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consecrated to public charity. Having renounced the luxuries of the world, they did not need great wealth, and they viewed their poor brethren as on a level with themselves, as sinners, ransomed by the blood of the Son of God.
But their number and character is best shown by a writer of their own time:
“We pray," says Tertullian, in his apology for the Christians, “for the safety of the emperors to the eternal God. We, looking up to heaven with out-stretched hands, because they are harmless; with naked head because we are not ashamed; without a prompter, because we pray from the heart; constantly pray for all emperors, that they may have a long life, a secure empire, a safe palace, strong armies, a faithful senate, a well-moralized people, a quiet state of the world ; whatever Cæsar would wish for himself in his public or private capacity. Were we disposed to act the part, I will not say of secret assassins, but of open enemies, should we want forces and numbers? Are there not multitudes of us in every part of the world? It is true, we are but of yesterday, and yet we have filled all your towns, cities, – islands, burroughs, councils, camps, courts, palaces, senate, forum :- We leave you only your temples. For what war should we not be ready and well prepared, even though unequal in numbers; we-who die with so much pleasure, were it not that our religion requires us rather to suffer death than inflict it? If we were to make a general secession from your dominions, you would be astonished at your solitude. We are dead to all ideas of worldly honor and dignity ; nothing is more foreign to us than political concerns. The whole world is our republic. We are a body united in one bond of religion, discipline and hope. We meet in our assemblies for prayer. Every one pays something into the public chest once a month, or when he pleases, and according to his ability and inclination, for there is no compulsion. These gifts are, as it were, the deposits of piety. Hence we relieve and bury the needy, support or." phans and decrepit persons, those who have suffered shipwreck, and those who, for the word of God, are condemned to the mines for imprisonment. This very charity of ours has caused us to be noticed by some :- See,' say they, how these Christians love one another.'"
Tertullian lived at Carthage in the latter part of the second, and beginning of the third century. In early life he was a lawyer, but became a presbyter of the Church. He was a man of profound learning, of warm and vigorous pi
ety ; but of a temperament melancholy and austere; and unhappily adopted, in the close of life, the visions of Montanus. He is the first Latin writer of the Church, whose works have been transmitted to us.
About the same period flourished Ireneus, bishop of Lyons. He was a Greek by birth, and a disciple of Polycarp. “I can describe," says he, in a letter to a friend, “ the very spot in which Polycarp sat and expounded, and his coming in and going out, and the very manner of his life, and the figure of his body, and the sermons which he preached to the multitude, and how he related to us his converse with John and with the rest of those who had seen the Lord; how he mentioned the particular expressions, and what things he had heard from them of the Lord and of his miracles, and of his doctrine. As Polycarp had received from the eyewitnesses of the Word of life, he told us all things agreeably to the Scriptures. These things, then, through the mercy of God inviting me, I heard with seriousness : I wrote them, not on paper, but on my heart; and ever since, through the grace of God, I have a genuine remembrance of them; and I can witness before God, that if that blessed Apostolical Presbyter had heard some of the doctrines which are now maintained, he would have cried out, and stopped his ears, and in the usual manner, have said, O good God, to what times hast thou reserved me, that I should endure such things? And he would immediately have fled from the place in which he heard such doctrines.”
Ireneus was ordained successor to Pothinus, A. D. 169, and suffered martyrdom under the persecution of Severus, in the beginning of the third century. He was a man of much meekness, humility, dexterity and resolution. He had a true missionary spirit. He was a superior Greek scholar, and doubtless might have obtained the luxuries and pleasures of Asia, but these he renounced from the love of souls. He went among the Gauls, learned their barbarous dialect, and conformed to their plain and homely fare. He wrote five books against the heresies of the age, which have been transmitted to us;-precious relics of antiquity.
About the middle of this century, two men shone with distinguished brightness ;-Origen, a presbyter and catechist of Alexandria, and Cyprian, bishop of Carthage.
In his youth, Origen saw his father beheaded for professing Christianity, and all the family estate confiscated.But providence provided for him. A rich lady in Alexandria became his friend and patron. He applied himself to study, and soon acquired prodigious stores of learning. While pursuing his studies, he distinguished himself by his attachment to the martyrs, and was often in peril of his life. He early became a catechist in the school at Alexandria. Multitudes crowded to hear him, and were impressed by his instructions. His daily habit was one of excessive austerity. Hearing of the power of his doctrine, Mammea, the mother of the emperor, sent for him to hear him. At the age of forty-five, he was ordained a priest, and delivered theological lectures in Palestine. In diligence and learning, he surpassed all men. Of this the remains of his Hexapla is the memorial. To confront the Jews, who always objected against those passages of scripture which were quoted against them, as not agreeing with the Hebrew version, he undertook to reduce all the Latin and Greek versions then in use, into a body with the Hebrew text, that they might be at once compared. He made six columns. In the first, he placed the Hebrew as the standard, and in the next, the Septuagint, and then the other versions according to their dates-passage after passage. The whole filled fifty large volumes. It was found fifty years after his death, in an obscure place in the city of Tyre, and deposited in a public library. The most of it was destroyed in the capture of the city, A. D. 653. It was called the Hexapla, a work of six columns.
