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3. Peculiarities of the Christian System

Antiquities of the Christian Church
CHAPTER I. A General View of the Organization and Worship of the Primitive Church

3. Peculiarities of the Christian System

  1. This system presents the only true form of a church. The Jews had no distinct organization which could, with propriety, be denominated a church. Much less is any association under other forms of religion, entitled to this appellation.
  2. The christian church has always been distinguished for its veneration for the Holy Scriptures. The reading and exposition of these has, from the beginning, been an important part of christian worship. All the instructions and exhortations of the preacher, have been drawn from this source. The prayers, the psalmody, the catechisms and confessions of faith of the primitive Christians, together with their religious ordinances, were all based on the Scriptures.
  3. The doctrines of the Trinity and of the divinity of Christ, are the distinguishing characteristics of the christian system. The church itself is based especially on the first mentioned doctrine; so that there is not an ancient symbol, or confession, or rule of faith, in which it is not either expressed or distinctly implied, nor an ordinance which is not commemorative of the belief in God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This is implied in the consecration of churches to God. Even the names of God*, Dominus, according to the Athanasian creed, expresses the idea of a triune God. Deus triunus. Pater Dominus, Filius Dominus, Spiritus Sanctus Dominus; non tamen ires Domini, sed unus Dominus. The same sentiment is implied in the baptismal formulary; in the three elements of the eucharist – the bread, the wine, and the water; and in the three great festivals of the ancient church, which were instituted about the fourth century. [The author might have added, that the same is implied in the form of the ancient Christian's oath which was usually taken in the name of God, of Christ, and of the Holy Spirit. – Vegetius, as quoted by Bingham and Cave. – Tr.]

    The doctrine of the divinity of Christ appears in the sacrament which commemorates his death, and in the religious services connected with this ordinance, as well as in the prayers, doxologies, psalms and hymns, which are addressed to him. The same sentiment is expressed in many of the emblems and symbols of the ancient church, and in their mystical names, such as ΙΧΘΥΣ, composed of the initials of the following words: Ιησοῦς Χριστός Θεος Υἱός Σωτήρ Jesus Christ the Savior, the Son of God. The mystical word Abraxas, is another instance of the same kind, each letter representing the initials of the following words: Father, Son, Spirit,** one, i.e. one God, Christ, man, i.e. God-man, Savior.* 

  4. It is peculiar to the christian religion, that all the people take part in their religious services. The humblest worshipper, as well as the highest functionary, here enters the temple of his God, approaches the altar, and offers an acceptable sacrifice to our common God and Father.
  5. It is the peculiar privilege of the Christian that he may worship God, not at some appointed place, and at stated seasons; but at all times and in every place. 

Bellermann's Versuch liber die Gemmen der Alten mit dem Abraxas-Bilde. I–III. Berlin, 1817–19.8. S. St. I. S. 40–63. St. III. S. 43, 44. Fr. Münter's Sinnbilder und Kunstvorstellungen der alten Christen. I. u. II. Heft. Altona, 1825. 4.

Kestner's Agape. Jena, 1819. 8. u. Zugabe. s. 556 seq.

(* denotes Greek text in Rev. Lyman Coleman's translation.)

(** denotes Hebrew text in Rev. Lyman Coleman's translation.)

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