Chapter 7 Pagan Sun-Worship | Chapter 8 Sunday Observance Unknown to Christianity Before the Middle of the Second Century | Chapter 9 State Religion a Pagan Institution | Chapter 10 The Control of Christianity By the State Under Constantine and his Successors | Chapter 11 Constantine's Legislation Concerning the Pagan Sunday | Chapter 12 Other Forms of Pagan Residuum in Christianity | Chapter 13 Same Subject Continued | Chapter 14 Conclusions. The Fundamental Principles of Protestantism Involved in Present Issues | Endnotes Part 2 | Back to Part 1
Paganism Surviving in Christianity
Sun-Worship the Oldest and Most Widely Diffused Form of Paganism Gnostic Antinomianism or Lawlessness Anti-Judaism, Mainly of Pagan Origin Anti-Sabbathism and Sunday Observance Synchronous Anti-Lawism and Anti-Sabbathism Unscriptural Christ's Teachings Concerning the Law of God; Paul's Teachings on the Same Destructive Effect of Pagan Lawlessness on Christianity.
THE sun-god, under various names, Mithras, Baal, Apollo, etc., was the chief god of the heathen pantheon. A direct conflict between him and Jehovah appears wherever paganism and revealed religion came in contact. As "Baal", "Lord" of the universe and of the productive forces in nature and in man, this sun-god was the pre-eminent divinity in ancient Palestine and throughout Phoenicia. The chosen people of God were assailed and corrupted by this cult, even while they were in the desert,(1) being led away by the women of Moab. During the period of the Judges, Baal-worship was the besetting sin of Israel, which the most vigorous measures could not eradicate.(2)
A reformation came under Saul and David, only to be followed by a relapse under Solomon, which culminated in the exclusion of Jehovah-worship under Ahab.(3) Jehu broke the power of the cult, for a time, but the people soon returned to it.(4) It also spread like a virus through Judah; repressed by Hezekiah, but continued by Manasseh.(5)
This worship of the sun-god was a sign of disloyalty to Jehovah, and formed the certain road to wickedness and impurity.(6)
In its lowest forms it was so closely allied to sex-worship, Phallicism, that it lent great power to that debasing licentiousness, which sanctified lust, and made prostitution of virtue a religious duty. Sun-worship was both powerful and popular in the Roman Empire when Christianity came into contact with Western thought. It furnished abundant material for the corrupting process. We have seen in a former chapter that several minor elements of sun-worship mingled with pagan water-worship: such as turning to the west to renounce evil, and turning to the east to promise allegiance to Christ and Light, before baptism; "Orientation" building churches with the altar so that men should worship toward the east was another element, while the extinguishing of a torch or a candle in the font, in the preparation of holy water, was a direct importation from this cult. But these were of little account in extent or influence, when compared with the corruption which came through the introduction of Baal's and Apollo's day, "Sunday," in place of the Sabbath, which had always represented, and yet represents, Jehovah, maker of heaven and earth. The introduction of Sunday into Christianity was a continuation of the old-time conflict between Baal and Jehovah.
The definite and systematic manner in which the corrupting process was carried forward is clearly seen by the preparatory steps which opened the way for paganism to thrust the sun's day upon Christianity. We have seen how the foundation of God's authority was undermined by the gnostic opposition to the Old Testament, and by the allegorizing of both Old and New; how a false "baptismal-regeneration" theory filled the church with baptized but unconverted heathens. These were not enough to complete the corrupting process. While men still had regard for the Sabbath, they could not entirely give up the law of Jehovah on which it was based, and thus the fundamental doctrines of paganism were still held in check.
The Simultaneous Development of Anti-Sabbathism and of Sunday Observance
Gnosticism was antinomian from the core. All knowledge, and hence all authority, was in the heart of the "true Gnostic." The "initiated" were divinely enlightened, were a law unto themselves. This was doubly true when they came into contact with a law promulgated by the "inferior God of the Jews," the weak Creator of matter, and hence a God in league with evil. Such opposition was natural, was unavoidable, from the Gnostic standpoint. Coupled with the allegorical method of interpretation, it was an easy task for this opposition to create a violent anti-Jewish prejudice, and a combined no-lawism, and no-Sabbathism, which became the main factor in sundering the Jewish and Gentile churches, and introducing the reign of "lawlessness," of which Paul wrote in the second chapter of Thessalonians. This anti-lawism and anti-Sabbathism appear in JUSTIN, the first pagano-Christian writer of whom we have sufficient definite knowledge to gain a picture of the incipient results of pagan influence on Christianity. He accepted Christianity after reaching mature life, but retained his "philosopher's cloak" as he did many of his pagan ideas. His theories are a compound of pagan philosophy and Christianity. He was furiously opposed to all that savored of Judaism. His interpretations of Scripture and his religious opinions are all strongly colored by this anti-Jewish spirit. His Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, whether Trypho were a real or an imaginary character, is the special exponent of anti-Judaism. The following examples show how he confounded the moral laws and the ceremonial code of the Jews, and set forth baneful no-lawism and no-Sabbathism, which grew in virulence and destroyed the authority of the Old Testament wherever his influence was felt. His special anti-Jewish treatise is entitled, Dialogue of Justin, Philosopher and Martyr, with Trypho a Jew. It opens as follows:
"While I was going about one morning in the walks of the Xystus, a certain man, with others in his company, having met me said, 'Hail, O Philosopher!' And immediately after saying this, he turned round and walked along with me; his friends likewise followed him. And I, in turn having addressed him, said, 'What is there important?'
"And he replied: 'I was instructed,' says he, 'by Corinthus, the Socratic in Argos, that I ought not to despise or treat with indifference those who array themselves in this dress, but to show them all kindness, and to associate with them, as perhaps some advantage would spring from the intercourse either to some such man or to myself. It is good, moreover, for both, if either the one or the other be benefited.'
"On this account, therefore, when ever I see any one in, such costume, I gladly approach him, and now, for the same reason, have I willingly accosted you; and these accompany me, in the expectation of hearing for themselves something profitable from you."
This opening shows Justin in his true character, as a philosopher who has united certain elements of Christianity (see Dialogue, ch. viii.) wit his pagan theories, and is now to defend this product as Christianity. In chapter x., Trypho states his case against Christians in the following words:
"Moreover I am aware that your precepts in the so-called Gospel are so wonderful and so great, that I suspect no one can keep them; for I have carefully read them. But this is what we are most at a loss about; that you professing to be pious, and supposing yourselves better than others, are not in any particular separated from them and do not alter your mode of living from the nations, in that you observe no festivals or Sabbaths, and do not have the rite of circumcision: and further, resting, your hopes on a man that was crucified, you yet expect to obtain some good thing from God, while you do not obey His commandments. Have you not read, that that soul shall be cut off from his people who shall not have been circumcised on the eighth day? And this has been ordained for strangers and for slaves equally. But you, despising this covenant rashly, reject the consequent duties, and attempt to persuade yourselves that you know God, when, however, you perform none of those things which they do who fear God. If, therefore, you can defend yourself on these points, and make it manifest in what way you hope for any thing whatsoever, even though you do not observe the law, this we would very gladly hear from you, and we shall make other similar investigations."(7)
Justin answers Trypho in the next chapter, (chapter xi), which is entitled: "The Law Abrogated; The New Testament Promised and Given of God."
Note the following from this, and subsequent chapters:
"For the law promulgated on Horeb is now old, and belongs to yourselves alone; but this is for all universally. Now law placed against law has abrogated that which is before it, and a covenant which comes after in like manner has put an end to the previous one; and an eternal and final law namely Christ has been given to us and the covenant is trustworthy, after which there shall be no law, no commandment, no ordinance."(8)
"You have now need of a second circumcision, though you glory greatly in the flesh. The new law requires you to keep perpetual Sabbath, and you, because you are idle for one day, suppose you are pious, not discerning why this has been commanded you; and if you eat unleavened bread, you say the will of God has been fulfilled. The Lord our God does not take pleasure in such observances; if there is any perjured person, or a thief among you, let him cease to be so; if any adulterer, let him repent; then he has kept the sweet and true Sabbaths of God. If any one has impure hands, let him wash and be pure.(9)
"For we too would observe the fleshly circumcision, and the Sabbaths, and in short all the feasts, if we did not know for what reason they were enjoined you namely on account of your transgressions and the hardness of your hearts. For if we patiently endure all things contrived against us by wicked men and demons, so that even amid cruelties unutterable, death and torments, we pray for mercy to those who inflict such things upon us, and do not wish to give the least retort to any one even as the new Lawgiver commanded us; how is it, Trypho, that we would not observe those rites which do not harm us I speak of fleshly circumcision, and Sabbaths and feasts?"(10)
In many different forms Justin Martyr repeats his theory, that the ten commandments and the ceremonial economy of the Jews were abrogated, and that there is no written law regulating conduct on the part of the Christians.
TERTULLIAN also taught the temporary character of the Decalogue, and no-lawism, as the following shows:
"Whence we understand that God's law was anterior even to Moses, and was not first [given] in Horeb, or in Sinai, and in the desert, but was more ancient; [existing] first in paradise, subsequently reformed for the patriarchs, and so again for the Jews, at definite periods; so that we are not to give heed to Moses' law as to the primitive law, but to a subsequent, which at a definite period, God has set forth to the Gentiles too, and, after repeatedly promising so to do, through the prophets, has re-formed for the better; and has premonished [men] that it should come to pass that, 'just as the law was given through Moses,' at a definite time, so it should be believed to have been temporarily observed and kept, And let us not annul this power which God has, which reforms the law's precepts answerably to the circumstances of the times, with a view to man's salvation. In fine, let him who contends that the Sabbath is still to be observed as a balm of salvation, and circumcision on the eighth day because of the threat of death, teach us that, for the time past, righteous men kept the Sabbath, or practised circumcision, and were thus rendered 'friends of God.' For if circumcision purges a man, since God made Adam uncircumcised, why did he not circumcise him, even after his sinning, if circumcision purges? At all events, in settling him in paradise, He appointed one uncircumcised as colonist of paradise. Therefore since God originated Adam uncircumcised, and inobservant of the Sabbath, consequently his offspring also, Abel, offering Him sacrifices, uncircumcised and inobservant of the Sabbath, was by Him commended; while He accepted what he was offering in simplicity of heart, and reprobated the sacrifice of his brother Cain, who was not rightly dividing what he was offering. Noah, also, uncircumcised, yes, and inobservant of the Sabbath God freed from the deluge. For Enoch, too, most righteous man, uncircumcised and inobservant of the Sabbath, He translated from this world; [Enoch] who did not first taste death, in order that, being a candidate for eternal life, he might by this time show us that we also may, without the burden of the law of Moses, please God. Melchizedek, also, 'the priest of the most high God,' uncircumcised and inobservant of the Sabbath, was chosen to the priesthood of God. Lot, withal, the brother of Abraham, proves that it was for the merits of righteousness, without observance of the law, that he was freed from the conflagration of the Sodomites. . . .
"Therefore, since it is manifest that a Sabbath temporal was shown and a Sabbath eternal foretold, and a circumcision carnal foretold and a circumcision spiritual pre-indicated; a law temporal and a law eternal formally declared; sacrifices carnal and sacrifices spiritual fore shown; it follows that, after all these precepts had been given carnally, in time preceding, to the people of Israel there was to supervene a time whereat the precepts of the ancient law, and of the old ceremonies would cease and the promise of the new law, and the recognition of spiritual sacrifices, and the promise of the New Testament, supervene; while the light from on high would beam upon us who were sitting in darkness, and were being detained in the shadow of death. And so there is incumbent on us a necessity, binding us, since we have premised that a new law was predicted by the prophets, and that not such as had been already given to their fathers, at the time when He led them forth from the land of Egypt, to show and prove, on the one hand that that old law has ceased, and on the other, that the promised new law is now in operation."(11)
These examples must suffice, since all who are familiar with Patristic literature know that its general trend, and its openly avowed opposition to Judaism and all things connected with the Old Testament and the Decalogue, place it beyond controversy, that the prevailing type of Christianity during the third, fourth, and succeeding centuries, was anti-Sabbatic, and antinomian. There were practical exceptions among the more common people, but the prevailing thought, and hence the strong tendency, was away from the Sabbath, and from Sabbathism. He who questions this shows himself ignorant in the premises. This growing disregard for the authority of the Sabbath law, and the steady development of anti-Sabbathism, prepared the way for a vast system of semi-religious pagan days, with the Sun's day at their head.
Antinomianism and Anti-Sabbathism Unscriptural
Before we inquire how Sunday was introduced, it will be well to consider the unscriptural and destructive nature of the theories by which the Decalogue and the Sabbath were dethroned, through false teachings.
Christ is the central figure in both dispensations. If new expressions of the Father's will are to be made in connection with the work of Christ on earth, they must be made by the "Immanuel," who is thus "reconciling the world unto himself." Did Christ teach the abrogation of the Decalogue, of which the Sabbath law is a part? Let His own words answer:
"Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I came not to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished. Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."(12)
When Christ speaks of the law (ton nomon) in these emphatic words, He cannot mean the ceremonial code, for these ceremonies were typical of Him and must pass away with His death. Besides this, the word fulfil (plerosai) means the opposite of destruction (katalusai). Christ fulfilled the law by perfect obedience to it. He corrected false interpretations, and intensified its claims. He taught obedience to it in the spirit as well as the letter, and urged obedience from love rather than fear. Such a work could not have been done in connection with the dying ceremonies of the Jewish system. Such a work Christ did do with reference to the Decalogue. In connection with the passage above quoted Christ immediately refers to two laws from the Decalogue, explains and enforces their meaning in a way far more broad and deep than those who listened to Him were wont to conceive of them.
On another occasion(13) a certain shrewd lawyer sought to entrap the Saviour by asking "which is the greatest commandment in the law." The question has no meaning unless it be applied to the Decalogue. Christ's answer includes all the cornmandments of the Decalogue, and thus avoids the trap designed by the questioner, who sought to lead Him into some distinction between laws known to be equal in their nature and extent.
In the sixteenth chapter of Luke,(14) Christ again affirms in the strongest language, that "It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail." Language could not be plainer than that which is used in these statements.
These sentiments accord fully with the practice of Christ relative to the Sabbath. He boldly condemned the unjust requirements which the Jews had attached to the observance of it, and taught that works of mercy were to be freely done on that day; that it was made for man's good, and not his injury. But He never taught that because it was "made for man" therefore it was to be abrogated, or unsanctified. Neither did He delegate to His disciples any power to teach the abrogation of the law, or of the Sabbath. On the contrary, their representative writings contain the same clear testimony in favor of the perpetuity of the law, and show the same practical observance of the Sabbath. Paul, the great reasoner among the Apostles, after an exhaustive discussion concerning the relations between the law and the Gospel, concludes the whole matter in these words:
"Do we then make the law of none effect through faith? God forbid! Nay, we establish the law."(15)
Again in the same epistle(16) he presents a conclusive argument, starting from the axiom that "where there is no law there is no sin." Showing that since death, which came by sin, reigned from Adam to Moses, therefore the law then existed, and, by the same reasoning that if there be no law under the Gospel dispensation, there can be no sin; if no sin, then no Saviour from sin, and Christ died in vain, if by His death he destroyed the law. In another place Paul contrasts the Decalogue with the ceremonial code, and declares the worthlessness of the one and the binding character of the other, in these words :
"Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God."(17)
Thus, in a plain and unequivocal way, Paul teaches as his Master taught.
In view of Christ's words, and Paul's sharp logic, the following conclusions are unavoidable. They annihilate the no-law theory.
1. If the Decalogue was abolished by the death of Christ, then Christ by His death prevented the possibility of sin, to redeem man from which He died.
2. "Sin is not imputed where there is no law,"(18) hence the consciousness of sin which men feel under the claims of the Gospel is a mockery, and all faith in Christ is a farce. It only increases the difficulty to say that the law is written in the hearts of believers. If that be true, then:
3. None but believers in Christ can be convicted of sin, for no others can know the law which convicts of sin. Therefore those who reject Christ become, at least negatively, righteous by refusing to come where they can be convicted of sin. Thus does the no-Sabbath theory make infidelity better than belief, and rejection of Christ the only means of salvation. It leads to endless absurdities, and the overthrow of all moral government. It contradicts the plain words of God, and puts darkness for light. Its fruitage in human life has been only bitterness and ashes.
SUNDAY OBSERVANCE UNKNOWN TO CHRISTIANITY
BEFORE THE MIDDLE OF THE SECOND CENTURY
Mistaken Notions Concerning the Beginning of Sunday Observance No Sunday Observance in the New Testament Sunday Directly Referred to but Three Times It is Never Spoken of as a Sabbath, nor as Commemorative of Christ's Resurrection The Bible does not State that Christ Rose on Sunday Christ and His Disciples Always Observed the Sabbath The "Change of the Sabbath" Unknown in the New Testament The Sabbath Never Called "Jewish" in the Scriptures, nor by Any Writer until after Paganism had Invaded the Church -Origin of Sunday Observance Found in Paganism First Reference to Sunday Observance about 150 A.D. No Writer of the Early Centuries Claimed Scriptural Reasons for Its Observance Pagan Reasons and Arguments Adduced in Its Support; a Day of "Indulgence to the Flesh" Pretended Scriptural Reasons, ex post facto.
THERE are few if any questions concerning which popular notions and ultimate facts are more at variance than the question of the early observance of Sunday. It is not uncommon for men to assert that "Sunday has been observed as the Christian Sabbath ever since the resurrection of Christ"; while the fact is, that the first authentic and definite statement concerning Sunday observance was made by Justin Martyr as late as 150 A.D. 'Even if we accept the passage quoted from the Didache, the portion of that document in which the reference occurs cannot be placed earlier than 150, and it is probably much later. Since the facts as they appear in the New Testament can be easily obtained, I shall take only space enough to state them briefly.
"The first day of the week," Sunday, is definitely referred to but three times in the New Testament. Each of the Evangelists speaks of the day on which Christ's resurrection was made known to his disciples. These references are all to the same day.(19) The book of Acts has but one reference to Sunday(20); and there is but one in all the Epistles.(21) Three other passages are quoted in favor of Sunday observance.(22)
It is so easy for the reader to examine these passages, and to compare them with popular notions and with what is said here, that I shall be content with the following summary of facts touching Sunday observance in the New Testament:
Six passages are quoted in favor of such observance. Only three of these passages mention the first day of the week in any manner. Neither of them speaks of it as sabbatic, or as commemorative of any event, or sacred, or to be regarded above other days, and it is only by vague and illogical inferences that either of them is made to produce a shadow of proof for such a change. Concerning the other three, it is only supposed by the advocates of the popular theory, that they in some way refer to the first day. To this, therefore, does the "argument from example "come, when carefully examined. The New Testament never speaks of, or hints at, a change of the Sabbath; it contains no notice of any commemorative or sabbatic observance of Sunday. It does tell of the repeated and continued observance of the Sabbath by Christ and His Apostles. Will the reader please examine the Bible to see whether these things are so. Sunday is a myth, as far as the Bible is concerned, and the theory of a "change of the Sabbath by divine authority," had its birth with English Puritanism less than three hundred years ago.
