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"Every feature of this siege attests it to be a judgment of God. It is not an ordinary event of history; all the attendant circumstances are marked by an aggravation of suffering and woe; men appear to be led by a mysterious hand, which urges them on to commit acts not within their original intention."
"It is to us evident that the Apostle wrote [the Apocalypse] a few years after the terrible persecution under Nero. It is idle to draw any parallel between the persecutions under Domitian, and that first truly infernal explosion of pagan hatred against the Church. "
BY E. DE PRESSENSÉ, D.D.,
AUTHOR OF "JESUS CHRIST: HIS TIMES, LIFE, AND WORK."
TRANSLATED BY ANNIE HARWOOD.
THE APOSTOLIC ERA
|COMMENCEMENT OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.|
Character of the Church—Special character of the Apostolic Church—Periods of its history
§ I. Actual foundation of the Church on the Day of Pentecost—Its First Mission and First Persecution—Miracle of Pentecost—Character and Office of St. Peter—His reputed Primacy—Success of the First Mission—First Persecution
§ II. The Teaching and First Constitution of the Church at Jerusalem—Attacks made upon the young Church—First apology of Christianity—the Miracles—Scriptural evidence—Appeal to the conscience—Doctrine of the Primitive Church—Ecclesiastical organization—Nature of the Apostolate—Conditions of admission into the Church—Worship of the Primitive Church—General character of this period
|FIRST INTERNAL CONFLICT, AND FIRST EXTENSION OF THE CHURCH BEYOND JERUSALEM.|
§ I. The Seven Deacons of the Church at Jerusalem—Stephen—First Debate in the Church—The Primitive Diaconate—Stephen the precursor of St. Paul—Accusation brought against Stephen—His speech—His martyrdom—Saul of Tarsus, the witness of his noble death
§ II. The Dispersion of the Christians—The Gospel in Samaria—Simon Magus—Philip and the Eunuch—Philip at Samaria 16—Hatred of the Jews to the Samaritans—Dositheus—Simon Magus—His influence in Samaria—His doctrine, according to the "Philosophoumena"—Effect of Philip's preaching—The Apostles at Samaria—Simon desires to purchase the Holy Ghost—Consequences of the Mission in Samaria—Conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch
III. Foundation of the Church at Antioch, and Conversion of the Centurion Cornelius—The Church of Antioch founded by simple Evangelists—Peter and Cornelius.
IV. The Church at Jerusalem at the time of the First Mission beyond Judæa—The Christians at Jerusalem still Judaizing —Discussion between them and Peter—Creation of the office of Elders—The Elders of the Synagogue—Their equality—The Elders of the Church are also equal among themselves—Martyrdom of James, the son of Zebedee—Imprisonment of Peter—Death of Herod—Part taken by James, the Lord's brother—Importance of the Church at Jerusalem
|CONVERSION OF PAUL. HIS FIRST MISSION.|
§ I. Saul of Tarsus—His Preparation and Conversion—His Preparation—Saul at Tarsus—He goes to Jerusalem—Is a disciple of Gamaliel—His sincerity—His zeal for the Law—His moral malady—His contact with Stephen—Saul the persecutor—Journey to Damascus—He is overthrown by the way—The three days at Damascus—Saul in Arabia—Return to Jerusalem—Saul at Antioch I Character of the Apostolate of St. Paul
§ II. St. Paul's first Journey—His first Companions—Conversion of Sergius Paulus—Paul at Antioch in Pisidia—His Sermon—Obduracy of the Jews—Paul and Barnabas at Lystra—Paul is stoned—Return of Paul
|THE TWO CONFERENCES AT JERUSALEM, AND THE DISPUTE AT ANTIOCH.|
§ I. The Two Conferences—Origin of Polemics—Difficulties in the Church at Antioch—The Private Conference—The Public Conference—Speech of Peter—Speech of Paul—Speech of James —Decisions of the Conference—It concludes with a Compromise
§ II. Dispute at Antioch
First Century—Book Second.
|MISSIONS OF THE CHURCH UP TO THE CAPTIVITY OF ST. PAUL.|
§ I. Second Missionary Journey of St. Paul—Paul the type of the Missionary—He separates from Barnabas and takes Timothy—Epaphras founds the Church at Ephesus—The Gospel carried to the Galatians—He passes from the East to the West—Foundation of the Philippian Church—Paul and Silas in Prison—Conversion of the Jailer—Paul at Thessalonica—Success and Persecutions—Paul at Athens—The Altar of the Unknown God—Discourse of the Apostle on the Areopagus—Paul at Corinth—Corruption of that City—A Church founded there—Paul there writes the Two Epistles to the Thessalonians—His vow —He goes to Ephesus—Conversion of Apollos
§ II. Third Missionary Journey of St. Paul—Sojourn of Paul at Ephesus, then the focus of the Religions of the East—He there writes the Epistle to the Galatians—There he meets with Disciples of John the Baptist, and Jewish exorcists—Effects of his preaching—Voyage of Paul to Crete and Corinth—The Epistle to Titus, and the first Epistle to Timothy, written during this journey—Return to Ephesus—First Epistle to the Corinthians—Tumult raised against Paul—Second Journey into Macedonia—Second Epistle to the Corinthians—Presentiments of Captivity and Death—Return Journey to Jerusalem—Paul at Troas—His farewell at Miletus to the Elders from Ephesus—Paul at Cæsarea Prophecy of Agabus—Arrival at Jerusalem—Paul is arrested in the Temple—His Speech and Imprisonment
|MISSIONS AND PERSECUTIONS OF THE CHURCH FROM THE CAPTIVITY OF ST. PAUL TO HIS DEATH AND THAT OF ST. PETER.|
§ I. Various phases of the Captivity of Paul—Paul before the Sanhedrim—He is transferred to Cæsarea—He appears before Felix —Mildness of his Captivity—He writes the Epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians, and to Philemon—Festus takes the place of Felix—Paul appears to the Emperor—He appears before Festus 18and Agrippa—Arrival of Paul at Rome—He enjoys a measure of freedom —He preaches the Gospel to the Jews, and to his Jailers —He writes the Epistle to the Philippians—He appears before Nero—The Second Epistle to Timothy is Paul's Testament—General character of the Apostle's Missions to the Gentiles
§ II. Missions of the other Apostles during this period—James continues to reside at Jerusalem—Jude in Phrygia—Missions of Andrew, Philip, Matthew, Bartholomew, Matthias, Simon, Zelotes, Judas Thaddeus, and Thomas—Peter at Babylon—His letter to the Christians in Asia Minor—He goes to Rome—Was never a Bishop—Mark founds the Church of Alexandria
§ III. Method of Primitive Evangelization—Origin of the First Three Gospels—The Primitive Church not concerned with the writing of Books—The Living Word preferred to the Written—No Primitive Official Gospel—The memory of Christ living in the Church—The part of Christian experience in memorizing the great facts of Salvation—Written records—Apocryphal and Synoptical Gospels—Superiority of the latter—Their origin—They bear the seal of Inspiration—Living character of this Inspiration
§ IV. The First Roman Persecution of Christianity—Persecution in Judæa—Death of James, the brother of the Lord—The Religious Constitution of Society in the Ancient World conducive to Persecution—Ancient Religions, State Religions—Special circumstances which render Persecution inevitable—Foreign Religions regarded with suspicion by the Cæsars—The Church confounded with the Synagogue—The holiness of Christians hateful to the Pagans—Calumnies against Christianity—Rapid growth of the Church of Rome—Persecution popular—Part of Nero in this Persecution—Martyrdom of St. Paul and St. Peter—Martyrdom of James, the brother of the Lord, at Jerusalem
|VARIOUS FORMS OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE IN THE SECOND PERIOD OF THE APOSTOLIC AGE.|
§ I. Fundamental Unity in Diversity—Refutation of the system of Baur—Unity prevails over Diversity—Three great types of doctrine appear at this period
§ II. Doctrine of James—His characteristic idea is the permanence of moral obligation under the new covenant —Faith joined with Works—Love is pre-eminently the Work—The nature of Pardon clearly expressed—The Gospel History constantly presupposed—Moral importance of the Epistle of James
III. Doctrinal Type of Peter—The First Two Gospels—The Gospel is to Peter, first of all, the fulfillment of Prophecy—Comforting view opened of the abode of the Dead—The Gospel of Mark recalls the type of Peter—That of Matthew represents the doctrine of Peter and James
§ IV. Doctrine of St. Paul—Polemical character of his teaching—The essential feature of Paul's doctrine is the agreement of the Religious and Moral Elements—The first idea in his Theology is the idea of Justice—Justice the principle of all religion—The Fall a violation by the Creature of the Laws of Eternal Justice—Universality of the Condemnation—Various elements in fallen Man—The Body not the principle of Evil—Sin is a Transgression—The decree of Salvation a free act of Grace—It is not the Predestination of Augustine or of Calvin—Chapter ix of the Epistle to the Romans—Preparation for Salvation—Preparation in Judaism—The Patriarchal age—The Law a Schoolmaster to bring to Christ—Preparation in Paganism—Redemption—Nature of the Redeemer—Divinity and Subordination of the Son of God—His Humanity—He is the second Adam—Work of the Redeemer—Redemption is primarily an act of Obedience—Obedience in Suffering—The Death of Christ is a Free Sacrifice—The theory of Anselm is not to be found in St. Paul—Jesus Christ, raised from the Dead, sends the Holy Spirit—Appropriation of Salvation—Faith, a real Union with Jesus Christ—Justification and Sanctification—Close relation between the two—The Church—Kingdom of Good opposed to Kingdom of Evil—Future of the World and the Church—Judgment, Resurrection—Groaning of the Creation after Redemption—Connection of the two Covenants—The Law of the Letter and of the Spirit—Apology of St. Paul—His doctrine reproduces the Teaching of Jesus Christ
§ V. God spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for all
§ VI. The Gospel of Luke and the Epistle to the Hebrews—The gospel of Luke reproduces the doctrinal type of Paul—The same is the case with the Epistle to the Hebrews, which adds the allegorical element ot the Alexandrine school
|THE STATE OF THE CHURCHES DURING THIS PERIOD. FIRST SYMPTOMS OF HERESY.|
§ I. Judaizing tendency in the Churches of Palestine, Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia, and Italy—History of the Church at Jerusalem—Judæo-Christianity is there at first kept within bounds—It 20becomes more decided after death of James—Melancholy condition of the other Churches of Palestine—Judaizing reaction in Palestine—False teachers there combat the influence of Paul—Church of that Country returns to St. Paul—False Teachers at Philippi—Millenarian views at Thessalonica—Church at Rome —Converts from Paganism are there the most numerous—Church of Corinth—Four Parties—Defeat of Judæo-Christianity
§ II. Dualistic heresies in Crete, Colosse, and Ephesus—Heresy of Simon Magus, according to the "Philosophoumena"—Heresies of Colosse, Ephesus, and the Isle of Crete—Ascetic Dualism—Abuse of the Scriptures—Medley of Judaism and Orientalism—Grievous consequences of these errors on the Christian life
|CONSTITUTION OF THE CHURCHES DURING THIS PERIOD.|
§ I. General Principles of Ecclesiastical Organization—Distinction between the Church Visible and the Church Invisible—No "Mother Church"—No Representative Assemblies—No Center of Unity—Unity of Churches entirely Moral—The Church is the Company of Christians—Is entered by Individual Adherence
§ II. Gifts and offices—Gift of Tongues—Gifts of Prophecy and Healing—Gift of Teaching exercised by all Christians—Power of the Keys belongs to them—No Clerical Consecration of the Sacraments—Priesthood universal—Identity of Elders and Bishops—Only one category of Elders—Ministry of the Word not placed by itself—Maintenance of the Elders—The Deacon—Deaconesses—All Offices filled by Election—Imposition of Hands is not Ordination—Offices are Ministries
|WORSHIP AND THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.|
§ I. Christian Worship during this period—Spirituality of the New Worship: no Priesthood; no Temples; no Holy Days—Sunday not the Sabbath—Acts of Worship—Teaching—Old Testament still the Holy Book—Faithfulness in Teaching required Prayer—Thanksgiving—Song—Sacraments—Baptism linked to Faith; has no connection with Circumcision; not administered to Children—The Communion: Mode of celebration—Ecclesiastical Discipline—Apostolic Age knew no other Sacraments than Baptism and Lord's Supper—Anointing with Oil—Burial of the Dead
§ II. Christian Life—Primitive Christianity cannot act directly in all the domains which it is to subdue in course of time—No 21Opposition between Church and State—The two Institutions unfit to be Separated—No Opposition between Christianity and Art—Creation of a Ideal by the Gospel—Characteristics of Individual Piety —Manual Labor Ennobled—Asceticism—Christian Family —Christianity and Slavery—Latter is morally Abolished—Charity Born upon Earth with Christianity—Relation of Christians to the World—Power of the Holiness of the First Christians
First Century—Book Third.
|THE FALL OF JERUSALEM AND ITS CONSEQUENCES.|
§ I. Destruction of the Holy City—Roman Tyranny in Judæa —First Revolt—Commencement of the Siege—Forebodings of the Divine Chastisement—The Three Factions—Growing Horror of the Siege —Taking of the City—Burning of the Temple
§ II. Consequences to the Church of the Destruction of the Temple—Enlargement of Prophetic Views—Need of a Fixed Organization—No Second Council at Jerusalem—The Synagogue formally Excommunicates the Church—Origin of Ebionitism
|ST. JOHN, THE APOSTLE AND PROPHET.|
§ I. Life of St. John—Tardiness of the Influence of St. John explained by the Nature of his Gifts and Mission—Conversion and Growth of John—He Ripens in Obscurity—John at Ephesus —He writes the Revelation before the Gospel—Fourth Gospel and the Epistles of John—Last Years of the Apostle
§ II. John, the Prophet of the new Covenant—The Revelation—The same Doctrine in the Gospel and Revelation—General Point of View of the Book of Revelation—Future represented through the medium of Contemporary History—Plan of the Book—Arrangement of the Apocalypse—It proceeds on the same Plan as the Prophecy of Jesus Christ, Matt. xxiv —Prediction of the Fall of Rome—Conflict of the Church with Heresy—Fall of Rome typifies the End of the World—Nero the Symbol of Antichrist—Final Triumph of the Church—The End—Prophecy advances with History
|THE DOCTRINE OF ST. JOHN.|
§ I. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—God is Love—The Son, the Eternal object of the Divine Love—Subordination of the Son to the Father—The Holy Spirit
§ II. The Word and the World—Part taken by the Word in Creation—Relation between Man and the Word—The Fall—Sin, the Violation of Law—The Fall is not Absolute
§ III. The Word and Redemption—Preparatory Work of the Word—The Attraction of the Father—The Incarnation—Redemption—The Invisible Christ
§ IV. The Word in the Christian and in the Church until the end of time—Appropriation of Salvation—Grace—Faith: justifying and sanctifying—The Future of the Church
|THE CHURCHES IN THE TIME OF ST. JOHN.|
§ I. External Condition—Persecution under Domitian
§ II. Internal Condition of the Churches—Heresies—Church Organization—State of the Churches—Diminution of Piety—Heresy—Commencement of Docetism—The Nicolaitans—Cerinthus—Ecclesiastical Organization—John not the Founder of Episcopacy—Worship—Celebration of the Feasts—The Sabbath —The Passover—End of the Apostolic Age
|Note A. Literature of the Subject||481|
|Note B. The Chronology of the Acts||484|
|Note C. Principal Source of the History of the Primitive Church||486|
|Note D. The Miracle of Pentecost||489|
|Note E. The Council of Jerusalem||490|
|Note F. The Supposed Second Captivityof St. Paul||492|
|Note G. The Epistle of St. Paul||495|
|Note H. The Epistles of James and Jude||496|
|Note I. The Second Epistle of Peter||497|
|Note J. The Authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews||498|
|Note K. Diversity of views on Theology of the Apostolic Age||499|
|Note L. The Authenticity and the Date of the Apocalypse||500|
Note M. The Authenticity of the Fourth Gospel and of the Epistles of St. John
Early Years of the Christian Church.
Book First. The First Period of the Apostolic Age, from Pentecost to the Council of Jerusalem, A.D. 30-50.
Chapter I. Commencement of the Christian Church.
JESUS CHRIST came to restore the kingdom of God upon earth. He came not simply to offer salvation to every individual man. It was his design to found a holy community, from which, as from a new humanity reconstituted by him, filled with his Spirit and living by his life, the Gospel should go forth into all the world. The holy community thus founded is the Christian Church. It differs from all the religious institutions which preceded it. It is not limited, like the Jewish theocracy, to one special nation; it is not bounded by the frontiers of any 24land. It forms the kingdom which is not of this world, and which is destined to triumph over all the powers of earth leagued against it. Placed beyond the external conditions of Judaism, the Church is primarily a moral and spiritual fact, the character of which is essentially supernatural. Born of a miracle, by a miracle it lives. Founded upon the great miracle of redemption, it grows and is perpetuated by the ever-repeated miracle of conversion. It is entered, not by the natural way of birth, but by the supernatural way of the new birth. Resting upon free convictions, the Church—the holy community of souls—wins them one by one, and conquers them in a hard struggle with the world and with themselves; it requires from each one an adherence, which implies the sacrifice of the will. It makes the most powerful appeal to the individual, just because it addresses itself to all the race. The Church, resting on no national or theocratic basis, must gather its adherents simply by individual conviction, and such a basis alone corresponds with the breadth of Christianity, because it alone places the Church beyond the narrow bounds of nationalities and of territorial circumscription. In truth, setting aside in man the contingent of race and distinctions of birth, all that remains is the moral personality, the individual soul to be brought into direct contact with God. Individuality is therefore the widest conceivable basis for a religious community. When Jesus Christ sent forth to the conquest of the world the few disciples whom he had gathered around him, and who formed the nucleus of the Church, he by that act abrogated the old theocratic distinctions, and implicitly founded 25the new community, in which there is neither Jew nor Greek, circumcision nor uncircumcision.
Strange conquerors, we must own, are these Galilean fishermen, without repute, without learning, the poorest of the poor, sent forth in their simplicity into the midst of a state of society in which dazzling splendor is combined with a power hitherto irresistible. Brute force will be let loose upon them, and they have neither might nor right to meet force with force; their weapons are to be of the Spirit only. Reviled and persecuted, they must offer no other resistance than the fortitude of their patience and the vigor of their faith; for let them at all avenge themselves on their adversaries, and they will do themselves irremediable wrong by dishonoring and striking a death-blow to their own principle. They are not suffered for one moment to forget that their strength comes from that higher and invisible world, of which they are the representatives upon earth, and which is at once their fatherland and their goal.
The Christian Church has a double vocation. It is called first to assimilate to itself more and more closely the teaching and the life of its divine Founder, to be joined to him by tender and sacred bonds, to grow in knowledge, in charity, in holiness. It is then to carry every-where the light and flame thus kindled and fed in the sanctuary of the soul, so that it may illuminate and vivify the world. To purify itself within, and to extend itself without, such is the twofold task of the Church, and the ages are given for its fulfillment.
There is, however, one period of its history which claims to be distinguished from the rest—namely, 26the apostolic age. Its peculiar mission was to preserve to the world the living memory of Christ. The primitive Church is of necessity the medium between us and him; through it alone can we know him; it is to us as the channel which conveys the water from the fountain. It is endowed, therefore, with the gifts necessary for the fulfillment of this mission. Of these gifts two especially are peculiar to it. It is the Church of the apostolate, and the Church of inspiration. On the one hand, it is the direct witness of Christ; on the other, it has received the Spirit of God in extraordinary measure, to enable it to lay a solid foundation upon which the Church of all ages may be built up. Our task is to study closely these two great facts of the apostolic age.
We say at once, that neither by the apostolate nor by inspiration was the primitive Church spared the salutary labor of the assimilation of the truth. It is a grave mistake to suppose that a definite constitution was given to the Church from its very commencement, by decrees promulgated by the Apostles, and that it was at once lifted on the wings of inspiration to the luminous height from which, subsequently, the eye of a St. Paul and a St. John surveyed the whole extent of the Gospel revelation. Many conflicts, many dissensions, many lessons of experience were to precede and to prepare this closing period of the apostolic age, which was the result and crown of all.
The revelations of the Old and New Testament were always given progressively, because it was the will of God to establish a real harmony between the truths which he communicated and the soul by which 27they were received. This inward, penetrating, progressive action of the Divine Spirit, reaching its ends without doing any violence to human nature, is far more beautiful than any sudden and irresistible operation. Between the two methods there is all the' difference between grace and magic. Every one who admits that the ideal of the new covenant shines forth resplendent in the person of the God-Man, must equally admit that the complete blending of the human with the divine element is the great consummation of the Gospel design. This, which is to be the aim of every age, finds its first perfect realization in the age of the Apostles. Their era, therefore, may be regarded as having furnished, as it were, the theme of the history of the Church; for that history is but a free and vigorous development of the great results gained in the first century. The first subject, then, for our consideration, is this normal and ideal union of the human and the divine element in the life of the primitive Church.
We shall divide its history into three periods, each of these designated by the name of the apostle who exercised the greatest influence upon it. We have thus the period of St. Peter, that of St. Paul, and that of St. John.
In the first, the divine element predominates almost to the exclusion of the human, which is, in comparison, reduced to passivity. This is the period of the purely supernatural; it follows the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and precedes the great internal deliberations in the Church. In the second and third, the human element is more apparent, though always controlled and purified by the divine: great 28questions are stated and debated, Church organization begins, doctrine becomes more defined, and if miracles are still many, they are less abundant than before. The latter fact, so far from implying any inferiority in the closing periods of the apostolic age, seems to us to mark a real superiority. For in truth, when the supernatural element is so infused into human nature that it animates it, as the soul the body, it may be said that the union between God and man is fully realized, and the most glorious results of redemption achieved.
§ I. Actual Foundation of the Church on the Day of Pentecost. Its First Mission and First Persecution
§ I. Actual Foundation of the Church on the Day of Pentecost. Its First Mission and First Persecution.
Fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, during the celebration at Jerusalem of the Feast of Pentecost, which was the feast of the ingathering,[fn] the Holy Spirit came down upon the apostles and disciples, assembled to the number of a hundred and twenty in an upper chamber. Some representatives of the sacerdotal theory—always disposed to confine the Spirit of God to his sanctuaries—have maintained that this place, consecrated by so glorious an event, formed a part of the large attached buildings of the Temple at Jerusalem.[fn] But this is an entirely gratuitous hypothesis, of which the text bears no trace. The Holy Spirit breathes where he will, and does not suffer himself to be restricted to any 29religious institution. The Pentecostal miracle was, moreover, the inauguration of the glorious era foretold by Jesus Christ, when adoration should be no longer associated with certain sacred edifices, but when the whole world should become again the temple of God. We must carefully distinguish, in this miracle, the religious fact from the attendant circumstances and figurative symbols. The "mighty rushing wind," the tongues like as of fire, which rest upon the Apostles' heads, are sublime types of the inward miracle: the wind symbolizes the invisible action and sovereign freedom of the Divine Spirit, (
His presence in their midst was marked by one miracle more extraordinary than those which had preceded it. The disciples began to speak in unknown tongues. This miracle, which, with some 31modifications, is repeated several times in the apostolic age, was in harmony with the essential character of this period, which we have called the period of the purely supernatural. The human element seems to pale and succumb in its first contact with the divine. The Spirit of God, on its descent from heaven, finds human language a vessel too small to contain it. The ordinary forms of speech are broken through; a language which is beyond all known forms takes the place of ordinary words. It is the burning, mysterious tongue of ecstasy. Thus we regard those unknown tongues, of which mention is made in the Church of the first century. To speak in an unknown tongue, was to use that ineffable language which has no analogue in human speech. The Pentecostal miracle had a special character, by which it was distinguished from kindred miracles; the disciples were understood by all who ran together on the first tidings of the prodigy wrought in the upper chamber. Was there in this exceptional language a marvelous power, which went from soul to soul, and triumphed over the diversity of idioms? or did these Jews, gathered at Jerusalem from all parts of the world, really catch the accents of their various dialects? The problem is beyond solution. It is, however, certain that the miracle, at least under this special form, was of no permanent character. Irenæus and Tertullian have erroneously asserted that the early Christians retained the use of the gift of tongues, and employed it in carrying the Gospel to the nations of the world.[fn] The style of the sacred 32writers clearly shows that they had learned the Greek language in an ordinary manner, and did not possess it by miraculous gift and by inspiration, for they wrote it incorrectly, and in a form surcharged with Hebraisms. We know also that Peter had an interpreter at Rome.[fn] St. Paul seems not to have understood the language of the inhabitants of Lystra and Derbe, who wished to sacrifice to him as to a god.
The miracle of Pentecost was an enacted prophecy of the happy time when all the diversities created by evil will be lost in the unity of love. Is not this prophecy receiving a constant fulfillment as Christianity masters, one after another, the languages of mankind, and makes them the media for conveying its immortal truths? "The Church in her humility," says the venerable Bede, "re-forms the unity of language broken before by pride."[fn]
We know with what success Peter replied to the raillery of some unbelieving Jews, who had found their way into the wondering crowd. Three thousand persons were won to the Church by that first preaching of the Apostle. This rapid increase was soon to bring about an open rupture between the young Church and Judaism. The Sadducean party took the lead in the persecution. It has been declared to be very unlikely that the Pharisees, who had been the most bitter enemies of Jesus Christ, would have let themselves be thus outstripped by their rivals.[fn] But it 33must not be forgotten that at this period the Church had not yet comprehended the doctrine of Christ in all its issues. It had not yet broken the outward bond with Judaism. The point on which it insisted most strongly was the resurrection of the dead; now this dogma was particularly odious to the Sadducees. Annas and Caiaphas, who presided over the council before which the Apostles were cited, were the well-known leaders of the Roman or Sadducean party.
During all this early time the influence of the Apostle Peter predominates. The part thus taken by him has been urged as a proof of his primacy. But on closer examination it will be seen that he does but exercise his natural gifts, purified and ennobled by the Divine Spirit. Peter was the son of a fisherman named Jonas, of the village of Bethsaida, in Galilee.
Nothing but determined prejudice could construe the tender solicitude of the Master for this disciple into an official declaration of his primacy. We are here in the region of feeling alone, not on the standing ground of right and legal institutions. Nor has the primacy of Peter any more real foundation in the famous passage, "Tu es Petrus." Jesus Christ admirably characterized by this image the ardent and generous nature of his disciple, and that courage of the pioneer which marked him out as the first laborer in the foundation of the primitive Church. The son of Jonas was its most active founder, and, as it were, its first stone. He was also the rock against which the first tempest from without spent its fury.[fn] Beyond 35this, the narrative of St. Luke lends no countenance to any hierarchical notions.
Every thing is natural and spontaneous in the conduct of St. Peter. He is not official president of a sort of apostolic college. He acts only with the concurrence of his brethren, whether in the choice of a new apostle,[fn] or at Pentecost,[fn] or before the Sanhedrim. Peter had been the most deeply humbled of the disciples, therefore he was the first to be exalted. John's part being at this time inconspicuous, no other apostle is named with Peter, because he fills the whole scene with his irrepressible zeal and indefatigable activity.
The Christian mission during this period gained two altogether exceptional successes. A few weeks after the baptism of the three thousand converts of the day of Pentecost, five thousand souls were added to the Church as the result of the miraculous healing of the impotent man, and of another sermon of St. Peter.
It would be a mistake also to imagine that all these new converts had reached the same stage of religious development. They differed in piety and in knowledge, but they had nevertheless received the Gospel with sincerity. In a short time the Church had gathered into itself more than ten thousand persons. This was assuredly a miracle not less amazing than that of the day of Pentecost.
To these triumphs Judaism replied by persecution. The Church has had time, during eighteen centuries, to become accustomed to this brutal and senseless appeal to force. We need not here dwell on the constitution of the Sanhedrim. We know that it was composed of seventy-one members, that it was presided over by the High Priest, and that from the time of the Roman conquest it constituted the religious tribunal of the nation. It was not always possible to distinguish with clearness the religious sphere from the civil, so closely had the two been united in the old theocracy. The Sanhedrim naturally assumed as its right to summon to its bar any who attacked the religion of the country. Now the apostolic preaching appeared, in the eyes of those who regarded Jesus Christ as a false prophet, to be an assault upon the national religion. A theocratic government is a government of constraint. Freedom of conscience would have been an unmeaning sound under the Jewish economy. But the abrogation of the ancient economy had abrogated the right of religious coercion. Persecution on the part of the Sanhedrim was now only an odious abuse of power. It must be 37further admitted that men like Annas and Caiaphas cared little for theocratic rights, for they belonged to the sect which repudiated the spirit of the ancient religion.
This first persecution revealed the deep-seated enmity which exists between skeptical Materialism and the Gospel. We shall often have occasion, in the course of this history, to show how intolerant is incredulity, and how impatient of the freedom of sincere belief. We shall see that the Sadducean spirit is always essentially a persecuting spirit. At this time we find that the people were not, as subsequently, in favor of the adoption of violent measures against the Church, for the persecutors feared to offend the multitude by maltreating the Apostles.
Immediately after the healing of the impotent man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, the magistrate in charge of the sanctuary, and who appears to have been a man of rank, since Josephus names him directly after the High Priest,[fn] seizes Peter and John, and casts them into prison. A solemn meeting of the Sanhedrim is convoked, and the Apostles appear before this iniquitous tribunal, in which fanaticism sits side by side with skepticism. The grandeur of the scene is beyond description. The entire world is at this time held under terrible oppression. A heavy yoke bows the heads of all. Every effort has been made to break it—open revolt, treason, force, and cunning. But the chains have been only riveted the firmer upon the struggling race. Now, for the first time, despotism finds a barrier that will not break, 38 and meets with invincible resistance. It must bend before these ignorant and unlearned men, who have no weapons of war in their hands, no inflammatory words on their lips, but who oppose an indomitable faith to all the threats hurled against them. In this first conflict between conscience and force victory remains with the former. This day is liberty born into the world, never to be destroyed.
The president of the Sanhedrim asks Peter in what name he healed the impotent man. The Apostle replies with the utmost respect to the magistrates of his nation. He recognizes their authority like the most docile of their subordinates.
The Apostles, as they had declared, pay no heed to an unjust prohibition. They resume their preaching with the same success as before. They are thrown into prison. Miraculously set at large, they begin again to proclaim the Gospel. Cited anew before the Sanhedrim, they preserve the same attitude. They are calm and immovable, as becomes the disciples of that Jesus whom "God hath exalted to his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour."
The young Church thus persecuted took refuge in prayer. Hence the majestic calmness, the blending of gentleness and indomitable energy which distinguished it. In such conflicts the soul finds serenity only on the summits of faith. To what an elevation were the Apostles lifted in that sublime prayer which was inspired by the circumstances in which they had just found themselves. From the particular fact of the persecution, they rise to the general law of the religious history which it reveals. They see it in that opposition between the princes of this world and the Son of God, set forth in the prophetic strains of
§ II. The Teaching and First Constitution of the Church at Jerusalem.
§ II. The Teaching and First Constitution of the Church at Jerusalem.
From its very birth the Christian Church is called to defend itself against the attacks of its adversaries, and to contend for the claims of truth. The opposition to Christianity assume from the outset various forms. The first to be encountered is that of scoffing unbelief. This foe has not yet sharpened and polished the weapons with which, in subsequent times, it will wound by the hands of a Celsus and a Lucian. But was not the laugh of the scorner heard on the very day when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Church? Did not his voice cry, "These men are full of new wine?" And from the scorner's point of view it was a fair conclusion. The supernatural is absurd to those who discern nothing beyond the circle of the visible; and herein is its peculiar glory. The laugh of unbelief has never ceased in all these eighteen centuries to ring through the world. But ridicule alone was not enough. Calumny and false insinuations must be enlisted in the same cause. The miracles of the primitive Church were incontestable; they could not be brought in question, but they might, like those of Jesus Christ, be ascribed to witchcraft, and to the powers of darkness. The arts of magic were much believed in at this epoch, as in all periods of religious crisis. There was, therefore, profound subtilty in likening the Apostles to common magicians. Such an idea is evidently present in the question of the Sanhedrim to Peter and John, after the healing of the impotent man: "By what power or by what name have ye 43done this?"
To meet all objections, the Church had ready a simple and popular apology. We at once admit that they appealed without hesitation to the testimony of reason for all the facts coming within its competence. Thus, in reply to the absurd charge of drunkenness brought against the disciples, Peter urges that it is but the third hour of the day—the hour, that is, of morning prayer, before which the Jews never presumed to eat or drink.
It is to be observed that the miracles are rather the occasion than the cause of the apology which accompanies them. Peter does not say, "Believe because of this amazing gift of tongues, or these miraculous cures." He says, on the contrary, "Believe in the reality, the divinity, of the miracles on the scriptural and moral grounds, which show their necessity and establish their lawfulness." These miracles certainly contributed to the rapid spread of the new faith by the impression they produced upon the 44people; but so little are they the pivot on which the apology of the Apostles turns, that they are not the proof, but rather the object of the proof. We except one single miracle, which is the essential miracle of Christianity. The resurrection of Christ is not merely a marvel; it is also a great religious fact. It is the glorious seal of redemption. Therefore it occupies the first place in the preaching of the Apostles. Peter constantly appeals to it both before the people and before the Sanhedrim.
Next to the proof drawn from the resurrection of the Lord, that which is most prominent in the discourses of Peter is the evidence from Scripture. He sets himself to show the harmony of the facts, in process of accomplishment, with Jewish prophecy. The first apologist of the Church could take no other ground. An appeal addressed to Jews by Christians of Jewish extraction must be made to a tribunal recognized by all, and this was no other than Holy Scripture. If the Apostles at Jerusalem succeeded in showing that the facts of which they were the witnesses had been foretold in the Scriptures, every upright Jew must be enlisted on their side. The 45Christian apology did not rise, in this its first stage, to the height to which it was carried by St. John and St. Paul. In form and spirit it was limited and characterized by the views so prominently set forth in the first Gospel.
Thus Peter commences by showing that the miracle of Pentecost is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel, who foretold the outpouring of the prophetic Spirit at the time of Messiah's appearing.
In this first apology of Christianity many appeals are made to the conscience. The conclusion of Peter's discourses is always an invitation to repentance, and this invitation he urges by boldly charging home the great crime committed by the Jewish people: "You crucified the Lord of glory," he cries again 46 and again to the murderers of Jesus Christ. He darts this terrible accusation like a barbed arrow into the hearts of his hearers, and thus he touches their vulnerable point. He pierces their conscience, and strong conviction is followed by multiplied conversions. Thus, the apology of the primitive Church is not simply defensive: it is able to take the offensive, and to carry the warfare into the hearts of its adversaries with all the authority of truth and the ardor of love. "The Apostles understood," says Calvin, "that the Gospel is also fire and sword."
In estimating the doctrinal teaching of the Apostles at this period, it is needful to avoid exaggerating or detracting from the influence of the new ideas, which were at the basis of their belief. If there is full evidence that they declared the truth of Christ in all its essentials, the evidence seems to us no less clear that they still enveloped that truth in Jewish forms.
It would be utterly unjust, however, to confound the primitive Church with this or that Jewish sect. It clung most closely to the prophetic portion of the Old Testament, that is to say, to the elements in the sacred book which best harmonized with itself. Never has transition been more admirably accomplished than that from the old covenant to the new, for the very simple reason that the latter struck all its roots down into the former. In the period which immediately followed the Pentecost the primitive Church was not called to break the tie which bound it to the temple. It still celebrated the Levitical worship. The assiduous attendance of the Apostles in the holy place is very notable; and they scrupulously 47 observe the ceremonial law, which, in their view, still stands in its integrity. If they admit that all the nations of the earth are to be blessed in the Seed of Abraham, they have not yet comprehended that in Christ Jesus all national barriers are done away, and that the privileges and the prescriptions of Judaism are alike abolished. They still believe in the necessity of circumcision. But, on the other hand, they are broadly distinguished from their nation at large, not only by reaction against the formalism of the Pharisees, but also by their faith in Jesus Christ. This, their simple and artless faith, has in it no speculative element. The divinity of Messiah is not formally stated in Peter's preaching, but it comes out spontaneously. What correspondence is there between the Messiah of the Ebionites, the Prophet of the "Clementines," and the Christ of St. Peter? On the one hand we have a simple man, like Adam or Moses; on the other, we have the Saviour represented as "seated at the right hand of God," (
Christian doctrine had, it is evident, at this time, no systematic form. It was subsequently to develop all its consequences, to define its outlines, and, in the repeated shocks of a salutary conflict, to cast away its Jewish garment. This first era of the Church was to be the period, not of conflict and debate, but of the manifestation of the direct, sovereign and extraordinary action of the Divine Spirit. The history of the Church itself, properly speaking, was not to begin till later. The first Christians had no thought of a history. They believed in an immediate return of Jesus Christ "to restore all things." They supposed that the end of the world was at hand, and that the last days foretold by Joel had begun to dawn.
Ecclesiastical organization was as far from being fixed, in this first period, as was the doctrine of the 49Church from being formulated. A Church must be founded before it can have a constitution. The river is as yet too near its source to flow in a regularly-channeled bed. We find, therefore, no office, properly so called, nor any fixed rule for the admission of new members. All offices are centered in the apostolate. The Apostles receive gifts for the community.
We must set aside, first of all, any ideas of sacerdotalism. It must not be forgotten that, at the period when the apostolic authority was used with most power in the Church, the Church still acknowledged the Jewish priesthood. Besides, Christianity recognizes no priesthood but that of Christ, communicated by faith to the Christian. The Apostles were not the sole organs of inspiration, for the Holy Spirit which was promised was granted to all the disciples assembled in the upper chamber a few days after the ascension. We have fully shown that on the day of Pentecost all the Christians were filled with the Holy Ghost. It is incontestable that in the primitive Church some private Christians, not invested with the apostolic office, had more influence than the majority of the Apostles; it is enough to cite the names of Stephen, Philip, and James. In what, 50then, consisted the apostolic office? Their name of messenger has nothing exclusive in it, since all Christians are the witnesses of Jesus Christ. Their number supplies us with one element for the resolution of the question. They were twelve. Evidently this symbolical number points to the twelve tribes of the chosen people. The Apostles are the ideal representation of the true Israel, and answer, in the spiritual ancestry, to the twelve sons of Jacob. They clearly do not represent the priestly tribe, but the twelve tribes; that is to say, the people of God as a whole. In other words, they are the nucleus of the Church, so made by Jesus Christ himself. Apostolical succession is not, then, the privilege of a certain portion of the body, but of the whole; the Christian Church itself carries on the apostolic office. There is nothing in such a conception derogatory to the authority of the Apostles. In them were concentrated, so to speak, all the gifts bestowed on the Christians of the primitive Church, for they were the immediate witnesses of Christ. This qualification of being a direct witness is that specially required by Peter, when the place of Judas is to be filled.
The conditions of entrance into the Church are at first extremely simple. No guaranty of preparation, of instruction and examination is required, because conversion has at this period an exceptionally sudden and supernatural character. The sign of initiation into the new society is baptism. The gift of the Holy Spirit is so far from being bound to the material act, that sometimes it precedes immersion. The formula of baptism was not pronounced in full; the neophytes were simply baptized in the name of the Lord.[fn] The Church, though not separated from the temple, felt nevertheless that it constituted a body apart, to which adherence must be given. Its discipline shares in the miraculous character of this period, as is shown by the history of Ananias and Sapphira.
The worship of the primitive Church is also of an exceptional character. The disciples are continually in the temple; they go up to it at the hour of prayer and of sacrifice. Yet they have also their secret 52worship, celebrated in the upper room at Jerusalem.[fn] This, if it borrows some forms from the synagogue, has nevertheless a stamp of originality. We recognize in it the essential elements by which it will be ultimately characterized. Teaching, adoration, song, prayer, and the eucharistic meal, are its principal features.[fn]
We must be especially careful not to deprive it of its primitive simplicity. The teaching did not take the form of preaching, properly so called; it was an unstudied speech, springing from the heart. The Apostles were not the only speakers; the other Christians spoke as freely as they of the wonderful works of God.
From all these observations, it appears that the distinction between the ordinary and the religious life had no existence for the primitive Church, because its ordinary life was raised to a height truly divine. Hence the supernatural character of its piety. The Church is not satisfied, as afterward, with infusing the spirit of Christianity into all the various social relations; it translates the pure ideal at once into the real, and banishes poverty from its midst by the voluntary generosity of the rich.
Chapter II. First Internal Conflict, and First Extension of the Church Beyond Jerusalem.
§ I. The Seven Deacons of the Church at Jerusalem. Stephen.
§ I. The Seven Deacons of the Church at Jerusalem. Stephen.
THE Church could not always remain on the calm heights to which the Spirit of God had at first carried her. It was needful that the truth, of which she was the depositary, should be made her own by laborious assimilation; that she should follow it out to all its issues, and attain, as it were, her moral majority by breaking the bonds of Judaism. But this could not be achieved without many a severe struggle; there were inveterate prejudices to be subdued, which would only yield after a sharp resistance. The disputes which arose between the Hebrew and Hellenist Jews gave forewarning of the storm soon to burst upon the Church.
Christian charity had spontaneously found a noble mode of expression in the new society. In the first fervor of zeal the wants of all the poor members were supplied. It was only subsequently that certain jealousies began to arise about the distribution of the alms. The Church had been formed on the occasion of a great festival, when numbers of foreign Jews were assembled at Jerusalem. Among these a large proportion of its members were found. These Jews 55were designated Hellenist because they spoke the Greek language. They had lost some of their Jewish peculiarities under the influence of the lands in which they lived. The Church found among them the readiest proselytes. The Jews of Hebrew origin, whose national pride was stimulated to excess by the Pharisees, despised these Hellenist Jews. They regarded them as their inferiors, on the pretext that they consorted with Gentiles; they were wont almost to rank them in the vanguard of paganism. These prejudices found their way into the Church, and the Hebrew widows had the largest share in the almsgiving, while the Hellenist widows were neglected. The Jews of foreign extraction complained loudly of this injustice. Thus within the very inclosure of Judaism arose the great question which was to excite so much controversy in the first century. It became necessary at once to decide if the differences of nationality were or were not abrogated by Christianity; if the new religion was to perpetuate or to annul Jewish tradition. The Apostles engaged in no theoretical discussion; they would not at this period have been capable of it, but they provided, by the institution of a new office, for the removal of any inequality in the distribution of alms.
Until now there had been in the Church no office but the apostolate; the nomination of the seven Deacons at Jerusalem was the first new wheel introduced into the simple machinery. This primitive diaconate must be distinguished from that which was subsequently established in a definite form. The further we go back in the history of the Church the more indefinite in character are all ecclesiastical offices. 56Their limits are not clearly or precisely laid down. The regular division of labor is not yet a necessity. The seven Deacons chosen to superintend the almsgiving are all men distinguished for their missionary zeal, and one of them for a time stands out even more prominently than the Apostles. In the primitive Church all speak and act as they are moved by the Holy Ghost—there are no hierarchical distinctions. But this condition of things ceases when the ecclesiastical organization is definitely completed; the various offices in the Church are then distinguished by a clear line of demarkation.[fn]
The institution of the primitive diaconate shows how free and spontaneous is every thing in the apostolic Church. None of its ordinances are appointed like the Mosaic institutions; there is not even the semblance of any official declaration of them. They arise out of the necessities of new circumstances. The organization of the Church is as supple as it is simple, and accommodates itself to the various exigencies of its situation, avoiding only any concession to error or to evil. It is evident that this first ecclesiastical office springs from the apostolate, and is again cut off like a bough from the parent trunk; it is not imposed by the Apostles on the Church, nor conferred by way of sacramental transmission. The 57 seven Deacons are not nominated by the Apostles, but chosen by the whole assembly. The imposition of hands which they receive bears no resemblance to a priestly consecration. It is the sign of their entry upon their office, accompanied with a solemn prayer.[fn] To maintain, as do the advocates of hierarchical principles, that the Deacons were chosen by the assembly instead of being appointed by the Apostles because their duties were essentially temporal and administrative,[fn] is to misconceive the part which belonged to them in the primitive Church; it is to depreciate their office—one which was filled at first by the Apostles themselves; it is to ignore, in fine, the fact which we shall presently establish, that all offices, without exception, were by election.
The seven men chosen to serve the tables were for the most part Hellenist Jews, as may be inferred from their names. We even find among them a proselyte named Nicholas.[fn] His election indicates that the liberal tendency had already gained the ascendant, and that the primitive Church was not so much in bondage to Jewish prejudices as has been asserted. The most remarkable man among the seven Deacons is unquestionably Stephen. The sacred historian is sparing of personal details in his case, but the few scattered traits in the narrative 58suffice to give us the outline of one of the noblest and most beautiful figures of Christian antiquity. Stephen appears to us a man of ardent and energetic nature, formed for conflict, full of the fire of an enthusiastic conviction. His spirit is remarkable for breadth; he was the first Christian emancipated from Jewish prejudices. The love of truth consumes him; for it he is ready to make any sacrifice—not withholding his life. His death is the crowning evidence of the disinterested love by which he was impelled; for, like his Master, with the same lips which had hurled the anathema at hypocrisy and formalism he forgives his murderers, proving at once his holy indignation against sin and holy pity for the sinner. Stephen is the ideal witness for truth, and therefore he was the first of the martyrs. He was the forerunner of St. Paul, for he laid down the principles which the great Apostle was to develop and victoriously to defend. Is not this abundantly evident from the terms of the charge brought against him: "We have heard him," say the false witnesses, "speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God." "This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law." "For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us."
At the first glance, Stephen's apology may seem too remote, too far fetched.[fn] It is not immediately evident for what reason he traces in so much detail the history of the Jewish people. All is clear, however, when the drift of his argument is once perceived. In this position, as in all others, Stephen forgets himself, and thinks only of the truth of which he is the organ. He seeks not to be himself acquitted; he desires only to defend well his principles. He cares nothing for himself—the cause of Jesus Christ absorbs him wholly. Thus considered, nothing can be more admirable than his address. He has been charged with blasphemy against Moses and against the institutions and revelations of the old covenant. He proves that the blasphemy and impiety are not on his part, but on the part of his adversaries—the worthy descendants of a rebellious people, which through every stage of its history had 60received with a hard and uncircumcised heart the unwearying love of God.
Stephen makes good his statement by drawing a broad historic picture, in which he shows, in parallel lines, the goodness of God and the ingratitude of the people of the Jews. We feel that he has ever in view the last and highest manifestation of that ingratitude, and that he perpetually gives to the history a symbolic and prophetic meaning. He brings to mind, first, the origin of the nation and all the promises which rested on its cradle, all the blessings and deliverances which were granted to it in the person of Abraham. This recital shows, on the one hand, how deeply Stephen has been calumniated in the charge of blasphemy against the God of his fathers, and on the other, brings out the guilty obduracy of a people so richly blessed. The largest part of the address is taken up with the history of Moses, and this for the reason, that the contrast between the goodness of God and the unbelief of the chosen people never appeared in characters more strongly marked than at that time. This Moses, chosen to be the deliverer of Israel, miraculously saved by God and visibly prepared for this mission, is rejected by his own people on his first attempt to aid them.
Such is the apology of Stephen—so simple, so noble; it contains, in an historic form, ideas the most fresh and sublime, and reveals an important development of Christian thought. And, strange to say, we owe this development to a man who is not an Apostle, and who appears in this crisis superior to the twelve. We have in this fact an irrefragable proof that nothing like a monopoly of revelation was enjoyed by the Apostles.
Fiercely interrupted by the rage of his hearers, Stephen is dragged out of the assembly. The fury of the Jews is so great that all the forms of justice are set aside; he is, in the wild commotion, stoned without a trial. His death is truly sublime.[fn] His countenance beams with a heavenly light. It is the pure radiance of love. A vision of glory is granted him; he dies while breathing pardon on his murderers. His last prayer is addressed distinctly to Jesus Christ, and, by his final homage, he renders dying testimony to his divinity. It was fitting that this great truth should be thus proclaimed by the first of the martyrs—by the man who most fully comprehended the superiority of the new covenant over the old; for Christianity rises above Judaism just in proportion to the 63recognition of the divinity of Christ. There was great lamentation over Stephen. The pious men who carried him to his burial with tender respect simply obeyed one of the truest impulses of the human heart. And yet that very sentiment, in an exaggerated form, became subsequently the parent of wretched superstitions, and found its ultimate expression in the adoration of the dust of the martyrs.
The death of Stephen, like that of all the confessors, set to his testimony a truly sacred seal, and gave it redoubled power. It not only served Christianity in a general manner, but specially advanced that truth for which he had given his life. His cause was gained. The glorious thought which had inflamed his zeal was to be caught by a man who stood as yet among the enemies of the Church, but whom God designed to use for the casting down, with a strong hand, of the barrier between Judaism and the Gentile world. This was that young man whom the sacred writer points out to us, holding the garments of them that stoned Stephen. Saul of Tarsus had heard Stephen's defense with the indignation of a Pharisee of the Pharisees, but in the midst of his anger God had darted into his soul one of those piercing goads which cannot long be resisted. The memory of that day never faded from his mind. The redoubling of his persecuting zeal denotes the disquiet of his spirit. Of this we shall find further proof when we trace the story of his conversion. "If Stephen had not prayed," beautifully says Augustine, "the Church had not had Paul."[fn]64
The persecution of which Saul of Tarsus was the instigator is an indication of the sudden change in the disposition of the Pharisees toward the Church. This sect, at first favorably disposed, took little part in the first persecution: now it takes the initiative in measures of violence, and soon surpasses the Sadducees in cruelty. In truth, the religious parties which lay their crimes to the charge of God, and pretend to avenge the cause of Heaven, are the most dangerous of all, because they hold themselves bound to no moderation in their transports of rage. The first result of this second persecution was the dispersion of the Christians. They were to learn more than one lesson in this exile. Salutary experience was to give confirmation to the words of Stephen, and the successes gained by the Church on foreign soil were to raise it above the exclusiveness of Judaism.
§ II. The Dispersion of the Christians. The Gospel in Samaria. Simon Magus. Philip and the Eunuch.
§ II. The Dispersion of the Christians. The Gospel in Samaria. Simon Magus. Philip and the Eunuch.
Persecution, by scattering the Christians, widened at once the field of their missionary activity and the range of their ideas. They went forth to encounter, for the first time, paganism—the eclectic paganism of that age, which united in its vague beliefs the East and the West. This niew adversary awaited them in one of the cities of Samaria, to which certain of their number had directed their steps. Samaria was not, indeed, actually a pagan country. Its inhabitants were the descendants of that mixed population, formed of the remnant of the ten tribes and of a colony of foreigners, transplanted by the order of Salmanasar.[fn] 65 When the Jews returned from Babylon, the Samaritans sought to take part in the rebuilding of the temple.
We need not here show, (for we have done so elsewhere,) that from the stand-point of natural religion, the magician was the sole Messiah, the only deliverer that could be looked for. For those who have deified nature, the last resource must be her hidden power; pagan dualism, not rising to the conception of moral evil, by conjuring away the effects of the noxious powers 67of nature. Magicians had, therefore, an important part to play in these times of religious transition and aspiration. The predominance of oriental ideas, the influence of the Jewish conception of Messiah, all combined to increase their ascendency in these lands. The Samaritans had already yielded to the influence of a false Messiah named Dositheus. The testimonies of Christian antiquity with regard to this man are incomplete and contradictory. According to the oldest witness, Origen, Dositheus, a contemporary of Jesus Christ, declared himself to be the expected Messiah, and even laid claim to the attribute of the Son of God.[fn] It is quite possible that the impostor may have turned to account the impression produced by the Saviour's passing through Samaria. His influence appears to have been maintained for some time, but within a limited circle.[fn] Simon gained a far wider popularity. Legend has borrowed his name, and has invested his history with absurd fables. He even becomes a wholly typical character in some writings of Judaizing heretics of the second century.[fn] Justin Martyr supposes him to have come to Rome, and regards him as the founder of a 68new worship, but his assertion is evidently based on an historic error.[fn] Many modern theologians have concluded from these myths that the whole history of Simon was only a tissue of legends. But it contains positive facts, guarantied by the unanimous witness of the Fathers, and confirmed by the recently-discovered writings of Hippolytus. "Simon," we read in the "Philosophoumena," "was of Gitton, a village of Samaria. He was a skillful magician; he sought to pass for God."[fn] He had with him a woman of dissolute life named Helena whom he had found at Tyre, and to whom he allotted a prominent part in his system.[fn] As to this system—if a confused medley of incongruous ideas be worthy of such a name—we must distinguish between its original form and the modifications which it underwent after Simon became acquainted with Christianity. As these modifications, however, touched no essential principle, we may fairly seek for its primary idea, in the tolerably complete exposition of his doctrines, contained in the "Philosophoumena" of Hippolytus. We find there valuable fragments of a book, composed, if not by Simon, by one of his immediate 69disciples.[fn] St. Luke tells us that Simon was proclaimed by his followers to be "the great power of God."[fn] The book to which his name is attached gives us the exact meaning of these words. Simon recognized a first, hidden, invisible principle, of which the world is the eternal manifestation.[fn] This first principle has two modes of manifestation: it reveals itself first as an active and spiritual, next as a passive and receptive principle. Dualism is thus at the outset clearly stated.[fn] The receptive or passive principle deteriorates perpetually, and finally becomes altogether materialized. The courtesan Helena was the personification of this principle. The mission of Simon the sorcerer was to effect her deliverance, which was to be that of all mankind. He pretended, himself, to represent the active and spiritual principle, and thus to incarnate the great power of God. This sketch of his doctrine will suffice for the present. We shall look at it again under the new and complex form which it assumes, when, by alliance with Christian ideas, it becomes heresy.[fn] 70We know enough of it to recognize in it the old Phoenician dualism, and the earliest features of Gnostic dualism. It contains the first rough, imperfect outline of the subtle doctrines which were destined to cause so much evil to the Church. The absurdity of the part which Simon allots to himself, the great indecorousness of that which he assigns to a courtesan, are less astonishing when we remember the country in which his strange system was conceived. This country was situated on the borders of that Phrygia which gave birth to the most infamous fables of paganism. Simon may be considered as pre-eminently the false Messiah. He held a doctrine of perdition, but this perdition was not the result of sin, since it was, like matter, eternal and fatal. Nor had salvation in his system any moral character; it consisted 71 only in subtle artifices, and the pretended Saviour was nothing but a magician. Thus, by diabolic art, the desire after redemption, so keenly alive at this period, was miserably cheated. Simon acquired a very great influence over the Samaritan people. He in a manner bewitched them.
It might be foreseen that the same vague aspiration which impelled the multitude eagerly to follow Simon, would make it attentive to the preaching of the Gospel. Such was the actual result when Philip, driven from Jerusalem by the persecution, preached Christ to the Samaritans, and confirmed his word by signs and wonders; the people at once forsook the impostor, and thronged to hear the word of truth.
Simon, like a cunning tactician, followed the multitude, in the hope of regaining his authority. He was baptized with his former adherents. The Apostles, who had remained at Jerusalem, hearing of the success of Philip's preaching, sent two of their number into this new and fruitful field of labor. They chose Peter and John, who up to this time had displayed the greatest activity in the primitive Church. This decision was most wise: Philip had very probably suggested it in his letters. The work was too wide and important for his unaided efforts; it was natural that those who had shown the greatest missionary zeal should come to his assistance. Peter and John, as soon as they arrive in Samaria, witness, in answer to their prayer, a descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Samaritan neophytes. The defenders of the hierarchy magnify this fact; but in order to raise it to the height of a principle and general 72rule, it is needful to show that during the whole apostolic period the Holy Ghost never chose any other medium than the Apostles or their immediate delegates. Now it is certain that the Holy Spirit was often given to the new converts without their concurrence.[fn] The wind bloweth where it listeth, and the grace of God is not confined to any official channel. If the Holy Spirit was not given to the Samaritans until after the arrival of Peter and John, we hold, with Neander, that the cause must have been a purely moral one. Their preaching rapidly developed the germ of the new life in the neophytes of Sychar, who had possibly at first embraced Christianity only in outward form. It is surely more honorable to the Apostles to suppose the results to have been wrought by the living power of their words, than by any outward and material act-the transmission of some mysterious, magnetic fluid from their persons. Such theories are truly derogatory, and lower the Apostles to the rank of the magicians, whose power they were come to destroy.
Simon betrayed in these circumstances the secret of his heart. By offering to buy the gift of God, he showed that he, like so many since his day, had confounded grace with magic; and it is just that the abominable traffic in holy things should bear his name. We see him for one moment trembling under 73the tremendous rebuke of the Apostle. But history shows us that his repentance had no root. He was the founder of the first heresy. Legend says that he came to Rome, and there ignominiously died. It is possible that in the great confluence of East and West he may have been found in that capital of the world where all creeds met, and all impostors left their track. But this sojourn of Simon at Rome is not verified by any authentic document. In him Christianity encountered the father of Gnosticism and of heresy. The numerous legends which cling around his name reveal the terror he inspired.[fn]
The foundation of the Christian Church in Samaria had a very happy effect upon the growth and expansion of Christian thought. Not only did the Jews cherish the strongest antipathy to the Samaritans, but they had raised a barrier of legal prescriptions of extreme severity between themselves and their hated neighbors. The Gospels give us numerous proofs of this fact. The most injurious name which the enemies of Christ can find for him is that of a Samaritan.
Peter and John return to Jerusalem, while the Deacon Philip is called, by a new manifestation of the will of God, yet further to extend the field of Christian missions. It is not a Samaritan, but a pagan, whom he next instructs in the truth. In crossing the desert which leads to Gaza, a city of the ancient Philistines, he meets with a stranger, who, as he journeys, is reading in his chariot a portion of the Scriptures. He was an Ethiopian eunuch, a great dignitary of the court of Meroe, treasurer of the Queen.[fn] This man, a pagan by birth, had taken a long journey to worship the true God in the temple at Jerusalem.[fn] Whatever might have been his religious character, he could never, as a eunuch, have passed the door of the 75congregation of the people of God.
§ III. Foundation of the Church of Antioch, and Conversion of the Centurion Cornelius.
§ III. Foundation of the Church of Antioch, and Conversion of the Centurion Cornelius.
The dispersion of the Christians not only carried the Gospel into Samaria, but into the surrounding countries. Its seeds were scattered in many cities. Damascus, so important both from its geographical position and from its history, contained within its 76walls a strong Jewish colony. It is not surprising that Christianity should have there early gathered a large number of adherents, and that its progress should have alarmed the Sanhedrim.
The Church of Antioch was early distinguished for the abundance of its extraordinary gifts. It had numerous prophets. The new religion, released from the restraints of Judaism, there expanded in all its freedom and beauty. At Antioch it first became known by its true name. This was doubtless given 79 it by the multitude, who witnessed its development and progress. The name Christian showed the dawning comprehension that the Church was not simply a Jewish sect. No one at Jerusalem, seeing the disciples in the temple, had thought of seeking for them a new name. This new name revealed the greatness of the revolution just wrought. It is important to observe that the earliest Church called out of the midst of paganism was the first to bear it. It was also from Antioch, as we shall see, that Paul set forth on his missionary journeys. Antioch was, in a manner, the Jerusalem of the Gentile world.
At this very time the Apostle Peter was led, by a miraculous dispensation of God, to shake off the yoke of Jewish exclusiveness. Notwithstanding the success of his mission in Samaria, he had not abjured his old notions; he still thought that all the prescriptions of the Mosaic law were in force. It was of the utmost importance that the Apostle whose activity and influence were paramount at this period, should be won over to the cause of a world-wide Christianity. God brought about this result in a most remarkable manner, by the coincident illumination of a special revelation and of personal experience. There lived at this time in the town of Cæsarea a Roman centurion named Cornelius, belonging to the Italian cohort, which maintained in those countries the authority of Rome. A heathen by birth, but conscious, like so many of his contemporaries, of unsatisfied religious needs, Cornelius had, from his first contact with the synagogue, forsaken the worship of false gods, and embraced the Jewish faith.
This revelation seems, at the first glance, to have reference only to the distinction between clean and unclean animals.
We know what were the results of his preaching. The miracle of Pentecost was wrought afresh on these converts from heathenism, and Peter exclaimed, "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?
§ IV. The Church at Jerusalem at the time of the First Mission beyond Judæa.
§ IV. The Church at Jerusalem at the time of the First Mission beyond Judæa.
The Christians who had remained at Jeursalem had experienced no change in their religious convictions. They had taken no part in the missionary work in Samaria, Antioch, and Cæsarea. Living in the center of Judaism, in the immediate neighborhood of the temple, where they daily offered the sacrifices commanded by the law, it would cost them much to shake off their national prejudices. Thus they learned with astonishment that Peter had entered the house of a Gentile, had eaten with him, and treated him as a brother. They reproached him sharply. "Thou wentest in," they said, "unto men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them."
The simple machinery of the primitive Church had just been completed at Jerusalem. A new office had been created—that of elders.
When we read in the Acts of the Apostles, without further explanation, that the Church of Jerusalem appointed for itself elders, it is clear that the office in question must be one already known, and the name of which would convey distinct ideas. Had it been otherwise, the sacred historian would have used a new word to designate an entirely new institution; he certainly would not have connected the sacerdotal hierarchy in the Church with the democratic rule of the synagogue, when it would have been so easy to borrow from the Jewish priesthood its honorable titles. To suppose, as do the advocates of hierarchical theories, that the first elders were probably the first converted priests, who received a fresh ordination from the hands of the Apostles, is to build the whole sacerdotal system upon a pure hypothesis.[fn]
The sacred historian gives no details of the nomination of the first elders. We may hence conclude that there was no formal institution of the office. The Apostles were often called away from Jerusalem. The young Church, though richly supplied with the gifts of the Spirit, could not dispense with some direction in its daily progress and in its worship. The wisest step was to borrow from the synagogue the institution of elders, so admirably adapted to the new dispensation. Besides, the seven deacons first appointed had been more than deacons. They had taught with power, and 86fulfilled by anticipation the office of elders. Just as the diaconate had grown out of the apostolate, so the office of elders was in part an offshoot from the primitive diaconate, and thus the organization of the Church went on perfecting itself by the division of labor. The Apostles gave their sanction to the creation of the new office, but the narrative contains no trace of any solemn institution or special revelation. The Church had, in this respect, no other revelation to await than that of its own needs. It was not creating either a priesthood or a clergy, but simply a ministry adapted to the spirit of the new dispensation. It was doubtless acting in obedience to its guiding inspiration, but no direct intervention of God was necessary, as though a new priesthood was to be instituted. It is beyond question that the elders, like the deacons, were chosen by the whole assembly. Their part in the Church at Jerusalem cannot be exactly defined: they formed its council; they directed without coercing it; they read and explained the Scriptures, at times when no extraordinary gifts were manifested. In the second period of the apostolic age we shall find their functions assuming more importance. At that stage, also, the question of the identity of the bishop and the elder will come before us for solution. At Jerusalem, as in all the Churches of Jewish origin, elders alone were known. The name bishop appears only in the Churches of Greek origin.
Side by side with the elders we find the prophets. The gift of prophecy was distinguished from the other operations of the Spirit by its sudden and powerful character. The prophets of the primitive 87Church were not called only to communicate to the Church revelations as to the future, such as those put into the mouth of Agabus.
A short time after the return of Peter to Jerusalem persecution broke out anew, raised this time, not by the priests or the rabbis, but by the King, Herod Agrippa; it was employed by him as a means of gaining popularity. This prince succeeded in uniting under his scepter all the countries over which his uncle, Herod the Great, had reigned. Having crept to the throne by flattery, he kept his seat by the same means, servilely pandering to vulgar prejudices. The time was gone when the Church was in favor with all the people; persecution was beginning to become popular; it was to retain this character during three centuries, for nothing is more odious to the great mass of men than the law of holiness when its requirements are once rightly understood. James, the son of Zebedee, was beheaded by the King's commandment.
Herod was anxious next to strike a blow at the Apostle who had most powerfully drawn upon himself the attention of the people, and had thus enkindled the most bitter hatred. He caused Peter to be thrown into prison and condemned to speedy death. The alarmed disciples gathered in the house of Mary, the mother of Mark, to entreat help from God in this terrible crisis. Threatened with a blow which would overturn one of the pillars of the Church, they lift up earnest prayers to Heaven. Suddenly Peter himself, delivered by a miracle, knocks at the door of the house, and comes to teach them the omnipotence of prayer, which they were yet slow to believe, as their incredulity of his presence proves. Soon after Herod died, smitten with righteous judgment from God. He had gone to Cæsarea to decide some differences with the inhabitants of Tyre and Sidon, and to celebrate games in honor of the recovery of Claudius. He was received with the utmost enthusiasm. Appearing on the second day of the games arrayed in a silver tunic, on which the rays of the early morning shed a dazzling brightness, he excited universal admiration, and his flatterers even carried 89their adulation so far as to call him a god. In that very moment he was smitten with a loathsome disease; eaten of worms, he died, exclaiming, "I, the god, am about to die; death has already seized him whom men called immortal."[fn] This event produced a deep impression upon the Church, which saw in it the direct intervention of God for its protection and the chastisement of its enemies.
According to tradition, St. Peter went to Rome after his deliverance, and the excitement caused in the Jewish colony by his preaching provoked the severe measures taken by Claudius against the Jews.[fn] But the presence of Peter in the Council at Jerusalem, which took place very shortly after, disproves this assertion. He probably continued to preach the Gospel through all the regions of Asia Minor, where his influence was still so great during the following period. The defenders of the hierarchy affirm that after the persecution under Herod Agrippa, the Apostles divided the world among them, and drew their field of labor by lot.[fn] To what 90lengths will not the desire lead to paint the past with the colors of the present, and to substitute for the spirituality of the early days an official character and the machinery of a hierarchy! It is not possible to go further than this in the untrue rendering of facts. The opinion which attributes to the Apostles, at the same time, the compilation of the creed which bears their name, is equally without foundation. The day of Pentecost was not yet far enough removed for the reduction of faith to rule.
The same preconception, and the same disposition to transfer the institutions of the third century of the Church into the first, have led to an imaginary recognition of the episcopate in the entirely moral preeminence which James,[fn] the Lord's brother, enjoyed 91in the Church at Jerusalem. This, however, is capable of a most simple explanation. His relationship to Jesus Christ had an inestimable value in the eyes of the first Christians, who felt themselves under no obligation to repudiate the natural and indestructible feelings of the human heart. The character of James, his piety, and the very form which it assumed, all contributed to increase his influence at Jerusalem. Profoundly attached to the religion of his fathers, he had watched, not without alarm, the first contests between Jesus Christ and the representatives of the ancient worship. He had only gradually learned to take broader views; the resurrection of the Saviour seems to have vanquished his latent hesitation; but this hesitation did not spring from pride or obstinacy; his scruples were those of a strong but unenlightened piety, which was startled by any change introduced into the order established by God. The testimony concerning James of an old historian of the Church gives us a key to the position he filled. "James, the brother of the Lord," we read in Eusebius, who quotes Hegesippus,[fn] "known universally by the surname of 'The Just,' shared with the Apostles the direction of the Church. He was holy from his mother's womb. He drank neither wine nor strong drink, and abstained from all meat. . . . He alone might enter into the holy place;[fn] for his raiment was simply of linen. He was accustomed to go into the temple alone. There he was found prostrate before God, seeking forgiveness for the sins of the people. His knees were 92worn like those of a camel, so constantly were they bent before God in intercession for the people. Because of the excellence of his justice he was surnamed 'The Just,' the Oblias,[fn] which signifies the bulwark of the people, and righteousness." Those who pretend that Christianity was originally very little distinguished from Judaism lay much stress on this passage.[fn] They forget that Hegesippus is unfolding before us the whole life of James from his childhood to his death. Set apart as a Nazarite from his earliest years, he adhered scrupulously to the practices of the sect. But there is nothing in the description of Hegesippus to forbid the supposition that after his conversion he may have used greater freedom, though he, with the whole Church of Hebrew origin, continued to observe the institutions of Moses. His conduct in the Council at Jerusalem, and his Epistle, abundantly prove that, in his view, the Christian was not in all points like the Nazarite. It is, nevertheless, certain that he remained in heart attached to Judaism, and that the new religion was primarily, in his eyes, a fulfillment of prophecy. His patriotism was wholly unlike that of the proud Pharisees of the time, for he was best known by his fervent prayers for Jerusalem, and his tears over the sins of his people. He was a determined enemy of false Judaism, a true child of Abraham, one of those who yearned for the divine Isaac. None was a more forcible preacher of repentance than he. James was, in a manner, the John the 93 Baptist of the apostolic age—a new forerunner making the paths straight for the law of liberty. He was a Jew after God's own heart, gladly accepting the realization of his promises, and thus accomplishing the transition from Judaism to Christianity. He is, in fact, the purest type we have of the Israelite indeed; he thus truly belongs to the new covenant, the mission of which is to bring to perfection all that existed in germ in the old. The Lord's brother repeats, in his life, the Sermon on the Mount; by holiness he prepared the way for progress, freeing the law of the spirit from the law of the letter, as the ripened grain shakes off the enveloping husk.
It is not then necessary, in order to explain the influence of such a man, to have recourse to apostolic investiture.[fn] Respected and beloved by the people, who witnessed his zeal in the temple, he exercised great moral authority over the Church at Jerusalem, of which he was in truth the representative. According to Clement of Alexandria, James was like a ruler of the synagogue in the Church at Jerusalem—that is to say, the first among his equals. It is probable that he obtained this consideration by the sole ascendency of his piety. Hegesippus clearly states that he took part in the government of the Church at the same time with Peter and John. His right was equal to theirs; and it did not need for its exercise either a constituted hierarchy or apostolic succession.
The Church at Jerusalem continues, during this period, a religious center for all the Christians. From it go. forth the first missionaries; it sends 94 spontaneously delegates into the countries where the Gospel has already gained some ground, as in Samaria and at Antioch. In later times important conferences on the question of the admission to baptism of Gentile converts will be held within it. It could hardly have been otherwise in the first period. This central position resulted from the situation of the new Churches, from their weakness and inexperience. But it would be a grave misconception to regard Jerusalem as the Rome of the first century; this would be to forget altogether the difference of the times.
We have seen, after the brief phase of the Church's history when all was miraculous and supernatural, the commencement of internal division. The teaching and martyrdom of Stephen, the mission in Samaria, the formation of the Church at Antioch, the conversion of Cornelius, all these events, which followed each other rapidly, brought into full view the question of the relations of Christianity with Judaism. The discussion is to take still broader ground, through the influence of St. Paul; it will be at times envenomed by the evil passions of the false teachers of Galatia and the schismatics of Corinth, but we shall see it, nevertheless, steadily advancing to its solution, by means of wholesome experience and brotherly consultations, in which the free and living character of the inspiration of the new covenant will strikingly appear; but we shall find no radical opposition between the disputants; and the theories which suppose two irreconcilable forms of Christianity in the apostolic Church will prove to be as fabulous as the legends of tradition.95
§ I. Saul of Tarsus. His Preparation and Conversion.
§ I. Saul of Tarsus. His Preparation and Conversion.
EVERY great truth which is to win a triumphant way must become incarnate in some one man, and derive from a living, fervent heart that passion and power which constrain and subdue. So long as it remains in the cold region of mere ideas it exercises no mighty influence over mankind. The truths of religion are not exceptions to this law. God, therefore, prepared a man who was to represent, in the primitive Church, the great cause of the emancipation of Christianity, and whose mission it was to free it completely from the bonds of the synagogue. This man was St. Paul, and never had noble truth a nobler organ. He brought to its service an heroic heart, in which fervent love was joined to indomitable courage, and a mind equally able to rise to the loftiest heights of speculation and to penetrate into the deepest recesses of the human soul. All these great qualities were enhanced by absolute devotedness to Jesus Christ, and a self-abnegation such as, apart from the sacrifice of the Redeemer, has had no parallel upon earth. His life was one perpetual offering up of himself. His sufferings have contributed, no less than his indefatigable activity, 96to the triumph of his principles. Standing ever in the breach for their defense—subject to most painful contradictions, not only from the Jews, but from his brethren—execrated by his own nation—maligned by a fanatic and intolerant section of the Church, and threatened with death by those Gentiles whose claims he so boldly advocated—he suffered as scarcely any other has suffered in the service of truth; but he left behind a testimony most weighty and powerful, every word sealed with the seal of the martyr. Paul was the first missionary to the Gentile world, and he thus effectually inaugurated the universal triumph of Christianity. It was needful that the door of the Church should be opened to the thousands of proselytes from Corinth, Athens, Ephesus, and Rome, who came up to it and knocked. But the great Apostle of the Gentiles was not satisfied with this irresistible argument from facts; he added to it reasoning equally able and eloquent, and, armed with dialectics perfectly adapted to the habits of mind of his opponents, he victoriously established his principles.
The epistles in which these reasonings have in part come down to us, bear on every page the impress of his heart and mind; they show ns the whole man, and the very style depicts in vivid characters his moral physiognomy. His polemics are especially admirable, because with him a negation always leads to a weightier affirmation; he never destroys without replacing, and, like his Master, abolishes only by fulfilling. He is not only an incomparable dialectician in the subversion of error, but he is able also to discern all the consequences of a truth, and 97 to grasp its marrow and inner substance. This great controversialist is, therefore, at the same time, the first representative of that true Christian mysticism which St. John was so fully to develop. St. Paul triumphed over Judaism only by putting in its place Christianity in all its breadth and beauty. What holiness, strength, nobleness of character he displayed in the course of his ministry will appear as we trace his history. St. Paul is the type of the reformer in the Church; in every fresh struggle for the Church's freedom, his will be the track in which courageous Christians will follow. No true reformation can be wrought in any spirit other than that of Paul—a spirit equally removed from the timidity which preserves that which should be destroyed, and the rashness which destroys that which should be preserved.
When God is forming a powerful instrument for the accomplishment of his designs, the process of preparation is long and gradual. Every circumstance is brought to bear on the education of the chosen witness, and every experience, even of wrong and error, is made to enhance the power and completeness of the testimony rendered. When a man is called to effect some great religious reformation, it is important that he should himself have an experimental acquaintance with the order of things which he is to reverse or transform. The education of Paul the Pharisee, was to him what the convent of Erfurt was to Luther. It was well that he who was to break the yoke of Jewish legalism should himself have first suffered under its bondage. Thus, while the question of the emancipation of Christianity had 98 been stated by men belonging, like Stephen, to the most liberal section of Judaism—the Hellenist Jews—it was to receive its final solution from a man who had himself felt the full weight of the yoke.
Saul belonged to a Jewish family, rigidly attached to the sect of the Pharisees. His name, which signifies "The desired one," has led some commentators[fn] to suppose that he, being born, like Samuel, after hope long delayed, was, like him, specially consecrated by his parents to the service of God, and, therefore, sent from his early childhood to Jerusalem to study the sacred writings in the most famous school of the age. However this may be, it is evident that his mind had a natural bent toward such studies. He may have received some intellectual development in his own city. Strabo tells us that literary and philosophical studies had been carried so far at Tarsus that the schools of Cilicia eclipsed those of Athens and of Alexandria.[fn] It appears, however, from the evidence of Philostratus, that a light and rhetorical school of learning predominated at Tarsus; more attention was paid to brilliance of expression than to depth of philosophical thought.[fn] The life of the East there reveled in boundless luxury, and the corruption of manners reached its utmost length. The young Jew, endowed with a high-toned morality, may well have conceived a deep disgust for this pagan civilization; and these first impressions may have tended to develop in him an excessive attachment to the religion of his fathers.99
We may, probably, attribute to his abode at Tarsus the literary culture displayed in his writings. He familiarly quotes the Greek poets, and poets of the second order, such as Cleanthes, (
Jerusalem was the place of his true education. He was placed in the school of Gamaliel, the most celebrated rabbi of his age.
While an ingenious and learned school, formed at Alexandria, had contrived by a system of allegorical interpretation to infuse Platonism into the Old Testament, the school at Jerusalem had been growing increasingly rigid, and interdicted any such daring exegesis. It clung with fanatic attachment to the letter of the Scriptures, but, failing to comprehend the spirit, it sunk into all the puerilities of a narrow literalism. Its interpretations lacked both breadth and depth; it surrendered itself to the subtilties of purely verbal dialectics. Cleverly to combine texts—to suspend on a single word the thin threads of an ingenious argument—such was the sole concern of the 100rabbis. Gamaliel appears to have been the most skilled of all the doctors of the law. He is still venerated in Jewish tradition under the title of "Gamaliel the Aged." The "Mishna" quotes him as an authority. We are inclined to believe that he may have been less in bondage than the other doctors of his day to narrow literalism, and that he may have maintained a spirit more upright and elevated. His benevolent intervention on behalf of the Church at Jerusalem distinguishes him honorably from those implacable Jews, who were ready to defend their prejudices by bloody persecutions. The fact of his having had a disciple like Saul of Tarsus, who must have been through his whole life characterized by a grave moral earnestness, leads us to suppose a true superiority in the teaching of Gamaliel. He had not got beyond the stand-point of legalism, but this he at least presented in its unimpaired and unabated majesty. He was not a man to delude the conscience with subterfuges, and his disciples were therefore disposed to austerity of life, and were distinguished by a scrupulous fidelity to the religion of their fathers.
Saul of Tarsus embraced the teaching of his illustrious master with characteristic earnestness and ardor, and, it must be added, infused into it all the passionate vehemence belonging to his nature. At the feet of Gamaliel, he became practiced in those skillful dialectics which were the pride of the rabbinical schools, and he thus received from Judaism itself the formidable weapon with which he was afterward to deal it such mortal blows. Here he gained a profound knowledge of the Old Testament. Gifted with a strong and keen intellect, he in a few years acquired 101all the learning of his master. He thus amassed, without knowing it, precious materials for his future polemics; but his moral and religious development in this phase of his life is of more importance to us than his intellectual acquirements. With all his knowledge, he might have become, at the most, the first of Jewish doctors, surpassing even Gamaliel, and shedding some glory on the decadence of his people; but he could never have derived from that vast learning the spirit of the reformer, which was to make him immortal in the Church. It is in the depths of his inner life we must seek the distinctive character of his early piety; he has himself accurately described it when he says, that being "taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers," he "was zealous toward God."
In times of spiritual crisis, when mankind is breathlessly awaiting a great religious revolution, the common hope and expectation are manifested in two extremes of conduct. Some men openly abandon ancient forms: others cling to them with desperation, and demand from them with feverish impatience the satisfaction of the new cravings of their souls; their morbid excitement is in itself an evidence that they have not escaped the universal restlessness. They push to its furthest logical issues the principle in which they wish to believe; it is clear that they are 102themselves dissatisfied with its existing application, and seek in this way to appease their unquiet hearts. Such a cleaving to the past is, in truth, an aspiration after something beyond, an appeal for a new religious life. If we look closely at Saul of Tarsus while he is still a Pharisee, we shall discern in his manner of bearing the yoke a prophecy that he will one day cast it off. We find no likeness in him to those self-complacent Pharisees whose hypocrisy Christ painted in colors of fire. He does not seek to deceive God and men by vain forms, nor flatter his conscience that he has satisfied' the law when he has paid tithe of mint, and anise, and cummin. This young Jew is a zealous and scrupulous observer of all the ordinances of Moses; he receives them with all seriousness; he practices them with all sincerity and exactness. Let us listen to his own words: "I profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals (in years) in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers."
He seems to us, in some portions of his Epistles, to be recalling the memories of his early life. When he speaks of the powerlessness of legalism, he does not pause long on the development of the doctrine; his argument takes a dramatic and personal form. We feel that he is touching what were the live wounds of his soul before his conversion. The seventh chapter of his Epistle to the Romans is full of these sorrowful memories. When he depicts to us, with marvelous psychological insight, that singular effect of the law in revealing evil to us, and giving it an accursed charm by presenting it as the forbidden fruit, (
Is it not the same Saul of Tarsus who exclaims, in deep sorrow of heart, "When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died: and the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death."
His contact with Stephen may be regarded as the leading event of his life. From the day in which he heard Stephen speak—or rather, from the day in which he saw him die, with a calmness so sublime—Paul was beside himself. He abandoned the quiet studies of a doctor of the law; he could not go on pursuing them till he had silenced that importunate voice within, which declared them to be of no avail. He felt that if Stephen's words were true, all the scaffolding of his legal virtues and Judaistic learning would fall to the ground. He was at heart more troubled than he was willing to appear; a secret doubt gave him no rest, and he sought to shake it off by persecuting those who had called it forth. Hence that redoubled zeal which marks the moral crisis at its culminating point. "He breathed out," as the sacred writer tells us, "threatening and slaughter," (
While we thus regard the conversion of Paul as the issue of a long and painful preparatory period of inward crisis, we in no way detract from the importance of the remarkable miracle which was its immediate cause. If certain dispositions of mind were required by Jesus Christ as preparatory even for a miracle affecting the body alone, such as the healing of blindness or paralysis, how much more necessary must they be for a miracle wholly spiritual. The latter can only be received in its full power and meaning by a man whose heart has been prepared by God. This important truth comes out with a high degree of evidence from the narrative of the conversion of the Apostle.
As he was on the way, and already near Damascus, suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven, and accompanying the brilliant flash a voice was heard with the shock of thunder. The 107companions of the Apostle saw the dazzling brightness, but could discern no distinct image; they heard the voice also, but caught no words.[fn] Awestruck, they fell to the ground.
Let us endeavor to give some account of the mysterious scene which transpired on the road to Damascus, the consequences of which were so momentous to the Apostle and to the Church. Saul of Tarsus is already secretly troubled in mind. He has closely observed the first Christians, has watched their pure and holy lives, and their still more remarkable deaths. The remembrance of Stephen is constantly present with him. He has, at the same time, proved the utter impotence of the old law; he is exhausted with inward struggles, and yet trembles at the thought of repudiating his past life. All these mingled emotions are tumultuous within him as he journeys toward Damascus. His conscience is ill at ease; his spirit is at once depressed and stirred within him. At this crisis Jesus appears to him, and asks, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" The question wakes a deep echo in his soul; and when the voice goes on to say, "I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest," Saul is vanquished; he falls lightning-struck to the ground; he feels that he has long been kicking against the piercing goad. Light bursts in upon him; his doubts are dissipated; he sees, he believes. Stephen was not deceived; Jesus Christ is the very Lord of glory, and it is he whom 109Saul had been about to persecute at Damascus. The shock of such a discovery is overwhelming. Saul is utterly crushed by it. He is himself no longer: not his bodily eyes alone, but the eyes of his soul are covered with a vail of blackness. He feels that this is the crisis of his spiritual life, and he gropes in the thick darkness, discerning clearly but this one thing,—that he has been persecuting Christ. Like a little child, he suffers himself to be led by the hand into the city, where, according to the promise given him, he is to receive new light.
It would be a grave mistake to suppose that Saul's conversion was completed on the road to Damascus. His pride was then broken; his doubts were scattered; but he did not at once rise from that tremendous blow which had severed his life in two. He then, indeed, received his calling as an Apostle, (
The best preparation of a great servant of God for his work is stern solitude. Saul of Tarsus, before entering on his ministry, was sent into the wilderness, like Moses and John the Baptist, and like Jesus himself. He lived for some years in Arabia, (
We know how frequently Paul insisted upon his privilege as an apostle, and with what vehemence he repudiates any inferiority in this respect in comparison with his colleagues in the apostolate. "Am I not an apostle?" he says in his first Epistle to the 113Corinthians, (
We have seen that the apostolate was not a new priesthood, but the ideal representation of the Church. The apostle was the Christian of the early Church in an official character; he was to raise the Christian vocation to its supreme dignity; he was thus, pre-eminently, the witness of Jesus Christ, for the special mission of this first generation of Christians was to preserve to the world the living memory of the Redeemer. St. Paul, in this respect, in no way differs from the twelve; like them, he is one of the accredited witnesses of the great fact of salvation, only his credentials are of a peculiar kind. The essential condition for taking rank among the twelve first apostles was, "to have been with the Lord Jesus all the time that he went in and out among them, beginning from the baptism of John unto that same day that he was taken up from them."
One preliminary question remains to be noticed. Paul declares, in his Epistle to the Galatians, that the Gospel he preaches comes not from man. "I neither received it of man," he says, "neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ."
§ II. St. Paul's First Journey.
§ II. St. Paul's First Journey.
Until the time when he was sent forth by the Church at Antioch, Saul had confined himself to preaching the Gospel to the Jews and proselytes. He did not enter on his great mission-field among the Gentiles till this first journey, which was, therefore, one of great importance to himself and to the Church. It called forth differences of opinion which led, ultimately, to the Council at Jerusalem; and the result of that council was the first solution of the question which had already raised more than one stormy contention among the Christians. Saul and Barnabas left Antioch accompanied by John, whose surname was Mark.
From the island of Cyprus Paul and Barnabas cross into Asia Minor. They only pass through Perga, where Mark leaves them, and go on to Antioch in Pisidia, an important town, built, like the other Antioch, by Seleucus Nicator. A large Jewish colony is there resident. To this Paul first addresses himself. He always, in his missionary journeys, follows the 119order adopted by God himself in the gift of his revelations. He held it his duty to preach the Gospel first to those who had received in the law and the prophets a direct preparation for it. We know, besides, what tender affection he felt-for his people, and what a lofty patriotism blended with the breadth of his enlarged Christianity. The synagogue at Antioch seems to have been considerably frequented by the Gentile population; at least so we may gather from the composition of the audience which received the Gospel from the lips of Paul.
When Paul has received the invitation to speak the word of exhortation, he turns to his countrymen and addresses to them an appeal most earnest and touching. The plan of his discourse, of which evidently we have only the leading points, is admirably adapted to his purpose. Speaking to Jews, he takes his stand on the ground of the old covenant. He first shows the historic descent of Christ. Just as the kings succeeded the judges, so the Son of David has succeeded the kings, and has inaugurated a new kingship.
This discourse produced a deep impression; but while the Gentiles were filled with joy, there were murmurings of indignation among the Jews. These could no longer be restrained when, the next Sabbath, a large concourse of Gentiles came up to the synagogue. Paul had given his countrymen a grand opportunity of vindicating themselves from the heavy charge which had rested on their nation ever since the crucifixion of Christ. Far from embracing it, they sanction by their conduct the crime of their brethren, and betray once more the obstinate pride of their race, at the very moment when the ignorant Gentiles eagerly receive the Gospel. Paul and Barnabas are filled with holy indignation; this confirmed resistance of the Jews draws from them those words of incalculable import, "Lo! we turn to the Gentiles!" A new era opens upon the Church, The 121grateful Gentiles throng around the Apostles—conversions are multiplied—but at the same time, persecution, stirred up by the Jews, breaks out in fury, and Paul and Barnabas are compelled to quit the country, leaving behind them a host of neophytes. As they depart they shake off the dust of their feet, and this symbolical act is a fresh proof that the severance between the Church and the synagogue is complete.
At Iconium—a neighboring city—similar scenes are enacted. The Gospel is preached with acceptance to the Gentiles, but the exasperated Jews league themselves with some fanatics, (
The people of this region were rude and ignorant; they still clung to ancient paganism with its absurd fables. They were distinguished by their fanaticism, and carried into their religious ideas the same wild passion as their neighbors, the people of Phrygia. The worship of Jupiter and Mercury was in favor in these provinces. In the familiar fable of Philemon and Baucis, these two divinities appear in Phrygia. A temple to Jupiter had been built at the gates of Lystra. Such a people would be sure to love the marvelous. The miraculous healing of the impotent man by Paul excited, therefore, the most lively enthusiasm. On all hands the cry was raised, "The gods are come down to us," (
This journey gave striking confirmation to all the revelations which Paul had received. He knew now, from the conversion of Sergius Paulus and the success of his preaching at Antioch in Pisidia, that deep spiritual needs were felt by the Gentiles, and that the heathen world was, after its manner, looking for redemption. But, at the same time, he had come into sharp contact with popular fanaticism, and had learned the cost of opposing it, and he had also proved by experience the obstinate resistance of his proud and opinionated countrymen. He had gained clearer ideas of the vocation wherewith he was called, with its inevitable accompanying perils and pains, and, doubtless, had already a sure presage of martyrdom as the final seal of faithfulness to the truth. 124But the glorious victories he had just gained, and the "marks of the Lord Jesus," which he already bore in the body wounded for his sake, gave him a right to be heard at Jerusalem, as at Antioch. God had confirmed his apostleship in a manner not to be mistaken. He was ready for the great internal conflict of the Church, after having so mightily served the common cause in the conflict with outlying heathenism.125
Chapter IV. The Two Conferences at Jerusalem, and the Dispute at Antioch.
§ I. The Two Conferences.
§ I. The Two Conferences.
THE Christian Church had reached a critical moment. It had already long passed out of the peaceful upper chamber at Jerusalem. Important questions had arisen which clamored for solution. It must be decided if a Judaizing Christianity or a Christianity of broader principles was to govern the Churches gathered from among the heathen, A great step in the path of emancipation had been taken when circumcision had been declared not obligatory in the case of Gentile converts, and they had thus been placed on the same level with Jews by birth. This innovation had been introduced by Paul, and it implied that he possessed authority equal to that of the twelve Apostles. Hence arose two critical questions on which minds were deeply stirred and greatly divided. The first referred to circumcision. Is it lawful, it was asked, to abrogate an institution consecrated by the practice of the Church? The question was not now confined, as in the instance of the conversion of Cornelius, to an isolated case, or the baptism of a single family; it embraced all the thousands of the uncircumcised. The second question was touching the apostleship of Paul. Had he 126the right to use such large liberty in his chosen field of action? Might he thus, without even consulting with the Church at Jerusalem, introduce such important changes? In other words, was he truly an apostle? Of these two questions, the one was of general interest, the other personal to Paul. The first demanded open deliberation in presence of the whole Church; while the second, which was of a more delicate nature, might more fitly be discussed in private. Two conferences, therefore, took place simultaneously at Jerusalem, the one private, among the Apostles themselves, (
But before following in detail these important deliberations, we shall do well to place ourselves, as far as possible, in the midst of the various conflicting influences which gave occasion to them. It has been asserted that the conflict was essentially one between St. Paul and the other Apostles, who, we are told, had not in any respect advanced beyond the limits of Judaism. This theory is contradicted alike by the explicit declarations of St. Paul and by the narrative of Luke. We have already sketched the history of the Church at Jerusalem up to this period. We have seen that, while still continuing to observe the ordinances of the law, the Church regarded itself as forming a separate society, the basis of which was faith in Jesus Christ. It had already constructed its first simple organization. It had also, in principle, recognized the calling of the Gentiles, though without a full comprehension of all the consequences of that concession. The majority of the Christians of this 127Church were under the influence of James, the Lord's brother. The opposition raised against Paul at Jerusalem cannot be ascribed to any of the Apostles. He tells us, in his letter to the Galatians, how readily they gave to him the right hand of fellowship.
