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apostles, though their writings were highly valued, they were naturally not regarded as sacred writings, which were to be the rule of faith, because there was a more immediate guarantee of truth in the living discourse of the apostles and their first companions, as also in the Spirit who was so powerfully exerting his influence upon the church. The apostolic writings, therefore, were indeed read in the public assemblies, but not alone, and not regularly. The book for regular public reading was still the Old Testament; and this is always to be understood in the New Testament when the Holy Scriptures are mentioned. Besides the apostolic writings, however, other profitable books were used for the edification of the church. In particular, we have still some remains of the writings of immediate disciples of the apostles, commonly called apostolic fathers, which were publicly read in the ancient churches. These men all lived in the first century and some time in the second. Among them are Clement, bishop of Rome, Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, Hermas, who was probably presbyter at Rome, and the well-known Barnabas. The epistles of Clement and Polycarp, as well as the book of Hermas, were read with special assiduity in the ancient churches. On account of the great antiquity of these writings, they very seldom quote the books of the New Testament, and much of what coincides with the contents of the New Testament, e. g. Christ's sayings, may have been drawn by these apostolic fathers from oral tradition as well as from perusal of the gospels. Indeed, the former is perhaps most probable, since they certainly did not read the gospels so assiduously as they were read in later times, when it was impossible to listen to the living discourse of the apostles and their immediate companions. The reason why so few written remains of the immediate disciples of our Lord are now extant, is in part the long lapse of time which has destroyed many books, but in part, also, that the ancient Christians labored more than they wrote. The preaching of the gospel and the regulation of infant churches consumed so much of their time, that little remained to be employed in composition. Moreover, in the first century it was as when Paul wrote (1 Cor. 1: 26): Not many wise men after the Aesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called. For the most part only people of inferior standing joined the church of Christ; and these had neither the capacity nor the inclination to labor with the pen. In these circumstances it is undoubtedly true
that we find little information concerning the books of the New Testament in the first century. That they did nevertheless exist in the church, we shall prove hereafter. It might, then, be expected that although the most ancient Christians do not speak of their sacred writings, still the heathen writers of Greece and Rome must have done so, considering the multiplicity of their works on all subjects. But the heathen writers who were contemporary with the apostles and the apostolic church make no mention of the apostolic writings, because they cared nothing at all about the christian church as a whole. They considered the Christians as only a sect of the Jews, and despised them as much as they did the latter. They therefore credited the malicious reports which were circulated respecting the Christians, and treated them accordingly as the off-scouring of humanity. Such is the procedure of Tacitus, a noble Roman, who relates the persecution of the Christians under Nero. Thus, of course, nothing could induce the Greeks and Romans to cultivate acquaintance with the writings of the Christians; particularly as they were distasteful on another account, from their not being clothed in the same elegant language as their productions. It was only when the number of the Christians became so great as to excite apprehension, that they began to pay attention to every thing of importance concerning this new sect, and so at last to their sacred books. It is not, however, till after the middle of the second century, that we find examples like that of Celsus, who, in order to confute the Christians, acquainted himself with their sacred books.
The original condition of the maiden church, in which less stress was laid on the Scripture than on the word of the apostles, was not, indeed, of long continuance. For the mighty outpouring of the Spirit, which, on the day of Pentecost, filled the disciples of our Saviour, had hardly been communicated to a number of other minds, and lost its first power, when erroneous schisms began to prevail in the church. The germs of these may even be discovered in the writings of the apostles. The first of these party divisions of the ancient church, was that of the Jewish Christians. As early as in the epistle to the Galatians, Paul speaks expressly of persons who desired to bring the Galatian Christians again under the yoke of the law. They wished faith in Christ and his redemption, to be regarded as insufficient for salvation, unless circumcision and the observance of the law were added. The great teacher of the Gentiles, Vol. IX. No. 25.
however, zealously opposes this restricted idea of Christianity, and shows that the soul must lose Christ if it seeks to use any other means of salvation. It was the object of the law of Moses to lead by its injunctions to conviction of sin, and thus to a desire for salvation ; by its prophecies and types of Christ, it was a school-master to guide us to him ; but salvation itself could come only from Christ. Still, Paul was by no means of opinion, that those who were Jews by birth, must not observe the law when they became Christians; he rather favored their doing so, if the pious customs of their fathers had become dear to them, or if their own weakness, or that of the Jews, would be offended by the contrary course. Hence, the apostles, who remained in Jerusalem till its destruction, as Matthew and James, observed the law invariably, and so did Paul likewise, when he was in Jerusalem. But the apostles, as well as their true disciples, were far from being desirous to impose this observance of the law upon the Gentiles also. The milder, and truly christian view of the observance of the law, was constantly entertained by many Jewish Christians in Palestine, who in later times were called Nazarenes. Many, on the contrary, took the wrong course, which the apostle Paul reproved in certain individuals in Galatia, and these obtained the name of Ebionites. These, however, fell into other heresies besides their idea of the necessity of circumcision and observance of the law in order to salvation ; particularly in regard to the person of Christ. They denied the true divinity of our Lord, and regarded him as a son of Joseph, thus seceding wholly from the true church of Christ.
