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robes ; and this was sufficient to bring upon them the reproaches of an ignorant multitude, who imagined that there could be no religion without these. Thus they were looked upon as a sort of Atheists; and by the Roman laws those who were chargeable with Atheism were declared the pest of human society. But this was not all. The sordid interests of a multitude of lazy and selfish priests were immediately connected with the ruin and oppression of the Christian cause.
The public worship of such an immense number of deities was a source of subsistence, and even of riches, to the whole rabble of priests and augurs, and also to a multitude of merchants and artists; and the progress of the Gospel threatened the ruin of this religious traffic and the profits it produced. This raised up new enemies to the Christians, and armed the rage of mercenary superstition against their lives and their cause.”—“ The places in which the first Christians assembled to celebrate divine worship, were, no doubt, the houses of private persons.” p. 124.—“In these assemblies the Holy Scriptures were publicly read, and for that purpose were divided into certain portions or les
This part of divine service was followed by a brief exhortation to the people, in which eloquence and art gave place to the natural and fervent expressions of zeal and charity." p. 124, 125.
Dr. Hawers' Church History, vol. i. p. 150.-“ Nothing could be more unadorned than the primitive worship. A plain man, chosen from among his fellows, in his common garb, stood up to speak, or sat down to read the Scriptures, to as many as chose to assemble in the house appointed. A back room, and that probably often a mean one, or a garret, to be out of the way of observation, was their temple.” -“ As pride and worldly-mindedness must go hand in hand, assumed pomp and dignity require a sort of maintenance very different from the state when the pastor wrought with his own hands to minister to his necessities, and laboured by day that he might serve the Church by night. The idea of priesthood had yet scarcely entered into the Christian sanctuary, as there remained no more sacrifice for sin, and but one high priest of our profession, Jesus Christ. But on the dissolution of the whole Jewish economy under Adrian, when the power of the associated
clergy began to put forth its bud, the ambitious and designing suggested, what many of the rest received in their simplicity, that the succession to these honours now devolved upon them, and that the bishop stood in the place of the high priest; the Presbyters were priests; and the deacons Levites; and so a train of consequences followed. Thus a new tribe arose, completely separated from their brethren, of clergy distinct from laity--men sacred by office, exclusive of a divine call and real worth. The altar, indeed, was not yet erected, nor the unbloody sacrifice of the eucharist perfected; but it approached by hasty strides to add greater sanctity to the priesthood, and the not unpleasant adjunct of the divine right of tithes attached to the divine right of episcopacy.” p. 181, 182.-“The simplicity of the primitive worship, contrasted with the pomp of Paganism, was striking. It was concluded by the Heathen that they who had neither altar, victim, priest, or sacrifice, must be Atheists, and without God in the world. Those who were now rising into self-created eminence, had therefore little difficulty to persuade that it would be for the interest and honour of Christianity to remove these objections of the Gentiles by very harmless but useful alterations. Though magnificent temples had not yet risen, the names of things began to change. There were already priests ; and oblations were easily rendered sacrifices. The separation of the clergy, as a body, became more discriminated by their habits. High priests must have more splendid robes than the simple tunic of linen. A variety of new ceremonies were invented to add dignity to the mysteries of Christianity and obviate the objections to its meanness and simplicity. And as the populace were particularly attached to their idolatry by the festivals in honour of their heroes and their gods, and delighted with the games and pastimes on these occasions, the great Gregory Thaumaturgus shortly afterward contrived to bilk the devil by granting the people the indulgence of all the same pleasures of feasting, sporting, and dancing at the tombs, and on the anniversary of the martyrs, as they had been accustomed to in the temples of their gods; very wisely and Christianly supposing that thus, sua sponte ad honestiorem et accuratiorem vitæ rationem transirent of their own accord they would quit their
idolatry, and return to a more virtuous and regular course of life. I must be exceedingly hard drove for a Christian before I can put such men as Gregory Thaumaturgus into the number." p. 182, 183.—“Constantine having become the conqueror of Maxentius, and, as it seems, chiefly by the support of Christians, his favour to them increased in great munificence to build them churches, and in abounding liherality to their poor. Their bishops were honoured by him and caressed, and their synods held and supported by his authority.” p. 246, 247.-" Having now no longer a competitor; Constantine resolved to take the most decided part with the Christians. He prohibited the Heathen sacrifices and shut up the temples, or converted them to the purposes of Christian worship. He universally established Christianity, and tolerated no other religion openly throughout the bounds of the empire; the justice of which I doubt, and even the policy. I see no right to compel even an idolator, contrary to his conscience.' p. 247.