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The Great Empires of Prophecy, from Babylon to the Fall of Rome - Contents
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    Grandeur of the Bishop of Rome—Pride of Bishops and Clergy—Vices of Clergy and People—Abominations of Sun-Worship Continued—Heathen Practises in the Church—Monkish “Virtue” Prevalent—Sheer Unmingled Naturalism—Destruction and Devastation—Worse than Barbarian and Heathen

    WE have seen the church secure the enactment of laws by which she could enforce church discipline upon all the people, whether in the church or not. We have seen her next extend her encroachments upon the civil power, until the whole system of civil jurisprudence, as such, was destroyed by being made religious. We shall now see how the evils thus engendered, and like dragons’ teeth sown broadcast, with another element of the monstrous evil planted by Constantine and the bishops, caused the final and fearful ruin of the Roman Empire.GEP 572.1

    2. Among the first of the acts of Constantine in his favors to the church was, as has been shown on page 463 of this book, the appropriation of money from the public treasury for the bishops. Another enactment, A. D. 321, of the same character, but which was of vastly more importance, was his granting to the church the right to receive legacies. “This was a law which expressly secured to the churches a right which, perhaps, they had already now and then tacitly exercised; namely, the right of receiving legacies, which, in the Roman Empire, no corporation whatever was entitled to exercise, unless it had been expressly authorized to do so by the State.”—Neander. 1[Page 572] “History of the Christian Religion and Church,” Vol. ii, sec, ii, part i, div. 1, par. 7.GEP 572.2

    3. Some estimate of the value of this enactment may be derived from the statement that “the law of Constantine which empowered the clergy of the church to receive testamentary bequests, and to hold land, was a gift which would scarcely have been exceeded if he had granted them two provinces of the empire.” That which made this a still more magnificent gift to the church was the view which prevailed, especially among the rich, that they could live as they pleased all their lives, and then at their death give their property to the church, and be assured a safe conduct to eternal bliss. “It became almost a sin to die without some bequest to pious uses.”—Milman. 2[Page 573] “History of Christianity,” book iv, chap 1, par. 30.GEP 572.3

    4. We have seen in the previous chapter what kind of characters were chosen to the bishopric in those times; and when a law was now made bestowing such privileges upon such characters, it is easy to understand what use would be made of the privilege. Not content with simply receiving bequests that might voluntarily be made, they brought to bear every possible means to induce persons to bestow their goods upon the churches. They assumed the protectorship of widows and orphans, and had the property of such persons left to the care of the bishop.GEP 573.1

    5. Now into the coffers of the bishops, as into the coffers of the republic after the fall of Carthage, wealth came in a rolling stream of gold, and the result in this case was the same as in that. With wealth came luxury and magnificent display. The bishopric assumed a stateliness and grandeur that transcended that of the chief ministers of the empire; and that of the bishopric of Rome fairly outshone the glory of the emperor himself. He was the chief beneficiary in all these favors of Constantine.GEP 573.2

    6. As already related, when the emperors in the time of Diocletian began habitually to absent themselves from Rome, the bishop of Rome became the chief dignitary in the city. And by the time that Constantine moved the capital permanently from Rome, through these imperial favors the bishop of that city had acquired such a dignity that it was easy for him to step into the place of pomp and magnificent display that had before been shown by the emperor. “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.GEP 573.3

    7. “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.”—Eugene Lawrence. 3[Page 574] “Historical Studies,” Bishops of Rome, par. 13.GEP 573.4

    8. The offices of the church were the only ones in the empire that were elective. The bishopric of Rome was the chief of these offices. As that office was one which carried with it the command of such enormous wealth and such display of imperial magnificence, it became the object of the ambitious aspiration of every Catholic in the city; and even a heathen exclaimed, “Make me bishop of Rome, and I will be a Christian!”GEP 574.1

    9. Here were displayed all those elements of political strife and chicanery which were but referred to in the previous chapter. The scenes which occurred at the election of Damasus as bishop of Rome, A. D. 366, will illustrate the character of such proceedings throughout the empire, according as the particular bishopric in question compared with that of Rome. There were two candidates,—Damasus and Ursicinus,—and these two men represented respectively two factions that had been created in the contest between Liberius, bishop of Rome and Constantius, emperor of Rome.GEP 574.2

