Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

where he once incidentally alludes to himself as a Bishop of Syria. These two testimonies of the Apostolical fathers entirely confute the papal figment.

The life of Polycarp was prolonged to a great age : he seems to have been 86 years old when he died. His martyrdom is by some placed in the year 167; but by others, twenty years earlier in the reign of Antoninus Pius, about the time when Justin Martyr's first apology was written. He was burnt to death at Smyrna by command of the Roman Proconsul. When this venerable man knew that he was sought for by the government, he withdrew into a village, and there concealed himself. Two young men his domestics were tortured and made to confess the place of his concealment. “ The Martyrdom of Polycarp," a circular Epistle written shortly after his death, narrates some extraordinary circumstances accompanying the last scene of the martyr's life. It informs us that a voice from heaven was heard pronouncing these words, “ • Be strong, Polycarp, and quit thyself like a man ?' and when the flame began to blaze to a very great height, a wonderful sight appeared—for the flame, making a kind of arch, like the sail of a ship filled with wind, encompassed the body of the martyr, which was in the midst, not as flesh which was burned, but as bread which is baked, or as gold or silver glowing in the furnace. Moreover we perceived as fragrant an odour, as if it came from frankincense, or some other precious spices.When the wicked men saw that his body could not be consumed by the fire they commanded the executioner to go nearer, and pierce him with the sword—which being accordingly done, there came forth a dove* and a quantity of blood so as to extinguish the fire.” The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, the only piece extant of his writing, is one of the most pleasing documents of antiquity: it is written with great simplicity, and breathes a spirit of gentle and edifying piety throughout, unpolluted by clerical dogmatism, and free from those blemishes of Catholic tradition which mar the writings of his cotemporaries. It seems to have been written about the time of the death of Ignatius : he asks for information about him “ and those with him.”

Hermas, the author of " The Shepherd” a work in the highest repute amongst the ancients, seems to have been the brother of Pius, Bishop of Rome, and to have published his book towards the middle of the 2d century—about the year 140.

There are learned writers, however, who suppose him to have been the Hermas mentioned by the Apostle Paul (Rom. xvi. 14); a conjecture which is founded chiefly on a passage in the Shepherd (1. vision 2), in which he mentions Clemens, as one of the Elders of the Church at Rome, to whom he was ordered to send his book.when he had written it. Now this Clemens," one of the Elders of the Church," was possibly Clemens Romanus ; and if so, then it is scarcely to be believed that Hermas could have been the brother of Pope Pius.“ According to this reckoning," observes Archbishop Wake, “ Hermas must have been at least 130 years old when he died, and in all probability a great deal more.” This is, in fact, the whole difficulty of the controversy ; but, considering the great weight of ancient authority, we incline to the opinion that Hermas was brother of Pius, that he was not the Hermas named by Paul, and that the Clemens whom he mentions was not the celebrated Bishop or Elder of the Church at Rome, but some other Elder, his contemporary, of the same name. We have come to this conclusion merely on historical considerations; for it would not surprise us to find some cotemporary of the Apostle Paul, writing absurdities as great as those which disgrace every page of the Shepherd of Hermas. The merits of theological writers coeval with the Apostles must be tested by their accordance with Scripture and not by their antiquity. The Shepherd, originally written in Greek, is now known through the medium of a Latin translation. It is divided into three books; the first entitled “ Visions,” the second “ Commands,” the

* Εξηλθε περιστερα και πληθος αιματος. This is the text, nor is any other reading authorised. It has however been argued, from the silence of Eusebius relating to this miracle, that " the dove” could not have been in the manuscripts with which he was acquainted and therefore it has been ingeniously proposed to read en' apustepą instead.

Taking, however, the other suspicious parts of this narrative into the account, there does not seem to be ground for our hesitating about the dove. Eusebius did not mention it; probably, because he was ashamed of it. The difficulty of burning the body, and the sweet odour-are circumstances such as we continually find in subsequent legends. What the dove represented is obvious enough. Thus early did they begin with their legends !

