11. Influences Toward Apostasy
MITHRAISM, an outwardly refined sun worship, invaded the Roman Empire in BC 67, and made way for itself by gathering under its wing all the gods of Rome, so that “in the middle of the third century [A. D.] Mithraism seemed on the verge of becoming the universal religion. “Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. XVIII, art. “Mithras,” p. 624, 11th edition, 1911.
That which made Mithraism so popular was the fact that the Roman Caesars adopted it, and the soldiers planted its banner wherever they went. The higher schools of Greek learning also accepted it, as did also the nobility, or the better classes of society, which gave it great prestige. Its “Mysteries” had a bewitching and fascinating influence on the people. And Sunday, “the venerable day of the sun,” was the popular holiday of Mithraism.
On the other hand, the primitive
Christian religion appeared to the learned Greek scholastics and their
followers of eminent nobility only as “foolishness” (see 1 Corinthians -23),
and the Romans looked down upon the Christians with disdain and utter contempt.
After the Jews had rebelled against the Roman government (
“The profound respect that was paid to
the Greek and Roman mysteries, and the extraordinary sanctity that was attributed
to them, were additional circumstances that induced the Christians to give
their religion a mystic air, in order to put it upon an equal footing, in point
of dignity, with that of the Pagans. For this purpose, they gave the name of
mysteries to the institutions of the Gospel, and decorated particularly the
holy sacrament with that solemn title. They used in that sacred institution, as
also in that of baptism, several of the terms employed in the Heathen
mysteries, and proceeded so far, at length, as even to adopt some of the
ceremonies of which those renowned mysteries consisted. . . . A great part,
therefore, of the service of the Church, in this century, had a certain air of
the Heathen mysteries, and resembled them considerably in many particulars.” - “History
of the Chucrh” (2-vol. ed.) Vol. I, Cent. 2, part 2, chap. 4, par. 5, p. 67.
Gradually, as the church lowered its standards, many of the Greek scholars accepted Christianity (while they retained their heathen philosophy), and they carried with them into the church more or less of their former viewpoint and teaching. Then, as heathenism assailed the church, and the Roman government persecuted it, these men, such as Origen, Tertullian, Justin Martyr, et al., wrote “apologies” and “treatises” to vindicate Christianity. They, however, sadly mixed heathen sentiments with Christian doctrines, and the church gradually became permeated with the teachings of these men, who now had become the new leaders. Dr. Cummings says:
“The Fathers who were really most fitted to be the luminaries of the age in which they lived were too busy in preparing their flocks for martyrdom to commit anything to writing. . . . The most devoted and pious of the Fathers were busy teaching their flocks; the more vain and ambitious occupied their time in preparing treatises. If all the Fathers who signalized the age had committed their sentiments to writing, we might have had a fair representation of the theology of the church.” - “Lectures on Romanism,” p. 203; quoted in “History of the Sabbath,” J. N. Andrews, pp. 199, 200.
In a very short time, the customs of Mithraism became incorporated into Christianity. John Dowling, D. D., says: “There is scarcely anything which strikes the mind of the careful student of ancient ecclesiastical history with greater surprise, than the comparatively early period at which many of the corruptions of Christianity, which are embodied in the Romish system, took their rise.” - “History of Romanism,” Book II, chap. 1, par. 1, p. 65.
Christianity soon became so much like Mithraism that there was only a step between them. Frantz Cumont (who is probably the best informed man of our age on the subject of Mithraism, says of Christianity and Mithraism:
“The two opposed creeds moved in the
same intellectual and moral sphere, and one could actually pass from one to the
other without shock or interruption. . . . The religious and mystical spirit of
the Orient had slowly overcome the whole social organism and prepared all
nations to unite in the bosom of a universal church.” - “Oriental Religions
in Roman Paganism,” pp. 210, 211.
The Introductory Essay by Grant Showerman says:
“Nor did Christianity stop here. It
took from its opponents their own weapons and used them; the better elements of
paganism were transferred to the new religion.” -
It would be too long a story to trace the doctrines of Mithraism that were brought into the church. We must confine ourselves to our subject, Sunday-keeping. Mr. Cumont says further:
“The ecclesiastical authorities
purified in some degree the customs which they could not abolish!” “The
pre-eminence assigned to the dies Solis [Sunday] by Mithraism also
certainly contributed to the general recognition of Sunday as a holiday [among
Christians].” - “Astrology and Religion Among the Greeks and Romans,” pp.
171, 162, 16.3.
