Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

fey the primitive Christians between the baptized and the unbaptized. The christians, with sacred care, therefore, excluded the catechumens or penitents, or those undergoing their probation, from the knowledge of the more recondite and awful doctrines; the church not even allowing them, until after a long trial, and after having passed through all the gradations of discipline, to become acquainted with the mysteries of the Eucharist. The fathers who adopted this practice always declared that they had the authority of the apostles for it, and the solicitude which they have shown throughout their writings, in speaking of the Eucharist, to avoid mentioning it openly, proves that the motive must have been pretty efficient which led to it. The chief object of this secresy was to guard from the profanations of the infidels such doctrines as the ear of faith alone was worthy of listening to. There is no doubt, according to this writer, that the most cautious reserve was maintained by the apostles and their immediate followers; but that no attempt was made to enforce it as a rule of discipline until about the close of the second century, when perhaps some express declaration was rendered necessary. St. Basil de Spiritu Sancto expressly says that "The apostles and fathers, who prescribed from the beginning certain rules to the church, knew how to preserve the dignity of the mysteries, by the secresy and silence in which they enveloped them; for what is open to the ear and eye is no longer mysterious. For this reason several things have been handed down to us without writing, lest the vulgar, too familar with our dogmas, should pass, from being accustomed to them, to the contempt of them." The circumstance of the increase of the religion increasing the indignation and hostility of its enemies, would no doubt be amongst the reasons for redoubling the caution about communicating a knowledge of the mysteries indiscriminately to all. But the writer is exceedingly anxious to satisfy his readers that the Eucharist was not the only one of the mysteries with respect to which the discipline of secresy was exacted, but that the Trinity was also regulated with the same spirit. The necessary consequence of this system was a great degree of ambiguity in the language of the fathers in speaking of these two mysteries, an ambiguity which has been made use of by the Arians in one case, and by modern Protestants in the other. The present writer shows, in the clearest manner, from the works of the fathers, that the rule of policy involved in the discipline of the secret, was the sole cause of that species of circumlocution, paraphrase, and merely allusive language, which is sogenerally adopted by those of a later age, on the two vital mysteries of the Eucharist and the Trinity. Then follows a chapter containing numerous passages from the fathers of the fourth century, and from the liturgies of the same period of the Greek, Latin, Arabic, Syriac, &c. churches ; bearing, he says, incontrovertible testimony to the true nature of the Eucharist, aud to all the rites and doctrines connected with that mystery. From those it would appear, that the ancient Christians universally believed in the real presence and miraculous change of the substances of bread and wine. The conclusion, then, to which he comes thus far is, that the practices of the Catholic church, so far as relates to the mass and to other points in which they differ from other religionists, are the same as those of the Christians of the four first centuries after Christ. Although he thinks that an identity so long in its duration as that of the Catholic church, could not be maintained except through the immediate interference of God; yet it is not improper for him to inquire how far human foresight, policy, and concert, have had a part in producing such an effect. The writer then pursues the history of the guards and cautions adopted by the church from time to time, and concludes by stating that—

Under the shelter of such guards and sanctions, human as well as divine, has the Catholic Church been enabled to hold on her changeless course, and exhibit an example of permanence, indefedibility, and unity, to which the whole history of human systems affords no parallel; sustaining herself, unblenched and unbroken—with the single exception of the partial schism of the Eastern Church—through a period commensurate with the existence of Christianity itself; and, amidst all the changes, eclipses, and wrecks of all other institutions, delivering down the same doctrines from father to son, through every age; while of all the leaders of sects opposed to her, from Simon Magus down to Luther, not a single one has been able to frame a creed for his followers, the articles of which have remained unaltered beyond his own lifetime.—vol. i., pp. 195, 196.

