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however, zealously opposes this restricted idea of Christianity, and shows that the soul must lose Christ if it seeks to use any other means of salvation. It was the object of the law of Moses to lead by its injunctions to conviction of sin, and thus to a desire for salvation; by its prophecies and types of Christ, it was a school-master to guide us to him; but salvation itself could come only from Christ. Still, Paul was by no means of opinion, that those who were Jews by birth, must not observe the law when they became Christians; he rather favored their doing so, if the pious customs of their fathers had become dear to them, or if their own weakness, or that of the Jews, would be offended by the contrary course. Hence, the apostles, who remained in Jerusalem till its destruction, as Matthew and James, observed the law invariably, and so did Paul likewise, when he was in Jerusalem. But the apostles, as well as their true disciples, were far from being desirous to impose this observance of the law upon the Gentiles also. The milder, and truly christian view of the observance of the law, was constantly entertained by many Jewish Christians in Palestine, who in later times were called Nazarenes. Many, on the contrary, took the wrong course, which the apostle Paul reproved in certain individuals in Galatia, and these obtained the name of Ebionites. These, however, fell into other heresies besides their idea of the necessity of circumcision and observance of the law in order to salvation; particularly in regard to the person of Christ. They denied the true divinity of our Lord, and regarded him as a son of Joseph, thus seceding wholly from the true church of Christ.
In precise contrariety to this Judaizing division of the church, others entirely discarded Judaism. The instructions of the apostle Paul had taken deep hold of their minds, and given them a strong conviction that the gospel went far beyond the formalities of Jewish practice, and would bring all nations under its sway. But from this perfectly correct idea, they wandered into opposition to the Old Testament, which was never felt in the slightest degree by the apostle Paul. They remarked correctly, that in the Old Testament the divine justice was most prominently exhibited, in the revelation of a rigorous law; while the New most fully displayed the divine mercy, in the revelation of forgiving love. But this fact, which was necessary for the education of mankind, since the need of salvation will never be felt until the claims of justice are perceived, was employed by them for the purpose of wholly disuniting the Old Testament from
the New, and referring it to a distinct author. This sect are termed Marcionites, from Marcion, the man who urged this view to the greatest extreme. In connection with their opposition to Judaism, they also held Gnostic opinions, (whence they are commonly ranked with the Gnostics), and these gave a hue to their vapid notion, that the God of the Old Testament was different from that of the New. The Old Testament, they thought, presented to view a God of justice without love, the New Testament, one of love without justice; while in reality the only true God possesses both attributes in perfection. It is easy to see that in these notions paganism is mingled with Christianity. The sublime nature of the latter was admitted by the Marcionites; but they could not look upon the other true form of religion, Judaism, as reconcilable with it. Hence, although they no longer revered the numberless gods of the heathen, they imagined the two attributes of God, justice and love, to centre in two distinct divine beings. Besides this ungrounded violence against Judaism, the Marcionites maintained a stupid error in regard to Christ's nature, which was the precise opposite of the opinion of the Jewish Christians. The latter denied his divinity, and the Marcionites asserted that he had no true humanity. The humanity of Christ, said they, was only apparent. In their opinion a purely heavenly vision was presented in the person of Jesus Christ; his life, and all his acts in life, were but in appearance, designed to exhibit him to men in a hu
This idea the Marcionites entertained in common with the Gnostics, properly so called, who did, indeed, judge more correctly than the former in regard to the mutual relation of Judaism and Christianity, but on other points maintained the most grievous errors. The seeds of their doctrine are referred to by the apostle Paul, e. g. 2 Tim. 2: 17, 18, where he warns against the heresy of Hymenaeus and Philetus, who maintained that the resurrection of the dead had already taken place. For, as they denied the true humanity of Christ, they could not, of course, admit the corporeal resurrection of all men; and therefore, understood it spiritually of the interior vivification of the heart by the Spirit of Christ. Undoubtedly this perversion of doctrine on the part of the Gnostics, is to be referred to their belief in another being besides God. While they regarded God as a pure Spirit, the fulness of all good and all beauty, they looked upon matter as another being, the source of every thing corpo
real and visible, as also of evil. It was from a mixture of the spiritual and the material that this world originated, and particularly man, who at one time displays so much that is lovely and elevated, at another so much that is low and base. Thus, the only way to purify and sanctify man, was that he should be gradually freed from every thing material, and by the divine seeds of life within him, be brought back to God. It is easy to imagine what a distorted view of all the doctrines of salvation must be produced by such an idea, since Holy Writ nowhere countenances the opinion that evil resides in matter, but rather expressly refers it to the will of the creature, who, by disobedience to the holy will of the Creator, has destroyed in himself, and about him, the harmony which originally prevailed in the whole universe.
