Persecution in the First Centuries
When Jesus revealed to His disciples the fate of Jerusalem and the scenes of the second advent, He foretold also the experience of His people from the time when He should be taken from them, to His return in power and glory for their deliverance. From Olives the Saviour be-held the storms about to fall upon the apostolic church, and, penetrating deeper into the future, His eye discerned the fierce, wasting tempests that were to beat upon His fol-lowers in the coming ages of darkness and persecution.In a few brief utterances, of awful significance, He foretold the portion which the rulers of this world would mete out to the church of God. The followers of Christ must tread the same path of humiliation, reproach, and suffering which their Master trod. The enmity that burst forth against the world’s Redeemer, would be manifested against all who should believe on His name.The history of the early church testified to the fulfillment of the Saviour’s words. The powers of earth and hell arrayed themselves against Christ in the person of His followers. Paganism foresaw that should the gospel triumph,her temples and altars would be swept away; therefore she summoned her forces to destroy Christianity. The fires of persecution were kindled. Christians were stripped of their possessions, and driven from their homes. They “endured a great fight of afflictions.” They “had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment.”Hebrews 11:36.
Great numbers sealed their testimony with their blood. Noble and slave, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, were alike slain without mercy.Wherever they sought refuge, the followers of Christ were hunted like beasts of prey. They were forced to seek concealment in desolate and solitary places. “Destitute, afflicted, tormented, of whom the world was not worthy, they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” Hebrews 11:37, 38. The subterranean excavations connected with the city of Rome afforded shelter for thousands. Long galleries had been tunneled through earth and rock to procure material for the vast structures of the capital, and the dark and intricate network of passages ex-tended for miles beyond the walls. In these underground re-treats, many of the followers of Christ, when suspected and proscribed, found a home; and here also they buried their dead. When the Lifegiver shall awaken those who have fought the good fight, many a martyr for Christ’s sake will come forth from those gloomy caverns.Under the fiercest persecution, these witnesses for Jesus kept their faith unsullied. Though deprived of every comfort, shut away from the light of the sun, making their home in the dark but friendly bosom of the earth, they uttered no complaint. With words of faith, patience, and hope,they encouraged one another to endure privation and dis-tress. The loss of every earthly blessing could not force them to renounce their belief in Christ. Trials and persecutions were but steps bringing them nearer their rest and their re-ward.They called to mind the words of their Master, that when persecuted for Christ’s sake they were to be exceeding glad; for great would be their reward in Heaven;for so had the prophets been persecuted before them. Like God’s servants of old, they were “tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.”Hebrews 11:35. They rejoiced that they were accounted worthy to suffer for the truth, and songs of triumph ascended in the midst of crackling flames. Looking upward by faith, they saw Christ and angels leaning over the battlements of Heaven,gazing upon them with the deepest interest, and regarding their steadfastness with approval. A voice came down to them from the throne of God, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Revelation 2:10.In vain were Satan’s efforts to destroy the church of Christ by violence. The great controversy in which the disciples of Jesus yielded up their lives did not cease when these faithful standard-bearers fell at their post. By defeat they conquered. God’s workmen were slain, but His work went steadily forward. The gospel continued to spread, and the number of its adherents to increase. It penetrated into regions that were inaccessible, even to the eagles of Rome.Said a Christian, expostulating with the heathen rulers who were urging forward the persecution:
“You may torment, afflict, and vex us. Your wickedness puts our weakness to the test, but your cruelty is of no avail. It is but a stronger invitation to bring others to our persuasion. The more we are mowed down, the more we spring up again. The blood of the Christians is seed.”
