Page images
PDF
EPUB

word, the everlasting resurrection and last judgment of all together.*

This testimony scarcely needs a comment, but it is the more valuable, inasmuch as it is confessed by Dr. Murdock, translator of Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, that his writings are numerous, erudite, all of them theological, all of a polemical character, and, “ being the first of the learned divines, and a very zealous and active Christian, he merits our particular attention.”+ It proves what were Justin's principles of interpretation. Although once a Platonic philosopher, “having had successive masters in philosophy, Stoic, Peripatetic, Pythagorean, and lastly Platonic,” he had received the Scriptures, and interpreted the prophecies in their plain, literal import, and not as mystically or allegorically understood. It proves, also, what was his judgment in reference to those who did not so receive and believe the Scriptures. He denounced them as heretics, and exhorted Trypho to shun them.

The next author of the second century whose testimony we cite, is Irenæus. He was successor to Pothinus,as pastor of the church of Lyons, about A. D. 171, and was martyred A. D. 202 or 208. He was a disciple of Polycarp, of whom Irenæusg says, that "having been instructed by the apostles, he always taught what he had learned from them, what the

* Brooks' Elements of Scriptural Interpretation, p. 38. First Report of Second Advent Gen. Conf., p. 15. † Murdock's Tr. of Mosheim, vol. i. p. 118.

Scriptor. Eccles. Hist. Lit. Gulielmi Cave. pp. 39, 40. 9 Και περί του Κυρίου τινα ήν απαρ' εκεινων ακηκόει, και περί των δυναμεων αυτού, και περί της διδασκαλίας, ως παρά των αυτοπτών της ζωής του λόγου napelAnbws ó IIolókapros, árnyyedde trúvra oupowra tais ypapais.-Frag. ment Epist. ad Florinum. Irenæi, p. 464. Oxon. Ed.

church had handed down, and what is the true doctrine.” He has left behind him, what Mosheim calls “ a splendid monument of antiquity,”* a work in five books against the Valentinian heresy, originally written in Greek, but preserved only in a Latin translation, of rather barbarous style and diction. In this work, Irenæus having noticed certain heretical opinions on the subject, springing from ignorance of the mystery of the resurrection and of the kingdom of the just, proceeds to state the true doctrine. “It is fitting,” says he,“ that the just rising at the appearing of God, should, in the renewed state, receive the promise of the inheritance which God covenanted to the fathers, and should reign in it; and that then should come the final judgment.” This fitness he sets forth, confirming his views by a reference to the promise which God made to Abraham, concluding, “Thus, there fore, as God promised to him the inheritance of the earth, and he received it not during the whole time he lived in it, it is necessary that he should receive it, together with his seed, that is, with such of them as fear God and believe in him—in the resurrection of the just.”+ Having so concluded, he goes on to show

* Murdock's Tr. of Mosheim, vol. i. p. 120.

† Oportet justos primos in conditione hac quæ renovatur, ad apparitionem Dei resurgentes recipere promissionem hæreditatis, quam Deus promisit patribus, et regnare in ea: post deinde fieri judicium. In qua enim conditione laboraverunt, sive afflicti sunt, omnibus modis probati per sufferentiam, justum est in ipsâ recipere eos fructus sufferentiæ; et quâ conditione interfecti sunt propter Dei dilectionem, in ipsa vivificare : et in qua conditione servitutem sustinuerunt in ipsa regnare eos.—Repromisit autem Deus hæreditatem terræ Abrahæ et semini ejus : et neque Abraham neque semen ejus, hoc est, qui ex fide justificantur, nunc sumunt in ea hæreditatem ; accipient autem eam in resurrectione justorum.-Irenæi, lib. v., adversus Hæreses, pp. 452, 453.

