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METHODS OF THE MISSION: CATECHIZING AND BAPTISM, THE INVASION OF DOMESTIC LIFE
Anyone who inquires about the missionary methods in general must be referred to what has been said in our Second Book (pp. 86 f.). For the missionary preaching includes the missionary methods. The one God, Jesus Christ as Son and Lord according to apostolic tradition, future judgment and the resurrection—these truths were preached. So was the gospel of the Saviour and of salvation, of love and charity. The new religion was stated and verified as Spirit and power, and also as the power to lead a new moral life, and to practise self-control. News was brought to men of a divine revelation to which humanity must yield itself by faith. A new people, it was announced, had now appeared which was destined to embrace all nations; withal a primitive, sacred book was handed over, in which the world's history was depicted from the first day to the last.
In 1 Cor. i.-ii. Paul expressly states that he gave a central place to the proclamation of the crucified Christ. He summed up everything in this preaching; that is, he proclaimed Christ as the Saviour who wiped sins away. But preaching of this kind implies that he began by revealing and bringing home to his hearers their own impiety and unrighteousness (ἀσέβεια καὶ ἀδικέια). Otherwise the preaching of redemption could never have secured a footing or done its work at all. Moreover, as the decisive proof of men's impiety and unrighteousness, Paul adduced their ignorance regarding God and also regarding idolatry, an ignorance for which they themselves were to blame. To prove that this was their own fault, he appealed to the conscience of his hearers, and to the remnant of divine knowledge which they still possessed. The opening of the epistle to the Romans (chaps. i.-iii.) may therefore be considered to represent the way in which Paul began his missionary preaching. First of all, he brought his hearers to admit “we are sinners, one and all.” Then he led them to the cross of Christ, where he developed the conception of the cross as the power and the wisdom of God. And interwoven with all this, in characteristic fashion, lay expositions of the flesh and the Spirit, with allusions to the approaching judgment.
So far as we can judge, it was Paul who first threw into such sharp relief the significance of Jesus Christ as a Redeemer, and made this the central point of Christian preaching. No doubt, the older missionaries had also taught and preached that Christ died for sins (1 Cor. xv. 3); but in so far as they addressed Jews, or people who had for some time been in contact with Judaism, it was natural that they should confine themselves to preaching the imminence of judgment, and also to proving from the Old Testament that the crucified Jesus was to return as judge and as the Lord of the messianic kingdom. Hence quite naturally they could summon men to acknowledge him, to join his church, and to keep his commandments.
We need not doubt that this was the line taken at the outset, even for many people
of pagan birth who had already become familiar with some of the contents and characteristics
of the Old Testament. The Petrine speeches in Acts are a proof of this. As for the
missionary address, ascribed to Paul in ch. xiii., it is plainly a blend of this
popular missionary preaching with the Pauline manner; but in that model of a mission
address to educated people which is preserved in ch. xvii.,662662The address in xiv. 15 f., is akin to this. the Pauline
manner of missionary preaching is perfectly distinct, in spite of what seems to
be one vital difference. First we have an exposition of the true doctrine of God,
whose main aspects are successively presented (monotheism, spirituality, omnipresence
and omnipotence, creation and providence, the unity of the human race and their
religious capacities, spiritual worship). The state of mankind hitherto is described
as “ignorance,” and therefore
to be repented of; God will overlook
it. But the new era has dawned: an era of repentance and judgment, involving faith
in Jesus Christ, who has been sent and raised by God and who is at once redeemer
and judge.663663 Whatever be the origin of the address in Acts xvii. 22-31 and the
whole narrative of Paul's preaching at Athens, it remains the most wonderful passage
in the book of Acts; in a higher sense (and probably in a strictly historical sense,
at some vital points) it is full of truth. No one should have failed especially
to recognize how closely the passage fits into the data which can be gathered from
1 Cor. i. f. and Rom. i. f., with regard to the missionary preaching of Paul. The
following points may be singled out:—
(a) According to Acts xvii. 18, “Jesus and the Resurrection” were decidedly put in the front rank of Paul's preaching. This agrees with what may be inferred from 1 Cor. i. f.
(b) As Rom. i. 19 f. and ii. 14 f. prove, the exposition of man's natural knowledge of God formed a cardinal feature in the missionary preaching of Paul. It occupies most of the space in the address at Athens.
(c) In this address the judgeship of Jesus is linked on directly to the “ignorance” which has replaced the primitive knowledge of God (καθότι ἔστησεν ἡμέραν ἐν ᾗ μέλλει κρίνειν τὴν οἰκουμένην ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ ἐν ἀνδρὶ ᾧ ὥρισεν), precisely as Rom. ii. 14 f. is followed by ver. 16 (ἐν ἡμέρᾳ ὅτε κρίνει ὁ θεὸς τὰ κρυπτὰ τῶν ἀνθρώπων διὰ Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ)
(d) According to the Athenian address, between the time of “ignorance” and the future judgment there is a present interval which is characterized by the offer of saving faith (ver. 31). The genuinely Pauline character of this idea only needs to be pointed out.
(e) The object of this saving faith is the risen Jesus (ver. 31)—a Pauline idea of which again no proof is necessary.
