« PreviousContinue »
and evil, that society in which these exist must either confess its error, turn unto God and live, or get rid of the prophetic spirit which stands reproving it. We see the same essential thing in the South to-day. God's prophets speak, and as they cannot be answered or their arguments gainsayed, they are maltreated and persecuted. Let this truth be fully perceived in the discussion of our subject.
We pass briefly over the minor conflicts about comparative ly unimportant matters; for example, the accusation of impurity, of child slaying, of bringing on natural calamities, of being misanthropic; we style these comparatively unimportant accusations, because untrue. We pass by these, that we may come to the real conflict—that of which these things just named were oftentimes only results, and as related to which, they were as bubbles on the surface.
At just this point we meet the objection, If the things we call unimportant were not the great matters of conflict, but only trifles, how is it that in the contests of the times, we find these “ trifles” dwelt upon while grander themes are ignored? We reply, that it does not follow that all who engaged in the conflict understood the greatness of Christianity or realized the vitality of the contest. The illustration from the slavery question just referred to, is pertinent here. What are the topics discussed to-day—at least till quite recently? Not slavery itself; but John Brown raids, Republican parties, Presidential candidates, Kansas Investigation Committees, Election of Speakers, &c. &c. Some future reader inay think this generation cared very little about slavery, but busied itself greatly about these things—undoubtedly the age is more immediately interested in these. The number, in every period, who dive to the bottom of the well for the truth lying there, is small. Yet we know very well that the underlying cause of all this political bustle, is slavery.
So in the early ages of our faith, the talk was about many unimportant doctrines and false charges, but the underlying cause of all was the opposition of the pure spirit of Christianity to the impure spirit of the world.
Let us come, then, to the heart of the contest; let us look at the thickest of the fight and not at the skirmishing merely; though skirmishing may show that a battle is not far off.
418 Conflicts of Christianity with Heathenism. (Oct.
Neander, in his Church History (Vol. I. pp. 87, 88,) brings forward two causes of conflict : “1. It (the new religion) induced Roman citizens to renounce the religion of the state, to the observance of which they were bound by the laws, to refuse compliance with the cærimonias Romanas.' ?” This is so obvious that it needs little more than a bare statement. “2. It introduced a new religion, not admitted by the laws of the state into the class of religiones licitæ, (religions permitted.)
We do not find these things to be, in themselves, so great a cause of trouble as . Neander implies. The trouble had deeper root. The objection would have applied equally to any heathen religion or to Judaism, prior to their recognition by law. Both of these causes, (alienation of Christians from the state religion, and introduction of an illegal faith,) are swallowed up in one grand cause, which was, that Christianity is an uncompromising faith; a faith which not only affirmed its own right to exist, but denied the right of any other to exist. Other religions might say, “ We are right, and so are you ;" but Christianity said, and always will say, “ We are right and all others are wrong ;” or in the language of Paul, “ If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maranatha!"
This characteristic, we must add, does not interfere with the principle of love which pervades the Christian faith. Though it comes not to condemn but to save, still, in its relation to sin and impurity and error, it is uncompromising.
Though it wins and rules by love it admits of no half way work with evil. Thus says Celsus—a heathen opponentas cited by Neander himself, “ The Jews are a nation by themselves, and they observe the sacred institutions of their country, whatever they may be, and in so doing act like other
So Judaism might easily be tolerated. To be sure it denounced idolatry and pronounced other religions idolatrous, but not with the same emphasis nor to the same er. tent. Judaism did not make strenuous efforts to proselyte.
If Christianity had only asked for admission on a par with other religions, such admission would have been granted. Even if Tiberias did not propose—as Tertullian says—to admit Jesus among the gods of Rome, it is certain that Heliogabalus did propose something similar. Neander truly says, “ Had he ever proceeded to the execution of his
plan he would assuredly have met with the most determined opposition of the Christians." (I. 125.)
In confirmation of this position are some of the accusations urged against the Christians, -as that they did not obey the laws by attending pagan festivals, &c., and were not devoted servants of the country where they lived ; for Christians taught the eternal truth, that might does not make right, and laws are unjust except as they conform to God's laws; that all earthly kingdoms must decrease before the Kingdom of Heaven. It is part of the prerogative of our faith, to assert the abomination of all unrighteousness.
