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    November 4, 1897

    “After the Creed was Made: How the Papacy Ruled and Ruined. The Ruin of the Roman Empire” The Present Truth 13, 44, pp. 693-695.


    WE have seen how religion was corrupted by the adoption of pagan ideas and observances, and how the exaltation of the papal religion as the religion of the empire filled the church with elements of evil. So that, instead of having an influence to restrain and uplift society, it actually corrupted it and dragged it into deeper vices.PTUK November 4, 1897, page 693.1


    ANOTHER most prolific source of general corruption was the church’s assumption of authority to regulate by law the whole question of the marriage relation, both in Church and State. As monkery was so popular among all classes from the height of imperial dignity to the depths of monkish degradation itself, it became necessary for the clergy to imitate the monks in order to maintain popularity. And it led into the same profligacy of morals amongst the clergy generally as existed in monkery.PTUK November 4, 1897, page 693.2

    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. The end of it all was that it was not an uncommon thing for men to gain admission to “holy orders” on account of the facility afforded for leading a vicious life, and a special law was enacted by Valentian I. in A.D. 370, to deal with this scandal among the clergy.PTUK November 4, 1897, page 693.3

    As the church had assumed “cognisance 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, and the integrity of the marriage bond was slightly held.PTUK November 4, 1897, page 693.4

    Of course there were against all these evils, laws abundant with penalties terrible, as in the days of the Cesars. 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, though 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.PTUK November 4, 1897, page 693.5


    THERE is yet 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.PTUK November 4, 1897, page 693.6

    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.PTUK November 4, 1897, page 694.1


    DEAN MEDIVALE say, in his lectures on the “Conversion of the Northern Nations“:—PTUK November 4, 1897, page 694.2

    “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 practice, 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. 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 ....PTUK November 4, 1897, page 694.3

    “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.PTUK November 4, 1897, page 694.4

    “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 practice; 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. 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.PTUK November 4, 1897, page 694.5

    “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.”PTUK November 4, 1897, page 694.6

    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.PTUK November 4, 1897, page 694.7

    The criminal and frivolous pleasures of a decrepit civilisation left no thought for the absorbing duties of the day nor the fearful trials of the morrow.... 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’s “History of Sacerdotal Celibacy.”)PTUK November 4, 1897, page 694.8


    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.PTUK November 4, 1897, page 694.9

    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.)PTUK November 4, 1897, page 694.10

    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. As early as A.D. 377 a million Goths had crossed the Danube, and between that time and A.D. 400 they had ravaged the country from Thessalonica to the Adriatic Sea. In A.D. 400 a host of them entered the borders of Italy, but were restrained for a season.PTUK November 4, 1897, page 694.11

    In 406 a band of Burgundians, Vandals, Suevi, and Alani from the north of Germany, four hundred thousand strong, overran the country as far as Florence. In the siege of that city their course was checked with the loss of more than one hundred thousand. They then returned to Germany, and with large accessions to their numbers, overran all the southern part of Gaul. The Burgundians remained in Gaul; the Vandals, the Alani, and the Suevi overran all the southern part of Spain, and carried their ravages over the greater part of that province, and to the Strait of Gibraltor.PTUK November 4, 1897, page 694.12

    In 410 again returned the mighty hosts of the Goths, and spread over all Italy from the Alps to the Strait of Sicily, and for five days inflicted upon Rome such pillage as had never befallen it since the day, nearly a thousand years before, when the Cimbri left it in ruins. They marched out of Italy and took possession of Southeastern Gaul from the Mediterranean Sea to the Bay of Biscay.PTUK November 4, 1897, page 694.13

    In May 429, the Vandals, in whose num- bers of the Alani had been absorbed, crossed the Strait of Gibraltar into Africa, and for ten years ravaged the country from there to Carthage, of which city they took possession with great slaughter, October 9, A.D. 439; and in 440 the terrible Genseric, king of the Vandals, ruled the Mediterranean and sacked the city of Rome.PTUK November 4, 1897, page 694.14

    In 449 the Saxons and their German neighbors invaded Britain, of which they soon became sole possessors, utterly exterminating the native inhabitants.PTUK November 4, 1897, page 665.1

    In 451-453 another mighty host, numbering seven hundred thousand, of all the barbarous nations, led by Attila, desolated Eastern Gaul as far as Chalons, and the north of Italy as far as the Rhone, but returned again beyond the Danube.PTUK November 4, 1897, page 665.2

    And finally, in 476, when Odoacer, king of the Heruli, became king of Italy, the last vestige of the Western empire of Rome was gone, and was divided among the ten nations of barbarians of the North.PTUK November 4, 1897, page 665.3


    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.PTUK November 4, 1897, page 665.4

    It was impossible that it should be otherwise. Pagan Rome had gone in the days of the Cesars, 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.PTUK November 4, 1897, page 665.5

    But when by apostasy that gospel had lost its purity and its power in the multitudes who professed it; and when it was used only as a cloak to cover the same old pagan wickedness; when this form of godliness, practiced 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 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.PTUK November 4, 1897, page 665.6


    And it did come, as we have seen, 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, they were caused fairly to blush at the shameful corruptions which they found in this so-called Christian society of Rome. This is proved by the best authority. A writer who lived at the time of the barbarian invasions and who wrote as a Christian, gives the following evidence as to the condition of things:—PTUK November 4, 1897, page 665.7

    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. (Salvian.)PTUK November 4, 1897, page 665.8

    “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 civilisation, passion for the theatres, 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.)PTUK November 4, 1897, page 665.9

    And 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 civilisation, prepared in the old Roman empire, was to take firm root and bear ripe fruit.”PTUK November 4, 1897, page 665.10

    These new, fresh nations came, and 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.PTUK November 4, 1897, page 665.11

    A. T. JONES.

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