Persecution and Profession:

Being Sketches of Early Church History to the Close of the Fifth Century.

London: G. Morrish, 20, Paternoster Square.

Part 1. Persecution.

Chapter 1.
Persecution: Why Christians were persecuted. Why called "Atheists." — Rome full of temples and altars. — Christianity aggressive. — The burning of Rome, charged on the Christians. — Persecution by Nero. — Testimony of Tacitus. — The Twelve Apostles

Chapter 2.
Insurrection of the Jews: Often revolted under the Romans. — The Jews at Caesarea. — Florus attacks Jerusalem. — Treachery of the Jews. — Massacre of the Jews at Caesarea. — Cestius attacks Jerusalem. — Great victory of the Jews over the Romans. — Prophecies relating to the
destruction of Jerusalem. — Fearful sights and great signs. — The cry of Jesus, son of Ananus. — Josephus. — Ruler — Prophet — With the Romans. — Destruction of Jerusalem. — The Jews divided into factions. — The siege led by Titus. — Determined resistance of the Jews. — Mode of attack by the Romans. — Severe famine in the city. — A woman eats her child. — The city taken. — Titus desires to save the temple. — It is burnt. — The city destroyed. — Great slaughter and numerous prisoners. — Prophecy fulfilled.

Chapter 3.
Further Persecutions. — The Romans attribute all calamities to the Christians. — Letter of Pliny to the Emperor Trajan. — Trajan's reply. — Ignatius. — Justin Martyr. — Polycarp. — Blandina. — Perpetua.

Chapter 4.
The Apostolic Fathers: Clement. — Polycarp. — Barnabas. — Ignatius. — Hermas. — None to be trusted as scripture.

Chapter 5.
Attacks on Christianity. — Celsus. — Porphyry. — The Oracle of Delphi. — Hierocles. — The Apologies. — Justin Martyr. — Minucius Felix. — Athenagoras. — Tertullian

Chapter 6.
The Catacombs. — How formed. — The testimony of the tablets. — A visitor's description.

Chapter 7.
Miracles and Signs. — Their existence in the early church. — Exorcists.

Chapter 8.
Offices in the Early Church. — Elders, Presbyters, and Bishops. — Undue exaltation of the bishops.

Chapter 9.
Customs in the Church. — Reception into the Church. — Catechumens. — Fidelis. — Audientes — Baptism. — Forms of Worship. — Meetings on Sunday. — The Lord's Supper. — Taken weekly. — Singing. — Collection for the poor. — Bread and wine sent to the sick. — Water mixed with the wine. — Abuses creeping in. — Love Feasts. — Superstitions in the Church. — The sign of the cross. — Clergy and laity. — The Lord's Supper and Absolution. — Letter of Dionysius. — Celibacy of the Clergy. — Hippolytus and Callistus.

Chapter 10.
Early Heresies. — What is heresy? — Gnosticism. — Arianism. — The Novatians. — The Lapsi.

Chapter 11.
Cyprian and the Assumptions of Rome. — How were the "lapsi" to be treated? — Rome struggles for supremacy.

Chapter 12.
The Later Persecutions. — Persecution of Decius. — The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus. — Origen. — Valerian and Diocletian. — Galerius. — The oracles consulted. — The ten persecutions. — The address to the church at Smyrna.

Part 2. Profession.

Chapter 1.
Conversion of Constantine. — His vision. — Was he really a Christian?

Chapter 2.
The Council of Nice. — The Nicene creed. — The Arians condemned. Easter — How calculated — How kept

Chapter 3.
Athanasius and His Times. — The Arians in power. — Athanasius persecuted. — Death of Constantine. — Athanasius banished.

Chapter 4.
Ambrose: made a bishop suddenly. — Valens emperor in the East. — Eighty ministers burnt in a ship. — The Second General Council. — Ambrose rashly opposes Valentinian II. — Revolt at Thessalonica. — Massacre of the inhabitants. — Penance demanded of the emperor.

Chapter 5.
Chrysostom and His Times. — He finds being an advocate and a Christian inconsistent. — Chrysostom an ascetic. — His trick on his friend Basil. — His narrow escape. — He cannot crucify the flesh. — Made a presbyter and preaches. — The revolt at Antioch. — Made bishop of Constantinople by Eutropius. — Not liked by the clergy. — Popular with the bishops. — He aids Eudoxia in carrying relics to her new chapel. — Protects Eutropius when condemned to death. — He ventures to the Gothic camp. — The Tall Brethren. — Plots against Chrysostom. — He is deposed and banished. — The fright by an earthquake restores him. — Eudoxia's image condemned by Chrysostom. — Again he is deposed and banished. — His great usefulness in his long banishment, — Removed to a more severe climate. — His death.

Chapter 6. The Donatist Schism. — Their doctrine of separation from evil, good. — Their practice bad. — The Circumcelliones. — Augustine. — His works.

Chapter 7.
Pelagianism. — Pelagius condemned. — His doctrine. — Semi-Pelagianism

Chapter 8.
Monasticism. — St. Anthony. — Simon Stylites. — The Essenes. — Egyptians. — What led to Monasticism. — The Scriptures preserved and copied by Monks.

Chapter 9.
Christianity in Britain. — The Druids. — Their human sacrifices. — Christianity in England early. — Was Claudia a British Christian? — St. Patrick and Ireland. — Scotland.

Chapter 10.
Councils in the Church. — The General Councils: The first at Nice. — The second at Constantinople. — The third at Ephesus. — Eutyches condemned. — The Robbers' Meeting. — The fourth at Chalcedon. — The Nicene creed confirmed. — What Scripture for Councils. — What authority over Christians.

Chapter 11.
The Western Church. — Leo the Great, bishop of Rome. — Saves the city of Rome. — Defends the faith. — Manichaeism. — The Priscillianists. — Leo anxious for universal supremacy. — His conflict with Hilary of Arles. — His death.

Chapter 12.
Close of the Fifth Century. — Conflicts with the Arians. — The Monophysites. — The Henoticon. — The bishops of Rome and Constantinople excommunicate each other. — The professing church rent into parties. — The address to the church at Pergamos

Chapter 13.
The Bible for the Church — Translated into many languages.

Chapter 14.
Conclusion. — Review of the whole period.

Chapter 1.

To the lions! "Sacrifice, or to the lions!" were words often used in the courts of law in the early days of Christianity. Persons were not allowed to be Christians, and if such were discovered they were brought before the magistrate, and if they refused to sacrifice to the heathen gods, they were put to death.

For the amusement of the Romans, a number of lions were kept, to which criminals were cast. These amusements took place in a public building, in which there were thousands of spectators who delighted in such cruel practices, as well as in men fighting with men, or men with beasts. To these lions the persons who confessed themselves to be Christians, or who refused to sacrifice to the gods, were often cast.

We need not search far to find out the cause of the hatred to the Christians, though we might have expected better things of the Romans; for though they worshipped false gods, they were enlightened and were very lenient towards those they conquered.

Doubtless the real cause was, that Satan was stirring up the evil heart of man in opposition to Christ, and to those who were His. Our Lord told His disciples while He was with them, that they should be hated of all men for His sake. (Matt. 10:22.) But Satan often makes those who do his work think they are doing right, and so in the case we are considering, the people had their reasons for persecuting the Christians.

It was an understood thing that Rome had its own gods, and no others were to be allowed there. Cicero had said, that 'no man might have for himself particular gods of his own: no man should worship by himself any new or foreign gods, unless recognised by the public laws.' And scripture itself tells us how the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ was looked upon by the pagans. The learned men of Athens said of Paul, "He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods." (Acts 17:18.)

Another reason was that as the government provided temples, and priests, and sacrifices, for any one to speak against these was looked upon as speaking against the state. They did not distinguish between speaking against the gods made of wood and stone, and speaking against the government of the land who set up the gods.

Another reason was that there were a great many who obtained their living from the temples and the sacrifices, and when Christians became numerous in any place, these persons began to suffer, and then they raised an outcry against the Christians. This was so at Ephesus, as recorded in the Acts, when one called his fellow tradesmen together, and said, "Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth." Paul had been saying that they were no gods which were made with hands. Therefore, these tradesmen urged, "not only this, our craft is in danger to be set at naught, but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised," etc. (Acts 19:25-27.)

There was one circumstance which may at first sight appear to be strange, namely, that the Jews were allowed by the Romans to go on unhindered, but Christians were not. This is, however, accounted for by the Jews being looked upon as a separate nation, and so were allowed to worship their own God. Celsus, a Greek philosopher of the second century, said: "The Jews are a nation by themselves, and they observe the sacred institutions of their country — whatever they may be — and in so doing, act like other men. It is right for every people to reverence their ancient laws; but to desert them is a crime." And the Romans thought that one reason why they were victorious over so many nations was, that they paid respect to the gods of every nation; whereas the Christians were not a nation of themselves, but were being taken out of all nations, and, as we know, some were Romans, and it could not be understood how a Roman could need any other gods than those he had.

Another reason was that the Jews had their temples, their priests, and their sacrifices; whereas the Christians had none of these, and so they were often termed "Atheists"* — those who had no god of any sort — none to be seen — and who were neither Jews nor pagans. The Christians met privately, and horrible tales were circulated as to the secret practices by them at their private meetings, charges which were of course quite false.

{* From the Greek atheos; a, negative, theos, god: without god. This term is now applied to those who deny the existence of a Supreme Being.}

Another thing that roused the hatred of the Romans was that some of the Christians were reluctant to become soldiers. Celsus thus speaks of this: "Does not the emperor punish you justly? for should all do like you, there would be none to defend him; the rudest barbarians would make themselves masters of the world, and every trace, as well of your own religion itself, as of true wisdom, would be obliterated from the human race; for believe not that your Supreme God would come down from heaven and fight for us." There were, however, at different times, as we shall see, Christians in the armies of the emperors.

Rome, in the full blaze of its glory, had seven hundred temples, and altars much more numerous. On festival days, when honour was paid to any of the gods, long and imposing processions were formed. Old and venerable men, young men in full vigour of life, maidens dressed in white, and children, marched through the city to one of the temples, where sacrifices were offered to the god whom they intended to honour; incense was thrown upon the sacred fires, and filled the air with sweet perfumes.

How poor and contemptible to the eyes of such as enjoyed this outward show must have been the simple meetings of the Christians, who met to break bread in remembrance of their Lord! For this purpose they doubtless at first met "at home," a few here and a few there, as they had done at Jerusalem, according to Acts 2:46.

Besides this, the religious festivals of the Romans were always more or less associated with amusements, either in the theatre or in some of their many places of entertainment. Christians no longer enjoyed such amusements: they alike shunned the national places of amusement as they did the national temples. Such people could not be understood. They had no temple, no priests, and, as the Romans thought, no god; and joined no amusements with their religion. They were first pitied, then treated with contempt, and lastly with hatred.

Another thing that doubtless drew forth the enmity of the people against the Christians, was the aggressive character of Christianity. When any one is converted to the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ, he naturally desires that others shall share in the blessing. It has always been so, and we may be sure that the Roman converts were always pleading with their relatives and friends that they were not really gods which the people worshipped; for they now knew the only one true God and His Son Jesus Christ. Their gods could not save them.

As we see in Acts 19, there were persecutions of the Christians by the people — the mob — altogether independent of any laws being passed against the Christians. The first persecution by law was in the time of the emperor Nero; he, who, as many believe, has been introduced to us as the "lion" by Paul. (2 Tim. 4:17.) For the reasons we have given, the motives for a general persecution were all in readiness, the people needing only a word of command. That command came in a way no one expected.

On a dark November night, in the year A.D. 64, the Romans awoke from their slumbers to find that their city was in flames.

Apparently it had been set on fire in several places, and nothing could stay the devouring flames. Day followed day, and night followed night, but still the city burned. For a whole week the fire continued, until out of fourteen departments only four remained untouched. Many public buildings, much valuable property, and many works of art were destroyed.

The streets of the city were narrow, with winding lanes in all directions. This much impeded the escape of the people. Some tarried behind to save a feeble relative or some valuable article, and then found their escape impossible; the fire was on all sides of them, and they perished in the flames. Thus numbers lost their lives, and others, who would have escaped, found the way blocked up by the old and feeble.

The fire was at length stayed by pulling down some houses, thus making a gap which the flames could not pass.

Nero was not at Rome when the fire occurred, but he hastened thither when the flames approached his palace. He is said to have looked on the burning city from a high tower, singing to his lyre that part of the poem of Homer which describes the burning of Troy.

It is reported by some historians that the emperor himself had ordered the city to be set on fire; some suppose it was done in order that he might enjoy a sight so well described by his favourite poet; others believed that he did it in order to improve the city, and make room for a grand palace for himself.

Rightly or wrongly, suspicion fell upon the emperor — his known crimes had rendered him odious. He had caused the death of his mother, his brother, and his wife. The fire caused such a general outburst of indignation from the people, that the emperor offered to rebuild the city at his own expense, though he robbed even the temples to raise the funds; and then, to remove the stain of such a crime from himself, he declared that the city had been set on fire by the Christians!

As we have seen, the people had their reasons for disliking the Christians, and now Nero ordered a general massacre. Some were crucified, and some were sewn up in the skins of beasts, and were then torn to pieces by dogs. Others, after being smeared over with wax and other inflammable substances, were fastened to stakes, and placed in the emperor's gardens, that on being set on fire they might serve as torches.

The more generous even of the pagans pitied the martyrs. Tacitus, the historian of the age, while he had not one good word for the Christians, remarked, that people could but pity those who were thus put to death, not for the public good, but to serve the purpose of a cruel tyrant like Nero.

This same historian says, "Nero falsely accused and punished most grievously certain people, hated for their wickedness, which the common sort called Christians. The author of that name was Christ, who in the reign of Tiberius, was put to death under Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea. And their dangerous superstition, suppressed for a time, burst forth again, not only through Judea, where it first began, but in this city also . . . . an infinite number were convicted, not so much for setting the town on fire, as for the hatred of all men against them. Thus Christians became a sect everywhere spoken against, and wickedness was attributed to them because they could not be understood."

We have no records to shew how the martyrs, under the persecution of Nero, bore their sufferings. Our Lord had forewarned His disciples that in the world they should have tribulation, and He bade them rejoice when they suffered for His sake. (Matt. 5:12.) Doubtless the martyrs felt the presence of the Lord, and were enabled to look beyond their sufferings to the glory that awaited them. Our lot is cast in peaceful times. We should be thankful that we are allowed to worship the true God without hindrance; but Satan uses this peace in another way, namely, to cause many to think they are Christians, when they are not really resting all their hopes on the blood-shedding of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many of the churches and chapels are now thronged; but if soldiers waited at the doors to drag the worshippers to prison, would so many be there? Have the reader and the writer found such value in the name of Christ that, God helping us, we should hold to Him, and leave the consequences with our Father and our God?

The Twelve Apostles.

The early fathers record the death of some of the apostles which took place about this time. Without touching the more than doubtful point whether Peter founded the Church of Rome, it appears to be beyond question that he suffered martyrdom in that city during the persecutions by Nero. Clement of Rome speaks of the martyrdom. Ambrose relates that Peter was exhorted to flee from the city, to which he yielded; but on his reaching the gates, he met our Lord. "Lord, where goest thou?" he asked. "I go to Rome," was the reply, "once more to be crucified." Peter at once understood this as a reproof to himself, and he returned. This may have been in a vision, or, what is more probable, a tradition only.

Our Lord had said to him: "When thou shalt be old thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God." (John 21:18-19.) It is agreed by all that he was crucified, and some add that he was crucified head downward at his own request, that he might not die like his Lord.

As to Paul, the Acts of the Apostles closes with the apostle's having dwelt two whole years in his own hired house. There can be little doubt but that he was liberated, and took another missionary journey. When he wrote the Second Epistle to Timothy, he was again at Rome, and not apparently so comfortable a prisoner as when described in the end of the Acts; for he speaks of his chain, and says, "I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even unto bonds." To be a Christian had then been declared to be a crime, and Paul would fall under the condemnation. But he was sustained by his God. He wrote: "I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day." (2 Tim. 4:6-8.) He, as a Roman citizen, was beheaded. The date is not known, but it is put down at A.D. 66 or 68.

Of James, the Lord's brother, Hegesippus (middle of second century) relates that he was highly esteemed at Jerusalem, and the scribes and Pharisees came to him and said, "We pray thee stop the people, for they have gone astray after Jesus, as though He were the Christ. We pray thee to persuade all that come to the passover concerning Jesus." So they set him at the gable of the temple, that all might hear him and calling to him, said, "O just one, to whom we ought to give heed, seeing that the people are going astray after Jesus who was crucified, tell us what is the door to Jesus." He answered, with a loud voice, "Why ask ye me about Jesus the Son of man? He sits in heaven on the right hand of great power, and will come on the clouds of heaven." Many were convinced, and gave glory on the testimony of James, crying out "Hosanna to the Son of David." This enraged the rulers, and he was thrown down and stoned, while he, like his Lord, prayed for his enemies.

Josephus also states that James was stoned, but says it was under the charge of breaking the laws. Both accounts may be true; his testimony being the cause of his death, and this accusation the plea to justify the act. There is no date by which to fix the year. It must have been before the siege of Jerusalem.

We copy the following from Hippolytus, as to where the twelve apostles laboured, and where they died. He himself died about A.D. 230, so that he may have conversed with some of the apostolic fathers who knew the apostles themselves.

Peter preached the gospel in Pontus and Galatia, and Cappadocia and Bethania, and Italy and Asia, and was afterwards crucified by Nero in Rome.

Andrew preached to the Scythians and Thracians, and was crucified, suspended on an olive tree, at Patrae [a town] of Achaia; and there too he was buried.

John, again, in Asia, was banished by Domitian, the emperor, to the isle of Patmos, in which also he wrote his Gospel, and saw the apocalyptic vision; and in Trajan's time he fell asleep at Ephesus, where his remains were sought for, but could not be found.

James, his brother, when preaching in Judea, was cut off with the sword by Herod the Tetrarch, and was buried there.

Philip preached in Phrygia, and was crucified in Hierapolis, with his head downwards, in the time of Domitian, and was buried there.

Bartholomew, [preached] to the Indians, to whom also he gave the Gospel according to Matthew, was crucified with his head downward, and was buried in Allanum (or Albanum), of the great Armenia.

Matthew wrote the Gospel in the Hebrew tongue, and published it at Jerusalem, and fell asleep at Hierees, of Parthia.

Thomas preached to the Parthians, Medes, Persians, Hyrcanians, Bactrians, and Margians [or, Magi], and was thrust through in the four members of his body with a pine spear, at Calamene [or, Caramene], the city of India, and was buried there.

James, the Son of Alphaeus, when preaching in Jerusalem, was stoned to death by the Jews, and was buried there beside the temple.

Judas, who is also Lebbaeus, preached to the people of Edessa, and to all Mesopotamia, and fell asleep at Berytus, and was buried there.

Simon the Zealot, the son of Clopas, who is also [called] Judas, became bishop of Jerusalem after James the Just, and fell asleep and was buried there, at the age of 120 years.

Matthias, who was one of the seventy, and numbered with the eleven apostles, preached in Jerusalem, and fell asleep and was buried there.

Paul entered into the apostleship a year after the ascension of Christ, and beginning at Jerusalem, he advanced as far as Illyricum, and Italy, and Spain, preaching the gospel for five-and-thirty years. And in the time of Nero he was beheaded at Rome, and was buried there.

Chapter 2.

Insurrection of the Jews.

Although the insurrection of the Jews which led to the destruction of Jerusalem is not strictly connected with the church, one cannot pass it by in silence. Jerusalem was the chief city of the land chosen by God for His beloved people, and, as we know from scripture, there were many Christians there. We shall see what became of them.

The Lord Jesus had plainly foretold the destruction of Jerusalem: "There shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations, and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles." (Luke 21:23-24.) We have to tell you how this was brought about.

Palestine had been for many years subject to the Romans — it was so when our Lord was there — but the Jews were too proud to submit willingly to their masters. From time to time there had been insurrections; one occasion is alluded to when the Jews relate to our Lord how Pilate had mingled the blood of the people with the sacrifices. (Luke 13:1.) What led to the final revolt and destruction not only of Jerusalem, but of other great cities, was the following: —

There were a number of Jews living at Caesarea who had erected a synagogue, but the ground on which it stood belonged to a Greek. The Jews wished to purchase the ground, and offered a large price for it; but the Greek refused to sell it, and to annoy them he erected various buildings on the spot, which scarcely left the Jews room to get to their place of worship. The Greeks in other ways annoyed the Jews until a disturbance and a fight were the result.

Gessius Florus was procurator* of the district, so the Jews appealed to him, sending him at the same time a present of eight talents. He accepted the money and promised to interfere, but did nothing. On the breaking out of the above disturbance some of the Jews seized the books of the synagogue and left the city, while others of the highest rank proceeded to Florus to seek redress. He treated them with great disdain and cast them into prison.

{*The Roman governor of a province.}

Florus seemed determined to drive the people to a revolt, that he might seize their property as well as cover his own misdeeds. He made a demand on Jerusalem for seventeen talents, under the plea that the emperor needed the money.

The news of the imprisonment of the chief men of Caesarea had already reached Jerusalem, and this demand upon the city for money was received with derision, and the name of Florus was everywhere held in contempt and open ridicule.

Florus hastened to punish the city for these insults. The people at once submitted, and received both him and his soldiers readily. But, as we have seen, Florus wanted them to revolt, and he sent his soldiers to plunder the city and to put to death those who opposed his troops. Many who offered no resistance were wantonly put to death. More troops entered the city, and an effort was made by Florus to plunder the treasury of the temple. The people sought to prevent this, and attacked the soldiers with stones from the roofs and windows of the houses. Florus gave up the attempt, being satisfied for the time to retire with the riches he had already collected.

Agrippa,* at this juncture, visited Jerusalem, and exhorted the inhabitants to submit to the Romans; but on his mentioning the name of Florus, such an uproar was raised that he had to leave the city or he would have fallen a victim to their fury.

{*This was Agrippa II., a descendant of Herod, named in Acts 25:13. He ruled over portions of the kingdom, and was called "king." (Chap. xxvi. 7.)}

The rulers of the people appealed to the governor who was over Florus;* but a war party arose in the city, who, under Judas a Galilean, declared openly that it was wrong to own any king but God, and opposed the payment of any more tribute to Rome. They forgot how they had disowned God, how they had put His Son to death, and had declared at His trial, "We have no king but Caesar!" When they spoke to the Lord about paying tribute to Caesar, He asked them for a piece of money, and inquired, Whose was the image and inscription on it. They said, Casar's. Our Lord replied, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." They were now acting in direct opposition to this, declaring that they would not render to Caesar the things that were his. God had left His people to their own folly that they might be punished.

{*It was now Cestius Gallus, governor of Syria, etc.}

When Florus departed from Jerusalem he left a guard of Roman soldiers to keep possession. These were now attacked by the war party, and after much resistance they agreed to surrender, on condition that they should be allowed to walk out of Jerusalem, leaving their arms and everything behind. This was solemnly promised to them. The Romans came forth from their stronghold, and made a pile of their swords and articles of war, but they were no sooner defenceless than Eleazar* and his followers fell upon them and put all to death except one who called for mercy.

{*Eleazar was the son of Ananias the high priest, and was now the chief of the war party.}

This act of treachery was, as it is said, sealing the revolt in blood — a treachery that left no hope of peace, and filled the peaceable inhabitants with fear and evil-forebodings.

On that very day the Greeks of Caesarea rose against the Jews, and put to death every Jew in that city except a few who escaped. Josephus reckoned the number slain to amount to 20,000.

The whole country was now in arms; the Jews against any who were not Jews, and all who were not Jews were oppressing them. Then, as now, many of the Jews were rich, and they were plotted against and put to death for the sake of their riches. On the other hand, where the Jews were strong enough, they attacked their neighbours and pillaged their houses.

The Romans proceeded to put down the revolt, and Cestius Gallus marched into Palestine with his army. Zebulon, Joppa, and other places were quickly subdued; the Jewish inhabitants being put to death and the cities laid in ruins.

Cestius at length marched to Jerusalem, and Agrippa again tried to persuade the inhabitants to lay down their arms and submit to the Romans, but his messengers were attacked with sticks and stones. God had declared that the city was to be destroyed, and nothing could now save it, Many in the city would have been glad to come to terms of peace, but the war party would not hear of such a thing.

The Roman soldiers commenced the attack, and soon took a portion of the city; but inside they found another wall. This they proceeded to destroy; but, through want of resolution, Cestius called his men off, and apparently began to leave the city. This emboldened the Jews, who rushed out and put many of the Romans to death. Cestius still retreated, until they came to the narrow pass of Beth-horon. Here the Jews swarmed down the steep inclines and hurled stones on the heads of the retreating army. The way became blocked up, and the Romans, who were in the habit of fighting in ranks, seemed almost helpless, and thousands of them were slain. Cestius himself had to fly to save his life. The Romans abandoned their engines of war, and also took to flight. The Jews pursued them as far as Antipatris, when, finding they could not overtake more, they returned to secure the spoil, and to pillage the dead. They entered Jerusalem with hymns of triumph, having suffered but little, while the Romans lost 5,300 foot, and 380 horse. The Romans had not suffered such a defeat for many a year, and this one was the more disgraceful being at the hands of undisciplined people who were in a great measure without arms.

It could not be expected that Rome would let such a defeat go unavenged. Nero was still emperor: he called upon the most skilful of Rome's commanders — Vespasian — to quell the revolt and to punish the Jews generally. Vespasian, assisted by his son Titus, entered with spirit into the enterprise. Sixty thousand troops were placed under his command, with which to subdue Palestine.

The Jews in the meantime had not been idle. Walls were built and fortified, arms manufactured and provisions stored. They were, however, still divided: many greatly desired to submit to the Romans, while others were as determined to fight to the last.

Before relating the final struggle, we must call attention again to the prophecy of Christ relating to this war. "Great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven." (Luke 21:11.) Mark the words, "fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven." Josephus, the historian, relates that a star or a comet with a long tail in the form of a sword hung over the city for a whole year. Another sign was that on one occasion chariots and troops of soldiers were seen among the clouds, hurrying to and fro. On another occasion, a great light shone around the altar for about half an hour and then died out. The gate of the inner court of the temple, made of brass, and of such immense weight that it took twenty men to shut it, opened of itself. This was interpreted to mean that the temple was no longer to be protected from the enemy. These events may seem to be fables, but the historian declares that they were witnessed by many, and these signs are confirmed by Tacitus.

But the cause of perhaps still greater alarm was a man named Jesus, the son of Ananus, who commenced to traverse the streets of Jerusalem, crying, "A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, and a voice against this whole people. Woe, woe to Jerusalem." Certain of the people seized and beat him; but he still cried, "Woe, woe to Jerusalem." At length he was carried before the Roman governor, who asked him who he was, where he came from, and why he uttered such words; but he gave no other answer than "Woe, woe to Jerusalem." He was fearfully scourged, but uttered no cry but his cry of woe. At length he was dismissed as a madman. This fearful cry he began before the revolt, when all were at peace, and he continued it during a space of four years. When the war raged, he still wended his way, fearless of danger, uttering his woeful cry. All at once he varied it with "Woe, woe to myself:" a stone struck him and he fell down dead.

Thus had this unhappy people ample time to be warned and, had they heeded the voice of their Messiah, to have been saved. To His disciples our Lord gave another word of warning, "Let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter therein." (Luke 21:21.) In obedience to this command the Christians quitted Jerusalem and took up their abode at Pella, and thus escaped the doom about to fall on this guilty people.

Pella was a town on the east of the Jordan in the district of Decapolis. Here, no doubt, Agrippa was able to protect them as peaceable inhabitants. We have no record of the number of the fugitives. Our Lord left the temple, saying, "Your house is left unto you desolate;" and now the Christians departed from the doomed city, leaving nothing really but the outward shell of the once divinely ordered ritual of the one true God, and the dire judgment of the One they despised hovering over their heads.*

{*Under Hadrian (A.D. 136), the Christians were allowed to return to the city built upon the ruins of Jerusalem, then called Aelia Capitolina. Christians and pagans only were allowed there — no Jew dare shew his face on pain of death. Its ancient name was restored by Constantine the Great. At the council of Nice, Macarius signed the canons as Bishop of Jerusalem.}


Josephus, the well-known historian, was involved in the war with the Romans. He was a Jew, and a descendant of a priestly family. His father's name was Matthias, and he was called Joseph, but is better known as Josephus, After studying the law, and becoming acquainted with the various sects, he joined the Pharisees.

At first his desire was to induce his countrymen to submit to the Romans; but failing in this, and the war party growing in strength, he joined in the war. He was appointed to command the Jews in Galilee. After various escapes from the jealousy of others who were also in authority, Josephus effected an entrance into the city of Jotapata, and took the command. This city was considered of great importance, and therefore Vespasian came in person to order the siege. It was in a lofty position, and to be approached only on one side. On the other side it was surrounded with thick forests, thought to be impregnable. But the Romans with their axes soon cleared a way through the forest so as to approach the walls, and with their battering rams and scaling ladders the place was eventually taken, though the Jews fought with bravery.

Josephus had taken refuge in a dry well, from the bottom of which he was enabled to reach a cavern and remain unseen from those above. Here he found about forty of the citizens who had taken refuge there, and who had provided themselves with food for several days. In the meantime the soldiers were searching for him, anxious to find either dead or alive one who had made such a gallant defence against them.

On the third day a woman, having left the cavern, was captured, and she revealed the secret that Josephus was safe in concealment. Vespasian sent some of the Romans to offer Josephus his life if he would surrender. After some parleying, Josephus was desirous of giving himself up; but his companions, not so sure of their own lives, called him traitor and coward, and even threatened to kill him. Josephus tried to persuade them to risk saving their lives, and detailed to them the sin of self-murder. It was all of no use; they would not hear of surrender. He then persuaded them that if they must die, it would be better to kill one another than to commit suicide. To this they agreed, concluding that Josephus would surely share the same fate as themselves. Lots were drawn, and, somehow or other, one and another fell by the swords of their companions, until only Josephus and another remained. Josephus persuaded him to accept the offer of the Romans, and both came out of the cavern alive.

Josephus asked for an interview with Vespasian, and he then put on the air and manner of a prophet, and declared to Vespasian that he and his son Titus would, each in due time, be made emperors of Rome. "Send me not to Nero," said Josephus, "bind me and keep me in chains, as thine own prisoner; for soon thou wilt be the sovereign lord of earth and sea, and of the whole human race." He appealed to some of the citizens if he had not foretold that the downfall of Jotapata would be in forty-seven days, and they declared that he had done so. Josephus was still kept in chains, but was well taken care of and received various presents.

Thus this man, after many narrow escapes, was now with the Romans. He grew in favour, and remained with them during the siege of Jerusalem; and afterwards lived to write his famous History of the Jews. Vespasian and Titus both became emperors, and this brought Josephus into favour with them, because his predictions came true.

Destruction of Jerusalem.

From Jotapata Vespasian and Titus proceeded to destroy other cities, putting all the inhabitants to the sword or selling them as slaves. But we will relate only the destruction of Jerusalem.

Palestine had had many robbers, such as would now be called banditti. As the country was being laid waste by the Romans, these took shelter in Jerusalem, and at length formed a strong party and were called Zealots. They murdered some of the citizens, until at length these arose to defend themselves against the Zealots. The Zealots then took shelter in the temple, and secretly invited the Idumeans to come to their relief, declaring that the inhabitants wanted to give Jerusalem up to the Romans. The Idumeans had been incorporated with the Jews, and like the Arabs, were ever ready to rush to war where-ever there was a need for it. They armed at once and appeared before Jerusalem. But the city authorities refused them admittance and tried to reason with them to induce them to return. Night came on, leaving the Idumeans encamped outside the walls. In the night a dreadful storm of rain and wind with thunder and lightning took place. The Zealots, finding the guards had neglected their posts to escape the storm, stole out of the temple, and with saws cut through the iron bars of the gates and admitted the Idumeans. That night, the whole of the guard who watched the temple were put to death. In the morning 8,500 dead bodies were counted.

The city was now at the mercy of the Zealots, and they, assisted by the Idumeans, killed whom they pleased. Not fewer than 12,000 of the noblest blood in Jerusalem perished in this way. Surely the city was given up by God to the direst calamities! The Roman army was approaching the city, and Jerusalem, instead of making preparations to defend itself, was thus being destroyed by its own children!

