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excelled all other men in virtue; that they despised the pleasures of sense, and deemed temperance the foundation of all moral excellence.
The enormities above imputed to the Chris tians were said to be committed in those religious festivals, which are known in ecclesiastical history under the name of Agape, and which were performed during the hours of darkness. Now Philo, in his book concerning the Therapeuta, or the converts in Egypt, will be found to have given an account of this festival: and he shews that it was a Jewish institution, conducted with perfect decency and sobriety; and that in its design and tendency it far surpassed the best and purest among the festivals of Greece and Rome,* even those sanctioned by Plato and Xenophon.
τοις χρωμενοι, τῷ τε φιλοθεῷ, και φιλαρετῷ, και φιλανθρωπῳ, p. 877.—Εγκρατειαν δε ώσπερ τινα θεμέλιον προκαταβαλόμενοι τη ψυχή, τας αλλας εποικοδομουσιν αρετας. ' And Josephus says of them, Την δε εγκρατειαν, και μη τοις πάθεσιν ὑποπιπτειν αρετην ὑπολαμ βανουσιν
* His words are much stronger, as he declares that the festivals of Plato and Xenophon are contemptible compared with those of the Therapeutæ. Αλλα όμως και ταυτα συγκρινόμενα τοις των ἡμετέρων, οι του θεωρητικού ησα πασαντο βίον, γελως αναφανείται, p. 898.
Our author, indeed, asserts, that the women joined with the men in celebrating this communion; but he emphatically declares, that they were such as voluntary mortified every sense of pleasure, and sought to unite only with God, in order by his influence to produce the fruits of wisdom and virtue.
The assertion made above by Mr. Gibbon, that the Christians imitated the Eleusinian mysteries, to render their institutions more respectable, has no truth whatever, in regard to the apostolie believers. The Gnostics, indeed, who cherished the vices, copied, as was natural, the impostures of the pagan priests; and there were not wanting men in ancient times, like this histotorian in modern days, who ascribed, indiscriminately to all the professors of the Gospel, the crimes and follies, of which they only were guilty who corrupted it. Our Lord foresaw the danger; and he solemnly commanded his apostles to pursue the very opposite conduct, in propagating his religion. "Therefore whatsoever ye have said in darkness, should be heard in the light; and whatsoever ye have whispered in the closet, should be published aloud on the house-tops." Luke xiv. 3. The Evangelist represents the above words as a command to the disciples not to make their doctrines mysterious, or to keep the knowledge of them from the people: and they
conformed with scrupulous fidelity to this injunction of their upright Lord. Hence Irenæus, with the strictest justice, thus speaks of them. "The testimony of the apostles is true: their doctrine obvious and decisive: nor is it one thing in public, another in private."
As our Lord had been thus cautious and explicit against suspicions of secrecy, we cannot wonder at the reply which he made to a question put to him by the chief priest. "Then the chief priest asked Jesus about his disciples, and his doctrine. Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world. I taught constantly in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews resort from all quarters, and in secret I have spoken nothing." John xviii. 19. When the Scribes and Pharisees saw, that the Saviour healed all manner of diseases, some of them naturally concluded, that he had intercourse with evil spirits. The Eleusinian and other priests, who pretended to have intercourse with the demons, performed their mystic rites in groves or subterraneous caves, where the gloom or darkness of the place favoured concealment or imposture. An instance is given in the New Testament of a Scribe, who appears to have imagined, that Christ frequented places of that description. "Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest; and Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have
holes, and the birds of the air have roosts; but the son of man hath not where to rest his head :" Which is to this effect, "The deceitful and the impure have, indeed, their dens and their groves, which they frequent for the purposes of fraud and impurity. But I have no such places of resort; I have no mystic opinions; I practise no mysterious rites; nor have I any hidden treasure in followers may partake."
The pagans, who had not an intimate knowledge of the christians, would naturally suspect that the same enormities were committed in their nightly assemblies, which notoriously prevailed in their own mysteries.* The practice of the Gnostics assuredly favoured this suspicion. Hence the charge of putting out the lights, and indulging in promiscuous impurities, when they meet in the night for the purposes of communion and of instruction. To this unjust charge the writer of the Acts has an evident allusion; and he repels it in the following manner, "And upon the first
* This observation is made by M. Felix, p. 305. Hæc de vestris gentibus nata sunt. Jus est apud Persas misceri cum matribus. Ægyptiis et Athenis cum sororibus legitima connubia. Memoriæ et tragœdiæ vestræ incestis gloriantur, quas vos et libenter et legitis et auditis: sic et deos colitis incestos, cum matre, cum filia, cum sorore conjunctos.At nos pudorem non facie, sed mente præstamus, &c.
day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow, and continued his speech until midnight. And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together." Acts xx. 78. The clause in Italics must appear altogether trifling and impertinent, unless we are aware, that the object of the author was to preclude the accusation urged by the enemies of the christians, that they met in darkness to practise impurities. Josephus meets the same accusation in a language still more significant and pointed. "Clamour and tumult," says he, "never disgrace their meetings; each in his turn having liberty to speak. The silence which is thus maintained within, appears like some awful mystery to those who are without; but the cause is their uniform sobriety, and the restraint of their appetites within the limits of satiety."*
* Ουδε κραυγη ποτε τον οικον, ουτε θορυβος μολύνει, τας δε λαλιας εν ταξει παραχωρούσιν αλληλοις, και τοις έξωθεν, ὡς μυςηριον τι φρικτον, ή των ται' τουτου δε αιτιον ή διηνεκής νηψις,
ενδον σιωπη φαίνετ
και το μετρείσθαι
παρ αυτοις τροφην και ποτον μεχρι κορου. B. J. lib. 2. c. 8.
The account which Tertullian gives of the Agape is precisely the same in effect with that of Philo and Josephus. Nostra cœna-nihil vilitatis, nihil immodestiæ admittit, non