The Church had not always been an organization which considered its highest duty to be the forcible suppression of dissidence at any cost. In the simplicity of apostolic times its members were held together by the bond of love, and the spirit with which discipline was enforced is expressed in St. Paul's precept to the Galatians (vi. 1, 2) —
"Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."
Christ had commanded his disciples to forgive their brethren seventy times seven, and as yet his teachings had been too recent to be buried beneath a mass of observances and doctrines in which the letter which kills overpowered the spirit which saves. The great primal principles of Christianity were enough for the fervor of the faithful. Dogmatic theology, with its endless complexities and metaphysical subtleties, as yet was not. Even its vocabulary had still to be created and its innumerable points of faith to be evolved out of the chance expressions of writers on other topics, and by the literal interpretation of the imagery of poetical diction.
It is an inexpressible relief to turn from the heated wranglings over questions scarce appreciable by the average human intellect to St. Paul's reproof to the Ephesians for giving heed to fables and endless genealogies, and questions which had in them little of godly edification, for "the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned" (I. Tim. I. 4, 5). Those who indulged in these vain janglings he denounces as men "desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor whereof they affirm." (Ib.