“Sunday, over which the Sun presided,
was especially holy. . . .”[The worshipers of Mithra] held Sunday sacred, and celebrated
the birth of the Sun on the twenty-fifth of December.” - “The Mysteries of
Mithra,” pp. 167, 191.
Professor Gilbert Murray, M.A., D. Litt., LL.D., F.B.A., Professor of Greek in Oxford University, says:
“Now, since Mithras was ‘The Sun, the Unconquered,’ and the Sun was ‘The royal Star,’ the religion looked for a King whom it could serve as the representative of Mithras upon earth: . . . The Roman Emperor seemed to be clearly indicated as the true King. In sharp contrast to Christianity, Mithraism recognized Caesar as the bearer of the divine Grace, and its votaries filled the legions and the civil service. . . .
“It had so much acceptance that it was able to impose on the Christian world its own Sun-Day in place of the Sabbath, its Sun’s birthday, twenty-fifth December, as the birthday of Jesus.” - “History of Christianity in the Light of Modern Knowledge,” Chap. III; cited in “Religion and Philosophy,” pp. 73, 74. New York: 1929.
Rev. William Frederick likewise states the same historic fact:
“The Gentiles were an idolatrous people who worshipped the sun, and Sunday was their most sacred day. Now, in order to reach the people in this new field, it seems but natural, as well as necessary, to make Sunday the rest day of the church. At this time it was necessary for the church to either adopt the Gentiles’ day or else have the Gentiles change their day. To change the Gentiles’ day would have been an offence and stumbling block to them. The church could naturally reach them better by keeping their day. There was no need in causing an unnecessary offence by dishonouring their day.” - “Sunday and the Christian Sabbath,” pp. 169, 170; quoted in Signs of the Times, Sept. 6, 1927.
Thomas H. Morer makes a similar acknowledgement. He says:
“Sunday being the day on which the Gentiles solemnly adored that planet, and called it Sunday. . . . the Christians thought fit to keep the same day and the same name of it, that they might not appear causelessly peevish, and by that means hinder the conversion of the Gentiles, and bring a greater prejudice than might be otherwise taken against the gospel.” - “Dialogues on the Lord’s Day,” p. 23. London: 1701.
The North British Review gives the following reasons for the Christians’ adopting the heathen Sun-day:
“That very day was the Sunday of their heathen neighbours and respective countrymen, and patriotism gladly united with expediency in making it at once their Lord’s day and their Sabbath. . . . That primitive church, in fact, was shut up to the adoption of the Sunday, until it became established and supreme, when it was too late to make another alteration.” - Vol. XVIII, p. 409. Edinburgh: Feb., 1853.
Thomas Chafie, a clergyman of the English Church, gives the following reasons why the early Christians could not continue to keep the Bible Sabbath among the heathen, nor change the heathen custom from Sunday to Saturday:
“Christians should not have done well in changing, or in endeavouring to have changed their [the heathen’s] standing service-day, from Sunday to any other day of the week; and that for these reasons:
“1. Because of the contempt, scorn and derision they thereby should be had in among all the Gentiles with whom they lived; and toward whom they ought by St. Paul’s rule to live inoffensively, 1 Cor. 10:32, in things indifferent. If the Gentiles thought hardly, and spoke evil of them, for that they ran not into the same excess of riot with them: 1 Pet. 4:4, what would they have said of Christians for such an innovation as would have been made by their change of their standing service day? If long before this, the Jews were had in such disdain among the Gentiles for their Saturday-Sabbath. . . . how grievous would be their taunts and reproaches against the poor Christians living with them, and under their power, for their new set Sacred day, had the Christians chosen any other than the Sunday?
“2. Most Christians then were either Servants or of the poorer sort of People: and the Gentiles (most probably) would not give their servants liberty to cease from working on any other set day constantly, except on their Sunday. . . .
“5. It would have been but labour in vain for them to have assayed the same, they could never have brought it to pass.” – “A Brief Tract on the Fourth Commandment . . . About the Sabbath-Day,” pp. 61, 62. London: St. Paul’s Church Yard, 1692.
Richard Verstegen, after much research, writes of the heathen nations:
“And it is also respectable, that the most ancient Germans being Pagans, and having appropriated their first Day of the Week to the peculiar adoration of the Sun, whereof that Day doth yet in our English Tongue retain the name of Sunday.” - “Restitution of Decayed Intelligence in Antiquities,” p. 11. London: 1673.