The one point at which the Athenian address diverges from the missionary preaching which we gather from the Pauline letters, is the lack of prominence assigned by the former to the guilt of mankind. Still, it is clear enough that their “ignorance” is implicitly condemned, and the starting-point of the address (ὃ ἀγνοοῦντες εὐσεβεῖτε, τοῦτο ἐγὼ καταγγέλλω ὑμῖν) made it almost impossible to lay any greater emphasis upon the negative aspect of the matter.
Several important features of Paul's work as a pioneer missionary may be also recognised in 1 Thessalonians (cp. Acts xx. 18 f.). But it does not come within the scope of the present volume to enter more fully into such details. Many of the more educated missionaries, and particularly Luke himself, certainly preached in this fashion, as is proved by the Christian apologies and by writings like the “Preaching of Peter.” Christian preaching was bent on arousing a feeling of godlessness and unrighteousness; it also worked upon the natural consciousness of God; but it was never unaccompanied by references to the coming judgment.
The address put into the mouth of Paul by the “Acta Pauli” (Acta Theclæ, v.-vi.) is peculiar and quite un-Pauline (compare, however, the preaching of Paul before Nero). Strictly speaking, it cannot even be described as a missionary address at all.. The apostle speaks in beatitudes, which are framed upon those of Jesus but developed ascetically. A more important point is that the content of Christian preaching is described as “the doctrine of the generation and resurrection of the Beloved” (διδασκαλία τῆς τε γεννήσεως καὶ τῆς ἀναστάσεως τοῦ ἡγαπημένου), and as “the message of self-control and of resurrection” (λόγος τῆς ἐγκρατείας καὶ ἀναστάσεως).664664A brief and pregnant missionary address, delivered by an educated Christian, is to be found in the Acta Apollonii (xxxvi. f.). The magistrate's demand for a brief statement of Christianity is met thus: οὗτος ὁ σωτὴρ ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦς Χριστός ὡς ἄνθρωπος γενόμενος ἐν τῇ Ἰουδαίᾳ κατὰ πάντα δίκαιος καὶ πεπληρωμένος θείᾳ σοφίᾳ, φιλανθρώπως ἐδίδαξεν ἡμᾶς τίς ὁ τῶν ὅλων θεὸς καὶ τί τέλος ἀρετῆς ἐπί σεμνὴν πολιτείαν ἁρμόζον πρός τὰς τῶν ἀνθρώπων ψυχάς· ὃς διὰ τοῦ παθεῖν ἔπαυσεν τὰς ἀρχὰς τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν (“This Jesus Christ our Saviour, on becoming man in Judaea, being just in all respects and filled with divine wisdom, taught us—in his love for men—who was the God of all, and what was that end of virtue which promoted a holy life and was adapted to the souls of men; by his sufferings he stopped the springs of sin”). Then follows a list of all the virtues, including the duty of honoring the emperor, with faith in the immortality of the soul and in retribution; all of these were taught by Jesus μετὰ πολλῆς ἀποδείξεως. Like the philosophers and just men before him, however, Jesus was persecuted and slain by “the lawless,” even as one of the Greeks had also said that the just man would be tortured, spat upon, bound, and finally crucified. As Socrates was unjustly condemned by the Athenian sycophants, so did certain wicked persons vilify and condemn our Teacher and Saviour, just as already they had done to the prophets who foretold his coming, his work, and his teaching (προεῖπον ὅτι τοιοῦτός τις άφίξεται πάντα δίκαιος καὶ ἐνάρετος, ὃς εἰς πάντας εὖ πσιήσας ἀνθρώπους ἐπ᾽ ἀρετῇ πείσει σέβειν τὸν πάντων θεόν, ὃν ἡμεῖς φθάοαντες τιμῶμεν, ὅτι ἐμάθομεν σεμνὰς ἐτολὰς ἂς οὐκ ᾔδειυεν, καὶ οὐ πεπλανήμεθα: they predicted that “such an one will come, absolutely righteous and virtuous, who in beneficence to all men shall persuade them to reverence that God of all men whom we now by anticipation honor, because we have learnt holy commands which we knew not, and have not been deceived”).
The effect of connected discourses, so far as regards the Christian mission, need not be overestimated; in every age a single stirring detail that moves the heart is of greater weight than a long sermon. The book of Acts describes many a person being converted all at once, by a sort of rush. And the description is not unhistorical. Paul was converted, not by a missionary, but by means of a vision. The Ethiopian treasurer was led to believe in Jesus by means of Isaiah liii., and how many persons may have found this chapter a bridge to faith! Thecla was won over from paganism by means of the “word of virginity and prayer” (λόγος τῆς παρθενίας καὶ τῆς προσευχῆς Acta Theclæ, ch. vii.), a motive which is so repeatedly mentioned in the apocryphal Acts that its reality and significance cannot be called in question. Asceticism, especially in the sexual relationship, did prevail in wide circles at that period, as an outcome of the religious syncretism. The apologists had good grounds also for declaring that many were deeply impressed and eventually convinced by the exorcisms which the Christians performed, while we may take it for granted that thousands were led to Christianity by the stirring proclamation of judgment, and of judgment close at hand. Besides, how many simply succumbed to the authority of the Old Testament, with the light thrown on it by Christianity! Whenever a proof was required, here was this book all ready.665665Strictly speaking, we have no mission-literature, apart from the fragments of the “Preaching of Peter” or the Apologies, and the range of the latter includes those who are already convinced of Christianity. The New Testament, in particular, does not contain a single missionary work. The Synoptic gospels must not be embraced under this category, for they are catechetical works, intended for the instruction of people who are already acquainted with the principles of doctrine, and who require to have their faith enriched and confirmed (cp. Luke i. 4). One might with greater reason describe the Fourth gospel as a missionary work; the prologue especially suggests this view. But even here the description would be inapplicable. Primarily, at any rate, even the Fourth gospel has Christian readers in view, for it is certainly Christians and not pagans who are addressed in xx. 31. Acts presents us with a history of missions; such was the deliberate intention of the author. But ch. i. 8 states what is merely the cardinal, and by no means the sole, theme of the book.
