciples apart and without the knowledge of the
rest, they would by all means have communicated them to those to whom
they entrusted the care of the Church itself, since they wished that
those whom they left behind them as their successors, and to whom they
gave their own place of authority, should be quite perfect and
irreproachable in all things." [514:4]

Had the succession to the episcopal chair been regulated by the
arrangements of modern times, there would have been little weight in the
reasoning of Irenaeus. The declaration of the bishop respecting the
tradition of the Church over which he happened to preside would have
possessed no special value. But it was otherwise in the days of this
pastor of Lyons. The bishop was generally one of the oldest members of
the community with which he was connected, and had been longer
conversant with its ecclesiastical affairs than any other minister. His
testimony to its traditions was, therefore, of the highest importance.
In a few of the great Churches, as we have elsewhere shewn, [515:1] the
senior elder now no longer succeeded, as a matter of course, to the
episcopate; but age continued to be universally regarded as an
indispensable qualification for the office, [515:2] and, when Irenaeus
wrote, the law of seniority appears to have been still generally
maintained. It was, therefore, with marked propriety that he appealed to
the evidence of the bishops; as they, from their position, were most
competent to expose the falsehood of the fables of Gnosticism.

V. It is well known that, in some of the most ancient councils of which
we have any record, the senior bishop officiated as moderator [515:3]
and, long after age had ceased to determine the succession to the
episcopal chair, the recognition of its claims, under various forms, may
be traced in ecclesiastical history. In Spain, so late as the fourth
century, the senior chief pastor acted as president when the bishops and
presbyters assembled for deliberation [515:4] In Africa the same rule
was observed until the Church of that country was overwhelmed by the
northern barbarians. In Mauritania and Numidia, even in the fifth
century, the senior bishop of the province, whoever he might be, was
acknowledged as metropolitan. [516:1] In the usages of a still later age
we may discover vestiges of the ancient regulation, for the bishops sat,
in the order of their seniority, in the provincial synods. [516:2] Still
farther, where the bishop of the chief city of the province was the
stated metropolitan, the ecclesiastical law still retained remembrancers
of the primitive polity; as, when this dignitary died, the senior bishop
of the district performed his functions until a successor was regularly
appointed. [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 he
originally 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 official
distinction. In all matters relating either to discipline, or the
general interests of the brotherhood, he was expected to carry out the
decisions of the eldership, so that, under his presidential rule, the
Church was still substantially governed by "the common council of the

The allegation that presbyterial government existed in all its integrity
towards the end of the second century does not rest on the foundation of
obscure intimations or doubtful inferences. It can be established by
direct and conclusive testimony. Evidence has already been adduced to
shew that the senior presbyter of Smyrna continued to preside until the
days of Irenaeus, and there is also documentary proof that meanwhile he
possessed no autocratical authority. The supreme power was still vested
in the council of the elders. This point is attested by Hippolytus, who
was now just entering on his ecclesiastical career, and who, in one of
his works, a fragment of which has been preserved, describes the manner
in which the rulers of the Church dealt with the heretic Noetus. The
transaction probably occurred about A.D. 190. [517:1] "There are certain
others," says Hippolytus, "who introduce clandestinely a strange
doctrine, being disciples of one Noetus, who was by birth a Smyrnean,
and lived not long ago. This man, being puffed up, was led to forget
himself, being elated by the vain fancy of a strange spirit. He said
that Christ is himself the Father, and that the Father himself had been
born, and had suffered and died....When the _blessed presbyters_ heard
these 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 persons
to join him in his error, he took courage, and at length resolved to
stand by his dogma. The _blessed presbyters again summoned him, and
administered a rebuke_. But he withstood them, saying--'Why, what evil
am I doing in glorifying Christ?' To whom _the presbyters replied_--'We
also truly acknowledge one God; we acknowledge Christ; we acknowledge
that the Son suffered as He did suffer, that He died as He did die, and
that He rose again the third day, and that He is at the right hand of
the Father, and that He is coming to judge the quick and the dead; and
we declare those things which we have been taught.' _Then they rebuked
him, and cast him out of the Church._" [517:2]

About the time to which these words refer a change was made in the
ecclesiastical constitution. The senior minister ceased to preside over
the eldership; and the Church was no longer governed, as heretofore, by
the "blessed presbyters." It would appear that the synods which were
held all over the Church for the suppression of the Montanist agitation,
and in connexion with the Paschal controversy, [518:1] adopted a
modified episcopacy. As parties already in the presidential chair were,
no doubt, permitted to hold office during life, this change could not
have been accomplished instantaneously; but various circumstances concur
to prove that it took place about the period now indicated. The
following reasons, among others, may be adduced in support of this view
of 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 claims
to inspiration. These fanatics were in the habit of disturbing public
worship by uttering their pretended revelations, and as they were often
countenanced by individual elders, the best mode of protecting the
Church from their annoyance soon became a question of grave and pressing
difficulty. Episcopacy, as shall afterwards be shewn, [518:2] had
already been introduced in some great cities, and about this time the
Churches generally agreed to follow the influential example. It was, no
doubt, thought that order could be more effectually preserved were a
single individual armed with independent authority. Thus, the system of
government by presbyters was gradually and silently subverted.

II. It is well known that the close of the second century is a
transition period in the history of the Church. A new ecclesiastical
nomenclature now appeared; [519:1] the bishops acquired increased
authority; and, early in the third century, they were chosen in all the
chief cities by popular suffrage. The alteration mentioned by Hilary
may, therefore, have been the immediate precursor of other and more
vital changes.

III. Though Eusebius passes over in suspicious silence the history of
all ecclesiastical innovations, his account of the bishops of Jerusalem
gives good reason for believing that the law abolishing the claim of
seniority came into operation about the close of the second century. He
classes together the fifteen chief pastors who followed each other in
the holy city immediately after its restoration by Hadrian, [519:2] and
then goes on to give a list of others, their successors, whose
pastorates were of the ordinary duration. He mentions likewise that the
sixteenth bishop was chosen by _election_. [519:3] May we not here
distinctly recognize the close of one system, and the commencement of
another? As the sixteenth bishop was appointed about A.D. 199, the law
had, probably, been then only recently enacted.

IV. Eusebius professes to trace the episcopal succession from the days
of the apostles in Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem; and it has
often been shewn that the accuracy of these four lists is extremely
problematical; but it is remarkable that in other Churches the episcopal
registry cannot be carried up higher than the end of the second century.
The roll of the bishops of Carthage is there discontinued, [519:4] and
the episcopal registry of Spain there also abruptly terminates. But the
history of the Church of Caesarea affords the most extraordinary
specimen of this defalcation. Caesarea was the civil metropolis of
Palestine, and a Christian Church existed in it from the days of Paul
and Peter. [520:1] Its bishop in the early part of the fourth century
was the friend of the Emperor Constantine and the father of
ecclesiastical history. Eusebius enjoyed all needful facilities for
investigating the annals of his own Church; and yet, strange to say, he
commences its episcopal registry about the close of the second century!
[520:2] What explanation can be given of this awkward circumstance? Had
Eusebius taken no notice of any of the bishops of his own see, we could
appreciate his modesty; but why should he overlook those who nourished
before the time of Victor of Rome, and then refer to their successors
with such marked frequency? [520:3] May we not infer, either that he
deemed it inexpedient to proclaim the inconvenient fact that the bishops
of Caesarea were as numerous as the bishops of Jerusalem; or that he
found it impossible to recover the names of a multitude of old men who
had only a nominal precedence among their brethren, and who had passed
off the stage, one after another, in quick succession?

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

It is not, indeed, to be supposed that the whole Church, prompted by a
sudden and simultaneous impulse, agreed, all at once, to change its
ecclesiastical arrangements. Another polity, as has already been
intimated, at first made its appearance in places of commanding
influence; and its advocates now, no doubt, most assiduously endeavoured
to recommend its claims by appealing to the fruits of experience. The
Church of Rome, as will subsequently appear, took the lead in setting up
a mitigated form of prelacy; the Churches of Antioch and Alexandria
followed; and, soon afterwards, other Christian communities of note
adopted the example. That this subject may be fairly understood, a few
chapters must now be employed in tracing the rise and progress of the



Eusebius, already so often quoted, and known so widely as the author of
the earliest Church history, flourished in the former half of the fourth
century. This distinguished father was a spectator of the most wonderful
revolution recorded in the annals of the world. He had seen Christianity
proscribed, 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 of
the Caesars, and ministers of the Church basking in the sunshine of
Imperial bounty. He was himself a special favourite with Constantine; as
bishop of Caesarea, the chief city of Palestine, he had often access to
the 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 the
language of eulogy in his attempts to magnify the virtues of his
illustrious patron.

Eusebius may have been an accomplished courtier, but certainly he is not
entitled to the praise of a great historian. The publication by which he
is best known would never have acquired such celebrity, had it not been
the most ancient treatise of the kind in existence. Though it mentions
many of the ecclesiastical transactions of the second and third
centuries, and supplies a large amount of information which would have
otherwise been lost, it must be admitted to be a very ill-arranged and
unsatisfactory performance. Its author does not occupy a high position
either as a philosophic thinker, a judicious observer, or a sound
theologian. He makes no attempt to point out the germs of error, to
illustrate the rise and progress of ecclesiastical changes, or to
investigate the circumstances which led to the formation of the
hierarchy. Even the announcement of his Preface, that his purpose is "to
record the successions of the holy apostles," or, in other words, to
exhibit some episcopal genealogies, proclaims how much he was mistaken
as to the topics which should have been noticed most prominently in his
narrative. It is somewhat doubtful whether his history was expressly
written, either for the illumination of his own age, or for the
instruction of posterity; and its appearance, shortly after the public
recognition of Christianity by the State, [523:1] is fitted to generate
a suspicion that it was intended to influence the mind of Constantine,
and to recommend the episcopal order to the consideration of the great

About six or seven years after the publication of this treatise a child
was born who was destined to attain higher distinction, both as a
scholar and a writer, than the polished Eusebius. This was
Jerome--afterwards a presbyter of Rome, and a father whose productions
challenge the foremost rank among the memorials of patristic erudition.
Towards the close of the fourth century he shone the brightest literary
star in the Church, and even the proud Pope Damasus condescended to
cultivate his favour. At one time he contemplated the composition of a
Church history, [523:2] and we have reason to regret that the design was
never executed, as his works demonstrate that he was in possession of
much rare and important information for which we search in vain in the
pages of the bishop of Caesarea.

