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    February 27, 1896

    “The Papacy. The Church in the Fourth Century” The Present Truth 12, 9, pp. 133, 134.



    THE ambition of the bishops in the fourth century “to assert the government as a kind of sovereignty for themselves,” led them, as we saw last week, to flatter Constantine by declaring him the new Moses that had come to deliver the church from bondage and set up a theocracy on earth, in which the bishops were to be the interpreters of the Divine will.PTUK February 27, 1896, page 133.1

    Such adulation was not without response on the part of Constantine. He united himself closely with the bishops, and, in his turn, flattered them. Eusebius says:—PTUK February 27, 1896, page 133.2

    The emperor was also accustomed personally to invite the society of God’s ministers, whom he distinguished with the highest possible respect and honor, treating them in every sense as persons consecrated to the service of God. Accordingly they were admitted to his table, though mean in their attire and outward appearance; yet not so in his estimation, since he judged not of their exterior as seen by the vulgar eye, but thought he discerned in them somewhat of the character of God Himself.PTUK February 27, 1896, page 133.3

    This worked charmingly. Throughout the empire the courtly bishops worked in Constantine’s interest; and as only Licinius now remained between Constantine and his longed-for position as sole emperor and absolute ruler, the bishops and their political church followers prayed against Licinius and for Constantine.PTUK February 27, 1896, page 133.4

    As these “worldly-minded bishops, instead of caring for the salvation of their flocks, were often but too much inclined to travel about and entangle themselves in worldly concerns,” Licinius attempted to check it. To stop their meddling with the political affairs of his dominions, he forbade the bishops to assemble together or to pass from their own dioceses to others. This only tended to make the bishops more active, as the acts of Licinius could be counted as persecution.PTUK February 27, 1896, page 133.5

    Licinius next went so far as to remove from all public office whoever would not sacrifice to the gods; and the line was quickly drawn once more in his dominion in favor of paganism. This caused Constantine’s party to put on a bolder face, and they not only prayed for Constantine against Licinius, but they began to invent visions in which they pretended to see the “legions of Constantine,” says Neander, “marching victoriously through the streets at midday.”PTUK February 27, 1896, page 133.6

    These enactments on the part of Licinius furnished the new Moses with an opportunity to conquer the heathen in the wilderness, and to go on to the possession of the promised land and the full establishment of the new theocracy. War was declared, and Constantine, with the labarum at the head of his army, took up his march toward the dominions of Licinius.PTUK February 27, 1896, page 133.7

    Another step was now taken in furtherance of the theocratical idea, and in imitation of the original Moses. It will be remembered that, after the passage of the Red Sea, Moses erected a tabernacle, and pitched it afar off from the camp, where he went to consult the Lord and to receive what the Lord had to give in commandment to Israel. Constantine, to sustain his part in this scheme of a new theocracy, and as far as possible to conform to the theocratical plans of the bishops, likewise erected a tabernacle, and pitched it a considerable distance from his camp. To this tabernacle he would repair and pretend to have visions and communications from the Lord, and to receive directions in regard to his expected battle with Licinius.PTUK February 27, 1896, page 133.8

    He soon carried this matter somewhat further, and provided a tabernacle in each legion, with attendant priests and deacons; and also another which was constructed in the form of a church, “so that in case he or his army might be led into the desert, they might have a sacred edifice in which to praise and worship God, and participate in the mysteries. Priests and deacons followed the tent for the purpose of officiating therein, according to the law and regulations of the Church.”PTUK February 27, 1896, page 133.9

    Such was the original of State chaplaincies. And it is but proper to remark that the system, wherever copied, has always been worthy of the original imposture.PTUK February 27, 1896, page 133.10

    The outcome of the war between Constantine and Licinius was the defeat and subsequent murder of the latter. And when, in violation of his solemn oath to his sister Constantia, Constantine caused Licinius to be executed. Yet the courtier-bishop justified the wicked transaction as being the lawful execution of the will of God upon the enemy of God.PTUK February 27, 1896, page 133.11

    When Constantine went to take his seat as presiding officer in the Council of Nice, his theocratical flatterers pretended to be dazzled by his splendor, as though an angel of God had descended straight from heaven. He who sat at Constantine’s right hand that day, thus testifies:—PTUK February 27, 1896, page 133.12