The mission was reinforced and actively advanced by the behaviour of
Christian men and women. Paul often mentions this, and in 1 Pet. iii. 1 we read that
men who do not believe the Word are to be won over without a word by means of the
conduct of their wives.666666 Details upon Christian women follow in Book IV. Chap. II. But here we may
set down the instructive description of a Christian woman's daily life, from the
pen of Tertullian (ad Uxor., II. iv., f.). Its value is increased by the fact that the
woman described is married to a pagan.
“If a vigil has to be attended, the husband, the first thing in the morning, makes her an appointment for the baths; if it is a fast-day, he holds a banquet on that very day. If she has to go out, household affairs of urgency at once come in the way. For who would be willing to let his wife go through one street after another to other men's houses, and indeed to the poorer cottages, in order to visit the brethren? Who would like to see her being taken from his side by some duty of attending a nocturnal gathering? At Easter time who will quietly tolerate her absence all the night? Who will unsuspiciously let her go to the Lord's Supper, that feast which they heap such calumnies upon? Who will let her creep into gaol to kiss the martyrs' chains? or even to meet any one of the brethren for the holy kiss? or to bring water for the saints' feet? If a brother arrives from abroad, what hospitality is there for him in such an alien house, if the very larder is closed to one for whom the whole storeroom ought to be thrown open? . . . . Will it pass unnoticed, if you make the sign of the cross on your bed or on your person f or when you blow away with a breath some impurity? or even when you rise by night to pray? Will it not look as if you were trying to engage in some work of magic? Your husband will not know what it is that you eat in secret before you taste any food.” The description shows us how the whole daily life of a Christian was to be a confession of Christianity, and in this sense a propaganda of the mission as well. The moral life of Christians appealed to a man like Justin with peculiar force, and the martyrdoms made a wide impression. It was no rare occurrence for outsiders to be struck in such a way that on the spur of the moment they suddenly turned to Christianity. But we know of no cases in which Christians desired to win, or actually did win, adherents by means of the charities which they dispensed. We are quite aware that impostors joined the church in order to profit by the brotherly kindness of its members; but even pagans never charged Christianity with using money as a missionary bribe. What they did allege was that Christians won credulous people to their religion with their words of doom, and that they promised the heavy-laden a vain support, and the guilty an unlawful pardon. In the third century the channels of the mission among the masses were multiplied. At one moment in the crisis of the struggle against gnosticism it looked as if the church could only continue to exist by prohibiting any intercourse with that devil's courtezan, philosophy; the “simplices et idiotae,” indeed, shut their ears firmly against all learning.667667Tert., adv. Prax. iii.: “Simplices quique, ne dixerim imprudentes et idiotae, quae maior semper credentium pars est” (“The simple—I do not call them senseless or unlearned—who are always the majority”); cp. de Resurr., ii. Hippolytus, at the beginning of the third century, calls Zephyrinus, the bishop of Rome, an ἰδιώτης and ἀγράμματος (Philos., ix. 11), and Origen often bewails the large number of ignorant Christians. But even a Tertullian found himself compelled to oppose this standpoint, while the pseudo-Clementine Homilies made a vigorous attack upon the methods of those who would substitute dreams and visions for instruction and doctrine. That, they urge, is the method668668See Homil. xvii. 14-19, where censure is passed on the view that it is safer “to learn by means of an apparition than from the clearness of truth itself (ὑπὸ ὀπτασίας ἀκούειν ἢ παῤ αὐτῆς ἐναργείας, 14); ὁ ὀπτασίᾳ πιστεύων, we read, ἢ ὁράματι καὶ ἐνυπνίῳ ἀγνοεῖ τίνι πιστεύει (“He who believes in an apparition or vision and dreams, does not know in whom he is believing”). Cp. 17: καὶ ἀσεβεῖς ὁράματα καὶ ἐνύπνια ἀληθῆ βλέπουσιν . . . . τῷ εὐσεβεῖ ἐμφύτῳ καὶ καθαρῷ ἀναβλύξει τῳ νῷ τὸ ἀλήθες, οὐκ ὁνείρῳ σπουδαζόμενον, ἀλλὰ συνέσει ἀγαθοῖς διδόμενον (“Even impious men have true visions and dreams . . . . but truth bubbles up to the natural and pure mind of the pious; it is not worked up through dreams, but vouchsafed to the good through their understanding”). In § 18 Peter explains that his own confession (Matt. xvi.) first became precious to himself when Jesus told him it was the Father who had allowed him to participate in this revelation. Τὸ ἔξωθεν δι᾽ ὀπτασιῶν καὶ ἐνυπνίων δηλωθῆναί τι οὐκ ἔστιν ἀποκαλύψεως ἀλλὰ ὀργῆς (“The declaration of anything external by means of apparitions and dreams is the mark, not of revelation, but of wrath divine”). In § 19 a negative answer is given to the question “whether anyone can be rendered fit for instruction by means of an apparition” (εἴ τις δι᾽ ὀπτασίαν πρὸς διδασκαλίαν σοφισθῆναι δύναται). of Simon Magus! Above all, it was the catechetical school of Alexandria, it was men like Clement and Origen, who by their patient and unwearied efforts won the battle for learning, and vindicated the rights of learning in the Christian church. Henceforward, Christianity used her learning also, in the shape of word and book, for the purpose of her mission (i.e., in the East, for in the West there is little trace of this). But the most powerful agency of the mission during the third century was the church herself in her entirety. As she assumed the form of a great syncretistic religion and managed cautiously to bring about a transformation which gnosticism would have thrust upon her violently, the mere fact of her existence and the influence exerted by her very appearance in history wielded a power that attracted and captivated men.