Speaking of the Saxons, he says:
“First then unto the day dedicated unto the especial adoration of the Idol of the Sun, they gave the name of Sunday, as much as to say the Sun’s-day, or the day of the Sun. This Idol was placed in a Temple, and there adored and sacrificed unto, for that they believed that the Sun in the Firmament did with or in this Idol correspond and co-operate. The manner and form whereof was according to this ensuing Picture.” - Id., p. 74. (Capitalization as given in this ancient book.)
It is hardly fair to accuse the Roman Catholic Church of exchanging God’s holy Sabbath for a heathen festival without giving her the opportunity to deny or acknowledge this accusation; so we will now let her state the fact in her own words, frankly. She says:
“The Church took the pagan philosophy and made it the buckler of faith against the heathen. . . . She took the pagan Sunday and made it the Christian Sunday. . . . There is, in truth, something royal, kingly about the sun, making it a fit emblem of Jesus, the Sun of Justice. Hence the Church in these countries would seem to have said, ‘Keep that old, pagan name. It shall remain consecrated, sanctified.’ And thus the pagan Sunday, dedicated to Balder, became the Christian Sunday, sacred to Jesus.” - “Catholic World,” March, 1894, P. 809.
So willing were church leaders to adopt the popular heathen festivals that even heathen authors reproached them for it. Faustus accused St. Augustine as follows:
“You celebrate the solemn festivals of the Gentiles, their calends and their solstices; and as to their manners, those you have retained without any alteration. Nothing distinguishes you from the pagans except that you hold your assemblies apart from them.” - Cited in “History of the Intellectual Development of Europe,” Dr. J. W. Draper, Vol. I, p. 810. New York: 1876.
Similar reproaches had been made earlier, for Tertullian answers them, making the following admission:
“Others, hath 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? . . . 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. . . . You who reproach us with the sun and Sunday should consider your proximity to us.” - “Ad Nationes,” Book I, chap. 13; in “Ante-Nicene Fathers,” Vol. III, p. 123, ed. by Drs. Roberts and Donaldson. New York: 1896.
Tertullian had no other excuse for their Sunday-keeping than that they did not do worse than the heathen. Not only did the Church adopt heathen festivals, but Gregory Thaumaturgus allowed their celebration in the degrading manner of the heathen:
“When Gregory perceived that the ignorant multitude persisted in their idolatry, on account of the pleasures and sensual gratifications which they enjoyed at the pagan festivals, he granted them a permission to indulge themselves in the like pleasures, in celebrating the memory of the holy martyrs, hoping that, in process of time, they would return of their own accord, to a more virtuous and regular course of life.” – “Ecclesiastical History,” J. L. Mosheim, D.D., Vol. I, Second Century, Part II, chap. 4, par. 2, footnote (Dr. A. Maclaine’s 2-vol. ed., p. 66). New York: 1871.
Cardinal Newman says:
In Confiding then in the power of Christianity to resist the infection of evil, and to transmute the very instruments and appendages of demon-worship to an evangelical use. . . . the rulers of the Church from early times were prepared, should the occasion arise, to adopt, or imitate, or sanction the existing rites and customs of the populace, as well as the philosophy of the educated class. . . .
“The same reason, the need of holy days for the multitude, is assigned by Origen, St. Gregory’s master, to explain the establishment of the Lord’s Day. . . .
“We are told in various ways by Eusebius, that Constantine, in order to recommend the new religion to the heathen, transferred into it the outward ornaments to which they had been accustomed in their own. . . . Incense, lamps, and candles; . . . holy water; asylums; holy days and seasons, . . . the ring in marriage, turning to the east, images . . . are all of pagan origin, and sanctified by their adoption into the Church.” - “Development of Christian Doctrine,” pp. 871-373. London: 1878.
“Real superstitions have sometimes obtained in parts of Christendom from its intercourse with the heathen. . . . As philosophy has at times corrupted her divines, so has paganism corrupted her worshipers.” - Id., pp. 877, 378.
“The church . . . can convert heathen appointments into spiritual rites and usages. . . . Hence there has been from the first much variety and change, in the Sacramental acts and instruments which she has used.” - Id., p. 879.
Speaking of the immoral pagan feast he says:
“It certainly is possible that the consciousness of the sanctifying power in Christianity may have acted as a temptation to sins, whether of deceit or of violence; as if the habit or state of grace destroyed the sinfulness of certain acts, or as if the end justified the means.” - Id., p. 379.
Speaking of the immoral pagan feast he says:
“It certainly is possible that the consciousness of the sanctifying power in Christianity may have acted as a temptation to sins, whether or deceit or of violence; as if the habit or state of grace destroyed the sinfulness of certain acts, or as if the end justified the means.” – Id., p. 379.
The terrible nature of these sensual gratifications of the pagan festivals, in which the leaders of the Church now allowed its members to indulge, a person can hardly imagine till the sickening facts are spread before one’s eyes by Livy. (Hist., lib. xxxix, chap. 9-17) The learned Englishman, George Smith, F.A.S., in his “Sacred Annals,” Vol. III, on the “Gentile Nations,” pp. 487-489, says that this “most revolting and abandoned villiany” was so general, that when the Roman Senate had to proceed against its worst features, “Rome was almost deserted, so many persons, feeling themselves implicated in the proceedings, sought safety in flight.”
A church that will take in such members, without conversion, and then allow them to continue in the most putrid corruption, must have lost all respect for morality (not, to say true Christianity), and cannot he in possession of the divine power of the gospel; which changes the hearts and lives of people. (Romans 1:16; 2 Corinthians 5:17) The Apostle Paul had foretold this “falling away” of the church. (Acts 20: 28-30; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-7) And it was during this fallen condition that the Church changed its weekly rest day from the Sabbath to the Sunday. Dr. N. Summerbell says:
“The Roman church had totally apostatized. . . . It reversed the Fourth Commandment by doing away with the Sabbath of God’s word, and instituting Sunday as a holiday.” - “The Christian Church,” p. 415. Cincinnati: 1873.
Now, long after the Sabbath has been changed, Protestants are at a loss to find authority in the Bible for this change. They have rejected the authority of the Roman church to legislate on Christian faith, and cannot accept tradition, therefore they know not where to turn. Professor George Sverdrup, a leading man in the Lutheran Church, gives expression to this predicament in the following words:
“For, when there could not be produced one solitary place in the Holy Scriptures which testified that either the Lord Himself or the apostles had ordered such a transfer of the Sabbath to Sunday, then it was not easy to answer the question: Who has transferred the Sabbath, and who has had the right to do it? - “Samlede Skrifter i Udvalg,” Andreas Helland, Vol. I, pp. 342, 343. Minneapolis, Minn.: 1909.
Walter Farquhar Hook, D.D., Vicar of Leeds, expresses the same thought:
“The question is, whether God has ordered us to keep holy the first day of the week. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are undoubted ordinances of God; we can quote the chapter and verse in which we read of their being ordained by God. But as to the Lord’s Day [Sunday], we are not able to refer to a single passage in all the Scriptures of the New Testament in which the observance of it is enjoined by God. If we refer to tradition, tradition would not be of value to us on the point immediately under consideration. The Romanist regards the tradition of the Church as of authority equal to that of Scripture. But we are not Romanists. . . . But on this point there is not even tradition to support us. . . . There is no tradition that God ordained the first day of the week to be a Sabbath. . . . The change of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday was never mentioned, or, as far as I can discover, thought of by the early Christians. The Sabbath, that is to say, the observance of Saturday as a day to be devoted to God’s service, to rest of body and repose of mind, was an ordinance of God. This ordinance relating to Saturday could be changed by God and by God only. We, as Protestants, must appeal to the Bible, and the Bible only, to ascertain the fact that God has changed the day - that God has Himself substituted Sunday for Saturday. . . . It is no answer to this to say that the apostles seem to have sanctioned the assembly of Christians for public worship on the Lord’s Day, or that St. John in the Apocalypse speaks of the Lord’s Day and may possibly allude to the Sunday festival. For this is one of those arguments which prove too much. We ourselves keep Easter Day; this is no proof that we do not keep Christmas Day, or that Easter has been substituted for Christmas. And if we have instances of the first day of the week being kept holy by the apostle, we have more instances of their observing the Jewish Sabbath.” - “Lord’s Day,” p. 94. London: 1856; quoted in “The Literature of the Sabbath Question,” Robert Cox, Vol. II, pp. 369,370.
Dr. Edward T. Hiscox, author of the “Baptist Manual,” says:
“There was and is a commandment to keep holy the Sabbath day, but that Sabbath day was not Sunday. It will be said, however, and with some show of triumph, that the Sabbath was transferred from the seventh to the first day of the week, with all its duties, privileges, and sanctions. Earnestly desiring information on this subject, which I have studied for many years, I ask, where can the record of such a transaction be found? Not in the New Testament, absolutely not. There is no Scriptural evidence of the change of the Sabbath institution from the seventh to the first day of the week.