No ancient writer has thrown more light on the history of the hierarchy
than Jerome. His remarks upon the subject frequently drop incidentally
from his pen, and must be sought for up and down throughout his
commentaries and epistles; but he speaks as an individual who was quite
familiar with the topics which he introduces; and, whilst all his
statements are consistent, they are confirmed and illustrated by other
witnesses. As a presbyter, he seems to have been jealous of the honour
of his order; and, when in certain moods, he is obviously very well
disposed to remind the bishops that their superiority to himself was a
mere matter of human arrangement. One of his observations relative to
the original constitution of the Christian commonwealth has been often
quoted. "Before that, by the prompting of the devil, there were parties
in religion, and it was said among the people, I am of Paul, and I of
Apollos, and I of Cephas, the Churches were governed by the common
council of the presbyters. But, _after that each, one began to reckon
those whom he baptized as belonging to himself_ and not to Christ, it
was DECREED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE WORLD that one elected from the
presbyters should be set over the rest, that he should have the care
of the whole Church, that _the seeds of schisms_ might be destroyed."

Because Jerome in this place happens to use language which occurs in the
First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, we are not to understand him
as identifying the date of that letter with the origin of prelacy. Such
a 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 when
describing schisms or contentions; and he has employed them on one
memorable occasion in relation to a controversy of the fourth century.
[525:2] The divisions among the Corinthians, noticed by Paul, were
trivial and temporary; the Church at large was not disturbed by them;
but Jerome speaks of a time when the whole ecclesiastical community was
so agitated that it was threatened with dismemberment. The words
immediately succeeding those which we have quoted clearly shew that he
dated the origin of prelacy after the days of the apostles. "Should any
one think that the identification of bishop and presbyter, the one being
a 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 to
the Philippians-'Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to
all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, _with the bishops
and deacons_, Grace to you and peace,' [525:3] and so forth. Philippi is
one city of Macedonia, and truly in one city, there cannot be, as is
thought, more than one bishop; but because, at that time, they called
the same parties bishops and presbyters, therefore he speaks of bishops
as of presbyters without making distinction. Still this may seem
doubtful to some unless confirmed by another testimony. In the Acts of
the Apostles it is written [526:1] that when the apostle came to Miletus
he 'sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the same Church,' to whom
then, among other things, he said--'Take heed to yourselves and to all
the flock over which the Holy Ghost has made you bishops, [526:2] to
feed 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 city
Ephesus, he afterwards addressed the same as bishops. Whoever is
prepared to receive that Epistle which is written to the Hebrews under
the name of Paul, [526:3] there also the care of the Church is divided
equally among more than one, since he writes to the people--'Obey _them_
that have the rule over you and submit yourselves, for they are they who
watch for your souls as those who must give account, that they may not
do 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 Epistle
speaks, saying--'The _elders_, therefore, who are among you, I exhort,
_who am also an elder_, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and
who am a partaker of his glory which shall be revealed, feed that flock
of the Lord which is among you, not by constraint but willingly.'
[527:1] We may thus shew that anciently bishops and presbyters were the
UP, all care was transferred to one. As, therefore, the presbyters know
that, in accordance with _the custom of the Church_, they are subject to
him who has been set over them, so the bishops should know that they are
greater than the presbyters, rather _by custom_, than by the truth of an
arrangement of the Lord." [527:2]

Jerome here explains himself in language which admits of no second
interpretation; for all these proofs, adduced to shew that the Church
was originally under presbyterial government, are of a later date than
the First Epistle to the Corinthians. The Epistle to the Philippians
contains internal evidence that it was dictated during Paul's first
imprisonment at Rome; the Epistle to the Hebrews appeared after his
liberation; and the First Epistle of Peter was written in the old age of
the apostle of the circumcision. [527:3] Nor is this even the full
amount of his testimony to the antiquity of the presbyterian polity. On
another occasion, after mentioning some of the texts which have been
given, he goes on to make quotations from the Second and Third Epistles
of John--which are generally dated towards the close of the first
century [527:4]--and he declares that prelacy had not made its
appearance when these letters were written. Having produced authorities
from Paul and Peter, he exclaims--"Do the testimonies of such men seem
small to you? Let the Evangelical Trumpet, the Son of Thunder, whom
Jesus loved very much, who drank the streams of doctrine from the bosom
of the Saviour, sound in your ears--'The _elder_, unto the elect lady
and her children, whom I love in the truth;' [528:1] and, in another
epistle--'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 set
over the rest, was _for a cure of schism_; lest every one, insisting
upon his own will, should rend the Church of God." [528:3]

We have already seen [528:4] that extant documents, written about the
close of the first century and the middle of the second, bear similar
testimony as to the original constitution of the Church. The "Epistle of
Clement to the Corinthians" cannot be dated earlier than the termination
of 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 been
ordained by the apostles, and it states that this second generation of
ministers had been _long_ in possession of their ecclesiastical charges.
[528:6] Candid writers, of almost all parties, acknowledge that this
letter distinctly recognizes the existence of government by presbyters.
[528:7] The evidence of the letter of Polycarp [528:8] is not less
explicit. Jerome, therefore, did not speak without authority when he
affirmed 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, whilst
the inspired heralds of the gospel lived, it could not be said that
"there were parties in religion." The heretics who appeared were never
able to organize any formidable combinations; they were inconsiderable
in point of numbers; and, though not wanting in activity, those to whom
our Lord had personally entrusted the publication of His Word, were
ready to oppose them, so that all their efforts were effectually checked
or defeated. The most ancient writers acknowledge that, during the early
part of the second century, the same state of things continued.
According to Hegesippus, who outlived Polycarp about fifteen or twenty
years, [529:1] the Church continued until the death of Simeon of
Jerusalem, in A.D. 116, [529:2] "as a pure and uncorrupted virgin." "If
there were any at all," says he, "who attempted to pervert the right
standard of saving doctrine, they were yet skulking in dark retreats;
but when the sacred company of the apostles had, in various ways,
the fraud of false teachers produced a confederacy of impious errors."
[529:3] The date of the appearance of these parties is also established
by the testimony of Celsus, who lived in the time of the Antonines, and
who was one of the most formidable of the early antagonists of
Christianity. This writer informs us that, though in the beginning the
disciples were agreed in sentiment, they became, in his days, when
"spread out into a multitude, divided and distracted, each aiming to
give stability to his own faction." [530:1]

The statements of Hegesippus and Celsus are substantiated by a host of
additional witnesses. Justin Martyr, [530:2] Irenaeus, [530:3] Clemens
Alexandrinus, [530:4] Cyprian, [530:5] and others, all concur in
representing the close of the reign of Hadrian, or the beginning of the
reign of Antoninus Pius, as the period when heresies burst forth, like a
flood, upon the Church. The extant ecclesiastical writings of the
succeeding century are occupied chiefly with their refutation. No wonder
that the best champions of the faith were embarrassed and alarmed. They
had hitherto been accustomed to boast that Christianity was the cement
which could unite all mankind, and they had pointed triumphantly to its
influence in bringing together the Jew and the Gentile, the Greek and
the barbarian, the master and the slave, the learned and the illiterate.
They had looked forward with high expectation to the days of its
complete ascendency, when, under its gentle sway, all nations would
exhibit the spectacle of one great and happy brotherhood. How, then,
must they have been chagrined by the rise and spread of heresies! They
saw the Church itself converted into a great battle-field, and every
man's hand turned against his fellow. In almost all the populous cities
of the Empire, as if on a concerted signal, the errorists commenced
their discussions. The Churches of Lyons, [531:1] of Rome, of Corinth,
of Athens, of Ephesus, of Antioch, and of Alexandria, resounded with the
din of theological controversy. Nor were the heresiarchs men whom their
opponents could afford to despise. In point of genius and of literary
resources, many of them were fully equal to the most accomplished of
their adversaries. Their zeal was unwearied, and their tact most
perplexing. Mixing up the popular elements of the current philosophy
with a few of the facts and doctrines of the gospel, they produced a
compound by which many were deceived. How did the friends of the Church
proceed to grapple with these difficulties? They, no doubt, did their
utmost to meet the errorists in argument, and to shew that their
theories were miserable perversions of Christianity. But they did not
confine themselves to the use of weapons drawn from their own heavenly
armoury. Not a few presbyters were themselves tainted with the new
opinions; some of them were even ringleaders of the heretics; [531:2]
and, in an evil hour, the dominant party resolved to change the
constitution of the Church, and to try to put down disturbance by means
of a new ecclesiastical organization. Believing, with many in modern
times, that "parity breedeth confusion," and expecting, as Jerome has
expressed it, "that the seeds of schisms might be destroyed," they
sought to invigorate their administration by investing the presiding
elder with authority over the rest of his brethren. The senior
presbyters, the last survivors of a better age, were all sound in the
faith; and, as they were still at the head of the Churches in the great
cities, it was thought that by enlarging their prerogatives, and by
giving them the name of bishops, they would be the better able to
struggle energetically with the dangers of their position. The principle
that, whoever would not submit to the bishop should be cast out of the
Church, was accordingly adopted; and it was hoped that in due time peace
would be restored to the spiritual commonwealth.