When a newcomer was admitted into the Christian church he was baptized. This rite (“purifici roris perfusio,” Lactant., iv. 15), whose beginnings lie wrapt in obscurity, certainly was not introduced in order to meet the pagan craving for the mysteries, but as a matter of fact it is impossible to think of any symbolic action which would prove more welcome to that craving than baptism with all its touching simplicity. The mere fact of such a rite was a great comfort in itself, for few indeed could be satisfied with a purely spiritual religion. The ceremony of the individual's immersion and emergence from the water served as a guarantee that old things were now washed away and gone, leaving him a new man. The utterance of the name of Jesus or of the three names of the Trinity during the baptismal act brought the candidate into the closest union with them; it raised him to God himself. Speculations on the mystery at once commenced.669669Magical ideas were bound up from the very first with baptism; cp. the baptism ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν at Corinth and Paul's attitude towards it (1 Cor. xv. 29). Immersion was held to be a death; immersion in relation to Christ was a dying with him, or an absorption into his death; the water was the symbol of his blood. Paul himself taught this doctrine, but he rejected the speculative notions of the Corinthians (1 Cor. i. 13 f.) by which they further sought to bring the person baptized into a mysterious connection with the person who baptizes. It is remarkable how he thanks God that personally he had only baptized a very few people in Corinth. This is not, of course, to be taken as a depreciation of baptism. Like his fellows, Paul recognized it to be simply indispensable. The apostle is merely recollecting, and recollecting in this instance with satisfaction, the limitation of his apostolic calling, in which no duty was imposed on him beyond the preaching of the word of God. Strictly speaking, baptism does not fall within his jurisdiction. He may perform the rite, but commonly it is the business of other people. In the majority of cases it implies a lengthy period of instruction and examination, and the apostle has no time for that: his task is merely to lay the foundation. Baptism marks therefore not the act of initiation but the final stage of the initiation.
“Fiunt, non nascuntur Christiani”; men are not born Christians, but made Christians. This remark of Tertullian (Apol., xviii.)670670Cp. de Testim., i.: “Fieri non nasci solet christiana anima.” Those born in Christian homes are called “vernaculi ecclesiae” (cp. de Anima, li.). may have applied to the large majority even after the middle of the second century, but thereafter a companion feature arose in the shape of the natural extension of Christianity through parents to their children. Subsequently to that period the practice of infant baptism was also inaugurated; at least we are unable to get certain evidence for it at an earlier date.671671Here, too, I am convinced that the saying holds true, “Ab initio sic non erat.” But whether infants or adults were baptized, baptism in either case was held to be a mystery which involved decisive consequences of a natural and supernatural kind. The general conviction was that baptism effectually cancelled all past sins of the baptized person, apart altogether from the degree of moral sensitiveness on his own part; he rose from his immersion a perfectly pure and perfectly holy man. Now this sacrament played an extremely important role in the mission of this church. It was an act as intelligible as it was consoling; the ceremony itself was not so unusual as to surprise or scandalize people like circumcision or the taurobolium, and yet it was something tangible, something to which they could attach themselves.672672At the same time, of course, people of refined feeling were shocked by the rite of baptism and the declaration involved in it, that all sins were now wiped out. Porphyry, whose opinion in this matter is followed by Julian, writes thus in Macarius Magnes (iv. 19): “We must feel amazed and truly concerned about our souls, if a man thus shamed and polluted is to stand out clean after a single immersion, if a man whose life is stained by so much debauchery, by adultery, fornication, drunkenness, theft, sodomy, murder by poisoning, and many another shameful and detestable vice—if such a creature, I say, is lightly set free from it all, throwing off the whole guilt as a snake sheds its old scales, merely because he has been baptized and has invoked the name of Christ. Who will not commit misdeeds, mentionable and unmentionable, who will not do things which can neither be described nor tolerated, if he learns that he can get quit of all these shameful offences merely by believing and getting baptized, and cherishing the hope that he will hereafter find forgiveness with him who is to judge the living and the dead? Assertions of this kind cannot but lead to sin on the part of anyone who understands them. They teach men constantly to be unrighteous. They lead one to understand