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of the schools ; and to adopt similitudes for illustrating them, and hypotheses by which to account for them, not only arbitrary, but generally improper. The consequence was a charge of error ; but their accusers, not being wise enough to satisfy themselves with proving that the Scriptures did not imply or admit the sense to which they determined it, but infected with the same spirit of philosophising, ran into opposite definitions, comparisons, hypotheses, and terms of science, often equally improper and equally involving error. Controversies were agitated concerning these contrary definitions-multitudes ranged themselves on each side-the parties broke out into contention, animosities, unjust suspicions, and insinuations, mutual reproaches and invectives. In the progress of disputations new terms, new distinctions, new comparisons were invented on each side, for marking with precision the peculiarity of its own opinion; and new hypotheses were contrived for reconciling it to Scripture, or to itself, and for evading the objections urged against it. Every such attempt produced new questionsand every new question became more frivolous, speculative, or abstruse than the former. In discussing it, new refinements of distinction and new intricacies of argumentation were introduced ; and each new disputant added something, according to his own manner of apprehension. All this was the effect of not holding fast the form of sound words of philosophising on the simple doctrine of the Gospel, and mingling the inventions of men with the truth as it is in Jesus.
These observations may possibly appear to some persons in the light of a digression from the main subject, the history of the Christian church; but as it is a leading object of these Lectures to distinguish between truth and error, and to separate genuine Christianity from its corruptions, it will be necessary to interpose occasional reflections for the sake of illustration, and especially to fix the reader's attention on the rise of errors and abuses, which must often obtrude themselves upon us as we descend the stream of time.
Introductory Remarks-State of the Roman Empire at the be
ginning of the second century--Gibbon---Celsus-Christianity an uncompromising system---Pliny's Letter to Trajan---The Emperor's reply--- Reflections on the state of the Christians--Letterof Tiberianus to Trajan--- Visit of the latter to Antioch ---Some account of Ignatius and his martyrdom---Writings of Ignatius--Martyrdom of Simon Cleophas---Application of the subject. A. D. 101---120.
Before we enter upon the history which is to form the subject of the present Lecture, there is one important topic the consideration of which it is necessary to press home upon you, if we would lead you to study ecclesiastical history with any real advantage. What I refer to is the aspect which Christianity bore, at the beginning, to the established religion of the Roman empire; or, if you choose, you may reverse the matter, and say the aspect which Paganism bore to the Christian religion.' Unless this point be well and clearly understood, and always kept in view, it will be impossible for us to turn these lectures to any really useful purpose. Our Lord, in the days of his public ministry, dwelt much upon the reception which his Gospel was to meet with from the professors of every other religion then extant in the world; and he taught his disciples to lay their account with opposition, persecution, reproach, and scorn—the loss of character, property, and, in many cases, even life itself. He told them that he was come “ to send fire on the earth”—that they should be “ hated of all men for his name's sake”—but he left them his promise that, in standing firm under the fiery trial, maintaining their allegiance to him as their only Lord and Saviour, their interests for eternity were secure, Matt. x. 22.
His apostles and immediate followers found the case to be precisely as he had apprised them, of which we have numerous instances in the Acts of the Apostles ; for no sooner had he left the earth, and they began to set up his kingdom, by the preaching of his Gospel, baptizing disciples, and forming them into churches, in a state of separation from the unbelieving world, than they experienced the truth of all he had told them concerning the reception they should meet with. Allow me to remind you, in this place, of a few things which they have left us upon record touching this matter. Paul writing to the Romans, ch. viii. 36, quotes the words of the Psalmist and applies them to the case of himself and fellow Christians : “For thy sake, we are killed all the day long-we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." And to the Corinthians he says, “I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death ; for we are made a spectacle unto the world, to angels, and to men,” 1 Cor. iv. 9. He commends the brethren of Thessalonica, in that “they became followers of the churches of God which in Judæa were in Christ Jesus ; for," says he,“ ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us—and they please not God and are contrary to all men; forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway-for which the wrath (of God) is come upon them to the uttermost," 1 Thess. ii. 14–16. To the Hebrews he says, “ Call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions. Partly whilst ye were made a gazing stock, both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly whilst ye became companions of them that were so used : for ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance," ch. x. 32---34.