About the same period arrangements were made in some places for changing
the 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] An
immense majority of the presbyters were yet orthodox; and by being
permitted to depart, as often as they pleased, from the ancient order of
succession, and to nominate any of themselves to the episcopate, they
could always secure the appointment of an individual representing their
own sentiments. In some of the larger Churches, where their number was
considerable, they appear to have usually selected three or four
candidates; and then to have permitted the lot to make the ultimate
decision. [532:2] But the ecclesiastical revolution could not stop here.
Jealousy quickly appeared among the presbyters; and, during the
excitement of elections, the more popular candidates would not long be
willing to limit the voting to the presbytery. The people chose their
presbyters and deacons, and now that the office of moderator possessed
substantial power, and differed so much from what it was originally, why
should not all the members of the Church be allowed to exercise their
legitimate influence? Such a claim could not be well resisted. Thus it
was that the bishops were ultimately chosen by popular suffrage. [533:1]

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

Jerome says, indeed, that, in the beginning, the Alexandrian presbyters
nominated their _bishops_, but we are not to conclude that the parties
chosen were always known distinctively by the designation which he here
gives to them. He evidently could not have intended to convey such an
impression, as in the same Epistle he demonstrates, by a whole series of
texts of Scripture, that the titles bishop and presbyter were used
interchangeably throughout the whole of the first century. By bishops he
obviously understands the presidents of the presbyteries, or the
officials who filled the chairs which those termed bishops subsequently
occupied. In their own age these primitive functionaries were called
bishops and presbyters indifferently; but they partially represented the
bishops of succeeding times, and they always appeared in the episcopal
registries as links of the apostolical succession, so that Jerome did
not deem it necessary to depart from the current nomenclature. His
meaning cannot be mistaken by any one who attentively marks his
language, for he has stated immediately before, that episcopal authority
properly commenced when the Church began to be distracted by the spirit
of sectarianism. [534:1]

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

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



Any attentive reader who has marked the chronology of the early bishops
of Rome, as given by Eusebius, [537:1] may have observed that the
pastorates of those who flourished during the first forty years of the
second century were all of comparatively short duration. Clement is
commonly reputed to have died about A.D. 100; [537:2] he was followed by
Evaristus, Alexander, Xystus, and Telesphorus; and Hyginus, who was
placed 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 order
after 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 length
commences, as Pius, by whom he was followed, continued fifteen years in
office--a term considerably more extended than that of any of his five
predecessors. Reckoning from the date of the advancement of Pius, we
find also a decided increase in the average length of the life of the
president for the remainder of the century; as, of the ten individuals
in 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 at
least some ostensible ground for the inquiry whether any arrangement was
made, 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 buried
in obscurity; and a very few facts constitute the whole amount of our
information respecting it during the first century of its existence.
About the time of Hyginus the twilight of history begins to dawn upon
it. Guided by the glimmerings of intelligence thus supplied, we shall
endeavour to illustrate tins dark passage in its annals. The following
statements may contribute somewhat to the explanation of transactions
which have hitherto been rarely noticed by modern ecclesiastical

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 the
Roman bishops. [539:1] If the alteration, mentioned by Hilary, was now
made in the mode of succession to the presidential chair, such a result
must have followed. Under the new regime, the recommendation of large
experience would still have much weight in the choice of a bishop, but
he would frequently enter on his duties at a somewhat earlier age, and
thus the ordinary duration of his official career would be considerably
extended. [539:2]

II. The time of Hyginus exactly answers to the description of the period
when, according to the testimony of Jerome, prelacy commenced. The
heretics then exhibited extraordinary zeal, so that "parties in
religion" were springing up all over the Empire. The Church of Rome is
said to have hitherto escaped the contagion of false doctrine, [539:3]
but now errorists from all quarters began to violate its purity and to
disturb its peace. Valentine, Cerdo, Marcion, and Marcus appeared about
this time in the Western capital. [540:1] Some of these men were noted
for their genius and learning; and there is every reason to believe that
they created no common ferment. They were assiduous in the dissemination
of their principles, and several of them resorted to very extraordinary
and unwarrantable expedients for strengthening their respective
factions. An ancient writer represents them as conducting their
adherents to water, and as baptizing them "in the name of the Unknown
Father of the universe; in the Truth, the mother of all; and in Him who
descended on Jesus." "Others again," says the same authority, "repeated
Hebrew names to inspire the initiated with the greater awe." [540:2]
These attempts at proselytism were not unsuccessful. Valentine, in
particular, made many converts, and after his death, when Irenaeus wrote
a refutation of his heresy, his disciples must still have been numerous.

The account given by Jerome of the state of the Christian interest when
it was deemed necessary to set up episcopacy, is not so completely
supplemented by the condition of the Church at any other period. Never
certainly did the brethren at Rome more require the services of a
skilful and energetic leader, than when the Gnostic chiefs settled in
the great metropolis. Never could it be said with so much truth of their
community, in the language of the Latin father, that "every one reckoned
those 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 advocates
of expediency a better opportunity for pleading in favour of a decree
ordaining that "one chosen from among the presbyters should be put over
the rest, and that the whole care of the Church should be committed to
him, that the seeds of schisms should be taken away." [541:2]

III. The testimony of Hilary, who was contemporary with Jerome, exactly
accords with the views here promulgated as to the date of this
occurrence. This writer, who was also a minister of the Roman Church,
was obviously acquainted with a tradition that a change had taken place
at an early period in the mode of ecclesiastical government. His
evidence is all the more valuable as it contains internal proofs of
derivation from an independent source; for, whilst it corroborates the
statement of Jerome, it supplies fresh historical details. According to
his account, "after that churches were erected in all places and offices
established, an arrangement was adopted different from that which
prevailed at the beginning." [541:3] By "the beginning" he understands
the apostolic age, or the time when the New Testament was written.
[541:4] He then goes on to say, in explanation, that it was found
necessary to change the mode of appointing the chairman of the
eldership, and that he was now promoted to the office by election, and
not by seniority. [541:5] Whilst his language indicates distinctly that
this alteration was made after the days of the apostles, it also implies
a date not later than the second century; for, though it was "after the
beginning," it was at a time when churches had been only _recently_
"erected in all places, and offices established." The period of the
spread of heresies at Rome, at the commencement of the reign of
Antoninus Pius, and when Hyginus closed his career, answers these

IV. As Rome was the head-quarters of heathenism, it was also the place
where 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 a
splendid hierarchy of priests and augurs, presided at the great
festivals; and there, thousands and tens of thousands, prompted by
interest or by prejudice, were prepared to struggle for the maintenance
of the ancient superstition. Already, the Church of Rome had often
sustained the violence of persecution; but, notwithstanding the bloody
trials it had undergone, it had continued steadily to gain strength; and
a sagacious student of the signs of the times might even now have looked
forward to the day when Christianity and paganism, on nearly equal
terms, would be contending for mastery in the chief city of the Empire.
But the proceedings of the heretics were calculated to dissipate all the
visions of ecclesiastical ascendency. If the Roman Christians were split
up into fragments by sectarianism, the Church, in one of its great
centres of influence, would be incalculably injured. And yet, how could
the crisis be averted? How could heresy be most effectually
discountenanced? How could the unity of the Church be best maintained?
In times of peril the Romans had formerly been wont to set up a
Dictator, and to commit the whole power of the commonwealth to one
trusty and vigorous ruler. During the latter days of the Republic, the
State had been almost torn to pieces by contending factions; and now,
under the sway of the Emperors, it enjoyed comparative repose. It seems
to have occurred to the brethren at Rome that they should try the
effects of a similar change in the ecclesiastical constitution. By
committing the government of the Church, in this emergency, almost
entirely into the hands of one able and resolute administrator, they,
perhaps, hoped to contend successfully against the dangers by which they
were now encompassed.

V. A recent calamity of a different character was calculated to abate
the jealousy which such a proposition might have otherwise awakened. It
appears that Telesphorus, the immediate predecessor of Hyginus, suffered
a violent death. [543:1] Telesphorus is the first bishop of Rome whose
title to martyrdom can be fairly established; and not one of his
successors during the remainder of the second century forfeited his life
for his religion. The death of the presiding pastor, as a victim to the
intolerance of heathenism, must have thrown the whole Church into a
state of confusion and perplexity; and when Hyginus was called upon to
occupy the vacant chair, well might he enter upon its duties with deep
anxiety. The appearance of heresy multiplied the difficulties of his
office. It might now be asked with no small amount of plausibility--Is
the presiding presbyter to have no special privileges? If his mind is to
be harassed continually by errorists, and if his life is to be
imperilled in the service of the Church, should he not be distinguished
above his brethren? Without some such encouragement will not the elders
at length refuse to accept a situation which entails so much
responsibility, and yet possesses so little influence? Such questions,
urged under such circumstances, must have been felt to be perplexing.

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

VII. Though we know little of the early history of the Roman see, it
would seem that, on the death of Hyginus, there was a vacancy of unusual
length; and circumstances, which meanwhile took place, argue strongly in
favour of the conclusion that, about this time, the change in the
ecclesiastical constitution indicated by Jerome actually occurred.
According to some, the interval between the death of Hyginus and the
commencement of the episcopate of Pius, his immediate successor, was of
several years' duration; [545:1] but it is clear that the chair must
have been vacant for at least about a twelvemonth. [545:2] How are we to
account for this interregnum? We know that subsequently, in the times of
Decius and of Diocletian, there were vacancies of quite as long
continuance; but then the Church was in the agonies of martyrdom, and
the Roman Christians were prevented by the strong arm of imperial
tyranny from filling up the bishopric. Now no such calamity appears to
have threatened; and the commotions created by the heretics supply
evidence that persecution was asleep. This long vacancy must be
otherwise explained. If Hyginus had been invested with additional
authority, and if he soon afterwards died, it is not to be wondered at
that his removal was the signal for the renewal of agitation. Questions
which, perhaps, had not hitherto been mooted, now arose. How was the
vacant place to be supplied? Was the senior presbyter, no matter how ill
adapted for the crisis, to be allowed to take quiet possession? If other
influential Churches required to be consulted, some time would thus be
occupied; so that delay in the appointment was unavoidable.

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

Some would willingly deny that Valentine was a candidate for the
episcopal chair of Rome, but the fact can be established by evidence the
most direct and conclusive. Tertullian, who had lived in the imperial
city, and who was well acquainted with its Church history, expressly
states that "Valentine hoped for the bishopric, because he excelled in
genius and eloquence, but indignant that another, who had the superior
claim of a confessor, obtained the place, he deserted the Catholic
Church" [546:3] The Carthaginian father does not, indeed, here name the
see to which the heresiarch unsuccessfully aspired, but his words shut
us up to the conclusion that he alluded to Rome. [546:4] And we can thus
discover at least one reason why the history of this vacancy has been
involved in so much mystery. In a few more generations the whole Church
would have felt compromised by any reflection cast upon the orthodoxy of
the great Western bishopric. [547:1] How sadly would many have been
scandalized had it been proclaimed abroad that the arch-heretic
Valentine had once hoped to occupy the chair of St Peter!

VIII. Two letters which are still extant, and which are supposed to have
been addressed by Pius, the immediate successor of Hyginus, to Justus,
bishop of Vienne in Gaul, supply corroborative evidence that the
presiding pastor had recently obtained additional authority. Though the
genuineness of these documents has been questioned, the objections urged
against them have not been sufficient to prevent critics and
antiquarians of all parties from appealing to their testimony. [547:2]
It is not improbable that they are Latin translations from Greek
originals, and we may thus account for a few words to be found in them
which were introduced at a later period. [547:3] Their tone and spirit,
which are entirely different from the spurious productions ascribed to
the same age, plead strongly in their favour as trustworthy witnesses.
The writer makes no lofty pretensions as a Roman bishop; he speaks of
himself simply as at the head of an humble presbytery; and it would be
difficult to divine the motive which could have tempted an impostor to
fabricate such unpretending compositions. Though given as the veritable
Epistles of Pius by the highest literary authorities of Borne, they are
certainly ill calculated to prop up the cause of the Papacy. If their
claims are admitted, they must be regarded as among the earliest
authentic records in which the distinction between the terms bishop and
presbyter is unequivocally recognized; and it is obvious that if
alterations in the ecclesiastical constitution were made under Hyginus,
they must have prepared the way for such a change in the terminology. In
one of these Epistles Pius gives the following piece of advice to his
correspondent:--"Let the elders and deacons respect you, _not as a
greater_, but as the servant of Christ." [548:1] This letter purports to
have been written when its author anticipated the approach of death; and
the individual to whom it is directed seems to have been just placed in
the episcopal chair. Had Pius believed that Justus had a divine right to
rule over the presbyters, would he have tendered such an admonition? A
hundred years afterwards, Cyprian of Carthage, when addressing a young
prelate, would certainly have expressed himself very differently. He
would, probably, have complained of the presumption of the presbyters,
have boasted of the majesty of the episcopate, and have exhorted the new
bishop to remember his apostolical dignity. But, in the middle of the
second century, such language would have been strangely out of place.
Pius is writing to an individual, just entering on an office lately
endowed with additional privileges, who could not yet afford to make an
arbitrary use of his new authority. He, therefore, counsels him to
moderation, and cautions him against presuming on his power. "Beware,"
says he, "in your intercourse with your presbyters and deacons, of
insisting too much on the duty of obedience. Let them feel that your
prerogative is not exercised capriciously, but for good and necessary
purposes. Let the elders and deacons regard you, not so much in the
light of a superior, as the servant of Christ."

In another portion of this letter a piece of intelligence is
communicated, which, as coming from Pius, possesses peculiar interest.
When the law was enacted altering the mode of succession to the
presidency, it may be supposed that the proceeding was deemed somewhat
ungracious 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 the
whole 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 first
vacancy, Pius was promoted over the heads of older men, he may, on this
ground, have felt, to some extent, embarrassed by his elevation. We may
infer, however, from this letter, that the few senior presbyters, with
whose advancement the late arrangement interfered, did not long survive
this crisis in the history of the Church; for the bishop of Rome here
informs his Gallic brother of their demise. "Those presbyters," says he,
"who were taught by the apostles, [549:1] and who have survived to our
own days, with whom we have united in dispensing the word of faith, have
now, in obedience to the call of the Lord, gone to their eternal
rest." [550:1] Such a notice of the decease of these venerable colleagues
is precisely what might have been expected, under the circumstances, in
a letter from Pius to Justus.

IX. The use of the word _bishop_, as denoting the president of the
presbytery, marks an era in the history of ecclesiastical polity. New
terms are not coined without necessity; neither, without an adequate
cause, is a new meaning annexed to an ancient designation. When the name
bishop was first used _as descriptive of the chief pastor_, there must
have been some special reason for such an application of the title; and
the rise of the hierarchy furnishes the only satisfactory
explanation.[550:2] If then we can ascertain when this new nomenclature
first made its appearance, we can also fix the date of the origin of
prelacy. Though the documentary proof available for the illustration of
this subject is comparatively scanty, it is sufficient for our purpose;
and it clearly shews that the presiding elder did not begin to be known
by the title of bishop until about the middle of the second century.
Polycarp, who seems to have written about that time,[550:3] still uses
the terminology employed by the apostles. Justin Martyr, the earliest
father who has left behind him memorials amounting in extent to anything
like a volume, often speaks of the chief minister of the Church, and
designates him, not the bishop, but _the president_. [551:1] His
phraseology is all the more important as he lived for some time in Rome,
and as he undoubtedly adopted the style of expression once current in
the great city. But another writer, who was his contemporary, and who
also resided in the capital, incidentally supplies evidence that the new
title was then just coming into use. The author of the book called
"Pastor," when referring to those who were at the head of the
presbyteries, describes them as "THE BISHOPS, _that is_, THE PRESIDENTS
OF THE CHURCHES." [551:2] The reason why he here deems it necessary to
explain what he means by bishops cannot well be mistaken. The name, in
its new application, was not yet familiar to the public ear; and it
therefore required to be interpreted by the more ancient designation.
Could we tell when this work of Hermas was written, we could also
perhaps name the very year when the president of the eldership was first
called bishop. [551:3] It is now pretty generally admitted that the
author was no other than the brother of Pius of Rome, [551:4] the
immediate successor of Hyginus, so that he wrote exactly at the time
when, as appears from other evidences, the transition from presbytery to
prelacy actually occurred. His words furnish a very strong, but an
undesigned, attestation to the novelty of the episcopal regimen.

X. But, perhaps, the most pointed, and certainly the most remarkable
testimony to the fact that a change took place in the constitution of
the Roman Church in the time of Hyginus is furnished from a quarter
where such a voucher might have been, least of all, anticipated. We
allude to the _Pontifical Book_. This work has been ascribed to Damasus,
the well-known bishop of the metropolis of the West, who flourished in
the fourth century, but much of it is unquestionably of later origin;
and though many of its statements are apocryphal, it is often quoted as
a document of weight by the most distinguished writers of the Romish
communion. [552:1] Its account of the early popes is little better than
a mass of fables; but some of its details are evidently exaggerations,
or rather caricatures, of an authentic tradition; and a few grains of
truth may be discovered here and there in a heap of fictions and
anachronisms. This part of the production contains one brief sentence
which has greatly puzzled the commentators, [552:2] as it is strangely
out of keeping with the general spirit of the narrative, and as it
contradicts, rather awkwardly, the pretensions of the popedom. According
GRADATIONS." [552:3] Peter himself is described by Romanists as
organizing the Church; but here, one of his alleged successors, upwards
of seventy years after his death, is set forth as the real framer of the
hierarchy. [553:1] The facts already adduced prove that this obscure
announcement rests upon a sound historical foundation, and that it
vaguely indicates the alterations now introduced into the ecclesiastical
constitution. If Hilary and Jerome be employed as its interpreters, the
truth may be easily eliminated. At a synod held in Rome, Hyginus brought
under the notice of the meeting the confusion and scandal created by the
movements of the errorists; and, with a view to correct these disorders,
the council agreed to invest the moderator of each presbytery with
increased authority, to give him a discretionary power as the general
superintendent of the Church, and to require the other elders, as well
as the deacons, to act under his advice and direction. A new functionary
was 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 deliberations
of the convocation, is said to have "arranged the clergy and distributed
the gradations."

The change in the ecclesiastical polity which now occurred led to
results equally extensive and permanent, and yet it has been but
indistinctly noticed by the writers of antiquity. Nor is it so strange
that we have no contemporary account of this ecclesiastical revolution.
The history of other occurrences and innovations is buried in profound
obscurity. We can only ascertain by inference what were the reasons
which led to the general adoption of the sign of the cross, to the use
of the chrism in baptism, to standing at the Lord's Supper, to the
institution of lectors, acolyths, and sub-deacons, and to the
establishment of metropolitans. Though the Paschal controversy agitated
almost the whole Church towards the close of the second century, and
though Tertullian wrote immediately afterwards, he does not once mention
it in any of his numerous extant publications. [554:1] Owing to peculiar
circumstances the rise of prelacy can be more minutely traced than that
of, perhaps, any other of the alterations which were introduced during
the first three centuries. At the time the change which it involved was
probably considered not very important; but, as the remaining literary
memorials of the period are few and scanty, the reception which it
experienced can now only be conjectured. The alteration was adopted as
an antidote against the growth of heresy, and thus originating in
circumstances of a humiliating character, there would be little
disposition, on the part of ecclesiastical writers, to dwell upon its
details. Soon afterwards the pride of churchmen began to be developed;
and it was then found convenient to forget that all things originally
did not accord with existing arrangements, and that the hierarchy itself
was but a human contrivance. Prelacy soon advanced apace, and every
bishop had an interest in exalting "his order." It is only wonderful
that so much truth has oozed out from witnesses so prejudiced, and that
the Pontifical Book contains so decisive a deposition. And the momentous
consequences of this apparently slight infringement upon the primitive
polity cannot be overlooked. That very Church which, in its attempts to
suppress heresy, first departed from divine arrangements, was soon
involved in doctrinal error, and eventually became the great
foster-mother of superstition and idolatry.