that they proscribe even the discipline of the law and righteousness itself, so that these have no longer any power at all against unrighteousness. They introduce a lawless life into an ordered world. They raise it to the rank of a first principle, that a man has no longer to shun godlessness at all—if by the simple act of baptism he gets rid of a mass of innumerable sins. Such, then, is the position of matters with regard to this boastful fable.” But is Porphyry quite candid in this detestation of sacraments and their saving efficiency in general, as well as in his description of the havoc wrought upon morals by baptism? As to the latter point, it is of course true that the practice of postponing baptism became more and more common, even as early as the second century, in order to evade a thorough-going acceptance of the Christian life, and yet to have the power of sinning with impunity (cp., e.g., Tert., de Pænit., vi.). Even strict teachers advised it, or at least did not dissuade people from it, so awful seemed the responsibility of baptism. No safe means could be found for wiping off post-baptismal sins. Yet this landed them in a sore dilemma, of which they were themselves quite conscious. They had to fall in with the light-minded! Cp. Tertullian, loc. cit. and de Baptismo; at a later date, the second book of Augustine's Confessions. Justin, however, declares that baptism is only for those who have actually ceased to sin (Apol., i. 61 f.). Furthermore, if one added the story of Jesus being baptized by John—a story which was familiar to everyone, since the gospel opened with it—not merely was a fresh field thrown open for profound schemes and speculations, but, thanks to the precedent of this baptism of Jesus, the baptism to which every Christian submitted acquired new unction and a deeper content. As the Spirit had descended upon Jesus at his own baptism, so God's Spirit hovered now upon the water at every Christian's baptism, converting it into a bath of regeneration and renewal. How much Tertullian has already said about baptism in his treatise de Baptismo! Even that simple Christian, Hermas, sixty years previous to Tertullian, cannot say enough on the topic of baptism; the apostles, he exclaims, went down into the underworld and there baptized those who had fallen asleep long ago.
It was as a mystery that the Gentile church took baptism from the very first,673673This sacrament was not, of course, performed in secret at the outset, nor indeed for some time to come. It is not until the close of the second century that the secrecy of the rite commences, partly for educative reasons, partly because more and more stress came to be laid on the nature of baptism as a mystery. The significance attaching to the correct ritual as such is evident as early as the Didachê (vii.), where we read that in the first instance running water is to be used in baptism; failing that, cold standing water; failing that, warm water; failing a sufficient quantity even of that, mere sprinkling is permissible. The comparative freedom of such regulations was not entirely abolished in later ages, but it was scrupulously restricted. Many must have doubted the entire efficacy of baptism by sprinkling, or at least held that it required to be supplemented. as is plain even from the history of the way in which the sacrament took shape. People were no longer satisfied with the simple bath of baptism. The rite was amplified; new ceremonies were added to it; and, like all the mysteries, the holy transaction underwent a development. Gradually the new ceremonies asserted their own independence, by a process which also is familiar. In the treatise I have just mentioned, Tertullian exhibits this development at an advanced stage,674674On the conception and shaping of baptism as a mystery, see Anrich's Das antike Mysterienwesen in seinem Einfluss auf das Christentum (1894), pp. 84 f., 168 f., 179 f., and Wobbermin's Religionsgeschich. Studien z. Frage d. Beeinflussung des Urchristentums durch das antike Mysterienwesen (1896), pp. 143 f. The latter discusses σφραγίς, σφραγίζειν, φωτισμός , φωτίζειν, and σύμβολον, the technical baptismal terms. The mysteries are exhibited in greatest detail by the Pistis Sophia. but on the main issue there was little or no alteration; baptism was essentially the act by which past sins were entirely cancelled.
It was a mysterium salutare, a saving mystery; but it was also a mysterium tremendum, an awful mystery, for the church had no second means of grace like baptism. The baptized person must remain pure, or (as 2 Clem., e.g., puts it) “keep the seal pure and intact.” Certain sects attempted to introduce repeated baptism, but they never carried their point; baptism, it was steadily maintained, could never be repeated. True, the sacrament of penance gradually arose, by means of which the grace lost after baptism could be restored. Despite this, however, there was a growing tendency in the third century to adopt the custom of postponing baptism until immediately before death, in order to make the most of this comprehensive means of grace.
