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An Ecclesiastical History To The 20th Year Of The Reign Of Constantine by Eusebius

THESE matters have thus been necessarily premised before our history, that no one may suppose our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was merely a new comer, on account of the date at which he appeared among men, in the flesh. And now, that no one may suppose his doctrine is new or strange, as if springing from one of recent origin, and in no respect differing from the rest of men, let us also briefly examine this point.

It is evident, that but a short time after the appearance of our Saviour Jesus Christ had been made known to all men, a new people suddenly came into existence; a people confessedly neither small nor weak, nor situated in a remote corner of the earth, but the most populous and the most religious of all, and so much the more indestructible and invincible, as it has always had the power of God as its support. This people, appearing at the time appointed by inscrutable wisdom, is that which, among all, is honoured with the name of Christ. One of the prophets, foreseeing with the eye of the Spirit of God that this people would arise, was so struck with amazement that he exclaimed: “Who hath heard such things as this? and who hath ever declared thus? Hath the earth brought forth in a single day, and hath a nation been born at once?” The same prophet also gives some intimation of the name that would be introduced: “They who serve me shall be called by a new name, which shall be blessed upon the earth.” And, indeed, though we are evidently a new people, this new name also of Christians has lately become known to all nations. Our practice, however, habits of life, and religious principles, have not been recently invented by us, but were established, we may say, by the Deity in the natural dictates of pious men of old, from the very origin of our race; an assertion which we shall endeavour to prove, in the following manner.

That the nation of the Hebrews is not new, but honoured among all for its antiquity, is well known. The writings and literature of this nation concern ancient men, rare and few in number, but yet excelling in piety, righteousness, and every virtue. And, indeed, even before the flood, there were some who were distinguished for their virtue; and after this others, both of the sons and posterity of Noah, among whom we would mention Abraham, celebrated by the Hebrews as the founder and progenitor of their nation. Should any one, beginning from Abraham, and going back to the first man, pronounce those who have had the testimony of righteousness, Christians in fact, though not in name, he would not be far from the truth. For as the name Christians is intended to indicate this very idea, that a man, by the knowledge and doctrine of Christ, is distinguished by modesty and justice, by patience and a virtuous fortitude, and by a profession of piety towards the one and only true and supreme God; all this was no less studiously cultivated by them than by us. They did not, therefore, regard circumcision, nor observe the Sabbath, nor do we; neither do we abstain from certain foods, nor regard other injunctions, which Moses subsequently delivered to be observed in types and symbols, because such things as these do not belong to Christians. But they obviously knew the Christ of God, as he appeared to Abraham, communed with Isaac, spoke to Jacob; and that he communed with Moses and the prophets after him, has already been shown.

Hence you will find, also, these pious persons honoured with the name of Christ, as in the following expression: “Touch not my anointed ones (my Christs), and do my prophets no harm.” Whence we should plainly suppose, that the first and most ancient religion known, that of those pious men that were connected with Abraham, is the very religion lately announced to all in the doctrines of Christ. Abraham is said to have received the command of circumcision, and yet, long before this, was proved to have received the testimony of righteousness through faith. “Abraham,” the Scriptures say, “believed, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness.” And, indeed, the divine communication was given to him from God, who appeared to him when he bore this character before circumcision. And this was Christ himself, the word of God, announcing that all who should come in future times should be justified in a similar way; saying, “And in thee shall be blessed all the nations of the earth.” And again, “When he shall become a great and mighty nation, in him all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” We may obviously understand this by its fulfilment in us; for he indeed was justified by his faith in Christ, the Word of God, that appeared to him; and, having renounced the superstition of his fathers and the former errors of his life, confessed the one supreme God, and served him by deeds of virtue, and not by the service subsequently enjoined in the law of Moses.

To him, then, being such, it was declared that all the tribes and all the nations of the earth should be blessed in him. But the course of piety which was pursued by Abraham has appeared thus far cultivated only by Christians, and that too by works more efficacious than words. What, then, should prevent us henceforth from acknowledging that there is one and the same principle of life and conduct, the same course of piety common to us who have come after Christ, with those pious men who lived in times long before? Whence it is evident that the religion delivered to us in the doctrine of Christ is not a new nor a strange doctrine; but, if the truth must be spoken, it is the first and only true religion. Thus much may suffice on this point.








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