“Editorial” American Sentinel 9, 26, pp. 201-203.

June 28, 1894

IN studying the errors of the papacy the question naturally arises, How came such a falling away from the truths of the gospel as taught by the Lord Jesus Christ himself and by his apostles, endued, as they were, by the Spirit of God? The answer is, It was by the self-exaltation of the creature above the Creator.

WHEN Paul was at Thessalonica, he preached to the people about the second coming of the Lord. And after he went away he wrote them a letter, in which he referred to the same subject, in these words: “This we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17.

THE Thessalonians, forgetting the instruction they had received from the apostle personally on this subject, misinterpreted his words and concluded that the Lord was coming in their day. This coming to the apostle’s knowledge, he wrote them a second letter, in which he exhorts them thus: “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 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, 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, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.” 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8.

ALL this Paul had taught the Thessalonians when he was with them, as he reminds them in the fifth verse: “Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?” Then, having recalled to their minds the fact, he simply appeals to their knowledge, and says, “And now ye know what withholdeth that he [the son of perdition] might be revealed in his time.” This plainly sets forth the prophecy of a great falling away or apostasy from the truth of the gospel. The purity of the gospel of Christ would be corrupted, and its intent perverted.

THE falling away of which Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, is referred to in his counsel to the elders, or bishops, of the church at Ephesus, whom he called to meet him at Miletus. To them he said: “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 perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” Acts 20:29-31.

THIS warning was not alone to the people of Ephesus in the three years that he was there. It is seen through all his epistles. Because of this readiness of individuals to assert themselves, to get wrong views of the truth, and to speak perverse things, the churches had constantly to be checked, guided, trained, reproved, and rebuked. But it was not alone nor chiefly from these characters that the danger threatened. It was those who from among the disciples would arise speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Through error of judgment, a man might speak perverse things with no bad intention; but the ones here mentioned would speak perverse things purposely and with the intention of making disciples for themselves—to draw away disciples after them instead of to draw disciples to Christ. These would pervert the truth, and would have to pervert the truth, in order to accomplish their purpose. He who always speaks the truth as it is in Jesus, will draw disciples to Jesus, and not to himself. The draw to Christ will be his only wish. But when one seeks to draw disciples to himself, and puts himself in the place of Christ, then he must pervert the truth, and accommodate it to the wishes of those whom he hopes to make his own disciples. This is wickedness; this is apostasy.

THERE was another consideration which made the danger the more imminent. These words were spoken to the bishops. It was a company of bishops, or elders, to whom the apostle was speaking when he said: “Of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them.” From that order of men who were chosen to guide and to care for the Church of Christ, from those who were set to protect the church—from this order of men there would be those who would pervert their calling, their office, and the purpose of it, to build up themselves, and gather disciples to themselves in the place of Christ. To watch this spirit, to check its influence, and to guard against its workings, was the constant effort of the apostle; and for the reason as stated to the Thessalonians, that they mystery of iniquity was already working. There were at that time elements abroad which the apostle could plainly see would develop into all that the Scriptures had announced. And scarcely were the last of the apostles dead when the evil appeared in its practical workings; and to study the growth of this apostasy is only to study the growth of the papacy, for it was the papacy in its earlier stages.

NO sooner were the apostles removed from the stage of action, no sooner was their watchful attention gone, and their [202] apostolic authority removed, than this very thing appeared of which the apostle had spoken. Certain bishops, in order to make easier the conversion of the heathen, to multiply disciples, and above all, to increase their own influence and authority, began to adopt heathen customs and forms.

WHEN the last of the apostles was dead, the first century was done; and within twenty years of that time the perversion of the truth of Christ had become widespread. In the history of this century and of this subject the record is,—

It is certain that to religious worship, both public and private, many rites were added, without necessity, and to the offense of sober and good men. [55]

And the reason of this is stated to be that—

That Christians were pronounced atheists, because they were destitute of temples, altars, victims, priests, and all that pomp in which the vulgar suppose the essence of religion to consist. For unenlightened persons are prone to estimate religion by what meets their eyes. To silence this accusation, the Christian doctors thought it necessary to introduce some external rites, which would strike the senses of the people, so that they could maintain themselves really to possess all those things of which Christians were charged with being destitute, though under different forms. [56]

This was at once to accommodate the Christian worship and its forms to that of the heathen, and was almost at one step to heathenize Christianity. No heathen element or form can be connected with Christianity or its worship, and Christianity remain pure.