“I wish to say that this Sabbath question, in this aspect of it, is the gravest and most perplexing question connected with Christian institutions which at present claims attention from Christian people; and the only reason that it is not a more disturbing element in Christian thought and in religious discussions, is because the Christian world has settled down content on the conviction that somehow a transference has taken place at the beginning of Christian history. . . .
“To me it seems unaccountable that Jesus during three years’ intercourse with His disciples, often conversing with them upon the Sabbath question, discussing it in some of its various aspects, freeing it from its false glosses, never alluded to any transference of the day; also that during forty days of His resurrection life, no such thing was intimated. Nor, so far as we know, did the Spirit, which was given to bring to their remembrance all things whatsoever that He had said unto them, deal with this question. Nor yet did the inspired apostles, in preaching the gospel, founding churches, counselling and instructing those founded, discuss or approach this subject.
Of course, I quite well know that Sunday did come into use in early Christian history as a religious day, as we learn from the Christian Fathers and other sources. But what a pity that it comes branded with the mark of paganism, and christened with the name of the sun-god, when adopted and sanctioned by the papal apostasy, and bequeathed as a sacred legacy to Protestantism!” - A paper read before a New York Ministers’ Conference, held Nov. 13, 1893. From a copy furnished by Dr. Hiscox for the “Source Book,” pp. 513, 514. Wash., D. C.: Review and Herald, 1922.
Bishop Skat Rordam, of Denmark, says:
“As to when and how it became customary to keep the first day of the week the New Testament gives us no information....
“The first law about it was given by Constantine the Great, who in the year 321 ordained that all civil and shop work should cease in the cities, but agricultural labour in the country was permitted. . . . Still no one thought of basing this command to rest from labour on the 3rd [4th] commandment before the latter half of the sixth century. From that time on, little by little, it became the established doctrine of the church during its ‘Dark Ages,’ that the holy church and its teachers, or the bishops with the Roman Pope at their head, as the Vicar of Christ and His apostles on earth, had transferred the Old Testament Sabbath with its glory and sanctity over onto the first day of the week.” - “Report of the Second Ecclesiastical Meeting in Copenhagen, Sept. 13-15, 1887, “P. Taaning, pp. 40, 41. Copenhagen: 1887.
Bishop A. Grimelund, of Norway, says:
“Now, summing up what history teaches regarding the origin of Sunday and the development of the doctrine about Sunday, then this is the sum: It is not the apostles, not the early Christians, not the councils of the ancient church which have imprinted the name and stamp of the Sabbath upon the Sunday, but it is the Church of the Middle Ages and its scholastic teachers.” - “Sondagens Historie” (The History of Sunday), p. 87. Christiania: 1886.
“What do we learn from this historical review? . . . That it is a doctrine which originated in the papal church that the sanctification of the Sunday is enjoined in the 3rd [4th] commandment, and that the essential and permanent in this commandment is a command from God to keep holy one day in each week.” - Id., pp. 47, 48.
Constantine had been watching, he said, those Caesars who had persecuted the Christians, and found that they usually had a bad end, while his father, who was favourable toward them, had prospered. So, when he and Licinius met at Milan in 313, AD., they jointly prepared an edict, usually called “The Edict of Milano,” which gave equal liberty to Christians and pagans. Had Constantine stopped here, he might have been honoured as the originator of religious liberty in the Roman Empire, but he had different aims in view. The Roman Empire had been ruled at times by two, four, or even six Caesars jointly, and in his ambition to become the sole Emperor, Constantine, as a shrewd statesman, soon saw that the Christian church had the vitality to become the strongest factor in the empire. The other Caesars were persecuting the Christians. If he could win them without losing the good will of the pagans, he would win the game. He therefore set himself to the task of blending the two religions into one. As H. G. Heggtveit (Lutheran) says:
“Constantine laboured at this time untiringly to unite the worshippers of the old and the new faith in one religion. All his laws and contrivances are aimed at promoting this amalgamation of religions. He would by all lawful and peaceable means melt together a purified heathenism and a moderated Christianity. . . . His injunction that the ‘Day of the Sun’ should be a general rest day was characteristic of his standpoint. . . Of all his blending and melting together of Christianity and heathenism none is more easy to see through than this making of his Sunday law. ‘The Christians worshipped their Christ, the heathen their sun-god; according to the opinion of the Emperor, the objects for worship in both religions were essentially the same. “Kirkehistorie “ (Church History), pp. 233, 234. Chicago: 1898.