It was impossible for 128Paul and his followers not to offer an energetic resistance to such interference, and it was probably by his advice that the Church at Antioch determined to carry the question before the Church at Jerusalem. Let us not lose sight of this circumstance, which is important, as it proves that the Church at Jerusalem had no share in raising the discussion, and that those who were the first agitators had no right whatever to speak in its name; that, on the contrary, the Christians at Antioch had full confidence in it. St. Paul himself distinguishes between the public and the private conference. "I communicated," he says, "to them of Jerusalem,[fn] but privately to them which were of reputation,[fn] that Gospel which I preach among the Gentiles."
The moment was full of grave issues for the Apostle; it was a decisive crisis, from which his authority must come out either seriously compromised or sanctioned before the Church. As he himself says, the point to be resolved was, "if by any means he should run, or had run in vain," (
It is not difficult to form an idea of the points debated 129 in the private conferences. The later polemics of St. Paul give us valuable hints on this subject, for his adversaries constantly repeated the same charges against him. The great objection to his apostleship was drawn from the difference existing between him and the primitive Apostles. He had not, like them, lived with Jesus Christ; for he was yet a fierce persecutor of the Church when the twelve were already governing it with authority. Paul met this objection by declaring that "God accepteth no man's person," (
To those who demanded that he should have received his vocation by direct transmission from the hands of the twelve Apostles, he replied with equal frankness and boldness, "They added nothing to me."[fn] He sought, for the steps he took, no authority from those who had gone before him. The question, which was at first simply a personal one, soon became general. Paul raises it to the height of those great principles which animated all his ministry. He appeals, in support of his apostleship, to that free, sovereign grace of God, which is not limited by precedent, merit, or institution. The same grace which made him a Christian made him an apostle. Having done the greater, it was assuredly able to do the less. His title is in no way inferior to that of the twelve. Without grace, Peter would have been no more an apostle than he; with it, their calling was the same.
This argument of Paul appeared irresistible to the men, who, from the extraordinary consideration they enjoyed, may be regarded as the arbiters in the dispute. It is impossible, except under the bias of very strong preconception, to pretend to gather from the history that Peter, James, and John were at the head of the adversaries of Paul, when Paul himself so distinctly draws the line between them and the "false brethren," who had calumniated him, and so explicitly declares their readiness to recognize his apostleship.
Besides these private conferences, the Church at Jerusalem had public conferences, not on the question of the apostleship of Paul, but on the admission of Gentiles into the Church. To these has been given, by emphasis, the name of the Council of Jerusalem. No better method could have been taken to bring into strong light the contrast between this first council and all that have succeeded it. It differs as widely in its composition, as in the mode of its deliberations and in its results. It is no clerical council pronouncing authoritative decisions on points of doctrine. Not only the apostles, but the elders, and the whole multitude of the believers, take part in the conference, because all have an equal interest in the question at issue.[fn] The Council of Jerusalem is essentially democratic in character. At a time when the level of the religious life was so elevated, there was no fear that the gravest interests of the 132 Church would be compromised by a free discussion. The Church had not as yet opened its doors to the motley throng of merely nominal Christians. If it is asked what right had believers, who were neither Apostles nor elders, to sit in the first council, the answer is ready, without an appeal to the general constitution of the Church at that period. It is sufficient to remember that every one of these Christians was prepared to endure martyrdom for the faith. Those who are ready to die for the Church have the truest qualification for its government. A fair consideration of the part taken by the Apostles in the council at Jerusalem, cannot but dispel many false conceptions of the apostolic office. If they had really constituted a sort of autocratic college, governing the Church, and deciding all questions of doctrine and practice by their personal infallibility, they would on this occasion have assembled themselves, and sent forth to the Church their authoritative decision on the point in dispute. They would have inaugurated the method adopted by their so-called successors, and determined, without appeal, the mode of admission of converted Gentiles. In place of any such act of apostolic authority, we find a free discussion, in which the Apostles take part only like the other Christians, without enforcing their opinions by any appeal to their peculiar prerogatives. On the contrary, the man of most influence in the council, he whose advice prevails, is not an apostle: he is James, the Lord's brother, one of the elders of the Church at Jerusalem. The advocates of a hierarchy maintain that Peter presided over the council. They base their opinion on the fact that he was the first 133of the Apostles to give expression to his views. In this, as in so many other instances, they mistake, for the privilege of office, that forwardness of speech and action which really proceeded from his natural impetuosity and ardor. In this case, however, it is not correct to assert that Peter opened the conference; the discussion had already gone to a considerable length before he spoke. "And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up."
The breadth of spirit which characterized the deliberations of the Council of Jerusalem is worthy of all admiration. We have already shown the importance of the point to be decided. It cannot be questioned that there were strongly marked differences of opinion in the assembly, even leaving out of view the extreme fanatical party. Between Paul and James the divergence was great, though both were equally devoted to Jesus Christ. Peter, whose mind had already been enlightened by a special revelation, occupied an intermediate position. The great body of the Christians sided with James. If each one had clung without concession to his own peculiar views, a lamentable schism must have resulted from these conferences; but the discussion was conducted in a spirit of Christian liberty, which obviated all danger. It commenced evidently with hot and confused disputation, (
Paul and Barnabas immediately follow Peter as speakers. They narrate the great results of their mission in Asia Minor. They describe, no doubt in fervent language, the eagerness of the Gentiles to listen to the Gospel, and contrast it with the resistance of the Jews. They point to Sergius Paulus converted at Paphos; they dwell on the zeal and love of the Churches they have left as bright lights in the midst of the darkness and corruption of Asiatic paganism.
It has been said that James made no real concession by this proposition-that, in fact, he secured the triumph of the Judaizing party. But was it nothing to place Christians converted from paganism, and who had only fulfilled the conditions required of proselytes of the gate, on the same level with the proselytes of righteousness and the Jews by birth? Was it nothing to consent to admit the uncircumcised into the Church? Let it be remembered that the whole discussion originated in the question of circumcision, and it will be evident that the solution proposed by James, while it gave legitimate satisfaction to the Christian Jews, completely won the cause for Paul and Barnabas. The whole conference agreed in the course proposed, and it was decided to send delegates to Antioch, provided with a circular letter containing the resolution unanimously taken at Jerusalem. This letter is a model of Christian toleration. It is not weighted with anathemas; it does not even 137use the tone of command; it is not the promulgation of a decree. After explaining the cause of the disputation, it goes no further than to tell the Churches they would do well to conform to the resolutions passed at Jerusalem.
We shall be much mistaken, however, if we suppose that the question of the relation of the two covenants was finally determined by these conferences. The obligation to observe the law was still laid on Jewish Christians. The concessions made to the Gentile converts would not long suffice. There is no ground whatever, therefore, for attributing any permanent value to the decree of the Council of Jerusalem. This decree was a temporary compromise in the interests of the peace of the Church.
§ II. The Dispute at Antioch.
§ II. The Dispute at Antioch.
Immediately after the council at Jerusalem, Paul returned to Antioch with Barnabas. He was quickly followed thither by Peter. At this time must have occurred that contention between the two Apostles which is narrated with such courageous frankness in the Epistle to the Galatians.
Book Second. Second Period of the Apostolic Age.—The Apostolic Church up to the Death of St. Paul, From A.D. 50-65.
Chapter I. Missions of the Church During This Period.
§ I. Second Missionary Journey of St. Paul.
§ I. Second Missionary Journey of St. Paul.
AFTER the conferences at Jerusalem Paul made but a short stay at Antioch. He was anxious to visit the Churches which he had founded, and to carry the Gospel into new countries. According to his original plan, Barnabas was to be his companion; but the latter was not willing to separate from Mark, and Paul judged it not reasonable to take with them again the young disciple, who had left them in Pamphylia. He did not wish to have his own liberal views hindered in their manifestation by a timorous comrade, still under the thraldom of Jewish prejudice. A sharp contention followed, and Paul and Barnabas parted. The latter repaired with Mark to the Island of Cyprus, of which he was a native, while Paul returned into Asia Minor, accompanied by Silas. We shall see presently how fresh fellow-laborers joined him as he went. The support of such men, devoted to his person and his doctrine, was very 144 necessary, while he was thus plunging into conflict with the dark depths of paganism. The Apostle could scarcely have undertaken, unaided, the tremendous task of founding Churches and directing their first steps in a path so untrodden. The sense of isolation could not have failed also to weaken his hands, for his heart was as full of tenderness as of courage. His associates threw themselves completely into his work; they shared its responsibility, and acted rather as friends, co-workers, and disciples, than subordinates. They yielded to his influence, but they did not wear it as a yoke. Silas, or Silvanus, who departed from Antioch with Paul, occupied a distinguished position in the Church at Jerusalem. He was one of the delegates who carried to Antioch the resolutions of the conference at Jerusalem; and from this circumstance it may be inferred that he had shown a liberal and conciliatory spirit in the deliberations. He served as a sort of link between the Church at Antioch and the Church at Jerusalem. Through him the latter was therefore directly associated with the work of Paul among the Gentiles. Paul's choice of him as a companion was thus both wise and prudent. Silas remained faithful to this mission of conciliation, for we subsequently find him associated with St. Peter.
Paul manifests in this second journey all the great qualities which make him the type of the Christian missionary. Feeble in health, with many infirmities, his bodily strength is soon exhausted, but his zeal never, and his very weakness gives more touching pathos to his appeals.
His tact as a missionary is no less admirable than his zeal. Never was worker so wise as he in "redeeming the time"—taking advantage, that is, of favorable occasions and circumstances. When he arrives in a city, he immediately finds means of access to the largest possible numbers. He preaches sometimes in the synagogues; sometimes, as at Philippi, by the road side; sometimes, as in frivolous Athens, in the place of public resort. He adapts himself to the customs of every country, and far and wide proclaims the name of Jesus.
Paul began his missionary journey by visiting the Churches which he had founded in Syria and Cilicia. These were very prosperous, and daily increasing in the number of their members. In Lycaonia the Apostle took to himself a young disciple, converted during his previous journey, a young man full of faith, and endowed by God with many excellent gifts. The son of a Jewish mother, he had been taught from his childhood in the Scriptures.
Paul had also with him, at the beginning of this journey, another companion not less faithful: he was a Christian of Greek parentage, as we gather from his name—Epaphras, or Epaphroditus.[fn] We shall see him again at Paul's side in the Roman prison.
Paul merely passed through Phrygia, but made a longer stay in Galatia. There he found a race entirely new to him. The Galatians were not pure Asiatics, but a Western race, of Gallic and Celtic origin, which had settled in Asia Minor three centuries before Christ, and which, although modified by long sojourn in the East, yet retained in many respects their original type. The people of these countries 149were at once warlike and democratic; they had for a long time governed themselves, and under the imperial dominion had retained their own rulers. Paul, ever ready to be all things to all men, threw an unwonted vivacity into his preaching in order to make an impression on their warm and sensitive natures. In writing to them afterward, he says that Christ was set forth before them as vividly as if they themselves had seen him crucified.
The mission in Galatia seems a sort of preparation for the transition into Europe. The time had come for Paul to set his foot on the classic ground of philosophy and ancient art. For entering on a field of labor so wide and so new, a direct call from God was necessary. Paul was preparing to pursue his mission in Asia, when he was turned aside by a very remarkable vision. A man of Macedonia appeared to him, saying, "Come over into Macedonia, and help us!" This man was the representative of those powerful nations of the West which had accomplished such great things, and agitated such great 150thoughts in the domain of politics, and of free speculation, and which now, growing old and feeble, writhing in the restlessness of doubt at the foot of their world-famous altars of art and beauty, were turning tired eyes toward the East, seeking there a deliverance of which they had no longer any hope in themselves., This cry, Come over and help us! was it not the groaning of Greece, enslaved and fallen? and did not the same despairing entreaty come up from all quarters of the Roman empire? Was not the strange yearning of the West toward the religions of the East itself an unspoken prayer for help? This, then, was a favorable moment for carrying the Gospel into Europe. The ruler of the world at this period was Claudius, the puppet of mistresses and favorites, who had laid upon the whole empire a yoke of deepest humiliation, because the slavery imposed was accompanied with no redeeming ray of glory. Neither by the arts of peace or war did Claudius achieve any thing honorable to himself or to the world. Under this condition of things, the historians of the time describe the deepening agitation of men's minds, ever in restless quest of the new. The sick man turns upon his bed in feverish impatience, and seeks in religions beyond his own new medicines for the soul's long malady.[fn] But in spite of such favoring dispositions, the preaching of the Gospel would have to encounter in Europe a host of obstacles. The refined culture of ancient Greece, ever devoted to the worship of form, idolatrous of beauty alike in language and in art—the terrible corruption of manners—the political and religious despotism of Rome, 151 which, with its marvelous organization, had agencies in every city, large or small, to discover and to impede any hostile movement-such were some of the main obstacles in the path of the missionary of Christ. But Paul was not the man to shrink before them; and there was power enough in the doctrine which he preached to triumph over philosophers and rulers, over human force and human science.
It was at Troas Paul had the vision which decided him to go over into Macedonia. It was also at Troas he associated with himself another helper—Luke, the physician, who was to be the inspired chronicler of the apostolic age. Luke was, according to Eusebius,[fn] a native of Antioch, and in all probability a Gentile by birth, and one of the Apostle's converts. We shall find him henceforward constantly by Paul's side, his companion in prison and up to the eve of martyrdom. None caught more thoroughly than he the spirit of the Apostle; none was more capable of truly representing his life, and preserving to us the features of that noble form. The legend which speaks of him as a painter, only errs by clothing a moral quality in a material form. Luke shows himself a true and inimitable painter in his representation of the Christians of the first century.
From Troas Paul went by Neapolis to Philippi. This city, built by Philip II., on the borders of Macedonia and Thrace, and rendered illustrious by the famous battle in which the Roman republic finally succumbed under Brutus, had become a flourishing Roman colony, the most important in the whole 152 country.[fn] It was governed, like all the colonies, by magistrates called decemvirs, who exercised all the rights of sovereignty in minor causes. They had lictors at their command.[fn]
In entering on this new field, the work of Christian missions was coming into collision not simply with Jewish fanaticism, or popular superstition as in Asia, but with the Roman administration, so admirably constructed for the universal suppression of liberty. Immediately on arriving at Philippi, Paul repairs to the river side, where the Jews were accustomed to assemble every Sabbath. There he found only a few women. To these he preached the Gospel with all his wonted earnestness and power; and in the house of one of them, Lydia, a seller of purple from Thyatira, the first nucleus was formed of that Church which was to be the jewel in his apostolic crown. Into this humble family there soon came a poor servant-girl, whose condition sheds light upon the paganism of that day. The mysterious malady, known as possession, was not peculiar to Judea. In this time of momentous crisis, the intervention of the powers of the unseen world was more than usually direct and sensible. It seems as if the barrier between that world and ours was broken down. The evil spirits, whose existence is so clearly revealed in the New Testament, act at such epochs in a special manner on persons predisposed to their influence by an unhealthy moral and physical condition. Natural phenomena, such as somnambulism, assume a peculiar 153character, and are aggravated by the addition of actual possession. The girl healed by Paul was the subject of this diabolical somnambulism. She had some gifts of divination, like somnambulists in all ages. Her fellow-citizens, therefore, regarded her as possessed with the spirit of Python, which was one of the names of Apollo, the god of oracles. But in addition to this gift of divination, there was in her case positive possession, as is clear from the language of Paul, who commands the evil spirit to come out of her. As the unhappy girl follows Paul and Silas about the streets, crying, "These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto you the way of salvation," (
Paul's imprisonment had been the result of a tumult of the people. His cause had not been tried. The decemvirs having, like other Roman magistrates, but little leaning to religious fanaticism, now send their lictors to bring the Apostles out of the prison. But Paul protests indignantly against the unlawful 155 treatment they have received. He boldly declares himself a Roman citizen—a name which, according to Cicero, casts a shield of protection over all who could use it to the uttermost parts of the world, and even in the midst of barbarous nations.[fn] The Porcia lex forbade the beating with rods of a Roman citizen. The magistrates, alarmed at such a message, came themselves to release the Apostles; and we learn from the example of Paul on this occasion to rise above the narrow and petty notions which interdict Christians from boldly asserting their rights as citizens. Such views tend, in their practical issue, to sap the whole divine basis of society.
Paul left at Philippi a Church which had received the baptism of persecution, and which was strengthened in its attachment to his person by witnessing his courageous endurance of suffering.
Of this attachment the Philippian Church soon gave him touching proof, by sending generous aid to him at Thessalonica, whither he had gone to carry the Gospel.
These ardent young Christians displayed heroic courage in the conflict stirred up by the Jews.
It was, indeed, a terrible storm which broke over the Church at Thessalonica. Paul's implacable adversaries hired men of low character, who by their calumnies of the Apostle set all the city in an uproar. Wresting the words he had spoken with reference to the kingdom of Christ and his speedy coming to reign, (
When they could not find either Paul or Silas, they assaulted the house of an inhabitant of the city, named Jason, who, being probably a convert through their preaching, had received them into his house. The magistrates committed Jason to prison, and he was only released on giving bail. The Apostles were sent away by their friends by night to Berea, a town about ten miles distant from Thessalonica. Here they met with a better reception from the Jews; they even gained some adherents in the upper classes of society.
What Athens was to the ancient world is well known. "From Athens," says Cicero, "philosophy and religion, agriculture and laws, have gone forth 158 into the whole world."[fn] At Athens paganism had attained all the perfection of which it was capable. The religion of Greece, which was a religion of artists, since its essence was the worship of the beautiful, had there found its best interpreters in the great sculptors, whose immortal works were the embodiment of ideal beauty. In strange paradox, it was also at Athens that paganism had been more deeply undermined by philosophy. Socrates and Plato had there taught the adoration of a deity more adapted than the Olympian Jupiter to meet the demands of conscience. Nor must we forget that not far from Athens were celebrated the Eleusinian Mysteries, so closely connected with the worship of the divinities, who, according to the belief of the Greeks, had the control of death and of the judgment of the soul after the earthly life. The secret source of this worship was the vague dread of eternity, and the feeling of the insufficiency of a purely esthetic religion to lighten the dark abode of death.
The Athenian people were more concerned than most to appease the gods. Philostratus puts these words into the mouth of Apollonius of Tyana: "It is wise to speak well of all the gods, especially at Athens."[fn] This disposition had grown, as Greek polytheism had fallen into deeper and deeper decay. In its subjection to the Romans, the brilliant city was at once more frivolous and more devout than ever before. The rostrum was voiceless; the great poets had been succeeded by frigid versifiers. The places of Plato 159and Aristotle were filled by feeble philosophers. While the Epicurean mocked at the gods, the Stoic asserted the uselessness of metaphysics. The Athenian people, indolent and skeptical, lounged about the public places, seeking to beguile their ignoble leisure, but chafed all the while in spirit by a restlessness that would not be allayed.
Such were the conflicting influences at work when the great Apostle arrived in Athens. As he passed along the streets of the queenly city, where the masterpieces of pagan art met his eye at every step. a sacred sadness seized his soul, and he eagerly desired to preach Christ to these poor idolators. After having proclaimed the Gospel in the synagogue, he sought access to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. The Athenians, whose curiosity was easily excited, brought him to the Areopagus, to hear him speak of these new gods. It has been erroneously imagined that Paul was arraigned by the Athenians, and that his address was a defense of himself rather than a general apology for Christianity. He was indeed taken to the spot, where causes were customarily tried, but it was only that he might more easily harangue a large assembly. Paul had before him the marvelous Acropolis, adorned with the miracles of the chisel of Phidias; above him the temple of Theseus, the most ancient monument in Athens; and wherever his eye turned, it rested on the altars of false gods. It is worth observing, that the temples which were nearest to him, in the Areopagus itself, were dedicated to those subterranean deities which inspired so much terror in the Greeks, and which expressed the protest of outraged conscience against 160the too facile poetry of their state religion. These temples were, in fact, according to Pausanias, devoted to the Furies and to Pluto.[fn] The worship of these terrible and mysterious deities implicitly contained an acknowledgment of the unknown God. It is of little consequence whether the famous inscription, which the Apostle makes his starting-point, really had all the significance which he seems to ascribe to it. It was, in any case, a faithful expression of one aspect of Greek polytheism, and he had a perfect right so to make use of it.
The testimony of Pausanias and of Philostratus confirms that of St. Paul as to this inscription.[fn] Of all the interpretations which have been given of it, the most plausible appears to us to be that of Diogenes Laërtius. He says, that in the time of a plague, when men knew not which God to propitiate in order to avert it, Epimenides caused black and white sheep to be let loose from the Areopagus, and wherever they lay down, to be offered to the respective divinities. "Hence it comes," says Diogenes Laërtius, "that altars are still found in Athens which do not bear the name of any known god."[fn] This fear of neglecting angry and unknown gods clearly revealed that in the hearts entertaining it there was a deep 161consciousness of the insufficiency of their religion; for if they had truly believed in the gods they knew, they would have been assured that when these were appeased there was nothing more to dread. But they had a vague conception that another yet more powerful deity was angry with them. The worship of the subterranean gods took its rise in the same consciousness. "That they had reared an altar to an unknown god," says Calvin, "was a sign that they knew nothing certainly. It is true they had an infinite multitude of gods, but when with these they associated unknown gods, they by that act confessed that they knew nothing of the true Deity."[fn]
It is not our purpose here to analyze Paul's address; we shall treat of that when he comes to speak of his doctrine. It is impossible not to notice, however, the skill with which he finds the point of contact between the truth and his hearers. Observing their extraordinary devotion, he traces it to its principle—the deep necessity felt by the human heart of union with God. He reads on the altars of paganism the avowal of its impotence, and he borrows the words of a pagan poet to show how grand is man in his origin, and how infinite are his aspirations. That living and true God, whom they in their ignorance are feeling after, has just revealed himself in an amazing manner by the gift of his Son; and faith in the Christ is the one way of escape from the terrible judgment which awaits the unpardoned sinner at the resurrection day. The Greeks listened to the Apostle so long as he confined himself to philosophic generalities, but they could not endure the faintest allusion 162to a judgment to come. The doctrine of immortality was contrary alike to the pantheism of the Stoics and to the atheism of the Epicureans. It was natural that Greek paganism, on its first contact with the severe religion of Jesus Christ, should elude its appeals, and seek refuge in graceful frivolity. The Greek feels no indignation; he does not persecute like the synagogue; he simply returns with a scornful smile to the diversions of the public square—a striking illustration of the distance which divides mere intellectual curiosity from a serious love of truth. The bow, however, so steadily drawn by the Apostle, has not been ineffectual. The true worshiper of the "unknown god" perceives that, in truth, this God whom Paul declares to them is He; and among the new disciples, one is a judge of the Areopagus. In the metropolis of paganism, Paul has spoken words mightier and more beautiful than any which had ever fallen from the lips of philosophers or poets—words which will be a living power when temples and statues are in ruins. Their ruin is indeed already imminent. In preaching the true God, Paul has pronounced the death-doom of polytheism, and the sentence is without appeal.
From Athens Paul repaired to Corinth. This city, washed by two seas, the Ionian and the Ægean, united, through the activity of its commerce, the pomp and luxury of Asia with the civilization of Greece. It had been celebrated in all ancient times for the cultivation of the arts and sciences.[fn] Destroyed by Mummius, 146 years before Christ, it had been rebuilt by Julius Cæsar, and had become the 163capital of Achaia. Corinth, at the period when Paul visited it, had recovered all its ancient splendor. It surpassed even Athens; for while the city of Pericles represented the most exalted side of paganism—pure and noble art, great philosophy and great poetry—Corinth represented its material and voluptuous side; and such luster is ever the most conspicuous in an age of decay.[fn] Its beautiful climate, its wealth, the extraordinary concourse of foreigners within its walls, all contributed to the corruption of manners. Thus, amid the licentious cities of the old world, Corinth was distinguished for its immorality. The worship of Aphrodite was there observed in all its shamelessness. To live like a Corinthian was a proverbial expression for a career of debauchery. What a miracle was the foundation of a Church in such a city! Paul's labors here commenced less brilliantly than at Athens. He began by working in the shade. His first converts were a humble family of Jews, fugitives from Rome, in consequence of the decree of banishment issued by Claudius against their nation. Priscilla and Aquila were fellow-countrymen of the Apostle's, coming, like him, from Pontus; like him, they also maintained themselves by making tents of the substantial fabrics of their country. A close friendship arose between them; Paul lodged under their roof, and supported himself by working with them. Not for a day, however, did he lose sight of his missionary work. Every Sabbath he went up to the synagogue, and in the interval he preached the Gospel to the Gentiles. It is evident, from his first Epistle to the Corinthians, that he addressed himself 164chiefly to the lower orders of society.
After he had thus preached the Gospel during a year and a half, the Jews, taking advantage of the arrival of a new proconsul, accused him of professing a strange and unauthorized religion. Happily for Paul, this proconsul was a man of a tolerant and enlightened disposition; he was Gallio, brother of the famous Seneca, by whom he was declared to be the mildest of men.[fn] He refused, with the disdain of a lettered Roman, to interfere in these questions of religion, which appeared to him all miserable chicanery. He shared the proud contempt of his countrymen for the Jews, and he did not scruple to leave Paul's accusers to the violence of the inhabitants of the city, who held them and all their race in abomination. Paul soon after quitted Corinth. It was from this city that he wrote his two Epistles to the Church of Thessalonica.[fn] Timotheus and Silas, who rejoined the Apostle at Corinth, brought him news from Thessalonica, and their communications led him to write, warning that Church against such an undue preoccupation with the prophetic aspect of revelation as might lead into error.
Paul, before leaving Corinth, had his head shaved, 166 in fulfillment of a vow made some time previously. We cannot but wonder to see the great Apostle of the Gentiles submitting to this legal observance. We must not forget, however, that this was an age of transition, and that Judaism was only gradually vanishing before Christianity, as shadows before the sun. Paul, also, while he borrowed an ancient custom from the religion of his fathers, did so not as under the yoke of Mosaic observances, but in the use of his Christian liberty. While holding as a fundamental principle that the whole life is one act of worship, and that whatever is done must be done unto the Lord, he yet admitted a sort of individual discipline, by which portions of the life, characterized by greater austerity than the rest, might be set aside, so that the soul, freed from the fetters of the material, might the more readily rise into a purer region.
From Corinth, Paul went to Ephesus, with Aquila and Priscilla. After a short stay, he left them there, and himself went up, by way of Cesarea, to Jerusalem, there to keep the Feast of Pentecost.[fn] He did 168not stay either there or at Ephesus, but returned to Antioch, whence he had twice gone forth on his great missionary journeys. During his sojourn at Jerusalem and at Antioch, Aquila and Priscilla heard at Ephesus of a Jewish stranger who was producing a deep impression by his discourses in the synagogue. This was Apollos, who was to play so important a part in the early Church, and whose influence at Corinth was to rival even that of St. Paul. He came from Alexandria, where he had heard the learned teachers who endeavored to fuse and harmonize the Mosaic religion with the Greek philosophy. From this school he had doubtless acquired much aptitude in penetrating into the meaning of sacred symbols. He had probably gained some knowledge of the new religion in a recent journey in Palestine; but he had, as yet, very elementary notions of the Gospel, for he had come in contact only with disciples of John the Baptist, and had received only the baptism of John. He succeeded, however, even with these imperfect lights, in convincing the Jews at Ephesus. He was a man nobly gifted, deeply versed in the sacred Scriptures, full of fervor and enthusiasm,[fn] courageous,[fn] and possessed of remarkable oratorical power, which he had been able freely to exercise in one of the great centers of Greek civilization.[fn] From Aquila and Priscilla Apollos learned the way of truth more perfectly; and thus furnished, he went at once to Corinth, where his eloquence[fn] produced an 169unparalleled effect. We shall soon meet with him again, and shall see how party spirit, without Apollos' own concurrence, wrested his noble gifts to the disadvantage of Paul, whose language had neither the correctness nor the beauty of that of the young doctor of Alexandria. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews is, nevertheless, perfectly in harmony with the Apostle Paul, though acting, according to the custom of the apostolic age, with complete independence.[fn]
§ II. Third Missionary Journey of St. Paul.
§ II. Third Missionary Journey of St. Paul.
Paul began his third missionary journey by visiting the Churches he had founded in Phrygia and Galatia. He had the grief of finding that in the latter country, where he had been so readily received, his adversaries had succeeded in partially nullifying his influence and in giving currency to Pharisaic legalism. He went on to Ephesus, sorrowful and wounded by signs so unexpected of ingratitude and changeableness. His first care was to write a letter to the Churches of Galatia. Every line evidences the painful surprise he felt at being thus distrusted by those who had at first devoted themselves to him with enthusiastic affection.
Ephesus now became the principal center of his apostolic work. No other city could have been chosen so well adapted to be the focus from which light might radiate over the whole of Asia. The capital of ancient Ionia, it had been the cradle of 170that famous Ionian civilization, which, transplanted into Greece, and correcting the effeminacy of Eastern manners by the moral energy of the West, while retaining all the flexibility and brilliancy of the Greek genius, had found full and harmonious development at Athens. At Ephesus, situated not far from the Ægean sea, between Smyrna and Miletus, the oriental type predominated; but it had also come under the influence of the West, by the numerous communications maintained through its commerce with Greece. It had, however, faithfully adhered to the worship of the old gods of Asia; the only change it had made was to give the name of Diana to the Astarte or Artemis of the Asiatic religions. These, as is well known, consisted substantially in a voluptuous adoration of nature; and sensuality was an element inseparable from their religious rites. The temple of Diana of the Ephesians was of world-wide celebrity. Burned by Erostratus, it had been' rebuilt with greater magnificence. Pausanius declares no other temple could be compared to it for grandeur;[fn] the glory of Diana of Ephesus threw into the shade all the other divinities of the East and West. At a time of crisis, when all eyes were turned toward the East, a divinity which formed a sort of link between the religions of the East and West could not fail to acquire extensive popularity. It was said that the statue of the goddess had come down from heaven; it was carved in wood, rough and ungraceful, like the mummies of Egypt. It was customary among the pagans to carry about with them small images of the 171temples in which they worshiped;[fn] thus the making of shrines had become a very large and profitable trade. The people of Ephesus were distinguished for their love of pleasure. "The whole city," says Philostratus, "resounded with the music of flutes accompanying the dance, and the streets were full of men disguised as women."[fn] The corruption of manners had here reached its climax.
Ephesus was, like Corinth, and to a greater degree than Antioch, one of the centers of the pagan world, where all sects and all opinions met and came into collision. There, as in all the large cities, was a Jewish synagogue; in this Paul preached for three months; but here, as at Corinth, he came to an open rupture with his countrymen, and abandoned the struggle with the invincible obduracy of the Pharisaic spirit. He continued to teach the Gospel in the house of one Tyrannus, a public teacher of rhetoric, who had a school at Ephesus, and who had doubtless been convinced of the folly of his system by the preaching of the Apostle. Thus Christianity gained a readier victory in a school of pagan literature than in the school of the doctors of the law; and those who read Moses and the prophets showed themselves less prepared to receive the Gospel than the Greeks, nurtured on Homer, Hesiod, and Pindar. So true is it, that external revelation is a dead-letter to those whose hearts are hardened.
Besides the unbelieving Jews of the synagogue, 172Paul met at Ephesus with some proselytes, who were in a singular position. They had been among the multitudes who flocked to the baptism of repentance administered by John in the river Jordan. They had heard of the miracles of Christ, and had recognized him as the true Messiah, without, however, getting beyond the point of view of their first master, the Baptist. They had left Palestine before the resurrection of the Saviour, and knew nothing of the great facts upon which the Church was founded; they were still in the position of the disciples before the Feast of Pentecost. The germ of faith in their hearts rapidly sprang and grew under the teaching of Paul; they soon received the symbol of the new birth, and the Holy Spirit marked his presence in their midst by signs and wonders.
There was also a third class of Jews at Ephesus. These were exorcists, who worked on the credulity and eager expectations of the people, and endeavored, like Simon of Samaria and Elymas of Cyprus, to make gain by sorcery. They attempted to cast out devils by the repetition of mysterious formulas, which they ascribed to Solomon.[fn] They succeeded sometimes in producing a certain impression on the diseased imaginations of the sufferers from possession, but their cures were not lasting; had they been so they would certainly have set them in the balance, against the miracles wrought by the Apostles. Some of these magicians, seeing the miracles which Paul worked in the name of Christ, imagined he had the secret of some more efficacious formula than 173those they were in the habit of using. They endeavored to cast out the demons in the same manner, pronouncing, like the Apostle, the sacred name of Jesus. Their attempt proved a miserable failure. The unhappy man upon whom they made the experiment, in one of those mysterious crises of supernatural lucidity common to such cases, cried out, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?" and, leaping on the false exorcists with demoniacal strength, wounded and overcame them. The powers of darkness are not to be vanquished by words and formularies; they yield only to a divine influence, passing from soul to soul.
This incident in the history of Paul draws a well-marked line of distinction between miracle and magic.[fn] The event had a very happy effect upon the Greek proselytes, who were already attracted by the Gospel, but were not yet free from their superstitions. Ephesus was, indeed, famous for the practice of the arts of sorcery; Apollonius of Tyana there excited the greatest enthusiasm. If Paul wrought more miracles in this than on his other missions, it was because no other method would have been equally effectual in arresting the attention of so corrupt and idolatrous a city. The lesson thus severely taught the Jewish exorcists was further of use in preventing any possible identification of the power of God manifested in the apostles, with the sorceries of the impostors. Many of these, reproved by their own conscience, 174brought their cabalistic books and burned them publicly, just as, in later times, a penitent people cast all that reminded them of their life of worldliness into the flames kindled at Florence by the voice of Savonarola. An important Church was founded at Ephesus, which was to be in the close of the apostolic age that which Jerusalem and Antioch had been at its commencement.
For three years Ephesus was the chief abode of the Apostle. During this time, however, he made a journey of considerable extent in Europe. His first purpose was to visit Corinth, to set at rest the unhappy contentions in the Church of that city. He went by sea, and turned aside from the direct course to visit Crete. It is easy to suppose that the Gospel had been already conveyed to that island by some Christians, and that Paul's mission there, like Peter's at Samaria, was to carry on a work already commenced, and prosperous. His stay was but short. This island, famous for its wealth, and for the number of its towns, presented peculiar difficulties to Christianity. The national character of its inhabitants had been depicted in severe colors by one of its poets, Epimenides, surnamed the prophet, who accused them of being altogether given up to sensuality and falsity.
From Crete Paul went on to Corinth, where he stayed but a short time. During this visit he wrote 175his First Epistle to Timothy, whom he had left at Ephesus, and who in his youth and inexperience found himself at issue with serious errors, the first indications of those Gnostic heresies which subsequently struck such deep root in this soil, where all the religions of the East and West had in turn striven for predominance. Paul shortly after this visit returned to Ephesus. He there wrote his Epistle to Titus, giving him the benefit of his advice in the difficult task of conducting a Church. Shortly after his return, he sent Timothy into Macedonia to visit the Churches there, and to make collections for the Christians in Judea.[fn] He himself, on the serious reports received 176from Corinth, wrote a letter to the Church of that city, earnestly reproving it for its schism, for the irregularity of conduct which threatened its destruction, and also for the dangerous heresies which even went so far as to deny, under pretense of spirituality, the resurrection of the body.[fn]
This letter was written under most touching circumstances, for Paul was at that very time obliged to hide himself to escape the malice of his enemies. He had been suffered for a long time to labor without hinderance in the propagation of the Gospel at Ephesus, but persecution of singular violence suddenly broke out against him. He encountered a kind of opposition which was more than once temporarily to arrest the progress of the Church, and to 177shed rivers of Christian blood. The new religion disturbed not only the minds of men, but their secular interests. Paganism was not simply a system of general corruption, but also of universal traffic. The temples of the false gods had a multitude of dependents, who lived by the altars, and who, while they shared the popular superstition, also speculated on it for their own advantage. The preaching of the true God, no longer confined within the precincts of the synagogue, but making itself heard in the public squares, and gaining its thousands of adherents from among the idol worshipers, could not fail by its success to strike alarm into all those who made their gains out of the pagan worship. At Ephesus the priests were not the only persons whose interests were compromised by the preaching of the Gospel. A considerable traffic was carried on in small statues of the goddess and images of her temple. The silversmiths made immense sums from this craft; the whole city was interested in the worship of Diana, for the votaries of the goddess brought streams of wealth within its walls. Nothing, then, was more easy than to excite the passions of the populace against the Apostle, and by the fury of his enemies we may infer how great had been the success of his mission. A silversmith, named Demetrius, was the instigator of the tumult. His violent harangue, addressed to his workmen, presents a strange mixture of cynicism and superstition. He passes without transition from the profits of his trade to the compromised glory of Diana of the Ephesians. "Not only this our craft is in danger to be set at naught, but also the temple of the great goddess Diana shall 178be despised, and her magnificence be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshipeth."
From Ephesus Paul went on into Europe. He had shortly before sent Titus to Corinth, in order to ascertain the precise effect produced in that Church by his letter.
Paul, in his indefatigable zeal, contemplated a missionary journey into the far West. He desired to carry the Gospel into Spain, (
No remarkable incidents marked the journey to Jerusalem, except that Paul's presentiments as to his coming captivity were confirmed by positive predictions. At Tyre he met some disciples who, warned by the Spirit of the dangers awaiting him, entreated him not to pursue his journey to Jerusalem. At Cæsarea, in the house of Philip the Evangelist, a prophet named Agabus yet more clearly foretold his captivity by a symbolic action, which reminds us of the manner of the ancient prophets.
The Apostle arrived at Jerusalem, surrounded by his most cherished companions, men belonging to the different Churches founded by him in Greece and Asia. They were the representatives and pledges of the universal triumph of Christianity. They were the first-fruits of the new Israel, to be gathered in from the ends of the earth. Paul was received with the greatest affection by the elders of the Church. It was quite evident, however, that the great body of Judaizing Christians were still prejudiced against him. With a view to conciliation, he consented, on the advice of James, not exactly to take upon himself the vow of the Nazarite, but to pay the legal charges for four Christians of Jewish origin, who were about to fulfill their vow in the Temple, at the very time of his arrival in Jerusalem.[fn] This step was not a politic artifice on the part of Paul, an attempt at diplomatic conciliation, as has been objected. He merely acted out the decisions of the Council at Jerusalem. Himself a Jew, he observed the Jewish custom, according to the decree which had been passed with his concurrence a few years previously. He followed also that other law which he had laid down for himself, of being to the Jews as a Jew, that he might win 186all by wise conciliation, instead of offending all by a sudden revolution. It was this step, however, so pacific in intention, which most of all exasperated his enemies; they regarded it as an insult alike to the Temple and the law of Moses. When the Apostle entered the Temple to signify, according to custom, the days when the purification would be accomplished, and the offerings would be presented for the Nazarites, some Jews from Asia, who had come up to Jerusalem to keep the feast, stirred up the multitude against him, on the pretense that he had brought Greeks into the Temple. This accusation was-a baseless calumny, for he had not taken with him any of his foreign companions. It has been asserted that these Jews were the Judaizing Christians who formed the nucleus of the Church at Jerusalem.[fn] But this is a gratuitous supposition; the Jews from Asia did not belong to the Church at Jerusalem, but undoubtedly to one of those fanatical synagogues, from which Paul had already met so much opposition. Be this as it may, however, the calumny artfully set in circulation excited the ever mobile passion of the crowd. The people of Jerusalem showed themselves as fanatical as those of Ephesus. Ignorant attachment to the Temple of the true God produced the same effects as the worship of the impure goddess Diana. In truth, the adherents of the Judaism of the decline clung to their worship for the very same reasons as the priests and silversmiths of Ephesus; they thought first of all of the honor and profit to be derived from it. They made the name of Jehovah a covert for their unworthy passions 187 and sordid interests; thus proving that idolatry may be found in all religions and under all forms. When the tumult was at its height, the tribune who commanded the fortress at Antonia, situated not far from the Temple, brought down the soldiery to repress the riot, which seemed likely to throw the whole city into an uproar.
More than once already the excitable crowd had risen at the voice of the unknown agitators. A recent event gave great probability to the fears of the tribunes. Josephus tells us that an Egyptian had come to Jerusalem, saying that he was a prophet. He persuaded the multitude to follow him on to the Mount of Olives, on the promise that he would make the fortifications of the city fall down at his word, and would lead back his followers through the breach. Felix dispersed the tumultuous assembly by force of arms, but the Egyptian had succeeded in making his escape.[fn]
The Tribune Lysias at once took it for granted that the present riot was excited by the return of the Egyptian, whom he supposed Paul to be.
At the first mention of his mission to the Gentiles the hoarse cries of anger burst forth afresh and drowned his voice, as on another occasion—how fresh in the memory of Saul of Tarsus!—the voice of Stephen had been drowned; and the Tribune, to save him from the violence of the people, commanded that he should be brought into the castle.189
Chapter II. Missions and Persecutions of the Church from the Captivity of St Paul to His Death and That of St. Peter.
§ I. Various Phases of St. Paul's Captivity.
§ I. Various Phases of St. Paul's Captivity.
AS he crossed the threshold of the citadel Paul entered on a captivity which was to terminate only with his life. Let us endeavor to follow him through its various phases. The Tribune Lysias was much embarrassed by the presence of this prisoner, whose crime was unknown to him. He thought his guilt might be most easily ascertained by putting Paul under torture in its least cruel form. This was an expeditious method recommended by the Roman law, but only to be applied to slaves, or in cases of exceptional seriousness.[fn]
Lysias thought he had before him a common agitator, a low ringleader of a despised people. He felt no hesitation in inflicting a degrading penalty on a man whom he regarded as worse than a slave. Paul, however, appealed to his rights as a Roman citizen, and the very name sufficed to cover him with a powerful shield. The next day the Tribune brought 190his prisoner before the bar of the Sanhedrim, hoping to discover the cause of the hostility of the Jews to him. The Jews were vehemently desirous to have the whole matter left in their hands. Religious offenses were still within their province, and they might thus have avenged themselves on Paul, without all the delays of Roman jurisdiction.[fn] It was important for Paul that these tactics should be frustrated. If the Sanhedrim were unanimous in finding him guilty of profaning the Temple, he might be at once given over to his implacable enemies. He therefore sought to divide them by setting forth in strong language his belief in a resurrection. Such a challenge could not fail to kindle strife between the Pharisees and Sadducees. Paul cannot be accused of duplicity, for there were in truth certain views common to him and to the Pharisees, and his opposition to their spirit of formalism was too well known to permit any misconception of his attitude toward them. We do not hesitate, however, to prefer his defense in the presence of the clamorous crowd, or before Felix and Festus, as being less politic and more noble. The violent words of Paul to Ananias, compared to the conduct of the Saviour under similar circumstances, make us sensible of the vast distance between the Master and the disciple. The Apostle still carried a human heart within his bosom, and he had ever to be on his guard against the outbreak of his impetuous disposition.[fn] The sitting of the Sanhedrim ended in 191a great dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The exasperation of the latter against Paul seemed so great that the Tribune once more interposed, and to save Paul's life remanded him to prison. On learning of a nefarious plot laid by the Jews against the captive, Lysias sent him away to Cæsarea.
The Procurator Felix, to whose tribunal Paul was now brought, was a freedman of the Emperor Claudius, brother of Pallas, the favorite of Agrippina. He belonged to that class, famous for its baseness and immorality, which then governed the world by governing the Cæsars, purchasing power by flattery, and using it with tyranny to recover the price paid for it. Tacitus has characterized Felix with one stroke of his incisive pen, when he says, "At once a debauchee and a tyrant, he performed functions little less than royal with the spirit of a slave."[fn] In order to establish his position in Judæa, he married Drusilla, daughter of Herod Agrippa. He made his government odious to the Jews, indulging himself, as we further learn from Tacitus, in every sort of crime.[fn] He had continually to suppress attempts at sedition, headed sometimes by robbers called sicarii, sometimes by false messiahs. He acted with the greatest severity toward the chiefs of the nation, in consequence of riots between the Jews and the Syrians in Cæsarea.[fn] Such a man was likely to hold Paul and his accusers in an even balance, and to treat both 192with the impartiality of a common hatred. It is more than probable that if Paul had not been able to appeal to his rights as a Roman citizen he would have been left to perish in some obscure dungeon, or would have been put to death as a leader of sedition. But it was not possible for even a Felix to treat a Roman citizen with this cruel indifference. He was compelled to hear his cause. His marked antipathy to the rulers of the Sanhedrim was a circumstance favorable to the accused. The charges brought by the Jews against Paul were as false as they were bitter. They accused him, by the mouth of their advocate Tertullus, with being the chief of a sect which they represented as politically dangerous, stirring up sedition in Judæa and throughout the world. They knew well that nothing would be more sure to irritate the cruel Proconsul than such suspicions as these. They mentioned also the profanation of their Temple as a pretext for bringing the accused within their own jurisdiction. Paul refuted their accusations point by point, by the clear and simple narration of his last journey to Jerusalem. Felix was convinced of his innocence, but, willing to pacify the Jews, he remanded him to prison. He subsequently gave him at intervals several mock hearings, in which he sought rather to gratify his own curiosity and that of his wife Drusilla, than to do justice to Paul. Reproved in his conscience by Paul's solemn reasonings of righteousness and judgment to come, he left him for two years in prison, secretly hoping that Paul and his friends would in the end offer a large sum for his release.
The captivity of the Apostle at this time was not 193 rigorous. It was not, however, the merely nominal imprisonment known as custodia libera, which allowed the prisoner the right of living in the house of a consul, a praetor, or a magistrate. This sort of detention was granted only to the most illustrious offenders, and Paul was not of this number. We know positively that he was committed to the guard of Roman soldiers; but there were many degrees in military captivity, and the magistrate could at will relax or tighten the bonds.[fn] Felix commanded that Paul should be treated leniently, and be allowed free intercourse with his friends.
