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CHAPTER VI.

ON THE COMMUNION, RITES, AND DISCIPLINE OF THE CHURCH.

A.D. 30-320.

No precept is more frequently inculcated in sacred Scripture than that of mutual love and charity between all Christians. * By this," said our Lord, “shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Ву their relation to God as their heavenly Father, they are made brethren to one another; and therefore the apostolical command is, “Love as brethren.” Such is the duty of Christians; they are bound to regard all their brethren as members of the same spiritual body as themselves; and hence results the obligation of holding communion in all possible respects with all members of the Church of Christ. Our Lord prayed that his disciples might be “one;" the apostles exhorted them to permit no schisms, no contentions among them,” and to avoid those who caused divisions,' whom they characterised as “sensual, not having the Spirit.”

This communion of all particular Churches with each other as parts and members of the one great spiritual body or society of believers, existed for some ages in much more perfection than it subsequently did, when earthly ambition and unchristian feelings were engendered by prosperity, and the tares began to grow thickly among the good wheat. In the time of the apostles it was manifested by the reception and admission to religious communion of Christians who came from other countries; by contributions for the relief of distressed believers in all parts; and by the exchange of letters and advice. The same practices continued for many ages to be general. Each bishop then could give to any member of

1 John xiii. 3.
8 Rom. xvi. 17, 18.

21 Cor. i. 10-12.
4 Jude 19.

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his Church who'might visit foreign countries, commendatory letters, which, on being presented to the most remote Churches, secured his immediate admission to all the privi. leges of Christian fellowship, and, in case of necessity, to the kind offices of Christian benevolence. We have in the epistle of St. Clement, bishop of Rome, and the Roman Church, addressed to the Church of Corinth, before the end of the first century, on occasion of a schism in the latter Church, an instance of the same fraternal intercourse and solicitude ; and in the following centuries, the epistles of Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, to many

about A.D. 165. Churches in Pontus, Crete, &c., and that of the Council of Antioch, to all the Churches,

A.D. 270. are further examples of the same practice. We learn from Dionysius, that even in the second century, the Church of Rome was remarkable for the extent of its chari. ties to the distressed and persecuted Christians at Corinth and in the East; and Dionysius of Alexandria, in the follow. ing century, attests that the same truly Chris

A.D. 247-2654 tian conduct was still in full exercise, and that its benefits were felt even in the remote regions of Arabia.

But, notwithstanding the obligation of Christians to culti. vate brotherly love, the harmony of the Church has but too often been interrupted. Even in the time of St. Paul, the Church of Corinth was full of parties and division, as it af. terwards was in the time of St. Clement. Paul and Barna. bas themselves separated and departed asunder from each other. In the second century a serious division arose be. tween the Roman and the Asiatic Churches; for when the latter persisted in retaining their ancient custom of celebrat. ing Easter rather on the same day with the Jews, than with the rest of the Catholic Church, Victor, bishop of

A.D. 198. Rome proceeded to the extent of separating them from his communion; an act which was disapproved by St. Irenæus and the greater part of the Church.

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A.D. 250.

In the following century, a difference arose

between Stephen, bishop of Rome, and the African Churches. The latter, headed by St. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, maintained that baptisms performed by sectarians and heretics were null and void, and that all converts to the Church ought to be baptised; while the Roman Church did not reiterate baptism when it had been administered by here. tics with the proper external form, but received converts into the Church by the imposition of hands in confirmation. The practice of the African Church was approved by many of the Eastern and Egyptian Churches, and seems to have been supported by very strong reasoning; but Stephen insisted that the custom of the Roman Church should be adopted, and separated the African Churches, on their refusal, from his communion. This act, however, was not approved or recognised by the majority of bishops.