The Idumeans however at length awoke to the wickedness of the Zealots. They had been called to prevent Jerusalem from being given up to the Romans; but they found that the report was raised merely to serve the purpose of the Zealots to murder and to rob. They determined to leave the city.

The Zealots however continued their evil work. This state of things became known to the Romans, and the general was advised to make his attack upon them while thus divided. But he judged that if he approached it would make them all unite to oppose him. He thought it better to let them "like wild beasts" devour one another.

John of Gischala was head of the Zealots. Simon, the son of Gioras, was another desperado; he entered Jerusalem and became head of another party. Eleazar, the first to advise the revolt, was leader of a third party. These were all in deadly hatred one against another. Had the Romans delayed their visit to the city, it must surely have perished by its own people.

In the year A.D. 69 Vespasian was made Emperor, and the command now devolving on Titus his son, the siege began in earnest, in April, 70.

Each of the three parties had his fortified position, from which the advancing army of the Romans could be seen. Eleazar's place was the summit of the temple; John's, the porticoes of the outer courts; and Simon's, the heights of Zion. They now began to feel that they had one common enemy against whom they ought to fight, and they agreed on a general attack on the Romans. Simon had 10,000 men and 5000 Idumeans (who had either remained or returned to the city); John had 6000, and Eleazar 2400.

The Romans were busy with their entrenchments, when the Jews sallied forth and took them by surprise; they put many to death and others to flight, and Titus himself had a narrow escape. The Romans however rallied, and the battle lasted all day, with many killed on both sides.

Titus went on with his works, levelling the approach to the city. When this was accomplished, he resolved to attack the wall at the part called Bezetha, where the wall was the lowest, and the houses not high enough to protect the wall.

The Romans had engines for throwing heavy stones as well as arrows. Of the soldiers some were slingers of stones, and others archers; firearms were not yet invented. To knock down the walls they had battering-rams. These were made of a huge beam of timber, armed at one end with a large piece of iron in the shape of a ram's head. This was pulled away and then thrown back with great force against the wall. At times sacks, stuffed full, were lowered from the walls to break the force of the blows; but these were pulled down with hooks by the Romans.

Titus set three of these rams at work against the wall. The Jews mounted the walls and hurled down stones upon those who worked the machines; but Titus had towers made on his embankment from which his archers and slingers swept all from the walls. The rams were kept at work night and day until the walls began to totter. They were seventeen and a half feet thick, and of immense strength, composed of blocks of stone thirty-five feet long. Still the incessant strokes of the ram began to loosen the stones.

The Jews resorted to other means. Suddenly, through an unperceived gate they sallied forth with firebrands and attempted to set the engines on fire; but Titus rushed down with his horse soldiers and drove back the Jews into the city. One was taken prisoner, whom Titus crucified before the walls.

At length a breach was made and the Romans entered. But they found no enemy; the whole place was deserted. But this was only a portion of the city. Jerusalem was divided into three distinct parts, each with its wall: so that when one part was taken, the Jews all retired to the second. Here the siege had to begin again.

The battering rams had to be brought up to the second wall, and then worked night and day until a breach was made in it. In a few days this was accomplished, and then the Jews retired to the third part of the city. Titus did not destroy the houses in the second part, still hoping that the Jews would surrender.

Leaving the houses standing led to a sad disaster. When his troops had entered this part of the city, the Jews attacked them fiercely, and as they knew every turn of the narrow streets, they were able to run round and appear where they were least expected, and attack the Romans on all sides. Titus came to the rescue, and by placing archers at the openings to all the streets, he was enabled to bring off many of his men alive, and means were taken to prevent the repetition of such attacks.

Titus, seeing the magnificence of the temple and the palace, was desirous of sparing the city, and again he tried to induce the people to surrender. Josephus was now employed to reason with the Jews; but he was assailed with scoffs, and darts were hurled at him.

The whole of the inhabitants were now cooped up in one-third of the city, and famine, which had been for some time staring them in the face, became severe. Persons sold their possessions for a little food, and many died of hunger. At length the war party, who had taken care to keep provisions for themselves, began to be in want, and they went about the city, seizing every particle of food they could find. If they thought any were concealing food, they would torture them to compel them to confess its whereabouts.

All natural affection deserted the people generally. Relatives would snatch the food from one another — children from parents, and parents from children; wives from husbands and husbands from wives. On one occasion, those who searched for food, sword in hand, smelt the fumes of cooked flesh. They entered the house and demanded the food. A woman brought it, but the courage of the robbers failed them when they found that a mother had cooked her own child, and had eaten a part of it. She shrieked out, "Eat, for I have eaten: be not more delicate than a mother; or, if ye are too religious to touch such food, I have eaten half already, leave me the rest!" They left her in horror.

How true is scripture! It had been foretold that a delicate and tender woman should eat her own children. (Deut. 28:56-57.) It had taken place at the siege of Samaria (2 Kings 6:29), and it had now taken place at Jerusalem. Alas, it is hard to fight against God!

By night many would come forth and search about outside the walls for anything they could manage to eat; they would have doubtless left the city entirely but for their wives and children who were starving as well as themselves. Titus laid soldiers in wait for these, and where they offered any resistance they were seized, tortured, and crucified within sight of the walls, in hopes that this would strike terror into the rest and cause them to capitulate; but instead of this, the war party would drag to the walls any who wished to give themselves up to the Romans, and shew them what they called Roman mercy. As many as five hundred of these poor wretches were caught and crucified in one day. Still the famine increased and more left the city in search of food, and these were caught and crucified until space as well as wood was needed for the crosses.

Titus had now come to the third wall, at a corner of which stood the tower of Antonia which defended the temple. He raised four embankments in different places, and on these were ranged his instruments of warfare. All was ready for a vigorous, and as they hoped final, attack on the walls. The soldiers only waited for the word of command to commence. But suddenly, like an earthquake, the ground moved, then fell in, carrying with it all the embankments and the engines. The Jews had undermined the places where the embankments had been made, then setting fire to the supports, the whole gave way, and all the preparations were in a moment destroyed. The Jews now rushed out in immense numbers with firebrands to burn all they could; and they attacked the Romans so fiercely that these began to waver. Titus, who was absent, returned in time to rally his men, and drive the Jews back into the city; but they left the Romans much dispirited.

Titus called a council to decide what should be done. 1. Should they rush into the city at once? 2. Should they make new engines and go on with the siege? 3. Should they build a wall entirely round the city, and starve the Jews into submission? They concluded on the latter. A wall of nearly four miles was formed, with thirteen towers. By the whole army working it was done in three days.

No sooner was this done than the Romans set to work to make new engines. A portion of the wall soon fell because of being undermined to destroy the engines of the Romans, but when the Romans rushed in they found that a new wall had been made within. But being new this was weak and the tower of Antonia was soon taken. An effort was now made to save the temple. The Jews were asked to depart from it, and it was promised that the Roman soldiers should not defile it. But the leaders had already put to death the priest, and had drunk the wine and food devoted to the temple; and they cared nothing for the building. Josephus appealed to the Jews, and Titus appealed to them: all, except the Jews, were desirous of saving the temple. Titus said, "I call on your gods — I call on my whole army — I call on the Jews who are with me — I call on yourselves, to witness that I do not force you to this crime." It was all of no use; we know, from scripture, that this could not be — its destruction was foretold.

The cloisters of the temple were next attacked and burnt; still the Romans decided to spare the temple itself. August 10th had arrived, the very day on which the temple had previously been destroyed by the king of Babylon. Titus had taken up his quarters in the tower of Antonia, and had retired to rest, resolving to make a general attack on the next day, when a wild cry was raised! a soldier rushed into his chamber crying out that the temple was on fire. After Titus had retired some of the soldiers had attacked the Jews in the cloisters, and one of them seizing a burning brand had been able, by mounting on another's shoulders, to reach a small window. Into this he had thrown the firebrand, and the temple was soon in flames.

Titus hastened to the spot; he shouted to his soldiers to stop the flames, but they either did not or would not hear. Everything was noise and disorder. Many Jews had taken shelter in the temple. These were slain till the blood ran in streams in the building. Titus stood amazed at the magnificence of the interior. The gold reflected the flames and added an awful grandeur to the scene. The holy place was not yet in flames, and Titus made an effort to save it. But it was of no use, he was disobeyed, but God was obeyed. This, too, was destroyed.

Yet one portion remained, in which about 6,000 of the inhabitants had taken refuge, deluded by a false prophet who had said that if they repaired to the temple, God would interfere to save them; whereas Christ, the true prophet, had said that it should be destroyed. This also was burnt, and all perished.

The Roman army entered the temple, and amid the ruins offered sacrifices to their gods, and saluted Titus.

Still the third part of the city remained and three very strong towers; engines were brought to bear, but it was not till the seventh of September — nearly a month after the burning of the temple — that the city was taken. John and Simon, the two leaders living, fled to underground passages in hopes of saving their lives, and the rest, dispirited and starving, offered but little resistance. The soldiers slew all they met with, until they grew weary of the work. After that, only the infirm were killed, and the rest saved. The whole of the city was destroyed except three strong towers which were left as monuments of the siege.

The people that were left were sorted like cattle. The noted insurgents were put to death; the tallest were reserved to form a part of the triumph of Titus when he entered Rome; many were sent to work in the mines; some were sent into the provinces, and were compelled to fight as gladiators, or with wild beasts to amuse the people. It was estimated that in the siege there had been killed no fewer than 1,100,000, and 97,000 had been taken prisoners. The large numbers are accounted for by many having taken refuge in the city because of the desolation taken in the provinces, and because many came to the feast, and could not return.

Thus perished the favoured city of Jerusalem — God's city — but because of the sins of the people, given over to destruction. Christ wept over the city, knowing all that was coming upon it, and knowing how different it would have been had they but listened to their true Messiah.

But with the doom pronounced by our Lord there was one word of hope: it was to be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. Then will God again take up His favoured people and they shall rebuild the holy city, and blessing and prosperity shall again visit the holy land.

"Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah . . . . I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall all know me, from the least unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. . . . . Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that the city shall be built to the Lord . . . . shall be holy unto the Lord it shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down, any more for ever." (Jer. 22:31-40.)

A prophecy clearly never yet fulfilled, but one which will be brought about as surely as God is true.

Chapter 3.

Further Persecutions.

One of the leading features of the early history of the church is, as we have seen, persecution. It commenced under Nero. After him, as emperor succeeded emperor, some were mild in their treatment of the Christians and others were the reverse. A good deal, too, depended upon the proconsuls* and the magistrates. Some of these avoided persecution, as far as they could with safety to themselves, while others went as far as their power extended in rooting out the hated disciples of Christ.

{*Those who acted for the consuls; they ruled over provinces.}

Even Gibbon, the historian, shews how unjust the heathen were in accusing the Christians of any and everything that might happen, "If the empire had been afflicted by any recent calamity, by a plague, a famine, or an unsuccessful war; if the Tiber had, or if the Nile had not, risen beyond its banks; if the earth had shaken, or if the temperate order of the season had been interrupted, the superstitious pagans were convinced that the crimes and the impiety of the Christians, who were spared by the excessive lenity of the government, had at length provoked the divine justice."

Still the number of Christians rapidly increased. Our Lord had said He would build His church, against which the gates of hell should not prevail (Matt. 16:18); and though Satan had stirred up his servants to fight against that church, it still grew in numbers and spread itself far and wide. As has been often said, "The blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church;" and, if a few were put to death, many seemed to spring out of their ashes.

Letters written at the time of an event are always valuable evidence; persons looking back after a long course of years are apt to view things differently from what they really were. Now there is an interesting letter written by the younger Pliny, proconsul of Pontus and Bithynia, to the emperor Trajan, and the emperor's reply, which will throw light upon these persecutions.

"The following is the method I have pursued," wrote Pliny, "with regard to such as have been brought before me as Christians. I have asked them whether they were really Christians. On their confessing that they were I have questioned them a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; and on their persevering in the confession, I have commanded them to be led forth, not doubting but that inflexible obstinacy ought to be punished. Nothing can compel those who are really Christians to adore thy image with incense, or to call on the gods, or to curse Christ. This is the sum of their error. They are accustomed to assemble on a stated day before light; to sing a hymn to Christ among themselves by turns; and to bind themselves by an oath to commit no wickedness — neither fraud, nor robbery, nor adultery — and they never violate faith. These things having been done, it is their custom to depart, and assemble again to take meat, but promiscuously and without offence. Many persons of all ages, of all orders, and of either sex even, are placed in peril; for the contagion of this superstition has invaded not only the towns, but even the villages and fields. It is sufficiently evident, indeed, that our temples are almost deserted, that our sacred rites have been for a long time interrupted, and that there is rarely to be found a purchaser of the victims."

To this the emperor Trajan replied, "You have done perfectly right, my dear Pliny, in your proceedings against the Christians who have been brought before you; it being impossible to establish any regular or general form in affairs of this kind. No search should be made after them, but if they are accused and convicted, they must be punished. Should the accused, however, deny that he is a Christian, and prove that he is not by invoking the gods, then let him be pardoned, whatever may have been his former profession." No anonymous accusation was to be received. It would not be right.

These letters are important in many particulars. Notice, in the first place, that Pliny says that refusing to adore the image of the emperor (which image was set up to be worshipped), and to call on the heathen gods, and to refuse to curse Christ, is the sum of their error. No evil is laid to their charge — nothing but refusing to perform acts of idolatry, and to curse the One to whom they looked for salvation. This coming from a heathen, is a strong testimony in favour of Christians of that day.

Next notice that he speaks of their meetings for singing, and to "take meat." This no doubt referred to their taking the Lord's supper, with which were perhaps connected their love-feasts, that were often taken before the Lord's supper, as was the case at Corinth. (1 Cor. 11) At this time nothing but simplicity and sincerity marked the meetings of the Christians. They were privately accused of wickedness, and many were tortured to induce them to reveal what they did at their private meetings; but after all that could be drawn from them, Pliny is obliged to confess to the simplicity of their meetings.

In the answer of it is plainly stated that to be a Christian was a crime which must be punished. It is also clear that it had been the custom to let persons anonymously accuse the Christians. This was no longer to be allowed, because such a thing would be a disgrace, even to a pagan Roman.

We proceed to give a few instances of those who suffered under various emperors.


We will first mention Ignatius, of Antioch. He lived in the reign of Trajan, whose letter we have just given. The emperor was passing through Antioch on his way to the Parthian war, in A.D. 106. Ignatius feared for the Christians at Antioch, and thought to save them by appearing personally before the emperor.

The emperor demanded, "Art thou he who, like a bad demon, goeth about violating my commands, and leading men to perdition?"

"Let no one," said Ignatius, "call Theophorus* a bad demon" . . . .

{*Or, "one who carried God."}

"And pray who is Theophorus?"

"He who has Christ in his breast."

"And thinkest thou not, that the gods who fight for us against our enemies, reside in us?"

"You err in calling the demons of the nations gods; for there is only one God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is; and one Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son, whose kingdom is my portion."

"His kingdom, do you mean, who was crucified under Pilate?"

"His who crucified my sin with its author, and has put all the sin and malice of Satan under the feet of those who carry Him in their hearts."

"Dost thou then carry Him who was crucified within thee?"

"I do: for it is written, 'I dwell in them, and walk in them.'"

The emperor cut the matter short by proclaiming: "Since Ignatius confesses that he carries within himself Him that was crucified, we command that he be carried, bound by soldiers, to great Rome, there to be torn by wild beasts, for the entertainment of the people."

He was at once bound and sent on his way to Rome. Staying at Smyrna, he had an interview with Polycarp, bishop of that city. Ignatius also wrote letters to various churches, copies of which are still preserved. In writing to Rome, he begged them not to interfere to stay his execution. "Suffer me," said the aged man, "to become the food of bears and lions: it will afford a very short passage to heaven."

As he approached Rome, a crowd of persons were seen coming from the city. They were Christians, who flocked to meet the aged man. Notwithstanding his letter, they begged of him to let them endeavour to save him; but he steadily refused. The soldiers allowed Ignatius a short time for prayer with his fellow Christians, and to give them a short exhortation. Then he was forthwith led to the amphitheatre. There wild and hungry animals were ready, and the aged man was soon devoured by them; a few fragments of his bones being all that his friends could find of his remains.

Many others shared the same fate as Ignatius in the reign of Trajan. Adrian succeeded Trajan as emperor (A.D. 117), and continued the persecutions until an Apology for the Christians was presented to the emperor by Quadratus a pious and learned man. This was followed by others, which induced the emperor to order the discontinuance of the persecution. We will consider the Apologies presently.

Adrian was succeeded by Antoninus Pius (A.D. 138), who procured for the Christians still greater liberty. He sent the following sensible message to his magistrates. "I am convinced that it is for the gods themselves to take care that men of this kind should not escape; for it is much more fitting that they should punish those who refuse to worship them, than that you should...."

Justin Martyr.

Marcus Aurelius succeeded Antoninus (A.D. 161). Marcus was accounted a philosopher, but he was a persecutor of the Christians. Among those who suffered under him was the well-known Justin Martyr.

Justin was a native of Samaria. He had been early led to study philosophy; but after trying one system and another he found himself dissatisfied with all. Nothing could satisfy the cravings of his active mind. He longed for something above and beyond anything he knew or felt.

In this state he wandered about, lost in meditation, till one day as he strolled along the sea shore, he was arrested by the venerable appearance of an old man. They entered into conversation, and Justin told the old man what he felt and his desire of finding out God. His companion told him of the uselessness of all that the philosophers could teach, and recommended him to study the Hebrew scriptures and the doctrines of Christianity, and to pray for light; for they could be understood only by the help of God and of His Son Jesus Christ. They parted, and never met again. But Justin had new work before him. He read and studied and found what he wanted. He was converted to Christianity, and became a champion for the truths he had learned. He argued with the philosophers, and confuted those in error among the Christians; he also wrote two "Apologies" to the emperors. At length he was seized, and carried before Rusticus the prefect.* He was still dressed as a philosopher, and the prefect asked him what he had studied.

{* From prefectus, one placed over others — a magistrate, or ruler.}

"I have, endeavoured," said Justin, "to learn every sort of knowledge, and have at last embraced the doctrine of Christianity, rejected though it be by those who are in blindness and error."

"What, wretch! you follow that doctrine?"

"Yes, and with joy, because I know it to be true."

"Sacrifice, then, and obey, or I will order you to be tormented without mercy."

"Our only desire is to suffer for the sake of Jesus Christ. ..."

He, with others, was ordered to be scourged, and then beheaded.

The Christians, in the reign of Marcus Aurelius, were persecuted not so much by direct orders of the emperor, as by the cruel industry of the provincial rulers: in some places they carried this to such extremes that he sharply rebuked them, pointing out how much more zealous the Christians were in serving their God, than the heathen were in devotion to theirs, and willingly died for their faith. He prohibited all search for Christians, and enacted penalties against the informers. But he left the laws unrepealed.


Polycarp had known the apostle John, and is said to have been appointed by him over the Church of Smyrna. He might have been set apart as "elder," for we know that the apostles had authority to appoint such in the churches. (Titus 1:5.)

Irenaeus, writing of Polycarp, says, "I have yet present in my mind the gravity of his demeanour, the majesty of his countenance, the purity of his life, and the holiness of the exhortations with which he fed his flock. I almost think that I can still hear him relating how he had conversed with St. John and many others who had seen Jesus Christ, and repeating the words he had received from their lips, and the accounts they had given him of the Saviour's miracles and doctrines; while his zeal for the purity of the faith was such that, when any error was advocated in his presence, he was wont to close his ears and to retire, exclaiming, "Merciful Lord, for what times hast thou reserved me?"

On persecution breaking out, Polycarp was induced to retire to a small country house, a short distance from Smyrna; but one of his attendants being put to the torture told where Polycarp was. When the soldiers arrived to arrest him he had retired to bed; but he at once arose, and ordered provisions to be provided for the officers. Then he asked for an hour for prayer, but which extended to two. He was now placed on an ass, on account of his age, and conveyed to the city. He was met by a magistrate who knew him, and was invited by him into his carriage. Here Polycarp was exhorted to acknowledge the gods, but on his steadily refusing, he was pushed out of the carriage, and was hurt by the fall.

When before the proconsul, he was pitied on account of his great age, and was exhorted to give way. "Swear, and I will release you: curse Christ."

"Eighty and six years," replied Polycarp, "have I served Him and He has never injured me. How can I blaspheme Him to whom I owe my salvation?"

The proconsul, finding he could not shake the resolution of the accused, declared that Polycarp acknowledged himself to be a Christian.

The multitude thereupon called for his death, naming at first the wild beasts, but as it was not the season for the public games, they cried out for him to be burnt. To this the proconsul consented.

The multitude, among whom were many Jews, says the historian, hastened to collect the fuel and stake and pile were soon prepared. As they were about to nail him to the stake, he assured them that it was unnecessary. He who enabled him to endure the fire would enable him to stand firm. He spent his remaining moments in prayer. On his saying "Amen," the pile was ignited, and the flames rose rapidly but, strange to say, the flames formed a sort of curve around him, his body having the appearance of shining gold and silver, while a sweet smell as of perfume filled the air. This being witnessed by the heathen, they called for him to be killed. He was put to death by the sword, and his blood running in streams put out the fire and left his body unburnt. But lest any superstitious use should be made of his body it was consumed: only a few charred bones remained. Though the above account sounds strange to our ears, it is thus given in the Epistle from the church of Smyrna, by those who witnessed his death — an epistle which is generally considered to be genuine.*

{* It is given by Eusebius, and is entitled "The Church of God at Smyrna to that of Philomelius and to all parts of the holy universal church."}

The persecution continued under the reign of the emperor Marcus until the following circumstance stayed his hand.

The emperor was engaged in war with a people called Quadi, belonging to a portion of Germany, when he found his army placed in a position of great peril, and suffering at the same time from extreme thirst. Many Christians in one of the legions fell on their knees and cried to God for relief. Soon after, a storm of hail and rain beat in the faces of the enemy, and also supplied the fainting army with a means of quenching their thirst. Victory was on the side of the Romans. The Christians believed it was in answer to their prayers, while the heathen thought it was their gods who had favoured them. The emperor however at that time slackened the persecution, though it was renewed afterwards.*

{* Tertullian attributes the leniency of the emperor to the marked answer to the prayer of the Christians. But this is disputed by others, for there were pictures representing the emperor in the attitude of prayer to the gods, and soldiers catching the rain in their helmets. A medal also represents Jupiter launching his thunderbolts against the barbarians. There seems therefore to be evidence that some such event actually took place, and Eusebius says the above account is given by several writers worthy of credit.}


Christianity had spread everywhere under the control of the Romans, and about this time persecution broke out in Lyons and Vienna. Here the heathen were determined enemies of the Christians, treating them with great cruelty and dragging them before the magistrates. A notable instance of fortitude was Blandina, a female slave. She was tortured from morning to night, to make her confess to the evil practices of which Christians were accused. But no cry could they wring from the noble sufferer but "I am a Christian, and no evil is done amongst us." Those who tormented her were obliged to confess their astonishment at her fortitude. She was eventually put into a net and thrown to a wild bull, and thus received martyrdom.


Severus was made emperor A.D. 193. He is said to have been not unfavourable to the Christians, but was unable to repress the anger of the people. Certain it is that persecution reigned. At Carthage in A.D. 204, four were seized and cast into prison, among them was a lady named Vivia Perpetua. She wrote an account of her own sufferings. To add to her trials, her father, who fondly loved her, came again and again to her prison and entreated her to save herself by calling on the gods, but through the power of God she remained firm. Perpetua had an infant at her breast, which was a source of comfort to her in prison; but nothing touched the hearts of her persecutors.

At length she was brought before the judge. Her father appeared in court to make another effort to save her. Even the judge was moved at the scene. "Spare the old age of your father, and the helplessness of your infant," said he; "sacrifice for the prosperity of the emperor."

"I will do nothing of that kind," she said.

"Are you a Christian?"

"I am."

Her father was almost beside himself. He tried to drag her away, until the judge ordered him out of court. She was condemned.

The night before she and her companions suffered they had a love feast in the prison, at which some other Christians were allowed to be present. On the following day they were led to the amphitheatre. The men were attacked by bears and a leopard. Perpetua and Felicitas (a christian slave) were placed in nets and exposed to a wild cow. By this they were attacked and wounded, but not killed. The spectators called for their death, and this was effected by the swords of the gladiators.

These are but examples of the many who suffered during the reign of Severus. After his death, during the reigns of several emperors, for twenty-four years the Christians had comparative peace. But before looking at the last of the persecutions, we must refer to some other matters of interest.

Chapter 4.

The Apostolic Fathers.

Great respect has constantly been shewn to the so-called fathers of the church, and to their writings, especially to the apostolic fathers. Naturally we might think that those who had the privilege of intercourse with the apostles would themselves be well instructed in the truth. But we doubt not that God allowed that there should be a deep, dark line of distinction between writings that were inspired and those that were not. And this we find to be the case, so that no one should be mistaken as to which is scripture and which is not. This difference is gathered from internal evidence, too plain to be mistaken; for indeed, external evidence might otherwise have led us astray, seeing that in the ancient Greek manuscripts some of these writings were placed along with the inspired books, and were in early days read in the meetings of Christians.*

{*There is no complete manuscript of the New Testament in uncial characters (the most ancient) that does not contain some of these writings. Thus the Codex Sinaiticus contains the Epistle of Barnabas, and part of the Shepherd of Hermas. The Codex Alexandrinus has the First Epistle of Clement and a portion of the Second Epistle. Codex Claromontanus contains the Epistle of Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, and the Apocalypse of Peter.}

Clement. Eusebius says Clement was "the friend of St. Paul," and wrote two Epistles to the Corinthians. They are therein warned of their disorders and strife, and earnest appeals are made to their heart and conscience. Yet the fabulous stories introduced mark them at once as uninspired, and the fanciful use made of the Old Testament makes them very untrustworthy. For instance, he gives the story of the phoenix, which was supposed to build its nest of frankincense and other spices, in which it enters and dies; but as it dies, a certain kind of worm is produced, which, being nourished by the juices of the dead bird, brings forth feathers. It takes up the nest, and flies to the city of Heliopolis, and places it on the altar of the sun, just five hundred years after the birth of the former bird. This is related with all seriousness as a fact, and is called a wonderful figure of the resurrection! As to quoting the Old Testament, when speaking of bishops and deacons he adds: "For thus saith the scripture in a certain place, 'I will appoint their bishops [or, overseers] in righteousness, and their deacons [or, servants] in faith.'" This is from Isaiah 60:17, but altered by Clement. In the Septuagint it reads, "I will give thy rulers in peace, and thy overseers in righteousness;" and refers to Jerusalem, and not to the church. These are in the First Epistle.

The Second Epistle of Clement is not now believed to have been written by him.

Polycarp. Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp. He says that "Polycarp was instructed by the apostles, and was brought into contact with many who had seen Christ." He is called the bishop of Smyrna. We have already given an account of his martyrdom. He wrote an Epistle to the Philippians, which is mostly exhortations, and abounds with quotations from the Apostolic Epistles; but in one place he quotes the Apocrypha: "When you can do good, defer it not, because 'alms deliver from death.'" (Tobit.) This stamps it at once as uninspired: alms do not deliver from death.

Barnabas. There is an Epistle bearing the name of Barnabas. Clement of Alexandria, who died about A.D. 213, is the first to say it is the same Barnabas that was a companion of Paul. Eusebius calls it "spurious," though it was read in the churches. One MS. entitles it "Epistle of Barnabas the apostle." There is no other Barnabas spoken of in the early writings, and yet from the contents it is not believed to be by the companion of Paul. It is not known to whom it was addressed. Some of its interpretations of scripture are foolish in the extreme, and several times it professes to give quotations from scripture which are nowhere to be found in the word of God.

Ignatius. There are, bearing his name, Epistles — 1, to the Ephesians; 2, to the Magnesians; 3, to the Trallians; 4, to the Romans; 5, to the Philadelphians; 6, to the Smyrnaeans; and 7, an Epistle to Polycarp. Of all these there are longer and shorter copies; and of those to the Ephesians, to the Romans, and to Polycarp, Syriac copies have been discovered, differing from both the long and the short. The whole shews how shamefully the writings have been tampered with, so that no one knows really what Ignatius wrote. Some consider the short epistles in the Syriac copies as most likely to be genuine. We have elsewhere quoted these Epistles on the subject of the place and power to be given to the bishop. Besides the above, there are several others (one to the Virgin Mary) undoubtedly spurious.

Hermas is said to be the Hermas mentioned by Paul in the Epistle to the Romans (but this is really very doubtful), and said to have written a treatise called the "Shepherd of Hermas." It was so highly esteemed by many that it was judged to be inspired. Irenaeus quotes it as scripture; Clemens Alexandrinus and Origen as "divine," and it was read in the churches. It is a sort of allegory, and has often been compared with Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress." But some of it is really foolish, and some scarcely decent.*

{*Besides the above, there are a number of apocryphal writings: about a score of different "Gospels," a dozen "Acts," several "Epistles," and four or five "Revelations." — Our Father's Will, p. 157.}

Thus we see, get as near as we can to the inspired writers, there is not a single thing that can be trusted. Though this is indeed sad, yet it is well that we are thrown entirely upon that which is the word of God. This can be trusted, and it is complete, and thank God is entirely sufficient for all we can need. How unwise then to confide in the fathers, or to think that because they were near to the time of the apostles they may be trusted in the interpretation of scripture. It is not so; for if we leave scripture, we at once enter upon that which is dubious if not darkness itself.

Chapter 5.

Attacks on Christianity and the Apologies.

We have already looked at various things that may have operated on the minds of the pagans, as reasons why the Christians should be persecuted, and why Christianity should be stamped out as far as man could do it.

But besides the dislike to Christianity which existed in those who gave the supremacy to the laws of the state, and besides the hatred indulged in by the mass of the people, surrounded with all the show of their pagan worship, which contributed to their lusts, if it did not satisfy their consciences — there was quite a distinct class of opposers, namely, the philosophers.

There had been many systems of philosophy, each supposed to be something in advance of its forerunners. We see from the short account given in Acts 17, the curiosity of the philosophers at Athens as to the new religion Paul preached. "What will this babbler say?" they exclaimed: "he seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods, because he preached unto them Jesus and the resurrection." Nevertheless, they would give him a hearing in their own court. But when he had spoken to them of the true God, and had called upon them to repent; for there was a judgment day appointed, when the Man whom God had raised from the dead should judge the world in righteousness — some mocked at the very idea of a resurrection, and others said they would hear him again another time.

This is not really to be wondered at, for God Himself had declared that Christ crucified was to the Greeks — the wise men of the earth — foolishness: something altogether contrary to their notions of what a religion suitable to a reasoning man ought to be. But it is interesting to see the form which the opposition towards the great plan of salvation by God through the Lord Jesus Christ took with some of these wise men in the early days of the church.

Let us look first at CELSUS.* He objected to Christians because they made so little of human reason. He said they were ever repeating, "Do not examine, only believe: thy faith will make thee blessed." This is a false way of speaking of Christianity. It fears no examination; but since God has spoken we are expected to believe, and receive His word because He has spoken, not because it falls in with our ideas of right and wrong, which, as we know, are often very faulty.

{* Of this Celsus nothing is known, except that he wrote a book against Christianity, called "A True Discourse," about A.D. 177, which Origen answered.}

Again, he said, in all other religions, that one is invited who is "free from all stains, who is conscious of no wickedness, who has lived a good and upright life:" whereas in Christianity, the call was to "Whosoever is a sinner, whoever is foolish, unlettered, in a word, whoever is wretched — him will the kingdom of heaven receive." Yes, blessed be God, whosoever will is invited to partake of the water of life freely. Poor Celsus knew nothing of the fall of man, and that there was indeed not "a sinless man" upon the earth to be invited.

He seemed to see that a real moral change was needed in man, but he had no idea of the transforming power of Christianity. Thus he said, "It is manifest to every one, that it lies within no one's power to produce, even by punishment to say nothing of mercy, an entire change in a person to whom sin has become a second nature, for to effect a complete change of nature is the most difficult of things; but the sinless are the safer companions of life." No, it cannot be produced by man; he must be born again: there must be a new creation ere man can be raised out of his fallen condition. But this, and much more, is found in the remedy God has graciously provided, had men but eyes to see it.