Felix was removed from Cæsarea, and Festus came in his place. The new governor, like his predecessor, had to wage warfare with the Jewish brigands, who under the name of Sicariii laid waste the country. He had also some serious differences with the Temple authorities at Jerusalem.[fn] Probably the hostility 195between him and the priest's party broke out soon after his entry upon office. It may have even begun to manifest itself at the time of his journey to Jerusalem.
The judicial ceremony, therefore, which was enacted at Cæsarea a few days later, can only be regarded as a sort of amusement given by Festus to his illustrious guests—an amusement worthy of a blasé Roman, to whom the enthusiasm and faith of St. Paul were but a curious phenomenon. The King Agrippa, before whom Paul appeared, was Herod Agrippa, son of the nephew of Herod the Great, of the same name. Brought up in the palace of the Cæsars, he had attained to his high rank by flattery, and had received from the munificence of the Emperor, to whom he had been an assiduous courtier,[fn] with the title of king, the tetrarchies formerly held by Philip and Lysanias. Like all favorites, he used his power despotically, making and unmaking the high priests at his pleasure. Versed in all intrigue, he lived a life of shameless license, in incestuous connection with his sister, the famous Bernice, who was subsequently to try the power of her charms on Vespasian and Titus.
Attention has often been drawn to the sharpness of outline with which these various personages are sketched by the sacred historian. On the one hand we see the Roman of the decline, essentially a materialist, treating religious questions with contemptuous irony, and charging Paul with madness when he speaks of the resurrection of the dead, and carries his hearers into that invisible world which has no existence for the pagan.
The incidents of his voyage are familiar to us all. In the midst of perils of the sea, he manifests the same calmness, the same courage, the same zeal for souls, the same unvarying forgetfulness of self. After the shipwreck, and a sojourn of three months in the island of Malta, made use of by the Apostle for the foundation of a Church, he lands on those shores of Italy which he was to water with his blood, and receives at Puteoli the brotherly welcome of the Christians of the country. Forty miles from Rome, in the little town of Appii Forum, Paul is met by some Christians from the capital of the world; a still 198larger number are awaiting him at a little inn called the "Three Taverns,"[fn] thirty miles nearer the metropolis. Thus escorted, he enters the city by that Appian way which had witnessed so many triumphal processions amid its tombs. Little did any dream that this prisoner, conducted by a centurion, and surrounded by a group of poor and mean men, was the greatest conqueror who had ever trodden that path, and that no victory could be comparable with that he was to win over all the combined powers of the pagan world, which found their focus in the imperial city. The Centurion who brought Paul to Rome belonged to one of the legions of the praetorian guard.[fn] He handed over his prisoner, according to his duty, to the prætorian prefect under whom he served. All the criminals who had appealed to the jurisdiction of Cæsar were put in charge of this high dignitary of the court. The prefect, at this time, was Burrhus, a man of distinction and moderation, and of severe morals, whose happy influence restrained even Nero in his career of crime.[fn] He treated Paul with indulgence, probably in consequence of the favorable letters received from Festus, and also on the report of the Centurion, who had become the friend of his prisoner. Paul was allowed to remain under the guard of a soldier in a house hired by himself, and had free communication with his friends. This lenient captivity lasted for two 199years, during which Paul was not inactive. He first of all called the chief of the Jews together for solemn conference, thus showing how full was his heart of that charity which hopeth all things. Was not his very presence in that prison the living proof of their obduracy? and were not the chains which bound him riveted by their fierce fanaticism? Here, as every-where else, Paul found them the implacable enemies of Jesus Christ, and of his Church. The last recorded words of the Apostle addressed to them seem like the echo of the anathema pronounced by Christ on the Pharisees shortly before his death.
After being thus repulsed by the rulers of the synagogue at Rome, Paul turned once more with success to the Gentiles. As in the prison at Cæsarea he had preached the Gospel to a poor slave, his companion in captivity, so now he endeavored to win to Christ the soldiers who guarded him by turns. His bonds were by this means to become famous through the whole prætorium.
This state of things lasted till the year 62. Then every thing was changed. From Paul's letter to the Philippians we learn, first, that the party of Judaizing Christians had commenced their intrigues against him; they did not hesitate even "to add affliction to 200his bonds."
The Jews had no interest in hastening the matter to a conclusion; on the contrary, they might wish to allow time for the impression favorable to Paul, produced by the reports of Festus, to wear away. They awaited some auspicious moment for gaining the ear of the Emperor. They doubtless thought such a moment had arrived when Octavia Poppaea was raised to the rank of empress, for she openly protected them, and Josephus asserts that she was a proselyte.[fn] It was easy to obtain her intervention in a cause which so closely concerned her protégés. The wise 201Burrhus, prefect to the praetorians, was just dead, and had been succeeded by Fennius Rufus and the wicked Tigellinus, the creature of Poppæa.[fn] Paul was directly in the power of the natural protectors of his most deadly enemies. He had little hope of obtaining justice from Nero at a time when, according to the expression of Tacitus, the young Emperor was inclining to crime.[fn] In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle had already expressed forebodings of the fatal issue of his trial. He still thinks there is a possibility of his being set at large, but the thought of approaching death is ever present with him.
But though he has thus once been delivered out of the mouth of the lion, (
We shall presently consider Paul in the light of the first of the great teachers of the primitive Church; hitherto we have regarded him only as the man of conflict and of action, the missionary and the controversialist. If we inquire into the peculiar character of the missions undertaken and directed by him, we shall find that they differ somewhat from those of the foregoing period. The Divine Spirit works not less mightily in Paul than in Peter, but the part of the human agent is more distinctly observable. The thousands converted on the day of Pentecost and in Solomon's porch were acted upon by a sudden and irresistible influence, produced by the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Conversions in masses like these do not recur in this second period of the Church. The proselytes are many, but they 204are made one by one, through the personal efforts of St. Paul. The longer he remains in any place, the more important is the Church there formed. Results seem proportioned in their magnitude to the amount of direct personal effort. When we come to examine his teaching, we shall see how wise he was in his adaptation of the means he employed to win souls, and how admirably he sought and found the point of contact between those he addressed and the Gospel he preached. His ministry is accompanied with miracles, but he has less frequent recourse than earlier preachers to this method of persuasion. In many places he founded Churches by the power of his word alone. In these missions of the Apostle to the Gentiles, therefore, the Divine Spirit works more directly upon the conscience and less by external manifestations. Man cannot derive any glory to himself from this fact, for though God's method of intervention assumes a different form, it is none the less to this sovereign intervention of grace that the most beautiful fruits of the Apostle's labor are to be ascribed.[fn]
§ II. Mission of the other Apostles during this period.
§ II. Mission of the other Apostles during this period.[fn]
While Paul was carrying the Gospel from Asia Minor into Europe, and to the very center of Western 205paganism, the other Apostles were not inactive in the field of Christian missions. We possess few certain details of their labors. We only get glimpses of them through the prismatic lens of legend. It is, however, possible to make out, beneath the capricious adornments of fable, some positive facts of their history, which present traits of indisputable accuracy. There is no evidence that the Apostles, with the exception of Peter and Paul, took all the part in the primitive missions which is ascribed to them by the Church of the third century. The Episcopal notions of that age have colored the history of the first century. Just as to St. Peter was attributed the foundation and government of the Church at Antioch, which, as we have seen, was formed without his assistance, so it is very possible that an attempt should have been made in later times to refer to the Apostles the propagation of the faith in countries where the weight of the labor really rested on simple evangelists. We must, therefore, accept with reserve the testimony of historians, and never forget that their conception of the apostolate is not in all points identical with that of the primitive Church. They regard the 206 Apostles as true metropolitan bishops, and cannot suppose a Church founded without their participation.
After the Council at Jerusalem, the Apostles disperse to meet no more. James, the brother of the Lord, continues to exercise paramount influence over the Church of that city; the holiness of his life, the form of his piety, the largeness of heart with which he fulfills his mission of conciliation, all contribute to strengthen it. Far from appearing as an adversary of Paul, James welcomes him, on his last visit to Jerusalem, with brotherly affection, and advises him to join himself to those Christian Jews who were about to fulfill in the Temple the vow of the Nazarite. We have no further details of his life from this time till his martyrdom; but we possess his epistle, from which we shall presently gather his doctrine. In it we shall find faithfully reproduced all the traits of his noble character—his piety, at once scrupulous and elevated; his stern and practical spirit; and, in the oriental coloring of his language, the reflection of the old prophets of Israel.
Jude, the brother of James, and consequently of the Lord, also took an active part in the propagation of the Christian faith. It is not possible to determine from his epistle what was the principal sphere of his work. It may, however, be inferred, from his vehement denunciation of false teachers, that he had come in contact with the heretics of the Churches of Colosse and Ephesus, and that he resided in the countries where the first germs of Gnosticism appeared.[fn] History gives no exact statement with reference to the other Apostles. The various traditions, however, 207connected with their names, enable us to follow the track of the missionaries of the primitive Church. It is of far less importance for us to know their names, and to be sure that they were really apostles, than to verify their triumphs over the paganism of the East and West. Accepted with this precaution, tradition sheds light upon the path of apostolic missions.
Paul, in his rapid journeys through Asia, could not have preached the Gospel to all the inhabitants of those wide regions. He had succeeded in founding, in a short space of time, important Churches, but these were surrounded by unbelieving and superstitious masses. It was, therefore, very necessary that the missions of the other Apostles should occupy, to some extent, the same ground gone over by him. According to the testimony of tradition, Cappadocia, Galatia, and Bithynia were evangelized by the Apostle Andrew, Peter's brother.[fn] He is said to have also penetrated into Scythia, and thence into Thrace and Macedonia.[fn]
The Churches of Colosse, Laodicea, and Hierapolis, founded by Epaphras and St. Paul in Phrygia, shed abroad the pure light of truth in that classic land of superstition. But the epistles of the Apostles themselves show how severely the triumph of Christianity was there contested. The work begun had to be constantly renewed; therefore, the Apostle Philip went to settle in that country. He took up his abode at Hierapolis with his daughters, one of whom had the gift of prophecy.[fn] His influence appears 208to have been great over the whole Church of Asia Minor.
The Christian mission does more than consolidate the work already commenced; it has an irresistible power of expansion. Matthew carries the divine message into Arabia; his Gospel was subsequently found in the language of that country.[fn] He is soon followed by Bartholomew and Nathanael, who had at first accompanied Philip into Phrygia.[fn] Matthias devotes himself to Ethiopia;[fn] James, the son of Alphaeus, to Egypt. Simon Zelotes evangelizes Mauritania and Libya; he is said even to have visited Britain,[fn] but this rests on the doubtful authority of Nicephorus. Mesopotamia is believed to have been traversed by Judas Thaddeus, who had his station at Edessa, where the new religion met with a very favorable reception.[fn] The extreme eastern point of the primitive mission seems to have been the western frontier of India. Thomas is supposed to have preached the Gospel in the district adjoining Parthia.[fn] 209 It is certain that very early traces of Christianity are found in India. In the time of Constantine, a missionary who returned from that country asserted that he had met with Christians professing evangelical doctrine in its most ancient form.
If we endeavor to derive from the tradition of the Church any thing more than these very general indications about the Apostles, we enter the vague region of fable. We know from Eusebius that Philip died at Hierapolis, and that his tomb was there to be seen.[fn] The apocryphal Acts of the Apostles are prolific in details of their sufferings. According to these legendary accounts, Andrew was sentenced to crucifixion by the Proconsul of Arabia, who was enraged at the conversion of his wife.[fn] Matthew is said to have been burned;[fn] Thomas to have been pierced through with a lance;[fn] and Bartholomew beheaded.[fn] It is impossible to ascertain whether these traditions have any historical foundation. Be this as it may, it is certain that the first Christian missionaries in these remote countries fell in the midst of their enemies, and the obscurity of their death is the best guaranty of their heroic fidelity. "These lights of the world," eloquently says a distinguished theologian, "have disappeared from our sight, but we behold the world illuminated by them. 210 They sought not their own glory, but they are known to God; and thousands of souls saved by their word owe to them their entrance into heaven."[fn]
We have more precise information as to the life of St. Peter after the Council at Jerusalem. From that time, however, his part is as inconspicuous in actual history as it is brilliant in legend. Paul fills the whole scene. Nothing could give stronger proof of Peter's growth in humility than the fact of his consenting to take the second place, after having, more than any other, contributed to lay the foundation of the Church by his courage and energy. It is clear that he has come under the strong influence of Paul; of this his epistle is the surest evidence. Unless we repudiate all proof, external and internal, it is impossible not to admit that the good understanding between these two Apostles is no invention of the writer of the Acts. Peter, however, according to the agreement voluntarily made at the Council at Jerusalem, devoted himself almost exclusively to the preaching of the Gospel among his countrymen. He passed by the great Churches founded by Paul in Phrygia and Asia Minor,[fn] and chose as his center of action a city of once unrivaled celebrity—Babylon—where we find him shortly before his death.
Did Peter go from Babylon to Rome? This is a much disputed question. It is impossible to answer it with certainty, but we incline to a reply in the affirmative. It is very necessary to guard against party prepossessions. If an historian, wedded to the hierarchical theory, has an interest in proving the sojourn of Peter at Rome, an historian espousing opposite opinions may erroneously imagine he has an interest in showing the contrary. Both are therefore bound to weigh with scrupulous impartiality the testimony of Christian antiquity. For ourselves, we find it impossible to suppose that Peter was at Rome under Claudius and at the commencement of the reign of Nero. Besides the reasons we have already pointed out, we lay stress on the incontestable fact that the name of Peter does not once occur in the epistle written by Paul to the Romans, nor in any of the other letters of that Apostle dated from Rome. Admitting the hypothesis of Baronius and writers of his school, such an omission would be inexplicable; but, on the other hand, we are inclined to believe that Peter did spend the last year of his life at Rome. We fully admit the uncertainty and contradictoriness of tradition on this point. We do not attach much importance to the indirect allusion in the epistle of Clement.[fn] The passage of Ignatius which refers to the martyrdom of Peter is apocryphal. His contest with Simon Magus, described in the "Apocryphal Acts," is obviously 214 legendary and absurd.[fn] Dyonisius, of Corinth, positively affirms Peter's sojourn at Rome; but his testimony is invalidated by a palpable error, for, against all historical evidence, he attributes to Peter a share in the foundation of the Church at Corinth,[fn] which, beyond question, was the work of Paul alone.
The fragment of the preaching of Peter, quoted by Cyprian, belongs to a document which, though very ancient, is nevertheless apocryphal.[fn] Irenæus[fn] and Tertullian,[fn] who both assert that Peter died at Rome, write at a period when many of the fables of the first century found ready currency. In spite, however, of all these errors of detail and absurd combinations, the unanimity of tradition as to Peter's stay at Rome appears to us of weight. It is so much the more worthy of credence, because several of the "Fathers"—for example, Tertullian and Irenæus—had no interest in establishing the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. We find, then, no difficulty in admitting that Peter passed the closing days of his life in the capital of the empire, and we see no conclusion deducible from this fact in favor of the hierarchy.[fn] The Church of Rome had been founded many years before, and had long been molded by the powerful influence 215of Paul. Peter went to Rome to preach the Gospel, and he soon paid with his life the penalty of his faithfulness to Christ. He was never Bishop of Rome, and was not called to confer any episcopal dignity, for the simple reason that the old democratic organization of the Church was at that time, as we shall show, in full vigor. The influence of Peter at Rome was further diminished by his ignorance of the Latin tongue; for, according to Eusebius, Mark, who had accompanied him from Babylon, acted as his interpreter. From Rome, Mark went to Egypt, and a tradition, which there seems no reason to discredit, ascribes to him the foundation of the Church at Alexandria, which was subsequently to become the metropolis of high Christian culture.[fn]
Many legends are linked with the names of the other disciples of the Apostles, and to each has been assigned a large share in the missions of the first century; but it is absolutely impossible to discriminate between the false and the true in this medley of fable.[fn] There is no need to have recourse to the embellishments of tradition, in order to bring out the grandeur of the apostolic labors. Unadorned history amply justifies these words of Eusebius: "The apostles and disciples of the Saviour, scattered over the whole world, preached the Gospel every-where."[fn] The blessed light which had risen in the East was diffused over a large portion of the world.[fn] "In thus establishing 216the kingdom of Jesus Christ," says Theodoret, "the Christians made use of no carnal weapons; they employed no other force than that of persuasive words to demonstrate the excellence of his divine laws. They fulfilled their missions in the midst of dangers, enduring violence and wrong of every description in the cities through which they passed, being scourged, tortured, cast into dungeons, subjected to every kind of suffering. But though the bearers of these divine laws might be killed, the laws themselves were deathless. They proved only the more potent after the death of those who promulgated them, and in spite of the resistance of the Romans and the barbarians, they continued in undiminished force; and from the graves in which the Romans sought to bury the memory of these fishermen and tent-makers, that memory sprang into new and nobler life."[fn]
§ III. Mode of Primitive Evangelization. Origin of the First Three Gospels.
§ III. Mode of Primitive Evangelization. Origin of the First Three Gospels.
Having now described the missions of the primitive Church in their rapid and fruitful expansion, we must characterize the method adopted at this period in the propagation of the truth. "Faith cometh by hearing," says St. Paul, (
None of the expressions by which preaching is spoken of in the New Testament can apply to written documents. That which is intended is always the living word, the solemn proclamation of the truth from the lips of witnesses.[fn] When the Gospel is spoken of, the reference is not to a book, but to the substance of the apostolic preaching—to the good tidings of salvation, as the etymology of the word signifies. "The Apostles of Christ," says Eusebius, 218 "purified in life, and adorned with all the virtues of the soul, but rough and uncultivated in speech, upheld simply by the power of Christ, through which they worked so many miracles—preached the kingdom of God to the whole world. They were not concerned to write books, being put in charge with a far grander and superhuman ministry."[fn]
For a long time the Church preferred the living to the written word. "If I met," says Papias, "a brother who had known the Apostles, I asked him carefully what they had said—what Andrew, Peter, Philip, Thomas, James, John, and Matthew had said. I thought I could gather more from a living testimony than from books."[fn] It was very natural that, at a time when the first generation of Christians was still alive, their words should have been preferred to their writings. The Apostles themselves attached more importance to their preaching than to their letters; they thought they could gain a stronger influence over the Churches by their presence than by their epistles, else they would have been willing to remain at a distance from them, and would not have so frequently expressed a desire to visit them again.
It is in no degree our intention to detract from the 219 importance of the written Gospels, but to throw, as far as may be possible within the limits imposed by our subject, some light on the question of their origin. It is proved that during many years the word of God was freely propagated by the living voice, and that the most flourishing Churches the world has known were founded by the preaching of the early missionaries. It was of vital importance, however, that the great facts of Christianity should be transmitted to posterity through a safer medium than mere oral tradition. After being set forth in several writings, which were not handed down beyond the first century, (
The origin of the Gospel of Mark is thus stated by Papias, who is himself only the echo of John the Presbyter, or the Elder: "Mark, having been Peter's interpreter, wrote down carefully, but not in order, the words and actions of Jesus Christ. His one great concern was to give, unaltered and unadulterated, that which he had heard."[fn] Clement of Alexandria adds, that Mark wrote his Gospel at the express 220 request of the hearers of Peter.[fn] Luke himself clearly informs us of the motive which led him to write an account of the Gospel history. "Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus."
§ IV. First Roman Persecution of Christianity. Persecution in Judæa. Death of James, the brother of the Lord.
§ IV. First Roman Persecution of Christianity. Persecution in Judæa. Death of James, the brother of the Lord.
Persecution always followed step by step in the track of Christian missions, endeavoring to sweep away their glorious results by torrents of blood, and 221succeeding only in watering and fructifying the buried seeds. We have already seen the outbreak of persecution in Judæa, giving to the Church its first martyrs. Paul had to encounter it in all his missionary journeys. We have left him at Rome loaded with chains, and awaiting his judgment. Up to the year 64 A. D., hostility to Christianity did not assume an official character. Opposition was offered, now in one city, now in another, but the Church was not as yet put under the ban of the empire. Its growth, however, had been so rapid, and its success so marked, that a terrible collision was inevitable with that imperial power which was the stronghold of all that Christianity came to destroy, and in which was personified that ancient order of things, the very basis of which Christianity was to undermine.
This sanguinary collision took place in the latter part of the reign of Nero. Paganism could not have found a fitter representative than this Emperor. Persecutions against the Church must needs break forth at Rome, for the doctrine of the Church was on one essential point directly antagonistic to the theories of the ancient world. In that world, religion was closely associated with political organization. Polytheism had produced, as its natural result, State religions, which trampled on the rights of conscience. The individual had no personal guaranty, and must, under every circumstance, sacrifice himself to the State. Freedom of thought could only exist in the presence of religions thus established, by means of reservations and artifices strongly savoring of hypocrisy. The light in which religion was regarded by pagan antiquity is forcibly described by Cicero: "No one," 222he says, "has a right to have particular gods; no one may introduce new or strange gods not recognized by the law of the State."[fn] Now the Christians most evidently did proclaim a new god within the empire. This accusation had been already brought against Paul at Philippi. "These men," it was said of Paul and Barnabas, "teach customs which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans."
The determining cause of the persecution under Nero was the astonishing success of the new religion in the capital of the world. It had been tolerated so long as it could be ignored. The apocryphal letter from Pilate to Tiberius, which is said to have led that Emperor to propose to the senate to admit the God of the Christians into the Roman Pantheon, has no marks of authenticity.[fn] It is certain that the Emperors took no heed of Christianity till they were constrained to do so by the popular voice. The first persecution was in reality a satisfaction given to the hatred of the populace. We find no trace of edicts proscribing Christianity in a general manner. Legal persecution was not declared until subsequently. Nero played the part enacted by Pilate in the crucifixion of Christ. He sacrificed the innocent to the blind fury of a misled crowd. He added to his villainy by casting on the Christians the imputation of having set fire to the city. But he only chose them as his victims because public execration was loud against them. "To put to silence the rumors raised against himself," says Tacitus, "Nero laid his 225own crime on certain persons rendered odious by their heinous offenses, and whom the people called Christians; on these he inflicted the most cruel punishments."[fn] It was this blind and cruel popular hatred which gave occasion for the first persecution. It is important to ascertain the grounds of this animosity, and to investigate the calumnies brought against the Christians.
These calumnies have no connection with the subtle and perfidious accusations of the philosophers. We are brought face to face with popular prejudices in their grossest form. It would be a serious anachronism to transplant into the first century, and into the midst of the Roman populace, the learned objections of a Celsus or a Lucian. Tacitus himself puts us on the track of the charges which, in the year 65, were current in Rome against the Christians. "They were convicted," according to his statement, "not of the burning of Rome, but of the crime of hating the human race."[fn] We discern in this accusation the confusion, so common, of the Church with the synagogue. The Jews did actually merit this accusation by their intractable pride and arrogant contempt of all other nations. This prejudice against the Christians, arising from a mistaken identification of them with their bitterest enemies, was probably strengthened by warnings uttered by them of a coming terrible judgment of God. They proclaimed the condemnation 226of sinful humanity; they painted its doom in prophetic pictures; they borrowed the strong colors of the ancient seers to produce a salutary terror. They spoke, doubtless, of those flames of judgment which should consume a godless world. It was easy, by materializing that which was spiritual, to represent them as dangerous conspirators, capable of causing the conflagration they predicted, and of bringing about by their own efforts the accomplishment of their prophecies. Their preaching must have been thus travestied to furnish the shadow of a pretext for the absurd accusation brought against them.
When Tacitus adds, that they were odious for their crimes and abominations,[fn] he doubtless alludes to the infamous reports so long circulated against the Christians, to which Justin Martyr subsequently gave an indignant denial. "Do you believe," he exclaims, "that we devour men, and that, after our evening meal, we extinguish the lights to cover with darkness a hideous debauch?" These very calumnies are repeated in detail in the "Octavius" of Minutius Felix. "Must we not groan," says the champion of paganism, "when men belonging to a wretched, illegal, desperate faction rise up against the gods? a sect loving darkness, hating the day; it is silent in public, but loud in its secret retreats; it despises the gods and mocks at sacred things. Its members call each other brothers and sisters to add incest to idolatry. They drink the blood of a child, divide its members among them, make a covenant over this horrid sacrifice, and are pledged to silence by their 227common participation in crime."[fn] "We are accused," says Tertullian, "of practicing infanticide in our sacred rites, of then feeding on the flesh of the victim, and concluding our feasts with incest."[fn] These quotations from the " Fathers " are a true commentary on the words of Tacitus. In the next century we shall meet again with these vile accusations, with the addition of other yet more treacherous insinuations; but it is obvious that those now cited were the basis of all the rest. It is easy to see that they are a gross misrepresentation of Christian worship, and, in particular, of the Lord's Supper, in which the sacred symbols of the body of Christ were dispensed. The Church had cunning adversaries who knew how to malign her artfully, and who, observing the absence of all outward display in her worship, brought against her the charge of atheism. When we remember that through Poppæa the Jews of Rome had at this time the favor and the ear of Nero, we shall wonder the less at the success of their intrigues. One of the most ancient writers of the Church, Melito of Sardis, undoubtedly had these underhand practices in view when he said: "Nero and Domitian, incited by the councils of certain malicious persons, have endeavored to bring reproach on our religion. They have bequeathed to their successors these false accusations against us."[fn] These 228calumnies would have produced no effect, however, if the Church had not increased in Rome in a remarkable manner. "This detestable superstition," says Tacitus, "broke out on all sides, not only in Judæa, but in the city of Rome itself. Tacitus might have added that it had found its way even into the palace of the Cæsars, for St. Paul wrote to the Philippians at the same period: " My bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places."
It was not possible that the Gospel should be disseminated in the metropolis of paganism without exciting vehement opposition. It could not, for the reasons already pointed out, engage public opinion without inflaming it against itself. Was it not in the world as a burning brand which was to set on fire the rotten edifice of a voluptuous and skeptical society? The self-interested devotees of paganism, men like Demetrius the silversmith, were even more numerous at Rome than at Ephesus. The Church had but to show itself, to be accursed. Nothing is more easy of explanation than this hatred of the Roman people to Christianity, and their eagerness to heap upon it undeserved reproach.
But though the first persecution was popular, it is none the less chargeable on the crowned tyrant who provoked it. Eusebius eloquently says, "Nothing was wanting to Nero but to add to his other titles that of being the first emperor who declared war against Christianity."[fn] His object was to divert 229from himself the suspicions of the people, who justly accused him of having set fire to a great part of the city to gratify a fantastic whim. He caused the Christians to be seized and tortured to compel them to confess a crime of which he himself was guilty. He thought that the spectacle of their death would compensate for that of the conflagration of the city, which had been amusing to none but himself. Blending buffoonery with cruelty, he devised the plan of clothing the Christians in the skins of wild beasts that they might be torn by the dogs. The Emperor assumed at this time an air of the greatest condescension, appearing in the circus in a plebeian garb, and mixing familiarly with the people. Some Christians were crucified; others, having been rubbed over with pitch, were made to serve as torches to light up the imperial gardens.[fn] This fearful persecution did not extend beyond Rome. It was contrived for the amusement and exculpation of the Emperor, and was one of the awful caprices of that mad despot, who studied crime as a work of art.[fn]
This first persecution produced a deep impression through the whole Church. Nero became to the Christians the type of Antichrist, and Rome a new Babylon, "the mother of harlots, drunken with the blood of saints." We trace this sentiment in all its vividness in the representations of the Apocalypse, which show us thousands of martyrs around the throne of God, crying for vengeance on the great whore seated on the seven hills. Nero seemed to the 230Church a sort of personification of the infernal powers leagued against her, and she could scarcely believe at his death that he had disappeared for ever. If we credit the Sibylline oracles, the Church lived in constant expectation of seeing him return from the far East to enter afresh into bloody warfare with the saints.[fn]
St. Paul was probably put to death during this persecution, at the same time as St. Peter. According to a doubtful tradition, the latter was crucified with his head downward. Clement of Alexandria relates that Peter's wife went before him to death, and that the Apostle, calling her by name, addressed to her these simple and touching words, "Remember thou the Lord."[fn] Caius, who lived at the commencement of the third century, says that he saw at Rome the tombs of the two Apostles, and we have no reason to question his testimony.[fn] Among the mass of legends associated with the death of the two Apostles is one which, without possessing any historical value, has real beauty. We read in the "Acts of the Saints," that as Peter was trying to leave Rome to escape martyrdom, Jesus Christ suddenly appeared to him. Peter said, "Lord, whither goest thou?" The Lord replied, "I go to Rome, to be crucified." The Apostle understood that the words were to be fulfilled in him.[fn] It was truly Jesus who suffered and was crucified in the persons of his disciples in that fearful persecution. From this assurance they drew all their comfort and strength.
While paganism was thus waging cruel warfare with the Church, Judaism in Palestine was persistent 231likewise in its hatred. James, the brother of the Lord, was put to death a short time before Peter and Paul. Neither his great popularity nor the unanimous respect he inspired, could avail to save him. The Pharisees were his implacable adversaries. He was, as we have said, a Jew after God's heart, and therefore raised immeasurably above the Judaism of his day; for it was impossible to embrace heartily the old covenant without being led on to the new. Piety so sincere and lofty as his was the crying condemnation of Pharisaism—a condemnation so much the more direct because conveyed under the very form of the old religion.
According to the statement of Hegesippus,[fn] as the influence of James went on increasing day by day, the Scribes and Pharisees sought to lead him into a denial of his faith before the whole people assembled for the Passover feast. "Persuade the multitude," they said, "not to fall into error with regard to this Jesus.[fn] We have all confidence in thee, also the people know that thou art a just man, and regardest not the persons of men." They brought him into the Temple and questioned him before the multitude. "Tell us, O thou just one," they said, "tell us what is the doctrine of Jesus?"[fn] "You ask me," replied James, "of Jesus the Son of man; he is in heaven, at the right hand of the Almighty, and he will come 232again in the clouds." At these words the many Christians who were in the crowd uttered a loud hosanna. The enemies of James, furious at finding their crafty design turned against themselves, fell upon him, threw him down from the top of the Temple steps, and began stoning him. While the just man was praying for his murderers with his dying breath, a fanatic workman fell on him, and with heavy blows from a stick dispatched him.[fn] The death of James was followed by a violent persecution of the Churches in Palestine. The letter which was addressed to them at this time by one of the disciples of Paul, probably Apollos, and known under the name of the Epistle to the Hebrews, was designed to strengthen the hearts of the Christians in Palestine under the ordeal of a fiery persecution. Still clinging, as they did, to Jewish prejudices, local and ceremonial, it was to them peculiarly grievous to be driven from the Temple, and compelled to relinquish the regular observance of the worship of their fathers.[fn] It was needful that they should learn from the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews to distinguish between vanishing types and the eternal realities of true religion. Great trials were yet awaiting them, for already the imperial armies were marching upon the Holy City, to make of its ruins the signal monument of the justice of God.233
Chapter III. Various Forms of Christian Doctrine in the Second Period of the Apostolic Age.
§ I. Fundamental Unity in Diversity.
§ I. Fundamental Unity in Diversity.
THE apostolic age did not arrive at once at the full consciousness of the treasures of truth committed to it. After its first period, which was, like a blessed childhood, all calmness and simplicity, it entered upon an era of prolonged conflicts. Did these conflicts make, as some have asserted, a schism among the Apostles, and did they lead to the formation of two hostile Churches—the Judaistic Church, under the conduct of Peter and James, and the Church freed from the synagogue, under the leadership of Paul? Can we discover two contradictory doctrinal systems, as widely divided the one from the other as were subsequently the heresy of the Ebionites and the orthodox faith? This is the question before us for solution.
We have already several times incidentally approached it; we must now give it full consideration, for it is the great theological question of the day. Raised by a scholar of the first rank, distinguished for his laborious research, and the head of a numerous school, it presents itself under continually varying forms. In order to show its full bearing, it will be necessary first to state the view of primitive Christianity taken by those who differ from ourselves. 234 According to Baur, we have in the apostolic age two religious parties in radical opposition within the bosom of the Church. On the one hand, the twelve Apostles range under their banner all the advocates of the perpetual obligation of Judaism; on the other hand, Paul represents the party of emancipation. The former are faithful to the true intention of Jesus Christ, who preached only a spiritualized Judaism, in all points corresponding to Ebionitism. Paul introduces an entirely new element. The contest is declared at Jerusalem and at Antioch, and is carried on in all the Churches. There is no trace of reconciliation between the Apostles during their life, but Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans, makes the first advance toward conciliation by his strong declaration of love for his nation, and his prediction of its glorious future. He takes a second step in the same direction when, on his last visit to Jerusalem, he joins himself to some Jewish Christians, who had taken upon them the vow of the Nazarite. But this attempt at reconciliation was too premature to lead to any result. The Judaizing party were inveterate in their hatred to the great Apostle, who is plainly referred to in the following century, in the "Clementines," under the name of Simon Magus. Even in this curious document, however, tokens of an approaching reconciliation may be discerned. The Judaistic party makes some concessions. In the first place, baptism is substituted for circumcision; then Peter is represented as the Apostle of the Gentiles. The reputed Epistle of James continues this good work by combating the spirit of Judaism in its exaggerated form, no less than the Pauline school. This school responds to 235 these advances. The Epistle to the Hebrews is designed to harmonize the views of Paul with Judaism, interpreted, or rather allegorized, after the Alexandrine method. The Epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians take the same ground, for they tend to show that the death of Jesus Christ has effected a reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles, the two great sections of mankind. But the document which most evidently bears the trace of these conciliatory intentions is that ascribed to Luke, and known as the Acts of the Apostles. The writer endeavors to effect a sort of retrospective reconciliation between the Apostles, and he does it with consummate skill, by representing Peter as a satellite of St. Paul, and putting into his mouth utterances worthy only of the Apostle to the Gentiles. The tradition relating to Peter's sojourn at Rome, his connection with Paul, and their common martyrdom, belong to the same system. The pastoral letters which so forcibly denounce the dangers of anti-Judaic Gnosticism, as well as the letters to which the names of the apostolic Fathers are attached, are animated by the same spirit. The final result of all these attempts at conciliation is the composition of the fourth Gospel, which resolves all contradictions. It rises into the lofty regions of transcendental philosophy, leaving far below all past differences. To the writer of that Gospel, Jews and Gentiles come into one and the same category; they both belong to the kingdom of darkness, which is perpetually at war with the kingdom of light.[fn]
Such is the system which, during almost twenty 236years, has been perpetually under discussion in Germany. We have already refuted many of its statements. Never did the criticism of internal evidence assume such license. Its proofs are, in truth, drawn not from writings of which it is the business of the critic to fix the date, but from the preconceived system of the theologian. All that does not coincide with that system is prejudged and rejected. A purely hypothetical chronology is thus assigned to the monuments of the apostolic age. The most speculative theories are readily admitted as axioms, by which other hypotheses may be established. The results arrived at by sound criticism with reference to the principal writings of the New Testament suffice to undermine the very foundation of all this skillful theorizing. Indeed, the very elaborateness of the system suggests doubt. How can we suppose such wise diplomacy in the first two centuries of the Church? The New Testament, according to the Tübingen school, must have been written after the manner of the protocols of a congress—a singular explanation, surely, of that sublime simplicity which lends to it all its charm and power. We have already shown, in giving an account of the conference at Jerusalem, and of the dispute at Antioch, that the violence on either side was not on the part of the Apostles, but was excited by fanatical Jewish agitators. The picture we shall draw of the heresies of the primitive Church will give still more demonstrative evidence of this important fact. Besides, an attentive study of the various forms of apostolic doctrine proves that nothing can be more false than the theory that they were essentially at variance, so that there really existed two systems of 237Christianity, that of James and Peter, and that of Paul. The hypothesis of a decided opposition between the Apostles being once set aside, there remains no reason for supposing any of those retrospective attempts at conciliation by which the historical facts of the first century are said to have been transmuted. We do not deny that the reconciliation of the Christians of Jewish origin with those gathered from among the Gentiles was gradual, but we see no ground for postponing it to the second century, in opposition to the testimony of the Acts, and that of Paul's Epistles.
Reduced to their true proportions, the divergences between the sacred writers no longer present themselves as radical or irreconcilable; on the contrary, they form the regular steps of a ladder, which enables us to rise gradually to the culminating point of revelation. Among these types of doctrine, two are distinguished by their originality and their broad results; the other two represent no less an important aspect of the truth, to which it was well that a sort of independent prominence should in this way be given, because it would not have been definable with sufficient clearness in the wide synthesis of doctrine presented by St. Paul and St. John.
The attempt to represent the doctrine of James and of Peter, as opposed to that of Paul, really arises from a false view of the relation of the Old and New Testament. Those who hold that the old economy germinally contains the new, see no antagonism between the doctrine of James and that of the Apostle of the Gentiles. It is too commonly forgotten that the Judaism of James had no analogy with Pharisaism. 238It was, as we have said, the true ideal Judaism which was in harmony with the designs of God—a Judaism, consequently, which contained all the principal elements of Christianity. Developed and expanded by the acceptance of the Gospel, it could not differ essentially from the doctrine taught by St. Paul. James had been brought to a profound comprehension of the old covenant; he had grasped its spirit, and the fundamental principle which was to survive the theocratic forms in which it had been incarnated, as the life of the soul subsists after its bodily tenement has crumbled into dust. This fundamental principle was in its essence the conception of right, of justice, of duty, of conscience. James, in transferring this to Christianity, only introduced into it a permanent element of all true religion. On the other hand, Paul understood the Gospel too well not to perceive its point of contact with the Old Testament, and from the height on which he stood, the unity of the divine plan could not escape his notice. If, then, we admit the existence in the primitive Church of two types of doctrine, we nevertheless deny that these constituted two different systems of Christianity. The theologians who trace the commencement of Gnosticism to Paul, and of Ebionitism to James, are guilty of a strange anachronism. To us it is clear that both Apostles draw from one common source—the teaching and the life of Christ. In all there is manifest the influence of one and the same Spirit.
With these reservations, we do not for a moment deny the presence of differences among the sacred writers; unity prevails, but diversity exists. Nor do 239we at all dispute that of the two principal doctrinal types of the apostolic era the second is immeasurably broader and richer than the first; but the first has, nevertheless, its own peculiar value, and is admirably adapted to meet the moral necessities of every age. The diversity thus recognized is perfectly explained by the method of the Gospel revelation, which comes to us not in the form of a code, but is borne to us, as it were, wave upon wave, on the flood of the life of the primitive Church.
Each of the sacred writers preserves his individuality and speaks his own language. The imperfections of detail in each are like his peculiar accent; they testify to his being a free organ of the Spirit of God, not a mere passive instrument. They all melt into the great central light of truth produced by the collective testimony of the Apostles. It is this collective testimony which alone is authoritative, and which sets us free from the rabbinical yoke of isolated words under which the Church has been too long in bondage.
We cannot consent, moreover, to regard the writers of the New Testament only as the first of theologians. They moved in a sphere superior to theology; they possessed, as no other generation of Christians has done, the Spirit of God. Nor did they arrange their views in systematic form. "St. Paul," it has been very justly observed, "does not decide questions by metaphysical principles, and does not pride himself on scientific exactness."[fn] So true is this, that it is impossible to reduce into complete unity the various elements of his teaching. Systems, properly so called, 240 were not formed till a later period. Taken as a whole, the apostolic doctrine, which, while passing through various phases from James to John still remained the same in substance, may be regarded as the highest and fullest expression of truth. It is the rule and the standard of Christian theology, which has not to seek out new elements, but to gather up and classify those which are supplied, with all the inexhaustible abundance of a well of living waters, in the canonical books of the New Testament. But it is important to trace in the sacred writings the admirable progression of truth, to observe the unity underlying their variety, and to give to each its own place and rank, if we wish to have a living and spiritual conception of inspiration instead of a mere mechanical notion.
Three types of doctrine are presented to us in this second period of the apostolic age. Each of these is characterized by the solution it gives to the question of the relation of the two covenants. The old covenant was based upon two great institutions, the law and prophecy. James regards the new covenant as the expansion of the law; Peter sees in it, primarily, the fulfillment of prophecy. As prophecy was a sort of anticipation of Christianity, Peter is by his view brought into closer sympathy with Paul, whose influence upon him is also very evident. Paul is much less concerned with showing the relations of the two covenants, than with bringing out their differences. The new covenant is to him essentially a new fact, the proclamation of pardon, the sovereign manifestation of grace—in one word, the Gospel.[fn]241He is not in opposition either to James or Peter. He accepts the fundamental idea of James, but disengages it from all restrictions. The law, which seemed to abolish by grace, receives from that very grace a new sanction; it comes forth from the Gospel as from a crucible, purified and spiritualized. Peter's view is also just and true. Judaism is truly fulfilled by Christianity, and Paul sets forth with much philosophy its preparatory value. If, then, the Apostle of the Gentiles was constrained more than once to oppose primitive Judæo-Christianity, he nevertheless gave it all legitimate satisfaction in the full synthesis of his doctrine. He in this way deprived it of any ground for holding itself as a school apart. He abolished by comprehending it. It could not henceforward live again except as heresy, external to the Church. The reconciliation was brought about in the most natural manner in the apostolic age by the harmonizing of two elements of truth, designed thus to combine and complete each other.
§ II. Doctrine of James.
§ II. Doctrine of James.[fn]
The main idea running through the whole Epistle of James is that of the permanence of the law and of moral obligation under the Christian dispensation. The law is taken by the sacred writer in its deepest sense; it is to him the expression of absolute good. He does not speak, in fact, so much of particular precepts of the law, as of the law regarded as an indivisible whole, and restored to that unity which is inseparable from spirituality.
Thus understood, the law, so far from being opposed to faith, is intimately associated with it; James never separates them. True to his practical point of view, he brings out the indissoluble union of faith and works. Deeply convinced that moral obligation is as real under the Gospel as under the old covenant, he deprecates any teaching which, under pretext of magnifying salvation by faith alone, should lessen the importance of good works. He does not pretend that these suffice for man's justification.[fn] They are produced by a living faith, as the ear is produced from the living blade. "Show me thy faith without thy works," he exclaims, "and I will show thee my faith by my works."
In faith divorced from works, James combated intellectual dogmatism, the opus operatum of doctrine, as Paul had combated the opus operatum of legal formalism. Both are the champions of true religion, 245which has for its basis the royal law of love. We find in James the doctrine of grace very clearly taught. "Every good gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, and cometh down from the father of lights." "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth."
The great argument urged to prove an irreconcilable difference between the Epistle of James and the form of doctrine presented by Paul, is the entire silence of the former on all the historical facts of the Gospel. He says nothing of the death and resurrection of the Saviour or of his miracles. But if these facts are nowhere distinctly mentioned, they are every-where implied; the views—so clear, so beautiful—of God's forgiveness and mercy expressed by James would be unmeaning without them. The Gospel history silently but surely underlies the whole epistle. Is it not in view of the cross, where the deepest' distress has issued in the most glorious triumph, that James pens the noble words with which his letter opens, "My brethren, count it all joy, when ye fall into divers temptations?"
The sacred writer designed his letter for Churches of which he knew the internal condition. It has been wrongly asserted that he had in view only a Judaized and Pharisaic form of Christianity, altogether alien to Pauline doctrine.[fn] We believe that it was also his intention to oppose certain exaggerations of the teaching of Paul, which had gained currency in the countries bordering on Palestine. A sapless and fruitless Christianity, in which doctrinal controversies took the place of good works, threatened to overspread the Churches in which the opposing parties had come into collision. This is the danger which James is anxious to avert. He condemns these aberrations by the general principle set forth in his 247epistle; and his arguments go to maintain, not (as has been pretended) the severe asceticism of some writers of the Old Testament, but the permanence of moral obligation under the two economies. It was needful to remind those who were Christians in word only, that they would have to appear before the just Judge. James brought into full relief the severe side of Christianity, without detracting at all from the divine mercy. On the contrary, he reads in that mercy itself a law not less stringent than the law of Moses, and accompanied with the same solemn sanction. Thus closely did he connect the Gospel with the Old Testament, and thus admirably fulfill, not for his contemporaries only, but for all generations, his special mission as the man of a transition period.
§ III. Doctrinal Type of Peter. The First Two Gospels.
§ III. Doctrinal Type of Peter. The First Two Gospels.
While James regards the Gospel as the consecration of the law in an enlarged and spiritualized form, it specially commends itself to Peter as the fulfillment of prophecy. He thus comes closer to the heart of revelation, inasmuch as the prophecy of the Old Testament had much more direct reference than the law to Messiah and his work. Thus the person of Jesus Christ occupies a far larger place in the Epistle of Peter than in that of James. The position taken up by the Apostle is very clearly described in the first chapter of his epistle. Of this "salvation," he says, "the prophets inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, 248when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the Gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven."
Peter is not, like James, satisfied with simple allusions to the person of Jesus Christ; he has not, however, the same broad and full conception as St. Paul of his nature and work. He does not go back beyond the ages to adore the eternal Son, in the bosom of the Father or ever the world was; though some divines have discerned an allusion to his preexistence in one expression in the first chapter.[fn] He does not speak of Christ's part in creation. He does not go into any analysis of the work of redemption. 250He simply sets forth the fact without endeavoring to explain its mystery. There can be no ground for saying that he rejects the mystical interpretation given by Paul; he neither denies nor accepts it; he passes it by. His simple affirmation is, that Christ "bore our sins in his own body on the tree, and that by his stripes we are healed."
