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they would not call it the "Sabbath." They never so call it, but either, as we have said, the Lord's day, or else, in conformity with Heathen usage, the day of the Sun, (Sunday,) generally the latter when addressing the Gentiles; and by one or the other of these designations was the day known, and not as the Sabbath, till so recently as the end of the sixteenth century. The old Christian writers, whenever they use the term Sabbath, uniformly mean Saturday. This, as well as Sunday, was in Tertullian's time, that is, down to A. D. 200, and still later, kept by Christians as a day of rejoicing, that only being excepted on which the Saviour lay in the tomb. Even the Montanists, rigorous as they were, did not at this time fast on these days. The custom of fasting on Saturdays first prevailed in the Western Church, though as late as the time of Augustine, the end of the fourth century, this custom was not uniform, some observing the day as a fast and others as a festival. But in regard to Sunday there was, as we said, no difference of opinion or of usage. The day was uniformly observed with cheerfulness, yet always in a religious way, as Clement expresses it, by "banishing all evil thoughts and entertaining all good ones," and by meetings for thanks and worship. It was called the "chief," as it were, the queen of days, a day to be ever distinguished and honored, and the return of which was hailed with a liveliness of gratitude which the faith of those ages rendered easy.
Christians now have not the same associations connected with the day, at least not uniformly, or in the same degree. It is not regarded so exclusively as a day of joy on account of the Saviour's resurrection, as in primitive times. It has lost in part its characteristic distinction; the feelings in regard to it have changed with time, and to the ears of the descendants of the Puritans it sounds somewhat strange, no doubt, to hear it spoken of as a festival-the weekly
districts, where sowing and reaping and tending the vine were allowed, it is impossible to ascertain. The exception was agreeable to the old Roman notions of what it was right and lawful to do on festal days, and what, says Virgil, "no religion forbade." Certain agricultural labors were permitted (by them.)
Quippe etiam festis quædam exercere diebus
* De Jejuniis. c. 15.
festival of the resurrection, or to be told that it was a day on which those who lived nearest the times of the Apostles regarded it as unbecoming and unlawful to indulge gloom, or to fast, or even to fall on the knees in devotion. Let us, however, guard against mistake. We should form a very erroneous conception of the ancient Sunday, if we associated with it the ideas which the term, festival, now probably suggests to many minds. The joy of the day was a pure, elevated, religious joy, utterly removed from all grossness and sensuality; it was a day of worship, though of cheerful worship, a day devoted, as it ever should be, to the highest spiritual uses. No day has done so much for man, and this day and all its influences the Christian world owes to Jesus. This day, which suspends so many tasks, the "poor man's day," as it has been called, a day, of which it may be said that there is no condition of humanity so low that its benefits do not penetrate it, the influence of which reaches the humblest mind, which gives a truce to so many worldly thoughts, and compels man, as it were, to respect himself, and meditate on what concerns him as an accountable and an immortal being, well did the ancient Christians call it the "Lord's day," and well did they, and well may we, rejoice in it, and ever thank God for it.
We come now to the yearly festivals, and first the festival of the Resurrection, (Easter,) originally called also the festival of the Passover; the Passover, as the term was used by the primitive Christians, including the whole interval between the Saviour's crucifixion and his resurrection. This was celebrated from the first among the Jewish Christians, Christian ideas being engrafted on the old Jewish ideas respecting it. No older festival appears among the Gentile Christians. The time when they began to observe it cannot be defined; but it was very early. The obligation of its observance, as that of the other annual festivals, was not, however, regarded by Christians of the early ages as resting on any precept or law of Christ or of his Apostles, but simply on propriety and usage. The "feast of Easter and the other festivals," says the historian Socrates,* were left to be "honored by the gratitude and benevolence" of Christians. As men naturally love festivals,
* Hist. Eccles. L. v. c. 22.
which bring a release from toil, they would each, he observes, according to his own pleasure and in his own way, celebrate the memory of the Saviour's Passion, no precept having been left on the subject. And so, he says, he found it; Christians differed as to the time of celebrating Easter, and still more as to the ceremonies connected with it, all which shows, he adds, that the observance of it was matter of usage simply, not of positive precept.
The festival of the Resurrection, or Passover, was introduced by preparatory fasting. Occasional fasts in times of distress or danger, it seems, were not uncommon.* Besides these there were, as early as the time of Tertullian, the halffasts, (stationes, from a military word, originally signifying a place of watch,) observed by many on Wednesdays and Fridays, the former day being that on which the Jews took counsel to destroy Jesus, and the latter, that of his crucifixion. These half or stationary fasts were entirely voluntary, being observed, or not, as each one chose, and they terminated at three o'clock in the afternoon,† though the Montanists protracted them till evening, and sometimes longer. For this, however, they were censured by the common or catholic Christians. The only fixed fast which appears to have been considered as at all obligatory by antiquity and general usage, was on Friday of Passion week, as it has since been called, or the anniversary of the crucifixion, (Good Friday.) This was undoubtedly observed by the generality of Christians at a very early period,‡ and came at length to extend beyond the limits of a day, its duration varying among different Christians. Irenæus, one of the most ancient authorities on the subject, says
* Tertullian Apol. c. 40.-De Jejuniis, c. 13.
Tertullian, De Jejuniis, c. 2, 10, 13, 14. — De Oratione, c. 14. The reason assigned for terminating them at three o'clock was, that at that hour Peter and John (Acts iii. 1.) went up into the temple. Tert. Jejun.
It was founded (Tert. De Jejun. c. 2.) on a misinterpretation of Matt. ix. 15: "The days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast in those days.' This the ancient Christians supposed referred to the time during which Jesus lay in the tomb, and not to the time when he should be personally with them no more, that is, after his ascension, the true construction. They would then be exposed to danger and suffering which would often enough cause them sadness of heart.
that "some thought they ought to fast one day, some two, some more, and some computed forty hours,"* that is, the forty hours during which the Saviour was supposed to have been a tenant of the tomb. These forty hours were gradually, in the process of time, extended to forty days, in imitation of the Saviour's fast of forty days in the wilderness. Hence came Lent, which, in its present form, embracing a period of forty days, cannot be traced back beyond the end of the sixth century. So late as the middle of the fifth century, Christians were no more agreed about the manner of keeping the fast than about the time, for nothing had as yet been settled. Some confined themselves wholly to vegetable food; some partook of fish; others added fowls, since they, according to Moses, came also from the waters, (Gen. i. 20.) Some abstained from "all manner of fruit of trees," others fed on dry bread only, and some would not allow themselves even that. Other usages prevailed among others, for which, says Socrates, "innumerable reasons were assigned," for there was no authority to which any one could appeal, the Apostles having left every one to his "own will and free choice in the case." There was the same variety, he adds, in regard to the performances in the religious assemblies of Christians. "In sum," says he, "in all places, and among all sects, you will scarcely find two churches exactly agreeing about their prayers."+
In speaking of the fast which preceded the festival of the Resurrection, and was so intimately connected with it that it is difficult to separate them, we have said all that is required of the fasts of the early Christians, and we shall not return to the subject. Nor need the festival itself much longer detain us. We should only weary our readers were we to go minutely into the controversy, which for
* Euseb. Hist. L. v. c. 24. In Socrates's days (middle of the fifth century) there was no greater agreement in regard to the fasts before Easter. The Romans, he says, (L. v. c. 22,) fasted three weeks, excepting on Saturdays and Sundays, though in another passage he says they fasted every Saturday; in Illyricum, throughout all Achaia, and at Alexandria, a fast of six weeks before Easter was observed; others fasted for a different period, all still calling the fast a "quadragesimal fast," for which, he says, some assigned one reason and some another, "according to their particular fancies and humors."
† L. v. c. 22.
a time raged furiously between the Eastern and Western Churches about the proper time of keeping it. But we cannot wholly pass over the subject, more especially as it has a bearing on the question of the value of the opinions and usages of Christian antiquity, and shows how soon after we leave the facts and teachings of the New Testament itself we become involved in uncertainty and darkness.
The facts are briefly these. The Christians of Asia, according to the oldest authorities, kept the festival on the fourteenth of the month Nisan, (April,) the Jewish day, on whatever day of the week it might happen to fall. The Western Christians, on the contrary, always deferred the festival till the Sunday following, affirming that it should be always kept on Sunday, as on that day Jesus rose from the dead. This difference of days led to some confusion, and one of its consequences was, that while a portion of the Christian world were mourning the death of the Saviour, another portion of it were rejoicing in remembrance of his resurrection. The first controversy on the subject occurred about the middle of the second century, when Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, being at Rome, discussed the question with Anicetus, then bishop there, the former alleging in favor of the Asiatic custom the authority of John and other Apostles whose opinions and practice he well knew, having, as he said, celebrated the feast with them; and the latter appealing to the example of his predecessors, one of whom had adduced the appearance of an angel in support of the Roman custom. Neither was able to convince the other, but they parted amicably, Anicetus having in token of friendship and communion permitted Polycarp to administer the eucharist in his church, contrary to usage, which required it to be administered by the bishop of the. place. Polycarp went home, but the discussion continued, for we soon after hear of two books on the subject of the festival written by Melito, Bishop of Sardis, now lost.* Near the end of the century the controversy became very violent. Several councils, as Eusebius informs us, were assembled and decrees promulgated respecting it. Victor, bishop of Rome, took high ground, but the Asiatic bishops were not intimidated. At their head stood, at this time,
* Euseb. L. iv. c. 26.