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came by degrees to partake of the nature of the Pagan mysteries, both in their exclusiveness and in their striving for dramatic effect. Thus Christians were regarded as the initiated, the candidates as catechumens, and the Pagans as the populace forbidden to enter the sacred places. The simple rite of communion was made a secret act, and gradually the idea of sacrifice was attached to its commemoration.
With the conversion of Constantine, Christianity at once. became the favored religion of the court and the empire; and the political organization of the empire became the model of that of the Church. Rome as yet had no superiority over the other patriarchal bishoprics; but, on the establishment of the seat of empire at Byzantium, Constantine made of the patriarch of Rome the most important personage of the Eternal City. The prestige of Rome was so great, that the man who was first there would have little difficulty in maintaining his supremacy elsewhere. Besides, the East had four patriarchs, while the West had only one; and, through all divisions of the empire, the Western world continued to be ruled by a single spiritual head. The title of pope (papa), meaning "father," often given to bishops, was gradually monopolized by those of Rome. The encroachments of the papacy were necessarily slow, being, for a long time, opposed by the Western churches, while its claims have never been acknowledged in the East.
Meantime the Church became corrupted through its prosperity. Many of the clergy led scandalous lives, and disorders increased, until at last a re-action took place, unfortunately as extremes as the abuses against which it protested. To the religion of the court and the world, was opposed a religion hostile to society, alien to the family, - the religion of monks and nuns. Anchorites and cœnobites soon became numerous. The zeal for celibacy caused new honors to be paid to the mother of Christ, who was held to have always remained a virgin; and, in the fifth century, it was declared, by authority of an ecclesiastical council, that she was the "mother of God," in refutation of the heresy of Nestorius, who had taught the separation of the two natures in Christ, maintaining that Mary was the mother of the Christ-man, but not of the Christ-God.
After this declaration, it was easy to recognize her as a divinity in her own right; especially for the Pagans, who were accustomed to acknowledge the claims of goddesses, and who saw in the numerous pictures of the Virgin and child only a slight variation from the favorite Egyptian representation of Isis and her son Horus. Arianism was a last, illogical, and intellectually feeble, attempt to maintain God above all, even above Christ, the last effort of monotheistic feeling against the polytheistic tendency of the age.
The division of the Greek and Roman Churches was the necessary result of long conflicting influences. The Eastern Church had always followed the mystical theology of John: the Roman Church adopted the formal, Judaistic theology of Peter, with such zeal, that he was early declared to have been. its founder, and to have suffered persecution and death within the Eternal City, although historical evidence all goes to prove that he never even saw Rome; while Paul, whose teaching was rejected by its citizens, preached there for years, and finally died a martyr within its walls. His bold, free thought, though buried under the corruptions of primitive times, came to life and flourished in full vigor at the Reformation; and its purest truth blossoms afresh with every new struggle for liberty of conscience and elevation of human character.
Even this brief survey of the history of the Church, during the first four centuries after the death of Christ, is enough to show that his professed followers had wandered far from his pure standard of feeling and action; and to convey the warning lesson, that in proportion to the degree in which human laws and rites and creeds are allowed to intrude upon the sacred relations of the soul to God, will be the degeneracy of worship and the loss of spiritual communion between man and his Heavenly Father. And as history has proved, that the infinite variety of character and perception among individuals is proof against the restrictions of party or dogma, would it not be wisdom on the part of each existing church to relax its hold upon the material forms of its worship and the defined doctrines of its creed; and place more reliance upon that vital principle of Christianity, which still asserts itself in the midst
of error, and which is destined finally to triumph over all attempts to enthrall its glorious career?
The above condensed sketch may serve to show something of the topics and course of argument in M. Coquerel's remarkable work; but it can give no adequate idea of the harmony, consistency, and earnestness with which the subject is developed. It is to be hoped that this little book will be extensively circulated; for no more attractive and persuasive antidote to superstition and ignorance in religious matters has ever been offered to the public.
ART. VII.-THE INCARNATION.
Ecce Deus. Essays on the Life and Doctrine of Jesus Christ, with Controversial Notes on "Ecce Homo." Boston: Roberts Brothers.
