Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

THE

BIBLICAL REPERTORY

AND

THEOLOGICAL REVIEW.

JANUARY, 1832.

ART. I.-RITES AND WORSHIP OF THE EARLY CHRIS.

TIAN CHURCII.

From the German of Neander*.

As the idea of the priesthood of all Christians, became more and more superseded by the notion of a class of persons peculiarly consecrated to God, and set apart for divine service; in the same proportion, the original relation of united Christian worship to entire Christian life--a relation grounded in the very essence of the system—became more and more obscure. It was forgotten, that the divine worship of believers is confined to no certain places, times, or actions, but embraces the whole of a life consecrated to God. Distinguished theologians, however, such as Chrysostom and Augustin, acknowledged that vital Christianity could proceed only from that

This article consists of a translation from the last volume of the Ecclesiastical History of Neander. The reader will bear in mind that all the statements which it contains relate exclusively to the period between A. D. 312, and A. D. 590; the second period, according to the division of this historian. It falls, therefore, within that part of the work which has not yet appeared in English; for the translation by Rose included the history of the first period only. The extract here given will probably be interesting, both as the specimen of a work which is attracting great attention in Europe, and as containing a body of instructive matter upon a very important branch of the subject.

(Ed. Bib. Rep. f Theol. Rev. VOL. Iy. No. I.-B

primitive Christian conception, according to which the whole life of religion is viewed as the worship of God in spirit and in truth; and they endeavoured to recal this conviction, and by all means to oppose the error which made the essence of Christianity to reside in the opus operatum of mere participation in outward rites; and to impress the truth, that instruction in divine things, the reading of the Scriptures, and prayer, were not restricted to ecclesiastical assemblies, but were to be diffused through the whole Christian life.

Thus Chrysostom says in his sixth discourse against the mingling of Judaism with Christianity:* “God has suffered one temple at Jerusalem to be destroyed, and in its place has erected thousands of far greater glory; for the Apostle says, Ye are the temple of the living God. Adorn this house of God, cast out of it all evil thoughts, that thou mayest be a worthy member of Christ, that thou mayest be a temple of the Spirit; and lead others to be such also.” “Christians," says he, in another discourse, "should not merely celebrate a single day as a festival, for their whole life should be a festival; as the Apostle says, 1 Corinthians v. 8: Therefore let us keep the feast, &c. We are not to stand by the ark of the covenant or the golden altar, since the Lord of all existence has himself taken us for his habitation, and we ever have communion with him, by prayer, by the celebration of the holy Supper, by the sacred Scriptures, by almsgiving, and by bearing him always in our hearts. What need then of the [Jewish] Sabbath, to him who celebrates a continual feast, who has his conversation in heaven? Let us, therefore, keep a never-ceasing festival; let us abstain from all evil, for this is the true festival." In opposition to those who imagined themselves to be truly devout because their attendance upon the Church was punctual, he says: “If the child goes every day to school, and yet learns nothing, is this meritorious? Is it not rather a reproach? So it is also with us; for we go to Church, not for the sole purpose of being there, but that we may depart thence with great improvement in divine things. If then we go away empty, our zeal in frequenting the Church becomes our condemnation. To prevent this, let us, when we go away, endeavour, the friend with his friend, the father with his children, the master with his servants, to trans

[ocr errors]

# Adv. Judæos, vi. $ 7. T. I. 661.
† H. 39. in Matt. 9 3. ed. Montf. T. vii. p. 435.

fer what we have heard to our life. The momentary exhortation here, cannot obliterate all our sin, but the husband must. hear the same thing at home from his wife, and the wife from her husband."* And in another discourse:t “When you have joined in singing two or three psalms, and have, in a superficial way, offered the ordinary prayers, and then have gone home, you think this sufficient for your salvation. Have you not heard what is said by the Prophet, or rather by God through the Prophet: This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me?

Chrysostom insisted at all times, that every house was a Church, that every head of a family must be the shepherd of his own household, and that he had the same account to render for the salvation of all its members; even of the servants, whom the gospel places in the same relation to God with other men. He laments, that while in early Christian times the love of heavenly things had made every house a Church, so now the earthly propensities which men bring with them to the Church, had degraded the latter to the level of an ordinary dwelling. Augustin also says to the members of his Church: “It is also your part to improve the talent assigned. Every one must be bishop in his own house, and must see that his wife, his son, his daughter, his servant (since he is bought with so great a price) persevere in the right faith. The Apostolical teaching has set the master above the servant, and bound the servant in obedience to the master; but Christ hath purchased both with one and the same ran

As it respects prayer in particular, Chrysostom frequently opposed the opinion arising out of that judaic prepossession, with regard to an anti-evangelical distinction of secular from spiritual persons; that is, that prayer should not be offered in every place and from the midst of ordinary life, (which, by this very means might be sanctified,) as well as in the Church. “Since Christ has come,” says he, “he hath purified the whole world, and every place has become a house of prayer. Hence Paul emboldens us, without doubting to pray in every place. 1 Tim. ii. 8. Seest thou, how the world is purified, or consecrated ? So far as it concerns the place, we may every where lift up holy hands, for in this sense the whole

som."

* H. v. do statuis, 8 7. T. ii. | Honi. vi. in Gen. 9 2.

+ H. xi. in Mat. $ 7. $ H. Matt. 32. $ 7.

earth is become holy, more holy than the sanctuary."'* After saying that all the works of this frail earthly life should proceed from prayer, and find their support in it, he repeats the objection then common among people of the world: “How can a man of business, who is confined to his occupation, engage

in

prayer and resort to the Church thrice in the day?" And he replies: “It is possible, and very easy. For if, indeed, you cannot conveniently come to the Church, get on the spot, before your door, and even when confined at work, you can pray. There needs not so much voice, as heart; not so much the lifted hands, as the devout soul; not so much this or that posture, as inward sentiment. He adds: “It is not now as under the Old Testament. Wherever thou art, thou hast the altar, the knife, and the offering by thee; for thou art thyself priest, and altar, and sacrifice. Where you are, you may erect an altar. Time and place hinder not. · Though you bow not the knee, nor smite the breast, nor stretch out the hands to heaven, yet if you offer a fervent heart, you have all that belongs to prayer. The woman, while she holds the distaff and spins, may with the soul look up to heaven, and fervently call upon God. And the man, when he goes

alone to the market, may earnestly pray: another who sits in his shop and works in leather, may raise his soul to God; and the servant, while he goes to and fro to make purchases, or stands in the kitchen, may offer heartselt and animated supplication.”+

In this period, as well as in the earlier times of Christianity, and in connexion with the idea that the priesthood pertained to all believers, it continued to be acknowledged that it was the right of all Christians, to instruct and edify themselves from the fountain of the divine word. For this purpose, manuscripts of the Bible were multiplied and offered for sale. It was considered a principal part of devout Christian education, for males and females to be early made acquainted with the Holy Scriptures. Thus Jerome exhorts Laeta, a distinguished Roman lady, that she should accustom her daughter from the earliest age, to love the Scriptures, I instead of precious stones and silks; to learn patience from the example of Job, and never to lay aside the Gospels. It appears as a characteristic of men and women, of all ranks, with whom

[ocr errors]

* Hom. I. de cruce. & 1. T, ii.

Ep. 107.9 12.

† De Anna. Siv. I 6. T. iv.

Christianity was an affair of the heart, that they were much employed with the Bible; as we may see in the case of Monica and Nonna. The pompous orator who delivered the funeral eulogy of Constantine, celebrates him, as having always nourished his soul and modelled his life by the use of the Scriptures. And though this may be regarded as a mere expression of flattery, yet it evinces what qualities were in that age considered as belonging to a devout Prince.

When heathens, who were engaged in seeking the truth, found many difficulties in the doctrines of Christianity, they had recourse, not directly to clergymen, but to their friends among the laity. The latter sought the resolution of the questions proposed to them in the Scriptures, and if they here met with difficulties, which they could not explain, they were advised by Augustin to look for instruction, not so much from their pastors, as to pray to God for illumination. * For the benefit of any who might be awakened by public worship to solemn reflection upon divine truth, or who wished to occupy themselves with the divine word in the greater stillness of this place, there were provided in the aisles of the Churches, closets, (oppovtioampla,) in which they found bibles, and where they could apply themselves to scriptural studies. Jerome finds cause to lament, that all persons, both men and women, thought themselves, without any sufficient knowledge, competent to discourse upon the interpretation of Scripture.

The clergy were not the first who availed themselves of the anti-evangelical theory of a special sacerdotal caste, in order to deduce (a consequence which does not indeed lie very far off,) the opinion that to them alone, there was free access to the fountains of the divine word, and that the laity, with respect to instruction in divine things, must be dependent on the clergy, without themselves venturing.near the source: but it was the thoroughly earthly-minded laity, who, as they used the distinction between spiritual and secular persons to fabricate a Christianity conveniently subservient to their lusts; so also availed themselves of the same pretext, to remove from them all use of the divine word, and to palliate their indifference to higher objects. Thus they were accustomed to say, that it belonged only to ecclesiastics and monks, to occupy themselves with the Bible. Distinguished teachers in the Church, however, such as Chrysostom and Augustin vigor

# Serm. 105. 3.

† Ep. 53. ad Paulinum, 9 7.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »