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fied, he did not partake of its sacraments till his last illness No one was allowed to taste the Lord's Supper till he had passed through the purifying process of baptism; and as that was supposed to wash away all sin, perhaps Constan. tine thought to make sure of eternal salvation by deferring a rite so efficacious until he was past the danger of com. mitting further sin. Whatever might have been his motive, he was not baptized until a short time before his death; which took place when he was sixty-three years old, after a reign of thirty-one years.
In the honours paid to his memory, there was the same mingling of religions which had characterized a large portion of his life. His polytheistic subjects followed the old custom of placing the emperor among the deities by solemn ceremonies. The medals issued after his apotheosis bore his name, with his title "God;" and on the reverse side was the monogram from the Labarum, forming the name of Christ. Some of the medals represented him seated in the chariot of the Sun, drawn by four horses, while a hand issued from the clouds to take him up among the demi-gods. Cotemporary Christian writers, very naturally blinded by gratitude, exaggerated his really great merits, and eulogized him without limit, and without discrimination. The eastern churches kept an annual festival in honour of his memory, and added to his name: "Equal to the Apostles.”
Niebuhr, in his History of Rome, says: “Men judge him by too severe a standard, because they look upon him as a Christian; but I cannot regard him in that light. The religion he had in his head must have been a strange compound. The man who had on his coins, Sol invictus, (The Sun invincible,] who worshipped polytheistic deities, and consulted the haruspices, while at the same time be shut up temples, built churches, and interfered with the Council of Nice, certainly was not a Christian.” Mosheim, in his History of Christianity, supposes that Constantine at first regarded Christ merely as one of the gods, who had power to confer prosperity and happiness on those who honoured him, and to punish those who contemned and persecuted him; but that being afterward better instructed in Christianity, he became a sincere convert.
The outward benefits he conferred on the Christian religion were perhaps balanced by the rapid degeneracy they induced. It became a matter of policy to profess Christianity. All classes, princes and beggars, flocked into the church, without serious conviction, or proper instruction; and all supposed that the magical waters of baptism had washed away their sins. Eusebius reckons as one of the greatest evils of that period the indescribable hypocrisy of many who pretended to be Christians merely to advance their own interests, and who abused the confidence of the emperor by their false show of zeal.
CHRISTIAN SECTS. Having thus rapidly traced Christianity from its obscure origin, through outward perils, I will, as briefly as possible, describe the dissensions which arose among themselves.
At the outset, Christians had no creed. In the time of Irenæus and Tertullian, formularies of faith were written, on purpose to exclude the Gnostics; and catechumens were required to give public assent to them before they were baptized. The Gnostic sects were therefore outside the church. They formed a link between Christianity and the old Egyptian, Persian, and Grecian ideas, and were one of the agencies by which many of those ideas glided into the new religion, and became permanently incorporated with it. The heterogeneous elements heaved and tossed wildly, before they could be definitely settled into a theological form. It would fill volumes to explain all the subdivisions of sects on minor points of faith or practice. Asceticism, growing out of the old Oriental idea that Matter was the origin of evil, began to manifest itself very early in various forms. There was a sect called Abelites, who abstained from matrimony, in order to avoid propagating original sin. They adopted the children of others, and brought them up in their own principles. They had great reverence for Abel, because he died unmarried, and childless. The Aquarians used water instead of wine, at the Lord's Supper, and abstained from animal food, because they thought it wrong to stimulate or please the senses. The Apostolics were also called Renouncers, because they considered it wrong to possess any property, and therefore held all things in common. They allowed no married person to belong to their churches.
