(1) in the objective sense, is the religion of Christians, including doctrines, morals and institutions. Of Christianity, the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the sole foundation and source, as containing all things necessary to salvation; so that whatever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation" (art. 6 of the Church of England).
(2) In the subjective sense, it denotes the Christian faith and life of the individual, in which is manifested the life of Christ, the God-man, imparted through the Holy Spirit. The statement of Christian doctrines, in scientific form, is the object of theology (q.v.). The special doctrines are treated under their proper heads in this dictionary. The proof of the divine origin and authority of Christianity is the province of Apologetics, or the Evidences of Christianity. SEE APOLOGETICS; SEE EVIDENCES. The statement of the practical principles of Christianity belongs to Ethics or Morals (q.v.). The institutions of Christianity are treated under the heads SEE CHURCH, SEE BAPTISM, SEE LORDS SUPPER, SEE MINISTRY, SEE SACRAMENTS. The aggressive movements of Christianity in heathen countries are treated under MISSIONS; its present territorial extent under CHRISTENDOM SEE CHRISTENDOM .
The history of Christianity is the history of the reception of the teachings, ordinances, and institutions of Christ among men, and embraces what is more commonly, but less properly, called the history of the Christian Church. We give a brief survey of the history of Christianity, and divide it for this purpose into five periods.
I. From the Foundation of Christianity until its Establishment as a State Religion in the Fourth Century. When Christ appeared upon earth, both paganism and Judaism had lost their influence over the mass of the people. Presentiments of the proclamation of a purer religion were widely disseminated. Among the Jews, the Messianic hopes which had been awakened by the prophets had gained new strength from the political oppression under which the nation so long suffered. Christ confined his preaching to the Jews, and we read in the Gospels that large crowds of the people were always eager to hear him, though the most influential sects of those times, the Pharisees and Sadducees, opposed him. After the ascension of Christ, the disciples were prepared, by the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, to carry on the dissemination of Christianity. The first congregation was established at Jerusalem, the second at Antioch. In Judea, and especially in Jerusalem, the apostles and other Christians were cruelly persecuted, and Stephen was stoned and became the first martyr. But one of the leading instigators of the persecution, Saul of Tarsus, was soon converted in a miraculous manner, and established new churches, not only among the Jews in a great many provinces of the Roman empire, but also among the pagans. At Antioch, the followers of Jesus, who during his lifetime had had no distinguishing name, received the name Christians. SEE CHRISTIAN. Paul warned the congregation in Corinth not to assume party names, as parties of Apollos, of Paul, of Cephas, or of Christ; but the term is applied, not to distinguish a party among Christians, but to distinguish Christians from pagans and Jews. By the Jews, the Christians were for a long time called Galilaeans or Nazarenes. The Christians of Jewish extraction separated only by degrees from outward connection with the synagogues, and the fundamental elements of a church constitution were not developed before the second half of the first century. The details of this development have been of late the subject of most minute and ingenious investigations, but the darkness in which the subject, on account of the meagerness of the contemporaneous literature, has been involved, is far from being removed. SEE APOSTOLIC AGE; SEE CHURCH. The apostles remained the center for the Christian churches, and devoted themselves, in connection with so-called evangelists, to the spreading of the Gospel, while under them presbyters (or bishops) were the teachers and superintendents of particular congregations. Deacons, and sometimes also deaconesses, were charged with the care of the poor and other social wants of the community. The spread of Christianity gave rise to repeated persecutions by the Roman emperors, some of which were local, while others were more or less general. Usually ten persecutions are counted, viz. first, under Nero, 64-68, by whose order several Christians of Rome were put to death, Nero, as is reported, charging them with having caused the great conflagration. In the second persecution (93- 95), Domitian, misinterpreting the royal office of Christ, ordered the surviving relations of Christ, whom he looked upon as rivals, to be put to death. The third persecution was under Trajan, in Bithynia, in 116. Many were punished as apostates from the state religion, although a report from the younger Pliny bore a good testimony to their character. The fourth persecution, in 118, under Hadrian, did not proceed from the government, but the Christians greatly suffered in many places, especially in Asia Minor from riots of the mob. The fifth persecution, under Marcus Aurelius, in 177, affected especially the congregations of Lyons and Vienne, in Gaul, and