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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/261

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249
THE SABBATH.

our standard of manliness, Peter, in moral stature, fell far short of Paul. In that supreme moment when his Master required of him "the durance of a granite ledge" Peter proved "unstable as water." He ate with the Gentiles when no Judeo-Christian was present to observe him; but when such appeared he withdrew himself, fearing those which were of the circumcision. Paul charged him openly with dissimulation. But Paul's quarrel with Peter was more than personal. Paul contended for a principle, determined to shield his Gentile children in the Lord from the yoke which their Jewish co-religionists would have imposed upon them. "If thou," he says to Peter, "being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as the Jews?" In the spirit of a true liberal he overthrew the Judaic preferences for days, deferring at the same time to the claims of conscience. "Let him who desires a Sabbath," he virtually says, "enjoy it; but let him not impose it on his brother who does not." The rift thus revealed in the apostolic lute widened with time, and Christian love was not the feeling which long animated the respective followers of Peter and Paul.

We who have been born into a settled state of things can hardly realize the primitive commotions out of which this tranquillity has emerged. We have, for example, the canon of Scripture already arranged for us. But to sift and select these writings from the mass of spurious documents afloat at the time of compilation was a work of vast labor, difficulty, and responsibility. The age was rife with forgeries. Even good men lent themselves to these pious frauds, believing that true Christian doctrine, which of course was their doctrine, would be thereby quickened and promoted. There were gospels and counter-gospels; epistles and counter-epistles—some frivolous, some dull, some speculative and romantic, and some so rich and penetrating, so saturated with the Master's spirit, that, though not included in the canon, they enjoyed an authority almost equal to that of the canonical books. The end being held to sanctify the means, there was no lack of manufactured testimony. The Christian world seethed not only with apocryphal writings, but with hostile interpretations of writings not apocryphal. Then arose the sect of the Gnostics—men who know—who laid claim to the possession of a perfect science, and who, if they were to be believed, had discovered the true formula for what philosophers called "the absolute." But these speculative Gnostics were rejected by the conservative and orthodox Christians of their day as fiercely as their successors the Agnostics men who don't know—are rejected by the orthodox in our own. The martyr Polycarp one day met Marcion, an ultra-Paulite, and a celebrated member of the Gnostic sect. On being asked by Marcion whether he, Polycarp, did not know him, Polycarp replied, "Yes, I know you very well; you are the first-born of the devil."[1] This is a sample of the

  1. "L'Église Chrétienne," p. 450.