Christ's Resurrection and Sunday
Another popular notion is equally unsupported by New Testament history. The Bible never associates the observance of Sunday, or of any other day, with the resurrection of Christ. The Bible does not state that Christ rose from the grave on Sunday. The most that can be said on this point is, that when the friends of Christ first came to the tomb it was empty. He had risen and gone. Matthew xxviii., i, shows that the first visit was made 'late on the Sabbath," i.e. on Saturday afternoon before sunset, at which time the tomb was empty.(23)
All references to Sunday are fully accounted for on other considerations than that it was a sacred or a commemorative day. New Testament arguments in favor of Sunday observance are all ex post facto; they were developed after the practice had been initiated for other reasons.
The Sabbath in the New Testament
The history of the Sabbath in the New Testament is as much at variance with popular notions as is the history of Sunday. The statement sometimes made that "The Sabbath was never observed after the resurrection of Christ," contains as much error as can be put into that number of words. Since the facts are in the hands of every reader of the New Testament, only a general summary of them is given here.
Collating the facts, and summing up the case as regards the example of Christ and His Apostles, it stands as follows :
1. During the life of Christ, the Sabbath was always observed by Him and by His followers. He corrected the errors and false notions which were held concerning it, but gave no hint that it was to be abrogated.
2. The book of Acts gives a connected history of the recognition and observance of the Sabbath by the Apostles while they were organizing many of the churches spoken of in the New Testament. These references extend over a period of eight or nine years, the last of them being at least twenty years after the resurrection.
3. In all the history of the doings and teachings of the Apostles, there is not the remotest reference to the abrogation of the Sabbath.
Had there been any change made or beginning to be made, or any authority for the abrogation of the Sabbath law, the Apostles must have known it. To claim that there was is therefore to charge them with studiously concealing the truth. And also, with recognizing and calling a day the Sabbath which was not the Sabbath.
Add to these considerations the following facts (a) The latest books of the New Testament, including the Gospel of John, were written about the year ninety-five or later. In none of these is there any trace of the change of the Sabbath, nor is the abrogation of the Sabbath law taught in them.
(b) The Sabbath is mentioned in the New Testament sixty times, and always in its appropriate character.
Thus the law and the gospel are in harmony, an teach that "the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God."
But some will say, "Christ and His Apostles did all this as Jews, simply." If this be true, then Christ lived and taught simply as a Jew and not as the Saviour of the world. On the contrary, He was at war with the false and extravagant notions of Judaism concerning questions of truth and duty. If Christ were not a "Christian," but a "Jew," what becomes of the system which He taught? If His first followers, who perilled all for Him and sealed their faith with their blood, were only Jews, or worse, were dissemblers, doing that which Christians ought not to do, for sake of policy, where shall Christians be found? The assumption dies of its own inconsistency. More than this, New Testament history repeatedly states that the Greeks were taught on the Sabbath the same as the Jews; and in those churches where the Greek element predominated there is no trace of any different teaching or custom on this point. The Jewish Christians kept up their national institutions, for a time, such as circumcision and the passover, while all Christians accepted the Sabbath as a part of the law of God. The popular outcry against the Sabbath as "Jewish" is unscriptural. Christ was in all respects, as regards nationality, a Jew. So were all the writers of the Old Testament, and all the writers of the New Testament. God has given the world no word of inspiration in the Bible from Gentile pen, or Gentile lips. Is the Bible therefore "Jewish"? The Sabbath, if possible, is less Jewish than the Bible. It had its beginning long before a Jew was born. It is God's day marked by His own example, and sanctified by His blessing, for the race of man, beginning when the race began, and can end only when the race shall cease to exist. Christ recognized it under the Gospel as He recognized each of the other eternal laws with which it is associated in the Decalogue; recognize them as the everlasting words of His Father, whose law He came to magnify and fulfil. It is manifestly unjust and unchristian to attempt to thrust out and stigmatize any part of God's truth as "Jewish," when all of God's promises and all Bible truths have come to us through the Hebrew nation.(24)
As we were compelled to go outside the Bible to find the influences which undermined the Decalogue and the Sabbath, so we must seek for the origin of Sunday observance outside of that book.
We find the first mention of such observance, and of reasons therefor, in the same author, Justin, who we have seen was the first to formulate the anti-law and anti-Sabbath doctrines which have already been examined.(25)
This earliest reference to Sunday observance is found in Justin's Apology as follows:
"On the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the Country, gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time permits; then when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread, and wine, and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows, and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds, and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration."(26)
There is nothing scriptural in the reasons given by Justin; the first is purely fanciful, and is in accord with the prevailing gnostic speculations of those times. His statement that Christ was crucified on Friday is the beginning of a popular error, which has come down, not unchallenged, but largely uninvestigated. Some writers claim that the last clause intends to state that Christ taught His disciples when He first appeared to them, what Justin had written concerning the Sunday; but one has only to read Justin's words to see how entirely unfounded such a claim is. At all events, there is not a word in Scripture to support the reasons adduced by Justin for Sunday observance.
It is important that the reader note carefully what sort of Sunday observance Justin describes. Laying aside all "suppositions," and "inferences," and ex post facto conclusions, we learn from him that at the middle of the second century a form of religious service was held on Sunday. But it is equally evident that there was no sabbatic regard for the day. Sir WILLIAM DOMVILLE summarizes the case as follows:
"This inference appears irresistible when we further consider that Justin, in this part of his Apology, is professedly intending to describe the mode in which Christians observed the Sunday. . . . He evidently intends to give all information requisite to an accurate knowledge of the subject he treats upon. He is even so particular as to tell the Emperor why the Sunday was observed; and he does, in fact, specify every active duty belonging to the day, the Scripture reading, the exhortation, the public prayer, the Sacrament, and the almsgiving: why then should he not also inform the Emperor of the one inactive duty of the day, the duty of abstaining from doing in it any manner of work? The Emperor well knew that such abstinence was the custom of all his Jewish subjects on the Saturday (die Saturni), and could readily have understood it to be the custom of his Christian subjects on the Sunday (die Solis, as Justin calls it in his Apology), and, therefore, if such was the custom of Christians in Justin's time, his description of their Sunday duties was essentially defective. It is not, however, at all probable that he would intend to omit noticing so important a characteristic of the day, as the Sabbatical observance of it, if it was in fact Sabbatically observed. But even were it probable he should intend to omit all mention of it in his Apology to the Emperor, it would be impossible to imagine any sufficient cause for his remaining silent on the subject in his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew; and this whether the Dialogue was real or imaginary, for if the latter, Justin would still, as Dr. Lardner has observed, 'choose to write in character.' . . . The testimony of Justin, therefore, proves most clearly two facts of great importance in the Sabbath controversy: the one, that the Christians in his time observed the Sunday as a prayer day; the other, that they did not observe it as a Sabbath day."(27)
Such is the summary of the case at the year 150 A.D. No-Sabbathism and a form of Sunday observance were born at the same time. Trained in heathen philosophies until manhood, Justin accepted Christianity as a better philosophy than he had before found. Such a man and those like him could scarcely do other than build a system quite unlike apostolic Christianity. That which they did build was a paganized rather than an apostolic type.
Pagan Reasons for Observing Sunday
Pagan philosophy as a source of argument in favor of the observance of Sunday is made still more prominent by CLEMENT of Alexandria, as follows:
"And the Lord's day Plato prophetically speaks of in the tenth book of the Republic, in these words: 'And when seven days have passed to each of them in the meadow, on the eighth they are to set out and arrive in four days.' By the meadow is to be understood the fixed sphere, as being a mild and genial spot, and the locality of the pious; and by the seven days each motion of the seven planets, and the whole practical art which speeds to the end of rest. But after the wandering orbs the journey leads to heaven, that is, to the eighth motion and day. And he says that souls are one on the fourth day, pointing out the passage through the four elements. But the seventh day is recognized as sacred, not by the Hebrews only, but also by the Greeks; according to which the whole world of all animals and plants revolve. Hesiod says of it:
"'The first, and fourth, and seventh day were held sacred.'
"'And on the seventh the sun's resplendent orb.'
"'And on the seventh, then came the sacred day.'
"'The seventh was sacred.'
"'It was the seventh day, and all things were accomplished.'
"'And on the seventh morn we leave the stream of Acheron.'
"Callimachus the poet also writes:
"'It was the seventh morn, and they had all things done.'
"'Among good days is the seventh day, and the seventh race.'
"'The seventh is among the prime, and the seventh is perfect.'
"'Now all the seven were made in starry heaven, In circles shining as the years appear.'
"The Elegies of Solon, too, intensely deify the seventh day. And how? Is it not similar to Scripture when it says, 'Let us remove the righteous man from us, because he is troublesome to us?' When Plato, all but predicting in the economy of salvation, says in the second book of the Republic, as follows: 'Thus he who is constituted just shall be scourged, shall be stretched on the rack, shall be bound, have his eyes put out; and, at last, having suffered all evils, shall be crucified'."(28)
A similar combination of pagan error and wild speculation is found in another of Clement's works, where he discusses reasons for fasting on Wednesday and on Friday, and also considers how one may keep Sunday. Writing of the "True Gnostic," Clement says:
"He knows also the enigmas of the fasting of those days I mean the Fourth and the Preparation. For the one has its name from Hermes, and the other from Aphrodite. He fasts in his life, in respect of covetousness and voluptuousness, from which all the vices grow. For we have already often above shown the three varieties of fornication, according to the apostle love of pleasure, love of money, idolatry. He fasts then, according to the law, abstaining from bad deeds, and according to the perfection of the Gospel, from evil thoughts. Temptations are applied to him, not for his purification, but, as we have said, for the good of his neighbors, if, making trial of toils and pains, he has despised and passed them by.
"The same holds of pleasure. For it is the highest achievement for one who has had trial of it, afterwards to abstain. For what great thing is it, if a man restrains himself in what he knows not? He, in fulfilment of the precept according to the Gospel, keeps the Lord's day, when he abandons an evil disposition, and assumes that of the Gnostic, glorifying the Lord's resurrection in himself. Further also when he has received the comprehension of scientific speculation, he deems that he sees the Lord, directing his eyes towards things invisible, although he seems to look on what he does not wish to look on; chastising the faculty of vision, when he perceives himself pleasurably affected by the application of his eyes; since he wishes to see and hear that alone which concerns him."(29)
Clement on the Sabbath Law
Prominent examples of paganism are found in Clement's Gnostic Exposition of the Decalogue. Discoursing, upon the Fourth Commandment, he says:
"Having reached this point, we must mention these things by the way, since the discourse has turned on the seventh and the eighth. For the eighth may possibly turn out to be properly the seventh, and the seventh manifestly the sixth, and the latter properly the Sabbath, and the seventh a day of work. For the creation of the world was concluded in six days. For the motion of the sun from solstice to solstice is completed in six months, in the course of which, at one time the leaves fall, and at another plants bud and seeds come to maturity. And they say that the embryo is perfected exactly in the sixth month, that is, in one hundred and eighty days in addition to the two and a half, as Polybus the physician relates in his book On the Eight Month, and Aristotle the philosopher in his book On Nature. Hence the Pythagoreans, as I think, reckon six the perfect number, from the creation of the world, according to the prophet, and call it Meseuthys and Marriage, from its being the middle of the even numbers, that is, of ten and two. For it is manifestly at an equal distance from both."(30)
The next paragraph is too gross to appear in this place. Toward the close of this learned (?) "exposition," Clement gives birth to the following curious argument from the Psalms:
"And the blessed David delivers clearly to those who know the mystic account of seven and eight, praising thus: 'Our years were exercised like a spider. The days of our years in them are seventy years; but if in strength, eighty years. And that will be to reign.' That, then, we may be taught that the world was originated, and not suppose that God made it in time, prophecy adds: 'This is the book of the generation, also of the things in them, when they were created in the day that God made heaven and earth.' For the expression, 'when they were created' intimates an indefinite and dateless production. But the expression 'in the day that God made,' that is, in and by which God made 'all things," and 'without which not even one thing was made,' points out the activity exerted by the Son. As David says, 'This is the day which the Lord hath made; let us be glad and rejoice in it'; that is, in consequence of the knowledge imparted by Him, let us celebrate the divine festival: for the Word that throws light on things hidden, and by whom each created thing came into life and being, is called day. And in fine, the Decalogue, by the letter Iota, signifies the blessed name, presenting Jesus, who is the Word."(31)
Pagan nonsense could scarcely go further, and yet this man wielded a prominent influence in developing the doctrine of Sunday Observance.
Tertullian on the Sabbath
TERTULLIAN was a prolific writer, and one not noted for consistency. He taught the abolition of the Sabbath (see Against The Jews, chapter iv.), and refers to the observance of Sunday without giving formal reasons therefore. But incidental references which he makes show how the Sunday, although it had then come to be called the "Lord's Day," still bore the heathen characteristics. Witness the following:
"The Holy Spirit upbraids the Jews with their holydays. 'Your Sabbaths, and new moons, and ceremonies,' says He, 'My soul hateth.' By us, to whom Sabbaths are strange, and the new moons and festivals formerly beloved by God, the Saturnalia and New Years and Midwinter's festivals and Matronalia are frequented presents come and go New-Year's Gifts games join their noise banquets join their din! Oh, better fidelity of the nations to their own sect, which claims no solemnity of the Christians for itself! Not the Lord's day, not Pentecost, even if they had known them, would they have shared with us: for they would not fear lest they would seem to be Christians. We are not apprehensive least we seem to be heathens! If any indulgence is to be granted to the flesh, you have it. I will not say your own days, but more too; for to the heathens, each festive day occurs but once annually; you have a festive day every eighth day. Call out the individual solemnities of the nations and set them out into a row, they will not be able to make up a Pentecost."(32)
Here we have the native character of the Sunday truly set forth; a day of "indulgence to the flesh." Such was the legitimate, the unavoidable fruitage of this semi-pagan festivalism, a fruitage which poisoned the Church rapidly and almost fatally.
It is enough to add under this head, that no writer of the first three hundred years gives, or attempts to give, a scriptural reason for observing Sunday. There are no such reasons to give.
STATE RELIGION A PAGAN INSTITUTION
Christ's Attitude toward the State The Roman Conception of Religion as a Department of the State Roman Civil Law Created and Regulated All Religious Duties Effect of the Pagan Doctrine of Religious Syncretism on Christianity The Emperor a Demi-God, Entitled to Worship, and, ex officio, the Supreme Authority in Religion The Deep Corruption of Roman Morals and Social Life under Pagan State Religion.
THREE fundamental points at which Christianity was corrupted by heathenism have been examined. It remains to consider another which was not less fundamental, and has not been less persistent viz., the Union of Christianity with the State.
Christ's Attitude Toward the State
Christ taught the infinite worth of man as an individual. The divine priesthood of every believer in Christ, and his absolute spiritual kingship over himself, under God, is a fundamental doctrine of the Gospel. On such a platform, Christ proclaimed the absolute separation of Church and State. "My kingdom is not of this world" was the keynote in His proclamation. His kingdom knew neither Jew nor Greek, Roman nor Egyptian, bondman nor freeman. Ethnic distinctions and lines of caste were unknown to the world's Redeemer. Wherever a heart bowed in simple faith and loyal obedience, there Christ's kingdom was set up. Placed alongside the state-church theory of Rome, the doctrine of Christ's kingdom was noonday by the side of midnight. It was a diamond among pebbles. It was the proclamation of a brotherhood all-embracing and eternal. This kingdom rendered unto Caesar the little that was due him, and demanded the fullest and highest allegiance to the invisible but not unknown God. It sought only simple protection from the civil power, and patiently suffered wrong, even unto death, when this was denied. Such a kingdom found its first adherents among those who were least entangled in the meshes of the state religions, and whose hearts opened most loyal to the one God, and His Son, the Christ. These were naturally the common people, who heard gladly, and entered joyfully into the heavenly citizenship. Thus the Church of Christ, like Himself, was born among the lowly, and wholly independent of the state. Such a spiritual kingdom could not be brought under the control of the civil power, and that a pagan power, without being corrupted, if not destroyed.
Roman Conception of Religion
The reader will be better prepared to understand how Christianity became corrupted along this line, by considering the genius of the Roman nation, and its conception of religion. The idea of law as the embodiment of absolute power pervaded the Roman mind. Men were important only as citizens. Separate from the state, man was nothing. "To be a Roman, was greater than a king."
Every personal right, every interest was subservient to the state. This conception of power was the source of Roman greatness, prowess, and success. It conscripted the legions, conquered the world, and made all roads lead to Rome. Previous to Christianity, all religion was ethnic. To the Roman, religion was a part of the civil code. It was a system of contracts between men and the gods, through the civil law. The head of the State was, ex officio, the head of the Department of Religion. There was no place in heathen theories for the Gospel idea of the Church.
Speaking on this point, Dr. SCHAFF says:
"Of a separation of religion and politics, of the spiritual power from the temporal, heathen antiquity knew nothing, because it regarded religion itself only from a natural point of view, and subjected it to the purposes of the all ruling state, the highest known form of human society.
"The Egyptian kings, as Plutarch tells us, were at the same time priests, or were received into the priesthood at their election. In Greece the civil magistrate had supervision of the priests and sanctuaries. In Rome, after the time of Numa, this supervision was intrusted to a senator, and afterward united with the imperial office. All the pagan emperors, from Augustus to Julian the Apostate, were at the same time supreme pontiffs (Pontifices Maximi), the heads of the state religion, emperor-popes. As such they could not only perform all priestly functions, even to offering sacrifices, when superstition or policy prompted them to do so, but they also stood at the head of the highest sacerdotal college (of fifteen or more Pontifices), which in turn regulated and superintended the three lower classes of priests (the Epulones, Quindecemviri, and Augures), the temples and altars, the sacrifices, divinations, feasts and ceremonies, the exposition of the Sibylline books, the calendar, in short, all public worship, and in part even the affairs of marriage and inheritance."(33)
That Christianity must needs become paganized if it became a religion of the state, is shown further by the following, from an editor of Justinian's Institutes:
"What was most peculiar in the religion of Rome was its intimate connection with the civil polity. The heads of religion were not a priestly caste, but were citizens, in all other respects like their fellows, except that they were invested with peculiar sacred offices. The king was at the head of the religious body, and beneath him were augurs and other functionaries of the ceremonies of religion. The whole body of the populus had a place in the religious system of the state. The mere fact of birth in one of the familiae forming part of a gens gave admittance to a sacred circle which was closed to all besides. Those in this circle were surrounded by religious ceremonies from their cradle to their grave. Every important act of their life was sanctioned by solemn rites. Every division and subdivision of the state to which they belonged had its own peculiar ceremonies. The individual, the family, the gens, were all under the guardianship of their respective tutelar deities. Every locality with which they were familiar was sacred to some patron god. The calendar was marked out by the services of religion. The pleasure of the gods arranged the times of business and leisure; and a constantly superintending Providence watched over the councils of the state, and showed, by signs which the wise could understand, approval or displeasure of all that was undertaken."(34)
The fundamental difference between New Testament Christianity and the Roman idea of religion is further shown by the following from Reville and Tiele:
"In Rome religious tradition was an affair of the state, like the priesthood itself. The senate was by right its guardian. That body legislated for religion as for everything else; and when the Greco-Roman paganism persecuted, it did so from essentially political motives."(35)
TIELE says :
"Much greater weight was attached by the practical Roman to the cultus than to the doctrines of religion. This was the one point of supreme importance; in his view the truly devout man was he who punctually performed his religious obligations, who was pious according to law. There was a debt to be paid to the gods, which must be discharged, but it was settled if the letter of the contract was fulfilled, and the symbol was given in place of the reality. The animistic conception that the gods might be employed as instruments for securing practical advantages, lies at the basis of the whole Roman cultus. In the earliest times, therefore, it was quite simple, so far as regards the absence of images or temples, but it was at the same time exceedingly complicated and burdened with all kinds of ceremonies and symbolic actions, and the least neglect destroyed the efficacy of the sacrifice. This necessitated the assistance of priests acquainted with the whole ritual, not to serve as mediators, for the approach to the deity was open to all, but to see that pious action failed in no essential element. . . . Everything was regulated with precision by the government, and the fact that the highest of the priests was always under the control of the state, prevented the rise of a priestly supremacy, the absence of which in Greece was due to other causes; but the consequence was that the Roman religion remained dry and formal and was external rather than inward. Even the purity (castitas) on which great stress was laid, was only sacerdotal, and was attained by lustration, sprinkling, and fumigation, and the great value attached to prayer, so that a single error had to be atoned for as a neglect, had its basis in the superstitious belief that it possessed a high magic power."(36)
The prevailing tendency to religious syncretism in the Roman empire paved the way for corrupting Christianity by union with the State.
The doctrine of courtesy in religious matters had risen in the Roman mind, to a theory of religious syncretism, which offered recognition to other religions outside the Roman. The religions of the Orient and of Egypt already had a place and protection at Rome. These, like the citizens of the lands whence they came, were taken in charge by the laws of the Mistress of the World. By the opening of the fourth century, Christianity had gained such influence and standing that, although it had no claims as an ethnic religion, it was too promising a waif to be longer unnoticed. The great empire was conscious of present decline and coming decay. New blood was an imperative necessity; perhaps this new religion, that had given such power of endurance to its votaries, would furnish the needful help.
This recognition, at first, was not in any true sense toleration, nor a full recognition of the freedom of conscience. It was rather such recognition as the foreman gives to the apprentice: "Come in and show what you can do." In this recognition Rome adopted no new policy, neither gave evidence of any genuine faith in Apostolic Christianity. As late as 321 A.D., not more than one-twentieth part of the people were Christians; and Constantine erroneously called "The first Christian emperor, did not make an open confession of Christianity until he lay on his death-bed in 337 A.D. Christianity was taken under the protection of the empire, to be cared for and controlled according to the genius of Roman history and Roman law. The "Christian emperors," from Constantine to Gratian (312-383), retained the title of "Pontifex Maximus." The visiting of heathen temple for religious purposes, and the performance of heathen rites in private, were not prohibited by imperial law until 391-393 A.D. by Theodosius. No were these laws then enforced where the heathen element was in the ascendancy. Theodosius himself was not deemed an enemy of the old religion; he stood in such favor that the senate enrolled him among the gods, after his death, in 395 A.D.
Instead of developing normally, after the simple New Testament model, the Roman church was modelled largely after the Roman empire. The union once begun, political intrigue and religious degeneracy followed in rapid succession. All civil legislation in matters of religion pushes the divine authority aside, and substitutes the human. This creates conscience, if at all, toward the state alone, and so remains on heathen ground.
Thus, by descending from the high ground of the Apostolic period, from the immediate control and direction of the Holy Spirit, to the control of a heathen state-system, and being already weakened by the false philosophies which had driven out the authority of the Word, Christianity was turned far away from its true status and character. The legislation which followed, concerning festivals, ceremonies, and doctrines, was a medley of paganism and Christianity, truth and error, widely removed from the Sermon on the Mount, and the epistles of Paul. The kernel of Papal error, and the fountain which was the source of the Dark Ages, are both involved in the fundamental perversions of Apostolic Christianity.
Since the emperor was, ex officio, the head of the Department of Religion, it was comparatively easy to accomplish the amalgamation of the different systems. Gibbon gives an outline picture of this tendency as it prevailed during the third century. It was the more destructive to Christianity because of the degraded character of the emperors and those who controlled the public life of the empire. The emperor of whom Gibbon writes below, is described by Schaff as follows:
"The abandoned youth El-Gabal, or Heliogabalus (218-222), who polluted the throne by the blackest vices and follies, tolerated all the religions in the hope of at last merging them in his favorite Syrian worship of the sun, with its abominable excesses. He himself was a priest of the god of the sun, and thence took his name.
"His far more worthy cousin and successor, Alexander Severus (222-235), was addicted to a higher kind of religious eclecticism and syncretism, a pantheistic hero-worship. He placed the busts of Abraham and Christ in his domestic chapel, with those of Orpheus, Apollonius of Tyana, and the better Roman emperors, and had the Gospel rule, 'As ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them,' engraven on the walls of his palace and on public monuments. His mother, Julia Mammaea, was a patroness of Origen."(37)
GIBBON says of this period:
"The sun was worshipped at Emesa, under the name of Elagabalus, and under the form of a black conical stone, which, as it was universally believed, had fallen from heaven on that sacred place. To this protecting deity Antoninus, not without some reason, ascribed his elevation to the throne. The display of superstitious gratitude was the only serious business of his reign. The triumph of the god of Emesa over all the religions of the earth, was the great object of his zeal and vanity; and the appellation of Elagabalus (for he presumed, as pontiff and favorite to adopt that sacred name) was dearer to him than all the titles of Imperial greatness. In a solemn procession through the streets of Rome, the way was strewed with gold-dust; the black stone, set in precious gems, was placed on a chariot, drawn by six milk-white horses, richly caparisoned. The pious emperor held the reins, and supported by his ministers, moved slowly backwards, that he might perpetually enjoy the felicity of the divine presence. In a magnificent temple raised on the Palatine Mount, the sacrifices of the god Elagabalus were celebrated with every circumstance of cost and solemnity. The richest wines, the most extraordinary victims, and the rarest aromatics, were profusely consumed on his altar. Around the altar, a chorus of Syrian damsels performed their lascivious dances to the sound of barbarian music, whilst the gravest personages of the state and army, clothed in long Phoenician tunics, officiated in the meanest functions, with affected zeal and secret indignation.
"To this temple, as to the common center of religious worship, the Imperial fanatic attempted to remove the Ancilia, the Palladium, and all the sacred pledges of the faith of Numa. A crowd of inferior deities attended in various stations the majesty of the god of Emesa; but his court was still imperfect, till a female of distinguished rank was admitted to his bed. Pallas had been first chosen for his consort; but, as it was dreaded lest her warlike terrors might affright the soft delicacy of a Syrian deity, the Moon, adored by the Africans under the name of Astarte, was deemed a more suitable companion for the Sun. Her image, with the rich offerings of her temple as a marriage portion, was transported with solemn pomp from Carthage to Rome, and the day of these mystic nuptials was a general festival in the capital and throughout the empire."(38)
Elagabalus reigned from 218 to 222 A.D. The foregoing facts show that the empire was practically prostituted, and given over to the lowest forms of sun-worship during his reign. It was the triumph of Orientalism in the West. The same devotion to sun-worship appears in other emperors, toward the close of the third century.
Aurelian reigned from 270 to 276 A.D. Speaking of the magnificent "Triumph" of this emperor in 274 A.D., Gibbon says:
"So long and so various was the pomp of Aurelian's triumph, that, although it opened with the dawn of day, the slow majesty of the procession ascended not the Capitol before the ninth hour; and it was already dark when the emperor returned to the palace. The festival was protracted by theatrical representations, the games of the circus, the hunting of wild beasts, combats of gladiators, and naval engagements. Liberal donatives were distributed to the army, and people, and several institutions agreeable or beneficial to the city, contributed to perpetuate the glory of Aurelian.
"A considerable portion of his oriental spoils was consecrated to the gods of Rome; the Capitol, and every other temple, glittered with the offerings of his ostentatious piety; and the temple of the Sun alone received above fifteen thousand pounds of gold. This last was a magnificent structure, erected by the emperor on the side of the Quirinal hill, and dedicated, soon after the triumph, to that deity whom Aurelian adored as the parent of his life and fortunes. His mother had been an inferior priestess in a chapel of the Sun; a peculiar devotion to the god of Light was a sentiment which the fortunate peasant imbibed in his infancy; and every step of his elevation, every victory of his reign, fortified superstition by gratitude."(39)
Speaking of Diocletian, who reigned from 284 to 305, MILMAN says:
"Diocletian himself, though he paid so much deference to the older faith as to assume the title of Jovius, as belonging to the Lord of the world, yet, on his accession, when he would exculpate himself from all concern in the murder of his predecessor Numerian, appealed in the face of the army to the all-seeing deity of the sun. It is the oracle of Apollo of Miletus, consulted by the hesitating emperor, which is to decide the fate of Christianity. The metaphorical language of Christianity had unconsciously lent strength to this new adversary; and, in adoring the visible orb, some, no doubt, supposed that they were not departing far from the worship of the 'Sun of Righteousness'."
In a footnote, Milman quotes:
"Hermogenes, one of the older heresiarchs, applied the text, 'He has placed his tabernacle in the sun,' to Christ, and asserted that Christ had put off his body in the sun."(40)
Dr. GEIKIE touches the point, and shows in a few words how Christianity yielded to paganism and its corrupting results; he says:
"Helios the sun, was the great object of worship, and so deep-rooted was this idolatry that the early Christian missionaries knew no other way of overthrowing it than by changing it into the name of Elias, and turning the temples into churches dedicated to him."(41)
Two important factors touching the union of Christianity and the state are now before the reader.
1. Under the Roman empire all recognized religions were controlled by the civil law. The persecution of Christians was based upon the idea that their worship was illegal; or rather that their refusal to worship the national gods, according to the legal cultus, was an offence against the commonwealth.
2. Sun-worship in its higher and lower forms was the prevailing and popular cult at Rome in the third and fourth centuries of Christian history.
The emperors were devotees of this cult. It was therefore a foregone necessity that when Christianity grew strong enough to be entitled to recognition rather than persecution, it should be adopted by the state, and further commingled with the prevailing sun-worship. The next chapter will show how this was accomplished.
THE CONTROL OF CHRISTIANITY BY THE STATE
UNDER CONSTANTINE AND HIS SUCCESSORS
A New Epoch in the Paganizing of Christianity Paganism Seeking a New God, Strong enough to Save the Empire Constantine not a "Christian Emperor," but Superstitious, Time-Serving, and Ambitious Murdering his Kindred while Promoting Christianity as a rising Political Influence Seeking Christianity mainly for Ambitious Ends Professing Christianity only on his Death-Bed Making the Most of Both Worlds Constantine Corrupted and Perverted Christianity More than he Aided it.
THE opening of the fourth century marks a new era in the process by which paganism poisoned Christianity, by applying to it the pagan theory set forth in the last chapter. Though sadly weakened and corrupted by these influences, Christianity was a growing power in the empire. On the other hand, paganism was declining, and the fortunes of the disintegrating empire seemed to be going down with the national religious cult. Pagan superstition looked upon all the fortunes of the empire as the direct work of the gods, and as misfortunes piled up around the empire, it was natural to think that the old gods were deserting it, and that new gods must be sought. When the empire became subdivided under different rulers, the rivalry between them, and the varying success which attended the efforts of each, naturally associated success and failure with the gods to whom each was devoted. The firmness of the Christians under persecution was looked upon by the pagans as evidence that the Christian's God had great power to help those who worshipped him. In this way many were brought to consider the idea of adding this God to the catalogue of those whom they already worshipped.
The severe edicts of Diocletian against the Christians, issued in 303 A.D., spread desolation far and wide. In Gaul, Britain, and Spain, where Constantius Chlorus and Constantine his son reigned, the edict was tamely enforced, they preferring to favor the Christians. The bitterness of the persecutions in other parts of the empire inflamed the zeal of Christians, and martyrdom was sought by many, not so much from calm faith as from fanatical zeal.(42) This cruel persecution was the last direct effort of paganism to destroy Christianity by the sword. The fortunes which befell the leaders in the persecution increased superstitious regard for the God of the martyrs, who was thought to be like the gods of the pagans, only more powerful.
Galerius, who was the leader in the horrid work, being striken by a terrible disease, was overcome with fear, and, in connection with Constantine and Licinius, ordered the persecutions to cease, by an edict in 311 A.D. This edict was to the effect that: since punishment had not reclaimed the Christians, they might now hold their assemblies, providing they did not disturb the order of the state. The real animus of the edict is seen in its closing words, in which Galerius suggested that "after this manifestation of grace, Christians ought to pray to their God for the welfare of the Emperors and of the State." Constantine attributed the military success which finally made him sole ruler in 323 A.D. to the help of the Christians' God. All parties looked upon the issue as a political struggle between Jupiter and Jehovah, in which the latter was victorious.
BOISSIER, a late, learned French writer, says:
"Constantine recalled that of all the princes that he had known, the only one who had lived prosperously, without eclipse, was his father Constance, who had protected the Christians; while nearly all those who had persecuted them had ended their lives miserably."(43)
Character of Constantine
Constantine has been called the "first Christian Emperor"; how unjustly will be seen in what follows. In a certain sense, Christianity ascended the throne of the Caesars with Constantine. It was a political triumph, but a spiritual defeat. That we may the better understand the case, the reader needs to look carefully into the character of this first representative of the pagan state church policy, and of the subordinating of Christianity to the political power. The reader will be permitted to make this survey mainly through the eyes of other writers, which I think will be more satisfactory than any picture that I might draw.
KILLEN thus summarizes the character of Constantine:
"The personal conduct of Constantine in advanced life did not exhibit Christianity as a religion fitted to effect a marked improvement in the spirit and character. In A.D. 326, he put to death his son Crispus, a youth of the highest promise, who had in some way disturbed his suspicious temper. His nephew Licinius and his own wife Fausta shared the same fate. His growing passion for gaudy dress betrayed pitiable vanity in an old man of sixty; and towards the end of his reign, the general extravagance of his expenditure led to an increase of taxation of which his subjects complained. He desired to be a dictator of the Church, rather than a disciple; and with a view to share its privileges without submitting to its discipline, deferred his baptism until the near approach of death. He then received the ordinance from the Arian bishop of Nicomedia.
"The defects in the religious character of Constantine greatly impaired his moral influence. Though he did much to promote the extension of the visible Church, his reign forms an era in the history of ecclesiastical corruption. His own Christianity was so loose and accommodating that it seemed to consist chiefly in the admiration of a new ritual; and the courtiers who surrounded him and who complimented him by the adoption of his creed, seldom seemed to feel that it taught the necessity of personal reformation. All at once, the profession of the Gospel became fashionable; crowds of merely nominal converts presented themselves at the baptismal font; and many even entered the clerical office who had no higher object in view than an honorable or a lucrative position. Ecclesiastical discipline was relaxed; and that the heathen might be induced to conform to the religion of the emperor, many of their ceremonies were introduced into the worship of the Church. The manner in which Constantine intermeddled with ecclesiastical affairs was extremely objectionable. He undertook not only to preach, but also to dictate to aged and learned ministers. Had any other individual who had never been baptized appeared in the Nicene synod, and ventured to give counsel to the assembled fathers, he would have been speedily rebuked for his presumption; but all were so delighted to see a great prince among them, that there was a general unwillingness to challenge his intrusion. He sometimes indeed declared, that he left spiritual matters to Church courts; but his conduct demonstrated how little he observed such an arrangement. He convened synods by his own authority; took a personal share in their discussions; required their members to appear before him, and submit their proceedings to his review; and inflicted on them civil penalties when their official acts did not meet his approval. Had Constantine given his sanction and encouragement to the Church, and yet permitted her to pursue her noble mission in the full enjoyment of the right of self government, he might have contributed greatly to promote her safe and vigorous development; but by usurping the place of her chief ruler, and bearing down with the weight of the civil power on all who refused to do his pleasure, he secularized her spirit, robbed her of her freedom, and converted her divine framework into a piece of political machinery."(44)
Rev. E. EDWIN HALL, who was for many years chaplain of the American Legation at Rome, Italy, also chaplain of the American Church at Florence, made a careful study of the early history and of the modern characteristics of Roman Catholicism. In July, 1889, a paper from his pen was published in the Outlook, a Sabbath quarterly from which the following is taken:
"Soon after the so-called conversion of Constantine, when he became sole emperor, the Church entered on its apostasy from the primitive simplicity and purity which marked its earlier history. Pagans in vast multitudes pressed into the Christian fold, bringing with them old practices and customs, and filling the places of Christian worship with the pageantry and the ornaments which characterized the worship of the gods in heathen temples. These unconverted millions became only nominally Christian, impressing their character together with the doctrines, rites and forms of pagan religion upon the Christian Church. Gibbon, speaking of these innovations, shows that: 'Rites and ceremonies were introduced which seemed most powerfully to affect the senses of the people. If in the beginning of the 5th century Tertullian or Lactantius had been suddenly raised from the dead, to assist at the festival of some popular saint or martyr, they would have gazed with astonishment and indignation on the profane spectacle which had succeeded the pure and spiritual worship of a Christian congregation. As soon as the doors of the church were thrown open, they must have been offended at the smoke of incense, the perfume of flowers, the glare of lamps and tapers which diffused at noonday, in their opinions, a gaudy, superfluous, and sacrilegious light. They would see a prostrate crowd of worshipers devoutly kissing the walls and pavement of the sacred edifice, their fervent prayers directed to the bones, the blood, or ashes of the saints, the walls covered with votive offerings, representing the favors received from saints in answer to their prayers and illustrating the abuse of indiscreet or idolatrous devotion, in recognition of the image, the attributes, and the miracles of the tutelar saint, which had the same value to their mind as a local divinity in the pagan religion. The ministers of various names in the Catholic Church imitated the profane model which they should have been impatient to destroy. So the religion of Constantine achieved, in less than a century, the final conquest of the Roman Empire, but the victors themselves were insensibly subdued by the acts of their vanquished rivals'.(45)
"From that time the worship of the Roman Catholic Church, in its forms and ceremonies, has been more clearly identified with the paganism of ancient Rome than with the religion of the New Testament. The customs of pagan religion were only baptized with Christian names. Gregory the Great in the latter part of the 6th century, ignoring the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit and the power of the Gospel, directed the Monk Augustine, whom he sent to convert the idolaters of England, 'not to suspend or abolish the pagan festivals, nor the customs of their worship, but rather retain them, contenting himself with substituting for the names of false gods, the names of saints borne by their temples, and whose relics were deposited in them'."(46)
F.W. MAURICE aptly describes the Christianity of Constantine's time as follows:
"And to the gloss of civilisation had been added the gloss of Christianity. The Emperor had believed, when other help was failing, that in the might of the Cross he might still conquer. The sign was indeed there, but it was marked upon the standard, not written upon the hearts, of those rulers of the world. They saw not what it meant; how it interpreted and crowned all that had been great in their history hitherto; how it separated the real great from the real little; how it sanctified all those feelings of obedience, duty, reverence for unseen law, self-devotion, by which the city had risen from nothing; how it poured contempt upon dominion, except as an instrument by which the highest might serve the lowest, upon glory, except as it grew out of humiliation, and was the exaltation of man above himself. The civilised Christian Roman had lost the heart, the reverence, the faith which belonged to his rude Pagan ancestors; that Christianity and civilisation might be victorious, the miserable patron of both were swept away."(47)
Speaking of the effect of Constantine's attitude in favoring Christianity as a rising influence in the nation, MERIVALE says:
"We may suppose, indeed, that the favor thus unexpectedly showered on the new faith by the Imperial government would tend inevitably to reverse the proportion of the two persuasions, or rather of the two parties, which now divided the Roman world. Powerful as the example of rulers has always been in such matters, it would never, perhaps, be more so than at the moment when paganism, corrupt and effete, had lost all the spirit of a real faith, and when, as we shall see, Christianity was only too ready to accept overtures to the easy compromise which its rivals soon began to offer it. Nevertheless, the progress of the Church of Christ was really slower and less complete than might have been expected. Some allowance, as we have seen, must be made for the spirit of pique and the wounded pride of a class so deeply prejudiced on all matters of sentiment as the magnates of Roman society. But paganism, it must be. added, developed at her last gasp a new principle of vitality, and nerved herself for a desperate conflict along her whole line."(48)
Concerning the overthrow of paganism, as late as the time of Gratian, 375-383 A.D., Merivale says:
"It seems clear that, as might indeed be expected, the earliest edicts for the confiscation of the temple-endowments under Gratian, big and stern as they look in the codes or statute-book, were practically of little effect. If many temples were really closed, as we may readily believe, though certainly by no means all or the greater number of them, we must suppose that the lordly holders of their property contrived to retain the enjoyment of the funds, while they, not unwillingly perhaps, relieved themselves from the services for which these funds had been originally given. Theodosius found the pagan priesthood despoiled of their wealth in name only, and however earnest he might be in his Christian profession, he long abstained, both in policy and mercy, from asserting the full authority of previous enactments."(49)
ALZOG, a modern Roman Catholic Church historian, though laboring hard to set forth Constantine as the first Christian emperor, and a "saint" of the Roman Catholic Church, is forced to say:
"The law said to have been published by Constantine, A.D. 335, prohibiting all pagan sacrifices, is of doubtful authenticity, and, if authentic, is of very little importance, for like a great many others of a similar nature, it was never enforced. The execution of such laws met with a determined resistance in many places, and particularly at Rome. Constantine, although professing to be a Christian, lived pretty much the same sort of life he had lived while a pagan, and even stained his reputation by the commission of deeds of murder.