Unhappily the philosopher had one objection that was too true: it was the division of the saints into sects. "In the outset," he says, "when the Christians were few in number, they may perhaps have agreed among themselves, but as their numbers increased they separated into parties, mutually attacking and refuting each other, and retaining nothing in common but their name, if indeed they did that." If this could be truly said by an opponent in the second century, alas, how it has increased in this our day!

Thus much for Celsus. We have only picked out what was decently consistent in a poor fallen man using his reason. Alas for him, his philosophy did not stop here, but extended to scoffs and opposition to Christ, His Person, and His work, raking up all that was offensive from scoffing Jews and blaspheming enemies.

Another of the philosophers who wrote against Christianity was Porphyry.* In one work he took great pains to collect all the apparent discrepancies in scripture, especially the differences in the Gospels. Christians had often put allegorical interpretations on parts of the Old Testament, to shew that the Old agreed with the New. This seemed to give Porphyry a handle, to say how different the two must be in order to need such fanciful interpretations. This is a point well worthy of attention, for many a Christian has unwisely placed a weapon in the hands of opponents by giving a false interpretation to scripture.

{* A Greek philosopher who, when very young, was under the instruction of Origen, and, as some say, professed Christianity, but apostatised because of ill-treatment by the Christians. He became a violent opponent. Born A.D. 233.}

Another curious work of Porphyry was the judging of Christians by the replies given by the heathen oracles, which were supposed to be direct answers from their gods. Perhaps the reader will be interested in a short account of these oracles.

The Oracle of Delphi.

The oracle at Delphi was one of the most renowned. A smoke, doubtless accompanied by a gas, issued from the ground. It is reported that this was discovered by some shepherds in the neighbourhood, who found that if a sheep wandered too near to the spot, it fell into convulsions. Well, in some way this came to be regarded as a means by which the gods might be communicated with. A temple was erected over the spot, with attendant priests or prophets, and a woman, through whom the god was supposed to communicate his mind. A seat on three legs was set over the place where the smoke arose, and the Pytha, as the woman was called, sat on this seat, and when she was more or less overcome by the fumes, gave her answer to the question asked. She prepared herself by fasting three days, and bathing herself in a particular well. She burnt laurel leaves and flour of barley on the altar. Those who consulted the oracle had also to offer up an animal to Apollo.

Such was the faith placed in the above and other oracles, that the heathen would never enter on any important undertaking without consulting the oracles. We can hardly wonder then that when a new religion was being pressed upon them they should consult their gods in this way.

There were many other oracles besides the one at Delphi, and other ways of ascertaining the will of their gods, such as examining the entrails of the animals slain in sacrifice.* From the passage in Acts 16:16, it would also appear that persons were similarly employed, apart from any temple or sacrifice. And it is remarkable that the female slave mentioned in this passage bears the same name, or very nearly, as the prophetess at Delphi — Pithon or Pitha. (See margin.)

{* We shall see an instance of this further on.}

Many of the answers given were very vague, leaving the person who asked the question quite in the dark as to whether the advice of the god was favourable or not. But other answers were quite plain, and led to important results, altogether apart from their being prophecies in any sense of the word. Various theories have been raised as to from whom the answers really came.

We can come to no other conclusion than that the prophetess spoke either as simply dictated by her own sense, or by judging of the wishes of the questioner; or by the direct agency of Satan himself. In the case recorded in the Acts, there can be no question that the damsel was possessed by a demon; and when he was cast out, all her powers of soothsaying came to nothing, as her owners soon saw. And again, the apostle Paul declares that the things the Gentiles offered they sacrificed to demons, and not to God. So there can be little doubt but that the oracles, where there was anything more than the cunning craftiness of man, were under the immediate control of Satan.

Still the, poor heathen thought he was consulting his god — we believe he was consulting Satan; but let us see a few of the replies given touching Christianity. It was not an unfrequent occurrence that a wife was converted to Christianity before the husband, and in one case a husband consulted the oracle as to what god he should propitiate in order to get his wife to abandon her religion. The answer is recorded to be, "that he might sooner write on the flowing stream, or fly on the empty air, than change the mind of his wife after she had once become impure and godless;" adding a most irreverent expression, that he was to let her alone to lament her God who had died, profanely alluding to the death of Christ.

Another question was, whether the judges who condemned Christ did right or wrong. The answer was they did right in condemning Him as a revolter against Judaism: "for the Jews acknowledged God at least more than the Christians." This was a common thought with the heathen, because the Christians believed in Christ, whom they accounted to be only a man.

At another time the question was, why Christ had suffered death, when the reply was, "To be subject to the weaker sufferings is always the lot of the body, but the soul of the pious rises to the fields of heaven." An answer that might at first sight seem to be not unfavourable; but in reality it is so, because it refers His death to mere human suffering common to man, in direct opposition to His death being sacrificial.

Hierocles* was another who wrote against the Christians, in a book entitled "Words to the Christians from a lover of truth." But it is simply an attack on Christianity, repeating much that had been said by Celsus and Porphyry. He especially attacked the miracles of Christ, and declared that they were no proofs that He was God; for one named Apollonius had also done works of the same sort, and the Greeks did not consider him to be a god on that account, but only a man particularly beloved by the gods. And many such assertions are based on tradition.

{*A Roman proconsul in the time of Diocletian, born about 275. He is said to have urged the Emperor to persecute the Christians.}

Such then were some of the early attacks upon Christianity by heathen philosophers. In modern times the very same objections have been urged, not indeed by philosophers, but by sceptics and infidels. Thank God, Christianity stands upon such a basis that none of these efforts of poor fallen man can in any way affect it, though they may (alas!) stumble and injure those who prefer to listen to man rather than to God.

Let us now see how the Christians defended Christianity.

The Apologies.

During the persecutions of the church by the pagans, several addresses were written to the emperor and the Roman people in defence of Christianity. These have been called "Apologies," not of course in the sense of excuses for Christianity, but to let the pagans know somewhat of Christianity, and to defend the Christians against the false accusations constantly raised against them. Apology originally meant a defence.

The three principal charges against the Christians were: —
1. That they were atheists, because they had no gods made by man, and because they would pay no respect to the gods the pagans worshipped.
2. That they ate their own children.
3. That at their private meetings gross immoralities were practised.

It is easy to see, as we have seen, that the Romans with the multitude of gods they could behold, could not understand how the Christians could worship an unseen God. The other two were pure calumnies and had simply to be denied.

In these Apologies, the first thing that strikes one is their length, which makes one wonder whether the emperors ever read them. Perhaps the earliest handed down to us is that of —

Justin Martyr. His first Apology, in an English translation, occupies more than sixty pages of print. He is supposed to have had before him three subjects, namely: —

That christian doctrines are true, and are to be received, not on account of their resemblance to the sentiments of poets or philosophers, but on their own account. He quotes many passages of scripture to shew the purity of the christian doctrines.

That Jesus Christ is the incarnate Son of God and our Teacher. He quotes many of the prophecies respecting our Lord, and shews how they were truly fulfilled.

That before the incarnation of Christ the demons, having some knowledge of what He would accomplish, enabled the heathen poets and priests in some points to anticipate, though in a distorted form, the facts of the incarnation. This is the most curious part of the Apology. He says that the pagan poets spoke of the sons of Jupiter, and that certain of them ascended to, and descended from, heaven. And after our Lord had appeared, Satan enabled others to do wonderful things, that they might be on a level with Christ. Thus Justin speaks of one Simon, who did such wonderful things at Rome, before the senate and people, that they accounted him to be a god, and honoured him as such. We shall have occasion to quote from this Apology on the forms of worship, etc.

This Apology was addressed to Antoninus Pius. We know not what effect it had on the emperor. He did not persecute the Christians himself, but in parts of Asia the persecution continued; and he himself wrote thus to the Common Council of Asia concerning the persecution: "I am clearly of opinion, that the gods will take care to discover such persons as those to whom you refer. For it much more concerns them to punish those who refuse to worship them, than you, if they be able. But you harass and vex the Christians, and accuse them of Atheism and other crimes, which you can by no means prove. To them it appears to be an advantage to die for their religion, and they gain their point, while they throw away their lives rather than comply with your injunctions. As to the earthquakes, which have happened in times past or more recently, is it not proper to remind you of your own despondency when they happen; and to desire you to compare your spirit with theirs, and observe how serenely they confide in God?"

No one was to be molested unless he attempted "something against the Roman government." If any person accused another merely as a Christian, the accuser was to be punished, and the Christian to be acquitted. Thus God, in His providence, caused a heathen emperor to defend the Christians. It is strange that such a man should not have embraced Christianity when he could say, that the gods would defend themselves if they were able.

Minucius Felix also wrote an Apology, but in the shape of a dialogue between a heathen and a Christian, while another sits as judge. This writer had been a Roman orator, and his work is described as eloquent and elegant. An extract or two will give an idea of how he handled the subject of Atheism. He admitted that the Christians did despise the gods: "The mice," said he, "the swallows, and the bats, gnaw, insult, and sit on your gods, and unless you drive them away they build their nests in their mouths: the spiders weave their webs over their faces. You first make them, then clean, wipe, and protect them, that you may fear and worship them. Should we view all your rites, there are many things which justly deserved to be laughed at; others call for pity and compassion."

On the other hand, the God of the Christians is thus spoken of: "When you lift up your eyes to heaven, and survey the works of creation around you, what is so clear and undeniable as that there is a God, supremely excellent in understanding, who inspires, moves, supports and governs all nature? Consider the vast expanse of heaven and the rapidity of its motion either when studded by the stars by night or enlightened with the sun by day: contemplate the almighty hand which poises them in their orbs and balances them in their movements." He then speaks of the sun and the moon, the light and the darkness, and the beautiful order of the seasons; the sea also with its ebb and flow, the fountains and rivers running into the ocean. Then of the animal world, each creature suited to its sphere, and lastly of the beautiful structure of man — all proclaim a divine Author, and that Author is the God of the Christians.

Athenagoras had been a heathen philosopher and purposed to write against the Christians, and that he might the better carry out his purpose he began to examine the books of the Christians — the scriptures. In doing this, God opened his eyes, and instead of attacking the Christians, he defended them in an Apology addressed to Marcus Aurelius. He makes ample reference to the heathen philosophers and poets. "Why should you be offended at our very name?" said he: "the bare name does not deserve your hatred: it is wickedness alone that deserves punishment. If we are convicted of any crime, less or more, let us be punished, but not merely for the name of a Christian; for no Christian can be a bad man unless he acts contrary to his profession."

In another part, contrasting the conduct of the Christians with that of the heathen, he says: "Among us you will find uneducated persons, and artisans, and old women, who, if they are unable in words to prove the benefit of their doctrine, yet by their deeds they exhibit the benefit arising from their persuasion of its truth: they do not rehearse speeches, but exhibit good works; when struck they do not strike again; when robbed, they do not go to law; they give to those that ask of them, and love their neighbours as themselves."

Tertullian also wrote an Apology about A.D. 198. He ends it with "Do your worst, and rack your inventions for tortures for Christians. It is all to no purpose; you do but attract the notice of the world, and make it fall the more in love with our religion. The more you mow us down, the thicker we spring up. The christian blood you spill is like the seed you sow: it springs from the earth again and fructifies the more. That which you reproach in us as stubbornness, has been the most instructive mistress in proselyting the world; for who has not been struck with the sight of what you call stubbornness, and from thence were prompted to look into the reality and ground of it? And who ever looked well into our religion that did not embrace it? and who ever embraced it that was not ready to die for it? For this reason it is that we thank you for condemning us, because there is such a happy variance and disagreement between the divine and human judgment, that when you condemn us upon earth, God absolves us in heaven."

Tertullian was presbyter of a church in Carthage, and wrote several other works. One against Marcion the heretic is quite a volume, with a constant reference to scripture. Some of his other writings are, however, unimportant.

By means of these Apologies the emperors had the truths of Christianity more or less plainly put before them, and this makes it the more manifest that the work of persecution was of Satan, as indeed our Lord had foretold when speaking of this phase of the church's history: "The devil shall cast some of you into prison," etc. (Rev. 2:10.) But, blessed be His name, the faithful should have a "crown of life."

Chapter 6.

The Catacombs.

In considering the early history of the church, we must not omit to mention the catacombs. These were formed at various places, but those at Rome were the most extensive. The name is supposed to have been derived from two Greek words kata, kumbos, a hollow or recess,

In the neighbourhood of Rome there are entrances to a number of long passages underground. These extend for many miles in various directions. It was generally believed that these passages were originally formed by the removal of stone and sand for the building of the city of Rome.

A good deal of the stone was called tufa litoide, sufficiently hard for building purposes. Large blocks of this were easily cut out by the miners, and as they proceeded they formed the miles of passages which exist in the catacombs.

There was also a species of rough sand, called pozzolana pura, which made a very enduring cement, when crushed and mixed in water with pounded shells or lime. This was also valuable for building purposes.

As the miners worked gradually downwards they would, by an inclined plane, get below the passage they had already formed, and then by turning to right or left (guided perhaps by the seams of stone or sand they were seeking for) they would work their way underneath the first passage they had made. In places they would again descend until a third passage was formed.

This, for a long time, was thought to be the origin of the catacombs; but modern researches seem to shew that, while in a few places old quarries were used for burial places, the principal part of the catacombs was the sole work of the Christians themselves. This seems evident by the different formation of the galleries, and by most of them being cut in a third description of material, tufa granolare, unfit for building purposes; though, on the other hand, it is difficult to see how such an immense amount of material could have been disposed of if not used in building. Some of these galleries made by the Christians were near those made by the miners, and this was often of great use to the Christians. They blocked up the entrance to their own, and made a way into those of the miners, so that they could enter without arousing suspicion; and the entrances being at various distances from the city, persons, by appearing to journey into the country, could take food to those who had taken shelter therein.

In some places the Christians cut away the walls of the passages, and made a crypt or vault. Here underground they could hold their meetings for worship unmolested.

The principal use made of the catacombs was for the burial of the dead. A hole was dug in the wall, and the body placed therein, as on a shelf; slabs of stone covered the entrance, while a tablet told who was buried there.

In later times, long after persecution had ceased, the catacombs seem to have been forgotten. The Christians no longer needed to hide themselves, nor to bury their dead there. Some of the entrances got blocked up by the earth falling, and all interest in them died out. Thus for some six hundred years the catacombs remained undisturbed and indeed unknown.

But in the year 1578, considerable excitement was caused by the discovery of the catacombs, and they began to be explored, and interest was taken in everything found in them. The tablets on the tombs were cut from the walls and brought to light. Some of them were secured by private persons, but a great number were preserved, and are exhibited to this day in a long gallery in the Vatican at Rome.

It is very strange that the Roman Catholics do not see that these early memorials, though silent, are a strong witness against themselves. In those simple memorials there is no mention of prayers for the dead, and no mention of the Virgin Mary. But instead of this there is a constant mention of Christ, and of Him alone as Saviour or Patron. Those who are buried are said to "sleep in Christ," "they rest in peace," "in peace and in Christ," etc.

A monogram very commonly found on the tablets taken from the catacombs, is meant to point out the name of Christ. It is formed of the first two letters of the name in Greek, CHRISTOS. The above symbol was supposed to have been first used by Constantine about A.D. 312; but as it is often found on the tablets from the catacombs, it is doubtful whether it did not exist long before, and he simply adopted it.

Many other symbols and monograms were found on the tablets. Perhaps one of the most curious is the symbol of a fish. It is thus explained. In Greek the word would be ICTHUS, and this word is supposed to represent (by containing the initials of) Jesus Christos Theou Hios Soter: Jesus Christ, Son of God, the Saviour. It was thought that such a symbol would never be understood by their persecutors. Believers could use it while they lived as a symbol that they were Christians, and have it engraved on their tombs when they died.

The dates, when there are any, are determined by the names of the consuls of Rome:* thus an inscription runs thus, "Aurelia, our sweetest daughter, who departed from the world, Severus and Quintinus being consuls. She lived fifteen years and four months." This would mark the date to be A.D. 235. The dates fixed by this means for these Christian burials, extend from A.D. 98 to A.D. 400, though there may have been some earlier than A.D. 98, for numbers of tombs bear no dates. During these years there would be buried in the catacombs many thousands of Christians.

{* Two consuls were appointed in Rome yearly. A record of them was carefully preserved; so that by naming the consuls of the year in which any event took place, the year can always be ascertained.}

The catacombs, though robbed of their tablets, have excited the curiosity of modern travellers. One gives the following description: "These entrances are mostly low and dark: beyond them you see one or more long, low, dark aisles, the great length of which is concealed in the obscurity which envelops every object at the distance of a few paces from the torches and lanterns which you and your guides may carry. Nothing can well be more solemn than this subterranean gloom, and the effect produced by the objects brought to light as you advance. The yawning tombs on either side of you, and before and behind you — skulls, skeletons, crosses! Nothing is here but speaks of persecution or death. The entire length of few of these aisles is known for, as a measure of precaution, many have been closed by stone walls while others are so blocked up by rubbish and fallen blocks of pozzolana, that the boldest explorer is compelled to halt. At irregular distances, and usually on both sides of the main aisles, narrow passages branch off, leading to other crypts. Mostly these passages strike off at right angles, but they seldom run far in a right line, while many of them become very tortuous. Many of these passages are now wholly blocked up, while others are so encumbered with rubbish that in order to get through them, the explorer must crawl on his hands and knees. The difficulty of finding one's way in such a labyrinth, without a guide, may be easily comprehended. . . . In most of the catacombs there are crypts, galleries, or passages underneath those which you first enter . . an involuntary descent is sometimes obtained by careless travellers through holes which have been made by the falling in of the tufo flooring. . . . The awful silence of these deep cavities more than ever adds horror to the darkness There is nothing down here that has life — not so much as a fly, or the minutest insect is to be found. If there exist any objects at all, they are mournful mementos of man's mortality — skulls, bones, broken epitaphs, or graves closed up with slabs, bearing the symbols of death and of martyrdom, or empty and open, and, as it were, yawning for fresh tenants."*

{* Macfarlane.}

Thus the catacombs form an interesting chapter of early Christianity places where they could bury their dead without any of the heathen ceremonies, and to which they could fly for temporary safety when violent persecution broke out. Many prayers must have ascended to heaven from those dark passages, and much precious dust lies buried there, waiting for that glad morn when the voice of the archangel and the trump of God shall call the sleeping saints to rise, and, with those who shall be alive at that time, to meet their Lord, and be with Him and like Him for ever!

Chapter 7.

Miracles and Signs.

Our Lord said to His apostles after His resurrection, in sending them forth to preach the gospel, "These signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." (Mark 16:17-18.) It is an interesting question as to how long these signs were continued in the church, or were they confined to the apostles and their immediate successors

If we give credit to some historians, miracles have always been found in the church, from the apostles downwards, and have been wrought in various ways: at first, by the direct agency of the living saints; but afterwards by means of their bones and relics; by the consecrated bread of the Eucharist; and even by pictures and images! One is tempted to turn away from all such records with disdain. Our Lord did not promise that such wonders should be wrought by means of dead men's bones, much less by images and pictures; besides which we cannot shut our eyes to the exposure, in modern times, of the tricks by which many a professed miracle was wrought, and this too in that which professes to be the church of God.

The question remains, are there any reliable records of miracles and signs in the early church? Perhaps that which is most prominent is the casting out of demons. But even here we must be on our guard, because it came to be believed that every one, child or adult, belonged to the devil, if not actually possessed, so that before they were baptised they were exorcised. But let us see what the early writers say on the subject.

Justin Martyr says the name of "Jesus" was powerful for the destruction of the demons. He thus appealed to the Romans: "Now you can learn this from what is under your own observation. For numberless demoniacs throughout the whole world, and in your city, many of our christian men exorcising them in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, have healed and do heal, rendering helpless and driving the possessing devils out of the men, though they could not be cured by all the other exorcists, and those who used incantations and drugs."*

{* Second Apology, vi.}

Now this plainly speaks of driving out demons, and the Roman Senate is asked to judge of the reality of the profession by facts occurring all around. There seems here no room to doubt that such things were actually being done; and it does not say by bishops or presbyters, but by "many christian men."

Irenaeus gives us a much fuller list of what was being done in his day: "Some do certainly and truly drive out devils, so that those who have thus been cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe and join themselves to the church. Others have foreknowledge of things to come: they see visions, and utter prophetic expressions. Others still heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole. Yea, moreover, as I have said, the dead even have been raised up, and remained among us for many years. . . . As she [the church] has received freely from God, freely also does she minister. Nor does she perform any thing by means of angelic invocations, or by incantations, or by any other wicked curious acts; but, directing her prayers to the Lord who made all things, in a pure, sincere, and straightforward spirit, and calling upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, she has been accustomed to work miracles for the advantage of mankind, and not to lead them into error."*

{* Against Heresies, ii. 32, 4.}

Here again the words are plain, and the works of power are wrought by a direct appeal to the Lord Himself. It will also be seen how exactly the curing of the sick agrees with the means above named in the passage from Mark, namely, by the laying on of hands.

Tertullian also appeals to known facts concerning the cure of some: The clerk of one of the advocates, "who was liable to be thrown upon the ground by an evil spirit, was set free from his affliction; as was the relative of another, and the little boy of a third. And how many men of rank, to say nothing of common people, have been delivered from devils, and healed of diseases!"*

{*To Scapula, 4.}

Again, in his Apology (23), he appeals to the emperor thus: "Place some assuredly possessed person before your tribunals; a follower of Christ shall command that spirit to speak, who shall as surely confess himself to be a demon as elsewhere he will falsely call himself a god."

We can hardly suppose that this writer would thus appeal publicly to cases known to those frequenting the courts, and even ask for some case to be brought before the tribunal, that the question might be publicly tested, if such things did not exist.

It is further to be noticed that these writers do not speak of such things being done by any one or more privileged persons, but apparently by Christians generally; and this the better agrees with the quotation from Mark, that the signs should "follow them that believe."

As we might suppose, Satan was busy in both opposing and counterfeiting the working of miracles. Thus he had agents to oppose the truth, such as the "sorcerer" we read of in Acts 13, who sought to turn away the proconsul from the faith. So, later on in the early church, he had those who were supposed to be able to work miracles, and who used their influence to lead men astray. Simon Magus and others professed to work wonders, and one writer tells of a woman who professed to be inspired by the Holy Spirit. She fell into ecstasies and pretended to prophesy, and did wonderful things. But it is related that a Christian exorcised her, and then it was shewn that she was an agent of Satan.

Later on in the church there were those called "exorcists." The Apostolic Constitutions* say (viii. 26) such need not be ordained: "for he who has received the gift of healing is declared by revelation from God, the grace which is in him being manifest to all. But if there be the occasion, let him be ordained a bishop, or a presbyter, or a deacon." And the first council of Constantinople (A.D. 336) shews that exorcism was nominally practised where there was no question of persons being possessed: thus speaking of heretics, it says they must be received as non-Christians, and goes on to say, "the first day we make them Christians; the second, catechumens; then the third, we exorcise them, after breathing thrice upon the face and ears, and so we catechise them, and cause them to stay in the church and hear the scriptures; and then we baptise them."

{*The date of this work is much disputed, varying from the third to the sixth century; it is in nowise apostolic.}

Thus we see that "exorcism" came to have quite a different application — as if to keep up the name after the power of casting out demons was gone. And it is evident that the working of miracles did not continue long in the church; indeed, later on, it is claimed only for some specially holy man — mostly a recluse — and from this it descended in still later times, as we have seen, to the bones and other relics of the saints, and even to pictures and images! Thus, alas, everything committed to man fails because of his unfaithfulness; but instead of owning his failure, he will do his best to keep up the name without the power; and this even after the necessity for the gifts named has passed away.

Chapter 8.

Offices in the Early Church.

As we shall be compelled to use various ecclesiastical titles, it will be well to see how far they have been obtained from scripture.

The term "bishop" occurs constantly in all histories of the church, simply because some were so called, and there is no other word that can well be substituted. The same title also occurs in the authorised version of the New Testament. We want to see how far they agree.

In the scriptures it is plain that the "bishops" and "elders" were one and the same. Paul had left Titus to appoint elders (presbyters), in every city, if any were blameless, etc.; for a bishop must be blameless, etc. (Titus 1:5-7.) He was one who took the oversight of an assembly, or there were more than one appointed — elders — some for ruling, and some for ministering in the word. (1 Tim. 5:17.) But there is no thought in scripture of these having any authority over districts.

Neither do we find such in the early church. As one has said: "Let none confound the bishops of this primitive and golden period of the church with those of whom we read in following ages. For though they were both designated by the same name, yet they differed extremely in many respects. A bishop during the first and second centuries was a person who had the care of one christian assembly, which, at that time, was, generally speaking, small enough to be contained in a private house."* It was not till much later that bishops had control over districts, with inferior clergy under them, and at length also with others superior to them.

{* Mosheim.}

In the first epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, we find the title "elder" or "presbyter" and "bishop" used indiscriminately. Others of the early fathers prove that these terms were used of the same person.

As we have seen, there were elders (in the plural) appointed in a city, and some were gifted to rule, and others to minister in the word. We can easily understand that one of the two, or more may have taken a prominent place and become a sort of "president," to use an expression given by Justin Martyr,* and then that one to be called 'bishop' in distinction from the presbyters and deacons, that we read of in the epistles of Ignatius.

{*proestos is the word used: it does not occur in the New Testament.}

Still in the epistles bearing the name of Ignatius, the bishop seemed to be over the church in a city, though even there an undue reverence is claimed for the several officers. Thus he says: "It is evident we ought to look upon the bishop as the Lord Himself." (Ep. to the Ephesians 6)

"Let all reverence the deacons as Jesus Christ; and the bishop as the Father; and the presbyters as the sanhedrim of God and college of the apostles. Without these there is no church." (Ep. to the Trallians, iii.)

"All of you follow the bishop, as Jesus Christ the Father; and the presbytery as the apostles; honour the deacon as the commandment of God . . . let that eucharist be considered valid which is celebrated by the bishop, or by him whom he has permitted. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptise or to celebrate a love feast." (Ep. to the Smyrneans, viii.)

Now though these extracts may not have been written by Ignatius (for it is a much disputed point, and in the Syriac copy of the Epistle to the Ephesians the above passage does not occur: of the other epistles, though there are shorter and longer versions, no Syriac copy has yet been discovered) they shew what was creeping into the church when these epistles were put forth by some one — somewhat later than Ignatius (died A.D. l07). But even in the Syriac copy, which is believed to be by Ignatius, these words occur: "Look to the bishop, that God also may look upon you. I will be instead of the souls of those who are subject to the bishop, and the presbyters, and the deacons: with them may I have a portion in the presence of God."

The next step would be that as Christianity extended to the districts around a city, if any dispute arose, appeal would be made to the presbytery of the city, when, if one of these had assumed a separate place of bishop, he would be brought into prominence, and by degrees would obtain influence over a district. Then later on there were several bishops in a province, and when any important matters arose a synod of the bishops would be called, and one would preside. The bishop of the chief city or district generally presided, and he was eventually called Metropolitan. This again was followed by the appointment of archbishops or patriarchs.

In this early stage of the church "Apostolic Succession" was not known. It is true that Paul empowered Titus to ordain elders in every city, but there is not a word that this authority for ordination was afterwards to be continued, and without authority there could not be the same appointment. Men might be gifted for the various branches of work — as is the case to this day; but gift is not office. How was the office to be obtained? This indeed led to many disputes: Were the bishops properly ordained? Then, when heresies arose, were consecrations by heretics valid? Later on, the emperors appointed whom they pleased to be bishops. At length a great system of hierarchy was established, but which had not one single feature of resemblance to anything found in the New Testament.

On the other hand, there is not one word in scripture to warrant the church in choosing its own ministers; indeed, among some, at least, of the dissenting bodies, the thought of its being scriptural is quite given up, and they argue that because all human societies choose their own officers, it is right for the church to do the same. But this, alas, reduces the church of God to a mere club. Would that Christians were content to meet in the name of the Lord Jesus, according to Matthew 18:20, and there let all whom God has gifted use their gifts, without any choice of the people or any human appointment.

God indeed knew how soon evil would be associated with His church, and He caused His servant Paul, when predicting the apostasy after his decease, to commend the saints "to God and to the word of his grace." He said, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, "obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls" (Heb. 13:17), but there is no instruction as to how the authority was to be handed down in the future. And so the appeal must be to the word for if even an angel from heaven preached any other gospel he was to be accursed. And it was well even in the early church, when evil doctrines were propagated, and often by those called bishops, for the saints to know that they were not bound to obey man merely because of any office he might be supposed to hold, but to obey God as revealed in His word; though surely then, as now, they were called upon to submit to any who watched for their souls, with a desire for their spiritual welfare.

In contrast to this, let Ammianus Marcellinus speak of the bishops of Rome in the fourth century: "It was no wonder to see those who were ambitious of human greatness, contending with so much heat and animosity for that dignity, because when they had obtained it, they were sure to be enriched by the offerings of the matrons; of appearing abroad in great splendour; of being admired for their costly coaches, sumptuous in their feasts, outdoing sovereign princes in the expenses of their tables." It was this worldly glory that led Praetextatus, a heathen, to declare, "Make me bishop of Rome, and I will be a Christian too!" Alas! how sadly had those fallen who should have been examples to the flock! How unlike the Lord Jesus, who had not where to lay His head, and who made Himself of no reputation!

Chapter 9.
Customs in the Church.

We must now look at a few things of interest that will throw light upon the practices and internal condition of the church. The things here described were introduced gradually, and were not the same in all parts at the same time, some preserving a measure of primitive purity much longer than others.

Reception into the Church.

It is surprising how little we read of conversions in the early church. Of "regeneration" we do read, but it is almost invariably connected with baptism. There seems to have been a settled conviction that "born of water," in John 3, refers to baptism, instead of its being connected with "the word:" as "of his own will begat he us with the word of truth" (James 1:18); while another passage — "washing of water by the word" — clearly connects "water" and "the word." In opposition to this, persons were said to be regenerated, or born again, in their baptism.

Another thing we miss is the record of persons believing — a truth so clearly brought out in the scriptures. Take for instance, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth:" and so in many other passages.

Instead of this, there was what appears to have been a being educated into Christianity. We have little insight as to how the gospel was really preached; in the sermons of Chrysostom it was sadly mixed up with what would now be called ritualism — a trusting to the efficacy of the sacraments.

For any applying for fellowship there was a long process of education before they were received: so different from when Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, and "they that gladly received his word were baptised; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls."

The person applying was at first received as a Catechumen, if his outward conduct was commendable; that is, he became a pupil — one to be taught by catechising. Here he might be kept for a year, or even two or three years; and if, in the meantime, he fell into idolatry, he must begin again, or the time be further prolonged. He was called a Christian all this time, but not a fidelis, one of the Faithful. This distinction was kept up, so that even on tombs it was not enough to say the one buried was a Christian, "fidelis" must be added, if such were the case.

Another curious custom was that the Catechumens were not allowed to hear the Lord"s prayer nor the creed; but when a portion of the service was completed, a deacon would tell them to leave. This is the more remarkable, seeing that the Lord's prayer forms a part of scripture, and should have been, but for the scarcity of the manuscript copies, in the hands of every one, as now happily is the case.

Another class of persons — or another name for the Catechumens — was Audientes, those who were allowed to listen (hence the name). In the East it would appear that this name especially referred to the fallen seeking restoration, though in other places it may simply have been another name for the Catechumens: both classes were allowed to hear the scriptures read, and the sermons, but not to join in the worship. All were told to leave, except the Faithful.

In certain places further divisions existed, and some were allowed to kneel (called Genuflectentes) and pray before their full reception. When ready for baptism they were called Competentes.

The instruction included the whole of sacred history, from the creation downwards, and after this the gospel narratives. Then instructions in the subjects of God, of Christ, of the Holy Ghost, of the judgment to come, of the body, soul, etc.

At length the time approached for their reception, and for forty days special preparation was made for baptism by prayer and fasting. Instruction was given in the creed, the nature of the sacraments, and discipline in the church; and special inquiries were now made as to their walk. A few days before baptism, they were taught the Lord"s prayer and the creed. In some places, they were now allowed to lay aside their heathen names and take christian ones.

