Larger font
Smaller font
From Eden to Eden - Contents
  • Results
  • Related
  • Featured
No results found for: "".
  • Weighted Relevancy
  • Content Sequence
  • Relevancy
  • Earliest First
  • Latest First
    Larger font
    Smaller font


    The twelfth and thirteenth chapters of the Revelation so naturally follow the seventh of Daniel that some facts in Daniel’s prophecy are passed over for the present, in order to follow out this chain. The thirteenth chapter of Revelation is, indeed, the complement of the seventh of Daniel; but a brief notice of Revelation 12 is necessary as preliminary to the study of chapter 13.FEE 129.1

    In chapter 12 are presented two prominent objects:—FEE 129.2

    1. A woman, which is a symbol of the church of Christ. She was clothed with the sun—the rising glory of the new, or gospel, dispensation. And the moon was under her feet—the paler glory of the dispensation just passing away. All the institutions of the Mosaic economy borrowed their light from the coming Messiah, the Son of God, the antitype of all its sacrifices, as the moon borrows her light from the sun. She had a crown of twelve stars—the twelve apostles of the Lamb. That this woman represented the church of God is evident from this circumstance, that to the woman was born a son, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron, and who was caught up to God and his throne. This will apply to the Lord Jesus Christ and to no one else. Again, in the seventeenth chapter of this book, a woman represents the apostate church, the church of antichrist. Thus the two churches—that of Christ and that of antichrist—are represented by women.FEE 129.3

    2. The other prominent object in this chapter is a great red dragon. Two views are held in regard to this: (1) That the dragon is Satan. This view has this advantage, that the dragon is called the devil and Satan in verse 9, and is there represented as the leader of the angels that fought against Michael, who is the Archangel, Jude 9, and his angels. And also the devil, or Satan, is called the dragon in chapter 20:2. This certainly seems decisive. (2) It is held that the dragon is a symbol of pagan Rome. In favor of this view is presented the appearance of the dragon, having seven heads and ten horns. These heads and horns are elsewhere used as symbols, and they certainly do not belong to the devil literally. Such is not the personal appearance of the devil.FEE 129.4

    Doubtless there is truth in both these views, and the whole truth seems to be comprised in the two. There is great uniformity of belief among the best authors that Satan is addressed directly as “king of Tyrus,” in Ezekiel 28:12-19, while the reigning monarch was called the prince of Tyrus. Verses 1-10. Tyre was the great seat of commerce, the mart of nations; her merchants were princes, her traffickers the honorable of the earth. Isaiah 23:3, 8. And her wickedness corresponded to her wealth and her greatness. She was Satan’s chief instrument and representative in the days of her prosperity. And also of Rome. What nation or city ever served Satan so faithfully and so successfully as Rome? For many centuries it was the very seat of his service and his power. Cruelty and licentiousness were the characteristics of her people, from king to slave, under all phases of her dominion. Of this we are assured by history, yet how few of the crimes of her mighty men have come down through history. Under the circumstances, we see no difficulty in representing Satan as that old serpent, the dragon, and then letting the dragon stand as his chief representative—pagan Rome.FEE 130.1

    The dragon sought to put the man child to death as soon as he was born. An effort was put forth to slay the infant Jesus in Bethlehem. In this effort all the children of Bethlehem two years old and under were put to death—an act worthy of Satan himself. But it was committed under the order of a Roman king; and the Lord Jesus was finally put to death by another Roman king. The dragon then persecuted
    [Graphic Of THE BEAST WITH SEVEN HEADS AND TEN HORNS] the woman; he continued his persecution during the time and times and half, though she was protected from his power; and he will also persecute the remnant of her seed, the very last state of the church, “which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Revelation 12:17. Compare chap. 19:10. These facts prove that the dragon does not leave the field of action while time endures.
    FEE 130.2

    In Revelation 13:1, 2 is described the rise and appearance of a beast, in the following words:—FEE 131.1

    “And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion; and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.”FEE 131.2

    By comparing this beast with the beasts in Daniel 7:1-7 it will be seen that it contains all the main features of all the beasts of that chapter. All rose out of the sea. In Revelation 17:15 waters are shown to represent the multitudes of people. It will yet be seen that there is a contrast presented on this point: they did not grow up; the powers they represent were not built up; they rose up by conquest and strivings among the nations.FEE 131.3

    The description of this beast gives the order the reverse of that in Daniel 7, because the two prophets stood at opposite ends of the chain. John said the beast was like unto a leopard—the third beast of Daniel 7, the symbol of the Grecian kingdom. His feet were as the feet of a bear—the second beast of Daniel, the kingdom of the Medes and the Persians. And his mouth was as the mouth of a lion—the first beast of Daniel, Babylon. Thus far the likeness is complete. But this is not all. The beast had seven heads and ten horns. There is no question ever raised against the idea that these horns are the same powers that are represented by the horns on the fourth beast of Daniel 7. Thus all the four beasts combine in this. But no theory which has ever been published concerning these heads fully satisfies the prophecy, but that does not hinder our identifying the beast itself. A comparison of its work, the time of its continuance, etc., with the same features of the “little horn” of Daniel 7, is sufficient to settle beyond all controversy that the two symbols represent the same power.FEE 131.4

    Can we see any object in the prophecy thus giving to this beast every prominent feature of those beasts? Certainly we can. This beast is the actual heir to the dominion held by those four beasts. An objection against this has been offered to the intent that the dominion of the popes was so limited that it cannot be said that they inherited the dominion of the great monarchies. This objection is based on wrong views of the papal power, as to both its nature and extent. On this point verse 2 says, “And the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.” This is very important ground and should be very carefully examined.FEE 132.1

    First, what is meant by the expression, “the supremacy of the papacy”? In what did the strength of the papal power consist? The word supremacy is a proper word to use in reference to the power of the popes, but not in regard to their civil power. This was not only quite limited, but variable and uncertain. Indeed, civil power is not necessary to the existence of the papacy, as all know; neither is it necessary to the exercise of the largest power ever exercised by the popes. The possession of civil power gives prestige in a certain sense, as the pope is thereby classed among kings, no matter how small his territory, and it brings him into closer relations to other governments. But it must be borne in mind that the popes never exercised power over kings by virtue of their own kingship, but always by reason of their priesthood. They never pretended to control kings, or to absolve subjects from their allegiance, by reason of their kingly power, but as being successors of St. Peter—as vicars of Christ upon earth. They claimed that, as all power was given to Christ in Heaven and upon earth, so must his vicar, the one who holds that power on earth, have a right to exercise all that power. Pope Symmachus said to the emperor of the East, that the pope was as much superior to an emperor as heavenly things are superior to earthly things. This was an admission on his part, that his supremacy was altogether in his spiritual authority; but the popes chose to overlook the acknowledged fact that their power as temporal princes took so much from their exalted position, as it made them ministers of merely earthly things in their priesthood. This is the logical conclusion, from the position assumed by Symmachus, though it is not the manner in which it has been viewed. And it should also be borne in mind that, at the time of Symmachus, he did not claim, or even directly aspire to, the exercise of civil power.FEE 132.2

    It was in their spiritual power alone that their strength and supremacy consisted. Their anathemas, their curses of kings, their control over the subjects of kings, were all by virtue of their assumed power as the high priests of the kingdom of Christ. This was exercised without any regard to the extent of their territorial jurisdiction as civil rulers, or even to the existence of such jurisdiction.FEE 133.1

    We have been thus particular on this point, as it is one of great importance. The extent of papal power deserves special attention. Because the beginning of the civil power of the papacy is veiled in considerable obscurity, it has been argued that we cannot point with certainty to any particular time for the setting up of the papacy. But this is not correct. Examining this subject with care, we shall find that four steps were taken, and only four, which fully established the power of the popes; and these steps are readily identified.FEE 133.2

    First, conferring the primacy upon the bishop of Rome, which was done by the Council of Nice, and confirmed by the royal commissioners. Because the title did not, at that time, carry with it any great weight, or confer any particular power, some have thought that the primacy, as then established, did not amount to much. But they overlook the nature of the hierarchy as established by Constantine, and the consequences that naturally grew out of this gift. Bower gives a minute account of the church establishment, and from this some extracts are here given. He first describes the churches in their original independence, and their councils, being voluntary meetings, “there being no Christian magistrates in those days to convene synods.” It is a fact that from the Council of Nice onwards, the magistrates convened synods and councils. Before the emperor took the headship of the national church, there was no earthly head of the church recognized. Bower says:—FEE 133.3

