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compromise it; hypocrites can gain admission into it; but we feel as we read these letters that these churches, on the whole, are Christian societies. If it were otherwise, what would be the meaning of those salutations with which they begin :—' To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints' (Rom. i. 7). "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints' (1 Cor. i. 2). • To the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus' (Eph. i. 1). The general tone of the epistles, the subjects they broach, the discussions they institute on the most delicate points of Christian practice, absolutely preclude the idea that such churches were simply pedagogic institutions, designed to form, by the exercise of authority, faith in men's hearts. They are missionary churches, real foci of evangelization, spreading light all around them. The idea of a mere school, crowded with unconverted multitudes, falls to the ground before words such as these (1 Cor. vi. 1) :-Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints ?'
The notion of the church, which regards it as the society of believers, follows from the general views of St. Paul as to the relation between the two covenants. Whilst the old economy was a theocracy linked to external and material facts, the new is essentially spiritual. In presence of the cross, national and hereditary privileges have been abolished. “There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but Christ is all and in all (Col. iii. 11). In other words, the new birth, or personal faith, is the only thing which can introduce men into the church. Paul, by combating so energetically the false teachers who wished to impose circumcision on the Christians, has, by this line of argument, excluded the idea of impersonal and traditional religion dependent on external position and transmitted by birth. He has not simply repudiated by his rejection of circumcision a Jewish form and ceremony; he has, over and above all this, repudiated a principle-that, namely, of a national and theocratic religion, handed down from generation to generation by right of inheritance. To inherit without appropriating stands for nothing in the Christian Church, whilst to appropriate without having inherited is sufficient for a man's salvation. Everything depends on this personal adhesion—that is to say, on faith.
Not only did each church in the apostolic age demand a positive and personal act of faith in the reception of new members, but besides it felt bound to expel from its bosom the impure elements which had penetrated into it, and which, in so far as they fell under human cognizance, could be discerned and eliminated. 'Purge out the old leaven,' wrote the apostle to the Corinthians, alluding to scandalous sinners who had crept into the ranks of the Christians.
The universal priesthood was a serious and real thing in the apostolic churches. Being composed of sincere believers they did not admit the distinction, too frequent now, between active and passive members. All the Christians were called to contribute, from their zeal
and piety, to the general good. Offices exist, but they are far from entirely absorbing the activity of the church. They do not possess the importance which they will acquire at a later period, when the gifts of the Holy Spirit shall have lost their extraordinary character, and when the supernatural element shall have permeated more entirely the natural element in the Christian. At this period organization is constantly encroached upon by miracle, just as the banks of a flooded river are covered by its too impetuous waters. The boundary line between the ecclesiastical offices and the gifts vouchsafed to all believers is so faintly marked that Paul places them all in the same category :-'God hath appointed in the church first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Let us endeavour to distinguish, amidst the profusion whichi characterises the apostolic age, the diverse gifts from one another.
Christianity is the religion of grace. It teaches that all perfect gifts come down from God, who diffuses them by his Spirit. Not only does the Holy Spirit renew the heart by conversion, but he besides communicates to the believer the different aptitudes which are necessary to his glorifying God. At the same time we should deceive ourselves were we to fancy that there is any absolute incompatibility between the gifts of grace and the gifts of nature. The God of redemption is also the God of creation. The natural gifts are not nullified by the Holy Spirit; quite the contrary, he accepts them, and assimilates them, by purifying them and by communicating to them a heavenly virtue which turns them to the benefit of the Church. They then become spiritual gifts. The degree in which the supernatural element exists in these gifts may vary; it may be more or less intense. Sometimes even the natural element seems to be quite absorbed. It is so in the beginning of the apostolic age; but already in its second period the purely supernatural gifts wane; they tend to become subject to rule and discipline; whilst the gifts in which the natural aptitude penetrated by grace plays the principal part, become multiplied, and are ever acquiring greater importance. Starting from these general views, it is easy to establish a distinction between the various gifts enumerated by St. Paul.