It may at first seem extraordinary that the ecclesiastical
transformation was so rapidly accomplished; but, when the circumstances
are more attentively considered, this view of the subject presents no
real difficulty. At the outset, the principle now sanctioned produced
very little alteration on the general aspect of the spiritual
commonwealth. At this period a Church, in most places, consisted of a
single congregation; and as one elder labouring in the word and doctrine
was generally deemed sufficient to minister to the flock, only a slight
modification took place in the constitution of such a society. The
preaching elder, who was entitled by authority of Scripture [555:1] to
take precedence of elders who only ruled, had always been permitted to
act as moderator; but, on the ground of the new arrangement, the pastor
probably began to assume an authority over his session which he had
never hitherto ventured to exercise. In the beginning of the reign of
Antoninus Pius the number of towns with several Christian congregations
must have been but small; and if five or six leading cities approved of
the system now inaugurated at Rome, its general adoption was thus
secured. The statements of Jerome and Hilary attest that the matter was
submitted to a synod; and the remarkable interregnum which followed the
death of Hyginus can be best accounted for on the hypothesis that
meanwhile the ministers of the great metropolis found it necessary to
consult the rulers of other influential and distant Churches. If the
measure had the sanction of these foreign brethren, they were of course
prepared to resort to it at home on the demise of their presiding
presbyter. Heretics were now disturbing the Church all over the Empire,
so that the same arguments could be everywhere used in favour of the new
polity. We find, too, that there was a vacancy in the presidential chair
at Antioch about the time of the death of Hyginus; and that, in the
course of the next year, a similar vacancy occurred at Alexandria.
[555:2] If the three most important Churches then in Christendom, with
the sanction of a very few others of less note, almost simultaneously
adopted the new arrangement, the question was practically settled. There
were probably not more than twenty cities to be found with more than one
Christian congregation; and places of inferior consequence would
speedily act upon the example of the large capitals. But unquestionably
the system now introduced gradually effected a complete revolution in
the state of the Church. The ablest man in the presbytery was commonly
elevated to the chair, so that the weight of his talents, and of his
general character, was added to his official consequence. The bishop
soon became the grand centre of influence and authority, and arrogated
to himself the principal share in the administration of all divine

When this change commenced, the venerable Polycarp was still alive, and
there are some grounds for believing that, when far advanced in life, he
was induced to undertake a journey to Rome on a mission of remonstrance.
This view is apparently corroborated by the fact that his own Church of
Smyrna 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 continued
under presbyterial government. Irenaeus was obviously well acquainted
with the circumstances which occasioned this extraordinary visit of
Polycarp to Rome; but had he not come into collision with the pastor of
the great city in the controversy relating to the Paschal Feast, we
might never have heard of its occurrence. Even when he mentions it, he
observes a mysterious silence as to its main design. The Paschal
question awakened little interest in the days of Polycarp, and among the
topics which he discussed with Anicetus when at Rome, it confessedly
occupied a subordinate position. [556:2] "When," says Irenaeus, "the
most blessed Polycarp came to Rome in the days of Anicetus, and when as
to _certain other matters_ they had a little controversy, they were
immediately agreed on this point (of the Passover) without any
disputation." [557:1] What the "certain other matters" were which
created 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 of
age, felt it necessary to make a lengthened journey by sea and land with
a view to their adjustment. He obviously considered that Anicetus was at
least influentially connected with arrangements which he deemed
objectionable; and he plainly felt that he could hope to obtain their
modification or abandonment only by a personal conference with the Roman
pastor. And intimations are not wanting that he was rather doubtful
whether Anicetus would be disposed to treat with him as his
ecclesiastical peer, for he seems to have been in some degree appeased
when the bishop of the capital permitted him to preside in the Church at
the celebration of the Eucharist. [557:2] This, certainly, was no
extraordinary piece of condescension; as Polycarp, on various grounds,
was entitled to take precedence of his Roman brother; [557:3] and the
reception given to the "apostolic presbyter" was only what might have
fairly been expected in the way of ministerial courtesy. [557:4] Why has
it then been mentioned as an exhibition of the episcopal humility of
Anicetus? Apparently because he had been previously making some arrogant
assumptions. He had been, probably, presuming on his position as a
pastor of the "new order," and his bearing had perhaps been so offensive
that Polycarp had been commissioned to visit him on an errand of
expostulation. But by prudently paying marked deference to the aged
stranger; and, it may be, by giving a plausible account of some
proceedings which had awakened anxiety; he appears to have succeeded in
quieting his apprehensions. That the presiding minister of the Church of
Smyrna was engaged in some such delicate mission is all but certain, as
the design of the journey would not otherwise have been involved in so
profound secrecy. The very fact of its occurrence is first noticed about
forty years afterwards, when the haughty behaviour of another bishop of
Rome provoked Irenaeus to call up certain unwelcome reminiscences which
it must have suggested.

Though the journey of Polycarp betokens that he must have been deeply
dissatisfied with something which was going forward in the great
metropolis, we can only guess at its design and its results; and it is
now impossible to ascertain whether the alterations introduced there
encountered any very formidable opposition: but it is by no means
improbable that they were effected without much difficulty. The
disorders of the Church imperatively called for some strong remedy; and
it perhaps occurred to not a few that a distracted presbytery, under the
presidency of a feeble old man, was but ill fitted to meet the
emergency. They would accordingly propose to strengthen the executive
government by providing for the appointment of a more efficient
moderator, and by arming him with additional authority. The people would
be gratified by the change, for, though in Rome and some other great
cities, where its effects would be felt most sensibly, they, no doubt,
met before this time in separate congregations, yet they had still much
united intercourse; and as, on such occasions, their edification
depended mainly on the gifts of the chairman of the eldership, they
would gladly join in advancing the best preacher in the presbytery to
the office of president. At this particular crisis the alteration may
not have been unacceptable to the elders themselves. To those of them
who were in the decline of life, there was nothing very inviting in the
prospect of occupying the most prominent position in a Church threatened
by persecution and torn by divisions, so that they may have been not
unwilling to waive any claim to the presidency which their seniority
implied; whilst the more vigorous, sanguine, and aspiring, would hail an
arrangement which promised at no distant day to place one of themselves
in a position of greatly increased dignity and influence. Whilst all
were agreed that the times demanded the appointment of the ablest member
of presbytery as moderator, none, perhaps, foresaw the danger of adding
permanently to the prerogatives of so potent a chairman. It was never
anticipated that the day would come when the new law would be regarded
as any other than a human contrivance; and when the bishops and their
adherents would contend that the presbyters, under no circumstances
whatever, had a right to reassume that power which they now surrendered.
The result, however, has demonstrated the folly of human wisdom. The
prelates, who were originally set up to save the Church from heresy,
became themselves at length the abetters of false doctrine; and whilst
they thus grievously abused the influence with which they were
entrusted, they had the temerity to maintain that they still continued
to be exclusively the fountains of spiritual authority.

It is not to be supposed that prelacy was set up at once in the
plenitude of its power. Neither is it to be imagined that the system was
simultaneously adopted by Christians all over the world. Jerome informs
us that it was established "by little and little;" [559:1] and he thus
apparently refers, as well to its gradual spread, as to the almost
imperceptible growth of its pretensions. We have shewn, in a preceding
chapter, [560:1] that in various cities, such as Smyrna, Caesarea, and
Jerusalem, the senior presbyter continued to be the president until
about the close of the second century; and there the Church seems to
have been meanwhile governed by "the common council of the presbyters."
[560:2] Evidence can be adduced to prove that, in many places, even at a
much later period, the episcopal system was still unknown. [560:3] But
its advocates were active and influential, and they continued to make
steady progress. The consolidation of the Catholic system contributed
vastly to its advancement. The leading features of this system must now
be illustrated.



The word _catholic_, which signifies universal or general, came into use
towards the end of the second century. Its introduction indicates a new
phase in the history of the ecclesiastical community. For upwards of a
hundred years after its formation, the Church presented the appearance
of one great and harmonious brotherhood, as false teachers had hitherto
failed to create any considerable diversity of sentiment; but when many
of the literati began to embrace the gospel, the influence of elements
of discord soon became obvious. These converts attempted to graft their
philosophical theories on Christianity; not a few of the more unstable
of the brethren, captivated by their ingenuity and eloquence, were
tempted to adopt their views; and though the great mass of the disciples
repudiated their adulterations of the truth, the Christian commonwealth
was distracted and divided. Those who banded themselves together to
maintain the unity of the Church were soon known by the designation of
Catholics. "After the days of the apostles," says one of the fathers,
"when heresies had burst forth, and were striving under various names to
tear piecemeal and divide the Dove and the Queen of God, [561:1] did not
the apostolic people require a name of their own whereby to mark the
unity of those that were uncorrupted? .... Therefore our people, when
named Catholic, are separated by this title from those denominated
heretics." [562:1]

The Catholic system, being an integral portion of the policy which
invested the presiding elder with additional authority, rose
contemporaneously with Prelacy. When Gnosticism was spreading so
rapidly, and creating so much scandal and confusion, schism upon schism
appeared unavoidable. How was the Church to be kept from going to
pieces? How could its unity be best conserved? How could it contend most
successfully against its subtle and restless disturbers? Such were the
problems which now occupied the attention of its leading ministers. It
was thought that all these difficulties would be solved by the adoption
of the Catholic system. Were the Church, it was said, to place more
power in the hands of individuals, and then to consolidate its
influence, it could bear down more effectively upon the errorists. Every
chief pastor of the Catholic Church was the symbol of the unity of his
own ecclesiastical district; and the associated bishops represented the
unity of the whole body of the faithful. According to the Catholic
system when strictly carried out, every individual excommunicated by one
bishop was excommunicated by all, so that when a heresiarch was excluded
from fellowship in one city, he could not be received elsewhere. The
visible unity of the Church was the great principle which the Catholic
system sought to realise. "The Church," says Cyprian, "which is catholic
and one, is not separated or divided, but is in truth connected and
joined together by the cement of bishops mutually cleaving to each
other." [562:2]

The funds of the Church were placed very early in the hands of the
president of the eldership, [563:1] and though they may not have been at
his absolute disposal, he, no doubt, soon found means of sustaining his
authority by means of his monetary influence. But the power which he
possessed, as the recognized centre of ecclesiastical unity, to prevent
any of his elders or deacons from performing any official act of which
he disapproved, constituted one of the essential features of the
Catholic system. "The right to administer baptism," says Tertullian,
"belongs to the chief priest, that is, the bishop: then to the
presbyters and the deacons, [563:2] yet not without the authority of the
bishop, _for the honour of the Church_, which being preserved, peace is
preserved." [563:3] Here, the origin of Catholicism is pretty distinctly
indicated; for the prerogatives of the bishop are described, not as
matters of divine right, but of ecclesiastical arrangement. [563:4] They
were given to him "for the honour of the Church," that peace might be
preserved when heretics began to cause divisions.

Though the bishop could give permission to others to celebrate divine
ordinances, he was himself their chief administrator. He was generally
the only preacher; he usually dispensed baptism; [563:5] and he presided
at the observance of the Eucharist. At Rome, where the Catholic system
was maintained most scrupulously, his presence seems to have been
considered necessary to the due consecration of the elements. Hence, at
one time, the sacramental symbols were carried from the cathedral church
to all the places of Christian worship throughout the city. [564:1] With
such minute care did the Roman chief pastor endeavour to disseminate the
doctrine that whoever was not in communion with the bishop was out of
the Church.

The establishment of a close connexion, between certain large Christian
associations and the smaller societies around them, constituted the next
link in the organization of the Catholic system. These communities,
being generally related as mother and daughter churches, were already
prepared to adapt themselves to the new type of ecclesiastical polity.
The apostles, or their immediate disciples, had founded congregations in
most of the great cities of the Empire; and every society thus
instituted, 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 little
flocks in his vicinity, to signify that he acknowledged them as
brethren; [564:3] and every pastor who thus enjoyed communion with the
principal Church was recognized as a Catholic bishop. This parent
establishment was considered a bulwark which could protect all the
Christian communities surrounding it from heresy, and they were
consequently expected to be guided by its traditions. "It is manifest,"
says Tertullian, "that all doctrine, which agrees with these apostolic
Churches, THE WOMBS AND ORIGINALS OF THE FAITH, [564:4] must be
accounted true, as without doubt containing that which the Churches have
received from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, Christ from God:
and that all other doctrine must be judged at once to be false, which
savours of things contrary to the truth of the Churches, and of the
apostles, and of Christ, and of God....Go through the apostolic
Churches, in which the very _seats of the apostles, at this very day,
preside over their own places_, [565:1] in which their own authentic
writings are read, speaking with the voice of each, and making the face
of each present to the eye. Is Achaia near to you? You have Corinth. If
you are not far from Macedonia, you have Philippi, you have the
Thessalonians. [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 an
authority close at hand." [565:3]

But the Catholic system was not yet complete. In every congregation the
bishop or pastor was the centre of unity, and in every district the
principal or apostolic Church bound together the smaller Christian
societies; but how were the apostolic Churches themselves to be united?
This question did not long remain without a solution. [565:4] Had the
Church of Jerusalem, when the Catholic system was first organized, still
occupied its ancient position, it might have established a better title
to precedence than any other ecclesiastical community in existence. It
had been, beyond all controversy, the mother Church of Christendom. But
it had been recently dissolved, and a new society, composed, to a great
extent, of new members, was now in process of formation in the new city
of Aelia. Meanwhile the Church of Rome had been rapidly acquiring
strength, and its connexion with the seat of government pointed it out
as the appropriate head of the Catholic confederation. If the greatest
convenience of the greatest number of Churches were to be taken into
account, it had claims of peculiar potency, for it was easily accessible
by sea or land from all parts of the Empire, and it had facilities for
keeping up communication with the provinces to which no other society
could pretend. Nor were these its only recommendations. It had, as was
alleged, been watered by the ministry of two or three [556:1] of the
apostles, so that, even as an apostolic Church, it had high pretensions.
In addition to all this, it had, more than once, sustained with
extraordinary constancy the first and fiercest brunt of persecution; and
if its members had so signalized themselves in the army of martyrs, why
should not its bishop lead the van of the Catholic Church? Such
considerations urged in favour of a community already distinguished by
its wealth, as well as by its charity, were amply sufficient to
establish its claim as the centre of Catholic unity. If, as is probable,
the arrangement was concocted in Rome itself, they must have been felt
to be irresistible. Hence Irenaeus, writing about A.D. 180, speaks of it
even then as the recognized head of the Churches of the Empire. "To this
Church," says he, "because it is more potentially principal, it is
necessary that every Catholic Church should go, as in it the apostolic
tradition has by the Catholics been always preserved." [567:1]

Many Protestant writers have attempted to explain away the meaning of
this remarkable passage, but the candid student of history is bound to
listen respectfully to its testimony. When we assign to the words of
Irenaeus all the significance of which they are susceptible, they only
attest the fact that, in the latter half of the second century, the
Church of Rome was acknowledged as the most potent of all the apostolic
Churches. And in the same place the grounds of its pre-eminence are
enumerated pretty fully by the pastor of Lyons. It was the most ancient
Church in the West of Europe; it was also the most populous; like a city
set upon a hill, it was known to all; and it was reputed to have had for
its 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 the
principal of the apostolic or principal Churches.

It has been already stated that every principal bishop, [567:3] or
presiding minister of an apostolic Church, sent the Eucharist to the
pastors around him as a pledge of their ecclesiastical fellowship; and
it would appear that the bishop of Rome kept up intercourse with the
other bishops of the apostolic Churches by transmitting to them the same
symbol of catholicity. [567:4] The sacred elements were doubtless
conveyed by confidential churchmen, who served, at the same time, as
channels of communication between the great prelate and the more
influential of his brethren. By this means the communion of the whole
Catholic Church was constantly maintained.

When the Catholic system was set up, and the bishop of Rome recognized
as its Head, he was not supposed to possess, in his new position, any
arbitrary or despotic authority. He was simply understood to hold among
pastors the place which had previously been occupied by the senior elder
in the presbytery--that is, he was the president or moderator. The
theoretical parity of all bishops, the chief pastor of Rome included,
was a principle long jealously asserted. [568:1] But the prelate of the
capital was the individual to whom other bishops addressed themselves
respecting all matters affecting the general interests of the
ecclesiastical community; he collected their sentiments; and he
announced the decisions of their united wisdom. It was, however,
scarcely possible for an official in his circumstances either to satisfy
all parties, or to keep within the limits of his legitimate power. When
his personal feelings were known to run strongly in a particular
channel, the minority, to whom he was opposed, would at least suspect
him of attempting domination. Hence it was that by those who were
discontented with his policy he was tauntingly designated, as early as
the beginning of the third century, The Supreme Pontiff, and The Bishop
of Bishops. [568:2] These titles cannot now be gravely quoted as proofs
of the existence of the claims which they indicate; for they were
employed ironically by malcontents who wished thus either to impeach his
partiality, or to condemn his interference. But they supply clear
evidence that his growing influence was beginning to be formidable, and
that he already stood at the head of the ministers of Christendom.

The preceding statements enable us to understand why the interests of
Rome and of the Catholic Church have always been identified. The
metropolis of Italy has, in fact, from the beginning been the heart of
the Catholic system. In ancient times Roman statesmen were noted for
their skill in fitting up the machinery of political government: Roman
churchmen have laboured no less successfully in the department of
ecclesiastical organization. The Catholic system is a wonderful specimen
of constructive ability; and there is every reason to believe that the
same 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. The
bishop of Carthage, who flourished only about a century after it
appeared, was connected with that quarter of the Church in which it
originated. We cannot, therefore, reasonably reject the depositions of
so competent a witness, more especially when he speaks so frequently and
so confidently of its source. When he describes the Roman bishopric as
"_the root_ and _womb_ of _the Catholic Church_," [569:1] his language
admits of no second interpretation. He was well aware that the Church of
Jerusalem was the root and womb of all the apostolic Churches; and when
he employs such phraseology, he must refer to some new phase of
Christianity which had originated in the capital of the Empire. In
another place he speaks of "the see of Peter, and the principal Church,
_whence the unity of the priesthood took its rise_." [569:2] Such
statements shut us up to the conclusion that Rome was the source and
centre from which Catholicism radiated.

This system could have been only gradually developed, and nearly half a
century appears to have elapsed before it acquired such maturity that it
attained a distinctive designation. [570:1] But, as it was currently
believed to be admirably adapted to the exigencies of the Church, it
spread with much rapidity; and, in less than a hundred years after its
rise, its influence may be traced in almost all parts of the Empire. We
may thus explain a historical phenomenon which might otherwise be
unaccountable. Towards the close of the second and throughout the whole
of the third century, ecclesiastical writers connected with various and
distant provinces refer with peculiar respect to the Apostle Peter, and
even appeal to Scripture [570:2] with a view to his exaltation. Their
misinterpretations of the Word reveal an extreme anxiety to obtain
something like an inspired warrant for their catholicism. The visible
unity 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 as
his interest, to uphold the claims of the supposed representative of
Peter, and thus to maintain the cause of ecclesiastical unity. It might
have been anticipated under such circumstances that Scripture would be
miserably perverted, and that the see, which was believed to possess as
its heritage the prerogatives of the apostle of the circumcision, would
be the subject of extravagant laudation.

Ambition has been often represented as the great principle which guided
the policy of the early Roman bishops, but there is no evidence that, as
a class, they were inferior in piety to other churchmen, and the
readiness with which some of them suffered for the faith attests their
Christian sincerity and resolution. Ambition, doubtless, soon began to
operate; but their elevation was not so much the result of any deep-laid
scheme for their aggrandizement, as of a series of circumstances pushing
them into prominence, and placing them in a most influential position.
The efforts of heretics to create division led to a reaction, and
tempted the Church to adopt arrangements for preserving union by which
its liberties were eventually compromised. The bishop of Rome found
himself almost immediately at the head of the Catholic league, and there
is no doubt that, before the close of the second century, he was
acknowledged as the chief pastor of Christendom. About that time we see
him writing letters to some of the most distinguished bishops of the
East [571:1] directing them to call councils; and it does not appear
that his epistles were deemed unwarranted or officious. Unity of
doctrine was speedily connected with unity of discipline, and an opinion
gradually prevailed that the Church Catholic should exhibit universal
uniformity. When Victor differed from the Asiatic bishops relative to
the mode of observing the Paschal festival, he was only seeking to
realize the idea of unity; and, as the Head of the Catholic Church, he
might have carried out against them his threat of excommunication, had
he not in this particular case been moving in advance of public opinion.
When Stephen, sixty years afterwards, disputed with Cyprian and others
concerning the rebaptism of heretics, he was still endeavouring to work
out the same unity; and the bishop of Carthage found himself involved in
contradictions when he proceeded at once to assert his independence, and
to concede to the see of Peter the honour which, as he admitted, it
could 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, it
sanctions the startling inference that whoever is not connected with a
certain ecclesiastical society must be out of the pale of salvation. The
most grinding spiritual tyranny ever known has been erected on this
foundation. And yet how hollow is the whole system! It is no more
necessary that all the children of God in this world should belong to
the same visible Church than that all the children of men should be
connected with the same earthly monarchy. All believers are "one in
Christ;" they have all "one Lord, one faith, one baptism;" but "the
kingdom of God cometh not with observation," and the unity of the saints
on earth can be discerned only by the eye of Omniscience. They are all
sustained by the same living bread which cometh down from heaven, but
they may receive their spiritual provision as members of ten thousand
separated Churches. All who truly love the Saviour are united to Him by
a link which can never be broken; and no ecclesiastical barrier can
either exclude them from His presence here, or shut them out from His
fellowship hereafter. But a number of men might as well propose to
appropriate all the light of the sun or all the winds of heaven, as
attempt to form themselves into a privileged society with a monopoly of
the means of salvation.