    “Such was the hierarchy, such the government of the church, during the first three centuries. But in the fourth and following ages great alterations were made in both, the church adapting her government to that of the State, namely, to the new form of government introduced by Constantine, who had taken the priesthood under his immediate protection. For it was in his reign that the titles of Patriarchs, Exarchs, Metropolitans, were first heard of, or at least had any power, authority, or privileges, annexed to them. That this conformity between the civil and ecclesiastical polity may appear more plainly, I shall premise a succinct account of the former, as established by Constantine throughout the empire.”FEE 134.1

    Here follows a description of the organization of the empire into prefectures, dioceses, provinces, with proconsuls, vicars, consulars, correctors, and presidents. “Each diocese had its metropolis, and likewise each province contained in the diocese.” He continues:—FEE 134.2

    “Now, if we compare the civil polity thus described, with the ecclesiastical, we shall find them in most places answering each other, in every respect, and one bishop raised above the rest, according to the rank that was given in this new division to the city in which he presided. Thus, for instance, the chief cities of the five dioceses of the oriental prefecture were—Antioch, the metropolis of the oriental diocese; Alexandria, of the Egyptian; Ephesus, of the Asiatic; Cæsarea, of the Pontic; and Heraclea, of the Thracian. Now the bishops of these cities, in regard of the eminence of their sees, were exalted above all other bishops, and distinguished with the title of exarchs; nay, and by degrees they acquired, not to say usurped, a kind of authority and jurisdiction over the bishops of the inferior sees, which was afterwards confirmed to them by several councils. In like manner, the bishops of the metropolis of each province was, on account of the dignity of his see, honored with the title of metropolitan, to which were annexed certain privileges, of which I shall speak hereafter.”FEE 134.3

    After further remarks and descriptions, he adds the following significant passage:—FEE 134.4

    “However, the power of the bishop of Rome far exceeded, within the bounds of his jurisdiction, that of other metropolitans, as I shall show.” History of the Popes, under Sylvester. Another historian makes the following remarks:—FEE 134.5

    “The bishop of Rome took precedence over all others of the episcopal order. Nor was this pre-eminence founded solely on popular feeling and a prejudice of long standing, sprung from various causes; but also on those grounds which commonly give priority and greatness in the estimation of mortals. For he exceeded all other bishops in the amplitude and splendor of the church over which he presided, in the magnitude of his revenues and possessions, in the number of his ministers of various descriptions, in the weight of his influence with the people at large, and in the sumptuousness and magnificence of his style of living. These marks of power and worldly greatness were so fascinating to the minds of Christians even in this age, that often most obstinate and bloody contests took place at Rome when a new pontin was to be created by the suffrages of the priests and people.” Murdock’s Mosheim, Ecclesiastical History, Book 2, Cent. 4, Part 2, chap. 2, sec. 5 (London, 1845).FEE 135.1

    Now, inasmuch as the bishops were possessed of power and dignity according to the rank of the city over which they presided, as Bower says, especial dignity and the primacy were given to the bishop of Rome, because it was the imperial city. And every step in the transformation of the pagan empire into the papal empire, proves that the higher honor conferred upon the bishop of Rome, was not because of any supposed primacy of Peter, or of any other apostle, but solely because of the imperial rank of the city.FEE 135.2

    The Council of Chalcedon proceeded to confer prerogatives upon the bishop of Constantinople, against which the Roman delegates protested, as encroachments upon the primacy of Rome. The imperial commissioners who heard the plea, thus decided:—FEE 135.3

    “From the whole discussion, and from what has been brought forward on either side, we acknowledge that the primacy over all and the most eminent rank are to continue with the archbishop of old Rome.” Schaff, Church History, Vol. 2, p. 281.FEE 135.4

    Considering that the church was just as extensive as the empire, that its officers corresponded to those of the several divisions or provinces of the empire, “the primacy over all and the most eminent rank” no longer appears to be an unimportant matter; and yet more especially, when we consider the other steps that were taken in connection with it, or soon after.FEE 135.5

    Second, Constantine conferred certain civil privileges and powers upon the bishops, and, as usual, the highest upon the bishops of Rome. Sozomen gives the following testimony on this subject:—FEE 135.6

    “Constantine likewise enacted a law in favor of the clergy, permitting judgment to be passed by the bishops when litigants preferred appealing to them rather than to the secular court; he enacted that their decree should be valid, and as far superior to that of other judges as if pronounced by the emperor himself; that the governor and subordinate military officers should see to the execution of these decrees; and that sentence, when passed by them, should be irreversible.” Ecclesiastical History, chap. 2.FEE 136.1

