Page images
PDF
EPUB

Paulians, or Bartholomeans, but only of Christians from Christ. It is also said by St. Gregory Nazianzen, “I honour Peter, but I am not called a Petrian ; I honour Paul, but I am not called a Paulian; I cannot bear to be named from any man, who am a creature of God." They observe also, that it was the peculiar custom of sects and heretics only, to take party names, and call themselves after their leaders. How much this has become the practice of later sectarians, the reader will be but too well able to testify from his own observations.

To distinguish themselves from heretics, who used to call themselves christians, they assumed, very early, the name of Catholics. Pacian, in his epistle to Sempronian, the Novatian Heretic, says, that it was to distinguish them from heretics, who sheltered themselves under the name of christians. Christian is my name, says he, and catholic is my sur-name ;-the one is my title; the other, my character, or mark of distinction.* Heretics generally confined their religion to a particular region, or some select party of men, and therefore had no pretence to style themselves catholics : but the church of Christ, says Optatus, is called catholic, because it is everywhere diffused. The name is almost as ancient as the church itself. None were ever deemed christians who did not belong to it, as we see in the Acts of Pionius the martyr, who being asked by Polemo the judge, of what church he was, answered, “ I am of the catholic church, for Christ has no other.”

2.-Besides these names, there were some others given to the early christians, by way of reproach. The first of these was Nazarens, a name of reproach given by the Jews, by whom they were styled, the sect of the Nazarens, (Acts, xxiv. 5.) Another epithet, was that of Galileans. This was adopted by the Emperor Julian, whenever he spoke of the christians. Thus in his dialogue with Maris, a blind christian Bishop, he told him, by way of scoff, “ Thou Galilean, God will not cure thee.” Not only did he call them Galileans himself, but he made a law that no one should call them by any other name, thinking thereby to abolish the name of Christian. They were also called Atheists, and their religion the atheism, or impiety, because they denied the worship of the heathen Gods. To this was added the name of Greeks, or Impostors. St. Jerome says, that wherever they

*"Christianus mihi nomen est, Catholicns cognomen. Illud me nuncupat, istud ostendit." Pacian Ep. 1. ad Sempronian. + " Cum inde dicta sit Catholica, quod sit rationalis et ubique diffusa."

Optat. lib. ii p. 46.

saw a christian, they would presently cry out “Behold a Grecian Impostor!” This was the character which the Jews gave to our Saviour, “ The Deceiver." (Matt. xxvii. 63.)

But the Heathens went one step further in their malice, and because our Saviour and his Apostles did many miracles, they declaimed against them as “Magicians," and under that character exposed them to the fury of the common people. Celsus and others, pretended that our Saviour studied magic in Egypt. And St. Austin says, that it was generally believed that He wrote some books about magic, which He delivered to St. Peter and St. Paul for the use of His disciples. The new superstition was another name of reproach for the christian religion. The followers were also called Biathanatoi, self-murderers, because they readily offered themselves up to martyrdom, or cheerfully underwent any violent death which the heathens could inflict upon them. For the same reason they gave them the names of Parabolarii and Desperati, the bold and desperate men. The Parabolarii, or Parabolani, among the Romans, were those bold and adventurous men, who hired them. selves to fight with wild beasts upon the stage or amphitheatre. Now because the christians were put to fight for their lives in the same manner, and they rather choose to do it than deny their religion, they therefore got the name of Parabolarii; which though it was intended as a name of reproach and mockéry, yet they were not ashamed to take it to themselves, being one of the truest characters their persecutors ever gave them. Tertullian mentions another name, which was likewise occasioned by their sufferings. The martyrs which were burnt alive, were usually tied to a board or stake, of about six feet long, which the Romans called Semaxis, and then they were surrounded or covered with faggots of small wood, which they called Sarmenta. From this punishment, the heathens who turned every thing into mockery, gave all christians the spiteful name of Sarmentitii, and Semaxi. Norwas it only the heathens that thus reviled them, but commonly every perverse sect among the christians had some reproachful name to cast upon them. From every quarter they had to suffer from Jews, heathens, and faithless or heretical christians. Notwith standing, they were not moved from their stedfastness, they endured as seeing Him who is invisible, and in His strength were able to suffer the most cruel tortures, to take up the cross, and go without the camp, bearing His reproach, as St. Paul had exhorted them to do. (Heb. xiii. 13.) The whole history of the early church is a history of ceaseless persecutions and heroic martyrdoms. They realised, to an extent which we can hardly conceive,

the truth of that declaration, “ all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution.”

3.-Our third subject of consideration, is the social orders of men in the christian church. Some divide them into three ranks, others into four, others into five. Eusebius reckons but three, which may be said to include all the rest, viz:-rulers, believers, and catechumens. St. Jerome follows Origen in making five orders:--bishops, presbyters, deacons, believers, and catechumens. He says, every one shall be punished according to the difference of his degree. If a Bishop of the church sins, he shall have the greater punishment. A Catechumen will deserve mercy in comparison with a Believer, and a Layman in comparison with a Deacon, and a Deacon in comparison with a Presbyter. In the above enumeration it is to be observed that the name Believer, or Faithful, is here taken in a more strict sense for one order only of christians, the believing or baptized laity, in contradistinction to the Clergy and Catechumens, the other two orders of men in the church. The Catechumens, though not really baptized, were considered to be in some sense members of the church. St. Austin says, they were not yet sons but servants, they belonged to the house of God, but were not yet admitted to all the privileges of it, not being as yet incorporated with it. In this respect they were considered in a higher light than heretics. A manifest difference was put between those who were apostates from the faith, and those who as yet had never made any solemn profession of their faith in baptism.