Thousands were imprisoned and slain, but others sprung up to fill their places. And those who were martyred for their faith were secured to Christ, and accounted of Him as conquerors. They had fought the good fight, and they were to receive the crown of glory when Christ should come. The sufferings which they endured brought Christians nearer to one another and to their Redeemer. Their living example and dying testimony were a constant witness for the truth; and,where least expected, the subjects of Satan were leaving his service, and enlisting under the banner of Christ.Satan therefore laid his plans to war more success-fully against the government of God, by planting his banner in the Christian church. If the followers of Christ could be deceived, and led to displease God, then their strength,fortitude, and firmness would fail, and they would fall an easy prey.The great adversary now endeavored to gain by artifice what he had failed to secure by force. Persecution ceased, and in its stead were substituted the dangerous allurements of temporal prosperity and worldly honor.Idolaters were led to receive a part of the Christian faith,while they rejected other essential truths. They professed to accept Jesus as the Son of God, and to believe in His death and resurrection; but they had no conviction of sin, and felt no need of repentance or of a change of heart. With some concessions on their part, they proposed that Christians should make concessions, that all might unite on the plat-form of belief in Christ.Now was the church in fearful peril. Prison, torture,fire, and sword were blessings in comparison with this. Some of the Christians stood firm, declaring that they could make no compromise. Others reasoned that if they should yield or modify some features of their faith, and unite with those who had accepted a part of Christianity, it might be the means of their full conversion. That was a time of deep anguish to the faithful followers of Christ. Under a cloak of pretended Christianity, Satan was insinuating himself into the church, to corrupt their faith, and turn their minds from the word of truth.At last the larger portion of the Christian company lowered their standard, and a union was formed between Christianity and paganism. Although the worshipers of idols professed to be converted, and united with the church,they still clung to their idolatry, only changing the objects of their worship to images of Jesus, and even of Mary and the saints. The foul leaven of idolatry, thus introduced into the church, continued its baleful work. Unsound doctrines, superstitious rites, and idolatrous ceremonies were incorporated into her faith and worship. As the followers of Christ united with idolaters, the Christian religion became corrupted,and the church lost her purity and power. There were some,however, who were not misled by these delusions. They still maintained their fidelity to the Author of truth, and worshiped God alone.There have ever been two classes among those who profess to be followers of Christ. While one class study the Saviour’s life, and earnestly seek to correct their defects and to conform to the Pattern, the other class shun the plain,practical truths which expose their errors. Even in her best state, the church was not composed wholly of the true, pure, and sincere. Our Saviour taught that those who willfully in-dulge in sin are not to be received into the church; yet He connected with Himself men who were faulty in character,and granted them the benefits of His teachings and example,that they might have an opportunity to see and correct their errors. Among the twelve apostles was a traitor. Judas was accepted, not because of his defects of character, but not-withstanding them. He was connected with the disciples, that,through the instructions and example of Christ, he might learn what constitutes Christian character, and thus be led to see his errors, to repent, and, by the aid of divine grace, to purity his soul “in obeying the truth.” But Judas did not walk in the light so graciously permitted to shine upon him. By indulgence in sin, he invited the temptations of Satan. His evil traits of character became predominant. He yielded his mind to the control of the powers of darkness, he became angry when his faults were reproved, and thus he was led to commit the fearful crime of betraying his Master. In like manner do all who cherish evil under a profession of godliness hate those who disturb their peace by condemning their course of sin. When a favorable opportunity is presented, they will, like Judas, betray those who for their good have sought to reprove them.The apostles encountered those in the church who pro-fessed godliness while they were secretly cherishing iniquity. Ananias and Sapphira acted the part of deceivers, pretending to make an entire sacrifice for God, when they were covetously withholding a portion for themselves. The Spirit of truth revealed to the apostles the real character of these pretenders, and the judgments of God forever rid the church of this foul blot upon its purity. This signal evidence of the discerning Spirit of Christ in the church was a terror to hypocrites and evil-doers. They could not long remain in connection with those who were, in habit and disposition, constant representatives of Christ; and as trials and persecution came upon His followers, those only who were willing to forsake all for the truth’s sake desired to become His disciples. Thus,as long as persecution continued, the church remained comparatively pure. But as it ceased, converts were added who were less sincere and devoted, and the way was opened for Satan to obtain a foothold.But there is no union between the Prince of light andthe prince of darkness, and there can be no union be-tween their followers. When Christians consented to unite with those who were but half converted from paganism, they entered upon a path which led farther and farther from the truth. Satan exulted that he had succeeded in deceiving so large a number of the followers of Christ. He then brough this power to bear more fully upon them, and inspired them to persecute those who remained true to God. None could so well understand how to oppose the true Christian faith as could those who had once been its defenders; and these apostate Christians, uniting with their half-pagan companions,directed their warfare against the most essential features of the doctrines of Christ.It required a desperate struggle for those who would be faithful to stand firm against the deceptions and abominations which were disguised in sacerdotal garments and introduced into the church. The Bible was not accepted as