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§ I. Christian Worship during this Period.436436Vitringa, "De Synagoga vetere." Bingham, "Origines Ecclesiæ;" Augusti, "Handbuch der Christlichen Archæologie," (1836;) Harnack, "Christliche Gemeinde Goltesdienst," (Erlangen, 1854;) Guericke, "Archæol." (1847.) We need not enumerate again the works on the apostolic age already referred to.
WHILE the Christian converts from Judaism were continually in the temple, and observed all the rites of the religion of their fathers, the converted Gentiles held themselves free from any ceremonial law. In their churches, therefore, we find the true worship of the new covenant first established. The disciples did not comprehend immediately after the Pentecostal effusion of the Holy Spirit that Christianity was a new creation. They supposed that the true worship—public and solemn worship—was still to be celebrated in the temple at Jerusalem, and their adoration in the upper chamber was of a secret and spiritual nature. The case was altogether different in the Churches founded by St. Paul. Their worship was completely distinct from the Jewish. There is no reason to conclude that it was less spiritual than that presented in the earlier days of the Church, or less spontaneous because it was more carefully regulated. We must remember that the adoration offered in the upper chamber had more the character 362of family worship than of the worship of a Church, and that associated with it was the assiduous attendance of the Christians in the temple. The worship of the Gentile converts, on the contrary, was their public worship; it had, therefore, a less private character, and more solemnity of form. Its forms, however, are very simple, and significant of the great emancipation wrought by St. Paul; they are nothing more than the orderly and fitting expression of the ardent piety of the believers. The true idea of worship in spirit and in truth characterizes them all, and is set forth in them with incomparable clearness and beauty.
The worship of the old covenant could not fail to be more or less materialized by its association with outward conditions. It was confined to the walls of the sanctuary; it set apart times and seasons; the priestly tribe alone had a right to approach the altar. All these restrictions had one common cause—the separation still existing between guilty man and his offended God. Hence the necessity of sacrifices, which embodied the acknowledgment of guilt, while they contained the prophecy of future reconciliation. The new covenant, which has for its basis the great fact of a finished salvation, at once substitutes for those sacrifices offered daily the sacrifice of Christ once offered for sin,437437Νῦνὶ δὲ ἅπαξ. Heb. ix, 26. and abolishes the peculiar priesthood of a class in favor of the eternal priesthood of Christ,438438Ἀπαράβατον ἔχει τὴν ἱερωσύνην. "But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Heb. vii, 24. communicated by faith to all believers. In the Church there is no altar, no sacrifice, no priest. To 363the material sacrifice has succeeded the reasonable sacrifice of the heart and will, in which every Christian is at once priest and victim.439439"A living sacrifice, a reasonable service." Rom. xii, 1; xv, 16; 1 Peter ii, 5.
All the institutions which were designed to remind man of his state of condemnation prior to redemption are alike abolished. There is no longer any privilege attaching to certain consecrated places and consecrated persons. The Christian Church has no temple in the true sense of the word, or rather, it is itself a spiritual temple, built up of living stones, and founded upon Christ.440440Ἐν ᾧ καὶ ὑμεῖς συνοικοδομεῖσθε εἰς κατοικητήριον τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν Πνεύματι. Eph. ii, 20-22; 1 Cor. iii, 16; 2 Cor. vi, 16. "Whose house are we." Οὗ οἶκός ἐσμεν ἡμεῖς. Heb. iii, 6. Its worship has no other design than the edification of this temple, or its consolidation by the increase of faith and love.441441"Let all things be done unto edifying."—Πάντα πρὸς οἰκοδομὴν γινέσθω. Thus religious service is held in private houses, as in the case of Mary, the mother of Mark, at Jerusalem, of Lydia at Philippi, of Jason at Thessalonica. Acts xii, 12; xvi, 40; xvii, 7. In the same manner worship is celebrated under the roof of Justus at Corinth, and of Aquila and Priscilla at Ephesus. Acts xviii, 7; 1 Cor. xvi, 19. In large cities, where there are many Christians, the places of meeting rapidly multiply.442442Ἐκκλεσίαι κατ᾽ οἶκόν. Rom. xvi, 4, 5, 14, 15; Col. iv, 15; Philemon 2. There is nothing to lead us to infer that the houses in which worship was thus celebrated ceased to be used for other purposes. The name of Church was not given to a sacred edifice, but to the assembly of believers 364 gathered within it.4434431 Cor. xi, 18-22; xiv, 34. Bingham lays stress on these passages as establishing the existence of sanctuaries, properly so called, in the first century, ("Orig.," iii, 143;) but he forgets Christ's positive statement to the woman of Samaria as to the abolition of all holy places. "The Church itself," says an old writer, "or the assembly of the faithful, was the house of God."444444"Ipsa Ecclesia, ipse fidelium cœtus est domus Dei." Vitringa, "De Synag. vetere," 446; Augusti, "Archæol.," i, 336.
