« AnteriorContinuar »
beyond all doubt that this is indeed a holy, and a righteous, and a Christian cause—it is a cause that can shed nothing but honour upon those who earnestly and zealously strive to promote it.—Pp. 16—20.
Mr. Thompson concludes with some general exhortations.
The progressive increase of population, happily undiminished by war or epidemical disease, naturally suggested to the minds of our rulers and ecclesiastical guardians the necessity of enlarging the present churches, and adding to the number of sacred edifices. Ten years have elapsed, since many devout members of our communion instituted a Society to carry into execution this praiseworthy plan; and munificent subscriptions have enabled them to supply the spiritual wants of some most populous districts. Parliament also at the same time with admirable wisdom assigned one million of money, and afterwards half a million more, to the sole use of building Churches; sanctifying the many millions expended in war by a splendid tribute to the Prince of Peace. Four-fifths of these donations are already consumed; and the remainder awaits the fulfilment of proinises to numerous applications; so that, with every prudence of management, the whole is exhausted. Is it in vain to expect a repetition of parliamentary succour? By what more efficacious measure, than that of preaching the gospel to rich and poor, when they meet together in the house of the Lord, who is Waker of them all, can the blessing of heaven be secured to our Protestant constitution? The small sums obtained by briefs were almost, if not altogether, absorbed in official fees; and therefore briefs, however wise in their original formation, justly becoming unpopular through the well-known misapplication of such collections, are now wisely abolished. Henceforth the total sums, to whatever amount, will be immediately transmitted to the Incorporated Society, and exclusively devoted to the specific objects professedly in view. How often this mode of subsidiary largesses will be put in action, must depend partly on the productiveness of the present appeal to the public generosity, and partly on the exigencies, greater or less, of the several cases, which will require proportionable grants. No certain period of recurrence is intimated. If, for instance, an annual or a triennial circular, like the present, were intended to be issued, such intention would have been plainly announced. But as nothing is known on this point, so nothing is expressed.
Our own diocese has hitherto received its full share of assistance. Thirty-two cases have been aided by the sum of 6,2301. Hence 9,019 additional sittings have been procured, of which 6,731 are to be free and unappropriated. Thus excuses are cut off from many, who may have wished and sought excuse, for excommunicating themselves from the Church and fellowship of the saints of God; while accommodation is afforded to many, who used to hunger and thirst after the word of life, as dispensed in her pure and orthodox ritual. —Pp. 10–12.
These statements cannot be too extensively circulated. It is very commonly believed that the collections under the King's Letter will be as wretchedly malappropriated as those formerly made under briefs. That abuse is happily removed ; and the nation owes, on that score, a large debt of gratitude to Mr. Peel. The Church Building Society has not distinguished itself by ostentatious exhibitions and declamatory fustian ; it has not obtruded its claims ; it has walked a silent and dignified course; it parades not its achievements in tavern bombast and Milesian metaphor. It is asked, what are its deeds, and what its merits; and, silent until then, it points to the kingdom around, and replies, “ CIRCUMSPICE."
We have received from a correspondent some hints on the subject, which we shall very readily improve, if opportunity should offer.
It is presumed that, in consequence of the command of His Majesty,-signified to the Clergy in each parish by their several diocesans,—to excite their parishioners to a liberal contribution, for the purpose of aiding the enlargement, building, rebuilding, and repairing of Churches and Chapels, the attention of the whole body of the Clergy will be drawn to this important subject; and that they will make it matter of conscience, as well as expediency, to express the result of their reflections and experience on a subject of such general interest.
Could the sentiments now likely to be expressed be judiciously embodied, classed, and condensed, under different heads, a valuable stock of important matter might be formed,--tending to give the public mind direction on subjects closely connected with the interests of true religion, and the welfare of our country, as well as with those of the established Church.
Intimately allied to the subject of Church-room, is that of Church architecture, as applied to the alterations and repairs of Churches. This touches upon the necessity for the revival of the office of Rural Deans, (where the revival of that office has not yet taken place) to see that Churches be not disfigured as they often are ;--and, perhaps, calls for the appointment of diocesan or archidiaconal architects ; that something like consistency with the ancient fabrics may be preserved in what is added to them or renewed.
Allied to this is the question of the difference between entirely exonerating a parish froin expense by subscriptions on the alterations of Churches, and the aiding of a parish in such cases.
