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CHAPTER VI

DOCTRINE OF THE SACRAMENTS BEFORE A.D. 325

Sacraments.--In the old Latin Bible the Greek word 'mystery' was translated by the word 'sacramentum,' which meant a sacred obligation. The word sacramentum thus acquired the meaning of 'sacred ordinance.' It was probably used at a very early date by the Christians who spoke Latin to denote all the most sacred and secret elements of religion. In the letter written about the Christians by Pliny to the Emperor Trajan in 112, the word 'sacramentum' is used in a manner which suggests that the Christians, though not Pliny himself, already applied it to the Eucharist.11   As the service included an undertaking to obey God's Commandments, this 'Sacrament' was possibly Baptism. By the year 200 its use was quite established. Tertullian applies it to anything especially important in God's revelation to man. Baptism and the Eucharist having been expressly instituted by our Lord, were closely associated in the minds of Christians. Thus Tertullian speaks of 'the Sacrament of Baptism and of the Eucharist.' As St. Paul had spoken of the revealed secrets of God as 'mysteries' and called the apostles 'stewards of God's mysteries,' the Fathers of the Church continued his practice. Some external similarities between the pagan mysteries of initiation and the Sacraments instituted by Christ caused a development of this manner of speech, and some writers, notably Clement of Alexandria, poetically describe the rites of baptism in words appropriate to the mysteries of Eleusis.

There is however no proof that either the doctrine 73 or the ritual of the Christian Sacraments was permanently affected by the pagan mysteries. The Rationalistic attempts to prove that this was the case have been based upon an imperfect knowledge of the antiquity of Christian ritual, and upon a neglect of the fact that in all forms of religion there is a certain similarity caused by the natural instincts of the human heart. The fact that the Greek Fathers speak of the Sacraments in language derived from pagan devotion proves very little. St. Peter and St. Paul had done the same, and it was almost impossible for any cultured man who spoke Greek to do otherwise.

M. Renan and others have attempted to show that the influence of the pagan mysteries entered Christianity through the door of Gnosticism. Renan says: 'It is by Gnosticism that Christianity first announced itself as a new religion, destined to endure, having a worship and Sacraments, and capable of producing an art. It is by Gnosticism that the Church united itself with the ancient mysteries, and appropriated the elements in them which satisfied the people.'11   L'Eglise Chrétienne, p. 155. Such statements are unproved, and worse than unproved. For it is certain that Christian worship and Sacraments occupied a position of high importance long before Gnosticism of a Greek type was fashionable, i.e. from A.D. 125 to A.D. 150. And such evidence as exists with regard to special points of ritual, suggests that the Gnostics parodied the worship of the Church, and not that the Church imitated the mummery of the Gnostics.

A real instance of ancient ritual being accepted by the Church is to be found in the Christian Marriage service. Marriage being both a civil ceremony and a religious ceremony, it was to be expected that some of the old ceremonies would be tolerated. The betrothal, the giving of the ring, the dowry of worldly goods, the bridal veil, and the floral wreath, are all derived from pagan Rome. But everything directly religious in the pagan ritual was displaced, and the doctrine of Christian marriage remained intact.

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Number of the Sacraments.--As the word 'mystery' and the word 'sacrament' were both used in a wide sense, so as to include any of the deep things revealed by God in Christ, it follows that the early Christians could not speak of 'two' or 'seven' Sacraments in the modern fashion. It was not until the twelfth century that Hugh of St. Victor and Roland, and still more clearly Peter the Lombard, reckoned seven Sacraments. Hugh and Peter spoke of Baptism and the Eucharist as the principal Sacraments, and in this they retained the spirit, if not the letter, of the early Fathers of the Church. These two Sacraments certainly far outweighed all other rites in the estimation of the early Christians, as is shown by St. Augustine and previous writers. It is possible that Confirmation would have been placed in nearly as high a position, if Confirmation had not been usually administered immediately after Baptism and included in the baptismal service itself.

Baptism.--The abundant teaching contained in the New Testament with reference to Baptism removed the necessity of much discussion as to the nature of its effects. St. Paul had plainly taught that Baptism alters the spiritual status of the baptized, cancelling his past sins, and imparting a power of divine life. It is the laver of regeneration (Tit. iii. 5). Baptism was in the name of the Three Persons of the Trinity (Didache vii.). In this book, immersion is regarded as the best method of baptizing, but to pour water upon the head is sufficient. In the Epistle of Barnabas, Christian Baptism is distinguished from Jewish Baptism, inasmuch as the former alone 'bringeth remission of sins.' Justin speaks of the baptized as 'recreated,' and calls Baptism 'the bath for remission of sins and unto regeneration' (Apol. i. 66). Ignatius also regards Baptism as a defence against future sin--'let your Baptism remain your shields.'