The rapid increase of the Church soon rendered these private houses inadequate for the purposes of worship. At Ephesus Paul taught in a public school. James points out in his epistle abuses which could only have occurred in large assemblies, like those of the Jewish synagogues.445445Ἐὰν εἰσέλθῃ εἰς τὴν συναγωγὴν ὑμῶν ἀνὴρ. James ii, 2. We must not, as Vitringa does, ("De Synag. vetere,") make the unfair deduction from this expression, that the worship of the Church resembled in all respects that of the synagogue. To the family gathering succeeded the gathering as a Church, to which all ranks of society furnished their contingent. The rich and the poor met together, and pride and insolence had frequent opportunities of manifesting themselves. But the worship acquired no new character of sacredness by being transferred to a more spacious building. It was only on the ruins of the spiritual that the material temple was subsequently reared.446446We are not speaking of the erection of majestic edifices for worship, but simply of the superstition which introduces into Christianity the notion of a sanctuary, a place in itself exceptionally holy.
The primitive Church recognizes no more distinction between days than between places. The entire life has become the calm and earnest celebration of redemption;447447"Whether ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."—Πάντα εἰς δόξαν Θεοῦ ποιεῖτε. 1 Cor. x, 31. its simplest acts are raised by the 365 Christian spirit to the dignity of a religious service. To the believer nothing is common or unclean; every thing is holy.448448The advocates of the permanence of the Sabbath appeal to the decalogue. But Paul has already taught us that the decalogue contains the law of holiness in but an incomplete form—a form which has been done away with the whole of Judaism. To trace the Sabbath back to the garden of Eden is to lose sight of the true conditions of innocence, which do not admit a division of the life into the sacred and profane. The blessing pronounced on the seventh day did not imply rest in Paradise; it applied to the whole creation, which for the first time appeared complete. The life of the world before the fall was a blessed life—the whole earth was a temple, and every man a priest. The Jewish Sabbath was a reminder of this happy past, and at the same time a prophecy of its restoration in the future. It was also a witness to the total perversion of human life previous to redemption, since that life needed to be interrupted in some sort, in order that man might serve God. It is impossible, then, to find in the Gospel a principle with which we can connect the institution of one holy day, as belonging to God, more than the rest. This institution is intimately associated with the old covenant, and ought to have vanished with it like the priesthood and the consecration of special holy places. With regard to the distinction of certain days Paul proclaims the principles of the new covenant with all his wonted clearness and force. "How," he writes to the Galatians, "turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be brought in bondage? Ye observe days and months, and times and years."449449Ἡμέρας παρατηρεῖσθε, καὶ μῆνας, καὶ καιροὺς, καὶ ἐνιαυτούς. Gal. iv, 9-11. To the Colossians he says: "Let no man judge you in meat or drink, or in respect of a holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath-days, which are a shadow of things to come." Such being the principles 366of the Apostle, it remains for us to see what was the practice of the Churches. It differed among the various sections of primitive Christianity. The disciples in Palestine scrupulously observed the Sabbath and the Jewish feasts, but they made no distinction between days with regard to their Christian worship, properly so called. The Gentile Churches rejected the Sabbath as they did circumcision. They assembled every day at Ephesus to hear Paul.450450"Teaching daily in the school of one Tyrannus." Acts xix, 9. This was doubtless also the case in the other mission centers of Greece and Asia.