—“The bounties he bestowed, the zeal he displayed, his liberal patronage of episcopal men, the pomp he introduced into worship, and the power invested with general councils, made the Church appear great and splendid ; but I discern not a trace in Constantine of the religion of the Son of God." p. 248.—“I am persuaded that his establishment of Christianity, and of those Bishops whom, particularly at last, he most espoused and favoured, contributed beyond any thing to the awful debasement and declension of true religion : and from him and his son Constantius evangelical truth suffered in the spirit of Christian professors, as much as their persons had undergone from Dioclesian or Galerius.” p. 249.—“ The Church now in esteem of some, was exalted to the highest pinnacle of prosperity, invested with vast authority ; and the episcopal order collected in synods and councils, with almost sovereign dominion. The churches vied in magnificence with palaces; and the robes and pomp of service, imitating imperial splendour, eclipsed paganism itself, with mitres, tiaras, tapers, crosiers, and processions. If outward appearances could form a glorious hurch, here she would present herself; but these meretricious ornaments concealed beneath them all the spirit of the world-pride, luxury, covetousness, contention, malignity,
and every evil word and work. Heresy and schism abounded, and wickedness of every kind, like a flood, deluged the Christian world ; whilst the heads of the Church more engaged in controversy, and a thousand times more jealous about securing and increasing their own wealth and pre-eminence than presenting examples of humility, patience, deadness to the world, and heavenly-mindedness, were, like gladiators, armed in all their councils, and affected imperial power and pomp in the greater dioceses.”
The statements made by these two historians we are able to confirm from a great variety of documents. If there be a fact more clear than any other established upon the page of ecclesiastical history, it is the following, viz. that the confounding of the Jews' religion with the Christian religion, or the viewing of the latter as an improvement of the former, has been the fountain of error which has, since the Apostolic age, corrupted the doctrine, changed the order, and adulterated the worship of the Christian Church. This, together with the influence of the Pagan priests and Pagan philosophers, proselyted to the Christian religion, has been the Pandora's box to the professing Christian community. We happened upon the truth, when we published as our opinion, about seven years ago, that “the present popular exhibition of the Christian religion is a compound of Judaism, Heathen philosophy, and Christianity.” From this unhallowed commixture sprang all political ecclesiastical establishments, a distinct order of men called clergy or priests, magnificent edifices as places of worship, tithes or fixed salaries, religious festivals, holy places and times, the Christian circumcision, the Christian passover, the Christian Sabbaths, &c. &c. &c. These things we hope to exhibit at full length in due time.
From the extracts already adduced from these eminent historians, it appears clear as the morning that the distinction betwixt clergy and laity originated by degrees, and widened into all the extreme points of dissimilarity in the lapse of a few generations. But behold the mighty difference! and in it see the arrogance of the clergy and the abject servility of the laity-when the High Priest, the head of the clergy, mounts his horse, the King (as layman)
holds his stirrup, and in obeisance kisses his toe. A respectable portion of this High Priest's spirit has fallen upon all the clergy, and a becoming share of servility even yet exists amongst those who admire them most. Happy they who know the truth ! for it makes them free! How blissful the words of the Saviour of the world! and how true!
“ If the son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed!”
ON TEACHING CHRISTIANITY.No. I.
[From the Christian Baptist, Vol. I.] Our exertions for increasing the number of copies of the Scriptures are now multiform and great ; societies for effectuating this object are to be found almost every where. Towns, cities, villages, and even the wilderness, are forward in endeavours to make the number of Bibles in the world as great as possible, and though it cannot be said that the Bible is even now a scarce book, yet the day is anticipated when the number of copies shall be greatly multiplied, and when the blessed volume shall be found in the possession of every family, perhaps of every individual. The object of the present paper, however, is not to enlarge either on the benevolence or the extent of the present or probable success of those societies formed for multiplying copies of the Bible ; but only to lend assistance to those Societies or Churches formed for understanding it—to present Christians with an authorised plan of studying the Scriptures, and to furnish the Christian teacher with a certain method by which he ought to proceed in making known the great salvation to his hearers.
Were a vision vouchsafed us for the single purpose of revealing one uniform and universal plan of teaching the religion, would not every Christian admire the goodness of God in determining a matter on which scarce two, calling themselves Christian teachers, now agree? Would not every teacher feel himself bound in duty to abandon his own plan and to adopt the plan of God—to study it—to teach by it-and, in short, to maintain its superiority and