As a theologian, he was ruined by the Platonic philosophy; and unhappily introduced a mode of explaining scripture which was of incalculable injury to the Church. He supposed it was not to be explained in a literal, but in an allegorical manner; and that the meaning of the sacred writers was to be sought in a hidden sense, arising from the things themselves. This hidden sense he endeavored to give, and always did it at the expense of truth. This hidden sense he farther divided into the moral and mystical. The latter was of his own creation and very wild. He seems to have been but litile acquainted with the plain, evangelical doctrines of the gospel; to have adopted most fatal errors; to have given no offence in his preaching to men of the world; but, on the contrary, to have been very popular with philosophers and philologists, and men of wild fancies and visionary notions; and was much honored by courts. He introduced the practice of selecting a single text as the subject of discourse. He suffered martyrdom ; but no man did more to corrupt the simplicity of the Gospel, and his vast popularity gives us a low idea of the state of religion at that day.
Cyprian was no less great, but a very different character. He came late in life into the vineyard of Christ, without the learning of Origen, but with great abilities, and a heart devoted to the service of God. He was slain by the law; made to feel himself poor and wretched in the bond of Paganism, and to inquire with earnestness for light and salvation. His convertion was sudden, but effectual, and he entered deeply into all the doctrines of grace. For twelve years he was bishop of Carthage, -strong in Episcopacy,and, on the subject of miracles, unhappily wild. Thinking it his duty to save life, he once went into retirement during the persecution of Decius; but was as active when hidden from the view of his ememies, as when in public. He gave the Scriptures a literal interpretation. He maintained strict discipline in the Churches, and, by his firmness and perseverance, gained the victory over a most powerful party who would open wide the door of pardon and reconciliation to all the lapsed. · He effectually resisted many heresies ; recovered many apostates; and, through his example and influence, the north of Africa, now covered with gross Mahommedan darkness, was, for many years, as the garden of God. He fell a glorious martyr to the cause of truth, A. D. 237, under the persecution of Valerian. He bound the napkin over his own eyes. A presbyter and a deacon tied his hands, and the Christians placed before him handkerchiefs and napkins to receive his blood. His head was then severed from his body by a sword. His writings cannot fail to be read with pleasure and profit.
A letter of his, claims a place in ecclesiastical history, as throwing some light on a much disputed subject. A council of sixty-six bishops was held in Attica, over which Cyprian presided, for regulating the internal affairs of the Churches. A question came before them whether infants should be baptised immediately after their birth, or on the eighth day. In a letter to Fidus, Cyprian says, “ As to the case of infants, of whom you said that they ought not to be baptised within the second or third day of their birth, and that the ancient law of circumcision should be so far adhered to, that they ought not to be baptised till the eighth day, we were all of a very different opinion. We all judged that the mercy and grace of God should be denied to none. Our sentence, therefore, dearest brother, in the council, was, that none, by us, should be prohibited from baptism and the grace of God who is merciful and kind to all.” While it was melancholy to see Christians so early connecting the grace of God with baptism, it is worthy of remark, that in the year 253, it was a question before sixty-six faithful ministers, not whether infants were the proper subjects of baptism, but whether they should be baptised immediately after their birth, or, according to the custom of circumcision, on the eighth day.
Two other men, Gregory Thaumaturgus, bishop of Neocesarea, and Firmilian, bishop of Cappadocia, pupils of the famous Origen, were distinguished lights of that period, though they were much injured by the Eclectic philosophy. The miracles ascribed to Gregory by subsequent historians, deserve no credit. Many others have left able controversial writings. Indeed the defenders of Christianity were a mighty host.
In this century, a large body of Christians dissented from the main Church, under Novitian, a priest of Rome; and a man of genius, learning, and eloquence; and of unimpeachable moral character; maintaining that the Church of Christ ought to be pure, and that a member, who had fallen into any offence, should never be re-admitted to communion. They obliged such as came to their party to be re-baptized. They were called Novatian, and seem to have walked closely with God.
In this century, also, a number of new sects, the Sabellians, Noetians, and others arose, denying the proper doctrine of the Trinity, and each having some peculiarities, relating to the character of Christ. Paul of Samosata advocated the same cause with the modern Socinians.
A most odious and violent sect was that of the Manicheans. It can hardly be called Christian. It was a motley mixture of Christianity with the old Magianism of Persia. Its founder, Manes, pretended that he was the Paraclete or Comforter who came to perfect the Gospel. His fundamental principle was that there were two original independent principles, one immaterial and supremely good; the other material, and the source of all evil, but actuated by an intelligence. He rejected as false the Old Testament and most of the New; and imposed great severities upon his followers. The Manicheans were headed by a President, who represented Jesus Christ. They were a monstrous