Imágenes de páginas

ciate the advantages, which we enjoy, in this age and nation, from the diffufion of true fcience, and the general circulation of the Holy Scriptures. Such, it must alfo be admitted, is the vitiating influence of falfe and corrupt principles, that, unless the impediments, which they prefent to the reception of the truth are removed, little or no hope can be entertained of progrefs in the divine life. However unpleasant, therefore, may be the task of pursuing errour through all its windings, yet, when that task is performed in a christian spirit, it is unquestionably a most important labour of love. The volumes, which were written two or three centuries ago, to refute the doctrine of indulgencies, tranfubftantiation, and the other abfurdities of popery, now lie neglected on our fhelves and interest us as little as fome of the difcuffions of Irenæus. But it must be acknowledged at the fame time, that they ferved a most valuable though a temporary purpose, and that they conduced, in no small degree, to the purity, which diftinguishes the doctrinal articles of the church of England.

might happen to be. The Afiatick bishops refufed to fubmit to this impofition; on which Victor, with as much arrogance as has fince been manifefted by any of his fucceffors in the fee of Rome, attempted to cut them off from the communion of the church, and circulated letters, in which he pronounced all, who adhered to their errour to be excommunicated. The eastern churches were little moved, however, by the threatenings of Victor, and they firmly but temperately juftified their conduct, alleging that they ought to obey God rather than man. Even those bishops, who agreed with Victor on the point at iffue disapproved of his rashness; and, anxious to preferve the peace and unity of the church, they affembled in different places and wrote to Victor, ftrongly cenfuring his conduct, and exhorting him to pursue a more moderate and conciliatory courfe. Among the reft, Irenæus wrote a letter in the name of his Gallick brethren over whom he prefided, in which, though he acknowledges that the mystery of our Lord's refurrection ought to be obferved only on Sunday, he yet ftrongly advifes Victor not to excommunicate whole churches for observing an ancient cuftom, which had come to them by tradition. The great diverfity, which exifted in the manner of keeping the fast before Eafter, he argues, had not been permitted to disturb the peace of the church; neither had the difference respecting Eafter itself tended to prevent thofe of one party from freely communicating with thofe of the other. In proof of this statement he adduces the example of Anicetus, the Bifhop of Rome, who allowed Polycarp,, while on a vif

In the year 196, Victor, Bifhop of Rome, whe had fucceeded Eleutherius about four years be fore, and who was remarkable for his temerity and violence, revived the controverfy refpecting the celebration of Eafter, and endeavoured, in a very imperious manner, to impofe on the churches of Leffer Afia, the cutom of keeping it on the next Lord's day after the Jewish paffover, although thefe churches had uniformly, though almost exclufively maintained that it ought to be obferved on the fourteenth day of the moon, whatever that day

it to that city, though differing courfes of preparatory torture

was at length put to death, and with him a vast number of his flock. His body was obtained by Zacharias his prefbyter, and buried in a vault between two chriftians, who had fuffered martyrdom on a former occafion.

from him on this point, to confecrate the facrament in his own church. Irenæus, adds Eufebius, being truly anfwerable to his name, thus became a peacemaker, labouring to affert and maintain the unity of the church. And it appears, from the fame authority, that he wrote not only to Victor, but to feveral other bifhops, in the hope of allaying the controverfy, which had been thus unhappily raised. When the undue importance attached to this ceremonial obfervance is confidered, we are led to fufpect that the power of vital christianity muft, at this period, have greatly declined: a fufpicion, which gathers ftrength from other circumftances.

The external tranquillity which the church had for twenty two years enjoyed was at length interrupted. The emperour Severus, who had hitherto acted with great lenity toward the chriftians, began, in the year 202, a most furious perfecution against them. It was at Alexandria that the storm fell with the greatest weight; but it was feverely felt in other parts of the empire, and particularly, if we may believe Gregory of Tours, at Lyons, to which place the attention of the emperour was the more likely to be drawn, as he had probably been governour of that province during the perfecution, which raged in the time of Marcus Aurelius. The only account we have of the tranfactions, which took place at Lyons, in the courfe of this new perfecution, is given by the author juft mentioned; and, as it is not contradicted by any more ancient writers, it may be regarded as in the main authentick. He ftates that Irenæus having undergone feveral

Thus died Irenæus according to fome, in the year 202, according to others, in the year 208; a man eminently diftinguished by his love to God, and by his folicitude for the falvation of his fellow men. In the profecution of this object he made light of dangers and difficulties, and was neither moved by the fury of pagan perfecutors, nor by the malignant oppofition of falfe brethren. Though accustomed in his youth to the polished manners and luxurious foftneffes of an Afiatick life, he fcrupled not to leave his own country at his Mafter's call, and to fix his abode among the rough and uncivilized inhabitants of Gaul, cheerfully conforming himself to their rude habits. Nor was it the leaft fatisfactory proof of his humility and felf denial, of his love to the fouls of men, and of his zeal in the fervice of Chrift, that, though verfed in the elegant literature of Greece, he fhould take pains to acquire the barbarous dialect of the people among whom he was appointed to labour, and to diveft himself, as it were, of thofe refinements, which might hinder the fuccefs of his ministry. Rare fruit of chriftian charity, exclaims a pious hiftorian of the church of Chrift, and highly worthy the attention of pastors in an age like this, in which fo many undertake to preach chriftianity, who yet diftinguifh themfelves in any thing rather than in what peculiarly belongs to their office! Q.

* Mr. Milner.

[ocr errors]

See Chrift. Obferver for 1804, p. 522.

Religious Communications.

For the Panoplist.