In this condition of things, then, when Jewish Christ Marcionites, and Gnostics, to say nothing of other insignificant sects, were disturbing the unity of the church, it was seen to be necessary that every effort should be exerted to uphold the purity of the apostolic doctrines. But as, at the time when these sects became very powerful, the apostles were no longer upon earth, no direct appeal could be made to their authority. Whenever oral tradition was adduced against them, these heretics appealed themselves to pretended communications from the apostles. The Gnostics, in particular, asserted that the deeper wisdom which they taught in their schools was communicated by the apostles to only a few; simple christian truth alone, they supposed, was only for the multitude. What remained, therefore, since appeal to oral tradition from the apostles was of no avail, but reference to written authority? This could not be altered and falsified like oral language; it was better suited to be a fixed, unchangeable norm and rule of faith; and could, therefore, be employed with exceeding force and efficiency against all heretics. Thus the time was now come when a sifting and separation of the many christian writings scattered abroad in the church was necessary. Moreover, the different sects of heretics had all sorts of forged writings among them, in which their peculiar opinions were presented in the names of celebrated prophets and apostles. Against such writings explicit declaration must be made, in order to preserve the true apostolic doctrine from mixture with erroneous and confused notions. As of course, however, individual fathers of the church could have but little influence against the established sects of heretics, it was
felt to be necessary that real Christians should be more closely and more intimately united, and from the endeavor consequently made sprang the so-called Catholic, i. e. universal church. The teachers of the church, as well as the laity, agreed together in the avowal of certain doctrines, which afterwards formed their creed, or the so-called apostolic symbol, because in them the true apostolic doctrines were opposed to heresies. Thus it became practicable to set firm bounds to the tide of corruption; and thus the various sects were gradually suppressed by the preponderant influence of the universal church. Still some of them lasted down to the 5th and 6th centuries.
The sifting of the various christian writings demands a more careful consideration. It was remarked above that edifying productions of estimable fathers, e. g. Clement of Rome, Hermas and others, were publicly read along with those of the apostles. Still, however profitable these writings might be, the bishops of the catholic church correctly felt that they could be of no service against heretics, as they allowed them no weight. Since, however, they commonly acknowledged the writings of the apostles, these and these alone could be appealed to in confutation of them. All such writings, therefore, as were allowed to be the compositions of other authors were first separated from the rest. If this had not been done, it would have remained uncertain in all subsequent time what books were properly to be regarded as pure sources of apostolic doctrine; and at the time. of the Reformation it would not have been so easy to restore the true uncorrupted doctrine of Christ by means of the Scriptures, as it was, from the circumstance that the genuine Scriptures were possessed in a separate, fixed collection. Now, in the endeavor to gather the genuine apostolic writings together by themselves, some were very readily distinguished from the rest as true apostolic productions. These were called universally-admitted writings; in Greek, Homolegomena. Among these were reckoned the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the apostles; the epistles of the apostle Paul to the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon; and, lastly, the two epistles of John and Peter, i. e. only the first and largest of both apostles. Among these writings, it is true, there appear two which were not composed by apostles, i. e. by members of the first circle of twelve men which our Lord Jesus gathered about him. (It is to be ob
served that Paul ranked with these in authority, partly because of his immediate call by the Lord (Acts ix), and partly on account of his extended and blessed labors in behalf of the church.) We mean the gospel of Mark, and the work of Luke, for Luke's Gospel and his Acts of the apostles do but make two halves of the same work, as is plain from the commencement of the Acts. There was no scruple on the part of the catholic church to class these two works of assistants of the apostles with those really apostolic, because both wrote under the influence and approval of apostles. According to the unanimous account of the most ancient fathers, Mark wrote under the guidance of Peter, and Luke under that of Paul; so that Mark was regarded as the Petrine, and Luke as the Pauline gospel. These universallyreceived writings of the apostles were divided into two collections. First, the four gospels by themselves formed a collection called the gospel. For, although it contained four narratives of our Lord's life, they were not regarded as different writings, but only as different aspects or, so to speak, sides of one and the same work. Hence an ancient father, Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons in France, terms the four gospels the one four-formed or four-sided gospel. The other writings constituted a second collection, which was termed the apostle, or the preaching of the apostle. Probably the name took its rise from the fact, that at first the epistles of Paul alone were collected together, and he was called the apostle by way of eminence, especially in Europe, on account of his active labors. To this collection of Pauline epistles the Acts of the apostles was added subsequently, because it formed as it were an introduction to the epistles, containing an account of Paul's travels and labors in the vineyard of our Lord. Later still were also added the two larger epistles of John and Peter.
Besides these generally admitted writings, there were others, which were indeed regarded by many as apostolic, but as to which some estimable persons entertained doubts, viz. the second and third epistles of John, the second epistle of Peter, the epistles of James and Jude, the epistle to the Hebrews, and John's Apocalypse. Hence these were termed disputed writings; in Greek, Antilegomena. It was not till the close of the second, or commencement of the third century, that most of the fathers of the catholic church became united in believing the genuineness and apostolic origin of all these writings excepting the epistle to the Hebrews and the Apocalypse. A third