Constantine’s Sunday law of 321 A. D. reads as follows:
“On the venerable Day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country, however, persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits; because it often happens that another day is not so suitable for grain-sowing or for vine planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost. (Given the 7th day of March, Crispus and Constantine being consuls each of them for the second time.” - “Codex Justinianus, lib. 3, lit. 12, 3”; translated in “History of the Christian Church,” Philip Schaff, D. D, (7-vol. ed.) Vol. III, p. 380. New York: 1884.
Dr. A. Chr. Bang (Lutheran bishop, Norway), says:
“This Sunday law constituted no real favouritism towards Christianity. . . . It is evident from all his statutory provisions, that the Emperor during the time 313-323 with full consciousness has sought the realization of his religious aim: the amalgamation of heathenism and Christianity.” - “Kirken og Romerstaten” (“The Church and the Roman State”), p. 256. Christiania: 1879.
That Constantine by his Sunday law intended only to enforce the popular heathen festival is acknowledged by Professor Hutton Webster, Ph.D. (University of Nebraska), who says:
“This legislation by Constantine probably bore no relation to Christianity; it appears, on the contrary, that the emperor, in his capacity as Pontifex Maximus, was only adding the day of the sun, the worship of which was then firmly established in the Roman Empire, to the other ferial days of the sacred calendar.” - “Rest Days,” p. 122. New York: 1916.
A. H. Lewis, D. D., who spent years of study and research on this subject, declares, that “the pagan religion of Rome had many holidays, on which partial or complete cessation of business and labor were demanded,” and that Constantine by his Sunday law was “merely adding one more festival to the festi of the empire.” - “A Critical History of Sunday Legislation from, 321 to 1888 A. D,” pp. 8, 12. New York: D. Applelon and Co., 1888.
This is clearly seen when we carefully examine all the circumstances presented by Dr. Lewis:
1. Constantine’s Sunday edict was given March 7, 321. The very next day he issued an edict commanding purely heathen superstition. We quote:
“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.” - Id., p. 19.
2. The Caesars for over a century had been worshippers of the sun-god, whose weekly holiday was Sunday. Dr. Lewis says: “The sun-worship cult had grown steadily in the Roman Empire for a long time.” - Id., p. 20. He then quotes the following from Schaff in regard to Elagabalus, a Roman Caesar of a century before Constantine’s time:
“The abandoned youth, El-Gabal or Heliogabalus (218-222), who polluted the throne by the blackest vices and follies, tolerated all 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.” - Id., pp. 20, 21.
Dean H. H. Milman says:
“It was openly asserted that the worship of the sun, under the name of Elagabalus, was to supersede all other worship. If we may believe the biographies in the Augustan history, a more ambitious scheme of a universal religion had dawned upon the mind of the emperor. The Jewish, the Samaritan, even the Christian, were to be fused and recast into one great system, of which the Sun was to be the central object of adoration.” - “History of Christianity,” Vol. II, Book 2, chap. 8, par. 22, p. 178,179. New York: 1881.
Dr. Lewis further says that Aurelian, who reigned from 270-276 A. D., embellished the temple of the Sun with “above fifteen thousand pounds of gold.” - “History of Sunday Legislation,” p. 23. Diocletian, who reigned from 284 to 305, “appealed in the face of the army to the all-seeing deity of the sun.” - Id., p. 24.
“Such were the influences which preceded Constantine and surrounded him when he came into power. The following extract shows still plainer the character of Constantine and his attitude toward the sunworship cults, when the first ‘Sunday edict’ was issued:
“But the devotion of Constantine was more peculiarly directed to the genius of the Sun, the Apollo of Greek and Roman mythology. . . . The sun was universally celebrated as the invincible guide and protector of Constantine.” - Id., pp. 26, 27.
“These facts combine to show that Sunday legislation was purely pagan in its origin.” - Id., p. 81.
“In this law he only sought to give additional honor to the ‘venerable day’ of his patron deity, the sun - god.” - Id., p. 32.
“His attitude toward Christianity was that of a shrewd politician rather than a devout adherent.”- Id., p. 6.
Dr. Lewis quotes from Dr. Schaff a very fitting conclusion to his remarks regarding Constantine:
“And down to the end of his life he retained the title and dignity of 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.’” - Id., p. 10.
That the Christians at this time were still keeping the Sabbath can be seen from the following statement of Hugo Grotius, quoted by Robert Cox, F. S. A. Scot.:
“He refers to Eusebius for proof that Constantine, besides issuing his well-known edict that labor should be suspended on Sunday, enacted that the people should not be brought before the law courts on the seventh day of the week, which also, he adds, was long observed by the primitive Christians as a day for religious meetings. . . . And this, says he, ‘refutes those who think that the Lord’s day was substituted for the Sabbath - a thing nowhere mentioned either by Christ or His apostles.’” - “Opera Omnia Theologica,” Hugo Grotius (died 1645), (London: 1679); quoted in “Literature of the Sabbath Question,” Cox, Vol. I, p. 223. Edinburgh: Maclachlan and Stewart, 1865.