In Hermas we have the poetical idea that the Church is built upon waters (3 Vis. iii.), and the author regards Baptism as so necessary that he thinks that those who died before the coming of Christ were baptized in Hades by the apostles and the teachers of Christianity.

Hermas calls Baptism the 'seal,' a word which had 75 been used by St. John in the Apocalypse to describe the mark given to the tested followers of our Lord. Justin calls Baptism an 'enlightenment,' the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews having previously spoken of those initiated into Christianity as 'enlightened.' The words 'seal' and 'enlightenment' were used by the pagans in connection with their mysteries. Clement of Alexandria says: 'Being baptized we are enlightened, being enlightened we are made sons, being made sons we are made perfect, being made perfect we are made immortal.'11   Paed. i. 6. 26. It will be observed that such language has a very Greek flavour, but that each phrase can nevertheless find a parallel in the New Testament.

Origen calls Baptism 'the first remission of sins.'22   In Lev. Hom. ii. 4. In studying Penitence we shall see how the Church decided to grant absolution for sins committed after Baptism, sins which were regarded as infinitely more serious than those committed before Baptism, inasmuch as the latter were committed in ignorance, and before 'the knowledge of God' was gained.

Infant Baptism probably dates from apostolic times. There are good grounds for thinking that when the Jews baptized their proselytes they baptized their children also. Justin compares baptism with circumcision, which suggests that it was administered to children. Irenaeus definitely mentions Infant Baptism.33   Adv. Haer. ii. 22. 4; cf. Greek Fragment, 33. About A.D. 190 Clement of Alexandria speaks of 'babes drawn out of the water,' and apparently refers to Infant Baptism.44   Paed, iii. 11. 59. Origen both compares Baptism with circumcision and says, 'The Church has received it as a tradition from the apostles to administer Baptism even to infants' (parvuli).55   Ep. ad Rom. Lib. v. 9 ; in Lev. Hom. viii. 3

The Eucharist as a Sacrament--The Church constantly maintained the teaching of St. Paul that to partake of the consecrated bread and wine is to partake of the body and blood of Christ. The outward symbols were not regarded merely as symbols but as the channel 76 or vehicle for imparting the life of Christ to the believer. Although the Didache gives us a rather meagre idea of belief, even here the Eucharist is thought to be connected with a special presence of Christ, as is suggested by the use of the words Maran atha (the Lord cometh) and the thanksgiving at the communion, 'Thou didst bestow upon us spiritual food and drink and eternal life through Thy Son.' Wherever apostolic traditions were strong and the doctrine of the incarnation was intelligently grasped, a definite belief as to the Eucharist prevailed. The language of our Lord in John vi. had a marked influence in the creation of this belief.

So Ignatius (ad Eph. xx.) says, 'breaking one bread, which is the medicine of immortality, and he reproaches the Docetists, who denied the reality of the incarnation, because 'they abstain from Eucharist and prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ' (ad Smyrn. vi.). In the same way Justin says, 'We have been taught that this food (over which thanks have been offered by the word of prayer which comes from Him, and on which our blood and flesh are nourished by a transformation) is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh; (Apol. i. 66). In these statements of Ignatius and Justin we see that the Eucharist is regarded (a) as a guarantee of the incarnation, a symbol of the union between the human and the divine nature of Christ, and (b) as a guarantee of the cleansing and resurrection of the Christian's body.

This is very clearly stated by Ireneeus: 'It is no longer common bread but the Eucharist, composed of two things, an earthly and a heavenly; thus also our bodies partaking of the Eucharist are no longer mortal, but have the hope of the resurrection' (adv. Haer. iv. 18. 5). These doctrines are sometimes represented by modern writers as magical and superstitious; but if we grant that the writings attributed to St. Paul and St. John are genuine, it is hard to deny that the doctrines are apostolic, and it is equally hard to represent them as inconsistent with the apostolic doctrine of Christ's person. The teaching of Tertullian is fundamentally the same as 77 that of Irenseus, and his belief is misrepresented when he is said to hold that the Eucharist is only a figure of the body of Christ.

