The Christian Faith from 90-150 A.D. (Extracted from Hosea Ballou’s, “The Ancient History of Universalism, 1828)
The Christians were, nevertheless, not an obscure sect. Their religion was so novel, so different from every other, and they were so zealous and successful in its cause, that it drew much attention wherever it was introduced. It was, indeed, greatly misunderstood by the public at large; and still more misrepresented by its particular enemies. Of these, the most bitter were the heathen priests, who felt their long unmolested repose disturbed by the growing desertion of their temples, and neglect of their services.
Towards the year 150, we find the most outrageous calumny heaped upon the Christians: they were commonly called Atheists; and all kinds of licentiousness, even such as cannot, with decency, be mentioned, were charged upon them. To refute and expose these slanderous falsehoods was a grand object with several of the early Christian writers.
As to the system of doctrine held by the Christians at this period…Its fundamental truths, that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, the Christ of the only true God, and the Saviour of men, and that he rose from the dead, necessarily engrossed the chief attention of its professors, since these were the important facts they were obliged, almost continually, to urge on the people, and to defend against opponents.
It is extremely difficult for us, who are brought up in a state of society where Christianity is the original and universal religion, and where our disputes extend only to its particular tenets, to conceive of the simplicity in which the first preachers taught their faith, when, not the doctrine, but the truth itself, of that religion, was the principal point in dispute.
When people were brought to acknowledge the mission of Christ, they were considered Christians, and, if their conduct became their profession, they were gladly received into the churches; though further instructions were then given…