the standard of faith. The doctrine of religious freedom was termed heresy, and its upholders were hated and proscribed. After a long and severe conflict, the faithful few decided to dissolve all union with the apostate church if she still refused to free herself from falsehood and idolatry. They saw that separation was an absolute necessity if they would obey the word of God. They dared not tolerate errors fatal to their own souls, and set an example which would imperil the faith of their children and children’s children. To secure peace and unity they were ready to make any concession consistent with fidelity to God; but they felt that even peace would be too dearly purchased at the sacrifice of principle. If unity could be secured only by the compromise of truth and righteousness, then let there be difference, and even war.Well would it be for the church and the world if the principles that actuated those steadfast souls were re-vived in the hearts of God’s professed people. There is an alarming indifference in regard to the doctrines which are the pillars of the Christian faith. The opinion is gaining ground, that, after all, these are not of vital importance. This degeneracy is strengthening the hands of the agents of Satan, so that false theories and fatal delusions which the faithful in ages past imperiled their lives to resist and expose, are now regarded with favor by thousands who claim to be fol-lowers of Christ.The early Christians were indeed a peculiar people.Their blameless deportment and unswerving faith were a continual reproof that disturbed the sinner’s peace. Though few in numbers, without wealth, position, or honorary titles, they were a terror to evil-doers wherever their character and doctrines were known. Therefore they were hated by the wicked,even as Abel was hated by the ungodly Cain. For the same reason that Cain slew Abel did those who would throw off the restraint of the Holy Spirit, put to death God’s people. It was for the same reason that the Jews rejected and crucified the Saviour,—because the purity and holiness of His character was a constant rebuke to their selfishness and corruption. From the days of Christ until now, His faithful disciples have excited the hatred and opposition of those who love and follow the ways of sin.How, then, can the gospel be called a message of peace?When Isaiah foretold the birth of the Messiah, he ascribed to Him the title, “Prince of peace.” When angels announced to the shepherds that Christ was born, they sung above the plains of Bethlehem, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14. There is a seeming contradiction between these prophetic declarations and the words of Christ, “I came not to send peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34. But rightly understood, the two are in perfect harmony. The gospel is a message of peace. Christianity is a system, which, received and obeyed, would spread peace,harmony, and happiness throughout the earth. The religion of Christ will unite in close brotherhood all who accept its teachings. It was the mission of Jesus to reconcile man to God, and thus to his fellow-man. But the world at large are under the control of Satan, Christ’s bitterest foe. The gospel presents to them principles of life which are wholly at variance with their habits and desires, and they rise in rebellion against it. They hate the purity which reveals and condemns their sins, and they persecute and destroy those who would urge upon them its just and holy claims. It is in this sense—because the exalted truths it brings, occasion hatred and strife—that the gospel is called a sword.The mysterious providence which permits the righteous to suffer persecution at the hand of the wicked, has been a cause of great perplexity to many who are weak in faith.Some are even ready to cast away their confidence in God because He suffers the basest of men to prosper, while the best and purest are afflicted and tormented by their cruel power. How, it is asked, can One who is just and merciful,and who is also infinite in power, tolerate such injustice and oppression? This is a question with which we have nothing to do. God has given us sufficient evidence of His love,and we are not to doubt His goodness because we can-not understand the workings of His providence. Said the Saviour to His disciples, foreseeing the doubts that would press upon their souls in days of trial and darkness, “Re-member the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than His lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” John 15:20. Jesus suffered for us more than any of His followers can be made to suffer through the cruelty of wicked men. Those who are called to endure torture and martyrdom, are but following in the steps of God’s dear Son.“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise.” 2Peter 3:9. He does not forget or neglect His children;but He permits the wicked to reveal their true character,that none who desire to do His will may be deceived concerning them. Again, the righteous are placed in the furnace of affliction, that they themselves may be purified; that their example may convince others of the reality of faith and godliness; and also that their consistent course may condemn the ungodly and unbelieving.God permits the wicked to prosper, and to reveal their enmity against Him, that when they shall have filled up the measure of their iniquity, all may see His justice and mercy in their utter destruction. The day of His vengeance hastens, when all the transgressors of His law and the oppressors of His people will meet the just recompense of their deeds; when every act of cruelty or oppression toward God’s faithful ones will be punished as though done to Christ Him-self.There is another and more important question that should engage the attention of the churches of to-day. The apostle Paul declares that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12. Why is it, then,that persecution seems in a great degree to slumber?—The only reason is, that the church has conformed to the world’ss tandard, and therefore awakens no opposition. The religion current in our day is not of the pure and holy character which marked the Christian faith in the days of Christ and His apostles. It is only because of the spirit of compromise with sin, because the great truths of the word of God are so indifferently regarded, because there is so little vital godliness in the church, that Christianity is apparently so popular with the world. Let there be a revival of the faith and power of the early church, and the spirit of persecution will be revived, and the fires of persecution will be rekindled.