The time for baptism was between Easter and Pentecost of each year; and it was administered by the bishop or presbyter. Midnight was the appointed hour, and torches were burned to give the necessary light; curtains were hung from the pillars to separate the sexes. Each candidate faced the west, and, as he stretched forth his hand, said, "I renounce thee, Satan, and all thy works, and all thy pomps, and all thy service." Then turning to the east, he repeated the belief in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He was then rubbed from head to foot with oil, and on approaching the pool was questioned by the bishop, and on his confession was immersed (by some thrice, by some once): he was again anointed with oil, and then, dressed in white, received the kiss of peace, and a little honey and milk. Now for the first time he repeated the Lord's prayer. He was now a Fidelis, and ready for the Lord's supper.*

{* See Cyril of Jerusalem, and Chrysostom; both were of the fourth century.}

Surely one cannot but see in this how the simplicity of the gospel had been elaborated and spoiled. Compare, for example, all this with the conversion of the Philippian jailor in Acts 16 "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" he asked. "And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." That same night, the jailor and all his house were baptised. Not entirely ignorant, for we read, "They spake unto him the word of the Lord." But an hour was enough when the Lord had wrought upon the soul. True, an apostle was there, and was doubtless able to discern that the work was real; whereas now a little time may be needed, to discover if the seed has fallen into good ground according to the parable of the sower. But not a word of being a Catechumen for a year or more, and no room for the thought of being educated into a Christian. And how simple the baptism! At midnight, it is true, but in a prison or the jailor's house. Doubtless on his confession of faith, but no renouncing of the devil, nor repetition of a creed learnt by heart, ready for the occasion. God acts upon a soul: he believes and is baptised, and his house. Alas, how the presentation of the gospel, the mode of reception, and all else failed and was corrupted in the hands of man

Forms of Worship.

There is but little information given by the early writers as to how their meetings were conducted. Justin Martyr gives some interesting particulars. He says, "On the day called Sunday all who live in cities or in the country gather to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine with water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying, Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well-to-do, and willing, give what each thinks fit and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows, and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds, and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word he takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is a day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ, our Saviour, on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things."

Of the Lord's supper he also says, "This food is called among us the eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayers of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and, when He had given thanks, said, 'This do ye in remembrance of me: this is my body;' and that after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, 'This is my blood,' and gave it to them alone."*

{* First Apology, lxvi., lxvii.}

It is pleasing to see that in the days of Justin (second century), the Lord's supper was partaken of weekly, the same as is implied in Acts 20:7, when "upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them." We also see that the scriptures were always read to the saints. This was the more needed in those days, when the books were only in manuscript and very scarce, and could only be heard in this way. Indeed, we find copies of the Gospels prepared specially for public reading, called Lectionaries, with slight alterations, so that, for instance, a portion might commence with the words, "Jesus said," instead of "He said;" and which alterations have been preserved in a few places in the Authorised Version.*

{*See Matthew 8:5 as an instance, where the best manuscripts read "he" for "Jesus."}

It may be thought remarkable that nothing is said here of the saints singing, while we read that our Lord at the institution of the supper "sang a hymn," and singing is spoken of as a part of public worship in 1 Corinthians 14:15. See also Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; James 5:13. But this being an address to the emperor, may not be a full statement of all that took place at these Lord's day meetings; but, in another part of the same Apology, he speaks of God "whom we praise to the utmost of our power by the exercise of prayer and thanksgiving for all things .... and with gratitude to Him to offer thanks by invocations and hymns."

We find that they had exhortation and instruction at their meetings, as Paul also "preached" to the saints in Acts 20:7. There was special need of this in the early church, when there were no books of christian instruction, though needed indeed at all times. The bishop was to be "apt to teach" (1 Tim. 3:2; 2 Tim. 2:24); "teachers" were among those set in the church (1 Cor. 12:28). "He that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort." (Chap. xiv. 3.)

We also find that a collection for the poor was made at these meetings, but it says that the money was given to the "president," and that he succoured the orphans and widows — a work generally thought more suited to those called deacons; for in the Acts such were appointed that the apostles might not have to serve tables. (Acts 6:2.)

Another custom we find introduced here was to send the bread and wine to those who were absent. Scripture says nothing of this, and it may be questioned whether it did not lose its assembly character by being carried forth. In 1 Corinthians 11, we read they were "come together in the church . . . . come together into one place." And because of the disorders in the assembly at Corinth, some were sick. Surely it would not be according to God's order to carry the bread and wine to these on whom He had laid His hand in discipline. And it might be discipline that kept others from the Lord's supper.

Some will, no doubt, wonder why water was mixed with the wine. Of this also nothing is said in scripture. It certainly became a practice thus early in the church, but from what source it is not known. Some have endeavoured to prove that water was mingled with wine at the paschal suppers of the Jews, and hence it was the same as the Lord used at the institution of the supper. But this cannot be proved. The reason given by some of the early writers why it was used in the church, is that it alludes to the blood and water that ran from the side of our Lord when pierced with the spear. It is still the custom in some churches, but has no warrant from scripture.

The above passage, referring to the bread and wine being the flesh and blood of our Lord, is not at all clear in its meaning, and indeed it has been claimed alike by Protestants and Catholics as having very opposite meanings. It would however appear, that the words of our Lord were taken in their literal sense at an early date in the church. Thus Cyril of Jerusalem (died about A.D. 386), speaking of the Lord's supper, says, "Then, after hallowing ourselves by the spiritual hymns [sanctus, etc.] we beseech the merciful God to send forth His Holy Spirit upon the elements displayed on the table, to make the bread the body of Christ and the wine the blood of Christ. For most certainly, whatever the Holy Spirit may have touched, that is hallowed and transformed (petabebletai). Then, after that the spiritual sacrifice, the unbloody service, is completed, over that sacrifice of propitiation we beseech God for the common peace of the churches," etc. He then goes on to speak of the intercession of the saints and martyrs, whom God would doubtless hear: thus calling the Lord's supper a sacrifice, and laying early the foundation for some of the gross perversions in the Church of Rome. It will easily be seen why the Romish Church so constantly appeals to the Fathers as its authority, instead of to scripture.

Love Feasts.

The "feasts of charity" we read of in Jude 12 were continued in the early church. It is not clear whether they were associated with the Lord's supper or not. In the account we have given from Justin Martyr respecting the Lord's supper, he does not name the Love Feast. Tertullian mentions the Feast, without naming the Lord's supper. He says, "Our souls ascend in prayer to God before we sit down to meat. We eat only what suffices nature, and drink no more than is strictly becoming chaste and regular persons. We sup as servants that know we must wake in the night to the service of our Master, and discourse as those who are in the hearing of God. When supper is ended, every one is invited forth to sing praises to God; and by this you may judge of the manner of drinking at a christian feast. As we begin, so we conclude, with prayer, and depart with the same tenor of temperance and modesty as we came; as men who have not so properly been drinking as imbibing religion." The same writer does not always speak thus of their Love Feasts, for abuses crept in, as indeed may be alluded to in 2 Peter 2:13, and the feasts were forbidden by some.

Superstitions in the Church.

There can be no doubt that superstitions began at an early period. Thus Prayers for the Dead are supposed to have been in use in Tertullian's time. In speaking against second marriages, he says the first wife has been "already received into the Lord's presence; for whose spirit you make request; for whom you render annual oblations." He elsewhere speaks of commemoration and intercession for the dead. So also does Cyprian. Cyril of Jerusalem explains, that at the prayers and intercessions of the martyrs, etc., God would receive our supplications; and also that the greatest benefit would accrue to their souls for whom the living supplicated. Again we need not wonder that the Fathers should be quoted in support of false doctrines and practices. It is the most that can be done where scripture is silent.

The Sign of the Cross. — This was introduced quite early. Justin Martyr says, "The sign of the cross is on our brow and on our heart. It is on our brow that we may always confess Christ, on our hearts that we may always love Him, on our arm that we may always work for Him." Tertullian says, "In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting on our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupieth us, we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross."* He also recommends the sign of the cross being immediately resorted to, as protection from the bite of a scorpion! So the sign of the cross was made on the forehead, on entering and leaving the meetings.

{* De Corona, iii.}

Clergy and Laity. — The division of Christians into clergy and laity took place quite early in the Church.* The term "clergy" is from the Greek kleros, and is found in 1 Peter 5:3, where all Christians are included in God's "heritage." The use of the word, however, soon wandered from this, to mean the bishops, presbyters, and deacons, to distinguish these from the laity (from laos, the people). The bishops and presbyters were also called "priests," but here again in scripture, the term applies to all Christians, as in Revelation 1, which clearly teaches the priesthood of all Christians. "In holy orders" is another term applied to the clergy, as if they were more holy than other Christians.

{* Clement, in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, writes: "His own peculiar services are assigned to the High Priest, and their own proper place is prescribed to the Priests, and their own special ministrations devolve on the Levites. The Layman is bound by the laws that pertain to laymen." (Chap. xl.)}

The Lord's Supper and Absolution. — The idea crept in early, that the eucharist conveyed grace and safety in some way. Those who fell during the persecutions were in some places kept for years before they were restored, but in very few instances was the eucharist refused to them when they came to die. The following letter by Dionysius of Alexandria (A.D. 247-265), as given by Eusebius, will shew in what light this was regarded: —

"There was a certain Serapion, an aged believer, who had passed his long life irreproachably; but, as he had sacrificed during the persecution, though he frequently begged, no one would listen to him. He was taken sick, and continued three days in succession, speechless and senseless. On the fourth day, recovering a little, he called his grandchild to him and said, 'O son, how long do you detain me? I beseech you hasten, and quickly absolve me. Call one of the presbyters to me.' Saying this, he again became speechless. The boy ran to the presbyter. But it was night, and the presbyter was sick. As I had, however, before issued an injunction, that those at the point of death, if they desired it, and especially if they had entreated for it before, should receive absolution, that they might depart from life in comfortable hope, I gave the boy a small portion of the eucharist, telling him to dip it in water, and to drop it into the mouth of the old man. The boy returned with the morsel. When he came near, before he entered, Serapion, having again recovered himself, said, 'Thou hast come, my son, but the presbyter could not come. But do thou quickly perform what thou art commanded, and dismiss me.' The boy moistened it, and at the same time dropped it into the old man's mouth. And he, having swallowed a little, immediately expired, Was he not, then, evidently preserved, and did he not continue living until he was absolved; and his sins being wiped away, he could be acknowledged as a believer for the many good acts he had done?"

What a strange mixture we get here! Discipline, when rightly exercised by the assembly, is recognised in heaven (Matt. 18:18; 2 Cor. 2:7), but forgiveness is altogether apart from receiving the eucharist, though of course the eucharist would be given when the person was restored. But here the morsel of bread is said to restore, and to wipe away the old man's sins! and then it is strangely added, that he could be counted a believer for the many good works he had done! Alas, the darkness that was overshadowing the church at this early date!

The Celibacy of the Clergy. — It was taught by some, quite early in the church, that it was much holier for men and women to remain unmarried. This led to asceticism and dwelling alone, and then it was demanded, from time to time, that the clergy should not marry after their appointment, and never take a second wife; and by some, that they should separate from their wives if married before election. This was strongly opposed by others, and it was only by degrees that the celibacy of the clergy was demanded. We may illustrate this by an account of Hippolytus and Callistus.

The emperor Commodus (died 192) had a favourite mistress, named Marcia, who was supposed to be a professing Christian: she was styled by Hippolytus a "God-fearing woman." She had great influence over that profligate tyrant. Victor was at that time bishop of Rome. One, named Carpophorus, kept a sort of bank in which the Christians put their savings, and a slave, a professed Christian, Callistus, had the management of the same. But Callistus made away with the money and fled. His master pursued him, and when Callistus saw him, he threw himself into the sea, but was rescued by the sailors and given up to his master, who brought him back, and kept him in prison, until some interceded and he was liberated. But he was neither grateful nor penitent, and one day he created such a disturbance in a Jewish synagogue that he was seized and carried before the prefect. His master claimed him, but he was publicly scourged and sent to the mines in Sardinia.

Some time afterwards Marcia, wishing to extend her influence for the benefit of the Christians, asked Victor for a list of those who had been banished to Sardinia, and then used her influence with Commodus to have them recalled. The name of Callistus was not included; he was too well known to be trusted. The list was given to an honourable eunuch, who proceeded to Sardinia to fetch back the convicts. Callistus was vexed to find his name omitted, but by great persuasion he induced the eunuch to claim him also, and the governor submitted, upon the eunuch promising to bear all blame. On arriving at Rome, the bishop was greatly annoyed at seeing the reprobate Callistus among the prisoners, and he was banished to Antium.

For a time Callistus was lost sight of, but was next heard of as assistant to Zephyrinus, who came to Rome and succeeded Victor as bishop: Hippolytus describes Zephyrinus as an ignorant person, greedy of gain, and who left much to his more sharp-witted deacon, Callistus, who managed, in helping his bishop, to ingratiate himself with many persons of influence, so that at the death of Zephyrinus he was actually chosen bishop. Hippolytus charges him with heresy, and with great presumption, for he professed to be able to forgive sins, and he also ruled that if a bishop sinned, even if it were a sin unto death, he could not be deposed. One would think this was specially framed to shield himself.

But it is remarkable that one of the principal things Hippolytus brings against Callistus is that he was very careless about discipline, and ordained as bishops, presbyters, and deacons, those who had been twice and even thrice married! "Even a man," says Hippolytus, "who had married while in orders was subject to no kind of penalty, as if he had not sinned," And then listen to the reply of Callistus: he asks, "Did not the Lord say, Let the tares grow with the wheat?" and "Were there not unclean beasts in the ark?" and such there must always be in the church!

Now while this, with the grave sins charged on Callistus, gives a fearful picture of the low state of the church at this time in Rome, it shews what a dreadful sin it was accounted for a bishop to marry: and yet this forbidding to marry was only an ordinance of man, and one in direct conflict with the word of God, where the bishop is spoken of as having a wife, and ruling his children well. (1 Tim. 3:2-4.)

It is a disputed question as to where Hippolytus was settled. He is often styled bishop in Pontus, but by others is represented as being at Rome, and by some he is supposed to have been anti-bishop of Rome at the same time as Callistus. The latter is the one named in the lists of the bishops of Rome; though Hippolytus is often called bishop of Rome and martyr.

Hippolytus wrote many works, and several commentaries, of which latter only fragments remain. A larger work, "The Refutation of all Heresies," is also attributed to him. The above account of Callistus is taken from this.

Chapter 10.

Early Heresies.

One of the most important things in the early history of the church, is the evil doctrines that were manifested in its midst. These were usually called Heresies. Irenaeus and Hippolytus name about thirty different heresies from the days of the apostles to their times.

It is important to understand what heresy is, because we are informed by the word of God that in the latter day things will get worse and worse, and professing Christians will bring in "doctrines of demons" (1 Tim. 4:1); while the apostle John said that in his day Christians were to try the spirits, for many false prophets had already gone forth into the world (1 John 4:1); and in another place he says, "even now are there many antichrists."

We generally understand by a "heretic" one who holds false doctrine, and by "heresy" that which is held contrary to the truth according to scripture. And no doubt this is correct. We read in 2 Peter 2:1, of those who bring in destructive heresies; yet the word in the original has another meaning, which it is important for us to look at. This other meaning is "sects," apparently irrespective of false doctrines. (See Acts 5:17; 15:5; 26:5.)

At first sight there may appear no connection between a person's belonging to a "sect," and his holding "false doctrines;" but it is not difficult to see how the two are associated together. The root of the word is "to choose," and this equally applies to the "sect" and to the "heresy." If I take scripture simply, without wishing to add to it or take from it, I have no choice. It is God's book to me, and I have nothing to do either to choose or refuse. It is not a question of choosing that book or another, or one part of that book in preference to another. I gratefully accept it all. In doing this, and submitting to the teaching of the Holy Spirit, there can be no heresy. Men commonly say, "I must choose my own religion." But this supposes that God has not spoken; that He has not given a revelation, and a form of doctrine. Paul thanked God that the Roman saints had obeyed from the heart the "form of doctrine which was delivered" to them. There is no thought in scripture of Christians choosing their own doctrine. "Choosing" is that which leads to heresy.

So of the sects. One said, "I am of Paul," another, "I am of Apollos," etc. Here again was choice, instead of receiving all whom God had gifted. Christians boast of liberty to choose their own gifted men; but this is a liberty condemned of God. We should receive and value all.

Thus we see that both heresies and sects spring from men — and possibly from Christians — exercising their choice where God would have them have none.

There were many heresies in the earlier church, to recount which would be tedious and unprofitable. But a few of them demand our attention.


The first of these mixed philosophy with Christianity, and denied the manhood of Christ. They denied that Christ really became a man and died. With this was a great deal of philosophy so called. We will give a specimen of this, that our readers may judge how unprofitable it was. They taught that "from the self-existent Father was born a high Intelligence called Understanding; from Understanding proceeded the Word (Greek, Logos); from the Word, Prudence; from Prudence, Wisdom and Power; from Wisdom and Power, Powers, Principalities,* and Angels, whom they call superior angels, by whom the first heaven was made; from these proceeded other angels and other heavens. . . . . The self-existent and ineffable Father sent his first-begotten, Understanding (Greek, Nous.), who also is said to be Christ, for the salvation of such as believe in him, and to deliver them from the tyranny of the makers of the world; and that he appeared on earth as man and wrought miracles. But he did not suffer." One of these heretics says that Simon of Cyrene, who carried the cross of our Lord, was crucified in his stead. They agree that our Lord was not really a man, but only appeared as one, and that He did not suffer on the cross.

{*These Intelligences were called Aeons.}

It is easy for any intelligent Christian to prove from scripture that all this is false. Besides the error of saying an angel created the earth, and that Jehovah was not the God of the Jews, it was fatal to salvation to deny that the Lord Jesus was really a man and that He died for our salvation.

This error was very early in the professing church, and it is believed that the apostle John referred to it, when he said that he was an antichrist who denied that Christ had come in the flesh, or was really a man. (1 John 4:2-3.)

The folly also of attempting to attach philosophy to Christianity is condemned in scripture (Col. 2:8), and the theory, given above, of Wisdom and Power being born of Prudence, etc., is a species of philosophy so called. Its folly and wickedness are surely plain to all Christians.

Those who held these views were called Gnostics,* and Simon Magus, named in the Acts, is supposed to have been the first who held and taught them, though not exactly as given above, for each of the teachers tried to improve on the theory. It is recorded that this Simon was a learned man, and that he endeavoured to unite the Magian philosophy with Christianity. He came to Rome in the reign of Claudius, and was held in high repute. A good deal more that is said about him is now held to be unworthy of credit.

{* From the Greek Gnosis, knowledge.}

It is difficult to say how far this same form of evil doctrine exists at the present time; for Satan is constantly varying his attempts to delude mankind and draw them from the religion of Jesus Christ.

The belief of the Swedenborgians may be named as approaching in some things to Gnosticism, in so far as it speaks of the humanity of our Lord as divine humanity, and denies that His death was in our stead. But there are many others who also deny this last point, and who attempt to exalt man into being his own saviour by morality and virtue, altogether denying the truth so plainly taught in scripture of the fall of man, and the need of the death of Christ for redemption.

Marcion, in the second century, was another Gnostic heretic, but differed perhaps from all others. He taught that the God of the Old Testament was not the same as the God of the New, nor the Messiah of the Old the same as the Christ of the New; and other foolish and hurtful things. Tertullian answered him, pointing out many passages in the Old Testament quoted in the New. It is recorded that in his latter days, he repented of the schism he had caused, and sought to be restored. He was told that he must seek to restore those he had led astray; but he died soon afterwards.


The other great heresy in the early church was denying that our Lord was God as well as man. The name Arianism came from Arius, who was a strong defender of the error, although it is generally believed that the same, or similar, doctrines, were held before his time.

Arius was presbyter of the church at Alexandria, and here he came into collision first with Alexander and then with Athanasius, bishops of Alexandria, and kept the church in a state of contention for many years.

The controversy was supposed to have given rise to what is called "The Athanasian Creed." Its origin is not now known, though it seems to bear internal evidence of having been written to meet the Arian and Sabellian* heresies.

{*The Sabellians (from one named Sabellius) denied that there are three Persons in the Godhead; but held that there were three Phases under which the one divine essence reveals itself.}

The creed says, "The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God, and yet there are not three Gods: but one God." It further says that after the incarnation of the Lord Jesus He was "perfect God, and perfect man."

Now we cannot understand that which is so far above us, the nature of God — that which is infinite; but it is necessary to see that scripture clearly speaks of the Father as God, and the Son as God, and the Holy Ghost as God; and yet, as the creed says, there are not three Gods, but one God. So it is necessary to see that the Lord Jesus was truly a man, born of the Virgin Mary; that He lived a man upon the earth, was then nailed to a cross of wood, and died — died to redeem His people. Being man, He could die; His being God as well as man gave infinite value to His death for the redemption of an innumerable multitude. Our Lord Himself said that no man knew the Son but the Father (Matt. 11:27), and therefore we cannot expect to understand the mystery of the union of God and man in one Person. Many who have attempted it have fallen into error; some have denied the Godhead and others the manhood of our Lord. It is our wisdom to believe every statement of scripture, though we cannot understand that which is infinite, nor the Person of our Lord, as He Himself said. We shall see, later on, to what evil the Arian heresy led in the church.

A doctrine, similar to that held by the Arians, has come down to our own day under the name of Unitarianism.

Unitarians profess to believe in one God, but deny that there are three Persons in the Godhead. Consequently they hold that Christ was only a man, that He died as a martyr, but that there is no atonement in His death. Indeed, they believe that no atonement was needed, for they hold that man has not fallen from his original condition, and, on repentance, will be forgiven. They also deny eternal punishment.

Our readers will see how wrong it is to consider as Christians any who hold such soul-destroying doctrines.

The Novatians.

These are generally classed among the sects. It is difficult at this distance of time to get a clear idea of those to whom this name was given. About A.D. 250, Novatian, a presbyter of a church at Rome, broke away from the general body of Christians, holding that no one who lapsed into idolatry, during the reign of an emperor who enforced paganism, should again be received into communion, counting them to be apostates, such as are described in Hebrews 6:1-6. Some of the emperors, as we have seen, were much more severe than others, and under some it was possible for a man to hide his religion and serve the state; but when persecution arose he must give up the one or the other, and it was found that some could be pagan and Christian by turns, according to the aspect of affairs. There can be no doubt that some of these were not Christians and ought to have been denied communion. It is impossible now to tell whether Novatian did not press this too far, and allow no room for repentance.

After the persecution of Decius (A.D. 249-251) there were many cases for restoration. They were in general called "Lapsi," apostates, but they were classified thus: 1. "Sacrificati," those who had actually sacrificed to the gods, or the images of the emperor. 2. "Thurificati," those who had strewn incense on the heathen altars. 3. "Libellatici," those who, by money or favour, had obtained certificates from the magistrates as if they had obeyed the emperor. 4. "Traditores," those who delivered up the sacred books or church property. On the other hand, there were many who had suffered tortures, imprisonments, mutilations, working in the mines, etc. These, when they were restored to their homes, being extolled by their brethren, were apt to be proud of their faithfulness, and stood out in strong contrast with those who had fallen. Were the lapsed to be treated as though they had been faithful, or their apostasy to be thought little of? Novatian held that no one on earth had power to restore such.

At Rome matters were brought to an open rupture at the election of a bishop. Cornelius, a presbyter, was nominated but Novatian strongly opposed his election because he would admit those who had fallen. But his election was carried, and, a synod being called, Novatian was condemned. On this, seeing no remedy for the increase of corruptions in the professing body, he withdrew with many others, and was also elected bishop by some who held with him. They were the first class of Christians called Cathari (Puritans), but whether the name was adopted by themselves is not now known.

The Novatians continued as a separate body for some centuries. They abstained from much of the contention that arose in the church in after years, and were able to render help to others when they were persecuted. They contended that one of the essential marks of the true church was purity and separation from evil and they would admit none except these were re-baptised and those who lapsed into idolatry were never re-admitted, though they opposed them in no other way, and did not feel called upon to decide as to their true repentance. A charge afterwards brought against the Novatians was that they did not pay due reverence to the martyrs, nor value their relics. May not these Puritans have been such that many a true saint could unite with, and find in them a community of Christians separate from the growing evils, though they may have been too rigid in their discipline? Their enemies can bring little against them except their separation. In the council of A.D. 383 they subscribed the Nicean creed and were counted orthodox.

Chapter 11.

Cyprian and the Assumptions of Rome.

In resuming our history, we will take a glance at the way Rome was attempting to gain the ascendancy in the church.

Cyprian was a wealthy teacher of rhetoric at Carthage before his conversion. He was baptised A.D. 245 or 246, and at once distributed a portion of his fortune, and devoted himself to the study of the scriptures and the fathers.

This was during what has been called the Long Peace, there being no persecution for the period of about thirty years, and during that time the African church had fallen to a low ebb spiritually, though outwardly it was prosperous. Its bishops are described as engaged in agriculture, trade, and even usury. Some were too ignorant to instruct the people or to distinguish between the orthodox and the heretics.

In A.D. 248 the bishop of Carthage died, and Cyprian was chosen to succeed him, but chiefly by the poor of the flock; others strongly opposed him, and maintained their opposition, even after his consecration. In the year 250, the emperor Decius began a persecution, principally against the bishops. It was thought that if the bishops could be got rid of, the people would easily be gained. Cyprian fled, defending this course as best he could, but this was taken as an occasion of opposing him. He returned in 251, but then, as we have seen, the question of the lapsi was being hotly discussed. Some at Carthage agreed with Novatian and chose another bishop others agreed with those who received all, and elected still another; Cyprian took a middle course, not refusing the restoration of all, nor admitting any without due repentance (or penance, as it was then called).

Though there was now a complete schism at Carthage, Cyprian held his ground, became the recognised bishop, and was looked up to by others. He came into collision with Rome under the following circumstances: —

About A.D. 252, two Spanish bishops, Basilides and Martial, were deposed by a synod as "libellatici." Basilides made public confession and was restored to communion, but as a private Christian only. The year following he went to Rome, and appealed to the bishop to interfere on their behalf. Stephen had succeeded Cornelius, and he, on his own authority, ordered the Spanish synod to restore the two deposed bishops; but in the meantime, for some reason, the case had been referred to Cyprian and an African synod. These met and confirmed the judgment of their Spanish brethren. On hearing the decision of the bishop of Rome, Cyprian treated it with contempt and, repudiated the thought that the bishop of Rome could set aside a district synod.

We see here an instance of the growing assumption of the bishops of Rome. Various things served to give them a prominent place among the bishops, principally because Rome was the seat of the civil government. Its bishop was delighted to be thus appealed to as to one who had authority over other bishops and even local synods. We shall see that this was a battle that had to be fought many times before there was anything like a victory for Rome.

The bishop of Rome had of course much higher claims for supremacy than what proceeded from the relations of the city to the state. Zephyrinus (about A.D. 202) had asserted that he sat in the chair of St. Peter, referring to the words of our Lord, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church;" but Tertullian contended the point with the bishop.

The bishop of Rome, from time to time, did not hesitate to style himself "chief Pontiff," and "bishop of bishops," and used other such-like terms.

Another occurrence in the time of Cyprian also brought out the assumptions of Rome. The question had been raised as to whether the baptism by heretics should be considered valid or not? Stephen of Rome and many others held that those thus baptised should not be re-baptised; a simple laying on of hands was sufficient. On the contrary, many in Asia held that no grace could flow through such polluted sources; the applicants must be re-baptised. Cyprian agreed in this judgment.

The bishop of Rome, assuming an undue authority, took upon himself to excommunicate the bishops of Asia! A synod was at once called at Carthage. It is said to have consisted of eighty-seven bishops. The questions to be considered were: 1, the validity of baptism by heretics; 2, the conduct of Rome.

Cyprian exhorted all to speak their judgment freely. The decisions arrived at were against the bishop of Rome's assumption, and against his dictum as to re-baptism. Stephen was very angry, and called Cyprian "false Christ," "false apostle," "deceitful labourer," etc. Cyprian asserted that it was the duty of every Christian to resort immediately to the gospel and the apostolic traditions [teachings] as the only fountain of christian truth.

It was not only the African bishops who contended against the assumptions of Rome. Firmilian of Cappadocia wrote: "The people of Rome do not uniformly hold the things handed down to them from the beginning, yet vainly pretend to apostolic authority."

It is therefore clear that the claim of the bishop of Rome to supremacy over all other bishops was not admitted in the early church, and it was only tolerated much later, after repeated resistance. At this date the term Papacy did not exist: many bishops were styled Papa, (Pope) or father; and in their controversies even Cyprian is thus designated by the bishop of Rome himself.

Cyprian's course was not lengthy. In A.D. 257, Valerian began his persecution, and Cyprian was cited before the proconsul; on his refusing to offer sacrifice to the gods, he was banished to Curubis, a lonely spot on the seashore, but only a day's journey from Carthage. Here he remained eleven months in communication with his flock. A new proconsul recalled him, but on a more severe edict being issued, he was again arrested and condemned to death by the sword. He exclaimed, "By the grace of God." Thus he became a martyr. He was much beloved by his people, and highly esteemed in the church.

Chapter 12.

The Later Persecutions.

Decius became emperor A.D. 249, and ordered a severe and systematic persecution of the Christians. Some of the early christian writers regarded the persecution as needed, because of the low spiritual condition of the church, though that condition is curiously described. Thus christian men are described as "effeminate and self-indulgent, trimming their beards, and dyeing their hair; the women as painting their faces and colouring their eyebrows. The clergy were self-seeking and ambitious."

The heathen looked upon them as a secret society which they could not understand, and as one dangerous to the prosperity of the state. Efforts must be made to root it out. The magistrates were ordered throughout the empire, under heavy penalties, to carry out the persecution. At first great pressure was to be used to induce the Christians to return to the religion of the state. Those who yielded were to be no further molested.

History records that the offices were thronged with candidates who were willing to obey the edict. Some sacrificed, some sprinkled incense on the altars, and some bought, by money or favours, certificates that they had satisfied the law without doing any of the above. We have already seen what trouble these caused in reference to their restoration after the persecution had ceased.

Many however refused to comply. Naturally the bishops were especially sought for. Some escaped and hid themselves, but this was not easy, as the persecution was general. Some were imprisoned and otherwise punished; some put to death. Fabian, bishop of Rome, Babylas of Antioch, and Alexander of Jerusalem, were among the martyrs. There was scarcely a province of the empire where the persecutions were not severely felt.

Origen was tortured on the rack, but survived. A lad, Dioscorus, only fifteen, stood firm, but was spared by the prefect because of his youth.*

{* The books of martyrs give the oft repeated story of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus in connection with this persecution. These, confessing their faith, were walled up in a cave, and left to die. They fell asleep, and the place was long famous as a place of sanctity. In the reign of Theodosius (A.D. 447, some two hundred years after) the cave was opened, and the sleepers awoke; and walking about, were surprised to see such numerous changes — churches occupying the places where heathen temples once stood, etc. They did not, however, survive long; for they again fell asleep to awake no more. Thus fables are often found along with the facts concerning the early saints and martyrs.}

Happily this persecution did not last long. The emperor was called away to meet the Goths, and he and his son were slain (A.D. 251).

Doubtless the persecution had a good effect, notwithstanding all that was so painful; for it dissociated many, who for various reasons had been associated with the Christians without being such in reality. Where there was true faith it could bear the trial, and come out from the furnace of affliction all the brighter, or seal it with their blood.


Having named this theologian, we add a few particulars concerning him. He was born about A.D. 185, of christian parents. In A.D. 202, his father was put into prison and afterwards put to death. The confiscation of his property left his son dependent on others. A rich christian lady took him into her house, and enabled him to go on with his studies. When about eighteen he engaged in catechetical instruction. About this time he made himself a eunuch, being led thereto by reading Matthew 19:12.

Paying a visit to Palestine and Caesarea, he began to give discourses in the church, but was forbidden by Demetrius of Alexandria, and he resumed his catechetical instruction. About A.D. 218, he was invited to Antioch to give christian instruction to Mammaea, the mother of the emperor Alexander Severus. About A.D. 230, he went to Greece, by way of Palestine, where he was ordained presbyter. This again roused Demetrius, who caused him, at two synods, to be forbidden to act as presbyter, perhaps because he was a eunuch, though Jerome says it was through jealousy of his talents. He went on with his teaching (some renowned in the church placing themselves under him) and his writing, employing several to copy his works, and he was looked up to by many for counsel. As we have seen, he suffered torture under Decius, but died a natural death about A.D. 254.