    10. “The presbyters, deacons, and faithful people who had adhered to Liberius in his exile, met in the Julian Basilica, and duly elected Ursicinus, who was consecrated by Paul, bishop of Tibur. Damasus was proclaimed by the followers of Felix, in S. M. Lucina. Damasus collected a mob of charioteers and a wild rabble, broke into the Julian Basilica, and committed great slaughter. Seven days after, having bribed a great body of ecclesiastics and the populace, and seized the Lateran Church, he was elected and consecrated bishop. Ursicinus was expelled from Rome.GEP 574.3

    11. “Damasus, however, continued his acts of violence. Seven presbyters of the other party were hurried prisoners to the Lateran; their faction rose, rescued them, and carried them to the Basilica of Liberius. Damasus, at the head of a gang of gladiators, charioteers, and laborers, with axes, swords, and clubs, stormed the church; a hundred and sixty of both sexes were barbarously killed; not one on the side of Damasus. The party of Ursicinus was obliged to withdraw, vainly petitioning for a synod of bishops to examine into the validity of the two elections.GEP 574.4

    12. “So long and obstinate was the conflict, that Juventius, the prefect of the city, finding his authority contemned, his forces unequal to keep the peace, retired into the neighborhood of Rome. Churches were garrisoned, churches besieged, churches stormed and deluged with blood. In one day, relates Ammianus, above one hundred and thirty dead bodies were counted in the Basilica of Sisinnius.... Nor did the contention cease with the first discomfiture and banishment of Ursicinus; he was more than once recalled, exiled, again set up as rival bishop, and re-exiled.GEP 575.1

    13. “Another frightful massacre took place in the Church of St. Agnes. The emperor was forced to have recourse to the character and firmness of the famous heathen Praetextatus, as successor to Juventius in the government of Rome, in order to put down with impartial severity these disastrous tumults. Some years elapsed before Damasus was in undisputed possession of his see.” “But Damasus had the ladies of Rome in his favor; and the Council of Valentinian was not inaccessible to bribes. New scenes of blood took place. Ursicinus was compelled at last to give up the contest.”—Milman. 4[Page 575] “History of Latin Christianity,” book i, chap 2, par. 18, and note.GEP 575.2

    14. Of the bishop of Rome at this time we have the following sketch written by one who was there at the time, and had often seen him in his splendor: “I must own that when I reflect on the pomp attending that dignity, I do not at all wonder that those who are fond of show and parade, should scold, quarrel, fight, and strain every nerve to attain it; since they are sure, if they succeed, to be enriched with the offerings of the ladies; to appear no more abroad on foot, but in stately chariots, and gorgeously attired; to keep costly and sumptuous tables; nay, and to surpass the emperors themselves in the splendor and magnificence of their entertainments.”—Ammianus Marcellinus. 5[Page 575] Book xxvii, chap 3. par. 12-15, Bower’s translation in “History of the Popes,“Damasus, par. 6.GEP 575.3

    15. The example of the bishop of Rome was followed by the whole order of bishops, each according to his degree and opportunities. Chrysostom boasted that “the heads of the empire and the governors of provinces enjoy no such honor as the rulers of the church. They are first at court, in the society of ladies, in the houses of the great. No one has precedence of them.” By them were worn such titles as, “Most Holy,” “Most Reverend,” and “Most Holy Lord.” They were addressed in such terms as, “Thy Holiness” and “Thy Blessedness.” “Kneeling, kissing of the hand, and like tokens of reverence, came to be shown them by all classes, up to the emperor himself.”—Schaff. 6[Page 576] “History of the Christian Church,” Vol. iii, sec. liii, par. 3.GEP 576.1

    16. The manners of the minor clergy of Rome are described by one who was well acquainted with them. “His whole care is in his dress, that it be well perfumed; that his feet may not slip about in a loose sandal; his hair is crisped with a curling-pin; his fingers glitter with rings; he walks on tiptoe lest he should splash himself with the wet soil; when you see him, you would think him a bridegroom rather than an ecclesiastic.”—Jerome. 7[Page 576] Quoted and translated by Milman. “History of Latin Christianity,” book i, chap 2,par. 20, note 1.GEP 576.2

    17. Such an example being set by the dignitaries in the church, these, too, professing to be the patterns of godliness, their example was readily followed by all in the empire who were able. Consequently, “the aristocratical life of this period seems to have been characterized by gorgeous magnificence without grandeur, inordinate luxury without refinement, the pomp and prodigality of a high state of civilization with none of its ennobling or humanizing effects. The walls of the palaces were lined with marbles of all colors, crowded with statues of inferior workmanship, mosaics of which the merit consisted in the arrangement of the stones; the cost, rather than the beauty and elegance, was the test of excellence, and the object of admiration. The nobles were surrounded with hosts of parasites or servants. ‘You reckon up,’ Chrysostom thus addressed a patrician, ‘so many acres of land, ten or twenty palaces, as many baths, a thousand or two thousand slaves, chariots plated with silver or overlaid with gold.’GEP 576.3

