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The case is different, however, with such as have enjoyed a pious parentage, and have from their earliest years been indoctrinated in the principles of the Christian religion; and, accordingly, we find that when children came to be born into the early Christian Church, a distinction was made between them, and such as came into it as converts from heathenism. These had not been trained up in sinful courses, and their habits had not been confirmed in evil, and hence there was not looked for in their case, as in the other, strong conviction of sin, deep struggles of conscience, followed by a lively sense of pardon and acceptance."



and potent influence, transforms, as if at one stroke, selfishness into love, profligacy into purity, the raving moral maniac into a meek and childlike saint sitting at Jesus' feet-this, of necessity, is a kind of conversion which is the most palpable, and which may attract universal notice, while the more gradual, but not less real, change passes unobserved.”—(Dr. CAIRD.)


1 "The child born in a Christian family," says Neander, in speaking of the early Church, was, when all things were as they should be, to have this advantage over others, that he did not come to Christianity out of heathenism or the sinful natural life; but from the first dawning of consciousness unfolded his powers under the imperceptible preventing influences of a sanctifying, ennobling religion; that, with the earliest germinations of the natural self-conscious life, another divine principle of life transforming the nature should be brought nigh to him ere yet the ungodly principle should come into full activity, and the latter should at once find here its powerful counterpoise. In such a life the new birth was not to constitute a new crisis, beginning at some definable moment, but it was to begin imperceptibly, and to proceed through the whole life." In the primitive Church, "those persons who designed to leave heathenism and idolatry, and desired to be members of a Christian Church, were not presently advanced to that degree, but were first continued a certain space of time in the rank of the catechumens or the catechised ones; these were candidates of Christianity who were to stay some time in that order, for these two reasons: the one was that they might be catechised and instructed in the articles of the Christian faith, from whence they were called Catechumens; and the other was that they might give demonstrations of the reality of their intentions by the change of their lives and the holiness of their conversations. Whilst they were in this state, or rather preparatory thereunto, they were first privately instructed at home, till they understood the more intelligible principles of Christianity, and then they were admitted into the first rank of catechumens, who are called by Tertullian 'edocti, or those that are taught.' These were permitted 'to come into the church, where they stood in a place by themselves,' and 'were present at the sermons, which were adapted to their capacities, being discourses of the ordinary and less mysterious truths of the gospel.' If they behaved themselves well in this rank, then they were advanced to the superior rank of the perfecti or perfect, and in a little time were baptised."-(KING: Primitive Church.)

2 "In opposition to the opinion that conviction of sin accompanied by

they were looked upon as receiving with the first dawn of consciousness the regenerating influence of the Holy Spirit, which, through careful education, was to be the means of overcoming the evil principles of their nature.1

Indeed, the great value and importance that was attached to education as a means of grace is one of the special characteristics of the early Christian Church. With many of the questions that agitate Christian society in the present day, they did not concern themselves.3 Their leading doc

powerful excitement, which attains to a sense of pardon only after internal struggles, is alone the sure criterion and indispensable condition of the Christian character, we may safely refer to the primitive Church in which, to say the least, such a notion of sin did not prevail.”—(Prof. HAGENBACH: History of Doctrines.) "Violent transformations ought not to characterise the history of children born and brought up in families dedicated to Christ." (Organized Christianity.) “I don't at all believe in the exaggerated notions of the suffering and self-denial required by virtue,—in the case of those, I mean, who are well trained, and who early become the subjects of religious faith and good habits."-(Rev. T. BINNEY.)

1 "In the first ages of the Church only adults who entered it consciously and voluntarily were baptized. But after the first foundation of the Church had been laid and Christian domestic life had been formed, infant baptism was introduced. . . . Whoever was born in a Christian family, it was necessarily pre-supposed that he did not become acquainted with Christianity from the midst of heathenism; that he did not first develop himself from the stand-point of the natural man, and then make his way into a new life through regeneration; but from the beginning the sanctifying influence of Christian communion must have been shed on the first development of the life of the soul, surrounded, as it was, with a Christian atmosphere. From the first it must have been trained into communion with Christ, dedicated to Him, led to His redeeming grace. Regeneration must have taken place not suddenly, but gradually allying itself to the first movements of advancing rational life. Thus, Irenæus founded infant baptism on the fact that Christ became a child to children, and had sanctified human nature from the first germs of its development."(NEANDER: Christian Life.)

