Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER IV.

CONCERNING THE RITES AND CEREMONIES USED IN THE CHURCH
DURING THIS CENTURY.

CENT. I.

Baptism and per instituted

the Lord's sup

by Christ.

L. THE christian religion was singularly commendable on account of its beautiful and divine PART II. simplicity, which appears from the two great and fundamental principles on which it was built, viz. faith and charity. This simplicity was not, how ever, incompatible with certain external rights, and positive institutions, which, indeed, are necessary, in this imperfect state, to keep alive a sense of religion in the minds of men. The rites instituted by Christ himself were only two in number, and these designed to continue to the end of the church here below, without any variation. These rites were baptism and the holy supper, which are not to be considered as mere ceremonies, nor yet as symbolic representations only, but also as ordinances accompanied with a sanctifying influence upon the heart and the affections of true christians. And we cannot help observing here, that since the divine Saviour thought fit to appoint no more than two plain institutions in his church, this shows us that a number of ceremonies is not essential to his religion, and that he left it to the free and prudent choice of christians to establish such rites as the circumstances of the times, or the exigences of the church, might require.

ed by the a

IL. There are several circumstances which incline Rites institutus to think that the friends and apostles of our postles. blessed Lord, either tolerated through necessity, or appointed for wise reasons, many other external rites in various places. At the same time we are not to imagine that they ever conferred upon any person a perpetual, indelible, pontifical authority, or that they enjoined the same rites in all churches.

PART II.

CENT. I. We learn, on the contrary, from authentic records, that the christian worship was, from the beginning, celebrated in a different manner in different places, and that, no doubt, by the orders, or at least with the approbation, of the apostles and their disciples. In these early times it was both wise and necessary, to show, in the establishment of outward forms of worship, some indulgence to the ancient opinions, manners, and laws, of the respective nations to whom the gospel was preached.

The

Jewish

rites retained

ces.

III. From hence it follows, that the opinion of in several pla- those who maintain that the Jewish rites were adopted every where, in the christian churches, by order of the apostles, or their disciples, is destitute of all foundation. In those christian societies, which were totally or principally composed of Jewish converts, it was natural to retain as much of the Jewish ritual as the genius of Christianity would suffer, and a multitude of examples testify that this was actually done. But that the same translation of Jewish rites should take place in christian churches, where there were no Jews, or a very small and inconsiderable number, is utterly incredible, because such an event was morally impossible. In a word, the external forms of worship used in the times of old, must necessarily have been regulated and modified according to the character, genius, and manners, of the different nations on which the light of the gospel arose.

Public assem⚫ blies of christians.

IV. Since then there was such a variety in the ritual and discipline of the primitive churches, it must be very difficult to give such an account of the worship, manners, and institutions of the ancient christians, as will agree with what was practised in all those countries where the gospel flourished. There are, notwithstanding, certain laws, whose authority and obligation were universal and indispensable among all christians, and of these we shall here give a brief account. All christians were unanimous

PART II.

in setting apart the first day of the week, on which CENT.I. the triumphant Saviour arose from the dead, for the solemn celebration of public worship. This pious custom, which was derived from the example of the church of Jerusalem, was founded upon the express appointment of the apostles, who consecrated that day to the same sacred purpose, and was observed universally throughout all the christian churches, as appears from the united testimonies of the most credible writers." The seventh day of the week was also observed as a festival,* not by the christians in general, but by such churches only as were principally composed of Jewish converts, nor did the other christians censure this custom as criminal and unlawful. It appears, moreover, that all the christian churches observed two great anniversary festivals; the one in memory of Christ's glorious resurrection; and the other to commemorate the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the apostles. To these we may add the

w Phil. Jac. Hartmannus, De rebus gestis Christianorum sub Apostolis, cap. xv. p. 387. Just. Henn. Bohmer, Dissert. i. Juris Eccles. Antiqui de stato die Christianor. p. 20, &c.

