Larger font
Smaller font
  • Results
  • Related
  • Featured
No results found for: "".
  • Weighted Relevancy
  • Content Sequence
  • Relevancy
  • Earliest First
  • Latest First
    Larger font
    Smaller font



    When the statement is made that the papacy effected the change in the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week, the objection is raised that this change was brought about before there was any papacy. If this objection were valid, it would prove that the papacy never introduced any corrupt practices, since, as we have seen, every abomination of the papacy was in the church before the time of Constantine. But those who raise this objection, forget that the “mystery of iniquity” which culminated in the papacy, was working in the days of the apostle Paul, and that it only waited the taking away of paganism (which, as the ruling power, hindered its full development) to be revealed as “that wicked.”FACC 329.1

    Perhaps it would help some people to see the point, if we should use the term Catholic Church, instead of papacy. The Catholic Church was a growth—the growth of error. It is true that that church has assumed the term “Catholic,” which means “general,” or “the whole,” in order to indicate that it is the only and the original church. But it became Catholic only by lowering the standard of faith and morality so as to admit the heathen. The true church of God has never been “Catholic,” for its principles are so pure that but few in any age have been willing to accept them. So the growth of error marks the rise of the Catholic Church. While the majority of the people on the earth do not belong to its communion, it may still with propriety retain its name, for its principles are the principles of the world, and there is no false system of religion that is not built upon the very same foundation that it is built on. That foundation is the opinions of man in opposition to the whole or a part of the plain, literal teaching of the Bible. In the self-styled Catholic Church this is not individual opinion, but the opinion of one man.FACC 329.2

    The way for the acceptance of a pope, in whose individuality the mass of mankind should sink their own, was prepared, as we have shown in previous chapters, by the excessive veneration that was shown for the writings of uninspired, and even unchristian, men. When men accept the assertions of the Fathers, there is nothing to hinder their acknowledging the pope of Rome, for he simply reflects the opinions of the Fathers. This is why he can contradict himself, and still be reckoned infallible. There are no two of the Fathers who fully agree with each other, and there is no one of them who fully agrees with himself. The Fathers are the real head of the Roman Catholic Church, and the pope is simply their mouth-piece; for it is more convenient for the people to have one man to declare to them the teaching of the Fathers, than for the people to find them out for themselves. To be sure, the contradictions of many infallible Fathers appear a little more incongruous when exhibited in the person of one infallible pope, but one soon gets used to that.FACC 330.1

    To show that even from the second and third centuries this essential element of the papacy was not lacking, a few, testimonies will be introduced concerning episcopal and Romish arrogance. The following testimony from Dr. Killen shows the power of the bishop even before Christianity was formally recognized by the empire:—“As early as the middle of the second century, the bishop, at least in some places, was intrusted with the chief management of the funds of the church; and probably, about fifty years afterwards, a large share of its revenues was appropriated to his personal maintenance. His superior wealth soon added immensely to his influence. He was thus enabled to maintain a higher position in society than any of his brethren; and he was at length regarded as the great fountain of patronage and preferment. Long before Christianity enjoyed the sanction of the State, the chief pastors of the great cities began to attract attention by their ostentatious display of secular magnificence.... In the third century the chief pastor of the Western metropolis must have been known to the great officers of government, and perhaps to the emperor himself. Decius must have regarded the Roman bishop as a somewhat formidable personage, when he declared that he would sooner tolerate a rival candidate for the throne, and when he proclaimed his determination to annihilate the very office.”—Ancient Church, period 2, sec. 3, chap. 10, paragraph 3.FACC 330.2

    This shows that it was not simply episcopal arrogance in general, but Romish arrogance in particular, that began to be manifested so early. Milman says (History of Latin Christianity, book 1, chap. 1), that “when the Emperor Aurelian transferred the ecclesiastical judgment over Paul of Samosata, a rebel against the empire as against the church, from the bishops of Syria to those of Rome and Italy,” “Dionysius, as bishop of Rome, passed sentence in this important controversy.” This was in the year 270 A. D.FACC 331.1

    Bingham bears testimony as follows, as to the manner in which the bishop lorded it over God’s heritage:— “That all the power of discipline was primarily lodged in the hands of the bishop, as all other offices of the church, is a matter uncontested, and evident from the whole foregoing history and account of the practice of the church. For the canons always speak of the bishop, at least in conjunction with his ecclesiastical senate, his presbytery, as cutting off offenders from the church, and imposing penance upon them; and then again examining their proficiency, and either lengthening their penance, or moderating it by his indulgence; and finally admitting them to the communion of the church by absolution.”—Antiquities, book 19, chap. 3FACC 331.2