In precise contrariety to this Judaizing division of the church, others entirely discarded Judaism. The instructions of the apostle Paul had taken deep hold of their minds, and given them a strong conviction that the gospel went far beyond the formalities of Jewish practice, and would bring all nations under its sway. But from this perfectly correct idea, they wandered into opposition to the Old Testament, which was never felt in the slightest degree by the apostle Paul. They remarked correctly, that in the Old Testament the divine justice was most prominently exhibited, in the revelation of a rigorous law; while the New most fully displayed the divine mercy, in the revelation of forgiving love.
But this fact, which was necessary for the education of mankind, since the need of salvation will never be felt until the claims of justice are perceived, was employed by them for the purpose of wholly disuniting the Old Testament from
the New, and referring it to a distinct author. This sect are termed Marcionites, from Marcion, the man who urged this view to the greatest extreme. In connection with their opposition to Judaism, they also held Gnostic opinions, (whence they are commonly ranked with the Gnostics), and these gave a hue to their vapid notion, that the God of the Old Testament was different from that of the New. The Old Testament, they thought, presented to view a God of justice without love, the New Testament, one of love without justice; while in reality the only true God possesses both attributes in perfection. It is easy to see that in these notions paganism is mingled with Christianity. The sublime nature of the latter was admitted by the Marcionites; but they could not look upon the other true form of religion, Judaism, as reconcilable with it. Hence, although they no longer revered the numberless gods of the heathen, they imagined the two attributes of God, justice and love, to centre in two distinct divine beings. Besides this ungrounded violence against Judaism, the Marcionites maintained a stupid error in regard to Christ's nature, which was the precise opposite of the opinion of the Jewish Christians. The latter denied his divinity, and the Marcionites asserted that he had no true humanity. The humanity of Christ, said they, was only apparent. In their opinion a purely heavenly vision was presented in the person of Jesus Christ ; his life, and all his acts in life, were but in appearance, designed to exhibit him to men in a hu
This idea the Marcionites entertained in common with the Gnostics, properly so called, who did, indeed, judge more correctly than the former in regard to the mutual relation of Judaism and Christianity, but on other points maintained the most grievous errors. The seeds of their doctrine are referred to by the apostle Paul, e. g. 2 Tim. 2: 17, 18, where he warns against the heresy of Hymenaeus and Philetus, who maintained that the resurrection of the dead had already taken place. For, as they denied the true humanity of Christ, they could not, of course, admit the corporeal resurrection of all men; and therefore, understood it spiritually of the interior vivification of the heart by the Spirit of Christ. Undoubtedly this perversion of doctrine on the part of the Gnostics, is to be referred to their belief in another being besides God. While they regarded God as a pure Spirit, the fulness of all good and all beauty, they looked upon matter as another being, the source of every thing corpo
real and visible, as also of evil. It was from a mixture of the spiritual and the material that this world originated, and particularly man, who at one time displays so much that is lovely and elevated, at another so much that is low and base. Thus, the only way to purify and sanctify man, was that he should be gradually freed from every thing material, and by the divine seeds of life within him, be brought back to God. It is easy to imagine what a distorted view of all the doctrines of salvation must be produced by such an idea, since Holy Writ nowhere countenances the opinion that evil resides in matter, but rather expressly refers it to the will of the creature, who, by disobedience to the holy will of the Creator, has destroyed in himself, and about him, the harmony which originally prevailed in the whole universe.
In this condition of things, then, when Jewish Christians, Marcionites, and Gnostics, to say nothing of other insignificant sects, were disturbing the unity of the church, it was seen to be necessary that every effort should be exerted to uphold the purity of the apostolic doctrines. But as, at the time when these sects became very powerful, the apostles were no longer upon earth, no direct appeal could be made to their authority. Whenever oral tradition was adduced against them, these heretics appealed themselves to pretended communications from the apostles. The Gnostics, in particular, asserted that the deeper wisdom which they taught in their schools was communicated by the apostles to only a few ; simple christian truth alone, they supposed, was only for the multitude. What remained, therefore, since appeal to oral tradition from the apostles was of no avail, but reference to written authority? This could not be altered and falsified like oral language ; it was better suited to be a fixed, unchangeable norm and rule of faith ; and could, therefore, be employed with exceeding force and efficiency against all heretics. Thus the time was now come wh
a sifting and separation of the many christian writings scattered abroad in the church was necessary. Moreover, the different sects of heretics had all sorts of forged writings among them, in which their peculiar opinions were presented in the names of celebrated prophets and apostles. Against such writings explicit declaration must be made, in order to preserve the true apostolic doctrine from mixture with erroneous and confused notions. As of course, however, individual fathers of the church could have but little influence against the established sects of heretics, it was