66

third “ Similitudes." The author pretends that he writes by divine inspiration, that his visions were revelations, and that he was directed to publish them for the benefit of the Elect (1 vis. 2. in fine). Dull and childish dreams, heavy and insipid allegories, ignorant and pernicious theology, are the characteristics of this work, without any even incidental relief of any thing better or any thing wiser.

The Book of his Visions begins with the Author's temptation to commit bigamy, at least such seems to be the import of his strange narrative, in which he declares that he fell in love with a beautiful female slave; and that when he saw her bathing, he “ thought how happy he should be if he had such a wife both for beauty and manners.”—He then fell asleep : the Spirit caught him away–he saw the heavens opened, and the woman whom he had coveted saluting him from heaven. She told him that she had been taken up to heaven to accuse him before the Lord. At this he seems to have been exceedingly surprised, “ I said within myself, if this be laid against me for sin, how can I be saved ?" though it is quite apparent that he was at that time an elderly man, that his wife was then alive, and that his sons were young men grown up, who greatly distressed their father by their profligate conduct. He is, however, presently comforted by the apparition of an old lady, who after lecturing him for coveting this beautiful young woman, and for his indulgence to his sons, on whose account he was wholly concerned in secular affairs," quits him with these encouraging words, “ Hermas, be of good cheer.” The old lady is carried away in a chair on the shoulders of four young men. They take her away to the East. In the 2nd vision the Spirit again carries him away, and again he sees the old lady, who leaves with him a mysterious book written in letters without divisions of syllables. After fifteen days fasting, he is able to decypher the book: it commands him to upbraid his treacherous and profligate sons, and to call them to repentance, and also to admonish his wife “ to refrain her tongue with which she calumniates." He also learns that “the Lord is nigh unto them that turn to him, as it is written in the bovhs of Heldam and Modal,supposed to be Heldad and Medad (Num. xi). He then fell asleep; and in his sleep“ it was revealed to him by a very goodly young man” that the old lady was the Church of God. Hermas inquires why she appeared so old : the goodly young man replied, " Because she was the first of creation, and the world was made for her.” In the 3rd vision, the old lady again makes her appearance, and after much trouble-because he was not allowed to sit on her right hand on a bench covered with a cushion and fine linen, a place which she informs him is only for those who have attained to God," and suffered for his name's sake "he takes his place at her left hand, and sees the building of the Church triumphant, a most stupid attempt to turn into an allegory the metaphor used by Peter (1 Pet. ii. 4, 5). There is a tower built by six young men who act as master-builders, assisted by some thousands of workmen.—The tower is built on the water, of bright square stones : Some of the stones were drawn out of the deep, and were accepted and placed in the building, but other stones brought out of the ground were either rejected, or fell out of the building, and were broken to pieces, or fell into the fire—“ Others fell near the water, yet could not roll themselves into it, though very desirous to fall into the water"--all this is tediously explained : the water as baptism, the stones taken out of the water are those who have already suffered for the sake of the Lord—the rejected stones are hypocritical believers—the round stones, which want squaring, are rich men whose riches must be “pared off,"—the stones which wished to roll into the water but could not, are those who wished to be baptised but, after considering the great holiness which the truth requires, have withdrawn themselves. The builders are the Angels, the six master-builders are six superior Angels" to whom the Lord has delivered all his creatures to frame and build them up, and to rule over them"the others are Holy Angels of an inferior grade, but when the whole building of the tower shall be completed, “ they shall all feast together beside the tower, and shall glorify God.”. He then sees the tower supported by seven women: their names are * Faith, Abstinence, Simplicity, Innocence, Modesty, Discipline, Chastity.” Hermas informs us, that in the 3d vision the old lady had become quite youthful in her appearance, because by that time he had thoroughly repented, " and that he saw her sitting upon a bench, which denotes a strong position, because a bench has four feet and stands 'strongly, and even the world itself is upheld by four elements: they therefore that repent perfectly shall be young and shall be firmly established.” In the 4th vision, he sees a great beast approach stirring up a cloud of dust on the road; it was a hundred feet high, and seemed as if it could swallow up a city. He then meets a young lady dressed very elegantly all in white, with white shoes, and a white veil-he knew at once that this was “the Church.” The Church, thus elegantly attired, tells Hermas that the Beast was not allowed to injure him, because he had cast his whole care upon God, who had sent his Angel HEGRIN, the Angel who presides over Beasts, to stop its mouth. The Church, or the young lady, therefore desires Hermas, “ to go and relate to the Elect the great things God had done for him.”

