Early Christian Worship
Africa). Writing as an apologist for the Christian faith around the year 200,
he was answering criticisms that Christians were dangerous to society because
of their secret meetings. In this selection, he mentions prayers of
supplication and intercession, being nourished from the sacred writings, and
the practice of church discipline.
EARLY CHRISTIAN WORSHIP
I shall at once go on, then, to exhibit the peculiarities of the Christian
society, that, as I have refuted the evil charges against it, I may point out
its positive good. We are a body knit together as such by a common religious
profession, by unity of discipline, and by the bond of common hope. We meet
together as an assembly and congregation, that, offering up prayer to God as
with united force, we may wrestle with him in our supplications. This
violence God delights in.
We pray, too, for the emperors, for their ministers and for all in authority,
for the welfare of the world, for the prevalence of peace, for the delay of
the final consummation. We assemble to read our sacred writings, if any
peculiarity of the times makes either forewarning or reminiscence needful.
However it be in that respect, with the sacred words we nourish our faith, we
animate our hope, we make our confidence more steadfast; and no less by
inculcations of Godís precepts we confirm good habits.
In the same place exhortations are made, rebukes and sacred censures are
administered. For with a great gravity is the work of judging carried on
among us, as befits those who feel assured that they are in the sight of God;
and you have the most notable example of judgement to come when any one has
sinned so grievously as to require his severance from us in prayer, in the
congregation and in all sacred intercourse.
Tertullian of Carthage (160-212), from "Chapter Thirty-Nine" of APOLOGY, as
excerpted in LIFE AND PRACTICE IN THE EARLY CHURCH: A DOCUMENTARY READER,
edited by Steven A. McKinion. New York: New York University Press, 2001, p.
49. ISBN: 0-8147-5649-2.
[Remember that Tertullian was writing before a New Testament canon had been
fully acknowledged by the church. That would not happen until the end of the
fourth century. Can you tell that Iíve been studying church history? To read
full documents by Tertullian, go to www.ccel.org/fathers2 and choose volumes
III & IV.]
Have a great week.
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
School of Church Music and Worship
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary