Larger font
Smaller font
Copy
Print
Contents
  • Results
  • Related
  • Featured
No results found for: "".
    Larger font
    Smaller font
    Copy
    Print
    Contents

    HEATHEN AND CATHOLIC MYSTERIES

    We have already quoted Mosheim’s statement that a large part of the Christian observances and institutions, even in the second century, had the aspect of pagan mysteries. Let us now read something more about those same mysteries. It will tally very well with what has been said of Gregory Thaumaturgus. Says Mosheim:—
    “In addition to the public service of the gods, at which everyone was permitted to be present, the Egyptians, Persians, Grecians, Indians, and some other nations, had recourse to a species of dark and recondite worship, under the name of mysteries.... None were admitted to behold or partake in the celebration of these mysteries, but those who had approved themselves worthy of such distinction, by their fidelity and perseverance in the practice of a long and severe course of initiatory forms.... In the celebration of some of them, it is pretty plain that many things were done in the highest degree repugnant to virtue, modesty, and every finer feeling.... It is certain that the highest veneration was entertained by the people of every country for what were termed the mysteries; and the Christians, perceiving this, were induced to make their religion conform in many respects to this part of the heathen model, hoping that it might thereby the more readily obtain a favorable reception with those whom it was their object and their hope to convert.”—Ecclesiastical Commentaries (introduction), chap. 1, sec. 13.
    FACC 250.1

    In a note to the above we find the following:—
    “They adopted, for instance, in common with the pagan nations, the plan of dividing their sacred offices into two classes: the one public, to which every person was freely admitted; the other secret or mysterious, from which all the unprofessed were excluded. The initiated were those who had been baptized; the unprofessed, the catechumens. The mode of preparatory examination also bore a strong resemblance, in many respects, to the course of initiatory forms observed by the heathen nations, in regard to their mysteries. In a word, many forms and ceremonies, to pass over other things of the Christian worship, were evidently copied from these sacred rites of paganism; and we have only to lament that what was thus done with unquestionably the best intentions, should in some respects have been attended with an evil result.”
    FACC 251.1

    How anyone, after reading testimonies like these, can complacently follow any practice on the ground that it has been the custom of the church for centuries, is a wonder to us. Well did Jeremiah say, “The customs of the people are vain.” Jeremiah 10:3. To claim that a practice must be correct because it is drawn from church tradition, is about as logical as it would be to say that certain viands must be wholesome, because they were rescued from the gutter. It is true that we may find a wholesome article of food in the mire of the streets; but we should not regard the fact that it was found in such a place as evidence that it was good; so tradition may bring to us some things that are good; but the fact that they come to us by tradition should not recommend them to us, but should, on the contrary, cause us to regard them with suspicion. Says Dr. Archibald Bower, in his “History of the Popes:”—FACC 251.2

    “To avoid being imposed upon, we ought to treat tradition as we do a notorious and known liar, to whom we give no credit, unless what he says is confirmed to us by some person of undoubted veracity. If it is affirmed by him [i. e., by tradition] alone, we can at most but suspend our belief, not rejecting it as false, because a liar may sometimes speak truth; but we cannot, upon his bare authority, admit it as true.”—Vol. 1, p. 1.FACC 252.1

    So whenever we find a “custom” which rests on church tradition, the “person of known veracity” to whom we shall refer it is the Bible. “To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”FACC 252.2

    Dr. Carson, in his great work on baptism, says:—
    “With respect to religious doctrines and institutions, there is no antecedent probability that those in existence at any time are actually in Scripture. The vast majority of religious rites used under the Christian name are the mere invention of men; and not a single institution of the Lord Jesus, as it is recorded in the New Testament, has been left unchanged; and it is no injustice to put each of them to the proof, because, if they are in Scripture, proof is at all times accessible.”—Page 6.
    FACC 252.3

    This being the case, it is perfectly just to conclude, when men appeal to “the custom of the church” in support of any practice, that they are conscious that the Bible will not sustain their position. No one who can support his cause by the Scriptures will ever appeal to the Fathers or to tradition and custom.FACC 252.4

    But we have further direct testimony concerning the perversion of Christian ordinances. We have seen how an eminent Father allowed the people to retain heathen customs on their festival days. As early as in the second century, within less than a hundred years after the death of the last apostle, the Christian church had begun to assume the color of heathenism. And as the heathen “mysteries,” which were accompanied by so much that is pleasing to the natural heart, must have been that which the heathen would be the most loth to give up, the church Fathers, in the excess of their perverted zeal, claimed that they too had “mysteries” connected with their religion. Mosheim thus treats of this:—“Religion having thus, in both its branches, the speculative as well as the practical, assumed a twofold character, the one public or common, the other private or mysterious, it was not long before a distinction of a similar kind took place also in the Christian discipline, and form of divine worship. For observing that in Egypt, as well as in other countries, the heathen worshipers, in addition to their public religious ceremonies, to which everyone was admitted without distinction, had certain secret and most sacred rites, to which they gave the name of ‘mysteries,’ and at the celebration of which none, except persons of the most approved faith and discretion, were permitted to be present, the Alexandrian Christians first, and after them others, were beguiled into a notion that they could not do better than make the Christian discipline accommodate itself to this model. The multitude professing Christianity were therefore divided by them into the ‘profane,’ or those who were not as yet admitted to the mysteries, and the ‘initiated,’ or faithful and perfect. To the former belonged the ‘catechumens,’ or those that had indeed enrolled themselves under the Christian banner, but had never been regularly received into the fellowship of Christ’s flock by the sacrament of baptism; as also those who, for some transgression or offense, had been expelled from communion with the faithful. The latter, who were properly termed ‘the church,’ consisted of all such as had been regularly admitted into the Christian community by baptism, and had never forfeited their privileges, as well as of those who, having by some misconduct incurred the penalty of excommunication, had, upon their repentance, been again received into the bosom of the church. It became, moreover, customary, even in this century, more especially in Egypt and the neighboring provinces, for persons desirous of being admitted into either of these classes, to be previously exercised and examined, we may even say tormented, for a great length of time, with a variety of ceremonies, for the most part nearly allied to those that were observed in preparing people for a sight of the heathen mysteries. Upon the same principle, a twofold form was given to divine worship, the one general and open to the people at large, the other special and concealed from all, except the faithful or initiated. To the latter belonged the common prayers, baptism, the agapae or love-feasts, and the Lord’s Supper; and as none were permitted to be present at these ‘mysteries,’ as they were termed, save those whose admission into the fellowship of the church was perfect and complete, so likewise was it expected that, as a matter of duty, the most sacred silence should be observed in regard to everything connected with the celebration of them, and nothing whatever relating thereto be committed to the ears of the profane. From this constitution of things it came to pass, not only that many terms and phrases made use of in the heathen mysteries were transferred and applied to different parts of the Christian worship, particularly to the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, but that, in not a few instances, the sacred rites of the church were contaminated by the introduction of various pagan forms and ceremonies.”—Ecclesiastical Commentaries, cent. 2, sec. 36.FACC 252.5

    Comment on the above is unnecessary, and so we leave it, to introduce a statement from Dr. Killen, concerning the perversion of the communion:— “In the third century superstition already recognized a mystery in the mixture [i. e., of the cup]. ‘We see,’ says Cyprian, ‘that in the water the people are represented, but that in the wine is exhibited the blood of Christ. When, however, in the cup water is mingled with wine, the people are united to Christ, and the multitude of the faithful are coupled and conjoined to him on whom they believe.’ The bread was not put into the mouth of the communicant by the administrator, but was handed to him by a deacon; and it is said that, the better to show forth the unity of the church, all partook of one loaf made of a size sufficient to supply the whole congregation. The wine was administered separately, and was drunk out of a cup or chalice. As early as the third century an idea began to be entertained that the eucharist was necessary to salvation, and it was, in consequence, given to infants. None were now suffered to be present at its celebration but those who were communicants; for even the catechumens, or candidates for baptism, were obliged to withdraw before the elements were consecrated.”—Ancient Church, period 2, sec. 3, chap. 3, paragraph 5.FACC 254.1

    Here we have the Roman Catholic mass fully developed within but little over a hundred years after the death of the apostles. In some things, however, we must allow that the ancients were more consistent than those of later years. Infant baptism, so called, is at the present time practiced by the greater part of Christendom. Now nothing is more easily demonstrated than that baptism is the door unto the church. “By one spirit are we all baptized into one body.” This is admitted by those who administer to infants what they term “baptism,” for Pedobaptists never baptize those who have been sprinkled in infancy. But to join in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is not a privilege only, but it is the duty of every member of the church. Therefore, if it is proper and right to baptize infants, it is certainly as necessary to administer to them the communion also. To deprive any church-member of the blessings of the communion is a grievous wrong. In this respect the ancients were certainly consistent in their error.FACC 255.1

    Larger font
    Smaller font
    Copy
    Print
    Contents