The Mystery of Iniquity
The apostle Paul, in his second letter to the Thessalonians, foretold great apostasy which would result in the establishment of the papal power. He declared that the day of Christ should not come, “except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” And furthermore, the apostle warns his brethren that “the mystery of iniquity doth already work.” 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4,7. Even at that early date he saw, creeping into the church,errors that would prepare the way for the development of the papacy.Little by little, at first in stealth and silence, and then more openly as it increased in strength and gained control of the minds of men, the mystery of iniquity carried forward its deceptive and blasphemous work. Almost imperceptibly the customs of heathenism found their way into the Christian church. The spirit of compromise and conformity was restrained for a time by the fierce persecutions which the church endured under paganism. But as persecution ceased,and Christianity entered the courts and palaces of kings,she laid aside the humble simplicity of Christ and His apostles for the pomp and pride of pagan priests and rulers; and in place of the requirements of God, she substituted human theories and traditions. The nominal con-version of Constantine, in the early part of the fourth century, caused great rejoicing; and the world, arrayed in robes of righteousness, walked into the church. Now the work of corruption rapidly progressed. Paganism, while appearing to be vanquished, became the conqueror. Her spirit controlled the church. Her doctrines, ceremonies, and superstitions were incorporated into the faith and worship of the professed fol-lowers of Christ.This compromise between paganism and Christianity resulted in the development of the man of sin foretold in prophecy as opposing and exalting himself above God.
That gigantic system of false religion is a masterpiece of Satan’s power,—a monument of his efforts to seat himself upon the throne to rule the earth according to his will.Satan once endeavored to form a compromise with Christ.He came to the Son of God in the wilderness of temptation,and, showing Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, offered to give all into His hands if He would but acknowledge the supremacy of the prince of darkness.Christ rebuked the presumptuous tempter, and forced him to depart. But Satan meets with greater success in presenting the same temptations to man. To secure worldly gains and honors, the church was led to seek the favor and support of the great men of earth, and having thus rejected Christ, she was induced to yield allegiance to the representative of Satan,—the bishop of Rome.It is one of the leading doctrines of Romanism that the pope is the visible head of the universal church of Christ, invested with supreme authority over bishops and pastors in all parts of the world. More than this, the pope has arrogated the very titles of Deity. He styles himself “Lord God the Pope,” assumes infallibility, and demands that all men pay him homage. Thus the same claim urged by Satan in the wilderness of temptation is still urged by him through the church of Rome, and vast numbers are ready to yield him homage. But those who fear and reverence God meet this Heaven-daring assumption as Christ met the solicitations of the wilyfoe: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him onlyshalt thou serve.” Luke 4:8. God has never given a hint in His word that He has appointed any man to be the head of the church. The doctrine of papal supremacy is directly op-posed to the teachings of the Scriptures. The pope can haveno power over Christ’s church except by usurpation. Romanists have persisted in bringing against Protestants the charge of heresy, and willful separation from the true church. But these accusations apply rather to themselves.They are the ones who laid down the banner of Christ, and departed from the faith once delivered to the saints. Satan well knew that the Holy Scriptures would enable men to discern his deceptions and withstand his power. It was by the word that even the Saviour of the world has re-sisted his attacks. At every assault, Christ presented the shield of eternal truth, saying, “It is written.” To every suggestion of the adversary He opposed the wisdom and power of the word. In order for Satan to maintain his sway over men,and establish the authority of the papal usurper, he must keep them in ignorance of the Scriptures. The Bible would exalt God, and place finite men in their true position; there-fore its sacred truths must be concealed and suppressed. This logic was adopted by the Roman Church. For hundreds of years the circulation of the Bible was prohibited. The people were forbidden to read it, or to have it in their houses, and unprincipled priests and prelates interpreted its teachings to sustain their pretensions. Thus the pope came to be almost universally acknowledged as the vicegerent of God on earth, endowed with supreme authority over Church and State. The detector of error having been removed, Satan worked according to his will. Prophecy had declared