    Again Milman says:—
    “On the establishment of Christianity, as the religion if not of the empire, of the emperor, the bishop of Rome rises at once to the rank of a great accredited functionary; the bishops gradually, though still slowly, assume the life of individual character. The bishop is the first Christian in the first city of the world, and that city is legally Christian. The supreme pontificate of heathenism might still linger from ancient usage among the numerous titles of the emperor; but so long as Constantine was in Rome, the bishop of Rome, the head of the emperor’s religion, became in public estimation the equal, [and] in authority and influence immeasurably the superior, to all of sacerdotal rank. The schisms and factions of Christianity now become affairs of State. As long as Rome is the imperial residence, an appeal to the emperor is an appeal to the bishop of Rome. The bishop of Rome sits, by the imperial authority, at the head of a synod of Italian prelates, to judge the disputes with the African Donatists.”—History of Latin Christianity, book 1, chap. 2.
    FACC 332.1

    Of course if this was the case while the emperor was in Rome, it would be still more so when the bishop of Rome became the only ruler in that city. In the statement made above, that the bishops gradually assumed the life of individual character, we have a parallel to the rise of the Sunday as the rival of the Sabbath. People sometimes say that if the Sabbath had been changed by the Catholic Church, we ought to be able to point out the very year in which such change was made. But changes from truth to error, from good to evil, are not made in that way. Just as no man plunges at once from virtue into vice, so no church changes from truth to error in a day. Error is a growth. The Sunday, like all the heathen customs adopted by the Catholic Church, came in gradually and silently, and was pretty well established before any laws were made in its behalf. The decrees of councils have not as a general thing been arbitrary laws telling what must be, so much as they have been the formulation of the opinions and practices largely prevalent at the time. They have simply marked the growth of error, instead of making error. Thus the papacy was well formed before the bishop of Rome was declared to be the supreme head. Infallibility had been attributed to the pope hundreds of years before it became a dogma of the church.FACC 332.2

    Speaking of the synod which Eusebios, bishop of Caesarea, convened at Antioch, A. D. 342, the church historian Socrates says:—
    “Neither was Julius bishop of ancient Rome there, nor did he indeed send a representative; although the ecclesiastical canon expressly commands that the churches shall not make any ordinances, without the sanction of the bishop of Rome.”—Ecclesiastical History, book 2, chap. 8.
    FACC 333.1

    In a note to the above, the translator says:—
    “No such canon as that referred to here by Socrates is known to be in existence as a written document; and consequently our author must be understood to refer here to a principle, or unwritten law, existing, and universally acknowledged as existing, prior to all positive enactment on the subject.”
    FACC 333.2

    In chapter 15 of the same book is found also the following:—
    “After experiencing considerable difficulties, Athanasius at last reached Italy. The whole western division of the empire was then under the power of Constans, the youngest of Constantine’s sons, his brother Constantine having been slain by the soldiery, as was before stated. At the same time also Paul bishop of Constantinople, Asclepas of Gaza, Marcellus of Ancyra a city of Galatia Minor, and Lucius of Adrianople, having been expelled from their several churches on various charges, arrived at the imperial city. There each laid his case before Julius bishop of Rome, who sent them back again into the East, restoring them to their respective sees by virtue of his letters, in the exercise of the Church of Rome’s peculiar privilege; and at the same time in the liberty of that prerogative, sharply rebuking those by whom they had been deposed.”
    FACC 334.1

    Eugene Lawrence gives the following brief and pointed account of the manner in which the “man of sin” began to exalt himself, as soon as Constantine removed the covering which concealed him:—
    “In the last great persecution under Diocletian [A. D. 303-306], the bishops of Rome probably fled once more to the catacombs. Their churches were torn down, their property confiscated, their sacred writings destroyed, and a vigorous effort was made to extirpate the powerful sect. But the effort was vain. Constantine soon afterward became emperor, and the bishop of Rome emerged from the catacombs to become one of the ruling powers of the world. This sudden change was followed by an almost total loss of the simplicity and purity of the days of persecution. Magnificent churches were erected by the emperor in Rome, adorned with images and pictures, where the bishop sat on a lofty throne, encircled by inferior priests, and performing rites borrowed from the splendid ceremonial of the pagan temple. The bishop of Rome became a prince of the empire, and lived in a style of luxury and pomp that awakened the envy or the just indignation of the heathen writer, Marcellinus. The church was now enriched by the gifts and bequests of the pious and the timid; the bishop drew great revenues from his farms in the Campagna and his rich plantations in Sicily; he rode through the streets of Rome in a stately chariot and clothed in gorgeous attire; his table was supplied with a profusion more than imperial; the proudest women of Rome loaded him with lavish donations, and followed him with their flatteries and attentions; and his haughty bearing and profuse luxury were remarked upon by both pagans and Christians as strangely inconsistent with the humility and simplicity enjoined by the faith which he professed. The bishopric of Rome now became a splendid prize, for which the ambitious and unprincipled contended by force or fraud.”—Historical Studies, pp. 17, 18.
    FACC 334.2