The teaching of Clement of Alexandria and Origen is less clear, being affected by their allegorical method of interpreting religious facts. Clement says that the Eucharist brings man to immortality and to a union between the human spirit and the divine Logos. But he seems to regard the body of Christ in the Eucharist as itself a spirit (Paed. ii. 2. 20). In the same way Origen quite simply says, "We eat loaves which have become through prayer a certain holy body which also sanctifies those who use it with sound intention' (c. Cels. viii. 33). But he elsewhere speaks of the body and blood of Christ received in the Eucharist as 'the word which nourishes and the word which rejoices the heart' (in Matt. Comm. Ser. 85). It is therefore difficult to determine what precise meaning Clement and Origen attached to holy communion, but they believed that the communicant receives 'the divine Word,' i.e. the Divinity of Christ, or a word from the Word. They did not believe that the Christian only receives Christ figuratively, but on the other hand they did not state with sufficient clearness that the Christian partakes of the flesh of Christ. This is the result of their doctrine of Christ's person in which Christ is too exclusively regarded as belonging to the sphere of spirits. We may say that Clement and Origen imagined in the Eucharist a mystery behind the mystery discerned by their predecessors, for they regarded the elements not simply as united with the flesh and blood of Christ but with a flesh and blood which are divine energies.

The Eucharist as a Sacrifice.-- The Eucharist from very early times was habitually called a sacrifice, although very little attempt was made to define the word 'sacrifice.' The Ante-Nicene writers agree in regarding the Eucharist as a sacrifice in which we offer the first fruits of earth with thanksgiving for all that God has done for us, and consecrate these first-fruits so that they become Christ's body and blood, and thereby we make a memorial not merely of His death but of Him. During the Middle 78 Ages there arose a tendency to lay such stress upon the passion of Christ as to forget His ascended life, and side by side with this tendency grew the habit of connecting the Eucharist almost entirely with the death of Christ. This habit passed from mediaeval Catholicism into Protestantism, but it was generally absent in the early Church. The ancient liturgies do not isolate the passion of Christ but connect it with His resurrection11   St. Cyprian, Ep. 63. 16, says that whereas Christ offered the Eucharist in the evening, Christians offer it in the morning in commemoration of the resurrection. and ascension. Thus they are in harmony with St. Ambrose (died A.D. 397) and other later writers who teach that the Eucharist is neither a bare commemoration of the death of Christ nor a repetition of that deaths but is the co-operation with Christ's present intercession and His offering of himself to God in heaven.

The most ancient references to the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist are in 1 Cor. x. 14-22 and, probably, Hebr. xiii. 10. The theory that the word 'altar' in the latter passage has reference to the Lord's Supper is supported by the use of the word in a passage in Ignatius: 'There is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup unto union in His blood; there is one altar, as there is one bishop; (ad Philad. iv.). Clement also teaches this doctrine in a very simple form when he says that it is the duty of the Christian clergy 'to offer the gifts,' i.e. oblations (ad Cor. 44). In the Didache xiv. the Eucharist is called a sacrifice and is described as the pure offering foretold in Malachi i. Justin also quotes this prophecy, and calls the Eucharist 'the bread which our Christ delivered unto us to offer for a memorial of His incarnation' (Dial. 70). Irenaeus, like Justin, believes that our Lord intended that His disciples should offer up the bread which is made the body of Christ and the cup which is made His blood. Tertullian and the Canons of Hippopolytus show us that about A.D. 200 the Eucharist was offered for the departed.

These writers, however, are content to describe the elements as offered, and do little towards defining in 79 what sense, if any, the Eucharist is offered after it has been consecrated.

St. Cyprian (died A.D. 258) seems to go somewhat further. He says: 'That priest acts in the place of Christ who imitates that which Christ did, and then offers in the Church to God the Father a true and perfect sacrifice' (Ep. 63. 14). But it is wrong to suppose that Cyprian represents the Eucharist as a repetition of the death of Christ, or to suppose that his words countenance the theory of some Roman writers that the essence of the Eucharistic sacrifice is that Christ in the Sacrament submits to a new 'self-emptying' or annihilation. Cyprian says: 'The passion is the sacrifice of the Lord which we offer" (Ep. 63. 17), and though he speaks of 'offering the blood' he also speaks of 'offering the chalice in commemoration of the Lord.' He apparently means that in the Eucharist we offer the blood which was once shed, and plead the merits of Christ's passion. In spite of the fact that he is now ordinarily regarded as having introduced a marked change into the doctrine of the Eucharist, we must conclude that his teaching shows but little development. Nor does his doctrine of the priesthood exclude the participation of the laity in the offering of the Eucharist. For he both speaks very plainly of the union of 'the people' with Christ in the Eucharist, and also by saying 'we offer' seems to allow all the faithful a share in the sacrificial work. This participation of the laity in the act of offering the sacrifice is expressed with great clearness in the Roman canon of the mass and in the present Anglican service.

Penitence.--While it was held from the first that Baptism was the means of obtaining remission of sins committed before conversion, the treatment of sins committed after Baptism underwent a gradual change. In the apostolic age it was found that some Christians might sin so gravely as to lose eternal life (1 John iii. 15). They might be guilty of crucifying Christ afresh (Hebr. vi. 6). While they continued in such sin it was impossible 'to renew them again unto repentance'; they were excommunicated, and Christians were forbidden to eat with them (1 Cor. v. 5, 11). It would even seem 80 that after a man was excommunicated the Christians hesitated to pray for him. He was regarded as beyond the reach of prayer (1 John v. 16).

Stringent as this discipline was, the truly penitent sinner might be received again (2 Cor. ii. 7). Even in the case of less serious offences some kind of confession of sins was usual. St. James tells his readers to confess their sins one to another and pray one for another. In the New Testament to 'confess sins' does not only mean to acknowledge them to God, but to acknowledge them openly in the face of men.¹ In the Didache xiv. the communicants are to confess their sins 'in order that your sacrifice may be pure.' St. Clement urges the need of confessing transgressions to the divine Master (ad Cor. 52; cf. Barnabas xix.). The author of 2 Clement joins confession with repentance, urging that the craftsman may reshape a twisted vessel, but that he cannot mend it after he has once cast it into the fiery oven. That these confessions were sometimes made in public is shown in the Didache iv.: 'In church thou shalt confess thy transgressions.' Sometimes the confession was made to God only, as in Hermas 3 Vis. i.

It is clearly the purpose of Hermas to aid the Church by advising that a sinner should be allowed to be reconciled with the Church after one relapse, but not after a second relapse. It is presupposed that the Church intervenes. About A.D. 250 the penitent first made his confession privately to the bishop or a presbyter, who took care that the discipline enjoined was proportionate to the sin. A private confession seems also to be implied at an earlier date by Tertulian. From Irenseus (adv. Haer. i. 13. 5) and Tertullian we gather that the public discipline was accompanied by signs of self-abasement. The penitents asked the presbyters and martyrs for the prayers of the assembled Church. The more scrupulous Christians doubted whether the Church ought to grant absolution for idolatry, blasphemy, murder, false witness, fraud, adultery, fornication, 'and any other violation of the temple of God.' In some places, such as Carthage and Corinth, absolution was granted to the penitent after one

¹ See Westcott on 1 John i. 9. But the word 'confess' in Biblical Greek is also used for confession to God only. 81 relapse into such sins. At Rome, however, the Church appears to have been more rigid. When Pope Callistus, A.D. 218, offered to grant absolution to those who repented of adultery or fornication, he was bitterly criticised by Hippolytus and Tertulian. The Montanists, in particular, regarded absolution for such sins as a shameless condescension to human weakness. Callistus and his supporters appealed with great fitness to the action of St. Paul at Corinth, to Christ's forgiveness of the adulteress, and to the parable of the prodigal son. Callistus had no intention of condoning sin, or even of granting absolution twice to the Christian who had fallen into such gross sins.

About 250 the persecution of the Church by Decius led to a new development in the ministry of penitence. During the persecution many Christians lapsed, and the question arose whether these lapsi who had denied the faith ought to be received back into communion with the Church. St. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, is the man whose history and genius are most closely connected with this controversy. He set his face against (i) the rigorist theory that no absolution should be granted for apostasy, and (ii) the lax theory that a repentant apostate ought to be admitted again to communion if he received a recommendation from a Confessor, i.e. a Christian who had conspicuously suffered for the faith.

