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parts of the Roman empire which were evangelized in the days of the apostles, the cause continued to prosper. When Pliny the younger governed Bithynia, there was a great revival in that province; so powerful was it, that the heathen temples were almost deserted, and the idolaters were filled with dismay. The neighborhood of Carthage was so saturated with Christian influence that all society was permeated by it, and Tertullian tasked his rhetoric to portray the results, indulging, as he did, the belief that in the empire generally the gospel had been equally efficacious. “We are but of yesterday,” he says, "and we have filled every place among your cities, islands, fortresses, towns, market-places, the very camp, tribes, companies, palace, senate, forum, ... we have left nothing to you but the temples of your gods." “There is not one single race of men," Justin Martyr affirmed, "whether Barbarians or Greeks, or whether they may be called nomads or vagrants, or herdsmen living in tents, among whom prayers and giving of thanks are not offered, through the name of the crucified Jesus."2 All this, however, must be taken with some abatement.

General persecution, in the proper sense of that phrase, had not yet been endured; but that persecution was general, that is, that society everywhere was hostile to the gospel, venting its hostility in sundry forms of outrage, as atrocious as it was undeserved, is known by all students of history. The emperor Trajan was considered a humane and just ruler; yet he sanctioned the punishment of Christians, and sent Ignatius, of Antioch, to Rome, to be thrown to the wild beasts for the gratification of the bloodthirsty mob of that city. Hadrian checked the popular fury, but had not firmness enough to quell it. The Antonines, in spite of their philosophy, hated Christianity, as many philosophers do now, and would have suppressed it, had they been able. In their reign, the churches experienced sharp sufferings in every part of the empire, and some eminent men were put to death: Justin Martyr, at Rome; Polycarp, at Smyrna; Pothinus, at Lyons; and in the last mentioned city, and at Vienne, persecution of the most brutal kind burst, with storm-like violence, on the Christian population, and swept away great numbers. The narrative of this tragedy, as preserved by the historian Eusebius, presents at once a horrible picture of human depravity and an affecting portraiture of the followers of Christ, exhibiting the meek majesty of his faith.3

The churches did not furnish many writers in the second century. The time for the formation of a Christian literature had not come. Of the apostolic fathers, as they are called, Ignatius, Polycarp, and Barnabas belong to this period. They were followed by Justin

1 Apolog., c 37. Tryph., c. 117. 3 Hist. Eccles., v. 1.

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Martyr, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Irenæus. The earlier productions of Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria may be classed with them, for as they died about the year 220 their writings may be considered as representing, for the most part, the Christian thoughts and habits of the second century.

But what those thoughts and habits were, can be but partially gathered from the Christian writings of the century. The literature of the church was chiefly apologetic. Christian authors employed their pens in defending the church, rather than in describing it, or even in stating its faith. Their treatises lacked the savor of the experimental and practical discussions of the seventeenth century; not because their religion was deficient in fervor and power, but because their attention was mainly directed to the outworks, which it was necessary to protect against assaults, oftentimes as much distinguished by cunning as by ferocity. And the church was still in a formative state. The contrast between Paganism and Christianity was so great, and the changes which the latter proposed to make were so revolutionary, that we must not be surprised if we find now and then some illustrations of imperfect development of character, some shrinking from the sacrifices which Christ required of his servants. But, in the main, Christians were "a peculiar people, zealous of good works." They took a decided stand against the frivolity, the worldly pomp, the licentiousness, the debasing and brutalizing amusements of the day. The life of the church was a continual protest against all that was unholy. To be a Christian was to be a declared opponent of the world as it then was, out from among them, and be separated.” The savagery of heathen

. ism was replaced by Christian love. The fellowship of the saints supplanted the selfishness of Greek and Roman society. The modest and pure deportment of the believer was a living rebuke of the lascivious indulgences which even philosophers tolerated. Nor could Paganism make head against so formidable a rival. Satan committed a grand mistake in the methods of opposition which he first adopted against the doctrine of the cross. He thought to put it down by brute force, and “the heathen raged.” But he totally misapprehended the nature of Christianity. As the gospel does not employ force, so it does not yield to it. The second century was a period of constant growth. The palm tree flourished under pressure. “The blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church.”

In judging of this period, there are some cautions to be observed. We must beware of confounding private opinion with general belief and practice. The early fathers were good men, and meant well;






but they were often mistaken in their decisions. Many of their interpretations of Scripture betrayed great weakness of judgment, and those egregiously err who regard them as exponents, in all cases, of Christian views and beliefs. It is a still greater error to hold them up as authorities, as those do who would have us believe that whatever is patristic is oracular. If Papias thought that the millennium would consist of a huge conglomeration of temporal good things;' if Barnabas fancied that in the number of Abraham's young men whom he circumcised, and by whose aid he delivered Lot from captivity, there was a typical prophecy of the death of Christ on the cross;? if Justin Martyr seemed to teach the merit of good works, and supposed that the “sons of God," spoken of in Genesis vi, were angels ; if Irenæus believed that Jesus was fifty years old, and that the world would last only sixty centuries ; ' if Tertullian maintained that the soul is corporeal, and that the prophecies respecting the cow and the bear and the lion, in Isaiah xi, will be literally fulfilled,"—it is not to be supposed that these notions, and many others that might be referred to, are to be fathered upon all Christians. They must be attributed solely to those by whom they were propagated. The church is not responsible for them.

