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    October 21, 1897

    “How the Catholic Creed Was Made. The Church in the World and the World in the Church” The Present Truth 13, 42, pp. 661, 662.


    THE course of the bishops in assuming civil authority led to still further evils. Ecclesiastical officers especially the bishoprics, were the only ones in the empire that were elective. All manner of vile and criminal characters had been brought into the church. Consequently these had a voice in the elections. It became, therefore, an object for the unruly, violent, and criminal classes to secure the election of such men as would use the episcopal influence in their interests, and shield them from justice.PTUK October 21, 1897, page 661.1


    “As soon as a bishop had closed his eyes, the metropolitan issued a commission to one of his suffragans to administer the vacant see, and prepare, within a limited time, the future election. The right of voting was vested in the inferior clergy, who were best qualified to judge of the merit of the candidates; in the senators or nobles of the city, all those who were distinguished by their rank or property; and finally in the whole body of the people who, on the appointed day, flocked in multitudes from the most remote parts of the diocese, and sometimes silenced, by their tumultuous acclamations, the voice of reason and the laws of discipline. These acclamations might accidentally fix on the head of the most deserving competitor of some ancient presbyter, some holy monk, or some layman conspicuous for his zeal and piety.PTUK October 21, 1897, page 661.2

    “But the episcopal chair was solicited, especially in the great and opulent cities of the empire, as a temporal rather than as a spiritual dignity. The interested views, the selfish and angry passions, the arts of perfidy and dissimulation, the secret corruption, the open and even bloody violence which had formerly disgraced the freedom of election in the commonwealths of Greece and Rome, too often influenced the choice of the successors of the apostles. While one of the candidates boasted the honors of his family, a second allured his judges by the delicacies of a plentiful table, and a third, more guilty than his rivals, offered to share the plunder of the church among the accomplices of his sacrilegious hopes.” (Gibbon.)PTUK October 21, 1897, page 661.3


    THE offices of the church, and especially the bishopric, thus became virtually political, and were made subject to all the strife of political methods. As the logical result, the political schemers, the dishonest men, the men of violent and selfish dispositions, pushed themselves to the front in every place; and those who might have given a safe direction to public affairs were crowded to the rear, and in fact completely shut out of office, by the very violence of those who would have office at any cost.PTUK October 21, 1897, page 661.4

    Thus by the very workings of the wicked elements which had been brought into the church by the political methods of Constantine and the bishops, genuine Christianity was separated from this whole Church-and-State system, as it had been before from the pagan system. The genuine Christians, who loved the quiet and the peace which belong with the Christian profession, were reproached by the formal, hypocritical, political religionists who represented both the church and State, or rather the church and the State in one,—the real Christians were reproached by these with being “righteous overmuch.”PTUK October 21, 1897, page 661.5

    In the episcopal elections, “Sometimes the people acted under outside considerations and the management of demagogues, and demanded unworthy or ignorant men for the highest offices. Thus there were frequent disturbances and collisions, and even bloody conflicts, as in the election of Damasus in Rome. In short, all the selfish passions and corrupting influences which had spoiled the freedom of the popular political elections in the Grecian and Roman republics, and which appear also in the republics of modern times, intruded upon the elections of the church. And the clergy likewise often suffered themselves to be guided by impure motives.” (Schaff.)PTUK October 21, 1897, page 661.6


    IT was often the case that a man who had never been baptized, and was not even a member of the church, was elected a bishop, and hurried through the minor offices to this position. Such was the case with Ambrose, bishop of Milan in A.D. 374; Nectarius, bishop of Constantinople in 381; and many others. In the contention for the bishopric, there was as much political intrigue, strife, contention, and even bloodshed, as there had formerly been for the office of consul in the republic in the days of Pompey and Cesar.PTUK October 21, 1897, page 661.7

    It often happened that men of fairly good character were compelled to step aside and allow low characters to be elected to office, for fear they would cause more mischief, tumult, and riot if they were not elected than if they were. Instances actually occurred, and are recorded by Gregory Nazianzen, in which certain men who were not members of the church at all, were elected to the bishopric in opposition to others who had every churchly qualification for the office, because “they had the worst men in the city on their side.” And Chrysostom says that “many are elected on account of their badness, to prevent the mischief they would otherwise do.” Nothing but evil of the worst kind could accrue either to the civil government or to society at large.PTUK October 21, 1897, page 661.8

    More than this, as the men thus elected were the dispensers of doctrine and the interpreters of Scripture in all points both religious and civil, and as they owed their position to those who elected them, it was only the natural consequence that they should adapt their interpretations to the character and wishes of those who had placed them in their positions.PTUK October 21, 1897, page 661.9

