« ZurückWeiter »
by which such hypocrisy is sure to be attended. The bold and frank avowal of convictions in regard to this whole class of subjects is of immense importance to a rich and full development of the Church. It is repressed convictions, and utterances to which there is no corresponding belief, that degrade individual character and are fatal to any robust faith in the Church.
This strong avowal of personal conviction, which I claim should be encouraged rather than repressed, is perfectly consistent with the toleration, so far as compulsory measures are concerned, of opposing convictions. They may be tolerated so far as compulsion is concerned, while they are properly assailed by force of argument. They may be tolerated, if for no other reason, than that they may in that way be the more readily restrained.
I plead for strong individual assertion of what seems to each man divine truth, and for generous toleration of similar assertion on the part of others. It is no compro mise of what we believe to be truth that I advocate, but simply the according to others of what we feel to be so solemn a duty for ourselves. But there is a deeper reason still for this large and brotherly toleration. Our views of truth are very limited and partial, and while there are certain fundamental principles in regard to which we will not admit that there can be any reasonable doubt, we have reason to believe that there is a higher unity in which these apparently irreconcilable systems are found to enter harinoniously, each neccessary to the completeness and symmetry of the whole.
When we have become familiar with one class of phenomena in the heavenly bodies and learned the facts and laws, for instance, of the solar system, we are disturbed by revelations of nebulæ and binary stars. We should have expected simply the reproduction through space of what we have found so beautiful and admirable in our own system. But the Maker of the universe has a higher and all-comprehending unity to which all these diversities are subordinated.
May it not be, after all, that the ultimate cause of all these diversities which now so greatly disturb us, and seem so inconsistent with unity, is to be found in tbe multitudinous aspects of the character and work of Christ ? Here there bas come to us a Divine Man, flooded with the glories of the infinite, the express image of God, and men gaze with dazzled vision at this marvellous revelation and then strive to ntter what they have seen.
No wonder that different aspects of the splendor have flashed upon different eyes; and since no man, nor all men, have witnessed and can testify to the whole glory of this revelation of God, no wonder that it is difficult now to blend all testimonies into one harmonious representation of what Christ is and what Christ has done. Let each man to whose longing gaze Christ has manifested himself, say freely, though he may say with sad imperfection, just what Christ, in that marvellous experience, seemed to him.
When it was the purpose of David to build a temple which should exceed all other structures, in stateliness and magnificence, he called upon the people to make their offerings for the erection of this House of the Lord. There were brought to the king, in vast abundance, silver, and gold, and brass, and iron, and cedar wood and hewn stones. When the building came to be erected, it rose, without noise of hammer, like "a majestic palm in the desert.” We are called upon to bring our contributions to the building up of the great Church of the future, the visible organization of the redeeming work of Christ in our land. We are to bring to it the consecration of our lives, whatever of natural gifts of learning, or eloquence, or powers of administration, there may be among ns.
We are to bring to it the sacrifice of our prejudices, of our partisan spirit, of our unholy ambition. We are to bring to it glad and grateful recognition of all that others can bring. We are to bring to it great heritages from the past which God has entrusted
to our keeping, but more especially, all we have of present devotion and grace. We are to bring to it our faith in God and Christ, our hope for the future of the world, our charity for all mankind. This great temple of the time to come will be built without the touch of human hand, by the power of the Holy Ghost. It will rise amid the surrounding darkness like a vast dome of light, as when northern fires flash suddenly and silently in countless spires through the heavens. Though radiant as the luminous sky it shall be as firm and enduring as the everlasting rock. O grand and beautiful vision of prophecy, rise, in all thy glorious reality, upon the longing eyes of the children of God!
JOHN COTTON SMITH.
THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH AND THE
CONVERSION OF THE WORLD.