Of this sort of trash much more is given the Book of Similitudes. There is another long story of a willow tree which covered the mountains, under whose shade came all such as were called by the name of the Lord. * By that willow tree stood an Angel of the Lord very excellent and tall,”—boughs of the tree are cut off and planted—their various conditions are intended to indicate the various characters of the elect, and the various dealings with penitents and sinners, narrated with the most tiresome prolixity, and interspersed with the most erroneous doctrine.

Hermas is then taken by the Angel of Repentance to a mountain in Arcadia, where he saw twelve mountains, and in the midst of the plain his favourite vision of the tower, in the construction and explanation of which he lingers to the end of the book,—but enough of these profane fables. The doctrinal views of this writer are reprehensible in a high degree; and must have exercised a most pernicious influence in the Church, considering the great respect with which the ancients received his book. His doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit can scarcely be put in any proposition, but must be seen in his own sentences. He first proposes a parable :- A certain husbandman put the care of his vineyard into the hands of one of his most faithful and approved servants, promising that if he took care of his charge he would set him at liberty. After a time the owner came back to his farm, approved highly of the managentent of his chosen servant, and as a reward promised to make him equal with his Son. “ The design of the master, both his son and his friends approved.” The master then sent several dishes from the supper-table to the servant, who ate what he wanted, and gave the rest to his fellow-labourers.

He then solves his parable thus: the servant is the Son of God, the master's son means the Holy Spirit ; the master's friends are the Holy Angels. But hear why the Lord did take his son (i. e. the Holy Spirit) into counsel about dividing the inheritance. That Holy Spirit which was created first of all, he placed in the body in which God should dwell

, namely, in a chosen body, as it seemed good to him. This body, therefore, into which the Holy Spirit was brought served that Spirit, walking rightly and chastely in modesty, and never defiled that Spirit ..... he therefore called to counsel his Son and the good Angels, that there might be some place of standing given to this body which had served the Holy Spirit without blame, lest it should seem to have lost the reward of his service, for every pure body shall receive its reward, that is found without spot, in which the Holy Spirit has been appointed to dwell."

The propositions to be extracted from this passage contain the rudiments of some of the worst heresies that have ever perplexed the Church.

The favourite doctrine of Hermas is this; that the Holy Spirit is given to every man; that if it meets with sin, it is defiled, and that therefore it must be restored pure as it was received; for, says he, “ if thou shalt give a fuller a garment new and whole, thou will expect to receive it whole again. What thinkest thou the Lord will do, who gave his Spirit to thee entire, and thou hast rendered him altogether unprofitable, so that he can be of no use to his Lord” (iii. 23). Hence he continually insists on the absolute necessity of living in perfect innocence, and devoid of sin—the innocence of little children he earnestly inculcates, because he knew nothing of the fallen state of man, nothing of the doctrines of grace, nothing of justification by faith. He speaks with high satisfaction of those who have believed like sincere children, “ into whose thoughts there never came any malice, and have never known what sin wus, but have always continued in their integrity. This kind of men shall, without doubt, inherit the kingdom of God” (iii. 29).

