Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

measurable sorrow.” This appears to have much dejected the churches, and spread a general alarm, well knowing the consequences of apostacy. The vilest calumnies were at this time propagated against them : they were accused of eating human flesh and committing unnatural crimes—" things,” say they, “not fit to be mentioned or imagined, and such as ought not to be believed of mankind.” The rabble became incensed against them even to madness, and the ties of affinity, or friendship, seem to have been wholly disregarded. “Now it was, say they, “ that our Lord's words were fulfilled : The time will come, when whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.' But the tortures which the martyrs sustained exceed the power of description.” The whole fury of the multitude, the governor, and the soldiers, was in a particular manner wreaked on Sanctus, a deacon of a church in Vienne

-on Maturus-on Attalus of Pergamus, one of the main pillars of the church-and on Blandina, a female, who was most barbarously tortured from morning to night, in order to extort from her a confession which should criminate her brethren ; but her only words were, “I am a Christian, and no evil is committed among us.”

I have thus given you a specimen—and it is merely a specimen, of the ferocious and brutal attack that was made on these churches; but the detail is disgusting, and would only harrow up your feelings, which I am desirous to spare, Delicate females were put to the torture, to extort from them a confession “ that the Christians ate their own children!”. But what was the reply of these females ? “ How is it possible that we should eat infants--we, to whom it is not lawful to eat the blood of animals?” referring, no doubt, to the prohibition against eating things strangled and blood, Acts xv. Several of them were thrown to the wild beasts in the amphitheatre; and, among others, Blandina, above-mentioned : after having been scourged, and then placed in a hot iron chair, she was enclosed in a net, and exposed to a wild bull, by which she was tossed and gored, and at length despatched by the sword.

As to the dead bodies of the martyrs, they were treated with every possible and conceivable indignity. They were. thrown to the dogs, and watched day and night lest their friends should

JUSTIN'S ACCOUNT OF THE CHRISTIAN PRACTICES. 219

bury them. Their bodies were mutilated in the most shameful manner, and the mangled carcases, after being exposed for six days, were consumed to ashes and cast into the river, hoping, as they said, to disappoint them of a resurrection. The prisons were glutted with the number of Christians, and they were thrust into the darkest and most loathsome cells, where numbers were suffocated. Pothinus, one of the pastors of the church in Lyons, then upwards of ninety years old, was dragged before the tribunal, insulted by the soldiers and the rabble in the vilest manner and then thrown into prison, where he languished two days and expired.

These instances may suffice for the purpose of conveying to you some idea of this horrible persecution, which, lamentable to say, received the express sanction of the philosophic emperor, Marcus Aurelius. “ He sent orders,” says the letter, “ for such as avowed themselves Christians to be put to death, and the apostates to be liberated.” Such proceedings, as Mosheim justly remarks, are an indelible disgrace to the memory of the prince by whom they were carried on. His death, however, which took place in the year 180, put a period to this fiery trial, which, with little intermission, had continued in one quarter or other, during a period of eighteen years. "

Having in this Lecture adverted to the writings of Justin Martyr, I shall now once more return to them, for the sake of presenting you with the account which he has left us of the meetings of the Christians on the Lord's day, during his time. He has been speaking of the manner in which persons were admitted into the church by baptism ; but, as I shall have occasion to adduce his testimony on this point in a subsequent Lecture, I shall at present pass it over. He then thus proceeds:

“ Afterwards we remind each other of these things, and they who are wealthy assist those who are in need, and we are always together: and over all our offerings we bless the Creator of all things, through his Son Jesus Christ, a d [by, or] through the Holy Spirit: and on the day called Sunday [the first day of the week] there is an assembling together of all who dwell in the cities and country: when the memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read, as long as circumstances permit. Then, when the reader has ceased, the president delivers a discourse, in which he admonishes and exhorts (all present) to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray; and, as we before said, prayer being ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president offers prayers in like manner and thanksgivings, according to his ability ; and the people express their assent by saying “Amen ;' and the distribution of that over which the thanksgiving has been pronounced takes place to each, and each partakes, and a portion is sent to the absent by the deacons. And they who are wealthy, and choose, give as much as they respectively deem fit; and whatever 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, takes care of all who are in need : but we meet together on Sunday, because it is the first day [of the week] in which God having wrought the necessary change in darkness and matter, made the world, and on this day Jesus Christ our Saviour 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 (Sunday), having appeared to the apostles and disciples, he taught them the things which we now submit to your consideration.”

