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    October 28, 1897

    “After the Creed was Made: How the Papacy Ruled and Ruined. The Church Leads Toward Ruin” The Present Truth 13, 43, pp. 677-679.



    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 caused the final and fearful ruin of the Roman empire.PTUK October 28, 1897, page 677.1

    Among the first of the acts of Constantine in his favours to the church was the appropriation of money from the public treasury for the bishops. Another enactment, A.D. 321, which as the church used it—was of vastly more importance, was his granting to the church the right to receive legacies.PTUK October 28, 1897, page 677.2

    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.PTUK October 28, 1897, page 677.3

    We have seen in former papers what kind of characters were chosen to the bishopric in those times. 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.PTUK October 28, 1897, page 677.4

    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.PTUK October 28, 1897, page 677.5


    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!”PTUK October 28, 1897, page 677.6

    Here were displayed all those elements of political strife and chicanery which were but referred to in preceding articles.PTUK October 28, 1897, page 677.7

    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.PTUK October 28, 1897, page 677.8

    “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.PTUK October 28, 1897, page 677.9

    “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 labourers, 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.PTUK October 28, 1897, page 677.10

    “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. 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 favour; 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’s “History of Latin Christianity.”)PTUK October 28, 1897, page 677.11

    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:—PTUK October 28, 1897, page 677.12

    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.PTUK October 28, 1897, page 678.1

    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.)PTUK October 28, 1897, page 678.2

    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.)PTUK October 28, 1897, page 678.3

    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 characterised by gorgeous magnificence without grandeur, inordinate luxury without refinement, the pomp and prodigality of a high state of civilisation with none of its ennobling or humanising effects.” (Milman.)PTUK October 28, 1897, page 678.4

    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 practice of shameful vice.PTUK October 28, 1897, page 678.5

    Because of the insatiable avarice of the Roman clergy, and because of the shameful corruption that was practiced 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.PTUK October 28, 1897, page 678.6

    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:—PTUK October 28, 1897, page 678.7

    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.)PTUK October 28, 1897, page 678.8


    NOR was this all. The same pagan rites and heathen superstitions and practices 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.)PTUK October 28, 1897, page 678.9

    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 perverse-minded 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.PTUK October 28, 1897, page 678.10

    This custom, like the forms of sun-worship—the observance of the day of the sun (the Sunday), worshipping 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.) 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 worshipped the rising sun, paying homage to the pagan Apollo, before repairing to the Basilica of St. Peter.” (Schaff.)PTUK October 28, 1897, page 678.11

    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.”PTUK October 28, 1897, page 678.12

    The martyrs, whether real or imaginary, were now honoured 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.PTUK October 28, 1897, page 678.13

    “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.)PTUK October 28, 1897, page 678.14

    So perfectly were the pagan practices duplicated in these festivals of the martyrs, that the Catholics were charged with practicing pagan rites, with the only difference that they did it apart from the pagans. This charge was made to Augustine:—PTUK October 28, 1897, page 678.15

    You have substituted your Agape 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.)PTUK October 28, 1897, page 678.16

    And the only defence that Augustine could make was in a blundering casuistical effort to show a distinction in the nature of the two forms of worship.PTUK October 28, 1897, page 679.1

    In the burial of their dead, they still continued the pagan practice 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.PTUK October 28, 1897, page 679.2

    These things show the utter corruption of religion and morals in the church, which as we shall learn next week brought swift ruin upon the Empire.PTUK October 28, 1897, page 679.3

    A. T. JONES.

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