He informs us that the Apostles and teachers who preached in the name of the Son of God, baptised the ancient Saints and Prophets who were dead ; they preached to them who were dead before. They went down therefore into the water

66

VOL. II.

LL

with them, and came up again alive. The Apostles went down alive; and came up alive, but those who were before dead went down dead and came up alive."

There is scarcely any thing in the Pastor of Hermas to be quoted with approbation, and scarcely any thing of interest to be extracted as illustrating the history of the Church. By one passage we may judge that when Hermas wrote, the spiritual ministry of the brethren was retained, in form at least, in the Church, and that it was not confined to the Elders, Bishops, or any clerical body : “When a man,” says he, “ who hath the Spirit of God shall come into the Church of the righteous, who have the faith of God, and they pray unto the Lord; then the Holy Angel of God fills that man with the blessed Spirit, und he speaks in the congregation as he is moved of God. Thus, therefore, is the Spirit of God known; because whosoever speaketh by the Spirit of God, speaketh as the Lord will."

The fact of a believer speaking in the congregation, not as an ordained minister, but as a spiritual teacher is asserted as a common occurrence, and asserted not as an injunction, but as an incidental record of something already existing: and though Hermas adds to the record his own idle creed about Angels, and in the most exceptionable language, yet still the peculiarity of the then existing worship in the Church is very clearly established.

The Fathers have received the Pastor of Hermas with much reverence; Irenæus quotes it as Scripture. Origen says of it, that it is “a most useful book, and, as he believes, divinely inspired.” Eusebius tells us that, though it was not held to be canonical, yet it was esteemed a most necessary book, especially for those who wanted some introductory information of first principles ;" for which reason, he says, it was publicly read in some churches. Athanasius calls it a most profitable, (opedyuwtarn) book; Jerom,“ truly useful ”_"vere utilis"—though with an inconsistency, not uncommon in the fathers, he elsewhere exposes the folly of that " apocryphal work." Pope Gelasius ranked it amongst apocryphal books; and therefore Baronius, Bellarmine, Petavius, Labbe, and others of the papal school, have felt no scruple in commenting freely on its contents. Archbishop Wake, who took the trouble to translate it, evidently views it with the highest respect; for thus speaks that prelate in the preface, “ What Hermas did after this we have no account; but that he lived a very strict life, we may reasonably conjecture, in that it pleased God to vouchsafe such extraordinary revelations to him, and to employ him in several messages to his Church.With such sentiments, the Archbishop could scarcely have considered the Pastor of Hermas less than an inspired book. The divines of the Oxford Tracts quote from it with a reverence more than Roman Catholic, and the British Critic, the organ of that sect, is little pleased that the University of Oxford has omitted Hermas in its late edition of the Apostolical Fathers.

All that is known of Papias, is from Irenæus and Eusebius: none of his writings have been preserved. He wrote about the year A. D. 100. Eusebius thus speaks of him, “ There are said to be five books of Papias, which bear this title, Interpretation of our Lord's Declarations. “ Irenæus also mentions these as the only works written by him, in the following terms: These things are attested by Papias, who was John's hearer, an ancient writer, who mentions them in the fourth book of his works, for he has written a work in five books.' But Papias, himself, in the preface of his Discourse, by no means asserts that he was a hearer and an eyewitness of the Apostle, but informs us, that he received the doctrines of faith from their intimate friends, which he states in the following words; But I shall not regret to subjoin to my interpretations, for your benefit, whatever I have at any time accurately ascertained, and treasured up in my memory, as I have received it from the Elders, and have recorded it, in order to give additional confirmation to the truth, by my testimony: For I have never, like many, delighted to hear those who tell many things, but those that teach the truth ; neither those that record foreign precepts, but those that are given from the Lord to our faith, and that came from the truth itself

. But if I met with any who had been a follower of the Elders any where, I made it a point to inquire what were the declarations of the Elders, what was said by Andrew, Peter, or Philip; what by Thomas, James, John, Matthew, or any other disciple of the Lord; what was said by Aristion, and the Presbyter John, disciples of the Lord; for I do not think I derived so much benefit

[ocr errors]

66 As

from books, as from the living voice of those who are still surviving.' Eusebius then goes on to intimate his own opinion that this Presbyter John, and not John the Evangelist wrote the Book of Revelation : and he shows, by other evidence, that there were two of this name, disciples of our Lord. He then returns to Papias, who, he says, “has recorded that a person was raised from the dead in his days; and that Justus, surnamed Barsabas, having accidentally drank a deadly poison, received no injury from it through the grace of God. Papias also, from unwritten tradition, gives certain strange parables of our Lord, and of his doctrine, and some other things rather too fabulous. In these days, he says, there would be a certain millennium after the resurrection, and that there would be a corporeal reign of Christ upon earth ; which things he appears to have imagined as if they were authorised by the Apostolic narrations, not understanding correctly those matters which they propounded mystically in their representations; for he was very limited in his comprehension, as is evident from his discourses : yet he was the cause why most of the ecclesiastical writers, urging the antiquity of the mun, were carried away by a similar opinion; as for instance Irenæus, or any other that adopted such sentiments.” The testimony of Irenæus, to which Eusebius refers, is to this effect: Irenæus is pleading for his views of the millennium; he says that the blessing with which Isaac blessed Jacob“ God give thee of the dew of heaven, and plenty of corn and wine” (Gen. xxvii

. 28), together with the rest of that prophetical benediction could not possibly be fulfilled in the Jews, who were at that time a wretched people, and in the greatest distress; therefore, he argues, that the prophecy is to be fulfilled in millennium. those Elders, who saw John, the disciple of our Lord, have recorded, that they had from him, how the Lord taught them concerning those times, saying, that the days should come in which vines would grow, each having ten thousand stems, and on each stem ten thousand branches, and on each branch ten thousand twigs, and on each twig ten thousand bunches, and in each bunch ten thousand grapes, and each

rape when squeezed should give forth twenty-five measures of wine: and when any of the Saints should essay to pluck a bunch, another would cry out, 'I am a finer bunch; take me, and through me bless the Lord'-and so of the wheat; and all other fruits, and seeds, and herbs bearing fruit after their kind; and that all animals which feed on food of the earth will be in peace and harmony together, subjected to man in perfect subjection. These things, Papias, the hearer of John, and the companion of Polycarp, an ancient man, has recorded in writing, in the fourth of his books, for his work is in five books; and he adds, these things are credible to to those who believe (or have faith].' He says, also that when Judas, the traitor, did not believe this prophecy, and asked how such great crops and vintages could be produced by the Lord—the Lord answered, “ They shall see who shall come into those times.'

Of these times, therefore, speaks the Prophet Isaiah, “The wolf shall feed with the lamb,' &c. . . but this signified the greatness and fertility of the fruits of the earth; for if the lion feed on straw, how great must be that wheat of which the straw will be sufficient for the food of lions !"

It is most instructive to observe, that all those who plead for tradition as a guide of the Church, have rejected this well-recorded testimony of Papias, whose claims to Apostolical instruction are, at leust, on a par with any thing that can be advanced in favour of Ignatius.

THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN AND THE ECLECTIC REVIEW.

In the May number of the Eclectic Review, there appeared an article entitled, “The Plymouth Brethren;" and on that article we have a few remarks to offer. It is by no means our intention to enter here on a defence of the Christians usually known by the name of the “ Plymouth Brethren,” but simply to notice the article in the Eclectic, in those points where it seems to us to put forth statements irreconcileable with the principles, which, if not generally acknowledged by Christians, are certainly to be found in the Scriptures.

The article in question commences with an invidious eulogy of Mr. R. M. Beverley, for no other reason that we can discern, than to give an appearance of impartiality to the subsequent animadversions on the “ Plymouth Brethren." The writer of the

« ForrigeFortsett »