He was a compiler of the renowned book known as Origen's Hexapla, a work that must have involved immense labour. It gave the Old Testament in Hebrew, the same in Greek characters, the translations of Aquila, of Symmachus, of the LXX, of Theodotion, with three other versions. It occupied nearly fifty volumes, but unhappily all is lost, except the extracts that had been made from it. He was also the author of several commentaries on parts of scripture; but he mixed philosophy with his Christianity and was not sound in the faith. There were repeated controversies as to his teaching, but some of it was so speculative that Athanasius and Arius both claimed him as on their side. He denied eternal punishment, holding the eventual restoration of all, even the devil! Thus we see the danger of attempting to join philosophy with Christianity, and not keeping simply to the teaching of the word of God.

Valerian and Diocletian.

Valerian was made emperor A.D. 253, and at first was favourable to the Christians, but began a persecution in the year 257. The first edict forbad their holding any meetings; those who did not obey were by another edict sent to work in the mines; a third ordered all bishops, presbyters, and deacons, to be put to death.

Under these persecutions, Stephen (bishop of Rome), and Cyprian of Carthage were martyrs. Sixtus II. succeeded Stephen at Rome, but suffered martyrdom the year following. His faithful disciple, Laurentius, deacon of the church at Rome, was also arrested. It had been reported that the church had amassed great treasures and these were demanded of the deacon. Under the supposition that they would be given up, he was released he then collected a number of the poor of the church, "paupers and cripples," and presenting them to the prefect, said, "These are our treasures." The prefect felt insulted, and ordered Laurentius to be put to death by a slow fire. This cruel sentence was carried out, to the horror of his fellow Christians.

The persecution continuing, no one was chosen to succeed Sixtus II. as bishop of Rome until A.D. 259, when Dionysius was chosen.

The emperor Valerian had been defeated and taken prisoner he was succeeded by Gallienus, who at once stayed the persecution.

In A.D. 284, Diocletian was chosen emperor, and did not at first molest the Christians. In the year 292, he appointed Constantius Chlorus and Galerius co-emperors. In A.D. 303 a violent persecution commenced. Various things led to it. The mother of Galerius was in the habit of giving frequent sacrificial banquets, and was annoyed by the christian officers refusing to take part in them. Others refused to serve the state because of the idolatrous rites required of them. This seemed to rouse Galerius: what was to be come of the state if so many turned Christians?

The pagan priests were not long in working upon the fears and prejudices of the emperors. Diocletian was fond of consulting the oracles and signs. He sacrificed, and then the priests searched the entrails of the victims for omens, good or bad. But they now declared that there were no omens. Again and again victims were killed, but the same result — "no omens." At last they declared it was because of profane persons being present. These profane persons were the Christians who accompanied the emperor as attendants, and who satisfied their consciences by making the form of the cross upon themselves. This declaration of the priests roused the anger of the emperor: he ordered all his officers to sacrifice or be scourged, and dismissed from his service if they refused. He ordered all the chiefs of the army to act in a similar way towards all Christians in their companies. Galerius and his mother urged on Diocletian but he was not so ready to extend the persecution: he would first consult the gods.

A messenger was sent to consult the oracle of the Milesian Apollo at Branchidae. We need not wonder that the answer was that the self-styled "just ones" on the earth made it impossible for the oracles to speak the truth. The priests explained that this referred to the Christians. The answer was not only given by the priestess, who usually gave the replies, but it was said to be given by the god himself. This decided Diocletian to extend the persecution, but he wished bloodshed to be spared as far as possible. Galerius was not so scrupulous, and would have burnt those who refused to sacrifice.

The edicts issued were: 1. All churches were to be destroyed. 2. All copies of the scriptures and sacred books were to be given up and burnt. 3. All who held any official position were to lose their dignities and civil rights, unless they sacrificed. 4. All men not officials were, on refusal, to be reduced to the condition of slaves.

These edicts were obeyed, except in Gaul and Britain, where Constantius Chlorus reigned. He was content with destroying the buildings. In all other places the edicts were carried out with more or less severity. The prefects did not stop at confiscation, imprisonment, and tortures, but put many to death. The bishops, deacons, and readers, were especially sought for and tortured to reveal and give up their sacred books. A fire broke out in the palace of Diocletian, and suspicion fell upon the Christians, and this further enraged him; still he wished the lives of the Christians to be spared as far as could be.

At the end of the same year, Diocletian was laid by, unwell, and Galerius sought to become sole emperor, and complications ensued but the persecutions continued. Galerius increased in power, and issued more severe edicts against the Christians, and death was now the common penalty for disobedience.

At the end of A.D. 310, Galerius was seized with a painful malady, and died in May, 311, being gradually eaten by worms. When he saw that death was inevitable, he issued a hypocritical edict, staying the persecution, and asking the prayers of the Christians!

In the west, persecutions had also been severe. It is estimated that 16,000 persons suffered death in one month, but this may include the whole empire. Marcellinus was bishop of Rome (A.D. 296). It is recorded that he saved his life by placing incense on the altar, but afterwards repented and suffered martyrdom in A.D. 304. As the persecution continued, no successor was appointed for more than two years.

In A.D. 306, Maxentius became emperor of that part of the empire, and protected the Christians thus persecution ceased at Rome much earlier than in the east.

In A.D. 307, Marcellus was chosen bishop, and no sooner was the persecution over than again occurred the vexed question as to the lapsi, of whom there were many during the late severe persecution. Marcellus demanded "penitence" for all such, and his stern discipline roused such violent opposition, that riots and even bloodshed were the result. The emperor, to quiet the tumult, banished the bishop from the city.

One named Eusebius succeeded, A.D. 309 or 310, who also enforced penitential discipline before restoration of the fallen, and the tumults were renewed. These were so violent that again the emperor ordered the banishment of the bishop. He died the year of his banishment. Melchiades succeeded, A.D. 311 till 314.

During this time, Constantine the Great became sole emperor, and then followed that great change in the whole professing church which we shall now have to consider.

But before leaving the period of persecution, it may be well to notice that in the address to the church of Smyrna, which speaks of persecution, occur the words: "Behold the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried and ye shall have tribulation ten days." (Rev. 2:10.) Many have thought that this points to ten persecutions, and have named especially the following: —

1 Under Nero, about A.D. 64.

2 Under Domitian about A.D. 95.

3 Under Trajan about A.D. 106.

4 Under Adrian about A.D. 118.

5 Under Severus about A.D. 199.

6 Under Maximinus about A.D. 235.

7 Under Decius about A.D. 250.

8 Under Valerian about A.D. 257.

9 Under Aurelian about A.D. 272.

10 Under Diocletian about A.D. 303.

On the other hand, it has been contended by some historians that anything worthy the name of a general persecution was comparatively rare and far between; nothing of note between Nero and Decius, and nothing between Decius and Diocletian. As we have seen, there were Christians in the army under the emperor Marcus, where one would think they could not be hid. While the laws condemning the Christians remained unrepealed, a great deal depended on the proconsuls as to how far those laws were enforced, as well as how far the Christians made themselves obnoxious to "the powers that be."

Without doubt, the address to the church of Smyrna, interpreted prophetically, applies to the period we have been surveying, whether we are able or not to interpret all its details. Persecution marks it throughout. Our Lord therein is spoken of as "the first and the last, which was dead and is alive." They should be like their Lord: though put to death they should live again. "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison that ye may be tried .... be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."

There were many during the first three centuries of the church who suffered spoliation, torture, and death, for the name of Christ. What consolation for such to know that their persecutors could only kill the body; their Lord was dead, and is alive again, and His promise to all such as were overcomers was that they should not be hurt of the second death: instead of that, He Himself would give them a crown of life.

Part 2. Profession.

Chapter 1.

Conversion of Constantine.

A.D. 312.

One of the most remarkable things connected with the history of the church is the conversion of the emperor Constantine, called the Great.

This forms a landmark also by which to trace out other events. Up to this time the Roman emperors had been pagans, and persecution was that which characterised the first three hundred years of the church's history, though with many and long exceptions.

Now all was changed, the emperor professed to be converted, and not only did persecution cease, but Christianity for the first time became fashionable. Those who wanted to be in favour with the emperor must embrace his religion. This was a turning everything upside down, and was the means of making many professors. It brought great relief to the real Christian, but it commenced on a very large scale what has from that day to this gone on increasing — namely, Profession.

We saw that the period of persecution well agreed with the address to the church in Smyrna, in Revelation 2:10. The period we are now about to look at will coincide with the address to the church at Pergamos. The church therein is seen dwelling in the world, and yet a witness for Christ. There is also a teaching error for reward, and the allowance of evil doctrine.

But we must relate the conversion of Constantine. The account is very remarkable. When the emperor was assembled with his army against his rival Maxentius, about the time of the sun-setting, he, having risen from offering prayer for the success of his arms, saw in the heavens, towards the west, the figure of the cross, large and luminous, with these words, "By this conquer." It is said that this sign was not seen by himself only, but by the whole of his army.

Further, on retiring that same night, in his sleep he saw Christ, who bore a cross similar to the one he had seen in the heavens, and who bade Constantine have one made like it and use it for a standard in his wars. He summoned the most skilful workmen into his presence, to whom he described exactly the form of the cross, and ordered one to be made inlaid with gold and precious gems.* This was constantly carried as his standard, and to this he attributed his many victories.

{*See chapter 6.}

Historians have been sadly puzzled as to whether this account of the conversion of Constantine is true. Eusebius hands it down to us, and he tells us that he heard it from the lips of the emperor himself, so that there seems to be no room for mistake.

Another serious question arises, Was Constantine really converted? Was it a work of God? or was it all a delusion? It would appear at first sight a very good thing to abolish idolatry over the empire; but on the other hand, it was a very dangerous thing for thousands to profess to be converted to Christianity when they were not Christians.

Certainly Constantine knew nothing of the true liberty of a child of God. He was not baptised till near his death, lest he should commit sin after his baptism. This, no doubt, was based upon the false and dangerous teaching that baptism washed away sins; so the poor man, though an emperor, was kept all the rest of his life as a catechumen, and not admitted into the church, because he feared to be baptised. How different is the religion of Jesus Christ! "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin."

Though on some occasions Constantine seemed to speak more like a Christian than some of the bishops, and was zealous in religious observances, yet at last he more and more favoured the Arians. This, with the mysterious death of his son Crispus, his nephew Licinius, and his wife Fausta — with the very grave suspicion of all having been put to death by his orders — has thrown a dark cloud over the hopes any would fain have of his being a true Christian.

Constantine, after his conversion, was engaged with various wars until, in A.D. 323, he became sole emperor, and was then more at leisure to attend to the condition of the church, which was in great confusion. Arius had a strong party on his side who denied that Jesus Christ is God; while the faithful Christians maintained — as all true Christians must maintain — that He is God. This was a vital question. If Christ was not God as well as man, there could be no salvation; and therefore the faithful could not let this be called in question.

Constantine, after attempting to make peace privately, determined to call together a general council of the heads of the church. This was called the Council of Nice.

Constantine then went on with his work of changing the pagan worship into that of christian, and ordered the images in the pagan temples to be destroyed except those made of brass, and such others as were judged of superior workmanship: these were saved as works of art, and carried to Constantinople, but, alas, only to be used afterwards in pagan worship again when Julian ascended the throne.

Constantine proceeded to erect churches for christian worship in many places, and Helena his mother erected a church at Jerusalem, where some wood was found which superstition claimed to be the cross of our Lord!

In many districts the converts were counted by hundreds; it was found that to embrace Christianity was a means of obtaining favour at court, and undoubtedly many who changed their religion were nominally Christians only.

Another thing, introduced for the first time, was the union of church and state. As we shall see, the emperor attended the council of Nice, and future emperors had constantly to interfere to attempt to quell disturbances between rival bishops, and settle doctrinal disputes, carried on by turbulent men in place and power — so different from the meek and gentle disciples who marked the early church.

Chapter 2.

The Council of Nice.

A.D. 325.

About three hundred bishops and five hundred presbyters attended this council. They came from Europe, Asia, and Africa. On the day appointed they all assembled, and waited for the emperor. As he entered they all rose from their seats to welcome him. He said in Latin: "In beholding you thus assembled, my beloved, I enjoy this accomplishment of my most earnest supplications..... When indeed my arms, by the favour and help of the Almighty, were rendered victorious, I thought that nothing was then wanting to me but to praise Him for His blessings, and to rejoice with those whom He had enabled me to deliver. On receiving, therefore, the unlooked for intelligence of your dissensions, I immediately judged it necessary to take the matter into consideration, and hoping that I might thereby afford some remedy to the evil, have hastened to call you together..... Hasten then, beloved, as good servants and ministers of our common Lord and Saviour, to remove from among you the causes of the present dissensions, so that, by the laws of peace, you may break asunder the bond of contention by doing which, you will render an acceptable homage to the Almighty, and bestow a most excellent favour on me your fellow-servant."

But the bishops had many complaints to make against each other. Constantine requested them to put their charges into writing, and he appointed a day when he would consider them. But on that day he threw all the letters unopened into the fire, saying that it did not belong to him to decide the differences of christian bishops, and that the hearing of them must be delayed until the day of judgment.

The emperor succeeded in some degree in bringing the council to order and the discussion began, but again and again the emperor had to exhort the council to charity and forbearance. Among the assembly were some clever philosophers, who attempted to puzzle their opponents with subtle arguments; but this was stopped by a venerable old man rising from his seat and saying, "Christ and His apostles did not teach us the art of logic, nor an empty cunningness, but a naked wisdom, to be kept by faith and good works." This had a good effect. The Christian had silenced the philosopher.

Athanasius, then only a deacon, was present to defend the true doctrine of Christ's divinity; Arius himself was present to oppose him. A Creed was drawn up — still known as the Nicene Creed, from the city in which the council was held — declaring the divinity of Christ. Some of the Arians were induced nominally to agree to the creed by altering a word.*

{* They substituted homoiousios for homoousios, that is "similarity" for "sameness."}

But this did not satisfy the orthodox. They proceeded to expel Arius and his followers from the council. Arius and others were sent into exile, and all his books ordered to be burnt — death being the penalty for any who concealed his writings.

The decisions arrived at during this council, called the First General Council, were made known to the professing church in a solemn epistle.

Although the council of Nice seemed to settle everything, its decisions were not obeyed. Many who signed the confessions of faith, but who agreed really with Arius, and his friends — especially Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia — afterwards besought the emperor to recall the exiles. This he did, overruling the council of Nice, and setting the example of treating its decrees with contempt. Alas! the church was now really ruled by the civil power. It dwelt in the world, according to Revelation 2:13.


At the council of Nice was also determined the day on which Easter should commence. Although this would be considered by many a matter of small consequence, it had been hotly contested, and one bishop of Rome attempted to excommunicate whole districts for not observing Easter on the right day!

The word "Easter" occurs once in the Authorised Version (Acts 12:4), where the word is pascha, which is elsewhere translated "Passover," and is so translated here in the Revised Version. This shews that in the translators' minds Easter and the Passover corresponded. But the Passover is associated with the crucifixion: "Christ our passover is sacrificed for us" (1 Cor. 5:7); and the Passover fell on the 14th day of Nisan, and might occur on any day of the week; whereas Easter is generally accepted to refer to the resurrection, and commences on a Sunday. The former mode of reckoning was mostly adopted in the east, and the latter in the west. At the council of Nice it was settled for the latter.

In general terms, Easter may be said to be the first Sunday following the fourteenth day of the so-called paschal moon, which happens on or first after the vernal equinox. The vernal equinox always falls on March 21, so that Easter may be March 22, but not earlier; or if the fifteenth day of the paschal moon falls on March 21, a full lunar month must pass before another fourteenth day can come, and this may be on a Sunday, and so Easter may be as late as April 25, but not later: it may, of course, fall on any day between these dates.

There is nothing in the New Testament respecting the keeping of Easter. Acts 12:4 simply refers to the Passover as a suitable time for Herod to deliver up Peter to destruction. Of course the Passover was observed by the Jews, and probably by the Jewish converts. The words sent out from the council were "that all the brethren in the east, who formerly celebrated Easter with the Jews, will henceforth keep it agreeably with the Romans and ourselves, and all who from ancient time have kept Easter as we." The crucifixion was observed on what is called Good Friday by fasting, etc.; the following Sunday commenced Easter as a festival.

Its observance began on the preceding evening by fasting, prayer in the churches, etc. Jerome assigns as a reason for the people being kept till after midnight, that "even as the paschal deliverance of Israel took place at midnight (Ex. 12:29) it was the expectation of the church, according to apostolic tradition, that Christ would return to accomplish the redemption of His church, and triumph over her enemies at the same hour. That hour being passed, the awe with which the Lord's coming was anticipated being relieved, the Easter feast was celebrated with universal joy." Lactantius also mentions the night being passed in watchfulness for "the coming of our King and God." How strange that the coming of the Lord should be looked forward to in awe instead of being the hope of the Christian!

Lamps and candles were lit everywhere in token of the festival. Gregory Nazianzen speaks of persons of all ranks, even magistrates and ladies of rank, carrying lamps, and setting up tapers both at home and in the churches, thus turning night into day. In later times a huge taper was solemnly blessed as a type of Christ"s rising from the dead to give light to the world! Easter eve was also the chosen time for baptising the converts, and the numbers were often great: "three thousand" awaited baptism when Chrysostom was deposed.

Gregory Nyssen (A.D. 372-394) gives a graphic description of the keeping of the festival: "All labour ceased, all trades were suspended, the husbandman threw down his spade and plough and put on his holiday attire, the very tavern-keepers left their gains. The roads were empty of travellers, the sea of sailors. The mother came to church with the whole band of her children and domestics, her husband and the whole family rejoicing with her. All Christians assembled everywhere as members of one family. The poor man dressed like the rich, and the rich wore his gayest attire; those who had none of their own borrowed of their neighbours; the very children were made to share in the joy of the feast by putting on new clothes."

Alas, that this should have been associated with keeping a christian festival: every word of it would be just as suitable for preparing for a pagan rite. How sad to forget that those who worship God must worship Him in spirit and in truth, and all such outward show counts for nothing or, worse than nothing!

The same writer says, "Every kind of sorrow is put to rest to-day, nor is there anyone so overwhelmed with grief as not to find relief from the magnificence of this feast. Now the prisoner is loosed, the debtor is forgiven, the slave is set free, and he who continues a slave derives benefit."

The time was to be spent in "worship, singing paschal hymns, and offering their daily sacrifices."

We thus see how in the early church the festivals were made to draw together and interest the people generally, irrespective altogether as to whether they were believers or unbelievers. And from that day to this, the same period of the year — and even more so the festival of Christmas — have been the scene of holiday-keeping, feasting, and mirth, entirely inappropriate to the solemn scenes they are said to commemorate: in many respects, indeed, a direct insult to the One who should be before the soul.

Chapter 3.

Athanasius and His Times.

Athanasius was born in Alexandria, of christian parents, about A.D. 296. As we have seen, he was present at the Council of Nice and opposed Arius.

In A.D. 326 he became bishop of Alexandria, and from the prominent place he thus held, and from his firm and persistent opposition to Arianism, he has been called the "Father of Orthodoxy." After him has also been named the popular creed handed down to us, which is still in use in the Roman and English churches as "The Athanasian Creed," though it is now generally believed to have been drawn up at a later date; by whom is uncertain. The Greek Church never acknowledged it, and in A.D. 1785 the Episcopal Church of America struck it out of their prayer book.

When Arius was recalled from his banishment Athanasius steadfastly refused to reinstate him; and now he was threatened with punishment; but the death of Arius brought relief.

This respite, however, was short, for the Arians had now grown into a strong party, including several bishops; and the accusations against Athanasius became so loud and so serious — even charging him with murder — that Constantine agreed to his being called before a synod at Tyre.

The day of trial at length arrived. Athanasius was charged with the murder of Arsenius, a bishop of the Meletians, and with cutting off his hand, to be preserved for magical experiments. The trial proceeded, and a shrivelled hand was actually produced in court as being the hand of the murdered man. A shudder ran through the assembly, and even his friends began to fear for the results, while his enemies thought the proof complete and his condemnation certain.

Athanasius stood calm and asked if there were any present who knew personally the supposed victim. Many said they did. And at once a man was led into court: his cloak was thrown on one side and his two hands exhibited to the spectators: it was Arsenius! Athanasius left his enemies to explain how it was that the bishop was still alive, and from whence they procured the other hand. Great efforts had been made to hide this man, but Athanasius had succeeded in finding him, and bringing him to the council.

Of course the accused was acquitted, but, alas! what a picture does this trial present of the state of the church at that time, or rather of those high in power as bishops and clergy. Even that which no honest worldly man would descend to do was planned and carried out by those accredited as guides in the church of God.

Nor did the matter end here. Nothing abashed at their own wickedness, his enemies determined to ruin the man who had thus stood steadfast in maintaining the truth as to the divinity of our Lord. Another charge was now brought against him — a charge of hindering supplies being sent from Egypt to Constantinople. No doubt the emperor was long since disgusted with their theological disputes — now they would lay a civil charge against the bishop, and one which they knew would rouse the emperor to act severely. Athanasius denied the charge; but he was condemned by his enemies, and Constantine banished him to Treves in Gaul.

The last years of the life of Constantine do not stand to his credit. At the council of Nice all seemed to shew well. He entertained the bishops at his table. "The guards," says Eusebius, "kept watch with drawn swords round the vestibule of the palace; the men of God passed through their midst without fear, and entered the inmost parts of the royal dwelling. Some of them reclined by his side, and others were placed on couches on either hand. One might have seemed to picture to oneself an image of Christ's kingdom; the whole thing was more like a dream than a reality." As we have seen, this picture faded away, and the faithful ones then in favour were afterwards banished.

Family quarrels, too, disturbed the peace of the emperor, and led to the death of his wife and other relatives, as we have seen. Many have tried to hide or deny these enormities; others relate how he was filled with remorse and sought absolution in acts of charity and building churches.

He was making preparations for war with the Persians, but did not live long enough to carry it on. A tent was to be fitted up as a chapel. The soldiers, whether pagan or Christian, were taught a daily prayer, and Sunday was ordered to be kept as a holy day. But fearing his end was approaching he was baptised by his favourite bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia, (an Arian and an enemy of Athanasius) — and he passed away A.D. 337. Thus Constantine at the last seemed to favour the false doctrine of Arius, and his conduct leaves a doubt as to his Christianity, now only to be revealed at a coming day.

Constantine was succeeded by his three sons, Constantine, Constantius, and Constans. Alexandria fell to the lot of the first of these, who recalled Athanasius and restored him to his diocese, to the great joy of his people. But the death of Constantine II. (A.D. 340) again placed Athanasius in danger, and he fled to Rome. A synod was called by Constans to try and settle the dispute, but those assembled could not agree. This emperor then insisted that Constantius should re-instate Athanasius, which was once more carried into effect.

Constans however was murdered in A.D. 350, and Constantius at once commenced to persecute Athanasius; but a synod could not agree as to his condemnation. A second synod was called, and now the bishops were desired to condemn the good man, and were threatened with deposition if they did not — thus proving in how false a position the church had placed itself by depending on the State, and receiving its directions from man, though he be an emperor. He declared that what he willed was to be regarded as a Canon!

Persecution followed the condemnation of Athanasius, and fell upon several who held to the truth: some were imprisoned, and others banished. Athanasius was ordered to leave the place, but his beloved people would not hear of it, nor allow him to leave. But one night when the bishop was at church with his people, a loud knocking was heard at the doors which terrified the congregation. Athanasius calmed the people and they began to chant Psalm 135
"Praise ye the Lord: praise ye the name of the Lord:
Praise him, O ye servants of the Lord,
Ye that stand in the house of the Lord,
In the courts of the house of our God,
Praise the Lord; for the Lord is good ...."

But the doors were forced, and a large body of soldiers rushed in, driving away the people with cruel violence. Athanasius at first refused to move, but the people carried him with them and for the time he escaped, and fled to the deserts of Thebais, where he found protection among those whom historians call hermits and monks. He was however pursued and many ran great risks in protecting him, for they shewed great zeal in hiding him, to the peril of their own lives; but he was compelled to depart still further into the deserts, where he gained respect as a holy man. A saint named Anthony bequeathed him his garment, which it is said he wore to the end of his days.

Here he remained for about six years, paying occasional secret visits to Alexandria, but which nearly cost him his life more than once. During this time the Arians reigned supreme in the East.

In A.D. 360 the emperor died and was succeeded by Julian — called the Apostate; for, though educated for the church, he abjured Christianity, and favoured paganism.

As Julian spoke of toleration, Athanasius once more appeared at Alexandria as bishop, the time seeming to be opportune on account of the death of George of Cappadocia, who had been forced into the bishopric during his absence. But he was soon ordered to leave Alexandria by the emperor, who began to use great efforts to root out Christianity. However, his work was soon cut short: he was mortally wounded in a battle with the Persians in A.D. 363. Athanasius once more returned to his people.

Jovian succeeded Julian, but reigned only eight months. Valentinian and Valens succeeded (A.D. 364*), and, except being banished once more from Alexandria for a short time by the intrigues of the Arians, Athanasius was allowed to remain and end his days at that place. He died, May, 373.

{*The Empire was now divided into Eastern and Western. Valens took the Eastern with Constantinople; Valentinian the Western with Rome.

Athanasius was a noble champion for the truth of the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, though when he had power he may not always have used it wisely. Men cannot be forced to hold the truth, and it is useless to make them confess it when they do not hold it. On the other hand, it is to be feared that many cared little about it, changing their views with the change of those in power; while those doctrinally wrong were bold and unscrupulous persecutors of those who held the truth.

All this is a sad and solemn picture of the state of that which was called the church of God in the fourth century. One would have been glad to have known more of private Christians, and whether they were sound in the faith and walking separate from an evil world. But there is no record of them. We would fain hope there were many scattered here and there, true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, who sought, according to the light they had, to walk amid the gathering darkness so as to please Him.

Chapter 4.


A.D. 374-397.

Though both Athanasius and Arius had passed away, the controversy raged as fiercely as ever. Of course every true Christian must maintain the divinity of Christ; for without His divinity there can be no atonement; and without an atonement there can be no salvation. Of course there may have been many who held these views without knowing their value and power; while, on the other hand, Satan was as determined as ever that such a doctrine must be opposed.

One of the first things that demanded the attention of Valentinian in the West, in respect to the church, was the election of a bishop of Milan. Here both parties — if such they may be called — were most determined to elect one of their own people, and there seemed no hope of their being able to agree, when suddenly some one in the crowd proposed that the magistrate who presided over their meeting should be bishop. This was Ambrose. "Ambrose for bishop" was cried out. But he refused the dignity, until seeing there was no hope of their coming to any other decision he consented. He was baptised, hurried through the intermediate stages, and on the eighth day was consecrated bishop of Milan.

Ambrose was of Roman parents, and had been educated for the bar, and about A.D. 370 had been made consular prefect of Liguria and Aemilia. He was residing at Milan, and presiding over the election of a bishop, or was present to prevent disorder, when, as we have seen, he was thus suddenly elected bishop.

When this was fixed, he proceeded to fulfil its duties. He settled all his possessions (after giving much away) under the care of a brother as a reserve for his sister, that he might be wholly devoted to his ecclesiastical duties.

Valens in the East had been gained over to the Arian party, and became a bitter persecutor of the orthodox. On one occasion, eighty ministers appealed to the emperor and sought to gain an interview with him; but he gave secret orders for them all to be put to death. The officer, fearing an insurrection if they were killed openly, ordered them on board ship for banishment, but gave secret orders to the sailors to fire the ship and leave them to their fate. This was actually done, and they all perished.

Valens was compelled to defend his estates from the Goths, which gave relief to the orthodox. He fell in battle in A.D. 378. Valentinian had died in A.D. 375. Theodosius succeeded, at first with others, and then alone in the East; Valentinian II. in the West.

In A.D. 381 the second General Council met at Constantinople (again in A.D. 382 and 383), which confirmed the decrees of the Council of Nice, and condemned Arianism and several other minor heresies. This brought the orthodox into greater power; but alas, few men can bear to be in power without abusing it. This was strikingly brought out in the otherwise worthy Ambrose. In a remote district the people, led on by a bishop, attacked a Jewish synagogue and a meeting-place belonging to some separatists, and both were destroyed. The emperor ordered the people to rebuild the edifices, or to pay a fine to the holders. But, on hearing this, Ambrose strongly opposed this being done, insisting that toleration of the Jewish religion was a persecution of Christianity! The emperor gave way, and would have let the matter drop; but Ambrose insisted that a solemn promise should be given that the guilty should not be punished, and again the emperor yielded.

We see here how strangely Ambrose mistook his mission. Instead of obeying the powers that be, according to the Epistle to the Romans, he was here opposing them, and that too in a simple matter of justice for injury done, and moreover in a civil matter. The bold bishop had, however, to oppose the emperor in a matter that came more immediately under his mission.

During some public games at Thessalonica the people were offended by the governor thwarting them in some of their wishes, whereupon they rose and murdered the officer and some of his guards. The emperor was so incensed at this, that he ordered the garrison to carry out an indiscriminate massacre of the inhabitants. They were invited into the circus on the pretence of seeing some public game; but on a signal the soldiers rushed in and commenced to kill, irrespective of age or sex. It was estimated that 7000 were thus ruthlessly put to death. The emperor indeed relented of his rash design and sent a messenger to prevent it, but, alas, he did not arrive in time. The emperor was sorry for the issue, but had to bear the reproaches of the clergy. Ambrose was the boldest of them, and told the emperor he could not allow of his taking the Lord's supper. The emperor pleaded the case of David and his sin. Ambrose replied, "You have indeed imitated the king of Israel in the sin of homicide; it remains for you to imitate him in his repentance." The emperor was humbled by the bishop's rebuke and promised to submit to any penance he might impose. Ambrose insisted upon a public penance, and that the emperor should not for the future have any execution carried out for thirty days after the sentence, that there might be time for passion to cool down.

Thus, while in Ambrose we see a bold man who would not be a respecter of persons, we see also how all this was paving the way for the clergy to reach that place of authority over the powers that be which eventually culminated in the arrogance of the Popes of Rome.

An incident in the life of Ambrose shews how necessary baptism was considered to be to salvation. Baptism was often put off till death was supposed to be near, and Valentinian had died unbaptised, and his sisters deeply lamented the fact; but Ambrose assured them that his desire was equal to the act, and that he had been washed in his piety as the martyrs in their blood! One is puzzled to know how anyone can be a martyr until he is a Christian and has been already washed in the precious blood of Christ. It shews how deeply mystical and confused was their knowledge of the truth.

Ambrose died quietly on his bed (A.D. 397), fulfilling his duties until the last.

While these things were transpiring in the West, let us look at another of the great Fathers located in. the East.

Chapter 5.

Chrysostom and His Times.
A.D. 347-407.

Chrysostom's life will give a better insight into the state of the church at the close of the fourth century than any mere description can do.

John Chrysostom was born at Antioch about A.D. 347. His father had died when he was an infant, but his mother was a godly woman who felt that her work was to devote herself to the care and bringing up of this son, and she remained a widow for that purpose.

Chrysostom was educated for the bar, and began to practise as an advocate, in which occupation he was soon renowned for his eloquence. This would speedily have drawn him into the world, but the pious instructions of his mother began to bear fruit, and he was early struck with the contrast between the lives of true Christians and those who bore its name only.

He soon discovered also the difficulties of being both a Christian and an advocate. To accept fees to use his eloquence to bolster up a bad cause and make it appear a good one, seemed to him to be practising a lie — to be taking the devil's wages — to sin indeed against his own soul.

He also had a particular friend named Basil, who had resolved to adopt the monastic life, and though Chrysostom could not at first give up the world and follow his friend, he did so after a time. Melitus, at that time bishop of Antioch, is described as "mild, holy, and orthodox," and he was soon attracted by the gifts of the young man, and seemed to see he would be a shining light in the church. Though Chrysostom's mother was a Christian, he had never been baptised, and after living apart from the world for three years, he was baptised and ordained as a "reader," and thus was employed to read the scriptures in public.