4.-The Believers or Faithful, being such as were baptized, and thereby made complete and perfect Christians, were upon that account, dignified with several titles of honour and marks of distinction above the Catechumens. Hence they were sometimes called Illuminati, or the Enlightened. Justin Martyr says that they received this name because their understandings were enlightened, by the knowledge that was consequent to baptism. For all the mysteries of religion were unveiled to the baptized, which were kept secret from the Catechumens. For a similar reason they were also called the Initiati, the Initiated, that is, admitted to the use of the sacred offices, and a kuowledge of the sacred mysteries. They were also called the Teleioi or Perfect, because they were complete Christians, entitled to partake of the Lord's Supper. Tertullian adds to these the name of Cari Die, the favourites of heaven, because their prayers and intercessions were powerful with God on behalf of others. All these names, and many others, such as Saints, Sons of God, dc., were peculiar titles of honour and respect, given to the believers only. As to their higher privileges, it was, first, their sole prerogative to partake of the Lord's Supper. Hither none but the baptized came. Whence it was the custom before they celebrated the Eucharist, for a deacon to proclaim, “ Agia-agiois.“Holy things for Holy men; ye Catechumens go forth.” Another privilege above Catechumens, was to stay and join with the minister in all the prayers of the Church, which the unbaptized were not allowed to do. For in the ancient services of the church, there were no prayers preceeding the communion office, but only such as related to Penitents and Catechumens. When these prayers were ended, the Catechumens and all others were commanded to withdraw, and then began the communion service at the altar; where none were to be admitted even to be spectators, but those who communicated. For to join in the prayers and partake of the Eucharist, were privileges of the same persons, and no one was qualified for the prayers of the church, who was not qualified for the Holy Communion. More particularly the use of the Lord's prayer was the prerogative of the Believer. Catechumens were not allowed to say, “ Our Father," till they had first become sons by regeneration in the waters of Baptism. The last privilege of the Believers over the Catechumens, was that of hearing all discourses made in the Church, even those on the most difficult points : while the Catechumens were only allowed to hear the Scriptures and the more popular discourses upon them.

5.-We have hitherto considered the great body of the Christian Church, the Believers, as opposed to the Catechumens; we have now to view them in another relation, as distinct from the Clergy, in which relation they were commonly called Laymen, or Seculars. The former was the more common, and constantly occurs in the writings of Origen, Cyprian, Tertullian, and others of the third century. The distinction between the Clergy and Laity, was derived from the Jewish Church, and adopted into the Christian, by the Apostles themselves. Some people have confounded the Clergy and Laity together, and plead that originally, there was no distinction between them. The name priesthood, is indeed given in common to the whole body of christian people, (1 Peter ii. 9; Rev. i. 6;) but so it was to the Jewish people, “Ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.” (Exod. xix. 6.) Yet every one knows that the priestly office among the Jews, was distinct from the common people, not by usurpation, but by God's appointment. And so it was among Christians, from the first foundation

of the Church. Wherever any number of converts were made, as soon as they were cnpable of being formed into a church, a bishop, or a presbyter with a deacon, was ordained to minister to them. Clemens Alexandrinus says that St. John ordained bishops and other clergy, in the churches which he regulated, by the Holy Ghost. Hence it is that Ignatius in his epistles, so frequently charges the people to do nothing without the bishops, presbyters, and deacons. Tertullian says that among heretics, laymen performed the offices of the Priesthood. But this was not the custom of the Catholic Church ; for as St. Jerome observes, “ they reckoned that to be no Church which had no Priesthood.” Another Father states that all disciples were clergy, and had all a general commission to preach the gospel and baptize; but that was in order to convert the world, and before any multitude of people were gathered or churches founded, wherein to make a distinction. But as soon as the Church began to spread itself, and sufficient numbers were converted to form themselves into a regular society, then rulers and other ecclesiastical officers were appointed among them and a distinction made, that no one, no, not of the Clergy themselves, might presume to meddle with any office not commit ted to him and to which he knew himself not ordained.

The laymen were also distinguished by the name of Seculars, and by this title they are distinguished, not only from the clergy, but also from the Ascetics and those of a more retired life, who fled from the noise and din of the world and disburdened themselves of its cares.

All persons who had any public employment in the Church were called by the common name of Clerici ; which, though at first given only to bishops, priests, and deacons, was after the third century applied also to all who held inferior offices, as subdeacons, readers, &c. The Clergy were also frequently called Canonici or Canons

No one will have the hardibood to deny that those who lived in the times of which this chapter treats, must have bad opportunities of knowing the mind of the apostles on most questions of church policy; it is only, therefore, the part of wisdom and sound sense to be guided in these days, where it is possible, by the primitive model. Where, however, we cannot altogether follow the policy of the early church, we may always learn valuable rules and practical lessons from its history. Among the profitable considerations which the facts contained in this chapter suggest, are the following:

« PreviousContinue »