    It was not an idle expression of Stanley when he called the bishop of Rome “the chief Christian magistrate.” All the bishops were elevated by this decree, but the bishop of Rome had the highest rank and primacy over all. Thus two important steps were taken, tending directly to the exaltation of the bishop of the imperial city; to him was given the primacy and the chief rank, and he was a civil magistrate with great authority. But little foresight were needed to anticipate the result of such steps, especially taken in connection with those which followed.FEE 136.2

    Third, Constantine removed the seat of empire from Rome to Constantinople. Following the others, this step opened the way for the gratification of the most unbounded ambition of the Roman bishop. Of the effect of this step, Stanley says:—FEE 136.3

    “According to the fable of Sylvester, Constantine retired to Greece in order to leave Italy for the pope—‘per cedere al pastor si fece Greco.’ So said the legend, and it was undoubtedly the case that, by retiring to the East, he left the field clear for the bishop of Rome In the absence of the emperors from Rome, the chief Christian magistrate rose to new importance. When the Barbarians broke upon Italy, the pope thus became the representative of the ancient republic. It is one of the many senses in which the saying of Hobbes is true, that the papacy is but the ghost of the deceased Roman empire, sitting crowned upon the grave thereof.”FEE 136.4

    In a paragraph already quoted, Machiavel attributes the downfall of the Western Roman Empire to this removal of the capital. A work entitled, “A Concise History of the Papal Supremacy,” published in Dublin, 1810, takes a most rational view of this move of Constantine. It says:—FEE 136.5

    “It is most certain that if the emperors had continued to reside at Rome, its bishops never would have usurped a supremacy.” This fact is so evident that it is useless to multiply words in proof. The removal of the capital not only opened the way before the bishop of Rome, but the result was almost inevitable, that with the primacy over the whole church as extensive as the empire itself, and a civil magistracy of a very high grade in his hands, with possessions and revenues above all others, presiding in the imperial city, he must of necessity rise to great worldly importance when the emperors removed their throne as remote as to Constantinople, and the empire itself was beset on every hand by invading armies, and the emperors unable to afford relief. The emperors had before taken up their residences temporarily outside of the city of Rome; but this was a permanent removal, an entire resignation of the true seat of the empire. Thus far was the scripture fulfilled: “The dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.”FEE 136.6

    But the work was not yet complete. Others were ambitious as well as the bishop of Rome, and with the throne of the empire at Constantinople, that became actually the imperial city. For this reason the bishop of Constantinople thought that he should be first in rank. True, the primacy was conferred upon the bishop of Rome at the Council of Nice, but great changes had taken place since that time, and other bishops, but especially the bishop of Constantinople, strove for the highest honors. And everything seemed favorable to his purpose. An orthodox emperor, ambitious and powerful, was reigning in Constantinople. The Arians held Italy, though under a mild sway; but the neighboring country of Africa was not only under the rule of the Arians, but they were faithfully following the example set them by the orthodox or Catholic party—they were persecuting their opponents in the faith. The surroundings of the pope were every way unfavorable, while everything appeared favorable to the bishop of Constantinople. But an unexpected opportunity occurred. There were divisions in the East, and Justinian was strongly favorable to the Roman see, inasmuch as Rome was the representative of the Nicene faith, and its constant defender.FEE 137.1

    The condition of the so-called Christian world was most deplorable. They who read the discussions of those times cannot fail to be struck by, if not disgusted with, the quarrelings over forms of expressing distinctions which the Scriptures do not notice, and which the parties did not at all understand. It not infrequently happened that the orthodox party stood in defense of the very modes of expression which it had strenuously opposed and condemned not long before. If a form of faith was held by those to whom they took a dislike, it was immediately denounced as heretical, and this was always the key-note of persecution, and often of blood-shedding. Of that very time Bower speaks:—FEE 137.2

    “The Christian worship was now become no less idolatrous than that of the Gentiles, who therefore chose to retain their own, there being no material difference between the one and the other, between their worshiping the ancient heroes, or the modern saints; and as to the articles of belief, they were now, by the cavils and subtilities of the contending parties, rendered quite unintelligible to the Christians themselves.”FEE 138.1

    That to which we have previously referred must now be noticed more in detail. The expression, “One of the Trinity suffered in the flesh,” was the subject of contention between Justinian and the monks of the East. That expression, though perfectly orthodox all down the ages of the church, had been condemned by Pope Hormisdas; but Justinian, who delighted in controversies on such distinctions, had adopted it. The monks, having the decision of a former pope on their side, had no doubt of an easy triumph if they appealed to the pope. But they were not as wise by experience in the devious ways of papal infallibility as they afterwards became. Bower gives the issue of the controversy thus:—FEE 138.2

    “The emperor no sooner heard that the monks were applying, than he too resolved to apply to the pope. Having therefore drawn up a long creed, or confession of faith, containing the disputed article among the rest, ‘one of the Trinity suffered in the nesh,’ he dispatched two bishops with it to Rome, Hypatius of Ephesus, and Demetrius of Philippi. At the same time he wrote a very obliging letter to the pope, congratulating him on his election, assuring him that the faith contained in the confession that he sent him, was the faith of the whole Eastern Church, and entreating him to declare, in his answer, that he received to his communion all who professed that faith, and none who did not. To add weight to his letter, he accompanied it with a present to St. Peter, consisting of several chalices, and other vessels
    [Graphic Of ROME—THE SEAT OF THE PAGAN EMPIRE, GIVEN TO THE PAPACY.] of gold, enriched with precious stones. The deputies of the monks, and the two bishops sent by the emperor, arrived at Rome about the same time; and the pope heard both; but, being quite at a loss what to determine, wisely declined, for the present, returning an answer to either. He was sensible that he could not condemn the doctrine of the monks without admitting the expression, which his predecessor had rejected as repugnant to the Catholic faith. But, on the other hand, he was unwilling to disoblige Justinian, and well apprised of the consequences which he had reason to apprehend from his condemning a doctrine that was held by all the bishops of the East, and the emperor himself, as an article of faith.” History of the Popes, under John II.
    FEE 138.3

    In this dilemma he took council of the clergy, and appealed to the wisest bishops of the time, who, after deliberation, decided that the confession of Justinian was altogether orthodox, and condemned as heretics all who denied it, or held a contrary doctrine. Thus was one infallibility contradicted by another infallibility, on a point of faith, and both remained infallible. Had the question stood the other way, had Justinian been in harmony with the decision before given by Hormisdas, the pope would not have taken a moment for consultation over the matter.FEE 139.1

    To show that the popes were conscious of their power, it may be worth while here to note that Pope Agapetus, successor of John II., was not in all things so complaisant to Justinian. The emperor wrote another courteous letter to him, and granted some favors and privileges to the pope, and asked certain favors of him in return, but these the pope denied him.FEE 139.2

    But Justinian’s letter to Pope John II. is that which specially demands our attention. This was written in the year 533, the same in which Belisarius went on his expedition against the Arians in Africa. But first it may be well to notice the real effect of Arian rule and Arian toleration in Italy. The popes chafed under the restraining rule of heretics, as may be judged from the fate of John I.; but the situation as set down by the historian, Gieseler, shows the direction in which things were tending:—FEE 139.3

    “Thus, the Roman bishops were so far from being hindered by any superior power, that it proved an advantageous circumstance to them in the eyes of their new masters, that they steadfastly resisted innovations of faith made in Constantinople, till they gained a new victory over the changeable Greeks, under the Emperor Justin. The natural consequence of this was, that while the patriarchs of Constantinople were constantly sinking in ecclesiastical esteem on account of their vacillation in these controversies, the bishops of Rome still maintained their ancient reputation of being the defenders of oppressed orthodoxy.FEE 139.4

    “Under these favorable circumstances, the ecclesiastical pretensions of Roman bishops, who now formed the only center of Catholic Christendom in the West, in opposition to the Arian conquerors, rose high without hindrance. They asserted that not only the highest ecclesiastical authority in the West belonged to them, but also superintendence of orthodoxy and maintenance of ecclesiastical laws throughout the whole church. These claims they sometimes founded on imperial edicts and decrees of synods; but for the most part on the peculiar rights conferred on Peter by the Lord. After the synodis palmaris, called by Theodoric to examine the charges newly raised by the Laurentian party against Symmachus (503), had acquitted him without examination, in consequence of the circumstances, the apologist of this synod, Ennodius, bishop of Ticinum (511), first gave utterance to the assertion that the bishop of Rome is subject to no earthly judge. Not long after an attempt was made to give a historical basis to this principle by suppositions Cesta (acts) of former popes; and other falsifications of older documents in favor of the Roman see now appeared in like manner.” Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 2, pp. 123-126.FEE 140.1