And yet there are some facts in this connection which deserve consideration. These writers were children in Christianity. There was nothing in their previous modes of life to help, but much to hinder the development of spiritual feeling. Biblical interpretation, on sound principles, was in its infancy. The Jews, who might have rendered some aid from their familiarity with the style of the Scriptures, stood aloof from all intercourse with Christians. Perhaps instead of being surprised at certain weaknesses and follies which we meet with in Ante-nicene treatises, we ought rather to be thankful that, considering the disadvantages under which their authors labored, they were able to turn their Scripture studies to so good account.

Again, we should be careful in forming our estimates of the socalled heresies of this period. Heresy, according to the common opinion, was a very wicked thing. It was a sin to deviate, however slightly, from the general standard of orthodoxy, althought that standard was not yet embodied in express words and definition. Truth, as the church held it, was not to be argued about, but accepted; not to be proved to be right, but to be taken for right, whether it might ultimately appear to be right or not. Christian freedom was not understood. Those who would face the lions rather than deny their Lord, would refuse fellowship with a man and cast him out of the church who differed from them in modes of expression, or would not acknowledge the absolute correctness of some formula. A stern and rigid uniformity was deemed essential, if not actually prescribed, and any departure from it, however harmless and insignificant, subjected a church-member to the charge of heresy. It was not supposed possible that substantial agreement in the faith could consist with even verbal differences of representation. Hence many were stigmatized as leaders of heresy who merely objected to popular forms of expressions, and were as orthodox, in the proper sense of that word, as their opponents and accusers.

1 See Iren. Advers. Hæres., v. 3, 4. ? c. 9. It would be doing great injustice to the companion of Paul to ascribe to him the epistle that bears his name. The author is unknown.

• Apol. i, c. 43; ii, c. 5. * Advers. Hæros. ii, c. 22; V. c. 28, 29. 5 De Anima, o. 5-7.

There were others, speculators on the curiosities of thought, who loved to amuse themselves with metaphysical and mythological trifles, and sported among the philosophies of the age. Some of them lost their way in the mazes of hard questions respecting the nature of deity, the origin of evil, and other correlated topics. Others plunged into “fables and endless genealogies,” absurd, horrible, or blasphemous, but destitute of the smallest resemblance to Christianity. Nevertheless, as those who embraced or played with such follies (it is scarcely correct to say that they believed them) were Christians by profession, they were branded as heads of new sects, the names of which appear in ecclesiastical dictionaries, befogging the minds of honest inquirers, and supplying infidels with rough weapons of warfare against us. By a fair and judicious curtailment the list of the heretics of the century might be cut down to one-half its length.

Another caution may be mentioned. It will appear in the course of this discussion that numerous additions were made from time to time, to the forms of worship and government in the churches. Those additions, however, were not made simultaneously, nor were they universally adopted. Some were local, and were not known beyond the places where they originated. Some were temporary, occasioned by incidents, the effects of which were felt but for a short time, and then vanished away. Liberty was taken by many of the churches

their ceremonial observances, but the variations were not all alike, nor was there as yet any disposition to enforce conformity to church fashions in minor matters. That was reserved for Rome and for a later age.

We must beware, finally, of bringing the Christians and Christian church, as of the second century, to the standard of these times. It would be essentially unjust. They must be judged by the state of

to vary


the times in which they lived. When we consider the corrupt society from which they were taken, the license given by custom to immoralities which must not "be once named amongst us, as becometh saints," and the powerful temptations to which the followers of Christ were exposed, especially when persecution was raging, we must not wonder if we meet with numerous tokens of imperfection and weakness. We should be astonished that it could be said of so many, in those times of trial, that “their loyalty they kept, their love, their zeal."

These cautions premised, we now proceed to inquire into the theology of the churches of the second century. As might be supposed, it was extremely simple. At first Christian writers alluded only briefly and sparingly to what are now called the doctrines of the gospel. Christianity was a great fact, centralizing in the incarnation and atonement of the Son of God. Those distinctions to which the church has been for ages accustomed, were then unknown. It is commonly pleaded that they were the offspring of necessity, and that they were invented to guard against the assertions or inferences of those who reasoned about the things of God till they seemed to assume to be "wise above what is written," and were discontented with the plain majesty of inspired men.

A specimen of the original creeds may be given from Irenæus :

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The church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: She believes in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and his future manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father, “to gather all things into one,” and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, "every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess” to him, and that he should execute just judgment towards all; that he may send "spiritual wickednesses," and the angel who transgressed and became apostate, together with the ungodly, and unrighteous, and wicked, and profane among men, into everlasting fire; but may, in the exercise of his grace, confer immortality on the righteous and holy, and those who have kept his commandments, and have persevered in his love, some from the beginning of their Christian course, and others from the date of their repentance, and may surround them with everlasting glory.'

1 Advers. Hæres., i. c. 10. The translation in the text, and other translations in this paper, are taken from the “ Ante-Nicene Library."


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