We do not imagine that the Gentile converts at this period felt themselves bound to observe any of the great Jewish feasts, not even the Passover or the Pentecost. They had received no commandment concerning them. No stress can be laid on Paul's example in repairing to the Holy City to keep the Pentecostal feast, for the case is irrelevant. A Jew by birth, he faithfully observed the conditions laid down by the Council at Jerusalem, and himself adhered to the customs of Moses, though in a broad spirit of tolerance and charitable concession.451451This is Schaff's great argument. (P. 546.) We do not condemn the Christian festival in itself; on the contrary, we fully admit its lawfulness and utility. We only desire to show that it is not of directly divine institution. It cannot plead even the practice of the Apostles, since in their observance of the feasts of the Passover and Pentecost they celebrated the ancient Jewish festivals, not the high days of the new covenant. The latter have been freely set apart by the Church under the influence of true Christian feeling. 367An old ecclesiastical historian says: "Never did the Apostles impose the yoke of bondage on those who came to them for teaching; they left the observance of the Passover and other feasts to the free will of those who thought it well and profitable to keep them. The Lord and his Apostles instituted no feasts by law, nor did they, like Moses, hold any threat of punishment or a curse over those who did pot observe them. The aim of the Apostles was not to lay down laws for special seasons, but to lead men's lives back to uprightness and piety."452452Socrates, "Hist. Ecclesiæ," v, 22; Augusti, "Archæol.," i, 174.
During the whole period of St. Paul we find only two very vague indications of the celebration of worship on the first day of the week.453453Ἐν μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων, συνηγμένων τῶν μαθητῶν. Acts xx, 7. The passage 1 Cor. xvi, 2, "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him," does not speak of the public assembly of the Church. (See Neander, "Pflanz.," i, 272.) Bingham, according to his wont, forces the sense of these two passages. "Origines," v, 280. It is impossible to draw from them any certain conclusion. Considering, however, that in the following period that day is already known as the Lord's day, it seems probable that the custom of celebrating worship with more than ordinary solemnity on the first day of the week commenced very early in the apostolic age. The Church did not by this practice depart at all from the principles of Paul; it did not invest that day with an exceptional sanctity, nor lower at all the ordinary level of the Christian life. It had no thought of putting the Lord's day in the place of the Jewish Sabbath. It is certain that for a long time many of the Christians 368kept the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath. If the Church had been standing on the ground of legalism it would have been impossible for it to transfer the rest of the Sabbath from one day of the week to another without a divine revelation. No such claim to a divine institution of the Lord's day was advanced in the early ages. The Christians were not content with saying that they had neither temple nor altars; they also distinctly avowed by the, mouth of Justin Martyr, "We do not sabbatize."454454Οὐ σαββατιζόμεν. Justin, "Dial. cum Tryph.," p. 246. There is nothing in the foregoing consideration opposed to the observance of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a necessity of public worship; it is needed as are the temple and the ministry; but there is, nevertheless, a universal priesthood, as it were, for all days as for all men. This is the essential principle of the new covenant, which is so palpably ignored in what is called Sabbatarianism. The Sabbath is not more holy in itself to the exclusion of other days than the temple to the exclusion of other places. The Sabbath is the Lord's day, as the temple is the Lord's house. This analogy is very striking in the German. The word Church (Kirche) comes from the Greek work Κυριακή (Dominica;) the temple is τὸ κυριακόν, the place of the Lord. The Church is the Lord's place, as the Sabbath is the Lord's day. Augusti, "Archæol.," i, 35. This analogy solves the question.
The worship of the Churches founded by Paul bears the same impress of liberty and spirituality by which their piety was characterized. The liturgical element is completely absent; every thing is spiritual and fiee. Some organization, however, is found indispensable, that all things may be done decently and in order. The rules which Paul gives refers simply to what is decorous. He desires that while the man has his head uncovered the woman should be covered, thus marking by her appearance the reserve of modesty so becoming to her, and which nature herself suggests 369 by the long hair given her for a vail. The Apostle also forbids a woman to teach in the Christian assembly. 1 Cor. xi, 4, 5; xiv, 34. He is anxious that individual inspiration should be controlled, and kept in subjection, that it might not interfere with the general edification.
The essential acts of worship were always the reading of the Holy Scriptures, prayer, teaching, and praise.455455See Harnack, work quoted, pp. 146-164. The Old Testament was at this period the only canonical book acknowledged by the Church. Interpreted in its deep significance, often, perhaps, used somewhat allegorically, as in the epistles of St. Paul, it opened an inexhaustible mine of Christian instruction.456456The commandment of Paul to Timothy to give attendance to reading (1 Tim. iv, 13) seems to refer to the public reading of the Scriptures, for in the same passage exhortation is spoken of. The words of the Lord Jesus were earnestly meditated upon, and were listened to as the voice of God. Paul reminds the Corinthians that these had formed the basis of his teaching, and that he had quoted to them the words of the Lord Jesus himself, concerning the institution of the Lord's Supper and the resurrection. Col. iv, 16; 1 Thess. v, 27. But these words of the Master are not found in the canonical Gospels. They were either handed down by oral tradition, or were contained in some of those anonymous writings which Luke mentions in the prologue to his Gospel. We cannot, therefore, regard the use then made of the discourses of our Lord as part of the reading of Holy Scripture.