2 "In connection with the earlier Christian Churches-that is, with those of the second and third centuries, not those of the apostolic agewe observe large classes of young people preparing in catechetical classes for admission to their fellowship. Their catechetical instruction, so far as we can judge, seems to have been valuable.”—(Rev. Dr. HALLEY.) 3"The incarnation, atonement, and intercession of the Redeemer are not taught by the Fathers in the formal, systematic manner which professed theologians afterwards adopted; but the elements of a system are scattered, with rude simplicity and perplexing vagueness, over their works." -(Dr. JAS. BENNETT: Early Christian Church.) "The Fathers, dear men," said Prof. Duncan, "were poor theologians, but they were excellent for burning." I don't think Polycarp could have stood a theological examination by John Owen; but he was a famous man to burn." May not the Evangelical school be wrong in asserting that it is necessary for a man to believe in original sin, the Trinity, the atonement, and



trines were, believe and follow Christ by imitating His example and obeying His precepts; and, hence, they mainly concerned themselves with the means that God had put into their hands for the building up of the Christian lifethe natural means by which evil habits and inclinations are to be overcome, and such as are good and right implanted and strengthened.1

In all ages men have been too much given to look upon Christianity as something fixed and established-something that cannot change, something incapable of progress. This, however, is not the case. Like the human mind to which it appeals, like the human heart in which it is implanted, like civilization with which it is incorporated, it advances by degrees from a crude and imperfect to a higher and more perfect state.3 In revealing His will to man, God had to

similar dogmas, before he can be a Christian ?"-(Dr. JAMES DONALDSON.) "The Church in every age, more or less, has been guilty of so constructing God's fold that multitudes of his own sheep could not enter therein. I know to-day many godly men that cannot go into the Church. They would violate their consciences if they did; and they are, therefore, obliged to walk, as I believe they do walk, godly lives outside the Church. The Churches, as administered to-day, put a thousand times more emphasis upon externals, of which the Bible says little or nothing, than upon great essentials, of which the Bible mainly teaches-love to God and love to man."-(H. W. BEECHER.)

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In the case of the Apostles, the idea of happiness, and every other such notion, pass entirely out of sight in their anxious longing for complete holiness, for living, as they called it, for Him who was the Life. In respect to theology, there is not the slightest attempt to systematise. There is the most absolute belief of certain great truths; but there is not the remotest desire to unravel the puzzles which afterwards beset the theological world. This unspeculative character of the apostolic teaching the modern Church has, to a considerable extent, lost sight of, simply because dogmatic theology has now taken the place of practical in many respects."-(Dr. JAMES DONALDSON.) "What sets the Calvinist in motion seems to be the desire to flee from the wrath to come; and what sets the Methodist in motion, the desire for eternal bliss. What is it which sets Paul in motion? It is the impulse, which we have elsewhere noted as the master impulse of Hebraism-the desire for righteousness." -(M. ARNOLD.)

2"They start from the language of formularies, framed under certain circumstances, in a certain age from that language interpreted and methodised by their section of the Church; from thence they derive their conception of the new birth, and this conception they endeavour to force into primitive antiquity, and then into the Bible, by violent accommodations and interpolations ad libitum.”—(S. T. COLERIDGE.)

"It is the very essence of Christianity to be a religion of progression; even before we come to actual Christian teaching, nothing can be plainer

stoop down to his limited capacity; He had to employ means that would be intelligible to him and that were suited to his circumstances.1

The earlier revelations of God to man were, therefore, simple and adapted to his comprehension.2 "The seed of

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the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent was the first divine revelation to fallen man, and it imparted to him

than that far clearer and loftier ideas of the Divine nature were granted to the prophets than any that can be found in the Law. It is thoroughly weak to try to prove that the contemporaries of Abraham had equal light with the contemporaries of St. Paul, or even with the contemporaries of Isaiah. To us nothing can be clearer than that through the whole history of Judaism and Christianity new light has been continually given; indeed, no Christian, to be a Christian at all, can deny this, though he may strive to escape the consequences."-(E. A. FREEMAN: Historical Essays.) "I should marvel if any one who had studied both individual man and society could persuade himself that the actual form of Christianity, even when most active, most living, most awake, could be fixed and stationary."-(VINET.) "The Gospel was not revealed at once in its full glory to mankind. There have been several editions of it, or gradual discoveries of this grace in all the former ages of the world."—(Dr. Isaac WATTS.)