Hence, the grand conflict of Christianity with Heathenism was not in externals only and in trifles ; neither did it arise from the total depravity of man; but it came from the rooted antagonism between truth and error. It may be summed up in those striking words, “Truth is intolerant,” be it material or moral. " What concord hath Christ with Belial !”
Christianity fought with philosophers and there was no bloodshed ; only wits were sharpened. But Christianity fought with principalities and powers, (for it is a practical, not merely a theoretical faith,) and the conflict was like that of those two Highlanders, who, meeting in a narrow pass among their native hills, must fight, arm to arm and shoulder to shoulder, with firm muscles, till one should conquer and the other be hurled to the valley beneath. Christianity can have no truce with its foes—can neither give nor receive quarter-must, in the end, make the conquest complete and universal, or itself perish. This is now the Christian principle of conflict; it was the same in the early conflicts with heathenism.
J. H. W.
The Unity of the Race a Bond of Sympathy. The question, whether the unity of the human race is genealogical or ethnological, is comparatively of little practical importance. The practical question is, are the members of the human family united by an identity of natureof wants, aspirations, hopes, and interests ? Is the unity practical as well as theoretical? Is it a bond of sympathy?
Every student of the New Testament will especially remember that extraordinary chapter, (1 Cor. xii.,) in which an apostle illustrates the relation which the several members of the early Christian churches sustained to each other, by comparing it to the vital connection which subsists between the several members of the human body. The eye, the ear, the hand and the foot are distinct members, and serve different purposes. Nevertheless, they belong to the same body, and so have a common interest. Each member needs the co-operation of every other member. Each is dependent on each ; the welfare of any one is the welfare of all. “ And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again, the head to the feet, I have no need of you.” “ And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it: or one member be honored all the members rejoice with it.” Having thus stated the vital and sympathetic relations which the several members of the body hold to one another, the apostle applies the illustration to Christian believers who then formed the church. “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." 6. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office; so we (the Christian believers forming the church,) being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” (Rom. xii. 4, 5.)
We should do the apostle's words injustice, if we neglected to state, that the comparison they contain had especial reference to the early church. The circumstances under which the first converts to Christianity professed their new faith, were calculated to unite them by a much closer tie, by a much dearer and a more sympathetic intimacy, than is possible under the circumstances of the present age. As a general thing, the converts made by the preaching of the apostles, came from the poorer and the humbler classes. Not many rich, not many noble, not many wise, in the worldly or popular sense of being wise, were chosen. The new doctrine was despised by the influential portion of the community. The first believers were every where exposed to severe trials of their constancy and sincerity. The malice
of Jewish bigotry, the indifference of Grecian refinement, and the scorn of Roman pride, made their position in society often one of great peril, and always one of peculiar hardship. As a matter of safety, it was often necessary to meet in secret places—in obscure rooms—sometimes in the catacombs of Rome, and not unfrequently in the caves of the mountains. Persons so situated would of course feel the warmest sympathy for each other-would take the deepest interest in each others welfare-would realize that the tie of fellowship which bound them together, as members of a religious body, had peculiar sacredness. A common danger, a common suffering, and all for a common faith, made the several members of the apostolic church feel that they were indeed one-one in weal or in woe, in prosperity or in adversity, in victory or in defeat ; and if in any one of these respects, any single member of the church suffered, all the members suffered with him, or any single member was honored, all the members rejoiced with him.
At the present day the case is quite different. Christianity now is popular. The rich, the learned, the influential, all are eager to honor it, at least in name. Its profession and defence are attended with no severe trials. No common danger knits together the several persons who avow a belief in Jesus Christ. The very different circumstances which distinguish Christian believers now from believers in the time of the apostles, make the comparison, so forcibly put by Paul, almost pointless, if not really absurd, if we apply it to the members of the existing Christian church. He intended by his comparison to set forth the vital and sympathetic intimacy which united the suffering, toiling, persecuted believers of his own time; he could not have intended that the comparison should have equal force under the totally different experience which attends the Christian profession in the present age of the world.
But though the special application of Paul's illustration was limited and local,-concerning only the Christian church of his own day, the principle of the illustration is universal, and applies to men without regard to the time in which they live, the circumstances which surround them, their historical relations, or their peculiar condition. This principle, as a bond of sympathy, inheres in the one body