Nor can we include under that head the reading of the letters of the Apostles, expressly recommended 370by them, (Col. iv, 16; 1 Thess. v, 27,) for there is no indication that this reading was to be regularly and statedly repeated, like that of the Old Testament. These letters were the echo of the living voice of the Apostles. They were received with the same respect paid to their spoken words, and were invested with all apostolical authority. But while the Apostles still lived, the idea was not entertained—because the necessity was not felt—of forming a canon of the New Covenant. It was not until subsequently that this legitimate want sought and found satisfaction.457457We have already noticed, in speaking of the origin of the first three Gospels, the preference of the primitive Church for the living word. (See Augusti, "Archæol.," ii, 165.)
Teaching formed an important part of primitive worship, and especially of the worship of the Churches at a distance from Jerusalem. Teaching gained in proportion as ritualism lost. The priest always eclipses the teacher where there is a priesthood and sacrifice to be offered. We need not here repeat the evidence that the right of teaching was granted to all. But if any might teach, they might not teach any thing; the doctrine of the Apostles was to be the standard and rule, because it was the faithful reproduction of the doctrine of Jesus Christ. "Stand fast," writes St. Paul to the Thessalonians, "and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle." 2 Thess. ii, 5; 2 Tim. i, 13; Titus i, 9. Calm and systematic teaching is gradually but steadily substituted for the language of ecstacy, prophecy, and the gift of tongues. Paul seems even to fear that these miraculous gifts may fall into too great discredit, 371for he warns the Thessalonians not to quench the Spirit, nor to despise prophesyings.458458Προφητείας μὴ ἐξουθενεῖτε. 1 Thess. v, 20.
In his discourse at Miletus, however, as in his later epistles, he insists strongly on the importance of teaching. Acts xx, 31-33; 1 Tim. iv, 6; Titus i, 9. At a time when the Apostles were about to be removed, and when, consequently, the control of individual inspiration would be more difficult, it greatly concerned the welfare of the Church that the teaching by which the apostolic doctrine was to be perpetuated should acquire a preponderating influence.
Prayer is the soul of Christian worship, as it is the source of all Christian life. It sprang up freely, as did the word of edification. It contained no admixture of any liturgical element, and there is not a word in the whole of the New Testament in support of the idea that the Lord's Prayer was repeated as a sacred formula.459459Bingham affirms the liturgical use of the Lord's Prayer in the first century, without giving the least proof of the fact. "Origines," v, 125. Vitringa erroneously draws a parallel between the prayers of the Church and those of the synagogue. In reality, on the one hand all is spontaneous; on the other all is fixed and methodical. "De Synag. vet.," p. 162. See Augusti, "Archæol.," ii, 60.
St. Paul, however, without desiring at all to infringe this liberty, specifies some points which should not be neglected in Christian prayer, and especially in the prayer of the Church. He desires that prayer be made for all men, especially for kings and those in authority, thus tracing a strong line of demarkation between the religious revolution which he desires to effect, and any thing like a political revolution. Thus even in this free domain of prayer we discern a law 372 of divine wisdom. Thanksgiving—the Eucharist, properly so called—had a very large place in the prayer of the first Christians. Phil. iv, 6. For a long time this preserved its character of a joyous outpouring of adoration and gratitude.460460See the fragments of ancient liturgies published by Bunsen in his "Anténiœena," vol. iii. The assembly expressed its concurrence in the spoken petitions by a consentaneous Amen.461461Πῶς ἐρεῖ τὸ ἀμήν. 1 Cor. xiv, 16.