Points of difficulty which in some places meet the friends of our excellent establishment, in their endeavours to bring the laws of our country to bear upon the reasonable provision for Church-room, and the maintenance of fabrics for the celebration of divine orship, are totally unknown in other places. And it begins to be time that Churchmen should so enter into each other's wants and difficulties, as heartily to associate in support of our ecclesiastical system, and for its defence against the extensive and active combination formed for its destruction.
We shall be very happy to allot a part of our pages to such correspondents as will favour us with their sentiments on any of these subjects. That of architecture, although subordinate, is far from unimportant, as churches should not be eminently the edifices which disgrace the national taste. The greater part of new churches are of this description; more hideous violation of all architectural propriety can scarcely be imagined. The Gothic architecture, far the most suitable for ecclesiastical purposes, is not so expensive as supposed, if not too florid. But parishes on such occasions as these may be expected to make some exertions : and this has been done in some instances to the eternal honour of the parties. The beautiful churches of the two little villages of Wrington and Yatton, in Somersetshire, recently repaired, or rather restored, if not even more than this, are honourable instances of what may be effected by good taste in conjunction with Christian and public principle.
To conclude. We are sensible, from all we see, hear, and read, that the appeal lately made to the country has aroused a mighty and
irresistible sensation ; which, by the blessing of God, will effect its primary object, from whence results may be fairly expected, whose glorious fruits no mortal can number or describe, but which we may hope to witness in the country whither our journey lies.
Art. III.-An Essay on ancient Coins, Medals, and Gems, as illus
trating the Progress of Christianity in the Early Ages. By the Red. R. Walsh, LL. D. M.R.I. A. &c. &c. &c. Author of a Journey from Constantinople to England. London: Howell and Stewart. 1828. Price 6s. 6d.
The two grand expedients to which the Gentiles resorted in opposing the early progress of Christianity, were calumny and persecution. The one, indeed, naturally arose out of the other; and, if the bold opinions and licentious practices of the Gnostics, and some other heretics, had been common, as their enemies did not hesitate to aver, to the whole Christian community, they would have been abundantly justified, to use the words of Athenagoras (Apol. p. 30), "in sparing neither sex nor age, till they had eradicated a race of human beings who lived after the manner of beasts.” Even in the apostolic age divers sects had already sprung up; and as early as St. Paul's arrival at Rome, the prejudices excited against the gospel, and doubtless in no small degree to be attributed to the “ damnable heresies” which had perverted its spirit, and obscured its brightness, had caused it "every where to be spoken against.” It is, indeed, almost inconceivable, that such abominable practices as were objected to the primitive Church, could ever have prevailed among the most savage and uncivilized of the human race; and did not the same historians who inform us of the accusation, acquaint us at the same time with the flagitious sentiments and conduct of the sects, which gave some colour to the charge, we should be at a loss to conjecture the origin of such detestable calumny, and of the wanton cruelties which it excited. So truly disgusting, indeed, are some of the principles and practices of the Gnostic sect in particular, that it is only on the strongly corroborative evidence of a multiplicity of writers, that we are induced to yield an unwilling assent to the truth of their narratives. It is highly important, therefore, that the proofs in favour of the veracity of the ecclesiastical writers of the early ages of Christianity, should be as convincing as possible ; and although there is no greater reason to question their authenticity than that of the historians of Greece or Rome, it is satisfactory to find that their credentials are, in all respects, equally unexceptionable. There is one species of evidence, however, arising from the study of ancient medals, coins, and gems, which has been but very imperfectly applied in illustration of the early history of Christianity ; and we, therefore, most sincerely recommend the volume before us to the attention of the theologian. In the facts which Dr. Walsh has selected, there may be no novelty to the greater part of our readers; but they are so well and concisely stated, and so strikingly elucidated by a variety of the most curious coins and gems, that they cannot fail to be in the highest degree interesting and instructive.