OF all the ceremonies of the heathen, the mysteries were the most sacred and most universally practiced. Some mysteries were in honor of Bacchus, some of Cybele; but the greatest of all, those considered the most sacred of all and the most widely practiced, were the Eleusinian, so called because celebrated at Eleusis in Greece. But whatever was the mystery that was celebrated, there was always in it as an essential part of it, the elements of abomination that characterized sun worship everywhere, because the mysteries were simply forms of the widespread and multiform worship of the sun. Among the first of the perversions of the Christian worship was to give to its forms the title and air of the mysteries. For, says Mosheim:—

Among the Greeks and the people of the East, nothing was held more sacred than what was called the mysteries. This circumstance led the Christians, in order to impart dignity to their religion, to say that they also had similar mysteries, or certainly holy rites concealed from the vulgar: and they not only applied the terms used in the pagan mysteries to Christian institutions, particularly baptism and the Lord’s supper, but they gradually introduced also the rites which were designated by those terms. [57]

Of the Eleusinian mysteries, Anthon says: “This mysterious secrecy was solemnly observed and enjoined on all the votaries of the goddess; and if any one ever appeared at the celebration, either intentionally or through ignorance, without proper introduction, he was immediately punished with death. Persons of both sexes and all ages were initiated at this solemnity, and it was looked upon as so heinous a crime to neglect this sacred part of religion, that it was one of the heaviest accusations which contributed to the condemnation of Socrates. The initiated were under the more particular care of the deities, and therefore their lives were supposed to be attended with more happiness and real security than those of other men. This benefit was not only granted during life, but it extended beyond the grave, and they were honored with the first places in the Elysian fields, while others were left to wallow in perpetual filth and ignominy.”

THERE were the greater and the lesser mysteries. The greater were the Eleusinian in fact, and the lesser were invented, according to the mythological story, because Hercules passed near Eleusis, where the greater mysteries were celebrated, and desired to be initiated; but as he was a stranger and therefore could not lawfully be admitted, a form of mysteries was adopted into which he could be initiated. These were ever afterward celebrated as the lesser, and were observed at Agre.

THESE mysteries, as well as those of Bacchus and others, were directly related to the sun. Says the Encyclopedia Britannica: “The most holy and perfect rite in the Eleusinian Mysteries was to show an ear of corn mowed down in silence, and this was a symbol of the Phrygian Atys.”

THE Phrygian Atys was simply the incarnation of the sun, and the mysteries being a form of sun worship, the “sacred” symbols cannot be described with decency; for the worship of the sun was only the deification and worship of the reproductive organs, and it is not necessary to describe the actions that were performed in the celebration of the mysteries after the initiation, any further than is spoken of by the apostle with direct reference to this subject. “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.” Ephesians 5:11, 12.

IT was to accommodate the Christian worship to the minds of a people who practiced these things that the bishops gave to the Christian ordinances the name of mysteries. The Lord’s supper was made the greater mystery, baptism the lesser and the initiatory rite to the celebration of the former. After the heathen manner also a white garment was used as the initiatory robe, and the candidate having been baptized, and thus initiated into the lesser mysteries, was admitted into what was called in the church the order of catechumens, in which order they remained a certain length of time, as in the heathen celebration, before they were admitted to the celebration of the Lord’s supper, the greater mystery. Nobody at all familiar with the rites of the Catholic Church to-day, need be told that confirmation and the white dress for the first communion, are simply relics of paganism.

MOSHEIM testifies that before the second century was half gone, before the last of the apostles had been dead forty years, this apostasy, this working of the mystery of iniquity, had so largely spread over both the East and the West, that it is literally true that “a large part, therefore, of the Christian observances and institutions, even in this century, had the aspect of the pagan mysteries.”

NOR is this all. The worship of the sun was at this time universal. These apostates not being content with so much of the sun worship as appeared in the celebration of the mysteries, adopted the heathen custom of worshiping toward the east. So says Mosheim:—

Before the coming of Christ, all the Eastern nations performed divine worship with their faces turned to that part of the heavens where the sun displays his rising beams. This custom was founded upon a general opinion that God, whose essence they looked upon to be light, and whom they considered as being circumscribed within certain limits, dwell in that part of the firmament from which he sends forth the sun, the bright image of his benignity and glory. The Christian converts, indeed, rejected this gross error [of supposing that God dwelt in that part of the firmament]; but they retained the ancient and universal custom of worshiping toward the east, which sprang from it. Nor is this custom abolished even in our times, but still prevails in a great number of Christian churches. [58]

The next step in addition to this was the adoption of the day of the sun as a festival day. To such an extent were the forms of sun-worship practiced in this apostasy, that before the close of the second century the heathen themselves charged these so-called Christians with worshiping the sun. A presbyter of the church of Carthage, then and now one of the “church fathers,” who wrote about A.D. 200, considered it necessary to make a defense of the practice, which he did to the following effect in an address to the rulers and magistrates of the Roman Empire:—