Despairing any longer of finding out Protestantism in the practice of those who were acknowledged as authorities of the Christian church during the first four centuries, our traveller in search of a religion, desirous, for very special reasons, to become a Protestant of some sort, took upon him the task of examining the doctrines of some of the earliest of the heretical writers. He knew what power there was in antiquity to lend a grace to error; and, should he find a little Protestantism amongst the Dissenters of that venerable period, he would have the satisfaction of knowing, at all events, that he was cultivating not any new-fangled notion, but an ancient, hoary heterodoxy, which, as he wittily says, if his conscience must give way at all, would throw dignity around its fall. He commenced anew, then, his labours, and was not long in finding out that the Capharnaites were the first Protestants. He then proceeds through the account of the principal of the early heresies by which the church was agitated: such as those of the Docetfe, of Simon Magus, of the Ebionites, of the Elcesaites, of the Gnostics, of Marcion, of Appelles, of the Ophite9; and those of the following sects: the Marcosians, Melchisedecians, Messalians, Pereans, Montanists, and Manichees; the object of the author being to show the great wantonness with which the human mind, when uncontrolled, will run riot iu making out theories of its own. The duty of doing this, of exposing the absurdities to which men will arrive by the latitude which they take in deciding for themselves upon the most important of all matters, is defended by our " Traveller," on the ground that experience shows how frequently large portions of the human race nave adopted the grossest follies, which have continued perhaps for centuries to occupy the boasted reason of the mind, either in the task of upholding or refuting them. As instances of the truth of his assertion he offers the following:

The Marcosians, as if to outdo the Trinity, established a sort of Quarternity in the Supreme Father, and maintained that the plenitude of Truth was to be found in the Greek alphabet, grounding their fancy upon these words in the book of Revelation—" I am Alpha and Omega." Their founder, Mark, too, not only asserted that God had had several children, but spoke of these children (says St. Irena:us) with as much confidence as if he had been present at all their births.

The Melchisedecians, as their name imports, selected Melchisedec as the object of their worship, holding that he was a Dynamis, or divine power,— superior to Jesus Christ, as being mediator between God and the Angels; whereas Christ was only mediator between God and Man.

The Messalians, having read in Scripture that "the Devil goes about fike a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour," and not content with a single prowler of this kind, imagined that the whole atmosphere was brimful of devils, and that people inhaled them with the vital air. In consequence of this idea, their whole time was passed in spitting and blowing their noses, in the intervals of which latter exercise, they imagined that they caught glimpses of the Trinity.

The Pereans, with a prodigality of divine means not very philosophical, established in their system three Fathers, three Sons, and three Holy Ghosts; and it is supposed to be against these sectaries that the Athanasians of the present day are called upon to protest, when they say that "there is but one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; and one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts."

The Montanists, a most numerous and long nourishing sect, took it on the word of their founder that he was the very Paraclete promised by the Redeemer to perfect his new law of the Gospel. These heretics (who are not to be accounted any branch of the Gnostics) held that God had already made two unsuccessful attempts to save mankind, first through the medium of Moses and the Prophets, and, secondly, by his own manifestation in the flesh. Both these plans, however, having failed, he was at last obliged to descend by the Holy Ghost, and divide himself, by a sort of triple inspiration, between Montanus and two ladies of quality, of no very reputable characters, who lived with him. A particular branch of this sect, the Ascites, used to place near their altar a kind of bladder, well blown up, and dance round it, regarding the bladder as an emblem of that spiritual inflation with which they themselves had been favoured by the Holy Ghost. Another branch, the Tascodrugitee, or Pattalorinchita, made it a point of devotion to put their fingers upon their noses, or into their mouths, during prayer, professing therein, says St. Augustin, to imitate David:—" Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips." (Ps. cxli. 3.) The Mankhees.—On the heresy of Manes, which began to flourish towards the end of the third century, the departing Spirit of Gnosticism seems to have let fall its dark mantle. In imitation of Christ, the founder of the Manichees professed to have heen horn of a virgin, and also attached to himself twelve apostles, hy one of whom false Acts were fabricated, and fathered on the Apostles of our Lord.—vol. L, pp. 261—265.