QUARTODECIMANS.—One of the earliest and most troublesome schisms in the church, after the question of circumcision was at rest, related to a mere external observance. The first Christians continued to keep the Passover as a Jewish custom. They ceased to sacrifice a lamb, because they observed the festival in commemoration of Christ, of whom the Paschal Lamb was supposed to be a type; thus Paul says: “Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us.” Jews observed the first day of the first full moon, after the vernal equinox, on whatsoever day of the week it happened to fall; and Christians, in the Eastern part of the Roman empire, long continued to do the same. In the Western part, they formed the babit of keeping it the Sunday following the first day. They did this partly because Christ rose on Sunday, and partly because there was an increasing disposition to distinguish themselves from the Jews. Thus it happened that while some churches were mourning for the crucifixion, others were rejoicing over the resurrection. In the second century, the dispute grew very warm. The Bishop of Rome excommunicated the Eastern churches. Polycarp remonstrated with him, and alleged that the day they kept was the same he had himself observed with the Apostle John. Synods were in vain called to settle it. Those who kept the fourteenth day were called Quartodecimans, and regarded as heretics by the churches of Italy. It was considered a question grave enough for the intervention of the emperor; and Constantine sustained the Council of Nice in deciding that it should always be kept on the Sunday following the full moon.
MONTANISTS.—In the middle of the second century, Montanus, an illiterate bishop in Phrygia, preached a stern and fervid kind of spiritualism, which attracted many followers. In most respects, his doctrines were the same as those of the Christian Church. But he differed in maintaining that every true believer in Christ, whether man or woman, received direct inspiration from the Holy Ghost; in support of which he quoted Joel's prophecy: "I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy." He considered Judaism as the infancy of religion, Christianity as its youth, and the more advanced state, attained by full and general reception of the Holy Ghost, was its manhood. He himself claimed to be an inspired prophet, sent by God to lead the church into a stricter life, and prepare it for the millennium, which he painted in glowing colours, and as nigh at hand. He had prophets and prophetesses in his train, whose wild and passionate preaching excited paroxysms of devotion in themselves and their hearers. This pouring out of the Spirit upon Christians of all conditions, they regarded as one of the strong proofs that the end of the world was approaching. Maximilla, the associate of Montanus in his preaching, said expressly: “After me, no other prophetess shall arise; but the end shall come.” Tertullian thus describes one of these inspired women: “There is a sister among us indued with the gifts of revelation by an ecstasy of spirit, which she suffers in the church, during the time of divine service. She converses with angels, and sometimes also with the Lord. She sees and hears mysteries, knows the hearts of some, and prescribes medicines to those who need them.” After the assembly was dismissed, her visions were taken down in writing; and much information concerning the invisible world was supposed to be gained from them. Montanus, when describing the prophetic power, represented the Lord as taking away the souls of men, and
giving them souls; as saying: "The man is a lyre, and I sweep over him like a plectrum. The man sleeps, I wake.” To him, and to his two leading prophetesses, he said God had imparted the fulness of his Spirit; whereas Paul confessed that he only knew in part, and prophesied in part. Epiphanius charges a branch of the Montanists with making women bishops and presbyters; sustaining the custom by Paul's words: “In Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female."
The morality of this sect was very rigid. They considered all recreations and pleasures of the senses sinful. They lived abstemiously, and kept prolonged fasts. Those who devoted themselves to prophecy generally left their wives and husbands; considering a life of celibacy the only way to become perfect recipients of the Holy Spirit. They regarded marriage as a spiritual union, to be continued in another life; therefore second marriages were considered unlawful. They likewise deemed that a marriage was not valid unless performed in a church, in the name of Christ. While they thus reverenced the union of souls, they regarded the earthly relation as a necessary evil, which onght to be conscientiously restrained within certain limits. They considered the rite of baptism so important that they even baptized the dead.
Their preachers were accustomed to make rousing ap peals to sinners, denouncing upon them the vengeance of God, and making terrific pictures of eternal torment, in contrast with the most luxurious pictures of Christ's kingdom upon earth. They held human learning in great contempt, and considered the study of philosophy, or classic literature, as a participation in idolatry.
Their leaders forbade them to avoid persecution, or to hold communion with any who did. Those who fled from the storm, or purchased safety by any concession, however slight, were regarded as recreant to Christianity, and enemies of Jesus. Their preachers said: “Let it not be your wish to die on your beds, in the pains of child-birth, or in debilitating fever; but desire to die as martyrs, that he