    18. “Their banquets were merely sumptuous, without social grace or elegance. The dress of the females, the fondness for false hair—sometimes wrought up to an enormous height, and especially affecting the golden dye—and for paint, from which irresistible propensities they were not to be estranged even by religion, excite the stern animadversion of the ascetic Christian teacher. ‘What business have rouge and paint on a Christian check? Who can weep for her sins when her tears wash her face bare and mark furrows on her skin? With what trust can faces be lifted up toward heaven, which the Maker can not recognize as his own workmanship?’ Their necks, heads, arms, and fingers were loaded with golden chains and rings; their persons breathed precious odors; their dresses were of gold stuff and silk; and in this attire they ventured to enter the church.GEP 577.1

    19. “Some of the wealthier Christian matrons gave a religious air to their vanity: while the more profane wore their thin silken dresses embroidered with hunting pieces, wild beasts, or any other fanciful device; the more pious had the miracles of Christ, the marriage in Cana of Galilee, or the paralytic carrying his bed. In vain the preacher urged that it would be better to emulate these acts of charity and love than to wear them on their garments.... The provincial cities, according to their natural character, imitated the old and new Rome; and in all, no doubt, the nobility or the higher order were of the same character and habits.”—Milman. 8[Page 577] “History of Christianity,” book iv. chap 1. pars. 12, 13, 15.GEP 577.2

    20. As in the republic of old, in the train of wealth came luxury, and in the train of luxury came vice; and as the violence now manifested in the election of the bishops was but a reproduction of the violence by which the tribunes and the consuls of the later republic were chosen, so the vices of these times were but a reproduction of the vices of the later republic and early empire—not indeed manifested so coarsely and brutally, more refined and polished; yet essentially the same iniquitous practise of shameful vice.GEP 577.3

    21. Another phase of the evil was that under the law empowering the church to receive legacies, the efforts of some of the clergy to persuade people, and especially women, to bestow their wealth upon the church, took precedence of everything else.GEP 577.4

    22. “Some of the clergy made it the whole business and employment of their lives to learn the names of the ladies, to find out their habitations, to study their humor. One of these, an adept in the art, rises with the sun, settles the order of his visits, acquaints himself with the shortest ways, and almost breaks into the rooms of the women before they are awake. If he sees any curious piece of household furniture, he extols, admires, and handles it; and, sighing that he, too, should stand in need of such trifles, in the end rather extorts it by force than obtains it by good-will, the ladies being afraid to disoblige the prating old fellow that is always running about from house to house.”—Jerome. 9[Page 578] Quoted by Bower, “History of the Popes,” Damasus, par. 12.GEP 578.1

    23. Because of the insatiable avarice of the Roman clergy, and because of the shameful corruption that was practised with the means thus acquired, a law was enacted, A. D. 370, by Valentinian I, forbidding any ecclesiastics to receive any inheritance, donation, or legacy from anybody. And to let the world know that he did not complain of this hardship, the great bishop of Milan exclaimed: “We are excluded by laws lately enacted, from all inheritances, donations, and legacies; yet we do not complain. And why should we? By such laws we only lose wealth; and the loss of wealth is no loss to us. Estates are lawfully bequeathed to the ministers of the heathen temples; no layman is excluded, let his condition be ever so low, let his life be ever so scandalous; clerks alone are debarred from a right common to the rest of mankind. Let a Christian widow bequeath her whole estate to a pagan priest, her will is good in law; let her bequeath the least share of it to a minister of God, her will is null. I do not mention these things by way of complaint, but only to let the world know that I do not complain.”—Ambrose. 10[Page 578] Id.GEP 578.2

    24. The fact that such a law as this had to be enacted—a law applying only to the clergy—furnishes decisive proof that the ecclesiastics were more vicious and more corrupt in their use of wealth than was any other class in the empire. This in fact is plainly stated by another who was present at the time: “I am ashamed to say it, the priests of the idols, the stage-players, charioteers, whores, are capable of inheriting estates and receiving legacies; from this common privilege clerks alone, and monks, are debarred by law, debarred not under persecuting tyrants, but Christian princes.”—Jerome. 11[Page 579] Id.GEP 578.3