Others, again, certainly with more information and greater verisimilitude, believe that the sun is our god. We shall be counted Persians perhaps, though we do not worship the orb of day painted on a piece of linen cloth, having himself everywhere in his own disk. The idea no doubt has originated from our being known to turn to the east in prayer. But you, many of you, also under pretense sometimes of worshiping the heavenly bodies, move your lips in the direction of the sunrise. In the same way, if we devote Sunday to rejoicing, from a far different reason than sun worship, we have some resemblance to those of you who devote the day of Saturn to ease and luxury, though they too go far away from Jewish ways, of which indeed they are ignorant. [59]

And again in an address to all the heathen he justifies this practice by the argument, in effect: You do the same thing, you originated it too, therefore you have no right to blame us. In his own words his defense is as follows:—

Others, with greater regard to good manners, it must be confessed, suppose that the sun is the god of the Christians, because it is a well-known fact that we pray toward the east, or because we make Sunday a day of festivity. What then? Do you do less than this? Do not many among you, with an affectation of sometimes worshiping the heavenly bodies, likewise move your lips in the direction of the sunrise? It is you, at all events, who have admitted the sun into the calendar of the week; and you have selected its day, in preference to the preceding day, as the most suitable in the week for either an entire abstinence from the bath, or for its postponement until the evening, or for taking rest and banqueting. [60]

This accommodation was easily made, and all this practice was easily justified, by the perverse-minded teachers, in the perversion of such Scriptures as, “The Lord God is a sun and shield,” and, “Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings.” Malachi 4:2.

As this custom spread, and through it such disciples were multiplied, the ambition of the bishop of Rome grew apace. It was in honor of the day of the sun that there was manifested the first attempt of the bishop of Rome to compel the obedience of all other bishops, and the fact that this attempt was made in such a cause, at [203] the very time when these pretended Christians were openly accused by the heathen of worshiping the sun, is strongly suggestive.

FROM Rome there came now another addition to the sun-worshiping apostasy. The first Christians being mostly Jews, continued to celebrate the Passover in remembrance of the death of Christ, the true Passover; and this was continued among those who from among the Gentiles had turned to Christ. Accordingly, the celebration was always on the passover day,—the fourteenth of the first month. Rome, however, and from her all the West, adopted the day of the sun as the day of this celebration. According to the Eastern custom, the celebration, being on the fourteenth day of the month, would of course fall on different days of the week as the years revolved. The rule of Rome was that the celebration must always be on a Sunday—the Sunday nearest to the fourteenth day of the first month of the Jewish year. And if the fourteenth day of that month should itself be a Sunday, then the celebration was not to be held on that day, but upon the next Sunday. One reason of this was not only to be as like the heathen as possible, but to be as un like the Jews as possible: this, in order not only to facilitate the “conversion” of the heathen by conforming to their customs, but also by pandering to their spirit of contempt and hatred of the Jews. It was upon this point that the bishop of Rome made his first open attempt at absolutism.

WE know not precisely when this began, but it was practised in Rome as early as the time of Sixtus I., who was bishop of Rome A.D. 119-128. The practice was promoted by his successors, and Anicetus, who was bishop of Rome A.D. 157-168, “would neither conform to that [Eastern] custom himself nor suffer any under his jurisdiction to conform to it, obliging them to celebrate that solemnity on the Sunday next following the fourteenth of the moon.” [61] In A.D. 160, Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, made a journey to Rome to consult with Anicetus about this question, though nothing special came of the consultation. Victor, who was bishop of Rome A.D. 192-202, likewise proposed to oblige only those under his jurisdiction to conform to the practise of Rome; but he asserted jurisdiction over all, and therefore presumed to command all.

“Accordingly, after having taken the advice of some foreign bishops, he wrote an imperious letter to the Asiatic prelates commanding them to imitate the example of the Western Christians with respect to the time of celebrating the festival of Easter. The Asiatics answered this lordly requisition by the pen of Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus, who declared in their name, with great spirit and resolution, that they would by no means depart in this manner from the custom handed down to them by their ancestors. Upon this the thunder of excommunication began to roar. Victor, exasperated by this resolute answer of the Asiatic bishops, broke communion with them, pronounced them unworthy of the name of his brethren, and excluded them from all fellowship with the Church of Rome.”

IN view of these things it will readily be seen that between paganism and this kind of Christianity it soon became difficult to distinguish, and the third century only went to make any distinction still more difficult to be discerned. [203]

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