« הקודםהמשך »
Church in Pergamos. One great source of the temptations of the members of that Church was, that they would join in the idolatrous feasts and eat of those things which were offered to idols. In those feasts there were the richest viands to create and stimulate the artificial appetite, and wine to cheer and to bewilder. But to eat implied apostacy from God. Now mark the peculiar bearing of this promise—to him that overcometh these temptations, who rejects these worldly compliances, will I give, not the perishable food like that to which they were enticed, but the hidden manna; the richest of God's sustaining graces here; the unspeakable enjoyments of God's peculiar presence in the world to comeangel's food on earth; the marriage supper of the Lamb hereafter.
2. “To him that overcometh will I give a white stone, and in that stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he which receiveth it.”
It is here, my friends, that I feel constrained to ask your very special and undivided attention, because I wish you to be able to enter fully into this subject.
By the generality of the ablest commentators, the promise has met with the following interpretation. In ancient times, when any person among the Greeks accused of crimes against the state was tried by the suffrages of the citizens, they balloted for his acquittal by a white stone, and for his condemnation by a black one. This is the ground-work upon which the generality of commentators go in the elucidation of this promise, and the application which is then given to the passage is, that Christ, the sole Judge of his people, in promising to give the victors a white
stone, did by this figurative expression assure them of their full justification at the great day of account, and of the present comfortable sense that they were pardoned and accepted in him. They make the white stone indicative of a free and full justification. There is one objection to the elucidation of the passage
from this ancient custom, which, in my mind, is fatal to its applicability, and it is this, that when persons were tried, and acquitted or condemned, it was simply by the use of a white or black stone, on neither of which was there any name written whatever. That method of trial amounted to very little more than a practice which to this day is current in many societies; I mean the practice of balloting by white or black balls; the one indicating a disposition to receive, the other to reject. Besides this, when a person was tried, if he was acquitted by a white stone, every one engaged in his trial knew it just as well as himself. It is for these reasons then, that in this ancient practice no name was written on the stone at all; that from the nature of the case the matter could not be a secret; that there is not a sufficient coincidence in all the circumstances to render this interpretation in the least degree satisfactory. Other writers have mentioned other practices, but they have been so wide of the mark, that I have generally found my time but wasted in their examination, and do not think it necessary to obtrude them upon you. I will mention a curious fact, which, though it does not appear to me distinctly connected with the elucidation, is difficult to account for. A particular friend, who has been considerably in the East Indies, mentioned to me a few days ago, that many of the pictures of the great men are drawn
with white stones in their hands, and that when this is the case, it is meant to express the idea that these men were perfectly happy and had need of nothing.
But though the ancient custom above alluded to does not explain the passage, there is another custom which is fully competent to elucidate all the particulars with the utmost harmony and interest. It was a custom common to the Greeks and Romans, also to be found in Persia, and certainly to be discovered as existing among the early Christians. It was this: When any persons were desirous of forming, and especially of perpetuating a friendship, in order that they might render its union more sacred, and insure to it privileges of a more extensive character, they took a small piece of bone, or iron, or marble, or any kind of stone, and then dividing it into equal or similar parts, each one of the friends wrote his name on the part he had, and when they had done this, they made a mutual exchange, and this was considered as a pledge of inviolable friendship. This was not always done in the same way, however; there were other methods. Thus, in a note which is appended to the Medea of the celebrated Greek writer Euripedes, it is said that they had a custom when a friendship had commenced, to take a white stone and engrave thereon any word upon which the parties had mutually agreed. They then brake the stone in the midst, dividing the word, and one half was kept by one friend, and the other half by the other, as a constant memorial of their friendship. This is the custom upon which my explanation is entirely to be built, and the white stones, or pieces of any thing which were used on these occasions, were called “Tessare hospitalitatis," or tokens
of friendship. In the cabinets of antiquarians, specimens of these are preserved to this day, and I have seen plates of several kinds, some of the oblong square about two and a half inches in length and onefourth of an inch square; others of an oval, and some circular. On some of these there are Hebrew characters, on others very old Greek; some appear to be entirely hieroglyphical, and on others there are Roman names, such as Manlius, Faustus, Antonius, &c. This, then, is the custom alluded to as existing among the Greeks and Persians. There is the most unquestionable evidence also that a practice of this kind prevailed among the early Christians, for in the early ages of the Christian Church these tessaræ hospitalitatis, as they were always called, or these tallies of friendship, as the terms may be translated, were used by the Christians as they travelled. They stood in the place of letters of introduction, and ensured the friendship and the brotherly kindness of their fellow Christians wherever they were met with. These facts are still further confirmed by the circumstance, that the early heretics, hoping that they might enjoy these privileges, did actually counterfeit these tessare, or tokens, and this rendered it necessary for the Christians to alter their inscription. Alterations were frequently made, till the council of Nice took the matter in hand, and gave their sanction only to those white stones which were marked with the letters of the Greek alphabet, answering to our P, U, A, P, which make the Greek words Pater Vios, Agiou Pneuma-Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—for they thought that the Arians, who were the Socinians or Unitarians of those days, would not counterfeit a token which had this doctrine of
the Trinity on it; and it shows you, brethren, incidentally, that the faith of the early Church was Trinitarian, else why should they use such a device to prevent those whom they called heretics from imposing themselves upon the orthodox as Christians ? Now these tessaræ or tokens, with the words Father, Son and Holy Ghost; were called Tesssaræ Canonica, or canonical tallies or pledges. These facts could all be substantiated by appeals to the testimonies of Aulus Gellius, Ammianus, Marcellinus, Athenagoras and Tertullian; and Eusebius mentions the remarkable case of one Peregrinus, a Gentile philosopher, who feigned himself a Christian, that he might get one of these tokens, and thus be assisted on his travels by the Christians and partake of their hospitality. He was discovered, however, and exposed. In an Episcopal charge of the Archbishop of Worms, who lived as late as the year of our Lord 1020, this practice is alluded to. After this the practice seems to have been entirely lost, unless—and I feel that I may safely declare it-unless it is to be found among the higher degrees of the Masonic fraternity, where alone any thing like this ancient custom is now to be found.
But there are still further considerations connected with this practice which it will be necessary to mention. The exchange of these white stones was a covenant of friendship. Let that be distinctly remembered. And there was nothing considered so disgraceful as the violation of any duty or act which the pledge implied. It was an agreement which never could be sundered but by an open public disavowal; when the ceremony practised on the occasion was, that the party making that disavowal, publicly broke