In spite of furious opposition Cyprian and the Church of Rome succeeded in carrying their point, and the absolution of sins became definitely regulated by means of a procedure approved by the bishops. Penitentiary presbyters were appointed by the bishops to receive confessions and direct the discipline of penitents. In the fourth century we find that this discipline corresponded closely with the discipline imposed on the catechumens who were being prepared for baptism. The party of Novatian, which insisted that the Church ought not to pardon apostates, left the Church and organised a powerful sect in 251.

Those modern writers who exaggerate the so-called sacerdotalism of Cyprian, declare that he secured the triumph of an unprimitive and unscriptural theory of the episcopate and of the Church. But Cyprian certainly 82 does not attribute more authority to the episcopate than that which is attributed to the bishops by Ignatius and claimed by St. Paul for himself. It may be urged with fairness that to forgive apostasy seems to imply a forgetfulness of the truth that baptism means that the Christian has for ever dissociated himself from paganism. But the same argument holds good with regard to other mortal sins. If St. Paul and Callistus were right in allowing a Christian who had been guilty of impurity to be restored to communion with the Church, then Cyprian was right in allowing even an apostate 'a second plank' on which those who had made shipwreck of their lives might be saved.

The public penance which the Church required to be performed by those whose sins had been public, became rare after the end of the eleventh century, as it caused more scandal than edification.

It should be observed that the present Roman doctrine of Indulgences differs totally from the original conception. In the fourth century absolution was occasionally granted to a penitent before he had passed through the discipline ordinarily required. This was the only indulgence granted. But the present practice of the Roman Church is to say that inasmuch as the penance or discipline is not always enough to make satisfaction for the sin committed, the penitent ought to try, after his sin has been forgiven, to gain an Indulgence, i.e. remission of the temporal punishment due to sin. These Indulgences are granted for certain periods of time, so that the penitent who gains an Indulgence of one hundred days is reckoned as having endured an equivalent of one hundred days of such discipline as was anciently required before absolution was granted. Nevertheless, the penitent is required to perform the penance imposed upon him, whatever Indulgences he may gain.

Confirmation.--Baptism was immediately followed by the laying on of hands on the part of the bishop. The candidates were also anointed on the head with perfumed oil. Both these rites are mentioned by Tertullian about A.D. 200. In A.D. 251 Cornelius, bishop of Rome, explains that this laying on of hands communicates the holy 83 Spirit and must follow Baptism. A similar statement is made by one of the bishops who acted with Cyprian. Until the thirteenth century children were confirmed as soon as possible after Baptism. The necessity of baptizing by priests in the absence of a bishop led to the present custom of the Eastern Church, in which Confirmation consists in the anointing of the child by a priest with oil which has been consecrated by the bishop. The ordinary Roman Catholic practice for a bishop, when confirming a large number of candidates, merely to extend his hand towards them, and not to lay his hand upon them, does not appear to have become general until after the Reformation.

Holy Orders.--In this small book it is impossible to make more than the briefest references to such a subject as the doctrine of the ministry. We may, however, observe that the belief that the apostles instituted a permanent threefold ministry depends mainly upon a belief in the authenticity of the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles to Timothy and Titus. These books make it evident that the apostles instituted the order of deacons and the order of presbyters, and that above these two orders there were officials who were either apostles or delegates of the apostles. All the ancient Churches of Christendom retain this type of government, which is known as Episcopacy, a name derived from the Greek word episkopos, or overseer, which was originally a title of the presbyters, but was afterwards given to the highest order of the clergy. At the present day the opponents of Episcopacy are divided among themselves, and their theories are even more antagonistic to one another than to Episcopacy. They all admit that the Episcopal system appears to have been dominant almost everywhere about A.D. 170, but hold that at the end of the first century the government of the Church was either (1) Presbyterian, the presbyters forming the highest class of officials, or (2) Democratic or Congregational, varying according to the pleasure and necessities of the various communities.

The writers who support the Presbyterian theory have failed hitherto to produce one clear case of the presbyters ruling a primitive Church. The only two instances 84 which seem to favour their view being (a) the fact that St. Polycarp in writing to the Philippians about A.D. 110 only mentions presbyters and deacons, and no bishop, at Philippi; and (6) the fact that St. Jerome, late in the fourth century, states that in early times the presbyters of Alexandria 'nominated' their own bishop. It cannot be said with complete certainty that Jerome thought that this nomination included ordination, but it is possible that he meant this.

