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Ecclesiastical Architecture

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ECCLESIASTICAL ARCHITECTURE. Under this title it is our intention to inquire into the nature of the places of worship employed by the early Christians, to consider the origin and progress of buildings devoted to this purpose, with a cursory glance at their history, and to describe generally their form, distribution, and structural arrangement.

Information on such subjects is to be sought for amongst the patristic writings, the early ecclesiastical historians, more especially Eusebius, and the early Christian writers generally. Collateral evidence corroborative of the testimony of brded from such sources, is to be found amongst cotemporary heathen authors in their occasional and incidental reference to such subjects. Evidence on this matter from all sources has been carefully collated, and much valuable information gained by the patient and learned research of Bingham, who has included it in his most elaborate work, the Oriqines Ecclesiastica ; to which we shall have occasion frequently to refer in the following pages.

Of the forms of churches for the first three centuries, the time of persecution, we know but little ; and it is probable that during the very earliest period, when the Christian church was in a normal state, so to speak, whilst she numbered but few advocates, and they poor and of little Intl uence,when "not many wise, not many noble were called ;" it is probable, we repeat, that Christians had no fixed form or arrangement of parts in their places of public worship, but that a dwelling-house of some member or even a portion of such house, was set apart for the purpose. It is nearly certain that no structures were built fur the especial purpose, during the first division of this period ; fur not only would they have attracted attention and suspicion, but would have been destroyed together with the worshippers : earliest Christians were compelled to secrecy and obscurity,at least they did not bring themselvesoffensively or ostentatiously forwards into notice, although not shrinking from an open avowal of their faith when called upon for it; for be it remembered, they were to be " wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." In the Sacred Writings, more especially in the " Acts of the Apostles," and in the epistles to the various churches. we not unfrequently meet with the word church, or EICO371dia, which must in some cases undoubtedly apply to the edifice or room in which it was customary for the Christians to assemble ; we know besides that it was a practice with the early Christians of the apostolic times to assemble together in some appointed place for the purpose of worship and devo tion. It is evident from the accounts of the evangelists, that the eleven continued together after their Master's crucifixion, whether engaged in prayer and fitsting, we cannot say ; but they were certainly in one place when the women came and told them of the resurrection. In the evening of the same day, likewise, it is mentioned that they were assembled together in one place, and with closed doors, for fear of the Jews; and eight days afterwards, they were again together with closed doors. These would seem somewhat to invalidate the supposi

tion of their being collected together for prayer, or at least public prayer, for it is mentioned that after the return of the apostles from Bethany, "they were continually in the Temple praising arc] blessing God." Again on the day of Pentecost, they were all together in one house, and, as it is noticed, with one accord, which expression would seem to express the exist ence of some object, reason, or purpose of their being together, and what more likely than for common prayer? yet they still attended the public services of the Temple, for it is related that after this, " Peter and John went up together into the Temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour." After the incident which occurs at this time in the Temple, and when Peter and John were released from custody, they returned to their companions, who were assembled together —probably in the seine place as before—and after relating the circumstances, it is told us that they prayed and "spike the word of God with boldness." Some time subsequent to these events, it is related of Pan] and Barnabas, while at Antioch, that for a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. This was in all probability in a stated place set apart for the purpose. Still stronger is the probability with regard to the house of Mary, where Peter fled after his escape from prison, and where many- Christians were gathered together praying ; one might suppose that a room in her house had been given by Mary fur the purpose of public worship. Lydia probably made a similar gift. But, not to multiply instances, we would par ticularly allude to a circumstance which occurred while Paul was staving at Troas ; for it is related that "upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread,"—in other words, to celebrate the eucharist,—" Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow, and continued his speech until midnight. And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. Now there sat in a window, a certain young man named Eutyehus, being fallen into a deep sleep ; and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead ;" upon which Paul goes down to him, and restores him to life. This is probably the most minute description of the place, time, and mode of worship recorded in the Sacred Writings. It will not escape remark that the room in this instance is said to have been an upper room, and there is reason to believe that it war a practice amongst Christians, to use the upper room, or Ilyperiwn, for this purpose; it will be remembered that it was an upper room in which the Saviour celebrated the passover and instituted the eucharist, and it may possibly have been for some reason 'of this kind, rather than from the situation and nature of the place, that the upper room was adopted.

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