"Licinius was executed A.D. 324, and Licinianus, his son, who appears to have excited the fears of Constantine, shortly afterward met the fate of his father. Constantine also had Crispus, his son by his first wife, Minervina, apprehended in the midst of a solemn festival and exiled him to the shore of Istria, where he perished by an obscure death. Learning afterward, as it is supposed, that Fausta, his second wife, the daughter of Maximianus Herculeus, had been instrumental in causing the death of his brave and illustrious son Crispus, he had her strangled in a bath of warm water heated to an insupportable temperature. It may be that these murders, in which the designing policy of Fausta played so conspicuous a part, prompted Constantine to delay his entrance into the Church, and to put off his baptism till the hour of his death. He was, moreover, influenced by the prevailing prejudice relative to the sacrament of baptism, and also wished to be baptized in the river Jordan, which, however, 'God did not permit'."(50)
Dr. SCHAFF describes Constantine's relation to Christianity as follows:
"Constantine adopted Christianity first as a superstition, and put it by the side of his heathen superstition, till finally, in his conviction, the Christian vanquished the pagan, though without itself developing into a pure and enlightened faith.
"At first Constantine, like his father, in the spirit of the Neo-Platonic syncretism of dying heathendom, reverenced all the Gods as mysterious powers; especially Apollo, the god of the sun, to whom in the year 308 he presented munificent gifts. Nay, so late as the year 321 he enjoined regular consultation of the soothsayers in public misfortunes, according to ancient heathen usage; even later, he placed his new residence, Byzantium, under the protection of the God of the Martyrs and the heathen goddess of Fortune; and down to the end of his life he retained the title and the dignity of a Pontifex Maximus, or high-priest of the heathen hierarchy. His coins bore on the one side the letters of the name of Christ, on the other the figure of the Sun-God, and the inscription "Sol invictus." Of course these inconsistencies maybe referred also to policy and accommodation to the toleration edict in 313. Nor is it difficult to adduce parallels of persons who in passing from Judaism to Christianity, or from Romanism to Protestantism have so wavered between their old and their new position that they might be claimed by both. With his every victory over his pagan rivals, Galerius, Maxentius, and Licinius, his personal leaning to Christianity and his confidence in the magic power of the sign of the cross increased; yet he did not formally renounce heathenism and did not receive baptism until in 337 he was laid upon the bed of death. . . .
"He was far from being so pure and so venerable as Eusebius, blinded by his favor to the Church, depicts him in his bombastic and almost dishonestly eulogistic biography, with the evident intention of setting him up as a model for all future Christian princes. It must, with all regret, be conceded that his progress in the knowledge of Christianity was not a progress in the practice of its virtues. His love of display and his prodigality, his suspiciousness and his despotism, increased with his power.
"The very brightest period of his reign is stained with gross crimes, which even the spirit of the age and the policy of an absolute monarch cannot excuse. After having reached upon the bloody path of war the goal of his ambition, the sole possession of the empire, yea, in the very year in which he summoned the great council Nicaea he ordered the execution of his conquered rival and brother-in-law Licinius, in breach of a solemn promise of mercy. (324). Not satisfied with this he caused soon afterwards, from political suspicion, the death of the young Licinius, his nephew, a boy of hardly eleven years. But the worst of all is the murder of his eldest son, Crispus, in 326, who had incurred suspicion of political conspiracy and of adulterous and incestuous purposes towards his step-mother, Fausta, but is generally regarded as innocent. . . .
"At all events, Christianity did not produce in Constantine a thorough moral transformation. He was concerned more to advance the outward social position of the Christian religion than to further its inward mission. He was praised and censured in turn by the Christians and pagans, the orthodox and the Arians, as they successively experienced his favor or dislike. He bears some resemblance to Peter the Great both in his public acts and his private character, by combining great virtues and merits with monstrous crimes, and he probably died with the same consolation as Peter whose last words were: 'I trust that in respect of the good I have striven to do my people (the Church), God will pardon my sins.' It is quite characteristic of his piety that he turned the sacred nails of the Saviour's cross, which Helena brought from Jerusalem, the one into the bit of his war horse, the other into an ornament of his helmet. Not a decided, pure, and consistent character, he stands on the line of transition between two ages and two religions; and his life bears plain marks of both. When at last on his deathbed he submitted to baptism with the remark: 'Now let us cast away all duplicity,' he honestly admitted the conflict of two antagonistic principles which swayed his private character and public life."(51)
After such an array of testimony, which might be extended much farther if space would permit, it seems unnecessary to say more than this: the personal character and the political attitude of Constantine make it impossible to think of him as a "Christian Emperor." He adopted and used the paganized Christianity of his time for personal ends, rather than because of true piety. The political aid which he gave it was overbalanced many times by the destruction of its best spiritual interests. Judged from the standpoint of the Bible and the facts of history, Constantine was the corrupter of Christianity, not its defender.
CONSTANTINE'S LEGISLATION CONCERNING THE PAGAN SUNDAY
All his Tolerative Legislation Essentially Pagan Christians did not Seek for Sunday Laws The first Sunday Law, 321 A.D., Pagan in Every Particular Essentially Identical with Existing Laws Concerning Other Days Legislation against Heathen Religions Feeble and Unenforced Constantine not a " Christian Prince."
THE representative legislation of Constantine, with reference to Christianity, was pagan both as to its genius and form. The various edicts in favor of Christians contained little or nothing of true liberty of conscience. They were the steps by which Christianity, already paganized, was recognized, and gradually raised to a dominant place among the legal religions. This accorded with the prevailing syncretism, and the policy which Rome had always exercised toward foreign religions. On the other hand, the Emperor, still acting as Pontifex Maximus, and long before he was baptized into the fellowship of the Church, became its dictator. He convened and controlled the famous council at Nice (325 A.D.) while his hands were red with the blood of his kindred, whom he slew lest they might come between him and his ambition to be sole emperor.
The decisions of the Council of Nice mark the beginning of centuries in which imperial law determined what should be called Christianity, what orthodoxy, and what heterodoxy. The Bible was not the standard of faith, or practice. Traditions, imperial decrees, the decisions of councils called and dictated by the imperial power, determined the practice of the Church, and formulated her faith. This will be shown more in detail farther on. Meanwhile we pause to examine the character of one of Constantine's earliest laws, which has left a lasting influence on all Christian history his "Sunday Edict" of 321 A.D. It is the more important to do this, since the question of Sunday laws and their enforcement is now at the front, and it is well that the reader understand the source from which Sunday legislation sprung. This edict of Constantine is the beginning of Sunday legislation, and it is not difficult to determine the influences which gave it birth. There is no evidence that such legislation was either sought or desired by Christians. They formed but a small fragment of the population of the empire, and in so far as the principles of New Testament Christianity remained, they forbade all such legislation.
The power to appoint holy days rested in the Emperor. His voice was supreme in all such matters. Although history has been carefully searched, there is no trace that any influence was brought to bear upon Constantine, by any person, any event, any custom which represented the Christians, or in which they were interested, to induce him to enact a Sunday law. There is every evidence that he acted in his proper capacity as Pontifex Maximus, and whatever notions may have entered into his determination to promulgate the edict, they could not have been Christian. On the other hand, there were abundant reasons why he should begin legislation in favor of Sunday. It was Apollo's day. Apollo was the patron deity of Constantine. He was the beautiful Sun-god, and Constantine was proud of his own personal beauty, because of which his fawning courtiers were accustomed to liken him to Apollo. The sun-worship cult had been popular for a long time. Any favor shown to it would strengthen his influence with the "first families" of the empire. It was the settled policy of the emperors to overcome the discontent of the masses, under increasing taxation and burdens, by increasing holidays, games, and enjoyments. To exalt the day of the Sun at such a time was a stroke of policy wholly in keeping with the universal practice of Constantine. The general character of the man, his personal devotion to the Sun-god, and the surrounding demands, furnish all needful reasons for an act of legislation which was pagan, as we shall see, from centre to circumference. This famous edict runs as follows:
"Let all judges, and all city people, and all tradesmen, rest upon the Venerable Day of the Sun. But let those dwelling in the country freely and with full liberty attend to the culture of their fields; since it frequently happens that no other day is so fit for the sowing of grain, or the planting of vines; hence the favorable time should not be allowed to pass, lest the provisions of heaven be lost."(52)
This was issued on the seventh of March, A.D. 321. In June of the same year it was modified so as to allow the manumission of slaves on Sunday. The reader will notice that this edict makes no reference to the day as a Sabbath, as the Lord's day, or as in any way connected with Christianity. Neither is it an edict addressed to Christians. Nor is the idea of any moral obligation or Christian duty found in it. It is merely the edict of a heathen emperor, addressed to all his subjects, Christian and heathen, who dwelt in cities, and were tradesmen, or officers of justice, commanding them to refrain from their business on the "venerable day" of the god whom Constantine most adored, and to whom he loved in his pride to be compared. There are several distinct lines of argument which prove that this edict was a pagan rather than a Christian document.
On the following day Constantine issued an edict with reference to consulting the pagan soothsayers in case of public misfortune, which, like the Sunday edict, is so purely heathen that no "Christian Emperor" could have conceived or issued it. It runs as follows:
Edict Concerning Aruspices
"The August Emperor Constantine to Maximus:
"If any part of the palace or other public works shall be struck by lightning, let the soothsayers, following old usages, inquire into the meaning of the portent, and let their written words, very carefully collected, be reported to our knowledge; and also let the liberty of making use of this custom be accorded to others, provided they abstain from private sacrifices, which are specially prohibited.
"Moreover, that declaration and exposition written in respect to the amphitheater being struck by lightning, concerning which you had written to Heraclianus, the tribune, and master of offices, you may know has been reported to us.
"Dated the 16th, before the calends of January, at Serdica (320) Acc. the 8th, before the Ides of March, in the consulship of Crispus II. and Constantine III., Caesars Coss. (321)."(53)
There is abundant evidence, beyond the above, that the Sunday-law was the product of paganism.
The language used speaks of the day only as the "Venerable Day of the Sun," a title purely heathen. There is not even a hint at any connection between the day and Christianity, or the practices of Christians.
Similar laws concerning many other heathen festivals were common. JOSEPH BINGHAM bears, the following testimony, when speaking of the edict under consideration:
"This was the same respect as the old Roman laws had paid to their feriae, or festivals, in times of idolatry and superstition . . . . Now, as the old Roman laws exempted the festivals of the heathen from all judicial business, and suspended all processes and pleadings, except in the fore-mentioned cases, so Constantine ordered that the same respect should be paid to the Lord's day, that it should be a day of perfect vacation from all prosecutions, and pleadings, and business of law, except where any case of great necessity or charity required a juridical process and public transaction."(54)
Bingham states correctly that such prohibitions were made by the Roman laws in favor of pagan festivals, but adds, incorrectly, that Constantine made the same in favor of the Lord's day. It was not the Lord's day, but the "Venerable Day the Sun," which the edict mentions; and it is impossible to suppose that a law, made by a Christian prince, in favor of a Christian institution, should not in any way mention that institution, or hint that the law was designed to apply to it.
MILLMAN corroborates this idea as follows:
"The earlier laws of Constantine, though in their effect favorable to Christianity, claimed some deference, as it were, to the ancient religion, in the ambiguity of their language, and the cautious terms in which they interfered with paganism. The rescript commanding the celebration of the Christian Sabbath, bears no allusion to its peculiar sanctity as a Christian institution. It is the day of the sun which is to be observed by the general veneration: the courts were to be closed, and the noise and tumult of public business and legal litigation were no longer to violate the repose of the sacred day. But the believer in the new paganism, of which the solar worship was the characteristic, might acquiesce without scruple in the sanctity of the first day of the week. . . ." The rescript, indeed, for the religious observance of the Sunday, which enjoined the suspension of all public business and private labor, except that of agriculture, was enacted, according to the apparent terms of the decree, for the whole Roman Empire. Yet, unless we had direct proof that the decree set forth the Christian reason for the sanctity of the day, it may be doubted whether the act would not be received by the greater part of the empire as merely adding one more festival to the fasti of the empire, as proceeding entirely from the will of the emperor, or even grounded on his authority as supreme pontiff, by which he had the plenary power of appointing holy days. In fact, as we have before observed, the day of the sun would be willingly hallowed by almost all the pagan world, especially that part which had admitted any tendency toward the oriental theology."(55)
Millman hints at some "direct proof." There is none; hence the correctness of his conclusion, that the people looked upon the new holiday, "as merely adding one more festival to the fasti of the empire." It was not only non-Christian but eminently unchristian.
Stronger still is the testimony of an English barrister, EDWARD V. NEALE. These are his words: "That the division of days into juridici et feriati, judicial and non-judicial, did not arise out of the modes of thought peculiar to the Christian world must be known to every classical scholar. Before the age of Augustus, the number of days upon which out of reverence to the gods to whom they were consecrated, no trials could take place at Rome, had become a resource upon which a wealthy criminal could speculate as a means of evading justice; and Suetonius enumerates among the praiseworthy acts of that emperor, the cutting off from the number, thirty days, in order that crime might not go unpunished nor business be impeded."(56)
After enumerating certain kinds of business which were allowed under these general laws, Mr. Neale adds: "Such was the state of the laws with respect to judicial proceedings, while the empire was still heathen." Concerning the suspension of labor, we learn from the same author that: "The practice of abstaining from various sorts of labor upon days consecrated by religious observance, like that of suspending at such seasons judicial proceedings, was familiar to the Roman world before the introduction of Christian ideas. Virgil enumerates the rural labors, which might on festal days be carried on, without entrenching upon the prohibitions of religion and right; and the enumeration shows that many works were considered as forbidden. Thus it appears that it was permitted to clean out the channels of an old water course, but not to make a new one; to wash the herd or flock, if such washing was needful for their health, but not otherwise; to guard the crop from injury by setting snares for birds, or fencing in the grain; and to burn unproductive thorns."(57)
SIR HENRY SPELMAN, who is recognized as high authority, in discussing the origin of practices in the English courts, says that all ancient nations prohibited legal proceedings on sacred days. His words are: "To be short, it was so common a thing in those days of old to exempt the times of exercise of religion from all worldly business, that the barbarous nations, even our Angli, while they were yet in Germany, the Suevians themselves, and others in those Northern parts would in no wise violate or interrupt it. Tacitus says of them that during this time of holy rites, non bellum ineunt, non arma sumunt. Clausum omne ferrum. Pax et quies tunc tantum nota, tunc tantum amat."
Speaking of the origin of the English "court terms," Spelman says:
"I will therefore seek the original of our terms only from the Romans, as all other nations that have been subject to their civil and ecclesiastical monarch do, and must.
"The ancient Romans, while they were yet heathens, did not, as we at this day, use certain continual portions of the year for a legal decision of controversies, but out of superstitious conceit that some days were ominous and more unlucky than others (according to that of the Egyptians), they made one day to be fastus or term day and another (as an Egyptian day), to be vacation or nefastus; seldom two fast days or law days together; yea, they sometimes divided one and the same day in this manner: "Qui modo fastus erat, mune nefastus erat.
"The afternoon was term, the morning holy day."Nor were all their fasti applied to judicature, but some of them to other meetings and consultations of the commonwealth; so that being divided into three sorts, which they called fastos proprie, fastos endotercisos, and fastos comitiales, containing together one hundred and eighty-four days through all the months of the year, there remained not properly to the praetor, as judicial or triverbial days, above twenty-eight."(58)
Nothing more is needed to show that the Sunday edict was the product of the heathen cult, as truly as that which was issued in connection with it, relative to the Aruspices. There is an evident connection between the two edicts. Apollo was the patron deity of the soothsayers, as well as of Constantine. At least nine years later than this, Constantine placed his new residence at Byzantium under the protection of the heathen goddess of Fortune; he never gave up the title of high priest of the heathen religion; he did not formally embrace Christianity until sixteen years later.
Whatever he did to favor Christianity, and whatever claims he made to conversion, were the outgrowth of a shrewd policy, rather than of a converted heart. And when the conservative historian can say of him, "The very brightest period of his reign is stained with crimes, which even the spirit of the age, and the policy of an absolute monarch, cannot excuse, he cannot be called a Christian prince.
