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everlasting happiness or damnation in the next; the precise doctrines it by degrees gathered of sin, repentance, pardon ; the efficacy of the blood of the Son of God; its proselytizing spirit; its vivid dogmas Attitude of of a resurrection from the dead, the approach- Christianity. ing end of the world, the judgment-day. Above all, in a worldly point of view, the incomparable organization it soon attained, and its preaching in season and out of season. To the needy Christian the charities of the faithful were freely given; to the desolate, sympathy. In every congregation there were prayers to God that he would listen to the sighing of the prisoner and captive, and have mercy on those who were ready to die. For the slave and his master there was one law and one hope, one baptism, one Saviour, one Judge. In times of domestic bereavement the Christian slave doubtless often consoled his pagan mistress with the suggestion that our present separations are only for a little while, and revealed to her willing ear that there is another world-a land in which we rejoin our dead. How is it possible to arrest the spread of a faith which can make the broken heart leap with joy?
At its first organization Christianity embodied itself in a form of communism, the merging of the property of the disciples into a common stock, from which the necessary provision for the needy was made. Such a Its first system, carried out rigorously, is, however, organization. only suited to small numbers and a brief period. In its very nature it is impracticable on a great scale. Scarcely had it been resorted to before such troubles as that connected with the question of the Hebrew and
Greek widows showed that it must be modified. By this · relief or maintenance out of the funds of the Church, the
spread of the faith among the humbler classes was greatly facilitated. In warm climates, where the necessities of life are small, an apparently insignificant sum will accomplish much in this way. But, as wealth accumulated, besides this inducement for the poor, there were temptations for the ambitious : luxurious appointments and a splendid maintenance, the ecclesiastical dignitaries becoming more than rivals to those of the state.
From the modification which the primitive organization thus underwent, we may draw the instructive conclusion that the special forms of embodiment which the Christian
principle from time to time has assumed, and sectarian of which many might be mentioned, were, in divergences. reality, of only secondary importance. The sects of the early ages have so totally died away that we hardly recall the meaning of their names, or determine their essential dogmas. From fasting, penance, and the gift of money, things which are of precise measurement, and therefore well suited to intellectual infancy, there may be perceived an advancing orthodoxy up to tho highest metaphysical ideas. Yet it must not be supposed that new observances and doctrines, as they energed, were the disconnected inventions of ambitious men. If rightly considered, they are, in the aggregate, the product of the uniform progression of human opinions.
Authors who have treated of the sects of earlier times will point out to the curious reader how, in the beginEarly variation ning, the Church was agitated by a lingering of opinions. attachment to the Hebrew rites, and with difficulty tore itself away from Judaism, which for the first ten years was paramount in it; how then, for several centuries, it became engrossed with disputes respecting the nature of Christ, and creed after creed arose therefrom; to the Ebionites he was a mere man; to the Docetes, a phantasm ; to the Jewish Gnostic, Cerinthus, possessed of a twofold nature; how, after the spread of Christianity, in succeeding ages, all over the empire, the intellectual peculiarites of the East and West were visibly impressed upon it—the East filled with speculative doctrines, of which the most important were
then those brought forward by the Platonists of logy tends to Alexandria, for the Platonists, of all Philoso Divinity, phical sects, furnished most converts; the West, in accordance with its utilitarian genius, which esteems the practical and disparages the intellectual, singularly aided by propitious opportunity, occupying itself with material aggrandizement and territorial power. The vanishing point of all Christian sectarian ideas of the East was in God, of those of the West in Man. Herein
consists the essential difference between them. The one was rich in doctrines respecting the nature of Western to the Divinity, the other abounded in regulations Humanity. for the improvement and consolation of humanity. For long there was a tolerance, and even liberality toward differences of opinion. Until the Council of Nicea, no one was accounted a heretic if only he professed his belief in the Apostles' Creed.
A very astute ecclesiastical historian, referring to the early contaminations of Christianity, makes Foreign modi. this remark: “A clear and unpolluted fountain fications of fed by secret channels with the dew of Heaven, Ch when it grows a large river, and takes a long and winding course, receives a tincture from the various soils through which it passes."
Thus influenced by circumstances, the primitive modifications of Christianity were three-Judaic Christianity, Gnostic Christianity, African Christianity.
