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'there was, among the Christians of those two hundred years, 'a book called Apostolic in an eminent sense, as the work of all 'the Apostles. It was a book more read than any one of the writings of the Fathers, and in Church matters of greater weight than any other; the book, before the authorities of 'which the bishops themselves bowed, and to which the Churches 'themselves looked up for advice in doubtful cases. And this 'book was not the Bible. It was not even a canonical book, but
as to its form a work of fiction; and, pretending to have ' emanated from the Apostles, was excluded by most of the 'Fathers as spurious, from the books of the New Testament."
These statements, indeed, are the exaggerations of an excited imagination, which the author himself probably would, on reflection, very materially qualify. The words, however, express a definite view-they express it with great breadth and clearness -and we therefore select them; not having any controversial view, but because we wish to give to the view itself, so well expressed in them, the most direct contradiction. Let it be observed what the proposition in its simplest elements maintains -that a book containing Ecclesiastical Rules supposed to be derived from the Apostles was extant, was looked up to for advice in doubtful cases, was referred to as of greater weight than any other, and was held to be of supreme authority in the first two centuries of the Church. We affirm that there is no evidence whatever-not a shade of evidence of the existence of such a book so looked up and referred to.
We are free to admit that rules supposed to be derived, directly or indirectly, mediately or immediately from the Apostles, whether apostolical in their actual origin, or in that they were developments and applications of apostolic institutions, were held to be of absolute authority in the Primitive Church; and were continually referred to, and decided controversies;-but they were not reduced to a code or comprised in a book. They were perserved in practice, written in the hearts and memories of Christians, and handed down by continuous tradition. On the other hand, there may have been, many actually were, books professing to contain apostolical appointments; but there is no evidence whatever that they were regarded as of authority, but much evidence the other way. Whatever these writings may have been, they were not authoritative.
We say this without any controversial view to bias our judgment. These supposed early collections of Church Rules, on the whole, tend to confirm our views of Church discipline, practice, worship, and faith. We do not refuse to admit that, whatever their authority may be, they may have a value in
1 Bunsen's Hippolytus and his Age, vol. ii. p. 220.
exhibiting the practices of the early Church, and so is confirming the primitive character of our faith and discipline; but we are bound to remove the impression that in them we have any authoritative collections of the laws of the ancient Church.
It may be sufficient indeed to state, that there is no reference to such a book, no clear evidence of the existence of such a book, in any author whatever, till the time of Epiphanius, near the end of the fourth century, and he, while expressing his own view of the authority of the Constitutions, as he had them, distinctly states that they were generally rejected. Now, we would observe that in such a case as that which is now before us, negative evidence is almost decisive; because if there was extant in the primitive Church such an acknowledged collection of ecclesiastical rules, bearing on so wide and varied a range of questions, affecting personal, domestic, ecclesiastical life-the constitution, officers, discipline, worship of the Christians; it is almost impossible that it should not have been continually appealed to, and that some one of the appeals made to it should not have been preserved among the extant remains of the Antenicene Fathers. We have actual records of the differences and difficulties which arose, which that book or books might have determined. Yet of such books, their existence, or their contents, there is not the slightest intimation.
Besides, the very nature of a collection of laws presents a peculiar argument, on the question of its existing as an authoritative document; because a book of laws of disputed authority is not a book of laws at all. It may be an obsolete collection, a book of ancient laws, interesting only in a literary point of view; that is an intelligible supposition, but it requires some proof, that a composition which may have been a work of fiction, and which, be it observed (for such a work is extant), is in its form and composition unequivocally a fiction, is a collection of laws, which was ever, at any time, in force. What we maintain is, that there is no evidence of such a book having at any time been received as authoritative, and that all historical evidence goes to prove the contrary.
If indeed a person was to look cursorily at such a book as Whiston's and to believe his statements, he would suppose that these Constitutions of the Apostles were cited or referred to numberless times, by Father after Father, from S. Clement, the amanuensis who drew them up, without almost any exception, down to the Nicene period; that indeed they were referred to in that period even more than the Bible itself; page after page of his work is filled with citations from the Fathers, which he calls references to the Constitutions, with references to the places of the Constitutions supposed to be cited, in a parallel column, and with his own observations on them; occupying nearly the whole
of an octavo volume of above 700 pages. But what is the fact? why, that not one of these thousands of passages, except those from later writers, refers to the Apostolical Constitutions at all; not one of them assumes the form of a citation, not one of them indicates even the existence of a book of such a kind. They consist, first, of passages which correspond in expression, more or less, with the Constitutions; but the slightest comparison of the place shows that the expressions are such as any two writers might use, or which the Constitution-maker is quite as likely to have borrowed from the Father, or which, like the two stories of the Phoenix in S. Clement's Epistle and the Constitutions, are of evidently independent origin. In respect of cases of this kind, the same principle of arguing by which the ingenious theorist inferred that a correspondence of expression between the Constitutions and the New Testament proved that the Apostles in writing their Epistles were citing the Constitutions, is equally available in the case of the Fathers; and afforded to Mr. Whiston infallible evidence of the truth of his view. He had, we ought to say, probably one real case of citations from the Constitutions, in the interpolations of S. Ignatius, which he held to be genuine, which are taken from the Constitutions, more probably than the Constitutions from them. Secondly, there are in the Fathers innumerable allusions to the customs of the Church, to the forms of worship, religious ceremonials, pious practices, which the Christians of those times observed; very many of these practices are embodied in the Constitutions; and every instance of this kind of correspondence was regarded by Mr. Whiston as an allusion to his Apostolical book, although there is not in any one instance a shadow of evidence of there being such a book, or indeed any written collection of Church customs whatever. The actual practices of the Christians only are noticed. Thirdly, in the case of precepts, moral or religious, for Christians generally, or for any particular class; such as are found, in substance, in every writer on practical religion, which abound in the early Fathers, and with which the Constitutions are replete, being in numberless instances only Scriptural precepts expressed in other terms; every case of such a precept, if found in both, is held to be a reference by the writer to this book. On Whiston's principle, no clergyman could preach a practical sermon, without many unequivocal, though certainly unconscious, citations from this ancient book. Lastly, the Fathers, as is well known, are continually referring to Apostolical tradition, to the preaching, the teaching, the appointments, the orders, the rules of the Apostles, to the Rule of the Church, the Faith of the Church, and the like :διδασκαλία ἀποστολική: τάξις, διατάξεις, διαταγαὶ, διατάγματα τῶν ἀποστόλων: ἐντολαὶ, προστάγματα, παράδοσις,
παραδόσεις ἀποστολικαί: διατάξεις εὐαγγελικαί: παράδοσις εὐαγγελική, εὐαγγελικὸν κήρυγμα, κήρυγμα τῶν ἀποστόλων, ἐκκλησιαστικὴ διδασκαλία, κανὼν τῆς ἀληθείας, κανὼν τῆς πίστεως, κανὼν τῆς λειτουργίας, νομιμὰ τοῦ δεσπότου, παραγ γέλματα, διδαχὴ, διδαχαὶ τῶν ἀποστόλων: every word of this kind, every cognate word, every instance of verb or substantive which refers to evangelical or apostolical teaching, whether that teaching is found written in Holy Scripture or was otherwise delivered to the Church, was set down by Mr. Whiston to be an allusion to the Constitutions.
