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sun which enables many to pursue their daily occupations without one glance cast upwards, or one thought of Him who is the source and giver of all light.' And what is more strange, if after days of folly and transgression, men grow wiser, yet there are some who venture to depreciate the first sources of religious discipline and culture, by regarding which they might have shunned the rocks from which they have escaped so hardly. They may well be thankful for the happy breath of wind which enables them to work their way back from devouring perils, but the first thought should be to deplore the folly of neglecting those means by which such evils might have been avoided --- means expressly calculated for that end. 1. It remains for me to remark, that the same attachment to the fellowship of those with whom our lot in life is cast, will now lead me to invite your further notice and attention to the sacred edifices which are set apart and consecrated to the service of Almighty God.
By his power and essence, God is present every where; and by his efficacious influence he may visit, with peculiar marks of favour, the courts of worship and the fixed assemblies of his household. Thus may he “ bow the heavens and come down,” when he exhibits such present tokens of his favor by the signs and symbols of his grace.
The promise of the Lord, in whatsoever way it might entail its good effects upon collective companies of Believers in any age, is as clear a promise
as language can convey, for the congregation in its hallowed places of assembly. It is there that the joy and blessedness of such bonds of communion find their sanction. It is there that the suit is urged with all the force which united efforts of the mind and soul can furnish. Let us not forget at any moment of our ministry, that with the visible marks of covenant with God, the Christian life takes its beginning. The access is thus given to the state of grace, and to the communion and relations of the universal Church; and from thenceforth in
any settled place of their abode, how careful should we be to admonish men to keep their station, and to respect their privileges in the congregation in its appointed places of assembly. How else shall they take a proper share in its religious exercises ? Is it a small thing for them to keep their part in the privileges of the Christian household, to frequent their own place allotted for them in the hallowed courts of public worship and communion ? Is it a small thing to come into the Lord's house where he deigns to bestow his special benediction, with the choicest pledges of his love; to appear as the freed-men of that community; to turn to such doors even as they seek a Father's threshold, and approach the honored house in which they are most welcome? The argument which our Lord used against the profaners of the Temple in his day, was manifestly drawn from the fixed appropriation of the sacred edifices. On this head it has been well observed by the prudent and justly venerated Mr.
Hooker, 'that “ the solemn dedication of Churches doth not only serve to make them public, but for this end also, to surrender up that right which otherwise the founder might have in them, and to make God himself the owner.” He observes too, " that the argument which our Saviour uses against profaners of the Temple, he taketh from the use whereunto it was with solemnity consecrated : and as the Prophet Jeremy forbiddeth the carrying of burdens upon the Sabbath, because it was a sanctified day, so because the Temple was a place sanctified, our Lord would not suffer, no not the carriage of a vessel through it. Christ would not suffer that the Temple should serve for a place of mart. When therefore we sanctify or hallow Churches, that which we do is only to testify that we make them places of public resort; that we invest God himself with them; that we sever them from common uses
When the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed, it was not to signify the termination of the public worship of the Lord. Such solemnities shall never cease ; no, not in the realms of glory. But the overthrow of that sumptuous house, served sufficiently to mark the folly of those who had preferred the marble columns of the Temple, to the everlasting pillars of the Truth itself. It served also to denote the rising of a Church whose congregations should be multiplied in all lands, and would accord
Hooker, Eccles. Pol. book v. sect. 12.
ingly require its hallowed courts of worship, not in one place, but wheresoever the collective numbers of believers should be gathered.
We may observe now that after days of persecution in the first ages, when for any little term of respite the companies of Christians could meet more safely, and could make public declarations of their faith, they thought no more of building crypts for their assemblies. It was no longer an upper room, or a subterraneous vault, which they provided ; and even when they had no better places of assembly, they bestowed the best cost they could upon them, and were sometimes taunted for it.
The very learned Mr. Mede, in an elaborate discourse, traces the appropriation of places for Christian worship through the three first centuries, with copious testimonies, and full answers to objections. He remarks, that, “the number of Christians being so great that their ancient fabrics were no longer sufficient to contain them, they erected new and more spacious ones in every city, from their foundations. These sacred edifices, Dioclesian, and those other surrogated Emperors (which contained that direful ten years' persecution began by him) commanded by their edicts every where to be demolished, as we may read in Eusebius at large; the like whereunto seems never to have happened in any of the former persecutions, in which they were only taken from the Christians, but restored unto them again *.”
* Churches, that is, appropriate places for public worship,
: The churches of the Christians, when they found a little calm, rose fast. Evaristus, Bishop of Rome, in the early part of the second century, he who suffered martyrdom under Trajan, is supposed to have been the first, who, finding the multitude of converts to be too great to assemble in one place, however ample, assigned their stations and settled the bounds for the congregations over which he presided. But this design was left imperfect by his martyrdom, until the reign of Gallienus; when Dionysius encouraged by a propitious edict made in favour of the Christians, resumed the work. The designation of “ Tituli,” applied to churches, appears to have been made in the days of Marcellinus, when no less than four-and-twenty of them are said, to have been established in Rome. If doubts have been raised concerning what has been referred to, Marcellinus, yet Baronius gives an earlier date to what has been assigned to that age. This is certain, that many churches were built long before the days of Constantine and the fixed term of imperial favour. Thus we read distinctly in Eusebius *, of
both in and ever since the Apostles' times, &c. by Joseph Mede, B.D. &c. London. 1638. He concludes—“. And thus I think I have proved by good and sufficient testimonies, that the Chris. tians had Oratories or Churches, that is, appropriate places for Christian worship, in every of the first three hundred years.". Adding, “ Who can believe that such a pattern should not invite the Christians to an imitation of the same; though we should suppose
there were no other reasons to induce them, but that of ordinary convenience.”
* Euseb. Hist. Eccl. lib. 8. chap. iv.