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    December 10, 1885

    “Sabbath-School Notes” The Signs of the Times, 11, 47.

    E. J. Waggoner



    No Authorcode

    Sabbath-School Notes

    The lesson for this week is a continuation of the recapitulation begun last week, and we know not how to present it better than to give the lesson entire, with our comments in the form of answers to the several questions.SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.1

    1. During the period covered by the kingdoms of Babylon, Medo-Persia and Grecia, what form of religious worship prevailed?SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.2

    Paganism was the prevailing religion, not only from the rise of the kingdom of Babylon, but from the fall of Adam. The worship of idols soon almost entirely displaced the worship of God, so that the light of truth was at times wholly obscured. The moral condition of the world under heathenism is very briefly and delicately described by Paul in Romans 1:22-32; Ephesians 4:17-19; 5:11, 12.SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.3

    2. What name is given to this form of religion in Daniel 8:11-13?SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.4

    Paganism is referred to in Daniel 8:11-13 by the term “the daily,” not “the daily sacrifices,” but “the daily desolation.” The term “daily” or “continual” is aptly applied to it, since it was for ages the continual form of worship.SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.5

    3. How long did this religion prevail after Rome became supreme?SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.6

    For about five hundred years after Rome acquired universal dominion, paganism continued to be the prevailing religion. In Constantine’s time (A.D. 311-337) it ceased to be the religion of the empire; but it did not wholly lose its place as the State religion until about two hundred years later.SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.7

    4. What religion then gained the ascendancy?SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.8

    5. Who was the first Roman emperor that favored the Christian religion?SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.9

    6. When did this emperor reign?SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.10

    Those three questions we answer together, for the sake of convenience. The Christian religion was that which superseded paganism in the Roman world. When we say “the Christian religion,” we do not mean the Christian religion as we find it portrayed in the gospels, but a corrupted form of Christianity. “Pure religion and undefiled before God,” has never met with general acceptance in this world, and will never be the prevailing religion until sin and sinners are destroyed, and the new heavens and new earth appear, “wherein dwelleth reighteousness.”SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.11

    Constantine is properly styled “the first Christian emperor.” He began to reign in a subordinate position in A.D. 306; in 311 A.D. he became sole emperor of Western Rome, and it is from this time that his conversion to Christianity is dated; ten years later, in 323 A.D., he became sole emperor of the Roman Empire, or of the world. He died in A.D. 337. For a brief but vivid view of his life, see “Encyclopaedia Britannica,” art. “Constantine.” When we say that he nominally accepted Christianity in A.D. 311, we have said all that can be said. Conceive of an autocrat with the vices of a heathen ruler and the name of a Christian, and you have a picture of “the first Christian emperor.” The following extract is a fair picture:SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.12

    “The sublime theory of the gospel had made a much fainter impression on the heart than on the understanding of Constantine himself. He pursued the great object of his ambition through the dark and bloody paths of war and policy; and after the victory, he abandoned himself, without moderation, to the abuse of his fortune. Instead of asserting his just superiority above the imperfect heroism and profane philosophy of Trajan and the Antonines, the mature age of Constantine forfeited the reputation which he had acquired in his youth. As he gradually advanced in knowledge of truth, he proportionately declined in the practice of virtue; and the same year of his reign in which he convened the council of Nice [A.D. 325], was polluted by the execution, or rather murder, of his eldest son.”-Decline and Fall, chap. 20, par. 17.SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.13

    7. How did he try to make the Christian religion popular?SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.14

    8. How did he cause unprincipled men to profess to be Christians, when they were really heathen at heart?SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.15

    The mere fact that the emperor professed Christianity would tend to make it popular; but the form which would be popular can be imagined by the character of Constantine, and the means which he used to propagate his religion, which are described by the historian as follows:SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.16

    “By the edicts of toleration, he removed the temporal disadvantages which had hitherto retarded the progress of Christianity; and its active and numerous ministers received a free permission, a liberal encouragement, to recommend the salutary truths of revelation by every argument which could affect the reason or piety of mankind. The exact balance of the two religions continued but a moment; and the piercing eye of ambition and avarice soon discovered that the profession of Christianity might contribute to the interest of the present as well as of a future life. The hopes of wealth and honors, the example of an emperor, his exhortations, his irresistible smiles, diffused conviction among the venal and obsequious crowds which usually fill the apartments of a palace. The cities which signalized a forward zeal by the voluntary destruction of their temples, were distinguished by municipal privileges, and rewarded with popular donations; and the new capital of the East gloried in the singular advantage that Constantinople was never profaned by the worship of idols. As the lower ranks of society are governed by imitation, the conversion of those who possessed any eminence of birth, or power, or of riches, was soon followed by dependent multitudes. The salvation of the common people was purchased at an easy rate, if it be true that in one year twelve thousand men were baptized at Rome, besides a proportionable number of woman and children, and that a white garment with twenty pieces of gold, had been promised by the emperor of every convert.”-Decline and Fall, chap. 20, par. 18.SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.17