Since Whiston's time, however, two passages have come to light, belonging to the Antenicene period, which have been supposed to indicate the existence and acknowledged authority of a written collection of apostolical appointments and Church rules, which really belong to the same class as these, but which we will examine more at length. The first is in a fragment of S. Irenæus, first printed by Pfaff in 1715,' on the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which begins with the words, Those who have traced up the second appointments of the Apostles (oi Taîs deutéραις τῶν ἀποστόλων διατάξεσι παρηκολουθήκοτες), know that our Lord instituted a new oblation in the new Dispensation, according to the words of the prophet Malachi,' &c. There is, however, no reason to suppose that when the appointments of the Apostles' are mentioned here, written documents are referred to. Indeed, the very word πapηкоλovėýкоτes implies the contrary; the appointments of which Irenæus is speaking were such as persons became acquainted with, as of apostolical origin, not by reading them in a book, but by investigations, by 'tracing' and 'following' them out. The appointments referred to as the 'second appointments,' seem to be those which the Apostles made after their first and more elementary institutions. The expression contains an obvious reference to the words of S. Paul; when after divers directions to the Corinthian Christians, he says (1 Cor. xi. 34), And the rest I will set in order when I come;' the Greek words being, τὰ λοιπὰ, ὡς ἂν ἔλθω, διατάξομαι. They are those after-appointments which gradually became necessary as the Churches grew into form; rules and ordinances of divine service; regulations for the orders and relations of the Christian ministry, for the internal administration of the Churches. The Epistles to Timothy and Titus show the many points in which such appointments were necessary. It was to these afterappointments, which were embodied in the usage of the apostolical Churches, and known to have been of apostolical appoint
1 Whiston noticed this fragment, and argued largely on it, in the second edition of his book, S. Clement's and S. Irenæus' Vindication of the Apostolical Constitutions,' &c. 1716.
ment, that S. Irenæus appeals in evidence of the institution of the Oblation in the Holy Eucharist by our Lord. It is, however, not impossible that they may have been called second appointments,' by way of contrast to those appointments which are contained in the written monuments of the Apostles.
The other passage we referred to, which has been supposed to indicate the existence of such a written record of Church laws, occurs in the work against all Heresies, now attributed to S. Hippolytus. The writer (book ix. c. 11, p. 284) there speaks of Zephyrinus as an uneducated, illiterate man, unacquainted with the Church regulations” (ἄνδρα ἰδιώτην καὶ ἀγράμματον καὶ аπειρOV TÔν ÉKKλησιασтIKWV Öρwv). This, however, does not at all show that the rules of the Church were embodied in any written code, but rather the contrary; had they been so written, it would have been an easy matter to have known them; if, on the contrary, they were for the most part unwritten, embodied in practice, and preserved in memory, a man who took little interest in sacred things, of inaccurate mind, and defective in moral apprehension, might easily be ignorant of them. But this part of the subject is sufficiently important to be treated more at length; and a fuller view of it is necessary for appreciating the truth of the whole matter before us.
One of the most remarkable peculiarities of the Christian Dispensation, considered in respect of its documents, is the absence of any formal written code-whether of practical precepts, or of credenda, or of ritual, or of Church rules. This peculiarity seems to belong to it as the Dispensation of the Spirit. The moral law, under the new covenant, is put into the heart and written in the mind;' the broad outlines are sketched in blessings and woes; or in detached precepts-often apparently exaggerated, or in terms contradictory: they are filled in by exhortations, by warnings, by examples; they find their mutual reconcilement, and are carried out in detail, through the working of the Spirit in the individual soul, and the diffusive judgments of the Christian body. There was no methodized code of Christian morality published by the Author of our religion it was instilled at various times, and in divers manners; written by the Spirit in the hearts of the Apostles; it was manifested to the first converts by the words, and still more by the examples of their teachers; it showed itself in the whole texture of the sacred books.
Doctrinal truths, again, were also communicated, in various ways, to His disciples, from Him who is the Truth; and impressed, recalled, illumined in their minds, by the Holy Spirit, who brought His words to their remembrance, taught them all things, and led them into the whole truth; by them it