We have more than once observed traces of the influence of Paul in the form of Peter's doctrinal teaching. No fact of the apostolic age appears to us more easy of explanation than the influence exercised by the great Apostle of the Gentiles. But if Peter reproduces some traits of Paul's doctrine he never surrenders his own individuality. There must be singular obtuseness of spiritual perception in those who 252see in his beautiful epistle only a copy, or a mosaic of Paul's teaching. The Spirit of God has set his seal on almost every word of this letter, so rich in consolation, and so well adapted to the Church militant in the hour of most sharp and deadly conflict.
Having thus defined the doctrinal type of James and of Peter, we may at once recognize their impress in our first two Gospels. It is well known that Mark gives a summary of the preaching of Peter; this Gospel, so brief and graphic, presents us with the most vivid picture of the life of Christ. Written for the Church at Rome, it is marvelously adapted, in its condensed force and dramatic style, to the practical genius of the Latin race: Festinat ad res. It also corresponds very exactly to what we know of the doctrine of Peter. That Apostle, in his great desire to show that Christianity was the fulfillment of prophecy, was led to dwell mainly upon the facts of the Gospel history; he gave comparatively little attention to its speculative side. It was, therefore, natural that the Gospel written under his immediate influence should bear markedly and exclusively an historic character.
The Gospel of Matthew, which was written in Palestine and in the Hebrew language, for the Jewish converts, reminds us of the doctrine both of James and of Peter. The new religion is there presented as a law more perfect than that given from Sinai. The Sermon on the Mount is the principal source from which James draws his conceptions of the permanence of moral obligation. On the other hand, Matthew seeks to establish, with scrupulous care, 253the relation of the Gospel history with ancient prophecy. He does not lose a single opportunity of giving prominence to this harmony, and he discerns it in the most minute details no less than in great and important facts. This is his one all-pervading thought, and it gives him a strong and perfectly distinct individuality.
As a whole, the first two Gospels are no more favorable to Judæo-Christianity than are the epistles of James and of Peter. The high dignity of Messiah is recognized in the most explicit manner. His divinity is clearly asserted in such declarations as these: "All things are delivered unto me of my Father; and no man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him."[fn] Jesus Christ himself is represented as the direct object of faith.
§ IV. Doctrine of St. Paul.
§ IV. Doctrine of St. Paul.[fn]
Never did the connection between the thought and the life, the heart and the head, appear more manifestly than in the case of St. Paul. He is a remarkable illustration of the well-known saying, Pectus est quod facit theologum, it is the heart which makes the theologian. His theology sprang all living from his heart; it glowed with the fire that consumed him. His own moral life struggled for expression in his doctrine; and to give utterance to both at once, Paul created a marvelous language, rough and incorrect, but full of resource and invention, following his rapid leaps of thought, and bending to his sudden and sharp transitions. His ideas come in such rich abundance that they cannot wait for orderly expression; they throng upon each other, and intermingle in seeming confusion; but the confusion is seeming only, for through it all a powerful argument steadily sustains the mastery. The tongue of Paul is, indeed, a tongue of fire.
The vocation of the Apostle of the Gentiles was to effect the final emancipation of the Church from the Synagogue; he did not, therefore, feel himself bound to use the same caution as Peter and James, in the transition from Judaism into Christianity. He 255did not unloose with a timid hand the knot of this question; he boldly cut it. While he taught substantially the same Gospel as St. James and St. Peter, he did not set himself, as they did, to exhibit exclusively the positive side of the new religion; he repudiated emphatically every thing that was alien to it. In great religious reforms the simple affirmation of truth is not enough; there must be the corresponding formal negation of error, so that no misconception may be possible. Paul, therefore, laid the ax to the root of the tree which was to fall—to the root of that narrow and impotent legalism, which had overspread the Church with its deadly shadow. We shall see, however, at the same time, that while Paul used argument as a sharp and unsparing weapon, he used it also as the plowshare, which cleaves the earth only to make it fruitful. Every one of his negations led to a richer affirmation; and as his polemics took a wider field, his theology became more and more enriched with new and important truths, which, under divine inspiration, he drew from the inexhaustible treasury of the teaching of Christ. This was the sole and sufficient source of all Paul's doctrine; as a whole and in all its parts, that doctrine corresponds perfectly to the teaching of the Master, of which it was the logical deduction and development.
The theology of Paul has been repeatedly impoverished by the spirit of system, which has sought in it only the justification of its own dogmatic preferences. It has not been comprehended in its fullness in any of the creeds of the past. Between these formal creeds and the doctrine of Paul, there is as great a distance as between the testimony of the Apostles, 256and the always uncertain researches of human science. The Pauline doctrine is characterized by the marked predominance of the moral element. This is never lowered as in Pelagianism, which, in attempting to fit its morality to the measure of man, dwarfs it miserably, and takes away all its ideal character. But neither, on the other hand, does the doctrine of Paul merge the human in the divine as does Augustinism. It maintains the balance between grace and freedom; it boldly asserts both the one and the other, and thus guards against any exclusive tendency. The harmonious fusion of the moral and the religious element is in our view the distinctive feature of this theology, which thus fulfills, while it abolishes, the old covenant. Accepting the central idea of James—the permanence of moral obligation on the conscience under the new covenant—St. Paul sanctifies and vivifies it by his doctrine of justification by faith. Thus all the supposed contradictions disappear. There is no better method of demonstrating the fundamental agreement between St. Paul and St. James, than a just appreciation of the essentially moral character of Paul's religious teaching.
The first principle in the doctrine of Paul is that of righteousness. Righteousness is the expression of the true relations which ought to subsist between the creature and the Creator. "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?"
Starting from this deep conception of righteousness, St. Paul seeks its realization in religious history. He recognizes, first of all, the fact that humanity is in an abnormal condition, and that it has been plunged by an act of rebellion into sin and condemnation. He then endeavors to show in what way the fallen race is reinstated in righteousness; he is thus led to mark clearly the difference between the old covenant and the new, while he clearly indicates the preparatory value of the former. The fall, and the state of man since the first transgression—the Mosaic law and its design in Providence—redemption and its results—all these are successive chapters of the theology of 258Paul. We shall find him perpetually making all the various branches of his doctrine converge to the great idea of righteousness as the center and pivot of the whole.
We are all familiar with Paul's forcible description of the general corruption of mankind. Taking as his text those words in the Psalms, "There is none righteous, no, not one," he draws with inimitable power the picture of the degradation of the fallen race.[fn] In order to render it yet more striking, he borrows his colors from the corrupt state of society around him. The first portion of his Epistle to the Romans is devoted to an unsparing demonstration of the fallen state of humanity. On the one hand the Apostle shows us the pagan world, abandoned to impure and hateful lusts, dishonoring man by its abominations after having attempted to dishonor God by its idolatries, changing the truth of God into a lie; (
This melancholy fact has its own natural and inevitable consequences. It is clear that if man had adhered to righteousness—that eternal and divine righteousness, which ought to regulate his relations with God—he would have found that happiness 259which is the fruit of righteousness. The perfect observance of the law of God results in a happy life. If all the works of man had been good—that is to say, if the whole of his moral life had been in conformity with the will of God—he would have been justified by his works. Righteousness would have been realized, and the harmony between the Creator and the creature maintained. Paul rejects justification by works, because the conditions of such justification have never been really fulfilled, and our boasted good works are still defiled by sin.[fn]
The violation of the law of God brought condemnation on all the children of men. They are all under the wrath of God; (
Are we to take this declaration of St. Paul in its strictest sense? Did he intend to say that every spark of the divine life was quenched in us by the fall? Did he teach the absolute corruption of human 260nature? We think not. Undoubtedly, as far as salvation is concerned, these words are to be taken in their fullest significance. Fallen man has no more power to save himself than a dead man to raise himself to life. The Apostle admits, however, that man still retains some traces of his original nature. He says, "When the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves." They "show the work of the law written in their hearts."[fn]In his discourse at Athens he speaks of the consciousness of the divine life as present in the unconverted man. "For we are also," he says, "his offspring."[fn] The same conclusion may be drawn from the graphic representation given by the Apostle of the conflict which takes place in the heart before conversion—that painful struggle between the flesh and the spirit, which reveals the existence of the divine principle in powerful reaction against sin.
This does not imply that the body is the seat and principle of evil. By such a doctrine Paul would have sanctioned by anticipation Manichæism and all the dualistic theories of the ancient world. Instead of opposing, as he did, oriental asceticism, he would 261have favored and commended it.
We shall be yet more convinced that it is impossible to accuse Paul of dualism if we consider the solution which he gives of the tremendous question of the origin of evil. It was, according to him, the 262rebellion of the first man which introduced evil into the world; in other words, the principle of evil must be sought not in the body but in the will. Sin is a free act; it in no way bears the character of a physical necessity. It is the breaking of the normal bond between' the creature and the Creator.[fn] St. Paul gives no explanation of the mode of the transmission of sin; he contents himself with pointing out how the powers of evil have been let loose upon mankind. It would be impossible to derive from his words a complete theory of original sin; he does no more than affirm the universality of the condemnation, and the universality of the sin introduced into the world by the first transgression.[fn]
After having thus demonstrated that the whole race of Adam is exposed to the wrath of God on account of his unfulfilled law, the Apostle draws in broad outline the history of the work of salvation. He has set aside all the claims of Judaism to occupy a place apart in the midst of the general condemnation. By exploding all the pretensions of human pride, and destroying all its false titles to the favor of God, he has cleared the ground; and he may now triumphantly establish the doctrine of free salvation, which is, in his view, the very essence of Christianity.263
A race so deeply fallen can only be raised again by free grace. From before the creation of the world God conceived the plan of salvation;[fn] from all eternity it was determined in the counsels of his mercy. This is the secret, the mystery of his gracious will.[fn] The first cause of salvation is, then, the sovereign freedom of God. It rests upon an act of his good pleasure; its principle is the everlasting love of the Father, which embraces not one peculiar people, but the whole of humanity, the Gentile nations no less than the Jews. This glorious mystery was, however, only revealed in the last times.[fn]
The creation of the world was the first manifestation of the eternal and infinite love. It was, in truth, by the Son of God, who is the highest personification of love, that all things both in heaven and earth were created. "By him and for him were all things."[fn] Redemption is only the restoration of the primitive design of creation, the reparation of the confusion wrought by sin, the bringing in again of true righteousness. All that was comprehended in the plan of creation found a place afresh in the plan of redemption. It was the good pleasure of the Father to reconcile all things through him, by whom and for whom all had been created.[fn]
This eternal decree of divine love has been taken by many distinguished theologians in a sense so narrow 264as to exclude altogether the moral principle; they have only escaped pantheism by a happy inconsistency, occasioned by their deep piety and their sincere desire to guard the rights of God against the assumptions of human pride. We hold, however, that their system finds no sanction in the theology of Paul. There is a vast difference between Augustinian predestination and the predestination spoken of by St. Paul. According to Augustine, God in his sovereignty has decreed the salvation of a small fraction of mankind. Calvin adds, that on the same ground he has decreed the eternal perdition of the rest of the race. We find nothing corresponding to this in the writings of Paul. According to him, salvation proceeds from a decree of sovereign love; it is thus a matter of predestination—that is, it has, as its first cause, the all-powerful will of God. It is a generous and free gift. Divine love precedes, therefore, any act of ours; it does not originate in any human merit; it has no other spring than the infinite compassion of God. God loved man, not because of his actual excellence or possible merits, but because he was pleased thus to love him. It is in this sense that man is predestinated to happiness. Thus the salvation comes "neither of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth."
St. Paul does not regard salvation simply in an 265 abstract and general manner; he insists on its individual application. The salvation of every man, as of the race, has its origin in the eternal love of God, and not in human merit. It is only realized, however, under certain conditions inseparable from the conception of righteousness, which is always kept inviolate in the theology of the Apostle. The eye of God—to which all futurity is open, as are the secrets of all hearts, and with whom there is no time—sees from all eternity the unfolding and complete development of every individual life. Election is nothing else than this eternal foreknowledge of God, embracing the destiny of every man, and discerning the part which every man will take with reference to salvation; or, to be more exact, it is the application of the decree of infinite love to every soul which has not obstinately rejected mercy. The initiative in the reconciliation ever belongs to God; it always flows from his eternal purpose of mercy, and it is impossible to find a shadow of merit in the creature, whose part it is simply to suffer himself to be saved. The very word election sets aside the idea of any thing arbitrary in the salvation of the individual, for it implies a choice, and an intelligent choice.
Against this interpretation of the idea of the Apostle, the famous ninth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is adduced; but it is a violation of all the rules of sound exegesis to isolate one portion of Scripture and to endeavor to explain the whole Bible by one page, instead of explaining that page by all the rest. Let us observe, in the first place, that in that chapter the Apostle is speaking not of the election of individuals but of nations. His design is to 266 oppose the Jewish notion that a national election creates for a people an inalienable and permanent claim to salvation; and he appeals, in controversion of this prejudice, to the free grace of God.
The work of restoration begins immediately after the fall. It is divided into two great periods. The first, which extends to the coming of Christ, is the time of God's patience. The world is under sentence of condemnation; but judgment is not fully executed, because God will give sinners space for repentance;[fn] he subjects the fallen race to a gradual education to prepare it to receive the Saviour. This education was not the same for the Jews as for the Gentile nations. The former were intrusted with the great privilege of being the depositaries of the oracles of God.[fn] They received a positive revelation; but, although divine, this revelation was not absolute 268 and final in its character. Its one design was to prepare the way for the Redeemer. The Apostle notes two distinct periods in the history of Judaism—the patriarchal period and the Mosaic. In the former, a divine sanction had been by anticipation given to the constituent principles of the new covenant. In fact, the promise of salvation preceded the law, and Abraham was justified by faith in that promise.
It is impossible not to admire the broad grasp which the Apostle takes of the intention and significance of the Mosaic dispensation. In that very law, so strenuously urged against him, he finds fresh proof of the necessity of Christianity. He shows that it has been the most active agent in fostering the desire for salvation, and he fully recognizes its divine authority; so far from depreciating it, as the Gnostics subsequently do, he lauds and magnifies it. "The law is holy, and the commandment holy, just, and good."[fn] But, if it is holy, it is at the same time terrible, for it demands nothing less than absolute obedience on the part of man. "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them."
The work of preparation was not confined to the Jewish people. We find traces of it also, according to St. Paul, in the history of the Gentile nations. To them God spoke by the voice of nature, (
§ V. God “spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all.”
§ V. God "spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all."[fn]
The whole work of redemption is summed up in these words. They testify that it is in its very essence a manifestation of the love of the Father, of that eternal love which formed the design of saving us, and of renewing us in true righteousness. Before describing the work of Christ, Paul is very explicit as to its nature. We have already said that he recognizes the eternal existence of the Son of God, "the image of the invisible God, by whom and for whom all things were created, who was before all things, and by whom all things consist."[fn] This Eternal Son took 272upon him a body like our own. Being in the form of God, not having to win by conquest a Godhead which was already his by right, he humbled himself, taking the form of a servant, and being found in fashion as a man.[fn] In this state of humiliation, or rather of self-annihilation, there still dwelt in him "all the fullness of the Godhead bodily."
St. Paul speaks no less clearly with reference to the humanity than to the deity of Christ. If he is declared to be the Son of God according to the Spirit, he is no less the seed of David according to the flesh.[fn] God sent his own Son in flesh like that of sinful men,[fn] that is to say, in all the frailty and feebleness of earthly life, to suffer and to die.
But Christ did more than simply assume human nature; he became the head of a new humanity, and its representative before God. Paul establishes a parallel between the first Adam and him whom he calls the second Adam. "If by the offense of one," he says, "many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift which he hath given us by his grace, of one man, shall abound unto many."
Redemption is not, with Paul, simply the declaration of the love of God and of his pardon; it is a positive work, a great and bleeding sacrifice. Jesus Christ "was delivered for our offenses."[fn] It is clear from the epistles of the Apostle that the death of Christ is the basis of our salvation, that his blood was shed for us, and that his sufferings have effected our reconciliation with God. "I have determined," he says emphatically, "to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified."
This death, being undeserved, was on his part a free sacrifice, and an act of obedience; hence, its redemptive value. In making his death an offering to God, an act of free and holy love, Christ reunited the broken link between man and God; his death thus 276produced life and salvation. He, the Holy One and the Just, received the wages of transgression, but he yielded himself to death only to extract its sting, which is sin; by dying he gained the mightiest of victories over the powers of evil. He took upon him our condemnation; but, so assuming it, he transformed and subdued it. "He condemned sin in the flesh."[fn] The righteousness of God is written in letters of blazing light upon his cross, since, having come down to. our sin-stained earth and joined himself to the human race, he must needs die in spite of his holiness. That holiness, however, at the same time made his death a satisfaction of the divine justice—a reparation of Adam's disobedience.
After a careful study of the declarations of St. Paul, we find ourselves unable to derive from them any other conception of redemption than this The death of Christ is a demonstration of the righteousness of God, since it gives proof that the representative of the sentenced race of man cannot save it without submitting to the penalty of sin; but the penalty thus endured is accepted by God as a sufficient reparation, because of the perfect obedience which it manifests. It is in this sense a redemption, a propitiation; this is the entire theory of Paul. Theology may find some links wanting in this dialectic chain; it may attempt to explain and to enlarge upon the great doctrinal statements of the Apostle, but it has no right either to suppress or to add any. The judicial theory, according to which the suffering of Christ consisted in the feeling of rejection and of the wrath of God, is altogether alien to the conception 277of Paul.[fn] He always represents the Father as acting in harmony with the Son. "God," he says, "was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself."[fn] If he was in Christ he could not be against him. The judicial theory of Anselm is in contradiction with the general views of Paul on salvation. In Anselm's system it is no longer free grace, a realization in time of the purpose of eternal love. The law of retaliation receives, on this theory, the supreme sanction of the cross; forgiveness is robbed of its freeness. We are on the ground of legal right, not on that of mercy. It is, further, an erroneous conception of the work of redemption which disjoins the death of the Saviour from his life; the two are closely connected—the former the consummation of the latter. If he was obedient unto death, he was not obedient only in death. If He who knew no sin was treated as a sinner in the crucifixion, so was he no less in all the sufferings going before his death, and his death appears to us as the culminating point of the redemptive work which comprehends his whole life on earth.[fn]278
The salvation achieved on the cross is consummated by the glorification of the Redeemer. The resurrection is, in Paul's view, an essential condition of our justification.[fn] "If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain."
The natural consequence of faith is conversion, or the renewing of the inner nature. Thus understood, it is inseparable from sanctification. If St. Paul repudiates strongly justification by works, he does so 282because the works of the law do not truly realize the righteousness of God, but either cherish pride or lead to despair. Holiness springs from faith; faith contains it in the germ, for sanctification consists simply in putting on Jesus Christ as sin is more and more put off. Self-mortification pierces the rebellious flesh of the Christian, as it were with the nails which wounded the Saviour on the accursed tree; it is a true crucifixion,[fn] and like that of the Redeemer, it leads to a resurrection. The new man, created in the image of God, takes the place of the old, and is changed from glory to glory into the likeness of Christ. The ideal and the end of holiness is to be able to say, "For me to live is Christ."
The Apostle, however, goes further than a merely individual appropriation of salvation. It being the purpose of God to reconstitute a true humanity in Christ, it was necessary that a new people of God should be formed, and a religious society organized, in which faith and love should be essential elements of the mutual relations between men. This new people of God is the Church. Paul compares it sometimes to a temple of which Christ is the corner-stone; (
But the kingdom of God extends far beyond this world. The family is in heaven as well as upon earth.
We shall not dwell at length upon the picture drawn by St. Paul of the last times. He has not done more than paraphrase the prophecies given by 285Christ. He proclaims a wide diffusion of the Gospel light, which is to spread first over the Gentile world, then to return to enlighten also that people of the Jews, who will have thus so strikingly verified in their pride the saying of the Master, "The first shall be last." Even this tardy illumination is to come to them only on condition that they abide not still in unbelief.*
When the Gospel shall have thus subdued the obduracy of the Jews its final triumph will be at hand, and the conversion of Israel will be the precursive sign of the glorious consummation of the kingdom of God.
The views of the Apostle as to the nearness of this closing period of history, which is to be inaugurated by the personal return of Christ, seem to have undergone some modifications. In the, first stage of his apostolical career he supposes, with all the Christians of that time, that but a very few years will intervene before the coming of the day of the Lord; he is even persuaded that it will arrive before his own 287death.[fn] Subsequently, in the Roman prison, on the eve of sealing his testimony with his blood, he receives new light. This is very evident from his Epistle to the Philippians.
This exposition of the doctrine of St. Paul anticipates the solution given by him of the great question of the relation of the two covenants. We have seen that he fully recognizes the divine and preparatory value of the Old Testament; (
The apology of the Apostle is closely connected with his doctrine; it is animated by the same spirit, and in it also grace occupies the foremost place. Truth is alien to the soul in its natural state. "The natural man discerneth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him."
In addressing the Jews, Paul based his arguments chiefly on the sacred Scriptures, of which he distinctly acknowledges the full inspiration.
We are now in a position to estimate the views of the Tübingen school on the theology of St. Paul. To that school it appears a system entirely new, and differing widely from the doctrine of Christ. To us, on the contrary, it seems evident that the teaching of Paul is based entirely on that of the Master. It would be easy to connect all the essential points in Paul's theology with words of Christ, contained in the first two Gospels. It is, in the first place, universally admitted that his prophetic delineation of the last times is in all points in conformity with the 291last discourses of the Saviour. We have already shown that his rich and ample tribute to the majesty of Christ as the Son of God is but an expansion of the doctrine contained in germ in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. The rejection of the Jews as a nation is clearly foretold in the parables.
§ VI. The Gospel of Luke and the Epistle to the Hebrews.
§ VI. The Gospel of Luke and the Epistle to the Hebrews.
The Gospel of Luke bears distinct marks of the mind of St. Paul. It gives special prominence to the character of mercy in the work and teachings of the Master. It is the Gospel which contains the beautiful parables of the lost sheep and of the prodigal son.
We have already noticed that the Epistle to the Hebrews is also traceable to what may perhaps be called the Pauline school of thought.[fn] It contains the leading principles of Paul's theology, but it presents 293them in a new aspect and makes entirely new applications of them. This letter, addressed, as we have seen, to Judaizing Christians, is designed to exalt the glory of the new covenant, and to show its superiority to the old economy. The author first compares Moses to Jesus Christ, and proves without difficulty that there is an immeasurable distance between the great Prophet of Israel and the Son of God. He then establishes a parallel between the results obtained by the law and those assured to us by the Gospel. He is thus led to a detailed comparison of the Jewish priesthood with the eternal priesthood of Christ. The Epistle concludes with exhortations often severe, always admirable. The last three chapters are unquestionably among the most beautiful and the most stirring portions of the New Testament.
It is at once obvious that the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews has a very thorough acquaintance with the Jewish religion; he interprets its types and symbols, and makes very effective use of exegesis as bold as it is learned. Every page shows traces of the Judaism of Alexandria, transfigured, however, by the Spirit of God, as the rabbinic lore of Gamaliel became in the case of Paul. The writer insists not less forcibly than the Apostle on the exalted dignity of Christ. He declares that he is far higher than the angels; he gives to him the name of God. He is the Son, the brightness of the Father's glory, the express image of his person.[fn] These expressions bear a striking analogy to the declarations of St. John c6ncerning the Word; they are more explicit than those 294of Paul. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews dwells with beautiful and touching emphasis on the humiliation of the Son of God: "It behooved him," he says, "to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people."
To establish that under the economy of grace the justice of God maintains all its rights; to show that the law of love is under a sanction the more tremendous because of the boundlessness of the divine mercy declared in it; (
Chapter IV. State of the Church During This Period. First Symptoms of Heresy.
THE picture we have given of the opposition encountered by Paul, from enemies and detractors, has already shown us that this epoch was pregnant with stormy controversy in the Churches. They had to pass through a sharp, but salutary, crisis.
The conferences at Jerusalem had dissipated all misunderstanding among the Apostles, but it was not possible that they should have quieted and reassured all minds in the same degree. The fanaticism of the Judaizing party in the Church was not to be so promptly disarmed by the conciliatory measures adopted in the first Council. It had lost its cause when tried before the highest representative assembly of the Church; it must make its next appeal to the tribunal of popular passions. It began, therefore, to scatter every-where seeds of dissension, and sought to destroy, both by craft and violence, the credit and authority of St. Paul. While this fanatical party succeeded in stirring up the pride of the Jews against the comprehensiveness of the Christian doctrine, it also found means to reach the Gentile converts, whose faith was yet in its infancy. We shall see chiefly in Asia Minor how Jewish prejudices made common cause with oriental dualism, and fostered dangerous errors in the Church under the name of Christianity. 298Thus, in the very first century, originated the two great heresies which, whether in opposition or in combination, or transfusing their spirit into the doctrine and ecclesiastical organization of the Church, were destined to play a very important part in the history of primitive Christianity. Ebionitism and Gnosticism have their germ in the apostolic age. It is of consequence to note their first appearance, while carefully guarding against confounding the date of their commencement with that of their full development. We must not attribute to them, from the first, the systematic character they afterward assumed; but we must not, on the other hand, fail to mark the earliest indications of these powerful heresies, which, had they gained the ascendency, would have stifled Christianity in its cradle.
They did not originally declare themselves as constituted and organized heresies, altogether distinct from the Church. In the first century they rather sought to undermine it from within than to attack it from without; but it will not be difficult to show that such attempts were frustrated, and that the Church repudiated their dogmas as foreign and dangerous elements.
This important fact will appear very clearly in the rapid sketch we are about to give of the state of the Churches during this period. We shall not adhere strictly to the chronological order of their formation, already sufficiently indicated in our account of the missions of the Apostles, but shall follow the development of the Judaizing tendency through its various phases before describing the inroads of oriental theosophy.299
§ I. The yudaizing tendency in the Churches of Palestine, Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia, and Italy.
§ I. The yudaizing tendency in the Churches of Palestine, Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia, and Italy.
We have seen the Church at Jerusalem forming itself into an organized body, borrowing its principal institutions from the synagogue, but still remaining faithful to the Jewish worship. Judging from these conditions alone we might suppose that it would be especially distinguished by opposition to the work of St. Paul. Such, however, was not the case, as is amply proved by the authority exercised in that Church by James, the brother of the Lord. It is certain that the Christians of Jerusalem rallied around James, and manifested to him on all occasions the most sincere and respectful deference. As he exercised no episcopal function, strictly so called, his influence must have been entirely of a moral character. We have had evidence in the first Council of the breadth of his spirit, since he gave the right hand of fellowship to Paul, and sacrificed without hesitation the narrow notions of the Judaizing Christians. The author of the beautiful epistle we have analyzed was not the man to put salvation by circumcision in place of salvation by Christ. We cannot, then, suppose any open hostility to Paul at Jerusalem during the life-time of James, and it is an ascertained fact that their death took place at the same period. Further, St. Paul always continued in the most friendly relations with the Church at Jerusalem; he visited it again and again at the close of his missionary journeys; he himself carried thither the offerings of the converted Gentiles to relieve the poverty of the Christians of Palestine.
It would, however, be equally erroneous to suppose that the doctrine of Paul was fully comprehended by the majority of the Christians in Palestine. Thanks to the influence of James, the principles asserted by Paul had not been formally condemned; but they were not generally recognized, either in their real character or in their issues. The first Council had bound Jews by birth to adhere to the prescriptions of the law. The converted Jews, in Gentile cities, who of necessity lived in association with Christians of Greek extraction, had been led to shake off, in many particulars, the Mosaic yoke. At a distance from the religious center of their nation they had no other synagogue than the assemblies of the new worship. Thus their habits became gradually modified, and their spirit enlarged. At Jerusalem it was otherwise. The Church of that city numbered several thousands of Jews zealous for the law, (
We know that the years preceding the fall of Jerusalem were marked by numerous revolts among the Jews. The national spirit was stimulated to fanaticism, and the passions of the people were kept in violent agitation. Some of the converted Jews could not breathe with impunity this heated atmosphere. At their side were ardent champions of the independence of their beloved country; was it strange if, with renewed patriotic zeal, there should have come a revival of those religious ideas which had ever been so closely identified with the glory of their nation? It is possible, also, that in the persecutions which did not cease to rage against the Church, defections 302may have multiplied. From the Epistle to the Hebrews we learn that the Church at Jerusalem was threatened with apostasies; some had begun to forsake "the assembling of themselves together."[fn] The general tone of the letter, however, proves that the faith of the Christians at Jerusalem rested on the same basis as that of the Churches founded by Paul: The writer has no fear of not being understood when he rises at once to the sublimities of the faith. He would assuredly not have spoken as he does, without preface or comment of the person of Jesus Christ, had he been addressing a company of declared Ebionites. We shall find the Ebionite heresy springing up in the following century on the ruins of the holy city; but if the germ from which it was to grow was already present, it was not yet developed, nor could it be while the influence of a James and an Apollos was still paramount.
The other Churches of Palestine, and those of the neighboring countries, were in a position similar to that of the Church at Jerusalem; being, however, less directly under the influence of the Apostles, they were more accessible to the spirit of intolerance. The Epistle of James, which was written for them, discloses serious irregularities in their conduct. They had evidently allowed themselves to be carried away by stormy contentions; into these they had thrown much bitterness of spirit, much of that wisdom which was earthly, sensual, devilish; and, under pretext of defending the interests of truth, they had forgotten and belied its essential element of love.
We have described the first fervent attachment of the Galatians to the Apostle who had preached the Gospel to them. Yielding again to the same remarkable susceptibility to impressions, they soon allowed themselves to be led away, and, as it were, bewitched by false teachers, the declared enemies of Paul. These false teachers, though imbued with all Jewish prejudices, do not appear to have been Jews by birth.[fn] They were proselytes fanatically zealous for the law of Moses, like those Hellenist Jews who had denounced Stephen to the Sanhedrim. They had embraced Christianity in form only, and sought to stifle it under a weight of ritual observances. Some have supposed them to be messengers from Peter and James, because theirs is the authority invoked.[fn] It is evident, however, that by their violent hostility to St. Paul, they placed themselves in opposition to the Apostles at Jerusalem, who had given to him the right hand of fellowship. According to this same Epistle to the Galatians, which is the sole document that can be brought forward to support the theory of a schism in the apostolate, these false teachers used every effort to nullify the influence of Paul. They disputed his authority, and sought to place him in a position subordinate to that of the first witnesses of Christ.
We meet again with these false, Judaizing teachers in that Church which is certainly the most prosperous of those founded by St. Paul. Formed in circumstances of difficulty, early tried by persecution, matured by protracted suffering, (
The false teachers of Philippi united to their legalism a kind of immorality which went to the length of the grossest materialism, (
Judæo-Christianity did not fail to find its way into the great metropolis of the ancient world. It attempted to creep into the Church at Rome, and there carried on its intrigues and underhand practices. But it has no claim to the honor of having founded that important Church, and modeled it after its own image.[fn] It is quite evident, from the Epistle to the Romans, that the majority of those whom Paul addressed were Gentile converts. He writes to them as being of the number of those Gentiles to whom he was the special embassador.
The terrible persecution raised against it by Nero shows how great had been its progress. It was not, however, free from divisions; the fanatical, Judaizing Christians sought there, as elsewhere, to counterbalance the credit of their powerful adversary. They tried to add affliction to his bonds, (
The great battle between the Judaizers in the Church and the Apostle of the Gentiles was fought at Corinth. The atmosphere of that city was favorable to such a contest. These converted Greeks had brought into the Church the subtle and supple spirit of their race; their old nature was but imperfectly subdued. Great in disputation, they loved to make 310the Gospel, as some of them had been wont to make philosophy, the subject of their dialectic skill. The Church of Corinth had received in large measure the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and especially the more brilliant of those gifts, those which were most distinctly miraculous. It prided itself much on this fact, and was in that dangerous attitude of mind when there is a disposition rather to make use of truth to advance personal glory than to serve it with humility and fidelity.
All these evils were, in truth, the grievous results of that spirit of division which had poisoned at the spring the piety of the Corinthian Christians. From Paul's first epistle to them we gather that there were four parties in the Church—that of Paul, of Apollos, of Cephas, and of Christ.
Paul is no less severe, however, upon his own partisans, who were equally guilty of schism. Their attachment was to him rather than to the truth, and they were as passionate in their defense of his personal claims as were his adversaries in their attack upon them.
The party of Cephas or Peter had at its head the false, Judaizing teachers. They sheltered themselves very unfairly under the revered name of Peter; as the partisans of Apollos, without his own consent, made him their watchword. The Epistle to the Galatians 313has already initiated us into the system pursued by these false teachers; they set up an opposition between St. Paul and the twelve Apostles, accrediting the latter with far higher authority. The party of Cephas, therefore, attempted at Corinth, as in Galatia, to deny Paul's claims to apostleship. In this way his influence might be most surely undermined, for if Paul's authority were once brought into discredit, it would be easy to revive Jewish prejudices; and Peter was not on the spot to silence those who spoke falsely in his name. The enemies of Paul left no means untried to detach the Corinthians from him. They appear to have been here more personal than elsewhere in their attacks, for his apology has reference rather to himself than to his doctrine; it is plain that he was assailed on all sides at once. The false teachers had endeavored at first to bring his teaching into disfavor on account of its somewhat bald simplicity. They had even spoken scoffingly of his bodily infirmity and suffering. "His letters," say they, "are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence weak, and his speech contemptible."
Paul names a fourth party, which he calls the party of Christ.[fn] Some have regarded this as only a section of the party of Cephas, distinguished by a yet more 314unmeasured zeal for Judaism.[fn] But it is impossible to trace so fine a line of demarkation between two schools so closely allied. There is no sect which has not its moderate and its extravagant disciples; and if all these gradations were to be distinguished by separate names, subdivisions might be multiplied indefinitely. Other theologians have regarded the party of Christ as an exclusively Gentile company, formed of converted Greeks, who endeavored to carry the speculations of philosophy into the Church, and who, scornfully rejecting apostolical authority, maintained that they alone comprehended the teaching of Christ, and held their doctrine directly from him.[fn] But this theory has no ground to rest upon; the designation, the party of Christ, points to a Hebrew origin; it would be hard to imagine a Hellenist school giving this theocratic title to the Lord. It seems to us that without having recourse to the third hypothesis, which is equally unsustained, that of a transcendental mysticism, laying claim to direct communication with the Saviour[fn] by means of visions, the two former may be happily combined.
The party of Christ is in truth of Jewish origin, but it belongs to the eclectic Judaism of the period, in which there was an infusion of Gentile elements, and which was more or less tinged with oriental dualism. It is well known that in these times of universal syncretism, a large number of Jews at Alexandria, in Judæa, and elsewhere, had come, to a 315very considerable extent, under the influence of foreign ideas. We have already given abundant evidence of this, and shall find fresh corroborative proof in the study of the heresies of Colosse and Ephesus. Now Paul tells us that a section of the Church at Corinth had embraced the principles of a false spirituality on the subject of the resurrection of the body,[fn] and inclined to positive asceticism with reference to marriage.
The letters of Paul to the Corinthians produced the happiest results. From the second it is evident that he had already regained the leadership in that 316 Church, which owed him so large a debt of gratitude. His heroic disinterestedness, which led him to refuse all pecuniary support lest he should give the slightest pretext to his calumniators; his words, now flashing with the fire of love, now falling with the sound of tears, now piercing like the sword of God; his sufferings, described by himself with such eloquence of pathos; every thing, in short, touched upon and appealed to in these inimitable letters, won back to him the hearts of the Corinthians. Was it possible to resist entreaties such as these: "I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus have I begotten you through the Gospel."
We have thus reduced to its true value the assertion that the Church of the first century was divided into two almost equal sections, each with an Apostle at its head; and that to avoid the scandal of such a contest pushed to its full and final issue, the two parties were compelled to seek an approach to reconciliation by a series of diplomatic combinations. Judæo-Christianity was only really powerful in the early period, before it came to a knowledge of itself; that is, before it had been confronted with Christianity in its breadth and comprehensiveness. After the Council at Jerusalem it was not upheld by any Apostle, for all admitted the abrogation of circumcision in the case of Gentile converts. It may have succeeded in raising stormy dissensions in young Churches, which, in their inexperience, were surprised 317and beguiled; but it was nowhere able to sustain a resistance to the arguments of St. Paul. At the close of this period, it was already preparing to organize itself as an heretical sect apart from the Church. The history of the second century will clearly establish its complete defeat in the first.
§ II. Dualistic heresies in Crete, at Colosse, and at Ephesus.
§ II. Dualistic heresies in Crete, at Colosse, and at Ephesus.
Judaizing heresy was not the only form of error which presented itself in the path of St. Paul. In the Churches of Crete, of Colosse, and of Ephesus he found himself confronted with the old oriental dualism so powerful at that period, not only because it contained the final utterance of the pagan systems of religion and philosophy, but also because it seemed to hold in reserve precious treasures of wisdom, and to guard under the vail of its mysteries the last resource of humanity. We have elsewhere so fully described this form of dualism that we shall not now do more than exhibit the special aspect it assumes on its first contact with Christianity. The island of Crete was a very favorable sphere for the development of dualistic heresy, for Pythagorean ideas had there obtained much currency. Epimenides, the Cretan poet, quoted by St. Paul, had made them the theme of his muse. Ephesus had become, as we know, the metropolis of Asia Minor, and an important religious center for the confluence of East and West. Of Colosse, we have only to remember that it was a Phrygian city, in order to understand the early appearance of heresy in the Church which had been there founded by a disciple of Paul. Before 318 tracing the history of the false doctrines indicated by the Apostle, we must recall the first-known attempt made to combine Christianity with the theosophy of the East. We refer to the system of Simon Magus. The discovery of the "Philosophoumena" has confirmed the unanimous opinion of the "Fathers," who regarded Simon as the first heretic. We have already analyzed his strange system under its original form, as he had devised it before he became acquainted with the new religion. It only remains for us now to study it in its later aspect, while briefly recalling its fundamental principles. This explanation will help us better to understand the heresies of Colosse and of Ephesus, for they belong to the same current of ideas.
We have seen that the first principle of all things in this extraordinary system is an obscure and mysterious power, a sort of infinite potentiality.[fn] This first principle is fire; it is at first hidden and invisible, purely potential, but it is destined to pass from the virtual to the actual, and to become a reality.[fn] Simon compares it to a tree; the roots going down into the earth correspond to the hidden and potential fire; the trunk, the branches, and the leaves, to the fire in manifestation.[fn] In the infinite potentiality are contained all the roots, all the germs of the world, and primarily the two great opposing principles which constitute dualism; the male, active spiritual principle, or the mind; the feminine, receptive principle, or 319the idea.[fn] The mind represents the active principle, the idea the passive principle. In passing from the potential to the actual, the mind becomes heaven, the idea becomes earth. Creation is a necessary manifestation of the former principle; by it, it passes from possibility to reality;[fn] if it was not thus realized it would remain in the state of the purely potential, like geometry in the mind of the geometer, or grammar in the mind of the grammarian.[fn] There is in every being a blessed and immortal germ which has been, which is, and which is to be. It is a particle of that first principle, which was the potential energy, which is power and reality in the world, and which in its essential potentiality perpetually takes an infinity of new forms. This first principle is the one force, diffused above and below, giving birth to itself, seeking, losing, recovering itself; it is its own mother, father, sister, daughter; the one sole root of all things, the male and female principle.[fn] Man is an epitome of the world; he is a perfect microcosm; he contains the potential fire, and realizes it in his double element.
It was impossible to give bolder expression to 320pantheism. Simon Magus clothed these ideas in sacred symbols borrowed from the Old Testament. He endeavored to make his theories accord with the account of the creation. He saw in the six days of the creative work the six roots of the universe comprised in the infinite potentiality. The seventh day represented the first principle when it found itself manifested in the universe. The heaven and the earth expressed the first duality of the mind and the idea.[fn] The description of Paradise became in his view the allegorical history of the creation of man contained in the Pentateuch.[fn] Thus we find in this father of Gnosticism that tendency of all the Gnostic heretics to interpret revelation as a cosmogony. But Simon was not satisfied with distorting the meaning of the Old Testament to sustain his system; he made the same misuse of the words of Christ. It appears that he had blended with his pantheism some ill-digested notions of the emanation theory.
The transition from the virtual to the actual was not, it seems, effected without confusion; after the mind by its union with the idea had given birth to the angels, these in jealousy took possession of their mother, and made her captive in the fetters of the body.[fn] Kept a prisoner in the lower world, she is 321 said to have become personified as a woman of remarkable beauty, and reappears in history under various names from time to time. Thus she took the features of the famous Helena, whose fatal beauty occasioned the Trojan war. We have seen that Simon pretended to recognize her in a courtezan of Tyre, whom he made his companion. He declared himself to be the incarnation of the rational principle, whose destiny it was to set her free.[fn] He thus represents the fall to be nothing else than materialization, and redemption to consist in release from the bonds of the body. It does not appear, however, that Simon's doctrine led his followers into asceticism. On the contrary, they allowed themselves the most unbridled license under pretext of celebrating the true eucharistic feast, and they sanctioned their infamous proceedings under the name of perfect love.[fn]
Dualism does in fact thus lead to the two extremes of license and asceticism. Some of its adherents imagine they triumph over the material element by placing themselves beyond all restraint; others seek to annihilate it by the severest mortification of the flesh. Simon Magus adopted the former method, and his disciples were guilty of still greater excesses in the same direction. He set himself forth as the great Deliverer, the true Christ. He said that he had appeared as the Son in Judea, as the Father in Samaria, and as the Holy Ghost among the nations;[fn] but 322that, under these or other names, he always fulfilled the same mission, which was to set free the idea from the fetters of the body. With this design he took a form like the inferior powers, and submitted to seeming suffering.[fn] The parable of the lost sheep represented, according to Simon, his redeeming work. Did he not, like the good shepherd, seek out the unfortunate Helena, the object of his compassion, who had strayed into the lower world like the sheep into the desert?[fn] He wrought her salvation by revealing himself to her, and he was to restore her to that higher region from which she had fallen.[fn] This unfortunate Helena, the personification of the idea, held captive in the chains of nature, is found in every man, since man is a perfect microcosm, and contains in himself all the elements of the world. The work of enfranchisement is therefore to be carried on in every individual. Thus Simon promised salvation to all who should believe in him and call upon his name. It is easy to understand the importance of magic in a system in which it was the first essential to fight against the angels by whom the world was created, and to vanquish the powers of the cosmogony. The moral aspect is thus completely sacrificed. Evil does not proceed from a perversion of the human will; it results from angelic creation, and every man is what 323he is by that creation;[fn] he is consequently under the yoke of fatality. Simon pretended to be alone capable of procuring deliverance by his doctrine and his sorceries.[fn]
We have no certain information as to the history of Simon Magus or of his school. We have already had occasion to refute the legendary assertion of his stay at Rome and of his contest with St. Peter. It appears to us probable that his disciples were gathered chiefly in Samaria and the surrounding countries.[fn] His system is clearly connected with the Phoenician superstitions, as they are made known to us in the "Philosophoumena." We have therefore reason for supposing that his influence had an effect, direct or indirect, on the formation of the heresies alluded to by St. Paul.
These heresies, of which the Apostle carefully points out the various phases, all bear the same impress of Judaism combined with dualism. In Crete, at Colosse, and at Ephesus, we find substantially the same ideas, the same principles, with this difference, that in Crete the false doctrines had not as yet effected the threatened entry into the Church, but were still 324kept without,[fn] while at Colosse and at Ephesus they had made shipwreck of the faith of many professing Christians.[fn] The future looked even more gloomy than the present, and the Apostle foresaw a terrible growth of these roots of bitterness.
This whole system was evidently based on a dualistic philosophy which identified evil with matter. These heretics were not satisfied with carrying out dualism in practice; they gave it formal expression, and endeavored to find a speculative basis for it; they concerned themselves with fables and foolish questions concerning the doctrine of angels.
The question now before us is to ascertain to what known sect these first heretics belonged. They have been represented as professing Gnosticism in a form already complete and systematized, in all points resembling that of the second century, and this hypothesis has been used as an argument against the authenticity of the Pastoral Epistles.[fn] But the general features pointed out by the Apostle as characteristic of the false teachers at Ephesus, correspond rather to Gnosticism in its first elementary form, than in its full, systematic development as we meet with it in Valentinus and Marcion. It is evident, from the Epistle to the Colossians, that dualistic and ascetic 327ideas were agitated in the Churches of that period, as they were universally. This agitation was likely to assume a marked and decided character in cities like Colosse and Ephesus. A movement so important as Gnosticism, must have been, like all the great movements of the human mind, long in preparation. It existed as a tendency long before it was constituted as a school of philosophy. The system of Simon Magus proves the existence of the elements of Gnosticism in the first century.
