Obrazy na stronie

Ecclesiastical Antiquities.

(Continued from page 49.)
· I. Of The Primitive FAITH AND WORSHIP.

Stand in the ways and see and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your

JEREM. vi. 16.


A S the primitive church believed in the essential deity of

O the Son, and worshipped him as “God over all, blessed for ever,” so was the Holy Spirit regarded and worshipped as a divine person.

His personality is aslerred in the plainel terms in various parts of the Scrip:ures where he is described as being the ao dispenser of gifis * ;'' an “intercessor for believerst;" as the “ searcher of all things ;" as the “ guide and director into all truth ý;" and as being the special “revealer of the mind and will of God. But above all, it is declared · on the highest authority that there is a fin against Him

which will be accounted an unpardonable offence; and to bind Christians more firmly in ibis great profession of faith, they are all directed to be baptized in the name of the Holy Ghoft.

Now the Christian religion being the revelation of God for the instruction of mankind in the way of righteousness and redemption, it would be a blasphemous absurdity to sup. pose that the fountain of Wisdom and Truth would make so important a discovery in dark and ambiguous language ; or that he would communicate the knowledge of his will in terms which might easily be perverted into the gross sense of ascribing personal properties to things that that had no existence.

Yet if the notion of some of our modern heretics be right the whole Primitive Church, from ihe beginning, actu. ally fell into this dangerous and preposterous error ; and

* 1 Cor. xii, 4.-11. + Rom. viji. 26. I 1 Cor. ii. 10. § John vi. 13.

ll John xiv. 26. .

.. from

from the authority of the sacred writings, particularly the in. - junctions and promises of our Lord, concluded themselves

bound to believe that the Holy Ghost was a real person in the Deity, and consequently, that, it was their duty to pray for his aslistance, to submit to his guidance, and to worship him as Gon.

All the antient doxologies concur in sanctioning this early doctrine, and certainly if they were wrong, the sources from whence they were drawn cannot be acquitted of have ing led the pious framers of them astray.

When the first converts so frequently heard and read the Apoftolical benediction, “ The grace of our Lord Jesus “ Chrift; and the love of God; and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost be with you all;" and when they at the same time considered the folemn form of words by which they had been initiated into Christianity, it was natural for them "to frame their highest devotional hymn in similar terms. Men of plain understandings could never comprehend, that gifts of such a nature and so diftin&tly expressed, proceeded from any other than real persons. If the personality of one was matter of doubt, the gift itself might jully be considered as an unmeaning expression. But that the “ Giace" and “the Love” mentioned by the Apostle, appertained to real persons, could be no matter of doubt or question; how then could the mind of a Christian immediately form or even comprehend the idea that the next blesling supplicated was a “ fellowship” with an attribute? It is very observable that this blessing is more strikingly indicative of personal communion than either of the others. The grace and love of the Father and Son are not so intimately and sensibly expressive of operation and union, as the “ fellowship of the Holy Spirit;' and it would confound any man of common sense to define how there can be fellowship be. tween any thing less than two persons.

No wonder then that the Primitive Christians took the solemn form of baptism and the Apostolical falutation and valediction in the plain sense of the terms, as denoting spiritual gifts descending on believers from three real persons in the godhead, co-operating in the work of man's redemption and sanctification.

Accordingly we find in the oldest remains of Ecclesiastical Antiquity, abundant proofs of the faith of the early Church in the essential article of the personality and divinity of the Holy Spirit.


The members of the Church of Antioch, close their ac, count of the martyrdom of the holy Ignatius, with this devotional afcription, which shews that it was a common form: * In Christ Jesus our Lord; by whom. and with whom, all glory and power be to the Father, with the Blessed Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen."

In the relation of the martyrdom of Polycarp which concludes in the same manner, the Smyrnean Church re. cords the dying declaration of that holy bishop in these words:

so Lord God Almighty, the Father of thy well beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom we have received

she knowledge of thee; the God of angels and powers, and · of every creature, and especially of the whole race of just

men who live in thy presence ! I give thee hearty thanks that thou hast vouchsafed to bring me to this day, and to this hour; that I should have a part in the number of thy martyrs in the cup of thy Christ, to the resurrection of Eternal Life, both of foul and body, in the incorruption of the Holy Gholt. Among which, may I be accepied this day before thee as an acceptable sacrifice; as thou the true God with whom is no falsehood, has both before ordained and mani. fested; and also halt fulfilled it. For this and for all things else I praise thee, I bless thee, I glorify thee, by the Eternal and Heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ thy beloved Son; with whom io hee and the Holy Ghost be glory both now, and to all succeeding ages. Amen."