    The Encyclopedia of McClintock & Strong says that Justinian “regarded it as his special mission to compel a general uniformity of belief and practice.” While the western empire was divided into many kingdoms, he was sole emperor of the East; yet he wrote, as Bower says, “a very obliging letter to the pope, ... entreating him to declare in favor of the faith set forth by the emperor, the courtesy and the entreaty being supported by the weight of costly presents—an argument that never failed to convince the Roman bishops. This is substantial proof of the high position then already occupied by the pope.FEE 140.2

    The fourth step. The letter of Justinian to Pope John II. greatly strengthened the power of the Roman pontiff, and constituted the fourth and last step in the full establishment of the papacy. As was said by Gieseler, the pope was already “the only center of Catholic Christendom in the West,” and Justinian’s letter and gifts fully accomplished the same result for the pontiff, in the East. The following is a copy of that part of the letter which specially relates to this point:—FEE 140.3

    “Justinian, pious, fortunate, renowned, triumphant, emperor, consul, etc., to John the most holy archbishop of our city of Rome, and patriarch.FEE 141.1

    “Rendering homage to the apostolic chair, and to your holiness, as has been always and is our wish, and honoring your blessedness as a father; we have hastened to bring to the knowledge of your holiness all matters relating to the state of the churches. It having been at all times our great desire to preserve the unity of your apostolic chair, and the constitution of the holy churches of God which has obtained hitherto and still obtains.FEE 141.2

    “Therefore we have made no delay in subjecting and uniting to your Holiness all the priests of the whole East.FEE 141.3

    “For this reason we have thought to bring to your notice the present matters of disturbance; though they are manifest and unquestionable, and always firmly held and declared by the whole priesthood according to the doctrine of your apostolical chair. For we cannot suffer that anything that relates to the state of the church, however manifest and unquestionable, should be moved without the knowledge of your Holiness, who are the head of all the holy churches, for in all things, as we have already declared, we are anxious to increase the honor and authority of your apostolical chair.” Annals of Baronius, Antwerp edition, 1584.FEE 141.4

    Then followed a statement at length of the case in dispute, in the spirit and style of theological disputes of that age. He presented his request as follows:—FEE 141.5

    “We entreat, therefore, your fatherly love, that in your letters designed for us,—and to the holy bishops of this blessed city, and to the patriarch, your brother, since he, too, of himself, through them the messenger bishops of the emperor, has written to your Holiness, hastening in all things to follow the apostolical chair of your Blessedness,—you make manifest to us, that all we rightly confess aforementioned, your Holiness accepts.”FEE 141.6

    But beyond a doubt it is safe to judge that it was not altogether “of himself” that the patriarch of Constantinople professed in all things to follow the apostolical chair of his Roman rival. It was out of complaisance to Justinian. After the death of this emperor, the patriarch of Constantinople made still further efforts to secure the honors of the primacy. The act of Justinian, causing the patriarch of the imperial city to write so obliging a letter to the Roman pontiff, was an important one in the work of subjecting all the priests of the East to the Roman see.FEE 141.7

    The matter of this letter to the pope is worthy of careful consideration.FEE 141.8

    1. The emperor renders homage to the apostolical chair of Rome.FEE 141.9

    2. It was his desire to preserve the unity of his apostolical authority.FEE 142.1

    3. He subjected and united to the pope all the priests of the whole East.FEE 142.2

    4. He would not suffer anything to be done in the churches without the knowledge of his holiness.FEE 142.3

    5. He declared the bishop of Rome to be the head of all the holy churches.FEE 142.4

    6. He was anxious to increase the honor and authority of his apostolical chair.FEE 142.5

    7. He announces the submission of the patriarch of Constantinople to the pontiff.FEE 142.6

    And to this may be added that, in a letter to Epiphanius, about the same time, he declared that the pope was the “head of all bishops and the true and effective corrector of heretics.” See Croly on the Apocalypse. Every sentence is strong, and the last declaration is a seal to all the others.FEE 142.7

    Let us notice in connection the four steps in establishing the complete power of the papacy.FEE 142.8

    1. The primacy of the whole church, which was as extensive as the empire of Constantine, was given to the bishop of Rome.FEE 142.9