    25. Nor was this all. The same pagan rites and heathen superstitions and practises which were brought into the church when the Catholic religion became that of the empire, not only still prevailed, but were enlarged. The celebration of the rites of the mysteries still continued, only with a more decidedly pagan character, as time went on, and as the number of pagans multiplied in the church. To add to their impressiveness, the mysteries in the church, as in the original Eleusinia, were celebrated in the night. As the catechumen came to the baptismal font, he “turned to the west, the realm of Satan, and thrice renounced his power; he turned to the east to adore the Sun of Righteousness, and to proclaim his compact with the Lord of Life.”—Milman. 12[Page 579] “History of Christianity,” book iv. chap 2, par 8.GEP 579.1

    26. About the middle of the fourth century there was added another form and element of sun-worship. Among the pagans for ages, December 25 had been celebrated as the birthday of the sun. In the reigns of Domitian and Trajan, Rome formally adopted from Persia the feast of the Persian sun-god, Mithras, as the birth festival of the unconquered sun—natales invicti solis. The church of Rome adopted this festival, and made it the birthday of Christ. And within a few years the celebration of this festival of the sun had spread throughout the whole empire east and west; the perverseminded bishops readily sanctioning it with the argument that the pagan festival of the birth of the real sun, was a type of the festival of the birth of Christ, the Sun of Righteousness. Thus was established the church festival of Christmas. 13[Page 579] Schaff’s “History of the Christian Church,” Vol. iii, sec. lxxvii, pars 3, 4, and the notes; Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall,” chap 22, par. 8, note. Neander’s “History of the Christian Religion and Church,” sec. iii, part ii, div. iii, pars. 21-23, and the notes.GEP 579.2

    27. This custom, like the forms of sun-worship—the day of the sun, worshiping toward the east, and the mysteries—which had already been adopted, was so closely followed that it was actually brought “as a charge against the Christians of the Catholic Church that they celebrated the Solstitia with the pagans.”—Neander. 14[Page 580] Id. The worship of the sun itself was also still practised. Pope Leo I testifies that in his time many Catholics had retained the pagan custom of paying “obeisance from some lofty eminence to the sun.” And that they also “first worshiped the rising sun, paying homage to the pagan Apollo, before repairing to the Basilica of St. Peter.”—Schaff. 15[Page 580] “History of the Christian Church,” sec. lxxiv, par. 4.GEP 579.3

    28. The images and pictures which had formerly represented the sun were adopted and transformed into representations of Christ. And such was the origin of the “pictures of Christ;” and especially of the nimbus, or halo round the heads of them.GEP 580.1

    29. The martyrs, whether real or imaginary, were now honored in the place of the heathen heroes. The day of their martyrdom was celebrated as their birthday, and these celebrations were conducted in the same way that the heathen celebrated the festival days of their heroes. “The festivals in honor of the martyrs were avowedly instituted, or at least conducted, on a sumptuous scale, in rivalry of the banquets which formed so important and attractive a part of the pagan ceremonial. Besides the earliest Agapae, which gave place to the more solemn Eucharist, there were other kinds of banquets, at marriages and funerals, called likewise Agapae.”—Milman. 16[Page 580] “History of Christianity,” par. 14.GEP 580.2

    30. These festivals were celebrated either at the sepulchers of the martyrs or at the churches, and the day began with hymns. The histories or fables of their lives and martyrdom were given; and eulogies were pronounced. “The day closed with an open banquet, in which all the worshipers were invited to partake. The wealthy heathen had been accustomed to propitiate the manes of their departed friends by these costly festivals; the banquet was almost an integral part of the heathen religious ceremony. The custom passed into the church; and with the pagan feeling the festival assumed a pagan character of gaiety and joyous excitement, and even of luxury. In some places the confluence of worshipers was so great that, as in the earlier and indeed the more modern religions of Asia, the neighborhood of the more celebrated churches of the martyrs became marts for commerce, and fairs were established on those holidays.GEP 580.3

    31. “As the evening drew in, the solemn and religious thoughts gave way to other emotions; the wine flowed freely, and the healths of the martyrs were pledged, not unfrequently, to complete inebriety. All the luxuries of the Roman banquet were imperceptibly introduced. Dances were admitted, pantomimic spectacles were exhibited, the festivals were prolonged till late in the evening, or to midnight, so that other criminal irregularities profaned, if not the sacred edifice, its immediate neighborhood. The bishops had for some time sanctioned these pious hilarities with their presence; they had freely partaken of the banquets.”—Milman. 17[Page 581] Id., pars. 15, 16.GEP 581.1

