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POSITION OF THE CHURCH ON EARTH.
he found death approaching, he dictated to one of his attendants a verse expressive of his state of feeling, and died whilst repeating it. From this we find that he believed the soul was only the guest of the body, and on the point of leaving its old companion, but he expressed neither hope nor fear as to its future state. Thus the weakest of the persecuted Christians was far better instructed, and infinitely happier than the wisest of the Roman emperors. At the earnest desire of Antoninus, the Senate passed over the tyrannical conduct of Adrian in his last illness, and consented to rank him also among the gods, A.D. 138.
POSITION OF THE CHURCH ON EARTH.-EXALTATION OF THE
CLERGY. - OBSERVANCE OF DAYS.-LEAVEN OF PHILOSOPHY. -JUSTIN MARTYR.
An inquiry into the state of the Church at the period immediately succeeding the apostolical age must be very interesting, as it leads us to the contemplation of human nature in a new situation.
It must be remembered, that the Church of God on earth was placed between two powerful and attractive bodies, namely, the Jews and the Gentiles; and it was only by holding the Head, even Christ, in heaven, that it could be kept steady, without inclining to one or the other, and exercise its power to attract individuals from either of these bodies. The tendency to incline towards Judaism was shown in the epistle to the Galatians and elsewhere; and the tendency to Gentilism, in 1 Cor. x. and elsewhere. During the seasons of repose, when the Church was not persecuted by the Jews or the Gentiles, these tendencies naturally increased; and even at this day it is suffering from the effects of its early mixture with the principles and habits of both.
But as the evil was progressive, and there have been, occasionally, recoveries from it; the work of the historian is to trace its progress, and to notice every measure of return to original simplicity.
Yet, first, I would state my own conviction, that the source
EXALTATION OF THE CLERGY.
of all error is in the evil heart of unbelief which leads to departure from the living God. We have seen this in the history of Israel; they grew weary of walking in His ways, and then tempted Him, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” They might have looked to the cloud which marked his presence, and yet they failed to believe in the living God. And so in the Church. How many visible proofs there were that the Holy Ghost was abiding in it, and that the living God was walking in his children according to his promise. Yet the rule and guidance of the Holy Spirit was so much forgotten, or neglected by the Church, that human authority and human arrangements were speedily put in His place; and human teaching substituted for His own teaching by the written word.
Hence the unscriptural exaltation of men who, instead of being filled with the Spirit and ministering the word, were soon put in the place of the Spirit and the word.
Andrew and Peter, James and John, the poor fishermen of Galilee, Matthew the publican, and the rest of the apostles, who were counted “ignorant and unlearned men,” “the filth and offscouring of all things,” might have been surprised to hear that in a few generations some of the richest and most learned men in the world, and occupying its highest places, would call themselves “apostles, successors of apostles, sons of apostles, princes of the Church, princes of the clergy,* princes of the people, high-priests, papa or pope, bishops of bishops, patriarchs, vicars of Christ, Christ's vicegerents, and vicars of God.” Yet this was actually the case; and these swelling titles gradually increased from the time of Ignatius. This corruption, so naturally arising out of the proud heart of man, was according to the spirit of the Gentiles (Mark x. 42), and to that of the Jews (Matt. xxiii. 6, 7); but of course in direct opposition to the mind of Christ, “One is your master even Christ, and all ye are brethren,” and to the last apostolical address left on record, which is, “I, John, who am also your brother,” &c. (Rev. i. 9).
* This term is only used once in the New Testament, namely, 1 Peter v. 3, where it is translated heritage. It is derived from the word translated lot (Acts i. 26), and was, perhaps, applied to the ministers of the Church on this account; but Peter refers it to the chosen people of God generally, not to the rulers.
OBSERVANCE OF DAYS.
Polycarp, the friend of Ignatius, already mentioned, came to Rome in the interval of peace to consult with the bishop there as to the right time of observing the day of the Lord's resurrection, or Easter-day; some saying it should be according to the Jewish calculation for the observance of the Passover; others, that it should be on the same day every year. This question seemed to be for a time settled ; but, before the end of the second century, it caused such strife, that the bishop at Rome excommunicated all the Asiatic bishops for not agreeing with him about it.
This evil was also foreseen by the Spirit, and the remedy provided in the written word which was in the possession of the Roman Christians (Rom. xiv. 5-10). And in another epistle, Paul expresses a fear concerning the Christians who observed “ days and months, and times and years." If any one who loved the Lord, particularly regarded the day of the year, as well as the day of the week, on which He rose from the dead, condemnation was unjust and unreasonable ; but if any were led away from the simplicity of Christ into Judaism, or into strife, by the observance of particular days, condemna. tion of them was just and scriptural. We have examples of both in the cases of the Roman and Galatian believers mentioned above.