The heresies of Colosse and Ephesus ought not to be exclusively referred to the ascetic tendency of Judaism.[fn] The influence of pagan ideas had, in our view, a large share in producing the false doctrines denounced in the epistles to Titus and to Timothy. Doubtless, the ascetic direction given to Judaism was due in part to this influence. The Jewish school of Alexandria was a product of Platonism and of the religions of the East. The Essenes transplanted into the soil of Judæa the dualism of Philo, giving it a more practical character. They also held the eternal opposition between spirit and matter; they regarded the body as the prison of the soul, the true cause of evil; and, imitating the Therapeutics of Alexandria, they professed the most extreme asceticism.[fn]
We are convinced, however, that the heretics of Colosse, of Ephesus, and of Crete, came under pagan influence not only through the medium of a Jewish sect, but that they also borrowed new elements from paganism, and arrived at a more decided dualism. 328They unquestionably drew their first conceptions from the doctrine of the Essenes, or from that of Philo, for they were of Jewish origin; but they, subsequently, went far beyond this modified pantheism. We cannot regard them either as pure Essenes or as of the pure Alexandrine school. It is not proved that the former attempted any active propagandism beyond Judea, and the latter existed as a school only in Egypt. The fundamental ideas of both were derived from the moral atmosphere of the age; it was the "power abroad. in the air." These ideas would take various forms of manifestation wherever they found a soil favorable to their growth; and what soil could be more favorable than that of the province of Phrygia, in the middle of which the Church of Colosse was placed? The mysteries of Cybele or of the great goddess, of Atys, of Pan, of Bacchus, were inspired by the dualistic pantheism, which led at the same time to the most infamous licentiousness and the most extravagant asceticism. St. Hippolytus tells us that the heresies of the commencement of the second century—that is to say, the heresies which immediately followed those opposed by St. Paul—had drawn largely from these myths and mysteries.[fn] He declares, at the same time, that long before they came into the light they had been brooding in the shade. "This hydra," he says, "which casts forth so many blasphemies against Christ, has been crouching in the dark for many years."[fn] The system of Simon 329Magus, which belongs to the same date, is strongly impregnated with elements borrowed from the pantheism of the East. It appears to us, then, probable that the heretics of Colosse and of Ephesus brought together in hybrid union Jewish and pagan ideas. It is not possible to give an exact account of their system. It is enough for us to know that it led to ascetic practices, and was based upon a medley of idle fables and on emanatist principles, in order to recognize in it a sort of anticipation of Gnosticism. Against such false and vain speculations the Apostle sets the grand and powerful doctrine of Christianity, that between God and the world there is but one Mediator, the Eternal Son, who is the express image of the Divine Person, "by whom and for whom were all things created."
The latent immorality, ever characteristic of Gnosticism, thus betrayed itself from the very first. In this its earliest form there is nothing systematic, but it has already broad and well-marked features—its pretensions to profound speculations, which end in "old wives' fables;" its false science, which is ever teaching without leading to any true knowledge; its wild theories concerning angels; its incongruous 330combination of asceticism and libertinism. It was, doubtless, checked by the severe reprobation of the Apostle; but, like Judæo-Christianity, it would recover from the blows thus leveled at it, would reunite its scattered elements, repudiate its Jewish origin, and, better organized and better armed, enter on a deadly warfare with the Church.331
Chapter V. Constitution of the Churches During This Period.
§ I. General Principles of Ecclesiastical Organization.
§ I. General Principles of Ecclesiastical Organization.
WHILE, during the first period of the apostolic age, the predominance of the miraculous prevents the Church from assuming a definitely organized form, we are able, in this second period, to discern the essential features of its constitution. The first broad outline is shaded and filled up. The thought embodied in the existence of the Church finds fresh and fuller expression. Christians, while they were still held in the bonds of Jewish exclusiveness, did not clearly comprehend that they were called to form a religious society differing altogether from the ancient theocracy. They were conscious of a new and special relation established between those who had been baptized in the name of Christ; but they regarded themselves rather as the true Israel than as the Christian Church. As Christianity extended its conquests among the heathen, their ideas widened, and, as we have seen in the theology of St. Paul, the true conception 332of the Church, the idea of a willing people gathered out of the whole world, of a regenerated race formed anew in Christ Jesus, was one of the most precious results of the mission of the Apostles. The Church, no longer shut up within a single city, but spreading beyond the gates of Jerusalem far and wide over the Gentile world, could not any more be regarded as identified with any purely local or external conditions. The spiritual reality was disengaging itself from the material form, and through and beyond the visible Churches came the dawning recognition of that invisible Church, the abiding type and ideal of them all.
It is this invisible Church which Paul beholds with the eye of faith when he speaks of the bride of Christ, without blemish and without spot, (
According to these principles, so simple and so plain, it is obviously a grave error to regard the primitive Church as a vast hierarchical establishment, like the Church of the fourth century. It is no Mother Church—Mater Ecclesia—laying the yoke of its external unity on each individual Church. Such an idea is altogether alien to the apostolic age. The one invisible Church is realized or embodied in the particular Churches. These Churches form their own organizations, on the same substantial basis indeed, but with notable differences in all secondary matters. They are united among themselves, but the bond thus formed is purely spiritual; it is never a chain. Each of the Churches is a small republic, a society of believers, an association of Christians, which governs itself without seeking direction or inspiration 334from any of its sister Churches. Paul never appeals at Corinth, at Ephesus, or in Galatia, to the authority of the Church as a whole. The questions raised are decided fully and finally within each particular Church, and each is considered competent to its own absolute self-government, subject only to the sovereignty of truth. The conferences held at Jerusalem are no violation of this rule. It was necessary that the Apostles should understand each other on questions of such moment. Moreover, we have already shown that the so-called Council did not issue any thing like positive decrees; it confined itself to recommending a compromise which had no obligatory character.
It is impossible to find in the whole of this period any traces of a general organization of the Churches tending to external unity. There are no general and periodical assemblies; more significant still, there is no center of unity. Those who regard Rome as having been such a center are guilty of a strange anachronism. We have seen, also, how little prominence really attaches in this period to the part of that Apostle who has been made the head of the pretended ecclesiastical monarchy. If the Churches had sought at this time, as subsequently they did, a religious center, they would unquestionably have chosen Jerusalem, the glorious birthplace of Christianity. But the Church in that city, so far from exerting a wide influence on the development of Christian thought during the period of St. Paul, only followed afar off the movement led by the great Apostle. The Churches founded in the midst of paganism departed without scruple from the customs of Moses; they 335 felt themselves under no constraint to preserve, for the sake of uniformity, the same form of Jewish worship as was observed by the Christians at Jerusalem; but these minor differences did not prevent the existence of substantial oneness. The theologians, therefore, who assert that these differences took the form of actual opposition and declared hostility, are not less at fault than the advocates of the hierarchy. We have a touching proof of the unity prevailing among the Churches of Asia Minor and Greece and those of Palestine in the generous collections made at the urgent and repeated instance of Paul, even as far as Galatia and Corinth, for the poor brethren in Judæa. The Churches of Asia Minor, of Macedonia, and Achaia, sent messengers to Jerusalem to carry thither their offerings, and, with their gifts, the assurance of their brotherly affection. Never was unity more real than in these times, when it rested on the perfect law of liberty. The harmony which reigned among the Apostles helped to maintain it. Peter writes to the Churches founded by St. Paul in Asia Minor, as Apollos, the disciple of Paul, writes to the Christians at Jerusalem. Thus we have in the first century a true Christianity based upon a common faith, but exercising no constraint but the constraint of love upon the individual Churches, each of which had its distinct and special characteristics. The fiction had not yet arisen of an impersonal Church, distinct from the various local Churches in combination and from the free association of believers, divinely endowed with arbitrary power to rule the people of God, and established and built up by some other means than individual faith. The particular 336Church or congregation united by a living link to all Christians throughout the world—such is the visible Church in the age of the Apostles. The grand and holy image of the invisible Church is discerned through the medium of the various local Churches, as the sun through intervening clouds; to behold it in its beauty, the soul must rise above the mists of sin and imperfection which cleave to the earthly embodiment of the heavenly idea. The particular Church or congregation is the only form of the visible Church recognized by the Apostles.[fn]
Thus understood, the Church must be regarded simply as a community composed of Christians. Its gates were opened only to believers, or to those, at least, who professed the true faith. It could not prevent false Christians from creeping in surreptitiously, but, in principle, it owned as members only those who confessed with the mouth the Lord Jesus, and with the heart believed unto righteousness. We cannot doubt, as we read the epistles written by the Apostles to the various Churches, that they were addressed, not to a mixed multitude, among whom indifference and even unbelief found place side by side with piety and living faith, but to an association of Christians—to a self-governing religious society. There is no recognition whatever of the existence in that society of two classes of members—the converted and the unconverted. Serious evils might arise and compromise it; hypocrites might be found among the faithful; but, as we read the epistles, we feel that, as a whole, these Churches were Christian 337societies. If it was otherwise, what mean the salutations with which the letters commence? "To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints." "Unto the Church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints." "To the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus."
That conception of the Church which regards it as the community of believers arises naturally out of the general views of St. Paul on the relation of the two covenants. While the old economy was a theocracy associated with outward and material facts, the new is essentially spiritual. Before the cross distinctions of nationality or of birth are done away. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, but Christ is all and in all."
Not only did every Church in the apostolic age require a positive and personal act of adherence from all who sought a place among its members, but it was also enjoined to cast out of its midst any impure elements which might have crept into it; and which, coming within the scope of the judgment of man, might be distinguished and expelled. "Purge out the old leaven," wrote the Apostle to the Corinthians, alluding to the notorious sinners who had insinuated themselves into the ranks of the Christians.[fn]
§ II. Gifts and offices.
§ II. Gifts and offices.
The universal priesthood was fully and practically realized in the apostolic Churches.[fn] Composed of sincere believers, they, in no degree, acknowledged the too common distinction between active and passive members. All the Christians were required to contribute of their zeal and piety to the general 339 good. There are special offices, but these are very far from absorbing the whole activity of the Church. They are of less importance at this stage than subsequently, when the gifts of the Holy Spirit have lost their miraculous character, and the supernatural is more closely blended with the natural in the elements of the Christian life. At this period organized forms are perpetually broken through by miraculous manifestations, as the banks of a brimming river are overflowed by its swelling, rushing tide. The line drawn between official service in the Church and the gifts bestowed on all believers is so indistinct that Paul places both in one category. "God hath set some in the Church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues."
Christianity is the religion of grace. It teaches that every good and every perfect gift comes from God, who dispenses all by the same Spirit.
The gift which is most distinctly miraculous is the gift of tongues.[fn] It assumed a modified form in this second period of the apostolic age. Those who spoke in strange languages at Pentecost were understood by their hearers. This was no longer the case in the time of St. Paul. The gift of tongues seems to have been at that period an inarticulate language, a mysterious psalmody, the strange manifestation of that state of ecstacy, in which thought, lost in the ineffable, submerged, as it were, beneath a flood of divine influence, became unutterable. Such is the impression given by Paul's description of the gift of tongues.[fn] "Things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped 341or harped?"
These peculiarly supernatural gifts abounded, for obvious reasons, in the early history of the Church—the period of creation and formation. They may reappear, but in a subordinate degree, in times which have some analogy with the first century; but these miraculous endowments must never be regarded as the necessary manifestations of the divine Spirit upon earth. The gifts which abide are not those of a specially miraculous character; they are those which blend in beautiful harmony, nature, and grace, the human element and the divine—the very gifts by which the Apostles were themselves pre-eminently distinguished. We place in this second category the gift of teaching, (
Such were the principal gifts bestowed on the Church. They preceded the various offices; it is utterly false to pretend that they depended in any way on those offices, and were manifested only within the limits of a fixed organization. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and the Spirit of God never surrenders its sovereign freeness. The advocates of the hierarchy do not deny that the miraculous gifts were bestowed on the Christians generally; but they assert, on behalf of the ecclesiastics, a monopoly of the gift of teaching, the use of which must, they maintain, be regulated by official and sovereign authority, or doctrinal anarchy will inevitably follow.[fn] This distinction, however, is wholly arbitrary. The synagogue already acknowledged, under certain limitations, the right of every pious Jew to teach.[fn] It is not surprising that this right should have been extended by St. Paul to all Christians, with the exception of women, who were to be silent in public worship. "When ye come together," he says, "every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying."[fn] This right was long acknowledged in the Church. We read in the eighth book of the "Apostolical 344Constitutions," "Let him who teaches, if he be a layman, be versed in the Word."[fn] It is impossible, then, to trace a clear line of demarkation between the gift of prophecy and that of teaching. The latter, like the former, belonged to the Church without distinction of clergy. It remains an established fact that all believers had the right to teach in public worship.[fn] All alike took some share in the government of the community. They were summoned, as we have seen, on the occasion of the conferences at Jerusalem, to take a part in important deliberations. The letters of the Apostles laid upon all the duty of caring for the great interests of the congregation. Discipline was an act of the community, not of the clergy. To the Corinthian Christians, Paul writes with reference to the man guilty of incest: "I verily, 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 the Lord Jesus Christ."[fn] The entire Church is supposed to be assembled with the Apostle as a council of discipline, under the invisible. presidency of our Lord Jesus Christ. No distinction is made; all the believers are called together to pronounce, as a sovereign tribunal, the sentence of condemnation. The excommunication is spoken in their name. In the same manner, it is in their name that the repentant sinner is re-admitted 345into the Church. The Church, as a body, pardons the wrong he did to it by bringing dishonor upon it, and permits him to return to the communion of the brethren.
The sacraments are equally far from being a monopoly of the clergy. These principles were so deeply rooted in the Church that long after, at a time when it had undergone most important changes, they received striking testimony from the lips of St. Jerome. He says, "The right of the laity to baptize has often been recognized in cases of necessity, for every one may give that which he has received."[fn] We read in the "Commentaries" attributed to Ambrose, that "in the beginning all taught and all baptized on every opportunity."[fn] With reference to the Lord's Supper, Paul attributes to all Christians the breaking of the bread and the blessing of the cup. "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?"[fn] From all this, it follows that the idea of a sacerdotal order was altogether foreign to the Churches founded by Paul.[fn]
In those Churches, however, we can discern the commencement of various ecclesiastical offices. 346These offices acquire gradually increasing importance, without, however, assuming any thing of a priestly character. Paul introduced into the Churches gathered out of heathenism the same simple organization, borrowed from the Jewish synagogues, which flourished in the Churches of Palestine. We find the same democratic constitution at Ephesus as at Jerusalem. A body of elders is nominated by the Church; these are rather its representatives and delegates than its rulers. This is no organization of a Levitical caste; to be convinced of this we need only read the Epistle to the Hebrews.
Let us bring before our minds the very simple 347mechanism of the institutions of a Church like that of Corinth or Ephesus. The ecclesiastical office already created elsewhere to meet actual necessities, and to maintain order in the midst of liberty, was there speedily called for. We find, in the epistles of Paul, valuable hints of the manner in which it sometimes originated. The Apostle speaks again and again of the Church in the house of a simple Christian.
Episcopal pretensions have frequently been founded on the passages in Paul's epistles where the word bishop occurs. But an attentive examination of the texts shows that the two words elder and bishop are used interchangeably, and that, in the language of Paul, they are synonymous, representing one and the 348 same office.[fn] He never mentions three degrees in the ecclesiastical hierarchy; he recognizes two only—the office of elder or bishop and that of deacon.[fn] It is equally clear that several bishops were found at once in the same Church, (see
This identity of the office of bishop with that of elder is so very apparent in the New Testament that it was admitted by the whole ancient Church, even at the time of the rise of the episcopate properly so-called. "The elder is identical with the bishop," said St. Jerome, "and before parties had so multiplied under diabolical influence, the Churches were governed by a council of elders."[fn] The name of bishop was more frequently used in the Churches founded among the pagans, because the ancient Greeks were 349 accustomed thus to designate the magistrates, whose functions in the State had some analogy with those of the elders in the Church, since it was their office to exercise vigilance over the interests of the republic.[fn]
In the failure of the attempt to establish the episcopate upon the words of the Apostles, an effort has been made to uphold it, by giving an exaggerated significance to certain facts of an exceptional and transitory character in the primitive Church. Reference is made to the mission of organizing the Churches committed by Paul to Titus and Timothy; the part taken by James at Jerusalem is urged in confirmation of the same theory. But these facts, rightly understood, ought to tell against hierarchical notions, instead of lending them any support. With reference first to Timothy and Titus, they bear no likeness whatever to bishops governing a diocese; they are missionaries, or, as Paul calls them, evangelists,[fn] whose mission it is to direct the first steps of young and inexperienced Churches; they exercise a truly apostolical power wherever that power is necessary. They derive their exceptional authority from an exceptional situation. They are no apostolical legates, invested with official dignity;[fn] they are simply the representatives of St. Paul, his friends and fellow-workers.[fn] 350They do the work of missionaries. They exercise over the young Churches the vigilance indispensable in the period of creation and formation, but, as we shall observe, they never infringe the inalienable rights of Christian liberty. They are no more bishops than were the Apostles. They are, like them, the founders of Churches, nothing more and nothing less. Their claim rests on the important duties undertaken by them in connection with those Churches, or rather on the great love they bear them. Their authority is entirely moral, and is vindicated by its effects; it resolves itself into influence. The apostolic missionary cannot acquit himself faithfully of his task without using this authority; he must needs water that which he has planted, and cultivate and cherish that which he has helped to create. He feels bound to uphold the frail plant, which has not yet had time to gather strength to sustain itself unsupported against the shock of storms.
We have already stated our views of the ministry of James at Jerusalem. In spite of the assertions of the "Fathers," we maintain that it presents no analogy to the episcopate of subsequent ages.[fn] He also is an apostle, and one of the most influential, though he can show no formal nomination to the office. He is an apostle, as Paul was, by right of his lofty piety and of the divine power manifested in him. His diocese 351extends as far as his influence and his word can reach. Thus, a careful examination of facts destroys all the chimeras of an episcopal organization in the first century.[fn]
It is very difficult to determine precisely the functions of the elders or bishops. They formed a council[fn] which occupied itself with the general interests of the Church; its authority was limited, and always exercised with a practical recognition of the universal priesthood. They were, according to the beautiful figure borrowed from Christ himself, the shepherds of the flock.[fn] The gift of teaching, freely used by all Christians, was not especially connected with the office of elders; the only gift required in them was that of government. In his Epistle to the Ephesians Paul names the teachers after the pastors.[fn] There is no trace of two orders of elders hierarchically constituted; it is probable, however, that it was soon found necessary to choose as elders men capable of 352teaching, since false doctrine was rife on every hand. St. Paul demands that the bishop hold fast the faithful word, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.[fn] Toward the end of this period, the office of elder or bishop shows a general tendency toward a more permanent character. Purely supernatural gifts decrease; the exercise of the gift of government and that of teaching becomes all the more necessary. Doctrinal and moral anarchy threatens the Churches. It is obviously wise to give them at such a crisis greater fixedness of organization, and by a definite constitution, and a stronger government, to place them in the condition of a society[fn] capable of living and developing itself. We have no right, however, to suppose a substitution, at this period, of the monarchical for the democratic form of Church government; there is no trace of any such change. There is one single allusion to the ruling of assemblies, (
Next to the office of elders, we find, in all the Churches founded by St. Paul, the office of deacons. This carries us back to the appointment of the seven deacons at Jerusalem; but, like the whole of the ecclesiastical organization, it assumed, at this period, a more decided character. It received its proper name; it was called the diaconate.[fn] Those who were intrusted with it do not seem to have taken part in the missionary work of the Apostles as directly as the first deacons, among whom were Stephen and Philip. They devoted themselves more exclusively to the care of the poor and the sick, and sought to exercise that beautiful gift of helping which St. Paul mentions in his Epistle to the Corinthians.[fn] They were the representatives of the charity of the Church to its suffering and afflicted members. We know that the deacons at Jerusalem were chosen to serve tables. In the second period of the apostolic age there were no common feasts, except the agapæ, which were accompanied by the celebration of the Lord's Supper. The deacons were charged with all that related to this part of Christian worship; with their office of mercy was associated the care of all the outward details of public service.355
The Churches of the first century also created an office for women, in order to employ for the good of the Church the special gifts bestowed by God upon them. What office could have been better suited to them than the diaconate, the merciful ministry of succor and consolation? It is difficult to ascertain exactly what these deaconesses of the primitive Church were.
From whatever point of view we regard it, the ecclesiastical office appears to us always as a ministry, as the service of the Church, not as a priesthood. It has an altogether different origin, it is bestowed by popular election, and thus preserves its representative character. This was the case (as we have seen) with the very first office which arose out of the apostolate. The seven deacons of the upper chamber were chosen by the Church at Jerusalem. "Choose you out seven men," such is the language of St. Peter, and it sanctions the abiding privilege of the Church.[fn] The nature of the office of elder also implied its being elective. The charge given by St. Paul to Timothy and Titus to appoint elders[fn] contains no contradiction to this rule, for it is obvious that in a young and inexperienced Church the influence of the Apostle or of his representative would naturally preponderate. This influence, however, never assumed the form of despotic authority, and Luke shows us how it was exercised in harmony with the elective voice of the Church, when he tells us that Paul and Barnabas caused elders to be chosen in all the Churches.[fn] The Apostle presided over the election 357but did not suppress it. It is further certain that this right of election was preserved inviolate during more than two centuries. The Coptic Constitution of the Church of Alexandria witnesses to the continuance of the right of election into the middle of the second century.[fn] Now, as it is incontestable that the second century did not originate the right, its tendency being on the contrary to weaken and depreciate it, it follows that it must be traced back to the first century, and is of apostolical institution.
The laying on of hands which was conferred on the deacons, elders, and evangelists, had not at all the character of ordination.[fn] It was not used exclusively for the investiture of office in the Church. Christ laid his hands on the little children brought to him that he might bless them, (
In a word, therefore, ecclesiastical offices did not constitute in this second period, any more than in the first, a new order of priesthood. They were not directly and authoritatively instituted by God, but were created one by one as the necessity for them arose in the Church. They are not, like the ancient priesthood, of immediate divine appointment, but they proceed from divine inspiration, and are according to the will of God. We must not, however, allow ourselves to imagine that the Churches of the apostolic age, though of so democratic an organization, suffered their liberty to degenerate into license. Revealed truth exerted a holy authority over them. 360Paul uses the bold and energetic language of an embassador of Jesus Christ speaking in the name of truth. He does not impose that truth; if the Churches reject it, there are no means to constrain to its reception and to obedience. But he declares that in rejecting the doctrine they reject not the messenger but the God who sent him; and he proves it. He desires also that this truth, once accepted in the Churches, should continue to be to them an infallible test and touchstone for heresy. If in the Christianity of the first century there is no organized external authority, there is nevertheless an authority which is effectual. We are quite free to admit, also, that while each Church has its own distinctive life and character, there is nothing in the primitive ecclesiastical organization adverse to an ulterior federation among the Churches, and a synodal government, provided only that the liberties of the individual assemblies be left intact. We have simply shown that as a matter of fact such a federal government did not exist in the first century. But the Church has the right—and sometimes the right becomes a duty—to modify its organization in course of time, and to depart in more than one point of detail from the type of the apostolic Churches, subject only to this condition—that it remains faithful to the general principles of their constitution; for those principles are unchangeable, and rest upon eternal truths.361
Chapter VI. Worship and the Christian Life.
§ I. Christian Worship during this Period.
§ I. Christian Worship during this Period.[fn]
WHILE the Christian converts from Judaism were continually in the temple, and observed all the rites of the religion of their fathers, the converted Gentiles held themselves free from any ceremonial law. In their churches, therefore, we find the true worship of the new covenant first established. The disciples did not comprehend immediately after the Pentecostal effusion of the Holy Spirit that Christianity was a new creation. They supposed that the true worship—public and solemn worship—was still to be celebrated in the temple at Jerusalem, and their adoration in the upper chamber was of a secret and spiritual nature. The case was altogether different in the Churches founded by St. Paul. Their worship was completely distinct from the Jewish. There is no reason to conclude that it was less spiritual than that presented in the earlier days of the Church, or less spontaneous because it was more carefully regulated. We must remember that the adoration offered in the upper chamber had more the character 362of family worship than of the worship of a Church, and that associated with it was the assiduous attendance of the Christians in the temple. The worship of the Gentile converts, on the contrary, was their public worship; it had, therefore, a less private character, and more solemnity of form. Its forms, however, are very simple, and significant of the great emancipation wrought by St. Paul; they are nothing more than the orderly and fitting expression of the ardent piety of the believers. The true idea of worship in spirit and in truth characterizes them all, and is set forth in them with incomparable clearness and beauty.
The worship of the old covenant could not fail to be more or less materialized by its association with outward conditions. It was confined to the walls of the sanctuary; it set apart times and seasons; the priestly tribe alone had a right to approach the altar. All these restrictions had one common cause—the separation still existing between guilty man and his offended God. Hence the necessity of sacrifices, which embodied the acknowledgment of guilt, while they contained the prophecy of future reconciliation. The new covenant, which has for its basis the great fact of a finished salvation, at once substitutes for those sacrifices offered daily the sacrifice of Christ once offered for sin,[fn] and abolishes the peculiar priesthood of a class in favor of the eternal priesthood of Christ,[fn] communicated by faith to all believers. In the Church there is no altar, no sacrifice, no priest. To 363the material sacrifice has succeeded the reasonable sacrifice of the heart and will, in which every Christian is at once priest and victim.[fn]
All the institutions which were designed to remind man of his state of condemnation prior to redemption are alike abolished. There is no longer any privilege attaching to certain consecrated places and consecrated persons. The Christian Church has no temple in the true sense of the word, or rather, it is itself a spiritual temple, built up of living stones, and founded upon Christ.[fn] Its worship has no other design than the edification of this temple, or its consolidation by the increase of faith and love.[fn] Thus religious service is held in private houses, as in the case of Mary, the mother of Mark, at Jerusalem, of Lydia at Philippi, of Jason at Thessalonica.
The rapid increase of the Church soon rendered these private houses inadequate for the purposes of worship. At Ephesus Paul taught in a public school. James points out in his epistle abuses which could only have occurred in large assemblies, like those of the Jewish synagogues.[fn] To the family gathering succeeded the gathering as a Church, to which all ranks of society furnished their contingent. The rich and the poor met together, and pride and insolence had frequent opportunities of manifesting themselves. But the worship acquired no new character of sacredness by being transferred to a more spacious building. It was only on the ruins of the spiritual that the material temple was subsequently reared.[fn]
The primitive Church recognizes no more distinction between days than between places. The entire life has become the calm and earnest celebration of redemption;[fn] its simplest acts are raised by the 365 Christian spirit to the dignity of a religious service. To the believer nothing is common or unclean; every thing is holy.[fn] It is impossible, then, to find in the Gospel a principle with which we can connect the institution of one holy day, as belonging to God, more than the rest. This institution is intimately associated with the old covenant, and ought to have vanished with it like the priesthood and the consecration of special holy places. With regard to the distinction of certain days Paul proclaims the principles of the new covenant with all his wonted clearness and force. "How," he writes to the Galatians, "turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be brought in bondage? Ye observe days and months, and times and years."[fn] To the Colossians he says: "Let no man judge you in meat or drink, or in respect of a holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath-days, which are a shadow of things to come." Such being the principles 366of the Apostle, it remains for us to see what was the practice of the Churches. It differed among the various sections of primitive Christianity. The disciples in Palestine scrupulously observed the Sabbath and the Jewish feasts, but they made no distinction between days with regard to their Christian worship, properly so called. The Gentile Churches rejected the Sabbath as they did circumcision. They assembled every day at Ephesus to hear Paul.[fn] This was doubtless also the case in the other mission centers of Greece and Asia.
We do not imagine that the Gentile converts at this period felt themselves bound to observe any of the great Jewish feasts, not even the Passover or the Pentecost. They had received no commandment concerning them. No stress can be laid on Paul's example in repairing to the Holy City to keep the Pentecostal feast, for the case is irrelevant. A Jew by birth, he faithfully observed the conditions laid down by the Council at Jerusalem, and himself adhered to the customs of Moses, though in a broad spirit of tolerance and charitable concession.[fn] We do not condemn the Christian festival in itself; on the contrary, we fully admit its lawfulness and utility. We only desire to show that it is not of directly divine institution. It cannot plead even the practice of the Apostles, since in their observance of the feasts of the Passover and Pentecost they celebrated the ancient Jewish festivals, not the high days of the new covenant. The latter have been freely set apart by the Church under the influence of true Christian feeling. 367An old ecclesiastical historian says: "Never did the Apostles impose the yoke of bondage on those who came to them for teaching; they left the observance of the Passover and other feasts to the free will of those who thought it well and profitable to keep them. The Lord and his Apostles instituted no feasts by law, nor did they, like Moses, hold any threat of punishment or a curse over those who did pot observe them. The aim of the Apostles was not to lay down laws for special seasons, but to lead men's lives back to uprightness and piety."[fn]
During the whole period of St. Paul we find only two very vague indications of the celebration of worship on the first day of the week.[fn] It is impossible to draw from them any certain conclusion. Considering, however, that in the following period that day is already known as the Lord's day, it seems probable that the custom of celebrating worship with more than ordinary solemnity on the first day of the week commenced very early in the apostolic age. The Church did not by this practice depart at all from the principles of Paul; it did not invest that day with an exceptional sanctity, nor lower at all the ordinary level of the Christian life. It had no thought of putting the Lord's day in the place of the Jewish Sabbath. It is certain that for a long time many of the Christians 368kept the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath. If the Church had been standing on the ground of legalism it would have been impossible for it to transfer the rest of the Sabbath from one day of the week to another without a divine revelation. No such claim to a divine institution of the Lord's day was advanced in the early ages. The Christians were not content with saying that they had neither temple nor altars; they also distinctly avowed by the, mouth of Justin Martyr, "We do not sabbatize."[fn]
The worship of the Churches founded by Paul bears the same impress of liberty and spirituality by which their piety was characterized. The liturgical element is completely absent; every thing is spiritual and fiee. Some organization, however, is found indispensable, that all things may be done decently and in order. The rules which Paul gives refers simply to what is decorous. He desires that while the man has his head uncovered the woman should be covered, thus marking by her appearance the reserve of modesty so becoming to her, and which nature herself suggests 369 by the long hair given her for a vail. The Apostle also forbids a woman to teach in the Christian assembly.
The essential acts of worship were always the reading of the Holy Scriptures, prayer, teaching, and praise.[fn] The Old Testament was at this period the only canonical book acknowledged by the Church. Interpreted in its deep significance, often, perhaps, used somewhat allegorically, as in the epistles of St. Paul, it opened an inexhaustible mine of Christian instruction.[fn] The words of the Lord Jesus were earnestly meditated upon, and were listened to as the voice of God. Paul reminds the Corinthians that these had formed the basis of his teaching, and that he had quoted to them the words of the Lord Jesus himself, concerning the institution of the Lord's Supper and the resurrection.
Nor can we include under that head the reading of the letters of the Apostles, expressly recommended 370by them, (
Teaching formed an important part of primitive worship, and especially of the worship of the Churches at a distance from Jerusalem. Teaching gained in proportion as ritualism lost. The priest always eclipses the teacher where there is a priesthood and sacrifice to be offered. We need not here repeat the evidence that the right of teaching was granted to all. But if any might teach, they might not teach any thing; the doctrine of the Apostles was to be the standard and rule, because it was the faithful reproduction of the doctrine of Jesus Christ. "Stand fast," writes St. Paul to the Thessalonians, "and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle."
In his discourse at Miletus, however, as in his later epistles, he insists strongly on the importance of teaching.
Prayer is the soul of Christian worship, as it is the source of all Christian life. It sprang up freely, as did the word of edification. It contained no admixture of any liturgical element, and there is not a word in the whole of the New Testament in support of the idea that the Lord's Prayer was repeated as a sacred formula.[fn]
St. Paul, however, without desiring at all to infringe this liberty, specifies some points which should not be neglected in Christian prayer, and especially in the prayer of the Church. He desires that prayer be made for all men, especially for kings and those in authority, thus tracing a strong line of demarkation between the religious revolution which he desires to effect, and any thing like a political revolution. Thus even in this free domain of prayer we discern a law 372 of divine wisdom. Thanksgiving—the Eucharist, properly so called—had a very large place in the prayer of the first Christians.
The Church does not remain satisfied, as at first, with singing the Psalms. Christian feeling finds expression in its own spiritual song. This utterance, like prayer and the word of edification, proceeds in the first instance from individual inspiration. "If any man hath a psalm," says the Apostle, "let him speak."
But though we do not possess any of the hymns of the first century, we find in the Epistles of St. Paul clear traces of what we may call the lyrical inspiration 373of the apostolic age. The close of the 8th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, the I3th chapter of the Epistle to the Corinthians, and many other passages, in which the soaring thoughts of the Apostle rise to the heights of sublime poetry,[fn] give us a conception of what the inspired song was, which was freely heard in the first Christian assemblies.
The idea of the sacraments entertained in the primitive Church was in harmony with its general constitution.[fn] Based upon living faith, this Church was an association of Christians working together for their own edification and for the evangelization of the world. The notion of any intrinsic virtue in a sacrament, the theory of the opus operatum, inseparable from the sacerdotal system, could have found no place in these congregations, which had the living Spirit of God in their midst. Every thing in the doctrine of St. Paul is opposed to any such views. The Apostle, who acknowledged no saving virtue in any outward observance of the law, would assuredly not have ascribed such virtue to a purely material act. "The kingdom of God," in his view, "was not in word but in power."[fn] In speaking, then, of the sacraments of the primitive Church, we must set aside all notions of sacramental grace by which the operation of God is assimilated to the arts of magic. Such conceptions of divine grace are, as Bunsen eloquently says, borrowed from the lustrations of decaying paganism.[fn]374
Baptism, which was the sign of admission into the Church, was administered by immersion. The convert was plunged beneath the water, and as he rose from it he received the laying on of hands. These two rites corresponded to the two great phases of conversion, the crucifixion of the old nature preceding the resurrection with Christ. Faith was thus required of every candidate for baptism. The idea never occurred to Paul that baptism might be divorced from faith—the sign from the thing signified; and he does not hesitate, in the bold simplicity of his language, to identify the spiritual fact of conversion with the act which symbolizes it. "We are buried with Christ by baptism into death," he says.
In these times, when the organization of the Church 375was still in many respects undefined, baptism was equivalent to the profession of faith. Administered in the name of the Lord Jesus[fn] as a solemn sign of conversion, it had all the value of an explicit confession of the Christian faith, especially at a time when its observance was sure to bring down reproach and persecution.[fn] It is further probable that before receiving baptism, the convert made a short profession of his faith; this was that answer of a good conscience toward God spoken of by St. Peter. This custom was quite habitual in the second century, and there is every reason to suppose it originated in the first. This simple and popular confession of faith has been erroneously confounded with the Apostle's Creed, which is of much later date. That Creed is nothing more than an expansion of the baptismal formula, which received gradual additions till it became a rule of faith.
Regarded from the apostolic point of view, baptism cannot be connected either with circumcision or with the baptism administered to proselytes to Judaism. Between it and circumcision there is all the difference which exists between the Theocracy, to which admission 376was by birth, and the Church, which is entered only by conversion. It is in direct connection with faith, that is, with the most free and most individual action of the human soul. As to the baptism administered to the Jewish proselytes, it accompanied circumcision, and was of like import. It purified the neophyte and his family from the defilements of paganism, and sealed his incorporation and that of his children with the Jewish theocracy; its character was essentially national and theocratic.[fn] Christian baptism is not to be received, any more than faith, by right oft inheritance. This is the great reason why we cannot believe that it was administered in the apostolic age to little children. No positive fact sanctioning the practice can be adduced from the New Testament; the historical proofs alleged are in no way conclusive. There is only one case affording any ground for doubt, and those who attach more importance to the general spirit of the new covenant than to the isolated text, unhesitatingly admit that it is of no force.[fn]377
In this second period of the apostolic age the communion is not celebrated at every meal, as in the primitive times. It forms the conclusion of those feasts of brotherly love, known under the name of agapce, at which the rich and the poor sat side by side on equal terms.
It is not possible for us to represent to ourselves exactly the mode of celebration of the communion at this period. A prayer of gratitude was doubtless spoken as the cup passed from hand to hand. Hence the name of the eucharistic cup. The bread was 379broken in remembrance of the broken body of the Lord. There is every reason to believe a psalm or hymn was sung, as it was by Jesus and his disciples in the upper chamber. It does not appear probable that the words instituting the feast were regularly repeated on every occasion. The manner in which Paul quotes them argues the contrary. He refers to them as to some special teaching which he had given, and not as to an established usage in the Church.
While the Lord's Supper was thus celebrated with all simplicity and liberty, it was, nevertheless, invested with much solemnity in the eyes of the Church. It summed up in one symbol, chosen by the Lord himself, the whole Christian religion. To partake of it was to make the most solemn profession of faith in Christ. To receive it unworthily was not only to despise the Lord's body in the symbol which spiritually set it forth, but also to make the Church partaker in the sin. Thus serious and severe discipline was appointed not merely to prevent the profanation of the Lord's Supper, but also to repress all kind of irregularities.[fn] This discipline dealt only with scandalous offenses, and made no pretension to guard the visible Church against all contact with evil. Immorality and flagrant heresy were followed by the exclusion of the offenders.[fn] The Christians were enjoined to avoid all contact with the false brother who brought 380 dishonor upon the Church.
There is no trace in the apostolic age of any other sacraments than baptism and the Lord's Supper. The anointing with oil, enjoined by James, (
§ II. The Christian Life.
§ II. The Christian Life.[fn]
Between the worship and the Christian life of the primitive Church there was a close relation. Worship was nothing else than the solemn epitome or concentration of the Christian life, while the entire life was raised to the height of true service to God. This character of sacredness, impressed upon the whole existence, is especially remarkable in the first period of the history of the first century, when the Church lived, as it were, in heaven, raised above earth by its young and ardent enthusiasm, or rather, by the all-powerful influence of the divine Spirit. It seems, for the time, as if all social and family relations were absorbed in the new relation formed among those who had received the baptism of fire; but it was according 382to the will of God that human life, with all its numerous and varied natural elements, should re-appear in the Church to be transformed by the new Spirit. Within the Church was to be realized that gradual coalescing of the human and the divine which alone gives to the plan of salvation its full and beautiful development. We must not, however, lose sight of the fact that the human element was at this period deeply defiled by heathenism. It was not possible that it should be at once brought into entire subjection to Christianity. Some spheres of action, which come not only naturally but rightly within the domain of the religion of Christ, were necessarily closed to it, so long as civilization rested upon a pagan foundation. How, for example, could a Christian exercise any magisterial function at a time when religion was so identified with politics that the most simple public act was associated with idolatry? How was it possible for Christians to cultivate any branch of art, so long as art—that great syren of Greece—was at the service of paganism; but it would be a very false conclusion that the domain of public life, or that of art, was to be permanently closed to Christians. Had there been any foundation for such an opinion the Apostles would have expressly stated as a principle the positive incongruity of religion and politics, of Christianity and the aesthetic faculties; but they make no such assertion. St. Paul recognizes the State in itself as a divine institution, necessary for moral development. "Let every soul," he says, "be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever, therefore, resisteth the power, 383 resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works but to the evil. Wilt thou, then, not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil."[fn] The Apostle, in these words, rises from the corrupt manifestations of the civil power which are before his eyes, to its principal and fundamental idea. He acknowledges it to be a divine institution, and, consequently, an essential condition of moral development.
The question of the relations of Church and State could not come before the apostolic age. Those relations were then very simple; they were those of the persecuted and the persecutor. There was every thing, however, in the general principle of Christianity to set aside any idea of a formal association of the two. The close union between the Church and the State was one of the most characteristic features of pagan society, in which the individual was kept in absolute subordination to the State, his faith being no less under official control than his outward life. Christianity, the religion of the conscience, sought only free and individual adherence. Respect for the individual was born into the world with the respect for conscience. A State religion, however orthodox, will be always a partial resurrection of the pagan idea. Ancient religions were maintained only by coercion, and by the support of wealth—both forces foreign to Christianity, which conquers by none but spiritual weapons. It might well blush to grasp the sword which slays the body, since it has in its hand the sword which can pierce the soul. Its kingdom is not of this world, therefore it can assert its dominion over the whole world. Protection places it in a servile position; it is strong in its own independence. The State is not at variance with the Church—as the flesh with the spirit, the old man with the new. The State, no less than the Church, is of divine institution. The Church is called to act upon it, but only by way of influence, and the more the two spheres are kept distinct, the greater and more penetrating 385is that influence. The State is the realm of right, and, consequently, of constraint and force, but of force regulated by, and made subservient to, justice.
The Church is pre-eminently the realm of freedom, for it receives its members only by their own free adherence. To combine the two spheres is to confound things that differ, and to move both from their foundations. The union of Church and State reverses the apostolical conception of a religious society; it is a retrogression from Christianity to paganism, or at least to Judaism. But mankind was to purchase this' truth, like every other, at the price of long and bitter experience, by which it learned how much it costs the Church to mingle spiritual things with temporal.
The religion of Christ was, therefore, contented with laying down the principles by which the State was to be renovated; and it pursued the same course with reference to art. If, during the apostolic age, and the periods immediately succeeding, it held aloof from these two spheres of human activity, its influence was only the more efficacious in transforming them. In maintaining the independence of conscience in relation to the State, in sanctioning its right to resist all coercion from without, Christianity laid the foundations of all true liberty, and insured the overthrow of all despotic powers. Martyrdom is the mightiest protest against persecution; it shows material force the limit which it cannot pass. On the other hand, by the creation of a new ideal, at once divine and human, the way was prepared for truly Christian art, which should substitute for the calm; emotionless beauty of the Greek marbles, the deeper and more pathetic loveliness of those immortal forms, 386to which the great artists inspired by the Gospel have given birth.
All the reforms of Christianity have been wrought from within. The great revolution effected by it in the world had its beginning in human souls. Its first aim is to change the individual, that through him it may do its transforming work on society, and, primarily, on the family—that miniature society, source and type of the greater—upon which it has set its seal. The new religion found, in the regeneration of the individual, the lever with which to upheave the old world. It is, then, of great importance that we form a true estimate of the general principles of Christian life in the first century.
Its great principle is the imitation of Jesus Christ. To reproduce the features of his holy image, to feel as he felt, to share his humility, his self-renunciation, his tender compassion, to walk in love as he walked—such is the calling of his disciple.[fn] He finds in his Saviour a living and powerful law, which "gives what it commands," to use the beautiful expression of St. Augustine. If Jesus Christ is the ideal type of the Christian, he is, at the same time, his support; (
The Christian life of primitive times seems like the life of Christ continued upon earth. Its most striking characteristic is a fervor altogether apart from fanaticism, which sustains it in the ordinary conditions of 387human life. These men, full of holy zeal for truth, and daily awaiting the return of the Lord, feel themselves under no necessity to go out of the world, and to form for themselves a separate existence, like the Essenes and Therapeutics. Each remains in the position in which he was called,[fn] unless he finds it one of too great temptation. The Christian has no sanction for abandoning work under pretext of yielding himself to pious meditation.
This disposition to impress on the entire life a divine seal and a religious character, was blended with a certain asceticism, to which no saving virtue was attributed, but which was of importance in the discipline of the spiritual life. Paul says, that he kept under his body.
One of the most beautiful creations of primitive Christianity was the Christian family, as we see it in the Churches of those days. What the family was in 389the pagan world we know well. There was no medium for woman between the indolent and stupid captivity of the gynæceum and the part of a courtesan. Christianity raises her from this degraded position, and makes her truly a helpmeet for man. The outward union becomes the symbol of the union of life and soul, and the relation of Christ to his Church is the sublime type of the conjugal relation.
A delicate question arose in these young Churches, composed of converts from paganism, as to what was the right course to take when either husband or wife became a Christian. Paul decides that the conjugal bond is not to be broken. The Christian wife may win the husband, or vice versa.
The relations of parents and children, no less than of husband and wife, assume a new character under the influence of Christianity. The implacable severity of the Roman father is to be tempered by Christian love; he is to train up with all gentleness the frail being so absolutely dependent upon him; and the child, on its part, is bound to a submission the more perfect because not founded on fear.
It has been made a reproach to Christianity that it did not at once proclaim the abolition of slavery. It is forgotten by those who bring this charge, that by taking such a course Christianity would have exchanged the religious sphere for the civil, and would thus have confounded two domains, between which a careful distinction is always important, and was especially so on its first introduction to the world. It could not enter into civil matters without exposing itself to all the perils, fluctuations, and chances of external authority. It would have become a political instead of a moral power; it would have abdicated its true throne of royalty, and bartered for an uncertain and hasty revolution that eternal power of reformation, by which it is able from age to age to renew individuals and societies. Christianity no more accepted slavery than it accepted polygamy and Roman legislation as to divorce; and it brought into the world the principle which was to abolish these institutions, so profoundly hostile to the morality of the Gospel. That principle it defined with reference to slavery with so much clearness, that it did in fact morally abolish it, so far as that was possible without going beyond its own domain. For, firstly, Christianity regulates the relations of masters and servants according to the laws of justice. The one are to remember that they also have a Master in heaven, (
Christianity accepts the natural affections of man's heart, those at least which are normal, and purifying and penetrating them with a supernatural and divine element, it assimilates them to the highest love. The essence of this pure and devoted love is the spirit of sacrifice, and it has received its name, as it received its character, from the Gospel. It is called charity.[fn] We have observed its first manifestation in the inner circle of the family, but it is not confined within these limits. It embraces all men in its arms of compassion, and while the national spirit among the ancients raised high barriers between different peoples, who were to each other as strangers and barbarians, the Christian knows no such exclusive distinctions. To him it is plain that God has made of one blood all nations of men;[fn] and if Tacitus brings against him the charge of hating the human race, it is only because the Christian is erroneously confounded by him with the narrow and prejudiced Jew. The contact into which Jews were brought with converted Gentiles in the Churches founded by St. Paul, contributed effectually to the expansion of heart and 394 mind. By exalting the idea of humanity above that of nationality, Christianity gradually transformed the fierce patriotism of the old world into a nobler feeling. But it is pre-eminently in the Church that Christian affection finds its sphere. A spiritual bond, close and tender, is formed between those who are partakers of the same faith. In token that they form but one family in Christ, they call each other brethren, (
The relations of Christians with the world were regulated by Paul with much wisdom. He was far from desiring that by an extreme and impracticable exclusiveness they should avoid all contact with men not yet converted.
Two opposite tendencies had manifested themselves among the Christians of that time. Some, narrow and timorous, scrupled to eat of meats which had been sacrificed to idols; others, of a broader spirit, and maintaining that an idol is in truth nothing at all, felt themselves justified in eating any thing that was sold in the market. Paul holds the justness of the latter principle; (
Surrounded by all the seductions of paganism, the Churches were to use constant watchfulness. The letters of Paul give glimpses of strange revivals of old pagan corruption among these young Christians; and a dangerous readiness to fall back into the mire of licentiousness is evidenced by his frequent warnings against the sins of the flesh.
Such was an apostle and a saint in the first century. It is not surprising that no power in the world could withstand the influence of lives like this.398 399
Book Third. Period of St. John, or Close of the Apostolic Age and Transition to the Age Following.
Chapter I. The Fall of Jerusalem and Its Consequences.
§ I. Destruction of the Holy City.
§ I. Destruction of the Holy City.
THIS period opens with a signal catastrophe, the consequences of which were most momentous to the Christian Church. Jerusalem, the Holy City, the religious center of Judaism, is reduced to ashes, and the Temple is but a smoking ruin. With it passes away the whole theocratic and priestly system of the old dispensation. Until this time the Church has been, so to speak, overshadowed by the Temple. Henceforward it has nothing more than a historic connection with Judaism, and a new era commences in its history.
The Jewish people, as we know, never consented to bow beneath the yoke of their conquerors. There was a natural antipathy between the two nations, founded, perhaps, on a certain obstinacy and invincible determination common to both. The Jews could not submit with the softness of the Asiatic, or the suppleness of the Greek, to foreign domination. They displayed as much perseverance in resistance as the 400Romans in conquest. Their patriotism assumed the character of fanaticism, from its connection with their religious views. Their beliefs, which had become identified with earthly hopes and closely bound up with national pride, so far from inspiring them with patience and resignation, fostered rebellion in their hearts. It must be acknowledged, also, that to them the Roman dominion appeared only in its most hateful aspects. They had a succession of governors who were veritable brigands; it seems that Judæa was regarded as a worthless province, and was given in prey to men laden with debts and vices, whose only object was to make a gain of a despised people. The Roman policy, usually so wise, and wont to deal considerately with the national faith and customs of a conquered people, was abandoned in the case of Judæa. Felix and Festus had indulged without restraint in all the caprices and violences of a tyrannic rule, and their successors had outdone even the abominations of their government. Albinus, who succeeded Festus, made shameless traffic of the administration of justice, selling impurity to the most notorious criminals. "There is no manner of evil unpracticed by him,"[fn] says Josephus. Gessius Florus surpassed even Albinus. "It seemed," says the same historian, "as though he had been sent as an executioner to put to death condemned criminals."[fn] The nominal kingship of Herod Agrippa laid no kind of check on these acts of injustice. It was not possible 401that under such a rule peace should long be preserved. A circumstance, in itself unimportant, occasioned a terrible explosion, which had long been threatening and had already thrown out sparks in previous insurrections. The synagogue of the Jews at Cæsarea had been profaned by the Greeks of that city. Gessius Florus justified the act, and the Jews at Antioch and at Jerusalem immediately rose in a rebellion, which spread far and wide. It was stifled in the blood of thousands of Jews at Alexandria, at Damascus, and at Cæsarea. At Jerusalem the Roman garrison was massacred, and Eleazar, the son of the high priest, persuaded the Levites not to receive the offering of any stranger. This was to forbid the sacrifice for Cæsar, and such an act was equivalent to a declaration of war.[fn] The rebellion was scarcely organized when Cestius Gallus, the governor of Syria, marched upon Jerusalem; but he failed to enter the city, and was compelled to make an ignominious retreat. This triumph stimulated the fanaticism of the Jews, and carried it to its culminating point. Thenceforward it was beyond all control. Rome could not tolerate such contempt of her power. She sent Vespasian, one of her best generals, with a large army to avenge the insult offered to the Roman eagles; and Galilee, after a sanguinary struggle, was subdued.
The death of Nero and the elevation of Vespasian to the throne gave the Jews a momentary respite; but the combat recommenced with augmented vigor, under the conduct of Titus, the son of the Emperor, (A. D. 68.) Jerusalem soon became the center of 402attack, and the siege of that city was laid by the most skillful general of the Roman armies. Thousands of Jews, who had assembled in the interval to celebrate the Passover, were shut up within the walls of the Holy City, and the presence of such numbers contributed to render the defense more difficult, and the final catastrophe more fearful.
Every feature of this siege attests it to be a judgment of God. It is not an ordinary event of history; all the attendant circumstances are marked by an aggravation of suffering and woe; men appear to be led by a mysterious hand, which urges them on to commit acts not within their original intention. They are the instruments of a chastisement as tremendous as was the crime to be visited. Even those who were its victims seem to have felt that it was so. The Jewish historian enumerates the omens by which the catastrophe had been foretold. Many of these are obviously the puerile fables and inventions of popular superstition; but that very superstition reveals a strange presentiment of coming woe. According to Josephus, the Levites officiating in the Temple at the Feast of Pentecost heard a voice, which cried, "Let us depart from this place."[fn] Four years before the war, when the city was enjoying profound peace, a man named Jesus, the son of Ananias, a simple inhabitant of the country, was heard crying in the Temple, at the Feast of Tabernacles: "A voice sounds from the east, from the west, and from the four winds of heaven. This voice is against Jerusalem and the Temple; against husbands and wives; this voice is against the whole nation." They tried to silence 403him; he was scourged and variously ill-treated; but still the words burst from his lips, "Woe, woe, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem!" He never ceased his terrible denunciations till the war had broken out. In the siege he fell a victim, still uttering his melancholy cry of woe.[fn]
The condition of the city at this time was indeed one of misery almost without a parallel. Pressed by foreign armies without, it was torn within by three hostile factions, each working for its own ends on popular fanaticism. It had first the faction of the Zealots, under the conduct of Eleazar, who, as their name imported, claimed to be the zealous defenders of the national cause, and under this pretext gave themselves up to all kinds of brigandage.[fn] For a time this faction was strengthened by the Idumeans, whom Eleazar engaged to fight against the high priest Ananias; but these in the end separated from their allies, and turned against them. John of Giscala, who had fled to Jerusalem after the taking of his native city, and had at first joined the party of Eleazar, in his turn also organized a rival faction.
The unhappy city, closely encompassed by the legions of Titus, became the scene of the most frightful civil war. It was pillaged and sacked by its own sons. That which one faction spared, fell into the hands of another, and the contending parties agreed only in crime. "Such was the terror among the people," says Josephus, "that no one dare mourn for the dead or bury them. Tears must flow in secret, groans must be stifled, for such tokens of lamentation 104 were visited with death. A little earth was hastily thrown over the corpses by night."[fn] "O wretched city," adds the historian, "what cause of reproach hast thou against the Romans, who have but purged thee from thine abominations! Thou wast no more the city of God, and thou couldst never again be such, since thou wast become the tomb of thy slaughtered children."[fn] Josephus knew not that Jerusalem was expiating a yet darker crime, and that its soil, once sacred, had been stained by the blood of God.
To the horrors of civil war those of famine were soon added. The small store of food was quickly consumed by the brigands, who went from house to house, laying hands on all they found, and roughly treating those who had nothing to give, in order to make them betray the supposed place of concealment. On the roofs were to be seen women and children, wasted with want, and uttering heart-rending groans; the young people walked about the street pale and lifeless as specters, and constantly sinking to the ground from exhaustion. Deep silence settled over the city; night after night the dead were numbered by thousands, and all these sufferings were slight compared with the atrocities enacted by the brigands.[fn]
Natural feeling seemed extinguished, and the spectacle-horrible even to the vilest criminals—was seen 405of a mother killing and eating her own child. The close of the drama was at hand. The city was almost completely invested by the Roman legions, who had erected an encompassing wall, and who, despite the fierce resistance of despair, daily gained ground. The outer city wall was broken down; the fortress Antonina, to the north of the Temple Mount, carried by assault. Both attack and defense were now concentrated on the Temple itself. At length the day came when the conquering eagles floated from the Most Holy Place, and the sacrifices and ceremonies of the ancient law were for ever done away. This was on August 10th, A. D. 70. The people had crowded together in thousands on the holy hill, on the delusive promise of a false prophet, that that very day a sign of salvation should be given in the Temple.[fn] The carnage only ceased when the victors were weary of slaying.
The Temple, contrary to the orders of Titus, was destroyed by fire. A soldier threw into it a burning brand. He did the audacious deed unauthorized, and actuated, says Josephus, by some demoniacal impulse.[fn] We know that that impulse had a higher cause, and that this obscure soldier was the minister of the justice of God. In vain Titus gave orders for the fire to be extinguished; no one listened; on the contrary, every one pressed forward to feed the flames, and they spread with alarming rapidity. Even Roman soldiers, "moved to madness by the demon of war,"[fn] forgot their stern discipline. Who cannot see the hand of God in this strange accomplishment of a 406righteous retribution? The roaring of the flames mingled with the cries of the dying, and from the height of the temple hill and the magnitude of the conflagration, the whole city appeared wrapt in fire. The lamentations of the Jews, as they witnessed the burning of their temple, were loud and terrible beyond description, says Josephus. The cry was proportioned to the greatness of their grief.[fn] In the miserable remnant of God's ancient people was thus fulfilled the mournful prophecy, which but a short time before they had treated as madness. The wailing of a city left desolate was the echo of the words, "Woe, woe to Jerusalem!" The prayer of the murderers of Christ was heard; his blood was upon them, upon their children, and upon the ruins of their temple. God himself had pronounced the final sentence of Judaism.[fn]
According to Eusebius and Epiphanes, the Christians had left the Holy City at the commencement of the troubles, and retired to Pella, in Perœa. Some of them returned into the city after its sack, when the storm was past.[fn]
§ II. Consequences to the Church of the Destruction of the Temple.
§ II. Consequences to the Church of the Destruction of the Temple.
The great truths maintained by St. Paul received emphatic sanction from this terrible event. God had cast into the balance the weight of his judgments. The destruction of Jerusalem was to have yet a further effect—it was to enlarge the views of the 407Christians as to the future of the Church, and to give indefinite expansion to the horizon of prophecy. They had until now been living in daily expectation of the end of the world, and the immediate return of Christ. In the prophetic picture drawn by the Master they had failed to apprehend the true perspective. They had recognized no distinction between the prophecies relating to the Holy City and those having reference to the final judgments of God; they had not grasped the idea that the condemnation about to fall on Jerusalem was a symbol of the judgments kept in store for the world. This confusion, so natural in the first period of the apostolic age, was no longer possible after Judaism had lost its religious center. It became then distinctly evident that a long future of conflict was before the Church. We have a striking proof of this enlargement of the views of prophecy as resulting from the fall of Jerusalem. Hegesippus relates that the Emperor Domitian, on questioning some Christians in Palestine, who were connected with the Saviour by ties of kindred, as to the kingdom of Christ and his return, received this reply: "His kingdom is not an earthly kingdom or of this world, but a heavenly and angelic kingdom, which will come in the fullness of the ages, when he shall return to judge the quick and the dead."[fn] The second coming of Christ had then at this time ceased to be expected as immediate, and those whose hopes had been most set on its speedy realization had learned to defer indefinitely the appointed time.408
This revelation, so clear and positive, of the prolongation of the period of struggling and suffering, combined with the destruction of the ancient form of worship, to which so many of the Christians still clung, tended to promote the more settled and permanent organization of the Church. In fact, from the year 70, there is a very marked advance toward a definite form of government and of worship. The Church now realizes its position as the true Israel of God, the religious society approved by him, which has taken the place of the theocracy; and it is thus led to organize institutions which shall permanently substitute those of the past. There was danger, however, lest in replacing these the Church should be led into imitating them. The necessity which was felt, after the destruction of the temple, of a fixed and clearly-defined organization, might lead to a resurrection of Judaism under a new form. The letter of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians gives sufficient evidence of the existence of such a tendency at the close of the first century. He says, "We ought to do all that the Lord has commanded us to do at the times appointed. He has commanded us to present offerings and to celebrate worship, not irregularly and irreverently, but at the times and seasons by him determined. He has revealed, by his most holy will; in what places and by what men the various acts of religious service can be acceptably performed. Special functions are ascribed to the high priest; a particular place is set apart for the priests, and the Levites have their distinct offices. Let each one of you then, my brethren, render honor to God, in his special order, with a good conscience, and without 409infringing the rule of his ministry. The sacrifices were not offered in all places, but at Jerusalem alone; and in Jerusalem, at the altars in the Temple. Take heed, my brethren, lest we who have been honored with a wider knowledge should bring upon ourselves severer chastisements by violating established rules."[fn]
It would be absurd to infer from this passage that Clement, a disciple of St. Paul, holds the perpetuity of the Levitical worship, but we can clearly mark in it the tendency to transplant into the Church the precise organization of the old law, and to introduce the fixed order of Judaism. Evidently such notions can only have arisen after the destruction of the Temple. The Christians, accustomed to regard that as their religious center, were filled with a sort of alarm after its fall; they felt about for other props; they began to be afraid of the great freedom which, until then, had prevailed in the worship and government of the Church; and thus the event which was designed to set a seal on the spirituality of the new covenant helped, by a not unnatural perversion, to bring it back under the yoke of the old.
We cannot, however, admit, with an illustrious German divine, that in consequence of this great event a second Council was held at Jerusalem, at which the surviving Apostles met and authoritatively instituted the episcopate. A fact of such importance would not have escaped the ancient historians of the Church. The early Fathers would have made more than vague allusions to it. Besides, none of the passages adduced in support of this hypothesis are at all conclusive. Such an apostolical council appears to 410us inconceivable in the first century; it would suppose a wide modification of the very idea of the apostolate, and a radical revolution in then existing ecclesiastical institutions.[fn]411
Another consequence of the fall of Jerusalem was the tracing of a broad line of demarkation between Judæo-Christianity and the Church.[fn] So long as the Temple was standing the Christians of Palestine might suppose that it was the will of God that they should continue to practice all the rites of Judaism, as decided by the Council at Jerusalem. This could no longer be the case when the Temple was overthrown. The enforced cessations of sacrifices is a momentous fact, which it has been vainly endeavored to explain away.[fn] This event could not fail to produce a very deep impression on the more liberal section of the Church at Jerusalem, which still retained the tone of feeling imparted by James. This party recognized it 412as the decree of God, finally abrogating the old worship. Under the influence of Simon, the cousin of James, and a man probably of like spirit, these Jewish Christians were gradually brought into closer fellowship with those of Gentile origin. The hatred of the Jews, who were eager to fulminate excommunications against the Christians, and to put them under the ban of their synagogues so soon as these were reconstituted, contributed not a little to enlarge the spirit of the Christians of Palestine.[fn] In fact, a short time after the destruction of Jerusalem a new Sanhedrim was formed at Jabna, which endeavored to rally around it the remnants of the Jewish people. This Sanhedrim assumed the most hostile attitude toward the Christians, whom it called Mineans. The Rabbi Tarpho said, "The Gospels deserve to be burned; paganism is less dangerous than the Christian sects, for the former through ignorance does not receive the truths of Judaism, while the Christians know and yet reject. Salvation may be more readily found in the idol temples than in the assemblies of the Christians." The Jews were forbidden to eat with the Christians, and a form of excommunication against them was introduced by the Rabbi Gamaliel into the daily prayers. Its import was, that there was no hope for apostates. No gulf could be deeper than that by which the Church was thus divided from the synagogue.
In the commencement of the following century we find a flourishing Church, without any Judaistic tendencies, at Ælia-Capitolina, a Roman colony founded on the ruins of Jerusalem, to which, by a decree of 413the Emperor, no Jews were admissible. It is certain that a large number of Christians of Jewish origin were among its inhabitants, and that these associated without distinction with Gentiles by birth. There could be no stronger proof of the decay of Judæo-Christianity.[fn] These same Christians were, as we shall presently show, sacrificed in large numbers by Bar Cocheba in the violent persecution which he instigated against the Church. We freely admit, however, that all were not equally enlightened. The existence in the second century of a Nazarite sect distinct from the Ebonites, and treated with tolerance by Justin Martyr, proves that a section of the Jews in Palestine, without breaking with the Church, still retained an exaggerated attachment to the ancient forms.[fn] They could not be charged with any doctrinal error; they did not give formal expression to their views; but they refused to cast off the Mosaic yoke, even after God had himself broken it. The Church at Jerusalem contained within its bosom violent and fanatical men, who even before the siege of the Holy City had begun to fall away from it. These, far from being enlightened by that event, became yet more extravagant in their Judaizing notions. Previously, it might have been supposed that they adhered to the old worship rather from position than conviction; but from the year 70 they substituted for such a modified and transitional form of Judaism, one more decided and emphatic. Thus they became further and further alienated from apostolic 414doctrine, and in combination with the Jewish sects, especially with the Essenes, they constituted a distinct and avowed heresy. To this period, then, we, with Irenæus, trace the obscure commencement of Ebionitism, although the name is of later date.[fn]415
Chapter II. St. John the Apostle and Prophet.
§ I. Life of St. John.
§ I. Life of St. John.[fn]
AS in the first period of the apostolic age the principal part is enacted by St. Peter, and in the second by St. Paul, so in the third period the paramount influence is that of St. John. His natural disposition and peculiar gifts account for this delay in the exercise of his apostleship. With a soul meditative and mystical, he had neither the impetuous zeal of Peter nor the indefatigable activity of Paul. On him Christianity had wrought most intensively; he had penetrated int6 the deepest meaning of the teaching of Christ; or rather, he had read the very heart of the Master. It was his vocation to preserve the most precious jewels in the treasury of Christ's revelations, and to bring to light the most sacred and sublime mysteries of the Gospel. In order to fulfill this mission, he must needs wait until the Church was ready for such exalted teaching. The first storms of division must subside. Just as the prophet heard the still small voice, which was the voice of God, only 416after the sound of the tempest and the roaring of the thunder, so the Apostle of supreme love could not speak till a calm had succeeded to the storm stirred up by the polemics of St. Paul. His work was not more important, nor attested with a diviner seal, than that of the great controversialist of the apostolic age; the two are closely connected, and the latter is the natural sequence to the earlier. The revelation of love could not be complete till Judæo-Christianity had finally succumbed, and had carried with it in its fall all the barriers within which it had sought to limit the grace of God. So true is this, that we find St. Paul himself sounding the first notes of the hymn of love, and thus inaugurating the work of St. John. The former sowed in tears, the latter reaped in joy. The one resisted to blood; the other received for the Church the prize of the well-fought fight. This diversity in the missions of the two Apostles is manifested in the diversity of the methods employed by them, in order to establish the truth, of which they are the organs. While St. Paul wields the weapons of warfare in his irresistible and impassioned dialectics, St. John is satisfied with expounding doctrine. He does not dispute; he affirms. It is clear that he has been led into the possession of the truth by a path widely divergent from that of St. Paul—by the path of intuition, of direct vision. His language has the calmness of contemplation. He speaks in short sentences, strikingly simple in form; but that simplicity, like a quiet lake, holds in its depths the reflection of the highest heaven. "He has filled the whole earth with his voice," says St. John Chrysostom, "not by its mighty reverberations, but by the divine grace, 417which dwelt upon his lips. That which is most admirable is, that this great voice is neither harsh nor violent, but soft and melting as harmonious music."[fn]
It is very far from the truth, however, to regard St. John as the type of feminine gentleness, as he is represented in legend and in painting, which is only another form of legend. The ancient Church had a far worthier conception of him when it gave to John the Evangelist, the symbol of the eagle soaring to the sun, as though to signify that the mightiest and most royal impulse—that which carries farthest and highest—is love. The soul of the Apostle of Ephesus was as vigorous as that of Paul. He was called the Son of Thunder before grace had subdued his natural vehemence; and something of this early ardor always remained with him. In proportion to his love of truth was his hatred of error and heresy. Such love is a consuming fire, and when it sees its object despised or wronged, it is as ardent in its indignation as in its adoration. The truth which St. John loved and served was no mere abstract doctrine; it was to him incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ. He was ever the beloved disciple of the Master, the disciple admitted to his most tender and intimate friendship; and the Church has ever pictured him in the attitude in which he is represented in the gospels at the Last Supper, leaning on the bosom of the Lord. It was by the power of love so strong and deep that he was enabled to fulfill his mission of conciliation, and to harmonize all the apparent contradictions of the apostolic 418age in the rich synthesis of his doctrine. Let us now inquire how he was prepared for this glorious vocation.
John was the son of Zebedee, a fisherman of the Lake of Gennesaret, who dwelt at Bethsaida.
John, Peter, and James were, as we know, admitted 419 to special intimacy with the Saviour.[fn] There is no reason to suppose that John had a much clearer comprehension than the other disciples of the doctrine of Christ. He shared their carnal conceptions of the earthly kingdom of Messiah, (
We can well imagine what an ineffaceable image of unparalleled love and sorrow would be left on the soul of John by this scene. Who can tell with what feelings he caught those last words of the God-man, spoken almost in his parting agony, which committed to him the mother of his Lord as a sacred legacy.
During the earlier period of the apostolic age we see John by Peter's side lending him efficient help, but leaving to him the initiative in speech and action.
We are free to suppose that the period of his life about which we have no information, was devoted to climbing that spiritual Tabor on the summit of which the only and eternal Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, was to appear to him in all the glory of his divinity. The Apostle, like Mary, pondered in his heart all that he knew of his Master; in the silence of devotion he listened to his living voice, and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, discerned more and more of the mystery of his being. St. Augustine says: "While the three other evangelists remained below with the man Jesus, and spoke little of his divinity, John, as though impatient of treading the earth, rose from the very first words of His gospel, not only above the bounds of earth, air, and sky, but above the angels and celestial powers, into the very presence of Him by whom all things were made. Not in vain do the gospels tell us that he leaned on the bosom of the Saviour at the Passover feast. He drank in secret at that divine spring: "De illo pectore in secreto bibebat."[fn] All the life of St. John, during the period when scarcely a trace of him is to be found in the apostolic Church, is summed up in these words.
It is certain that in this interval the Apostle must have come in contact with the philosophic culture so widely diffused at the time among the Jewish synagogues. The comparative correctness of his language 423is itself a proof that this was the case; it is also beyond question that he borrowed from the modified and infinitely diversified Platonism of his age the expression "the Word," which is evidently of Greek origin. Divine truth can speak in all tongues—in the polished tongue of the learned as well as in the simple and rude idiom of the common people; but through whatever medium conveyed, its substance is still "the things which it hath not entered into the heart of man to conceive."
The time was to come when the Apostle would emerge from his obscurity, and would in his turn exert a wide and deep influence over the Churches of the first century. According to the testimony of Clement of Alexandria and of Irenæus, St. John, after the death of St. Peter and St. Paul, took up his abode at Ephesus.[fn] No city could have been better 424chosen as a center from which to watch over the Churches, and follow closely the progress of heresy. At Ephesus the Apostle was in the center of Paul's mission-field in Asia Minor, and not far from Greece. Christianity had achieved splendid conquests in the flourishing cities of that country; but it had also encountered dangerous enemies. It was there that false Gnosticism first of all showed itself, and perpetually sought new adherents. The Apostle Paul had spoken before his death of its rapid progress. In his Second Epistle to Timothy he seems himself to point out Ephesus as the city most threatened with heresy, where, consequently, the presence of an apostle would be especially needed. St. John made this city his settled abode, without, however, devoting himself exclusively to the important Church there founded. Ephesus was the center of his apostolic activity, but that activity extended over a wide area. Clement of Alexandria tells us how the Apostle visited the Churches, presiding at the election of the bishops, and restoring order where it had been disturbed. To one of these journeys of apostolic visitation belongs the striking incident recounted by the same author, This incident helps us more than many explanations to understand why John was the disciple whom Jesus loved.
"Arrived in a town not far from Ephesus, after having comforted and exhorted the brethren, he observed a young man, tall of stature, of a noble countenance and ardent spirit. Addressing himself to the Bishop, John said: "I commit that young man to thy charge, and call the Church and Jesus Christ to witness that I do so." The Elder at first conscientiously 425fulfilled his task; he received the young man into his house, instructed him, and at length administered baptism to him. The young man allowed himself to be drawn away into immorality, then into theft. He was obliged to flee from the town, and became the chief of a band of brigands. A short time after," adds Clement, "John had again occasion to visit that Church. After fulfilling his mission, he turned to the Bishop, and said, 'Restore to me the trust which I and the Lord committed to thee before the Church over which thou art overseer.' The Bishop did not at once understand to what the Apostle referred. 'I ask,' said John, 'for the young man whose soul I intrusted to thee.'[fn] 'He is dead,' exclaimed the Elder, with many sighs and tears.' How dead?' asked the Apostle. 'Dead to God; he fell away and was forced to flee for his crimes; he is now a brigand among our mountains, instead of a member of our Church.' Hearing these words, the Apostle rent his clothes and smote on his head, crying: 'What a guardian have I left over the soul of my brother!' He quitted the Church, made his way to the mountains, and gave himself up to the robbers.
"The young man recognized the Apostle, and was about to make his escape. John, forgetting his old age, ran after him, exclaiming: 'My son, why dost thou flee from thy father? I am feeble and far advanced in years; have pity on me, my son; fear not. There is yet hope of salvation for thee. I will stand for thee before the Lord Christ. If need be, I will gladly die for thee, as he died for us. Stop, stop, 426believe, it is Christ who has sent me.'[fn] The young man listened, with his eyes cast down to the earth; then flung away his weapons and burst into tears. Throwing his arms around the aged saint, he implored his pardon with a flood of tears which were to him as a second baptism. The Apostle raised him up; he prayed and fasted with him; he completely subdued him by his words, and did not leave him till he had restored him to the Church, a great example of penitence, and a living trophy of Christian love." Never since the time of Christ has the parable of the lost sheep received so perfect an application.[fn]
It has been asserted that by his example and practice at Ephesus, John confirmed the principles of Judæo-Christianity, and adopted them in the government of the Churches.[fn] Such a supposition is altogether inadmissible, if we accept his gospel and epistles as authentic. Importance has been attached to the singular assertion of Polycrates that John was invested with pontifical attributes; the error here is in giving a severely literal sense to a figurative expression.[fn] It is evident from his writings, and also 427from his immediate disciples, that John continued to guide the Church along the way opened by Paul, and raised it even to a greater height above the specialties of Judaism. We shall also observe, in speaking of the ecclesiastical constitution at the close of the first century, that there is no foundation for ascribing to him the episcopal organization, properly so called.
It is not possible to determine accurately at what date St. John suffered for the Gospel. The "Fathers" differ as to the time of his banishment to Patmos We are inclined to place it shortly after the death of St. Peter and St. Paul.[fn] His exile may have been protracted during some years. The Revelation appears to us to have been written long before the gospel. It carries us into a period very little removed from the fearful persecution under Nero, which was the great typal war of Antichrist against Christ. The mode of thought, the form of language, the prominent ideas, the historical allusions, all suggest 428 this date; and, in the absence of any decisive external evidence, we are free to give full weight to the internal.[fn]
With reference to the gospel and epistles, tradition is agreed in the date affixed to them. These writings are the slowly-ripened fruit of all the labors of the apostolic age; but, at the same time, like every other good gift, they come down from heaven, and bear the undeniable seal of inspiration. They clearly belong to a period when heresy was rife, and especially those forms of heresy which, denying the corporeal reality of the Saviour's sufferings, contained the first germ of Docetism. John did not, indeed, design his gospel to be a systematic refutation of the errors of Cerinthus, or of any other heretic. He was satisfied with setting forth true Christian Gnosticism in opposition to false oriental or Judaizing Gnosticism; and his gospel is beautifully characterized by Clement of Alexandria as pre-eminently the gospel of the Spirit.[fn] We should do injustice to the fourth gospel were we to regard it as a merely polemical writing, or as only the complement of the synoptics. The latter supposition cannot be reconciled with the admirable unity of composition to be observed in the Gospel of John. It is full of a creative inspiration. The style is altogether unlike that of a mere commentator, who is completing by a gloss a text already given. John epitomises in his gospel the substance of his preaching at Ephesus, and in the other Churches of Asia Minor.[fn] According to Jerome, he had no intention at first of preserving his discourses 429in writing, but agreed to do so at the express request of the Churches.[fn]
We have no detailed information of the last years of the Apostle. Two incidents have come down to us which agree perfectly with what we know of him. Irenæus relates, that going one day into the public baths at Ephesus, and hearing that Cerinthus was also there, he immediately went out, exclaiming, that he feared the house might fall, because of the presence of so great an enemy of the truth.[fn] St. Jerome tells us how the aged Apostle, no longer able to preach at any length, would be carried into the assemblies of the Christians to speak the simple words, "Little children, love one another." To his brethren and disciples, who asked him why he thus repeated himself, he replied, "It is the Lord's commandment, and when it is fulfilled nothing is wanting."[fn] This hatred of error, and this holy love, give us the perfect portraiture of John. It does not appear that he died a violent death. He fell asleep in Christ at a very advanced age, at the commencement of the reign of Trajan.
St. Augustine tells us, that in his time there was a very current belief that the Apostle was not dead, but was only sleeping in his grave.[fn] Evidently, this 430 impression arose from a wrong interpretation of the words of Christ, spoken to Peter with reference to John: " If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?"
§ II. The Revelation.
§ II. The Revelation.
Before entering on the exposition of the doctrine of St. John in its most complete form, as we find it in the gospel and epistles, it will be needful, in order to trace the gradual development of the revelations of the New Testament, that we show what is the fundamental idea of the Apocalypse.
We may observe first, that so far from being in opposition to the other writings of St. John, this book comprehends all the essential points of his theology, but in the condition of germs not yet fully developed. There is no stronger evidence of this agreement than the place given in the Revelation to the person of Jesus Christ. Every thing centers in the Saviour. He is called the "Lion of the tribe of Judah," and the "Root of David "—expressions which point to his humanity.
The Revelation is not a recital of doctrine—it is primarily a book of prophecy; it opens a wide and glorious horizon to Christian hope, and paints it with glowing colors. It bears the impress of the age in which it was written. It raises the events of that time to the height of solemn symbols; thus, it is at the same time the book of revelations and an important historical record. In it, as has been well said, we breathe the very atmosphere of martyrdom. Written immediately after the first, and, perhaps, the most cruel of all the persecutions—that in which the brutal hatred of Roman paganism spent its first fury—the book of Revelation catches, as it were, the lurid reflection of the flames which consumed the Christians in the gardens of Nero; while, at the same time, it is illuminated throughout with the certainty of triumph. Contrasting the glory of the Church above with the indignities heaped on the Church below, the Revelation seems to drown the cries and the blasphemies of earth in the songs of the blessed and of the angels. After depicting the conflict and sufferings of the saints, and the terrible judgments of God upon their persecutors, it opens a vista of the heavenly places. It is one of the grandest conceptions of the sacred writer, perpetually to link together earth and heaven, and to show in the events of religious history the counterpart of other events, of which the abode of the blessed is the scene. The sealed book which contains the mystery of the destinies of humanity is at the foot of the throne of God. From thence resound the seven trumpets which declare 433the doom of the wicked; from thence do the angels pour forth their vials of wrath. While, for the visible Church, all is humiliation and suffering or weary waiting, all is glory for the Church invisible; yet never was the mysterious link uniting the two more plainly manifested. The Church triumphant watches the struggle of the Church militant with a tender, unceasing solicitude, and all heaven is attentive to the obscure drama enacted in one corner of the universe. No stronger consolation than this could have been given to the Christians, who were treated by their adversaries as the offscouring of all things. Nor has the assured blessedness of the faithful ever been depicted in a manner more beautiful and touching. If the sacred writer employs for this description the rich coloring of oriental symbolism, we are yet fully conscious that the blessedness he describes is essentially spiritual. "These which are arrayed in white robes, whence came they?" "These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."
But the sacred writer is not content with proclaiming in a general manner the suffering and triumph of the Church. The further he proceeds in his delineation 434 of the struggle between Christianity and Antichrist, the more definite does he become in detail, though he makes use of a stately symbolism, sometimes strange, and always full of variety. Just as ancient prophecy was subject to rhythmical conditions, and uttered its most passionate inspirations in conformity with the rules of Hebrew poetry, so the prophet of the New Testament arranged his abundant materials in harmonious order. The Apocalypse has a rhythm of its own, taking the word in its wide acceptation. The seven trumpets follow the seven seals, and these again are succeeded by the seven vials. In the three cycles of revelations there is always a pause after the sixth link of the series to prepare for the last link, which is itself destined to bring in a new series.[fn] This series is not immediately introduced. The prophet seems to be lost for awhile in meditation on the history of the world and of the Church.[fn] After the three series, intended to be all prophetic of the same visitations, we have the descriptions of the great conflict, which is itself divided into three acts: 1st. The fall of Babylon.
The first trumpets and the first vials announce the same order of judgments, and both have reference to the commencement of the prophecy of the first gospel. Jesus Christ, after predicting the chastisements and judgments of God in nature, declared his judgments in history, and first of all, the destruction of Jerusalem. St. John, who wrote after the overthrow of the Temple, proclaims another judgment of God. Sentence is to be passed now, not upon Jerusalem, but upon Rome, the impure and bloody Babylon, the incarnation at that time of the genius of evil. What a grand delineation does the evangelical Prophet give of this diabolical paganism—now as the beast with seven heads and ten horns, opening its mouth to pour out blasphemy against God; now as the great whore, robed in purple and scarlet, making the inhabitants 436 of the earth drunk with the wine of her fornications, herself drunk with blood of the martyrs of Christ, having ascended out of the bottomless pit and going into perdition! What an impression was such a prophetic cry calculated to produce, uttered as it was in the presence of the Roman Colossus still standing in all the pride of its great power! "Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city!"
But the Church has not only to fight against Antichrist without; it has also to resist Antichrist within: to do battle, that is, with heresy and false prophecy. "Many false prophets shall arise and shall deceive many," said Jesus Christ.
Thus, in the Revelation as in the prophecy of Jesus Christ, are unfolded the judgments of God as manifested in nature and in history, and the sanguinary and victorious struggles of the Church with her many adversaries. The inspired writer has added in his picture new features drawn from the historical events 438 of the time and interpreted by the spirit of prophecy, but the words of St. John have not, any more than the words of Christ, an application restricted to his own age. The immediate events which he foretells have all a typical value. Just as with the Master, the destruction of Jerusalem was the symbol of the end of the world, so with the disciple, the destruction of Rome symbolizes and precedes the final judgment of God. Prophecy has thus advanced a step and enlarged its horizon as the conflict itself has become wider. St. John gives us clearly to understand that the drama is far from being finished after the overthrow of the Western Babylon, and that it is to be recommenced on the smoking ruins of Rome. In fact, after the Roman power shall have been broken, ten kings are to rise up against Christ, and to give to the conflict a new character of violence.
In the Apocalypse two distinct periods are marked in this final triumph of Christianity over Antichrist. The first victory is brought about by the direct and visible intervention of the Saviour, taking up the cause of his people and gloriously establishing the reign of his Church upon earth.[fn] After this period 440 the old adversary of God will once again prevail to deceive the nations; but this will be his last effort. The drama of history concludes with his condemnation and with the solemn judgment of the children of men, conducted by Him whom once they crucified and who now reappears in all the glory of his power. Then comes the end, and then commences that eternal blessedness of the elect celebrated by St. John in the language of heaven.[fn]
"And there shall be no more curse; but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall serve him. And they shall see his face, and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there: and they need no candle, neither light of the sun, for the Lord God giveth them light, and they shall reign for ever and ever."
Such is this marvelous book—one of the most sublime gifts of the Spirit of God to the Church; one which would have been its best consolation in all ages, as it was that of the martyrs of Lyons and of Asia Minor, if it had not been too often transformed into an unintelligible cipher, through a misconception of its historical basis. One important truth we learn from it, namely, that history interpreted by God is a great oracle, which, in each of its periods, repeats, with a living comment, the prophecy of Jesus Christ concerning the last times. The struggle which is renewed from age to age between Christ and Antichrist, the partial triumph of the former, and the more and more decisive defeats of the latter, bring us to the final conflict and crowning victory, which will be coincident with the return of Christ in glory. The 441Church, in the certainty of victory, has a right to cry in presence of any power, however great and glorious, which has lent itself to the service of sin: "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen!" Its fall will be the reiterated prophecy of that of the Satanic power, which for so many ages has set itself against God. The day is coming when that power shall be forever broken, and the disciples of Christ shall see the end of their day of shame, and shall reign in glory with him after whom they have borne the cross.
How greatly were such consolations needed in the year 71, on the eve of so much suffering and ignominy, when the few disciples gathered around St. John saw all the brutal violence of imperial Rome, and all the seductions of heresy arising out of the pit to fight against them.[fn]442
Chapter III. The Doctrine of St. John.
PAUL is, in his statement of doctrine, as in his life, the man of contrasts and antitheses. He aims to show how deep is the gulf between human nature and God, that he may the more exalt the grace which has bridged the chasm; and he traces vigorously the line of demarkation between the old covenant and the new. It is not so with John. Having attained gradually, and without any sudden shock, the highest elevation of Christian truth, he starts from the summit and gently comes down again. He does not even pause to establish the superiority of the Gospel over the law. With him that is a settled point, an admitted principle from which he deduces the consequences. John does not commence, like Paul, with man and his misery, but with God and his perfection. His doctrine, by this character of sustained 443 elevation, and by the part assigned in it to love and to the direct intuition of divine things, bears the impress of mysticism, but of a mysticism which is essentially moral, in which the great laws of conscience are always maintained, and which is as far removed from oriental pantheism as from Pharisaic legalism.
§ I. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
§ I. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
At the summit of his doctrine, St. John places the idea of God. God is the Absolute Being, the great I Am, whom no eye hath seen or can see. He is a Spirit.[fn] All perfection dwells in him; he is at once life, light, and love. As he is Absolute Being, so he is Absolute, Eternal Life, the inexhaustible source, the sole principle of every thing that is.[fn] But this life is at the same time light.
It must not be supposed, because John dwells especially on the moral attributes of God, that he passes by in silence his metaphysical attributes. These are all comprised in the absolute life which he ascribes to God.[fn] To the Apostle, love is not one of the attributes of God, it is God himself; the metaphysical attributes are the attributes of the divine love. God is holy, infinite, almighty love, knowing every thing, every-where present. John delights, therefore, to give Him the name of the Father—that wondrous name which commands at once tenderness and reverence.
But how does this invisible God reveal himself? How does He who inhabits the inaccessible light communicate himself to the creature, and what can be the first object of his love? We know the response of ancient philosophy to this question. At one time, finding no means of really bringing together the Infinite Being and the changing and finite creature, it left them face to face as two eternal principles—Uncreated Spirit opposed to uncreated matter. Again it sought in the Infinite Spirit the germ of the finite and perishable being, and arrived at the second by a series of descending steps from the first. Human opinion vacillated between Platonic dualism and the oriental or Alexandrian theory of emanation. Neither of these solutions is that given by St. John. The prologue of his gospel, written distinctly in view of the false philosophies of his age, solves the delicate problem of the relation of the invisible God to the world by the doctrine of the Word-a doctrine absolutely unknown before Christianity, and which, so far from being borrowed from Philo, is in direct opposition to his system. What is here treated of is not an impersonal Word, which is only a scholastic term to designate the world, or rather, the complex of the ideas realized in the innumerable beings of which the universe is composed.[fn] The prologue speaks of a Being distinct from God, and yet God as God himself. He is, like him, life and light in an absolute sense.[fn] The only begotten Son dwelling in the bosom of the Father, he is the eternal object of his love. Eternal 446love has thus an object like itself beyond the world and time.[fn] The Son calls himself the Word, because he is the perfect manifestation of the Father. He reveals him in his person, which is his express image, and becomes the organ of his revelations in the world when it pleases him to create a world. The single fact that he bears this name of the Son and the Word appears to us to imply in the doctrine of St. John, as in that of St. Paul, a relation of subordination to the Father. The Son proceeding eternally from the Father is, in comparison with him, eternally in the relation of him who is begotten to him who begets. Their nature is identical because of this very relationship. He is God with God, but he is God begotten of God from all eternity.[fn] He may nevertheless truly say, "I and my Father are one."[fn]
After the Son and the Father, John recognizes a third Divine Person—the Holy Spirit, who is sent to the Church by the Father and the Son.
§ II. The Word and the World.
§ II. The Word and the World.
The existence of the Eternal Word establishes the divine freedom, for in him absolute love finds its perfect realization.
God is under no constraining necessity to create. If he does so, it can only be by a determination of his free love. According to St. John, the Word takes an important part in creation. As the organ of revelation, by whom alone the light, life, and love emanating from God can be communicated, "all things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made."[fn]
The Word not only created the world. He already, in part, gave himself to the world: "He was in the world."[fn] In truth, the moral creature derives from him all the elements of the higher life. Something 448was imparted to it from the Word. The Word is the "light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world."[fn] Thus do we find in St. John a sublime commentary on the noble utterance of St. Paul—"For we are also his offspring." In reason and conscience man has in himself an inner Word, an emanation from the Eternal Word, by which he is rendered capable of perceiving divine things and of possessing God himself. Such a conception raises us far above any dualistic notion; nor is it possible to conceive a more decided opposition than that which subsists between this doctrine and that of Philo. While John admits an essential and true harmony between human nature and the Godhead, the Alexandrian philosophy declares plainly that it is impossible for man to draw near to God.
This harmony, however, has not been sustained. John recognizes the intrusion of a principle of discord into the world. The power of sin has been let loose. He does not enter into any argument on the origin of evil. He affirms the fact and is content with proving it. A kingdom of darkness has set itself in 449 opposition to the kingdom of light, of which God is the sun. The devil has had a great influence upon man, seducing him into evil. He is not indeed to be regarded as Ahriman the eternal, confronted with the eternal Ormuz; no, the principle of light was before the principle of evil. Satan himself was born in the light, for it is said "He abode not in the truth."[fn] It is evident that John supposes a fall in his case no less than in ours, and that consequently, in the origin of things, all was light and purity as became a creation called into being by the Word.[fn] The cause of evil is entirely moral. "Sin," says the Apostle, "is the transgression of the law."[fn]
There is a law for the creature. It is this law which John calls the old and new commandment, the commandment of love based upon the very being of God.
§ III. The Word and Redemption.
§ III. The Word and Redemption.
The Word, which was the organ of creative love, is also the organ of the compassionate love of the Father. The whole work of salvation rests upon him. This work is twofold. It is both internal and external, for it is to effect the reconciliation and reunion of God and man. It is not enough that God should draw near to man by a series of revelations; it is also necessary that man should be inclined toward God. In truth, that he may come to the fountain of living 451 waters, man must be athirst.
This religious aptitude, this pre-existing and necessary harmony between the conscience and the Gospel, John calls the drawing of the Father.
But this work within is not enough. To the infinite need of the soul there must be a corresponding infinite satisfaction. It returns to God: God must return to it. A positive revelation is necessary. John, like Paul, distinguishes two successive revelations. The first has only a preparatory value, it is but twilight; its rays proceed indeed from the Word, as all light does, but they only herald his appearance. "The law came by Moses," says John, "but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."[fn] Thus the Apostle solves without discussion the great question which had excited so much controversy. The law was but the shadow of salvation; the new covenant, by communicating to man the grace and pardon of God, alone gives the substance of the good promised to humanity; it alone lifts him into that full light of truth which is inseparable from love. This was to proclaim the abrogation of the Mosaic covenant in unmistakable terms. John does not fail, however, to recognize its divine character. In the fourth gospel Jesus Christ appeals to Moses; (
While St. Paul dwelt especially on the work wrought by the Saviour, St. John insists mainly on his nature. The incarnation is, in his view, the capital truth of Christianity. It is not only the necessary condition of redemption, it is the permanent condition of salvation. The proclamation of pardon is only the preliminary and initiative of salvation. For a man to be saved is to possess God—that is, to possess light, life, and truth; and as in the incarnate Word humanity appears closely and indissolubly united to deity, so it is by union with him that salvation is fully realized.
The incarnation thus regarded has an entirely new significance. Instead of being a pallid ray, which sinful man discerns quivering amid his thick darkness, it places him in the fullness of light; it restores him 454 to his normal condition. Created by the Word, and for the Word, in the light and for the light, he was destined to walk in the full light of God. The incarnation is the true consummation of creation, while it is at the same time the only effectual reparation of the fall. We know with what emphasis St. John insists upon the reality of the incarnation in opposition to the heresies of his time, which, by a spurious spiritualism, regarded the body of the Saviour as a sort of delusive semblance. "Every spirit," he says, "that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God. And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God."[fn] Writing his gospel and epistles in presence of those dualistic tendencies which identified evil with the corporeal element, he felt himself called upon to magnify this glorious aspect of the incarnation. He does not dwell upon the humiliation of Christ as St. Paul does; but there is no contradiction on this point between the two Apostles.[fn] If the glory of the only-begotten Son of the Father is apparent to John through the vail of mortal flesh, that glory is nevertheless revealed in shrouded splendor. He shows us Jesus Christ as subject to the weaknesses and suffering conditions of human life: he is weary, he groans, he weeps, he dies. This death is undoubtedly a lifting up, in a spiritual point of view,[fn] and it was important to prove this in contradiction to Cerinthus, 455who regarded his death as only illusory. St. John gives emphasis to the truth that it is both glorious and real: "this is he that came by blood." But death is still death—that is, the depth of humiliation. The Saviour, as we read in the fourth gospel, prays before working his miracles.