It were easy to produce additional attestations of what the primitive disciples had to undergo in maintaining their attachment to Christ and his cause; but these are sufficient for my present purpose---which is to impress upon you this fact, that,
in those days, the Christian profession was not made at so cheap a rate as it is done in the age in which our lot is cast. Those among the Jews who were heartily attached to Jesus, as the Messiah, went forth to him “without the camp of Israel, bearing his reproach---while the Gentile converts had to come out from all religious fellowship with their idolatrous kindred and neighbours---to touch not the unclean thing---to take up the cross daily-following the footsteps of their divine Master “through evil report and good report”-and laying their account with the loss of all things for his sake. This often put their faith and confidence to the test. Their case much resembles that of the apostle Peter, of which we have an account in Matt. xiv. 22–28. The circumstances were these :—The disciples of the Saviour had taken ship to cross the sea of Gennesareth ; but while they were on board the night came on—a violent storm arose, and the disciples were at their wits' end what to do. In this extremity, Jesus appeared to them, walking upon the troubled waves; and Peter, seeing him, called out, “ Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee upon the waters : and he said come.” Accordingly Peter committed himself to the sea, and began to go to Jesus, but looking around him, and viewing the swelling surges and rolling billows, his heart failed him, and, beginning to sink, he cried, “ Lord save me.” It would be difficult to find language which could furnish us with a more striking description of the state of the Christian profession at the period on the history of which we are about to enter, and to which we shall now proceed :
At the beginning of the second century of the Christian æra the sceptre of Imperial Rome was swayed by Trajan, who ascended the throne of the Cæsars in the year 98. Between him and the tyrant Domitian there had indeed intervened the short but brilliant reign of Nerva, which lasted only sixteen months and eight days, when the empire had to deplore the untimely death of one of the best monarchs with which Rome had ever been favoured. Under his mild administration of the laws, the people were every where contented and happy. He extended his clemency to all who were imprisoned for treason; called home all that had been banished during the tyrannical reign of his predecessor; restored the sequestrated estates; punished informers, and, to the utmost of his power, redressed the grievances of every description of his subjects. To Christians he allowed the freest toleration, not permittiug any to persecute either them or the Jews, though the former were generally regarded as Atheists, having neither temples, altars, nor sacrifices, which the Heathen considered as essential to a profession of religion.
Mr. Gibbon, the celebrated historian, has remarked, concerning this period, that “were a man called to fix upon an epoch in the history of the world during which the condition of the human race was the most happy and prosperous, he would without hesitation name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus,” namely, from the year 98 to 193, a period of about a century. “The vast extent of the Roman empire,” says he,“ was governed by absolute power, under the guidance of virtue and wisdom. The armies were restrained by the firm but gentle hand of four successive emperors, whose character and authority commanded involuntary respect. The public administration was conducted by the virtues and abilities of Nerva, Trajan, Adrian, and the Antonines, who delighted in the image of liberty, and were pleased with considering themselves as the accountable ministers of the law.”
This is an enchanting picture of the political state of the empire ; but we must keep in mind that the government was Heathen, and that Paganism was the established religion. Had the Gospel allowed its friends to indulge in that intercommunity' of worship which was a leading feature of Polytheism, we cannot doubt that the rulers and magistrates would have cheerfully extended to them the same toleration that was afforded to other professions. Such, however, was not the case. The Jews had been separated from all other nations, to maintain the worship of the true God; and though they were often seduced from their allegiance, and fell into the idolatrous practices of the surrounding nations, they never failed to be chastised for it, as an infraction of the covenant that God had entered into with their forefathers. Their unsociable spirit, however, drew down
them the scorn and hatred of the more polished Greeks and Romans. “ If the Jews,” says Celsus, " adhere to their own law, it is not for that they are to