« ForrigeFortsæt »
I may here mention the Reformed Church Orphanage, or boarding school for girls. This institution is maintained by an annual subscription, and supported by grants from the State or the Municipal Council, and from the consistory of the Church itself. The children are taught a plain elementary education, including religious instruction, and learn needlework and domestic duties, "comme dans une famille bien réglée.” They must all be upwards of seven years of age, and have been vaccinated prior to admission into the pensionnat. The entrance fee for each girl is fifty francs, and the subsequent board twenty francs per month.
Much good is also done in providing retreats for the aged or infirm members of each community.
During a three months' stay in Paris last year I asked a member of the congregation of the Oratoire, whether, in his opinion, the time would ever come for altering the existing relations of Church and State whether the voluntary principle might not be successfully applied to all objects of religion. He replied, most emphatically, that in France any other system than that of concurrent endowment would be a failure, not because French Protestants, or, indeed, the members of other denominations, are less earnest than their brethren in other countries, or less willing to support their own ministers, but simply because they have to provide for the wants of the poor. added that the voluntary principle-a Free Church in a Free State -had been put on its trial in Paris by the Liberal section of the Reformed Church, but (with a shrug of the shoulders) they were now in a languishing condition.
In addition to the ordinary means of relief by the local committees, there is the Euvre des Familles, known also as Dizaines, from the fact that ten persons form themselves into a group for charitable objects, each contributing an equal sum per month. Onefifth of the amount thus raised is deposited in a central fund for extraordinary purposes. The remainder is distributed to one or two families taken under the special care of each committee as being in unusually needy and deserving circumstances. This system of
private benevolence was founded in 1850, and has worked with very admirable results, each of the Dizaines setting apart one-fifth of its receipts to the general fund already mentioned, and thus being brought into contact with all its co-workers in the city.
Besides the orphanages I have mentioned there are several others for rescuing young girls from the temptations to which they would otherwise be exposed in a great city, and for enabling them, when they are old enough, to go into service in respectable families. There
are also mothers' meetings and schools, established as early as 1862, some in the east of Paris, and others among the ragpickers of Clichy -the latter by Mme. Paris, a devoted Christian woman who, during the Commune which followed the Franco-Prussian war, was killed by a stray cannon-ball in her own house at Batignolles, her brother, who was sitting with her, sharing the same fate. Quite a history attaches to the work, carried on in a dilapidated and unhealthy quarter by Mme. Paris and her Bible-women, and it is fully as interesting as that connected with the more recent mission conducted under the personal supervision of Miss Leigh amongst a large floating population of Englishwomen, who, if compelled to live like the Parisians, would have been deprived of all the comforts which make up the real happiness of an English home.
Among other societies whose work might well be emulated by ourselves is the "Euvre du Patronage des Jeunes Apprentis," founded in 1853 under the auspices of the Presbyterian Council of the Reformed Church by MM. Pierre Thierry and De Triqueti, for the purpose of 'assisting families in the choice of masters, and for supervising the conditions inserted in apprentices' contracts," besides watching the general interests of the apprentices themselves from a moral and religious point of view. H. W. R.
(To be continued.)
SCRAPS OF CHURCH HISTORY.
NO. VII. THE VALENTINIANS.
THE Valentinian heresy was very similar to that of Basilides, and is described as "the most systematic of all the Alexandrian Gnostic theories."
Valentinus was an Egyptian who in the early part of his career was regarded as an orthodox member of the Church. But being disappointed in his efforts to obtain a bishopric, he became a dissenter, and began to incorporate many of the Gnostic heresies in his teaching. He founded a distinct sect of Gnostics in Egypt about the year 141, and obtained a large following in that country. He went to Rome in the year 142, but was not nearly so successful as he had been in his native country. It is said that he was formally excommunicated in the year 143, and shortly afterwards returned to Egypt, where he taught until his death, which took place in 161. After the death of
Valentinus, doctrines of a similar character were promulgated by Heracleon, Ptolemæus, Secundus, Marcus, and Bardesanes, each of whom introduced some improvement or extension into the system of their leader and secured a following.
This heresy flourished so extensively that Irenæus, in his "Refutation of Knowledge," generally called "A Treatise against Heretics," written about 180, devoted a considerable space to the refutation of these tenets.
