Page images
PDF
EPUB

servance of the sabbath; and that they were enemies to St. Paul, regarding him as an intruder who sought to overturn everything. In short, they were heretics; consequently, they strove to defame their enemies, an excess of which party spirit and superstition are too often guilty.

St. Paul, too, calls them "false apostles, deceitful workers,"* and loads them with abuse. In his Letter to the Philippians, he calls them dogs.+

1. St. Jerome asserts that he was born at Gisceala, a town of Galilee, and not at Tarsus. Others dispute his having been a Roman citizen; because at that time there were no Roman citizens at Tarsus, nor at Galgala, and Tarsus was not a Roman colony until about a hundred years after. But we must believe the Acts of the Apostles, which were inspired by the Holy Ghost, and therefore outweigh the testimony of St. Jerome, learned as he might be.

Every particular relative to St. Peter and St. Paul is interesting. If Nicephorus has given us a portrait of the one, the Acts of St. Thecla, which, though not canonical, are of the first century, have furnished us with a portrait of the other. He was, say these Acts, short in stature, his head was bald, his thighs were crooked, his legs thick, his nose aquiline, his eyebrows joined, and he was full of the grace of God.-Statura brevi, &c.

These Acts of St. Paul and St. Thecla were, according to Tertullian, composed by an Asiatic, one of Paul's own disciples, who at first put them forth under the Apostle's name; for which he was called to account and displaced, that is, excluded from the assembly; for, the hierarchy not being then established, no one could, properly speaking, be displaced.

IV.

Under what Discipline did the Apostles and Primitive · Disciples live?

It appears that they were all equal. Equality was

+ Chap. iii. v. 2.

II. Corinthians, chap. xi. v. 13.

↑ St. Jerome Epistle to Philemon. VOL. I.

the great principle of the Essenians, the Recabites, the Therapeutæ, the disciples of John, and especially those of Jesus Christ, who inculcated it more than once.

St. Barnabas, who was not one of the Twelve Apostles, gave his voice along with theirs. St. Paul, who was still less a chosen apostle during the life of Jesus, not only was equal to them, but had a sort of ascendancy; he rudely rebukes St. Peter.

When they are assembled together, we find among them no superior. There was no presiding, not even in turn. They did not at first call themselves bishops. St. Peter gives the name of bishop, or the equivalent epithet, only to Jesus Christ, whom he calls the inspector of souls.* This name of inspector or bishop was afterwards given to the ancients, whom we call priests; but with no ceremony, no dignity, no distinctive mark of pre

eminence.

It was the office of the ancients or elders to distribute the alms. The younger of them were chosen by a plurality of voices, to serve the tables,t and were seven in number; all which clearly verifies the reports in common.t

Of jurisdiction, of power, of command, not the least trace is to be found.

It is true that Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead for not giving all their money to St. Peter, but retaining a small part for their own immediate wants, without confessing it-for corrupting, by a trifling falsehood, the sanctity of their gifts; but it is not St. Peter who condemns them. It is true that he divines Ananias's fault; he reproaches him with it, and tells him that he has lied to the Holy Ghost;§ after which Ananias falls down dead. Then comes Sapphira; and Peter, instead of warning, interrogates her, which seems to be the action of a judge. He makes her fall into the snare by saying, "Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much." The wife made the same answer as her husband. It is astonishing that she did not, on reaching the place, learn her husband's death-that no

* Epistle i. chap. ii.
§ Acts, chap. v.

+ Acts, chap. vi. v. 2.
See CHURCH.

one had informed her of it-that she did not observe the terror and tumult which such a death must have occasioned, and, above all, the mortal fear lest the officers of justice should take cognizance of it as of a murder. It is strange that this woman should not have filled the house with her cries, but have been quietly interrogated, as in a court of justice, where silence is rigidly enforced. It is still more extraordinary that Peter should have said to her, " Behold the feet of them which have carried thy husband out at the door, and shall carry thee out," -on which the sentence was instantly executed. Nothing can more resemble a criminal hearing before a despotic judge.

