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trines may have been often corrupted by that science, falsely so called, which spread from the Alexandrian school over the whole Christian world; but the integrity of men who laid down their lives for what they believed to be the truth, cannot surely be questioned. “I see no reason,” said one", who did not pay to them undue deference, “why their veracity “should be questioned, when they bear witness to “the state of religion in their own times, because “they disgraced their judgement, in giving ear to “every strange tale of monkish extraction. Con“troversy apart, their testimony to common facts “may yet stand good;” and surely the constitution, government and discipline of the church, were common facts, about which none of them could be deceived. The view however which Dr. Mosheim has given of the primitive church, appears not to us to be countenanced by any primitive writer; and accordingly he rarely appeals directly to them in support of what he advances, but refers to modern authors, generally French or Germans, who have written on the subject, and who could write nothing on it au
thentic, which they did not derive from the ancients.
The qualifications indeed which he thinks essential to an historian, and the rules which he lays down for the manner of treating ecclesiastical history, though highly valuable in themselves, are by him stated in such a manner as cannot fail to excite, in the reflecting mind, suspicions of the authenticity of his account of the government and discipline of the primitive church. After observing that, in order to render the history of the church useful and interesting, it is necessary to trace effects to their causes, and to connect events with the circumstances, views, principles, and instruments that have contributed to their existence, he adds, “In order to discover the secret “causes of public events, some general succours are “to be derived from the history of the times in which “they happened, and the testimonies of the authors “ by whom they are recorded. But, beside these, a “considerable acquaintance with human nature, “founded on long observation and experience, is ex“tremely useful in researches of this kind. The “historian who has acquired a competent knowlege “of the views that occupy the generality of men, “who has studied a great variety of characters, and “ attentively observed the force and violence of hu“man passions, together with the infirmities and “contradictions they produce in the conduct of life, “will find, in this knowlege, a key to the secret “reasons and motives which gave rise to many of “ the most important events of ancient times. A “knowlege also of the manners and opinions of the “ persons concerned in the events that are related, “will contribute much to lead us to the true origin “of things". There is unquestionably much truth as well as good sense in this account of the qualifications requisite to render an historian instructive and interesting; for it is obvious that he who has merely studied human nature through the medium of books, not in the society of men, and who has not observed the motives which generally influence human conduct, can never trace events to their causes, or discover the springs of those actions on which perhaps the happiness or misery of millions may depend. But, if this knowlege of human nature be ever employed to counteract the testimony of ancient authors, who were under no conceivable temptation to write falsely; or if the actions of men in one stage of society be traced to the same motives from which similar actions are observed to spring in another stage altogether different, and in many respects the reverse; if, because men are prompted by avarice and ambition to solicit offices which at one period lead to honor and opulence, it be inferred that they must have been influenced by similar motives at a period when such offices led not to opulence or honor, but to certain death, in its most hideous forms; if an historian reason thus from the observations which he has made on the force and violence of human passions, and set his conclusions in opposition to facts recorded by ancient authors, who were witnesses of what they relate; it is obvious that his confidence in the knowlege which he has acquired of human nature by mixing in society, may lead him into the greatest errors; by inducing him either to neglect entirely, or to inspect carelessly, those writings from which alone he can derive any authentic information concerning the events of which he is writing. That Dr. Mosheim was not entirely free from some bias of this kind, seems evident, as, without appealing to any ancient authority whatever, he represents the government of the primitive church as democratical—a form of government unknown in the religious societies of that age, as well heathen as Jewish. He had witnessed the tyranny of the Romish clergy, and had traced the steps and discovered the causes by which the bishops of Rome had gradually reached the summit of ecclesiastical usurpation; and not adverting perhaps to the fact that, before the
a Warburton in his introduction to Julian,
conversion of Constantine, ecclesiastical preferment
could be no object of worldly ambition or avarice,
he appears to have hastily concluded that this progress had commenced from the very beginning.
Accordingly, as if the matter were self-evident,
he affirms, in the introduction to his work", “that, “when we look back to the commencement of the
“Christian church, we find its government admini“stered jointly by the pastors and the people. But, “in process of time, the scene changes, and we see “ these pastors affecting an air of pre-eminence and “superiority, trampling upon the rights and privi
“leges of the community, and assuming to them“selves a supreme authority, both in civil and reli“gious matters.” Of this joint administration of the government of the original church by the pastors and the people, he thinks it not necessary here to offer any evidence whatever; but, when he enters on the subject as an historian, and observes that the form of government, which the primitive churches borrowed from that of Jerusalem established by the apostles themselves, must be esteemed as of divine institution, he gives the following account of that form, which he endeavours to support by the authority of Scripture. “In those early times, every Christian church “consisted of the people, their leaders, and the mi“nisters, or deacons; and these indeed belong es“sentially to every religious society. The people “were, undoubtedly, the first in authority; for the “apostles shewed by their own example, that nothing “ of moment was to be carried on or determined “without the consent of the assembly; and such a “method of proceeding was both prudent and ne“cessary in those critical times. It was, therefore, “ the assembly of the people, which chose their own “rulers and teachers, or received them by a free and “authoritative consent, when recommended by “others. The same people rejected or confirmed, “ by their suffrages, the laws that were proposed by “ their rulers to the assembly; excommunicated pro“fligate and unworthy members of the church; re“stored the penitent to their forfeited privileges; “passed judgement upon the different subjects of “controversy and dissension, that arose in the com“ munity; examined and decided the disputes which “happened between the elders and deacons; and, in “a word, exercised all that authority which belongs “to such as are invested with the sovereign power".” Such, according to our author, was the govern
ment of the Christian church during the greater part of the first century; and he infers this supreme authority of the people from the Acts of the Apostles, chap. i. v. 15. vi. 3. xv. 4. xxi. 22; but it is difficult to conceive by what mode of interpretation these texts can be made to countenance the supreme authority of the people in the church. At the time of the transaction mentioned in the fifteenth and following verses of the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, we know, from the testimony of St. Paul", that the number of believers in Jerusalem and its neighbourhood amounted at least to five hundred; but St. Luke assures us that the number of names met together at the appointment of Matthias to the apostleship, did not exceed one hundred and twenty. If the authority of the people was at that period supreme, and if it belonged to them to elect by their own suffrages even a successor in the apostleship to Judas, how came so very large a majority to be deprived of their right at the election of Matthias’ On this question Dr. Lightfoot says, “Quum Matthias et Joses coram apostolis, ut par “candidatorum, sisterentur, haud constat universum “fidelium coetum, sive individuum quemvis in eorum “electione suo nomine suffragia tulisse, quin in “ presbyterio potius, sive in collegio virorum 108, “ inter se coacto, jus et potestatem eligendi resedisse.” And though in ordinary cases it belonged to the apostles to ordain, by imposition of hands, such as were chosen to fill any office in the church by those to whom they had deputed the right of election, yet in the present case, they left the determination between the candidates wholly to the giving-forth of lots, after solemnly praying that the divine head of the church would shew which of them he had chosen to take part of the ministry and apostleship from which Judas had fallen; and all this was done, as the
e 1 Cor. xv. 6. -