the churches of Asia Minor. Among the martyrs was Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna. From the sixth persecution, under Septimius Severus, in 202, especially the Christians of Egypt and Asia Minor had to suffer. The seventh persecution, under Maximin, in 235, was properly directed only against the bishops and leaders of the congregations, but the Christians suffered greatly during his reign from the mob, especially in Cappadocia, because earthquakes and other calamities of that kind were laid to their charge. Very severe and extensive was the ninth persecution, under the emperor Decius (249-251), who was alarmed at the rapid increase of the Christian population. In consequence of the severity of the persecution, many Christians apostatized and many congregations were destroyed. The ninth persecution, under Valerian, in 257 and 258, was also very cruel. He ordered bishops to be exiled, prohibited the assemblies of the Christians, and declared state officers who were Christians to have forfeited their offices, and, later, also their lives. The tenth and last persecution, under Diocletian, in 303 and 304, was the severest of all. The edict of 303 ordered all the churches of the Christians to be burned, the state officers who were Christians to be declared infamous, and all the Christians to be made slaves. According to an edict of 304, all Christians were to be compelled by tortures to sacrifice to the pagan gods. With the abdication of Diocletian in 305, the era of persecutions ended (see Benkendorf, Historie der zehn Hauptverfolgungen, Leips. 1700, 8vo). Those Christians who, in some way or other, succumbed in the persecution, were called Lapsi (q.v.), of whom there were several classes, as Libellatici, Sacrificati, Thurificati, and Traditores; those who remained steadfast were called Confessores. SEE CONFESSORS. Christianity was, however, not persecuted by all the Roman emperors, but was tolerated by some, and even favored by a few, e.g. Caracalla, Alexander Severus, and Philippus. In 306 Constantine established toleration of Christianity in the provinces of Britain, Gaul, and Spain. Conversion to Christianity was expressly permitted by another edict of Constantine in 313, and restoration of the Christian churches ordered. Even an indemnification from the public treasury was promised. Constantine, by a decree of 324, established full religious liberty for the Christian religion in the whole Roman empire, and restored to liberty those who, under Diocletian, had been enslaved. Toward the end of his reign he even issued edicts against paganism. He was baptized himself shortly before his death. SEE CONSTANTINE.
Christianity during the first period of its history was not only exposed to the persecution of the emperors, but also to the literary attacks of many pagan scholars, as Lucian, Celsus, Porphyrius, Hierocles, and others, which called forth among the Christians a number of apologetic writers. SEE APOLOGISTS. Dissensions and divisions were very numerous among the Christians from the earliest period of the Church. A strict line of demarcation established itself between the common faith (orthodoxy) and the secessions (heresy). As early as the apostolic age we find the Gnostics, Simonians, Nicolaites, Cerinthians; in the second century the Basilidians, Carpocratians, Valentinians, Nazareans, Ophites, Patripassians, Artemonites, Montanists, Manicheans, and others; in the third century the Monarchians, Samosatensians, Noetians, Sabellians, Novatians, etc. Most of these controversies concerned the person of Christ; some related to the creation of the world and of the spirits; others to the Lord's Supper; only a few had regard to the discipline of the Church and some other points.
The diocesan constitution gradually developed itself, the congregations in villages and smaller places seeking a connection with the bishops of the town. Of a regular metropolitan constitution, only the first beginning is found during this period, but the bishops of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch were already regarded as the heads of very extensive ecclesiastical districts. Christian ministers assumed a distinguishing name (clerici), and a peculiar dress for divine service, and they were divided into many classes (see Bingham, Origines Ecclesiae; Planck, Gesch. der christlich- kirchlichen Gesellsckaftsverfassung, Hanov. 1803). Towards the end of this period, resort began to be had to synods and councils to settle ecclesiastical disputes. SEE COUNCILS. The form of public worship was gradually fixed in imitation of that of the Jewish synagogue, and consisted of prayer, singing, reading, and interpreting the Scriptures. Baptism was performed in the name of Jesus; the agapae (q.v.) and the Lord's Supper (q.v.) were celebrated after divine service. The sources of doctrine were the epistles of the apostles and the records of the life of Jesus (the Gospels). Some of the gospels, which are now regarded as apocryphal, were in use in some of the churches, and some importance was also attributed to ecclesiastical tradition. Church discipline was very strict, and all grave offenses were punished with exclusion (excommunication). Asceticism and monasticism found their first adherents in this period in Anthony, Paul of Thebes, and others.