No less important than baptism itself was the preparation for it, here the spiritual aspect of the Christian religion reached its highest expression; here its moral and social force was plainly shown. The Didachê at once corroborates and elucidates the uncertain information which we possess with regard to this point in the previous period. The pagan who desired to become a Christian was not baptized there and then. When his heart had been stirred by the broad outlines of the preaching of the one God and the Lord Jesus Christ as saviour and redeemer, he was then shown the will and law of God, and what was meant by renouncing idolatry. No summary doctrines were laid down, but the “two ways” were put before him in a most comprehensive and thoroughgoing fashion; every sin was tracked to its lurking-place within. He had to renounce all sins and assent to the law of God, nor was he baptized until the church was convinced that he knew the moral code and desired to follow it (Justin, Apol., I. lxvii.: λοῦσαι τὸν πεπεισμένον καὶ συγκατατεθειμένον, “to wash him who is convinced and who has assented to our teaching”).675675Cp. Orig., c. Cels., III. li.: “Having previously tested, as far as possible, the hearts of those who desire to become their hearers, and having given them preliminary instruction by themselves, Christians admit them into the community whenever they evince adequate evidence of their desire to lead a virtuous life. Certain persons are entrusted by Christians with the duty of investigating and testing the life and conduct of those who come forward, in order to prevent people of evil behaviour from entering the community, and at the same time to extend a hearty welcome to people of a different stamp, and to improve them day by day.” The Jewish synagogue had already drawn up a catechism for proselytes and made morality the condition of religion; it had already instituted a training for religion. Christianity took this up and deepened it. In so doing it was actuated by the very strongest motives, for otherwise it could not protect itself against the varied forms of “idolatry” or realize its cherished ideal of being the holy church of God. For over a century and a half it ranked everything almost secondary to the supreme task of maintaining its morality. It recognized no faith and no forgiveness that might serve as a pillow for the conscience, and one reason why the church did not triumph over Gnosticism at an earlier period was simply because she did not like to shut out people who owned Christ as their Lord and led a strictly moral life. Her power lay in the splendid and stringent moral code of her baptismal training, which at once served as an introduction to the Scriptures;676676Cp. the Testimonia of Cyprian. moreover, every brother was backed up and assisted in order that he might continue to be fit for the duties he had undertaken to fulfil.677677Origen distinctly remarks (III. liii.) that the moral and mental training of catechumens and of young adherents of the faith varied according to the requirements of their position and the amount of their knowledge. After Zezschwitz, Holtzmann, in his essay on “The Catechising of the Early Church” (Abhandl. f. Weizsäcker, 1892, pp. 53 f.), has given the most thorough account of the pedagogy of the church. But we must refrain from imagining that catechetical instruction was uniformly as thoroughgoing and comprehensive during the third century as. it was, say, in Jerusalem under Cyril in the fourth. In the majority of churches there were no clergy capable of taking part in this work. Still, the demand was there, and this demand for initiation into religion by means of regular, public, and individual instruction in morals and religion raised Christianity far above all pagan religions and mysteries, while at the same time it allied Christianity to knowledge and education. Even when it clothed part of its doctrine in mysteries (as in the third century), the message still remained open and accessible to all. The letter of Ptolemæus to Flora shows the graded instruction in Christianity given by the Valentinians. Ever since the great conflict with gnosticism and Marcionitism, some instruction in the rule of faith was added. People were no longer satisfied with a few fundamental truths about God and Christ; a detailed exposition of the dogmatic creed, based on the baptismal formula, and presented in apologetic and controversial shape, was also laid before the catechumen. At the same time, prior to Constantine, while we have requirements exacted from the catechumens (or those recently baptized), we possess no catechisms of a dogmatic character.
It is deeply to be deplored that the first three centuries yield no biographies depicting the conversion or the inner rise and growth of any Christian personality. It is not as if such documents had perished: they were never written. We do not even know the inner history of Paul up to the day on which he reached Damascus; all we know is the rupture which Paul himself felt to be a sudden occurrence. Justin indeed describes (in his Dialogue with Trypho, i. f.) the steps leading up to his secession to Christianity, his passage through the philosophic schools, and finally his apprehension of the truth which rested on revelation; but the narrative is evidently touched up and it is not particularly instructive. Thanks to Tatian's Oratio, we get a somewhat deeper insight into that writer's inner growth, but here, too, we are unable to form any real idea of the change. Otherwise, Cyprian's little treatise ad Donatum is of the greatest service. What he sought for was a power to free him from an unworthy life, and in the Christian faith he found this power.