Pope Sylvester co-operated with Constantine to bring paganism into the Christian church (especially Sunday-keeping). This caused the true Christians to have repugnance for him. The Waldenses believed he was the Antichrist. Dr. Peter Allix quotes the following from a prominent Roman Catholic author regarding the Waldenses:
“‘They say that the blessed Pope Sylvester was the Antichrist, of whom mention is made in the Epistles of St. Paul, as being the son of perdition, who extols himself above every thing that is called God; for, from that time, they say, the Church perished. . . .’
“He lays it down also as one of their opinions, ‘That the Law of Moses is to be kept according to the letter, and that the keeping of the Sabbath . . . and other legal observances, ought to take place.”‘ – “ Ecclesiastical History of the Ancient Churches of Piedmont,” p. 169. Oxford: 1821. Page 154 in the edition of 1690.
Having obtained a glimpse of the opposition of God’s people to this failing away, let us now return to our subject, to get a view of the novel means Constantine employed to make converts in accordance with his amalgamation scheme. Edward Gibbon says:
“The hopes of wealth and honours, the example of an emperor, his exhortations, his irresistible smiles, diffused conviction among the venal and obsequious crowds which usually fill the apartments of a palace. . . , As the lower ranks of society are governed by imitation, the conversion of those who possessed any eminence of birth, of power, or of riches, was soon followed by dependent multitudes. The salvation of the common people was purchased at an easy rate, if it be true that, in one year, twelve thousand men were baptized at Rome . . . and that a white garment, with twenty pieces of gold, had been promised by the emperor to every convert.” - “Decline and Fall,” chap. 20, par. 18.
Constantine gave the following instruction to the bishops at the Council of Nicea, which shows his constant policy: ‘In all ways unbelievers must be saved. It was not every one who would be converted by learning and reasoning. Some join us from desire of maintenance; some for preferment; some for presents: nothing is so rare as a real lover of truth. We must be like physicians, and accommodate our medicines to the diseases, our teaching to the different minds of all.’” – “Lectures on the History of the Eastern Church,” Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, D. D. , Lecture 5, p. 271. New York: 1875.
The bishops were often too willing to follow the emperor’s instruction, and the result was disastrous to the church. J. A. W. Neander in the following paragraph gives us some of the results of this policy:
“Such were those who, without any real interest whatever in the concerns of religion, living half in Paganism and half in an outward show of Christianity, composed the crowds that thronged the churches on the festivals of the Christians, and the theatres on the festivals of the pagans.” - “History of the Christian Religion and Church,” Vol. II, Sec. 3, Part 1, Div. 1, par. 1, p. 223. Boston: 1855.
No wonder Rev. H. H. Milman exclaims:
“Is this Paganism approximating to Christianity, or Christianity degenerating into Paganism?” - “History of Christianity,” pp. 341, 342. He answers this question later by saying: “With a large portion of mankind, it must be admitted that the religion itself was Paganism under another form.” - Id., p. 412.
Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, and an admirer of Constantine, co-operated with him in bringing “the venerable day of the sun” into the Christian church. Speaking of Pope Sylvester, Constantine, and himself, he says:
“All things whatsoever that it was duty to do on the Sabbath these we have transferred to the Lord’s day, as more appropriately belonging to it, because it has a precedence and is first in rank, and more honourable than the Jewish Sabbath. For on that day in making the world, God said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light.” - “Commentary on the Psalms”; quoted in “Literature on the Sabbath Question,” Robert Cox, Vol. I, p. 361.
Eusebius evidently used the strongest argument he knew as proof for Sunday-keeping; but advocates of this new holiday had probably not yet conceived the idea that Christ’s resurrection would be an argument in favor of Sunday-keeping, so he used creation instead.
Old and New Church Members
The church at this time consisted of two widely different kinds of church members: 1. The old class, with their devoted leaders, had accepted Christianity in the primitive way, by genuine conversion and separation from the world, suffering for Christ and His unpopular truth. This class lived mostly in the country and in out-of-the-way places. 2. The new converts lived mainly in the large cities, and had come in through a mass movement, following the crowd in what was most popular, attracted by the hopes of temporal gain or honour, or they had been forced in by the secular arm. These were devoid of any personal Christian experience, but constituting the majority, they elected bishops of their own kind.