But it must be considered that St. Peter is here only the orgán of Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost; that it is to them that Ananias and his wife have lied, and it is they who punish them with sudden death;-that, indeed, this miracle was worked for the purpose of terrifying all such as, while giving their goods to the Church, and saying that they have given all, keep something back for profane uses. The judicious Calmet shows us how the fathers and the commentators differ about the salvation of these two primitive Christians, whose sin consisted in simple though culpable reticence.

2

Be this as it may, it is certain that the apostles had no jurisdiction, no power, no authority, but that of persuasion, which is the first of all, and upon which every other is founded.

Besides, it appears from this very story that the Christians lived in common.

When two or three of them were gathered together, Jesus Christ was in the midst of them. They could all alike receive the Spirit. Jesus was their true, their only superior; he had said to them

"Be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon earth; for one is your father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters; for one is your master, even Christ."

99

* Matthew, chap. xxiii.

In the time of the apostles, there was no ritual, no liturgy, there were no fixed hours for assembling, no ceremonies. The disciples baptised the catechumens, and breathed the Holy Ghost into their mouths,* as Jesus Christ had breathed upon the apostles; and as, in many churches, it is still the custom to breathe into the mouth of a child when administering baptism. Such were the beginnings of Christianity. All was done by inspiration-by enthusiasm, as among the Therapeuta and the Judaïtes, if we may for a moment be permitted to compare Jewish societies, now become reprobate, with societies conducted by Jesus Christ himself from the highest heaven, where he sat at the right hand of his Father.

Time brought necessary changes: the Church being extended, strengthened, and enriched, had occasion for new laws.

APPARITION.

It is not at all uncommon for a person under strong emotion to see that which is not. In 1726, a woman in London, accused of being an accomplice in her husband's murder, denied the fact; the dead man's coat was held up and shaken before her; her terrified imagination presented the husband himself to her view; she fell at his feet, and would have embraced him. She told the jury that she had seen her husband.

It is not wonderful that Theodoric saw in the head of a fish, which was served up to him, that of Symmachus, whom he had assassinated-or unjustly executed; for it is precisely the same thing.

Charles IX., after the massacre of St. Bartholomew, saw dead bodies and blood, not in his dreams, but in the convulsions of a troubled mind seeking for sleep in vain. His physician and his nurse bore witness to it. Fantastic visions are very frequent in hot fevers. This is not seeing in imagination; it is seeing in reality. The phantom exists to him who has the perception of it. If the gift of reason, vouchsafed to the human

* John, chap. xx. v. 22.

machine, were not at hand to correct these illusions, all heated imaginations would be in an almost continual transport, and it would be impossible to cure them.

It is especially in that middle state, betwixt sleeping and waking, that an inflamed brain sees imaginary objects, and hears sounds which nobody utters. Fear, love, grief, remorse, are the painters who trace the pictures before unsettled imaginations. The eye which sees sparks in the night, when accidentally pressed in a certain direction, is but a faint image of the disorders of the brain.

No theologian doubts, that with these natural causes the Master of nature has sometimes united his divine influence. To this the Old and the New Testament bear ample testimony. Providence has deigned to employ these apparitions-these visions, in favour of the Jews, who were then its cherished people.

It may be that, in the course of time, some really pious souls, deceived by their enthusiasm, have believed that they had received from an intimate communication with God that which they owed only to their inflamed imaginations. In such cases, there is need of the advice of an honest man, and especially of a good physician.

The stories of apparitions are innumerable. It is said to have been in consequence of an apparition that St. Theodore, in the beginning of the fourth century, went and set fire to the temple of Amasia, and reduced it to ashes. It is very likely that God did not command this action, in itself so criminal, by which several citizens perished, and which exposed all the Christians to a just revenge.

God might permit St. Potamienne to appear to St. Basilides; for there resulted no disturbance to the state. We will not deny that Jesus Christ might appear to St. Victor. But, that St. Benedict saw the soul of St. Germanus of Capua carried up to heaven by angels; and that two monks afterwards saw the soul of St. Benedict walking on a carpet extended from heaven to Mount Cassino;-this is not quite so easy to believe.

« EelmineJätka »