If he made any general laws against heathenism, they were little executed; for it was not suppressed in the empire until A.D. 390 seventy-nine years after his Sunday edict, and fifty-three years after his death. The few abuses against which he legislated were those which had been condemned before by the laws of the heathen rulers who had preceded him, such as the obscure midnight orgies, etc. Millman says on this point: "If it be difficult to determine the extent to which Constantine proceeded in the establishment of Christianity it is even more perplexing to estimate how far he exerted the imperial authority in the abolition of paganism . . . . The pagan writers, who are not scrupulous in their charges against the memory of Constantine and dwell with bitter resentment on all his overt acts of hostility to the ancient religion, do not accuse him of these direct encroachments on paganism. Neither Julian nor Zosimus lay this to his charge. Libanius distinctly asserts that the temples were left open and undisturbed during his reign, and that paganism remained unchanged. Though Constantine advanced many Christians to offices of trust, and no doubt many who were ambitious of such offices conformed to the religion of the emperor, probably most of the high dignities of the State were held by the pagans . . . . In the capitol there can be little doubt that sacrifices were offered in the name of the senate and the people of Rome till a much later period."(59)
The whole matter is tersely told by a late English writer, who, speaking of the time of the Sunday edict, says: "At a later period, carried away by the current of opinion, he declared himself a convert to the church. Christianity then, or what he was pleased to call by that name, became the law of the land, and the edict of A.D. 321, being unrevoked, was enforced as a Christian ordinance."(60)
The following words of the learned NIEBUHR, in his lectures on Roman history, are to the same effect: "Many judge of Constantine by too severe a standard, because they regard him as a Christian; but I cannot look at him in that light. The religion which he had in his head, must have been a strange jumble indeed . . . . He was a superstitious man, and mixed up his Christian religion with all kinds of absurd and superstitious opinions. When certain oriental writers call him equal to the apostles, they do not know what they are saying, and to speak of him as a saint is a profanation of the word."(61)
It is a curious and little known fact, that markets were expressly appointed by Constantine to be held on Sunday. This we learn from an inscription on a Slavonian bath rebuilt by him, published in Gruter's Inscriptiones Antiquae Totius Orbis Romani, clxiv., 2. It is there recorded of the emperor, that "provisione pietatis suae nundinas dies solis perpeti anno constituit"; "by a pious provision he appointed markets to be held on Sunday throughout the year." His pious object doubtless was to promote the attendance of the country people at churches in towns. "Thus," says CHARLES JULIUS HARE, "Constantine was the author of the practice of holding markets on Sunday, which, in many parts of Europe, prevailed above a thousand years after, though Charlemagne issued a special law (cap. cxl.) against it."(62) In "Scotland, this practice was first forbidden on holy days by an Act of James IV, in 1503, and on Sundays in particular by one of James VI, in 1579."(63)
OTHER FORMS OF PAGAN RESIDUUM IN CHRISTIANITY
A Low Standard of Religious Life Faith in Relics The Cross an Ancient Pagan (Phallic) Symbol, A "Charm" Borrowed from Paganism Constantine's use of the Composite Symbol as a Military Standard Prevalence of Faith in "Charms" Sign of the Cross in Baptism Baptism and Holy Water as "Charms" Stupendous Miracles, like Pagan Prodigies, through Baptism Delayed Baptism Orientation at Baptism, etc.
THOSE who have made a study of paganism as it appeared in Christianity during and after the third century know that many other forms of it were prominent besides those fundamental errors which have been discussed in the preceding pages. Some of these have attracted more attention than the fundamental ones, since they lie more plainly on the surface of history. We shall glance at several, that the reader may see the field yet more fully.
A Low Standard of Christian Life
That the standard of individual character in the Church was brought far below that of the New Testament, and much below what would be accepted at the present day, appears in the history of morals and social life, and in many ways in the Church.
The degenerate character of his time is thus set forth by CHRYSOSTOM:
"Plagues too, teeming with untold mischiefs, have lighted upon the Churches. The chief offices have become saleable. Hence numberless evils are springing, and there is no one to redress, no one to reprove them. Nay the disorder has assumed a sort of method and consistency. Has a man done wrong and been arraigned for it? His effort is not to prove himself guiltless, but to find if possible accomplices in his crimes. What is to become of us? since hell is our threatened portion. Believe me, had not God stored up punishment for us there, ye would see every day tragedies deeper than the disasters of the Jews. What then? However, let no one take offence, for I mention no names; suppose some one were to come into this church to present you that are here at this moment, those that are now with me, and to make inquisition of them; or rather not now, but suppose on Easter day any one endued with such a spirit, as to have such a thorough knowledge of the things they had been doing, should narrowly examine all that came to Communion and were being washed [in baptism] after they had attended the mysteries; many things would be discovered more shocking than the Jewish horrors. He would find persons who practise augury, who make use of charms, and omens, and incantations, and who have committed fornication, adulterers, drunkards, and revilers, - covetous I am unwilling to add, lest I should hurt the feelings of any of those who are standing here. What more? Suppose anyone should make scrutiny into all the communicants in the world, what kind of transgression is there which he would not detect? And what if he examined those in authority? Would he not find them eagerly bent upon gain? making traffic of high places? envious, malignant, vainglorious, gluttonous and slaves to money?"(64)
A similar vivid description, under the figure of a burning building, representing the Church as consumed with evil, is found in Homily 10, On Ephesians. Another description of the effect of heathenism upon those who professed to be Christians is sharply set forth in a Treatise Attributed to Cyprian, on the "Public Shows."(65) He says: "Believers, and men who claim for themselves the authority of the Christian name, are not ashamed are not, I repeat, ashamed to find a defence in the heavenly Scriptures for the vain superstitions associated with the public exhibitions of the heathens, and thus to attribute divine authority to idolatry. For how is it, that what is done by the heathens in honor of any idol is resorted to in a public show by faithful Christians, and the heathen idolatry is maintained and the true and divine religion is trampled upon in contempt of God? Shame binds me to relate their pretexts and defences in this behalf. 'Where,' say they, 'are there such Scriptures? where are these things prohibited? On the contrary, both Elias is the charioteer of Israel, and David himself danced before the ark. We read of psaltries, horns, trumpets, drums, pipes, harps, and choral dances. Moreover, the apostle, in his struggle, puts before us the contest of the Caestus, and of our wrestle against the spiritual things of wickedness. Again when he borrows his illustrations from the racecourse, he also proposes the prize of the crown. Why, then, may not a faithful Christian man gaze upon that which the divine pen might write about?' At this point I might not unreasonably say that it would have been far better for them not to know any writings at all, than thus to read the writings [of the Scriptures]. For words and illustrations which are recorded by way of exhortation to evangelical virtue, are translated by them into pleas for vice: because those things are written of, not that they should be gazed upon, but that a greater eagerness might be aroused in our minds in respect of things that will benefit us, seeing that among the heathens there is manifest so much eagerness in respect of things which will be of no advantage."
That these evils increased with the years, is shown by the words of AUGUSTINE, when he says: "Accordingly you will have to witness many drunkards, covetous men, deceivers, gamesters, adulterers, fornicators, men who bind upon their persons sacrilegious charms, and others given up to sorcerers and astrologers, and diviners practised in all kinds of impious arts. You will also have to observe how those very crowds which fill the theaters on the festal days of the pagans, also fill the churches on the festal days of the Christians. And when you see these things you will be tempted to imitate them. Nay, why should I use the expression, you will see, in reference to what you assuredly are acquainted with even already. For you are not ignorant of the fact that many who are called Christians engage in all these evil things which I have briefly mentioned. Neither are you ignorant that at times, perchance, men whom you know to bear the name of Christians are guilty of even more grievous offenses than these."(66)
Such degradation of Christian life was the unavoidable fruitage of the various pagan influences which had substituted false standards of Church membership and of action for the true ones laid down in the Scriptures.
Faith in "Relics"
Faith in "Relics," bodies, bones, garments, places, etc., as retaining the virtues of the persons with whom they were associated, was a prominent characteristic of paganism, from the earliest time. Paganism brought this element into Christianity, where it took root and flourished, like a fast-growing, noxious weed. The whole system of relic worship, down to the "Holy Coat at Treves," in 1891, is a direct harvest from pagan planting. Relics were believed to be powerful agents for good, by direct influence, and by acting as charms to ward off evils of all kinds. Take an example from one of the early Church historians, SOZOMEN, who gives the following with all the soberness of undoubted fact: "While the Church everywhere was under the sway of these eminent men, the clergy and people were excited to the imitation of their virtue and zeal. Nor was the Church of this era distinguished only by these illustrious examples of piety; for the relics of the proto-prophets, Habakkuk, and a little while after, Micah, were brought to light about this time. As I understand, God made known the place where both these bodies were deposited, by a divine vision in a dream to Zebennus, who was then acting as bishop of the Church of Eleutheropolis. The relics of Habakkuk were found at Cela a city called Ceila. The tomb of Micah was discovered at a distance of ten stadia from Cela, at a place called Berathsatia. This tomb was ignorantly styled by the people of the country, 'the tomb of the faithful'; or, in their native language, Nephsameemana. These events, which occurred during the reign of Theodosius, were sufficient for the good repute of the Christian religion."(67)
The same author reports the discovery of the relics of Zechariah the prophet. Calemerus, a serf, was directed in a dream to dig at a certain place in a garden, being assured that he would find two coffins, the inner one of wood, the other of lead; "beside the coffins you will see a glass vessel full of water, and two serpents of moderate size, but tame and perfectly innoxious, so that they seem to be used to being handled." Calemerus followed the directions, and found the body of Zechariah, "clad in a white stole," with a royal child lying at his feet; and "although the prophet had lain under the earth for so many generations, he appeared sound; his hair was closely shorn, his nose was straight; his beard moderately grown, his head quite short, his eyes rather sunken, and concealed by the eyebrows."(68) In a similar style,(69) Sozomen relates how the head of John the Baptist was discovered in the suburbs of Constantinople. That such ridiculous myths could be written down as a part of genuine Church history, shows how fully the pagan falsehoods corrupted the best currents of Christian life.
The Cross, its Sign, and other Charms
Comparatively few readers realize that the cross was of heathen origin, and a religious symbol of the lowest order, and that it was not adopted as a symbol of Christianity until the Church was well paganized. Its origin lies in the shadows of the prehistoric period. It was a religious symbol in the Asiatic, Egyptian, Grecian, Roman, Druidic, and Central American heathenism. It originated in the lowest department of sun-worship cultus. Ishtar, the Assyrian Venus, was represented as holding a staff, the upper end of which was in the form of a Latin cross. The worship of Ishtar was one of the darkest features of the Babylonian religion. It was conducted with lascivious rites which may not be named. It corrupted the Hebrews on every side. We find it, with other forms of sun-worship, polluting the temple itself, and sharply condemned by the prophet of Jehovah.(70)
Tammuz was the young and beautiful sun-god, the bridegroom of Ishtar who bore the cross crowned sceptre; and this mourning for him was associated with gross obscenity.
Another form of this same worship is condemned by Jeremiah, thus:"Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger."(71)
There is evidence to show that these cakes were marked with one form of the cross, the Greek tau (T). In later times the Greeks offered cakes thus marked to Bacchus, in connection with the vilest orgies. Specimens of these are found at Herculaneum. Similar ones have been found in the catacombs. The "hot cross-bun" is the lineal descendant of the tau (T) marked cakes of the obscene sun-worship cultus. Its association with Friday day of Ishtar, Venus, Frega is a remnant of paganism, although later efforts to Christianize it have associated it with "Good Friday."
The cross appears in Assyrian history, worn as a religious emblem by the priest-king, Samsi-Vul, son of Shalamanezar, and also by Assur-Nazir-Pal. These specimens may be seen in the British Museum. It is the Greek cross, and identical with the "pectoral cross," worn by the Pope, and seen on altar-cloths at the present day. Priority of possession is several thousand years in favor of the Assyrian. The same style of crosses are found in the Etruscan department of the Vatican Museum at Rome. They are on the breasts painted on certain large Etruscan male figures, and are taken from mural decorations in ancient Etruscan burial-places. Similar "pectoral" crosses may be seen also in the British Museum on two figures from Thebes, in the Egyptian Hall. They date from about 1100 B.C., and represent men of Asia bringing tribute. In Wilkinson's Ancient Egypt the same cross may be seen on the breast of two warriors.
There is a figure of the youthful Bacchus, taken from an ancient vase, with which antiquarians are familiar, holding a cup and fennel branch a figure of much beauty. The head-dress is a band with crosses as of Horus. A portion of the band falls from the head, and with its fringe and single cross, if lengthened, would form a modern "stole."
The cross is also found on Greek pottery, dating from 700 to 500 B.C. It appears in relics of the Latin people of the same period. It was used as a symbol in Buddhism in India long before the time of Christ. It is also found in Thibet, Scandinavia, and other parts of northern Europe.
That the cross was extensively known and used before the Christian era is shown by an admirable article in the Edinburgh Review of October, 1870, on the pre-Christian Cross. The author of the article claims to have collected nearly two hundred varieties of the cross, in its heathen form. He speaks of it as follows:
"From the dawn of organized paganism in the Eastern world, to the final establishment of Christianity in the Western, the cross was undoubtedly the commonest and most sacred of symbolical monuments, and to a remarkable extent it is so still in almost every land where that of Calvary is unrecognized or unknown. Apart from any distinctions of social or intellectual superiority of caste, color, nationality, or location in either hemisphere it appears to have been the aboriginal possession of every people of antiquity the elastic girdle, so to say, which embraced the most widely separated heathen communities, the most significant token of universal brotherhood, the principal point of contact in every system of pagan mythology, to which all the families of mankind were severally and irresistibly drawn, and by which their common descent was emphatically expressed . . . .
"Of the several varieties of the cross still in vogue as national or ecclesiastical emblems in this and other European states, and distinguished by the familiar appellations of St. George, St. Andrew, the Maltese, the Greek, the Latin, etc. there is not one amongst them the existence of which may not be traced to the remotest antiquity."(72)
It is also true that the cross does not appear as the symbol of Christianity until after its paganization under Constantine. He made a composite symbol, known as the Chi-ro, of which see below. It seems probable that he added these to the pagan cross. On this point BLAKE says:
"The Cross and the Crescent were combined in the Oriental standards (Fig. 29.) centuries before the time of Christ.
"Roman coins of the period of 269 B.C. show the cross of Saturn (Fig. 30.) with distinctness. According to Gaume, the illustrious writer, all the Roman standards bore this cross, and Constantine being unable to vary the banner of the empire, added 'XP' the Greek sign for Christ, to the imperial flag, 312 A.D."(73)
The similarity between the heathenism of Asia and Central America is a well-known fact of history.
"The religion of the Mexicans was purely Chaldean. They professed to believe in a Supreme God, but idol-worship was general. They had a regular priesthood, gorgeous temples and convents; they had processions, in which crosses, and even red crosses, were carried; and incense, flowers, and fruit-offerings were employed in their worship. They confessed to their priests, and generally confessed only once, receiving a written absolution which served for the remainder of their lives as an effectual safeguard against punishment, even for crimes committed after receiving the said absolution. They worshipped, and afterwards ate, a wafer-god, an idol made of flour and honey, which they called 'the god of penitence,' and they always ate him fasting. They also venerated the black calf, or bull, and adored a goddess-mother, with an infant son in her arms. They sacrificed human victims to the God of Hell, of whom they considered the cross to be a symbol, and to whom they were largely sacrificed, by laying them on a great black stone and tearing out their hearts.
"We are now prepared to see how easily the heathen, in adopting a nominal Christianity, as they did from the reign of Constantine, would have modified and Christianized their views of the heathen cross. Hitherto that emblem had been associated with their worship of the gods. In their temples, in their houses, on their images, their clothes, their cattle, etc., the worshippers were accustomed to see the peculiar cross, or, crosses, dedicated to each. Bacchus had his, Serapis his, and, so forth. Some of the new converts were themselves wearing on their own persons the emblem of their gods. This was the case with certain Asiatics and Etruscans, who wore the cross round their necks, but not, apparently, with the Egyptians as far as relating to a neck ornament. Wilkinson, chapter v., plate 342, gives the figures of four warriors from the monuments of Egypt, from Asiatic tribes, wearing crosses round their necks, or on their clothes. Their date is about 1400 B.C.
"In plate 47 of his Peintures Antiques de Vases Grees (Rome, 1817, fol.), Milligen gives examples of the cross on the apron of the warrior, and within a circle on his horse.
"To enter then, into a heathen temple just rededicated to Christ, where the cross of the rejected pagan deity still existed, or where a new church cross had been substituted to visit a temple so reconsecrated, or to enter a basilica (judgment hall) by the Emperor's order just handed over to the bishop for Christian use all this would aid in making the change from the worship of the gods to the worship of the Emperor's God very easy to the convert.
"The old temples, and the old basilicas, the arrangements of the apse, etc., in the latter almost unchanged the lustral, or holy water the mural paintings sometimes left, sometimes altered to suit the persons of the new heroes, or saints the incense, the pomp of worship, the long train of vested priests all and much more, would make the transition from the old to the new faith, externally, a matter of little difficulty. As to the cross, there it was, and there it would continue, and has continued."(74)
In view of these and many similar facts, it is easy to understand how the cross became a permanent and prominent feature in the symbolism of paganized Christianity. The famous vision of Constantine the Great, in which he is said to have seen a cross in the sky, in connection with the sun, is not supported by evidence which places it among facts. It was not unnatural, however, that he, a devout sun-worshipper, and familiar with the cross as the symbol of the lowest form of that worship, should associate the two, as he has been said to have done. The symbol which he adopted on his military standard was not the cross proper, but the two Greek initials of the name of Christ, the "chi-ro." One of these letters, resembling the English X, gave the standard a similarity to the cross. Under Valens, Emperor of the East, who died in 378 A.D., the cross appears without the letters, and from that time the letters gradually disappear. The Empress Eudocia wore the heathen form of the cross on her head.(75) It was the exact counterpart of that which the moon-goddess, Diana, had worn before. The leading facts concerning the cross may be summed up as follows:
Up to the time of Constantine early part of the fourth century the cross remained what it had always been, a pagan symbol, type of its most revolting cultus. It is the same in India today. By the opening of the fifth century it had become the symbol of paganized Christianity. The crucifix a figure of Christ nailed to the cross appears first about the middle of the fifth century. The following is the general order whereby the transition was accomplished:
1. Constantine adopts the initial letters, giving the chi-ro standard, about 312 A.D.(76)
2. The chi (X) was gradually changed to the form of a cross, while the ro, similar to the English P, remained in its original position.
3. The ro was rejected, and the chi (X) was changed to the Greek cross of Bacchus.
4. The heathen tau (T), as used in India and Egypt, was brought in, probably because of its supposed resemblance to the cross on which Christ was (said to have been) put to death.
5. The tau appears, surmounted by a roundel, evidently the sacred egg of the heathen. This was the emblem of the Goddess of Nature, the productive principle. This brought the original heathen symbol into still greater similarity to what is now known as the Latin cross.
6. The crux ansata, or handled cross. This is the form usually seen in the hands of the gods of India and Egypt. It is the symbol of the sun-god, and is interpreted by modern Egyptologists as the symbol of life. It was primarily a phallic symbol of reproduction. An English writer (Rev. MOURANT BROCK) has pertinently said:
"And it is high time that Christians should understand a fact of which skeptics have been long talking and writing, that the cross was the central symbol of ancient paganism. What it represents, must remain untold; but it was probably made the medium of our Lord's death, through the crafty device of the wicked one, into whose hands he was for a while delivered, with a view to the future corruption of Christianity, and the carrying on, under its name, of all the abominations of the heathen."
The prominence and value which the "sign of the Cross" and its associate pagan symbols gained as "charms" in paganized Christianity can be readily understood in view of the foregoing facts. It is wholly unexplainable from the New Testament standpoint, and without these facts. A few examples must suffice, showing how this pagan conception was transferred to Christianity. BINGHAM, a learned and conservative writer, says:
"But there was one sort of enchantment, which many ignorant and superstitious Christians, out of the remains of heathen error, much affected; that was the use of charms and amulets and spells to cure diseases, or avert dangers or mischiefs, both from themselves and the fruits of the earth. For Constantine had allowed the heathen, in the beginning of his reformation, for some time, not only to consult their augurs in public, but also to use charms by way of remedy for bodily distempers, and to prevent storms of rain and hail from injuring the ripe fruits, as appears from that very law, where he condemns the other sort of magic, that tended to do mischief, to be punished with death. And probably from this indulgence granted to the heathen, many Christians who brought a tincture of heathenism with them into their religion, might take occasion to think there was no great harm in such charms or enchantments, when the design was only to do good, and not evil. However it was, this is certain in fact, that many Christians were much inclined to this practice, and therefore made use of charms and amulets, which they called periammata and phylacteria, pendants and preservatives to secure themselves from danger, and drive away bodily distempers. These phylacteries, as they called them, were a sort of amulets made of ribands, with a text of Scripture or some other charm of words written in them, which they imagined without any natural means to be effectual remedies or preservatives against diseases."(77)
The extent to which this evil existed in the Church is indicated by Chrysostom, as is also his belief in the sign of the cross as a superior "charm." He says:
"For these amulets, though they who make money by them are forever rationalizing about them, and saying, 'We call upon God, and do nothing extraordinary,' and the like; and 'the old woman [who made the amulets] is a Christian,' says he, 'and one of the faithful'; the thing is idolatry. Art thou one of the faithful? sign the cross; say, this I have for my only weapon; this for my remedy; and other I know none. Tell me, if a physician should come to one, and, neglecting the remedies belonging to his art, should use incantations, should we call that man a physician? By no means: for we see not the medicines of the healing art; so neither, in this case, do we see those of Christianity.
"Other women, again, tie about them the names of rivers, and venture numberless things of like nature. Lo, I say, and forewarn you all, that if any be detected, I will not spare them again, whether they have made amulet, or incantation, or any other thing of such an art as this."(78)
"This sign [the cross], both in the days of our forefathers and now hath opened doors that were shut up; this hath quenched poisonous drugs; this hath taken away the power of hemlock; this hath healed bites of venomous beasts. For if it opened the gates of hell, and threw wide the archways of Heaven, and made a new entrance into Paradise, and cut away the nerves of the devil; what marvel if it prevailed over poisonous drugs, and venomous beasts, and all other such things?"(79)TERTULLIAN shows his faith in the sign of the cross as a cure for disease,(80) in his discussion of the nature and cure of the scorpion's sting. He says:
"We have faith for a defense if we are not smitten with distrust, itself, also, in immediately making the sign [of the cross over the wounded part] and adjuring [that part in the name of Jesus] and besmearing the [poisoned] heel with [the gore of ] the beast."
The Sign of the Cross in Baptism
As one of the supreme charms, the sign of the cross was associated with baptism, which was also made a "charm" under the influence of pagan water-worship. It was associated with anointing, which was also a pure importation from paganism. Speaking of this sign Bingham says:
"The third use of it was in this unction before baptism. For so the author under the name of Dionysius, describing the ceremony of anointing the party, before the consecration of the water, says, The Bishop begins the unction by thrice signing him with the sign of the cross, and then commits him to the priest to be anointed all over the body, whilst he goes and consecrates the water in the font. St. Austin also may be understood of this when he says, The cross is always joined with baptism. And by this we may interpret several passages in Cyprian, as where he tells Demetrian, They, only, escape, who are born again, and signed with the sign of Christ. And what that sign is, and on what part of the body it is made, the Lord signified in another place, saying, 'Go through the midst of Jerusalem and set a mark upon their foreheads.' And so again in his book of the Unity of the Church, speaking of Uzziah's leprosy, he says, He was marked for his offense against the Lord in that part of his body, where those are signed who obtain his mercy. Which seems plainly to refer to the sign of the cross made in baptism. The author of the Apostolic Constitutions is very express in this matter. For explaining the meaning of the several parts and ceremonies used in baptism, he says, The water is to represent Christ's burial, the oil to represent the Holy Ghost, the sign of the cross to represent the cross, and the ointment or chrism, the confirmation of men's professions. And not improbably St. Jerome might refer to this, though his words be not so restrained to this time of unction, when he says, He was a Christian, born of Christian parents, and carried the banner of the cross in his forehead. Some add also those words of Cyprian. Let us guard our foreheads that we may preserve the sign of God without danger. And those of Pontius in his life, where speaking of the Christian confessors who were branded by the heathen in the forehead, and sent as slaves into the mines, he says, They were marked in the forehead a second time; alluding to the sign of the cross, which as Christians they had received before. But these passages do not necessarily relate to baptism, but are only general expressions that may refer to the use of the sign of the cross upon any other occasion; it being usual in those times to sign themselves upon the forehead in the commonest actions of their lives, upon every motion, as Tertullian expresses it, at their going out and coming in, at their going to bath, or to bed, or to meals, or whatever their employment or occasions called them to. Yet thus far it may be argued from them, that they who used it so commonly upon all other occasions, would hardly omit it in this solemn unction of baptism. And therefore these allegations may be allowed to be a sort of collateral evidence of the practice."(81)
Again he says: "Secondly, I observe, that together with this prayer, it was usual to make the sign of the cross also, not, as before, upon the person to be baptised, but as a circumstance of the consecration. This we learn not only from Dionysius, but from St. Austin, who says, The water of baptism was signed with the Cross of Christ. And St. Chrysostom says, They used it in all their sacred mysteries; when they were regenerated in baptism, when they were fed with the mystical food in the eucharist, when they were ordained, that symbol of victory was always represented in the action, whatever religious matter they were concerned in. To which we may add the author under the name of St. Austin, who runs over all the solemn consecrations of the Church and tells us, the symbol of the cross was used in every one, in catechising of new converts, in consecrating the waters of baptism, in giving imposition of hands in confirmation, in the dedication of Churches, and altars, in consecrating the eucharist, and in promoting priests and Levites to holy orders.
"Thirdly, I observe concerning the effects of this consecration, that the very same change was supposed to be wrought by it in the waters of baptism, as by the consecration of bread and wine in the eucharist. For they supposed not only the presence of the Spirit, but also the mystical presence of Christ's blood, to be here after consecration. Julius Firmicus, speaking of baptism, bids men here seek for the pure waters, the undefiled fountain, where the blood of Christ, after many spots and defilements, would whiten them by the Holy Ghost."(82)
Superstitious regard for the sign of the cross grew as paganism ripened in the church; witness the following words of Augustine:
"And lastly as every one knows, what else is the sign of Christ but the Cross of Christ? For unless that sign be applied, whether it be to the foreheads of believers, or to the very water out of which they are regenerated, or to the oil with which they receive the anointing chrism, or to the sacrifice that nourishes them, none of them is properly administered."(83)
Baptism and "Holy Water" as " Charms"
The pagan doctrine of baptismal regeneration involved the idea of water as a charm against disease and misfortune, in men, in animals, in growing crops, and fruits. These notions were brought into the Christian Church and soon became widely spread and firmly fixed. An excellent review of this subject is furnished by Canon FARRAR in his description of Cyprian's views relative to baptism. These are his words:
"Cyprian holds that in baptism the Priest commands the power of the Holy Ghost to forgive sin by means of sanctified and purified water, but only if he be a Catholic Priest, and free from every taint of what Cyprian or the Episcopate regards as Schism or heresy. When the grace of forgiveness for all past sins has been bestowed by this act it is not valid for future sins. They too require that satisfaction for them should be offered to God, and this satisfaction must be penitence, penance, and good works."(84) He might have adopted the language of Tertullian about baptism: 'in this way, without pomp, with no novelty of preparation, without cost, a man descends into the water, and being immersed, with the utterance of a few words, rises up out of it, scarcely, if at all, cleaner in body, but, incredible consequence, the possessor of eternal life'."(85)
Miracles through Baptism
SOCRATES, the Church historian, tells of miraculous cures through baptism as gravely as Sozomen does of the finding of "Relics." Hear him:
"This was one important improvement in the circumstances of the Church, which happened during the administration of Atticus. Nor were these times without the attestation of miracles and healing. For a certain Jew being a paralytic had been confined to his bed for many years; and as every sort of medical skill, and the prayers of his Jewish brethren had been resorted to but had availed nothing, he had recourse at length to Christian baptism, trusting in it as the only true remedy to be used. When Atticus the bishop was informed of his wishes, he instructed him in the first principles of Christian truth, and having preached to him to hope in Christ, directed that he should be brought in his bed to the font. The paralytic Jew receiving baptism with a sincere faith, as soon as he was taken out of the baptismal font found himself perfectly cured of his disease, and continued to enjoy sound health afterwards. This miraculous power Christ vouchsafed to be manifested even in our times; and the fame of it caused many heathens to believe and be baptised. But the Jews, although zealously 'seeking after signs,' not even the signs which actually took place induced to embrace the faith. Such blessings were thus conferred by Christ upon men."(86) . . .
"A certain Jewish impostor, pretending to be a convert to Christianity, was in the habit of being baptized often, and by that artifice he amassed a good deal of money. After having deceived many of the Christian sects by this fraud for he received baptism from the Arians and Macedonians as there remained no others to practise his hypocrisy upon, he at length came to Paul bishop of the Novatians, and declaring that he earnestly desired baptism, requested that he might obtain it at his hand. Paul commended the determination of the Jew, but told him he could not perform that rite for him, until he had been instructed in the fundamental principles of the faith, and given himself to fasting and prayer for many days. The Jew compelled to fast against his will became the more importunate in his request for baptism; now as Paul did not wish to discourage him by longer delays, since he was so urgent, he consented to grant his request, and made all the necessary preparations for the baptism. Having purchased a white vestment for him, he ordered the font to be filled with water, and then led the Jew to it in order to baptize him. But a certain invisible power of God caused the water suddenly to disappear. The bishop, of course, and those present, had not the least suspicion of the real cause, but imagined that water had escaped by the channels underneath, by means of which they are accustomed to empty the font; these passages were therefore very carefully closed, and the font filled again. Again, however, as the Jew was taken there a second time, the water vanished as before. Then Paul, addressing the Jew, said: 'Either you are an evil-doer, wretched man, or an ignorant person who has already been baptized.' The people having crowded together to witness this miracle, one among them recognized the Jew, and identified him as having been baptized by Atticus, the bishop, a little while before. Such was the portent wrought by the hands of Paul bishop of the Novatians."(87)
That baptism was sought as a shield against bodily ills, without even the pagan notion of spiritual purity, is shown by the following from Bingham:
"Yet sometimes, as Euthymius relates in the same place, they would bring their children to the presbyters of the Church to be baptised after the Catholic way, because they had an opinion that both baptism and the cross were of some advantage to the body for the cure of diseases, but of no other efficacy, benefit, or virtue to purge the soul. And such an opinion possessed the minds of many others, who had no further regard for baptism, but only as it was of use to free the body of some distemper or uncleanliness."(88)
The pagan idea of "baptismal regeneration" took such hold of the Church as to become a grave evil, by inducing men to live in sin, under the belief that they could gain salvation at the last moment. The testimony of Bingham is presented again, which testimony is the more valuable, because coming from a conservative English Churchman.
"Others deferred it out of heathenish principles still remaining in them, because they were in love with the world and its pleasures, which they were unwilling to renounce, to take upon them the yoke of Christ, which they thought would lay greater restraints upon them, and deny them those liberties which they could now more freely indulge themselves in and securely enjoy. They could spend their life in pleasure, and be baptised at last, and then they should gain as much as those that were baptised before; for the laborers who came into the vineyard at the last hour, had the same reward as those that had borne the burden and heat of the day."(89)
Orientation at Baptism
The corruption of baptism by the pagan sun-worship cult was especially shown in the practice of turning eastward and westward in connection with baptism. This chapter has space for a single quotation on this point from Bingham:
"This custom of turning about to the East when they made their profession of obedience to Christ is also mentioned by St. Ambrose, Gregory Nazianzen, Cyril of Jerusalem, and the author under the name of Dionysius. For which they assign two reasons: 1, Cyril tells his disciples that as soon as they had renounced the devil, the paradise of God, which was planted in the East, and whence our first parent for his transgression was driven into banishment, was now laid open to them; and their turning about from the West to the East, which is the region of light, was a symbol of this. For the same reason, St. Basil and some others of the ancients tell us, they prayed toward the East, that they might have their faces toward paradise. The other reason for turning to the East in baptism, was because the East or rising sun was an emblem of the Sun of Righteousness, to whom they now turned from Satan. Thou art turned about to the East, says St. Ambrose, for he that renounces the devil, turns unto Christ. Where he plainly intimates with St. Jerome, that turning to the East was a symbol of their aversion from Satan, and conversion unto Christ, that is, from darkness to light, from serving idols, to serve him who is the Sun of Righteousness and Fountain of Light."(90)
Faith in the magical effects of baptism increased, until its sway ruled the wisest and best of the leaders in the Church. The great Augustine recounts many cases which indicate, if possible, more than pagan credulity. Among them are the following. The chapter from which they are taken is entitled: "Of Miracles which were wrought that the world might believe in Christ, and which have not ceased since the world believed."
"In the same city of Carthage lived Innocentia, a very devout woman of the highest rank in the state. She had a cancer in one of her breasts, a disease, which, as physicians say, is incurable. Ordinarily, therefore, they either amputated, and so separated from the body the member on which the disease has seized, or, that the patient's life may be prolonged a little, though death is inevitable, even if somewhat delayed, they abandon all remedies following, as they say, the advice of Hippocrates. This lady we speak of had been advised to by a skilful physician, who was intimate with her family; and she betook herself to God alone by prayer. On the approach of Easter she was instructed in a dream to wait for the first woman that came out from the baptistry after being baptised, and ask her to make the sign of Christ upon her sore. She did so and was immediately cured . . . .
"A gouty doctor of the same city, when he had given in his name for baptism, and had been prohibited the day before his baptism from being baptised that year, by black woolly-haired boys who appeared to him in his dream, and whom he understood to be devils, and when, though they trod on his feet, and inflicted the acutest pain he had ever yet experienced, he refused to obey them, but overcame them, and would not defer being washed in the laver of regeneration, was relieved in the very act of baptism, not only of the extraordinary pain he was tortured with, but also of the disease itself, so that, though he lived a long time afterwards, he never suffered from gout; and yet who knows of this miracle? We, however, do know it, and so, too, do the small number of brethren who were in the neighborhood, and to whose ears it might come.
"An old comedian of Curubis was cured at baptism not only of paralysis, but also of hernia, and being delivered from both afflictions, came up out of the font of regeneration as if he had nothing wrong with his body. Who outside of Curubis knows of this, or who but a very few who might hear it elsewhere? But we, when we heard of it, made the man come to Carthage, by order of the holy bishop Aurelius, although we had already ascertained the fact on the information of persons whose word we could not doubt.
"Hesperius, of a tribunitian family, and a neighbor of our own, has a farm called Zubedi in the Fussalian district; and finding that his family, his cattle, and his servants were suffering from the malice of evil spirits, he asked our presbyters, during my absence, that one of them would go with him and banish the spirits by his prayers. One went, offered there the sacrifice of the body of Christ, praying with all his might that vexation might cease. It did cease forthwith, through God's mercy. Now he had received from a friend of his own some holy earth brought from Jerusalem, where Christ, having been buried, rose again the third day. This earth he had hung up in his bedroom to preserve himself from harm. But when his house was purged of that demoniacal invasion, he began to consider what should be done with the earth; for his reverence for it made him unwilling to have it any longer in his bedroom. It so happened that I and Maximinus, Bishop of Synita, and then my colleague, were in the neighborhood. Hesperius asked us to visit him, and we did so. When he had related all the circumstances, he begged that the earth might be buried somewhere, and that the spot should be made a place of prayer where Christians might assemble for the worship of God. We made no objection; it was done as he desired. There was in that neighborhood a young countryman who was paralytic, who, when he heard of this, begged his parents to take him without delay to that holy place. When he had been brought there he prayed, and forthwith went away on his own feet perfectly cured." There is a country seat called Victoriana, less than thirty miles from Hippo-regius. At it there is a monument to the Milanese martyrs, Protasius and Gervasius. Thither a young man was carried, who, when he was watering his horse one summer day at noon, in a pool of a river, had been taken possession of by a devil. As he lay at the monument, near death, or even quiet like a dead person, the lady of the manor, with her maids and religious attendants, entered the place for evening prayer and praise, as her custom was, and they began to sing hymns. At this sound, the young man, as if electrified, was thoroughly aroused, and with frightful screaming seized the attar, and held it as if he did not dare or were not able to let it go, and as if he were fixed or tied to it; and the devil in him, with loud lamentation, besought that he might be spared, and confessed where and when and how he took possession of the youth. At last declaring that he would go out of him, he named one by one the parts of his body which he threatened to mutilate as he went out, and with these words he departed from the man. But his eye falling out on his cheek, hung by a slender vein as by a root, and the whole of the pupil which had been black became white. When this was witnessed by those present (others, too, had now gathered to his cries, and had all joined in prayer for him), although they were delighted that he had recovered his sanity of mind, yet, on the other hand, they were grieved about his eye, and said he should seek medical advice. But his sister's husband, who had brought him there, said, 'God who has banished the devil, is able to restore his eye at the prayers of his saints.' Therewith he replaced the eye that was fallen out and hanging, and bound it in its place with his handkerchief as well as he could, and advised him not to loose the bandage for seven days. When he did so, he found it quite healthy. Others also were cured there, but of them it were tedious to speak.
"I know that a young woman of Hippo was immediately dispossessed of a devil, on anointing herself with oil, mixed with the tears of the presbyter who had been praying for her. I know also that a bishop once prayed for a demoniac young man whom he never saw, and that he was cured on the spot."(91)
Many other similar miraculous occurrences are related by Augustine, in this same chapter, showing how fully paganism mingled with his belief. He reports also many miracles performed by the power of a shrine which was situated near Carthage. The chapter sounds more like a record of heathen prodigies than like sober Christian history.
SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED
Lights in Worship Worshipping "toward the East" Easter Fires Beltane or Baal Fires Penance Marioltry The Mass Purgatory and Prayers for the Dead Peter's Keys Christmas Easter Lent, etc.
SUN-WORSHIP, as the dominant cult in all pagan systems, furnished more elements of corruption than any other.
Lights in Worship
The pagan origin of lights in worship is universally acknowledged. Their use was sharply condemned in the earlier times.(92) The Synod of Elviri (305 or 306 A.D.) condemned their use in cemeteries, where they already formed a part of the services for the dead. Canon 34 reads: "It is forbidden to light wax candles during the day in cemeteries for fear of disquieting the spirits of the saints."
Baronius explains this as follows: "Many Neophytes brought the custom from paganism of lighting wax candles upon tombs. The Synod forbids this, because, metaphysically, it troubles the souls of the dead; that is to say, this superstition wounds them."
