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first of these the Christians turned with horror, and there ruled among them but one opinion concerning these frightful amusements, that it was quite unworthy a Christian to be present at them; and whosoever was 80, was excluded from church communion. Irenæus marks it, and shrinks from it as the greatest denial of a Christian's faith, when certain more than once took part in these bloody sports, hateful alike to God and man ;
and Tertullian says to the heathen who defended these games, and that very frequently on the ground that criminals sentenced to death were often employed for them: “It is right that criminals should be punished,—and yet the innocent cannot rejoice that a man, a creature like himself, should have so sinned, as that he need be put to death in so fearful a manner. But who will assure me that only the guilty are cast to wild beasts, and condemned to other capital punishments, that this sad fate never overtakes the innocent, either through the vengeful spirit of the judge, or the weakness of the advocate, or the violence of the torture? At least the innocent often offer themselves for these gladiatorial games, to become victims to public pleasure; and as far as concerns those who are sentenced to these games, why is it that a punishment, which should serve for the improvement of the guilty, rather tends to turn them into murderers ?!!
Not so unanimous was the judgment concerning the public theatrical performances, the comedies and tragedies, racing and running, and the like. In general, indeed, the church declared itself against visiting the theatres ; for, on the one hand, they considered them to be intimately connected with idolatry, by serving to enhance the splendours of the idolatrous festivities of the heathen, and by introducing among the masses idolatrous usages ; on the other hand, much that was indecent and immoral arose out of them, by which the finer feelings, feelings inseparable from the earnestness of the Christian mind, were injured. They therefore reckoned stage-plays among the things to be renounced by the Christian at his baptism. The Christian was to take no part in the vain pleasures of the heather world, but seek other joys which his faith offered him. In the mean time, there were many Christians who had not earnestness enough to sacrifice to the Lord pleasures become dear to them by long habit, and who therefore brought forward all sorts of pretexts to justify them, and represent participation in them as a matter of indifference. Such external pleasures to the eye and ear, they argued, might well consist with religion in the heart; they could during such enjoyments render unto God what was God's; God would not be angry at man's cheerful enjoyment of life. To such Tertullian, among others, replies, “ The point is, that we should show how these pleasures cannot agree with true religion and true obedience to God.”
As then, my brethren, Christians differed at that time on these points, so do they also now.
There are always men of more earnest minds, and men who take matters more easily. “To his own master every man standeth or falleth." We neither wish nor dare to judge. This only is our opinion ; the more the spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ penetrates, ennobles, and hallows a heart, the less pleasure must it find in the world and its vain passing pleasures. It has its joy in God, and knows other joys than those which the world knows and gives. Let every man then, so dedicate himself from his heart to the Lord, that we may say,
66 Christ liveth in us, our walk is in heaven;" then every thing will be far from us which belongs not to God, but to the world, and we may
May the Triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, bless us! May he bless us, and may all the world fear Him. Amen.
After having considered the religious and civil life of Christians in the first ages of our church, we will today glance at their family life, and with this close the series of meditations which have occupied our attention during so many Sundays. We cannot, indeed, give you much information concerning the family life of the early Christians, but this is caused by the nature of the thing itself, for the life of a Christian family should be calm and secret, and withdrawn from the observation of the world. Do not, then, expect that we can give you a perfect picture of that of which we have but a few traits to put before you. But if we may judge by the produce of the root whence it has proceeded, then must we confess that family life in those primitive times must, indeed, have been a lovely and glorious life, deeply penetrated by the spirit of Christianity, for the effects of it which are to be seen in all ecclesiastical and civil relations bear the mark of this spirit. It could only be a really pious spirit in families that could have given such brilliancy to the public life of Christians, as we have had occasion to notice.
We all, I do not doubt, are agreed, my brethren, that there can be nothing more important than family life. In families are trained and educated for the state its citizens, for the church its members. If, then, the childlike spirit of faith and piety dwells in families, if husbands and wives, children and servants, shew themselves all equally penetrated by that higher and heavenly mind which the gospel produces, nourishes, and supports, then will this mind, like a living stream which pours its fertilizing waters on all sides, most surely spread from families over the whole circle of life, and all things will bear the stamp of that spirit, to pour which forth over mankind in order to ennoble, sanctify, and inspire them, Jesus Christ came upon earth. Church and state will alike shew the effects of family piety, and enjoy its costly fruits. But if the family be quite opposed to that for which it is intended, viz. to be a nursery of faith and piety, if it be a habitation of fri. volity, immodesty, faithlessness, and sin,
then woe to the larger circles of life over which its influence extends ! Its poisonous breath, like a desolating plague, will pollute and destroy every thing that it touches, injustice will take the upper hand, and the prosperity of the church and civil society would clearly suffer under it.
The more frequent, then, the complaints that we hear daily, and not without foundation, of the faults of family life, of the miseries of marriage, of the loss of the discipline of children, and of the moral depravation of domestics, the less possible is it to deny that the traces of all this are to be found disturbing the relations both of church and state ; and in the latter case, by the spread of illegal and criminal transactions, in the former by the prevailing indifference to all things holy-80 mach the more profitable will it be for us to enter into a consideration which will place before us the family life of the early Christians. We shall all have a good opportunity of comparing ourselves with the picture set before us. By this we may learn in what we fail, and what we need. By this we must feel aroused and encouraged to the glorious endeavour to bring back again among us the spirit which inspired and hallowed the family life of the first Christians, and made their family circle a spring of joy, of peace, and happiness. Mary God hear our prayers, and visit this our meditation with his rich blessing.
Text. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. Children, obey your parents in all things; for this is well-pleasing unto the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. Servants, obey in all things your masters, according to the flesh; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing God: and whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing, that of the Lord
shall receive the reward of the inheritance : for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doth wrong, shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of
persons. Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal, knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.-Col. iii. 18–25; iv. 1.
This is, indeed, my brethren, a glorious picture of family life as it ought to exist among Christians. A look directed unswervingly to the Lord, common love to him, and mutual hearty love to one another, should characterize and sanctify all the inmates of the house. Inspired by one and the same Spirit, all should contemplate their own sanctification, and mutual edification, advancement and support, as the main object of their lives, and thus should every house be a temple of the Lord, a dwelling of God, and a nursery of faith and piety. O would that it were thus every
where among us! Would that the spirit of Jesus Christ would enter into all hearts and families, and by its influence hallow them and bless them! Let us examine to-day how far this was the case with the Christians of the first centuries, by considering the family life of those believers.
1. In the relations of marriage.