The Church does not remain satisfied, as at first, with singing the Psalms. Christian feeling finds expression in its own spiritual song. This utterance, like prayer and the word of edification, proceeds in the first instance from individual inspiration. "If any man hath a psalm," says the Apostle, "let him speak." Ephes. v, 19; Col. iii, 16; 1 Cor. xiv, 26. Here the reference is evidently to a new song given by inspiration of the Spirit of God to one in the assembly. The song is a sort of transition between the gift of tongues and the calm and measured utterance of teaching; it gives vent to those deep and ardent feelings which cannot be restrained within the form of ordinary speech; it bears up to heaven the unutterable yearnings and the inexpressible adoration of primitive Christianity. None of these first psalms of the Christian Church have come down to us, because, like its prayers, they were essentially spontaneous, and were multiplied in such abundance in those days of mighty inspiration.
But though we do not possess any of the hymns of the first century, we find in the Epistles of St. Paul clear traces of what we may call the lyrical inspiration 373of the apostolic age. The close of the 8th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, the I3th chapter of the Epistle to the Corinthians, and many other passages, in which the soaring thoughts of the Apostle rise to the heights of sublime poetry,462462See also 1 Tim. iii, 16; Eph. v, 14. (See "Das Kirchenlied in seiner Geschichte und Bedeutung," by W. Baur, Frankfort, 1852; Augusti, "Archæol.," ii, 110-123.) give us a conception of what the inspired song was, which was freely heard in the first Christian assemblies.
The idea of the sacraments entertained in the primitive Church was in harmony with its general constitution.463463The word sacraments is quite unknown in biblical language in the sense in which it is used by us. Based upon living faith, this Church was an association of Christians working together for their own edification and for the evangelization of the world. The notion of any intrinsic virtue in a sacrament, the theory of the opus operatum, inseparable from the sacerdotal system, could have found no place in these congregations, which had the living Spirit of God in their midst. Every thing in the doctrine of St. Paul is opposed to any such views. The Apostle, who acknowledged no saving virtue in any outward observance of the law, would assuredly not have ascribed such virtue to a purely material act. "The kingdom of God," in his view, "was not in word but in power."464464Ἐν δύναμεί. 1 Cor. iv, 20. In speaking, then, of the sacraments of the primitive Church, we must set aside all notions of sacramental grace by which the operation of God is assimilated to the arts of magic. Such conceptions of divine grace are, as Bunsen eloquently says, borrowed from the lustrations of decaying paganism.465465Bunsen, "Hippolytus," ii, 127.374
Baptism, which was the sign of admission into the Church, was administered by immersion. The convert was plunged beneath the water, and as he rose from it he received the laying on of hands. These two rites corresponded to the two great phases of conversion, the crucifixion of the old nature preceding the resurrection with Christ. Faith was thus required of every candidate for baptism. The idea never occurred to Paul that baptism might be divorced from faith—the sign from the thing signified; and he does not hesitate, in the bold simplicity of his language, to identify the spiritual fact of conversion with the act which symbolizes it. "We are buried with Christ by baptism into death," he says. Rom. vi, 4. With such words before us, we are compelled either to ascribe to him, in spite of all else that he has written, the materialistic notion of baptismal regeneration, or to admit that with him faith is so intimately associated with baptism, that in speaking of the latter he includes the former, without which it would be a vain form. The writers of the New Testament all ascribe the same significance to baptism. It presupposes with them invariably a manifestation of the religious life, which may differ in degree, but which is in every case demanded. Acts ii, 38; viii, 13-17, 37, 38; x, 47; xvi, 14, 15, 33. "The baptism which saves us," says St. Peter, "is not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ."466466Βάπτισμα οὐ σαρκὸς ἀπόθεσις ῥύπου, ἀλλὰ συνειδήσεως ἀγαθῆς. 1 Peter iii, 21.
In these times, when the organization of the Church 375was still in many respects undefined, baptism was equivalent to the profession of faith. Administered in the name of the Lord Jesus467467There is no example in the New Testament of the employment of the complete formula of baptism. Bingham in vain attempts to deny this fact. "Origines," iv, 163. as a solemn sign of conversion, it had all the value of an explicit confession of the Christian faith, especially at a time when its observance was sure to bring down reproach and persecution.468468Great importance must have been attached to baptism as the sign of incorporation with the Church, since in some congregations it was held necessary to administer it to Christians already baptized, in the name of catechumens who had died before receiving it. This is in our opinion the only reasonable meaning to attach to those words. 1 Cor. xv, 29. This practice, passingly mentioned by St. Paul, was afterward perpetuated in heretical sects. Epiphanius, "Hæres," chap. xxviii, page 7; Tertullian, "De Resurrectione," page 48. It is further probable that before receiving baptism, the convert made a short profession of his faith; this was that answer of a good conscience toward God spoken of by St. Peter. This custom was quite habitual in the second century, and there is every reason to suppose it originated in the first. This simple and popular confession of faith has been erroneously confounded with the Apostle's Creed, which is of much later date. That Creed is nothing more than an expansion of the baptismal formula, which received gradual additions till it became a rule of faith.