1 "Revelation, to be useful to those for whose benefit it is designed, must be adapted to the constitution of the human mind, and the natural laws of human thought."-(Dr. BUCHANAN.) Revelation implies an accommodation to the mental constitution of its human receiver, and we must know what that constitution is before we can pronounce how far the accommodation extends."-(Dr. MANSEL: Bampton Lectures.) must wait on the creature, and conduct him on through long ages of mistake and crudity-command, reason, try, enlighten, brood, as over chaos, by His quickening power-and then it will be only by slow degrees that the moral taste of the world will approximate to a coincidence with the perfect moral taste of God."-(HORACE BUSHNELL.) "The religion of Christ had to adapt itself to the least as well as to the largest forms of our life and nature. This vast treasure was not only to be conveyed to us, and to be set down as it were at our doors; it was to enter into us, to become part of us, and that part which should rule the rest; it was to assimilate alike with the mind and heart of every class and description of men."-(W. E. GLADSTONE: On Ecce Homo.)


2 The earliest revelation to Adam was "In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." This was the religion of the time, and was a simpler information for practice than all the light and all the precept of our superior religion." And again, "the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head" was the Gospel of its time, "and put Adam in a simpler state than us, for without the complexities of Christianity he learned only that out of the sins that were beginning to reign, and out of the evils that were beginning to afflict him, the offspring of the woman was to appear for his deliverance. The same is true of the system of Abraham. It noticed little a hereafter. It was crude and dark, and the apostles themselves confessed that it was a bondage under the rudiments of the world."—(Rev. J. MILLER: Nature of Christianity.)

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the glad tidings that from the seed of the woman would come a deliverer who should vanquish and overcome the Wicked One.1 To the Patriarchs and their descendants through Moses and the prophets, further and clearer revelations of the divine will were made, till Christ came and introduced a new dispensation.2

To the Jews religion was a thing of rites and ceremonies, with its laws and penalties, its prophetic warnings, and its miraculous interpositions.3 In Christ all this was done away; the material and sensual had to give place to the mental and spiritual, and religion came to be a thing not of outward form and show, but of the heart and life.4

"They had the assurance that God would employ 'the seed of the woman -some great and distinguished person descending peculiarly from the woman to 'bruise the head' of their great enemy to destroy the seat not only of his malignity and power, but of his very life and being; while the sufferings which this avenger of the wrongs of man was to undergo in the struggle would be slight and transitory.”—(Dean GRAVES.)


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Observe the very slow and gradual unfolding of the truth, even from the very beginning, in the pages of revelation. The divine light at the outset obscurely hinted at in a single promise, and that, in all human probability, not understood at the time. But, even if its meaning was understood, it still formed the only hope to sustain and animate the long period of the Antediluvians. Then came the promise given to Abraham, still shrouded in obscurity-followed by the typical ceremonies of the law, hidden, no doubt, in their real meaning to the majority of worshippers. The light expands considerably when the prophets came forth, depicting in far clearer outline the glorious appearing of the Messiah. And lastly, after the lapse of 4000 years from the first prophecy, the Messiah himself appeared, and even then gradually revealed the extent of His mission, and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. Since then the glorious light of the Gospel has been by slow gradations more and more spread over the surface of the earth, its evidences increased, and its truths better understood."-(Rev. E. C. TOPHAM.)


"During the Levitical dispensation the service of God was performed with pomp and lustre suitable to the Church in its minority, when faith needed the assistance of the senses."-(BATES: Spiritual Perfection.) "This system was adapted to the Church's nonage or minority, for God taught His people as we teach our children, first by sensible and external signs, as we do by pictures and stories, before abstract truths can be comprehended." (Dr. JAMES BUCHANAN: On Analogy.) "God so contrived the whole of the Mosaic economy that spiritual things were hidden under the veil of natural things."-(Rev. J. SMITH: Discourses.)

"The object is to pass from the letter which kills to the spirit which gives life, from an external and material obedience to an internal and spiritual obedience, from the work of the hands to that of the heart, from the offering of goods to that of ourselves, from the sacrifice of goats and heifers to that of the priest. The thing required is not a new law but a

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