Both these facts are very far from conclusive. For to say that there was no superior at Philippi above the presbyters when Polycarp wrote is very different from proving that these presbyters were not under a superior. And there are statements in Origen and elsewhere which make it very unlikely that Jerome could say with accuracy that the bishop of Alexandria derived his commission from his presbyters.

The writers who support any Congregational theory of the ministry rely mainly upon the variations in the names of the ministers of the Church described in different parts of the New Testament. Some deny that the presbyters mentioned in the New Testament were officials at all. Some, including prominent continental Rationalists, find that their theory is quite incompatible with the genuineness of Acts and some of St. Paul's Epistles, and reject these writings chiefly on this ground. So much fresh evidence has recently been produced in favour of the genuineness of Acts, and the later Epistles attributed to St. Paul show a state of affairs so much in harmony with their traditional date, that it is now as unreasonable to reject these writings as it is unreasonable to reject those of St. Ignatius. Ignatius speaks of a threefold ministry in the most distinct terms. While mentioning presbyters and deacons, he regards bishops as essential in the Church and speaks of them as 'established in the farthest parts of the earth.'

To sum up. In Acts we have the apostles above the presbyters or episkopoi. In the Epistles to Timothy and Titus (about A.D. 62-67), in St. Clement A.D. 97, in the Didache perhaps near the same date, in St. Ignatius A.D. 110, in Hermas about A.D. 140, we find the presbyters are 85 always under superior officials who were gradually given the title of episkopoi when it seemed unnecessary to use this title for the presbyters themselves. We also find that in the latter part of the second century Episcopacy was firmly established in regions where apostolic traditions were most faithfully preserved, and we have lists of the early bishops of Jerusalem, Rome, Antioch, and Alexandria, together with information about bishops in Smyrna, Ephesus, and Corinth, which go to prove that Episcopacy is an apostolic institution. We should finally add that ancient writers, and notably St. Clement, hold fast to the principle of Apostolical Succession. They assume that the ministers of the Church receive power to act as the representatives of man to God and as 'stewards of God's mysteries' through the laying-on of hands by the apostles.11   2 Tim. i. 6; Acts xiv, 23.

The nature of some of the functions discharged by the clergy has already been indicated in the account of Baptism, Penitence, and the Eucharist. During the second century their duties of teaching and preaching seem to have been enlarged. This was partly caused by the fact that there was a diminution of those 'prophets,' whose office, as the name indicates, had been to 'tell forth' the divine message to the first Christians (see 1 Cor. xiv.).

Marriage.--The teaching of our Lord and His apostles raised Marriage to a level entirely different from that which it occupied among the Jews and the pagans of the Roman Empire. Some Jews married more than one wife, and many divorced their wives on the most trivial pretexts. The increase of divorce among the Romans was very marked, and the general moral tone among both Greeks and Romans was most degraded and unnatural. The Church proclaimed that marriage between Christians is indissoluble, and is of that sacred character which belongs to the union between Christ and His Church. This immediately brought Christianity into sharp antagonism both with popular licentiousness and with the exaggerated asceticism which was preached by some 86 philosophers and sectaries. The Apologists give us some valuable information on this subject, and show how the Church had to denounce not only open vice, but also the conduct of pagans who, when married, used iniquitous means to avoid the responsibilities caused by marriage. The Christians in some quarters viewed a second marriage with dislike, and thus laid upon the laity a restriction which seems originally to have only affected the clergy.11   1 Tim. iii. 2. The Montanists altogether prohibited second marriages.

Anointing of the Sick.--The anointing of the sick by the presbyters of the Church is prescribed in St. James v. 15. There can be no reasonable doubt that this text would be considered a sufficient authority for making the rite general, but until the fifth century we have little evidence for its use among Catholics, except in a letter written to the Armenians by Macarius, bishop of Jerusalem, about A.D. 330. This letter only exists in an Armenian translation, but is probably genuine. Irenaeus shows us that the Gnostics employed this ceremony as a means of assuring the dying of forgiveness, and Origen also alludes to their practice. In spite of the fact that some of the prayers used at the administration of this rite are intercessions for the recovery of the sick person, the habit of postponing its administration until the hour of death has been common in Western Europe. Thus a rite which has full scriptural authority has become popularly perverted into a resemblance of a Gnostic 'mystery.' There is every reason why this abuse should be corrected by a widespread revival of the primitive custom. In our own day this anointing has been restored among Anglicans and among the Armenians who are subject to Rome.

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