that the papacy was to “think to change times and laws.” Daniel 7:25. This work it was not slow to attempt. To afford converts from heathenism a substitute for the worship of idols, and thus to promote their nominal acceptance of Christianity, the adoration of images and relics was gradually introduced into the Christian worship. The decree of a general coun-cil finally established this system of popish idolatry. To complete the sacrilegious work, Rome presumed to expunge from the law of God the second commandment, forbidding image worship, and to divide the tenth commandment, in order to preserve the number.The spirit of concession to paganism opened the way fora still further disregard of Heaven’s authority. Satan tampered with the fourth commandment also, and essayed to set aside the ancient Sabbath, the day which God had blessed and sanctified, and in its stead to exalt the festival observed by the heathen as “the venerable day of the sun.” This change was not at first attempted openly. In the first centuries the true Sabbath had been kept by all Christians. They were jealous for the honor of God, and, believing that His law is immutable, they zealously guarded the sacredness of its precepts. But with great subtlety, Satan worked through his agents to bring about his object. That the attention of the people might be called to the Sunday, it was made a festival in honor of the resurrection of Christ.Religious services were held upon it; yet it was regarded as a day of recreation, the Sabbath being still sacredly observed.Constantine, while still a heathen, issued a decree enjoin-ing the general observance of Sunday as a public festival throughout the Roman empire. After his conversion, he remained a staunch advocate of Sunday, and his pagan edict was then enforced by him in the interests of his new faith.But the honor shown this day was not as yet sufficient to prevent Christians from regarding the true Sabbath as the holy of the Lord. Another step must be taken; the false Sabbath must be exalted to an equality with the true. A few years after the issue of Constantine’s decree, the bishop of Rome conferred on the Sunday the title of Lord’s day.Thus the people were gradually led to regard it as possessing a degree of sacredness. Still the original Sabbath was kept.The arch-deceiver had not completed his work. He was resolved to gather the Christian world under his banner, and to exercise his power through his vicegerent, the proud pontiff who claimed to be the representative of Christ. Through half-converted pagans, ambitious prelates, and world-loving churchmen, he accomplished his purpose. Vast councils were held, from time to time, in which the dignitaries of the church were convened from all the world. In nearly every council the Sabbath which God had instituted was pressed down a little lower, while the Sunday was corre-spondingly exalted. Thus the pagan festival came finally to be honored as a divine institution, while the Bible Sabbath was pronounced a relic of Judaism, and its observers were declared to be accursed. The great apostate had succeeded in exalting himself “above all that is called God, or that is worshiped.” 2Thessalonians 2:4. He had dared to change the only precept of the divine law that unmistakably points all man-kind to the true and living God. In the fourth commandment, God is revealed as the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and is thereby distinguished from all false gods.It was as a memorial of the work of creation that the seventh day was sanctified as a rest-day for man. It was designed to keep the living God ever before the minds of men as the source of being and the object of reverence and worship.Satan strives to turn men from their allegiance to God, and from rendering obedience to His law; therefore he directs his efforts especially against that commandment which points to God as the Creator.Protestants now urge that the resurrection of Christ on Sunday, made it the Christian Sabbath. But Scripture evidence is lacking. No such honor was given to the day by Christ or His apostles. The observance of Sunday as a Christian institution has its origin in that “mystery of lawlessness” which, even in Paul’s day, had begun its work.Where and when did the Lord adopt this child of the pa-pacy? What valid reason can be given for a change concerning which the Scriptures are silent?In the sixth century the papacy had become firmly established. Its seat of power was fixed in the imperial city, and the bishop of Rome was declared to be the head over the entire church. Paganism had given place to the papacy.The dragon had given to the beast “his power, and his seat, and great authority.” Revelation 13:2. And now began the 1260 years of papal oppression foretold in the prophecies of Daniel and John. Daniel 7:25; Revelation 13:5-7.Christians were forced to choose, either to yield their integrity and accept the papal ceremonies and worship, or to wear away their lives in dungeon cells, or suffer death by the rack,the fagot, or the headsman’s ax. Now were fulfilled the words of Jesus,
“Ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.” Luke 21:16, 17.