    But that all this arrogance existed in embryo before Constantine picked the shell, appears from Milman’s statement that “the Christian hierarchy was completely organized and established in the minds of men before the great revolutions which, under Constantine, legalized Christianity, and, under Theodosius and his successors, identified the church and State.”—History of Christianity, book 4, chap. 1. If it had not been so, the union of Church and State could not have been formed.FACC 335.1

    The following description of how bishops were elected, shows that the episcopal chair must have been regarded as a very exalted position, since it was so eagerly sought after; and it shows, at the same time, how the corruption that was in the church found ample scope for its exercise as soon as the church became allied to the empire:—“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. 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, chap. 20, paragraph 22.FACC 335.2

    In the quotations previously given, we have seen how the “mystery of iniquity,” even in the first centuries, had all the depraved characteristics of the “man of sin.” In the few that follow we shall see how at the same time he was preparing to stand forth as the one “that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshiped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God.” 2 Thessalonians 2:4, revised version. Says the historian:—“The bishop was the perpetual censor of the morals of his people. The discipline of penance was digested into a system of canonical jurisprudence, which accurately defined the duty of private or public confession, the rules of evidence, the degrees of guilt, and the measure of punishment. It was impossible to execute this spiritual censure if the Christian pontiff, who punished the obscure sins of the multitude, respected the conspicuous vices and destructive crimes of the magistrate; but it was impossible to arraign the conduct of the magistrate, without controlling the administration of civil government. Some considerations of religion, or loyalty, or fear, protected the sacred persons of the emperors from the zeal or resentment of the bishops; but they boldly censured and excommunicated the subordinate tyrants, who were not invested with the majesty of the purple. St. Athanasius excommunicated one of the ministers of Egypt; and the interdict which he pronounced, of fire and water, was solemnly transmitted to the churches of Cappadocia. Under the reign of the younger Theodosius, the polite and eloquent Synesius, one of the descendants of Hercules, filled the episcopal seat of Ptolemais, near the ruins of ancient Cyrene, and the philosophic bishop supported with dignity the character which he had assumed with reluctance. He vanquished the monster of Libya, the president Andronicus, who abused the authority of a venal office, invented new modes of rapine and torture, and aggravated the guilt of oppression by that of sacrilege. After a fruitless attempt to reclaim the haughty magistrate by mild and religious admonition, Synesius proceeds to inflict the last sentence of ecclesiastical justice, which devotes Andronicus, with his associates and their families, to the abhorrence of earth and Heaven. The impenitent sinners, more cruel than Phalaris or Sennacherib, more destructive than war, pestilence, or a cloud of locusts, are deprived of the name and privileges of Christians, of the participation of the sacraments, and of the hope of Paradise. The bishop exhorts the clergy, the magistrates, and the people, to renounce all society with the enemies of Christ; to exclude them from their houses and tables; and to refuse them the common offices of life, and the decent rites of burial. The church of Ptolemais, obscure and contemptible as she may appear, addresses this declaration to all her sister churches of the world; and the profane who reject her decrees, will be involved in the guilt and punishment of Andronicus and his impious followers. These spiritual terrors were enforced by a dexterous application to the Byzantine court; the trembling president implored the mercy of the church; and the descendant of Hercules enjoyed the satisfaction of raising a prostrate tyrant from the ground. Such principles and such examples insensibly prepared the triumph of the Roman pontiffs, who have trampled on the necks of kings.”—Decline and Fall, chap. 20, paragraph 26.FACC 336.1

    Let no one think that this statement of the case is colored in the least, to the prejudice of the church. We have quoted from Gibbon, because he summarizes the matter in the most concise form; if the reader will examine the “Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Cyclopedia,” of McClintock and Strong, or the “Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge,” he will find all the above, and much more, given in detail.FACC 338.1

    The quotation last given shows the extent which ecclesiastical arrogance had reached in the early part of the fifth century; but a few more facts must be stated, in order more fully to emphasize the deplorable condition of the church at that time, which could make such arrogance possible. This Synesius, of whom Gibbon speaks, was a native of Cyrene, born about A. D. 375; he studied philosophy and rhetoric at Alexandria, under Hypatia, the famous female heathen philosopher. He returned to his estate, where he devoted himself to the study of philosophy, to writing verses, and to the chase, acting the part of the elegant, wealthy gentleman of leisure. In 410 A. D., while still a pagan, he was elected bishop of Ptolemais, where he magnified his office in the way already recorded. Schaff says:—“In 409 or 410 the people of Ptolemais elected him—the pagan philosopher, a married man—their bishop; and after some hesitation he accepted.”FACC 338.2