Mr. Moore furnishes, in almost every page, abundant testimony of the justice of the notion which he frequently inculcates, that there is scarcely a sect in modern times which is not an imitation of some one of the dissenting classes mentioned and condemned by the fathers. The very same texts which, 1600 years ago, were taken by the Gnostics as authority for preaching the doctrines of election and reprobation, were those selected by the Calvinists of modern times for the very same purpose. Proceeding from the first and second centuries to those of the third and fourth, Mr. Moore still found, to his great mortification, that his Protestants, at least those who maintained doctrines possessing any thing like an identity with the Protestants of the present day, were all accounted by the genuine church amongst the heterodox and schismatic classes of the day. But he does not think the latter so worthy of attention as those Protestants whom he had traced in the two earlier centuries—such as the Gnostics. Amongst the Dissenters of the later class—that is, of those who sprang up about the middle of the third century, the Novatians are peculiarly noted. These heretics, says the author, were as good Protestants as need be, seeing that they denied stoutly to the church the power of absolving penitent sinners. Among the other sectaries of this period mentioned by our traveller, is Arius. He tried to obtain the appointment of a bishop in the church, but not succeeding, he broached the doctrine that bishops had no right to any superiority or jurisdiction over the presbyters. This founder of a sect also opposed the practice of praying for the dead, which was the chief reason why he drew upon himself the brand of heresy. Mr. Moore only notices this sectarian for the reason, that his opposition at once sets at rest all doubt as to whether the practice of praying for the dead was an ancient one or not. He thinks that the decisive way in which the whole church rejected Arius and his followers after he had condemned prayers for the dead, is an unanswerable proof of the universal sense of the church on that question.

We have now seen the results of our traveller's investigations into the Protestantism of the primitive or apostolical era of the Christian Religion. His object, as he told us at the outset, was, that as the Protestants founded their modern religion solely on the ground that they had restored Christianity to its primitive condition, or to that state in which it was in the early ages of the church—the object of Mr. Moore, we repeat, was to find out, under the circumstances just mentioned, whether or not they were right in their declaration, that they had actually restored the ancient practices and belief. He looked, therefore, to the primitive Christians to find out the pure Protestants: but we have heard what he has said as to the consequences of his search. Instead of finding Protestant principles, as practised in our day, amongst the early Christians, or those of the first four centuries, he discovered that all observed a faith and practice strictly identical with those of the Roman Catholics of the present time, and that the doctrines held in the present day by Protestants found a type, during the first four centuries, only in those of the parties who were branded as heretics by even the fathers the most extolled by modern Protestants.

But not yet satisfied! The traveller is really not yet satisfied, after all his experience, after all his disappointment and mortification, that he ought to abandon the desire to become a Protestant. The difficulty of yielding up this resolution is now at last explained, in conformity with the repeated promises of the writer; and he proceeds to give us an account of those motives which, along with the reasons mentioned in the early part of this article, induced him to wish to become a Protestant. He still tried to persuade himself that it was only fair that he who had suffered so much in the service of a good religion, as he calls it, should now strive and compensate himself by a small share of that prosperity which certainly went hand in hand with the profession of that religion which he now found to be a bad one. In short, he candidly declares that his travels were like the pilgrimage of Jason after the Golden Fleece, and that he was assisted in the attempt to recover the object of his search by another fair Medea.

The upshot of the foregoing short exposition is, that the editor of Captain Rock's Memoirs, as he calls himself (in plain, unvarnished phrase, Mr. Moore), willing tokeepup thedramatic illusion with which he set out, thinks it proper to endeavour to vary the interest of his volume by presenting, as an excuse for continuing his researches, the episode of a love affair with the daughter of a neighbouring gentleman, who filled the office of land-agent to the noble proprietor of the land on which the writer's father, as the story runs, resided. The young lady, he says, from the commencement of their intercourse, expressed a warm interest in his salvation; and would frequently propose to him an excursion, which was evidently intended by her as a means of teaching him to "know the Lord," as she used to say. "Whether," says the writer, in a strain which no other human being but Thomas Moore could have written—

Whether, in these efforts for my conversion, the lady had, originally, any further view than merely to gratify that love of interference, which in Saints is so active, I will not pretend to determine; but it was not long before I perceived that feelings of another description had a good deal mixed themselves with her anxiety for my spiritual welfare; nor could I help observing that, in proportion as I approached the marriageable time of life, and as she herself receded from it, a more tender tone of interest began to diffuse itself through her manner;—our walks became, through her

« ElőzőTovább »