The gift which most bears the stamp of the purely supernatural is the gift of tongues. It becomes modified during the second period of the apostolic age. They who at the Pentecost spoke foreign languages were understood by their hearers. This was no longer the case in the time of St. Paul. The gift of tongues seems at this epoch to have been an inarticulate mode of speech, a mysterious psalmodya strange manifestation of that state of ecstasy, in which thought, sunk in the infinite, has lost all precision, having become submerged, so to say, by the outpouring of the divine inquence. That is the conclusion to be drawn from the manner in which Paul describes the gift of tongues. • It is like things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp. Except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be
known what is piped or harped ?' By abandoning oneself withou restraint to religious ecstasy, it was possible to reach an ever higher pitch of excitement; to find delight in a psychological condition which was not without peril; and to develop in excess this gift of tongues which was of no use in edifying the Church. Accordingly St. Paul endeavours to keep it within due bounds. He does not even desire that any should give way to it at all, unless there should be in the assembly brethren capable of interpreting unknown tongues. This gift of interpretation was that one amongst the various manifestations of the gift of prophecy which still possessed a miraculous character, although it did not shut the man up to an absolute passivity, like the gift of tongues. The prophet was the organ of Divine inspiration : sometimes he foretold future events; sometimes he read men hearts, and augured their vocations; sometimes he taught with an extraordinary power, which revealed a special activity of the Divine Spirit. The language of the prophet was not calm, connected, and tranquil
, like that of reflection. It bare no marks of premeditation, nor of the labour of thought. It was impetuous and thundering. Men were not to trust absolutely to the revelations of the prophets; St. Paul wills that they be controlled by the Church; for with the inspirations of the Spirit there might be mingled those of the natural heart. “Let the prophets speak two or three,' he says, "and let the others judge' (1 Cor. xiv. 29). The gift of healing and of working miracles belongs to the same category.“ It was largely vouchsafed to the primitive churches; not to the apostles only, but indiscriminately to all Christians.
All these essentially supernatural gifts might be expected to be especially abundant in the beginnings of the Church, at the epoch of its creation and foundation. It is conceivable that they might reappear, though in a less degree, in times presenting a certain analogy to the first age, but it is a grievous mistake to consider these miraculous gifts as the necessary manifestation of the Holy Spirit upon earth. The permanent gifts are not the extraordinary ones; the permanent gifts are those which blend in admirable harmony nature and grace, the human with the divine element, and they are precisely those by which the apostles were pre-eminently distinguished. We place in this second category the gift of teaching, and that of government. The first sometimes applies itself to the practical side of Christianity, and it is then called the word of wisdom; sometimes to the theoretical side, and then it is styled the word of knowledge. The gift of government was naturally accompanied by the gift of the discerning of spirits ; for at an epoch when the manifestations of the supernatural world were so frequent it was of the utmost importance to be able to distinguish true from false inspirations. The gift of teaching, like that of government,
• 1 Cor. xii. 9, 10. The gift of faith, spoken of i Cor. xii. 9, must be understood of this gift of miracles. It is evident that we cannot give to this word in this passage its ordinary sense. The faith which saves is not a special gift vouchsafed to some Christians only ; it is necessary for all.
evidently implied certain natural aptitudes, and could not be exercised without the concurrence of the moral and intellectual powers.
