Far different from such a theory is the picture which the ancient Church presents to us; true, it was governed by Bishops, and those Bishops came from the Apostles, but it was a kingdom besides; and as a kingdom admits of the possibility of rebels, so does such a Church involve sectaries and schismatics, but not independent portions. It was a vast organized association, co-extensive with the Roman Empire, or rather overflowing it. Its Bishops were not mere local officers, but possessed a quasi-ecumenical power, extending wherever a Christian was to be found. "No Christian," says Bingham, "would pretend to travel without taking letters of credence with him from his own bishop, if he meant to communicate with the Christian Church in a foreign country. Such was the admirable unity of the Church Catholic in those days, and the blessed harmony and consent of her bishops among one another." ...

Moreover, this universal Church was not only one; it was exclusive also. As to the vehemence with which Christians of the Ante-nicene period denounced the idolatries and sins of paganism, and proclaimed the judgments which would be their consequence, this is well known, and led to their being reputed in the heathen world as "enemies of mankind." ...

One more remark shall be made: that the Catholic teachers, far from recognizing any ecclesiastical relation as existing between the Sectarian Bishops and Priests and their people, address the latter immediately, as if those Bishops did not exist, and call on them to come over to the Church individually without respect to any one besides; and that because it is a matter of life and death. ...

On the whole, then, we have reason to say, that if there be a form of Christianity at this day distinguished for its careful organization, and its consequent power; if it is spread over the world; if it is conspicuous for zealous maintenance of its own creed; if it is intolerant towards what it considers error; if it is engaged in ceaseless war with all other bodies called Christian; if it, and it alone, is called "Catholic" by the world, nay, by those very bodies, and if it makes much of the title; if it names them heretics, and warns them of coming woe, and calls on them one by one, to come over to itself, overlooking every other tie; and if they, on the other hand, call it seducer, harlot, apostate, Antichrist, devil; if, however much they differ one with another, they consider it their common enemy; if they strive to unite together against it, and cannot; if they {273} are but local; if they continually subdivide, and it remains one; if they fall one after another, and make way for new sects, and it remains the same; such a religious communion is not unlike historical Christianity, as it comes before us at the Nicene Era.

Comment