Regarded from the apostolic point of view, baptism cannot be connected either with circumcision or with the baptism administered to proselytes to Judaism. Between it and circumcision there is all the difference which exists between the Theocracy, to which admission 376was by birth, and the Church, which is entered only by conversion. It is in direct connection with faith, that is, with the most free and most individual action of the human soul. As to the baptism administered to the Jewish proselytes, it accompanied circumcision, and was of like import. It purified the neophyte and his family from the defilements of paganism, and sealed his incorporation and that of his children with the Jewish theocracy; its character was essentially national and theocratic.469469Augustine has erroneously established a complete parallel between Christian baptism and that of the Jewish proselytes. "Archæol.," ii, 326. Christian baptism is not to be received, any more than faith, by right oft inheritance. This is the great reason why we cannot believe that it was administered in the apostolic age to little children. No positive fact sanctioning the practice can be adduced from the New Testament; the historical proofs alleged are in no way conclusive. There is only one case affording any ground for doubt, and those who attach more importance to the general spirit of the new covenant than to the isolated text, unhesitatingly admit that it is of no force.470470Five baptized households are mentioned in the New Testament. The family of Cornelius was baptized only after the descent of the Holy Ghost upon all its members. Acts x, 44, 47. The family of the jailer at Phillippi had heard the preaching of Paul and Silas: "They spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house." Acts xvi, 32. The house then contained no child incapable of comprehending the Gospel. We read in Acts xviii, 8: "Crispus believed on the Lord with all his house." St. Paul says (1 Cor. i, 16) that he baptized the family of Stephanas; and in the same epistle (xvi, 15) he mentions that this family was the first-fruits of his ministry in Achaia, a statement which implies that all its members were converted. The single doubtful case is that of the baptism of the family of Lydia, (Acts xvi, 15,) but it loses this character when we connect it with the instances already referred to. It appears to us evident that the family of Lydia was the first-fruits of Macedonia, as the family of Stephanas was of Achaia.377
In this second period of the apostolic age the communion is not celebrated at every meal, as in the primitive times. It forms the conclusion of those feasts of brotherly love, known under the name of agapce, at which the rich and the poor sat side by side on equal terms. 1 Cor. xi, 20-22. This was a custom borrowed from the usages of ancient Greece,471471Xenophon ("Memorabil.," iii, 14) speaks of meals to which each brought his own food. and sanctified and transformed by Christian love. The agapæ is neither a mere ordinary meal, like those spoken of in the early chapters of the Acts, nor a solemn sacrament, as the Lord's Supper became in the Church in succeeding times. It is an exceptional meal, but still it is a meal. The communion is subsequently altogether merged in the mystical feast of the Church. But, at the time we are now considering, it is still regarded as the Supper of the Lord, and is celebrated around the tables of the agapæ. It is observed in the evening.472472Acts xx, 7. Augustine, "Archæol.," ii, 562. If its celebration is at a different hour from that of public worship, it is not on the ground that has been assumed of there having already arisen a custom of private and secret worship reserved for Christians alone. It is the love-feast of the Christian family, therefore it is taken in the evening, and in privacy. No conclusion can be drawn from this practice to bear upon times when the Lord's Supper has become a ceremonial of worship 378 properly so called.473473Harnack attaches an exaggerated importance to this fact. I63-165. St. Paul presents to us a faithful picture of the celebration of the Lord's Supper, and we find in it no trace of a consecration of the elements. When he calls the eucharistic cup "the cup of blessing which we bless," he is referring to a well-known custom of the paschal feast. The head of the household, when he took the cup, uttered a prayer, blessing God for the gift of the bread and wine.474474"Benedictus tu, Domini Deus noster, qui producis panem e terra creans fructum vitis." Harnack, p. 166. Jesus Christ, having made the bread and wine the solemn symbols of his body broken and blood shed for our sins, the Lord's Supper recalled at once the benefits of creation and those of redemption. It was thus a feast of thanksgiving, a solemn eucharist. During a long period the Church felt constrained at this moment to bless God for all his gifts, alike for those of nature and of grace.475475The eucharistic prayers of the second and third centuries which have come down to us give convincing proof of this. "Ecclesiæ Alexandr. Monumenta." Bunsen, "Analecta Antenicœna," iii, 107. The Lord's Supper was not regarded as a sacrifice or offering; it was the renewal of the paschal feast taken by the Lord with his disciples, and the great memorial of the love of God regarded in all its manifestations, from the most elementary to the most mysterious, and sealed with the blood of Christ.