He now proposed to seek some secluded spot with his friend Basil, where they could practise a rigid asceticism. But his pious mother besought him so earnestly with tears not to desert her, that he gave way and went home with her. But he would be a recluse, nevertheless. He ate but little and seldom, and that of the plainest food. He slept on the bare boards, and rose frequently at night to pray. He seldom left the house, and when in company he spoke but little lest he should sin with his tongue.

Diodorus was head of a monastery near Antioch, and he taught Chrysostom to avoid the allegorising interpretation of scripture so common in the early church, and to let scripture speak for itself and mean what it said. This was of great use to Chrysostom in his after life, when he became instructor of others; though, strange to say, he was a party to a gross act of deception soon after, thinking the end justified the means: indeed, he even went so far as to say that Jacob's acts were "not a deceit but an economy."

What he did was this. Some of the bishoprics in Syria became vacant, and those interested in the matter looked about for suitable men to fill the offices, and they fixed upon Chrysostom and his friend Basil. Chrysostom shrank from the responsibility and determined not to accept it; but in order to get Basil to accept the office, he pretended to agree to it, and that they should both accept the proposal and be consecrated together. Whether Basil agreed to this or not is not clear, for we read that Basil was "seized," carried before the bishop, and ordained. But when they attempted to do the same to Chrysostom he was not to be found, for he had concealed himself until all danger was past. A strange way surely of making a man a bishop! and in direct opposition to the scriptural injunction not to lay hands suddenly on any man. (1 Tim. 5:22.) And strange conduct of Chrysostom, supposed to be so conscientious: he only laughed at Basil's remonstrances afterwards and was glad his plot had succeeded!

Chrysostom tells us of a narrow escape he had soon after this, in which he believed he was saved by God's overruling hand. A severe edict had been issued at Antioch against practising magical arts, and anyone possessing a book on the subject was held to be guilty and was in danger of torture if not death. He was one day walking with a friend near the river Orontes, when they saw in the water part of a book and at once fished it out; but to their horror discovered it to be on the magical arts. At that moment, too, they observed a soldier approaching — what could they do with the book? To keep and attempt to hide it would shew they were guilty; to be seen to throw it into the water was equally dangerous. They, however, flung it into the river, and were allowed to pass on unchallenged.

Soon after this he left the city and joined himself to a monk of severe habits, and there spent four years in crucifying the flesh. But, alas, he found that his flesh was stronger than he was — he could not subdue it. He would retire to a more lonely spot and be still more severe with himself. He found a cavern in a lonely place exposed to the cold, and there by scarcity of food and little sleep, if he did not succeed in killing the flesh he nearly succeeded in killing himself. At the end of two years he had to give it all up and return, with a shattered frame, to his home at Antioch. The flesh cannot be killed while life remains, and it is not to be conquered thus: power, given by life in Christ, and being led of the Holy Spirit, is the only way in which the flesh can be conquered (Gal. 5:6): "killed" it cannot be.

Chrysostom was soon at work again: first he was made deacon by Meletius in A.D. 381, and then presbyter by Flavian, bishop of Antioch, in A.D. 386. We see by the case of Chrysostom that being a "deacon" in those days was not simply to look after the poor and dispense the alms; for we find that during the four years he was a "deacon" he had become quite popular by his aptness to teach others, though perhaps privately. When he was ordained presbyter he began to preach, and for ten years his principal occupation was preaching in the church or cathedral; and, strange as it may seem to us, his sermons not only drew together large congregations, but his eloquence drew forth "loud and noisy applause." This did not please him, for he often rebuked it as unseemly for such occasions.

In A.D. 387 Antioch drew upon itself the wrath of the emperor Theodosius. A call for a large sum of money from the city to pay the army was received with general discontent. From grumbling things came to uproar and revolt. The lower classes, and especially those who are to be found in every city who have nothing to lose, proceeded to acts of violence. The public baths were sacked, and then an attack was made on the praetorium.* Here the governor was overpowered and had to escape by a back door. The judgment hall was decorated with portraits of the emperors: here, too, were statues of Theodosius and his deceased wife Flaccilla; but nothing was spared: the pictures were torn to shreds, and the statues smashed to atoms. Further destruction was stopped by the appearance of a body of archers sent by the prefect, and at length order was restored. But now every one was appalled at what had happened: what would the emperor say and do to such a direct insult to himself and his beloved wife? He was remarkable for his outbursts of passion, and all feared he would not distinguish between the guilty and the innocent, but destroy the city with a general massacre. Flavian was at that time absent from the city, but disregarding his infirmities, he started at once to see, and attempt to appease the wrath of the emperor. In the meantime imperial commissioners arrived, and began to arrest, torture, and put to death those whom they thought to be the most guilty; but deadly fear fell upon all, and many prepared for flight.

{*The official residence of the praetor or governor of a province.}

Chrysostom at once was stirred into action. His addresses now were specially directed to quelling the fears of the citizens generally, while he turned it to an occasion of loudly calling the unconverted to repentance. If there was cause for so much fear because of the anger of a man — an emperor — what real cause of fear was there as to their being able to meet an angry God!

Flavian was successful in his endeavours to calm the angry emperor, and obtained pardon for the guilty city as a whole, though many had already been put to death.

The labours of Chrysostom were not in vain — many of the pagan citizens were won over to the faith. He speaks of the great labour he had afterwards in establishing those who had turned from idols in consequence of this calamity.

These things occurred in A.D. 387, and for ten years longer Chrysostom spent his time here in preaching, exhorting, etc. Many of his sermons are left on record as commentaries on various parts of the word of God. But he was not to remain here all his life. A great and unexpected change awaited him, and it was brought about in this way.

In A.D. 397, the bishop of Constantinople, Nectarius, died, and many inquiries were made as to who should succeed him. It was a very honourable position at that time, the bishop being the Metropolitan of that district of the church, and sometimes called archbishop. Many were the aspiring candidates who in an unseemly manner pressed their claims.

At this time the weak Arcadius was emperor of the East, and though the bishop was nominally chosen by the clergy, the real choice lay with the emperor, or rather with his prime minister, who now was Eutropius, the chief eunuch. Eutropius had heard Chrysostom preach, and knew of his influence with the people; thereupon, passing by all the importunate candidates, he proposed to the electing bishops "John of Antioch,"* and he was at once accepted. And now came a piece of deception to be played on Chrysostom, such as he had once connived at in the case of his friend Basil. He was privately enticed to a martyrs' chapel outside the city. There he was taken possession of by officers sent for the purpose, and, before any alarm could be given, was conveyed to Pagrae, the first post station on the road to Constantinople. He protested against such treatment, but he was not heeded. He made all sorts of inquiries, but could get no information as to his fate. At Pagrae he was placed in a chariot, and, with a military escort, was driven from stage to stage with all speed until he reached Constantinople — eight hundred miles — a prisoner.

{*John of Antioch was really his name, and he was not called Chrysostom until after his death: it meant "golden-mouthed."}

Chrysostom had seen too much of such ways of making bishops, to know it was any use resisting; he was therefore duly installed. Theophilus, patriarch of Alexandria, had to perform the consecration, and this he was very unwilling to do; for he had a favourite candidate of his own who would better have suited his purpose. But the prime minister knew of certain charges against Theophilus, and of which he held the proofs: he declared he would use these against him and bring him to trial if he refused. Theophilus gave way, and Chrysostom was consecrated bishop of Constantinople, on February 26th, 398, in the presence of a large company.

It was soon discovered at Constantinople that their new bishop was a very different man from the easy-going Nectarius, who had lived in great magnificence, keeping a good table and giving banquets to the clergy and laity. All this was changed by the ascetic habits of Chrysostom. The costly plate and rich equipage of the palace were sold off, and the money given to benevolent objects, and he ate his frugal meals of common fare in his chamber alone. Until pressed, he shunned the court and the society of the rich; and, when drawn out, he spoke but little; so that he was soon judged to be morose, niggardly, and proud.

On the other hand, he was bishop, and had now to take the oversight of all the clergy in the city, and by many of them he was disliked even more than by those in high station; for he was brought into closer contact with them, and had to set aside several for gross sins, and refuse the Lord's supper to others.

He revived an old custom of services at night for the benefit of those who were unable to attend the services in the day. This also gave great offence to the clergy, who studied their own ease rather than the good of the people.

It is to be feared that the rigid asceticism of Chrysostom led him to rule the clergy with a rough hand as well as a firm one. Strictly sincere himself, he could make no allowance for anything that deviated from the path he laid down; so that his rule appeared to be one of iron rather than of love. Anything but happy fellowship was the result.

With the general public he soon rose into favour because of his sermons. We may hope that some were attracted by the truths he expounded, but certainly many were drawn by his eloquent denunciations of vice and folly, no matter where found. The clergy were no more pleased than the aristocracy by these public orations, to which the people flocked in crowds.

The bishop also pleased the emperor and his clever consort Eudoxia, who was gradually rising into power over both the weak emperor and his favourite prime minister. The empress and the bishop were brought into closer contact by the following circumstance. In a whim of mere religiousness she had founded a martyr's chapel in honour of St. Thomas, on the sea-shore of Drypia, about nine miles from the city; and she was now desirous of carrying thither the bones of some unknown martyrs, treasured up in a Greek Church. Of course the bishop must take a prominent part in such a ceremony. It was effected at night-time with a profuse display of torches. The empress, in her diadem and purple, walking by the side of the bishop and attended by nobles and ladies, followed the chest containing the sacred bones, and behind them the clergy and all communities of the people, male and female, followed, so that the light of the torches was compared to a "river of fire." The morning had dawned before the chapel was reached, and then Chrysostom had to preach his sermon. But, alas instead of telling forth the folly of such ceremonies, his sermon was full of unseemly praises of the empress, and expressions of his joy in taking part on such an occasion. On the next day the emperor paid his devotions at the same place, and another sermon of the bishop told of the piety and humility of the emperor. Such things seem marvellously strange in this day, but it gives a true picture of the state into which the church had fallen in that comparatively early age; and this conduct, too, is that of one universally styled a great and good man. Alas! if such things were done in a green tree, what might be expected in a dry?

Chrysostom had however nobler work. The Goths had attacked the Roman empire, and had probably taken some Christians among the prisoners, by whom Christianity was made known to the barbarians. Certainly, many of the Goths professed Christianity. On persecution arising among their own people, many were allowed to take refuge in some parts of the Roman empire, and many were now found at Constantinople, and these drew forth the sympathies of Chrysostom to care for their souls: these were for the most part Arians. The bishop had certain portions of the scriptures translated into their native tongue, and these were read to them, in one of the churches set apart for the purpose, by a Gothic presbyter, who afterwards addressed them, and Chrysostom himself at times preached to them through an interpreter. He also was the cause of missionaries being sent to the Gothic and Scythian tribes at their homes on the banks of the Danube.

In A.D. 399, Chrysostom had his heart drawn out in another direction. The eunuch Eutropius, first minister in the State, was, as we have seen, the means of the bishop's election. He had hoped that Chrysostom, in return, would have sanctioned his plans and purposes, not always right and good. But he found in the bishop a man of quite a different stamp; instead of helping on the statesman, he denounced all dishonourable transactions from the pulpit, though he did not name to whom his remarks applied.

This would have placed Chrysostom in great danger, had not the haughty eunuch given grave offence to the empress, who was now able to hurl the favourite from his high position. Eutropius had attempted to abolish the right of taking refuge in a church, because some of his victims had thus escaped the punishment he intended for them; but now, no sooner was there an outcry for his own death, than he ran into the church and clung, not to the horns of the altar now, but to the communion table, for safety. Loud demands were made by the soldiers and populace for the victim to be given up to them; but to these the bishop gave a persistent refusal.

Their indignation now turned upon the bishop, and he was marched off to the emperor. Here he so pleaded for the life of Eutropius, though his enemy, that he moved the emperor to agree to perpetual banishment instead of death.

The next day was Sunday. Chrysostom failed not to shew how unstable were all earthly favours and honours, pointing to the fallen statesman, to be seen through the curtains still clinging fast to the table. We hope he pointed also to those glories which Christ could give and which none could take away.

The culprit was saved for the present and exiled to Cyprus, but soon afterwards was put to death.

In the next year (A.D. 400) the Goths, having brought an army near to Constantinople, demanded three of the chief men of the city to be given up to them, and also that one of the churches of the city should be handed over to them for Arian worship. This roused Chrysostom: he braved the danger of going to the enemy's camp, and there used his eloquence before the chief, Gainas, on behalf of the three who, to save the State, had surrendered themselves and to divert him from his purpose as to the church; for he resolved that, cost what it would, no misbeliever should publicly worship in the city. He gained this point also. At length the emperor saw no way of saving the city from pillage and bloodshed but by declaring war against the Goths. The city was roused into activity, and the Goths were conquered.

We thus see how varied were the duties of a bishop in those days, at least, of one who, whatever his failings may have been, had Christianity truly at heart, as far as he himself understood it. But he soon felt himself called upon to oppose one yet more formidable. The empress had got rid of Eutropius, and was free also from the interference of the Gothic chief; the bishop now only stood in her way of ruling her weak husband just as she wished. Her religious zeal had all evaporated, and she was now seeking to ruin the bishop. An occasion soon presented itself.

In the General Council, A.D. 381, the bishop of Constantinople was declared to rank next to the bishop of Rome, the bishops of Alexandria and Antioch following, yet it was not well defined nor well acknowledged how far the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan of Constantinople extended. Thus, while some of the outlying districts would at one time respect his authority when he was in their favour, they refused it at another when he was against them. The actual collision arose thus. At a synod of bishops, held at Constantinople in A.D. 400, Eusebius of Valentinopolis accused Antoninus (bishop of Ephesus) of selling some bishoprics, of melting down the church plate, etc. An investigation was set on foot, but the accused died before any decision was arrived at. The Ephesian clergy invited Chrysostom to come and endeavour to set matters right. He went at once, and removed six bishops for simony, and proceeded to correct other abuses with his usual sternness. This gained him many enemies among the clergy in that district.

In the meantime his own position was being undermined at Constantinople. He had left Severian, bishop of Gabala, to be his deputy in his absence; but he joined with Chrysostom's enemies to bring about his ruin. The empress was at the head of it, together with a number of ladies in high life, whose arts to make themselves attractive the bishop had ridiculed in his addresses. Two bishops had also arrived at Constantinople: Antiochus, bishop of Ptolemais, and Acacius of Beroea, who also joined in the empress's plot. Chrysostom's archdeacon kept him informed of these growing troubles, and urged again and again the bishop's return; but three months elapsed before he had concluded his business.

When once there, he went into the pulpit and publicly attacked, in unseemly language, both Antiochus and Severian as flatterers and parasites. A short time after, having chosen a text from the history of Elijah, he said: "Gather together to me those base priests that eat at Jezebel's table, that I may say to them, as Elijah of old, 'How long halt ye between two opinions?' . . . . If Jezebel's table be the table of the Lord, eat at it, eat at it till you vomit." Whether Chrysostom meant it or not, the allusion was taken to point to the empress as Jezebel, and it is not easy to see to whom else it could apply. This insult the empress could not overlook, and his doom was sealed.

A quarrel sprang up between Severian and Serapion, the bishop's archdeacon, who charged the former with a blasphemous denial of the divinity of Christ. Chrysostom rashly listened to this, and, without due investigation, deposed Severian and banished him from the city. The populace took up Chrysostom's cause, and Severian was obliged to fly for his life. But he had served the empress, who now, hiding her purposes, pleaded earnestly for the exile, and even placed her infant son on Chrysostom's knees in the church. He could not refuse such an appeal, and absolved Severian, and peace was so far restored.

But it was only a temporary lull before the coming storm. The empress could not forget being compared to Jezebel, and Severian was now a more determined enemy than ever. A leader of the conspiracy was found in Theophilus, bishop of Alexandria, who had never forgotten nor forgiven having been compelled to consecrate Chrysostom. A plea for his interference soon presented itself. A number of monks, called because of their stature, "the Tall Brethren," had come to Constantinople and been well received by Chrysostom. They had been persecuted by Theophilus, on the plea of heresy, but it was believed it was really because they knew too much of his evil deeds. They had fled from place to place, and, he still pursuing them, they came to Constantinople to appeal to the emperor and Chrysostom for protection. Theophilus was summoned to appear before a council at Constantinople to answer the charges these monks made against him. He felt obliged to obey the summons, but set his wits to work to make matters turn to the condemnation of Chrysostom rather than of himself.

Theophilus arrived with the curious escort of a number of rough sailors of the port of Alexandria, and with not a few rich presents to gain over to his cause those who could be purchased. He refused all intercourse with Chrysostom, and soon succeeded with several of the clergy and the influential citizens by sumptuous banquets and a distribution of his gifts. And then, instead of his case being submitted to a council, he summoned Chrysostom to a synod to be held at a place called "the Oak," in the suburb of Chalcedon on the other side of the Bosphorus. Thirty-six bishops, nearly all Egyptian and dependent upon Theophilus, the rest being known enemies of Chrysostom, formed the synod. A list of twenty-nine articles formed the charge against Chrysostom, and he was summoned to appear and plead. It had been drawn up by two deacons whom he had been compelled to depose for gross sins.

Many of the charges were frivolous in the extreme, though some were more serious, as to the misappropriation of the church funds. Others touched his private life — his want of hospitality: one, "he had private interviews with women;" "he dined gluttonously by himself as a cyclops* would eat, he had changed his robes on the episcopal throne; and he had eaten a lozenge after the Lord's supper, etc.

{*A fabled giant with one eye.}

A second list was also drawn up, among which was the charge of comparing the empress to Jezebel, and this was made to signify inciting the people to rebellion.

Chrysostom was summoned four times, but refused to appear before such a tribunal composed of his enemies only: he appealed to an impartial council. In the meantime he called together a synod of forty bishops, who protested against the proceedings of the synod at "the Oak." This was disregarded, and on receiving an order from the court to come to a speedy conclusion, those at "the Oak" deposed Chrysostom. They would hardly have done this, had it not been that the empress had now the chief ordering of the empire, and she was his deadly enemy. The synod professed to leave the charge of treason to the State, and hoped that the accused would be condemned to death. The empress, however, knew how the bishop was beloved by the people, and was content to get the decision of the synod ratified and sentence him to banishment for life.

No sooner, however, was the sentence known than the people rose to protect their bishop, and formed a guard round both his residence and the great church. A sign from Chrysostom would have raised an insurrection; but he exhorted the people to patience and resignation to the will of God. "Glory be to God for all things," was his favourite exclamation. On the third day he took occasion to slip out unperceived, and gave himself up to the officers, who, after dark, conducted him to the harbour, and put him on board a vessel bound to Hieron, at the mouth of the Euxine. His enemies were in high glee, and Theophilus proceeded to punish those who had supported the bishop; while his friends and the people flocked to the gates of the palace, demanding a fair trial for their beloved bishop, and a revolt seemed imminent.

But, strange to say, on the following night the city was shaken by an earthquake, and, a shock being felt severely in the bed-chamber of the empress, she was filled with great superstitious fear, and, falling on her knees, entreated the emperor to avert the judgment of heaven by revoking the sentence and recalling the expelled bishop. This was at once done, and messengers were soon despatched by several routes to call back the bishop. His friends, too, were filled with joy, and, seizing on what boats could be had, they went forth with torches to meet and give him a hearty welcome. He came to the gates of the city, and then hesitated to enter until he was acquitted by a general council. But the people, fearing another plot against him, were ready to revolt, when the emperor sent a messenger begging him to enter at once. He obeyed, and was carried by the people through the city, taken at once to the church, placed on his throne, and an address demanded. A council of about sixty bishops declared the proceedings of the synod of "the Oak" null and void, and that Chrysostom was the bishop of Constantinople. On the other hand, Theophilus dared not shew his face in the city, and privately left for his own diocese.

Thus peace was restored, and now the empress and the bishop were again great friends, at least outwardly, praising each other in an unseemly manner. But peace brought about by such means had no real foundation, and was soon again shattered to pieces. Within about two months the collision took place, and was thus brought about. Eudoxia had virtually the ruling of the eastern empire, but she aspired now to higher honours than this. She caused a column of porphyry to be erected near the church of St. Sophia, on which was placed her statue in silver, for the adoration, it is said, of the people. This was a common thing among the heathen emperors, but how could this be with Christians? At any rate, in September, 403, it was dedicated amid tumultuous and licentious proceedings, very like those that had been customary among them when pagans. The noise of this dedication penetrated into the church and disturbed the worshippers. Chrysostom could not endure this pagan proceeding, and at once, with great rashness, denounced in his sermons the whole thing: the authorities and the people were all roughly handled, but especially the empress, whose image was to be adored. He is reported to have said, "Herodias is once more maddening; Herodias is once more dancing; once more Herodias demands the head of John on a charger." Who could be the John but Chrysostom? and who could be the Herodias but Eudoxia?

It is not to be wondered at that this — whether exactly reported or not is not known — should revive all the deep-seated enmity of the empress, and she loudly demanded redress. This was no sooner known than all Chrysostom's old enemies rose as one man to seek his destruction. It so happened that the bishop had been for some time asking the emperor to call a general council. Now this was the very thing. Yes, they would call a council, but not a general one; it would be easy, in spite of the bishop's many friends, to call such a one as would be sure to condemn him.

Theophilus did not personally attend, though he was one of the chief actors in the plot, and he had now a decree ready that would at once condemn the bishop. In the council of Antioch, A.D. 341, the 12th canon condemned any one who had been once deposed, if such appealed to the secular arm for restoration. Chrysostom had not really done this: the secular arm had appealed to him, and he had not resumed his duties until he had been cleared by a council. But it was quite near enough in resemblance when injustice wanted a plea, and on this he was condemned, though no formal resolution is recorded.

The council met at the end of A.D. 403, and was continued to the Easter following. The emperor had abstained from the Lord's supper at Christmas, on the plea that he did not know whether Chrysostom was really bishop, and as Easter approached, when a great festival in the church was held, it was thought desirable to get rid of Chrysostom, so as not to shut out the emperor again from the eucharist. Still the emperor hesitated until Antiochus and his companions stoutly assured him that Chrysostom was no longer bishop. The order for his removal was given, but, on the officer presenting it to the bishop, he replied with firmness that he had received his office from God and would not desert it. The emperor might expel him by force if he pleased; violence would be his excuse before God for leaving his post. He was then ordered to keep himself a prisoner in his house and not enter the cathedral. But the bishop would obey God rather than man, and go he would; he expected 3,000 catechumens to present themselves on this occasion: the guards feared to stop him. The emperor now reproached the bishops for being the means of things coming to this state, when they declared again that Chrysostom was no longer bishop, and they would take the responsibility of his being removed. The emperor was glad of shifting the responsibility on to others, and ordered the arrest of the bishop.

It was on the night before the day that spoke of the resurrection. A vast crowd filled the cathedral. Baptism was being administered to a long file of catechumens, who had removed their outer garments for the occasion. On a sudden the soldiers appeared, and, with drawn swords, took possession of the place. Those near the font were driven away, some wounded, and, as an eye-witness puts it, "the waters of regeneration were stained with blood." Those driven into the streets sought refuge with some of the clergy in the baths of the city, the waters of which were consecrated and the baptisms went on; but only to be again disturbed, and the people driven out by the soldiers — who were mostly rude barbarians from Thrace, and who did their work roughly. The persecutions were continued all Easter week, whenever it was known that any of Chrysostom's clergy were continuing his work. The horrors of that week were long remembered in the city.

In the meantime Chrysostom was a prisoner in his own house, but guarded by his friends outside. Still he was in real danger, his assassination being twice attempted. Thus he remained for two months before the timid emperor could be induced to order his banishment. He may have feared another earthquake. At length the blow was struck, and the order given. Chrysostom bowed to it, and surrendered himself, after a visit to the church with a few friends for prayer. He had to steal away to avoid a tumult. Two bishops refused to leave him, and the three were at once conveyed on board ship and taken by night to the Asiatic shore. They had, however, scarcely left the place, when a fire broke out in the church they had so lately left. The church was consumed, and the fire spread also to some public buildings. It was never ascertained how the fire originated, but suspicion fell on the bishop's friends, and many were put to the torture in order to draw out a confession. Two are named — Tigrius a presbyter, and Eutropius a reader — who expired under their tortures, and others are mentioned who remained maimed or disabled for life; but no confession was gained. This was followed by rigorous persecution of all who refused to bow to the one put into Chrysostom's place.

Appeal was made to the church in the western empire by Chrysostom and the persecuted bishops who held with him, through those who were accounted to be in influential positions, such as Innocent bishop of Rome, Venerius bishop of Milan, and Chromatius bishop of Aquileia. On the other hand, Theophilus sent his charges. The bishop of Rome judged the council who condemned Chrysostom to have been irregular, and he remonstrated sharply with Theophilus and condoled with the exile. He also got Honorius, the Western emperor, to write to his brother Arcadius urging him to call a general council, and the letter was entrusted to some Western bishops. But the empress ruled, aided by the bishops and others, and these messengers were not allowed to approach the emperor, the letters being snatched from them, and they treated with contempt. Injustice ruled supreme.

Chrysostom was sent to a most inclement spot — Cucusus, "a lonely mountain village buried in the depths of a valley of the Tauric range, on the borders of Cilicia and the Lesser Armenia." Remonstrance was vain: go he must. A long journey through a desolate country lay before him, and yet he was to be taken with all speed, regardless of his health or strength, and this in the great heat of midsummer. The villages fixed on for resting-places could give him only the barest fare of hard black bread, very unsuitable for him; this, with unwholesome water, brought on ague-fever. Still, on he must move: the orders were imperative. At length, more dead than alive, he reached Caesarea. The bishop here was no friend of his, though some of the clergy were; so he pretended to sympathise with him, but really avoided him, and would be glad to see him gone. He was really too ill to travel, but a body of fanatical monks attacked the house and demanded that he should be sent away. A lady took him into her country house, but the bishop of Caesarea compelled her to turn him out in the night, under the plea that the banditti were about and he must fly for his life. He had to be led or nearly carried along, and at length reached his destination towards the end of August.

Here he was kindly received, and more than one offered him hospitality. Many of his friends at Constantinople had estates in that neighbourhood, and directed their stewards to send him supplies. He was now nearer Antioch, his former scene of labours, and was visited by some of his old friends. He occupied his time in receiving and writing letters, and his influence was felt far and near; indeed, he seemed to become the principal guiding star of the church both in its western and eastern portions. His counsel was sought from all quarters, and few things of real importance were undertaken without consulting the exiled bishop. If it was the rooting out of heresy, he was the one who directed the course to be taken; if it was destroying the remains of pagan observances, he was the directing power; and if it was extending the operations of the church, he was the one who exhorted to it. While, at the same time, he comforted and exhorted the faithful, and warned and sought to recover those who had gone astray. He also used much of the money sent to him for benevolent purposes and in cases of need around him.

But the spot where he was had great disadvantages. It was subject to inroads of Isaurian robbers, who would rush down upon the peaceful inhabitants to kill and rob. The climate also was severe, especially to such a worn-out frame as that of Chrysostom. He had to remain at home during the winter, with fires always burning, and many blankets on his bed; and, at times, had to keep his bed for weeks together.

In the winter of the year 405, intelligence reached the place that the banditti were coming, and newly the whole town took to flight, Chrysostom, among them, hobbling along as well as he could with a few faithful followers, passing the nights in forests or ravines with but little shelter, until they reached the mountain fort of Arabissus, described more as a prison than a home; there he spent the winter in much distress. In the spring he was glad to get back again to his home at Cucusus, inclement as that was, and again receive his letters and send forth his epistles far and wide. He seemed to have a strong persuasion that he should again be restored to his diocese and to his beloved people, though this was not to be.

The relentless Eudoxia had passed from the scene by death, but had left many enemies of Chrysostom, who were disappointed and amazed to find that banishment had neither killed the old man nor hindered him from making his voice heard so universally in the church. They now obtained an order for his removal to a still more inclement spot — the worst in the whole empire — to the small town of Pityus at the base of the Caucasus on the north-east of the Euxine. Two guards were chosen to convey him thither — men remarkable for their harshness. They were to take him there on foot with all speed, and regardless of his health or of the weather — with a private hint, says bishop Palladius, that if he died on the road they might expect promotion! Towns were to be avoided, all letters to be refused him, and no one was allowed to aid him on the journey.

For three months the weary journey was pursued — his poor body being shrivelled up with the heat of the sun. They had reached Comana, he being more dead than alive; but he was not allowed to rest there — he must go on to a chapel some five or six miles beyond, where they were to spend the night. This chapel was supposed to have been erected over the tomb of the martyr Basiliscus. Chrysostom fell asleep and dreamed that he saw the martyr by his side, who said to him, "Be of good cheer; on the morrow we shall be together." The presbyter in charge of the chapel, it was said, had also seen a vision bidding him "prepare a place for our brother John."

In the morning the old man begged for a halt, but it was denied him: he must go on, but they had not proceeded far when a fever attacked him, and made progress hopeless — they therefore returned to the chapel. Here he was clothed in white baptismal robes, and partook of the Lord's supper. He prayed, ending, with his "Glory be to God for all things, Amen," and fell asleep. It was September 14, 407. He had been bishop ten years, but three and a quarter of these he had spent in exile.

About thirty years afterwards, when Theodosius II. was emperor, the remains of Chrysostom were removed with great ceremony to Constantinople, and interred in the church of the Holy Apostles, the emperor and his sister Pulcheria praying for the pardon of heaven for the persecution by their parents of this holy man.

We have not only the life of Chrysostom, but also his numerous writings, which throw much light upon the state of the church in his days. Montfaucon collected enough to fill thirteen folio volumes.

It will have been seen how subject the church had become to the state. An emperor, or even his chief minister, could make bishops of whom he pleased he could call councils when he pleased, and, by taking care as to who were invited, bring about any decisions he pleased. Many of the clergy had become mere tools in the hands of those in authority, and aided each other in carrying out plans for personal enrichment, as well as in enforcing their wishes by persecution.

Chrysostom, as we have seen, had to remove several of the clergy because of their having purchased their livings, and others for their immoral lives: all shewing the sad low state into which those had fallen who ought to have been examples to the flock. We would fain hope that these were the exceptions and not the rule. Still Chrysostom speaks of the state of many of the clergy as beyond belief, evinced not only by the means used to obtain their dignities, but by their undeniable profligacy and their restless ambition for power.

As to his hearers generally, he is no less severe, laying bare all the follies and sins of the age, while he warned and exhorted those who had made profession of faith.

One great feature in the character of Chrysostom was his love of scripture, doubtless instilled into him by his pious mother. His writings constantly quote it, and he publicly exhorted the flock to read the Bible. Business in all its shapes, and the family in all its cares, were no excuse for neglecting the Bible. "It is a plain book," said he, "the artisan, slave, and widow, may understand it;" the earnest reader would profit by it though he had none to explain it. It was of no value to possess it merely, or hang portions of it round their necks — they needed it in their souls. In those days of manuscripts only, few could afford to purchase even a whole New Testament he exhorted them to buy portions of it, according as they had the means.

Chrysostom preached the holiness and love of God, the divinity of our Lord, the atonement by His death, the personality and work of the Holy Spirit, the walk of faith, and the eternal happiness that awaited the faithful. But it is to be feared that he did not preach the gospel fully and freely, even so far as the forgiveness of sins. It was too much mixed up with philosophy. Thus, how often would he dwell on the exalted merit and angelic perfection of celibacy, almost to the exclusion of perfect Christianity in the married state!

Another thing that damaged his gospel was the exalting the church and its ordinances unduly. Baptism was "the pool of regeneration," and the Lord's supper, "the altar of sacrifice." How could such thoughts agree with pardon through the work of Christ alone? He knew that ordinances did not avail without faith in the atonement, and yet he would often exhort to repentance and faith, and then, as if the work of Christ was not enough, he would exhort the people to partake of the Lord's supper — "as of a mystery, initiation into which would banish evil, curb Satan, and open the portals of heaven."

As to the terms he uses respecting the Lord's supper, and partaking of the body and blood of Christ, he has been claimed by Roman Catholics as teaching transubstantiation, and by Protestants as not teaching it.