    But he never gave up his heathenism. “McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia,” after speaking of the excellence of his style as a writer, says:—
    “His philosophy is without originality. Yet even his philosophy merits attention, as illustrating the fine gradations by which pagan speculation melted into the semblance of Christianity without divesting itself of its pagan phrase and spirit.”
    FACC 339.1

    Mosheim calls him a “semi-Christian.”FACC 339.2

    This is a specimen of those who were elected to rule the church. When men who had never renounced pagan manner of thought and pagan practices, were not only admitted to communion in so-called Christian churches, but were actually placed at the head of the church, is it a misnomer to call the papacy which they formed, “paganism baptized”? Who having a knowledge of these facts, will be bold enough to quote the “custom of the early church” as a reason for Sunday observance, or for any other practice?FACC 339.3

    The case of Synesius was not an isolated one. Among ancient ecclesiastics, Ambrose, of Milan, stands at the head. Yet the circumstances of his elevation to the episcopacy are thus concisely and accurately summarized by the historian:—
    “The palm of episcopal vigor and ability was justly claimed by the intrepid Ambrose. He was descended from a noble family of Romans; his father had exercised the important office of Praetorian prefect of Gaul; and the son, after passing through the studies of a liberal education, attained, in the regular gradation of civil honors, the station of consular of Liguria, a province which included the imperial residence of Milan. At the age of thirty-four, and before he had received the sacrament of baptism, Ambrose, to his own surprise, and to that of the world, was suddenly transformed from a governor to an archbishop. Without the least mixture, as it is said, of art or intrigue, the whole body of the people unanimously saluted him with the episcopal title; the concord and perseverance of their acclamations were ascribed to a preternatural impulse; and the reluctant magistrate was compelled to undertake a spiritual office, for which he was not prepared by the habits and occupations of his former life. But the active force of his genius soon qualified him to exercise, and with zeal and prudence, the duties of his ecclesiastical jurisdiction; and while he cheerfully renounced the vain and splendid trappings of temporal greatness, he condescended, for the good of the church, to direct the conscience of the emperors, and to control the administration of the empire.”—Decline and Fall, chap. 27, paragraph 12.
    FACC 340.1

    These things will not occasion surprise to those who have read the chapters in this book, upon the Fathers. If the writings of “semi-Christian” (which means semi-pagan) men could be accepted by the church as inspired, it was a natural consequence for the same kind of men to be placed in positions of chief authority. It should not be forgotten that a “semi-Christian” was one who professed Christianity and practiced paganism, or who melted pagan speculation “into the semblance of Christianity.”FACC 340.2

    Speaking of Gregory, bishop of Constantinople, and the way in which his successor was appointed, Gibbon says:—
    “His resignation was accepted by the synod, and by the emperor, with more readiness than he seems to have expected. At the time when he might have hoped to enjoy the fruits of his victory, his episcopal throne was filled by the senator Nectarius; and the new archbishop, accidentally recommended by his easy temper and venerable aspect, was obliged to delay the ceremony of his consecration, till he had previously dispatched the rites of his baptism.”—Decline and Fall, chap. 27, paragraph 9.
    FACC 341.1

    These are the men to whom we are directed to look for guidance in matters of Christian faith and practice. We prefer to look to a higher source. What could be expected of a church which depended for its instruction upon men who, up to the time of their consecration as bishops, and, in fact, all their lives, were heathen philosophers and politicians? “Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?” Luke 6:39.FACC 341.2

    Of course persecution was the natural result of so great power lodged in the hands of such men. Human nature cannot brook restraint or opposition, and when unconverted men stood at the head of the church, they would naturally, in combating heresy, employ the methods of secular tyrants. And “heresy,” be it understood, was whatever differed from the ideas of these pagan-Christian bishops. We should be remiss in our duty if we did not point out the fact that the union of Church and State was responsible for this condition of things. As corroborating the conclusion first stated in this paragraph, we quote the following:—“It was supposed, that the error of the heretics could proceed only from the obstinate temper of their minds; and that such a temper was a fit object of censure and punishment. The anathemas of the church were fortified by a sort of civil excommunication; which separated them from their fellow-citizens, by a peculiar brand of infamy; and this declaration of the supreme magistrate tended to justify, or at least to excuse, the insults of a fanatic populace. The sectaries were gradually disqualified for the possession of honorable or lucrative employments; and Theodosius was satisfied with his own justice, when he decreed, that, as the Eunomians distinguished the nature of the Son from that of the Father, they should be incapable of making their wills, or of receiving any advantage from testamentary donations. The guilt of the Manichaean heresy was esteemed of such magnitude, that it could be expiated only by the death of the offender; and the same capital punishment was inflicted on the Audians, or Quartodecimans, who should dare to perpetrate the atrocious crime of celebrating on an improper day the festival of Easter. Every Roman might exercise the right of public accusation; but the office of Inquisitors of the Faith, a name so deservedly abhorred, was first instituted under the reign of Theodosius.”—Decline and Fall, chap. 27, paragraph 10.FACC 341.3