It is not possible for us to represent to ourselves exactly the mode of celebration of the communion at this period. A prayer of gratitude was doubtless spoken as the cup passed from hand to hand. Hence the name of the eucharistic cup. The bread was 379broken in remembrance of the broken body of the Lord. There is every reason to believe a psalm or hymn was sung, as it was by Jesus and his disciples in the upper chamber. It does not appear probable that the words instituting the feast were regularly repeated on every occasion. The manner in which Paul quotes them argues the contrary. He refers to them as to some special teaching which he had given, and not as to an established usage in the Church. 1 Cor. xi, 23.
While the Lord's Supper was thus celebrated with all simplicity and liberty, it was, nevertheless, invested with much solemnity in the eyes of the Church. It summed up in one symbol, chosen by the Lord himself, the whole Christian religion. To partake of it was to make the most solemn profession of faith in Christ. To receive it unworthily was not only to despise the Lord's body in the symbol which spiritually set it forth, but also to make the Church partaker in the sin. Thus serious and severe discipline was appointed not merely to prevent the profanation of the Lord's Supper, but also to repress all kind of irregularities.476476Schaff, p. 491. This discipline dealt only with scandalous offenses, and made no pretension to guard the visible Church against all contact with evil. Immorality and flagrant heresy were followed by the exclusion of the offenders.477477The synagogue also had its excommunication, commencing with the rebuke, "peccatores publice confundunt." (Vitringa, "De Synag. vet.," 731,) and ending in exclusion, "Ingressus in synagogam ipsi sit prohibitus." (P. 741.) The Christians were enjoined to avoid all contact with the false brother who brought 380 dishonor upon the Church. Rom. xvi, 17; 2 Thess. iii, 6, 14; 1 Cor. v, 2. They were not to eat with him; not only was he forbidden to be present at the agapæ and the Lord's Supper, but even all social intercourse with him was prohibited. In those days of miracle, when the Holy Ghost still acted in a direct and sensible manner, the discipline of the Church was often confirmed by some exceptional and sudden attestation—the stroke of the divine rod.478478In this way we explain the sicknesses and punishments with which the Corinthians who had unworthily partaken of the Lord's Supper were visited. 1 Cor. xi, 30, 31. The Apostle, by a lively image taken from the book of Job, called this intervention of the justice of God a visitation of Satan. In this sense he delivered great offenders over to Satan, not for their perdition but their amendment, hoping that suffering might bring them to repentance. 1 Tim. i, 20. The anathema pronounced against the false teachers of Galatia has the same significance and bearing. The Apostle earnestly desired the restoration of the offenders, and after their repentance they were restored. But neither in the act of excommunication or of re-admission were the solemn forms of subsequent ages employed in the primitive Church.
There is no trace in the apostolic age of any other sacraments than baptism and the Lord's Supper. The anointing with oil, enjoined by James, (James v, 14, 15,) has none of the characteristics of a sacrament. It does not symbolize any great aspect of the religious life, nor is it of general usage. It can only be regarded as an oriental custom accepted in the Churches of Palestine, and sanctified by prayer. We 381have no particular account of the manner in which the last honors were paid to the dead. It is probable that the Churches founded in Greece and Asia Minor at once abandoned the pagan practice of burning the bodies of the departed, and buried them like the Jews. Belief in the resurrection of the body favored this custom. St. Luke tells us that after the death of Stephen the devout men who carried him to his burial made great lamentation over him.479479Συνεκόμισαν δὲ τὸν Στέφανον ἄνδρες εὐλαβεῖς, καὶ ἐποιήσαντο κοπετὸν μέγαν ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ. Acts viii, 2. This is the first instance recorded of any funeral ceremony; it is possible that the practice became general from that time. The ceremonial probably consisted of prayers and exhortations.
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