The rules and orders of the church were thought much of in his days. Thus, at his trial, while he could calmly deny graver charges, the thought that he had baptised anyone after he himself had eaten, was dreadful and worthy of a curse! When charged with giving the eucharist to some who had not fasted, he exclaimed, "If I have done so, let me be rejected by Christ."' Such things were apparently in his eyes greater sins than moral iniquities. Was not this the setting of the traditions of the church before the plain injunctions of the word of God?

Thus we see how, at that time, the foundations were being laid on which ritualism was afterwards erected; there may have been no thought of its undermining God's foundation of grace and truth; but, as we plainly read in the word of God, there can be no other foundation laid whereby men can be saved, nor must the word of God be added to nor taken from. And there is that solemn word that "we have an altar whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle." (Heb. 13:10.) If Christ is not enough, the whole is lost. The ordinances are quite right in their place, but salvation cannot be obtained by them.

Chapter 6.

The Donatist Schism.

Donatism must be distinguished from the heresies in the church, inasmuch as the Donatists held the same doctrines as Christians generally, but deemed it right to separate on account of the corruptions in the church; but whether the corruptions were really their chief reasons for separation, is now a doubtful question.

During the Diocletian persecution (A.D. 303) one thing especially demanded by the pagans was that the sacred books should be given up to be destroyed. Mensurius was bishop of Carthage, and, on his books being demanded, he hid the sacred books, and gave up some heretical books instead. This was deception, and not to be commended; but he said he was disgusted with the professed faithfulness of many would-be martyrs whose conduct did not correspond. Thus it is recorded: "The cells were full of debtors unable to meet their creditors, of fanatics, idlers, who were fed by injudicious devotees;" and he discountenanced in every way such so-called martyrs. Whether he went too far, so as to discredit every honest effort to obey God rather than man, cannot now be ascertained. At any rate, he made a great many enemies in the church, and a paper was afterwards issued denouncing his apparent slight upon the virtues and the sufferings of the martyrs.

Caecilian succeeded Mensurius at Carthage (A.D. 311). He had worked with Mensurius and had the same judgment in these matters, and now things came to an issue. His ordination was called in question, principally because he had been ordained by Felix who was a "traditor."*

{*See chapter 10: section 'The Novatians'.}

Secundus, bishop of Tigisis, was his principal opponent, and this was the more inconsistent, as he himself was a traditor. At a synod held at Cirta (A.D. 305), presided over by Secundus, it is said there was not one who had clean hands. "One had thrown the gospels into the fire; another had offered incense to the gods, and a third had given up his small papers, but kept his codices." A charge of murder being brought against bishop Purpurius, he broke out furiously, saying to Secundus: "Do you wish to frighten me, as you frighten others? Not only have I killed, but I do kill all who thwart me. Take care not to provoke me too much, or I shall have to declare what you did when the curator demanded of you to deliver up the scriptures." Terror filled the whole assembly of bishops, and all received with joy the proposition that, as God had not punished them, they should not punish one another: let each give an account to God, and nothing more be said of their failures!

A sad picture surely of a number of bishops, and yet these were the men who now opposed Caecilian because he had been, as they said, ordained by a traditor, and they proceeded to consecrate another bishop, Majorinus, in his place. This completed the schism, which eventually wrought much mischief and no little bloodshed.

The point insisted on was, that any sacred act done by an excommunicated person was invalid; and a traditor was held to be in the same position as an excommunicate.

The question whether Felix was a traditor was thoroughly investigated afterwards, and he was cleared of the charge; yet the Donatists, as they were afterwards called, would not credit it, nor cease their opposition.

There were two bishops of the name of Donatus: the first was of Casae Nigrae: he agreed with Secundus. The other succeeded Majorinus as bishop of Carthage (A.D. 315), and was called Donatus the Great. He became the vigorous leader of the separatists.

The bishop of Rome was asked to investigate the question at issue in A.D. 313. He, in association with a few others, condemned the Donatists.

An appeal from their decision to Constantine was made in A.D. 314, and again in A.D. 316; but they were again and again condemned, and an edict at the later date took away their churches, and some of them even lost their lives.

The Donatists, under their leader, defended themselves, and anyone who had a grievance against the church or the civil authorities, rallied to their standard. Among these were the Circumcelliones.* These are described by Augustine as "a class of men who followed no useful employment; they held their own lives in fanatical contempt, and thought no death too cruel for those who differed from them; they wandered about from place to place, chiefly in the country districts, and haunted the cottages of the peasants for the purpose of obtaining food." The better class of the Donatists turned away in horror from such murderous associates; but they had been accepted by others. The faction gathered strength daily, and threatened a civil war. Thereupon the emperor revoked his laws against the Donatists, and all were left free to be what they pleased.

{*From cellae, or cottages, of the peasants, and circum, "around" — a nickname because of their going about among the peasants. They called themselves Agonistici, or combatants.}

When Constans succeeded Constantine the Great in Africa, he sought to reclaim the Donatists. But Donatus the Great, and others with him, refused all union with those called orthodox. And the Circumcelliones were again stirred' up to their outrages, but were overcome in an attack by one of Constans' officials. Persecution was now again put in force against the Donatists and carried on with great cruelty.

Julian, when he came to the throne (A.D. 361), recalled the exiles, and again gave liberty, and the Donatists once more rapidly increased.

Gratian reversed the order of things again, and drove the Donatists from their churches.

Thus these separatists were from time to time tolerated, and again persecuted; sometimes were flourishing, and at others brought low.

As to their doctrines it is not easy to obtain a clear account. In general they held the same doctrines as other Christians, as even their opponents confess; nor were their morals in any way inferior — excepting the Circumcelliones, who were not really Donatists, and whose actions were detested by the best of the Donatists. Their great crime was being separatists. They contended that this was needful because of the corruptions in the church generally; they re-baptised those coming to their communion, and re-ordained the ministers, because they could not own anything done by the church which they now judged to be corrupt, and, because of evil men being allowed within, they declared it had ceased to be the true church.

In A.D. 395, Augustine was consecrated bishop of Hippo. Here he found the Donatists very strong, and he at once took up the question warmly. He lamented that there was such division, exclaiming, "What has Christ done to us, that we rend His members asunder? Consider how sad a division reigns in christian households and families. Husband and wife, who, in their married state, know no division, separate themselves at the altar of Christ." An evil, alas! that has increased a hundred-fold in this our day!

Donatus died in exile, and Parmenian succeeded him. Between the latter and Augustine a long controversy followed, and several writings were issued for and against. The Donatists quoted 1 Corinthians 5 as their authority for putting evil out of the church. Augustine admitted this in the main, but said it could not be done entirely, as was shewn by the parables, such as that of the Wheat and the Tares. The Donatists replied that this was what would be in the world, and was not to be in the church.

Surely in this the Donatists were right; but, if the historians are to be relied on, it was party spirit that ruled the Donatists and not a real desire for a holy assembly. It is said that they received with open arms those who had been, on account of the laxity of their lives, dealt with in discipline by the orthodox church.

They were also greatly to blame in having connexion with the Circumcelliones, after having once seen their true character; but again, about A.D. 401, they allowed these fanatics to join them, and, once more, they set fire and sword at work to destroy churches and slay those that opposed them. They principally sought out those who had left the Donatist party, and the orthodox clergy. Augustine had a narrow escape.

An effort was made to hold a conference, but the Donatists replied that "the sons of the martyrs, and the brood of traditors can never meet. The emperor was now appealed to, and severe edicts were issued against the Donatists. This caused many to return to those called orthodox, where they were received "with love and forgiveness." On the other hand, it roused the fanatics to still greater excesses, and the city of Hippo and its neighbourhood suffered fearfully.

In A.D. 411, a conference was suggested and now it was accepted by all. There were present 286 Catholics* and 279 Donatists, shewing that the latter were still strong in numbers. It met at Carthage, each choosing seven persons to speak. After a good deal of quarrelling, the Donatists presented their side of the question in writing. They objected to the doctrine that the church must to the end contain both good and bad; they quoted scriptures to prove that the church must be pure and without spot; they objected to the examples quoted by the catholics from the prophets as inapplicable to that day; they dissented from the view that Judas received the Lord's supper, and that that was a proof of allowed evil; and to the interpretation of the parable of the Wheat and Tares as applying to the church; or that Romans 1:18 was to the point.

{*The term "catholic church" was used very early, and afterwards the mass of Christians were termed "Catholics" when it was needful to distinguish them from heretics, Donatists, etc.}

Augustine replied that scripture did not contemplate the church being free from evil: he repeated in substance what he had previously written: "We cannot separate ourselves while in the body from the wicked; but we must use all the greater diligence in heart and will to separate ourselves from their mode of life. It is our duty to recognise this, and not to imperil love by passionate division, or dissever unity by pride. Let us be diligent to hold the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace: for he who gathers outside this unity, gathers not with Christ; and he who gathers not with Christ, destroys." In another place he says, "The church grows and cannot perish, even if wicked men are mixed in it with the good; for this mixture does not lose its character."

It will be seen that this raises important issues that have had to be discussed many times since, namely, What is the church? Is that necessarily the church of God that calls itself such? And is it always wrong and schism to separate from that which bears the name of the church of God when it has lost the essential characteristics of that church as put forth in scripture?

As we have said, the Donatists were more consistent in their doctrine, however they may have failed in practice, and however blinded by party spirit, and joining with evildoers to gain their ends. In these things they were surely guilty. As the Spirit of God is a Holy Spirit, the unity of the Spirit we are exhorted to keep, must be in separation from evil.

Another point that was discussed in the above council was whether persecution for differences in the church was right. The Donatists contended that it could not be justified; Augustine — perhaps because of his connection with the church called orthodox — contended that it was at times needful.

Persecution again followed this council, under Honorius the emperor. It has been judged that though the Donatists seem not to be mentioned after Gregory the Great (A.D. 590-604), they continued to exist until Africa was overrun by the Saracens in the seventh century, when they are lost sight of.

A.D. 354-430.

Having mentioned Augustine in his connection with the Donatists, the reader will like to learn a little more of this great champion for the truth, as he was called. His mother, Monica, was a Christian, and prayed earnestly and constantly for his conversion. When young, indeed until near his conversion, he led an irregular life, according to his own "Confessions." For about ten years he was joined to the Manicheans* (whom he afterwards attacked); but their immorality disgusted him, and their shallowness could not satisfy his longing for something better. He went to Milan where, out of curiosity, he heard Ambrose, and there he was converted in his thirty-fourth year (A.D. 386). On the death of his mother, which deeply affected him, he sold his property and became an ascetic; but in A.D. 391, he was called to be a presbyter at Hippo, and in 395 he became bishop. Here he continued about thirty-five years with but few remarkable incidents except his defence of the faith. Shortly before his death, the Vandals overran the North of Africa and assailed Hippo; but Augustine closed his earthly career (A.D. 430), before the city was taken.

{* Professors of a new religion, which we shall read more of farther on.}

The two principal works of Augustine are his "Confessions," which give his own history of his conversion, and his "City of God," an elaborate work which represents the church of God as surviving the decline and fall of the Roman empire. He defended the doctrine of the Trinity, and has been thought to have ended the great controversy against the Arians, although some still held the doctrine and do to this day. He was also the champion of grace against Pelagianism, and what has been called semi-Pelagianism, which we hope to look at presently. And thus he has often been held up to be the defender of the truth, standing, as it were, midway between the apostles and the Reformers.

On the other hand, he was a great champion for the church considered orthodox in his day, and in his works many of the errors of the Church of Rome are either laid down or can be easily drawn therefrom, so that he has also been constantly appealed to by Roman Catholics as well as by Protestants.

Chapter 7.


This was one of the many heresies of the church in the fifth century. Pelagius was long thought to have been an Englishman of the name of Morgan, but nothing is really known of his nationality. He was first known at Rome as an ascetic, when he was joined by one Coelestius, and both attempted strictly to carry out all the precepts of Christ, but it is to be feared they strove to do it in their own strength. In A.D. 411 they removed to Carthage, but some suspicion of their orthodoxy had preceded them, and Augustine at once called a synod to examine the questions at issue, and therein Coelestius was condemned for holding that the fall of Adam did not extend to his posterity, and Coelestius was denied communion.

Pelagius went to Palestine, where two synods acquitted him, because, when pressed, he allowed that divine assistance was necessary to enable a man to keep the law of God. But the orthodox were not satisfied, and appeal was made to the bishop of Rome, Zosimus. (A.D. 417-8.) A confession of faith was carefully drawn up by Pelagius and his colleague, and the bishop acquitted them. Letters were now written to North Africa, remonstrating with the clergy for condemning these men. Here another synod was held, and they refused to receive the judgment of Rome.

The real doctrine of Pelagius was a denial of the fall of man — not the fall of Adam — but that man universally shared in the fall of Adam. He held that man has ability to sin, but also, of his own free will, to choose the good and to do it in an acceptable manner. Man has a propensity to sin, but this is not sinful in itself — not sin unless he practises sin. If he obeys, he is helped by divine grace to a more perfect obedience. By believing in Christ his sins will be forgiven. Though the term Pelagianism has long since died out, there are many in the professing church of to-day who hold doctrines quite as erroneous. But to return to our history.

The African bishops prevailed on the emperor to condemn Pelagius, and now Zosimus changed his mind and condemned him also, with severe penalties against all offenders. But the error had taken root, and in Italy eighteen bishops were ejected because they would not renounce the heresy. A general synod of Ephesus afterwards condemned all who held the doctrines of Pelagius. (A.D. 431.)

This gave rise to what has been called semi-Pelagianism, namely, Man universally might be involved in the fall of Adam, but he was not disabled from doing good works, or having a will to do them. As it is at this day, so it was then: we cannot exalt man without in an equal degree lowering the supremacy of grace, and the need of the almighty power of God in conversion.

Man is willing to own that he needs help in order to fully satisfy God, but he does not receive the testimony of the word that he is lost, and needs a Saviour and a new birth before he can begin to do anything that can please God.

Few who deny the utter ruin of mankind see that they in reality undermine the atonement. If man needed help only, God could have given that; but in order to forgive sins, and give man an entirely new standing, Christ must die: "without shedding of blood there is no remission," but the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin. Scripture shews plainly that man must be born again, must be a new creature, as well as that he was lost and needed salvation, and this could only be by the atonement.

Chapter 8.


St. Anthony is considered to be the father of monks, though one, Paul of Thebais, may have been a little before him as to date. Anthony was born about A.D. 250 at Coma in Upper Egypt. When he was about twenty years of age his parents died, leaving him well provided for. But hearing the scripture read: "Sell all that thou hast and give to the poor," he resolved to carry it out. He sold his property except just enough for his own and his sister's wants. Soon after he heard another scripture: "Take no thought for the morrow," and he sold off the remainder of his estate, and, after seeing his sister taken care of, he retired into a lonely spot, and began to live in the most sparing way — eating bread only, and lying on the bare floor. But finding that Satan still tempted him to evil, he removed to a more secluded place, and took shelter in a dilapidated tomb. Here, after much suffering, he thought he had conquered Satan, and was able to live a life of exalted piety. He afterwards removed to the ruins of a castle in a mountain, where he resided for a long period, spending twenty years in his various seclusions.

He became known as the pious hermit, and was solicited to allow others to share in his seclusion. He had some small cells erected, and here he allowed others to reside; but he refused to preside over them, and at times would take long journeys away from the old castle that he might be absolutely alone.

He restricted himself to six ounces of bread per day, moistened with water, and a little salt. When brought very low he would allow a little oil or a few dates; but would fast for whole days to make up for his indulgence. His dress was a sackcloth shirt and a coat of sheepskins, tied with a leathern girdle. He often spent the greater part of the night in prayer and meditation.

Many resorted to the pious hermit for advice or to ask his prayers, and the emperor Constantine wrote to him. His companions expressed their surprise at this. But he replied, "Be not surprised that the emperor writes to us — one man to another; wonder rather that God should have written to us, and that He should have spoken to us by His Son."

St. Anthony knew enough of human nature to foresee that many might take up with a life of seclusion who had not given up the world. He feared that a day would come when such would like to live in stately buildings and fare sumptuously, while their only distinction from others would be in their dress — a prophecy too well fulfilled in later years.

When his end approached, he refused to remain among the other monks, except the two who lived near his cell. He bequeathed one of his sheepskins and his cloak to Athanasius, as a token that he approved of the doctrine of the Trinity; the other sheepskin he gave to bishop Serapion; and his sackcloth he gave to his two companions. He died at the good old age of 105 years.

Others followed a similar course, and became even more renowned. One, called Simon Stylite, carried his privations to such extremes that he was dismissed from a monastery as too severe. He foolishly tied a rope round his body so tightly that it ate its way into the flesh, and could only be removed after three days' exertions by a surgeon, and then left a dangerous wound. He eventually built himself a tower (hence the name Stylite) on which he lived till his death, raising it by degrees from six to thirty-six cubits high. He became exceedingly famous.

This, then, is a slight sketch of the beginning of monasticism in connection with the christian church. As it became a powerful agency in after days, it is well to see whether it originated in the church, or was copied from anything that existed previously.

It was closely associated with asceticism, that system of becoming exercised in bearing privation, and of seeking for greater purity than could be found in the mass of mankind generally. This caused some to separate themselves from the mass of the people, and when there were several at or near the same spot they associated together and became communities. Or, as we have seen, in some places it began with one man, who became famous, around whom others gathered.

It is clear from history that there was a sort of monastic order among the Jews, who were called Essenes.* Both Josephus and Philo speak of these. They sought to attain to great purity and considered there were several stages of purity, such as —
1, the Essene attained to outward purity, signified by baptisms;
2, he abstained from marriage — this was an advance on the first stage;
3, he then sought inward or spiritual poverty, though it is not clear in what this consisted;
4, he sought to be meek and humble, and put away all anger and malice;
5, then he attained to holiness so-called;
6, then he became fit to be a temple of the Holy Spirit;
7, then to do cures and work miracles;
8, to attain to the portion of Elias, the forerunner of the Messiah.

{*It is a very disputed point as to the meaning of this name; some take it to mean the "pious," others "the silent ones."}

These lived together in communities — had all things common — worked with their hands, tilling the ground, etc.; they were very zealous for the law, and liberal to the poor. Josephus speaks of them as existing as early as the time of Jonathan Maccabeus. (died B.C. 144.)

It is also proved that similar societies existed among the ancient Egyptians. There abode in the temples of Serapis bands of men who had left the world, given up their possessions, and who lived upon the bread their relatives brought them. Their object was to attain to greater purity of soul.

It would be interesting to discover how and why such communities sprang up in the christian church, seeing scripture is silent on such a subject. It has been judged that monasticism did not exist during the first two centuries, though there may have been some practising asceticism. St, Anthony was born, as we have seen, in the third century.

Christianity taught man that he was a fallen being, and if he did not grasp God's remedy for this condition, it is easy to see why he attempted to conquer the evil by his own endeavours. Men could but see that there was much evil in the world, and they sought to get away from it. But there was also evil within, and this they could not run away from, for, go where they would, they carried it with them. They, therefore, punished the body by starving it and whipping it; but this did not reach the heart, out of which proceeded the evil that defiled, as our Lord explained to His disciples. (Matt. 15:18.) Therefore, with all their fancied purity, they were just the same as before in themselves, though, of course, their outward conduct may have been improved. As to any remedy, "the flesh profiteth nothing."

Those also who were Christians made a great mistake, as they might have seen in the Epistle to the Galatians. They had begun with Christ (or they could not have been Christians) and then they sought to be perfected in the flesh.

Two or three things naturally helped on monasticism. One was the persecution in the early church. This often drove the Christians, especially those known as pastors and teachers, into secluded places far distant from the usual abodes of men, where they lived in caves or put up temporary abodes; then when persecution ceased, some preferred to remain in the quiet seclusion they had before sought as a necessity.

Another thing was, that when Christianity became popular it also became more or less corrupt, with much contention for place or power in the church. This caused some pious souls to withdraw from the scenes of confusion to quiet places where they could be at peace, and carry on their studies and their devotions unhinderedly. But such were generally discovered, and news of the "holy man" would rapidly spread. And then, as we have seen, his quietude would be destroyed. Many would flock to him for advice, some to ask his prayers, and his judgment on disputed points. Others pressed him to let them take up their abode with him, and this ended either in his taking refuge in some more inaccessible place or in his becoming the head of a community. This indeed was the origin of many monasteries.

In some places the chief work was copying ancient manuscripts, including the Bible, and, indeed, when the dark ages set in, some of the monasteries were the places where the scriptures were preserved and where copies of them were multiplied.

Protestants sometimes shrink from the thought of any good being done in a monastery, since so much evil was found eventually to be connected with them; but it is well to see that in their origin — however mistaken the idea may have been — they were not corrupt, and they certainly did good work from time to time in the earlier stages of their existence, by thus preserving and multiplying the copies of the word of God.

But how contrary is monasticism to the example of our blessed Lord, who went about doing good! He prayed for His saints, not that they should be taken out of the world — indeed, He sent them into the world (John 17:18) — but that they should be kept from the evil. Oh! for grace, while passing along in the world, to keep our garments unspotted from its many and varied corruptions!

Chapter 9.

Christianity in Britain.

Religion in our country was, as far back as we can trace, that of Druidism.

Of the principles of this religion (if such it can be called) very little is known; the Druids were instructed in secret, and nothing was allowed to be put into writing. Britain appears to have had a pre-eminence in the observance of Druidism, for Julius Caesar says that "such of the Gauls as desired to be thoroughly instructed in the principles of their religion, usually took a journey into Britain for the purpose."

The Druids were judges as well as priests, and had great influence over the people; they elected from among themselves one to be Arch-Druid. They taught especially three things: bravery in war; the immortality of the soul; and life after death. These latter principles were carried out so practically that they sometimes left accounts and money lent to be settled for in the new life, and some would even cast themselves into the funereal pile to be the sooner along with the deceased ones they loved. It has been asserted that the Druids were not addicted to idolatry until after the invasion of the Romans: eventually they worshipped the sun and moon; with Jupiter, Mars, etc., as demi-gods.

The Druids had a curious way of enforcing the annual payments due to them. A tradition says that on the last day of October every family was obliged, under heavy ecclesiastical penalties, to let all the fires in their dwellings go out, and then on the first day of November they had to resort to the temple, pay their fees, and get a light from the sacred fire to re-kindle their fires at home. The time was well chosen, as the winter approached when fires were the more needful.

The places of worship were amid a grove of oak-trees, with huge stones in the form of a circle, and horizontal stones placed on the top of two or more of the upright stones. Sometimes a double row of stones was formed. The altar was at times a pile of stones or of turf, and at other times one massive stone.*

{*At Stonehenge, and other places, the remains of Druids' temples are supposed to exist.}

Along with the animals sacrificed, human beings were also offered; several were confined in huge enclosures of wicker-work and all burned together. At other times, a man was killed with a stroke of the sword, and then the way he fell, the contortions of his body, the way his blood flowed, were all watched and certain things were predicted from what was observed or the victim was laid on the stone altar and offered up.

Thus our now highly-favoured country was once the scene of these dreadful cruelties — a system, indeed, too revolting even for the idolatrous Romans. Surely Satan, who was a murderer from the beginning, must have been the author of such a religion.

The invasion of the Romans gave a great check to Druidism. Tiberius banished such systems from the provinces around Rome, and Claudius put an end to them in Gaul at the same time the Druids were attacked in Britain and were compelled to take refuge in Anglesea. "Suetonius Paulinus, governor of Britain under Nero, cut down the sacred groves of the Druids, destroyed their temples, overthrew their altars, and burned many of the priests." No doubt this was because of their offering human sacrifices, as the Romans themselves were idolaters.

As Rome thus rooted out this ancient horrid system, it was also a means of introducing Christianity into this island at how early a date cannot now be ascertained, though it was, without doubt, during the first century of the christian era.

Some of our readers will, perhaps, be surprised to hear that besides Christianity being thus established very early in Britain, some of the British Christians are even named in the New Testament. Yet this has been asserted. The story is this. A poet named Martial* mentions a lady of the name of Claudia, born of British parents, and who lived at Rome. The apostle Paul also speaks of a Claudia in his second Epistle to Timothy. These two are supposed to have been the same person. What adds to the probability, is that the same poet mentions a Pudens along with Claudia, and this name is also given by Paul: "Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren." (2 Tim. 4:21.)

{* Martial lived A.D. 43-104, and resided thirty-five years at Rome.}

It is supposed that Christianity was first introduced into England about A.D. 64, but as early as B.C. 55-54, Julius Caesar invaded Britain, and may have taken back hostages. Again, in A.D. 40, Aulus Plautius visited Britain, and eleven years later Caractacus was carried to Rome.

Now the date given to the Epistle to the Romans is A.D. 58, which proves that there was a church at Rome at that time, and many years earlier, according to Romans 15:23; and some of the British hostages may have been converted and added to that assembly before the second Epistle to Timothy was written (A.D. 63, or 68 by others), and thus the Claudia of Paul may have been the British lady named by the poet; this is as much as can be said on the subject.

Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, in the second century, both speak of Christianity being spread over the whole of the Roman empire, and, if so, it would have spread to Britain; and Tertullian, in the same century, speaks of the parts of Britain, inaccessible to the Romans, being subject to Christ. Gildas, called "the father of British history," represents the Sun of Righteousness as shining on these remote islands, ice-bound in paganism, in the earliest ages of the earth and before the conflict of the Romans with Boadicea (A.D. 61).

While therefore there cannot be a doubt that Christianity was introduced into Britain thus early, little is known of its history.

It has been questioned by some whether Britain received Christianity through Rome, because of its opposition to the Church of Rome in later years; and they think it is more probable that our island received the religion of Christ direct from Asia Minor. This may be so, or Britain may have received it from Rome before the Church of Rome became so corrupt and being separated by distance maintained its purity much longer than the metropolis of the world.

As we have seen, a persecution broke out in the reign of Diocletian, and orders to persecute the Christians reached Britain as well as all other parts of the Roman empire. Gildas says of the persecution: "All copies of the scriptures that could be found were burned in the streets, and the chosen pastors of God's flock butchered, together with their innocent sheep, in order that not a vestige of the christian religion, if possible, might remain in any province. What disgraceful flights then took place; what slaughter and death, inflicted by way of punishment in divers shapes; and, on the contrary, what glorious crowns of martyrdom then were won! What raving fury was displayed by the persecutors, and what patience on the part of sorrowing saints, ecclesiastical history informs us; for the whole church was crowding in a body to leave behind them the dark things of this world, and to make the best of their way to the happy mansions of heaven, as to their natural home."

Amphibalus, one of the clergy, fled from his persecutors, and found shelter at Verulam with a pagan named Alban who kindly received him, and was amply repaid by receiving Christianity from the refugee. When Amphibalus could no longer be hid, Alban changed clothes with him, and he escaped; but, on this being discovered, Alban was ordered to offer to the gods or he should share the fate that was intended for the other. He refused, and was first scourged and then beheaded.

On Constantine turning Christian, the church in Britain rapidly recovered from the effects of the persecution; for at the council of Arles in A.D. 314, three British bishops signed the decrees — Eborius of York, Restitutus of London, and Adelphius of Britannia Secunda, as some district was then called. And, without doubt, British bishops took part in later general councils.

Little is known of how the church proceeded in Britain at this time, but they had to share in the troubles arising from the various heresies we have already looked at, especially we read of Pelagianism having been taught in Britain.

When the troubles of the Romans to maintain the empire arose and they had withdrawn their legions from Britain, the land was invaded once and again by the Picts and Scots. This was followed in due time by the fall of Rome, and the British, being unable to repel the Picts and Scots, invited the Saxons and Angles to aid them, who, having defeated these enemies, turned upon the British and drove them into Wales and other parts, A.D. 455.

All these changes must have greatly affected the prosperity of the churches in Britain. The Abbey of Glastonbury had in the meantime come into existence, and St. Patrick, if some accounts are to be trusted, became its abbot, but this is very doubtful.

The origin of this celebrated man is much disputed. When young he fell into the hands of the Picts and Scots, and was twice sold into captivity, but making his escape he returned to Britain. When a captive he became sensible of his lost condition and sought salvation, and was then anxious to make known the gospel to others. He was eventually met by Germanus, who was travelling through the country opposing the Pelagian heresy. Germanus took him to France, and from thence he went to Rome, in the time of Celestine. By him he was sent to Ireland, where he laboured for many years, and established many churches — thus indelibly linking Ireland and St. Patrick together. Many fables are mixed up with his history, and some have supposed that there were two or three of the same name.

Very little is known of the introduction of Christianity into Scotland. It is recorded that Ninian, the son of a British prince of Cumberland, went to Rome, and was there ordained by bishop Siricius in the close of the fourth century, and sent to preach the gospel among the pagan tribes of Caledonia. Ninian established himself at Whitherne in Galloway, and built a church there, remarkable in those days for its architecture, and from thence the gospel radiated to other parts. Many a church and chapel in Scotland was named after St. Ninian, or St. Ringan as he was often called. He died A.D. 432. Palladius, also sent from Rome, came about this date, as the first bishop "to the Scots believing in Christ," but it is thought more probable that he was sent to the Scots of Ireland, which was anciently called Scotia, though he may have visited Scotland also, or sent one of his clergy. But little is known as to what success attended these early labours.

Chapter 10.

Councils in the Church.

In imitation of the notable council of the church mentioned in the Acts, as to whether the Gentiles should be compelled to be circumcised and to keep the law — when the apostles and elders came together to consider the matter, and at which, after much discussion, a godly judgment was arrived at — so much so, indeed, that the apostles could write "It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us" — in imitation of this meeting, it became common in the early church, when disputes arose, to call for a council of the church, and it is well to see what weight is attached to these early councils.

There were some called Oecumenical or general councils, while there were others that could have no sort of claim to be called general, and thus became merely synods or gatherings of the bishops of certain districts, more or less large, and could have no claim upon other districts, especially after the Roman empire was divided into eastern and western. Then when heresies began to appear and were held by those in authority in the church, synods were sometimes called by those who maintained the heresy, and others by those who opposed it; and thus many were in every sense unworthy to be called councils of the church.

The councils considered to be "general," during the first five centuries, are: —
1. The council of Nice, convoked by Constantine the Great, on the question of Arianism, A.D. 325. Three hundred and eighty bishops were present.
2. The council of Constantinople, convoked by Theodosius the Great, on the same subject, A.D. 381. A hundred and fifty bishops attended.

These we have already glanced at; we will now look at the third.
3. In A.D. 431, the third general council was held at Ephesus. It was called by the emperors Theodosius the Younger and Valentinian, on account of Nestorius, patriarch of Constantinople, who, in condemning the expression "the mother of God" as applied to Mary, which was then common in the church, had concluded that in our Lord there were two persons as well as two natures. This shews the danger of being wise above what is written touching the deep mystery of the Person of Christ, which it is not possible for any one to fathom; and, as we have seen, all fall into error who will try to grasp and put into words what is infinite and known to God only. Nestorius was condemned, 198 subscribing to his condemnation.

In this council the Nicene creed was again formally confirmed; and with decisions as to the powers of a bishop being confined to his own province, the council closed, and a measure of peace was again restored.

What led to the fourth general council may be thus briefly stated: —

In A.D. 448 a synod was held at Constantinople to settle some disputes between certain bishops, when Eusebius of Dorylaeum unexpectedly brought an accusation against Eutyches which raised a serious discussion.

Eutyches had for seventy years lived a monastic life, and for thirty years had presided over some three hundred monks. He had hitherto been supposed to be orthodox, and the accusation took his friends quite by surprise. Eutyches had strongly opposed Nestorius, but now he was said to be in error himself, and this, too, touching the Person of our Lord.

Two messengers were despatched to Eutyches to ask him to attend the synod. But he said he had vowed not to leave the cloister. He said he held with the Nicene creed, but they discovered that he had his own way of explaining his belief. He believed that Christ, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was very God and very man, but His body was not of like substance with ours. This was no sooner repeated to the synod than Eusebius exclaimed, "This is quite enough to enable us to take action against Eutyches; but let him be summoned a second time."