    32. So perfectly were the pagan practises duplicated in these festivals of the martyrs, that the Catholics were charged with practising pagan rites, with the only difference that they did it apart from the pagans. This charge was made to Augustine: “You have substituted your Agapae for the sacrifices of the pagans; for their idols your martyrs, whom you serve with the very same honors. You appease the shades of the dead with wines and feasts; you celebrate the solemn festivals of the Gentiles, their calends and their solstices; and as to their manners, those you have retained without any alteration. Nothing distinguishes you from the pagans except that you hold your assemblies apart from them.”—Draper. 18[Page 581] “Intellectual Development of Europe,” Vol. 1, chap 10. par. 5. And the only defense that Augustine could make was in a blundering casuistical effort to show a distinction in the nature of the two forms of worship.GEP 581.2

    33. In the burial of their dead, they still continued the pagan practise of putting a piece of money in the mouth of the corpse, with which the departed was to pay the charges of Charon for ferrying him over the river Styx. 19[Page 581] Milman’s “History of Christianity,” book iv, chap 2, par. 13, note.GEP 581.3

    34. Another most prolific source of general corruption was the church’s assumption of authority to regulate, and that by law, the whole question of the marriage relation, both in the church and in the State. “The first aggression ... which the church made on the State, was assuming the cognizance over all questions and causes relating to marriage.”—Milman. 20[Page 582] Id., book iv, chap 1, par. 58.GEP 581.4

    35. Among the clergy she attempted to enforce celibacy; that is, to prohibit marriage altogether. Monkery had arisen to a perfect delirium of popularity; and” a characteristic trait of monasticism in all its forms is a morbid aversion to female society, and a rude contempt of married life.... Among the rules of Basil is a prohibition of speaking with a woman, touching one, or even looking on one, except in unavoidable cases.”—Schaff. 21[Page 582] “History of the Christian Church,” Vol. iii, sec; xxxii, par. 15. As monkery was so universally and so extremely popular among all classes from the height of imperial dignity to the depths of the monkish degradation itself, it became necessary for the clergy to imitate the monks in order to maintain popularity with the people. And as monkery is only an ostentatious display of self-righteousness, the contempt of married life was the easiest way for the clergy to advertise most loudly their imitation of monkish virtue.GEP 582.1

    36. In their self-righteousness some of the monks attained to such a “pre-eminence” of “virtue” that they could live promiscuously with women, or like Jerome,, write “letters to a virgin” that were unfit to be written to a harlot. The former class, in the estimation of an admirer, “bore away the pre-eminence from all others.”GEP 582.2

    37. The first decretal ever issued, namely, that by Pope Siricius, A. D. 385, commanded the married clergy to separate from their wives, under sentence of expulsion from the clerical order upon all who dared to offer resistance; yet promising pardon for such as had offended through ignorance, and suffering them to retain their positions, provided they would observe complete separation from their wives: though even then they were to be held forever incapable of promotion. The clergy finding themselves forbidden by the pope to marry, and finding it necessary, in order to maintain a standing of popularity, to imitate the monks, practised this peculiar sort of monkish “virtue.” “The clerks, who ought to instruct and awe the women with a grave and composed behavior, first kiss their heads, and then stretching out their hands, as it were, to bestow a blessing, slyly receive a fee for their salutation. The women in the meantime, elated with pride in feeling themselves thus courted by the clergy, prefer the freedom of widowhood to the subjection attending the state of matrimony.”—Jerome. 22[Page 583] Quoted by Bower, “History of the Popes,” Damasus, par. 12.GEP 582.3

    38. As these associations differed from those of real matrimony “only in the absence of the marriage ceremony,” it was not an uncommon thing for men to gain admission to “holy orders” “on account of the superior opportunities which clericature gave of improper intercourse with women.” This practise became so scandalous that in A. D. 370 Valentinian I enacted a law “which denounced severe punishment on ecclesiastics who visited the houses of widows and virgins.”—Lea. 23[Page 583] “History of Sacerdotal Celibacy,” chap 5. par. 17, and chap 4, par. 7. The law, however, had really no effect in stopping the wickedness. And “with the disappearance of legitimate marriage in the priesthood, the already prevalent vice of the cohabitation of unmarried ecclesiastics with pious widows and virgins ‘secretly brought in,’ became more and more common. This spiritual marriage, which had begun as a bold ascetic venture, ended only too often in the flesh, and prostituted the honor of the church.”—Schaff. 24[Page 583] “History of the Christian Church,” Vol. iii, sec. i, par.8.GEP 583.1

