committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

 

SECTION XII.

THE PURITY OF LIFE OF THE BOGOMILS.—THEIR DOCTRINES AND PRACTICE. — THEIR ASCETICISM.

YET it is remarkable, notwithstanding the two great errors they were charged with entertaining, that their practical Christianity and their belief in the essentials of a true faith were so sound. The name "Christian'' was not to them one of trivial or doubtful import: it comprehended a reverence for God and adoration of him as the Father and Source of all good; a holy and abiding trust and belief in Jesus as the Son of God—a divine Being who had made an atonement for their sins, and through whom alone salvation was possible—and in a Holy Spirit, or Comforter, who would teach, lead, and guide them in the way of all truth. It comprehended also very frequent and devout prayer—not to angels or saints or the Virgin Mary, but to Jesus—for guidance and strength, and a constant watchfulness and resistance against all temptation of the evil one; and finally, it included holy living, obedience to God's commands, the maintenance of that filial spirit which could come to God as a little child comes to its father and in their intercourse with their fellow-men the observance of chastity and purity, the avoidance of desecration of the Lord's Day, theft, violent anger, murder, falsehood, evil-speaking, and covetousness. In short, though their theology might have been unsound in some points, their Christianity was spotless, and they were "epistles of Christ, known and read of all men."

We have already noticed some of the dogmas of the Greek Church and of the Latin Church which they denied; the presbyter Cosmas—a Greek priest who lived at the end of the tenth century, and a bitter enemy—shall furnish us with others. Of their vigorous denunciation of the worship of the Virgin Mary, of worship and prayers to the saints, and of images, icons, and pictures of the Virgin and the saints, enough has been said. But they also opposed the use of crucifixes, crosses, bells, incense, ecclesiastical vestments, and everything which contributed to pomp and ceremony in the worship of God. They ridiculed alike the dogmas of transubstantiation and consubstantiation, and denied that the Lord's Supper had any mystic significance. It was, they said, a memorial service which the Founder of Christianity had to commemorate his sacrifice of himself for the sins of the world, and all true believers should partake of it in both kinds—not as conferring any saving grace, but as a token of their remembrance of him and of their gratitude for his redemptive work. They did not admit any idea of purgatory, but believed that those who died in Christ entered into rest—a blissful state, but not the state of the highest felicity, to which they might only attain after the first resurrection. They were very severe in their denunciation of the wanton, profligate, and ungodly priests and other dignitaries of the church, whose impure and unholy lives were in such marked contrast to those of their self-denying and ascetic elders. The tendency to asceticism among them was strong, as it always is among a persecuted and conscientious people. Their elders subsisted on vegetables and fish only; they held no property, had no home, no wife or child. In some instances, as in the case of Basil, they sustained themselves by their own labor; in others, and especially in the case of missionaries, they were sustained by their brethren, the believers, who did not enter upon the condition or take the vows of the Perfecti. This ascetic and abstemious life was as far removed as possible from the seclusion, the fastings, flagellations, exposure to the weather, and hermit or desert life of the stricter orders of monks and nuns in the Greek and the Roman churches. The devout women also who had entered upon this higher life of self-denial were sustained in their labors among the sick, the poor, and the ignorant by the contributions of the believers. Nor was this an onerous task. Their number was small—not more than one or two in the thousand of believers—and their needs were but trifling. There was no pauperization in this, nor was it regarded in the light of a charity by either the givers or the recipients.[17]

 
 
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