Such were the principal gifts vouchsafed to the Church. They existed anterior to the offices; nothing could be farther from the truth than to pretend that they were dependent upon office, and that they did not manifest themselves save within the framework of a determinate organization. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and the Spirit of God never abdicates his sovereign liberty. The partisans of hierarchy do not deny that the miraculous gifts were vouchsafed to all the Christians; but they claim for ecclesiastical office the monopoly of the gift of teaching, the exercise of which, according to them, must have been regulated by an official and sovereign authority, under pain of introducing doctrinal anarchy. But this distinction is quite arbitrary. The synagogue already accorded this right to every pious Jew, although subjecting it to certain restrictions. It is not surprising that it has been extended by St. Paul to all Christians with the exception of women, who are bound to keep silence during the public worship. • When’ye come together,' he says, every one of you hath a doctrine, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying' (1 Cor. xiv. 26). This right was long recognised in the Church. In the eighth book of the Apostolical Constitutions we read :
—He who teaches, if he be a layman, must be well versed in the word.' It is not, then, possible to trace any line of demarcation between the gift of prophecy and that of teaching. The latter, like the former, belonged to the Church without any distinction in favour of the clergy. It remains an established fact that all the believers had the right of teaching during public worship. It is equally well ascertained that all took a certain share in the government of the community. They were called, as we see on occasion of the conferences at Jerusalem, to participate in important deliberations. The letters of the apostles put them all in charge of the great interests of the congregation. Discipline was an act of the community, and not a clerical decree. “For I verily,' writes St. Paul to the Christians of Corinth, on the subject of the incestuous person, “as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan' (1 Cor. v. 3—5). The whole church is supposed to be joined in a council of discipline with the apostle, under the invisible presidency of Jesus Christ. No distinction is made; all the believers are called upon to pass the sentence of condemnation as a sovereign tribunal. The excommunication is pronounced in their name. In like manner it is in their name that the repentant sinner is restored to the church. The church as a whole forgives him the wrong which he has done to it by dishonouring it, and permits him to return into communion with the brethren. The power of the keys belongs thus, according to St. Paul, to all the Christians.
Nor are the sacraments, any more than matters of discipline, a monopoly of the clergy. These principles were so deeply rooted within the Church, that a long time afterwards, at an epoch when it had undergone profound changes, it still, by the mouth of St. Jerome, bore a remarkable testimony to them. •The right to baptize,' says he, 'has often been accorded to laymen in cases of necessity, for every one can give that which he has received. "At first, we read in the Commentaries attributed to St. Ambrose, all taught, and all baptized, on all occasions.' As regards the Supper, Paul ascribes to all the Christians the benediction of the cup and the breaking of the bread. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ ?' (1 Cor. x. 16.) From all this it follows that the idea of a priesthood was quite foreign to the churches founded by St. Paul.
Nevertheless, we see in these churches divers ecclesiastical offices make their appearance; these offices even tend to assume more and more importance, but without ever becoming invested with the characteristics of priesthood. Paul has transplanted into the congregations gathered from the midst of paganism the simple organization, borrowed from the Jewish synagogue, which was in vigour in the churches of Palestine. We find again at Ephesus the same democratic constitution as at Jerusalem ; a college of presbyters is nominated by the church; they are much more its representatives and its delegates than its masters. It is no Levitical caste which is organized; we have but to read the Epistle to the Hebrews to convince ourselves of that. Jesus Christ is there regarded as the sovereign sacrificing priest of the new covenant, living for ever and ever, the only Mediator between God and Men. He does not transmit to others a priesthood, which is perfect only because it is eternal. The blessed times foretold by the prophets were come when the law was to be witten on the hearts of all believers, when everyone, communicating directly with heaven, should have no longer need to submit to human teaching imposed upon him from without. Ecclesiastical office, seen from this point of view, could only be regarded as a service rendered to the Church-as a ministry. Those who are invested with it are not the lords, but the servants of their brethren. “We are your servants,' said St. Paul to the Corinthians (2 Cor. iv. 5), 'for Jesus' sake;' showing by these words, which bear the stamp of a humility so touching, that the apostolate itself bore no analogy to the ancient priesthood.
The Office of Presbyter or Bishop. Let us picture to ourselves the very simple mechanism of the institutions of a church like that of Corinth or Ephesus. Ecclesiastical office, already created elsewhere to meet real wants and to maintain order amidst liberty, would naturally be constituted in such a church very soon. We discover in the letters of St. Paul a precious indication of the manner in which it sometimes took its rise. The apostle speaks again and again of the church which is in the house of such and such a simple Christian. Such a church, or fraction of a church,