The elections of bishops were attended with secret corruption and bloody violence, which was only too natural for that kind of “Christians.” Edward Gibbon says of these elections:
“While one of the candidates boasted the honours of his family, a second allured his judges by the delicacies of a plentiful table, and a third, more guilty than his rivals, offered to share the plunder of the church among the accomplices of his sacrilegious hopes.” - “Decline and Fall,” chap. XX, par. 22.
Rev. H. H. Milman says:
“Even within the Church itself, the distribution of the superior dignities became an object of fatal ambition and strife. The streets of Alexandria and of Constantinople were deluged with blood by the partisans of rival bishops.” - “History of Christianity,” Book 3, chap. 5, par. 2, p. 410. New York: 1881.
Schaff declares that “many are elected on account of their badness, to prevent the mischief they would otherwise do.” - “History of the Christian Church,” Vol. III, Sec. 49, par. 2, note 5, p. 240. Even the sanctity of the church was not respected by the fighting parties. Milman, speaking of the installation of a bishop at Constantinople, says:
“In the morning, Philip [the prefect of the East] appeared in his car, with Macedonius by his side in the pontifical attire; he drove directly to the church, but the soldiers were obliged to hew their way through the dense and resisting crowd to the altar. Macedonius passed over the murdered bodies (three thousand are said to have fallen) to the throne of Christian prelate.” - “History of Christianity,” Vol. XI, p. 426. New York: 1870. Socrates (“Ecclesiastical History,” Bk. II, chap. 17, p. 96) gives the number slain as 3150.
Can we wonder at the lack of spiritual insight and sound judgment of such bishops when they met at their councils to formulate the creed of Christendom? They decreed in favour of image worship, purgatory, prayers for the dead, veneration of relies, and many other heathen customs, persecuting all who would not fall in line with their mongrel customs. At the Council of Laodicea, A. D. 364, they anathematized Sabbath-keepers in the following way:
“Christians must not Judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord’s Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be Judaizers, let them be Anathema from Christ.” - Canon XXIX, “Index Canonum,” John Fulton, D. D., LL. D., p. 259.
That the Christians were then keeping the Sabbath we see from Canon XVI of the same council, in which they decreed: “The Gospels are to be read on the Sabbath Day, with the other Scriptures.” - Id., p. 255.
Dr. Heylyn also declares that the Christians were keeping the Sabbath at that time:
“Nor was this only the particular will of those two and thirty Prelates, there assembled; it was the practice generally of the Easterne Churches; and of some churches of the west. . . .
For in the Church of Millaine [Milan]; . . . it seems the Saturday was held in a farre esteeme. . . . Not that the Easterne Churches, or any of the rest which observed that day, were inclined to Iudaisme [Judaism]; but that they came together on the Sabbath day, to worship Iesus [Jesus] Christ the Lord of the Sabbath.” - “History of the Sabbath” (original spelling retained), Part 2, par. 5, pp. 73, 74. London: 1636.
The true Christians paid very little attention to the anathema of the bishops, for they continued to keep the true Sabbath, as the following quotations show:
“From the apostles’ time until the council of Laodicea, which was about the year 364, the holy observation of the Jews’ Sabbath continued, as may be proved out of many authors; yea, notwithstanding the decree of the council against it.” - “Sunday a Sabbath,” John Ley, p. 163. London: 1640.
That the Sabbath was kept, “notwithstanding the decree of the council against it,” is also seen from the fact that Pope Gregory I (A. D. 590-604) wrote against “Roman citizens [who] forbid any work being done on the Sabbath day.” - “Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers,” Second Series, Vol. XIII, p. 13, epist. 1.
As late as 791 A. D. Christians kept the Sabbath in Italy. Canon 13 of the council at Friaul states:
“Further, when speaking of that Sabbath which the Jews observe, the last day of the week, and which also our peasants observe, He said only Sabbath, and never added unto it, ‘delight,’ or ‘my.”‘ - Mansi, 13, 851; Quoted in “History of the Sabbath,” J. N. Andrews, p. 539. 1912.
Bishop Hefele summarises the canon in the following words:
“The celebration of Sunday begins with Saturday evening. It is enjoined to keep Sunday and other church festivals. The peasants kept Saturday in many cases.” - “Conciliengesch.,” 3, 720, sec. 404; Quoted in “History of the Sabbath,” Andrews, pp. 539, 540. 1912.