Did Polycarp believe, as i he Socinians would persuade'us, that the Holy Ghost was the mere name of a quality or an attribute? By what rule of language then could he ascribe : glory to two persons, and the same glory to an attribute be. longing to them both ? Here indeed would be a marvelous infance of the bar hos, or art of sinking, that in the most so.. lemn act of devotion in which a rational being could poflibly be engaged, and in the last moment of life, he should begin with glorifying God the Father, and Jesus Chrift, and then descend to praise and glorify in the same strain that which had no positive existence at all.

But whatever might have been the feelings or expressions of a mariyr in the agonies of death, though to the contes. fion of a Christian in such a stale, no ordinary deference is due, the deliberate and solemn act of the Church which re, ports the account of his martyrdom, must be admitted in evidence of what was the common faith of Christians at that time.


is de

The churches of Antioch and Smyrna, in their relations of the sufferings of Ignatius and Polycarp, declare in the molt express terms their faith in the Divinity of Christ, and the personality of the Holy Ghost, to whom they alcribe the same glory as to the Father; the consequence then is obvious, that as early as the beginning of the fecond century, che do&trine of the Trinity was the common faith of the Church. .. Of that common faith Justin Martyr was unquestionably a competent witncss. Whatever night have been his own private opinions as to the interpretation of some of the Prophecies, he would never have ventured to publish a false ilatement of the Creed and worship of the community to which he belonged. Such an act would have juftly exposed him to the ridicule of the heathen, and the abhorrence of those whom he had so grossly misrepresented. Now Juf. tin, in his first apology, which was never refuted by bis opponents, nor censured by any of his brethren, thus der clares to the Heathen what the object of the Christian wor. fbip was; “ with respect to the Gods whom you worship, we are indeed Atheists, but not so with regard to the only true God, the Father of Righteousness, who with his only begotten Son and the Syirit which spake by the Prophets, we worship and adore *.",

Again the same Justin informs the Roman emperor, and by the publication of his apology he informs she whole heathen world, what was the common religious fcrvice of the Chriftians, in which he could not be mistaken, and if his account had been false it would have been conlutesi. His account, however, is faithful, for it is confirmed in all points by what remains of the Chriftian writers of the first three centuries. “ After the believer” says he “ has been bapıized, and thereby incorporated with us, we lead him into the congregation, and with great fervout pour out our souls in common prayers for ourselves, for the newly bapa tized, and for all persons throughout the world, that having embraced the truth, our conversation may be such as becomes the gospel, and that by being doers of the word, we may obtain eternal salvation. When the prayers are over, we salute each other with a kiss ; after which, bread and a cup of wine and water, are brought to the likop, who takes the same and offers up praile and glory to the Father of all things, through the name -of his Son, and of

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

* Apol. i. p. 56. ed. Col. 1696. fol.


the Holy Spirit; and this thanksgiving to God, for-vouchsafing us worthy of those his creatures, is a prayer of great length. When the bishop has concluded, the people say Amen, which fignifies in the Hebrew tongue So be it. The Eucharistical office being ended, the deacons distribute to every one present, bread and wine, and the remainder is carried to those who are absent.”

If these are not clear and sufficient proofs of the belief of the Primitive Church in the essential deity and personality of the Son and Holy Ghost, as one God with the Father of all, it is impossible to account for the introduction of such language, and such a practice of devotion into the Church.

If Jesus Christ be not God, and the Holy Ghoft be not a Person, how came such a confession and such solemn forms of devotional thanksgiving into the general assemblies of Christians in that early age, without opposition and even without notice ?

The churches of Antioch and Smyrna, ascribe divinity to the Son, and personality and divinity to the Holy Ghoft, in circular epistles addressed to all Christians; and a public apologift for Christianity, declares that such was the common belief of his community, and that it formed their constant confession at all times of their solemn assemblies.

Now if this article of faith, and this form of woMhip, had not been from the beginning of the Christian church, the aera of the innovation would certainly have been marked by some circumstance or ascertained by some record. It can never be supposed that the Chriftians in all parts of the world then known, should confederate together to alter the · faith which they held dearer than their lives, or permit a form of worship to take place in their churches which was unknown to those from whom they had received the knowledge of the Gospel.

The oldest doxology, and the most universal in the Christian church, is this, ujerBLEV TXTEPX xy vlov xay ayon CNEVUG 088, “ we laud the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit of God.” So great is the antiquity of this form, that the early fathers could not ascertain the author; and therefore as it was in univer. fal use, it must have been derived from the Apostolical age.


« PoprzedniaDalej »