    39. Again: in accordance with the rest of the theocratical legislation of Constantine and the bishops, the precepts of the Scripture in relation to marriage and divorce were adopted, with heavy penalties, as the laws of the empire. As the church had assumed “cognizance over all questions relating to marriage,” it followed that marriage not celebrated by the church was held to be but little better than an illicit connection. Yet the weddings of the church were celebrated in the pagan way. Loose hymns were sung to Venus, and “the bride was borne by drunken men to her husband’s house among choirs of dancing harlots with pipes, and flutes, and songs of offensive license.” And when the marriage had been thus celebrated, and even consummated, the marriage bond was held so loosely that it amounted to very little; for “men changed their wives as quickly as their clothes, and marriage chambers were set up as easily as booths in a market.”—Milman. 25[Page 584] “History of Christianity,” book iv, chap 1, par. 58, note; and 60.GEP 583.2

    40. Of course there were against all these evils, laws abundant with penalties terrible, as in the days of the Caesars. And also as in those days, the laws were utterly impotent; not only for the same great reason that then existed, that the iniquity was so prevalent that there were none to enforce the laws; but for an additional reason that now existed; that is, the bishops were the interpreters of the code, and by this time, through the interminable and hair-splitting distinctions drawn against heresies, the bishops had so sharpened their powers of interpretation that they could easily evade the force of any law, Scriptural, canonical, or statutory, that might be produced.GEP 584.1

    41. There is yet one other element of general corruption to be noticed. As we have seen, the means employed by Constantine in establishing the Catholic religion and church, and in making that the prevalent religion, were such as to win only hypocrites. This was bad enough in itself, yet the hypocrisy was voluntary; but when through the agency of her Sunday laws, and by the ministration of Theodosius, the church received control of the civil power to compel all, without distinction, who were not Catholics, to act as though they were, hypocrisy was made compulsory; and every person who was not voluntarily a church-member was compelled either to be a hypocrite or a rebel. In addition to this, those who were of the church indeed, through the endless succession of controversies and church council, were forever establishing, changing, and re-establishing the faith. And as all were required to change or revise their faith according as the councils decreed, all moral and spiritual integrity was destroyed. Hypocrisy became a habit, dissimulation and fraud a necessity of life; and the very moral fiber of men and of society was vitiated.GEP 584.2

    42. In the then existing order of things it was impossible that it should be otherwise. Right faith is essential to right morals. Purity of faith is essential to purity of heart and life. But there the faith was wrong and utterly corrupt, and nothing but corruption could follow. More than this, the faith was essentially pagan, and much more guilty than had been the original pagan; because it was professed under the name of Christianity and the gospel, and because it was in itself a shameful corruption of the true faith of the gospel. As the faith of the people was essentially pagan, or rather worse, the morality of the people could be nothing else. And such in fact it was.GEP 584.3

    43. “There is ample evidence to show how great had been the reaction from the simple genuineness of early Christian belief, and how nearly the Christian world had generally associated itself, in thought and temper, not to say in superstitious practise, with the pagan. We must not shut our eyes to the fact that much of the apparent success of the new religion had been gained by its actual accommodation of itself to the ways and feelings of the old. It was natural it should be so. Once set aside, from doubt, distaste, or any other feeling, the special dogmas of the gospel, ... and men will naturally turn to compromise, to eclecticism, to universalism, to indifference, to unbelief ....GEP 585.1

    44. “If the great Christian doctors had themselves come forth from the schools of the pagans, the loss had not been wholly unrequited; so complacently had even Christian doctors again surrendered themselves to the fascinations of pagan speculations; so fatally, in their behalf, had they extenuated Christian dogma, and acknowledged the fundamental truth and sufficiency of science falsely so called.GEP 585.2

    45. “The gospel we find was almost eaten out from the heart of the Christian society. I speak not now of the pride of spiritual pretensions, of the corruption of its secular politics, of its ascetic extravagances, its mystical fallacies; of its hollowness in preaching, or its laxity in practise; of its saint-worship, which was a revival of hero-worship; its addiction to the sensuous in outward service, which was a revival of idolatry. But I point to the fact, less observed by our church historians, of the absolute defect of all distinctive Christianity in the utterances of men of the highest esteem as Christians,—men of reputed wisdom, sentiment, and devotion.GEP 585.3

    46. “Look, for instance, at the remains we possess of the Christian Boethius, a man whom we know to have been a professed Christian and churchman, excellent in action, steadfast in suffering, but in whose writings, in which he aspires to set before us the true grounds of spiritual consolation on which he rested himself in the hour of his trial, and on which he would have his fellows rest, there is no trace of Christianity whatever, nothing but pure, unmingled naturalism.GEP 586.1