St. John does not enlarge upon the incarnation itself. There is no trace in his writings of scholastic theories. He does not formally distinguish two natures in Jesus Christ. He is content with affirming that the Word was made flesh, and with showing how deeply his human nature was penetrated with the nature of God. In the eyes of John human nature has a divine capacity or potentiality. Est capax divinitatis. Jesus Christ is distinguished from all other men as the "only-begotten Son of the Father," who is like the Father, and, one with Him,[fn] not only by virtue of his holiness, which is without 456blemish,[fn] but by virtue of his origin—that is to say, he is God in a metaphysical as well as in a moral sense.
If the redemptive work of Christ is not fully brought out by St. John under all its aspects, it would be a grave error to see in it simply a revelation of the love of God. Such a revelation would be untrue and incomplete if it were not in harmony with the demands of justice, which are also the requirements of the human conscience. St. John is very far from ignoring this important aspect of Christianity. He ascribes a redeeming virtue to the Saviour's death. He died for us.[fn] "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world."[fn] Writing after St. Paul he uses expressions the meaning of which was already clearly defined. The importance which he attaches to the death of Jesus Christ, the necessity which he so clearly recognizes of appropriating him by faith, of eating his flesh, and drinking his blood,[fn] all show that John discerns in him the sacred victim, who offers the sacrifice of perfect love. But he never separates the redeeming virtue of the blood of the cross from its purifying efficacy. The moral aspect is inseparable from the judicial, and is throughout St. John's writings most prominently advanced.[fn] We 457are bound, moreover, to set all the particular points of John's doctrine in the light of his central and dominant principle, which is expressed in the words: "God is love." This love is a holy love, which demands satisfaction for wrong committed, and a penitent retractation on the part of mankind; but it knows nothing of vengeance. The crucifixion, as represented by John, is not an infinite compensation for an infinite crime. For him also, as for St. Paul, the cross is only the consummation of redemption. The entire life of the incarnate Word is comprehended in the redeeming work. The free sacrifice of love began to be offered from the time of his coming into the world, and at the very opening of his ministry John the Baptist pointed to him as the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world.
We thus understand the Master's words to his disciples: "It is expedient for you that I go away."[fn] From the heaven to which he has returned he sends the Divine Comforter, the invisible and almighty Paraclete, who makes his presence real to his people; and in the abode of glory he carries on, by his intercession, his office of Mediator with the Father.[fn]
Such is the work of the Word for the restoration of the world which he created, and which he thus morally re-creates by imparting himself to fallen man in a fullness greater than any to which man could have dared to aspire even in the days of his integrity.
§ IV. The Word in the Christian and in the Church until the end of time.
§ IV. The Word in the Christian and in the Church until the end of time.
Love being the primary idea in the doctrine of John, and that which gives color to all the rest, we may expect that he will attach great importance to the appropriation of salvation by the individual. Love in fact supposes reciprocity. It is in vain that God has love enough for man to pardon him—it is in vain that the Word has become incarnate, and offered the redeeming sacrifice—if this infinite love obtains no 459response on earth. We have already seen that the Word prepares every man to receive eternal life by vivifying the divine germ within him. This includes the whole preparatory work of grace, and it is during this process, which is often gradual and prolonged, that the capacity for receiving divine things becomes enlarged or contracted. On the first contact with the incarnate Word the condition of souls is revealed. His manifestation is in itself their condemnation or vindication, since they then receive the fruits of their previous determination. They show then to which side they have inclined—whether they have chosen darkness, or have sought the light.[fn] John assigns a very large part to the operation of grace. It is God who first loves; it is the Word who chooses us, not we who choose the Word.[fn] This election is not, however, with him a fixed decree, which takes no account of human freedom. Faith, which is with John as with Paul, the sole means of salvation, or rather, the sole means of appropriating salvation, requires a creative act; it is a new and divine birth, of which the Spirit of God is the agent;[fn] but it is at the same time a work, the work which contains in germ all other works.[fn] Faith is, in fact, not simply a trustful acceptance of pardon; it is first of all a spiritual view of God in the incarnate Word, accompanied by an act of submission which leads us to 460follow Him.
St. John, who never separates theory from practice, idea from fact, the truth from its application, binds closely together justifying faith and holiness. The latter is, indeed, implicitly contained in the former. Thus from the absolute and ideal stand-point, the believer is a saint. "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin."
His views of the future of the Church bear the same impress of spirituality. He speaks in the gospel and the epistles as in the Apocalypse, of a general resurrection of the dead, a final judgment, a glorious triumph of Christ, inaugurated by his return, and a terrible conflict with the powers of darkness; but in his gospel he more clearly shows the connection of these great outward facts with the moral facts, which 462are their antecedents.[fn] In a spiritual sense the resurrection, the judgment, and the conflict with Antichrist have already commenced. Those who hear the voice of the Son of man and live, are so many Lazaruses called to the life divine.[fn] The separation of the darkness from the light effected by the preaching of the truth is a solemn judgment, and whosoever denies that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is Antichrist. Lastly, in a mystical sense, the adorable Master is come again to his own.[fn] But so far from these spiritual facts being incompatible with the external facts declared in the Revelation, they prepare the way for them. After so much suffering and strife, endured from the beginning of the world, divine love will at length win a glorious victory on the very scene of its conflicts. Even the brilliant colors of the Apocalypse fail to depict this triumph, for St. John exclaims in his first epistle: "It doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is."[fn] To be made like God—is not this the highest possibility of the development of the creature? Is it not the realization of the sublime purpose of the redeeming Word? Is it not the fulfillment of the 463prayer of Christ, "that they all may be one; as thou Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us."[fn] Having ascended to these heavenly heights, the theology of John is complete; no mysticism can soar above it, however bold its flight. The perfect union of the creature with the Creator through the Word, is the ultimate expression of the doctrine of love; beyond it there is nothing. This is, therefore, the closing utterance of the apostolic age; the conclusion, and not the refutation, of all that has gone before; the conciliation of all contradictions in the Church; in a word, the last revelation from heaven, absolute truth, God himself. Freed from all error, comprehended in all its depth, it will ever be the grandest result wrought out by the historian of theology, who, bending over the book in which it was inscribed by the aged saint of Ephesus, seeks to decipher it from age to age.464
Chapter IV. The Churches in the Time of St. John.
§ I. External Condition.
§ I. External Condition.
HISTORY finds few events of note to record in the period which extends from the destruction of Jerusalem to the close of the first century. It is a time of internal development, during which the Church is gathering up all the teachings received during the apostolic age. Missions are carried on on a less imposing scale. The propagation of the faith is, however, far from being arrested, for we can prove the existence, at the commencement of the following century, of a large number of new Churches. Instead of losing ground in the countries where it had gained a footing, Christianity became firmly established. We see from the names of the Churches mentioned in the Revelation, that in Asia Minor, for example, the great cities where Paul had first preached the Gospel became centers of proselytism, from which the light spread into the neighboring towns. From Ephesus, Laodicea, and Colosse, the new faith cast forth its roots to Smyrna in Ionia—a commercial and wealthy city—to Philadelphia in Lydia, and in Mysia to Thyatira, and, lastly, to Pergamos, the ancient residence of the kings of Asia, once famous for its noble library. The same expansive movement—the truth spreading itself by 465contact—was doubtless carried on in Greece, Africa, and Italy.
Persecution from the close of the reign of Nero to the time of Domitian was not of a general character. It was local and intermittent, but it never entirely ceased. The most unimportant occasion was sufficient to make it burst out afresh in a province. It was continuous in Palestine, where Jewish fanaticism had been stimulated by the very chastisements designed to rebuke it. We have cited the decrees of excommunication, the effect of which was to break the last links between the Church and the Synagogue. But, even beyond Judæa, the Jewish faction pursued its adversaries with implacable hatred. At Smyrna, as at Philadelphia, it greatly troubled the Christians, and succeeded in casting some of them into prison.
§ II. Internal Condition of the Churches. Heresies. Church Organization.
§ II. Internal Condition of the Churches. Heresies. Church Organization.
The position of the Churches at the close of the apostolic age was one full of peril and temptation To the period of first enthusiasm, when no difficulty seemed to damp the ardor of zeal and love, had succeeded a period when the obstacles to be overcome became more and more apparent, when numerous defections cast a doubt upon the fairest promises, when, finally, evils which had seemed completely subdued sprang again into life. We see, in fact, from the picture drawn in the Revelation of the seven Churches in Asia Minor, that shortly after the death of Peter and Paul, influences from without had effected a wide entrance in their midst.[fn] There was not, in the case of these Churches, any violent crisis, as at Corinth, where the elements alien to Christianity came into strong collision, and the evil, like the good, was of a decided character. Such crises give hope of restoration to the truth as speedy as the aberration. But the case was very different to which St. John addressed himself in the book of the Revelation. The sap had almost ceased to circulate in the branches; first love was ready to die,[fn] and luke-469warmness was taking the place of ardor and zeal.
Heresy, during the period of John, is no longer vague and floating as in the preceding age; it takes a more decided form. We have traced this process of transformation with reference to the Judaizing heresies which do not come within the scope of the Apostle, but which, from the time of the fall of Jerusalem, gradually assumed a settled form. A similar change is passing upon the heresies arising out of paganism, the first manifestations of which we noted in Asia Minor, where the double current of Western philosophy and Eastern theosophy met. Gnosticism is just emerging from its formative state. We cannot yet give a general description of the system, for we 471should be in danger of committing an anachronism, and attributing to the apostolic age that which really belongs to a much later period. When we come in contact with the systems of Valentinus and Basilides we shall give a summary of all the various features of Gnosticism as they were successively developed. We shall then have a complete idea of this important reaction of the spirit of paganism on the Church. We know already that Gnosticism is essentially dualistic; it rests upon that antagonism between matter and spirit which was a fundamental element of Greek philosophy and of all oriental religions. In the time of St. Paul, heresy terminated in an exaggerated asceticism, founded upon a false spirituality; it had even gone so far as to deny the resurrection of the body. In the time of St. John the doctrine of the Gnostics took a wider range; it tended more and more toward Docetism, that is, to the theory which holds the bodily existence of Christ to have been a mere semblance.[fn] From the dualistic stand-point, in fact, the body, as the material element, is infected with evil; it was impossible, therefore, to suppose that He who was to overcome evil could have brought a body with him into the world. The natural consequence of these ideas was the doctrine that Jesus Christ had possessed only a semblance, a shadow of corporeal life. It would be erroneous, however, to suppose that in the time of St. John Docetism had assumed a thoroughly systematic form; it was a tendency rather than a doctrine; but it was constantly gaining ground. It is for this reason the Apostle insists with so much emphasis upon the incarnation: "Every spirit," he 472says, "which confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God; this is that spirit of Antichrist."[fn] We should note also the urgency with which he dwells on the essentially practical character of the truth—of that truth which needs not only to be known but to be fulfilled, and which implies absolute submission to the commands of God.[fn] We perceive that even the partially developed Gnosticism of his day tended to reduce Christianity to a mere intellectual theory without influence upon the moral life, and that it fostered the serious inconsistencies of conduct to which we have alluded. It is not surprising, that as it reinstated the fundamental principle of paganism, it should have justified its works and shielded its corruption.
Like the prophet Balaam, and wicked Jezebel, who led the ancient people of God to make a league with the idolators, the heretics sought to lower the barrier between the Christians and the heathen. Thus the Revelation speaks of them in symbolic phrase, under those well-known names which so accurately characterized their conduct.
Already, in the heresies of this age, an idea began to gain currency which became widely diffused in the second century—the idea, namely, that the world was not created by the Supreme God, but by an inferior and antagonistic deity, known as the demriurge,[fn] the spirit of evil and controller of matter. Cerinthus, the adversary of St. John, accepted this hypothesis of an inferior and evil creator; not, perhaps, with all the clearness of precision attributed to him by Irenaeus and Hippolytus, but, at least, in substance. It was a natural consequence from dualism, and seemed to guard the holiness of God much more effectually than the theory of emanations, since it supposed no contact on his part with evil and with matter. The two 474principles being opposed to each other as eternally hostile, it was better to suppose that the evil principle had worked without any participation on the part of the spiritual. Cerinthus was by birth a Jew, but imbued with Alexandrian Gnosticism[fn] and oriental Theosophy. The power which created the world was, according to him, a force separate from the Supreme God, and acting without his concurrence.[fn] Jesus Christ was not born of a virgin; he was the son of Joseph and Mary, like other men, but distinguished from others by his righteousness and holiness. At his baptism the divine power, which is above all, descended upon him in the form of a dove.[fn] From that time he wrought miracles, and revealed to men the unknown God. But, at the close of his life, this invisible power, which was the Christ, or the divine element in him, returned into heaven, and it was the man Jesus alone who suffered and rose again, while the celestial Christ was subject to no suffering because of his spiritual nature.[fn] This ingenious system skillfully combined the Gospel narrative with the principles of dualism. We meet, again and again, both in the fourth gospel and in the epistles of John, with allusions to these false doctrines, which were equivalent 475to the negation of Christianity. The prologue of the fourth gospel is designed to establish that there is no separation between the Jesus and the Christ; that the man Jesus was in very truth the Word made flesh. We read in the first epistle: "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?"
The worship of the Church retained the same character of freedom as in the preceding century. The narrative of Clement of Alexandria shows us that no hesitation was felt in freely discussing the interests of the Church in the sacred assemblies. The conversation between St. John and the bishop with reference to the young apostate took place at a time when the whole Church was gathered together. The Revelation, however, puts us on the track of a gradual transformation even then commencing. The glowing description given by St. John of the heavenly worship is an indirect invitation to the Church on earth to conform to this ideal. That Church would, doubtless, delight to repeat or to paraphrase some of those sublime songs which gave such glorious expression to the religious feeling. Nothing could be more alien to the spirit of this grand epoch than the work of determining liturgical formularies. Nevertheless, as one by one the miraculous gifts were withdrawn, the great monuments of apostolic inspiration would naturally 478become the models and types of Christian adoration. We catch the echo of the anthems of the Revelation in those remarkable prayers of the Church of the second century, which have come down to us.
With reference to Christian festivals, the observance of the Lord's day becomes more marked than formerly. It was already so called in commemoration of the resurrection.[fn] But we find no trace of any formal substitution of the Christian for the Jewish Sabbath, nor any legal appointment of its observance. The only great annual feast of which mention is made is the Passover. The Churches of Asia Minor, following the example of St. John, celebrated the anniversary of the Lord's death on the I4th of Nisan, at the same time as the Jews partook of the Paschal lamb. The anniversary of the resurrection thus fell on various days of the week, since it was always fixed for the third day after the 14th of Nisan. The Western Churches, on the other hand, always made the Easter, the closing day of the Passover fast, coincide with the Sunday.[fn] This difference of practice produced in the following century a violent controversy, which we shall trace through its various phases. In the first century the peace of the Church was not so lightly broken. There is no ground for regarding as a concession to Judaism the fact that St. John fixed on the 14th of Nisan, in determining the date of the great Christian festival. The Apostle recognized in Jesus Christ the true Paschal Lamb, who had taken the place of the prophetic lamb, as the reality substitutes the type. By 479celebrating the anniversary of the Redeemer's death on that very day, he proclaimed the abrogation of the old covenant. It is further proved that this celebration was not at all Jewish in character, but was thoroughly in harmony with the spirit of Christian worship.[fn]
With St. John the apostolic age closes.
Revelation is before us in all its wealth, in its inexhaustible freshness, its infinite variety, and mighty unity. The various types of apostolic doctrine succeeded and supplemented one another. But there is not one of these elements which the Church is not bound to make its own, and its whole history will be but a progressive appropriation of the true Christ—of him whose image in all its divine lineaments the first century of the Church faithfully preserved.
That eventful and checkered history is about to begin. The last of the Apostles has passed away. The Church will no longer have that visible protection, that gentle and firm guidance, which has hitherto saved it from so many perils; but these very perils are necessary to its earnest appropriation of the truth. Though the Apostles are removed, He who gave the Apostles remains, and in him the Church will find light in all darkness, lifting up after every fall—victory over every foe.480 481
Note A. Literature of the Subject.
A. [See page 23.]
WE shall not do more here than indicate the principal works on the apostolic age, those, at least, which have come under our particular notice. It is scarcely needful to say that our fountain-head is the New Testament. We shall treat, in the course of this work, of the title of each of its books to our confidence. Christian Antiquity presents to us also a wealth of information. The "Ecclesiastical History" of Eusebius;[fn] the writings of the "Fathers" of the first three centuries, especially the "Philosophoumena" of St. Hippolytus; the treatise of St. Jerome, "De Viris illustribus Ecclesiæ;" the fragments of the early "Fathers" contained in the "Spicilegium" of Grabe, and in Routh's "Reliquiæ Sacræ,"[fn] have been constantly consulted by us. If we pass on to the various memorials of Christian antiquity, we should refer first of all, for the old Catholic school, to the "Annals" of Baronius, the vast repertory of Catholic tradition, in which the erudition equals the lack of criticism;[fn] and next, to the "Mémoires" of Lemain de Tillemont, which, while they are not at all more critical, are more conscientious, and are always valuable for reference.[fn] The Catholicism of our day in France offers very few works on the history of the apostolic age. The crude medley, dignified by Rohrbacher with the name of "Ecclesiastical History," is beneath serious notice; it is the most senseless of compilations. Germany has given to Catholicism a distinguished historian in Döllinger, but he is too much fettered by a preimposed system to judge of facts with impartiality. A recent work of the same school, "The History 482of Revelation," by Mesmer,[fn] Professor of Theology, attempts to defend the hierarchy on historical grounds, with great moderation of language and ingenuity of thought, but always evidently under the influence of preconceived ideas. M. Albert de Broglie, in the preliminary chapter of his History of the Fourth Century, has drawn a striking sketch of the first age of Christianity, but it is wanting in any scientific demonstration, to which, indeed, it makes no pretense.[fn]
We need not enumerate here all the historical memorials of early Protestantism. We will content ourselves with mentioning only the "Centuries of Magdeburg" in Germany, and in France, the learned "Ecclesiastical History" of Basnage.[fn] This erudite author occupies too much the controversialist's stand-point to set forth with sufficient breadth the destinies of the primitive Church. In England, Church histories abound, but few are remarkable for criticism or historical connection. The history of the early ages of the Church has received large contributions from Puseyism, and also from the narrow dogmatism which persistently traces its own likeness in the theology of the Apostles. Some progress, however, has been already made under the influence of Germany. We may refer to the noble works of Howson, on the Life and Writings of St. Paul,[fn] (somewhat too diffuse and broken up by episodes;) also to the commentaries of Dean Stanley and Professor Jowett on the epistles of the same Apostle. These distinguished divines have discovered the true secret of awakening interest in exegetical studies, by taking their stand on historic ground. Among the principal writings in France, up to the present time, we may mention M. Rillet's "Commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians," and M. Arnaud's on the "Epistle of St. Jude." There are also valuable suggestions in the' Sermons on St. Paul," by A. Monod, and in many recent treatises. The "Revue de Thèologie," founded at Strasburg by M. Colani, has touched on most of the great problems arising out of the apostolic age. We have given careful consideration to these works, even when we differed from their conclusions. We must not omit to note a series of articles by M. Rèville on "The First Century of the Church," published in the journal "Le Lien," (years I856-7.) The learned work of M. 483Reuss on the "History of the Theology of the Apostolic Age," which we have constantly before us, either for purposes of consultation or of refutation, forms a kind of link between France and Germany, leading us into the much-tilled field of German criticism.[fn]
It would be useless to attempt to catalogue the works which have accumulated during the last fifty years in Germany—that fatherland of modern theology. We will only cite the most characteristic. Let us point first to the vast treasures of exegesis—De Wette's exegetical manuals, so full and so exact; the graphic commentaries of Olshausen and Tholuck; the great works of Lücke on the "Writings of St. John," and of Bleek on the "Epistle to the Hebrews," and many other monuments of learning, so solid and so reliable that they furnish inexhaustible resources to the student of the primitive age of the Church. Passing on to the history of the period, properly so called, we place in the first rank Neander's "History of the Foundation of the Apostolic Church,"[fn] of which there is a French translation by M. Foutanès, but which is better consulted in the last German edition. In it we find all the profound piety, the breadth of view, the elevated spirituality, the historical acumen, which characterize the great historian. We owe him much, though we feel that he no longer meets all the necessities which have arisen out of the incessant discussions of the last few years. We mention, as another work belonging to the same class, the book of Dr. Philip Schaff, Professor at Mercersburg, in the United States. It displays much learning, and a remarkable talent for exposition, but, perhaps, too much theological caution, and a sort of timidity in coming to clear conclusions on delicate questions.[fn] Lange's "Apostolic Age," lately published, combines the merits and the faults of this original and fertile theologian, who is as bold as he is scholarly, and who needs to be consulted with sympathy, and, at the same time, criticised with care.[fn] "The History of the Apostles, or the Progress of the Church from Jerusalem to Rome," by Baumgarten, is notable for attentive and searching study of the sacred documents, and as an animated exposition, which draws copiously from original sources.[fn] The author enables us to watch with great clearness the 484transformations wrought in the apostolic Church, between its early days and the triumph of Christian universalism, without, however, exaggerating the divergences, and without representing two opposing Churches in the bosom of primitive Christianity.
The sacerdotal and hierarchical views, or rather the Irvingite idea, is represented by Thiersch. In spite of the narrowness of his principles, his "History of the Apostolic Age" is written with so much piety, skill, and delicacy that it constantly sustains the interest in his theme. Thiersch is an adversary to be opposed only with feelings of sympathy and gratitude.[fn]
The Tübingen school has its most eminent representative in Baur, its learned head. His book on "St. Paul," and his "History of the First Three Centuries,"—especially the pages treating of the first century—comprise the whole programme of that theological school, which, after having outdone itself in Schwegler's book on the "Times Succeeding the Age of the Apostles,"[fn] has pursued a more moderate track in the works of Hilgenfeld, and still more of Ritschl, of whom we would say, as of Thiersch, he is a useful adversary, from whom there is much to learn.[fn] Ewald occupies a place apart in these discussions on the New Testament, as in those on the Old.[fn] We may notice, also, a polemical work by Lechler, in opposition to the Tübingen school;[fn] the "History of the Sacred Writings of the New Testament," by M. Reuss;[fn] and for Biblical theology, the excellent book of Schmid, of Tübingen.[fn] Beyond these general indications we have carefully noted, at the foot of each page, the works quoted.
Note B. The Chronology of the Acts.
B. [See page 23.]
It is extremely difficult to fix with precision the detailed chronology of the apostolic age. It is necessary very carefully to guard against any 485 NOTES. 485 thing arbitrary, and to be satisfied, apart from some certain data, with approximate results. Wieseler, in his learned work on the "Chronology of the Acts,"[fn] has been, in our opinion, too much carried away by his desire to fix the date of all the principal events. He multiplies ingenious combinations, but he does not succeed in determining with certainty the order of time, because his calculations are too often based upon hypothesis. There are, however, certain fixed points to which we can hold fast, and which serve as pole-stars for the history of the primitive Church; these are its points of contact with general secular history. We thus obtain four precise dates: 1. That of the death of Herod Agrippa.
Herod Agrippa died in the year 44, according to Josephus, ("Antiquities," books xix, ix, 2.) The same author places the great famine, which took place in the reign of Claudius, under the proconsulate of Caspius Fadus and of Tiberius Alexander. Josephus, "Antiquities," xx, v, 2. Now Caspius Fadus, having been sent into Judea after the death of Agrippa, the famine could not have commenced earlier than the end of the year 44. Indeed, it only reached Judæa some time after the death of the King, for at that time the Sidonians, under stress of the dearth, came to the Jews to be succored out of the abundance in their country. It was, then, only in the course of the year 45 that Judæa was reached by the scourge, and that Paul and Barnabas carried up to Jerusalem the offerings of the Church at Antioch.
The expulsion of the Jews from Rome Suetonius ("Claudius," 25) ascribes to Claudius. Tacitus, ("Annals," xii, 52,) who, under the name of "Mathematici," includes all the abettors of Eastern superstitions, places this expulsion in the year 52.[fn] It would be at this time that Priscilla and Aquila quitted Rome.
The date of the entry of Festus on his office is determined in the following manner. According to Josephus, ("Antiquities," viii, xxii,) Felix, deposed for his exactions, only escaped condemnation through the intercession of Pallas. If this be so, then Pallas himself could not yet have fallen into disfavor. Now his disgrace and death took place in the year 62. But a year does not suffice for all that was accomplished during the proconsulate of Festus. Festus's entry upon his office must then be carried back at least to the year 60.
The date of the death of Herod Agrippa gives us the date of the 486 death of James, and fixes it in the year 44. The date of the famine supplies that of the journey of Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem, to bear thither the collection made at Antioch. Clearly, the conversion of the Apostle must be placed several years earlier; for, according to
Note C. On the Principal Source of the History of the Primitive Church.
C. [See page 23.]
Our principal source is the book known under the name of the "Acts of the Apostles." Of this book we must, first of all, prove the credibility. Its authenticity was generally acknowledged in the early Church, from the time of Irenæus. "Quoniam autem is Lucas inseparabilis fuit a Paulo, et cooperarius ejus in Evangelio, ipse fecit manifestum."
Baur and Schwegler ground their theory on a supposed deep division between the Apostles, a division which they hold to have continued until their death. The refutation of this error will become apparent from the history. We shall show that there were no sharp and bitter polemics, except between St. Paul and the false teachers of Corinth and Galatia, and that if his proclamation that the Gospel was as wide as the world caused at first a certain degree of surprise, the agreement 488 between him and the other Apostles was immediately realized. No place is left, therefore, for a subsequent reconciliation of men who had never been enemies. So long as the genuineness of the first Epistle of St. Peter is admitted, it will be impossible to maintain that there is any radical opposition between the two Apostles. There was no occasion for a falsification of facts on their behalf in order to show, after their death, that a good understanding had existed between them during their life. The author of the book of Acts is not an unintelligent chronicler, who does no more than furnish, as it were, the mere material, the bare facts of the history. He is a thoughtful historian, who grasps the connection of events. The picture which he paints has perspective and a horizon; the present is illuminated by the future; from the very commencement of his book, he leads us to look for the solution of disputed problems. This solution he finds in the substitution of Christian universalism for that which was peculiar to the Jewish dispensation; but if we are right in our idea, that this solution marks in reality the close of the first period of the history of the apostolic Church, he fulfilled his duty, as a historian, in leading our expectations toward it. We can discern no trace of falsification in his narrative. He does not attempt, in any way, to disguise the Judaistic character of the worship of the Church at Jerusalem; he lets us see it fairly, in its devotion to the Temple-services and adherence to all the observances of the ceremonial law. The first sermons of Peter are strongly tinged with Old Testament coloring; they show no trace of the broad spirit of Christianity; salvation appears to him still to belong first to the seed of Abraham.
It has been asserted that the Acts are a compilation of several documents. To us, however, there appears throughout a unity of style and of composition too striking to allow us to suppose it the work of more than one hand, and that the very hand which penned the third gospel.[fn] We see no sufficient ground for granting the hypothesis 489that Timothy may have been the narrator of the second part of the Acts, that in which the narrator speaks as the direct witness of the events he records. Clearly the manner in which the writer speaks of Timothy contradicts such a supposition.
The voice of tradition, which ascribes to Luke the composition of the Acts, appears to us the best sustained opinion; it is well known that he was one of the companions of Paul in his last journeys.
D. [See page 32.]
It is not to be denied that the narrative of St. Luke presents some serious difficulties. It is not easy, in the first place, to understand the object of the miracle, for the foreign Jews who were at Jerusalem all understood the Aramaic tongue. In the next place, the extraordinary outpouring of the Spirit does not appear in other passages of the Acts, to be accompanied with the gift of tongues.
For ourselves, we should be very slow to admit that, on a fact of such importance, the primitive tradition of the Church can be erroneous or inexact. We see no difficulty in believing that the miracle of the gift of tongues assumed a special character on the day of Pentecost. It was the language of ecstacy, and in this respect resembled the gift of tongues at Corinth, but was distinguished from the latter by its intelligibility. Why should not the same miracle have assumed various forms in the apostolic age? Its extraordinary and unique character on the day of Pentecost is explained by supposing that the miracle reached on that day, as it were, its mightiest development. It was a glorious completion of the divine symbolism, which we have recognized in the marvelous circumstances accompanying the first outpouring of the Spirit.
Note E. The Council at Jerusalem.
E. [See page 140.]
The question of the Council and the Conference at Jerusalem is one of those which has called forth in modern times the most lively discussions. The Tübingen school, starting with the supposition that the narrative of the Acts, (
Note F. On the Supposed Second Captivity of Paul.
F. [See page 203.]
A large number of writers, both ancient and modern, have admitted a second captivity of the Apostle Paul. Eusebius[fn] and Jerome[fn] support it with their testimony. Among modern writers Neander ("Pflanz.," i, 538) holds the same opinion. We are not prepared to admit it, and we adopt in this respect the views of M. Reuss[fn] and of Wieseler.[fn] We shall confine ourselves to a refutation of Neander, who has presented with great ability all the arguments in favor of the second captivity of Paul. The learned historian does not attach much importance to the testimony of Eusebius, thus expressed:
"It is reported that after having presented his defense, the Apostle departed to continue his apostolic mission, and that he returned a second time to Rome, there to suffer martyrdom. At that time, while in bonds, his second letter to Timothy must have been written." It is clear that Eusebius does not affirm the fact; he merely says, "It is reported." It is only the echo of a tradition, of which he does not assume the responsibility. This tradition rests evidently on the famous passage of Clement of Rome, in his epistle to the Corinthians. It runs thus: "Paul, having preached righteousness through the whole world, and 493having reached the uttermost parts of the West, suffered martyrdom under the emperors, thus departed fiom their world."[fn] This passage appears conclusive to Neander. He insists strongly on the expression, "The uttermost parts of the West." This appears to him to point to Spain, where Paul declared his intention to preach the Gospel.
The other proof adduced by Neander is founded on exegesis. He bases it on the second Epistle to Timothy, in which Paul seems to speak of his deliverance.
Note G. The Epistles of St. Paul.
G. [See page 204.]
We admit the full authenticity of all the epistles to which the name of Paul is attached, with the exception of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which we attribute to Apollos. There are some about which no question at all is raised. The Epistles to the Galatians, to the Romans, and those to the Corinthians, are beyond a doubt. Baur himself admits their authenticity. The two Epistles to the Thessalonians have been attacked by some on the ground that they are insignificant, wanting in special interest, and give in detail, and without occasion, specific views of prophecy.[fn] We have already replied to the second objection by showing that the unhealthy excitement of some Christians at Thessalonica—who, under pretext of looking for the return of Jesus Christ, abandoned themselves to indolence—required from Paul some enlarged reference to prophecy. He must needs guard against one of the most serious abuses of his doctrine. We disallow utterly the objection founded on the want of interest and originality in these epistles-an objection which Baur urges in a general manner against all the minor epistles of the Apostle. A mere impression cannot be discussed. We appeal to the witness of the Christian conscience. The Epistle to the Ephesians is rejected by the same critic, because of its resemblance to the Epistle to the Colossians.[fn] But M. Reuss has perfectly shown that their resemblance is not as complete as is asserted. "Geschichte H. Schr., N. T.," p. 102. It is not surprising that the Apostle, writing to Churches placed in similar circumstances, should have addressed to them the same counsels. Baur urges, in objection to the genuineness of these letters, certain Gnostic tendencies, which he believes he discovers in the writer.[fn] He thus characterizes the metaphysical expansion of the doctrine as to the person of Jesus Christ; he makes much of the word πλήρωμα.
The objections brought against the epistles of Paul are drawn, as we have seen, from internal evidence. No one denies that their authenticity was unanimously recognized in the third century. Placing ourselves on the ground occupied by our adversaries, it is impossible to us to discover in the disputed epistles a single point not in accordance with the character of the Apostle, and with the history of his life. What shall we say of the extravagance of a criticism which goes so far as to assert that Paul's comparison of the Christian to a soldier, (
Note H. On the Epistles of James and of Jude.
H. [See page 206.]
The epistles of James and of Jude have been placed by Eusebius ("Hist. Eccles.," iii, 25) among the "Antilegomena," or disputed writings. But we see no sufficient reason for this assertion, and the external evidence is entirely in their favor. The doubts must have arisen later from doctrinal causes, probably in the case of James from the supposed opposition between his doctrine and that of Paul, and in that of Jude from his quotation from the apocryphal book of Enoch. The Church of Syria had admitted the epistle of the former into its canon. Clement of Rome seems to refer to it: "Epistle to the Corinth.," chap. x. Origen quotes it: "Commentar. in Joannem," vol. xix, iv, 406. Clement of Alexandria quotes the Epistle 407of Jude. "Stromat.," iii, 434; "Pædagog," iii, 239; Origen, "Commentar. in Matth.," iii, 463. (See, for the Epistle of Jude, the very complete "Commentary" of M. Arnaud.)
Note I. On the Second Epistle of Peter.
I. [See page 213.]
We have spoken of only one Epistle of Peter, because it seems to us impossible to admit, with any certainty, the authenticity of the second. It is noteworthy that it is only mentioned for the first time by Clement of Alexandria, and even that quotation is not direct. Eusebius, "Hist. Eccles.," vi, 24. Origen, who cites it, ("Comment. in Joannem," iv, 135,) is the first and only one of the "Fathers" of the third century who clearly appeals to its authority. The Church of Syria, the testimony of which is of great value, did not acknowledge this epistle, and Eusebius ("Hist. Eccles.," iii, 55) quotes it among the "Antilegomena." The doubt was current as late as the fourth century, for Jerome says, "Scripsit Petrus duas Epistolas, quae Catholicæ nominantur, quarum secunda a plerisqne ejus esse negatur propter styli cum priore dissonantiam." "De Viris illustribus," c. i.
On the other hand, the First Epistle of Peter has in its favor the highest possible testimony. Eusebius, "Hist. Eccles.," iii, 39; iv, 14; Irenæus, "Contr. Hæres," iv, 9, 2; Clement of Alexandria, Stromat.," iii, 73; Tertull., "C. Scorp.," i, 2.
If we proceed to the examination of the internal evidences, they are very unfavorable to the authenticity of the Second Epistle of Peter. 1st. The style has scarcely any analogy to that of the first epistle. 2d. The dependent relation of this epistle to that of Jude is very marked; the author constantly takes up the text of Jude as a theme to be worked out. (See the parallelism of the two epistles in M. Arnaud's "Commentary on Jude.") 3d. The writer insists upon his apostolic degree with a strange mannerism, resembling that of the apocryphal writings, (
There is nothing incredible in the pretension of the unknown author to pass for Peter. The whole apocryphal literature of the second and third centuries is full of fictitious scriptures, and the name 498of Peter is that most commonly employed. May we not suppose that an orthodox Christian, at the close of the second century, indignant at the supposed opposition between Peter and Paul, appealed to in the "Clementines," composed this epistle to set forth their deep harmony, making use, perhaps, of some fragments of the preaching of Peter which tradition may have preserved, for the commencement of the epistles? Calvin, in his embarrassed comments on this letter, betrays a doubt, which he is unable to dispel from his own mind or from the minds of his readers: "Cæterum," he says, in his introduction, "de auctore non constat, nunc Petri nunc apostoli nomini promiscue mihi permittam." "As there is no certainty about the author, I shall permit myself to say indifferently, Peter or the Apostle." Let us observe that there is nothing in this epistle in contradiction to other canonical writings; it contains no special or new. revelation. It is better frankly to express a doubt as to its authenticity than to sanction the idea that Christian belief is bound absolutely to the traditional canon fixed by the Church of the fourth century.
Note J. On the Author of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
J. [See page 232.]
It is not disputed by any, that, while the Western Church for nearly three centuries denies that Paul is the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the doctors of the Church of Alexandria are almost unanimous in attributing the epistle to him. But the opinion of the West, and of Rome in particular, has great weight in the question, since that Church must be supposed to have had most authentic information of all that related to the Apostle Paul, and especially of every thing connected with his captivity. Clement of Rome, makes constant allusions to the Epistle to the Hebrews. How would it be possible that he should never have named its author, if he had known who he was, and especially if he had known him to be the Apostle Paul? It is easy to understand how the Church of Alexandria should have arrived by a philosophical synthesis, natural to its genius, at the conclusion that Paul was the writer of an epistle which bears the impress of his thought. The internal evidences which vindicate the judgment of the Western Church are admirably set forth in Bleek's "Commentary." The following are the principal: ist. The striking difference of style; the diversity of opinion on this point seems to us inexplicable. 2d. The relation of dependence, in which 499the author places himself, upon the immediate witnesses of Jesus Christ.
The hypothesis, which ascribes the Epistle to the Hebrews to Apollos, is the most plausible. He was certainly a warm advocate of Paul's principles; he was well versed in the Scriptures; he was at Alexandria, where great prominence was given to the typical and allegorical style. He was a man eloquent and learned. All these various characteristics are remarkably displayed in the Epistle to the Hebrews.
Note K. Diversity of Opinions as to the Theology of the Apostolic Age.
K. [See page 235.]
We have presented the system of the Tübingen school under its most moderate form, as it is set forth in the last book of Baur, "Das Christenthum der drei ersten Jahrhunderte." Tübingen, 1853, pp. 43-151.
The book of Schwegler, often quoted by us, "Das Nachapostolische Zeitalter," (Tübingen, 1840,) is much more arbitrary in the use of internal 500 evidence. His fundamental idea is, that the Christian doctrine of the third century was formed by successive transformations of Ebionitism. Another disciple of Baur—Ritschl—in his book entitled, "Entstehung der altcatholischen Kirche," (Bonn, 1850,) starts from a hypothesis quite opposed to that of Schwegler. In his view, the dogmatic system of the third century was not formed by Ebionitism, but by Paulinism, the normal development of the doctrine of Jesus Christ. He supposes Judæo-Christianity, on the other hand, to have been smitten with absolute dogmatic sterility, and those of its adherents, who did not fall in with Paulinism, to have formed the Ebionite sect—a party in the rear of advancement, and not the nucleus of the Church. A second edition of this learned work has just appeared, in which there is a very perceptible modification of the author's views, more especially, however, with reference to the teaching of Christ, No one can place M. Reuss's learned book, "The History of Christian Theology in the Second Century," (2d vol., Strasburg, 1852,) under the banner of the Tübingen school. The author, whose conscientious works we have already often mentioned, appears to us to have made too many concessions to the system, which supposes a complete ecclesiastical and dogmatical polity in the first century. He has exaggerated the difference between Judæo-Christianity and Paulinism. The great complaint which we make of M. Reuss's book is, that he misconceives the unique, exceptional, and creative character of the apostolic theology. We have endeavored to show how we can, with the Church of every age, admit this without falling into mechanical theopneustics. The work of Schmid, "Biblische Theologie des N. T.," (Stuttgart, I853,) has been a useful aid to us, as also Neander's "Apostolic Age," 2 vols. The portion of Schaff's book, which refers to apostolic doctrine, (pp. 606-638,) is only an extract from Neander.
Note L. On the Authenticity and the Date of the Apocalypse.
L. [See page 428.]
Notwithstanding the able and learned dissertations of Lücke on the passages of "the Fathers" which support the authenticity of the Apocalypse, those passages appear to us conclusive. Either external evidence must be denied all value, or it must be admitted to be conclusive in this case. Setting aside the passages of the writings of the apostolic "Fathers," which, in a general way, remind us of the Apocalypse, 501(for instance, the sixth chapter of Polycarp's "Epistle to the Ephesians," where mention is made of the prophets, who had declared the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ,) it is clear to us that Papias sought in it support for his millenarian views. Andreas, a writer of the fifth century, quoted, in explanation of Papias,
The first doubts on this subject were expressed by the sect of the Alogi, who denied the divinity of Jesus Christ. These doubts were carried further by Caius, and finally by Dionysius of Alexandria, (Eusebius, vii, 25,) and more or less confirmed by Eusebius. But it is only needful to study the grounds taken up by Dionysius, in order to be convinced that he reasons entirely from à priori arguments, and that it is fear of the chiliasts, or millenarians, which leads him to throw doubt upon the book of the Revelation.
Is the internal evidence in truth as adverse as is asserted? We think not. We admit that there are great differences in substance and in form between the Gospel of John and the Revelation, but there are also striking analogies. The differences seem to us to have been exaggerated by Lücke and Reuss,[fn] as well as by the Tübingen school, which exults in the asserted Judaism of St. John, in order to dispute the authorship of the fourth gospel. Baur[fn] goes so far as to see in it a sort of Judaistic libel on St. Paul. Hengstenberg falls into the opposite extreme.[fn]
Stress is laid first on the difference of style and on the Hebraic coloring of the Apocalypse. This difference is real; it is explained in part by the fact that the Book of the Revelation is, from its very 502nature, much more dependent on Old Testament prophecy, the vivid images of which it constantly reproduces. This explanation, however, is not alone sufficient, and we are fully convinced that the Revelation cannot have been written at the same date as the Gospel and Epistles.
Three points are especially insisted upon in proof of the difference between the Revelation and the other writings of
The opposition of the Gospel of John to Judaism must not be exaggerated. Do we not read in it these words, "Salvation is of the Jews?"
3d. It is maintained that the doctrine of the author of the Revelation is totally at variance with that of the author of the Gospel. And first, Jesus, it is said, is not represented as the Word of God, but only as the great revealer; but what, then, is conveyed by those hymns to the Lamb, which blend his name in common adoration with that of God?
Even those who pretend to discover in the Apocalypse the notion of salvation by works, as opposed to the true Christian doctrine, are constrained to admit that there are few books of the New Testament in which redemption by the blood of Christ is more clearly taught.
Though we concur in the belief of the authenticity of the Apocalypse, we are not, however, prepared to admit the traditional date for its composition. We have already pointed out several reasons which, from a doctrinal point of view, make us demur to this. We shall not recur to these. It is not, as we have shown, that we charge the writer of the Revelation with a rude Judaism, as has been done by others.[fn] No, we discern in it a divine revelation full of wealth and beauty. Let us not forget, however, that the revelations of God have been progressive, even in the new covenant. It is clear, for example, that as regards doctrinal fullness, there is a wide disparity between the Epistle of James and that of Paul to the Ephesians. God always takes account of human receptivity. There is, then, no reason for surprise if the revelations granted to the same man, at two different periods of his life, manifest a progression of light, while they, nevertheless, rest on the same basis of truth. We admit, however, without hesitation, that if the testimony of history compelled us to place the Apocalypse in the reign of Domitian, we should at once accept the traditional date, setting aside our own judgment. But there is no such necessity; the sole testimony of the second century in favor of this hypothesis is that of Irenæus. "The Apocalyptic vision," he says, " took place not long before our day, but a short time before our generation, under Domitian."[fn] Clement of Alexandria speaks only of some tyrant, under whom John was exiled to Patmos.[fn] Origen calls him the King of the Romans.[fn] Eusebius and St. Jerome echo the statement of Irenæus.[fn] Epiphanius is the first who differs from Irenæus as to the name of the tyrant or king who persecuted St. John. According to him it was Claudius who banished the Apostle to Patmos.[fn] Tertullian places the exile of John under the reign of Nero, who, he says, after having him plunged in a bath of boiling 505 oil, banished him to Patmos.[fn] The last two writers are evidently misinformed, but they prove to us that the tradition as to the date of John's exile was not generally accepted by the Church in their time. Nor was it so several centuries later; for Andreas, in his commentary on
From the study of the question we draw the conclusion that it is not possible to determine with exactness, by means of external evidence, the date of the composition of the Apocalypse. We are, therefore, compelled to give full weight to the internal evidence. We have already observed that the doctrinal character of the book is adverse to its traditional date. If, now, we sum up its historical statements, we shall find that they give some indications as to the time of its composition. Lücke and Reuss see one such indication in the eleventh chapter, where the sacred writer is bidden to measure the temple.[fn] In their view, this passage should be taken literally, and would imply that Jerusalem could not then have been destroyed; whence it would follow that the book must have been written before the year 70. But it seems to us impossible to be satisfied with a literal interpretation. We think, with Thiersch,[fn] that it is not possible to suppose John giving such flagrant contradiction to the prophecies of the Saviour, which declared the destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple.
It is to us evident that the Apostle wrote a few years after the terrible persecution under Nero. It is idle to draw any parallel between the persecutions under Domitian, and that first truly infernal explosion 506of pagan hatred against the Church. Let it be observed, further, that the sacred writer speaks only of Roman persecutions; he has ever in view the city of the seven hills. Now, was it not under Nero that in the first century Babylon the impure became drunk with the blood of the saints? The thirteenth and seventeenth chapters of the Apocalypse carry us into the midst of the Roman world. The beast in those two chapters represents the Roman power, for it is ridden by the "woman arrayed in purple and scarlet," who is the great harlot of the ancient world; and the seven heads of the beast correspond evidently to the seven hills of Rome. It is, then, in our opinion, a grave mistake to see in these seven heads a succession of monarchies, as in the book of Daniel. They might rather represent the succession of various forms of Roman government, but even this would be a forced interpretation. The seven heads, after representing the seven hills, represent seven kings, seven Roman kings, that is, seven emperors. One of these heads has a peculiar power, this is the Antichristian power, par excellence, antichrist in person. Now, this head, which has been mortally wounded, can be nothing else than an emperor who has fallen by a violent death. It is the fifth emperor, Nero. He was and is not. "Wounded to death," this head is yet to be healed and to reappear with greater power than before.
The combat is not finished, it has only commenced, and the first century is a faint image of the true Antichrist. What is there here unworthy of the Revelation? Is not the symbol admirably chosen? Do we not know that prophecy has always a primary signification, which, however, is capable of progressive and indefinite expansion? It is certain that the idea that Nero was Antichrist was widely diffused throughout the ancient Church; the expectation of his return took a materialized form, but its origin may be traced to this passage in the Apocalypse. It is not more surprising to find John brin