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    In his second letter to the Thessalonians, the apostle Paul warned the brethren of “a falling away” (Greek, apostasia) from the truth, to result in the manifestation of a phase of wickedness which he styled “that Wicked,” “that man of sin,” “the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped.” 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4, 8. He added, “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work; only he who now letteth [hindereth] will let [hinder], until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed.” Verses 7, 8. That is to say that the great apostasy was developing even in the days of Paul; he could trace its insidious workings even in many churches which he had planted; but there was a hindering element which for the time prevented its full development. Iniquity could not assume such proportions in the Christian church as to exalt itself “above all that is called God, or that is worshiped,” so long as paganism was the prevailing religion, and was upheld by the power which ruled the world. The persecutions which the church suffered from the heathen kept it comparatively pure; but when Constantine elevated Christianity to the throne of the world, all the errors which for nearly three centuries had been insinuating themselves into the church, were given ample room for exercise.FACC 242.1

    It is not our purpose to give a complete history of the progress of corruption in the church; we wish only to note briefly the progress of the apostasy until the time of Constantine, since it was in this period that nearly all the abominations of the Catholic Church had their birth. As a preface to this study, let the reader review the quotations which we have made from the writings of the apostles, in the chapter entitled, “The Apostolic Church,” showing the evils that existed in the church even in their time. If such things existed when the churches had the benefit of the instruction of men commissioned by Heaven, and clothed with divine power, what might we not expect to find in the years following the death of the apostles? That which we have already quoted concerning the Fathers, and from their writings, is sufficient to show that there was an abundance of false teachers in the early church; we shall now see what was the legitimate result of their teaching.FACC 242.2

    We cannot better introduce this part of the subject than by the following quotation from Dr. Killen, concerning the heresies within a hundred years after the apostles:—
    “But though the creed of the church was still to some extend substantially sound, it must be admitted that it was already beginning to suffer much from adulteration. One hundred years after the death of the apostle John, spiritual darkness was fast settling down upon the Christian community; and the Fathers, who flourished towards the commencement of the third century, frequently employ language for which they would have been sternly rebuked, had they lived in the days of the apostles and evangelists. Thus, we find them speaking of ‘sins cleansed by repentance,’ and of repentance as ‘the price at which the Lord has determined to grant forgiveness.’ We read of ‘sins cleansed by alms and faith,’ and of the martyr, by his sufferings, ‘washing away his own iniquities.’ We are told that by baptism ‘we are cleansed from all our sins,’ and ‘regain that Spirit of God which Adam received at his creation and lost by his transgression.’ ‘The pertinacious wickedness of the devil,’ says Cyprian, ‘has power up to the saving water, but in baptism he loses all the poison of his wickedness.’ The same writer insists upon the necessity of penance, a species of discipline unknown to the apostolic church, and denounces, with terrible severity, those who discouraged its performance. ‘By the deceitfulness of their lies,’ says he, they interfere, ‘that satisfaction be not given to God in his anger.... All pains are taken that sins be not expiated by due satisfactions and lamentations, that wounds be not washed clean by tears.’ It may be said that some of these expressions are rhetorical, and that those by whom they were employed did not mean to deny the all-sufficiency of the great sacrifice; but had these Fathers clearly apprehended the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ, they would have recoiled from the use of language so exceedingly objectionable.”—Ancient Church, period 2, sec. 2, chap. 5, paragraph 17.
    FACC 243.1

    In the preface to the “Ancient Church,” Dr. Killen says:—
    “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. Officers, for whom the primitive disciples could have found no place, and titles, which to them would have been altogether unintelligible, began to challenge attention, and to be named apostolic.”
    FACC 244.1