    2. He was made a civil magistrate of the highest rank.FEE 142.10

    3. The seat of the empire was removed from Rome to Constantinople, thus virtually leaving the old capital to the pope, and which soon became a fact.FEE 142.11

    4. All the bishops and all the churches of the whole East were subjected and united to him, he being already the center of Christendom in the West.FEE 142.12

    In these steps, nothing was lacking to enable him to exercise all the power that he claimed; for in these he was granted the most complete spiritual authority, with the civil power necessary to make that authority effective.FEE 142.13

    What do historians say of the action of Justinian in behalf of the pope? That which has been quoted from Gibbon in another place is well worth repeating in this connection. Speaking of the success of Belisarius in suppressing Arianism in Africa, he said of Justinian:—FEE 142.14

    “He received the messengers of victory at the time when he was preparing to publish the Pandects of the Roman law; and the devout or jealous emperor celebrated the divine goodness, and confessed in silence the merit of his successful general. Impatient to abolish the temporal and spiritual tyranny of the Vandals, he proceeded, without delay, to the full establishment of the Catholic Church. Her jurisdiction, wealth, and immunities, perhaps the most essential part of episcopal religion, were restored and amplified with a liberal hand; the Arian worship was suppressed; the Donatist meetings were proscribed; and the synod of Carthage, by the voice of two hundred and seventeen bishops, applauded the just measure of pious retaliation.” Decline and Fall, chap. 41, paragraph 11.FEE 143.1

    These words of Gibbon refer to much more than the mere letter to the pope, important as that was. Gieseler enumerates some of the particular facts of Justinian in “the full establishment of the Catholic Church.” He speaks as follows:—FEE 143.2

    “The clergy, and particularly the bishops, received new privileges from Justinian. He intrusted the latter with civil jurisdiction over the monks and nuns, as well as over the clergy. Episcopal oversight of morals, and particularly the duty of providing for all the unfortunate, had been established till the present time only on the foundation of ecclesiastical laws; but Justinian now gave them a more general basis, founding them on the civil law also. He made it the duty of the bishops, and gave them the necessary civil qualifications, to undertake the care of prisoners, minors, insane persons, foundlings, stolen children, and oppressed women; and invested them with the power of upholding good morals and impartial administration of justice. It is true, that he established a mutual inspection of the bishops and the civil magistrates; but he gave in this respect to the latter considerable smaller privileges than to the former. For example, he gave the bishops a legal influence over the choice of magistrates, and security against general oppression on their part; allowed them to interfere in cases of refusal of justice; and in special instances, even constituted them judges of those official personages. In like manner he conveyed to them the right of concurrence in the choice of city officials, and a joint oversight of the administration of city funds, and the maintenance of public establishments. Thus the bishops became important personages even in civil life; and were further honored by Justinian, in freedom from parental violence, from the necessity of appearing as witnesses, and from taking oaths.” Gieseler, Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 2, pp. 117-119, Clark, Edinburgh, 1848.FEE 143.3

    It is true that these privileges were for all bishops; all were, in material points, elevated above other magistrates; and in this respect, the grants of Justinian were a great enlargement of the civil powers granted by Constantine, as already noticed. By these the church was elevated far above the civil department of the government; and if such were the prerogatives of all bishops, what must have been the effect on the standing of him who was declared by imperial authority to be “the head of all bishops”? He was aptly styled “the chief Christian magistrate.” And this implied much under the peculiar condition of the country, broken up by contending armies. All the steps herein noticed for the elevation of the Roman pontiff, were by authority of the emperors and councils, and not one of them was ever reversed or annulled.FEE 143.4

    It has been assumed that we must come further down, to the time of Phocas, and to his action of 606, for the full establishment of the papacy. But for this there is no just reason. Phocas, according to all history, was one of the most depraved of men, the vilest of murderers and usurpers. Gibbon gives a description of his person and crimes, which we have room to barely notice:—FEE 144.1

    “The pencil of an impartial historian [Cedrenus] has delineated the portrait of a monster; his diminutive and deformed person.... Ignorant of letters, of laws, and even of arms, he indulged in the supreme rank a more ample privilege of lust and drunkenness; and his brutal pleasures were either injurious to his subjects or disgraceful to himself.”FEE 144.2

    After describing his murder of all the family of the Emperor Maurice, he speaks of his treatment of other victims as follows:—FEE 144.3