WE have not seen the English edition of this interesting book, and, from reading the American reprint, should have concluded that it was really written in this country, by some person in our Unitarian ranks with a Swedenborgian philosophy, and with a studious desire to conceal his ecclesiastical connections. It has too many Americanisms in it to be English in origin. The word " transpire" is commonly used for "occur," a purely American colloquialism. "Collide" is another instance of steamboat English. We think, too, we notice an awkwardness in wearing the English dress, which a native would not have exhibited. Would an Englishman quote Macaulay as "Baron Macaulay?" Would he say, "from Britain to Africa"?meaning from England. But these are mere sur
The book-which we do not propose to review, but merely incidentally to use as an introduction to our present themeis worthy of careful reading. Its origin and purport will be at least as great a puzzle as "Ecce Homo" proved. It is not a whit more Orthodox in its general direction; and we see no
reason why it might not have been written by the same author, except that it lacks his ease and polish and simplicity of style. In variety, earnestness, and freedom of thought, it is equally rich and full. There is as much in it to shock popular prejudices. But, happily, its edge is towards errors on both sides. It cuts into what is superficial or worthless in Liberal Christianity and in so-called Orthodox Christianity, and is written out of a deep and genuine and large Christian experience. We hope to do it full justice in our next number.
It is very interesting to see how the mind of the age is returning to that insoluble mystery of Christ's person. Christian unbelief has spoken its last word; criticism has done its worst. There is no unexplored field left in Christian evidences or exegetical studies. Doubt and denial have exhausted themselves, and, for want of materials, will now have to turn from discrediting Christ, to disproving a personal God (a much easier achievement), as the only road of progress. The next thing will be a revival of faith in Christianity; and the thing to be guarded against is, that this revival shall not waste its force and freshness upon what is not vital and precious, shall not prove a renaissance of ecclesiastical frippery and theological extravagance.
The Incarnation, which is the central idea of "Ecce Deus," is, doubtless, the most fruitful and permanent and central idea of Christianity. The proem of John's Gospel is the axis of all future debate among theologians, because it sets forth this Incarnation; and the authenticity and genuineness of John's Gospel is now the question of all questions, because it contains this proem. In our present discussion, however, we must assume what the last and best authorities allow, that the fourth Gospel is the work of John. The fourth Gospel was not written until about sixty-five years after our Lord's ascension; while the other Gospels are supposed to have been written within eight and fifteen years of that event.
During that period, of course, there had been time for the facts in our Saviour's life and death to become subjects of speculation, theory, and debate; and for opinions to develop themselves in the minds and hearts of his followers, out of
and beyond those which were held by those who more directly and immediately reported his sayings and history.
This will account for the marked, and not otherwise explainable, difference between the fourth and the three synoptical Gospels. It is explained either by the fact, that John gives us the Gospel as meditation and experience; or, living in and from it had opened its depths to his soul; or that he endeavored to supply what was lacking in the other evangelists, or to correct errors which he had had time to see growing up in the Church.
In the first seventeen chapters, we have almost entirely new matter; and the whole Gospel is manifestly in a more mystic, spiritual, and devotional vein than either of the others.
Jesus, from that definite, human, and thoroughly historical personage which he appears in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, becomes, in John, more vague, enigmatic, and mythical in his position and character. His person is shrouded in a more sacred mystery: his words have a more unearthly quality. It would be rash to conclude, that this was the mere exaggerating effect of distance and time, or that those who first gave our Lord's history understood him better than John. Some persons are never understood by their contemporaries: their words and their conduct require to ripen into full significance and intelligibility in the heat of meditation and the light of experience; and no devout and spiritual mind would be content to think, that the heavenly-mild and holy John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, had a less complete and correct idea of our Master than the other evangelists. Clearness is often due to inapprehension and contraction of vision. The near-sighted have often great strength of eye, with a limited range of view; and the undeveloped in intellect, imagination, and heart, because they see little in the objects they describe, describe them with a more positive and definite outline.
There can be no doubt, that John's idea of Christ was different from- not opposed to, or inconsistent with, but only larger and loftier than the idea of the other evangelists; nor can an honest and candid mind deny, that the main difficulties in settling Christ's place would be vastly diminished if