These various tendencies together denote the essential changes which the Christian religion experienced up to the beginning of the third century, and by which it was modified. Did the Gospel hold its own in spite of them, and how may that be shown? Well, we can cite a whole series of documents, which, so far as written words can attest inner and genuinely Christian life, bear very clear and impressive testimony that such life existed. Martyrdoms like those of Perpetua and Felicitas, or letters passing between communities, like those from Lyons to Asia Minor, exhibit the Christian faith and the strength and delicacy of moral sentiment with a splendour only paralleled in the days when the faith was founded; while of all that had been done in the external development of the Church they make no mention whatever. The way to God is found with certainty, and the simplicity of the life within does not appear to be disturbed or encumbered. Again, let us take a writer like the Christian religious philosopher, Clement of Alexandria, who flourished about the year 200. We can still feel from his writings that this scholar, although he was absolutely steeped in speculative ideas, and as a thinker reduced the Christian religion to a boundless sea of “doctrines”—a Greek in every fibre of his being—won peace and joy from the Gospel, and he can also express what he won and testify of the power of the living God. It is as a new man that he appears, one who has pressed on through the
whole range of philosophy, through authority and speculation, through all the externals of religion, to the glorious liberty of the children of God. His faith in Providence, his faith in Christ, his doctrine of freedom, his ethics — everything is expressed in language that betrays the Greek, and yet everything is new and genuinely Christian. Further, if we compare him with a Christian of quite another stamp, namely, his contemporary Tertullian, it is easy to show that what they have in common in religion is what they have learned from the Gospel, nay, is the Gospel itself. And in reading Tertullian’s exposition of the Lord’s Prayer and turning it over in our minds, we see that this hot-blooded African, this stern foe of heretics, this resolute champion of auctoritas and ratio, this dogmatic advocate, this man, at once Churchman and enthusiast, nevertheless possessed a deep feeling for the main substance of the Gospel and a good knowledge of it as well. In this Old-Catholic Church the Gospel, truly, was not as yet stifled! Further, this Church still kept up the all-important idea that the Christian community must present itself as a society of brothers active in work, and it gave expression to this idea in a way that puts subsequent generations to shame.