    “Their condemnation was seldom preceded by the forms of trial, and their punishment was imbittered by the refinements of cruelty; their eyes were pierced, their tongues were torn from the root, the hands and feet were amputated; some expired under the lash, others in the flames, others again were transfixed with arrows; and a simple speedy death was mercy which they could rarely obtain.” Decline and Fall, chap. 46, paragraph 12.FEE 144.4

    Maurice, the predecessor of Phocas, favored the claim of the patriarch of Constantinople to the primacy. This, of course, highly incensed Gregory the Great, who had, until that time, been considered one of the best of Roman bishops. Upon the usurpation of Phocas, Gregory sought his friendship, hoping that through him the influence of Maurice might be counteracted. Gregory disgraced his memory by writing the most extravagant laudation of the inhuman monster, calling upon all the earth and the angels in Heaven to rejoice over the accession of an emperor so truly just and pious. Infallibility in the popes does not guarantee truthfulness and discernment of character. We see this also in the case of Leo the Great, who declared, in his letter to Dioscorus, bishop of Alexandria, that he discovered in him great love and Christian graces. Dioscorus was one of the worst bishops of his age, which is putting him very low; avaricious, ambitious, and blood-thirsty; Leo himself was compelled to depose him. More shameful yet is the case of Gregory, who professed to find almost celestial purity in Phocas. He also wrote a letter to Leontia, the wife of Phocas, who, according to history, was as vile as her husband, ascribing to her like Christian graces, and plainly asking her to make proof of her piety by remembering with favor the see of St. Peter, on whom the Saviour had conferred such blessings. Just what Gregory desired can never be known, for he had denounced the title of universal bishop, claimed by the bishop of Constantinople, as the token of heresy, the very badge of antichrist. Had the emperor transferred that title to the West, whether then he would not have found sufficient reason to change his mind, or to modify his denunciations, as Baronius has done for him, is a question; for the instance was never known of a bishop of Rome refusing anything that added to the dignity of that see.FEE 144.5

    The bearer of Gregory’s letter to Phocas was a priest who afterwards became pope under the name of Boniface III. It is recorded that he was the only one base enough to applaud and flatter Phocas in the very commission of his crimes. He became the favorite of Phocas and his wife, and when he came to the papal chair he is said to have requested the emperor to deprive the patriarch of Constantinople of the title which he had claimed, and confer it upon himself and his successors in the chair of St. Peter. And this, it is asserted, Phocas did more readily because the bishop of Constantinople had resisted him in his cruelties to the wife and daughter of Maurice. But nothing was granted by Phocas that had not already been conferred. The primacy and chief rank of Rome had been declared and twice confirmed before the time of Justinian, and this emperor constituted him the head of all the churches and of all bishops, with many other privileges of which it is not claimed that Phocas said anything. And, moreover, just what Phocas did declare is a matter of doubt. Bower says: “As for the edict issued by Phocas on this occasion, it has not indeed reached our times.” And Gieseler, whose reliability will not be questioned, says:—FEE 145.1

    “It is commonly asserted, and by men of the greatest learning and best acquainted with ancient history, that the Roman pontiff, Boniface III., prevailed on that abominable tyrant Phocas, who, after murdering the Emperor Mauritius, mounted the imperial throne, to divest the bishop of Constantinople of the title of œecumenical bishop, and to confer it on the Roman pontiff. But this is stated solely on the authority of Baronius; for no ancient writer has given such testimony. Yet Phocas did something analogous to this, if we may believe Anastasius and Paul Diaconus. For whereas the bishops of Constantinople had maintained that their church was not only fully equal to that of Rome, but had precedence of all other churches, Phocas forbade this, and determined that the priority of rank and dignity should be given the Church of Rome.” Ecclesiastical History, Book 2, Cent. 17, Part 2, chap. 2.FEE 146.1

    That Boniface III. was ambitious and unscrupulous, is shown in his flattery of Phocas. His unbounded arrogance led him to attach much more to the title, probably, than had his predecessors. And no honor conferred upon or claimed by the bishop of Rome was ever relinquished. But we have searched diligently, and in vain, to find anything granted by Phocas authentically established, which had not then already been conferred. Gibbon speaks the exact truth when he says that Justinian proceeded “to the full establishment of the Catholic Church.”FEE 146.2


    Larger font
    Smaller font