Such is Justin's account of the social practices of the Christians about the middle of the second century (A. D. 150); and if we compare it with the Acts of the Apostles, and the epistles to the churches, we shall find that several alterations had at this time taken place, such as mixing water with the wine used in the Lord's supper, and the deacons carrying away a portion of the elements to those that were unable to attend the meetings of the church. These were manifest innovations, but they were not the only ones : the depositing with the president (or presiding elder) the fellowship, or stated contributions for the relief of the poor and other necessary uses, instead of leaving them in the hands and at the disposal of the deacons, was another deviation from apostolic precedent, and, little as may be now thought of it, it eventually led to serious evils, as I shall have occasion to point out hereafter ; at present I content myself with merely

JUSTIN'S ACCOUNT Of the CHRISTIAN PRACtices. 221 adverting to it, and remarking that the apology which is offered for it (viz. that the early converts who sold their possessions and lands laid the price at the feet of the apostles, Acts iv. 35) has always appeared to me a very flimsy excuse, and that for two reasons :—the first is that the presidents, elders, or bishops, in Justin's time, were not apostles, nor successors of the apostles; and the second is that, at the time referred to, the office of deacon had not been instituted in the Christian church; the apostles discharged the duties of that office, pro tempore, even as they did that of elder, and upon this principle, that the apostolic office, which was the highest in the Christian church, included every inferior office-prophet, evangelist, bishop or presbyter, and deacon.

I take leave of this subject by adding that, according to Justin's account, no persons were admitted to the Lord's supper, in his day, but such as had confessed the faith, been baptized, and lived conformably to the precepts of the gospel. The usual appellation by which the Christians of that age recognized each other was that of brother, and the account which he gives us of the intimate union that subsisted among the brethren, and of the readiness with which the rich contributed to the relief of the poor, proves that the spirit of love which distinguished the first converts still animated the members of the Christian community.

In concluding this brief notice of the life and writings of Justin Martyr, I take leave to direct the attention of the student of Ecclesiastical History to a small work lately published by the present bishop of Lincoln, Dr. Kaye, entitled, “ Some account of the Writings and opinions of Justin Martyr” (printed at Cambridge, 1829) in which he will find the substance of the “ Dialogue with Trypho,” and also of his two “ Apologies,” exhibited with great apparent fairness and impartiality, and accompanied with much elegant criticism on that father's doctrinal sentiments. It is moreover due to the learned prelate to say that he has given a very fair estimate of the comparative merit of the writings of this Father of the Christian church, thus enabling the theological student to pronounce between the contradictory representations that have been made of them.

LECTURE XI.

Introductory Remarks-Some account of AthenagorasHege

sippus-Theophilus of AntiochIrenæusClemens Alexandrinus- and Minucius FelixTheir biography, writings, apologies, sufferings, &c. &c. A. D. 150 to 200.

In my last Lecture I submitted to you a brief sketch of the state of the Christians, during the greater part of the second century—a period so replete with interest, and pregnant with useful instruction to us in the present day, that it would be wrong, in a course of lectures like the present, to pass it over in a slight and cursory manner. I mention this by way of apology for now resuming it, and you will consider what I am about to lay before you as furnishing additional details of occurrences which took place during the same period of time.

To those who are conversant with ecclesiastical history it would be needless to say that the second and third centuries of the Christian era are usually designated the “ times of the Martyrs ;” and most assuredly they present us with numerous very extraordinary instances of persons meeting persecution in its direst forms, encountering the malice and rage of the heathen magistrates, and voluntarily laying down their lives for the gospel's sake. Some instances of this kind have been already mentioned, but many yet remain to be laid before you as we proceed. At present I would affectionately entreat you to consider whether these primitive Christians must not have had something more at stake than the great bulk of professors in our day have. Now the way to improve the subject is to bring it home, as it were, and seriously ask ourselves, how should we have acted, had our lot

« ZurückWeiter »