Persecution opened upon the faithful with greater fury than ever before, and the world became a vast battle-field. For hundreds of years the church of Christ found refuge in seclusion and obscurity.Thus says the prophet: “The woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and three-score days.”Revelation 12:6.The accession of the Roman Church to power marked the beginning of the Dark Ages. As her power increased, the darkness deepened. Faith was transferred from Christ, the true foundation, to the pope of Rome. Instead of trusting in the Son of God for forgiveness of sins and for eternal salvation, the people looked to the pope, and to the priests and prelates to whom he delegated authority. They were taught that the pope was their mediator, and that none could approach God except through him, and, further, that he stood in the place of God to them, and was therefore to be implicitly obeyed. A deviation from his requirements was sufficient cause for the severest punishment to be visited upon the bodies and souls of the offenders. Thus the minds of the people were turned away from God to fallible, erring, and cruel men, nay more, to the prince of darkness himself, who exercised his power through them. Sin was disguised in a garb of sanctity. When the Scriptures are suppressed, and man comes to regard himself as supreme, we need look only for fraud, deception, and debasing iniquity. With the elevation of human laws and traditions was manifest the corruption that ever results from setting aside the law of God.Those were days of peril for the church of Christ. The faithful standard-bearers were few indeed. Though the truth was not left without witnesses, yet at times it seemed that error and superstition would wholly prevail, and true religion would be banished from the earth. The gospel was lost sight of, but the forms of religion were multiplied, and the people were burdened with rigorous exactions. They were taught not only to look to the pope as their mediator, but to trust to works of their own to atone for sin.Long pilgrimages, acts of penance, the worship of relics,the erection of churches, shrines, and altars, the payment of large sums to the church,—these and many similar acts were enjoined to appease the wrath of God or to secure His favor; as if God were like men, to be angered attrifles, or pacified by gifts or acts of penance!Notwithstanding vice prevailed, even among the leaders of the Romish Church, her influence seemed steadily to in-crease. About the close of the eighth century, papists put forth the claim that in the first ages of the church the bishops of Rome had possessed the same spiritual power which they now assumed. To establish this claim, some means must be employed to give it a show of authority; and this was readily suggested by the father of lies. Ancient writings were forged by monks. Decrees of councils before unheard of were discovered, establishing the universal supremacy of the pope from the earliest times. And a church that had rejected the truth greedily accepted these deceptions.The few faithful builders upon the true foundation were perplexed and hindered as the rubbish of false doctrine obstructed the work. Like the builders upon the wall of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s day, some were ready to say, “The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish, so that we are not able to build.” Nehemiah 4:10. Wearied with the constant struggle against persecution, fraud,iniquity, and every other obstacle that Satan could devise to hinder their progress, some who had been faithful builders became disheartened; and for the sake of peace and security for their property and their lives they turned away from the true foundation. Others, undaunted by the opposition of their enemies, fearlessly declared, “Be not ye afraid of them; re-member the Lord, which is great and terrible” (Nehemiah4:14), and they proceeded with the work, every one with his sword girded by his side.The same spirit of hatred and opposition to the truth has inspired the enemies of God in every age, and the same vigilance and fidelity have been required in His servants. The words of Christ to the first disciples are applicable to His followers to the close of time: “What I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch.” Mark 13:37.The darkness seemed to grow more dense. Image worship became more general. Candles were burned before images, and prayers were offered to them. The most absurd and superstitious customs prevailed. The minds of men were so completely controlled by superstition that reason itself seemed to have lost her sway. While priests and bishops were themselves pleasure-loving, sensual, andcorrupt, it could only be expected that the people who looked to them for guidance would be sunken in ignorance and vice. Another step in papal assumption was taken, when, in the eleventh century, Pope Gregory VII proclaimed the perfection of the Romish Church. Among the propositions which he put forth, was one declaring that the church had nevererred, nor would it ever err, according to the Scriptures.But the Scripture proofs did not accompany the assertion.The proud pontiff next claimed the power to depose emperors, and declared that no sentence which he pronounced could be reversed by any one, but that it was his prerogative toreverse the decisions of all others. A striking illustration of the tyrannical character of thisadvocate of infallibility was given in his treatment of theGerman king, Henry IV. For presuming to disregard the pope’s authority, this monarch was declared to be ex-communicated and dethroned. In order to make his peace with Rome, Henry crossed the Alps in midwinter that he might humble himself before the pope. Upon reaching thecastle whither Gregory had withdrawn, he was conducted,without his guards, into an outer court, and there, in the severe cold of winter, with uncovered head and naked