Steph. Curcellæus, Diatriba de esu Sanguinis, Operum Theolog. p. 958. Gab. Albaspinæus, Observat. Eccles. lib. i. Observ. xiii. p. 53. It is in vain that many learned men have laboured to prove, that in all the primitive churches, both the first and last day of the week were observed as festivals. The churches of Bithynia, of which Pliny speaks in his letter to Trajan, had only one stuted day, for the celebration of public worship; and that was undoubtedly the first day of the week, or what we call the Lord's day.

y There are, it is true, learned men, who look upon it as a doubtful matter, whether or no the day of Pentecost was celebrated as a festival so early as the first century. See Bingham's Antiquities of the Christian Church, book xx. ch. vi. p. 120. But notwithstanding this, there are many weighty reasons for believing that festival as ancient as that of Easter, which was celebrated, as all agree, from the very first rise of the church. It is also probable, that Friday, the day of Christ's crucifixion, was early distinguished by particular honours from the other days of the week. See Jac. Godofred, in Codicem Theodosii, tom. i. p.

PART II.

CENT.1 days on which the blessed martyrs laid down their lives for the truth, which days were probably dig. nified with particular solemnities and marks of ven. eration from the earliest times.

The manner

of conducting

worship in

v. The places in which the first christians assembled to celebrate divine worship, were, no doubt, the houses of private persons. But in But in process of time it became necessary, that these sacred assemblies should be confined to one fixed place, in which the books, tables, and desks, required in divine service, might be constantly kept, and the dangers avoided, which, in those perilous times, attended their transportation from one place to another. And then, probably, the places of meeting, that had formerly belonged to private persons, became the property of the whole christian community. These few remarks are, in my opinion, sufficient to determine that question, which has been so long and so tediously debated, viz. whether the first christians had churches or not ?a Since if any are pleased to give the name of church to a house, or the part of a house, which, though appointed as the place of religious worship, was neither separated from common use, nor considered as holy in the opinion of the people, it will be readily granted that the most ancient christians had churches.

VI. In these assemblies the holy scriptures were the public publicly read, and for that purpose were divided these assemb into certain portions or lessons. This part of divine service was followed by a brief exhortation to the people, in which eloquence and art gave place to

lies.

138. Asseman. Biblioth. Oriental. Vatican. tom. i. p. 217, 237. Martene, Thesaur. Anecdot. tom. v. p. 66.

See Camp. Vitringa, De synagoga vetere, lib. i. part iii. cap. i. p. 432.

• See Blondel, De Episcopis et Presbyteris, § 3, p. 216, 245, 246. Just. Henn. Bohmer, Dissert. ii. Juris Eccles. Antiqui. de Antelucanis Christianorum Catibus, § 4, p. 39. Bingham's Antiquities of the Christian Church, book viii. ch. i. § 3, 4, 5, 6.

the natural and fervent expression of zeal and charity. If any declared themselves extraordinarily animated by the Holy Spirit, they were permitted to explain successively the divine will, while the other prophets who were present, decided how much weight and authority was to be attributed to what they said. The prayers, which made a considerable part of the public worship, came in at the conclusion of these discourses, and were repeated by the people after the bishop or presbyter, who presided in the service. To these were added certain hymns, which were sung, not by the whole assembly, but by persons appointed for that purpose, during the celebration of the Lord's supper, and the feasts of charity. Such were the essential parts of divine worship, which were observed in all christian churches, though perhaps the method and order in which they were performed, were not the same in all."

vu. The prayers of the first christians were followed by oblations of bread, wine, and other things; and hence both the ministers of the church, and the poor, derived their subsistence. Every christian, who was in an opulent condition, and indeed every one, according to their circumstances, brought with them their gifts, and offered them, as it were, unto the Lord. Of the bread and wine, presented in these offerings, such a quantity was separated from the rest, as was required in the

b 1 Cor. xiv. 6.

* See Justin Martyr, his second Apology, p. 98, &c.

This must be understood of churches well established, and regulated by fixed and certain laws. For in the first christian assemblies, which were yet in an imperfect and fluctuating state, one or other of these circumstances of divine worship may possibly have been omitted.

• See the dissertations of the venerable and learned Pfaff, De oblatione et consecratione Eucharistica, which are contained in his Syntagma Dissertation. Theologic. published at Stutgard, in 8vo. in the year

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »