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to promote, were called agapæ, or feasts of cha- CENT. rity [g]. Many attempts have been made to fix precisely the nature of these social feasts. But PART II. here it must be again considered, that the rites and customs of the primitive Christians were very different in different countries, and that consequently these feasts, like other institutions, were not everywhere celebrated in the same manner. This is the true and only way of explaining all the difficulties that can arise upon this subject.

VIII. The sacrament of baptism was admini- Baptism. stered in this century, without the public assemblies, in places appointed and prepared for that purpose, and was performed by immersion of the whole body in the baptismal font [h]. At first it was usual for all who laboured in the propagation of the gospel, to be present at that solemn ceremony; and it was also customary, that the converts should be baptized and received into the church by those under whose ministry they had embraced the Christian doctrine. But this custom was soon changed. When the Christian churches were well established, and governed by a system of fixed laws, then the right of baptizing the Christian converts was vested in the bishop alone. This right, indeed, he conferred upon the presbyters and chorepiscopi, or country bishops, when the bounds of the church were still further enlarged, reserving however, to himself, the confirmation of the baptism, which was administered by a pres

[g] The authors who have written concerning the agapæ, or feasts of charity, are mentioned by Ittigius, in his Selecta Historiæ Eccles. Capita, Sac. ii. cap. iii. p. 180. and also by Pfaff, De Originibus Juris Eccles. p. 68.

[h] See the learned Dissertation of Jo. Gerard Vossius concerning baptism, Disp. i. Thes. vi. p. 31, &c. The reader will also find in the xith chapter and xxvth section of the Bibliogr. Antiquar. of the celebrated Fabricius, an account of the authors who have written upon this subject.




CENT. byter [i]. There were, doubtless, several circumI. stantial rites and ceremonies observed in the administration of this sacrament for the sake of order and decency. Of these, however, it is not easy, nor perhaps possible, to give a certain or satisfactory account; since, upon this subject, we are too much exposed to the illusion which arises from confounding the customs of the primitive times with those of succeeding ages.

The sick

IX. Those who were visited with violent or anointed. dangerous disorders sent, according to the apostle's direction [k], for the rulers of the church, and, after confessing their sins, were recommended by them to the divine mercy, in prayers full of piety and fervour, and were also anointed with oil. This rite has occasioned many debates, and, indeed, they must be endless, since the silence of the ancient writers upon that head renders it impossible to decide the matter with any degree of certainty. The anointing the sick is very rarely mentioned in the ancient records of the church, though there is no reason to doubt of its having been an universal custom among Christians [7]. X. Neither Christ nor his apostles enacted troduced. law concerning fasting. A custom, however, prevailed among many Christians, of joining abstinence with their prayers, especially when they

Fasting in


[i] These observations will illustrate, and, perhaps, decide the question concerning the right of administering baptism, which has been so long debated among the learned, and with such ardour and vehemence. See Bohmer, Dissert. xi. Juris Eccles. p. 500. as also Le Clerc, Biblioth. Universelle et Historique, tom. iv. p. 93.

[k] James v. 14.

[1] The accounts which the ancient authors have given of this custom are, the most of them, collected in a treatise published by Launoius, De Sacramentis unctionis Infirmorum, cap. 1. p. 444. in the first volume of his works. Among these accounts there are very few drawn from the writers of the first ages, and some passages applicable to this subject have been omitted by that learned author.


were engaged in affairs of extraordinary moment CENT. and importance [m]. As this custom was authorised by no public law, the time that was to be PART II. employed in these acts of abstinence was left to every one's private judgment; nor were those looked upon as criminal, who contented themselves with observing the rules of a strict temperance, without going any further [n]. In the most ancient times we find no mention of any public and solemn fasts, except upon the anniversary of Christ's crucifixion. But, in process of time, days of fasting were gradually introduced, first by custom, and afterwards by positive appointment; though it is not certain what those days were, nor whether they were observed in the first century. Those, notwithstanding, who affirm, that, in the time of the apostles, or soon after, the fourth and sixth days of the week were observed as fasts, are not, it must be acknow. ledged, destitute of specious arguments in favour of their opinion [o].