    47. “This marked decline of distinctive Christian belief was accompanied with a marked decline of Christian morality. Heathenism reasserted its empire over the carnal affections of the natural man. The pictures of abounding wickedness in the high places and the low places of the earth, which are presented to us by the witnesses of the worst pagan degradation, are repeated, in colors not less strong, in lines not less hideous, by the observers of the gross and reckless iniquity of the so-called Christian period now before us. It becomes evident that as the great mass of the careless and indifferent have assumed, with the establishment of the Christian church in authority and honor, the outward garb and profession of Christian believers, so, with the decline of belief, the corruption of the visible church, the same masses, indifferent and irreligious as of old, have rejected the moral restraints which their profession should have imposed upon them.”—Merivale. 26[Page 586] “Conversion of the Northern Nations,” lect. iv, pars. 10, 12, 13.GEP 586.2

    48. In short, the same corruptions that had characterized the former Rome were reproduced in the Rome of the fifth century. “The primitive rigor of discipline and manners was utterly neglected and forgotten by the ecclesiastics of Rome. The most exorbitant luxury, with all the vices attending it, was introduced among them, and the most scandalous and unchristian arts of acquiring wealth universally practised. They seem to have rivaled in riotous living the greatest epicures of Pagan Rome when luxury was there at the highest pitch. For Jerome, who was an eye-witness of what he writ, reproaches the Roman clergy with the same excesses which the poet Juvenal so severely censured in the Roman nobility under the reign of Domitian.”—Bower. 27[Page 587] “History of the Popes,” Damasus, par. 14. “Everything was determined by auguries and auspices; the wild orgies of the Bacchanalians, with all their obscene songs and revelry, were not wanting.”—Merivale. 28[Page 587] “Conversion of the Northern Nations,” notes and illustrations, E.GEP 586.3

    49. And now all the evils engendered in that evil intrigue which united the State with a professed Christianity, hurried on the doomed empire to its final and utter ruin. “The criminal and frivolous pleasures of a decrepit civilization left no thought for the absorbing duties of the day nor the fearful trials of the morrow. Unbridled lust and unblushing indecency admitted no sanctity in the marriage tie. The rich and powerful established harems, in the recesses of which their wives lingered, forgotten, neglected, and despised. The banquet, theater, and the circus exhausted what little strength and energy were left by domestic excesses. The poor aped the vices of the rich and hideous depravity reigned supreme, and invited the vengeance of heaven.”—Lea. 29[Page 587] “History of Sacerdotal Celibacy,” chap 5. par. 20.GEP 587.1

    50. The pagan superstitions, the pagan delusions, and the pagan vices, which had been brought into the church by the apostasy, and clothed with a form of godliness, had wrought such corruption that the society of which it was a part could no longer exist. From it no more good could possibly come, and it must be swept away. “The uncontrollable progress of avarice, prodigality, voluptuousness, theater-going, intemperance, lewdness; in short, of all the heathen vices, which Christianity had come to eradicate, still carried the Roman Empire and people with rapid strides toward dissolution, and gave it at last into the hands of the rude, but simple and morally vigorous, barbarians.”—Schaff. 30[Page 587] “History of the Christian Church,” Vol. iii, sec. xxiii, par. 2.GEP 587.2

    51. And onward those barbarians came, swiftly and in multitudes. For a hundred years the dark cloud had been hanging threateningly over the borders of the empire, encroaching slightly upon the West and breaking occasionally upon the East. But at the close of the fourth century the tempest burst in all its fury, and the flood was flowing ruinously. Wherever these savages went, they carried fire and slaughter; and whenever they departed, they left desolation and ruin in their track, and carried away multitudes of captives. Thus was the proud empire of Western Rome swept from the earth; and that which Constantine and his ecclesiastical flatterers had promised one another should be the everlasting salvation of the State, proved its speedy and everlasting ruin.GEP 587.3

    52. It was impossible that it should be otherwise. We have seen to what a fearful depth of degradation pagan Rome had gone in the days of the Caesars, yet the empire did not perish then. There was hope for the people. The gospel of Jesus Christ carried in earnestness, in simplicity, and in its heavenly power, brought multitudes to its saving light, and to a knowledge of the purity of Jesus Christ. This was their salvation. And the gospel of Christ, by restoring the virtue and integrity of the individual, was the preservation of the Roman State.GEP 588.1