II. From the Death of Constantine the Great to Charlemagne (A.D. 337 to 800). — The last attempt to suppress Christianity by force, or at least to repress its further advancement, was made by Julian the Apostate (q.v.), but it failed utterly. His successors remained Christians, and Christianity became the religion of court and state. The Church and the state began to exert a powerful and reciprocal influence upon each other. SEE CHURCH AND STATE. The metropolitan constitution was organized throughout the whole Church, and in connection with it the patriarchal constitution, represented by the four patriarchs of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch. The bishops of Rome began to claim jurisdiction over the whole Church. Councils and synods became more frequent. In addition to the provincial councils of the first period, oecumenical councils (q.v.) (of which one had been held during the first period, viz. that of Nice, A D. 325), to which all bishops of the Christian Church were invited, were held at Constantinople (381, 553), at Ephesus (431, 449), at Chalcedon (451). SEE COUNCILS. They were occasioned by doctrinal controversies, the number of which greatly increased during this period. The doctrine of the Church on the person of Christ was attacked by the Arians, Eunomians, Aetians, Anomoeans, Adoptians, Nestorians, Eutychians, Monophysites, Jacobites, Monothelites, and other sects; that of the Trinity by the Tritheites; that of the nature of God by the Seleucians and the Anthropomorphites. The Church also rejected the views of the Antidikomarians, Bonosians, Jovinians, Collyridians, on the Virgin Mary; those of the Euchites and Priscillianists (modified Gnostico-Manichaean doctrines); those of the Mieletians and Donatists on the constitution of the Church. Monasticism was rapidly developed after the fourth century; and as the lower secular clergy were generally ignorant, the missionary work and the culture of letters were almost entirely left to the monks. The ignorance of clergy and people facilitated the introduction of many innovations and corruptions in the doctrine of the Church, such as the veneration of saints and relics. Pomp and magnificence were introduced into the celebration of divine worship, and the arts began to be used to serve ecclesiastical ends. The Latin language was retained in worship, though it was no longer understood by all the people. The changes in the ancient discipline of the Church (for which in many cases even payments of money were substituted) exerted a most disastrous influence on the Christian life. In the literature of this period, the names of Chrysostom, Augustine, Cyril, Theodoret, Isidor of Pelusium, Isidor of Hispalis (Seville), and Johannes Damascenus, stand forth most conspicuous.
III. From Charlemagne to Gregory VII (A.D. 800 to 1073). — Among the Germanic tribes, the Franks were attached most firmly to Christianity. Charlemagne in his conquests always sought to make Christianity the established religion, and his wars against the Saxons and Sclavonians were wars for the extension of Chrisianity. The degraded condition of the clergy and the Church in his states induced Charlemagne to attempt vivious reformatory measures in behalf of the Church. By the establishment of convents and cathedral schools, he sought to promote the education of the clergy. By the order the corrupt translation of the Bible was corrected, the congregational singing improved, more prominence given to the sermon in divine worship, and annual visitations of the diocese by the bishops introduced. SEE CHARLEMAGNE. While Christianity rapidly: advanced in Northern Europe, the body of the Church was divided, in consequence of the rivalry of the bishops of Rome and Constantinople, into the Western or Latin, and the Eastern or Greek Church. The two churches excommunicated each other, and a permanent union has never since been effected. The Greek Church, first enslaved by the emperors of Constantinople, and afterwards trodden down by the Turks, became petrified and stationary. In the Roman Church the rights of metropolitans and bishops were more and more curtailed, and those of the pope enlarged, especially by the pseudo-Isidorian Decretals. SEE DECRETALS, FALSE. Spain, England, and the other European countries gradually surrendered their ecclesiastical independence, and the pope became all-powerful in the exercise of jurisdiction as well as in doctrinal decisions. Bishops and abbots became the possessors of large property; the pope entered the ranks of secular princes, and strove to subject even the secular governments to his influence and rule. Most of the literary institutions founded by Charlemagne were suspended within half a century after his death, and the general ignorance of the clergy became so great that the bishops had to order that "every clergyman must know at least the Apostles' Creed." The theology of this period spoke little of Christ, his work and his merits; the belief in the intercession of the saints, in the efficacy of their relics, and similar points, became prominent in the mind of the Church. The pope reserved to himself the examination of the genuineness of the relics, and the beatification and canonization of holy men. In the eleventh century the rosary (q.v.) came up in England and Holland, and new festivals were introduced, especially festivals in honor of the Virgin Mary. Pilgrimages (q.v.) commenced in this period. In ecclesiastical architecture the Romanic style was developed in the tenth century. Among the doctrinal controversies, those on the Lord's Supper (q.v.) were the most important. Morality was generally at a low ebb, and there was no vice which was not prevalent among the clergy and in the monasteries, and immorality passed over from them to the people.
IV. From Gregory VII to the Reformation (1073-1517). — The oppression of Christianity by the Turks called forth the crusades against the Saracens (1096-1246), in order to deliver the Holy Land. SEE
CRUSADES. Palestine was conquered and held for a short time, and several orders of Christian knights were established there for the protection of Christianity; but towards the close of the 13th century it was reconquered by the Saracens, by whom Christianity was barely tolerated. The oppression suffered by the Greek Church led to an attempt at a new union with the Roman, which, however, was soon given up as impracticable. The power of the popes reached its climax under Gregory VII and Innocent III, but it soon began again to decline, especially through the papal schism (1378-1414), during which two papal sees existed — Rome and Avignon. The popes secured the right of the investiture of the bishops and abbots, and the exemption of the clergy, and enforced throughout the Church the celibacy (q.v.) of the clergy. The Bible was less and less appealed to as the rule of faith; the fathers and tradition took its place. The pope became the sole legislator and judge in matters of faith. New doctrines and practices, such as auricular confession, transubstantiation, and indulgences, together with new festivals (e.g. Corpus Christi), were established. The Inquisition and the mendicant orders, especially the Franciscans and Dominicans, crushed out all opposition to the ruling Church. Public worship greatly degenerated. The Mass became its center; sermons became rare, and consisted mostly either in unintelligible scholastic lectures, or in comic invectives against the follies of the times. The increasing corruption among the clergy, and still more the traffic with indulgences, undermined the piety of the people. Attempts to stop the prevailing abuses were frequently made, both by individuals and by smaller and larger denominations, among which the Albigenses (q.v.), Waldenses (q.v.), and Hussites (q.v.) were prominent. At the request of the Church the secular governments proceeded against these sects, and crusades were preached for their extirpation. Most of them were extirpated; but the Waldenses in Italy, the Moravian Brethren in Germany, and the Lollards in England, survived to see and to share in the great Reformation of the 16th century. In theological science, Scholasticism arose, a system full of acute subtleties, but entirely incapable of satisfying the religious wants of the heart. In opposition to the Scholastics (q.v.), many pious Mystics (q.v.) strove to maintain a pure Biblical Christianity, more by ignoring the antiscriptural doctrines of the Church than by openly rejecting them. In ecclesiastical architecture the Byzantine style was supplanted in France, England, Spain, and especially in Germany, by the Germanic or Gothic, which reached the highest stage of development in the 13th and 14th centuries.
V. From the Reformation until the present Time. — The controversies called forth by Wycliffe, Huss, and other reformers of the Middle Ages, awakened in large circles the longing for a thorough reformation of the Church. The councils of Constance (q.v.) and Basle (q.v.) at first attempted to carry through this reformation, but they only diminished a few of the grossest abuses, being both unable and unwilling to remedy them thoroughly. The corruption of the Church not only continued, but certain abuses (e.g. the traffic in indulgences) became so flagrant that at the beginning of the 16th century contempt of the Church, her officers, doctrines, and ordinances, became almost general throughout Europe. When, therefore, Luther, Zwingle, and others raised the standard of a radical reformation of the Church on the basis of the Bible, millions of Christians, especially in Germany, Switzerland, Holland, England, Denmark, Sweden, Prussia, at once rallied around it. SEE REFORMATION. Though the Reformers did not agree on all points of doctrine, they were unanimous in claiming the Bible as the rule of faith, decidedly rejecting everything which had crept into the Church in opposition to the Biblical doctrine. The Roman Church made many unsuccessful attempts to suppress these reformatory movements, and the new order of the Jesuits (q.v.), the most powerful and influential of all monastic institutions, was instituted for this special purpose. These attempts, which led to the war of the Huguenots in France, and the Thirty Years' War in Germany, were in vain. From some countries the Roman Church was entirely excluded, while in others it had at least to grant to Protestants equal rights and toleration. The Church saw itself also compelled to convoke a General Council, SEE TRENT, and to abolish at least a few of the grossest abuses. A few futile efforts were made to bring about a union with the Protestants. The doctrine of the Roman Church received in the Council of Trent its final form, yet since that period several doctrinal controversies (e.g. Jansenism [q.v.] and Quietism [q.v.] in France, and the philosophy of Hermes [q.v.] and Gunther in Germany) have required new decisions of the Papal See. The Gallican Church (q.v.) in council, with Bossuet (q.v.) at its head (1682), and a number of distinguished bishops in Germany, SEE FEBRONIUS, Italy, SEE RICCI, and other countries, protested against making the infallibility claimed by the popes a doctrine of the Church; yet, on the whole, the popes have been so successful in enforcing obedience to their doctrinal definitions and divisions, that in 1854 an entirely novel dogma, SEE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX, without the sanction of a General Council. Some princes, as Joseph II of Austria, Leopold of Tuscany, and others, have attempted to restrict the absolute power claimed by the pope over clergy and people, mostly without success. Still less successful were certain attempts to establish national "Catholic" churches independent of Rome (viz. the "French Catholic Church" in 1831, the "German Catholics" in 1854). These movements were not made on the ground of the Bible and of revealed Christianity, and therefore necessarily were failures. The relation between the different states of Europe, in which the Roman Church is recognized as a state religion, and the pope, is regulated by Concordats (q.v.).
The Protestants in course of time formed a number of different denominations, among which two Main tendencies are to be distinguished, viz. the Lutheran and the Reformed Churches. The latter were subdivided into the German Reformed, Swiss Reformed, Dutch Reformed, Presbyterians, Baptist, Congregational, and other minor churches. The Church of England, as far as it identified itself with the Reformation, belongs to the class of Reformed churches; yet it retains also enough elements from the time before the Reformation to leave room for the continuance of a party which rejects altogether the Protestant character of the Church, refuses association with other Protestant denominations, and acknowledges only the churches which claim the so-called apostolical succession of bishops as valid. From the Church of England sprang the Methodists (q.v.), who discarded everything unProtestant in the mother Church, and took at once a prominent place among the Reformed denominations. In the rapidity of their extension they have surpassed all other bodies of Protestant Christians.
In a large part of Europe the Protestant churches have unfortunately allowed to the secular government an undue influence over ecclesiastical affairs — an influence which has generally been used for the entire subjugation of the Church. Only by hard struggles have dissenters from state religions secured toleration. Many of them had to cross the Atlantic in order to be at liberty to worship God according to the dictates of conscience. The declaration of American independence was the first heavy blow against state-churchism; and the independence of the Church, which was now, for the first time, carried through on a large scale, worked so well, that all the European churches began to feel the influence of the new principle, and gradually to loosen, at least, the connection between Church and state. The question of a union between various Protestant bodies has been, from the beginning of the Reformation, a favorite idea of many distinguished men, though it has frequently led to an increase of parties and of controversies, especially as generally these schemes of ecclesiastical union have been attempted with the aid of the secular arm. The most important of these attempts was the establishment of the United Evangelical Church (q.v.) of Germany in 1817, through the instrumentality of Frederick William III of Prussia. In modern times the opinion has gained ground that the large number of evangelical denominations has had a beneficial rather than a disastrous influence on the advancement of Christianity, and that it would be better, instead of aiming at ecclesiastical uniformity, to form a cordial alliance of evangelical Christians of all denominations. This led to the formation of the so-called "Evangelical Alliance" (q.v.), which soon assumed grand dimensions. It has held some large assemblies, which have been called the first oecumenical councils of Protestant Christianity. The development of theology during this period has centered mostly in Germany. SEE GERMAN THEOLOGY. The struggle, after the Reformation, between Lutheranism and Calvinism, was soon followed by the more important contest between Christianity and an infidel philosophy, represented by the Deists in England, the Encyclopuedists in France, and Rationalism in Germany. The belief in Christianity was for a time undermined in a large proportion of the European population, but with the beginning of the nineteenth century a powerful reaction in favor of Christianity has set in. The influence of Christianity over the political, social, and literary life of mankind is now greater than ever before. But infidel parties have not been wanting in the nineteenth century. Among them may be named Young Germany, the Free Congregations and German Catholics, the Young Hegelians, the, Socialistic Mechanics' Associations in Switzerland and France, the Materialism in natural science, the Positivist followers of Comte, the Westminster Review and its party in England, the Mormons and Spiritualists in America. The movements of these parties have led to a new development of powerful agencies in defense of Christianity. In nearly every department of science and literature the works of former centuries have been surpassed by modern Christian writers. The various denominations vie with each other in establishing religious periodicals, which already form one of the grandest characteristics of the church history of the nineteenth century. Free associations for religious and other charitable purposes have rapidly multiplied; missionary societies, Bible, tract, and book societies have displayed a wonderful and unparalleled activity.
Thus the spread of Christianity from the beginning has been like to the growth of the "grain of mustard seed;" today its branches overshadow the whole earth; the prospects of Christ's kingdom on earth are brighter than at any previous period of its history. Compare Smith, Tables of Church History (especially the column "General Characteristics"). SEE CHRISTENDOM; SEE CHURCH HISTORY; SEE THEOLOGY.