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is enclosed in the body, and yet is that which upholds it, and thus are Christians in the world, detained as it were at a post, and yet they are they who preserve the world. The immortal soul dwells in a mortal body, and Christians dwell as strangers in that which passeth away, and await the life that passeth not away in hea
So important a post has God committed to them, which they dare not desert.” Justin Martyr, in the second century, thus writes of the life of Christians : “ We who once served pleasure, now strive after purity; we who used magical arts, have dedicated ourselves to the good and eternal God. We who loved gain more than any other thing, now share what we possess with all men, and give to all that need. We who once hated and persecuted each other, and received not strangers into our houses, now love them without hesitation : we pray for our enemies, and seek to convince them that hate us without a cause, in order that they may live after the glorious teaching of Christ, and thereby receive the joyful hope of attaining to the same good things as the Almighty God has given
Origen writes : “ The work of Jesus is manifested among all men, where communities founded by Christ exist, having been converted from a thousand sins; and even yet the name of Jesus introduces gentleness, order, love toward men, goodness and mildness among those who do not hypocritically profess belief on the teaching of God and on Christ, and the judgment to come, for the sake of earthly profit and advantage, but who receive him in all uprightness."
And must not we say the same thing still of our times, my brethren ? Wherever men have arrived at a knowledge of the truth, and knitted themselves to Christ Jesus in faith, they cease to live after the world and sin, and such a contrast appears between their present and former condition, as there was between Christians and heathens, for the change is no other than that from the old to the new man, of which Origen says, with relation to his own times : “ The communities of Christians are, compared to the communities among which they live, as lights in the world.”
Enough, my brethren, of the general life of Christians in the first centuries. You see that a new mind and spirit were implanted among men by the Gospel, and the life of those who acknowledged Jesus Christ was a surrender of themselves to God a life consisting in following Him who has left us a pattern, that we should tread in his steps, and who has proclaimed to us in his word: “ Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people ; that ye should shew forth the praises of him, who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” And thus the adoration of Christians was an adoration in spirit and in truth. They glorified and praised God by their lives in his spirit. May this excite us to imitate them. May His spirit dwell in all of us, “ who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners ;” and may it be said of all of us with truth, that in God " we live, and move, and have our being.” Thereunto may
mercy help us. Amen.
THE LIFE OF THE EARLY CHRISTIANS A LIFE OF LOVE.
In discoursing of the religious life of the Christian churchman of the first centuries, and in directing our attention to this, in particular, as we have determined to do in the considerations which we have now commenced, there are two points which have a claim on our especial notice. Before all things, we must fix our eyes on the individual developments of piety, the individual fruits of God's Holy Spirit, shed abroad on the hearts of the faithful, as they manifested themselves in their lives. We did, indeed, in our last meditation, depict, in rough and general outline, the life of the early Christians, as the working of that new knowledge of God stirred up within them by the power
of the Gospel, exhibiting itself in the worshipping of God in spirit and in truth,”-in directing the soul to things above the senses, and eternal,--in a full surrender of all the faculties to the Divine and Invisible, in the true following of Christ Jesus,-in earnest striving after that holiness which is pleasing unto God, so that it stood in the most decided contrast with men's former life under Judaism or Paganism, and bore the same relation to it as the new man does to the old man, of whom St Paul says, that he is “ corrupt according to deceitful lusts." But it is not enough to place before our eyes only this general picture of the lives of early Christians, we must also contemplate its individual traits; we must attend to its individual beauties; we must consider the individual virtues of those men, by which they proved themselves, in their early pilgrimage, the disciples and followers of Him 6 who had called them out of darkness
into his own marvellous light;" and with this topic we will commence.
But there is yet another aspect of the religious life of members of the church, which we must not overlook. This refers especially to the open confession of the faith, and will lead us to consider the form of religious worship as it originally existed in the church, and thus Christian culture, the life of churchmen, taken in its more confined sense, the open and general worship of God, will claim its share of our attention. If the spirit of God dwelleth in us, our modes of thought and lives will necessarily be formed upon a Christian model; that is, will be a faithful copy in all their relations and circumstances of the mind and life of Christ, and we shall be able to say with the apostle, we have the mind of Christ, our walk is in Heaven.” This we call the religious life. But this is not the only office of the Holy Spirit; he forms at the same time a society, so that the professors of the same faith look on each other as fellow members of one body, to which all belong, and thereby all are led to feel the necessity of proclaiming their belief together, of worshipping together their God and Saviour, and of edifying themselves by pious exercises, by prayer, by reading, and meditation on God's holy word, by the celebration of the sacraments, by doing in all things as the Scripture enjoins : “ Build up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, and keep yourselves in the love of God.” Thus will the religious life become a life of church society and union. Our life in the church is exhibited in our assemblies and our services, and it cannot therefore but be gratifying to us to know how Christians, in primitive ages, ordered and regulated their lives as members of the church. And if in our first view we do truly contemplate the communion of saints, when we consider Christians as members of one invisible kingdom, as the society of true believers, of men enlightened and sanctified by God's Holy Spirit, in this part of our subject we have to do especially with the visible church, that is, the assembly of those who, through baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, have outwardly acknowledged Christ; and we do not look so much to the hearts and lives of those Christians, as to the manner in which they publicly professed their faith, and the peculiar forms of divine service by which they were externally united.
We shall now consider the life of the early Christians, as one worked upon and sanctified by the spirit of God, while we exhibit the individual expressions and * manifestations of a pious and believing spirit. In this part of our subject we shall have occasion to speak of the fruits of that spirit which inspired the first Christians, their love, their humility, their long suffering, their self-denial, their zeal in prayer, their firmness and constancy in the truth. We shall thus have presented to us the most prominent traits of early Christian character, and this will afford us a good opportunity for self-examination, while it cannot fail to stir
and courage us.
We cannot for a moment doubt what feature to commence with. Is not love the “ bond of perfectness," and does it not contain all virtues in itself? Does not the apostle exhort us : “ Be ye followers of God, as dear children, and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and has given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God.” This, then, shall be the object of our meditation this day. The life of the early Christians especially presents itself to us as a life in love, and to this we will at this time direct our attention. And first, let us, each of us, beseech God's blessing in silent prayer.
Text. A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved
also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. St John's Gospel, xiii. 34, 35.
A new commandment, my brethren, indeed, was this, at a time when all the world was wrapped up in cold and heartless selfishness! What a contrast in those