    53. But by apostasy that gospel had lost its purity and its power in the multitudes who professed it. It was now used only as a cloak to cover the same old pagan wickedness. This form of godliness practised not only without the power but in defiance of it, permeated the great masses of the people, and the empire had thereby become a festering mass of corruption. When thus the only means which it was possible for the Lord himself to employ to purify the people, had been taken and made only the cloak under which to increase unto more ungodliness, there was no other remedy; destruction must come.GEP 588.2

    54. And it did come, by a host, wild and savage, it is true, but whose social habits were so far above those of the people which they destroyed, that, savage as they were caused fairly to blush at the shameful corruptions which they found in this so-called Christian society of Rome.GEP 588.3

    55. A writer who lived at the time of the barbarian invasions, and who wrote as a Christian, exclaims: “‘The church, which ought everywhere to propitiate God, what does she but provoke Him to anger? How many may one meet, even in the church, who are not still drunkards, or debauchees, or adulterers, or fornicators, or robbers, or murderers, or the like, or all these at once, without end? It is even a sort of holiness among Christian people to be less vicious.’ From the public worship of God, and almost during it, they pass to deeds of shame. Scarce a rich man but would commit murder and fornication. We have lost the whole power of Christianity, and offend God the more, that we sin as Christians. We are worse than the barbarians and heathen. If the Saxon is wild, the Frank faithless, the Goth inhuman, the Alanian drunken, the Hun licentious, they are, by reason of their ignorance, far less punishable than we, who, knowing the commandments of God, commit all these crimes.” 31[Page 589] Quoted by Schaff, Id., sec. xii, par. 3.GEP 588.4

    56. “You, Romans, Christians, and Catholics, are defrauding your brethren, are grinding the faces of the poor, are frittering away your lives over the impure and heathenish spectacles of the amphitheater, you are wallowing in licentiousness and inebriety. The barbarians, meanwhile, heathen or heretics though they may be, and however fierce toward us, are just and fair in their dealings with one another. The men of the same clan, and following the same king, love one another with true affection. The impurities of the theater are unknown amongst them. Many of their tribes are free from the taint of drunkenness, and among all, except the Alans and the Huns, chastity is the rule.GEP 589.1

    57. “Not one of these tribes is altogether vicious. If they have their vices, they have also their virtues, clear, sharp, and well defined. Whereas you, my beloved fellow provincials, I regret to say, with the exception of a few holy men among you, are altogether bad. Your lives from the cradle to the grave are a tissue of rottenness and corruption, and all this notwithstanding that you have the sacred Scriptures in your hands.GEP 589.2

    58. “In what other race of men would you find such evils as these which are practised among the Romans? Where else is there such injustice as ours? The Franks know nothing of this villainy. The Huns are clear of crimes like these. None of these exactions are practised among the Vandals, none among the Goths. So far are the barbarian Goths from tolerating frauds like these, that not even the Romans who live under the Gothic rule are called upon to endure them, and hence the one wish of all the Romans in those parts is that it may never be necessary for them to pass under the Roman jurisdiction. With one consenting voice the lower orders of Romans put up the prayer that they may be permitted to spend their life, such as it is, alongside of the barbarians. And then we marvel that our arms should not triumph over the arms of the Goths, when our own countrymen would rather be with them than with us.”—Salvian. 32[Page 590] Quoted in “Italy and Her Invaders,” book i, chap 20, pars, 4, 6, 13.GEP 589.3

    59. “He compares the Christians, especially of Rome, with the Arian Goths and Vandals, to the disparagement of the Romans, who add to the gross sins of nature the refined vices of utilization, passion for the theaters, debauchery, and unnatural lewdness. Therefore has the just God given them into the hands of the barbarians, and exposed them to the ravages of the migrating hordes.” Schaff. 33[Page 590] “History of the Christian Church,” Vol. iii. sec. xxiv, par. 2.GEP 590.1

    60. This description, says the same author, “is in general not untrue.” And he confirms it in his own words by the excellent observation that “nothing but the divine judgment of destruction upon this nominally Christian, but essentially heathen, world, could open the way for the moral regeneration of society. There must be new, fresh nations, if the Christian civilization, prepared in the old Roman Empire, was to take firm root and bear ripe fruit.” 34[Page 590] Id.GEP 590.2

    61. These new, fresh nations came, planted themselves upon the ruins of the old. Out of these came the faithful Christians of the Dark Ages, and upon them broke the light of the Reformation. And out of these, and by this means, God produced the civilization of the nineteenth century and the new republic of the United States of America, from which there should go once more in its purity, as in the beginning, the everlasting gospel to every nation and kindred and tongue and people.GEP 590.3

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