These dissensions between independent Churches were of à very different character from formal schisms. The former consisted in a temporary withdrawal of the usual marks of intercourse between different Churches; the latter were separations from the Church; the establishment of rival worship, rival ministers, different communions in the same place. In the one case charity was chilled; in the other it was entirely destroyed. Novatian, disappointed of the bishopric

of Rome, rebelled against his bishop, Cornelius, A.D. 251.

and established a rival community at Rome, of which he was constituted the bishop; but when the case was known, he was condemned by the whole body of the Church throughout the world, and his sect was rejected as schismati. cal. In the following century, the bishops of Numidia, en.

raged at the election of Cæcilianus to the see of A.D. 312.

Carthage in their absence, pretended that he had been ordained by apostates, and having ordained rival bishops at Carthage and elsewhere in Africa, separated from the communion of the universal Church (which supported Cæcilianus,) declaring it apostate. These sectarians, called

66 As many

Donatists, were, after full examination of their cause by councils of bishops, and by the Emperor Constantine, universally rejected and condemned. They continued, however, for two or three centuries to disturb and persecute the Church in Africa. Separations like these, where rival worship was established, were in those ages regarded as most heinous sins, and destructive of salvation.

I now proceed to the consideration of the sacraments and rites of the Church. One of the fullest and most interesting details of the celebration of Baptism and the Lord's supper in those days which has been preserved, occurs in

A.D. 150. the writings of Justin Martyr. 6-We shall relate,” he says,

" the manner in which those who are renew. ed through Christ, dedicate themselves to God.” as are persuaded and believe what is taught and said by us (Christians,) and promise that they will live accordingly, are instructed with prayer and fasting to beseech from God the remission of their sins; we also fasting and praying along with them. Then we bring them to a place where there is water, and they are regenerated in the same mode of regeneration as that with which we were ourselves regenerated; for then they are washed in water, in the name of God the Father and Lord of all, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Ghost; for Christ himself said, Except ye be regenerated, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven." This was the manner in which all converts from heathenism were admitted into the Christian Church, and made par. takers of all its blessed promises and privileges. When in. fants were baptised, the parents or godfathers made the same engagements in their name. The practice of infant baptism was generally established before the time

A.D. 178. of Irenæus* and in that of Cyprian the ques

A.D. 250. tion was only whether they ought to be baptised

*

*[Passages in the writings of Hermas (before A.D. 100 ;) of Justin Mar. tyr (A.D. 150 ;) and of Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 200 ;) show that it must have prevailed, unquestioned, in their several ages.-Am. Ed.]

before the eighth day after their birth. As infants had been admitted by circumcision into covenant with God under the older dispensation; and as our Lord had shown his fa. vour to them by taking them in his arms, blessing them, and saying, that “of such is the kingdom of heaven;" and as it is related that the apostles baptised whole households of their converts—the Church always believed that the children of Christians ought not to be left in the condition of heathens, but received at once into the Christian body by holy baptism, and instructed to walk worthy of the high gifts which they had received.

The rite of Confirmation followed that of baptism. The apostles had laid their hands on those who were baptised, in order that they might receive additional gifts of the Holy

Ghost; and we find from Tertullian that this cusA.D. 200.

tom was still observed by the bishops, the succes. sors of the apostles, as it has always continued to be from that age to the present. Confirmation was generally administered soon after baptism; and it does not seem that for many centuries the discipline of the Church separated those rites by such an interval as is now customary; but it must be remembered, that in the first ages baptism was rarely ad. ministered except by the bishop, and at the great festivals of Easter and Pentecost, when numbers of converts from hea. thenism, who had been for months under catechetical instruc. tion, and the children of Christians, were all together bapti. sed with great solemnity, and immediately afterwards were confirmed.

“ After baptism,” says Justin Martyr, we lead him (the convert) to the place where those who are called brethren are assembled, and prepared to offer earnest prayers both for themselves and for those who have been illuminated (baptised,) and for all other people every where, that they may be thought worthy to know the truth, and be found good men, and keepers of the commandments, that they may be saved with an eternal salvation. Having ceased from prayers, we

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