and Revelati quotes Itection of the

of int showing

that Christ, and believers or true Christians, being of the seed of Abraham, and partakers of the promise, according to the apostles' showing, and having as yet enjoyed no inheritance in the land of promise, will undoubtedly receive it at the resurrection of the just. In his 34th chapter he quotes Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Jeremiah, and Revelations, in support of these views, showing that he adopted the same principles of interpretation with Polycarp, and Papias, and Justin Martyr, and expected the personal visible coming of Christ, for the resurrection of his saints, and for the establishment of his kingdom on the earth. In his 35th and 36th chapters he says, that in the end of Antichrist's time,“ the Lord will come from Heaven with clouds, in the glory of his Father, and hurl him and his followers into the lake of fire ; but he will introduce the times of his righteous reign, i. e. the rest, the seventh day sanctified, and will restore to Abraham the promised inheritance, in which kingdom, the Lord says, many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob.” He identifies the kingdom of Heaven and the Millenium, and the times of the kingdom he makes to be, when consequent on the coming of Christ, the earth shall be renovated, and Jerusalem that now is, be rebuilt after the fashion of the Jerusalem above, * but distinct from that heavenly city, which John in vision, saw descending out of Heaven to earth. ,

Tatian, a rhetorician and disciple of Justin Martyr, who flourished about A. D. 170, after the death of his master, swerved from the faith, and became the founder

* Nihil allegorizari potest, sed omnia firma et vera, et substantiam habentia, ad fruitionem hominum justorum a Deo facta.Iren. adv. Hæres., lib. v. ch. 35. p. 460.

of a rigorous sect called Encratites. There is nothing in his writings on the subject of the Millenium. While he professes his belief in the resurrection of the body and a day of judgment, he says nothing about any great glory and religious prosperity of the church, before the coming of Christ. Nothing can be inferred from his writings as to the views of the churches on the subject of the kingdom of Heaven.

Athenagoras, pronounced by Dr. Murdock to have been one of the most elegant and able writers the church has produced, but scarcely mentioned by any of the fathers, belongs to this century. It is reported that he was converted to Christianity by reading the Scriptures with a design to confute them. He was principal of the school at Alexandria, and in A. D. 177, wrote an apology for the Christian religion addressed to the Emperors Aurelian and Commodus, descanting on the same topics, and employing the same arguments with Justin Martyr. He also wrote another work on the subject of the resurrection, designed to meet the philosophical objections of the heathen against the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, and containing no intimation as to the time, place, circumstances, or condition of the resurrection. There is no direct testimony in his writings on the subject of the prephecies; nor is there any intimation given of an allegorical Millenium, a period of great religious prosperity prior to the resurrection, such as the spiritualist accounts the hope of the church and the world. This writer, therefore, is no witness either way.

Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria are the only writers of this century which we deem it necessary particularly to notice. They properly belong, as authors, to the second century, though they did not die till some time in the third. Tertullian is the first Christian

writer in Latin, whose works have come down to as. “ He was the son of a pagan centurion of proconsular rank, and born at Carthage, A. D. 160. He was bred to the law, but becoming a Christian, was made a proselyte in the church of Carthage, where he appears to have spent his whole life.' Mosheim* says, “Which were the greatest, his excellences or defects, it is difficult to say. He possessed great genius, but it was wild and unchastened. His piety was active and fervent, but likewise gloomy and austere. He had much learning and knowledge, but lacked discretion and judgment: he was more acute than solid.”

Milner speaks in very harsh strains of him, particu. larly on account of his paying so much attention to the dress of Christians and their style of living, urging simplicity and nonconformity to the pagan fashions and extravagance. “All his writings,” he says, “ betray the same sour, monastic, harsh, and severe turn of mind." Yet, after having freely censured and severely condemned the man, he says, “ The abilities of Tertullian as an orator and a scholar, are far from being contemptible. It is not for us to condemn, after all, a man who certainly honored Christ, defended several fundamental Christian doctrines, took large pains in supporting what he took to be true religion, and ever meant to serve God.”+ Spanheim says that “he occupies a place in the first rank of the fathers, in erudition, acumen, and eloquence.”

The testimony of Tertullian is very explicit. “We also,” says he, “confess that a kingdom is promised us on earth, before that in Heaven, but in another state,

• Murdock's Tr. of Mosheim's Hist., vol. i. p. 122, note.

Milner's Ch. Hist., vol. i. p. 270. | Spanheim's Hist., p. 195.

« PreviousContinue »