The Church of Rome is understood to be the spiritual Babylon of the
Apocalypse, and yet one point of correspondence between the type and the
antitype seems to have been hitherto overlooked. The great city of
Babylon commenced with the erection of Babel, and the builders said--"Go
to, 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 of
the whole earth." [573:1] Civil unity was avowedly the end designed by
these architects. Amongst other purposes contemplated by the famous
tower, it appears to have been intended to serve as a centre of
catholicity--a great rallying point or landmark--by which every citizen
might 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 first
work written in Rome after the establishment of Prelacy, the Church is
described under the similitude of a tower! [573:2] When Hyginus
"established the gradations," the hierarchy at once assumed that
appearance. And the see of Peter, the centre of Catholic unity, was now
to be the great spiritual landmark to guide the steps of all true
churchmen. The ecclesiastical builders prospered for a time, but when
Constantine had finished a new metropolis in the East, some symptoms of
disunion revealed themselves. When the Empire was afterwards divided,
jealousies increased; the builders could not well understand one
another's speech; and the Church at length witnessed the great schism of
the Greeks and the Latins. In due time the Reformation interfered still
more vexatiously with the building of the ecclesiastical Babel. But this
more recent schism has given a mighty impulse to the cause of freedom,
of civilization, and of truth; for the Protestants, scattered abroad
over the face of the whole earth, have been spreading far and wide the
light of the gospel. The builders of Babel still continue their work,
but their boasted unity is gone for ever; and now, with the exception of
their political manoeuvring, their highest achievements are literally in
the department of stone and mortar. They may found costly edifices, and
they may erect spires pointing, like the tower of Babel, to the skies,
but they can no longer reasonably hope to bind together the liberated
nations with the chains of a gigantic despotism, or to induce
worshippers of all kindreds and tongues to adopt the one dead language
of Latin superstition. The signs of the times indicate that the remnant
of the Catholic workmen must soon "leave off to build the city." The
final overthrow of the mystical Babylon will usher in the millennium of
the Church, and the present success of Protestant missions is
premonitory of the approaching doom of Romish ritualism. It is
written--"I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the
everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to
every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud
voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is
come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the
fountains of waters. And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon
is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations
drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication." [574:1]



It has been already stated that, except in a few great cities where
there were several Christian congregations, the introduction of
Episcopacy produced a very slight change in the appearance of the
ecclesiastical community. In towns and villages, where the disciples
constituted but a single flock, they had commonly only one teaching
elder; and as, in accordance with apostolic rule, [575:1] this labourer
in the word and doctrine was deemed worthy of double honour, he was
already the most prominent and influential member of the brotherhood.
The new arrangement merely clothed him with the name of _bishop_, and
somewhat augmented his authority. Having the funds of the Church at his
disposal, he had special influence; and though he could not well act
without the sanction of his elders, he could easily contrive to negative
any of their resolutions which did not meet his approval.

It is abundantly clear that this primitive dignitary was ordinarily the
pastor of only a single congregation. "If, before the multitude
increase, there should be a place having a few faithful men in it, to
the extent of twelve, who shall be able to make a dedication to pious
uses for a bishop, let them write to the Churches round about the
place," says an ancient canon, "that three chosen men.... may come to
examine with diligence him who has been thought worthy of this
degree.... If he has not a wife, it is a good thing; but if he has
married a wife, having children, let him abide with her, continuing
steadfast in every doctrine, able to explain the Scriptures well."
[576:1] This humble functionary was assisted in the management of his
little flock by two or three elders. "If the bishop has attended to the
knowledge and patience of the love of God," says another regulation,
"let him ordain two presbyters, when he has examined them, or rather
three." [576:2] The bishop, the elders, and the deacons, all assembled
in one place every Lord's day for congregational worship. An old
ecclesiastical law accordingly prescribes the following
arrangement--"Let the seat of the bishop be placed in the midst, and let
the presbyters sit on each side of him, and let the deacons stand by
them,... and let it be their care that the people sit a with all
quietness 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 simply
the parochial minister. Towards the close of the second century, the
bishop and the teacher were designations of the same import. Speaking of
those at the head of the Churches, Irenaeus describes them as
distinguished by their superior or inferior ability in sermonizing;
[576:4] and a well-informed writer, who flourished as late as the fourth
century, mentions preaching as the bishop's peculiar function. [576:5]
In the apostolic age every one who had popular gifts was permitted to
edify the congregation by their exercise; [576:6] and, long afterwards,
any elder, who was qualified to speak in the Church, was at liberty to
address his fellow-worshippers. When Origen, prior to his ordination as
a presbyter, ventured to expound the Scriptures publicly at the request
of the bishops of Palestine, Demetrius, his own ecclesiastical superior,
denounced his conduct as irregular; but the parties, by whom the learned
Alexandrian had been invited to lecture, boldly vindicated the
proceeding. He (Demetrius) has asserted, said they, "that this was never
before either heard or done, that laymen should deliver discourses in
the presence of bishops. We know not how it happens that he is here
evidently so far from the truth. For, indeed, wherever there are found
those qualified to benefit the brethren, they are exhorted by the holy
bishops to address the people." [577:1] But still the bishop himself was
the stated and ordinary preacher; and when he was sick or absent, the
flock could seldom expect a sermon. When present, he always administered
the Lord's Supper with his own hands, and dispensed in person the rite
of baptism. He also occupied the chair at the meetings of the
presbytery, and presided at the ordination of the elders and deacons of
his congregation.

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

There were commonly several elders and deacons connected with every
worshipping 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 their
inheritance, it would be quite a mistake to infer that they all
subsisted on their official income. Not a few of them probably derived
their maintenance from secular employments, some of them being tradesmen
or artizans, and others in stations of greater prominence. Hyacinthus,
an elder of the Church of Rome in the time of bishop Victor, appears to
have held a situation in the Imperial household, [579:1] and Tertullian
complains that persons engaged in trades directly connected with the
support of idolatry were promoted to ecclesiastical offices. [579:2]
There was a time when even an apostle laboured as a tent-maker, but as
the hierarchical spirit acquired strength, and as the Church increased
in wealth and numbers, there was a growing impression that all its
office-bearers were degraded by such services. Cyprian speaks with
extreme bitterness of a deceased elder who had appointed a brother elder
the executor of his will, declaring that the clergy "should in no way be
called off from their holy ministrations nor tied down by secular
troubles and business." [579:3] But the common sense of the Church
revolted against such high-flown spiritualism, as in many districts
where the disciples were still few and indigent, they could not afford a
suitable support for all entrusted with the performance of
ecclesiastical duties. Hence, before the recognition of Christianity by
Constantine, even bishops in some countries were permitted by trade to
eke out a scanty maintenance. "Let not bishops, elders, and deacons
leave their places for the sake of trading," says a council held in the
beginning of the fourth century, "nor travelling about the provinces let
them be found dealing in fairs. However, _to provide a living for
themselves_, let them send either a son, or a freedman, or a servant, or
a friend, or any one else: and if they wish to trade, let them do so
within 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 the
presbytery," and this mode of designation to the ministry appears to
have continued until some time in the third century. We are informed by
the most learned of the fathers, in a passage to which the attention of
the reader has already been invited, [580:2] that "even at Alexandria,
from Mark the Evangelist until Heraclas and Dionysius the bishops, the
presbyters were always in the habit of naming bishop one chosen from
among themselves and placed in a higher degree, in the same manner as if
an army should make an emperor, or the deacons choose from among
themselves one whom they knew to be industrious and call him
archdeacon." [580:3] As Jerome here mentions various important facts of
which we might have otherwise remained ignorant, and as this statement
throws 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 the
dignity of presbyters, and is endeavouring to shew that they are very
little inferior to bishops. He admits, indeed, that, in his own days,
they had ceased to ordain; but he intimates that they once possessed the
right, and that they retained it in all its integrity until the former
part of the preceding century. Some have thought that Jerome has here
expressed himself indefinitely, and that he did not know the exact date
at which the arrangement he describes ceased at Alexandria. But his
testimony, when fairly analysed, can scarcely be said to want precision;
for he obviously speaks of Heraclas and Dionysius as bishops _by
anticipation_, alleging that a custom which anciently existed among the
elders of the Egyptian metropolis was maintained until the time when
these ecclesiastics, who afterwards successively occupied the episcopal
chair, sat together in the presbytery. The period, thus pointed out, can
be easily ascertained. Demetrius, bishop of Alexandria, after a long
official life of forty-three years, died about A.D. 232, [581:1] and it
is well known that Heraclas and Dionysius were both members of his
presbytery 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 Jerome
probably continued somewhat longer. Cyprian apparently hints at such
cases of exception when he says that in "_almost_ all the provinces,"
[581:2] the neighbouring bishops assembled, on the occasion of an
episcopal vacancy, at the new election and ordination. It may have been
that, in a few of the more considerable towns, the elders still
continued 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 language
obviously implies that such a mode of creating the chief pastor was not
confined to the Church of the metropolis of Egypt. It existed wherever
Christianity had gained a footing, and he mentions this particular see,
partly, because of its importance--being, in point of rank, the second
in the Empire--and partly, perhaps, because the remarkable circumstances
in its history, leading to the alteration which he specifies, were known
to all his well-informed contemporaries. Jerome does not say that the
Alexandrian presbyters inducted their bishop by imposition of hands,
[582:1] or set him apart to his office by any formal ordination. His
words apparently indicate that they did not recognize the necessity of
any special rite of investiture; that they made the bishop by election;
and that, when once acknowledged as the object of their choice, he was
at liberty to enter forthwith on the performance of his episcopal
duties. When the Roman soldiers made an emperor they appointed him by
acclamation, and the cheers which issued from their ranks as he stood up
before the legions and as he was clothed with the purple by one of
themselves, constituted the ceremony of his inauguration. The ancient
archdeacon was still one of the deacons; [582:2] as he was the chief
almoner of the Church, he required to possess tact, discernment, and
activity; and, in the fourth century, he was nominated to his office by
his fellow-deacons. Jerome assures us that, until the time of Heraclas
and Dionysius, the elders made a bishop just in the same way as in his
own day the soldiers made an emperor, or as the deacons chose one whom
they knew to be industrious, and made him an archdeacon.