How deeply must conversion have driven its wedge into marriage and domestic life! What an amount of strain, dispeace, and estrangement conversion must have produced, if one member was a Christian while another clung to the old religion! “Brother shall deliver up brother to death, and the father his child: children shall rise up against their parents and have them put to death.” “I came not to bring peace on earth, but a sword. For I came to set a man at variance with his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He who loveth father and mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. x. 21, 34-37). These prophecies, says Tertullian (Scorp., ix.), were fulfilled in none of the apostles; therefore they apply to us. “Nemo enim apostolorum aut fratrem aut patrem passus est traditorem, quod plerique iam nostri” (“None of the apostles was betrayed by father or brother, as most of us to-day are”). Cp. ch. xi.: “We are betrayed by our next of kin.” Justin (Dial. xxxv.) says the same “We are put to death by our kindred.” “The father, the neighbour, the son, the friend, the brother, the husband, the wife, are imperilled; if they seek to maintain discipline, they are in danger of being denounced” (Apol., II. i.). “If anyone,” says Clement (Quis Dives, xxii.), “has a godless father or brother or son, who would be a hindrance to faith and an obstacle to the higher life, he must not associate with him or share his position; he must abjure the fleshly tie on account of the spiritual hostility.”678678He continues (ch. xxiii.): “Suppose it is a lawsuit. Suppose your father were to appear to you and say, ‘I begot you, I reared you. Follow me, join me in wickedness, and obey not the law of Christ,' and so on, as any blasphemer, dead by nature, would say.” In the Recognitions of Clement (ii. 29) we read: “In unaquaque domo, cum inter credentem et non credentem coeperit esse diversitas, necessario pugna fit, incredulis quidem contra fidem dimicantibtis, fidelibus vero in illis errorem veterem et peccatorum vitia confutantibus” (“When differences arise in any household between a believer and an unbeliever, an inevitable conflict arises, the unbelievers fighting against the faith, and the faithful refuting their old error and sinful vices”). Eusebius (Theophan., iv. 12) writes, on Luke xii. 51 f.: “Further, we see that no word of man, whether philosopher or poet, Greek or barbarian, has ever had the force of these words, whereby Christ rules the entire world, breaking up every household, parting and separating all generations, so that some think as he thinks whilst others find themselves opposed to him.” A very meagre record of these tragedies has come down to us. The orator Aristides (Orat., xlvi.) alludes to them in a passage which will come up before us later on. Justin (Apol., II) tells us of an aristocratic couple in Rome who were leading a profligate life. The woman became a Christian, and, unable ultimately to put up with her profligate husband any longer, proposed a divorce; whereupon he denounced her and her teacher to the city prefect as Christians.679679Tertullian distinctly says (ad Uxor., II. v.) that heathen husbands held their wives in check by the fact that they could denounce them at any moment. When Thecla became a Christian, she would have nothing to do with her bridegroom—a state of matters which must have been fairly common, like the refusal of converted wives to admit a husband's marital rights. Thecla's bridegroom denounced her teacher to the magistrates, and she herself left her parents' house. Celsus (Orig., adv. Cels., III. liv.) gives a drastic account of how Christian fanatics of the baser classes sowed dispeace in families of their own standing. The picture is at least drawn from personal observation, and on that account it must not be left out here. “As we see, workers in wool and leather, fullers and cobblers, people entirely uneducated and unpolished, do not venture in private houses to say a word in presence of their employers, who are older and wiser than themselves. But as soon as they get hold of young people and such women as are as ignorant as themselves, in private, they become wonderfully eloquent. ‘You must follow us,' they say, ‘and not your own father or teachers; the latter are deranged and stupid; in the grip of silly prejudices, how can they conceive or carry out anything truly noble or good? Let the young people follow us, for so they will be happy and make the household happy also!' If they see, as they talk so, a teacher or intelligent person or the father himself coming, the timorous among them are sore afraid, while the more forward incite the young folks to fling off the yoke. ‘So long as you are with them,' they whisper, ‘we cannot and will not impart any good to you; we have no wish to expose ourselves to their corrupt folly and cruelty, to their abandoned sinfulness and vindictive tempers! If you want to pick up any good, leave your fathers and teachers. Come with your playmates and the women to the women's apartments, or to the cobbler's stall, or to the fuller's shop! There you will attain the perfect life' Such are their wheedling words.” A sketch like this, apart from its malice, was certainly applicable to the time of the Antonines; hardly so, when Origen wrote. Origen is quite indignant that Christian teachers should be mixed up with wool-dressers, cobblers, and fullers, but he cannot deny that young people and women were withdrawn from their teachers and parents. He simply declares that they were all the better for it (III. lvi.).
The scenes between Perpetua680680“Honeste nata, liberaliter instituta, matronaliter nupta, habens patrem et matrem et fratres duos, alterum aeque catechuminum, et filium infantem ad ubera” (“A woman of respectable birth, well educated, a married matron, with a father, mother, and two brothers alive, one of the latter being, like herself, a catechumen, and with an infant son at the breast”). and her father are most affecting. He tried at first to bring her back by force,681681“Tunc pater mittit se in me, ut oculos mihi erueret, sed vexavit tantum . . . . tunc paucis diebus quod caruissem patrem, domino gratias egi et refrigeravi absentia illius” (“Then my father flung himself upon me as if he would tear out my eyes. But he only distressed me . . . . then a few days after my father had left me, I thanked the Lord, and his absence was a consolation to me “), ch. iii. and then besought her with tears and entreaties (ch. v.)682682“Supervenit de civitate pater meus, consumptus taedio et adscendit ad me, ut me deliceret dicens: Filia, miserere canis meis, miserere patri, si dignus sum a te pacer vocari; si his te manibus ad hunc florem aetatis provexi, si te praeposui omnibus fratribus tuis; ne me dederis in dedecus hominum. aspice fratres tuos, aspice matrem tuam et materteram, aspice filium tuum, qui post te vivere non poterit . . . . haec dicebat quasi pater pro sua pietate, basians mihi manus, et se ad pedes meos jactans et lacrimans me iam non filiam nominabat, sed dominam” (“Then my father arrived from the city, worn out with anxiety. He came up to me in order to overthrow my resolve, saying, ‘Daughter, have pity on my grey hairs; have pity on your father, if I am worthy to be called your father; if with these hands I have brought you up to this bloom of life, if I have preferred you to all your brothers, hand me not over to the scorn of men. Consider your brothers, your mother, your aunt, your son who will not be able to survive you.' . . . . So spake