Valentinus seems to have laboured to combine the theories of Plato and Pythagoras with the truths of Christianity. He maintained the fundamental Gnostic view of the existence of the Pleroma, which he held to comprise thirty attributes, or Æons, half-male and half-females. He gave to the Supreme Being the name of Bathos (depth unfathomable by human understanding). From the union of Bathos with Sige came Nous, Monogenes, and Aletheia (truth). From these sprang Logos (the Word) and Zoe (life); from these` Anthropos (man) and Ecclesia (the Church), and so on. Ultimately the last of the Eons, Sophia (the wise one), in an effort to penetrate the mystery of the Bathos, ventured beyond her powers and position, and was in danger of destruction. She was rescued from her peril by Horos (boundary), who forced her to return, and thus preserved the harmony of the Pleroma.
Here comes in the connecting-link between Platonism and Christianity. The wild efforts of Sophia called for the creation of new Eons. Christ and the Holy Ghost were now born to Nous. These two gave to the other ons such explanations concerning the Essential Nature of the Supreme Being as led them to unite to produce another Eon, Jesus.
Meanwhile Sophia had given birth to Demiurgos, the Creator of the World. This Demiurgos was the creative animal or psychical substance who produced mankind. The Saviour or Christ came into the world to save man from the corruption inherent in his material organism, and therefore Christ suffered only in His material and not in His mental or spiritual nature.
Another theory propounded by Valentinus had reference to the connection between the Fall and the Atonement. In the first man, Adam, the three essences of substance and existence (the material, hylic; the animal, psychic; and the spiritual, pneumatic) were all present. Sin brought about the disunion of these three essences, and in his children they were separated-Cain inheriting the material; Abel, the animal; and Seth, the spiritual.
In the development of this theory we have the first prominent attempt to unite Fatalistic Predestination to Christianity. Valentinus
taught that all material men go into condemnation, and all spiritual men will be saved, whether they do good or evil; it is only those born in the animal plane who have any control over their destiny, and these share the fate of the material, or are saved, according to their course of life.
The condemnation is in this wise, the material and the evil among the animal portion of mankind will be consumed in the great fire that is to signalize the end of the world and of all material existences; the spiritual men shall ascend into the Pleroma and marry the angels who are with the Saviour; and those animal men who have done good in their lives shall dwell for ever with the Demiurgos.
Valentinus in general terms regarded Christians as spiritual, Jews as animal, and Heathens as material. He recognised a distinction between the letter and the spirit of the teachings of Jesus Christ, regarding the letter as given for the merely animal among men, and the spirit (which could only be revealed by the Saviour Himself) as the exclusive right of the spiritual.
Bardesanes, the most able of the followers of Valentinus, was an eloquent speaker and writer, who appears to have written very strongly against the heresies of the Marcionites and others. He also wrote in deprecation of the persecution of the Christians then taking place, and composed a large number of elegant hymns in Syriac. Bardesanes endeavoured to improve upon the Valentinian and other Gnostic theories concerning the Origin of Evil, attributing its authorship (in first principles) to Satan, man being subject to evil because a material body has been joined to the pure soul.
The peculiar views of Valentinus were described and combated by Irenæus in the first and second books of his "Refutation of Knowledge," taking occasion not only to contrast the teachings of Valentianism with those of Scripture, but also calling attention to the absence of miraculous power on the part of Valentinus and his followers.
The very fact that Irenæus should have given prominence to this argument against Valentinus shows one of two things, either that the primitive Church had begun to decay, or that she had only partially grasped the real genius of Christianity. Truth is its own justifier, and needs no miracle to establish its authority; for John did no miracle, yet all things that he spake of the Lord were true. Error carries its condemnation within itself, for though false Christs and false prophets may perform signs and wonders, they are condemned because they deny the Lord and reject His Word.
It is interesting to note that the Valentinian theory of the destruction of the wicked is almost identical with the theory propounded by
the Christadelphians of our day upon that subject, except that the latter do not anticipate the destruction of the world at the time of the general extinguishment of the wicked dwellers upon earth.
The predestination theory of Valentinus was far preferable to that of Calvin, since he did allow a portion of the human race to have some kind of control over their eternal destiny.
We may also notice in Valentinianism, as in most other heresies ancient and modern, the determination to throw the responsibility of sin and evil upon anything or anybody except man himself. It is the same old story-an effort to blame either God or Satan for the misdeeds of SELF.
THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.
(Translated from the German.)
Or every Christian heaven is the goal;
The earliest step is when the Christian sighs-
Take from me, Lord, this grievous weight of care!
If God so wills, the burden yet to feel:
Christ's staff is with me, His good help is sure,
Thus from a grudging faith to joyful will,