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But I speak of those Nazarene Christians, who believed our Lord to have been born of the Virgin Mary by the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit, who spoke of God and of Christ in the plain language of the Holy Scriptures, and kept close to what they found therein revealed, without affecting any philosophic novelties, or being wise above what is there written.
When Mosheim says, Vol. I. p. 118, that although the Nazarenes and Ebionites are generally placed among the sects of the apostolic age, they really belong to the second century, which was their earliest appearance as a sect; he speaks what was the truth, though wrongly understood by him. For, indeed, the whole Christian church in the apostolic age, made up of Jews and Gentiles, was entirely Nazarene or Unitarian; and the Jewish believers, though retaining some of their Jewish rites, as they did not impose them on others, gave no offence, nor caused any separation or division. The Gentile Christians were the first separatists or sectaries. An anonymous writer * against
against Artemon, about the year 200, bears these Jewish Christians this testimony, though he would invalidate it by the like assertion on his part, viz. that they appealed to their ancestors, and to the very, apostles themselves, as holding and teaching the same doctrine concerning Christ which they did ; and that the truth of the gospel, as they held it, was preserved to the time of Victor, bishop of Rome.
30 speak who are of the same opinion with me."-Justin Martyr, Dial. cum Tryph.
* Eusebius, Hist. Eccles. L. V, c. ult,
These churches of Jewish believers subsisted till the fifth century, but then sunk away, and we hear no more of them. Our countrymen, Wall and Lardner, and many learned foreigners, have lamented this coolness of the Gentile Christians towards the Jewish believers, and their aversion to all communion and correspondence with them, which St. Paul laboured to have kept up, and had much at heart, Rom. xi. 17-24. It might have been a means of keeping the Gentile church steady in the worship of the one true God, by the one Mediator the man Christ Jesus, 1 Tim. ii. 5, and have preserved it from other grievous errors, which have so much defaced, and nearly paganized the religion of Christ. But there was to be a falling away from the faith, 1 Tim. iv. 1, and God thought not fit to interpose, but to leave men to themselves.
But another, and a principal source of the corruption of the true Christian doctrine and wor. ship, the parent of the worst of errors, and which also, in the proportion it prevails, will perpetuate them for ever ; the cause of all the animosities, miseries and bloodshed, that have so often, and
so long disgraced the Christian name:--This is none other than that monster,
Monstrum horrendurn, informe, ingens, cui lumen ademptumhuman authority in the church of Christ : when man or men, single or combined, with or without the permission of the civil magistrate, have set themselves
for lords over the faith and consciences of others, and dictated and prescribed to them, under various pains and discouragements, what they were to believe, or profess to believe, concerning the revealed word and will of God, and the way in which they were to: worship him. The apostles of our Lord assumed no such powers over the minds of men. They did not require obedience to any doctrine of their own, but only to what they themselves were taught by Christ and the Holy Spirit.
But their followers could not refrain from so unseemly an ambition, even whilst they were suffering under the cross, and the civil powers every where turned against them.
For, towards the close of the second century, Victor, bishop of Rome, excommunicated all the churches of Asia for differing with him about keeping the time of Easter : and he shewed the like imperious behaviour in excommunicating Theodotus, a Jewish Christian, for not coming up to his own opinion concerning Christ, which was that afterwards called Arian, and happened then
and there chiefly to prevail. A very different temper of mind this, from what Justin Martyr shewed, (as cited above,) towards a Dissenting brother but a few years before.
But when the emperors had embraced Christianity, and great worldly privileges and emoluments became annexed to the fashionable religious opinions, the intolerance of Christians towards one another for every little difference would have seemed ridiculous, if it had not been attended with serious consequences to the unhappy Dissenters. For a long period, ecclesiastical history is entirely taken up with accounts of the bishops that bore the rule, travelling about to sit in councils, and decide upon opinions which had better have been left undecided, and would sooner have died away; and to excommunicate and depose such as differed in opinion from them from whom they differed as much themselves, and over whom they had no power but what the civil magistrate. gave them, who had no right to give them any, or to molest their opponents so long as they demeaned themselves peaceably; and which power might, with equal justice, have been turned against those who thought themselves most orthodox, and actually was so in the change of times, as the reigning emperor happened to be Arian or Homoousian.* Lord Bacon somewhere says, - such as hold
* Eusebius's Eccles. Hist. Lib. v.c. 28,
pressure of conscience, are guided therein by some private interest of their own." This is universally true of all oppressors of the consciences of others, in all ages and countries. The prince's religion will every where be best; * and that, heresy, and
* Mr. Hume has furnished us with a very singular instance of the exertion and influence of imperial authority in matters of religion, from our own history.
1571. “ In the former parliament the Puritans had introduced seven bills for a further reformation in religion, but they had not been able to prevail in any one of thein. This House of Commons had sat a very few days, when Stricland, à member, revived one of the bills, that for the amendment of the Liturgy. Religion was a point of which Elizabeth was, if possible, still more jealous than of matters of state. She pretended, that in quality of supreme hcad or governor of the church, she was fully empowered, by her prerogative alone, to decide all questions which might arise with regard to doctrine, discipline, or worship; and she never would allow her parliaments so much as to take these matters into consideration. The Queen was so highly offended with Stricland's presumption, in moving the bill for reformation of the Liturgy, that she sent for him to the council, and prohibited him thenceforth to appear in the House of Commons. That act of power was too violent even for this submissive parliament. Carleton complained that the liberties of the house were violated. Yelverton en. forced the principles of liberty with still greater boldness, The Treasurer warned the house to be cautious in their proceedings; neither to venture farther than their assured warrant might extend, nor hazard their good opinion with her Majesty in any doubtful cause. The member, he said whom they required, was not detained on acccount of any