my father in his affection, kissing my hands and throwing himself at my feet, and calling me with tears not daughter, but lady”). Cp. vi.: “Cum staret pater ad me deiciendam jussus est ab Hilariano (the judge) proici, et virga percussus est. et doluit mihi casus patri mei, quasi ego fuissem percussa: sic dolui pro senecta eius misera” (“As my father stood there to cast me down from my faith, Hilarianus ordered him to be thrown on his face and beaten with rods; and my father's ill case grieved me as if it had been my own, such was my grief for his pitiful old age”); also ix.: “Intrat ad me pater consumptus taedio et coepit parbam suam evellere et in terram mittere et prosternere se in faciem et inproperare armis suis et dicere tanta verba quae moverent universam creaturam” (“My father came in to me, worn out with anxiety, and began to tear his beard and to fling himself on the earth, and to throw himself on his face and to reproach his years, and utter such words as might move all creation”). The crowd called out to the martyr Agathonikê, “Have pity on thy son!” But she replied, “He has God, and God is able to have pity on his own.” Pagan spectators of the execution of Christians would cry out pitifully: “Et puto liberos habet. nam est illi societas in penatibus coniunx, et tamen nec vinculo pignerum cedit nec obsequio pietatis abductus a proposito suo deficit” (Novat., de Laude Mart., xv.: “Yet I believe the man he has a wife, at home. In spite of this, however, he does not yield to the bond of his offspring, nor withdraw from his purpose under the constraint of family affection”). “Uxorem iam pudicam maritus iam non zelotypus, filium iam subiectum pater retro patiens abdicavit, servum iam fidelem dominus olim mitis ab oculis relegavit” (Tert., Apol., iii.: “Though jealous no longer, the husband expels his wife who is now chaste; the son, now obedient, is disowned by his father who was formerly lenient; the master, once so mild, cannot bear the sight of the slave who is now faithful”). Similar instances occur in many of the Acts of the Martyrs.683683During the persecution of Diocletian, Christian girls of good family (from Thessalonica) ran off and wandered about, without their fathers' knowledge, for weeks together in the mountains (“Acta Agapes, Chioniæ, Irenes,” in Ruinart's Acta Mart., Ratisbon, 1859, p. 426). How bitterly does the aristocratic Fortunatianus complain before the judge, in the African Acts of Saturninus and Dativus (dating from Diocletian's reign; cp. above, p. 363), that Dativus crept into the house and converted his (the speaker's) sister to Christianity during the absence of her father, and then actually took her with him to Abitini (Ruinart, p. 417). Compare the scene between the Christian soldier Marcianus and his wife, a woman of pagan opinions, in the Acts of Marcianus and.Nicander (Ruinart, p. 572). When her husband goes off to be executed, the woman cries: “Vae miserae mihi! non mihi respondes? miserator esto mei, domine; aspice filium tuum dulcissimum, convertere ad nos, noli nos spernere. Quid festinas? quo tendis? cur nos odisti?” (“Ah, woe is me! will you not answer me? pity me, sir. Look at your darling son. Turn round to us; ah, scorn us not. Why hasten off? Whither do you go? Why hate us?”) See also the Acta Irenæi, ch. iii. (op. cit., p. 433), where parents and wife alike adjure the young bishop of Sirmium not to sacrifice his life.—Of the martyr Dionysia we read (in Eus., H.E., vi. 41. 18): ἡ πολύπαις μέν, οὐχ ὑπὲρ τὸν κύριον δὲ ἀγαπήσασα ἐαυτῆς τἀ τέκνα (“She had a large family, but she loved not her own children above the Lord”). Genesius (Ruinart, p. 312), for example, says that he cursed his Christian parents and relatives. But the reverse also happened. When Origen was young, and in fact little more than a lad, he wrote thus to his father, who had been thrown into prison for his faith: “See that you do not change your mind on our account” (Eus., H.E., vi. 2).684684Cp. Daria, the wife of Nicander, in the Acts of Marcianus and Nicander, who exhorted her husband to stand firm. Also the Acts of Maximilianus, where the martyr is encouraged by his father, who rejoices in the death of his son; and further, the Acta Jacobi et Mariani (Ruinart, p. 273), where the mother of Marianus exults in her son's death as a martyr. In how many cases the husband was a pagan and the wife a Christian (see below, Book IV. Chap. II.). Such a relationship may have frequently685685As, e.g., in the case of Augustine's home; cp. his Confess., i. 11 (17): “Iam [as a boy] credebam et mater et omnis domus, nisi pater solus, qui tamen non evicit in me ius maternae pietatis, quominus in Christum crederem” (“Already I believed, as did my mother and the whole household except my father; yet he did not prevail over the power of my mother's piety to prevent me believing in Christ”). Augustine's father is described as indifferent, weak, and quite superficial. been tolerable, but think of all the distress and anguish involved by these marriages in the majority of cases. Look at what Arnobius says (ii. 5): “Malunt solvi conjuges matrimoniis, exheredari a parentibus liberi quam fidem rumpere Christianam et salutaris militiae sacramenta deponere” (“Rather than break their Christian troth or throw aside the oaths of the Christian warfare, wives prefer to be divorced, children to be disinherited”).
A living faith requires no special “methods” for its propagation; on it sweeps over every obstacle; even the strongest natural affections cannot overpower it. But it is only to a very limited extent that the third century can be regarded in this ideal aspect. From that date Christianity was chiefly influential as the monotheistic religion of mysteries and as a powerful church which embraced holy persons, holy books, a holy doctrine, and a sanctifying cultus. She even stooped to meet the needs of the masses in a way very different from what had hitherto been followed; she studied their traditional habits of worship and their polytheistic tendencies by instituting and organizing festivals, deliverers, saints, and local sacred sites, after the popular fashion. In this connection the missionary method followed by Gregory Thaumaturgus (to which we have already referred on p. 315) is thoroughly characteristic; by consenting to anything, by not merely tolerating but actually promoting a certain syncretism, it achieved, so far as the number of converts was concerned, a most brilliant success. In the following Book (Chap. III., sect. III. 9B) detailed information will be given upon this point.
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