Abespine gives another explanation, which is, that the synod accepted the belief that was then general, that the souls of the dead hovered around their tombs. "The Synod consequently forbade that wax candles should be lighted by day, perhaps to abolish a remnant of paganism, but also to prevent the repose of the souls of the dead from being troubled."(93)
MAITLAND says: "The burning of lights is specified among the idolatrous rites forbidden by the Theodosian Code: 'Let no one in any kind of place whatsoever in any city, burn lights, offer incense, or hang up garlands to senseless idols.' Vigilantius, in reference to the custom of using lights in divine service, exclaims: 'We almost see the ceremonial of the gentiles introduced into the Churches under pretence of religion; piles of candles lighted while the sun is still shining; and everywhere people kissing and worshipping, and I know not what; a little dust in a small vessel wrapped up in a precious cloth. Great honor do such persons render to the blessed martyrs, thinking with miserable tapers to illumine those whom the Lamb, in the midst of the throne, shines upon with the splendor of his majesty.' This passage proves that Vigilantius, who must have known well the customs of paganism, was struck with the resemblance between them and the rites newly introduced into the Church."(94)
But love for paganism was too strong, and the custom soon became universal. Paulinus, Bishop of Nola (396 A.D.), gloried in the use of lights. In Natalis (3:100) he says:
"The bright altars are crowned with thickly clustered lamps, the fragrant lights smell of waxed papyri; day and night they burn; so that night glitters with the splendor of day; and day itself glories with heavenly honors, shines the more, its lustre being doubled by innumerable lamps."(95)
The persistency with which the use of lights yet holds a place in many branches of the Church shows how long and how vigorously paganism has continued to corrupt Christianity.
Another residuum from sun-worship led to building churches with the altar at the east, praying toward the east, burying the dead with reference to the east, etc. Of the pagan origin of the custom, GALE speaks as follows:"Another piece of Pagan Demonolatry was their ceremony of bowing and worshipping towards the East. For the Pagans universally worshipped the sun as their supreme God, even the more reformed of them, the new Platonists, Plotinus, Porphyry, and Julian the apostate, as it appears by his oration to the Sun. Whence it came to pass, that the sun rising in the east they usually worshipped in that way (as the Jews in Babylon usually worshipped west, because Jerusalem stood west thence). Hence also they built their temples and buried their dead towards the East. So Diogenes Laertius, in the life of Solon, says: that the Athenians buried their dead towards the East, the head of their graves being made that way. And do not Anti-Christ and his sons exactly follow this Pagan ceremony in building their temples and High Altars towards the East, and in bowing that way in their worship?"(96)
Various explanations were made concerning this practice, to cover up the prominence of this paganism. For instance, CLEMENT of Alexandria says: "And since the dawn is an image of the day of birth, and from that point the light which has shone forth at first from the darkness, increases, there has also dawned on those involved in darkness a day of the knowledge of truth. In correspondence with the manner of the sun's rising, prayers are made looking towards the sunrise in the East. Whence also the most ancient temples looked towards the West, that people might be taught to turn to the East when facing the images. 'Let my prayer be directed before thee as incense, the uplifting of my hands as the evening sacrifice,' say the Psalms."(97)
TERTULLIAN seeks to avoid the charge of paganism, while defending this practice, 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 worshipping the heavenly bodies, likewise, move your lips in the direction of the sunrise? It is you, at all events, who have even 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 for banqueting."(98)
Another element of pagan sun-worship continues to the present time in the Easter fires, which abound especially in Northern Europe. Fire is regarded as a living thing, in Teutonic mythology. It is often spoken of as a bird, the "Red Cock" Nofuer,"Need-fire," is yet produced by friction, at certain times. Such fire is deemed sacred. On such occasions all fires in the neighborhood are extinguished, that they may be rekindled from the Notfuer. This fire is yet used to ward off evil, and to cure diseases in domestic animals. Traces of sex-worship appear in connection with the producing of this sacred fire; "two chaste boys" must pull the ropes which produce the friction necessary to generate the fire; and a "chaste youth" must strike the light for curing the disease known as "St. Anthony's fire." In Scotland such fire is held as a safeguard against the "bewitching of domestic animals."
GRIMM, who is the highest authority on the mythology of Northern Europe, has abundant material touching all forms of fire-worship in that region. Here is a single extract with reference to Easter Fires. "At all the cities, towns and villages of the country, towards evening on the first (or third) day of Easter, there is lighted every year, on mountain and hill, a great fire of straw turf and wood, amidst a concourse and jubilation, not only of the young, but of many grown up people. On the Weser, especially in Schaumburg, they tie up a tar barrel on a fir tree wrapt around with straw, and set it on fire at night. Men and maids, and all who come dance, exulting and singing, hats are waved, handkerchiefs thrown into the fire. The mountains all around are lighted up, and it is an elevating spectacle, scarcely paralleled by any thing else, to survey the country for many miles around from one of the higher points, and in every direction at once to see a vast number of these bonfires, brighter or fainter, blazing up to heaven. In some places they marched up the hill in stately procession, carrying white rods: by turns they sang Easter hymns, grasping each other's hands, and at the Hallelujah, clashed their rods together. They liked to carry some of the fire home with them.
"For these ignes paschales there is no authority reaching beyond the sixteenth century; but they must be a great deal older, if only for the contrast with Midsummer fires, which never could penetrate into North Germany, because the people there held fast by their Easter fires. Now seeing that the fires of St. John, as we shall presently show, are more immediately connected with the Christian Church than those of Easter, it is not unreasonable to trace these all the way back to the worship of the goddess Ostara, or Eastre, who seems to have been more a Saxon and Anglican divinity than one revered all over Germany. Her name and her fires, which are likely to have come at the beginning of May, would, after the conversion of the Saxons, be shifted back to the Christian feast. Those mountain fires of the people are scarcely derivable from the taper lighted in the Church the same day: it is true that Boniface calls it ignis paschalis, and such Easter lights are mentioned in the sixteenth century. Even now, in the Hildesheim country, they light the lamp on Maundy Thursday, and that on Easter day, at an Easter fire which has been struck with a steel. The people flock to this fire, carrying oaken crosses, or simply crossed sticks, which they set on fire and then preserve for a whole year. But the common folk distinguish between this fire and the wild fire produced by rubbing wood. Jager speaks of a consecration fire of logs."(99)
Midsummer was the central point of a great pagan festival in honor of the sun, who had then reached his greatest height, from which he must soon decline. Catholic Christianity continued these festivals, in St. John Baptist Day. Many of the peculiarities of these midsummer fires were similar to those of the Easter fires already noticed. The following description of the modern festival in, Germany is taken from Grimm:
"We have a fuller description of a Midsummer fire, made in 1823 at Konz, a Lorrainian but still German village, on the Moselle, near Sierk and Thionville. Every house delivers a truss of straw on the top of the Stromberg, where men and youths assemble toward evening. Women and girls are stationed by the Burbach springs. Then a huge wheel is wrapt round with straw, so that none of the wood is left in sight, a strong pole is passed through the middle, which sticks out a yard on each side, and is grasped by the guiders of the wheel; the remainder of the straw is tied up into a number of small torches. At a signal given by the Maire of Sierk (who according to the ancient custom, earns a basket of cherries by the service), the wheel is lighted with a torch, and set rapidly in motion; a shout of joy is raised, all wave their torches on high, part of the men stay on the hill, part follow the rolling globe of fire, as it is guided down the hill to the Moselle. It often goes out first: but if alight when it touches the river, it prognosticates an abundant vintage, and, the Konz people have a right to levy a tun of white wine from the adjacent vineyards. Whilst the wheel is rushing past the women and the girls, they break out into cries of joy, answered by the men on the hill, and inhabitants of neighboring villages, who have flocked to the river side, mingle their voices in the universal rejoicing."(100)
Bellane or Baal Fires
The Beltane or Baal fires and the ancient sacrifices to the sun-god still continue in modified for in Scotland. Grimm speaks of them as follows:
"The present custom is thus described by Armstrong sub v. bealtainn: In some parts of the Highlands the young folks of a hamlet meet in the moors on the first of May. They cut a table in the green sod, of a round figure, by cutting a trench in the ground, of such circumference as to hold the whole company. They then kindle a fire and dress a repast of eggs and milk, in the consistence of custard. They knead a cake of oatmeal, which is toasted at the embers, against a stone. After the custard is eaten up, they divide the cake in so many portions, as similar as possible to one another in size and shape, as there are persons in the company. They daub one of these portions with charcoal, until it is perfectly black. They then put all the bits of the cake into a bonnet, and every one, blindfold, draws out a portion. The bonnet-holder is entitled to the last bit. Whoever draws the black bit is the devoted person who is to be sacrificed to Baal, whose favor they mean to implore in rendering, the year productive. The devoted person is compelled to leap three times over the flames. Here the reference to the worship of a deity is too plain to be mistaken; we see by the leaping over the flame, that the main point was, to select a human being to propitiate the god, and make him merciful; that afterwards an animal sacrifice was substituted for him, and finally nothing remained of the bodily immolation but a leap through the fire, for man and beast. The holy rite of friction is not mentioned here, but as it was necessary for the 'needfire' that purged pestilence, it must originally have been much more in requisition at the great yearly festival."(101)
The pagan theory of baptismal regeneration created a necessity for the doctrine of penance. Under the idea that baptism removed all sins up to the time of the ceremony, something was necessary to atone for sins committed after baptism.
Dr. SCHAFF describes the origin of penance as follows: "The effect of baptism, however, was thought to extend only to sins committed before receiving it. Hence the frequent postponement of the sacrament, which Tertullian very earnestly recommends, though he censures it when accompanied with moral levity and presumption. Many, like Constantine the Great, put it off to the bed of sickness and of death. They preferred the risk of dying unbaptized to that of forfeiting forever the baptismal grace. Death-bed baptisms were then what death-bed repentances are now.
"But then the question arose, how the forgiveness of sins committed after baptism could be obtained? This is the starting-point of the Roman doctrine of the sacrament of penance. Tertullian and Cyprian were the first to suggest that satisfaction must be made for such sins by self-imposed penitential exercises and good works, such as prayers and alms-giving. Tertullian held seven gross sins, which he denoted mortal sins, to be unpardonable after baptism, and to be left to the uncovenanted mercies of God; but the Catholic Church took a milder view, and even received back the adulterers and apostates on their public repentance."(102)
More need not be said. The reader will readily see the connection between these two elements of paganism; he will also see the deeply corrupting effect of them both.
The worship of a Mother Goddess and her son formed a distinct feature in the paganism of BabyIon, India, Egypt, Assyria, Greece, and Rome. Though variant in conception, the core of Mariolatry runs through all these pagan systems. Those who desire to follow this theme in detail will do well to consult ALEXANDER HISLOP.(103) A single extract from page 82 of that work is all that space will permit:
"The worship of the Goddess-Mother with the child in her arms continued to be observed in Egypt till Christianity entered. If the gospel had come in power among the mass of the people, the worship of this goddess queen would have been overthrown. With the generality, it came only in name. Instead, therefore, of the Babylonian goddess being cast out, in too many cases her name only was changed. She was called the Virgin Mary, and, with her child, was worshipped with the same idolatrous feeling by professing Christians, as formerly by open and avowed pagans."
The mass, which has been for centuries the central item in Roman Catholic worship, finds its origin in the "unbloody sacrifices," which were offered to the Paphian Venus, and to her counterpart in Babylonia and Assyria. It was this worship of the Queen of Heaven into which the apostate women of Judah were drawn, whom Jeremiah(104) condemns for "burning incense, pouring out drink offerings, and offering cakes to the Queen of Heaven." These cakes were marked with the phallic symbol of the cross. As before noted, they were the progenitors of the modern, "hot cross-buns," which are associated with Friday day of Venus.
The form of the cake-wafer adopted in paganized Christianity, its roundness, was borrowed from the Egyptians, to whom the form represented the disk of the sun. The mystic letters on the wafer form another link which connects it with Egyptian paganism. Christians explain these letters as meaning Jesus Hominum Salvator; but when the worshippers of Isis, who were everywhere in the Roman empire in the early centuries, read them on the unbloody sacrifice, they understood by them Isis, Horus, Seb, i.e., The Mother, the Child, and the Father of the Gods. The pagan character of this unbloody sacrifice was so patent at the first, that it was sharply condemned; but familiarity changed opposition to acceptance, and what was wholly pagan became the centre of worship in paganized Christianity.
Purgatory and Prayers for the Dead
All the leading systems of pagan religions have some form of purgatory, with its associate prayers for the dead, for which large sums are paid by the surviving friends. The purgatory which was developed in the Christian cult is like its pagan prototype in almost every particular. An extract from Wilkinson describing the practical workings of the doctrine in pagan Egypt would need little changing to fit the facts connected with the purgatory of Christians. We quote from Hislop(105):
"'The Priest,' says Wilkinson, 'induced the people to expend large sums on the celebration of funeral rites; and many who had barely sufficient to obtain the necessaries of life were anxious to save something for the expenses of their death. For besides the embalming process, which sometimes cost a talent of silver, or about 250 pounds, English money, the tomb itself was purchased at an immense expense; and numerous demands were made upon the estate of the deceased, for the celebration of prayer and other services for the soul.' 'The ceremonies,' we find him elsewhere saying, 'consisted of a sacrifice similar to those offered in the temples, vowed for the deceased to one or more gods (as Osiris, Anubis, and others connected with Amenti); incense and libation were also presented; and a prayer was sometimes read, the relations and friends being present as mourners. They even joined their prayers to those of the priest. The priest who officiated at the burial service was selected from the grade of Pontiffs, who wore the leopard skin; but various other rites were performed by one of the minor priests, to the mummies, previous to their being lowered into the pit of the tomb after that ceremony. Indeed, they continued to be administered at intervals, as long as the family paid for their performance.' Such was the operation of the doctrine of purgatory and prayers for the dead among avowed and acknowledged pagans; and in what essential respect does it differ from the operation of the same doctrine in Papal Rome?"
Saint Peter's Keys
Those who claim the primacy of St. Peter and his right to the keys of heaven, pretend to found that claim upon Christ's words to Peter. But an examination of the history and characteristics of the doctrine reveals its pagan origin too clearly to admit of question. Roman paganism had its college of pontiffs, headed by the emperor, as Pontifex Maximus. Babylonian and Assyrian paganism had a similar council of pontiffs. The especial primacy among the deities was associated with Janus and Cybele. Each of these bore a key. The Pope assumed them both in the fifth century, after Christianity had been paganized. The term cardinal is plainly derived from cardo, a hinge. Janus was God of the Hinges, and was called the "Opener, and Shutter." The sovereign pontiff of the pagan cult was the representative of the divinity on earth, and was worshipped as a god. This continued in the Roman empire long after the emperors were called "Christian." After that the Pope became God's representative among men. A single quotation from OVID Will close this glance at St. Peter and his keys. In it Janus is described, and he in turn describes his office:
"He, holding in his right hand a staff, and in his left a key, uttered these accents to me from the mouth of his front face . . . . 'Whatever thou beholdest around thee, the sky, the sea, the air, the earth, all these have been shut up and are opened by my hand. In my power alone is the guardianship of the vast universe, and the prerogative of turning the hinge is entirely my own. When it has been my pleasure to send forth Peace, from her tranquil habitation, then at liberty she treads her paths unobstructed by the restraints of war. The whole world would be thrown into confusion in deadly bloodshed, did not my rigid bolts confine imprisoned warfare. Together with the gentle seasons, I preside over the portals of Heaven; through my agency Jupiter himself doth pass and repass'."(106)
Those who have given even a cursory examination of the subject, know that the swarm of festivals which came into Christianity, after the second century, were nearly, if not all, pagan days, with new or modified names, but with little or no change of character. A few of the representative ones will be noticed here.
The Scriptures are wholly silent as to the date of Christ's birth. The 25th of December, the winter solstice, was not fixed as Christmas until a long time after the New Testament period. But in spite of serious objections, historical and otherwise, that date triumphed. The winter solstice was the date of the birth of Osiris, son of Isis the Egyptian Queen of Heaven. The term "Yule," another name for Christmas, comes from the Chaldee, and signifies "child's day." This name for the festival was familiar to our Anglo-Saxon ancestors, long before they knew anything of Christianity. In Rome, this winter-solstice festival was Saturn's festival; the wild, drunken, licentious "Saturnalia." It was observed in Babylonia in similar manner. When it came into Christianity its leading features were like those of the Saturnalia. These have been far too prevalent from that time. Lighted candles and ornamented trees were a part of the observance of the festival among the pagans. The "Christmas goose" and "Yule cakes" came, with the day, from paganism.
The earliest Christians continued to observe the Jewish Passover on the 14th of the month Nisan. As the pagan element increased in the Church, and the anti-Jewish feeling accordingly, after a sharp struggle, the time was changed from the fourteenth of the month to the Sunday nearest the vernal equinox. This brought it in conjunction with the festival of the Goddess of Spring, an ancient pagan feast, which probably dates back to the time of Astarte-worship, in Babylonia. The name "Easter" is comparatively modern. It comes from Oestra, the Goddess of Spring, in the Northern European mythology. The forms of observance were almost wholly heathen. Easter eggs, dyed, and "hot cross-buns," figured in the Chaldean Easter, as they have done in the Christian. The Hindus, and Chinese, and Egyptians had a sacred egg, the history of which can be traced to the Euphrates and the worship of Astarte.
Lent has been given some appearance of having a Christian origin by the assumption, for which there is not a shadow of scriptural, or even apostolic authority, that it is the counterpart of Christ's fast of forty days. But the history of Lent shows unmistakably its pagan origin. Its source is found in the fasting which the Babylonians associated with the Goddess of Reproduction, whose worship formed the starting-point of Easter. During, that period of fasting, social joy and all expressions of sexual regard were forbidden, because the goddess then mourned the loss of her consort. From this came the germ of Lent, and especially the practice of abstaining from marriage at that season.
The pagan tribes of Koordistan still keep such a fast. Humboldt found the same in Mexico, and Landseer in Egypt. It came into Christianity comparatively slowly, and brought gross evils with it. Witness the following: "This change of the calendar in regard to Easter was attended with momentous consequences. It brought into the Church the grossest corruption, and the rankest superstition in connection with the abstinence of Lent. Let any one only read the atrocities that were commemorated during the 'sacred fast' or pagan Lent, as described by Arnobius and Clemens Alexandrinus, and surely he must blush for the Christianity of those, who with the full knowledge of all these abominations 'went down to Egypt for help' to stir up the languid devotion of the degenerate Church, and who could find no more excellent way to 'revive' it than by borrowing from so polluted a source; the absurdities and abominations connected with which the early Christian writers held up to scorn."(107)
Many devout Christians now observe Lent without taint of paganism; but with the undevout, Lent is only a resting time from the fashionable dissipation of "society," which refreshes them for the excesses that follow Easter.
THE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF PROTESTANTISM
INVOLVED IN PRESENT ISSUES
Protestants must Accept the Bible in Fact, as well as in Theory, or be Overthrown The Bible must be Reinterpreted in the Light of "Higher Criticism" and Deeper Spiritual Life The Present Tendencies in Bible Study Mark the Opening of the Second Stage of the Protestant Movement Baptism must Cease to be the Foot-Ball of Denominational Polemics and be Raised to a Question of Obedience to the Example of Christ Protestants must Return to the Sabbath, Christianized by Christ, and to True Sabbathism, Which is as Undenominational as Faith Such Sabbathism, and God's Sabbath, must be Restored to the Place from Which Pagan No-Sabbathism and the Pagan Sunday Drove Them "Sabbath" Legislation is Unchristian All Union of Christianity with the State must Yield before the Normal Development of True Protestantism.