    And now, all rising at the signal which indicated the emperor’s entrance, at last he himself proceeded through the midst of the assembly, like some heavenly messenger of God.PTUK February 27, 1896, page 133.13

    Constantine, to sustain his part in the farce, declared openly in the council that “the crimes of priests ought not to be made known to the multitude, lest they should become an occasion of offense or of sin;” and declared that he himself would shield a bishop who should commit a crime, lest any should witness the sin and be injured by the bad example.PTUK February 27, 1896, page 133.14

    And when the council was closed, and the creed for which they had come together was established, he sent a letter to the “Catholic Church of the Alexandrians,” in which he announced that the conclusions reached by the council were inspired by the Holy Spirit, and could be none other than the Divine will concerning the doctrine of God.PTUK February 27, 1896, page 133.15

    After the council was over, he gave a banquet in honor of the twentieth year of his reign, to which he invited the bishops and clergy who had attended the council. The bishops responded by pretending that it seemed to be the very likeness of the kingdom of Christ itself. At the banquet “the emperor himself presided, and as the feast went on, called to himself one bishop after another, and loaded each with gifts in proportion to his deserts.” This so delighted the bishops that one of them—it was James of Nisibis, a member of that monkish tribe that habitually lived on grass, browsing like oxen, was wrought up to such a height that he declared he saw angels standing round the emperor. Constantine, not to be outdone saw angels standing around James; and pronounced him one of the three pillars of the world. He said, “There are three pillars of the world; Antony in Egypt, Nicolas of Myra, James in Assyria.”PTUK February 27, 1896, page 133.16

    Constantine himself occasionally appeared in the role of preacher, and “on these occasions a general invitation was issued, and thousands of people went to the palace to hear an emperor turned preacher.” They were ready at the strong points to respond with loud applause and cheering. At times he would attack his courtiers for their rapacity and worldliness generally; and they, understanding him perfectly, would cheer him loudly for his preaching, and go on in the same old way imitating his actions.PTUK February 27, 1896, page 134.1

    When his mother sent the nails of the “true cross” to him from Jerusalem with the instruction that some of them should be used as bridle bits for his war-horse, it was counted a further evidence that the kingdom of God was come; for it was made to be the fulfilment of that which “Zechariah the prophet predicted, ‘that what is upon the bridles of the horses shall be holiness unto the Lord Almighty.’” And when he appointed his sons and nephews as Caesars to a share in the governmental authority, this was made to be a fulfilment of the prophecy of Daniel 7:17, “The saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom”!PTUK February 27, 1896, page 134.2

    Other instances of this mutual cajolery might be given, but space forbids. After Constantine’s death Eusebius, whom Neander describes as “one of the best among the bishops of Constantine’s court,” pretended to hesitate as to whether it would not be committing gross sacrilege to attempt to write his life, and when he did write it he could compare him to no one but the Saviour Himself.PTUK February 27, 1896, page 134.3

    By the plain, unbiassed [sic.] facts of history, Constantine stands before the world as a confirmed and constant hypocrite, a perjurer, and a many times murderer, his own family not escaping his blood-thirsty jealousy. And yet this bishop, knowing all this, hesitated not to declare him the special favourite of God; to liken him to Jesus Christ; to make God indorse him to the human race as an example of godliness.PTUK February 27, 1896, page 134.4

    When one of the best of the bishops of his court, one who was familiar with the whole course of his evil life, could see in the life and actions of such a man as this, a Moses, and the kingdom of God—when in such a life this could be seen by one of the best of the bishops, we can only wonderingly inquire what could not be seen there by the worst of the bishops!PTUK February 27, 1896, page 134.5

    Can anybody wonder, or can any reasonable person dispute, that from such a mixture compose of such bishops and such a character, there should come the mystery of iniquity in all its hideous enormity!PTUK February 27, 1896, page 134.6

    It was thus that the Church played the harlot with the world in the early part of the fourth century. And thus it was by proving recreant to the Lord and by courting the favour of corrupt princes, that the Bishop of Rome was at last exalted to that place where he is described as sitting “in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”PTUK February 27, 1896, page 134.7

    A. T. JONES.

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