The reader of ecclesiastical history is sometimes surprised at finding observances and customs generally received in the Church at an early date, which have not express warrant in the Apostolic writings; e.g. the use of the cross in baptism. The following pages will be directed to the consideration of this circumstance; with a view of suggesting from those writings themselves, that a minute ritual was contemporaneous with them, that the Apostles recognise it as existing anti binding, that it was founded on religious principles, and tended to the inculcation of religious truth. Not that any formal proof is attainable or conceivable, considering the brevity and subjects of the inspired documents; but such fair evidence of the fact, as may recommend it to the belief of the earnest and single-minded Christian. It is abundantly evident that the Epistles were not written to prescribe and enforce the Ritual of religion; all then we can expect, if it existed in the days of the Apostles, is an occasional allusion to it in their Epistles as existing, and a plain acquiescence in it: and thus much we find.
Let us consider that remarkable passage, (1 Cor. xi. 2-16.) which, I am persuaded, most readers pass over as if they could get little instruction from it. St. Paul is therein blaming the Corinthians for not adhering to the custom of the Church, which prescribed that men should wear their hair short, and that women should have their head covered during divine service; a custom apparently most unimportant, if any one ever was, but in his view strictly binding on Christians. He begins by implying that it is one out of many rules or traditions ([paradoseis]) which he had given them, and they were bound to keep. He ends by refusing to argue with any one who obstinately cavils at it and rejects it: "If any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the Churches of GOD." Here then at once a view is opened to us which is quite sufficient to remove the surprise we might otherwise feel at the multitude of rites, which were in use in the Primitive Church, but about which the New Testament is silent; and further, to command our obedience to such as come down to us from the first ages, and are agreeable to Scripture.
In accordance with this conclusion, is the clear and forcible command given by the Apostle, (2 Thess. ii. 15.) "Brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions, which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle."