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    The last particular which we design to notice in the downward course of the church, is the introduction of various heathen festival days. But as no error ever stands alone, reference will necessarily be made in connection with it to martyr and relic worship. It is a matter of no little interest to trace the course of error. The early Christians accepted the Platonic philosophy; this led to the exaltation of the human, and the corresponding depreciation of the divine; and as a natural consequences, the pagan notion of the natural immortality of the soul was adopted. From this point it was but a step to the doctrine of purgatory. The heathen philosophy deified departed heroes, and it was but natural that the professed Christians who imbibed that philosophy should in a measure deify those who in their life-time had borne a reputation for exalted piety. The only difference between the pagan and the Christian deification of men was that the pagans called their departed heroes gods; while the Christians, who acknowledged only one God, called their departed heroes “saints.” Instead of allowing that all righteous people are saints, they gave the title of saint to only a few of those whom they believed were saved.FACC 286.1

    This distinction of “saints” and ordinarily righteous persons, prepared the way for the worship of “saints,“ just as the heathen worshiped their demigods. For, they reasoned, since all the good are saved, it must be that the “saints” would have been saved if they had not been so good as they were; that is, they were actually better than the Lord wanted them to be, and consequently they must have accumulated a lot of good works which they do not need, and which they can impart to men in the flesh. Thus the honor that belongs to Christ alone, was bestowed upon men. The doctrine of works of supererogation occurs in several of the Fathers.FACC 286.2

    But no one thought that the “saints” could accumulate this treasury of extra good works simply by ordinary goodness. The humble peasant who faithfully discharged the duties of life, unnoticed by any save God, whose approbation was all he craved, could never attain to the rank of a “saint.” Such a life would barely suffice to gain one an entrance into Heaven. He who would be a “saint,” must endure long fasts; he must scourge himself; he must mortify the body in order that he might purify the soul; he must go on long pilgrimages, and perform some wonderful work. The “neglecting of the body” was an essential characteristic of a Catholic “saint.” The ascetic who should take a bath might possibly get to Heaven, but he would lose all claims to saintship. The more filthy he was in his habits, the more his sanctify was supposed to be increased.FACC 287.1

    The church historian, Socrates, relates a circumstance which shows not only the character of the so-called “saints,” but also the senseless superstition of their admirers, and how much trust was placed in relics. Writing of Theodosius II. he says:—
    “His piety was such that he had a reverential regard for all who were consecrated to the service of God; and honored in an especial manner those whom he knew to be eminent for their sanctity of life. The bishop of Chebron having died at Constantinople, the emperor is reported to have expressed a wish to have his cassock of sack-cloth of hair, which, although it was excessively filthy, he wore as a cloak, hoping that thus he should become a partaker in some degree of the sanctity of the deceased.”—Ecclesiastical History, book 7, chap. 22.
    FACC 287.2

    Whether the emperor partook of the sanctity of the saint, or not, there can be little doubt that by wearing the cassock he acquired at least the “odor of sanctity.” This circumstance, which is related by the historian as an evidence of the emperor’s superior piety, shows that in the fifth century (when Socrates flourished) superstition had fairly taken the place of religion in the church. But long before this time, martyr worship had found a place in the church, as the following extracts will show:—
    “We cannot, however, deny, that in the time of Cyprian [about A. D. 250], and even earlier, the seeds of an exaggerated honor to the martyrs, which had consequences prejudical to the purity of Christianity, showed themselves.”—Neander’s Church History (Rose’s translation) p. 214.
    FACC 288.1

    Dr. Schaff (History of the Christian Church, sec. 59) says:—
    “The day of the death of a martyr was called his heavenly birthday, and was celebrated annually at his grave (mostly in a cave or catacomb), by prayer, reading of a history of his suffering and victory, oblations, and celebration of the holy supper.
    FACC 288.2

    “But the early church did not stop with this. Martyrdom was taken, after the end of the second century, not only as a higher grade of Christian virtue, but at the same time as a baptism of fire and blood, an ample substitution for the baptism of water, as purifying from sin, and as securing an entrance into Heaven.”FACC 288.3

    “The veneration thus shown for the persons of the martyrs was transferred in smaller measure to their remains. The church of Smyrna counted the bones of Polycarp more precious than gold or diamonds. The remains of Ignatius were held in equal veneration by the Christians at Antioch. The friends of Cyprian gathered his blood in handkerchiefs, and built a chapel over his tomb.”FACC 289.1

    Writing of the fourth century, concerning new objects of worship, the church historian Gieseler says:—
    “Martyrdom, which presented so strong a contrast to the lukewarmness of the present time, was the more highly venerated in proportion to its remoteness. The heathen converts naturally enough transferred to the martyrs the honors they had been accustomed to pay their heroes. This took place the more readily as the scrupulous aversion to excessive veneration of the creature died away in the church after the victory over heathenism; and the despotic form of government became accustomed to a slavish respect for the powerful. Thus the old custom of holding meetings for public worship at the graves of the martyrs now gave occasion to the erection of altars and churches over them. In Egypt, the Christians, following an old popular custom, began to preserve the corpses of men reputed to be saints, in their houses; and while the idea of communion with the martyrs was always increasingly associated with the vicinity of their mortal remains, the latter were drawn forth from their graves and placed in the churches, especially under the altars. Thus respect for the martyrs received a sensuous object to center itself on, and became in consequence more extravagant and superstitious. To the old idea of the efficacy of the martyr’s intercession, was now added the belief, that it was possible to communicate the desires to them directly; an opinion partly founded. on the popular notion that departed souls still hovered about the bodies they had once inhabited; partly on the high views entertained of the glorified state of the martyrs who abide only with the Lord. As Origen first laid the foundation of this new kind of respect for martyrs, so the Origenists were the first who addressed them in their sermons, as if they were present, and besought their intercession. But though the orators were somewhat extravagant in this respect, the poets, who soon after seized upon the same theme, found no colors too strong to describe the power and glory of the martyrs. Even relics soon began to work miracles, and to become valuable articles of commerce on this account, like the old heathen instruments of magic.”
    FACC 289.2

    “Martyrs before unknown announced themselves also in visions; others revealed the places where their bodies were buried. Till the fifth century, prayers had been offered even for the dead saints; but at that time the practice was discontinued as unsuitable. It is true that the more enlightened Fathers of the church insisted on a practical imitation of the saints in regard to morality as the most important thing in the new saint worship, nor were exhortations to address prayer directly to God also wanting; but yet the people attributed the highest value to the intercession of the saints whose efficacy was so much prized. Many heathen customs were incorporated with this saint worship. Churches, under whose altars their bodies rested, were dedicated to their worship. As gods and heroes were formerly chosen for patrons, so patron-saints were now selected.”—Ecclesiastical History, period 2, division 1, chap. 5, sec. 99.FACC 290.1

    A previous quotation from Mosheim (see page 247) has shown us how the Christians often celebrated these “birthdays” of the martyrs. Of the incomparable benefits supposed to be derived from martyrdom, the reader has already had an opportunity to learn from the epistles of Ignatius.FACC 290.2

    On this same subject Mosheim says:—
    “Both martyrs and confessors 1“Confessors” were those who had confessed Christ before the magistrate, but who for some reason had escaped being put to death. were looked upon as being full of the Holy Spirit, and as acting under an immediate divine inspiration.... Whatever might have been the sins and offenses of the martyrs, it was imagined that they were all atoned for and washed away by their own blood, not by that of Christ. Being thus restored to a state of absolute purity and innocence, it was conceived that they were taken directly up into Heaven, and admitted to a share in the divine councils and administration; that they sat as judges with God, enjoying the highest marks of his favor, and possessing influence sufficient to obtain from him whatever they might make the object of their prayers.... Those who had acquired the title of confessors were maintained at the public expense, and were on every occasion treated with the utmost reverence. The interest and concerns of the different religious assemblies to which they belonged were, for the most part, consigned to their care and management;—insomuch, indeed, that they might almost be termed the very souls of their respective churches. Whenever the office of bishop or presbyter became vacant, they were called to it as a matter of right, in preference to everyone else, although there might be others superior to them in point of talents and abilities. Out of the exceedingly high opinion that was entertained of the sanctity and exalted character of the martyrs, at length sprung up the notion that their relics possessed a divine virtue, efficacious in counteracting or remedying any ills to which either our souls or bodies may be exposed. From the same source arose the practice of imploring their assistance and intercession in cases of doubt or adversity, as also that of erecting statues to their memory, and paying to these images divine worship; in fine, to such an height of vicious excess was this veneration for the martyrs carried, that the Christians came at last to manifest their reverence for these champions of the faith by honors nearly similar to those which the heathens of old were accustomed to pay to their demigods and heroes.”—Ecclesiastical Commentaries, cent. 1, sec. 32, note 2.
    FACC 291.1

    There is one other charge that we have to bring against the early church, and we shall introduce it by repeating a quotation already made from the preface to Killen’s “Ancient Church:”—FACC 292.1

    “In the interval between the days of the apostles and the conversion of Constantine, the Christian commonwealth changed its aspect. The bishop of Rome—a personage unknown to the writers of the New Testament—meanwhile rose into prominence, and at length took precedence of all other churchmen. Rites and ceremonies, of which neither Paul nor Peter ever heard, crept silently into use, and then claimed the rank of divine institutions.”FACC 292.2

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