1. Of their mode of Life
Antiquities of the Christian Church
XVIII. Domestic and Social Character of the Primitive Christians
1. Of their mode of Life.
Among the primitive disciples, Christianity made no essential difference in their relations to society and the external world, more than it does among their followers in the present day. Apart from the faith they had embraced, and the altered estimate it led them to form of the scenes and the pleasures of the world, their new views occasioned no change in their rank, their profession, or their outward circumstances in life. In general, they lived like other men around them – speaking the same language, partaking of the same fare, ob" serving the same intervals of labor and repose, and in everything that was honorable, pure, and of good report, conforming to the rules and the habits which custom had established. The mechanic wrought at his trade, the husbandman prosecuted the labors of the field, the merchant repaired to his shop, the soldier continued in the ranks, – men went, from day to day, and from place to place, obeying the calls of business and friendship as before; and instead of separating from their former acquaintances, or withdrawing into solitude from the avocations to which they had been bred, and by which they lived, they gave no symptoms, in any of these respects, of a change of habits, except that, being furnished with higher motives, they attended with an activity, a diligence, and fidelity greater than ever, to all the claims of society and the offices of life. In the earliest times, indeed, when persecutions were frequent and severe, there were many Christians, male and female, married and unmarried, who, justly persuaded that nothing should come in competition with their fidelity to Christ, and fearing, at the same time, their own inability to remain steadfast and immoveable amid the fiery trials by which they were assailed, resolved on abandoning for a time their place and possessions in the world, and fleeing to distant mountains and inaccessible deserts, where they spent their time in the service of God, and continued, at a distance from temptations to apostasy, the exercises of meditation and prayer.
But when peace was restored, and the profession of Christianity was no longer proscribed and dangerous, this measure of prudence was no longer resorted to, – those who had found it expedient, for the preservation of their christian fidelity, to take such a step, quitted their temporary retirement: and although there were some who having come, through habit, to prefer a solitary life, remained in their adopted habitations in the wilderness, the great majority of these voluntary exiles returned to the circle of their families and friends, and mingled as before in the wonted scenes and activities of life. Indeed, it was no part of the creed of the primitive Christians, that on embracing the religion of Jesus, they were required to give up all concern in the secular business, or to become dead to the comforts and innocent enjoyments of the world.
"We are no Brahmins," says Tertullian, Apol. c. 42, "we are no Hindoo Fakiers, we are not eremites or hermits, who flee from life. We are well aware of the obligations we owe to God, our Creator and Lord. We reject the enjoyment of none of his gifts; we seek only to preserve the requisite moderation, and to avoid abuses. We do not live in this world without participating in your markets, your baths, your public houses, your workshops, your auctions, and everything which pertains to the commerce of life. We engage with you in navigation, in military service, in agriculture, in trade. We engage with you in manufactures, and devote our labor to your benefit."
Neander's Denkweurdigkeiten and Kirch. Gesch.: G. Arnold's Kirch, und Keizer. Gesch.: Fleury, Moeurs des Chretiens: Cave's Prim. Christianity: Lives of the Fathers: Lord Hade's Christian Antquities: Ryan's Effects of Religion on Mankind: Burton's Lectures on Eccles. Hist.: King's Primitive Christianity.