Again two messengers were sent to him; but he declared that nothing but death should make him leave the monastery: they might do what they pleased, At length Eutyches sent some of his friends to the council, including Abraham, the head of a neighbouring monastery. Abraham assured Flavian, who presided, that Eutyches was unwell. Flavian replied in a friendly manner, saying, "Let him remember that he is not coming among strangers, but among men who would receive him with fatherly and brotherly affection..... surely if he could leave his retirement when the error of Nestorius imperilled the faith, he should do as much when his own orthodoxy is in question!" But he added, "You know the zeal of the accuser of Eutyches. Fire itself seems to him cold in comparison with his burning zeal for religion. God knows I have besought him to desist; but as he persisted, what could I do?"

Eventually Eutyches promised to appear. In the meantime it had been ascertained that he had been sending round a paper asking for signatures, and this Eusebius also urged against him.

At length he appeared at the synod, bringing a letter from the emperor, who had sent a representative to be present. The discussion then took place. Eutyches stated his belief, but he was questioned again and again as to how he defined the Person of Christ. At length he said he believed our Lord, before the union of the Godhead and manhood, had two natures; but after the union only one. He was condemned. The sentence ran, "Eutyches, formerly priest and archimandrite,* hath proved himself affected by the heresy of Valentinus and Apollinaris, and hath refused, in spite of our admonition, to accept the true faith. Therefore we, lamenting his perverseness, have decreed, through our Lord Jesus Christ, blasphemed by him, that he be excluded from all priestly functions, from our communion, and from his primacy in his monastery." It was signed by about thirty bishops and twenty-three archimandrites.

{*Signifying either a "ruler of the fold," or a "chief of the monks." The first is derived from the Greek, the latter from the Syriac.}

Eutyches left the council-chamber muttering that he would appeal to Rome, and this he did, as we shall see. The monks rallied round Eutyches, but Flavian spread abroad the decree and demanded obedience — the whole resulting in a great scandal in the church.

Eutyches was a friend of the chief eunuch at court, Chrysaphius, and eventually the emperor called a council to reconsider the matter.

It met at Ephesus, A.D. 449, but was what would be called a packed synod. The emperor directed Dioscorus, bishop of Alexandria, to bring ten metropolitans and ten other bishops; distinguished for their learning and orthodoxy, but no more. Others were specially invited. Theodoret of Cyrus (Kars) was not to come unless the council called him. Leo was summoned from Rome, who sent three representatives. Altogether there were 128 bishops present. Eutyches made a confession of his faith, and complained of his being condemned by Flavian. Petitions were also presented by the monks of Eutyches that Flavian should be deposed. The council decided in favour of Eutyches, and deposed both Eusebius of Dorylaeum, and Flavian of Constantinople, with a few others. The council is said to have been intimidated by the presence of soldiers and monks. Eusebius and Flavian were both given into custody, and Flavian died from the treatment he received in prison.

It will readily be conceived that things would not be allowed to rest with this decision. The emperor Theodosius II. passed away, and Marcian was elected, and he called another council "to settle some questions respecting the orthodox faith." It was to have met at Nice, but the emperor, fearing a tumult, removed it. It met at Chalcedon in A.D. 451.
4. This is called the fourth general council of the church. The first act was to condemn the late council at Ephesus (now called the "robbers' meeting") which had condemned Eusebius and Flavian. It was declared that Dioscorus, as president of that council and five others deserved to be deposed.

At their third meeting, fresh charges were brought against Dioscorus, some by Eusebius of Dorylaeum, and others by two of the deacons. He was twice summoned, but not appearing, he was deposed.

Efforts were afterwards made to restore Dioscorus, but without success, and the great thing remaining was to state distinctly what was the creed of the church respecting the Person of our Lord. It was discovered that some slight additions had been made to the Nicene creed at Constantinople, so the creeds of both Nice and Constantinople were put forth with synodical letters of Cyril to Nestorius and of Leo to Flavian.* To this was added the statement, that no further explanation was needed, nor was any other creed to be taught under pain of excommunication.

{* Leo's doctrine as to the Person of Christ, is, in short, described as "two natures united without confusion, without change, and without separation, in one and the same Christ."}

This decision was solemnly attested in the presence of the emperor Marcian and the empress Pulcheria, the emperor telling them that he had come, like Constantine, to confirm what had been done, not to display his power. He would punish any who did not obey the decisions of the council.

At the same council, monks were made more dependent upon the bishops. Bishops were not to engage in secular callings, and they were not to leave the churches to which they were attached.

We have gone thus a little into detail as to these councils, in order to get some idea of their true value. As we have seen, it was very easy for an emperor to gather a number of bishops together to carry out his views and favour the party he had most at heart — all to be condemned and set aside by another emperor or by another council.

It is well to see that when the council of the church, recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, was held, all the scriptures had not been written. Now that we have the whole, we do not find any instructions for calling councils, and, indeed, a general council would now be impracticable. The apostle Paul, knowing that after his decease, evil persons would be found in the church, introducing "perverse things," commended the elders of Ephesus to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build us up, and give us an inheritance among all them that are sanctified. (Acts 20)

That the councils and synods held in the early ages of the church were in no sense worthy to be compared with the council of the church recorded in the Acts is abundantly proved, though right decisions may have been come to, especially at the earlier ones. Ammianus Marcellinus, the historian, speaks of the disputes of the bishops (which he considered the emperor ought to have crushed by his power), and the highways being covered with groups of bishops, galloping from every side to the assemblies called synods, and while they laboured to bring each other to their opinions, the public establishment of the posts was almost ruined by their hasty and repeated journeys.

Gregory of Nazianzus declared of the councils in his day (A.D. 379-389), "If I must speak the truth this is my resolution, to avoid all councils of the bishops, for I have not seen any good end answered by any synod whatsoever; for their love of contention and their lust of power are too great even for words to express."

So that for the simple Christian all these gatherings of bishops in the early church have neither weight nor authority, except as they agree with scripture. It is quite true that there were raised up by God from time to time noble champions for the truth, who contended manfully for it at some of the councils; but the professing church as a whole was gradually becoming more and more corrupt, and its councils and decisions can in no way be relied on. Happily we do not need such. We have the word of God in our hands, and the Holy Spirit as our teacher; happy are they who have their teaching by these means, and who by grace are led to obey.

Chapter 11.
The Western Church.

We must now glance at the Western Church during the fifth century, and will look a little at the history of Leo I., called the Great, bishop of Rome. The Western church does not appear to have been so distracted with heresies as was the Eastern, though it could not wholly escape the contamination, nor keep aloof from what was going on in the East; indeed, the bishop of Rome was again and again appealed to by those who were condemned, and it is not to be wondered at if Rome did not always side with the right.

Leo became bishop of Rome in peculiar times. The dignity of the imperial name may be said to have died with Theodosius the Great, though others succeeded him, and the barbarous hordes were only waiting their time to make fresh attacks upon the empire. If the succeeding emperors were weak and incompetent, now, at least, a man of energy succeeded to the bishopric in A.D. 440, and had to take part in saving the city of Rome from the barbarians, as well as the church from the heretics. Augustine had passed away (A.D. 430), and Cyril was soon to follow (A.D. 444). Leo has been held up by some as a successful champion for the truth.

In A.D. 452, Attila, after pillaging Lombardy, approached the city of Rome. The emperor Valentinian had shewn his cowardice by fleeing, and there seemed no hope for Rome. Leo, however, with two others undertook the perilous task of going forth to meet the barbarian, to see if they could come to terms. It has been thought that Attila was glad of the opportunity to treat, for his army was being enfeebled, and a force was on its march to oppose him; and besides that he was probably fearful to attack such a "holy" city, for Alaric did not long survive a similar act. At any rate the embassy was successful; Attila retired beyond the Danube; but threatened that he would make Italy suffer more if the princess Honoria, who had offered herself in marriage to the king of the Huns, were not given up to him with her rich dowry.

Again, in A.D. 455, the dreadful Genseric approached the gates of Rome, and there was really no ruler or general to oppose him. Was the city of wealth and luxury to be given up to the fury and lusts of the wild barbarians, without any effort made to stem the torrent? No; Leo again stepped forward and with his clergy went forth to meet the invader. He could not prevent the sack of the city, but he succeeded in getting promises that some restraint should be put upon the acts of the rude conquerors. Leo was thereupon hailed as "saviour of his country."

He was also often called upon to defend the truth. Manichaeism* had found shelter in the church in Africa; but on Genseric capturing Carthage in A.D. 439, many fled for safety to Rome, and there concealed themselves while passing as good Christians: they are described as moving about "with pale faces, in mean apparel, fasting, and making distinctions of meats." Leo, in A.D. 444, had a diligent search made for these heretics, and a large number were found, including some bishops. The aid of the civil authorities was sought, and a combined tribunal formed for their examination. Gross immoralities in their secret meetings were confessed by them, and these the state could deal with, while the bishops condemned their doctrines. Those who remained impenitent were banished from Rome, and an edict of Valentinian, dated June 19, 445, revived the laws against them. Leo warned bishops in other places against the sect.

{* Manichaeism is named after its founder, Mani. It was an attempt to combine Pagan philosophy with Christianity. It held that Christ did not imprison Himself in a human body — it was only an appearance of Him that men saw. This, of course, was destructive of Christianity, and was a system which should never have found a place in the church. Mani was put to death about A.D. 274. Dioclesian, A.D. 296, ordered the leaders to be burnt at the stake, and their followers to be beheaded. Still they flourished. In A.D. 372 Valentinian the elder forbad their meetings, and imposed heavy penalties on the leaders. In the year 381, Theodosius the Great pronounced them infamous, and deprived them of all rights of citizens.}

He was next called upon for advice against the Priscillianists* who were exercising a very damaging influence in Spain, and, under his advice, synods were held in two or three places to condemn them.

{*Named after Priscillian, a man of eloquence and austere manner. He had many followers, including, it is said, "some bishops." The doctrine was similar to Manichaeism. The sect was condemned by a synod at Saragossa, A.D. 380, but this only roused them to greater energy. In A.D. 384, the emperor Maximus caused Priscillian to be executed with some of his followers at Treves — the first instance, it is said, of a heretic being condemned to death by the Christians in solemn form of law.}

As we have seen, Leo was also consulted upon the questions concerning Eutyches. This man had himself appealed to Rome, and agreed to abide by its decision. But Leo did not commit himself to him, and eventually took the side of Flavian. He wrote the famous letter, already alluded to, called the "Tome." It was addressed, in a sense, to all the world, on the solemn subject of the Person of our Lord. It was presented at the synod of Ephesus in A.D. 449, but his legates could not get it adopted.

When Leo heard of the sad way in which that synod had been managed, and its results, his anger was aroused. He declared it no synod at all, but a den of robbers; its acts were null and void; it cut to the root of the christian faith. A synod of the West was sitting at Rome, and Leo, in his own name and in that of the synod, at once wrote letters protesting against the whole proceeding. He wrote to the emperor and to the empress Pulcheria, to Flavian, (and then having heard of his death) to the church at Constantinople, and to many others.

Later on, Valentinian, emperor of the West, was at Rome with his wife and mother; Leo got them also to write letters, begging that a more numerous synod might be held in the East to set matters right. But Theodosius, in his reply, seemed disposed to do nothing more; for he was satisfied with what had taken place.

In the meantime Anatolius had been chosen to succeed Flavian in the chair of Constantinople, and this caused Leo anxiety, for Anatolius had been the representative of Dioscorus at Constantinople: Leo was very anxious to gain influence in the East as well as the West, and here was one appointed without his "sanction." So he wrote to the emperor almost demanding that the orthodoxy of Anatolius should be substantiated. But he learned that Dioscorus had had the audacity to excommunicate him — the bishop of Rome! and that the emperor was against him; so all looked dark. But before Leo's messengers reached Constantinople, Theodosius II. had passed away, and the empress Pulcheria was Leo's friend. Marcian was associated with her, and he also was on Leo's side; so now all was changed. Marcian wrote to Leo, promising that a council should be held, and wished it to be under his influence. In the meantime Anatolius had signed the "Tome," with "all the church of Constantinople, and other bishops" and all the metropolitans. Those who had been banished for agreeing with Flavian were recalled, and Eutyches himself was sent into exile.

Strange to say, Leo now is not anxious for a general council. He has issued his "Tome," and it has been signed everywhere: the thing is settled; what need of a council? If it is held, it must merely express a judgment already arrived at: not judge it afresh. Rome has spoken — was not that enough?

Leo had, however, to give way to the emperor, and the council was held, as we have seen, at Chalcedon, in the year 451. Eutyches was fully condemned, and Dioscorus deposed: this was all well, and delighted Leo. He exclaimed, "The divine mystery of the incarnation has been restored to the age;" "it is the world's second festivity since the advent of the Lord," etc.

But though the above acts of the council gave great pleasure to Leo, one of its acts gave him great offence. The council deemed it right to confirm the status of the bishop of Constantinople as primate of the Eastern church, whereas Leo wished him to be only a subordinate to Rome. When this came on for debate the legates of Rome left the council, declaring they had no instructions. The canon is important as proving that the claims of Rome, which had gradually become bolder and more aggressive, were not at that day conceded. "The fathers," it was said, "gave with reason the primacy to the chair of old Rome, because that was the royal city, and, with the same object in view, the 180 pious bishops gave equal primacy to the chair of new Rome," that is, Constantinople, but still adding, "next after old Rome." The see of Constantinople could appoint the metropolitans of Pontus, Asia, and Thrace, and certain other bishops.

Leo wrote to the emperor complaining of this, and would "confirm" only the acts of the council touching articles of faith: he could not sanction the canon touching the place given to the archbishop of Constantinople. Well, it did not much signify; the archbishop went on exercising his prerogative without such sanction! The bishop of Rome was not yet to be acknowledged as "universal bishop."

To be thus styled was the ambition of Rome, and it was not simply in the East that the bishop claimed it as urgently as was prudent, but also elsewhere — in Gaul, for instance. Hilary was bishop of Arles, and was looked upon as the Metropolitan of Gaul. We find him presiding at the councils of Riez and Orange in A.D. 439 and 442.

Hilary was in advance of many in that day. He had been a monk, and when he was seized and made bishop he continued to live sparingly. He would even till the ground with his own hands, to help to raise money for redeeming captive Christians. Much of his time he spent in prayer and study, and his preaching was with power over his hearers, though he has been described by some as favouring semi-pelagianism.

As metropolitan, Hilary visited the cities of Gaul, and found a bishop (Chelidonius) who had married a widow before he was made bishop; he also had been a magistrate and pronounced death on a culprit. These acts were held by Hilary as sufficient to prevent a man becoming a bishop, according to the canons of the church. Hilary called a synod at Vienne (A.D. 444) and Chelidonius was deposed.

He at once appealed to Rome, and Leo took up his case, being only too glad of an opportunity to assert his authority in Gaul as well as in the East. Hilary crossed the Alps, though it was winter, and appeared at Rome to try and convince Leo that the canons of the church had been respected.

Leo called together a synod, and Hilary, in a conciliatory spirit, consented to be present. He then stated the case, and defended his conduct but Leo actually had him put under guard, proceeded with the case, and declared the marriage with a widow was not proven. He reinstated Chelidonius, and then proceeded to declare that Hilary was no longer to be metropolitan of Gaul, and conferred the honour on the bishop of Vienne.

In the meantime Hilary had escaped and returned to Gaul; but Leo followed up his acts by obtaining from the emperor an edict (A.D. 445) against Hilary, as one who was injuring the peace of the church and rebelling against the majesty of the emperor.

Leo also charged Hilary with taking armed men with him when he traversed Gaul, and with consecrating a new bishop in the room of Projectus before the latter was dead. The whole case between Leo and Hilary has been frequently discussed by historians; but however faulty Hilary may have been (he is said to have taken the soldiers on account of the disturbed state of the country) nothing can justify the language of Leo in saying Hilary wished to cause the death of the sick bishop! The edict of A.D. 445 clearly shews that Leo's aim was "supremacy."

Hilary did not own the pretensions of Rome, but went on discharging his duties till the day of his death (A.D. 449). Leo, later on, styled Hilary a man "of holy memory."

Leo was held to be a great champion for the truth as far as he knew it, and was indefatigable in his appeals to emperors and bishops to stem the current of evil doctrine, we may say, all over the world. While doing this he was also very anxious that any questions he had decided should not be discussed over again as open questions. If councils were held, they must be, he contended, to confirm what had been decided, not to call them in question. This, of course, whenever it was listened to, tended the more to exalt the see of Rome, and paved the way for his being called "universal bishop."

One is anxious to see how far such a champion for truth, as he has been called, presented the gospel to his hearers. A great many of his sermons dwelt upon the Person of Christ, and dilated either upon His being truly God, or on His being really a man. As to the atonement, he had the erroneous thought, that man being a slave of Satan, the atonement was made really to the devil in order to free man from his authority — an idea not uncommon in those days.

Though he speaks of the merits and death of Christ as alone the source of salvation, yet he, strangely to our ears, held that the merits of the saints could work wonders and give aid to the church on earth. He mentions St. Paul, St. Peter, and St. Laurence (but never mentions the Virgin Mary) as helping in this way; but does not make direct appeal to them.

As to the way of salvation, it was sadly enshrouded by such statements as these: "By prayer, the mercy of God is sought; by fasting, the lusts of the flesh are extinguished; by almsgiving, our sins are atoned for [redimentur]." "He who has cleansed himself by almsgiving need not doubt that even after many sins the splendour of the new birth will be restored to him." Alas! that any one could be called the champion of the truth who could put forth such errors as these!

Leo died A.D. 461. Felix III. was the next patriarch of note (483-492). We shall see how he also took a prominent part in the questions which agitated the East, and was the cause of an open rupture between the Eastern and Western divisions of the church.

Chapter 12.

Close of the Fifth Century.

The council of Chalcedon had seemed to settle the doctrine as to the Person of Christ. The bishops had cried out, "We all have the same faith with Leo." But the disputes were in no way ended. Palestine and Egypt were distracted with the question. Theodosius, a fanatical monk, caused great commotion in loudly condemning the late council — not only in words, but by proceeding to denounce bishops and attempting to put others in their places.

In Alexandria things were no better. Though Dioscorus was deposed, a strong party sympathised with him, and opposed Proterius who had been appointed to fill his place. The contests were so severe that the aid of the military had to be called in, to quell the disturbances. This for a time made things worse; Proterius was murdered in the baptistry of his church, his body cut to pieces and then burnt. The emperor was now appealed to for protection.

Marcian begged Leo, the bishop of Rome, to come to the East and attempt to reconcile the parties. But he declined the honour: he pleaded that the decisions of the council, "under the guidance of the Holy Ghost," should strictly be maintained. The emperor was puzzled: what could be done with people who would not listen to a general council? He sought advice from all the metropolitans, and they upheld the council. The emperor determined to use force. Timotheus Aelurus (the Cat) was consecrated by two deposed bishops, and became leader of the faction; he was banished, and Timotheus Salophaciolus was appointed patriarch of Alexandria. He was of a mild disposition, and peace was in some measure restored.

A change of emperor was looked upon as a favourable opportunity to secure the interests of each party. Marcian had passed away, and Leo I. succeeded him, and then Zeno (A.D. 474). In A.D. 475, Basiliscus succeeded in expelling Zeno, and at once the Monophysite* party came into favour. He was the first to publish decisions of emperors on matters of faith, and required all the bishops to subscribe to them. Thus he issued a decree that the Nicene creed, with its confirmatory decrees of the councils of Constantinople and Ephesus, should alone stand; and that the decrees of Chalcedon and the letter of Leo should be condemned and burned wherever found.

{*This term was now used to point out those who held that our Lord had but one nature after His incarnation.}

At Alexandria, Timotheus Aelurus was recalled and re-instated, the mild patriarch quietly retiring to his cloister. In other places tumults were the result, and the decree of the emperor was opposed.

A hermit, called Daniel the Stylite, held to be an oracle in the church in those days, being warned in a vision, descended from his pillar and appeared at Constantinople, and there confirmed the orthodoxy of the council of Chalcedon, it is said, by a number of miracles! Zeno, having gained adherents, was restored as emperor, and this again changed everything. The bishops who had subscribed to the decree of Basiliscus now made the plea that they had signed by compulsion, though they had before subscribed to it as "a divine and apostolic letter."

In A.D. 477, Timotheus Aelurus passed away, and the Monophysite party took advantage of the opportunity and elected a successor. The emperor viewed this as an insurrection and sentenced their bishop to death, but flight saved him. Timotheus Salophaciolus was again installed, with a threat from the emperor, that any one not bowing to this choice should lose his bishopric and be exiled. Timotheus softened the rigour of this decree as well as he could, even to succouring his enemies.

At the death of this bishop, two persons were chosen by the two parties — Peter Mongus by the Monophysites, and John Talaia by those who held with the council of Chalcedon. But the latter, having offended the patriarch of Constantinople, was in ill-favour at court so Peter Mongus seized the opportunity of visiting the capital, and pointed out the strength of the Monophysite party at Alexandria and the sad consequences that would follow any other person being forced on the people. A plan of uniting both the factions and restoring peace in the church was suggested. This was favourably received, and in A.D. 482 a treaty of agreement was drawn up in the name of the emperor, on the basis of the Nicene creed, avoiding disputed terms and names, and even the nature of the dispute. It was named the Henoticon, signifying "deed of concord." It set forth that "Christ was one, not two, since miracles and sufferings were referred to one and the same Person." If all would subscribe to this, they were not to be troubled further as to what their explanations were on the subject.

Peace, however, was not to be restored on such a basis, indeed, the result was to form four parties instead of two, namely the moderate of the two parties (those who yielded to the wish of the emperor), and the zealous of each (those who looked upon any compromise as "inexcusable").

The Roman church, as we have seen, had all along held with the council of Chalcedon. Felix III. was now patriarch there, and being appealed to by John Talaia, he took up the case, being only too glad to be consulted in matters concerning the Eastern church. A synod was called, and the Henoticon was condemned and all who held with it, and messengers were sent off to Constantinople. But the authority of Felix was denied; the messengers threatened, but they were gained over by bribes. Felix, however, was not to be silenced. He proceeded to excommunicate both Peter and Acacius the patriarch, and a messenger was despatched with the document respecting the latter to Constantinople. This was a task of no small peril, but one Tutus, an aged ecclesiastic, undertook the mission. He also yielded to bribery, and the document remained unserved. There was, however, a community called the Sleepless Monks, and one of these slipped into the church and attached the document to the patriarch's robe. Acacius soon discovered the paper, but went on with the service. At the close he proclaimed that the name of Felix, bishop of Rome, be erased from the diptychs* of the church. Thus the bishops of Rome and Constantinople were mutually excommunicated by each other; and a rupture thus took place between the Eastern and Western churches which lasted thirty-five years. The two successors of Acacius sought communion with Felix, but it was denied, unless the names of both Peter and Acacius were erased from the diptychs. This was not complied with, and the rupture continued.

{*The term signifies "two-fold." It was a list of dead and living members.}

In A.D. 491, the emperor Zeno died and Anastasius succeeded. He was for peace and the acceptance of the Henoticon; but was met with violent opposition. The patriarch of Constantinople had only agreed to Anastasius being emperor, on the assurance that he would attempt nothing against the decisions of the council of Chalcedon. Some agreed with the patriarch, while the Monophysite party had many adherents. Rome would acknowledge neither.

Thus was the professing church rent into parties at the close of the fifth century. The church and state had become so united that the emperor and the patriarch were mutually dependent upon each other for place and power. If the patriarch was in power the emperor must yield, or nothing but disorder and anarchy would be the result. If the emperor was powerful, the patriarch must bow his head, or intrigue and opposition would thwart all his plans, if, indeed, he succeeded in standing his ground in any way.

The saddest controversy at the close of the century was respecting the Person of our Lord. As we have said, none ever attempted to reason about and define that blessed Person, without being in great danger of falling into error, either on the one side or the other — for the errors have been respecting the manhood as well as the divinity of Christ. "No man knoweth the Son but the Father" ought to have been a solemn warning against inquisitiveness on so solemn a subject.

It may seem to some as if the discussion had been simply a battle about words and terms; but we doubt not that there was real deadly error lurking behind the mere terms employed. As there were those who long before had denied the divinity of Christ, it was easy for others to hold the same doctrine if it was smothered up by words to which they could give, mentally at least, their own interpretation.

On the other hand, Monophysite doctrine, as put forth by Eutyches, while not denying the manhood of Christ in so many words, held that "the two natures of Christ, after the union, did not remain two natures, but constituted one nature." This was the error most prominent at the close of the century. The Nicene creed was a great guard as to the divinity of Christ, if the natural meaning of the words were honestly received and believed; not that any formal creed is needed where the teaching of scripture is implicitly believed. Scripture is quite plain that our Lord was really a man, He ate and drank, He slept and He suffered. And He was really God: He raised the dead and did miracles which no mere power of man could do; and the voice from heaven proclaimed, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." By Him all things were created, and the angels of heaven are called upon to worship Him. To Him be glory for ever and ever.

We saw in the former part of our brief sketch that the Address to the church of Smyrna agreed with the persecution that characterised that period; let us now look at the next Address — that to Pergamos — and it will be seen how exactly it coincides with what we have looked at under Profession. (Rev. 2:12-17.) The church dwelt where Satan's seat was — the world. And they had among them those who held the doctrine of Balaam, who taught error for reward; also those who held the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which Christ hated. We may not know definitely to what this last applies — it is supposed to be Antinomianism — but we have seen how evil doctrine, and the allowance of evil practices ran along with seeking place and power where Satan's seat was. Still in mercy Christ could say, "Thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith" — blessedly true of some; but He could only reveal Himself as "He which hath the sharp sword with two edges." They were called to repent, or He would fight against all evildoers.

The times were peculiarly evil and the temptations to give up were very great; but a very blessed promise is added to the overcomer: Christ will give him "to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." Secret delights awaited such, and we doubt not there were many hidden and unknown, who will share in these blessed promises by entering into the joy of their Lord.

Chapter 13.

The Bible for the Church.

As we have seen, Christianity spread wherever the Roman empire extended — and, indeed, beyond in several directions. But in such an empire there were many different countries, each speaking its own language. And in every place the Bible was wanted in the native tongue. We cannot tell when and by whom the work was carried on, but there is evidence, more or less distinct, that the New Testament at least was translated as the need arose in many countries. Venerable relics remain of those early translations, but, of course, we cannot say that we have even portions of the earliest by many years.

The Syriac. — Hegesippus was bishop in the second century, and the Syriac was claimed as his version. Unhappily the Syrian church was divided into two in the fifth century — and in correspondence we have two Syriac versions: in the main they are the same, but yet different; then there are others drawn from each of them. There are manuscripts bearing the names of: 1, the Peshito (or "simple"); 2, the Curetonian Syriac (named after Dr. Cureton); 3, the Philoxenian Syriac (named after a bishop in eastern Syria); 4, the Jerusalem Syriac; 5, the Karkaphensian Syriac.

The Latin. — Jerome (A.D. 345 (?)—420) found different Latin translations, and set to work to gather a correct text from the whole. It is called the Vulgate. This proves that Latin copies existed long before his time in order to become thus altered. The manuscripts before his time are called, in distinction from his, the Old Latin, or Italic, in allusion to Italy. It is not to be wondered at that the New Testament was soon translated into Latin, because of the early existence of the church at Rome. (Rom. 15:23.) The Old Latin may date from the second century.

The Egyptian. — It is judged that there were two distinct translations of the New Testament from the Greek into Egyptian — the Memphitic, or Coptic, and the Thebaic. The latter is considered the older, but both may be dated in the second or third century. We have seen how prominent the church became in Egypt at an early date; it is therefore no wonder that the scriptures were thus early translated into the native tongue. Portions of the Old Testament also exist in the Egyptian versions.

The Gothic. — The Goths attacked the Roman empire, and thus came in a sense morally under its influence, and both the Old and New Testaments are believed to have been translated into Gothic by their bishop, about A.D. 348. It is said he omitted to translate the four books of Kings (two of Samuel and two of Kings), lest they should stir up still more those warlike tribes!

The Armenian. — This dates from the fifth century.

The Aethiopic. — the language spoken in Abyssinia; it dates about the sixth century.

Other versions followed later on in the history of the church, including the Georgian, Slavonic, Anglo-Saxon, Frankish, Persic, and the Arabic.

Chrysostom, indeed, says in his time the scriptures had been translated into the language of the Syrian, the Egyptian, the Indian, the Persian, the Aethiopic, and "ten thousand other nations."

This happily shews that however much evil was allowed in the professing church, the word of God was so much valued as to cause its translation into many different languages; so that there was always the scripture to be appealed to, which was able to correct all errors and to make men wise unto salvation.

The beautiful style in which many of the ancient copies were written is very remarkable. The letters of some are formed so uniformly that they appear more like printing than writing. Great care and labour must have been bestowed on their production.

Chapter 14.

We have thus completed our short sketch of the history of the church during the first five hundred years. That which was begun with so much power and blessing was not long committed to the care of man before he began to fail to preserve it in purity. Even the apostle had to speak of perverse men seeking to draw away disciples after themselves, and of others who crept in unawares, bringing in destructive heresies — a state of things that has never entirely disappeared.

Satan, indeed, at first endeavoured to stamp out the name of Christ from the earth, through persecution by the pagans; but in this, as in many other things, he was deceived: the blood of the saints became the seed of the church, as has so often been seen and spoken of. For every saint put to death a number sprang into life. These persecutions had a purifying effect: few who were not real cared to risk all their property and their lives at the will of a pagan emperor: so that, if Christianity was not in full vigour, there was but little of mere profession.

As we have seen, Satan changed his mode of attack, and, from the time of Constantine the Great, he caused Profession to take the place of Persecution, and the aspect of the whole was changed. Not only must those who would stand well with the christian emperor be Christians, but, when the church was broken up into parties, they must be of the same party as the emperor as long as he was in power; and with the change of the emperor must come the change of the people, or persecution might ensue. Thus the emperors became not only the guiding star of the church, but also its ruling power. They made and unmade bishops as they pleased, and that office, which should have been confined to such as God chose and God gifted, was thrust upon any who would serve the purposes of the emperors or of those in places of authority. Happily there were noble exceptions — men who asserted they were God's servants, and were answerable to Him alone.

But even in some of the best of these champions we see seeds of leaven that came into full bearing afterwards in the church, as is clearly shewn by the apostate Church of Rome in later years seeking to prove its doctrines from quotations from these very fathers, though, as we have seen, their language was so uncertain that it is quoted also against such errors.

The councils of the church also were too often made the mere instruments of the powerful either in the church or in the state, without the semblance even of a holy convocation of heavenly men. Here, too, there were exceptions: from the council of Nice proceeded the Nicene creed, and from the council of Constantinople the condemnation of Pelagianism.

As to doctrines, we have seen how the leaven of evil spread everywhere. No sooner was one great heresy put down, or rather silenced, than another sprang up, dividing the church into parties, each zealous for its own views, and often contending, not with the sword of the Spirit — the word of God; but with the weapons wielded by flesh and blood. Happily there were exceptions — those who stood firm for the truth in all its fundamentals, and who fought manfully the fight of faith.

We have also seen how persistently and subtly Satan led men, again and again, to attack the doctrines touching the Person of Christ as set forth in the scriptures. If he could lead men into error touching that sacred subject, all was gained; for error as to this was fatal.

We have also seen the rise of monasticism — begun comparatively in a harmless manner, yet with the mistaken idea of perfecting the flesh — a system that afterwards ripened into one of the most God-dishonouring things conceivable — a disgrace even to common morality, and which should not have been so much as once named in connection with the church of God.

What a sad picture does the whole history present of that which should have been a testimony for the absent Lord. Instead of truth, there was much error; instead of saints loving one another, they were hating each other; instead of unity, there was division everywhere; instead of being of "no reputation," leaders were contending for place and power.

It may be asked, But were there not many in those days, down, indeed, from the days of the apostles, plain honest Christians who lived to the glory of God in all good conscience? We doubt not that there were many such, and trust there were thousands; but, alas history names them not, except a few who suffered martyrdom, and the more prominent of these we have recorded. But God does not leave Himself without a witness, and we doubt not there were many, who, led of the Holy Spirit, kept themselves, at least in a measure, unspotted from the world, and brought forth fruit to the glory of God, maintaining the truth according to the light they had.

How refreshing it is to turn to scripture, and see that, though the spread of evil was foretold, and the prediction has been and is still being fulfilled, yet the Lord Himself "knoweth them that are his," and there is a day coming when our Lord will present to Himself a glorious church "without spot or wrinkle or any such thing." To His name be all the glory.