    The learned church historian, Mosheim, bears testimony to the same effect, and he also tells how it came to pass that unscriptural practices were introduced into the church. He says:—
    “It is certain that to religious worship, both public and private, many rites were added, without necessity and to the great offense of sober and good men. The principal cause of this, I readily look for in the perverseness of mankind, who are more delighted with the pomp and splendor of external forms and pageantry, than with the true devotion of the heart, and who despise whatever does not gratify their eyes and ears. But other and additional causes may be mentioned, which, though they suppose no bad design, yet clearly betray indiscretion.
    FACC 245.1

    First, There is good reason to suppose that the Christian bishops purposely multiplied sacred rites for the sake of rendering the Jews and the pagans more friendly to them. For both these classes had been accustomed to numerous and splendid ceremonies from their infancy, and had made no question of their constituting an essential part of religion. And hence, when they saw the new religion to be destitute of such ceremonies, they thought it too simple, and therefore despised it. To obviate this objection, the rulers of the Christian churches deemed it proper for them to be more formal and splendid in their public worship.FACC 245.2

    Secondly, The simplicity of the worship which Christians offered to the Deity, had given occasion to certain calumnies, maintained both by the Jews and the pagan priests. The Christians were pronounced atheists, because they were destitute of temples, altars, victims, priests, and all that pomp, in which the vulgar suppose the essence of religion to consist. For unenlightened persons are prone to estimate religion by what meets their eyes. To silence this accusation, the Christian doctors thought they must introduce some external rites, which would strike the senses of people; so that they could maintain that they really had all those things of which Christians were charged with being destitute, though under different forms.”FACC 245.3

    Fourthly, Among the Greeks and the people of the East nothing was held more sacred than what were called the ‘mysteries.’ This circumstance led the Christians, in order to impart dignity to their religion, to say, that they also had similar mysteries, or certain holy rites concealed from the vulgar; and they not only applied the terms used in the pagan mysteries to the Christian institutions, particularly baptism and the Lord’s Supper, but they gradually introduced also the rites which were designated by those terms. This practice originated in the Eastern provinces; and thence, after the times of Adrian (who first introduced the Grecian mysteries among the Latins), it spread among the Christians of the West. A large part therefore of the Christian observances and institutions, even in this century, had the aspect of the pagan mysteries.”—Ecclesiastical History, book 1, cent. 2, part 2, chap. 4, sec. 1-5.FACC 246.1

    In view of the above testimony, we think that no one need be led astray by any practice which he may find in the church. Let him first carefully and candidly examine the Scriptures to see if they sanction the practice. If they do not, then of course he should have nothing more to do with it. Then if he is anxious to know how the practice came to be one of the customs of the church, the quotations which we have made will enlighten him. Every ceremony of the church, if it be unscriptural, will be found to have been adopted from the heathen, or else to have been invented by the bishops of the early church, in order to catch the fancy of the heathen. By making the heathen believe that the Christian religion differed but very little from paganism, the bishops were enabled to gain many “converts.” For proof of this, the reader has only to review-the extracts from the writings of the Fathers that have been made in previous chapters.FACC 246.2

    In a note to the paragraphs last quoted, Mosheim says:—
    “7t will not be unsuitable to transcribe here, a very apposite passage, which I accidentally met with, in Gregory Nyssen’s ‘Life of Gregory Thaumaturgus,’ in the ‘Works of Thaumaturgus,’ as published by Vossius, p. 312, who gives the Latin only:—
    “‘When Gregory perceived that the ignorant and simple multitude persisted in their idolatry, on account of the sensitive pleasures and delights it afforded—he allowed them in celebrating the memory of the holy martyrs, to indulge themselves, and give a loose to pleasure (i. e., as the thing itself, and both what precedes and what follows, place beyond all controversy, he allowed them at the sepulchers of the martyrs on their feast days, to dance, to use sports, to indulge conviviality, and to do all things that the worshipers of idols were accustomed to do in their temples, on their festival days), hoping that in process of time they would spontaneously come over to a more becoming and more correct manner of life.’”
    FACC 247.1

    Read the above carefully. Mosheim says that Gregory Thaumaturgus, one of the most highly esteemed of the church Fathers, allowed his people, at their festivals in honor of the martyrs, not only “to dance, to use sports, to indulge conviviality,” but also “to do all things that the worshipers of idols were accustomed to do in their temples on their festival days.” In order to know what this latter expression implies, we have only to read the following from the same author:—
    “Of the prayers of pagan worshipers, whether we regard the matter or the mode of expression, it is impossible to speak favorably; they were not only destitute in general of everything allied to the spirit of genuine piety, but were sometimes framed expressly for the purpose of obtaining the countenance of Heaven to the most abominable and flagitious undertakings. In fact, the greater part of their religious observances were of an absurd and ridiculous nature, and in many instances strongly tinctured with the most disgraceful barbarism and obscenity. Their festivals and other solemn days were polluted by a licentious indulgence in every species of libidinous excess; and on these occasions they were not prohibited even from making the sacred mansions of their gods the scenes of vile and beastly gratification.”—Mosheim’s Ecclesiastical Commentaries (introduction), chap. 1, sec. 2.
    FACC 247.2

    “Absurd and ridiculous” practices; “disgraceful barbarism and obscenity;” “licentious indulgence in every species of libidinous excess;” and “scenes of vile and beastly gratification;”—such were the things in which one of the most renowned church Fathers indulged his parishioners, in order that they might not feel so much inclined to shake off their “Christian, bonds” and return to heathenism. Surely this was doing evil that good might come. But however astute the policy of Gregory may have been, and we can easily believe that it would be effectual in holding his “converts,” we cannot give him credit for great knowledge of human nature, if he thought that people would by such means “spontaneously come over to a more becoming and more correct mode of life.”FACC 248.1

    Perhaps the reader may obtain a still clearer idea of the way the early church was paganized, by reading the following extracts from an article in the Bibliotheca Sacra, January, 1852, on “Roman Catholic Missions in the Congo Free State,” showing how in the seventeenth century the Jesuits “converted” the natives:— “They introduced, as far as they could, all the rites and ceremonies of the Romish Church. The mass was celebrated with all due pomp; the confessional was erected in almost every village; penances of all grades and kinds were imposed; children and adults alike were required to perform the rosary, and the people en masse soon learned to make the sign of the cross, and most readily did they fall into the habit of wearing crucifixes, medals, and relics. There were certain heathenish customs, however, which the missionary Fathers found much difficulty in inducing the people to abandon; and they were never entirely successful until they substituted others of a similar character, which the natives regarded as a sort of equivalent for those they were required to give up.”FACC 248.2

    The writer then gives an account of some of the superstitious rites which the Jesuits substituted for those which the heathen had formerly practiced, and continues thus:FACC 249.1

    “Another custom of the country at the root of which the ax was laid, was that of guarding their fruit trees and patches of grain with feteiches, which were supposed to possess themselves the power of punishing all trespassers. The practice was interdicted, but the people at the same time were recommended ‘to use consecrated palm branches, and here and there in their patches of corn to set up the sign of the cross.’ These details might be extended to almost any length, if it were necessary. A Roman Catholic of discernment may possibly see an essential difference between these heathenish customs that were abolished, and those that were substituted in their place; but we seriously doubt whether the simple-minded people of Congo were ever conscious of any material change in their code of superstitious rites, or derived any essential advantage by the exchange.”FACC 249.2

    The same course is pursued to-day by Roman Catholic missionaries in heathen lands. It is very fitting that this should be so, for it was by such means that the Roman Catholic Church came into existence. It is very doubtful, also, if many simple-minded people in the early centuries were ever conscious of any material change in their code of superstitious rites, or derived any essential advantage by the change. It is common to speak of the “ruins of paganism,” upon which “the church” was built, but building upon those ruins was the ruin of Christianity, so far as “the church” was concerned. A church built of ruins will be a ruin from the start.FACC 249.3

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