    9. How was the church affected by such a course?SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.18

    As might be expected when men by the thousands gave a nominal assent to Christianity without the slightest knowledge of its spirit, the church speedily became very corrupt. Mosheim, the learned church historian, says that in the second century “a large part of the Christian observances and institutions” “had the aspect of heathen mysteries.”-Eccl. Hist., Book 1, century 2, part 2, chap. 4, sec. 5. If this was the case in the second century, how much more would it be true in the fifth? In describing the church after Constantine’s “conversion,” Mosheim says:-SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.19

    “Genuine piety was supplanted by a long train of superstitious observances, which originated partly from opinions inconsiderately embraced, partly from a preposterous disposition to adopt profane rites and combined them with Christian worship, and partly from the natural predilection of mankind in general for a splendid and ostentatious religion.... Further, the public supplications by which the pagans were accustomed to appease their gods, were borrowed from them, and were celebrated in many places with great pomp. To the temples, to water consecrated in due form, and to the images of holy men, the same efficacy was ascribed and the same privileges assigned as had been attributed to the pagan temples, statues, and lustrations before the advent of Christ. Images, indeed, were as yet but rare, and statues did not exist. And shameful as it may appear, it is beyond all doubt that the worship of the martyrs-with no bad intentions indeed, yet to the great injury of the Christian cause-was modeled by degrees into conformity with the worship which the pagans had in former times paid to their gods. From these specimens, the intelligent reader will be able to conceive how much injury resulted to Christianity from the peace and repose procured by Constantine, and from an indiscreet eagerness to allure the pagans to embrace this religion.”-Eccl. Hist., Book 2, cent. 4, part 2, chap. 3, sec. 2.SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.20

    10. What disgraceful course was taken about the middle of the fifth century by several of the leading bishops?SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.21

    11. How was this question decided in A.D. 533?SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.22

    12. When and how was the supremacy of the bishop of Rome fully established?SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.23

    During the fifth century there was a great contest among the leading bishops of the churches, each struggling for the supremacy. Among the most active in this disgraceful strife were the bishops of Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, and Jerusalem. In A.D. 533, the matter was decided by a decree of the Emperor Justinian, declaring the pope of Rome to be head over all the churches. The three powers that opposed this decree were the three horns that were to be plucked up by the little horn of Daniel 7. The last of these was conquered in A.D. 538, and the great papal hierarchy was then established?SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.24

    13. What is this papal religion called in Daniel 8:13?SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.25

    It is justly styled “the transgression of desolation.”SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.26

    14. How is pagan Rome symbolized in the seventh of Daniel?SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.27

    15. How is papal Rome symbolized in the same chapter?SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.28

    In the seventh of Daniel, pagan Rome is symbolized by the “dreadful and terrible” beast with ten horns (verse 7), and papal Rome is symbolized by the same beast after the “little horn” with the eyes of a man, and the mouth speaking great things, had arisen and plucked up three horns. The “little horn” itself represents the papacy.SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.29

    16. What is meant by the terms “pagan Rome” and “papal Rome”?SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.30

    “Pagan Rome” means Rome when idolatry was the prevailing religion; “papal Rome” applies to the same power after Christianity had nominally become the religion of the empire. The word “pagan” is from the Latin pagus, meaning a district, from which comes paganus, belonging to the country. Changes are made much more rapidly in cities than they are in the country or remote villages; and so it happened that for some time after Christianity had been accepted by the court of Constantine, and by the inhabitants of the larger cities, the people residing in the country still worshiped idols. Therefore those who worshiped idols received the appellation of “pagans.” This term was not used to designate the heathen until the first centuries of the Christian era. “Papal” is derived from papa, father, a name applied to the bishops of Rome, from whence comes also the name “pope.”SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.31

    Lack of space makes it impossible for us to give the remaining questions with specific answers. Specimens of the “great words” which the Romish Church has spoken against the Most High have been given in the SIGNS in notes on previous lessons. We have also given quotations to show that the prediction that the little horn should “wear out the saints of the Most High,” has been fulfilled by the Roman Catholic Church. We have seen how its power was curtailed in 1798, at the close of the 1260 years (time and times and the dividing of time), and that its blasphemous pretensions have increased until the present time. This check that was put upon the papacy is represented in Revelation 13:3 by the statement that one of the heads received a deadly wound. The prophet saw this deadly wound healed, so that “all the world wondered after the beast.” This was partially fulfilled when Pius VII. was set in the papal chair, in place of the pope who had been deposed two years before. Its complete fulfillment, however, is yet future; for the prophet saw that the horn, “made war with the saints, and prevailed against them, until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.” Daniel 7:21, 22. A complete restoration to its former power yet awaits the papacy. But its triumphing will be short; for the Lord will soon come, and destroy “that wicked,” utterly consuming it (Daniel 7:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:8), and then “the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High.” Daniel 7:27. E. J. W.SITI December 10, 1885, page 742.32

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