September 8, 1892
THE Edict of Milan, March, 313, named “the whole body of Christians” as the beneficiaries without any qualification or any sectarian designation. Before the expiration of that month the provisions of the edict were confined to “the Catholic Church of the Christians” alone. In the autumn of the same year when the emperor wrote to the bishop of Rome, appointing the first council, he defined the established church as “the holy Catholic Church.” The following summer, 314, when he called the second council, he referred to the doctrine of the Catholic Church as embodying the “most holy religion.” And when it had been decided which party represented this “most holy religion,” then in 316 his letter and commission to Cecilianus defined it as “the legitimate and most holy Catholic religion.”
Nor was this all. While this was going on, also about the year 314, the first edict in favor of Sunday was issued, though it was blended with Friday. It ordered that on Friday and Sunday “no judicial or other business should be transacted, but that God should be served with prayers and supplications;” and in 321 Friday observance was dropped, and Sunday alone was exalted by the famous Sunday-rest law of Constantine, all in furtherance of the ambition of the ecclesiastics to assert the government as a kind of sovereignty for themselves.
Now there was another thing. When the Catholic Church had forced this decision in favor of itself in the matter of imperial favors, and the getting of property into their hands, then it sprung right back to the other part of that edict, and held Constantine to this point: that as it was the Catholic Church in the latter part of that edict, then it was certainly the Catholic Church in the first part of the edict. And that came in direct order, and in this way: In 323 by the direct and officious aid of the Catholic Church, Constantine succeeded in defeating Licinius and making himself sole emperor. No sooner was this accomplished than the “religious liberty” assured to “the Christians” by the Edict of Milan, like the provisions of the same edict restoring confiscated property to the Christians, was by a public and express edict limited to Catholics alone. This portion of that decree runs as follows:—
“VICTORY CONSTANTINUS MAXIMUS AUGUSTUS TO THE HERETICS: Understand now by this present statute, ye Novatians, Valentinians, Marcionites, Paulians, ye who are called Cataphrygians, and all ye who devise and support heresies by means of your private assemblies, with what a tissue of falsehood and vanity, with what destructive and venomous errors, your doctrines are inseparably interwoven; so that through you the healthy soul is stricken with disease, and the living becomes the prey of everlasting death….
“Forasmuch, then, as it is no longer possible to bear with your pernicious errors, we give warning by this present statute that none of you henceforth presume to assemble yourselves together. We have directed, accordingly, that you be deprived of all the houses in which you are accustomed to hold your assemblies: and our care in this respect extends so far as to forbid the holding of your superstitious and senseless meetings, not in public merely, but in any private house or place whatsoever. Let those of you, therefore, who are desirous of embracing the true and pure religion, take the far better course of entering the Catholic Church, and uniting with it in holy fellowship, whereby you will be enabled to arrive at the knowledge of the truth….
“It is an object worthy of that prosperity which we enjoy through the favor of God, to endeavor to bring back those who in time past were living in the hope of future blessing, from all irregularity and error, to the right path, from darkness to light, from vanity to truths, from death to salvation. And in order that this remedy may be applied with effectual power, we have commanded (as before said) that you be positively deprived of every gathering point for your superstitious meetings: I mean all the houses of prayer (if such be worthy of the name) which belong to heretics, and that those be made over without delay to the Catholic Church; that any other places be confiscated to the public service, and no facility whatever be left for any future gathering; in order that from this day forward none of your unlawful assemblies may presume to appear in any public or private place. Let this edict be made public.
Thus in less than eleven years, from the issuing of the Edict of Milan, the Catholic Church stood in full and exclusive possession of the authority of the empire, both in the rights of property and the right to worship, under the profession of Christianity; and with a specific and direct commission to use that power and authority to compel the submission of “heretics.” Thus was made the Papacy,—the beast of Revelation 13:1-10; and all that ever came in its career from that day to this, has been but the natural and inevitable outgrowth of the power and prerogatives which were then possessed and claimed by the Catholic Church.
And it all came from the Edict of Milan, bestowing governmental favors upon “the Christians.” No man can fairly deny that in the Edict of Milan and the religio-political intrigue that lay behind it, there was contained the whole Papacy. No man can successfully deny that the Edict of Milan, though appearing innocent enough upon its face, contained the whole Papacy: or that the things that followed in the ten years up to 323, which we have sketched, were anything else than the logical and inevitable development of the evil that lay wrapped up in that. All this came out of that edict, and nothing came out of it that was not in it. Nothing could come out of it that was not in it.
Now I call your attention to the thought again, that all of that, the whole Papacy, and every step from that day forward, came out of that edict in favor of Christianity. Didn’t it? now when the Supreme Court of the United States has issued a decree in favor of Christianity, what is coming out of that? What is in it?
What was in that edict of Constantine’s in favor of Christianity?—The beast, the whole Papacy form that day to this. Then what is in this decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in favor of Christianity as the religion of this nation?—The image of the beast, the image of the Papacy, from this day and forward for all that will ever come. That is what is in it.
Just as certainly as that edict of Constantine in favor of Christianity there, produced the Papacy with all that it is; just so certainly this decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in favor of the Christian religion here, as the religion of this nation, has in it the image of the beast, and will produce all that the prophecy has in it, or ever tells about. All this will come out of this decision, just as certainly as all that came out of that edict.
Disputes will arise here as to what Christianity is indeed, just as they arose there. Disputes will arise, I know not precisely in what form; it may be between Catholicism and Protestantism, or it may be between the different sects of Protestantism. But these disputes will certainly come. I know not how soon; but just as certainly as that decree of the Supreme Court of the United States that this is a Christian nation has been made, just so certainly a disagreement will arise one of these days, and the Supreme Court or some one else will have to decide who are Christians, and what class of Christians it is that is meant in that decision. That will have to come. And it will come.
(Concluded next week.)