THE facts which have been set forth in the foregoing pages form the basis for certain important conclusions. Unconsciously, perhaps, but not less certainly, the Protestant movement was the beginning of a definite reaction against paganism in Christianity. Since humanity must learn all higher truth through long and sometimes bitter experience, errors and evils must ripen before those who have once accepted them will let them go. All great upward movements illustrate this fact. Reformatory action begins when error reaches so low a point that the best interests involved are confronted with strangulation and destruction. When the slow-beating heart threatens the death of the sleeping patient, nature arouses all her forces in a final struggle for life. Thus truth, stifled and trodden under foot by the pagan elements in the Church, awoke for the final struggle as the morning began to dawn, after the ages of midnight.
(1) Reinstatement of the Bible
As the first step in perverting Christianity was to set aside the authority of God's book, and to teach error for truth through false exegesis, so the first step toward reformation was the unchaining of that Word. Paganized Christianity had placed itself between men and God, and His Word. Faith, hedged and crippled, trusted in human traditions, forms, and ceremonies, and in priestly absolution from sin. Help could not come, neither could hope arise, until the pagan elements should be so far removed that men could stand face to face with the Bible, with Christ, and with God. Hence the central points in the first stage of the reformatory work were an open Bible, an accessible Christ, and a Father whose law was the ultimate appeal, and whose love was the ultimate source of hope and the foundation of faith. The upward movement started on the same plane of fundamental truth on which the downward movement began. Hence the first struggle, under Luther, centred around personal faith. But it was in the nature of things that men whose inheritance had come from the centuries made dark and religiously corrupt through pagan residuum, could not rise above all these influences at once.
Though the leaders in such movements build better than they know, their work is always comparatively imperfect. The intensity with which they must pursue a single truth in order to make any progress, prevents them from seeing all truth. This the more, since the public mind, at such times, cannot grasp and hold more than one great truth at a time. The reformers could not wholly free themselves from the idea that "tradition and custom" have authority. They did not actually accept the Bible as the only rule of faith and practice. Protestantism has never done this. As between Protestantism and Romanism, from which it revolted, there can be no middle or common ground. The Roman Catholic claims that the Church made the Bible, and formulated authoritative traditions, and hence that the Church as law-maker and interpreter of the Bible, is the supreme authority. The Protestant begins by denying the authority of the Church, and appealing to the Bible as the ultimate authority. Logic and history combine to declare that Protestantism must make its theory good, or fail. Hence we draw
Protestantism must fully accept the Bible as the ultimate and only standard of faith and practice, or it must be broken between the upper millstone of Roman Catholicism and the nether millstone of irreligous rationalism.
The years are ripe for decision. The backward drift toward Roman Catholicism and rationalism has well set in. The loss already sustained by Protestantism, though an incomplete movement, can be regained only by prompt and vigorous action.
These conclusions relative to the future of Protestantism, having been published in a magazine edited by the author of this book, The Sabbath Outlook, were commented upon by the Catholic Mirror, Baltimore, under date of March 19, 1892, as follows:
"Will 'Scriptural Simplicity' Save Protestantism?"
"This development of Christianity assumed to be pagan and, therefore, corrupt is naturally cause of much anxiety to Christian people who so regard it. We have said a few words to show how groundless is this concern. But the power and extent of the development gives most trouble. It is seen that the Catholic Church holds the key to the present position; and so Christians are warned that they must return to 'the simple truths of the New Testament,' if they would not yield to the development. One of these people, a clear-headed, consistent Protestant, commenting upon Harnack's researches, boldly proclaims: 'Protestantism must go back of these Gnostic speculations and rebuild Christian faith and practice on the New Testament records of the first century, or remain hopelessly weak in its efforts to overcome the tide of Roman Catholic influence and history.' He adds: 'This is a vital truth which Protestantism must recognize and act upon promptly, or the next century will witness its crushing defeat between the forces of Roman Catholicism, Irreligious Rationalism, and Worldliness.'
"There is a striking admission in this note of alarm. 'Roman Catholic influence and history' is the tide setting in with overwhelming power. The warning is clear and strong. There is no uncertain sound." It goes without saying that we can have no pleasure (God forbid!), but only sadness in imagining the 'crushing defeat' of our Christian brethren by 'irreligious rationalism' or 'worldliness.' We will not apply the term 'defeat' to their being brought to see the truth and submit themselves to the Catholic Church. We are wondering just now whether there is any practical good in the warning given them; whether it is at all likely that Protestantism will ever go back to what are called 'the simple truths of the New Testament.' We don't believe it will, or can.
"When it is considered what the Protestantism of today is, how much it has learned of the Church idea, the Catholic idea, it may be seen how useless it is to expect any such thing. To begin with, all or the immense majority of Protestants, in the simple matter of accepting the change from the Sabbath to the Sunday from the last to the first day of the week, quietly admit an extra-scriptural authority, the authority of the Church. Chillingworth's famous maxim, 'The Bible only, the religion of Protestants,' leaves this item at least out of the calculation. All unwittingly our separated brethren are here acting upon a Catholic principle, which does not deny or do away Scripture, but makes the Rule of Faith to consist of Scripture and something else even Tradition; and by this principle the ever-living voice of the Church speaks with an authority always equal to that of the written revelation, and sometimes apparently transcending it."
The issue is not one of mere name, or of denominationalism, or of "Church" against "sects." It is, as said above, a question of the reinstatement of the Bible as the supreme rule of Protestant Christianity. The Protestant movement began in that issue. There can be no Protestantism outside of it. If it be not true, Protestantism is a failure. If it be true, Protestantism cannot remain where it is and survive. If it be not true, Romanism has the logical and historical right to the field. It is master of the situation, and its expectation that erring Protestants will return to "The Mother Church," or wander hopelessly away from Christianity, will be realized in less time than Protestantism has already existed. These facts challenge the attention of all parties. They sound the same key as do the words of Professor Harnack, spoken in July, 1889. I said to him: "Will the Protestantism of the next century be more spiritual than now, or less?" He answered, "It will be more spiritual, or it will die." I continued: "it if it dies, what will be the next scene in church history?" He said: "Roman Catholicism will take possession of the world as a new form of paganism." These are not the words of an alarmist, nor a sectarian polemist; they are the legitimate deductions made by a careful student of universal history. Will you ponder them?
(2) Biblical Interpretation; Higher Criticism
Whoever has read the chapters on gnosticism, and the allegorical method of interpreting the Bible, and has traced the influence of these pagan elements upon the history of biblical interpretation, cannot fail to see God's guiding hand in the movements of the last half of this century. The revival of Bible study, the development of the "International Lessons," the call for something yet better, and the growth of exegetical literature form an epoch not less important, though less noisy, because less political, than the rise of Lutheranism, the development of Calvinism, or the birth of the English Reformation. The last half of this century has witnessed what no other century ever saw, the beginning of a systematic study of the Bible by the people. Such an epoch could not do less than create the "higher criticism." That phase of this Bible-study epoch is as legitimate a result as the "Diet at Worms" was of Luther's revolt, or as Puritanism was of the English Reformation. Therefore:
Biblical study and biblical interpretation, including "Higher Criticism," are ushering in the second great feature of the Protestant movement.
Luther and his coadjutors unchained the Bible and opened its pages. They did not, could not, eliminate traditional authority and influence from its exegesis. Traditionalism was largely pagan. It had held sway or centuries, and is yet regnant in many ways. All past exegesis needs retrial in the fires of a devout criticism. That criticism must introduce Christ's norm, "By their fruits ye shall know them." Pour exegetical and theological traditionalism into that crucible. Heat it in the fires of the best and most devout scholarship. Let brave hearts and careful hands take away the dross, fearless as to consequences. The Bible and Protestantism are both on trial in the closing years of the nineteenth century. There need be no fear as to final results if Protestants are true and firm. If they are not, the closing years of the twentieth century will sit in sackcloth at the open grave of a Christianity which began the elimination of paganism well, but had not the bravery, and therefore the strength, to finish the work.
(3) Concerning Baptism
The paramount question touching the residuum which came in from pagan water-worship does not lie primarily in the mode of baptism; although historically, logically, and symbolically there were no modes of baptism until they were brought in by paganism. Paganism immersed, affused, sprinkled. It immersed once, or three times. In the use of holy water it sprinkled repeatedly and indefinitely. According to the New Testament, baptism is submersion, as the symbol of death to sin and resurrection to righteousness. All beyond that was pagan-born.
The central point of the evil which came from pagan water-worship is found in "baptismal regeneration"; i.e., the idea that by virtue of the power and sacredness of water spiritual purity is produced, and the candidate is fitted for membership in the Church, and for heaven. In so far as this idea remains, paganism remains. The most prominent examples of this residuum which now survive are found in the use of "holy water," in the theory that an unconscious infant to which water has been applied as a religious ceremony, is thereby made a member of the organic church, and its future salvation thus assured; in the idea, still held by some, that, "regeneration" takes place only in connection with immersion; and in the general idea that baptism is a "saving ordinance."
The core of the question of baptism, as of salvation through faith, is obedience, conformity to the example of Christ; hence it does not follow that he who remains unbaptized, when thus remaining, does not involve the spirit of disobedience and neglect, may not enter the kingdom of heaven.
The Sabbath question is not merely "one of days." The fundamental conception centres around the fact that God must come to men in sacred time. Eternity is an attribute of God, and the measured portion we call "time" is the point where God and man come together as Creator and created. It is here that we "live in Him." Scriptural and extra-scriptural history show that man has always felt the need of communion with God, through sacred time, and that God has always sought to meet this want. Physical rest is not the primary idea of the Sabbath. It is only a means to higher ends, namely, communion with God, religious culture, and spiritual development. But since time is also the essence of human existence, so far as activities and duties are concerned, and since the use men make of time determines the character of each human life, specific sacred time which shall represent God, and draw men to Him, becomes an essential part of God's moral and religious government for man. The Sabbath finds its origin in God's desire and purpose to aid and culture men in holiness, and in man's need of God and spiritual communion. Incidentally, and subordinately, the Sabbath is also a physical blessing to man. But its primal, central thought is religious, and the physical good depends largely on the motive for resting. The Fourth Commandment embodies these deeper principles, and is God's law concerning the Sabbath. The authority of the law is found in the reasons and necessities which lie back of it.
The Jews had never attained, or had lost sight of this higher law of the Sabbath, and had reduced its observance to unmeaning formalities and useless burdens. Christ brushed all these away, and glorified and established the Sabbath, enlarging and making it a blessing instead of a bondage. He taught His followers how to consider and observe it, by His example and His words. Paganism, filled with anti-Jewish prejudices against the authority of the Old Testament, gave no heed to Christ's teachings concerning the Sabbath, but proclaimed that it was a "Jewish institution with which Christians had nothing to do." Borne on the waves of this false theory, Sunday, and its associate pagan days, gradually drove the Sabbath out. The Sunday of the Dark Ages, and the "Continental Sunday" of today, are the necessary results. So far as paganized Christianity could do it, sabbathism was slain and buried. A remnant, the denominational progenitors of the present Seventh-day Baptists, refused to accept the pagan theory, and remained true to the Sabbath through all the changes, from the Apostles to the English Reformation. They were not always organized, but they kept the light burning. In that Reformation the Seventh-day Baptists came to the front, demanding a recognition of the authority of the Fourth Commandment, and a return to the observance of the Sabbath. Opposed to them, Roman Catholics and Episcopalians continued to assert that the customs and traditions of the Church formed the highest authority in the matter of Sabbath keeping. Between these two the Puritan party sought a compromise, and invented the theory (first propounded by Nicholas Bownde, in 1595 A.D.) that the commandment, being yet binding, might be transferred to the Sunday. This Puritan compromise has been tested, its fictitious sacredness has gone, and much in the present state of the Sunday question is the fruitage of that baseless compromise.
Sunday legislation, which, as we have seen in a former chapter, was pagan in conception and form, has continued, being made a prominent feature of the Puritan theory. At the present writing (1892) strenuous efforts are being made in the United States to save the failing fortunes of Sunday by a revival of Sunday laws. If, by any combination of efforts, this can be done, no permanent good will ensue. The verdict of history and the genius of Christ's kingdom combine to declare that men cannot be made good by act of Parliament, nor be induced to keep any day sacred by the civil law. If the "rest day" alone be exalted, the result is holidayism, rather than Sabbath keeping. If the enforcement of the Sunday laws is pressed it will result in their repeal.
(a) No day has ever been kept as a Sabbath except under the idea of divine authority.
(b) Everything, less than this promotes holidayism.
(c) There is no scriptural and therefore no truly Protestant ground for Sunday observance.
The only alternative is a return to the observance of the Sabbath, the Seventh day, under the law of obedient love, such love as Christ had for the will of His Father; or to go down with the tide of No-Sabbathism, which, checked temporarily by the Puritan compromise, is now rushing on more wildly than before. The issue is at hand, Christian Sabbathism and the Sabbath, or Pagan holidayism and the Sunday. Culminating events demand that choice, and in the ultimate, universal Sabbathism.
(5) Christianity and the State
Certain superficial investigators have claimed that the union of Christianity with the civil power was the outgrowth of the Hebrew theocratic idea. The claim is groundless. The theocracy was a State within the Church. The pagan theory, applied to Christianity under Constantine and his successors, gave a Church dominated by the State, and regulated, as to polity and faith, by civil law.
History has written some plain and pertinent verdicts concerning the relations which ought to exist between Christianity and the civil power. Every verdict emphasizes the truth of Christ's words: "My kingdom is not of this world." The relations between Christianity and the civil power which began under Constantine have worked incalculable harm to Christianity as a spiritual religion. Its political triumph was a most disastrous defeat which became a large factor in producing the subsequent centuries of decline and darkness. Better conceptions of civil government, and increasing civilization have improved the status of State Churches since the Reformation; but spiritual Christianity everywhere and always, is calling for "disestablishment." It is a singular fact that in the United States, where there has been the nearest approach to religious liberty, we are confronted with two phases of religio-civil legislation which are now coalescing, and which, however well meant, partake more of the spirit of the ninth century than of the nineteenth, or of the New Testament. These movements are "National Reform," which seeks to Christianize the nation by putting Christ's name into the National Constitution; and the now popular Sunday-law movement. There are several points aimed at by the National Reform Association, such as divorce, gambling, etc., which are within the province of the civil law; but its primary aim, to secure legislation on all points covered by the Ten Commandments, is fundamentally pagan in concept and intent. The good men who are pressing the movement think that their theory of Government is the true one, and that great good would come if it were adopted. But the verdict of every century since the pagan conception was introduced into Christianity, forbids belief in their scheme as a means of Christianizing the nation. As to Sunday legislation we have seen that its origin was absolutely pagan, and that it has been destructive of true Sabbathism at all times. If the highest hopes of the present agitators could be realized; if the civil law should compel all citizens of the United States to rest on Sunday, every year of such a system would sink the people deeper into the slouch of No-Sabbathism. The "Continental Sunday" is the product of a No-Sabbath theology, and civil Sunday-laws. The Sunday-law advocates seek the supremacy of an unscriptural Sabbathism, linked with Sunday by civil law. This has been fully tried, at a time when men had far more regard for Sunday as a sacred day than they have now. But with all things in its favor, the strength of youth, and the honest ignorance of the masses concerning its true character, the "Puritan Sunday" has returned to its original holidayism, in spite of Church and State combined. It could not do less, even if a fortuitous combination of influences should exalt it temporarily again. Religion and conscience are entitled to the protection of the civil law, without regard to creed or numbers. If immorality is practised in the name of religion, it may be suppressed as immorality. Beyond such protection the State may not go.
All union of Church and State, or of Christianity and the State, is pagan-born, and opposed to the genius and purpose of Christ's kingdom.
Whatever prepossessions or conceptions the reader may have brought to the perusal of these pages, he cannot finish them without seeing that much which has come down to us as "Christianity" is so tinctured with paganism that it does not fairly represent what Christ taught. The purity of the earliest Christianity was the source of its wondrous conquering power. After it was paganized, and united with the State, it continued to conquer but by the sword rather than by the spirit of God. It is clear proof of the divine character of Christianity, that it was not wholly destroyed by its contact with paganism. It is surpassing proof of that same divine origin, that it could rise from the grave of the Dark Ages, with such vigor as produced the Reformation, and has carried that work to the point already gained. But in the crises that await it, in the solving of the problems which confront it, Protestant Christianity must realize that its specific mission is to complete the work of eliminating the pagan residuum, a work well begun by the Reformers, but which must be carried on to higher victories, or sink back to lower defeats. When the last stain of paganism is removed, the world will see a Christianity which will be primarily a life of purity, through love for God and truth and men, rather than a creed, embodying speculations about the unknowable and abstractions concerning the unsolvable. In such a Christianity, the Bible plainly interpreted, without allegory or assumption, and in the light of its own history, will hold the first place. The Sabbath, as God's day, free from burdensome formalism, and filled with good works and spiritual culture, will be restored; and this recognition of it as God's ever-recurring representative in human life will do much to bring in that universal Sabbathism towards which God is patiently leading his truth-loving children. The pagan Sunday, with its false claims, will be a thing of the past. Baptism as the symbol of entrance to kingdom, through spiritual life and faith in Him, will be no longer the football of polemic strife, nor the many-formed image of pagan water-worship, nor the creator of a false standard of Church membership through "baptismal regeneration." In that better day, the civil law will give religion full protection and full freedom, without regard to majorities or creeds. It will neither oppose by persecution, nor control under the name of protection. The persecution of Jews in Russia, and useless efforts to make the world holy by act of Parliament, will pass away. To hasten that time, be it far or near, these pages go forth; and he who writes them will be thankful if they bear some part in freeing our holy religion from the poison of pagan residuum, and in giving that higher spiritual life, to the attainment of which all forms, ceremonies, times, and agencies ought to bring Christ-loving men.
6. When Joshua, the servant of Jehovah, commanded the sun to stand still, there was given an ocular demonstration of the power of the God who made the heavens and the earth, over the sun-god, in whom the pagan enemies of Israel trusted.
24. The reader will find this question discussed in detail in "Biblical Teachings Concerning the Sabbath and the Sunday," p. 26 ff. If that is not at hand, take your Bible and Concordance, and examine each passage in the New Testament where "Sabbath" occurs. Cf. also Sabbath Commentary, by Bailey.
25. For an examination of the writings, genuine and spurious, which are adduced in favor of Sunday observance, before the time of Justin Martyr, consult A Critical History of the Sabbath and Sunday in the Christian Church, by the writer, pp. 33-69.
43. La Fin du Paganisme: Etude sur les Dernieres Luttes Religieuses en Occident, au Quatrieme Siecle. Par Gaston Boissier, de l'Academie Francaise, et de l'Academie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres. Tome premier, p. 28, Paris 1891.
76. Boissier gives a minute account of the vision of Constantine and its effects in leading him to favor Christianity. He quotes from Lactantius, tutor of Constantine's sons, who describes the vision of the Emperor in his treatise, The Death of the Persecutors.. This summary, given by Boissier, shows that the sign which Constantine saw in his vision, and which he engraved upon his military standard, was not the cross proper, but the monogram known as the Chi-Ro. It is described by Lactantius in these words: "The letter 'X' crossed by a bar, the top of which was gently recurved, forming thus the monogram of Christ" (cf. La Fin du Paganism.).
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