How is the world to be converted to God? The most important question which can possibly be presented to the mind of man! I propose to consider it in the light of history. At the first assembling of the disciples after the Ascension of our blessed Lord, the number of names together, was about one hundred and twenty. Not that there were no more Christians—but that was the number constituting the acting body of the Church. Then about three thousand souls were added on the Day of Pentecost, among whom were “devout men of various nations, who must have carried to their respective countries the glad tidings of salvation. Soon after this, five thousand more were added, who were men, no mention being there made of women, excepting afterwards, that "multitudes believed both of men and women," and that “the Lord added to the Church daily, such as should be saved,” so that within
one month after the Day of Pentecost, there were not less than fifteen thousand converts added to the Church. Then immediately after this, the whole body of the Church at Jerusalem was driven away by persecution, and "went everywhere, preaching the Word." St. Peter labored successfully in Pontus, Gallacia, Cappadocia, Asia Minor, Bithynia and even as far as Babylon. St. Paul passed from country to country, and the testimony of Demetrius the Ephesian silversmith, may be regarded as some proof of the success of his labors. "Moreover, ye see and hear that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, so that not only this our craft is in danger of being set at nought, but also that the Temple of the great Goddess Diana should be despised." In relation to the other Apostles, we know but little, except that they "wrought many signs and wonders by the power of the Spirit of GOD;" that "many thousands believed;" and that flourishing Churches were established before the death of St. John, in all the principal cities of the then known world. In the year 110, A. D., Pliny, the Roman Governor wrote "that Christianity was not confined to cities only, but had spread through the villages and country and included great numbers of all ranks and ages, and of both sexes so that the Temples (heathen), were almost deserted." In the year 150, A. D., Justin Martyr wrote that "there is no race of men, whether Barbarians or Greeks, or by whatever name they may be designated, whether Scythians, Tartars or Arabians, amongst whom prayers and thanksgivings are not offered to the Father and Creator of all in the name of the crucified Jesus." In the year 175, A. D., Irenæus wrote that "the Gospel prevailed among the Germans and Celts, Egyptians, Libyans and Orientals." A. D., 198, Tertullian declared "we are but of yesterday, and yet we have filled your empire, your cities, your islands, your towns, your assemblies, your very camps, your tribes, your companies, your palaces, your senate and your forum. We
constitute the majority in almost every town—the Parthians, Medes, Persians, the inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Armenia, Phrygia, Cappadocia, Pontus, Egypt and parts beyond Cyrene; all the extremities of Spain, many nations of the Gauls and places in Britain inaccessible to the Roman armies, have been subdued to Christ."
With this general statement of the progress of the Church and the number of Christians before the year 200, 1. D., I now pass on to the year 450, A. D., at which time a minute and reliable computation may be made of the number of Dioceses, of Bishops, of Clergy and the number of inhabitants, the facts of which have come down to our own time and are admitted by the best historians. The particulars of this computation would take up too much space, but the following is an ontline. In the six Roman provinces of Africa, there were not less than five hundred Dioceses, covering over sixteen hundred and fifty iniles each, averaging from sixty to eighty towns and villages and containing more than eighty millions of inhabitants professedly Christians. Then in the provinces of Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis, the most populous on the face of the globe, there were at least one hundred Dioceses, averaging more than one thousand miles each and containing not less than five millions of nominal Christians. Then in the Patri. archate of Jerusalem including Palestine and Arabia Petrea, there were forty-eight Dioceses and not less than five millions of Christians. Then in the Patriarchate of Antioch, including a large extent of country and a great number of cities as Tyre, Sidon, Damascus, Ptolemais, Palmyra and so forth, there were one hundred and sixty-four Dioceses, and giving at least thirty-three millions of Christians in this Patriarchate alone. Then in the Patriarchate of Constantinople there were six hundred Dioceses, small and large; four hundred in Asia, and two hundred in Europe. In one of these Asiatic Dioceses of which St. Basil wias Bishop, there were three hundred and seventy Assistant Bishops, each having as many presbyters and deacons under him; and in this