The first coin which is examined seems to be of Hebrew origin. The metal of which it is composed might be easily mistaken for gold, did not its exceeding levity immediately detect it; and from its sonorous property, it may possibly be identical with the xalos vxwv of the New Testament, as well because it was light, as because it was “sounding." On the principal face is represented the head of our Saviour as described in the letter said to be sent by Lentulus to Tiberius ; the hair divided after the manner of the Nazarenes, plain to the ears, and waving over the shoulders; the beard thick, not long, but forked; the face beautiful; the bust fine ; and the tunic falling over the whole in graceful folds. Hence it has been thought by some to be a tessera, or amulet, struck by the first Jewish converts to Christianity as a memorial of their Master ; and the Hebrew letter X, descriptive of unity, which appears behind the head, may possibly fix its date to the first year after his resurrection. Dr. Walsh, however, looks
upon these opinions as very uncertain : he is in favour of a later date, though decidedly anterior to the 7th century; and reckons the coin in that class of superstitious fabrications which were so highly prized in the first ages of Christianity. A variety of these, characteristic of the Gnostic sect, are subsequently examined ; but, in order to render the devices which they exhibit not only intelligible, but illustrative of the early history of Christianity, their examination is introduced by a succinct and interesting account of the Gnostics themselves, which opens with a narrative of their founder, Simon Magus :
The first person mentioned as a leader of these opinions was Simon, a man of Samaria. He had addicted himself to occult practices, and had so beguiled the understandings of the people, that he persuaded them he was some extraordinary person, and they all affirmed that "the man was the great power of God.” He, with the rest of the people of Samaria, were converted by Philip's preaching; and having become a believer in the Gospel, he was baptized; but his old habits and practices remained unchanged. He proffered money to the apostles to be endued like them with the power of conferring the Holy Spirit, and was severely rebuked for his impiety; but brought to a sense of his base misconceptions of the divine gifts, he became penitent, and requested the apostles to intercede with God for him. From hence he went to Rome, and continued there during the time of Nero's persecution, and taught his followers that they might indifferently conform to the worship of idols, and so they escaped the cruelties perpetrated upon their
more conscientious brethren. It appears that he had made such a progress in mechanical knowledge, that he undertook to fly in the theatre before all the spectators, and actually did support himself in the air, as Arnobius says, in a fiery chariot, while all the Romans were looking at him; but he failed in the attempt, and was crushed with the fall, which the fathers attribute to the intercession of Peter and Paul, who were at Rome at the time, and witnessed the experiment: they prayed that the demons who supported him should be made to abandon him, and the consequence was, that he fell to the ground. Many of his opinions and practices are recorded, and form a strange and deformed picture of the first Sectarian in the Christian Church. He brought about with him a woman named Helena, who he affirmed had animated formerly the body of her who had caused the Trojan war, and by various transmigrations had passed into her present form; he said she was the first conception of his mind, and by her be had himself created angels and archangels; and that by these angels the world was afterwards formed, a fancy which continued to be cherished by all his followers under different denominations for several succeeding centuries. He taught in Samaria that he was the Father, in Judæa that he was the Son, and among the Gentiles that he was the Holy Spirit. His disciples preserved certain representations of him under the form of Jupiter, and of his companion under that of Minerva, to which they annexed great efficacy and sanctity, and were perhaps the first of those Christian amulets which afterwards became so numerous; and certain sayings and opinions of his, called Simoniani, were the origin of much of that false and fantastic science which prevailed to such a degree among succeeding sectaries: the practices of bis followers, as described by Epiphanus, are too foul to particularize.-Pp. 13---16.
After the death of Simon, the sect continued to flourish under different leaders, among whom were Cerinthus, Cerdon, and Marcian, who carried this extravagant opinion from Asia and Africa into Europe; and in the year 167, they had established themselves in Rome. From the peculiarities introduced by each of these leaders, there were certain shades of difference in the doctrines professed by them at different times, and in different places. Under some they were more or less licentious than under others; more or less wild in their notions, and more or less profligate in their practice. Still there were certain general dogmata upon which they were universally agreed.
They looked upon all other Christians, who interpreted the Scriptures in their plain and obvious sense, as simple, and weak; and affirmed, that they alone were capable of comprehending the true and occult meaning. Hence they denominated themselves, exclusively, Gnostics, as being the only Christians who had attained to true knowledge. They generally founded their interpretation of Scripture on the cpinions of Plato and Pythagoras, distorted by Egyptian and Asiatic fancies. They imagined that the rational soul was imprisoned in corrupt matter, contrary to the Supreme will: they expected from the general impression left by the prophetic writings of the east, and from the supposed necessity of the circumstance, that God would send some person into the world to liberate the soul from this bondage, and instruct mankind more fully in the knowledge of his dealing with human nature, and that Christ was that person : that when he came he did deliver mankind from the power of evil genii, or spirits, to which the world was subject, as well as the soul from the dominion of corrupt matter; and they interpreted all the parts of Scripture, so as to accord with these notions. They hated the Jews and the books of Moses, because they opposed their favourite opinion that the world was made by inferior angels. They taught that all evil resolved itself into matter; they therefore treated the body with contempt, and
VOL. XI. NO. I.