feet and in a miserable dress, he awaited the pope’s permission to come into his presence. Not until he had continued three days fasting and making confession did the pontiff condescend to grant him pardon. Even then it was only upon condition that the emperor should await the sanction of the pope before resuming the insignia or exercising the power of royalty. And Gregory, elated with his triumph, boasted that it was his duty “to pull down the pride of kings.” How striking the contrast between the overbearing pride of this haughty pontiff and the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who represents Himself as pleading at the door of the heart for admittance, that He may come in to bring pardon and peace, and who taught His disciples, “Who-soever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.”Matthew 20:27. The advancing centuries witnessed a constant increase of error in the doctrines put forth from Rome. Even before the establishment of the papacy, the teachings of heathen philosophers had received attention and exerted an in-fluence in the church. Many who professed conversion still clung to the tenets of their pagan philosophy, and not only continued its study themselves, but urged it upon others as a means of extending their influence among the heathen. Thuswere serious errors introduced into the Christian faith.Prominent among these was the belief in man’s natural immortality and his consciousness in death. This doctrine laid the foundation upon which Rome established the invocation of saints and the adoration of the virgin Mary. From this sprung also the heresy of eternal torment for the finally impenitent, which was early incorporated into the papal faith. Then the way was prepared for the introduction of still another invention of paganism, which Rome named purgatory, and employed to terrify the credulous and superstitious multitudes. By this heresy is affirmed the existence of a place of torment, in which the souls of such as have not merited eternal damnation are to suffer punishment for their sins,and from which, when freed from impurity, they are admitted to Heaven. Still another fabrication was needed to enable Rome toprofit the fears and the vices of her adherents. This was supplied by the doctrine of indulgences. Full remission of sins, past, present, and future, and release from all the pains and penalties incurred, were promised to all who would enlist inthe pontiff’s wars to extend his temporal dominion, to punish his enemies, or to exterminate those who dared deny his spiritual supremacy. The people were also taught that bythe payment of money to the church they might free themselves from sin, and also release the souls of their deceased friends who were confined in the tormenting flames. By suchmeans did Rome fill her coffers, and sustain the magnificence, luxury, and vice of the pretended representatives of Him who had not where to lay His head. The scriptural ordinance of the Lord’s supper had been supplanted by the idolatrous sacrifice of the mass. Papist priests pretended, by their senseless mummery, to convert the simple bread and wine into the actual body and blood of Christ. With blasphemous presumption, they openlyclaimed the power to “create their Creator.” All Christians were required, on pain of death, to avow their faith in this horrible, Heaven-insulting heresy. Those who refused were given to the flames. In the thirteenth century was established that most terrible of all the engines of the papacy,—the Inquisition. The prince of darkness wrought with the leaders of the papal hierarchy. In their secret councils, Satan and his angels presided, while unseen in the midst stood an angel of God, taking the fearful record of their iniquitous decrees, and writing the history of deeds too horrible to appear to human eyes. “Babylon the great” was “drunken with the blood of the saints.” The mangled forms of millions of martyrs cried to God for vengeance upon that apostate pow-er. Popery had become the world’s despot. Kings and emperors bowed to the decrees of the Roman pontiff. The destinies of men, both for time and for eternity, seemed underhis control. For hundreds of years the doctrines of Rome hadbeen extensively and implicitly received, its rites reverently performed, its festivals generally observed. Its clergy were honored and liberally sustained. Never since has the Roman Church attained to greater dignity, magnificence, and power. The noontide of the papacy was the world’s moral midnight. The Holy Scriptures were almost unknown, not only to the people, but to the priests. Like the Pharisees of old, the papist leaders hated the light which would reveal their sins. God’s law, the standard of righteousness, having been removed, they exercised power without limit, and practiced vice without restraint. Fraud, avarice, and profligacy prevailed. Men shrank from no crime by which they couldgain wealth or position. The palaces of popes and prelates were scenes of the vilest debauchery. Some of the reigningpontiffs were guilty of crimes so revolting that secular rulersendeavored to depose these dignitaries of the church as monsters too vile to be tolerated upon the throne. For centuriesthere was no progress in learning, arts, or civilization. Amoral and intellectual paralysis had fallen upon Chris-tendom.In the condition of the world under the Romish power was presented a fearful and striking fulfillment of the words of the prophet Hosea: “My people are destroyed for lackof knowledge. Because thou hast rejected knowledge, I willalso reject thee.” “Seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thyGod, I will also forget thy children.” “There is no truth, normercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. By swearing, andlying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, theybreak out, and blood toucheth blood.” Hosea 4:6, 1, 2. Such were the results of banishing the word of God.