Polycarp does not appear to have been occupied about this question to his own injury; but many who followed his example in making it a matter of discussion were so: and thus we always perceive the seed of any evil or mistake sown among men is very small, but, in such soil as the human heart, it soon grows up to a fearful height. Polycarp was very faithful in caring for the saints at Smyrna, and in rebuking the heretics whom he met at Rome.
On one occasion, when Marcion, a teacher among the Do. cetæ, greeted him in the street and cried out, “Polycarp own us !” (meaning own us, as Christians), the old man replied, “I do own thee to be the firstborn of the devil.” And so grieved was his spirit by the attempts of the heresiarchs (chief teachers of heresy) to overthrow the faith of the saints, that he often exclaimed, “ To what times, O God, hast thou reserved me!”
The Church of saints, gathered at Ælia (Jerusalem) in the early part of the second century, prospered after being freed from Jewish ordinances, and was under the care of Mark, a
faithful pastor. But sorrow arose among them from having received too easily the profession made by Aquila, governor of the city, and a relative of Adrian. When they found he was not a real Christian, and that he continued the study of magic and astrology, they excommunicated him, and this drew out all the enmity of his heart and made him openly profess Judaism. It was he who made the version of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, called by his name ; and it is said, he has in many instances purposely obscured the agreement between the Old and New Testament.
It was in the reign of Antoninus Pius, on which we are about to enter, that another evil spread in the Church, which had been, like all others, foreseen by the Spirit, and suitable warnings against it left in the written word :-“ Beware, lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men,-after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col. ij. 8). It is sorrowful again to observe that a good man, that is, one who truly loved Christ, should be the means of introducing into the Church that philosophy which spoiled its faithful witness to the doctrine of Christ.
It was Justin, surnamed Martyr, who first corrupted the simplicity of the gospel by mixing up with it the notions firmly fixed in his mind before his conversion. He was by birth a Syrian Greek, and came to Alexandria for the improvement of his mind. There he tried the various schools of philosophy, and probably gleaned something from each, though he was not satisfied with any. He left the Stoics because he could learn nothing among them of the nature of God, for they even said it was not necessary knowledge. The love of gain shown by a Peripatetic philosopher, disgusted him with that sect.* He was dismissed by a Pythagoreant because he did not under
* The followers of Aristotle were sometimes called Peripatetics from a Greek word, signifying to walk; because the scholars walked up and down whilst they received the instructions of the master. Their distinguishing doctrine was, that the due exercise of the moral and intellectual faculties was the chief good, and the means of procuring hap. piness.
+ Pythagoras, the founder of this sect, died about 500 B.C. Among other strange doctrines he taught the transmigration or passage of the soul from one body into another, and pretended he could recollect all the bodies his soul had formerly inhabited. It was he who discovered
LEAVEN OF PHILOSOPHY.
stand the sciences of music, astronomy, and geometry, which were considered necessary according to that system. At last he settled among the Platonists, and drank in so much of the spirit of their philosophy, that he never entirely lost it. In the midst of these studies, it is said, he met with an old Christian man who spoke to him of the vanity of all human philosophy, and recommended him to search the Hebrew Scriptures, as being far more ancient than the writings of Plato and Pythagoras, and of divine inspiration. Justin followed this advice, and prayed for light during the search. In the end he was convinced of the truth of Christianity; and the steadfastness of the Christians who suffered for their faith, strengthened his convictions. He wrote an Apology for Christianity in the reign of Antoninus, and a second Apology in that of his successor, and was at last beheaded on account of his profession, A. D. 163. The particular errors that Justin introduced were the more dangerous, on account of his devotedness of life, and the general soundness of his doctrine. He confounded the light of the natural conscience, common to all men (Rom. ii. 15), with the new creation, or life of Christ, of which the believer alone partakes (Gal. i. 16, ii. 20), by the power of the Holy Ghost. He said, also, that Plato, the Stoic philosophers, and others, had in them the seed of the Logos, i. e. the word of God. Moreover, he erred greatly in exalting the human will : and, not seeing the utter corruption of it, he spoke of a self-determining power in man, as many persons now do who deny that salvation is wholly of grace. From this time it became common for Christians to speak and to write in unscriptural language. Indeed the Scriptures, as before remarked, were not within the reach of all the Churches, far less of individual believers; and they depended more on the teaching of their bishops than on any other source of instruction; hence if these were not thoroughly instructed in the written word all were sure to suffer.
that the sun was the centre, around which the earth and the other planets revolved; but this theory was considered altogether improbable till it was proved to be undoubtedly true by the astronomers of the sixteenth century.