Of these, the first consisted of contaminations from Judaism, from which true Christianity disen- Judaic Christangled itself with extreme difficulty, at the tianity. cost of dissensions among the Apostles themselves. From the purely Hebrew point of view of the early disciples, who surrendered with reluctance their expectation that the Saviour was the long-looked-for temporal Messiah, the King of the Jews, under which name he suffered, the faith gradually expanded, including successively proselytes of the Gate, the surrounding Gentiles, and at last the whole world, irrespective of nation, climate, or colour. With this truly imperial extension, there came into view the essential doctrines on which it was based.
But Judaic Christianity, properly speaking, soon came to an · untimely end. It was unable to maintain itself against
the powerful apostolic influences in the bosom of the Church, and the violent pressure exerted by the unbelieving Jews, who exhibited toward it an inflexible hatred. Moreover, the rapid advance of the new doctrines through Asia Minor and Greece offered a tempting field for enthusiasm. The first preachers in the Roman empire were Jew8 ; for the first years circumcision and conformity to the law of Moses were insisted on; but the first council determined that point, at Jerusalem, probably about A.D. 49, in the negative. The organization of the Church, originally modelled upon that of the Synagogue, was changed. In the beginning the creed and the rites were simple; it was only necessary to profess belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, and baptism marked the admission of the convert into the community of the faithful. James, the brother of our Lord, as might, from his relationship, be expected, occupied the position of headship in the Church. The names of the bishops of the church of Jerusalem, as given by Eusebius, succeed to James, the brother of Christ, in the following order: Simeon, Justus, Zaccheus, Tobias, Benjamin, John, Matthew, Philip, Simeon, Justus, Levi, Ephraim, Joseph, and Judas. The names are indicative of the nationality. It was the boast of this Church that it was not corrupted with any heresy until the last Jewish bishop, a boast which must be received with some limitation, for very early we find traces of two distinct parties in Jerusalem- those who received the account of the miraculous conception and those who did not. The Ebionites, who were desirous of tracing our Saviour's lineage up to David, did so according to the genealogy given in the Gospel of St. Mathew, and therefore they would not accept what was said respecting the miraculous conception, affirming that it was apocryphal, and in obvious contradiction to the genealogy in which our Saviour's line was traced up through Joseph, who, it would thus appear, was not his father. They are to be considered as the national or patriotic party. Two causes seem to have been concerned in arresting the
of the spread of conversion among the Jews : the first Causes of the arrest of Jews was their disappointment as respects the temish couversion.
version. poral power of the Messiah; the second, the prominence eventually given to the doctrine of the Trinity. Their jealousy of anything that might touch the national doctrine of the unity of God became almost a fanaticism. Judaic Christianity may be said to have virtually ended with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans ; its last trace, however, was the dispute respecting Easter, which was terminated by the Council of Nicea. The
conversion of the Jews had ceased before the reign of Constantine.
The second form, Gnostic Christianity, had reached its full development within a century after the death of Christ; it maintained an active influence through the first four centuries, and gave birth, during that time, Gnostic to many different subordinate sects. It consisted Christianity. essentially in ingrafting Christianity upon Magianism. It made the Saviour an emanated intelligence, derived from the eternal, self-existing mind; this intelligence, and not the Man-Jesus, was the Christ, who thus, being an impassive phantom, afforded to Gnosticism no idea of an expiatory sacrifice, none of an atonement. It was arrested by the reappearance of pure Magianism in the Persian einpire under Ardeschir Babhegan; not, however, without communicating to orthodox Christianity an impression far more profound than is commonly supposed, and one of which indelible traces may be perceived in our day.
The third form, African or Platonic Christianity, arose in Alexandria. Here was the focus of those fatal Platonic disputes respecting the Trinity, a word which Christianity. does not occur in the Holy Scriptures, and which, it appears, had been first introduced by Theophilus, the Bishop of Antioch, the seventh from the apostles. In the time of Hadrian, Christianity had become diffused all over Egypt, and had found among the Platonizing philosophers of the metropolis many converts. These men modified the Gnostic idea to suit their own doctrines, asserting that the principle from which the universe originated was something emitted from the Supreme Mind, and capable of being drawn into it again, as they supposed was the case with a ray and the sun. This ray, they affirmed, was permanently attached to our Saviour, and hence he might be considered as God. Thus, therefore, there were in his person three parts, a body, a soul, and the logos ; hence he was both God and man. But, as a ray is inferior to the sun, it seemed to follow that the Christ must be inferior to the Father.
In all this it is evident that there is something transcendental, and the Platonizing Christians, following the habit of the Greek philosophers, considered it as a