    And in behalf of the conclusion in regard to Church and State the following is quoted:—
    “The grateful applause of the clergy has consecrated the memory of a prince who indulged their passions and promoted their interest. Constantine gave them security, wealth, honors, and revenge; and the support of the orthodox faith was considered as the most sacred and important duty of the civil magistrate. The edict of Milan, the great charter of toleration, had confirmed to each individual of the Roman world the privilege of choosing and professing his own religion. But this inestimable privilege was soon violated; with the knowledge of truth, the emperor imbibed the maxims of persecution; and the sects which dissented from the Catholic Church were afflicted and oppressed by the triumph of Christianity. Constantine easily believed that the heretics, who presumed to dispute his opinions, or to oppose his commands, were guilty of the most absurd and criminal obstinacy; and that a seasonable application of moderate severities might save those unhappy men from the danger of an everlasting condemnation. Not a moment was lost in excluding the ministers and teachers of the separated congregations from any share of the rewards and immunities which the emperor had so liberally bestowed on the orthodox clergy. But as the sectaries might still exist under the cloud of royal disgrace, the conquest of the East was immediately followed by an edict which announced their total destruction. After a preamble filled with passion and reproach, Constantine absolutely prohibits the assemblies of the heretics, and confiscates their public property to the use either of the revenue or of the Catholic Church.... The design of extirpating the name, or at least of restraining the progress, of these odious heretics, was prosecuted with vigor and effect. Some of the penal regulations were copied from the edicts of Diocletian; and this method of conversion was applauded by the same bishops who had felt the hand of oppression, and pleaded for the rights of humanity.”—Id., chap. 21, paragraph 1.
    FACC 342.1

    To show that this is a simple historical fact, and not the harsh judgment of one who was biased in his opinions, we quote a decree of Constantine, concerning the doctrines of Arius and those who held to them. It is taken from the “Ecclesiastical History” of Socrates, book 1, chap. 9, and reads as follows:— “Victor Constantine Maximus Augustus, to the bishops and people.—Since Arius has imitated wicked and impious persons, it is just that he should undergo the like ignominy. Wherefore as Porphyry, that enemy of piety, for having composed licentious treatises against religion, found a suitable recompense, and such as thenceforth branded him with infamy, overwhelming him with deserved reproach, his impious writings also having been destroyed; so now it seems fit both that Arius and such as hold his sentiments should be denominated Porphyrians, that they may take their appellation from those whose conduct they have imitated. And in addition to this, if any treatise composed by Arius should be discovered, let it be consigned to the flames, in order that not only his depraved doctrine may be suppressed, but also that no memorial of him may be by any means left. This therefore I decree, that if anyone shall be detected in concealing a book compiled by Arius, and shall not instantly bring it forward and burn it, the penalty for this offense shall be death; for immediately after conviction the criminal shall suffer capital punishment. May God preserve you!”FACC 343.1

    We have now shown the condition of the church in the period in which Sunday observance originated among Christians. We would by no means have the reader get the idea that what has been described in the quotations made, was Christianity in any sense of the term. It was essentially paganism under the mask of Christianity,—a mask which cannot in the least conceal the monster beneath, from the eyes of one who is not blinded by unreasoning prejudice. True Christianity existed at the same time, but it did not rear its head so loftily. True to its nature, it occupied a lowly position. Its adherents instead of being “the people” of the Roman Empire, were only a very small minority of the subjects of that great power; “for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat; because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7:13, 14. True Christianity did not invoke the aid of temporal power, but made its conquests by the aid alone of the Spirit, and by its sword, which is the word of God. Therefore those who wish to walk in the strait and narrow way marked out by the great Founder of Christianity, will not go for guidance to the customs of that vast assemblage of heathen Christians which is called the “church,” but to the word of God, “which liveth and abideth forever.”FACC 344.1

    Larger font
    Smaller font