Concerning the Divisions and Heresies which troubled the Church during this Century.

formed in

I. THE Christian church was scarcely formed, Sects are when, in different places, there started up the time of certain pretended reformers, who, not satisfied the aposwith the simplicity of that religion which was taught by the apostles, meditated changes of doc

[m] 1 Cor. vii. 5.

[n] See the Shepherd of Hermas, book iii. Similitud. v. p. 931.935. edition of Fabricius.

[o] See Beverege's Vindication of the Canon, in the second volume of his edition of the apostolic Fathers, p. 166.




CENT. trine and worship, and set up a new religion, drawn from their own licentious imaginations. This we learn from the writings of the apostles, and particularly from the epistles of St. Paul, where we find, that some were for forcing the doctrines of Christianity into a conformity with the philosophical systems they had adopted [p], while others were as studious to blend with these doctrines, the opinions, customs, and traditions of the Jews. Several of these are mentioned by the apostles, such as Hymenæus, Alexander, Philetus, Hermogenes, Demas, and Diotrephes; though the four last are rather to be considered as apostates from the truth, than as corrupters of it [q].

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II. The influence of these new teachers was but inconsiderable at first. During the lives of the apostles, their attempts towards the perversion of Christianity were attended with little success, and the number of their followers was exceeding small. They, however, acquired credit and strength by degrees; and even from the first dawn of the gospel, laid, imperceptibly, the foundations of those sects, whose animosities and disputes produced, afterwards, such trouble and perplexity in the Christian church. The true state of these divisions is more involved in darkness than any other part of ecclesiastical history; and this obscurity proceeds, partly from the want of ancient records, partly from the abstruse and unintelligible nature of the doctrines that distinguished these various sects; and, finally, from the ignorance and prejudices of those who have transmitted to us the ac

[p] 1 Tim. vi. 20. 1 Tim. i. 3, 4. Tit. iii. 9. Col. ii. 8. [9] 2 Tim. ii. 18. and in other places. See also the accurate accounts given of these men by Vitringa, Observ. Sacr. lib. iv. cap. ix. p. 952. Ittigius, De Hæresiarchis ævi Apostol. sect. i. cap. viii. p. 84. Buddeus, De Ecclesia Apostolica, cap. v. p. 292, &c.



counts of them which are yet extant. Of one CENT. thing, indeed, we are certain, and that is, that the most of these doctrines were chimerical and extravagant in the highest degree; and so far from containing any thing that could recommend them to a lover of truth, that they rather deserve to occupy a place in the history of human delusion and folly [r].


III. Among the various sects that troubled the The sect of tranquillity of the Christian church, the leading the Gnosone was that of the Gnostics. These enthusiastic and self-sufficient philosophers boasted of their being able to restore mankind to the knowledge (gnosis) of the true and Supreme Being, which had been lost in the world. They also foretold the approaching defeat of the evil principle, to whom they attributed the creation of this globe, and declared, in the most pompous terms, the destruction of his associates, and the ruin of his empire. An opinion has prevailed, derived from the authority of Clemens the Alexandrian, that the first rise of the Gnostic sect is to be dated after the death of the Apostles, and placed under the reign of the emperor Adrian; and it is also al

[r] Certain authors have written professedly concerning the sects that divided the church in this and the following century, such as Ittigius, in his treatise, De Hæresiarchis ævi Apostolici et Apostolico proximi, printed at Leipsick in 1690, and also in the Appendix to the same work, published in 1696. Renatus, Massuet, in his Dissertations prefixed to Irenæus, and Tillemont, in his Memoires pour servir à l'Histoire de l'Eglise. But these authors, and others whom we shall not mention, have rather collected the materials, from which an history of the ancient, sects may be composed, than written their history. Hinckelman, Thomasius, Dodwell, Horbius, and Basnage, have some of them promised, others of them attempted such a history; but none of them have finished this useful design. It is therefore to be wished, that some eminent writer, who, with a competent knowledge of ancient philosophy and literature, is also possessed of a penetrating and unbiassed judgment, would undertake this difficult, but interesting work.

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