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THE LIGHT OF THE AGES
Papias. Theophilus of Antioch. Hippolytus. The
HE years immediately succeeding the earthly life of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, are more or less shrouded
by the misty veil of obscurity. In the absence of detailed accounts of the lives and thoughts of the apostles and their intimate disciples, it is possible to reconstruct the early beginnings of Christianity only by the study of minute and isolated references, to piece records together by a process of careful, intuitive gleaning, and to increase our knowledge of the truth of those times by induction. This method is not without fruitage, however; for as a single chord of music will give the key in which the entire piece is written, a ray of colour proclaim the tone in which a picture is painted and the value of its lights and shades, so fragments of the recorded sayings of our Lord, traditional acts of his disciples, the casual mention of events and customs by contemporary or succeeding writers,—these reveal the motives of the age, and usher us into a certain atmosphere of thought, which if too faint for outlines to become visible, diffuses a glow, a radiance, a spiritual sense, which impresses the soul with the quality of its rarity, and its proximity to Heaven. It is as if light from on high had lent itself in a soft golden glow which both
warms and blesses. In a close and personal way we feel we are in the presence of Christ Jesus, and become so absorbed in His utterance, in the new view of life which He presents, and in the transformation it effects in consciousness, that we forget to note His actual form and features.
It is with such a feeling that we read in Eusebius' history (A.D. 324) a fragmentary quotation from the Apology of Quadratus, who wrote approximately in the year A.D. 117. “This writer” says Eusebius “shows the antiquity of the age in which he lived in these passages: “The deeds of our Saviour' says he 'were always before you, for they were true miracles; those that were healed, those that were raised from the dead, remained living a long time, not only whilst our Lord was on earth, but likewise when he had left the earth. So that some of them have also lived to our own times.' Such was Quadratus."
With the Master's words "I am come that ye might have life and that ye might have it more abundantly” significantly impressed upon us, we turn to a fragment ascribed to Papias of Hierapolis. “The elders who saw John, the disciple of our Lord, have recorded that they heard from him according as the Lord taught about those times, saying, 'the days shall come in which vineyards shall grow each having ten thousand branches, and on one branch ten thousand arms,
one arm ten thousand twigs, and on each twig ten thousand clusters, and in each cluster ten thousand grapes, and each grape when squeezed will give twenty-five measures of wine.
. . In the same way also a grain of wheat shall produce ten thousand ears, and each ear shall have ten thousand grains, and each grain five two pound measures of fine clean flour; and other fruits and seeds and herbs according to the fittingness which belongs to them; and
all the animals which use these kinds of food which are received from the earth, shall become peaceful and docile, being subject to men in all subjection. These things
' are credible to believers. And when Judas the traitor did not believe and asked 'How then shall such productions be brought to pass by the Lord?' the Lord said 'they shall see who shall come among them.'
A conversation of this nature would be entirely possible as the outcome of the observation of such a scene as the feeding of five thousand people with five loaves and two fishes. It teaches clearly that abundance comes as a result of accepting the knowledge of the Father as the Son revealed Him to human understanding. On pages 301 and 442 of Science and Health we read:
“As God is substance and man is the divine image and likeness, man should wish for, and in reality has, only the substance of good, the substance of Spirit, not matter.”
“Christ, Truth, gives mortals temporary food and clothing until the material, transformed with the ideal, disappears, and man is clothed and fed spiritually."
With Papias we can say "These things are credible to believers." Further, according to Eusebius, Papias is reported to have said, “For I have never like many, delighted to hear those that tell many things, but those that teach the truth; neither those that record foreign precepts, but those that are given from the Lord to our faith and that came from the truth itself. But if I met with anyone who had been a follower of the elders anywhere, I make it a point to inquire what were the declarations of the elders, what was said by Andrew, Peter, or Philip, what by Thomas, James, John, Matthew, or