    Nectarius, who has already been mentioned, after he had been taken from the pretorship and made bishop by such a method of election as the above—elected bishop of Constantinople before he was baptized,—wished to ordain his physician as one of his own deacons. The physician declined on the ground that he was not morally fit for the office. Nectarius endeavored to persuade him by saying,—PTUK October 21, 1897, page 662.1

    Did not I, who am now a priest, formerly live much more immorally than thou, as thou thyself well knowest, since thou wast often an accomplice of my many iniquities?PTUK October 21, 1897, page 662.2

    The physician still refused, but for a reason that was scarcely more honorable than that by which he was urged. The reason was that although he had been baptized, he had continued to practise his iniquities, while Nectarius had quit his when he was baptized.PTUK October 21, 1897, page 662.3

    The bishops’ assumption of authority over the civil jurisprudence did not allow itself to be limited to the inferior magistrates. It asserted authority over the jurisdiction of the emperor himself. Dean Milman says:—PTUK October 21, 1897, page 662.4

    In Ambrose the sacerdotal character assumed a dignity and an influence as yet unknown; it first began to confront the throne, not only on terms of equality, but of superior authority, and to exercise a spiritual dictatorship over the supreme magistrate.PTUK October 21, 1897, page 662.5


    AS the church and the State were identical, and as whoever refused to submit to the dictates of the bishopric was excommunicated from the church, this meant that the certain effect of disobedience to the bishop was to become an outcast in society, if not an outlaw in the State. And more than this, in the state of abject superstition which now prevailed, excommunication from the church was supposed to mean direct consignment to perdition.PTUK October 21, 1897, page 662.6

    “The hierarchical power, from exemplary, persuasive, amiable, was now authoritative, commanding, awful. When Christianity became the most powerful religion, when it became the religion of the many, of the emperor, of the State, the convert or the hereditary Christian had no strong pagan party to receive him back into its bosom when outcast from the church. If he ceased to believe, he no longer dared cease to obey. No course remained but prostrate submission, or the endurance of any penitential duty which might be enforced upon him.” (Milman.)PTUK October 21, 1897, page 662.7

    When the alliance was made between the bishops and Constantine, it was proposed that the jurisdiction of the civil and ecclesiastical authorities should remain separate, as being two arms of the same responsible body. This was shown in that saying of Constantine in which he represented himself as a “bishop of externals” of the church, that which pertained more definitely to its connection with civil society and conduct; while the regular bishops were bishops of the internal, or those things pertaining to the sacraments, ordinations, etc. As Dr. Schaff says in his “History of the Christian Church“:—PTUK October 21, 1897, page 662.8

    Constantine ... was the first representative of the imposing idea of a Christian theocracy, or of a system of policy which assumes all subjects to be Christians, connects civil and religious rights, and regards church and State as the two arms of one and the same divine government on earth. This idea was more fully developed by his successors; it animated the whole Middle Age, and is yet working under various forms in these latest times.PTUK October 21, 1897, page 662.9

    To those who conceived it, this theory might have appeared good enough; and simply in theory it might have been imagined that it could be made to work; but when it came to be put into practice, the all-important question was, Where is the line which defines the exact limits between the jurisdiction of the magistrate and that of the bishop? between the authority of the church and that of the State? The State was now a theocracy. The government was held to be moral, a government of God; the Bible, the supreme code of morals, was the code of the government; there was no such thing as civil government—all was moral. But the subject of morals is involved in every action, yea, in every thought of man. The State, then, being allowed to be moral, it was inevitable that the church, being the arbiter of morals, and the dispenser and interpreter of the code regulating moral action, would interpose in all questions of human conduct, and spread her dominion over the whole field of human action.PTUK October 21, 1897, page 662.10

    To overstep every limit and break down every barrier that seemed in theory to be set between the civil and ecclesiastical powers, was the only consequence that could result from such a union. And when it was attempted to put the theory into practice, every step taken, in any direction, only served to demonstrate that which the history everywhere shows, that “the apparent identification of the State and church by the adoption of Christianity as the religion of the empire, altogether confounded the limits of ecclesiastical and temporal jurisdiction.” (Milman.)PTUK October 21, 1897, page 662.11

    The State, as a body distinct from the church, was gone, As a distinct system of law and government, the State was destroyed; and its machinery existed only as the tool of the church to accomplish her arbitrary will and to enforce her despotic decrees.PTUK October 21, 1897, page 662.12

    A. T. JONES.

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