In one of the letters purporting to have been written by Pius, bishop of
Rome, to Justus of Vienne, shortly after the middle of the second
century, there is a passage which supplies a singularly striking
confirmation of the testimony of Jerome. Even were we to admit that the
genuineness of this epistle cannot be satisfactorily established, it
must still be acknowledged to be a very ancient document, and were it of
somewhat later date than its title indicates, it should at least be
received as representing the traditions which prevailed respecting the
ecclesiastical arrangements of an early antiquity. In this communication
Pius speaks of his episcopal correspondent of Vienne as "_constituted by
the 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] he
understands the presbytery. And as the soldiers made a sovereign by
saluting him emperor, and arraying him in the purple; so the elders made
a president by clothing him with a certain piece of dress, and calling
him bishop. Thus, the statement of Jerome is exactly corroborated by the
evidence of this witness.

We may infer from the letter of Pius that in Gaul and Italy, as well as
in 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 other
arrangement originally existed. The declaration of so competent an
authority as Jerome backed by the attestation of this ancient epistle
may be regarded as perfectly conclusive. [583:4] But other proofs
of the same fact are not wanting. For a long period the bishop continued
to be known by the title of "the elder who presides"-a designation which
obviously implies that he was still only one of the presbyters. When the
Paschal controversy created such excitement, and when Victor of Rome
threatened to renounce the communion of those who held views different
from his own, Irenaeus of Lyons wrote a letter of remonstrance to the
haughty churchman in which he broadly reminded him of his ecclesiastical
position. "_Those, presbyters_ before Soter _who governed_ the Church
over which you now preside, I mean," said he, "Anicetus, and Pius,
Hyginus with Telesphorus and Xystus, neither did themselves observe, nor
did they permit those after them to observe it.... But those _very
presbyters_ before you who did not observe it, sent the Eucharist to
those of Churches which did." [584:1] Irenaeus here endeavours to teach
the bishop of Rome a lesson of humility by reminding him repeatedly that
he and his predecessors were but presbyters.

The pastor of Lyons speaks even still more distinctly respecting the
status of the bishops who flourished in his generation. Thus, he
says--"We should obey those presbyters in the Church who have the
succession from the apostles, and who, _with the succession of the
episcopate_, have received the certain gift of truth according to the
good pleasure of the Father: but we should hold as suspected or as
heretics and of bad sentiments the rest who depart from the principal
succession, and meet together wherever they please.... From all such we
must keep aloof, but we must adhere to those who both preserve, as we
have already mentioned, the doctrine of the apostles, and exhibit, _with
the order of the presbytery_, sound teaching and an inoffensive
conversation." [585:1] "The order of the presbytery" obviously signifies
the official character conveyed by "the laying on of the hands of the
presbytery," and yet such was the ordination of those who, in the time
of Irenaeus, possessed "the succession from the apostles" and "the
succession of the episcopate."

Some imagine that no one can be properly qualified to administer divine
ordinances who has not received episcopal ordination, but a more
accurate acquaintance with the history of the early Church is all that
is required to dissipate the delusion. The preceding statements clearly
shew that, for upwards of one hundred and fifty years after the death of
our Lord, all the Christian ministers throughout the world were ordained
by presbyters. The bishops themselves were of "the order of the
presbytery," and, as they had never received episcopal consecration,
they could only ordain as presbyters. The bishop was, in fact, nothing
more than the chief presbyter. [585:2] A father of the third century
accordingly observes--"All power and grace are established in the Church
where _elders preside_, who possess the power, as well of baptizing, as
of confirming and ordaining." [585:3]

An old ecclesiastical law, recently presented for the first time to the
English reader, [586:1] throws much light on a portion of the history of
the Church long buried in great obscurity. This law may well remind us
of those remains of extinct classes of animals which the naturalist
studies with so much interest, as it obviously belongs to an era even
anterior to that of the so-called apostolical canons. [586:2] Though it
is part of a series of regulations once current in the Church of
Ethiopia, there is every reason to believe that it was framed in Italy,
and that its authority was acknowledged by the Church of Rome in the
time of Hippolytus. [586:3] It marks a transition period in the history
of ecclesiastical polity, and whilst it indirectly confirms the
testimony of Jerome relative to the custom of the Church of Alexandria,
it shews that the state of things to which the learned presbyter refers
was now superseded by another arrangement. This curious specimen of
ancient legislation treats of the appointment and ordination of
ministers. "The bishop," says this enactment, "is to be elected by all
the people.... And they shall choose ONE OF THE BISHOPS AND ONE OF THE
[586:4] Here, to avoid the confusion arising from a whole crowd of
individuals imposing hands in ordination, two were selected to act on
behalf of the assembled office-bearers; and, that the parties entitled
to officiate might be fairly represented, the deputies were to be a
bishop and a presbyter. [587:1] The canon illustrates the jealousy with
which the presbyters in the early part of the third century still
guarded some of their rights and privileges. In the matter of investing
others with Church authority, they yet maintained their original
position, and though many bishops might be present when another was
inducted into office, they would permit only one of the number to unite
with one of themselves in the ceremony of ordination. Some at the
present day do not hesitate to assert that presbyters have no right
whatever to ordain, but this canon supplies evidence that in the third
century they were employed to ordain bishops.

It thus appears that the bishop of the ancient Church was very different
from the dignitary now known by the same designation. The primitive
bishop had often but two or three elders, and sometimes a single deacon,
[587:2] under his jurisdiction: the modern prelate has frequently the
oversight of several hundreds of ministers. The ancient bishop,
surrounded by his presbyters, preached ordinarily every Sabbath to his
whole flock: the modern bishop may spend an entire lifetime without
addressing a single sermon, on the Lord's day, to many who are under his
episcopal supervision. The early bishop had the care of a parish: the
modern bishop superintends a diocese. The elders of the primitive bishop
were not unfrequently decent tradesmen who earned their bread by the
sweat of their brow: [587:3] the presbyters of a modern prelate have
generally each the charge of a congregation, and are supposed to be
entirely devoted to sacred duties. Even the ancient city bishop had but
a faint resemblance to his modern namesake. He was the most laborious
city minister, and the chief preacher. He commonly baptized all who were
received into the Church, and dispensed the Eucharist to all the
communicants. He was, in fact, properly the minister of an overgrown
parish who required several assistants to supply his lack of service.

The foregoing testimonies likewise shew that the doctrine of apostolical
succession, as now commonly promulgated, is utterly destitute of any
sound historical basis. According to some, no one is duly qualified to
preach and to dispense the sacraments whose authority has not been
transmitted from the Twelve by an unbroken series of episcopal
ordinations. But it has been demonstrated that episcopal ordinations,
properly so called, originated only in the third century, and that even
the bishops of Rome, who flourished prior to that date, were "of the
order of the presbytery." All the primitive bishops received nothing
more than presbyterian ordination. It is plain, therefore, that the
doctrine of the transmission of spiritual power from the apostles
through an unbroken series of episcopal ordinations flows from sheer
ignorance of the actual constitution of the early Church.

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



We cannot tell when the president of the presbytery began to hold office
for life; but it is evident that the change, at whatever period it
occurred, must have added considerably to his power. The chairman of any
court is the individual through whom it is addressed, and, without whose
signature, its proceedings cannot be properly authenticated. He acts in
its name, and he stands forth as its representative. He may,
theoretically, possess no more power than any of the other members of
the judicatory, and he may be bound, by the most stringent laws, simply
to carry out the decisions of their united wisdom; but his very position
gives him influence; and, if he holds office for life, that influence
may soon become formidable. If he is not constantly kept in check by the
vigilance and determination of those with whom he is associated, he may
insensibly trench upon their rights and privileges. In the second
century the moderator of the city eldership was invariably a man
advanced in years, who, instead of being watched with jealousy, was
regarded with affectionate veneration; and it is not strange if he was
often permitted to stretch his authority beyond the exact range of its
legitimate 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 the
city presbytery in the order of seniority. The individuals considered
most competent for the situation were now nominated by their brethren;
and as the Church, especially in great towns, was sadly distracted by
the machinations of the Gnostics, it was deemed expedient to arm the
moderator with additional authority. As a matter of necessity, the
official who was furnished with these new powers required a new name;
for the title of _president_ by which he was already known, and which
continued long afterwards in current use, [590:1] did not now fully
indicate his importance. It was, therefore, gradually supplanted by the
designation of _bishop_, or overseer. Whilst this functionary was
nominated by the presbyters, he might be also set aside by them, so that
he felt it necessary to consult their wishes and to use his
discretionary power with modesty and moderation; but, when he began to
be elected by general suffrage, his authority was forthwith established
on a broader and firmer foundation. He was now emphatically the man of
the people; and from this date he possessed an influence with which the
presbytery itself was incompetent to grapple.

As early as the middle of the second century the bishop, at least in
some places, was entrusted with the chief management of the funds of the
Church; [590:2] and probably, about fifty years afterwards, a large
share of its revenues was appropriated to his personal maintenance.
[590:3] His superior wealth soon added immensely to his influence. He
was thus enabled to maintain a higher position in society than any of
his brethren; and he was at length regarded as the great fountain of
patronage and preferment. Long before Christianity enjoyed the sanction
of the state, the chief pastors of the great cities began to attract
attention by their ostentatious display of secular magnificence. Origen,
who flourished in the former half of the third century, strongly
condemns their vanity and ambition; and though perhaps his ascetic
temperament prompted him to indulge somewhat in the language of
exaggeration, the testimony of so respectable a witness cannot be
rejected as untrue. "We," says he, "proceed so far in the affectation of
pomp and state, as to outdo even bad rulers among the pagans; and, like
the emperors, surround ourselves with a guard that we may be feared and
made difficult of access, particularly to the poor. And in many of our
so-called Churches, _especially in the large towns_, may be found
presiding officers of the Church of God who would refuse to own even the
best among the disciples of Jesus while on earth as their equals."
[591:1] In these remarks the writer had doubtless a particular reference
to his own Church of Alexandria; but it is well known that elsewhere
some bishops in the third century assumed a very lofty bearing. It is
related of the celebrated Paul of Samosata, the bishop of Antioch, that
he acted as