WHETHER the immutability of religion was proved in the two letters, which I lately fent you, is left to your determination. The manner, in which you fpeak of the letters, fhows not only your friendship to me, but your diligent attention to the subject, and the candour of your difpofition. Your remaining doubts and inquiries concerning the nature of religion fhall not be overlooked. I hope much from your inclination to examine. I hope ftill more from the apparent ferioufness and tenderness of your heart. I hope most of all from the fervent parental prayers, which have been offered up for you, and from that Spirit which guideth into all the truth.

[blocks in formation]

iftick qualities of errour, that mutability, which you afcribed to relig, ion. He compares errour with the wind, which is, proverbially, inconftant. From the course of the wind today, we cannot determine its course tomorrow. Nay, it frequently undergoes great changes.

in a few minutes. In like manner, errour has no invariable shape. Though its nature and tendency are always the fame, its form often changes. By this mutability, er

rour obtains vaft influence. If it continued in one ftate, its nature would be discovered, and its basenefs expofed. But, by its variablenefs, it eludes difcovery. When

the friends of God, after fcrutinizing errour, become able to show the world its fhameful difhonefty, its inconfiflency, and impiety; fuddenly it changes its ground, and

defends itself under a new form. In confequence of this, the fuccefsful oppofition, made against it on its former ground, is of no avail. There must be a new arrangeThe faints must trace the ment. operations of errour under its new form, and furnish themselves with new weapons to oppose it. But before they are ready for the combat, it generally makes alarming progrefs, and perpetrates the deAnd by ftruction of many fouls. the time they are able to come forward to advantage against its powerful influence, it veers about again, and fo avoids fair and open


To find the proof of thefe obfervations, look, my dear brother, into the hiftory of religion. The friends of truth have conftantly fruggled with the difficulties juft mentioned. Errour has fometimes dared to come forward under the

monftrous form of atheism. But when occafion has required, it has readily caft off that form, and taken the lefs frightful one of deifm. When the weapons of truth have been forcibly directed against deim; errour has not been reluctant, for the fake of avoiding fufpicion and more eafily accomplishing its defign, to affume the name of chriftianity. Retaining this name it has appeared under varicus forms. And this is one remarkable trait of every falfe theory, which bears the chriftian name; that, while it is erroneous, as a sistem, it maintains fome important truths. This world, depraved as it is, could not sustain a fyftem of unmingled falfehood. Every heretical fyftem, therefore, in order to give itself a fair appearance, and to mislead unwary fouls, carries fome truths upon its furface. But, having fufficient internally to destroy the influence of the truths, which it feems to contain, it has, in a measure, the effect of unmingled errour. The fchemes of the moft erroneous fects fhow fome important truths on their outfide. They pretend great refpect for revelation, and hang out many fair colours. But when thoroughly examined by the light of fcripture, and confidered, as fchemes of religion, they evidently deny the perfection and ftain the glory of God, befriend the caufe of fin, and lead men to perdition. The Spirit of errour cares not how often it changes its mode of operation, nor how many names it takes, nor how many truths feem to hang upon its fur. face; if it can only counteract the caufe of truth, fpread its own delufions, and bear fway over enflaved and ruined immortals.

Now the changeable character of errour is fuited to catch the

[blocks in formation]

it gives itfelf the face of truth, and fets off itself by advantages ftolen from the caufe, which it aims to overthrow; on the other hand, it puts a false colouring upon the doctrines of eternal truth, and furrounds them with appendages, which partake of its own deformity.

While you allow me to ufe this freedom in warning you against the arts and delutions of erJour; permit me to recommend, moft earnestly to recommend to you that holy book, which contains truth unmixed with falfehood. Turn away from the falfe lights, which allure you, and take heed to the BIBLE, from which fhines forth the true light. The Bible can folve all your doubts, answer all your inquiries, relieve all your difficulties, and guide your feet, which have hitherto greatly wandered, in the way to glory. Thefe, my dearly beloved brother, were often the inftructions of our worthy parents, who now fleep in duft; and are now brought to your remembrance by your ever affectionate CONSTANS.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

defired. Deucalion prayed that he might be the restorer of mankind.


'This is one of numerous traditions refpecting the flood, which fuppofed it confined to the country where they were told. The ftory was related by the ancients to their pofterity, who, little acquainted with other countries, fuppofed only their own affected by the event. In this way it has happened, not only in Greece and Armenia, but in China and America, that there are traditions that the country was once destroyed by a deluge.

Notwithstanding many fictitious circumftances in the hiftory of the Argonautick expedition, there is no good reason to conclude the whole legend was invented in Egypt or any other country. Traces of this celebrated voyage are found in almost every quarter of the globe. This will be easily accounted for, if we fuppofe the Argo was the ark; but if the expedition to Colchi be admitted as authentick, no fatisfactory reason can be given for its fame being extended through nations fo widely feparated.


No. 4. [Continued from page 163]

APOLLODORUS relates that Jupiter determined to drown a part of the world. Deucalion made an ark, ftored it with provifions, and entered with his wife. It rained, and almoft the whole of Greece was drowned; all the people perished, excepting a few on the highest mountains. the flood abated, Deucalion landed on Parnafius. He immediately offered facrifices, and Jupiter fent Mercury to inquire what he


Pindar brings the Argonauts to Libya through the ocean, which laves the fhores of Hindooftan. Accordingly, we find fuch a tradition of the Argo ftill preferved among the Hindoos, as indifputably proves it to have been the ark of Noah.* The fummit of one of their mountains, C'haifa-ghar, is always covered with fnow in the midft of which are feen feveral freaks of a reddife hue, fuppofed by pilgrims to be the impreffions made by the feet of the dove, which Noah let out of the ark. It is the uniform tra

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
« AnteriorContinuar »