(This article is from a book called Controversy between Christ and Satan
Read the whole book here )
CHAPTER SUPPLEMENT: THE MYSTERY OF INIQUITY “Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come,except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, theson of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is calledGod, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God,shewing himself that he is God.“Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you thesethings? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in histime. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work.” 2 Thessalonians2:3-7.
The Roman Church [59-60] [59-60] [59-60] [59-60] [59-60]
1. Prayers for the dead (about A.D. 300) /
2. Making the sign of the cross (A.D. 300) /
3. Wax candles (320) /
4. Veneration of angels and dead saints (375) /
5. Use of images (375) /
6. Mass as a daily celebration (394) /
7. Beginning of exaltation of Mary, called “Mother of God” (Council of Ephesus, 431) /
8. Priests begin to dress differently than laymen (500) /
9. Extreme unction (526) /
10.Doctrine of purgatory (Gregory I, 593) /
11. Latin language used in worship and commanded (Gregory I, 600) /
12. Prayers to Mary,dead saints, and angels (600) /
13. Title of pope given to Boniface III(Emperor Phocas, 607) /
14. Kissing pope’s foot begins (709) /
15.Temporal power of popes conferred (Pepin king of Franks, 750) /
16. Worship of the cross, images, and relics officially required (786)/
17. Holy water begins to be used (850) /
18. Worship of St. Joseph (890) /
19. College of Cardinals established (927) /
20. Baptism of bells started (John XIII, 965) /
21. Canonization of dead saints begins (John XV, 995) /
22. Fasting on Fridays and during“Lent” begins (998) /
23. Mass is a “sacrifice” (1050) /
24. Celibacy of priests required (Gregory II, 1079) /
25. Rosary praying invented (Peter the Hermit, 1090) /
26. Inquisition, in operation for centuries, now made official (Council of Verona, 1184) /
27. Sale of indulgences begins (1190) /
28. Error of Transubstantiation decreed,to bring God down into a cup and wafer (Innocent III, 1215) /
29.Auricular confession of sins to priest instead of to God required (Innocent III, 1215) /
30. Adoration of the wafer (host) decreed (Honorius III, 1220) /
31. Laymen officially forbidden to have or read the Bible; it is placed on “Index of Forbidden Books” (Council of Valencia, 1229) /
32. Protection by a piece of cloth (scapular) in-vented (Simon Stock, a British monk, 1251) /
33. Laymen forbid-den to drink the cup at Communion (Council of Constance, 1414) /
34. Purgatory proclaimed as dogma (Council of Florence, 1439) /
35. Doctrine of seven sacraments affirmed on pain of mortal sin(1439) /
36. First part of the “Ava Maria” saying is made official(1508) /
37. Jesuit order founded (Ignatius Loyola, 1534) /
38. Tradition (sayings of popes and councils) declared equal to Bible (Council of Trent, 1545) /
39. Apocryphal books added to Bible (Council of Trent, 1546) /
40. Creed of Pius IV ordered as official creed of church (1560) /
41. Last part of “Ave Maria” (rosary saying) pre-pared and required (Sixtus V, 1593) /
42. Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary proclaimed (Pius IX, 1854) / 43. Syllabus of Errors is proclaimed and ratified, condemning freedom of religion, speech,press, and all “unapproved” scientific discoveries (Pius X, Vatican Council I, 1864) /
44. Temporal authority of pope officially reaffirmed(1864) /
45. Absolute infallibility of pope proclaimed (Vatican I, 1870)/
46. Public schools condemned (Pius XI, 1930) /
47. Assumption of Virgin Mary (bodily ascension into heaven shortly after her death) proclaimed (Pius XII, 1950) /
48. Mary proclaimed be Mother of God (Paul VI, 1965). Two additional doctrines are now being dis-cussed, and may soon be adopted: (1) Mary as Mediatrix of man-kind. This means that God and Christ can be approached through her. (2) The dogma of Mary as the Co-redemptrix of the world. The thought here is that the redemption of mankind, from start to finish, is done through Mary, working together at each step with Christ.
“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day [the second ad-vent of Christ] shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4. “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you, and ye shall be hated of all nations for My name’s sake.” Matthew 24:9.“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, . . For I know this: that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking per-verse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch and re-member.” Acts 20:28-31.“For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day.”—Matt 24:21, 20.